Friday, December 31, 2010

"Chillicothe, You Can Go to Hell!," A New Year's Greeting from Gemini Spacecraft

Time, once again, to hit the annual reset button on the olde Gregorian calendar. For a lot of folks, the season is rife with vows of personal reform, those proverbial New Year’s Resolutions. January tends to be a good month for gyms, who typically see a spike in new membership, as do Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. This time of year, many resolve to get in shape, lose the gut, put down the bottle, and be nicer to people on the subway.

Society has even created institutions to assist people with such reform, or, in some cases, with “rehabilitation.” These range from the Betty Ford Clinic, to bible camp, to the fat farm, and more. Another such institution is prison. Prison might not have much to do with the New Year, but it’s got everything to do with TIME.

Johnny Paycheck did his time. Back in 1989 Paycheck began serving a 7-year sentence for a barroom shooting that occurred in Hillsboro, Ohio, in 1985. He was incarcerated in Chillicothe Correctional Institute. The interview above took place while Paycheck was in the slammer. The clip contains some great footage--like how the hell did they get Paycheck’s actual sentencing on camera? But check out the typically condescending tone of the TV journalist douche for A Current Affair. Dig the implied “what a low-life” message. And his remark that Paycheck’s career at the time had  “all but died” is wholly inaccurate. During the three-year appeals process for his case, Paycheck signed a new contract with Mercury Records, and, in 1987, charted again with the single “Old Violin." 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keef, The Love Rustler, and David Johansen on the Tee Vee!

Take Out Some Insurance

Rocket 88

At Tramps, New York City, 1985.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nashville Radio: The Paintings of Jon Langford

Originally published in Puncture #43

Hank: Nashville Radio by Jon Langford
Shortly before his final exit, Hank Williams stopped to pose for one more publicity shot. Standing in some fairground hay, he smiled over his shoulder at the camera as he shook hands with a grinning fan. The Fan guffawed and reared back, his hand extended in electrified delight while the camera caught the thousandth back-slapping yuk Hank’s career. Not long afterward, both Hank and The Fan departed and faded away, and of that night only a black and white photograph remained.

Forty years later Jon Langford sees the photo and bases a portrait of Hank and The Fan on it. He adds some color, avoiding the gaudy pastels of a Nudie suit, opting instead to fill in the black and white gradations with dull, earth-toned acrylics. Langford’s brush lends a certain depth to the figures’ features, animating their ticks and twitches with finely etched lines. Serpents emblazon The Fan’s western shirt. A third eye opens in his forehead. These words adorn the picture frame: There is no end I can’t pretend that dreams will still come true/ A slave to a heart of stone I can’t escape from you.  The original publicity shot’s suggestion that somewhere there’s a heaven built on the rock of fame gets reversed, and Langford charges it with a sense of mortality as funny as it is grim. The Fan’s grin, the look in Hank’s eye, the secret joke they seem to share: Hank’s made his deal, and The Fan has come to collect his due.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Etta James on the TeeVee!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joe Coleman: Auto-Portrait

Auto Portrait by Joe Coleman

If you find yourself in New York City sometime before December 22, you can still catch the latest exhibit of paintings by the Breughel of Brooklyn, the Bosch of Bitin’ off Mouse Heads: Joe Coleman. The exhibit, titled “Auto Portrait,” hangs at the swanky Dickinson Gallery at 19 East 66th Street. 
The viewer might not discover too many new surprises here in Coleman’s latest work. Most of the artist's favorite themes—corporeal decay, disease, demons, mommy and daddy, side-show geeks, oedipal hang-ups, serial killers, fire, and violence—remain alive and well in this collection. Coleman’s work is still somewhat autobiographical, as the title “Auto Portrait” suggests. And the eyes at the center of his portraits continue to act as the vortex pulling the viewer into Coleman’s vision of things. However, as the "Auto Portrait" show reveals, his work continues to reach new levels of maturity and mastery.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goin' Instro-Mental #4

Johnny's House Party (Part 1)  Johnny's House Party (Part 2)

Trivia question: Of the many versions, Jimmy Beasley's, John Heartsman's, and Earl Palmer's Party Rockers', whose came first?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jim Jarmusch, Lee Marvin, and Hell in the Pacific

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Anthology Film Archive in New York City. In celebration, Anthology has planned a series of special events, the first of which took place last Thursday, and featured the great director/writer Jim Jarmusch introducing his most recent film Limits of Control, plus a scene from Coffee and Cigarettes that was filmed in the 80s at the 2nd Avenue Courthouse, in the East Village, while Anthology was in the process of converting the building into their cinema.

