Sunday, January 31, 2010

Music to our ears: Mom turns 85 today

Mavis Gabriel Smith turns 85 today, but her family couldn't wait to celebrate such a joyous landmark occasion. Saturday we baked bruna kakor for the first time, prepared hot beef sandwiches and potato soup, and polished off a bottle of very affordable chardonnay just doing a toast.

Today the bulletin at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church is dedicated to Mom, and a more deserving person you could not find among the entire congregation. She is distressed over Pastor Tom leaving soon for a new assignment, so we do what we can to put her mind at ease.

I watched her closely last night, as you do when you marvel at someone who has aged so gracefully and still pushes ahead in her twilight years with a big smile and an enduring purpose. That is great granddaughter Nora beside her in the photo, a remarkable image that tells you so much about our family.

As we sang Happy Birthday I was engulfed in memories of my mother and how, without really trying, she shaped the musical directions of her children. For starters, it was she who purchased the first Beatles record in our family, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." She made sure we saw the Mitchell Boys Choir from Harlem when they came through town. We sang along with Mitch, for crying out loud. Mom, with Dad's support, was the reason Sue played saxophone, Mary played flute and both Jeannie and I wound up in percussion (though I would quickly flee the drum kit to pursue mindless endeavors.) Money was always tight but I remember more than once Mom slipping us enough money to go downtown and buy a record album. It's the reason we had 33 rpms like "A Symphony For Tommy" playing on our turntable.

Last night she listened intently as audio from the day's Dairyland Conference Solo and Ensemble competition was played and grandson Carter did her proud. And we were reminded once again: This is all about family. It always has been and always will be. We can never forget to thank our parents for that.

And we should never forget to celebrate a birthday in style, especially the big eight-five. Happy birthday, Mom.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

And speaking of Al Green...

We play requests at Six String Sanctuary. A reader asked about the Al Green video mentioned in the previous blog so we dutifully oblige. (The hyperlink function isn't working this morning so click on the link below:)

With a bandana sling holding up his right arm (reportedly injured in a mishap in Milwaukee) and a long-stemmed rose in his left, Green was at his seductive best during a Soul Train appearance in 1974. He would score six No. 1 hits on the R&B charts during this soul-charged period, but the song performed here "Come and Get Me (Take Me By the Hand)" was a near-miss at No. 2.

Before long Green's career and life would take a dramatic shift. After a girlfriend dumped boiling grits on him while he was showering and then killed herself with his gun, Green would turn from pop to gospel. Which really wasn't much of a turn for him. He once told an interviewer: "I was raised on gospel. It was put into my cornbread. I ate it."

There's a great photo slideshow on his website:

Athough Green still tours, his main gig is serving as pastor of the Full Tabernacle Church in Memphis. Now there's a church service we'd love to attend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Good news: Carey Ott finds his soul

Note: Copy the link below into a new browser window so you can listen while reading:

Once in a great while we hear something truly uplifting, before hardly any ears have listened to it, by an emerging artist ready to do something on a grand scale, and we'd like to broadcast it to the masses. A Six String Sanctuary Scoop (SSSS), if you will.

It's crazy how this all happened. Psycho, our Twin Cities tune vibemeister, recently sent me a link to a classic Soul Train video of Al Green. The timing was good, since we're right on the anniversary of Green's "Let's Stay Together" reigning over the Billboard Hot 100 chart (for six weeks in 1972). So I was just preparing to write about the Minister of Love when another email hit my inbox Wednesday afternoon.

Care to hear Al Green's next big hit? How about Carey Ott's breakout song?

Here are the lyrics to the newest song by Ott, a prolific Nashville tunesmith who first buzzed the national radar screen with a song that received multiple plays on Grey's Anatomy. The newspaper vets among us are going to want royalties for supplying Ott the inspiration to write his latest gem:

Good News (Carey Ott)

Open up the paper today
It seems that everything's failing
If you believe everything that you read
I bet your hope is fading

I gotta tell ya
They try to sell ya
That old hook line
Baby If it bleeds it leads

Somebody tell me some good news
Please somebody tell me some good news

Walk outside the sun's shining bright
Kids are laughing and playing
The summer breeze puts you at ease
Look how the flowers are swaying

Ain't life arranged to
Somehow amaze you
Not make you crazy
Put out the fire say

Please somebody tell me some good news
Please somebody tell me some good news
Please somebody tell me some good news
Please somebody tell me some good news

(Horns & Strings)

Ain't trying to hear it
Don't let me near it
That old hook line
Baby If it bleeds it leads

Somebody tell me some good news

Here is pure soul with a hook so sweet and delicious it'll reel you right in. If Al Green can't use it (I don't know that he'll get first dibs, but it sure SOUNDS like Al Green) then Ott should ride it all by his lonesome. When people hear it they'll wonder where that nice white boy from Chicago got all his soul.

Could this be the song that introduces the world to Carey Ott? Stay tuned for some really good news.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

10 for the Crapper

We may be a lot of things here at Six String Sanctuary, but we're not mean-spirited. Being bad asses might help us gain some bad ass viewership, and who wants or needs that?

We do, however, feel a social responsibility to occasionally reference other bad asses, especially when they are savaging music that other people (not necessarily us) may have actually enjoyed along their journeys.

You probably have seen this if you visit, a fine website that is always alive with entertaining content. Blender's list of the 50 Worst Artists in Music History has actually been around since last April and still gets hits, proving the marvel of the Internet.

We thought we'd share their Top 10 (or Bottom 10, depending how you look at it). I can say with certainty this disappoints my oldest sister, who is a big Kenny G fan, and pisses off a few of my flag-waving, truck-driving buddies (Lee Greenwood). But I doubt there was any malice intended, other than to sully the reputations of the artists mentioned. The writing, we must say, is quite good and even occasionally convincing.

Why today? It's the 100th anniversary of Thomas Crapper's death. While Crapper did not invent the toilet, as he is often credited, he did significantly improve the flushing mechanism, thereby earning his lofty throne in bathroom history.

