Gilbert Klein

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About Gilbert Klein

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  1. Hah! This one’s going to write itself. Yes, we did this cover thing before, but we all need to have some fun. Fun for me, too. This one’ll be less text and more listening. But fun for me and you. Have I said that already? Okay, it started in the summer of 1964. There was a hit on New York radio called “Gloria,” by the Shadows of Knight. Sure, why not? The British Invasion was in full attack mode and that “Knight” thing was as English as it got. Then my friend Phil played the song for me by the guys who wrote it and played it first: Them. Blew me a-way! This was still before FM radio came into view and all we had were the Top 40 stations and American Bandstand. But this band!! This band named… Them! Phil played the whole album, and they rocked like no one was rocking on AM radio, so I went to the local record shop and ordered it- because no local record shop had ever heard of Them, much less stocked their record because they weren’t on the radio. Thanks, Phil! Know who their lead singer and songwriter was? Yeah, Van Morrison. And that, friends, is why we are here today: the Shadows of Knight were also-rans and Them was the real deal, but the Shadows of Knight had the hit. I’m ashamed to report this, ladies and gentlemen, but my thoughts when Phil played that album were: fuck the Shadows of Knight! Who, incidentally, I never heard from again, and there you have as cogent an example of karma as you will ever get. Not that I wished those guys any harm, you understand, but I was angry at the injustice. No, it wasn’t anger. Anger fades; I was indignant. And an indignant Gilbert back then was a Gilbert who would stifle his anger, sublimate his indignation, and write about it fifty-three years later. And so I have, and so here we are. If you’re going to listen to those two tracks, you’ve either already listened to them or you will later, so let’s move on and prove that less-text-more-listening thing. Released in 1983 at the beginning of the MTV era, Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” went to the top of the charts, won her fame, awards, a career, and has been covered by so many other artists that brevity forbids their inclusion. But where did it come from? She got the song from an EP (extended play: an LP- sized disc, but not enough songs for a full album) by Robert Hazard, whose band Robert Hazard and the Heroes was popular in Philadelphia in the early 80’s, and their EP was released in 1982. When you listen, you’ll hear that the distinctive sonic characteristics of a song from the early 80’s. They sound like other 80’s bands, and then remember what Ms. Lauper did with it. Here’s Hazard’s original version. Quickly, now, we move on to Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll,” which she released in 1982 on her second album, her first album with her new band, The Blackhearts. Jett was touring England in 1976 with the infamous Runaways when she saw the American band Arrows perform it on TV. Arrows were popular enough in England to have their own show on British TV, and band leader Alan Merrill was a teen heartthrob. But no one knew them in America. She first recorded the song with two of the Sex Pistols. This first version was released as a B-side in 1979, but in 1981, Jett re-recorded the song, this time with her band, the Blackhearts, and it became a number-one single in the U.S. for seven weeks. Billboard ranked it at the No. 3 song for 1982. Jett's album, I Love Rock 'n Roll reached No. 2. Jett's version was ranked No. 89 in the list 100 Greatest Guitar Songs in Rolling Stone and has also been inducted into the Grammy’s Hall of Fame in 2016. Here, by Arrows, is “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Next up is Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” which Aretha made into an anthem. Countless iterations have come and gone, but everyone knows it’s Aretha’s song. She heard it from Otis Redding. Here’s all I need to tell you about Otis Redding: In his tenure as the world’s top rock impresario, Bill Graham booked and saw all the greats of his day. He saw legendary performers at their peak, and the person whose performance he most admired was that of Otis Redding. One more thing: it’s a little eerie that during his performance at the historic Monterey Pops Festival, the camera keeps him going in and out of the white light, which is spooky in that he died shortly after this was shot. But this is not the space for pseudo-spiritual digressions, and so here is Otis Redding singing “Respect.” That was fun, right? This wasn’t. In 1927, the Mississippi River overflowed, causing utter devastation and despair to those who lived there. Farms, homes, businesses, livestock, pets, people and whole families were washed away. In 1929, Memphis Minnie and her husband, Kansas Joe McCoy wrote and recorded ”When The Levee Breaks.” Led Zeppelin cut it in 1971, basing it on the original recording and giving writing credits to Memphis Minnie and members of the band: “When The Levee Breaks.” If you liked following those two from the 1920’s, try these: From 1927: Here’s an east coast update from 1965: Here’s what happened on the west coast the next year: We’re back, and this one speaks for itself: Of confused authorship, “Hey Joe” was first recorded, then re-recorded by a Los Angeles garage band named The Leaves in 1965. In 1966, Jimi Hendrix took “Hey Joe” and made it his. But have a care for The Leaves; they were a punk band before there was punk, and they had a regional hit and it got taken away from them. So: a little love for The Leaves. Here’s a shout-out to you 80’s People: Everyone knows “Manic Monday” by The Bangles, and everyone remembers that Prince gave it to them. But do you remember that around that time Prince had a protégé—or a girlfriend, or who knows what went on with that guy?—but he was seen with and pushing the musical career of a tall, sensuous singer named Apollonia? And that Apollonia had a group called Apollonia 6? And Prince originally gave the song to them? And who knows what happened, or why Prince gave it to the Bangles, but here’s Apollonia 6 and “Manic Monday.” And I left this one for last because I need to expand a bit on that brevity thing. When I took this gig, maybe the first story I thought of writing was about The Strangeloves, because they were the first band I ever hung out with. I still should write the story because it’s a good one, and it would take too long to explain why I haven’t, but here’s the deal. They had three big hits in 1965: “I Want Candy,” “Cara-Lin”, and “Night Time.” No, really- it’s a great story, but for brevity we go to 2005, when Bow Wow Wow was playing a gig that I was stage managing. Their one big hit had been a cover of “I Want Candy,” so I hied myself over to their dressing room and introduced myself. I told them I used to hang with The Strangeloves, and did they know anything about them? No, they didn’t, and yes! they were interested! It was Bow Wow Wow’s biggest song and they had no idea about The Strangeloves. Briefly, there were three producers who wrote a song and hired a band called The Sheep to play it. Then, when it became a hit, they fired the bass player from the band, kept the drummer, guitar and keyboard player, and put them out on the road, and they were still on the road in the late 60’s when I met them. Okay, that wasn’t so interesting, but their story was that they were three brothers from Australia, Niles, Miles and Giles Strange, their father had made a lot of money by inventing some new kind of sheep, affording them enough money to come to America to rock us. Yeah, we bought that back then. They wore tight black leather pants, no shirt, a zebra-skin vest and zebra-skin belt. Let me add here that the drummer, Joey Piazza, is, to this day, maybe the best drummer I’ve ever heard. He was hard and tight. Hard and tight! There’s a good story here and I’m still gonna write about them some day. But wait! No bass? Atop the organ rested a Fender Bass keyboard, which was about fifteen inches long by about eight inches deep, and he played bass with his left hand and organ with his right. The cool thing was, he had these two mammoth drums with zebra-skin heads, and they were huge, maybe three feet high, and they hung off each end of the organ, and he played the keys with a mallet strapped to each wrist, hanging down, and when the song called for those booming beats, he’d flip his wrists up in the air and grab the mallets by the handle and pound on those drums! Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! They sounded like Taiko drums, filling the halls, enveloping the people with martial, percussive beats. It was pretty powerful. Gotta write their story, ‘cause there’s a lot of story there. Listen to them do “I Want Candy.” They’d sing, “I….. Want Candy!” Boom! Boom Boom! Boom Boom! And that, ladies and gentlemen, had Bow Wow Wow clapping, laughing and cheering. They knew the beats were solid; they never knew what made them. In the video are the three producers, not the band yet, and that big drum in the middle, that’s the ones that were on the sides of the organ. And those were the clothes they wore, except they didn’t wear shirts on stage. And here, from 1982, is “I Want Candy,” by Bow Wow Wow. See? I told you: it wrote itself. And we’re done.
