• The Music In Me

    by Published on 02-15-2017 01:14 PM
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    I met Jim Marshall just after he’d shot someone.

    And bam! I’ve discovered that, knowing it or not, a writer might be waiting all his life for an opening line like that. Although I’m not really sure how true it is. I could have asked about it over the years, but it just never came up. That’s how he was introduced to me, he didn’t deny it, and the person introducing us had known him for many years, so I believed her, and meeting him that first time gave me no reason to doubt it. ...
    by Published on 01-20-2017 11:46 AM
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    This might be a short one today, because it’s all about a story I heard once, and it’s a short one at that. But I never use three words when I can get away with ten, so sit down and we’ll begin with a visit to the Bay Area. I was up there for Thanksgiving, and I had my usual lunch with Bob, my lawyer, guide and friend for over forty years. I can’t say enough about Bob, but it’s not about him, so let’s get to the tour.

    I hadn’t been in Bob’s home for a long time, and he was showing me around when we got to his den, and the first thing I saw was this big old stand-up record player, and I was stopped cold. He said it was from 1913, and he picked up the lid to show me the 78 rpm disc on the turntable. It was one of my favorite boogie woogie pianists, Albert Ammons, and the song was “Early Morning Blues.” Then he flipped it over and I flipped out: it was Sidney Bechet playing “Viper Mad.”

    A Sidney Bechet record! Dude played clarinet and soprano saxophone, and he was so excellent! Bechet (pronounced Bih-SHAY) was born in New Orleans in 1897 to a musical middle-class creole family, and, self-taught, achieved notice at six playing in his brother’s band; by his teens he was the only player in New Orleans who could share the bandstand with Louis Armstrong without embarrassing himself. Bechet was one of the founders of jazz, but not many know about him, and although everyone recognizes Louis Armstrong as being among the first jazz artists to put their craft on wax, Bechet beat him to the studio by several months. That may seem insignificant now, but at the time it was quite important.

    While playing in London, Bechet discovered the straight soprano saxophone, and quickly developed a style quite unlike his warm, reedy clarinet tone. His saxophone sound has been described as "emotional", "reckless", and "large," using a very broad vibrato, common to some New Orleans clarinetists at the time. Bechet was known for his forceful delivery, well-constructed improvisations, and that distinctive, wide vibrato. ...
    by Published on 12-19-2016 10:24 AM
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    No startling revelations today, no mysteries unraveled, just a forgotten teen idol who was an unrecognized pioneer, and a lot of links. Ricky Nelson pioneered country rock before anyone else was doing it, and it was his rebellion. We know: child actors have a habit of growing up screwy. There must be a list somewhere… Here’s a story of how it turned out well. Until the end, that is.

    Eric Hilliard Nelson’s father was a mid-level bandleader and his mother was the singer in the band. Ozzie Nelson was born and raised in New Jersey and that’s where all four Nelsons lived. There was Ozzie, Harriet, David, born in 1937, and Eric, born in 1941, and known as Ricky. Ozzie, Harriet and David moved to Hollywood to star in a TV series starring Red Skelton while Ricky, shy and introspective, stayed behind with Grandma. When Skelton was drafted in 1944, his producer created a radio sitcom for Ozzie and Harriet. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet debuted on Sunday, October 8, 1944, to favorable reviews, and Ozzie became head writer for the show and based the episodes on the love/hate exploits of his sons. The Nelson boys were first played on the radio by professional child actors until twelve-year-old Dave and eight-year-old Ricky joined the show on February 20, 1949, in an episode called “Invitation to Dinner.” (If you click on that, you’ll see that episode re-created for the TV series.) ...
    by Published on 11-18-2016 10:01 AM
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    In August of 1967, my friend Billy came back from London with two albums, which he gave to me, and almost fifty years later, I am still impacted by those albums.


    It seems that during my junior high and high school years, among my friends’ parents I was thought of as something of a bad influence. Yes, I earned some of that… but some of it wasn’t my fault! Then, continuing the tradition after high school, which for me was 1964, my room became something of a hippie redoubt where the nascent neighborhood stoners convened. My parents were away for weeks at a time, which would be when all that convening occurred. I had the cool pad with the stereo set up… just so, and thanks to the absence of parents, we played it loud. I’d moved into a large, finished attic, painted the walls electric blue, used two piled-up mattresses for my bed on one side of the room, and two more for a couch on the other side, both covered similarly. Then I went to one of the “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!” places in Times Square and got a 9 X 12 oriental rug for $79.99 and used British flags for curtains. Let’s call it proto-hippie décor. ...
    by Published on 09-20-2016 11:20 AM
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    Songs get written, songs get recorded, songs get heard, songs get rerecorded and then heard again. Okay, so no one learned anything new from that, but you’ll enjoy some of the songs we’re covering today. Covering! Ha! That was mighty clever, as you’ll soon agree.


    When someone records a song, that’s a recording. But when someone else hears that recording and then plays it or records it, that’s a cover. Sometimes a cover recording is more famous than the original, and some of the songs you like might be covers and you might like the original better than the version you know. We’re going to visit three covers and you can decide which you like better. It’s not a contest, there are no prizes, it’s all for fun. There are scads of covers, and you could suggest your own, but we only have time for three, so with no reference whatsoever as to why I chose these three, here they are. Regular readers will know that I love the Stones, so let’s go there: ...
    by Published on 08-25-2016 08:31 PM
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    Editor's Note: I've written and re-written several introductions to this article over the past 30 minutes, but none of them do this article justice. An introduction isn't necessary, but I believe it's important, to get the point across that this article contains difficult subject matter and how those in the artistic community dealt with a terrible part of our history in the US. If this article doesn't make you feel for the people involved, doesn't make you want to listen to the "song of the century," doesn't make you want to listen to more of the great music of the time, then I can't relate to you. I thank Gilbert for writing about this song, the surrounding circumstances, and including insightful information. If you're familiar with song and the situation, this remains an interesting read and should spark you to do some listening this evening. - CC


    In 1999, as the Twentieth Century was winding down, Time magazine sent its editors and correspondents out on an epic assignment: define, analyze and curate the Twentieth Century. It was to be the story of the century (no pun intended). Time wanted to present whatever had happened, what preceded it, what succeeded it, and what it meant. All categories were to be considered and evaluated, and as this column is about music, we’ll look at how they rated the music of that volatile, passing century.

    They considered beauty and impact, and out of every piece of music written and recorded in the past hundred years, their selection as the most significant song of the century was “Strange Fruit,” by Billie Holiday. While I know there are excellent reasons for their selection, I asked several friends what they knew about the song, and that’s why I feel that not enough people know it. And, as you would surmise, the song has quite a story behind it. So it is both historic and it has a history. Let’s look and listen: ...
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