Here are 10 for the crapper, according to Blender. Probably better flush twice just to make sure.

The sound of eunuchs sobbing
Disproving the theory that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, Air Supply contained not one but two mewling, lovesick softies whose name was Russell. In the early ’80s, the Australian duo’s gutless ballads — music so remorselessly fey it made Journey sound like Danzig — sent a generation of jilted lovers toppling into depression that was as clinical as the Russells’ music. Mercifully, though, by the end of the decade, the pair had cried themselves to sleep.
Appalling fact: Determined to ruin the festive season, Air Supply once recorded a Christmas album.
Worst CD: The Christmas Album (Arista, 1987)

Gives patriotism a bad name
“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson said, but in Lee Greenwood’s case, it’s the ultimate meal ticket for a Nashville hack. A bland balladeer with a weakness for overwrought sentimentality, he wrote the 1984 tune “God Bless the U.S.A.” in response to the Soviet downing of a South Korean airliner. It became a campaign theme for George H.W. Bush and was recently excavated in torturous fashion by the American Idol 2 cast during the war in Iraq.
Appalling fact: Greenwood performed a duet with Latoya Jackson on her dreadful 1994 album, From Nashville to You.
Worst CD: You’ve Got a Good Love Comin’ (MCA, 1985)

The white boy to end all white boys
You know that yearbook photograph you won’t let anyone see? The one whose very existence keeps you awake shaking at night? Imagine it was a horribly dated number 1 single from 1990 called “Ice Ice Baby,” and you have an idea what life is like for Robert Van Winkle. It doesn’t stop there: Ice starred in the abysmal 1991 Hollywood vehicle Cool as Ice, and after squandering his quick fortune, mounted an unsuccessful comeback in 1998 as (shudder) a rap-rocker.
Appalling fact: Widely denounced by hip-hop fans as a phony, Ice rebuffed his detractors at the 1991 American Music Awards: “Kiss my white ass!”
Worst CD: Hard to Swallow (Republic, 1998)

Ridiculous album sleeves, virtuoso playing, soulless rock. It can be only one band
Asia’s music turned out to be exactly the sum of its parts: former technicians from King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes who got together with an erstwhile Buggle at the start of the ’80s. It promised the most self-important prog-rock melded with the limp-wristed worst of AOR, and it delivered. The band’s self-titled debut sold more than 4 million copies, which only encouraged them.
Appalling fact: To this day, keyboardist Geoff Downes is happy to offer Asia’s mission statement: “To play music that is panoramic, symphonic and rock at the same time.”
Worst CD: Astra (Geffen, 1985)

Beware all bands named after states or continents!
Their folksy 1977 hit “Dust in the Wind,” a tractor-size fiddle player and a guitarist in bib overalls suggested pioneer-spirited rural rockers. The truth was far more sinister. Bereft of sex and emotion, Kansas’s music was a noxious fusion of Jethro Tull and Yes, appealing only to male sci-fi bores and guaranteed to drive any self-respecting frontiersman headlong into the nearest bear trap.
Appalling fact: A feature of their live shows was roadie T. Rat, who would come onstage in a trench coat, top hat and clown mask. Then he would disrobe and dance butt-naked.
Worst CD: Point of Know Return (Columbia, 1977)

They built this city on rock & roll. And crap!
In 1985, Starship rose like a phoenix from the ashes of once-mighty psychedelic overlords Jefferson Airplane/Starship — but only if, by phoenix, you mean “ultra-lame, MTV-pandering purveyors of MOR schlock.” Best remembered for “We Built This City,” they were also responsible for unleashing the Diane Warren–penned “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” a song bad enough to appear on the soundtrack of the diabolical Andrew McCarthy “comedy” Mannequin. And its sequel!
Appalling fact: Singer Grace Slick later disavowed “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” claiming in an interview, “I know damn well how fast a relationship can fall apart.”
Worst CD: Love Among the Cannibals (RCA, 1989)

This guy really blows!
Hated equally by jazz and rock fans, Kenny Gorelick’s limpid instrumentals and obsequious cameos helped turn the soprano sax solo into pop music’s most feared cliché. He started his career with fusion hack Jeff Lorber, and his 1986 album, Duotones, established a steady market for anodyne, minimal background music, an aesthetic that reached its zenith in 1997 when “The G” set a world record by holding a single note for 45 minutes.
Appalling fact: He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington with a degree in accounting.
Worst CD: Classics in the Key of G (Arista, 1999)

Otis Redding died for this?
With his curly locks and toned abs, Michael Bolton looked like nothing so much as the hero of a cheap bodice-ripper, which was enough to earn him a fervent audience for his over-emoted late-’80s power ballads. Unfortunately, his greatest desire was to sing R&B oldies, which he went through like Sherman through Georgia.
Appalling fact: After losing a plagiarism suit to the Isley Brothers, Bolton tried to avoid paying them royalties by buying their publishing house.
Worst CD: Timeless: The Classics (Columbia, 1992)

Welcome back, my friends, to the second-worst band in history!
“Boasting” former members of the Nice, King Crimson and — yes! — Atomic Rooster, the less-than-super ’70s supergroup ELP shunned blues-based rock in favor of bombastically reinterpreted classical works — with bewilderingly successful results. A nightmarish enough proposition on record, the Brit trio’s live shows were peppered by interminable solo spots, including a 20-minute drum workout by Carl Palmer that ended with him ringing a cowbell held between his teeth.
Appalling fact: Singer-bassist Greg Lake performed on a $10,000 Persian rug that roadies vacuumed before every show.
Worst CD: Love Beach (Rhino, 1978)

They sound even stupider than they look
Two trailer-trash types who wear face paint, pretend to be a street gang and drench cult devotees in cheap soda called Faygo, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are more notorious for their beef with Eminem (who pistol-whipped an ICP homey in 2001) than their ham-fisted rap-rock music. They claim that a “dark carnival” visited them one night, prophesied impending apocalypse and made them its messengers. Between this circus gospel, they find plenty of time to rap about 40-ouncers and venereal disease.
Appalling fact: While appearing on The Howard Stern Show in 1999, Shaggy 2 Dope told Sharon Osbourne to “buff my pickle.” She declined.
Worst CD: The Wraith: Shangri-La (D3, 2002)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy birthday, Mr. Baseball

We step outside the music arena today to wish Bob Uecker a happy 75th birthday. Well, juuuuust a bit outside. The Hall of Fame baseball announcer's voice has been music to the ears of Brewers fans for years. There's nothing like Uecker's call as a Brewer batter drives one for the fences:

"Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!"