  2. Friends, we are all spoiled and most of us don’t even know it, do we? We didn’t even miss it back then, and now it’s all over the place and I love it when I hear it. To explain, we have to go back to the 50’s and the earliest rock ‘n’ roll. Elsewhere in this space I’ve alluded to discussions I’ve participated in where the subject was the first rock ‘n’ roll record, but for the nonce, we’re going to look at the early days of lead guitar in rock music. So: not early rock, but early lead guitar. Right, maybe I shouldn’t have started out with, Hey, you out there: you’re spoiled! Right, I should try to make friends in this space, so, uhh… look, I’m sorry, and I’ll start again, but it’s true. If you like rock music and careful enough to discern art—or skill, at the least—when you hear it, then let’s go back to when rock was being invented and we teens were the focus group. What they gave us was pre-programmed to get past our parents, because whatever we watched or listened to had to be parent-proof or they’d never put it out. The music we heard might not pass muster today for sophistication, but back then it rocked us because we didn’t know something was missing. Songs were all under three minutes and most of them were made for dancing, so we danced, we sang, we threw our arms, legs and everything else around, and we had a good time not knowing we were deprived of excellent, daring, challenging rock lead guitar. Back then, lead guitar was simple riffs, sometimes merely repeated. No screaming breaks, no heights of emotion or stellar explorations. Back then Jimi Hendrix got thrown out of a pre-Experience Top 40-type band for “showing off.” He broke Rule #1 in Showbiz: never outshine the star. The lead guitar wasn’t the star? What the…? There were a few lead guitar-driven songs, and we’ll look at what that meant in the early days, when rock was being invented. Rock was simple and formulaic, and no one was in what we now think of as a garage band because the bands practicing in garages were trying to sound like the Top 40 dance records that were on the AM radios that everyone listened to; no one was looking to overturn the establishment, and for that matter, I’d bet that any decent garage band in America right now has a lead guitarist way better than any of the guys we’re going to look at today, when the level of lead just wasn’t played because there was nothing like that around to emulate. The players were there, the skills were there, they just didn’t kick it up that extra notch. No judgment, here, because as with any art: it’s easy to copy, but hard to create. More exciting music was coming soon, but back then no one was thinking of serious lead guitar. It just wasn’t an issue. Ever see the scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly—with his knowledge of modern rock—grabs a guitar at a teen dance and starts Chuck Berry-ing all over the place before anyone had ever heard of Chuck Berry or his brand of rock or seen his stage antics, and the kids in the crowd were stunned into silence? They just weren’t ready yet, and neither were I or my classmates in the mid- and late 1950’s, when the record industry controlled the recording output and no one wrote or played on their own songs. The writers, singers, players and producers followed the charts and it was a safe, neatly tied-together, pre-digested package that teens sucked up until the mid-60’s, when all hell broke loose in every corner of our culture, and music drove the revolution. There was rock lead guitar in the early days, but it followed a simple formula; no one took extended, adventurous breaks, no one was challenged by the music, no one was overworking the amps or had effects pedals, and hardly anyone played more than six notes; but no one knew we were missing anything. Some songs had a few guitar licks thrown in, and that was always a highlight for me, but the breaks were never extended beyond a few bars and then went back into the background. But even as I appear to be disparaging what we had, I have to tell you that it was great! It was new, it was ours, and we loved all the hits. Rock belonged to the teens and not to their parents, so it was even better when our parents screwed up their faces in uncomprehending distaste at the sound of it. Rock was simple, it was mostly about love and lost love and used simple themes, it was made for dancing, and it was… simple. The best rock followed a faithful 4/4 beat and you could dance to it because we all did the same dances they did on the biggest, most-watched afternoon TV show in America, American Bandstand, with Dick Clark, which we all watched when we got home from school and then talked about that night on the phone if we were done with our homework and our parents let us use the phone because that was pretty expensive and our parents hated us tying up the line because everyone had just one line in the house and this was before “call waiting,” and parents could be testy about stuff like that, especially if we were talking about “that jungle music” and anyway we had all day tomorrow to talk about it. American Bandstand had a daily feature where they’d play a new release and three kids would give it a grade, and at least two if not all three would include somewhere in their evaluation, “well, it had a good beat and you could dance to it…” Everyone watched it and we all learned the new dances from watching the show, which was necessary after a few years of doing the “Lindy,” when Chubby Checker came out with “The Twist” and every few weeks thereafter saw another new dance, like the Frug, the Hitch-hike, the Swim, the Monkey, the Madison, the Watusi, the Mashed Potatoes, and my favorite, the Stroll, some of which I can still do. We had dances and parties, which I liked but was awkward at, especially during those slow dances… those slow dances… when we got to hold a girl close and smell her perfume and feel her heartbeat... Hey, how many people reading this have danced to rock ‘n’ roll anytime recently? Okay, I guess weddings and such count, but rules of civility prevail at those. What about a nightclub? Would you know how to dance there? I don’t know if I would. Just saying. We did then. It was simple and naïve, but joyful, and I wish I knew how to get that back, but let’s get on with the other thing: lead guitar. For perspective, let’s start in 1954 with what some say is the first rock ‘n’ roll record: Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock. Okay, maybe you are among the many who thought this was the first rock record (and please don’t say that to Ike Turner! See below), but no one disputes it is one of the most important rock releases. Haley’s lead guitarist took a lead break, but it was only maybe six notes, played fast. Other than that brief lead, the band had two guitars playing rhythm. As we’ll see often, it’s a basic three-chord, twelve bar blues they’re playing. Simple rock. And pay attention to that six-note thing. As long as we’re in this period, here’s a quick shout-out to Scotty Moore, legendary guitarist for Elvis Presley, who took some bluegrass, some blues, and made early rock guitar a standout instrument. Yes, Elvis was important, but it’s Moore that the coming rockers listened to. Along with being influenced by Duane Eddy, guitarists like Keith Richards George Harrison, Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Lennon all studied Scotty Moore, and every right-thinking lead guitarist and rockabilly soul everywhere reveres him. Now I’d like to jump to April, 1958 and introduce you to my first guitar hero, Duane Eddy, and when you’re ready, please stop reading this tripe and listen to Duane Eddy’s first hit, Rebel Rouser, with the understanding that this was exciting, rockin’ lead guitar. Eddy produced a low, reverberant sound that he called “twangy.” It was a new sound and it rocked us. Duane Eddy was a new thing: a guitar slinger, and I wanted in. My father said I could take lessons, but the only guitar teacher around was, like, 60, and he’d let me buy the sheet music to any song I wanted to learn as long as I completed my classical assignments, which of course I hated. And yes, we used to buy sheet music. But I practiced diligently and got through those exercises so I could get to what I wanted to play. The deal I agreed to was that if I took the classical lessons, my father would buy me a gut-string guitar, because of course having an electric guitar in the house was out of the question. I agreed to it, I got me a guitar, I started playing Rebel Rouser, and my father never forgave himself. Cannonball, Eddy’s next hit, stays with the three-chord rock we’re looking at today, and deviates only slightly from the standard 12- bar blues format. Oh, yeah, for sophistication at the halfway mark he