Saturday, July 31, 2010

Listen people, for that bass line

Does anybody on this planet remember who played bass for Herman's Hermits?

Of course!  It was Karl Green, who was 17 years old when the band joined the British Invasion in 1964 after charting with the Gerry Goffin-Carole King song "I'm Into Something Good."

Green never became a household name because he was, after all, a bass player in a band built around leader singer Peter Noone.  Green also provided backup vocals and dabbled in song writing for HH, and we feel his contributions should be noted on this, his 63rd birthday.

Herman's Hermits often draw unfair comparisons to the Monkees, who were a different animal indeed.  Yes, there was that regrettable song about a former King of England -- some of their hits did seem directed at an audience younger than the band members (Noone was only 15 when they hit.)  We're certainly not here to defend "No Milk Today" or "Dandy."

Still, we see no need to kick dirt on them now. They sold more than 60 million records and struck gold with 14 singles and 7 albums. The next time you hear one of their songs at least listen long enough to pick up the bass in the background. Because that's our birthday boy, Karl Green!

Kenny Burrell (1931): Jazz guitarist
Played with Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson

John West (1939): Keyboards, Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Count Me In, Sure Gonna Miss Her, Everybody Loves a Clown

Gary Lewis (1945): Singer/band leader
This Diamond Ring, Save Your Heart For Me, She's Just My Style

Bob Welch (1946): Guitar, Fleetwood Mac
Solo: Sentimental Lady

Karl Green (1947): Guitar/harmonica, Herman's Hermits
I’m Into Something Good, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, Listen People

Bill Berry (1958): Drums, R.E.M.
Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, Can't Get There From Here

Friday, July 30, 2010

You've come a long way, baby

It's hard to forgive Paul Anka for "(You're) Having My Baby," but he didn't deserve the flak he took from feminist groups over the song.  There are legitimate causes, and there are let's-get-our-panties-in-a-knot-over-nothing stands.

This clearly was the latter.

(Say, did you know that Anka,  Buddy Guy, David Sanborn and Marc Bolan of T-Rex are all birthday boys today?  Even more incredible: It's also the birthday of feminist activist Eleanor Smeal.  What sweet irony.)

We can't blame Anka for occasionally re-inventing himself through the years, which allowed him to score hits in three different decades. He has had three chart-toppers, and we're on board for the first two: "Diana" in 1957 and "Lonely Boy" in 1959.  But by the time "(You're) Having My Baby'' came along in 1974 -- giving Anka the record for the longest gap between No. 1s -- we were on to other things.

A glance at the top songs of 1974 confirms our suspicions: It was a crappy year for music. Here is the Billboard Top 10:

1. The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand
2. Seasons In The Sun, Terry Jacks
3. Love's Theme, Love Unlimited Orchestra
4. Come and Get Your Love, Redbone
5. Dancing Machine, Jackson 5
6. The Loco-Motion, Grand Funk Railroad
7. T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia), MFSB
8. The Streak, Ray Stevens
9. Bennie and the Jets, Elton John
10. One Hell of a Woman, Mac Davis

"(You're) Having My Baby" finished No. 28 for the year, but spent three weeks at No. 1 beginning on Aug. 24.  When you add it all up -- and we need to mention Anka wrote Johnny Carson's Tonight Show theme song -- you have to give the man his props. And so we do, on his 69th birthday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gershwin Award concert on PBS

Those of you who receive alerts when we post at the Sanctuary need to spring into action. Wish we had known about this sooner: We're watching a broadcast of the Gershwin Award concert at the White House right now and hope you can still catch a bit of it.

Paul McCartney Gershwin Award Concert Airs On PBS Tonight « 104.3 WOMC

If you missed it, check the PBS broadcast schedule in your area for repeats.

Jack White, Elvis Costello, the Jonas Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Herbie Hancock and others joined Paul McCartney at President Obama's pad. Dave Grohl just tore it up with "Band on the Run."

Really fabulous stuff.

Our favorite squeeze

You know what they say about marijuana leading to more dangerous drugs? Well, it happened to Frank Yankovic, America's Polka King.  Only it wasn't pot, heavens no!  Young Frankie got hooked on something far more dangerous than the evil weed: He fell into the clutches of the button box.

And before you could belt out the first verse of  "Who Stole the Keeshka" he was sneaking off to the garage to experiment with a piano accordian.You see, his father didn't approve of the accordian, believing Frank would never make a living playing the contraption.  Thirty million records later, you could say the son proved his old man wrong.

What better artist to front today's Birthday Band than Frank Yankovic, who has kept our feet stomping for years to standards like "Just Because," "Blue Skirt Waltz" and everyone's favorite, "The Beer Barrel Polka."

Miller Brewing has come up with the Vortex Bottle, presumably to help us drain our Lites.  But that's hardly necessary as long as Frankie's playing on the juke box. Na zdravje!