So I dashed over there after work, hoping to catch a great New York City personality at a great New York City venue. But, as with most great New York City events, TONS of other people had the same idea, and they had it well before I did. The event sold out while I stood at the end of a long line. So, no Coffee and Cigarettes for me that night. But, while I did miss what sounded like a swell program, my effort didn't go completely unrewarded. While waiting in line to hear the bad news, I struck up a coversation with another unlucky Jarmusch fan. This guy told me about how he’d encountered the director on the street just a few minutes earlier and had a chance to speak with him.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jerry Lee Lewis Lost and Found

Cover art by Jon Langford

"Life" at the Star Club single

Isn’t the currently honored format for carrying on too long about a rocknroll LP the 33 1/3 series of mini-books published by Continuum Books? So what’s all this business about a full-length tome--Jerry Lee Lewis Lost and Found, by Joe Bonomo (Continuum, 2009)--dedicated to, of all things, a LIVE album? Hasn’t Bonomo, author of Sweat: The Story of The Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band, as well as his own 33 1/3 book on AC/DC’s Highway to Hell LP, gone too far this time?

Before you call overkill, however, keep a couple of things in mind: we’re talking about JERRY LEE LEWIS here, who’s got more rocknroll in his pinky nail than all your Pixies, Stone Roses, and R.E.M.’s--just a few of the subjects in the 33 1/3 book series--put together. Also bear in mind that we’re talking about Jerry Lee Lewis’ Live at the Star Club LP, arguably the greatest live rocknroll record ever made, and possibly the Killer’s own best album. It’s just too big, too loud and raucous and cranked on preludin for some slim, digest-sized booklet to do up proper.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

MC5 on the TeeVee!

The song doesn't actually start until the :55 point. So you can enjoy the intro, or fast-forward, or you can "run and extension cord to your TV, set it on the hood of your car and pretend your at the drive-in movies." What's a drive-in movie?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hillbilly Hayride #1

The New Raunchy

Who can tell the true identity of Shady Walls?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

AGOG: The World of Timothy Carey

Still from Kubrick's Paths of Glory
The World's Greatest Sinner
This month, October 15 - 25, the Anthology Film Archive in New York City features a tribute to the great Timothy Carey, the legendary "character-actor, madman, poet laureate of flatulence, and gonzo auteur." Highlights of the series include rare screenings of Tweet's Ladies of Pasadena, The World's Greatest Sinner, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Poor White Trash, One-Eyed Jacks, plus the recent documentary by Carey's son Romeo, Making Sinner. This really is a rare opportunity to see these films on the screen. How can you go wrong with a guy whose middle name contains the word Agog(lia)?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We Never Learn: Exposing the Gunk Punk Undergut

In his new book We Never Learn, the Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001 (Backbeat Books, 2010), former New Bomb Turks frontman, and now author Eric Davidson occasionally uses phrases like “the last moment,” and “the end days.” Such phrases usually appear in the context of describing some aspect of now-extinct New York City and its last relevant spurts of rocknroll. For example, according to Davidson, the band Pussy Galore rose from “the very last moment of lower Manhattan as the glorified dung heap at the end of the American empire.” Similarly, the Devil Dogs, who formed in New York in 1989, did so during “the end days of the ol’ Bowery landscape.” These qualifiers get dropped into the copy fairly early on, and seem incidental enough at first. But read on and they begin to take on broader implications. In coining the admittedly silly name Gunk Punk and shaping it into a coherent scene worth chronicling, Davidson might be writing about the “last moment” and “end days” of rocknroll itself.
    About that scene: the Undergut stretched way past New York City, reaching as far as the West Coast, Europe, Japan, Detroit, Memphis, even Ohio! For its pioneers Davidson nominates bands like the aforementioned Pussy Galore, plus the Raunch Hands, Lazy Cowgirls, Dwarves, Cynics, Gories, Billy Childish, and Death of Samantha, among others. Somehow, without these antecedents, most of which go back to the ‘80’s, the early aughts wouldn’t have been blessed with goobers like the White Stripes and the Hives. Or so the hypothesis goes. In the middle limbo between the scene’s earliest detectable pulse and its commercially viable culmination, we get pretty much the entire Crypt Records catalog, circa mid-90’s.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mike Edison’s Third Annual Banned Book Party

Says Mike Edison, author of the memoir I Have Fun Everywhere I Go, former High Times publisher, editor at Screw, etc., about his Banned Book Party: “Beyond the traditional prudishness of America, we are constantly facing new kinds of more insidious censorship born out of media conglomeration and new intellectual pathologies, like the concept of ‘net neutrality.’ We are going to attack all of that, plus I get to read some really filthy poetry with a bongo player. It’s my kind of party.”

Live soundtrack by the Space Liberation Pocket Arkestra, featuring BOB BERT (ex-Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, etc) and MICKEY FINN (Boss Hog).

Joining the party this year will be very special guests, HERALD PRICE FAHRINGER, the pre-eminent free speech attorney who has spent a career fighting for the First Amendment, defending free speech warriors such as LARRY FLYNT, and going toe-to-toe with the enemies of free expression, most notably former mayor RUDOLPH GIULIANI in the Battle of Times Square; and publishing avatar RICHARD NASH, named by the Utne Reader this year as one of Fifty Visionaries Changing Your World.

Housing Works Bookstore Café
126 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012 Tel: 212-334-3324
Wed, September 29th, 7 pm FREE

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lyres on the Tee-Vee!