bumps it up a key, but it’s still simple music compared to what we know today. And 59 years later, it still rocks, and 59 years later, how many of us still do? The ranks are thinning, folks, and I’m glad our host at CA thinks enough of preserving some of this history, because after the Boomers go, you gotta do the research yourself if you want to know this. But you still have me, so let’s look at some other examples of early lead rock guitar. There were few guys around whose fame was lead guitar, but hardly any of them sang, and among the most prominent was Link Wray, whose first release in May, 1958, Rumble, made him legendary, perhaps because the guitar had a unique sound, and perhaps because the song was banned in New York and Boston for fear that it would lead to an outbreak of gang violence, aka: a rumble. The song uses a distinctive, distorted guitar sound that many credit as the first power chord, and Quentin Tarantino hasn’t hurt Wray’s oldies career any when he featured this song and another in Pulp Fiction. Other films that include Rumble are too many to burden you with. Listen to it and try to imagine why this song might start a gang fight. Wray played chords emphasizing the bass, and it was heavy, but Eddy played lead on those strings, and this was as heavy as it got. Just for fun, here’s Jimmy Page talking about Rumble. Listen to the lead break: basically he’s holding one chord and strumming in double time through the whole break, and the lead break lasts all of twelve seconds! Man, that’s what I’m saying! That was lead guitar! Also, that guitar he’s holding in the video is a Danelectro, and that’s the first electric guitar I got. I had to rent it because my father wasn’t going for a full-time Gilbert-owned electric guitar in the house. What would be next, one of those amplifiers? And my parents were normal! Parents were scared, friends; maybe not all of them, but there were pockets of troublemakers waiting for their chance, and all parents knew it. If my dad wouldn’t buy an electric for me, I had to rent it, and I got a Danelectro ‘cause, y’know, you gotta have style. Danelectros are a trip, they’re really collectible now, and players love to have them worked on and moderned-up. I don’t know how to explain it, but when I heard Link Wray’s sound, it thrilled me and Jimmy Page. And yes, I liked saying “me and Jimmy Page.” Yeah, we were a bit unsophisticated, but this was all new to everyone, and it thrilled us. Speaking about how a new sound could have an impact, long ago in this space I recounted that the song many say as the first rock ‘n’ roll record is 1954’s Rocket 88 by Ike Turner. What many credit—in part—for the success of that record was its unique guitar sound. Ike’s drummer wrote the song in the car on the way from Florida to record in Memphis, but when they unpacked at Sun Studios, they found the guitar amp speaker cone was torn, so Sam Phillips stuffed some paper in there and the resulting “fuzzy” sound was so new and exciting that it helped drive the song to #1 on the R&B charts. Again, yes to being unsophisticated, but yes to everything being new and exciting, and once again we see that the music was simple, but although it was a rockin’ track, it was the sound of the guitar that people talked about. Interesting, mais non? Now may I introduce the absolute star instrumental of the period (and please don’t disagree with me): Walk, Don’t Run by The Ventures. Easily the most-played and most recognizable instrumental of the period, it started out as a jazz tune in 1954, then re-cut by country guitarist Chet Atkins in 1956, and re-cut in 1960 with a 4/4 back-beat by The Ventures, when it went to #2 nationally. It became the only song ever re-cut by the same group and made into a hit again with a different version. Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the top 100 guitar songs of all time. After it came out, everywhere in America it became not only the first song a band learned, it was also the first song any aspiring guitarist learned. This song was everywhere! Ubiquitous, as it were. So look at the video- and no laughing out there, d-d-dammit, they were our stars! We rocked to them! They rocked us at home, in the car, at dances and on TV. Let’s not think about how that band would go over today if presented un-ironically. No one rebelled yet, no one had long hair and only the JDs (juvenile delinquents) had sideburns. We all wore clean shirts and slacks, and jeans were only for weekends and after school. We were good boys and girls and that’s how it was. We all wore the proper clothes, and except for American Bandstand, we watched the same TV shows as our parents. We said thanks and may I and we toed the line and that’s why our parents were freaked-the-fuck out when it all changed after a group we never heard of got booked to do two songs on the Ed Sullivan Show. But back then this was lead guitar and we liked it! Concluding chronologically, we refocus and go back to those six notes that maybe you thought I was kidding about as we look to Jörgen Ingmann and Apache from 1961. Ingmann had been influenced by Les Paul enough to build his own recording studio in Copenhagen and began experimenting in multi-tracking and distortion. Apache made it to #1 in Canada, #2 in the U.S. and in Europe, but I think the main reason I threw in Apache was so I could tell you that before his one hit, Ingmann played in an early 50’s duo named The Unmelancholy Danes. I know! You’re welcome. But I’ve been harping about the sophistication thing, and it’s important, so let’s use a fun example of our sophistication back then by using a song that everyone (absolutely everyone!) knows- The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens. You know the song, you like the song, and too many of you have sung the song at some karaoke thing I was at. Good song, sure, a standard since 1961 (a #1 hit in 36 countries!) but by now you’ve also watched a lot of nature shows and you’ve all seen the lions out there on the plains, and you never thought: “Wait! There are no lions in the jungle! There are tigers in jungles, yeah, but there just isn’t a jungle anywhere with lions in it.” Okay, it’s kind of cheesy that they got away with that, but wait! Wait! Lions don’t sleep at night, they hunt at night! They sleep during the day to avoid the heat out there in the Serengeti Plain, that deathly-dry place that hardly has any trees, and when the sun starts setting they wake up and stretch and go out hunting, or ask the ladies to do it. So that song… it was all bullshit! Liked that song, didn’t ya? Sucks, doesn’t it? And consider how long it would be before the net blew up with outrage if that song came out today. Yeah, I know you’re gonna think about that every time you hear the song from now on, and worse- you’re going to tell everyone around you about it the next time the song comes on. And yes, you’re gonna be a jerk just like I was. Yes, telling you that was a shitty thing to do, but if you’re ever on Final Jeopardy and they ask, “What was wrong with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”? you’re ready, Eddy. And again, you’re welcome. To wrap up here, we must ask where that leaves us vis-à-vis guys like George Harrison, Keith Richards and all the guys in the first wave of the British Invasion. George, Keith, Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page all loved Duane Eddy, studied him when lead guitar meant something very different than it does today, and I’d bet that almost any garage band in America has better lead players than George or Keith. No, that is not, I repeat not, sacrilege, because these guys came up before guys like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman and everyone who followed their leads (pun unintended but enjoyed) made their mark by following a path of experimentation that wasn’t in the wind yet. For me, Keith Richards is Mr. Rock and Mr. Roll, and his leads are bold and exciting, but lacking in the sophistication of those who came after. That stinging, piercing lead in Sympathy for the Devil is an all-treble attack, but look at what he does with so few notes. That’s Keith, man: give him a second and he’ll sting ya! Play it loud! It’s supposed to hurt! But remember that when Brian Jones died, they didn’t go looking for a rhythm guitarist, they went and hired Mick Taylor, one of the hottest, boldest lead players in the market. And when he couldn’t keep up with the Rolling Stones’ lifestyle, they hired Ronnie Wood, who I believe to be a better player than Keith, and who I believe holds back in the band because, people: what was Showbiz Rule #1? Right. George Harrison improved, of course, but no one that I know has compared him with his friend Eric or Jimi or Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page