We all remember Uecker's hilarious spots in the old Miller Lite ex-jock commercials, as well as his many appearances with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show (click on the image above for a sample of that deadpan humor). And of course his role as play-by-play announcer Harry Doyle in the movie Major League.

A good guy, a funny guy, a home boy who parlayed a career .200 batting average into a career of laughs and fun times.

Happy birthday, Ueck. And many more.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Name that festival

Some of the most creative people I know are regulars here at Six String Sanctuary. That's why I'm so excited to share information about a contest that could bring you here for Milwaukee's premier summer event.

Summerfest's planners have added an "alternative and modern rock" two-day festival June 4-5, and they're going to let us decide what to name it. The payoff?

-- Roundtrip airfare for two
-- Hotel accommodations in Milwaukee, June 4-5
-- Festival tickets
-- Assigned parking space for the festival
-- VIP hospitality passes
-- Backstage passes and Meet & Greets for select shows with Artists’ approval
-- A themed profile on and the festival’s web site
-- Signed merchandise from the bands playing at the event

Seriously, Milwaukee in June is a very cool place to be. No reason why one of you shouldn't win this thing, so check out the details at I know you'll remember me if you win.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This ain't no Super Bowl Shuffle

Sorry I'm late this morning. That second set at Kochanski's Concertina Bar last night really did me in. I'll soon be sharing some notes on the most amazing blues/rockabilly band I've heard live in years, maybe ever. No kidding. But a promise is a promise, so...

Me, pick on the Vikings? It's almost too easy. It is too easy. The Queens might finally go all the way this season and improve their record to 1-4 in Super Bowls. Which would be some accomplishment, using our old gunslinger at quarterback. It seems as if the world is mostly behind this No. 4 phenomenon, but here in the middle of Packerland it's more like 96 percent against.

But aside from the game, which likely will be decided by Good Brett/Bad Brett, what can you say about a franchise that embraced Prince's new song "Purple and Gold"? If you haven't heard it you need to, just to understand how low the bar can be set. Now SSS cannot in good conscience provide a link, but we are willing to share comments from others who have heard the song.

Remember, these are mostly Vikings fans -- even Prince fans -- who cannot disguise their horror and humiliation.

By Chris Anderson on January 22, 2010 12:33 PM
Prince's Vikings song will move the the nearest garbage can.
This song sounds just awful....

By Curt Green on January 22, 2010 12:51 PM
This is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. Sounds like something a bunch of dancing munchkins would sing. I was waiting for them to start singing "ding, dong... the witch is dead, the wicked witch... ding dong... the wicked witch is dead..."

By Mappy on January 22, 2010 1:07 PM
Play this during the game and we WILL lose!!!
I hope no Superdome workers read this.

By SC on January 22, 2010 2:23 PM

This might be the worst song he has ever done. Maybe he was ill when he wrote it.

By Alyssa on January 22, 2010 2:45 PM
Honestly.... Is he for real with this song? You cannot expect people to actually get pumped up listening to this. This is terrible. Simply a disgrace to all the Vikings have worked for this year. I love Prince, but seriously, this is bad.

By Paula on January 22, 2010 4:30 PM
I swear, I come from a high school whose colors were purple and gold, and this sounds like some sort of Alma Mater song. Maybe that's the angle he was going for. OMG, I can totally see my Alma Mater making the band play this. Ughhhh. As for an ode to a professional football team, double Ughhhhhh. Prince, I love you, but please don't sing this anywhere, please. And, please, don't be offended if no one else wants to play it. I respect your vision, I just can't understand it at this point. Maybe it just went over my head on this one.

By Whodatgirl on January 23, 2010 11:09 AM
This stinkin' song has already made its way down to New Orleans and believe me we are all laughing our butts off listening to it. It is sure to curse the Vikings. It is possibly the worst song ever written in the history of mankind.

JACK HART Fri 01/22/10 2:32 PM
thumbs down on this… i’m a prince fan way before purple rain, etc., i love his rock stuff more than this crapola

Reply MultiPass Fri 01/22/10 2:59 PM
This is the worst thing I have ever heard. Prince, it is time to hang up the purple and GO AWAY. You have just destroyed the tiny thread of credibility you had left. I am deeply saddened.

Reply Chris Fri 01/22/10 2:33 PM
I have been a died in the wool Prince fan since For You came out in 1978, and I have to say this may be the worst song ever written.

Old Prince lover Fri 01/22/10 3:01 PM
The Jehovah’s Witnesses has instilled all kinds of nonsense in his head.Why do our celebrities get mixed up in theses apocalyptic cults?

That sampling is all you need. There are dozens of threads and hundreds of comments, and nary a positive word. I'm surprised the betting line didn't jump seven points for the Saints.

Just to recap: Prince shows up for his first Vikings game in several years and is inspired to write a song for the team. "I saw the future," is how he put it. The song gets delivered to Vikings headquarters, and team officials scramble like Fran Tarkenton to get it loaded on their website. My question: Did they take the time to listen? Not that it matters now, because Pandora is out of the box.

Bad karma, man. That's all I'm gonna say...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I strum, therefore I am (Vol. 2)

We're always big on anniversaries at Six String Sanctuary, and what could be bigger than this:

Today SSS celebrates its first anniversary. Thank you, thank you very much. We were thinking about a parade or at least a birthday cake, but it'll probably be draft beer followed by a few glasses of wine. Why break up a winning routine?