"Don't Give It Up Now" circa '84

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Black Cracker by Josh Alan Friedman

The experts all agree: Josh Alan Friedman’s autobiographical novel Black Cracker (Wyatt Doyle Books, 2010) offers up some of the funniest lit to appear in recent history. The Hound called it “a cultural tell-all that will leave you howling.” Author Joe Bonomo noted that it’s “a very funny and closely observed book about growing up as an outsider — in Friedman’s case as the only white kid in an all-black school in Glen Cove, New York in the mid-1960s.”

Bonomo’s thumbnail synopsis gets to the source of all the comedy in Black Cracker, namely, the protag’s own outsider status and the wonders and conflicts--cultural, economic, historical, & racial--that ensue. Read on as a grade school version of the author, known to his schoolmates as Jock, discovers the bastardized local kidspeak for Aunt Jemimah: Hecha Momma. Bear witness to the nightmarish lesson, delivered at the hands of a brood of drunken black women, that, contrary to delusion, Jock is not just very light-skinned negro. What’s not funny about being the lone, white, Jewish kid enrolled in the last segregated school in the New York area?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jimmy Reed Bookends - Odds & Ends/Ends & Odds

Today the GS offers a couple of Jimmy Reed instrumental bookends, reproduced here in glorious Scratch-o-Phonic sound. We spare no expense here to achieve the hi-est of hi-fi. Vee-Jay records released "Odds & Ends" in Oct. 1958, as the b-side to the R&B chart-climber "I'm Gonna Get My Baby." As you listen to this one you might ask who's playing that freaky fiddle? Sugarcane Harris? Papa John Creach? Research reveals that it was played by a one Remo Biondi of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra.

Later that same year, Billboard announced the release of another Jimmy Reed instrumental, "Ends & Odds": "Reed has two great blues sides that should gather lots of R&B coin, especially in the Southern markets. 'Ends & Odds' is the natural follow-up to his previous click 'Odds & Ends'."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bo Diddley on the TeeVee!

On the Ed Sullivan Show, 1955.

Yes, this one's a medley. But check out The Duchess!

Another good one for The Duchess.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tommy Blake: $F-Oldin' Money$

The Rhythm Rebels. Carl Adams on the left. Note Adams' mangled pickin' claw and upside-down telecaster.

Tommy Blake: bastard child, juvenile delinquent, radio personality, gifted songwriter, drinker, and born loser: in his corpus gathered all the ingredients for great rockabilly.

Born Thomas LeVan Givens in Shreveport, LA--or was it Dallas? No one seems to know for sure--in 1931, the illegitimate son of an uncaring mother, Blake, as a youngster, took up the guitar, inspired by his love of country music. He quit school and joined the Marine Corps. He quickly left the Marine Corps. He then became a musician and itinerant radio personality, a career path usually overlooked by High School job fairs. Blake landed a regular spot on KRUS of Ruston, LA. Here Blake convinced rhythm guitarist Ed Dettenheim and another tragic talent, guitar wiz Carl Adams, together known as the Rhythm Rebels, to back him. Adams, it turned out, was oddly claw-fingered after a childhood shotgun accident. Said deformity, along with a love of amplifier volume, lent to Adams’ playing a certain craziness which had already been utilized by another Shreveport rocker, Dale Hawkins. Tommy Blake and the Rhythm Rebels were up and running, and made the rounds on the weekly live country & western radio broadcasts like the Louisiana Hayride and Hill Country Hoe-Down. Meanwhile Blake honed his songwriting skills, churning out nuggets like “Honky Tonk Mind” and “Ballad of a Broken Heart” which eventually became hits for Johnnies Horton and Cash, respectively.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Every Woman's Dream - Every Husband's Nightmare

The great Nick Tosches introduces the great Andre Williams at the "Sweets & Other Stories" reading at The Saint Mark's Poetry Project, New York City, February 2010.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Have Blues Will Travel

Today the GS presents a random sampling of gravel-scratchers, records about gettin' the hell out of town, whether baby done 'em wrong, they can't stand the sinful ways of the big, big city, or they just caught a dose of white line fever.

First up: Eddie Noack's "Have Blues Will Travel." Noack is best known for his 1968 version of the Leon Payne song "Psycho," on the K-Ark label. Long before that, however, he cut many great country records for the Gold Star and 4-Star labels, the earliest of which date back to the '40s. In the late '50s Noack recorded several sides for Pappy Dailey's Starday and D labels. Noack wrote most of these latter songs --spare, mid-tempo numbers like "Walk 'Em Off" and "Take it Away Lucky" noted for their hard-bitten lyrics and ponderous, reverb heavy guitar. On this one the singer's hittin' the road, "Feelin' low, gotta go unravel... long gone, movin' on, scratchin' gravel..."

Next up is everyone's favorite Cherokee bopper, Marvin Rainwater, with "Boo Hoo," recorded for the Warwick label in 1961, after his classic MGM days. The lyrics here speak for themselves: "gonna leave this lonesome town... ain't no use me hangin' around..."