Frank Yankovic (1915-1998): Bandleader/accordian
Just Because, Blue Skirt Waltz, Beer Barrel Polka

George Cummings (1938): Guitar, Dr. Hook
Sylvia’s Mother, The Cover of Rolling Stone, Sexy Eyes

Rick Wright (1943-2008): Keyboards, Pink Floyd
Dark Side of the Moon album

Peter Doyle (1949): Singer, New Seekers
Never Ending Song of Love, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing

Simon Kirke (1949): Drums, Free/Bad Company
All Right Now, Ready for Love, Feel Like Makin’ Love

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The girl could bring it

Another birthday, another bridge to cross -- or jump from:  Bobbie Gentry turns 65 today.  Hard to believe it has been 43 years since "Ode to Billie Joe" rocketed to the top of the music charts.

It's just the sort of song we might have expected from a kid growing up in Chicksaw County, Mississippi. But who could have predicted the enduring popularity of the Southern Gothic tale or the never-ending interpretions and conspiracy theories regarding Billie Joe's leap off the Tallahatchie Bridge. 

It all began, we've learned, after little Roberta Lee Streeter's grandma traded one of the family cows for a piano, enabling the young'un to write her first song "My Dog Sergeant is a Good Dog." 

The girl who became Bobbie Gentry retired from performing more than 20 years ago, and we'd be fooling you if we didn't say we miss her. This is especially true every time we hear her version of  "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," which absolutely smokes.

For kicks and giggles, here is the 1967 Billboard Year End Chart:

1. To Sir With Love, Lulu
2. The Letter, Box Tops
3. Ode to Billie Joe, Bobbie Gentry
4. Windy, Association
5. I'm a Believer, Monkees
6. Light My Fire, Doors
7. Somethin' Stupid, Nancy Sinatra & Frank Sinatra
8. Happy Together, Turtles
9. Groovin', Young Rascals
10. Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Frankie Valli

Monday, July 26, 2010

He's still a gas, gas, gas

We were in danger of missing a big celebration today until we heard someone shout ... Happy 67th, Mick!

When Paul McCartney was your age (just last year) he was performing "Get Back" from the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theater so we thought we'd ask: Have you done anything crazy like that lately?  We're guessing you probably have Sir Paul beat on the crazy front.  No matter.

Ageless rockers like you help us stay young and we are eternally grateful. One day it may become a parody, but right now we're rockin' right there beside you.  The only difference is you're still fronting one of the greatest rock bands in the history of the world and we're just trying to keep our knees from buckling.

Nothing but Stones goes in the player today because Jumpin' Jack Flash is gas, gas, gas!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Music to our ears

Eight of the sweetest words we like to hear:

Get up! Get Up! Get outta here! Gone!

Bob Uecker's signature home run call is a beautiful thing, and we hope to hear it again many times now that the Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer is back in the booth and the boys are back in town for a homestand.

We were stunned by a Journal-Sentinel online poll showing that only 68 percent of 2,700 respondents voted for Ueck's return. The others say he should just kick back and relax.  A nice sentiment, but the Brewers are nine games under .500. We need him back now for comic relief!

Baseball hasn't been the same here since Uecker took a break for heart surgery back in April.  The Milwaukee native (though he has said he was actually born in Illinois during an oleo run his father and pregnant mother were making) is often the main reason to tune into Brewers broadcasts.

Here's hoping things won't be as bad on the field as they were one night a few years back when Uecker, with the Crew trailing 8-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, cracked: "Well, just a couple of slammers and the Brewers are right back in this one."

With Uecker it's not so much whether you win or lose but how you call the game.  Welcome back, Mr. Baseball.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My friend went to the piano...

We have spent so much time idling with a guitar, attempting to write a song or unlock some musical door along the fretboard, and it has come at the expense of the piano.

We had a dear friend who played jazz music on the piano, and we often went to watch him and to listen.  He was a jass guitarist first and foremost, but he had come to a juncture in his life when he felt it important to master the piano.

And he did.  Even when he was dying of cancer he summoned the strength to produce one final album at the piano. And it is a work of beauty.  You should have seen the crowd that came to see him for the CD release party held at a Sarasota art gallery.  It may have been his final public performance and we regret that it was never recorded for the ages.  That's why we must preserve some of those precious brain cells, for our faultering memory banks.

Do you know anyone who likes to tickle the ivories?  If so you should convince your friend to play.  We refer you now to a work by Stephen Vincent Benet, who was born on this day in 1898.  Benet was a poet, not a pianist, but he certainly understood.

My friend went to the piano; spun the stool
A little higher; left his pipe to cool;
Picked up a fat green volume from the chest;
And propped it open.
Whitely without rest,
His fingers swept the keys that flashed like swords,
. . . And to the brute drums of barbarian hordes,
Roaring and thunderous and weapon-bare,
An army stormed the bastions of the air!
Dreadful with banners, fire to slay and parch,
Marching together as the lightnings march,
And swift as storm-clouds. Brazen helms and cars
Clanged to a fierce resurgence of old wars
Above the screaming horns. In state they passed,
Trampling and splendid on and sought the vast --
Rending the darkness like a leaping knife,
The flame, the noble pageant of our life!
The burning seal that stamps man's high indenture
To vain attempt and most forlorn adventure;
Romance, and purple seas, and toppling towns,
And the wind's valiance crying o'er the downs;
That nerves the silly hand, the feeble brain,
From the loose net of words to deeds again
And to all courage! Perilous and sharp
The last chord shook me as wind shakes a harp!
. . . And my friend swung round on his stool, and from gods we were men,
"How pretty!" we said; and went on with our talk again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heaven couldn't hold his songs

Hank Cochran, now there was a blessed songwriter.