Yes, friends, SSS was launched a year ago with a two-sentence blog that asked simply: "Are you ready to discuss music? I hope so, because it wouldn't be much fun by my lonesome." There were no comments. Of course, nobody knew who we were and what we were trying to accomplish.

Three hundred and twenty-nine blogs later we're still trying to figure stuff out. The audience -- you -- is still small but steadily building. We are now viewed on computer screens from coast to coast, and in foreign lands as far away as Abu Dhabi (Robert, thanks for moving to Abu Dhabi. Talk about taking one for the team.)

Often we are being encouraged to spread the reach of SSS through social networking, which could spike our page views and readership and maybe even attract some advertisers. Screw that. We've got you, we don't need them. I'm reminded of my favorite Twin Cities columnist, who happened at the time to be the only major sports columnist in town without a local radio show. He was often told that a radio show would increase his popularity and readership; he was even offered a show. His response:

You want to know what I have to say, put a quarter in the rack.

I like that attitude. And my gift to you for coming back here day after day to see what's cooking: Keep your quarter in your pocket. I don't need it, don't want it, won't take it. This is guilt free, commercial free blogging with an audience I know, enjoy, and respect.

Coming tomorrow: Can a song doom a football team? Disemboweling Prince's "Purple and Gold."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Everybody knew this was nowhere

Although I haven't been watching his show recently, I'm going to miss Conan O'Brien. (Funny, I was a regular viewer when he had the later night slot. Go figure.) But I'm not going to worry about him. He's $30 million richer (after the payout to his staff) and he'll certainly resurface with a new show on a different network later this year. Take the money and run? Hell yeah, to the best offer out there.

Comedians have to have their yuks. It was pretty cool how Johnny Carson was able to ride into the sunset and never look back -- not even come back for a guest appearance. But Carson had thrown a life and career into the business. Conan's age (he'll be 47 in April) and ego won't allow him to kick back for long. And that's a good thing.

SSS hates I Told You Sos, but we warned you more than a year ago this was an experiment doomed to fail. The proof is in the pudding. It was an effort at the time to infuse the blogosphere with some sorely lacking solutions-oriented journalism! Don't bother going back now, but we suggested these shows alter the format that trots out musical guests at the end, when there's barely time for a handshake or backslap and the artist often has a surprised look that says: "Huh, that's really it?" I watched Ringo close out one of Jay Leno's shows this week and while the music didn't move me, I really wanted to hear an ex-Beatle tell us how things are going.

After having Barry Manilow as his penultimate musical guest Thursday, Conan reportedly is going out with Neil Young tonight. (Please don't give us John Mayer doing another lame spoof song.) It's only wishful thinking that Young would do "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere." And I don't suppose Neil would want to say much, but if he did I'd give him the stage.

Even if it was my last show. Especially if it was my last show.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I'm so vain

One of the great lyrical mysteries of our time is about to be solved today on Six String Sanctuary. Namely: Who was Carly Simon's object of scorn in "You're So Vain" -- the song that catapulted her to stardom back in 1973?

Ladies and gentlemen, the popular choices:

A) Warren Beatty
B) James Taylor
C) Kris Kristofferson
D) Hugh Heffner
E) Arnold Schwarzenegger

Exhaustive research has been done in an effort to uncloak the mystery man. The song's lyrics have been meticulously broken down and scrutinized. Who flew on a Learjet? Who had ties to Nova Scotia? What about Saratoga, he must be a horse lover! Who would walk into a party with an apricot scarf besides ... Elton John? Clues everywhere, but never a resolution. Until now.

Simon has remained coy from the start, passing out a hint from time to time but never calling her man out. C'mon Carly, it's not like this is Deep Throat. Cough it up! The truth is, all of the aforementioned men -- and millions like them -- belong in the same bucket of vanity. So we must add:

F) all of the above

That is indeed the likely answer. Carly used her artistic license to construct a man of many faults who is part Beatty, part Kristofferson, part Heffner and -- what the hell -- might as well throw me in the fire. Even without a sniff of celebrity I'm as guilty as the rest of them in most measurable categories. All males are.

And yet...

Since I'm the only one in this group willing to man up to my shortcomings, maybe it's time for me to stand up and take the bow. You're right Carly, and you've been right from the start.

I probably think this song is about me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey it's good to be back home again

There is a special quirkiness about my home state that is as comforting as an old parlor guitar. Stuff happens here that barely raises an eyebrow among residents. Outside the boundaries of Badgerland? I doubt everybody understands...

FOND DU LAC, WIS. (AP) -- Police responding to a complaint of loud noise have cited a Fond du Lac man for "rocking out" to the music of John Denver. A police who responded to the man's apartment last week could hear Denver's music through the door. The officer pounded on the door but the man didn't answer. Finally, the officer found out the man's name from a neighbor and called to him, bringing the man to the door.

When asked why he had the music so loud, the man said he was "rocking out."

The Reporter newspaper in Fond du Lac reported that the 42-year-old was cited for unnecessary loud noise. The ticket could result in a fine of about $210

The late John Denver was known for such hits as "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

Guess what I'm blasting on the way to work this morning? With the windows down...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Might as well admit it...

Time to come clean: I had the hots for Shelley Fabares.

I realize how this dates me. You'd have to remember "The Donna Reed Show" to recall how wholesomely hot Fabares was playing the daughter in the popular situation comedy. Truth is, she was way too old for me -- and still is (she has 66 candles to blow out today!) Now this infatuation ended about the time I got my first Daisy BB gun, but for a short spell there...

Fabares never considered herself a singer, in fact was terrified by the idea, but she nevertheless wound up with a No. 1 record in 1962 after the producer decided to add songs for her and Paul Peterson during the show's third season. "Johnny Angel" featured Glen Campbell on guitar with Darlene Love providing backing vocals.