And speaking of Cherokees, we wrap up today's post with something by the King of the Cherokee Boogie, Moon Mullican. Here Moon's kissing off the "Big, Big City" on a single from 1965 on the Hall-Way label. Is that country fuzz we hear oozing from the rhythm guitar? And how frightening is that Hall-Way logo? Like when you inked a deal with the Hall-Way label did your life/career then move down the hallway, beginning the slide toward that final vanishing point? Mood did get his card punched a mere two years after this record.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Roy Hall on TeeVee!

Well, whaddya know, the Gemini Spacecraft team of crack researchers dug up the following clip of Roy "the Hound" Hall --he of "Flood of Love," "Dirty Boogie," "One Monkey Can't Stop the Show" fame-- performing another classic, "See You Later Alligator." Odds are this originally aired on ABC's Ozark Jubilee country music variety show, where Hall's host Webb Pierce regularly appeared for one brief year in 1956.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Real Kids

Every once in a while ya get lucky, even in Beantown. I did a stint there myself from '06-'09, unhappy years for me, for the most part. Wasted years if not for (and you'll probably write me off as brain-dead for saying this) the Lyres--yep, Monoman having temporarily re-assembled one of his best line-ups (with Paul Murphy, Rick Corraccio, & Dan McCormack), they played some incredible shows during this period before the whole mess imploded again. Also, Boston's still got some great record stores, like Looney Tunes and In Your Ear. Then there's the odd occasion when the Real Kids, or what's left of them, play a show. The following footage was shot on one of their good nights, live at the dank old Cantab Lounge in Central Square, in the People's Republic of Cambridge, MA, March of 2009. Sure, John Felice's voice is a little raw, and he's kinda rough around the edges, as always, and the camera mic sounds like, well, a camera mic, but it's still amazingly intimate footage. Give a listen as Felice belts it out with real heart and peels off lick after lick. I was lucky enough to have been there too that night, one night when Beantown seemed all right.

Thanks to Bob Colby for posting these vids on YouTube.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Glen Glenn - One Cup of Coffee (And a Cigarette)

That's Glenn on the left.

Glen Troutman, better known to rock’n’roll fans as Glen Glenn, might have continued playing country & western music, instead of cutting some of the greatest sides from the rockabilly era, if not for one thing: Girls!

“If you played country, girls might want your autograph,” Glenn has said. “If you did this kind of [rock’n’roll] music, girls freaked out.”

Young Troutman spent his formative years growing up in Joplin, MO, in the Missouri Ozarks, reared on the Louisiana Hayride and Opry radio, young ears tuned to the music of Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens, and others. At age 14 the Troutman family, like thousands of other midwesterners [read: Okies], packed up and moved to Southern California, settling in San Dimas.

In that era, LA was a jumping musical oasis. The largely Okie enclaves of Compton and San Pedro tuned in to Town Hall Party, and the Maddox Brothers and Rose, while Central Avenue wailed with R&B by the likes of Wynonie Harris, Louis Jordan, Pee Wee Crayton and others. Too young for the clubs, Troutman soaked up the sounds of Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg’s radio show on KRKD, and taught himself to play many of the blues and R&B songs he heard there.

Soon Glen Troutman struck up a friendship with another young guitarist named Gary Lambert. Together they formed the duo Glen & Gary and began to play talent shows and square dances at various spots around the LA basin. Sunday nights the duo hung around the old Riverside Rancho dance hall near Griffith Park at guitar legend Joe Maphis’ regular show there. During set breaks Uncle Joe hung out back, bumming their smokes, and eventually took a shine to the youngsters. Maphis suggested they take a crack at the weekly amateur show hosted by KXLA Pasadena DJ “The Squeakin’ Deacon.” This they did, taking first prize on their first attempt with their rendition of a Joe & Rose Lee Maphis number “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke.”

Despite this victory, Glen & Gary struggled to land a regular paying gig axnd recording deal. Eventually they earned a spot on The Country Barn Dance show, where, among other things, they got to be pals with the young Eddie Cochran. Recording deals remained even more elusive. Their earliest recordings were done live, in the KXLA studios, and featured versions of “That’s All Right Mama”and Glenn claims to have not yet heard Elvis’ version at that point, but rather based his rendition on what he’d heard on Huggy Boy’s radio showin 1955.

Meanwhile, as Glen & Gary kept at the hob-nobbin, rock’n’roll began to shake up the country & western world. Our two young poon-hounds had already noticed how the Town Hall Party groupies hung around seeking autographs out back behind the Riverside Rancho. But they had a revelation one night in April 1956 when they drove from San Dimas down to San Diego to catch Elvis Presley’s first west coast appearance.

“You could barely hear him,” Glenn has said. “The girls were screaming so loud.”

Due largely to these observations, Glen & Gary jumped on the R’n’R bandwagon. Their next KXLA recordings were “Baby, Let’s Play House,” and “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”

Later in 1956, Troutman, briefly going it alone without Gary Lambert, got on the bill opening for Porter Wagoner, and began to appear on the Ozark Jubilee show. Here he made another live recording, this time it was “Shake, Rattle, Roll.”

