Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ernie K Doe: M-O-N-E-Y without L-O-V-E ain't a T-H-I-N-G

Ernie K-Doe, self-proclaimed “Emperor of the Universe,” one-time proprietor of the fabled Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans, and posthumous mayoral candidate, belting out an early Joe Tex number, “Sufferin’ So” b/w “Baby Since I Met You,” from 1963, on Joe Banashak’s Instant Records. Allen Toussaint most likely produced this one, a mid-tempo soul stirrer with a bonus spelling lesson included..."H-O-M-E without L-O-V-E it just ain't no U-S-E".

Speaking of K-Doe, would anyone out there happen to know if his old WWOZ broadcasts have been archived anywhere?

Photos of Ernie K-Doe performing, circa 1982, by Chris Ruhle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mickey Gilley: Call Me Shorty

Mickey Gilley, native of Ferriday, LA, cousin to the gods, and another one touched by the “Crazy Cajun” Huey Meaux, here from back before he sucked, from back when he still wore his hair slick. As a general rule, I try to stick with country records that show the artists on the jacket wearing either a flat-top or greased-back hairdo. Once they go to the dry-look and Billy Sherrill, it’s all downhill, except maybe in the case of George Jones. The Mick's cut tons of C&W over the years, but this one, Gilley's one and only single for the Dot label, “Call Me Shorty,” from 1958, is straight rock 'n' roll. Not only is it not country, it's not autobiographical either, much as it could be (that head-and-half he stands beneath Jerry Lee in the photo above is not an effect of camera angle). Song-writing credit on "Shorty" goes to Charles Matthews, and with lyrics like “the girls call me Daddy/’Cause I’m the biggest little man they’ve seen!” it's one suggestive little ditty. It's hard to know whether or not Meaux actually produced this record, although this was about the time that he began to work with Gilley. The flip, “Come On Baby,” a Mickey Gilley original, ain’t no slouch either.

Photo of Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley taken from Nick Tosches' Country: The Biggest Music in America (Stein & Day, 1977).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Helena Kallianiotes: Any Time Any Place, Sugarpuss!

Helena Kallianiotes first began her show-biz career as a belly dancer in Hollywood, sometime during the mid-60s. Around that time she befriended Jack Nicholson, before he'd made the jump from Roger Corman disciple/trainee to super-stardom by way of Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces. That friendship helped to land Kallianiotes her first movie role, an uncredited bit part as, guess what, a belly dancer, in Head, the Monkees' 1968 attempt at a sort of scatter-shot, psychedelic Hard Days Night, which Nicholson co-produced. Here Kallianiotes simply shimmies along in trippy double exposure to the Monkees' "Can You Dig It."

Palm Apodaca, the lesbian hitchiker obsessed with “filth” in Five Easy Pieces, was probably the biggest role of Kallianiotes’ acting career. However, her rendition of Jackie Burdette, the hard-assed roller derby bruiser opposite Raquel Welch in Jerold Freedman’s Kansas City Bomber, 1972, has got to be her real tour de force. Any time, any place, sugarpuss! The second clip below shows the KCB trailer, HK appears about a minute into it.

Meanwhile Kallianiotes’ true love remained dancing, and during the early 70s she was the resident belly dancer at the Intersection, a Greek restaurant in North Hollywood. Perhaps her real talent, though, has been for tagging-along, and being a "friend to the stars." Around the same time that she worked her way onto the cast of Bob Dylan’s Renaldo & Clara, she also moved into Jack Nicholson’s guest house, became his property manager, short-order cook, confidant, and the “houseguest who never left.” In turn, Nicholson backed many of Kallianiotes’ various business ventures over the years. One of these, a sort of 80s, West Coast version of Studio 54, the celebrity-only skating rink Skateways, was surely inspired by Kansas City Bomber. Ever compassionate toward the plight of the famous, wanting to provide her friends with an exclusive haven away from the papparazzi, Kallianiotes hired pop-artist Ed Rushca to paint “No Press or Photographers” over the front door of the skating rink, and, according to Kallianiotes “If I saw a flash go off, I’d skate over and smash the camera.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lip-Sync A-Go-Go

According to Marc Weingarten's Station To Station : The Secret History of Rock & Roll on Television (Pocket Books, 2000), musicians first began the practice of lip-synching during television appearances in the 1950s, on the show Alan Freed’s Big Beat. However, even before that, singers on Freed’s live revues were getting into the act, literally acting out performances of whatever chart-buster had landed them a spot on the bill. Record company execs pushed the practice, so that fans need not be disappointed by any departures from already familiar studio versions of hits. Ain't it ironic, then, that this shortcut became even more laughable than whatever "mistakes" would occur from just playing the damn song live. Lip-synching might qualify as one of the earliest attempts by corporate label owners to steer popular music toward bland, marketable uniformity. Anyway, by the 1960s, the practice was rampant. Here are a few funny clips.