Reluctant as she was, I don't think Fabares would mind if we relegated her to backup vocals today as we unveil another Birthday Band, comprised of artists born on January 19. We already have a pretty strong stable of female voices, and a whole lot more. The group:

Janis Joplin (1943-1970): Singer, Big Brother and the Holding Co.

Shelley Fabares (1944):Actress, The Donna Reed Show

Dolly Parton (1946): Singer/songwriter

Harvey Hinsley (1948): Guitar, Hot Chocolate

Robert Palmer (1949-2003): Singer/musician

Dewey Bunnell (1951): Singer/musician, America

Addicted To Love
Simply Irresistible
You Sexy Thing
Here You Come Again
I Believe in Love
Horse With No Name
Sister Goldenhair
Me and Bobby McGee
Piece of My Heart
Every Kinda People

Down on Me
Johnny Angel
I Will Always Love You
Ventura Highway

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rhymes with Haggard

You could say he was cashing in on a fad, and who can blame him for that?

Jay Huguely was working as an advertising executive in South Carolina when trucker songs became popular on the country and western airwaves. C.W. McCall, an ad man himself, took "Convoy" to No. 1 at the end of 1975, and Red Sovine had a chart-topper of his own with "Phantom 309" later in 1976.

In between them, Huguely became Cledus Maggard and the Citizen's Band (C.B., get it?) And dad gum if he didn't go all the way to the top with "The White Knight." The Mercury label even states that the record was "produced by Leslie Advertising Agency."

"The White Knight" entered the Billboard chart in January of 1976 and made it to the summit on Valentine's Day. How sweet.

I say you can't blame him for capitalizing on a fad, but it's somehow reassuring to know that the song was only No. 1 for a week before Waylon & Willie put a stop to the nonsense with "Good Hearted Woman."

Now there was a country song.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pssst: I hear Ghosts

I went to bed listening to Sun Kil Moon and when I got up this morning, still lost in a bizarre dream, it was Muhammad Ali's birthday. Seems like the perfect time to have a conversation about Mark Kozelek.

You may be familiar with the San Francisco songwriter from his work with the Red House Painters. Or maybe, like me, you didn't know of him until you stumbled upon his reincarnation with Sun Kil Moon and the classic 2003 release Ghosts of the Great Highway. Or perhaps you're receiving your first nudge today. Yes, it's PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) No. 16.

After referencing Cassius Clay at the top, the song "Glenn Tipton" has nothing to do with Muhammad Ali. Nothing, and perhaps everything. Koselek has an obsession for boxing, or at the very least he is a keen ringside observer. Another song from the album, "Duk Koo Kim," is a haunting epic about the South Korean who died following a bout with Ray Mancini.

"Ghosts of the Great Highway" is far superior to just about anything that has been hyped through the myopic music mill in the past seven years, and will set you on a journey to discover Koselek's other work. It is a stunning collection of expertly crafted songs and spectacular guitar work, including some intricate alternate tunings I still haven't figured out. Although a few songs may stand out -- "Carry Me Ohio" is flat-out amazing -- it is a start-to-finish album, and there's no hurry to hit the finish line.

Cassius Clay was hated
More than Sonny Liston
Some like K.K. Downing
More than Glenn Tipton
Some like Jim Nabors
Some Bobby Vinton
I like 'em all

I put my feet up
On the coffee table
I stay up late watching cable
I like old movies with Clark Gable
Just like my dad does

Just like my dad did
When he was home
Staying up late,
Staying up alone
Just like my dad did
When he was thinking
Oh, how fast the years fly

I know an old woman
Ran a donut shop
She worked late serving cops
Then one morning
Babe, her heart stopped
Place ain't the same no more

Place ain't the same no more
Not without my friend, Eleanor
Place ain't the same no more
Man, how things change

I buried my first victim
When i was nineteen
Went through her bedroom
And the pockets of her jeans
And found her letters
That said so many things
That really hurt me bad

I never breathed
Her name again
But I like to dream
About what could have been
I never heard her calls again

But I like to dream

If you like to dream put this album in the player and close your eyes. It will take you places.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Siriusly good

Satellite radio. Woof! Can we make it any more concise than that? I'm returning to a previous blog mention because this subject deserves a proper discussion.

You may have satellite at home. Great. You may have it in your touring vehicle. Awesome. But do you have it at your job? That's where it really needs to be. It'll keep you from going stir crazy. It'll keep you motivated and on track with your workflow and deadlines. It might even keep you awake. Clip this out and bring it to work. Tell your boss to give me a call. I'm Sirius.

If the music is in a communal setting, i.e. piped through speakers vs. earbuds, you need to make sure the dial is set to something you can deal with. Because unless you have the most eclectic set of ears in the universe, somebody will find Station NOBB (Nails On a Blackboard). And that's not good for the pack.

There will be compromises. Headbanger fans will at times need to pretend they're in a coffee shop. Folk fans might have to deal with some reverb. Alternative rockers may need to channel their angst in other ways. Everyone will have to contend with the possibility that when they're taking a lunch or coffee break someone will sneak over and switch to country. With such a wide spectrum and so many choices, it's easy to piss somebody off.

Black Sabbath might torching up the Boneyard while Crosby Stills & Nash are at the Loft and Jay-Z is bringing in the Heat. Where you gonna turn? It's all about compromises.

But it can be nirvana, with or without a capital N.

"All the albums you used to collect, we still play every day," is the way one deejay put it on Classic Vinyl, a popular compromise option on the Sirius dial. "Dancing around on the edge of the cosmos," said another.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Friday, January 15, 2010

VERY wholesome

How wholesome was entertainment on the Ed Sullivan Show? I had forgotten, until I began reading recaps of the programs. On the night the Rolling Stones performed "Let's Spend SOME TIME Together" -- that's right, it had to be watered down for the TV censors -- also appearing were nuns who sang a medley that included "Kumbaya."