or… But like with Keith, it’s the soul of the player, not the licks. And this is where we get to Chuck Berry, who is so important to this issue, and who, because he falls into a separate category, I won’t insult anyone by mentioning him only briefly, but with the promise of further explication. In a word, Chuck Berry is a category by himself. To conclude (no cheering out there!), in the event that I haven’t made Duane Eddy’s contribution to lead guitar important enough for you, have a few of these: "Rebel Rouser," featuring yells and handclaps by The Rivingtons, became Eddy's breakthrough hit, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It sold over one million copies, earning Eddy his first gold disc. Eddy sold over 12 million records over the next few years, and his band members, would go on to work as part of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew. One writer I found was convinced that Eddy’s raunchy guitar helped keep rock ‘n’ roll alive in a fallow period, a period I think of as the time of the Jimmy’s and Bobby’s. He sure did for me. Duane Eddy continued a non-stop string of releases, most of which made little impact, but in 1987, he released Duane Eddy, which featured the original Rebels (his backing band), plus John Fogerty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder, James Burton, David Lindley and Steve Cropper, all of whom you should know. The album was co-produced by McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Ry Cooder and The Art of Noise. In the spring of 1994, Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Eddy's "Rebel Rouser" was featured that same year in Forrest Gump. Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers used "The Trembler", a track written by Eddy and Ravi Shankar. Also in 1994, Eddy teamed up with Carl Perkins and The Mavericks to contribute "Matchbox" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country. Eddy was the lead guitarist on Foreigner's 1995 hit "Until the End of Time", which reached the top ten on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. In 1996, Eddy played guitar on the soundtrack for the film Broken Arrow. In 2000, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, the title "Titan of Twang" was bestowed upon Eddy by the mayor. In 2004, Eddy was presented with the Guitar Player Magazine "Legend Award". Eddy was the second recipient of the award, the first being presented to Les Paul. Among those who have acknowledged his influence are George Harrison, Dave Davies, Hank Marvin, the Ventures, John Entwistle, Bruce Springsteen, Adrian Belew, Bill Nelson, and Mark Knopfler. Eddy was the first rock and roll guitarist to have a signature model guitar. In 1961 Guild Guitars introduced the Duane Eddy Models DE-400 and the deluxe DE-500. A limited edition was reissued briefly in 1983 to mark Eddy's 25th anniversary in the recording industry. In 1997 Gretsch Guitars started production of the Duane Eddy Signature Model, the Gretsch 6120-DE. In 2004 the Gibson Custom Art and Historic Division introduced the new Duane Eddy Signature Gibson guitar. A new Gretsch G6120DE Duane Eddy Signature model was released in spring 2011. So: was Duane Eddy important? Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  3. 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. I said in a previous essay that I admired passion in art. This is about an artist beset by his passion for music, and whose axe was a Leica. While some songs become memorable, some photos go straight onto the American heritage landscape. Whoever you are, you’ve seen his art. Jim was loud, demanding, belligerent, arrogant, dictatorial and profane (he used to say “fuck” more than Joe Pesci in Goodfellas) and yet, god-dammit, somehow he was lovable. What a package! My pal Tim was talking to our host at CA, Chris, who told him about my connection to Jim, and Chris got in touch, wanting to know more about Jim. Apparently, Chris is a photographer of note and a collector of the form, so he knew about Jim and he knew the photos, but I know a bit about Jim, himself, and I’m here to share. Anyone can see and admire Jim’s photos in books, magazines, museums, homes and galleries, but this is the backstage tour. I’m going to be indiscreet because I know Jim would approve. Many articles, blogs, essays, books and photography compilations have devoted so much space to Jim, and they’re all consistently respectful of his art, as am I, and that has been my habit in this space. Today, rather than extol the obvious virtues of his abilities, I’d rather impart my personal experiences with Jim. Throughout the essay, I’ll post some links, including to a show of his photos currently running in San Francisco until June 17, 2017. As I spent many an afternoon with Jim looking over his contact sheets, I’ll also post a link to a bunch of those, and invite you to browse, as I used to. Until then, it’s about me and Jim in the world we lived in at a crazy time. What made it crazy? Well, a lot, as it turned out, but among the variables are two stand-out components: cocaine and people like Jim Marshall. Swarthy, big-nosed, rarely clean-shaven, Jim Marshall somehow always looked almost well put-together. Well, I just wrote that, and I apologize because I was putting off deciding on how much to tell you. The Jim I knew was just this side of frumpy, as a matter of fact. What’s funny about that is if he were still alive and I told him what I wanted to write, I believe he’d laugh his ass off and tell me to go ahead. No, that wouldn’t be Jim; he’d laugh his ass off and then threaten me with violence if I didn’t write it. Threaten? For someone new to Jim, what might sound like a threat was his normal conversational tone. He could intimidate you while sitting, standing, speaking, yelling, whispering or, I’m here to tell you, leaning over your right shoulder. To meet Jim was one thing; to hang out with him meant you had to know what he meant. And what he meant was either harm or no harm. He was loud, he was in your face, but once we had each other in focus, our times together were almost always fun. Except for the time he dared me to come over and meet the .45 caliber bullet that was waiting to meet me. It didn’t seem like a good time, so I said no thanks and called back a few days later. But that was just the once. In the mid- 80’s, a friend was an admirer of Jim, and when he found out about my connection to him, he plied me with questions. I told him about the times I spent with Jim in the small room between his kitchen and his living room, where he had those oak artist’s file cabinets, the ones with all the two-inch-high drawers. He had all his contact sheets in there, all sorted, dated and accessible. I’d ask about a band or an artist and we’d sit at that small table with lines and some wine or some single malt I might have brought and go over the sheets, and he’d tell stories. No one had better stories than Jim Marshall. He’d been everywhere I wanted to know about, and he’d had more access than anyone. Which became a problem for Jim in the 1970’s: he demanded full access. When he started out, his attitude—okay, belligerence—got him backstage for shots that no one else was getting, and because it was so early in the 60’s, no one else was competing with him for those shots. Jim got total access at a time when that was still available, but by Springsteen, access to the stars or the stage had tightened to the point where everything was a tense negotiation with handlers, managers and agents before anyone ever got to shoot anything. That was a problem for Jim. Yeah, he’d taken those candid shots of all the greats, and many of those shots became iconic: Johnny Cash giving the camera the finger at Folsom. Jimi at Monterey, Mick Jagger or Keith Richards anywhere, Miles in the ring after a workout, The Beatles’ last concert at Candlestick Park, Cream and so many more. But when the business of rock went corporate, no one was getting the access that Jim still demanded, and there were so many others by then who would get the shots and charge less and be less of a headache to deal with because Jim had this arrogance thing you may have heard about. By the 80’s, Jim still had work, but a lot of the high-paying gigs dried up. I assume Jim used a clipping service as he diligently maintained a relentless regime of monitoring newspapers and magazines for his photos that had been used without his permission, and then he’d demand payment or threaten to sue them. The threat was usually enough, because Jim knew the laws, he knew the language, and there were the offending shots right in front of him. Plus, he sounded like an angry Jim Marshall, and if they already knew who he was and about his fascination with