First, Bo Diddley lip-syncs to “Let the Kid Dance” on Hollywood A Go Go, sometime during the Duchess' tenure, '62-'65. The camera director should have stayed tight on her, then no one would even have seen Bo's flub. (Bear with this clip for the first 30 or so seconds while host Sam Riddle babbles an introduction.)

The Troggs do "With a Girl Like You." Don't actually know what show this is from. Anyone know?

Count Five. Psychotic Reaction. Ditto what I said about the Troggs.

The Box Tops mouth along to "The Letter" on Upbeat, 1967. Check out organ player John Evans. Look Ma! No hands! I first saw this clip when Robert Gordon showed it on his book tour for It Came From Memphis.

And finally, Keith Moon slips in a little bit of lip-sync sabotage before the infamous explosion on the Smothers Brothers Show.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Charlie Louvin: You can’t sell tobacco with gospel music

Today is Charlie Louvin’s 82nd birthday. (Actually, it was yesterday, by now. Gemini Spacecraft: bringing you the LATEST breaking news all the time!) Anyway, pictured above is Charlie on the left, with his fun-lovin’ brother Ira. Check out Ira’s boots! Man! Would I love to nab a pair as flashy as that some day.

Also pictured is the cover of what is probably the Louvin Brothers’ most famous record, Satan is Real, for my money their greatest collection of gospel performances. If, while listening to this one, you don't feel the spirit, for at least a few minutes anyway, then you're probably doomed. Personal favorites on this album include “The River of Jordan” and “There is a Higher Power.” AA types can put that last one in the jug and chug-a-lug it. I also love their song “Broadminded” (as in “That word, Broadminded, is spelled S-I-N"), but I have only a cassette copy, for which I lack both the means and know-how to digitize.

Spirituals might provide food for the soul, but, like the man say, you can't sell tobacco with gospel music. One of the rockinest Louvin Brothers singles has got to be “Cash on the Barrelhead,” good for a shot of the secular, not to mention sound economic advice. Works on the micro and macro-economic level. Like that tough old telephone operator says on the second verse: “That’ll be cash on the barrelhead, son/ Not part, not half, but the entire sum/ No money down/ No payment plan/ ‘Cause a little bird tells me/ You’re a travelin’ man.”

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Warren Oates

Today would have been Warren Oates’ 81st Birthday, had he not gotten his card punched by a heart attack in 1982, at age 53.

Oates was born in Depoy, KY, in the western part of the state, just west of Nebo, but not quite as far as McNary, i.e., in the hillbilly middle o’ nowhere. By the early 50’s he’d landed in New York to starve and struggle. But he did land some theater and television work during those years. Eventually he bagged New York and headed for the coast, and a more successful career in television and film. He appeared in episodes of the TV mystery drama Studio One and various westerns like Have Gun Will Travel, The Rough Riders, Buckskin, and The Black Saddle. In 1960 he played Eddie Diamond in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond⎯correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems to be his first feature film role. Eventually Oates hitched up with directors Monte Hellman, Sam Wood, and Sam Peckinpah to appear the classics Two Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and In the Heat of the Night, among others. Other greats starring Warren Oates include Race with the Devil (with Peter Fonda) and Dixie Dynamite, just to name a few. And now that Johnny Depp’s face plasters every NY subway station advertising his new movie Public Enemies (which, actually, I kinda want to check out), just remember that Warren Oates did it before in his great, performance in John Milius’ Dillinger, from 1973.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stoney Burke: Big Man on the Buckin' Horse

Jack London & Warren Oates, from ABC TV series "Stoney Burke," which aired in the years 1962-1963. Other up-and-comers to pass through its various episodes included a young Bruce Dern, Robert Duvall, & Ed Asner.

As described by Susan Compo in her brand new Warren Oates bio "Warren Oates A Wild Life" (University Press of Kentucky, 2009), from an excerpt lifted from Greg Germani's great author interview on WFMU's Beware of the Blog: "Stoney Burke was a surprisingly textured and superior series of its time. Fans of dark motels with blinking neon, dirt streets populated by big cars with small fins (Mercury was a sponsor, touting its new Comet), bus depots, cocktails bars with starlight glitter ceilings, and tailored western wear by way of Beverly Hills found a spiritual home in Stoney."