Here's a synopsis of that historic show, which aired on this day in 1967. Now we'll still take the Stones any place, any time, any lyrics. But this is not the sort of programing that would have saved Jay Leno's spot on prime time:

--The Rolling Stones: "Ruby Tuesday" & "Let's Spend Some Time Together" (censored version of "Let's Spend the Night Together").
--Petula Clark: "Elusive Butterfly" & "Color My World."
--Sisters of St. Benedict: Nuns from Erie, Pennsylvania; a.k.a. Sisters '67 - sing a show tune medley: "It's a Lovely Day," "Consider Yourself" & "Kumbaya."

--Allan Sherman: (stand-up comedian)
--Alan King: (stand-up comedian) - routine about family members
--The Muppets: Kermit plays the piano & sings.

--The Michael Bennett Dancers: Clog dancer routine
--The Monroes: balancing act from Madrid, Spain
--On film: Footage of a 14-year-old waterskiier, Ricky McCormick, doing stunts at Cypress Gardens, Fla.
--Audience bow (cameo): Miriam Colon, Puerto Rican star

Worth noting: The commercials that aired immediately after the Stones' appearance were Geritol Iron & Vitamin tablets and Sominex sleeping tablets.

I'm getting very sleepy...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Time to get the Led out

Another reason to get a turntable: I never replaced my Led Zeppelin albums with CDs. It was an era -- a fabulous era of early heavy rock/metal discovery during the Seventies -- that I pretty much boxed up and put away with the rest of my vinyl.

Some music passes you by. Other music you just get past, never really intending to, it just happens as you travel through life taking those many unforeseen twists and turns. Only after later reflection, usually triggered by some sonic sensory message, you are reminded: That was pretty good shit, wasn't it?

The trigger for me came when "Communication Breakdown" was piping through the office speakers the other day. (Satellite radio is a beautiful thing to have in the workplace. Somebody should commission a study!) I still have the Jimmy Page riffs in my head. I awakened to them this morning without needing an alarm clark to jolt me.

That's Zep. We were inseparable pals who eventually went our own ways. There was a period in my life during which I'm sure I argued that Led Zeppelin IV was one of the greatest albums ever made. Or was it II? What always makes the argument so difficult is that several Zep albums warrant consideration. Rank their first four any way you want, that body of work is amazing.

I don't know that I'll be blasting Zep from my second floor flat, but it's going to be there like ammo, ready to load and fire. Of course it's possible this is just some form of therapy. Don't they say the first step is recognizing you have a problem?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What was he thinking?

This comes from Psycho, our senior Twin Cities vibemeister and tune advocate. You need to prepare yourself for this video. It may not be suitable for some. I personally find it deeply troubling.

It has nothing to do with football, but I compare it to the Packers' stunning overtime playoff loss Sunday to Arizona. After that game I found myself dumbstruck and unable to move for several minutes. The aftershock continues to cause me problems. I'm stuttering and I can't seem to focus either visually or mentally. I'm drooling on my keyboard right now.

Friends have offered encouragement, assuring me I will recover in two to three months. But any chances I had of mending from the football ordeal have been thwarted by this shocking video. It will leave you speechless.

That's Johnny Horton, a tragic story in pop music lore with bizarre connections to Hank Williams. Horton was killed in a head-on car collision in November 1960, the year after "The Battle of New Orleans" spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. The last club Horton played was the Skyline in Austin, Texas -- the very same club Williams played before his death. And Horton's widow, Billie Jean, was the former Mrs. Williams.

But enough background. This creepy video threatens to spoil the legacy of Horton, by all accounts a good and honorable man, and a close friend of Johnny Cash. It must be destroyed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hullabaloo A-No-No

Here's an idea for NBC, which apparently could use some help in its programing department: Bring back Hullabaloo.

That's right. Return Jay to his late night spot, give Conan a nice farewell -- this mess wasn't his fault -- and bring back the prime time musical variety program you launched on this very day in 1965. You've done crazier things.

What happened to the programs that showcased the best musical groups of the day, shows like Hullabaloo, Action! and Shindig? Does anybody remember Lloyd Thaxton? Here was a chance to see the hottest bands performing onstage, even if the music was sometimes dubbed.

Hullabaloo was a pretty bold concept for NBC. It not only aired in prime time, its format differed from the competition by trotting out a wider variety of entertainment talent. It was sort of Ed Sullivanesque, without Ed -- or Topo Gigio for that matter (although Bill Dana did appear, as Jose Jiminez). Come to think it, that might have been the problem. While we were waiting for Joe Tex to come on, did we really need to sit through Francoise Hardy and Jackie and Gayle?

Here was the lineup for Season 1, Program 1:

Host: Jack Jones
Guests: Woody Allen, Joey Heatherton, New Christy Minstrels, Zombies, Gerry and the Pacemakers

Jack Jones? Joey Heatherton was always nice to look at, and so were the Hullabaloo Dancers. We certainly enjoyed Lada Edmund Jr. dancing in that cage in the Hullabaloo A-Go-Go segment. But we tuned in for the bands, not Joey, Shani Wallis or Joe and Eddie -- all of whom made appearances. But that was the template, and NBC pretty much stuck with it through two seasons and 48 shows.

After that Hullabaloo was gone, just like our pal Conan.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Get your vinyl on

This news from the BBC passed along by Wayne, an audiophile and vinyl record junkie from Tampa Bay:

More vinyl records were purchased in 2009 than in any previous year since Nielsen SoundScan began compiling music sales figures in 1991.

Baby boomers have forever known the allure of vinyl, but now it has apparently become cool with the iPod generation. Wow, big cool color graphics and photos, liner notes, inserts and type everybody can read! Wait'll they discover what a good set of headphones can do for the sound.