The way he put words down on paper and turned them into country classics could give a person religion.  Or at least make you consider the prospect of a Man Upstairs.

That's who Cochran credited for songs like "Make the World Go Away," the Eddie Arnold chestnut that ranks among the finest country songs ever penned.  Cochran was in a movie theatre with a date when that one came to him like a lightning bolt.  In the time it took him to rush back to his Nashville apartment he had the song written in his head.

"But that's the way most of the really good ones come to me -- zap!" he told a writer at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in 2003 before his induction into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame. "I tell people all the time, I don't write songs. God writes 'em, and I just hold the pen. They think I'm kidding, but it's true."

No sense arguing with that.  "Make the World Go Away," "I Fall to Pieces" (co-written with Harland Howard), "Funny Way of Laughin' " and "She's Got You" seem to have dropped from the heavens.  For four decades Cochran put songs on the country music charts and helped in the legend making of stars like Arnold and Patsy Cline.  Dozens of artists across the music spectrum recorded his songs, from Burl Ives to Elvis Costello.

But most of them were pure country. He wrote "Set 'Em Up Joe" for Vern Gosdin and co-wrote "The Chair" and "Ocean Front Property" for George Strait.  He gave a struggling songwriter named Willie Nelson his start. Three of his songs are among CMT's 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music.

But today his pen is still. Cochran left us last Thursday, we presume, to join his Great Collaborator. He was 74 and the cause of death was listed as cancer. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of those wonderful songs.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summertime, and the touring's abysmal

How tough is it out there this summer on the rock show circuit? Check out this story from the L.A. Times which appeared in our local newspaper over the weekend.  If you don't have the interest or attention span to read one of those old-fashioned newspaper pieces, here's the lead-in that summarizes the story:

With CD sales diving, top artists are seeking to recoup lost revenue with tours, creating a glut at a time of economic contraction. 'It's brutal out there,' says one manager of alternative music acts.

When we heard that Milwaukee's Summerfest recently drew 856,000 fans, a 2.5 percent increase in attendance over 2009, we thought everything must be grand.  (Although festival officials declined to release revenue numbers, a tip-off that all their numbers are not happy ones.) 

We're kind of old-fashioned here at the Sanctuary (must be that newspaper upbringing!)  We still believe in paying for quality goods and services, which includes music in every form.  If we like a CD, we pay our hard-earned money for it.  And because we like to support our favorite artists, many of whom aren't making it on record sales, we don't spend a lot of time burning CDs for our free-loading pals.  And we think that's at the heart of the problem here. Somewhere along the line people decided that music should be free.

Many big acts are trying to recoup their lost revenue on the road, and it's a jungle out there.  Did you ever think there would be too much live music from which to choose?  When you add the greedy hand of the promoter to the equation, you wind up with ticket sales that just don't make sense.  Can we expect fans who aren't fond of plunking down $15 for a CD to fork out $895 to see the Eagles? 

That $15 we paid to watch five good bands at Summerfest is looking like the steal of the summer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Free as a bird now

Allen Collins would have been 58 today, so it's okay.

Go ahead and request "Freebird." 

Collins probably would have played his signature lick for you.  Even after he left Lynyrd Sknyrd following the plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant he continued to play the song in his own bands.  The only difference was the sentiment. 

"Freebird" was co-written by Collins and Van Zant as a tribute to Duane Allman, but the instrumental version became a tribute to his Jacksonville buddy Van Zant.  This is classic Lynyrd Sknyrd, the epitomy of Southern rock 'n' roll, music that will live forever despite the tragic loss of its core members. 

Collins was involved in a car wreck in 1986 that killed his girlfriend and left him paralyzed from the waist down.  He died in 1990 of respiratory failure.  To revive a stubborn old slogan of the South that fueled the band's rebel heritage:

Hell no we won't forget.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wham, twang and thank you ma'am

There are days we wish we had quit school at age 13 like Lonnie Mack and concentrated on becoming a great guitarist.  Maybe today we'd be as great as the roadhouse rocker from Harrison, Indiana.

Yeah, right.  We've never figured out the whammy bar, and we've for-sure never strapped on a vintage Gibson Flying V like Lonnie's signature model that came from an early production run.

It's a bit of a surprise that Mack, who has influenced a wide range of great players from Duane Allman to Stevie Ray Vaughan, isn't often one of the first names that tumbles out during discussions about the greatest axemen of all time.  Explains one critic:  "It was the era of satin pants and histrionic stage shows, and all the superior chops in the world couldn't hide the fact that chubby, country Mack probably had more in common with Kentucky truck drivers than he did with the new rock audience."