Back in California a short time afterward, Troutman reunited with Lambert to cut versions of more rockin’ material, doing Mac Curtis’ “If I Had Me a Woman,” and Sonny Fisher’s “Hold Me Baby.”

Around this time the classic line-up of Glenn’s band began to form around Troutman on vocals, Lambert on lead guitar, and bassist Connie “Guybo” Smith on loan from old pal Eddie Cochran’s band. Fellow Missourian Wynn Stewart, likewise a California transplant who would become instrumental in the formation of Bakersfield honky-tonk, got in on the action and persuaded the band to do a string of demos. Crown jewel in this batch of recordings was their version of Stewart’s song “One Cup of Coffee (and a Cigarette).” These demos eventually landed the boys a contract with ERA records, whose management rechristened Troutman as Glen Glenn. They promptly sent the band to the famed Gold Star studios in Hollywood, where they re-cut “One Cup of Cofee” along with “Everybody’s Movin’”, a couple of the greatest rockabilly numbers ever committed to wax.

And what’s “One Cup of Coffee (And a Cigarette)” all about? You guessed it: Girls! Or really, it’s about the loneliness caused by one particular girl, the Everygirl, if you will. And leave it to Lonesome Wynn Stewart to nail it in a couple of quick verses:

I think I’m gonna cry if she don’t show up
Tears are gonna fall in a coffee cup
Cigarette smoke gets in my eye
That ain’t the reason that I cry
Waitin’ on my baby and she ain’t here yet
One cup of coffee (and a cigarette).

You can really see the poor sap sitting at the diner counter, alone under the harsh lights with his coffee and smokes, midnight in the middle of the big American nowhere, the heart of which, as John Rechy said in City of Night, is loneliness.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Yeah, You Ain't Heard the Lyrics Yet" - The Sacred Cows on "Get Smart"

So the Stooges didn't quite corner the market on the "Love is Out, Hate is In" 60s hippie eliminator punk. Check out the Sacred Cows, baby! They dished this number out on the "Groovy Guru" episode of Get Smart! from 1968, starring Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, and Larry Storch in a guest appearance as the Groovy Guru. More evidence that American television programming peaked in that long gone decade?

My old Pittsburgh pals, the Mt McKinleys --the 'burgh's answer to, I dunno, who? The Royal Pendletons?-- once cut an ace cover of the song, almost 20 years ago. Their version kinda takes the song from the realm of television novelty number and turns it into a raved-up blitz. And, AND, it just so happens that the Mt. McKinleys play TONIGHT at the Spike Hill Tavern in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. So, yes, this post has really been just an underhanded, sneaky, shameless plug for my friends' band.

One more factoid: playing bass for the Sacred Cows is Jerry Scheff, session man who also played in the early 70s line-up of Elvis' TCB band.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved

Art by Ralph Steadman

Forty years ago, Hunter S. Thompson attended the classic at Churchill Downs, and here, thanks to Google docs, is his account, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," which originally appeared in Scanlan's Monthly (vol. 1, number 4, 1970). According to the essay, which offers probably the world's first shot at Gonzo sports writing, this was the first occasion when HST worked with British artist Ralph Steadman. Steadman flew in from London, sketchbook in hand, hoping to capture the face of the Kentucky Derby. Or so the story goes.

According to HST, who grew up in Louisville and knew the Derby crowd all too well, what he wanted Steadman to see went something like this:

"It was a face I'd seen a thousand times at every Derby I'd ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry--a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis; the inevitable result of too much inbreeding in a closed and ignorant culture."

Reporter and artist searched all over Churchill Downs, from among the thousands in attendance, for a glimpse of this face. As they searched, Steadman sketched much of what he saw, and as a sort of British quirk, would share his hideous renderings with his drunk and increasingly belligerent subjects. In this way Steadman risked taking a beating or two himself. Still, the face of the Kentucky Derby eluded them until, toward the end of the debauched weekend, HST saw his own face in the mirror.

"There he was, by God--a puffy, drink-ravaged, disease-ridden an awful cartoon version of an old snapshot in some once-proud mother's family photo album. It was the face we'd been looking for--and it was, of course, my own. Horrible, horrible..."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

International Louie Louie Day

Cougar Marching Band rehearsing a classic.

On April 11, 1935, Richard Berry was born in Extension, Louisiana. Twenty years later, Berry, fronting his band, the great Richard Berry & the Pharaohs, would cut the original version of "Louie Louie" for the Flip label. Thus, Berry's birthday is International Louie Louie Day. The Louie Louie Advocacy and Music Appreciation Society, or LLAMA, can tell you more.

The following excerpt from an archived story from the LA Times news service, as syndicated in the Anchorage Daily News, May 6, 1988, tells us of the parade, yes, the PARADE, held in honor of "Louie Louie" in Philadelphia that year:

"Philadelphia has hosted 'Louie Louie' processions since 1985...Last year, in fact, nearly 70,000 people turned out to see the parade, which featured 5,000 kazoo playing participants, several zany floats and a string of rock bands all playing 'Louie Louie' in unison."