Here are just a few reasons I'm considering buying a new turntable:

-- all those old albums in the garage that are still sitting in boxes
-- the half-price book store on Bluemound is loaded with previously loved vinyl
-- more new inventory becoming available as artists release albums and EPs
-- new turntables are actually quite affordable
-- has a vinyl store offering more than 150,000 titles
-- the sound quality of vinyl, scratches and and all,has never been matched
-- the Vidalias record Chuck sent me that I haven't been able to play

I'm gonna start shopping around today. Can't wait to dust off Mason Proffit's Wanted and hear "Two Hangmen" and "Buffalo" again...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Take this song and love it

There's hardly been a better outlaw song embraced by the masses than "Take This Job and Shove It," which was No. 1 on Billboard's country chart on this date in 1978. Who hasn't sung a few bars or muttered the title during a bad day at work.

David Allan Coe's blue collar anthem was a perfect fit for Johnny Paycheck, a troubled and tortured artist who had a dozen Top 10 singles during his career but never came close to duplicating the success of this gem.

Take this job and shove it
I ain't working here no more
My woman done left
and took all the reasons
I was working for
You better not try to stand in
my way as I'm walking out the door
Take this job and shove it
I ain't working here no more

Paycheck kept plugging along despite health problems and a jail stint late in his career. He died in 2003 at age 65.

On "The Outlaw's Prayer," a minor hit in 1979, he sang "This is Paycheck signing off. I'll see you Lord -- I hope." We hope so too, Johnny. We surely do.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Two for the show

You don't have to be a star to be in my show. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

Wait -- somebody already used that line. Remember the song by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.? It was the wife-husband duet's only No. 1 hit, and only for a week at this time in 1977. The following week Leo Sayer would take over with "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing."

Weird time. Fun time. But the pop music scene was getting pretty strange. It was possible, if you had your radio tuned to the wrong station, to hear a somber ballad like Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald" sandwiched between "Disco Duck" and "Car Wash." And Maureen McGovern's "Torn Between Two Lovers" was lurking around the corner.

Tough goings. And into this maelstrom flew McCoo and Davis, who had fled the successful Fifth Dimension where they helped score two No. 1s: "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" and "Wedding Bell Blues." (That's McCoo opening with "Bill, I love you so, I always will...")

Duets can be tricky. Just ask Simon and Garfunkel, or Sonny and Cher. I'm thinking that McCoo and Davis could have improved their chances of stardom with a simple name change. Something closer to Captain & Tennille, who were also out there at the time.

But you can't argue too much with a No. 1 song. "You Don't Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)" gave McCoo and Davis just as many chart-toppers as Sonny and Cher managed before their breakup.

Some of us were just thankful for the Eagles at the time.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Look out Vegas, here we come

Elvis never had a house band like this. He didn't need one, especially the vocal support, but he's getting one today. That's right, it's time for another mindless edition of Birthday Band. (Hey, there's a blizzard out there. I've got some shoveling to do. Do you have a better idea?)

Here's the lineup of artists born on January 8, and I think you'll agree it's a talented bunch. If Elvis were alive -- can you believe he'd be celebrating his 75th birthday? -- it's quite possible he'd run into more than one of these performers in Vegas. And while President Nixon is no birthday boy today, I think we'd want him up on stage making these introductions:

Elvis Presley (1935-77), vocals, the King
Shirley Bassey (1937), vocals, James Bond soundtracks
"Little" Anthony Gourdine (1941), vocals, Imperials
Robbie Krieger (1946), guitar, Doors
David Bowie (1947), vocals
Terry Sylvester (1947) guitar, Swinging Blue Jeans, Hollies

Set list
All Shook Up
Heartbreak Hotel
Don't Be Cruel
Hippy Hippy Shake
Love Me Two Times
Touch Me
Tears of a Clown
The Man With the Golden Gun

(18-minute gap)

Space Oddity
Love Her Madly
Are You Lonesome Tonight
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Requiem for a Wurlitzer

I miss the jukebox. It used to be the center of a communal universe where anybody could bring their pocket change, drop it in the slot and punch in any songs they wanted to hear.

(I know you can still pay money to hear songs in a bar, but believe me it's not the same. For starters, you won't get three songs for a quarter.)

The jukebox pictured here, a Wurlitzer Americana III, is located somewhere in Oshkosh, "works off and on and probably just needs some minor adjusting to be fully functional" and can be yours for $400. There are vintage Rockolas and Seeburgs out there, too.

The best jukebox in my hometown was stationed near the entrance to the Corner Cafe, one of two popular teen hangouts in Whitehall. The other place was the Bowling Alley -- still four lanes! -- attached to the Highway 53 Bar. (Each of the six taverns in town had its own "box," but you had to be of legal drinking age to enter these "dens of iniquity" as my mother called them.)

You went into the Corner Cafe to play the two pinball machines (Tic Tac Toe was the best pinball ever, Eight Ball a close second), grab a cherry phosphate and listen to music. If you cared enough you knew where to find the volume control, which was always hidden somewhere on the back of the box. You also knew how to "reject" a song, but this was a dicey maneuver reserved for particularly obnoxious songs (and the people who played them.)

Even flip sides had a chance on a jukebox because there were only so many songs available and eventually we'd give every one of them a try. Some of them were pretty damn good, like the Beatles' "She's a Woman", which was receiving heavy play at the Corner Cafe at this time in 1965.

This was your Billboard Top 5:
1. I Feel Fine, Beatles
2. Come See About Me, Supremes
3. Mr. Lonely, Bobby Vinton
4. She's a Woman, Beatles
5. She's Not There, Zombies

The other B side of distinction from this group was the Zombies' "Tell Her No."

"Mr. Lonely" wasn't the best song but there were times it got the most play, and those times were following basketball and football games when a dance broke out and a night of discovery began between the girls and boys. Of course I was too young at the time, but I was taking mental notes.

I miss those times.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do you think he's sexy?

Stay away from my window
Stay away from my back door too
Disconnect the telephone line
Relax baby and draw that blind

I'm going to have to check with some women friends about this. I don't think I can with a clear conscience ask any of my male buddies: Do you think Rod Stewart was/is hot?