Say now, did Mack Trucks ever take advantage of this?

Here's some perspective on Mack's ground-breaking playing from the book Legends of Rock Guitar: "It is not an exaggeration to say that Lonnie Mack was well ahead of his time....His bluesy solos pre-dated the pioneering blues-rock guitar work of Jeff Beck... Eric Clapton... and Mike Bloomfield... by nearly two years. Considering that they [were] 'before their time', the chronological significance of Lonnie Mack for the world of rock guitar is that much more remarkable."

Good enough to make him our headliner in today's Birthday Band, which is an amazing group to behold:

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (1929-2000): Singer/pianist
I Put a Spell on You

"Papa Dee" Allen (1931-1988): Keyboards, War
The World is a Ghetto, Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Dion DiMucci (1939): Singer, Dion and the Belmonts
A Teenager in Love, Runaround Sue, The Wanderer, Ruby Baby, Donna the Prima Donna

Lonnie Mack (1941): Guitarist
Memphis, Suzie-Q, Chickin Pickin'

Martha Reeves (1941): Singer
Power of Love, Heat Wave, Quicksand, Dancing in the Street

Robin McDonald (1943): Guitarist, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas
Little Children, Trains and Boats and Planes, Bad to Me

Glenn Hughes (1950-2001): Singer, Village People (biker dude)
YMCA, Macho Man

Ricky Skaggs (1954): Bluegrass strummer/singer
Crying My Heart Out Over You, Highway 40 Blues, Cajun Moon

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Still keeping us up at night

"I couldn't sleep at all last night... "

When Bobby Lewis sat down at the piano and sang the intro to "Tossin' and Turnin' " the owners of Beltone Records in Manhattan knew they had their man.

Lewis would take their song to No. 1 on the Billboard chart for seven weeks at this time in 1961, and it remains one of rock 'n' roll's enduring classics.  Seven weeks was an incredible accomplishment back in the day.  Only a handful of male performers, led by Elvis Presley (11 weeks for "Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel" in 1956) managed longer stays atop the chart.

Lewis' impressive run actually began on July 10 when "Tossin' and Turnin' " replaced "Quarter to Three" by Gary U.S Bonds at the summit. Here was the Billboard Top 5:

1. Tossin' and Turnin', Bobby Lewis
2. Boll Weevil Song, Brook Benton
3. Quarter to Three, Gary U.S. Bonds
4. Raindrops, Dee Clark
5. The Writing on the Wall, Adam Wade

Fame was fleeting for Lewis, who notched only one other Top 10 ("One Track Mind" made it to No. 9 later that year).  Which matters not so much to Classic Oldies stations that continue to spin the popular song written by Ritchie Adams and Malou Rene.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guitar Hero? We found one

It wasn't long ago and we were watching a great show at a club in downtown Milwaukee. We noticed a couple things about the lead guitarist, besides the fact that he was doing some really fine work on his Fender Telecaster.  He was working up a good sweat all right, and we were drawn to his left hand, particularly the fingertips.  As he ran that hand up and down the neck of the Tele we kept seeing a blur of blue.

Had he painted his fingertips for some reason?  What was going on there?

During a break we bumped into the bass player and told him how much we had enjoyed the set, and remarked how impressed we were with the lead guitarist.

"You should see him play WITHOUT the gloves!" said the bass player.

Now there's a story.  The guitarist, who has been battling significant health issues, got to the point where it felt like razor blades just pressing his fingers on those steel strings.  But he's a guitar player, you know?  What are you gonna do?

He tried wearing latex gloves, which is crazy. He tried applying different types of glue to his fingertips.  He tried a number of different things to blunt the pain he felt when his fingertips hit the strings.  And if you play guitar you know how imporant it is to feel those strings because they become part of you, just as your hands and fingers become part of the instrument.  There was nothing easy about this experiment, and no simple solution that would return the natural magic to the fingertips.

But somehow he figured out a way to keep the tips of latex gloves on his fingers as he played. And we suspect there was still some degree of pain when he played.  But he played all night, and he played well.

Here is your real Guitar Hero.  We learned while he was recuperating from some major surgeries that he recorded an album appropriately titled The Vicodin Sessions.  It was done in one take in his kitchen, influenced by "a good dose of pain pills."  Just him, a 1966 Fender Newport acoustic, an occasional Oahu lap steel guitar, various harmonicas and two channels of a mult-track recorder. And a bottle of Vicodin.

We're putting that disc in the player today.  And we don't want to hear about your problems.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Worthy of the throne

Bill Withers, who had been manufacturing toilet seats for Lockheed Aircraft, was sitting on the throne at this very time in 1972.  Ladies and gentlemen, here was the Billboard Top 5:

1. Lean on Me, Bill Withers
2. Outa-Space, Billy Preston
3. Song Sung Blue, Neil Diamond
4. Too Late to Turn Back Now, Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
5. Candy Man, Sammy Davis Jr.