guns… But those were never our issues, and hanging out with Jim, alone in that small room with him and those contact sheets… Ah, those afternoons with the contact sheets! There was Hendrix backstage, seen in sequence, maybe ten minutes of shots of him hanging out, talking with has band-mates, or alone and thoughtful before he went on, and then he’d put that sheet aside and show me the next sheet with the next few minutes as Hendrix walked onto the stage, and then the next several sheets of the performance, all of them Jim Marshall-level exquisite shots, all well-timed and exposed, and almost all of them unseen by the public. No one knew that he was going to light his guitar on fire that night, but as Jimi walked onto the stage, he whispered to Jim, "Just have a lot of film ready." And don’t even ask about the San Francisco bands! All of them! And don’t forget about Jim’s shots of Led Zeppelin or The Who! And more! It could be overwhelming to spend an afternoon with Jim Marshall. God, how I miss those afternoons! My friend asked, so I told him about those afternoons, and he verily salivated at the prospect of meeting Jim, and asked me to introduce him. I said I would, but he had to know two things before he went. He had to know that Jim would seem belligerent and threatening because he was, especially about his art. I told him not to be put off; he had to allow Jim to say whatever he said, and just go along with it, and please try not to disagree with him. The other thing, the most important thing, was that he’d better bring some cash, because Jim Marshall was going to hound him into buying something. I meant it, so he’d better come prepared to part with a few hundred dollars. Cash. He listened, he went with cash, and when he left—unharmed—he had a photo he’ll always treasure and an afternoon he’ll never forget. Let’s go back a few years to the late 70’s and early 80’s, when a substance I mentioned earlier seemed to be everywhere, and you probably won’t believe me if you weren’t there, but it was, and several people I knew were, uhh… hobbyists, weekend warriors, as it were, where Jim was passionate. As long as we’re Back In The Day, so to speak, does anyone remember those little coke bottles that came in two sizes? Gram and half-gram? Small, clear glass bottles an inch or inch-and-a-half tall, with black plastic tops? Anyone? Anyone remember that they came with those cheap, tiny spoons connected to the tops by a thin, cheap chain? Remember those tiny spoons? Well, everyone had those bottles, so everyone had those spoons, but Jim had a shovel. It was custom-made of silver, and it fit exactly inside one of those bottles. Yes, a shovel. Everyone had those bottles and everyone used those spoons, but I had a friend who used a shovel. Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Marshall. Have I mentioned the profanity? Jim swore a fuck of a lot (sorry, couldn’t resist), and when I interviewed him for my talk show on KFAT radio, I reminded him that it was not us just sitting around like we used to, this was for broadcast, and could he please watch his language? Thankfully, Jim was respectful enough to curb the profanity, and when Joan Baez’s mother heard the interview, she called the station, claiming that it couldn’t have been Jim on the show because “the guy didn’t say ‘fuck’ once!” Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Marshall. He lived above an art store in a fashionable part of Union Street in the City, and I remember more than once sitting in my car near his place, transferring half of my stash into a second container because I knew as God was my witness that nothing of what I took inside with me was coming out again. You know what we’re still talking about… right? Look, I’ve got stories I can tell and more that I can’t, and I’ve been pretty open so far, haven’t I? So I’ll tell you two more Jim Marshall stories and then, even though this is usually a column about my connection with music, I’ll take you on a tour of some of my Jim Marshall shots. The almost last story: I’d recently moved into San Francisco and there had just been a series of tremors. I was thinking: what if that had been a big one—or worse yet, The Big One—what sort of civil rule might prevail? Would there be any rule? I’d never thought of myself as either a pessimist or a survivalist, but, I mean… and what if no disaster had happened, it was a normal night, but there was someone rooting around in my house at three o’clock in the morning? I mean, whoever it was, they weren’t there for the suntan, so… so I decided to get a gun. Did I want a revolver or an automatic? Or a rifle or a shotgun? I knew nothing about guns, and I didn’t want to ask a salesman what I needed. What I needed was a friend who knew about these things. I needed Jim. I called—Jim wasn’t someone you popped in on—drove over and parked out front. Yes, yes, I switched half my stash and rang his bell. He stuck his head out of his second-story window, saw me and yelled, “Gilbert! Come on up!” and the buzzer sounded. He waited for me at the top of the stairs and told me to follow him. No, that’s not it; he barked, “C’mon!” and led me to his bedroom. On the way, he told me he was watching a movie and it was almost over. He got on the bed with his shoulders against the headboard, facing the TV, so I sat on the other side, facing the TV. It was an old black & white film from the 40’s, and ten minutes later it ended. Jim looked over and said, “What’s goin’ on?” I told him I was thinking about getting a gun, and didn’t know what kind, how big, or anything. He nodded and said, “Okay, look,” then he leaned forward and with his left hand he reached behind him and from under the pillow behind him he took out a gun. I…I… I don’t know what to tell you about it. It was, uhhh… medium size, I guess, and mean looking, and he said, “If you want stopping power with a decent recoil, this is a good gun,” and then he went on about its details. I’d always thought all you needed to know about a gun were two things: was it loaded, and did I want to shoot it? Jim went on about its recoil, then he covered its reliability, cleaning, various bullets and their different effects, their accuracies at what distances, and the list of legal and illegal additions, modifications, alterations and the benefits and disadvantages of each. So I sat there and listened, trying to take it all in, telling myself to remember all this. Then he slipped it back under the pillow, took his left hand out, held up his left index finger and said, “But if you’re looking for sheer stopping power…” and with his right hand he reached under the pillow on my side of the bed and took out a gun so big that it seemed to take a lo-oo-ong time easing out from under the pillow. I remember thinking it seemed like a battleship reversing out of its berth, and when it was finally all out and pointing at the ceiling, he went on about stopping power and what would be shattered and what ammo would assure utter devastation no matter where it hit because of something about arteries or something, and how far it would go into an automobile engine block, and then he went on about the recoil, which could be a real handicap, and why it took periodic use at a practice range to be comfortable with this gun, and how strong was my wrist? He took about the same amount of time with this one as the last, and I sat there trying to absorb it all. After putting away the second gun, he told me to follow him, then led me around the rest of his apartment, pulling out two other guns and two knives from their hiding places. Ummm… uhhh… okay, thanks, Jim, uh, thanks! Now that I’m warmed up and into it, I wish you were here and I could tell you the other stories, but I feel that would lead to yet another regret, and I already have too many of those. Although I think it’s great that I have so few regrets, few are still a few too many, and we’re almost done, but here’s one now: As I approached 70, I had, perhaps like others, looked back on those years to see if I could judge how my life had gone. I think you have to look at how much good you’ve created, how much harm; is the world better for your presence or not? One of my metrics has been always been how much regret I’ve accrued. While this is almost certainly too much information, I have long considered among my blessings that I have so few regrets, and lucky that many of those were minor gripes, and sadly here I must add that Jim Marshall is a named co-respondent in one of my regrets, and therein also hangs a mystery; so Jim’s passing has left me with an unanswered question and a regret. Observe: High on that list of regrets (and this will tell you how lucky I am that something relatively minor rates so high) is that back in 1971, I had a