Philly's "Louie Louie" Parade was the brainchild of WMMR Philadelphia disc jockey John DeBella, who not only organized the event and assembled the kazoo ensemble, but also served as the parade's Grand Marshall on a few occasions. Morning man DeBella had apparently been inspired to organize the parade by the 24 hour "Louie Louie" marathon hosted by another California station. Such a marathon was made possible, of course, by the bazillion and one versions of "Louie Louie" that exist out there. Just try doing that with "Johnny B. Goode." The YouTube clip above features the Washington State University Cougar Marching Band's version.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Meiko Kaji

Meiko Kaji in Straycat Rock: Sex Hunter

Meiko Kaji, like Tura Satana, managed to use the sexploitation movie genre to portray strong, powerful, and dangerous female characters. Unlike her American predecessor, however, Kaji conquered her adversaries not with cleavage and karate kicks, but rather with bad-ass hats, knife skills, and a steely-eyed stare.

Born Masako Ota in 1947, Kaji might actually be better known as a singer in the Japanese Enka style, a kind of postwar pop ballad known for its embrace of traditional musical influence and socially conscious themes. Kaji began working in the film industry in the mid-60s, playing smale roles and using her real name. In 1970 she first used the name Meiko Kaji, starring in director Yasuharu Hasebe’s Alleycat Rock series. In these films about girl gangs, Kaji first began to establish characters that defied the stereotype of the docile Japanese woman, and kicking more than a few men's asses along the way. Here’s a clip from Straycat Rock: Sex Hunter.

In 1971, after doing the Alleycat Rock series, Kaji began working with exploitation director Shunya Ito, appearing in several of his women in prison films. The wildest of these would have to be Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41. Scorpion has all the trappings of the genre: violence, lesbian sex scenes, brutality at the hands of male prison guards and wardens, etc. But it goes way beyond the usual limitations, adding unique twists like ghost mysticism and surreal sequences, which all probably have to do with the fact that the film’s an adaptation of a style of Japanese comic known as manga. Ito's films exposed Meiko Kaji to a wide audience, and earned her movie status in Japan.

A still from Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41

Sexploitation & Japanese comics? How's that for dorky? Anyway, Meiko Kaji is still around, alive and well and still making records and appearing in films and television. As might be expected, some of her songs were recycled by Quentin Tarantino in his film Kill Bill, Vol. 1.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zimmerman on Letterman, with the Plugz!

This clip makes my day. Bob Dylan backed by the Plugz wangin' out a Sonny Boy Williamson tune on Late Night with David Letterman, back in 1983. Not just great Rock 'n' Roll, but maybe the R'n'R pirate headband's greatest moment too.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Chicken Dinner

What’s that you say? Pass the chicken? Well, okay. But bear in mind, there’s no way I can give you every piece of the bird, as I’m no doubt missing a gizzard here, a drumstick there. Still, you get a pretty decent poultry platter with the following tracks:

Rufus Thomas “Chicken Scratch”, Joe Tex “Chicken Crazy”, Fuitt Forst “Chicken Bop”, Link Wray “Run Chicken Run”, The Raunch Hands “Chicken Scratch”, Andre Williams “Greasy Chicken”, and the toughest piece of all: Don & Juan’s “Chicken Necks”.

Hasil Adkins knew poultry too. In fact Norton Records put together an entire LP of his chicken songs called Poultry in Motion.

Here chick, chick, chicken... Here chicken...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arthur Alexander: A Shot of Rhythm & Blues

Back in 1961, Arthur Alexander, a rhythm & blues singer who dug country music, teamed up with Dan Penn & the Pall Bearers, country boys heavily into soul. Together, at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, they pioneered the so-called "country soul" sound. The most famous product of this successful collision of American musical strains was the single “You Better Move On,” an Arthur Alexander original which has been covered by everyone from the Rolling Stones to George Jones.

Alexander had already proven his song-writing abilities before writing and recording that first big hit. In 1959 he co-wrote a single “She Wanna Rock” for Candian C&W singer Arnie Derskin. The following year he wrote and recorded for Judd Phillips’ Judd label his own first single, the amazing double-whammy “Sally Sue Brown” b/w “The Girl that Radiates that Charm.”

During these formative years Alexander struck up a partnership with his manager/co-writer Tom Stafford, who, like Alexander, had grown up in small-town Alabama. It was Stafford who took the “Sally Sue Brown” demo to Judd Phillips, and it was Stafford who helped to arrange those first sessions with Rick Hall at Fame, and Stafford, again, who convinced Alexander leave Muscle Shoals to seek his own undoing in Nashville. In that corporate Babylon, Alexander’s song-writing & recording career was stripped of creative control and publishing rights, setting him up for eventual obscurity.