"Lean on Me" is one of the greatest examples of honest and understated music we've ever heard here at the Sanctuary.  That is something you came to expect from Withers, a native of Slab Fork, West Virginia who was well grounded in R&B and brought a working man's perspective to his songs.  Here's a quote that originally appeared in the L.A. Times:

"When I was repairing airplanes, that was a vital gig, because you can lose a lot of lives if that job isn't done p;roperly.  Even when I was workiing on bathroom seats, this was at least constructive.  I challenge anybody: I won't sing for a month and you don't go to the bathroom for a month and let's see who comes off with less misery."

If you want to see some of that honest sweat on stage, click here and watch Withers' performance on the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test of "Ain't No Sunshine" -- another phenomenal song that won him a Grammy. We have always loved this guy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home is where the music is spun

He wasn't looked upon favorably in many corners because he avoided the military draft, fleeing like many other young Americans to Canada during the Vietnam War.  But that is exactly the reason he wrote one of the most beautiful songs we've heard at the Sanctuary.

It was good to see Jesse Winchester Sunday on stage during the telecast of Jimmy Buffett's concert for the Gulf Coast.  We seem to remember seeing him many years ago at Tampa Theatre, but maybe that was just a dream. It would have been sometime after President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to draft resisters in 1977.  We know at the time we wore the grooves out of Winchester's album Learn to Love It, and we certainly did learn to love his homespun music.

You cannot write the lyrics to "Mississippi You're On My Mind" without dearly missing home.  Close your eyes and listen to the song and you are transported to a mystical place that stuns you with its vivid rural beauty.  "L'Air de la Louisiane" is another gem from Learn to Love It, but we'll stick here with the song Winchester sang at Gulf Shores as the crowd swayed to its lovely bittersweet lyrics.

I think I see a wagon rutted road
With the weeds growing tall between the tracks
And along one side runs a rusty barbed wire fence
And beyond there sits an old tar paper shack

I think I hear a noisy old John Deere
In a field specked with dirty cotton lint
And below the field runs a little shady creek
And there you'll find the cool green leaves of mint

I think I smell the honeysuckle vine
The heavy sweetness like to make me sick
And the dogs, my God, they're hungry all the time
And the snakes are sleeping where the weeds are thick

I think I feel an angry oven heat
The southern sun just blazes in the sky
And in the dusty weeds, an old fat grasshopper jumps
I wanna make it to that creek before I fry

Mississippi, you're on my mind
Mississippi, you're on my mind
Woh, Mississippi you're on my mind

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sticking a wine cork in it

Nibblin' on sponge cake
Watchin' the sun bake
All of those tourists covered with oil...

It was a line Jimmy Buffett has sung thousands of times but last night it required some instant clarification.

"Suntan oil!" Buffett shouted to the 35,000 fans who massed on the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama to watch Jimmy Buffett & Friends: Live From the Gulf Coast.  Before he was done singing "Margaritaville" Buffett would also change "it's my own damn fault" to "it's BP's fault!" as the crowd roared its approval.

If there was trouble lapping the shores you wouldn't have known it watching a telecast of Sunday's free concert.  There was great spirit on the beach where Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band were joined by Mac McAnally, Jesse Winchester, Allen Toussaint, Will Kimbrough and others.  Nobody has mentioned anything about a benefit DVD or CD, nor was Buffett hawking T-shirts like the one he wore that read "One Love One Ocean," but sign us up for one of everything here at the Sanctuary.  Some good should come from this good faith effort to reinvigorate tourism and perk up spirits along the beleaguered Gulf Coast.

Man, we even enjoyed "Cheeseburger in Paradise."  But the best thing we heard was a song Buffett retooled to close the CMT telecast.  He took "When the Coast is Clear," written years back with McAnally, and "moderized it a bit" to fit the occasion.  The result was a moving tribute to the Gulf that needs to somehow be channeled into the oil spill recovery efforts.

Out on our Gulf waters
A different kind of storm
People run for cover
As opinions like clouds form

It was bound to happen
It happened to be here
We're gonna have to work to see
That the coast is clear

The Gulf is in my body
The Gulf is in my soul
I wish like you that I could stick
A wine cork in that hole

Anger makes us doubtful
While fear can cloud the view
I for one don't think we've done
The best that we can do

It was bound to happen
Where greed and crude appear
I hope that I'm around to see
When the coast is clear

Click here to watch a video of the song, and check CMT for replay times of the concert. And get behind the oil spill cleanup any way you can. We love our Gulf!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Music for the troubled Gulf

It's a big night ahead for Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars. We've always said that when all else fails an accordian might very well save the day.

So Roddie and his zydeco band have the Sanctuary's long-distance emotional support when they take the makeshift stage on the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama.  You've got to fight this Gulf oil spill any way you can, and music -- free music! -- can't be a bad deal for those who have been pinched by the disaster. 