ticket to see the Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East, and I didn’t go. I was driving a cab back then to get through college, and my shift started at 7AM and lasted twelve hours. I knew that the show wouldn’t end until after two, and I had a 90-minute drive home, which gave me maybe two hours of sleep before a long day of driving, and I already knew that the company discouraged sleeping while driving. I remember once complaining to the dispatcher that twelve hours was a damn long shift, and he responded by pointing out that it was “only half a day,” so I knew there would be no sympathy for a day off or coming in a few hours late. I needed the job, so I gave my ticket to a friend, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I loved the Allman’s, and Duane Allman is among my favorite guitarists. The show became legendary, the live album of that show became the standard of live concert recordings, almost all the tracks were in heavy rotation at every hip radio station in America, and the cover of that double album became one of the most iconic images of the 60’s, and it was shot by Jim Marshall. Over several years of friendship with Jim, I acquired, as you will see, a modest collection of his shots, and I always, always, always wanted that shot of the Allman Brothers Band. But I never got one, and lo, these years later, it is too late to get it from Jim, and I do not know why I never asked about it. I could have gotten it from him anytime. Anytime. If Jim were still with us, I would get on it in a trice now, but…. So there. I regret not going to that show, and I try not to blame Jim for it. You might say that he was just an innocent bystander, but that night the band was in New York, Jim was in New York and I was in New York. Alright, he was busy, he didn’t call, I get it. But now I regret not going to that show and I regret that I never asked Jim for that photo, and I don’t know why. I love the ones I have, and I got to pick out all of them, and some are rare and some are one-offs, and I love them all, but… that show! Do you know that show? Look, I know there are people out there who will want better audio than YouTube provides, and I know there is better audio available on other platforms, but man, it’s this incredibly iconic album and you should know it. The band was on fire that night, on fire! and Duane Allman is an amazing musician. And even if you know it, how long has it been since you’ve heard it? Don’t you think you should listen to some of it again? Here’s a . I’ve said some harsh things about Jim, and he might have been made to appear as anti-social or worse, but he wasn’t. He was an intelligent, highly moral man and a loyal friend with a great sense of humor, who cared deeply about his art and would never strand a friend or leave them in need. You might not get it from this article, but he could be charming and he was as funny as anyone I’ve ever met. Of course, you wanted to be on the right side of Jim at all times, and even if I didn’t have these photos I would still have been lucky to know him. The last time I saw Jim was in December, 1995. It was New Year’s Eve, I had a nightclub in San Francisco, and we were open. Jim came by—unannounced, of course—with two pretty black ladies, one on each arm, and he barked, “Gilbert! Take care of my friends here!” I said I would, and Jim turned back the way he’d just come in and yelled over his shoulder, “Happy New Year!” and he went back out into the night. The two ladies seemed unsure, and it was nearing midnight, so I got them some hats and offered whatever assistance I could. I brought them into the bar, signed for their drinks and introduced them to the bartender. I told her their names and told her they were friends of mine, to please look after them. Then I went back to work, as it was closer to midnight and I had… what were those? Oh, yeah: responsibilities. I knew they wanted to be somewhere for midnight, now they were, and I had responsibilities. An hour later, with the festivities still at a frantic pace, I got back to the bar, but they were gone. I’d lost track of them and Last Call was coming up, and that needed my attention. I hope they had a good time. I hope they had a good year. When the party was over and we closed for the night, my bartender told me she’d spoken to the two ladies. They told her they’d never met Jim before, that he’d found them wandering on Haight Street, unsure where to go. He came up to them and told them that he saw that they were all dressed-up, but looked lost, and he demanded to know where they were going. When Jim decided their answer wasn’t satisfactory, he walked them straight into my place, knowing they’d be taken care of if he asked me to, and he went back out to greet the new year. As usual, he was alone that night. Later that year, I moved out of town and I never saw Jim again, but I’ll never forget the back of his head nodding as he waved his right hand over his head and gave me the backwards wave. Ladies and gentlemen: Jim Marshall. Late Fun Facts: Jim said, “When I’m photographing people, I don’t like to give any direction. There are no hair people fussing around, no make-up artists. I’m like a reporter, only with a camera; I react to my subject in their environment, and if it’s going well, I get so immersed in it that I become one with the camera.” Jim was the chief photographer at Woodstock and Monterey. In 1967, he dated Folgers coffee heiress, Abigail Folger, who was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson. In 1973, a man offered to buy the camera that Jim used to shoot Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock for $25,000. Jim refused. In 2017, that would be approx. $142,018.82. Dennis Hopper once said that he based his character in Apocalypse Now on Jim Marshall. In 2014 Marshall was posthumously given a Trustees Award (part of the Lifetime Achievement Awards) at the 56th Grammy Awards, the first photographer, and as of 2014 the only, to receive one. Annie Leibovitz said “Jim Marshall was the rock ’n’ roll photographer," and when Rolling Stone hired her to put together Shooting Stars. The Rolling Stone Book Of Portraits (which now sells for $1,000), she said ‘if I couldn’t get Jim Marshall in the book, it wouldn’t be worth having the book.’ His photos appeared on the covers of over 500 albums and even more were published in Rolling Stone and other magazines. Jim Marshall was born in Chicago in February, 1936, and lived in San Francisco. He died on March 24, 2010. He was in Manhattan to promote his new book, Match Prints. Want more photos? Go: I regret losing Jim Marshall like I regret not going to that Allman Brothers show. Here’s a tour of most of my Jim Marshall photos: Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. This is from his site. I have it framed and signed. Joni Mitchell in her house in Laurel Canyon. Same as above. These are better images than I could take. The Beatles at their last concert, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 1966. I sat with Jim for over an hour on this one. I wanted what I wanted, and Jim let me be the picky jerk I can be. I wanted George at the mic in one shot, I wanted Ringo in one shot, and I wanted Paul and John sharing a mic. I knew which shots I wanted with Ringo, and Paul and John, but I couldn’t find the George shot. So Jim offered to use a Paul/George shot I liked, and black out Paul. I know on paper that sounds like sacrilege, but it solved the problem, and here’s what I have: a one-of-a-kind triptych of The Beatles. Another Paul and John. I chose this because John and Paul were watching each other as they sang, and if that ain’t The Beatles, friend, then there ain’t no Beatles. Here’s a lesser shot that sells for $6,500! Holy jeez, Jim would roar at that! But he’d insist it was worth it. Contact sheet of Mick Jagger. It was printed in 1980, but the shots were from 1969 when Mick was in Los Angeles. This is #9 of 10. By the way, all of these are signed by Jim. (18 x 22) BAM Magazine (Bay Area Music) gave Jim a show, and I asked him to blow up the invitation and sign it. To my knowledge this is the only one. Jim took this shot of your reporter presenting an award at the First Annual Bammies (1978). That’s Dusty Streets, formerly of KSAN, with me. I know you’ll understand why I am so honored to have this photo. Photos of Jim over the years: Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  4. Interesting twist on the duel story. Wonder where the truth lies? I wonder: if the other guy played the clam, why were they dueling? Unless the guy denied it and Bechet insisted. which he might have. Also, thanks for the relation to Louis, and so glad to learn that Bechet is still thought of- and so highly. Thanks for the link.