Conflicting stories surround the sale of “You Better Move On”--was it Stafford or Rick Hall who first peddled it around Nashville? Apparently every A&R man in town rejected it at first, everyone but Noel Ball, that is, a local disc jockey and Nashville rep for Dot Records. Dot agreed to release the record and quickly nabbed Alexander’s contract. Sadly, “You Better Move On” would be some of the last original material Alexander would record for a long time. Under the guidance of Ball, Alexander’s records began to suffer from the usual Nashville trappings typical of that era: cover songs, corny background singers, and string sections. Meanwhile, the big hit made a ton of money for everyone but its writer.

And yet those follow-up Dot records, however tarnished, are killer. To hear Arthur Alexander perform “A Shot of Rhythm & Blues,” “Black Night,” “Pretty Girls Are Everywhere,” “Soldiers of Love,” “I Hang My Head and Cry,” even the Johnny Bond number “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” (set to the same melody as Kitty Wells' “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” which is also the same Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life,” which is, again, the sameRoy Acuff’s “Great Speckled Bird”--follow that melody any further back and you begin to wander into the mystical realms of country music’s origins), you wouldn’t think you were hearing a man who was disappointed by his treatment in Nashville. Still, great as these songs are, they're no “Sally Sue Brown.” Imagine the catalog Arthur Alexander might have left if he'd have maintained creative control.

By the late 60’s Alexander ditched Dot Records. In 1972 he recorded an album Arthur Alexander for Warner Brothers, which includes his great version of “Burnin’ Love,” predating Elvis’ version. Still the money was poor and he was forced to play the gut-bucket circuit of small southern clubs. Finally, in 1975, Alexander threw in the towel after getting stiffed for another record, this time for the Buddha label, then quit the business entirely.

One song on the Warner LP, “Rainbow Road,” a sort of hard-luck ballad involving a knife fight and prison time, written by Dan Penn & Don Fritz, helped to surround Alexander’s retirement with fictional mystique. Whatever happened to Arthur Alexander? Didn’t you hear? He’s doing time for knifing a guy! In actuality, he'd settled in Cleveland where he worked as a bus driver for some 15 years.

In 1993 he returned to recording, making the Ben Vaughn-produced album Lonely Just Like Me for Elektra Records. A few months later, in June of that year, Arthur Alexander died of a heart attack.

Post Script: Check the always amazing archive of Radio Hound airchecks, April 17, 1993, for a great interview with the man himself, done a mere few months before his death.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dale Hawkins: Mrs Merguitory's Daughter... She Don't Love Me but She Really Oughter

(Repost from Jan. 14, 2009. RIP Dale Hawkins.)

Delmar Allen Hawkins, aka Dale Hawkins, was born in 1936 in Goldmine, Louisiana, just 30 miles from Ferriday, hometown of fellow northern Louisianan Jerry Lee Lewis. Dale's dad, a hillbilly musician in his own right, died when Dale was a kid. This event cast the young Hawk loose to live with various share-cropper relatives around the Shreveport area. Some claim he acquired his early love for black music, those blues, so essential to his "swamp bop" sound, while working in the share-cropper fields.

Then again, he might have just as easily come by this love at Stan Lewis' Shreveport store, Stan the Man's Record Shop. Here Hawkins worked as a counter clerk when he wasn't playing gigs on the Bossier City strip, a blue zone just across the Red River from Shreveport. Stan Lewis happened to be the biggest distributor of Chess/Checker records in the region, and Leonard Chess knew him well.

In '56 the Hawk cut his earliest demos in the studios of Shreveport's KWKH radio late at night, during dead air time. At that point he was trying to get signed to Chess, just like his friend Bobby Charles had with the song "See You Later Alligator." The title of Dale Hawkins' first demo: "See You Soon Baboon." Apparently Stan the Man dug it. And apparently Leonard Chess dug "Susie-Q," which he released in '57 after a bit of a tug-o-war with Atlantic Records over the song. Hawkins went on to record roughly 30 sides for Checker from 1957-1961.

Besides cutting all those classic records for Checker ("My Babe," "Cross-Ties," "Baby Baby," "Mrs. Merguitory's Daughter," "Little Pig," "Tornado," "Susie-Q," "Worried About My Baby" etc.), Dale Hawkins also cut his teeth as producer, working with Johnny Horton at KWKH. Eventually he went on to produce hits for the Uniques, Five Americans, and others. Does anyone know if he also produced the Arena Twins' version of "Little Pig"?

Dale Hawkins also hosted the teen dance show "Big Big Beat" on WCAU-TV outta Philadelphia, which I think was also called "The Dale Hawkins Show" at some point. Couldn't find any youtube action for either of those (which sorta makes me doubt my sources --like if it ain't on youtube by now, did it ever really happen?). But here's a clip from "American Bandstand," Dale Hawkins lip-syncing along to "Little Pig," circa '58. Hey, the guy can dance too!

And if all that's still not impressive enough for you, Dale Hawkins also discovered and/or hired young guitar wizzes James Burton* --that's JB at age 15 playing that unmistakable & immortal lick on "Susie-Q"-- and Roy Buchanan --RB plays lead on "My Babe."