It was Jimmy Buffett's idea really, and he is the headliner you can expect to see on CMT's 90-minute broadcast. Sonny Landreth and Allen Toussaint are also expected to perform along with Romero's Hub City gang, and you might catch them on Radio Margaritaville's simulcast. (Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown had to bow out of the rescheduled event because of other commitments.)

According to organizers 35,000 tickets have been distributed, and if they're being honest they're probably expecting thousands more to try find a way to the show.  You don't want to be anywhere near Highway 59 if you don't have one of those ducats. This is going make the Hangout Beach, Music and Arts Festival look like a family reunion.

We all know how music has the power to heal. It might not cap the well or make the oil go away, but this musical respite could be just the mojo needed to turn the mess around. We love our Gulf, so here's hoping...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Smooth sailing and safe ports

The three-paragraph brief Friday from the Navy Times was short on words but filled with questions and anticipation:

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — The guided-missile destroyer O’Kane is deploying to the Middle East and western Pacific.

The Navy says O’Kane is scheduled to depart Friday following an accelerated training and maintenance period in Pearl Harbor.

The ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Derek Trinque, says O’Kane will support ballistic missile defense requirements in the Central Command region. He said he expects the ship to take part in a host of other missions as well.

We spoke with Petty Officer Z.J. Smith before the O'Kane lifted anchor and he was in good spirits and anxious with his shipmates to get under way. This was a scheduled deployment, but there are many questions that won't be answered until they're answered, which is the military way.  One of Zach's biggest concerns: How do you miss a complete season of football?  Honestly. We can only pray that's the biggest obstacle for these sailors to overcome in next seven months.

Our senior year in high school we somehow we got roped into singing with the Dairyland Conference Choir.  The details are sketchy, but the one good offshoot is we learned and still remember the Navy Hymn, at least the first verse:

Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

Here's an audio clip of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the hymn. Give it a listen some time, and have good thoughts for our sailors on the high seas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A case of Deadhead envy?

Here's a question on the 15th anniversary of Jerry Garcia's final concert:

What has become of the Deadheads?  There is still the Grateful Dead, sure, but the dynamics certainly changed for the band and its fans without Garcia -- the unwilling cult leader -- in the lineup. 

We're just wondering if all those aimless fans decided to go make something of their lives, or do they still sit around smoking weed in their tie dyed shirts, eating Cherry Garcia out of the container and listening to long, looping dirges?  (The Sanctuary has no problem with that, but we do prefer pistachio ice cream.)

We remember a couple of occasions when the Dead were playing the Omni in downtown Atlanta, the city of our employ at the time, and it became very nearly impossible to get to and from work on those occasions. It's possible we wished we were high at the time like all the drones around us, and headed for a concert instead fighting our way toward a dysfunctional newsroom. Perhaps that is the root of our problem.

Deadhead envy.

Whatever the case, we suspect it has been different for the clan without Garcia, who died of a heart attack exactly one month after his final concert on July 9, 1995 at Soldier Field in Chicago.  We have live streaming audio of that performance, so here you go.  Although some fans who attended the show swear it was the best Deadhead concert ever (and who would know better than them?), the music suggests otherwise. Touring no doubt took its toll on Garcia, who had significant health issues for years.  We read somewhere that the Dead played 2,314 shows during the three-decade span Garcia was on lead guitar.

That's a ton of shows, and a lot of dope if you happened to be a Deadhead.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thar's gold in them thar records

The first gold record album was awarded on this date in 1958 by the Record Industry Association of America.  If you can guess the LP we're gonna give you barley, carrots and pertaters, pasture fer the cattle, and spinach and termaters.

OK then, it's Oklahoma!  (And because we know you're wondering, the first gold single went to Perry Como for "Catch a Falling Star.")

Michael Jackson was a thrill a minute so it's not surprising to see the King of Pop at the tippity top of the RIAA's list.  And it does no good to quibble about this because we're talking about certified album sales, not somebody's arbitrary rankings. A couple surprises, though: Shania Twain's Come On Over (20 million!) has outsold Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (15 million) and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper (12 million). And Carole King's Tapestry, one of our all-time favorites, is well down the list at 10 mil sold along with Tom Petty's Greatest Hits, U2's Joshua Tree and Eric Clapton's Unplugged.

Kind of strange rounding numbers to the nearest 1 million, since some of our favorite albums have never even reached 5,000 in sales. But here you have it, the Top 10:

1. Michael Jackson, Thriller, 1982, 29 million
2. Eagles, Greatest Hits (1971-75), 1976, 29 million
3. Pink Floyd, The Wall, 1979, 23 million
4. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV, 1971, 23 million
5. AC/DC, Back in Black, 1980, 22 milliion
6. Garth Brooks, Double Live, 1998, 21 million
7. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits Vol. I & II, 1985, 21 million
8. Shania Twain, Come on Over, 1997, 20 million
9. Beatles, White Album, 1968, 19 million
10. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, 1977, 19 million

For a list of the RIAA's Top 100 click here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And many more for Pinetop Perkins

A few years back we received a CD in the mail that came with no advance billing or promotional sheet.  It was Pinetop Perkins' Ladies Man, and this was our first thought: Well, sure, he probably was and maybe still is a ladies man. No doubt there are some stories steeped in the Mississippi delta blues that we'd love to hear and won't read in the liner notes.