  5. 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. He was as arrogant as he was talented. In 1922 that attitude got him arrested in London for beating up a prostitute, but he did not isolate his anger solely on women, as other players felt his wrath if he didn’t think they were playing up to his standard. After serving almost a year in a London jail, he was deported back to New York, where he got off the boat and went to Harlem (naturally), where sat in with a band before confronting saxophonist Coleman Hawkins for his disparaging remarks about New Orleans musicians, playing so fiercely in Hawkins’ direction that Hawkins ran off the bandstand, out of the building and down the street, with Bechet right behind him, blowing his soprano saxophone at him all the while. Almost there… I hope you’re intrigued by this relatively unknown jazz giant, but I will never forget the story that endeared him to me instantly and eternally. Because I love passion. Everyone might have their own definition of art, but there had better be passion in there, or what you got ain’t art. To me, art is passion coupled with vision and technique. If you have one or two but not the third, it might be good, but it won’t be art. And Sidney Bechet had all of those in spades. He knew it and he demanded it in others. If you hadn’t mastered your axe, Bechet wouldn’t play with you. And yes, he could be an ass about it. You can hear his passion and technique in his recordings, but what sold me on his passion happened early one morning in 1929, in a small club in Paris. The one in France. He was playing with a group he’d gigged with before, and all were up to his exacting standards. The night wore down, the late set was over, and they were packing up their gear when the piano player told Bechet not to worry about that clam, that bad note. “What clam?” demanded Bechet! The player told him where, in which song, he’d played the bad note, and Bechet went ballistic. He said “Sidney Bechet does not make mistakes!” The other guy said he’d heard it, ‘but not to worry about it,’ that the band had passed over it, and it was over. ‘Just don’t worry about it.’ Bechet was incensed, denied making a mistake again, and the guy said something like, ‘Well, I heard it,’ and Bechet exploded, called him a nasty name and challenged him to a duel. Now, you have to give it to Mr. Bechet for passion, but passion and clear thinking are frequently at opposite ends of how things turn out, and despite cooler heads trying to prevail, rather than repairing to the traditional country field at dawn to play out this madness, Bechet and his newest mortal foe repaired to the middle of the street in the middle of Paris in the middle of the morning rush hour. When all was ready and all pleas for reason were exhausted, the two men stepped into the street, turned their backs to each other and paced the agree-upon number of paces. Bechet turned to his opponent and shot, and reports thereafter differ. One witness has him wounding a bystander in the shoulder, another has him wounding three people, but both reports say the piano player was left unharmed. Now, c’mon! The dude! He’s the Dude! The dude played like a champion and cared so much about his art that he went out to face death for his it. C’mon! I mean… C’mon! Whatever the result, the French authorities expressed their disapproval of dueling in downtown Paris by arresting Bechet. Once again he spent less than a year in jail before—once again—being deported back to New York, this time just after the stock market crash of 1929, when, needing work, he joined Noble Sissle’s orchestra, with whom he plays on “Viper Mad,” and with whom he toured Europe, playing dates in Germany and Russia, but not England or France. Sidney Bechet was a musical genius, a megalomaniac, and a man with a violent temper. His erratic temperament hampered his career, and despite his talent, it would not be until the late 1940’s that he earned wide acclaim, even in Paris. With special permission, in 1950 Bechet performed as a soloist at the Paris Jazz Fair, where his performance resulted in a surge in his popularity there. After that performance, the French government relented and Bechet relocated to Paris and thereafter had little problem finding well-paid work in France. Shortly before his death, Bechet dictated his autobiography, Treat It Gentle, to Al Rose, a record producer and radio host who had worked with Bechet several times. Rose thought Bechet's view of himself in his autobiography was starkly different from the man he knew. "The kindly old gentleman in his book was filled with charity and compassion. The one I knew was self-centered, cold, and capable of the most atrocious cruelty, especially toward women." Sidney Bechet died near Paris from lung cancer on May 14, 1959, on his 62nd birthday. Well, I told you this was going to be a short piece, and it wasn’t. I told you what I wanted to tell you, and now, if you haven’t gone there already, I’ll turn you over to Mssrs. Ammons and Bechet and their respective recordings—the ones on Bob’s record—after which you may read the lyrics to “Viper Mad.” Peace out. Viper Mad: Early Morning Blues: (By the way, back in the day, a viper was a drug user. “Viper Mad” was about pot.) Just viper mad to have my fun I’m never sad, it can’t be done The people talking but I don’t care I’m 21, far from done, I’ve just begun Wrap your chops around this stick of tea Blow this gage and get high with me Good tea is my weakness And I now it’s bad It sends me, gate, and I can’t wait I’m viper mad Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  6. I may not do a lot of responding to the comments in these pages, but I always appreciate them. It's so nice to hear someone enjoy what I enjoyed, or to tell me when their experiences matched mine. I"m here to remember and honor, our experiences and I love when you honor those same things and those same people. I like the connection with y'all, and as we're diminishing in numbers, our memories are being lost. These stories are for those memories, and those we wish to share them with. Thanks for your thoughts.
  7. 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 “ .” (If you click on that, you’ll see that episode re-created for the TV series.) The radio show was a success, but television was new and calling, so in early 1952 Ozzie got them into a film called Here Come the Nelsons. The film was a hit, and on October 3, 1952, it was rewritten and became the pilot for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which made its television debut and remained in first run until September, 1966, becoming one of the longest-running sitcoms in television history. In 1956, rock ‘n’ roll had broken out and infected America’s youth. As the son of a bandleader and a singer, music was Ricky’s heritage and he wanted in. He sang well, and he played the clarinet and drums, but it wasn’t Big Band music that was rock ‘n’ rolling through America, so Ricky picked up a guitar and learned a few chords. Singing in the bathroom at home or the showers at the Los Angeles Tennis Club for the echo, he imitated Carl Perkins and tried to emulate the guitar break in Perkins’ . From there, it didn’t take long. And remember that Carl Perkins thing. His girlfriend was a big Elvis fan, so he told her he was going to make a record, too. The problem of not having a recording contract was solved by Ozzie, who took him to Verve, a jazz label that was looking for a handsome kid who could be taught to sing. This was going on at labels everywhere as they scrambled to cash in on the rock thing, and that was why someone saw a handsome kid on a door stoop in Philadelphia and trained him to sing. Okay, so at best Fabian Forte warbled, and that last name had to go, but he had the looks, which was what the labels and producers wanted, and they were right: Fabian sold millions of records. In March, 1957, Ricky also had the looks, Verve wanted him, he signed a one-record deal and later that month he recorded Fats Domino’s hit, “I’m Walkin’” and “A Teenager’s Romance,” and they were released three weeks later, in mid-April. Just before the single was released, he made his television rock ‘n’ roll debut on April 10, 1957 singing and playing the drums, then taking the mic for " " in the Ozzie and Harriet episode " ." I like that the dance scene in that episode shows the transition from Big Band to Rock, and yeah, that’s how kids dressed back then. At the end of the scene he grabs a girl and does the Lindy, which was the descendant of the Lindy Hop, the dance from the 20’s and 30’s, and yeah, that’s how we danced. Soon after that episode, he made an unpaid appearance with the Four Preps at a high school lunch hour assembly in Los Angeles and was greeted by hordes of screaming teens who’d just seen the television episode. They’d seen that impossibly handsome face with the soft voice, those long lashes and sleepy eyes. Oh yeah, they’d seen him. "I'm Walkin'" reached #4 on Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores chart, and its flip side, "A Teenager's Romance", hit #2. When the television series went on summer break in 1957, Ricky made his first road trip, playing four state and county fairs with the Four Preps, who’d also had their own hits. By the end of that tour, he was more seasoned and more confident as a performer, and he was itching to go out again. Screaming girls, y’know… Ozzie Nelson was a college grad and wanted his sons to have something to fall back on when the TV show went away, but by thirteen, Ricky was making over $100,000 a year, by sixteen he had a personal fortune of $500,000, and by eighteen, he was already in the 93% income-tax bracket and saw no reason to attend any more schools. That used to be a lot of money. Ricky's wealth was carefully managed by his parents, who channeled his earnings into trust funds. His parents permitted him a $50 allowance at the age of eighteen, but Ricky was often strapped for cash and one night had to collect and redeem empty pop bottles to get himself and his girlfriend into a movie theater. Beginning to feel his power after that first tour, he told his father he was unhappy playing with the old session men at Verve who were openly contemptuous about rock ‘n’ roll, so Ozzie got him signed him to a lucrative five-year deal with Imperial Records, which gave him approval over song selection, sleeve artwork, and other production details. He exercised his power immediately and formed his own band, which later incarnations included the soon-to-be-legendary guitarist James Burton, and also included the soon-to-be-a-founding-member of The Eagles, Randy Meisner. Later his band was called the Stone Canyon Band, and if you ask me, they were the first