If you'd like to hear a pretty funny interview with Dale Hawkins, check out the Norton Records 20th Anniversary Party special broadcast of WFMU's "Music to Spazz By" with Dave the Spazz.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buddy Holly's Nashville Sessions

Ollie Vee, he come from Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee. But Buddy Holly, he come from Lubbock, Texas, home of country western radio station KDAV, where announcer Hipockets Duncan helped Buddy and his early sidekick, guitarist Bob Montgomery, get a regular slot on the Sunday Party live show. Here Buddy and Bob’s popularity grew, and they eventually got a spot opening for Bill Haley when he passed through town. Bigshot Nashville promoter Eddie Crandall heard them that night in 1955, and, like Hipockets before him, also got interested. Crandall got KDAV to cut a few demos, then he arranged a recording contract with Decca for... er, well, for Buddy only. It seems that Decca, in their scramble to find their own Elvis, was only interested in solo Rock 'n' Roll acts. So no Delmore Brothers, Louvin Brothers, Santos & Johnnies, or Johnnies & Jonies for Decca Records. But they did let Buddy record with a crack Rockabilly outfit that included guitarist Sonny Curtis, who wrote “Rock Around with Ollie Vee,” bassist Don Guess, who wrote the great “Modern Don Juan,” and guitarist Grady Martin.

So we’re still talkin’ pre-Crickets here on these songs, which were all recorded in Nashville, in three separate sessions, way back in 1956. Owen Bradley even produced one of the sessions, demonstrating once again that, despite being one of two main architects of countrypolitan shmaltz, he knew how to make a good Rock’n’Roll record, having also produced the earliest sides by the Johnny Burnette Trio, and I suspect possibly those by Donny “Soon to Become Johnny Paycheck” Young. Most of these songs were originally released as Decca singles (although today they come to you by way of MCA LP Buddy Holly The Nashville Sessions, released in 1975), failed to chart. The record company grew restless, and thus began Buddy Holly's fabled departure from Decca. Less than a year later he broke big with "That'll Be the Day." Boy o boy, Decca probably sure wished it had held its mud for a few more months.

And while Bradley was demonstrating all that R’n’R producer prowess, Buddy Holly showed us how gone for the girls he was. Besides the aforementioned “Modern Don Juan,” hear him pant and pine convincingly enough on “Love Me” and “Ting-A-Ling.” Young and free is a real fine thing to be, but, alas, love ain’t free. It left Buddy to sing with equal aplomb about “The Midnight Shift” and “Blue Days – Black Nights” as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Big Boy Crudup's Atomic Bomb Blues

For originating the song that first broke Elvis, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup sometimes got called the “Father of Rock’n’Roll.” For Crudup it was a dubious distinction, one that sure didn’t pay. By the mid-50s, as his young white imitator climbed the charts with his rendition of “That’s All Right, Mama,” Crudup had already quit recording for a spell, tired of getting stiffed for royalties by RCA, Checker, Ace, and Trumpet records.

Of course Crudup eventually came out of retirement. He cut a few singles and a long-player for Bobby Robinson’s Fire label, who released “Mean Ole Frisco" b/w "Rock Me, Mama” and “Katie Mae" b/w "Dig Myself a Hole" both in 1962. The last of these sides, “Dig Myself a Hole,” takes Gemini Spacecraft’s top spot in the category of atomic bomb blues, right up there with Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War” from the Arms Race 80s.

These releases placed Crudup in a good position to reap some limited exposure on the folk revival scene then emerging. But misfortune dogged the Big Boy, and none of his records earned him any money. Crudup never escaped poverty, and to the end he earned his meager living as an agricultural laborer and small-time moonshiner.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin'

Once more on the subject of Memphis wrestling: Shangri-La Projects, the same folks who brought you Ron Hall’s great book Sputnik, Masked Men, & Midgets: The Early Days of Memphis Wrestling, have also produced a documentary film. Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ is based on Hall’s book, but it apparently delves more deeply into the 80s era than the book does, which focuses more on the 50s & 60s golden age. Hall, Sherman Philpott, and Billy Worley produced the film, and Chad Schaffler directed. Official release date: sometime in 2010.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Willie Mitchell With the 4 Kings: Tell It to Me Baby

Willie Mitchell, Memphis trumpeter and band leader most famously known for running Hi Records, for cutting a string of great instrumentals in the 60s, and for producing Al Green and Ann Peebles in the 70s, died yesterday. He was 81.

For decades Mitchell worked his magic at his own Royal Studios, in Memphis, TN, often with great session guitarist Teenie Hodges leading the Royal house band. On the Al Green & Ann Peebles records these guys were the Kings of Quiet, achieving a rare level of warmth and intimacy in the studio. Still, great as all that music is, it’s all a little too “suede denim” for me. I prefer the earlier Willie Mitchell, of 4 Kings fame, here performing their first single “Tell It To Me Baby,” from 1958, on Memphis Rockabilly/C&W great Eddie Bond’s Stomper Time label. The song was written by 4 Kings lead singer Don Bryant. In fact, Willie Mitchell wasn’t actually in the band, tho he finagled song credit nonetheless, as he was more like the band’s leader and manager. Anyway, it’s a rocker. Tell it to me baby!