And that was true, about the liner notes anyway. But what we did immediately discover was an impressive lineup of contributors that helped make this CD sing.  Marcia Ball, Ruth Brown, Odetta, Madeleine Peyroux and Susan Tedeschi all appear on this 2004 release from M.C. Records.

And it's going back in the player this morning on account of Pinetop is 97 years old today!  According to his website he's still going strong, so mark your calendars now for the annual Pinetop Perkins Homecoming Jam on October 10 at Hopson's Plantation in Clarksdale, Miss.

Now get a load of today's Birthday Band, for certain one of the most diverse ever assembled at the Sanctuary:

Pinetop Perkins (1913): Piano, Delta bluesman
Tickled ivories for Muddy Waters

Mary Ford (1924-1977): Singer with Les Paul
How High the Moon, Vaya Con Dios

Charlie Louvin (1927): Singer, Louvin Brothers
I Don’t Love You Anymore; My Baby’s Gone, I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby

Doc Severinsen (1927): Trumpeter, bandleader
The Tonight Show Band

Ringo Starr (1940): Drummer, Beatles:
Act Naturally, It Don’t Come Easy, Photograph, You’re Sixteen

Warren Entner (1944): Singer/guitarist, Grass Roots
Let's Live For Today, Midnight Confessions

David Hodo (1950): Singer, Village People

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bringin' up the rear-end

Watching five different bands during a five-hour span is a pretty sweet accomplishment -- unless you happen to be tooling the grounds at Summerfest. 

We closed down the Big Gig last night, capturing what was left of Milwaukee's musical pride and joy: 700 bands sharing 11 stages over 11 days.  We promise to get off our asses sooner if you make plans to join us next year.

We did manage to catch a glimpse of Devo, which commanded one of the biggest crowds of the night.  We know, it's so Eighties! And while techno has never been our bag, we admit falling into a robotic trance as the aging men in jump suits sweated through a lively set at the Miller Lite Oasis (where else did you think you'd find us?)

This followed a wild date with Katzenjammer, which more than delivered on the Sanctuary's weekend pick to click. The maidens from Oslo do not in any way, shape or fashion resemble the sturdy conservative stock we were to born to. Sorry, Mom, but you never even tried to play an accordian, much less a balalika bass.  (But we're pretty sure you're better at the things in life that truly count, like lefse and sanbakkels.)

Wisconsin-based Chasin' Mason have a strong following, as evidenced by the healthy crowd that heard their country-fused rock at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard.  Home boy Danny Gokey would be following on the same stage and as CM's lead singer joked, "You're not here to see our ugly asses!"  But you know what?  We were. And after watching Gokey open for an overflow crowd that stood on bleacher seats to catch a glimpse of "Milwaukee's American Idol," we wonder what the big fuss is about.  Carrie Underwood on the big stage at Marcus Ampitheater, that we understand.  But, hey, we're happy for Danny's success. To have fans like that, wow...

Note to Rick: Sorry, dude, but we didn't make it over to the M & I Classic Rock Stage to catch the Average White Band.  We know how they still get your motor going with "Pick Up the Pieces," and we're pretty sure they played their 1975 anthem at least twice.  Maybe next year...

When all is heard and done it's not a bad thing to ask: Who would we go back and see again?  Among the groups we watched, and we almost forgot Madison's Soul Collective, the nod would go to the amped up girls from Norway.  Now that was a show.

Mange tusen takk!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A red, white and bluegrass Fourth

By Wayne Shelor

It's Independence Day! Click on the link below and let it play as you visit an all-red-white-and-bluegrass edition of Six String Sanctuary:

Way back when violins were first becomin' fiddles and instruments weren't 'lectrified, a man by the name of Bill Monroe pretty much "created" bluegrass music when he took country music, added a quickified edge to it, and let all sorts of instruments -- banjos in particular -- take solos to show off the musicians' virtuosity.

Then came the 1940s and another man -- Earl Scruggs -- wrote a song he called "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." He and another feller by the name of Lester Flatt had the most famous bluegrass band of all time: the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Now ol' Earl, a banjo player like Mr. Bill Monroe himself, took pickin' to whole new level of creativity. So much so that his talent eclipses subjectivity; he's The Best Dang Banjo Player Ever. His playing alone.

Earl's song "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" was featured in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. Every time there was a chase scene they played the song, and there were a LOT of chase scenes. You'll recognize some of his other songs too, such as "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" that you hear at the beginning of The Beverly Hillbillies, and "Dueling Banjos," the signature song from the movie Deliverence. Oh, and that Larry the Cable Guy fella used it, too.

Now you may not fancy yourself a big bluegrass fan, but it don't matter none if your preference is Trance, reggae, Hip-hop or soft rock, ain't nobody can keep from tappin' their toes when they hear "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."