(This cool lavender babydoll T-shirt is sale-priced for $9.95 at Rod's official online store. Just in case...)

"Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" was definitely a hot song. But I'm pretty sure the guys didn't appreciate it as much as the girls (unless it was, as they say, bearing good fruit.) It just isn't easy to evaluate Stewart from a macho perspective.

Kick off your shoes and sit right down
Loosen off that pretty French gown
Let me pour you a good long drink
Ooh baby don't you hesitate 'cause

Tonight's the night
It's gonna be alright
Cause I love you girl
Ain't nobody gonna stop us now

The song was sitting like a cock rooster on Billboard's pop chart exactly 33 years ago today. It was banned from some radio stations because of the overly suggestive lyrics (see verse below), but this was no bam-bam-thank-you-maam hit. It sat there for seven weeks, effectively holding off fowl competition like "Disco Duck" while sending its titillating message to virtually every listener, male or female, who was capable of being titillated.

C'mon angel my hearts on fire
Don't deny your man's desire
You'd be a fool to stop this tide
Spread your wings and let me come inside

Tonight's the night
It's gonna be alright
Cause I love you girl
Ain't nobody gonna stop us now

Even if you're a guy you have to take your hat off to Stewart (anything more and you're on your own). He's had a great musical career, and I won't even mention his sexual conquests because, well, there are too many children by different spectacular wives who are now of reading age. Let's just say a raspy voice can be very effective, any way you choose to use it.

Don't say a word my virgin child
Just let your inhibitions run wild
The secret is about to unfold
Upstairs before the night's too old

Monday, January 4, 2010

'Who was Dusty Springfield!!!!!'

I'm often impressed with Jeopardy! contestants. They usually know their stuff. It's not easy to match wits with some of these people, who must memorize complete encyclopedias to gain the knowledge and information needed to win at one of America's most popular game shows.

Tonight, though, they were disappointing. All three contestants sat on their hands during a musical category titled "Second Time Around'' which presented some easy opportunities to waylay their competition.

OK, somebody actually thought a moment before buzzing correctly on the Beach Boys covering "Barbara Ann.' And I'll forgive their ignorance for not knowing that Rod Stewart mopped up on the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine." But how could none of the three contestants know that Phil Collins recorded "Groovy Kind of Love" after the Mindbenders, or that it was Dusty Springfield who covered "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me'' after Elvis? Dusty's 1966 version is one of the great songs of its era.

Obviously Jeopardy! contestants need to add SSS to their reading itinerary. Click above to view Dusty performing the song at Royal Albert Hall in 1979.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our sweet George

Which is harder to believe: That George Harrison was the first ex-Beatle to have a No. 1 song, or that he was found guilty of plagiarism for "My Sweet Lord"?

The song topped the Billboard chart on this day in 1971, giving Harrison his biggest hit after the breakup of the Fab Four. But how anyone could rule the song was a rip-off of the 1963 Chiffons' hit "He's So Fine" is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Bright Tunes, which owned "He's So Fine," reportedly earned $587,000 in a judgment declaring that Harrison had subconsciously plagiarized the song. If you hear both songs I'm not sure how you could ever reach that conclusion. There is the familiar three-word hook of the song titles, but nothing else to suggest that Harrison lifted the song or melody -- subconsciously or otherwise. There must be thousands of recorded songs that have at least some minor similarity to other published works.

No telling what the lawyers made on this one. And now that we know we can get in trouble for subconscious lifting, I'm surprised there aren't more of these suits flying around. I'm not a published songwriter, so I encourage those of you who are to weigh in (Chuck, where are you???)

If anything, "My Sweet Lord" sounds more eerily similar in both lyrical tune and spiritual tone to the Staples Singers' "Oh Happy Day." Harrison said as much in describing his inspiration for "My Sweet Lord."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Country, when Country was cool

Happy New Year!

We made it through another year and 309 SSS posts, which nearly qualifies as a "blogospheric body of work." Whatever that gets me. A cup of fresh Sendik's Supreme!

(And that supplies me with my first thought of 2010, which is ... my that Sendik's coffee really is pretty good. I wonder if it's really Alterra coffee hiding in a Sendik's package? Think I'll pick some more up on my next trip to the store.)

And now on to weightier less caffeinated matters, like:

Whatever became of Country Joe McDonald? It's his birthday today and we were hoping to catch up with him. Turns out he's as easy to find as clicking here. It's a very cool place, Country Joe's Place, and I highly recommend you check it out if you, too, are curious what's happening with the only guy at Woodstock who could count to seven.

And it's 1-2-3 what are we fightin' for?
Don't ask me I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam
And it's 5-6-7 open up the Pearly Gates
There aint no time to wonder why
Whoopie we're all gonna die

(It's kind of interesting, now that we've seen Inglourious Basterds, to compare Country Joe's pronounciation of "Vietnam" to Brad Pitt's "Nazis." Anything for a rhyme, I guess.)

As war protest songs go -- and couldn't we use another great one right about now? -- "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" has to rank near the top. What a memorable song, an unforgettable era, a raucously rebellious moment in time...

Among the cool and interesting links on are:
-- Next Stop is Vietnam (news and blues for vets)
-- Section 43 (strange/familiar stuff)
-- Musical notes (including the music and chords to the Rag)
-- A Tribute to Florence Nightingale (I'm really not sure)

Under Wuzzup, we discover that Country Joe's next gig is a Tribute to Woody Guthrie at Mississippi Studies in Portland, Oregon on Jan. 29. He also hosts what sounds like a very cool open mic night the second Friday of every month at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall in Berkeley.

And there's a chance to score great savings at the Country Store, where Joe proclaims: "Because the capitalist pigs have caused us to plunge into another Not So Great Depression and endless war, I -- Country Joe McDonald -- will bring good times to the working class of the world, be they black, white, or whatever, in the form of FANTASTIC SAVINGS on Country Joe merchandise. Take a look at the brand new offers below."

You really should check it out.