Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!

Mike Edison apparently has a soft spot for book reviewers. Or maybe he just doesn’t want us to sweat the job too hard. As for our portion of summary and description, he's already done most of he work for us with his long-assed subtitles. First there was his memoir I Have Fun Everywhere I Go, Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and The Most Notorious Magazines in the World (whew! I get bushed just typing it!). Now he gives us his latest Dirty! Dirty! Dirty!, Of Playboys, Pigs, and Penthouse Paupers, an American Tale of Sex and Wonder (New York, Soft Skull, 2011).
            Edison contextualizes this latest tale with an epigram.
“America,” he writes, “always the most audacious of cultures, is also the most repressed.”
For said repression’s release—manual and otherwise—we owe a debt to our pornographers. Or so the premise goes.
From here, as if in anticipation of the collective nose-holding such names still elicit among prudish readers, Edison makes haste to establish Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, Larry Flynt, and Al Goldstein as champions, not only of the beaver shot, but also, more importantly maybe, of free speech. But then you can’t have one without the other. No Free Speech fight, no beaver shot. For few have tested the First Amendment more rigorously than the smut peddler.
After this introduction, Edison then informs us that, of these Four Horsemen of Porn, “I want to tell you their story, and then some.” On this score, Edison delivers the goods. Pick up a copy of Dirty! Dirty! Dirty! and read about Lenny Bruce, Little Annie Fanny, and Helen Gurley Brown, learn how the set of Caligula was even more decadent than the actual film, revel in Larry Flynt’s foul-mouthed antics before the Supreme Court, dig all this and a whole lot more. 
            As for the story-teller, we've got the right man on the job here. Go ahead, check his resume. Edison once edited Screw, wrote girl-copy for the Crescent Publications family of fine smut rags (Cheri, High Society, Swank, etc.), and claims to have penned dozens of pornographic novels. (What’s that you ask? What’s a ‘pornographic novel’? Well, imagine a dirty book, sold on a dirty newsstand… Er… What’s a newsstand? Aw… forget it.) So Edison possesses more than a little first-hand experience with his subject. Plus he’s pretty fuckin’ funny, and his brash narration, at its best, strikes a balance somewhere between seasoned journalist, borscht-belt comic, and titty-bar emcee.
            Elsewhere, however, Edison relies too heavily on that brashness, and his research seems a bit light. Much of the thrill of this sort of story comes from marvelling at the reporter's legwork. And sure, Edison bags many good quotes here, from Flynt, Paul Krassner, the Jr. Gooch, et. Al (Goldstein). Plus D!D!D! comes with a fairly extensive bibliography and footnotes on most pages. Yet Edison often uses the latter less like a tool for documentation than an opportunity for another aside, one where a few hopped-up similes work to convince us to not sweat the sources, Edison's good for it, he'll get us back tomorrow, don't worry about it.
            But, in the end, these are minor gripes. After all, this ain’t a PhD dissertation. A sensational subject calls for a similarly sensational narration. The important thing is Edison perceives the big stuff, like the tragedy of fortune, and the prices paid by each of his Four Horsemen.
             And did I mention that he’s also pretty fuckin’ funny?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lowman Pauling & The "5" Royales

"5" Royales in hot pink, 1 Lowman Pauling with Guitar Face

This post is largely motivated by the recent circulation on the interwebz of the above photo. I mean, check it OUT! Pink dinner jackets! A black lacquer Duo Jet! Guitar Face! For the full run-down on R&B guitar legend L.P. & The "5" Royales, see the Hound's great post on the subject. Oh yeah, and these two records kill.

Say It - The "5" Royales

 The Slummer the Slum - The "5" Royales

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weegee the Famous

January seems to be month of Weegee (nee Arthur Fellig, June 12, 1899 – December 26, 1968) here in New York, with two exhibitions of the fabled photog's work running concurrently, for the next few weeks, at least. The Steven Kasher Gallery, at 521 West 23rd Street, currently features the exhibition "Weegee Naked City," scheduled to show from January 12 to February 25, 2012.

Meanwhile, at the International Center of Photography, at 1163 Avenue of the Americas, another show "Weegee: Murder is My Business," just opened last week. It runs through September 2, 2012.

Each exhibition is extensive and unique. Fans of the original and possibly still the greatest photographer of New York's lost, hard-boiled, nocturnal life ought to enjoy them both.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jimmy Castor: June 23, 1947 - January 16, 2012

"Trogolodyte (Cave Man)": My favorite jam at age 10. I wasn't too sure at the time what "sockittome" meant, but I always laughed at the name "Bertha Butt." Now who's Bertha Butt gonna sockitto? RIP Jimmy Castor.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"The Death of Rock and Roll" ...Happy Birthday Elvis, That Is

Elvis Presley, January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977. Was he King of Rock 'n' Roll, or its Kiss of Death? Does it matter either way at this point? He cut some fine records and had some mighty cool hair. So happy birthday Elvis. Here's a clip of his version of "I've Got a Woman."

The Maddox Brothers and Rose re-did the tune as "The Death of Rock and Roll" for Columbia Records in 1956, featuring Don Maddox on the lead vocal.

Finally, here's a clip of ol' Don Maddox doing "The Death of Rock and Roll" in 2011 (!!) at last year's Hillbillyfest, supported by Deke Dickerson and Dave Stuckey.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Moon Mullican on the TeeVee!

Moon bangs out a quick version of "Cherokee Boogie" for the cameras. He's introduced by country crooner George Morgan, on Morgan's television show (anyone know it was called?), from probably 1956-1957.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Charlie Ryan: Of Okies, Arkies, and Hot Rod Rockets

Our story begins with what is, by now, familiar history: From out of the dust bowl of the 1930’s poured a great, westward moving horde. An entire generation of Okies, Arkies, Linkhorns, and Panhandlers crowded into jalopies, hopped freights, stuck out their thumbs, and wore out shoe-leather—those, that is, who didn’t simply roam the barren barefoot—all bound for the mythical sugar bowl of California. They settled in towns like Fresno, Stockton, Bakersfield, Compton, and San Pedro. These  places became the new hillbilly enclaves of the west, booming through World War II and tuning into Town Hall Party.
        Charlie Ryan was not among them—at least, not until later, when his records would land in their jukeboxes and his boots would scuff their stages.
        Ryan was born in Graceville, Minnesota, December 19, 1915, several years and several hundred miles safely beyond the reach of the “Black Blizzards” of prairie dust. Another son of 20th Century American mobility, Ryan likewise moved west, first to Polson, Montana, where the young singer/guitar-picker formed his first group, The Montana Range Riders. He eventually settled in Spokane, Washington, in 1943, according to once source. Another claims that the Range Riders took their first regular engagement at a Spokane joint called the Bell Tavern as early as 1935. One thing we do know is that Ryan was calling his band the Timberlines by the late 40’s. In 1950 he wrote his signature song.
        “Hot Rod Lincoln” was essentially another talking blues in the old Chris
Bouchillon/Woody Guthrie tradition—Guthrie, the original “Do-Re-Mi” man, knew a
little something about Okies and Arkies. More specifically, Ryan’s song borrowed heavily from the work of yet another Arkie, in this case Arkie Shibley, whose “Hot Rod Race” was released in 1950 on the Gilt-Edge label and peaked at #5 on the country charts. What’s more, Shibley had also relocated to Spokane, and as fate would have it, his and Ryan’s tire tracks would cross.