This particular version is from an engaging album called Earl Scruggs and Friends, and if you look closely at this video you'll see everyone from Earl Scruggs (banjo) to comedian Steve Martin (2nd banjo solo) and - well, hell, here's all-a um: Glen Duncan (fiddle), Randy Scruggs (acoustic guitar), Vince Gill (1st electric guitar solo), Marty Stuart (mandolin), Gary Scruggs (harmonica), Albert Lee (2nd electric guitar solo), Paul Shaffer (of late night fame, on the piano). Jerry Douglas (dobro), Leon Russell (organ), Glenn Worf (bass) and Harry Stinson playing the brushes on the snare. DANG those boys can pick 'n' play!

Ol' Earl didn't invent bluegrass, but he's the one -- with his buddy Lester -- who popularized it years ago.

Bluegrass is about as Americana as it gets and we thought with last night's Firecracker 500 race at Daytona Beach, Independence Day and all the fireworks that go with it, this song dovetailed pretty nicely with all the festivities.

We hope it got your toes-a-tappin' this Sunday mornin'! Y'all come back now, hear?

Wayne Shelor is an occasional guest host of Sundays at the Sanctuary, where friends and regulars dial in with some noteworthy perspectives on music.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Out of Oslo, into the frying pan

They are from Norway, so there is that.  They tear it up on stage as if their dresses are on fire.  They play the accordian, kazoo, melodica, balaika bass and just about anything they can squeeze a note out of.  They sing in harmonies.  They are Katzenjammer.  What is not to love?

Katzenjammer is the Sanctuary's pick to click during the final weekend of Summerfest. They're playing the Harley Davidson Roadhouse tonight and 8 and they open for Devo Sunday at the Miller Lite Oasis.  We hope we can get close enough to see the maidens of mayhem in the, well, flesh.  As their website advises: Take off your skin and dance around in your bones. It will be a ruckus for sure.

Note to us: Take a nap this afternoon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pssst: We sure like this candy

I sure like that candy
I don't go for them turnip greens
I sure like that candy
I don't go for them turnip greens
So when you put it on the table
Oh, Mama, think about me

Who could have a figured a simple 12-bar blues vamp would help save the day and quite possibly the year in music?

June is already shot in the ass but the summer of 2010 promises to live forever in the blues-fueled jams on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' new album Mojo. It's simply the best damn collection of songs we've heard at the Sanctuary in quite some time.

Tom Petty has rarely disappointed. Make that never.  The lousy show we saw at the Metrodome back in 1986 could be blamed on a venue that was shitty for everything except dead-of-winter boat shows and monster truck extravaganzas.  (We can't actually vouch for the trucks.)  Every album we've heard since his 1976 debut has included some memorable and redeeming music.  When we stack up our most played discs the pile is sure to include Damn the Torpedoes (1979), Southern Accents (1985) and Full Moon Fever (1989).

And unlike his other 21st century issues,  The Last DJ (2002) and Highway Companion (2006), which are great albums but needed some time to digest, Mojo was so enjoyable the first time through we were concerned the thrill might be short-lived.  Four listens later we're here to confirm: This is a great album that'll stick to your rock-starved ribs for months and years to come.

After rediscovering his roots with the 2008 release of Mudcrutch we weren't sure which direction Petty might turn. These days he may be calling himself a California dude, but he drives straight throught the heart of Florida on "U.S. 41" where it all began for him. By the time you get to that song you've already been transformed by the the exemplary twin-tone guitars of Petty and Mike Campbell and the agreeable bite of Benmont Tench's electric organ. Add Steve Ferrone's drums, Ron Blair's knowing bass lines and some great harp work by Scott Thurston and you are reminded once again that great rock music -- that would be Mojo -- is a simple formula that ought to work more often than it seems to.

The Heartbreakers have bottled it once again, delivering a glorious summer romp that is both fresh and revealing. We're pretty certain the 180 gram vinyl platters will be pure gold, but right now we can't get past the ear candy of the Mojo CD. This is damn fine stuff. Make room for PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) No. 19, the first new release to go up on the big board. Now pass it along...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wear a flower

The Summer of Love was coming into full swing at this time in 1967 as Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" made its way up the Billboard chart.

It coulda and we think maybe it shoulda made it all the way to No. 1, but this was as close as it got on July 1:

1. Windy, Association
2. Groovin', Young Rascals
3. Little Bit O' Soul, Music Explosion
4. San Francisco, Scott McKenzie
5. She'd Rather Be With Me, Turtles

Windy dominated radio airplay that month, remaining No. 1 until July 29 when the Doors took over with "Light My Fire" and the earth began to shake. Procul Harum had "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and the Beatles dialed in with "All You Need is Love" from Sgt. Pepper.  And in Studio C at Capitol Records in Hollywood Bobbie Gentry recorded the song whose lyrics she had scribbled down at 3 a.m. one morning:

Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge.

You tell us there was a better time to be listening to the music of the day and you will not win the argument. Not at the Sanctuary, where the sounds of the Sixties live on forever...