of the country-rock bands like Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Clover, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and of course The Eagles. By then, Ricky was Rick and he’d been on the road, ahead of his time. But that came later. Ricky's first Imperial single, " ” generated 750,000 advance orders, sold over one million copies, and reached #3 on the charts. His first album, Ricky, was released in October, 1957 and hit #1 before the end of the year. Following these successes, Ricky was given a more prominent role on The Ozzie and Harriet Show and ended every two or three episodes with a musical number. But Ricky always insisted on sounding like Ricky, not those teenage crooners the labels were selling, and he chose his own material. At Imperial, he sold over 60 million records, including 22 gold records. Ricky recorded “ ” for his second album, Ricky Nelson, released in June 1958. On August 4, 1958, "Poor Little Fool" became the #1 single on Billboard's newly instituted Hot 100 singles chart and sold over two million copies. But rock ‘n’ roll was still new; crooners and oldsters scoffed, and parents were afraid. Nelson said: “Anyone who knocks rock 'n' roll either doesn't understand it, or is prejudiced against it, or is just plain square.” Now, it’s possible that you’re reading this and you’re thinking: well, all this history is interesting, I guess, but what’s the point? The point is that Ricky—and later Rick— was always a country music fan and steadfastly steered his path outside of commercial schlock-rock and trod the thin, diaphanous surface between rock and country. Listen to his first, “Be-Bop Baby” or “Poor Little Fool” or almost any of his many hits, and you can hear the country influence from back in the day when he went into the bathroom and tried to sound like Carl Perkins. On May 8, 1961 (his 21st birthday), he officially changed his recording name from "Ricky" to "Rick," but no one forgot the teen idol, and once the Beatles landed, the hits dried up. As they will. His childhood nickname proved hard to shake, especially among the generation who’d grown up with him on "Ozzie and Harriet." But Ricky-now-Rick was a performer who loved the music he played, and he played where he could through six barren years. In 1971, soon after recording Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me” with the Stone Canyon Band, he got himself booked onto an oldies show at Madison Square Garden, and you might have heard something about what happened. The other players that night included Chuck Berry, Bobby Rydell and Bo Diddley. No longer the cute teen idol from the TV show, he was now a handsome man, his hair was down to his shoulders and he wore velvet bell bottoms, an unexpected fashion choice. John Lennon and Yoko were in the house, and maybe George Harrison,too. Yeah, he played the old stuff, starting with “ ,” then he went into the new stuff, starting with “Honky Tonk Women,” which was when the booing started. Some people thought the booing was directed at the police, who were trying to move people along, but Rick took it personally and left the stage. Nelson watched the rest of the performance on a TV monitor backstage until the promoter convinced him to return to the stage and play his "oldies". It was what they came for. He complied and the audience responded with applause, but he left that gig a shaken man and wrote “ ,” in which he bitched at the shallowness of the audience. He wanted to record an album featuring original material, but the single was released before the album because Nelson had not completed the entire album yet. "Garden Party" reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and was certified as a gold single. It was a huge hit, and became his last charting song, and I wonder how many people caught the reference in the last line of the song. Someone else thinks it was a reference to Elvis, who used to drive a truck, but I think it was a shout-out to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.” Guy was telling us how hip he was. And he was. But if it’s just me, then maybe I’m hipper than Rick. Am I? Are you? Nelson was with MCA at the time, and his comeback was short-lived. When his next release took a dive, Nelson's band resigned and MCA wanted him to have a producer on his next album. He moved to Aspen and put together a new band, calling them Canyon, and began to tour for the Garden Party album. Nelson had been playing nightclubs and bars, but he’d advanced to higher-paying venues because of the success of Garden Party, but that didn’t last. By 1974, MCA was at odds as to what to do with the former teen idol as subsequent albums failed to have an impact. Nelson became an attraction at theme parks like Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. He also started appearing in minor roles on television shows, but that didn’t help MCA. Nelson tried to score another hit but did not have any luck with songs like "Rock and Roll Lady." With seven years to go on his contract, MCA dropped him from the label. But Rick Nelson was a performer, and he carried on touring and playing. From his first release onward, he considered himself a musician and a performer. He retained his chops, his passion for the music, and those amazing looks. Although he hated flying, on December 31st, 1985, on his way to a New Years gig, Rick died with his band when his plane crashed into a wintry field northeast of Dallas, two miles from the runway. Immediately following his death, rumors abounded that the cause of the crash was Rick’s freebasing, but the NTSB investigated the rumor for a year and determined it was a burst fuel line that caused the fire. Note: Here is a link to the complete NTSB report (PDF Link) - Editor His music never had the high gloss of the other, managed teen heartthrobs like Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell. Their output always had more production and less emotion. Ricky Nelson always followed his own path and I wonder if anyone remembers him anymore, and what about respect? He was a star when I was a kid and he was a star to me again when he came out with his country rock outfit. His natural voice was always that of a balladeer, but more than all the teen idols who followed a commercial path in order to outsell Elvis, in his heart, Ricky Nelson was… wait for it…Rockabilly! So I’m glad that when, in the early 80s, he finally met his idol, Carl Perkins, who told him that the two of them were “the last of the rockabilly breed.” I wonder now what he would have done if he’d lived, and I remember him fondly, so I wanted to introduce him to you. Here’s , in December, 1985. The last song of Ricky’s set that night was Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” and as he left the stage he told the audience, “Rave on for me!” Rave on, indeed, Ricky, rave on. Fun Facts: During 1958 and 1959, Nelson placed twelve hits on the charts in comparison with Presley's eleven. By 1960, the Ricky Nelson International Fan Club had 9,000 chapters around the world. Nelson was the first teen idol to utilize television to promote hit records when Ozzie Nelson had the idea to edit footage together to create some of the first music videos. From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top 40 hits, more than any other artist except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson's early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts. The term “Teenage Idol” was coined about him by Life magazine. In 1960, Rick said the most embarrassing moment in his career was when “six girls tried to fling themselves under my car, and shouted to me to run over them. That sort of thing can be very frightening!” Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including James Burton, Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore, and Johnny Burnette and Dorsey Burnette. Nelson's music was known for being very well recorded with a clear, punchy sound- in the rockabilly mold. In 1979, he guest-hosted on Saturday Night Live, spoofing his television sitcom image by appearing in a Twilight Zone sendup in which, always trying to go "home," he finds himself among the characters from other early sitcoms, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and I Love Lucy. In 1985, Nelson began a "Comeback tour" with Fats Domino. He put the "y" back on his name and became "Ricky" again. He sang the songs for which he was famous and released a greatest hits album, Ricky Nelson: All My Best. His comeback was cut short when, while on the tour circuit, his plane crashed on New Year's Eve. Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street. Along with the recording's other participants, Nelson earned the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for "Interviews from the Class of '55 Recording Sessions." In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Nelson #91 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Bob Dylan wrote about Nelson's influence on him in his 2004 memoir, "Chronicles, Vol. 1." On December 27, 2005, EMI Music released an album entitled Ricky Nelson's Greatest Hits which peaked at #56 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Nelson's estate owns ancillary rights to the Ozzie and Harriet television series. In 2007, Nelson was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. The John Frusciante song "Ricky" was inspired by Ricky Nelson. Hall of Fame baseball player Rickey Henderson was named Rickey Nelson Henley after Ricky Nelson. For the 25th anniversary of Nelson's death, Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer, James Burton, Nelson's original guitarist for nearly ten years, spoke about his friendship and experiences with the singer in an extensive series of interviews. Click here to see the legendary . As a bonus—and just for fun—I’m throwing in Rick’s cousin Sandy Nelson, whose drum-driven singles I liked. Click here for “ .” Who’s your pal? Editor's Note: For some high resolution Rick Nelson music, check out the remastered version of Rick is 21, and the remastered version of More Songs by Ricky. Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.
  8. Also: Just found this today: Pink Floyd's Nick Mason Talks 'Early Years,' Syd Barrett - Rolling Stone also
  9. A couple of comments: I was gobsmacked when Chris pointed out that "Emily" did not appear on the English LP. Shocked and confused me. My best guess is that Billy also brought the single when he got back from London, because- and perhaps you'll forgive me for all that smoking and the memory lapses due to that- I remember specifically remember listening and talking about "See Emily Play." So it HAD to be that he brought back the single. My record player, seen in the photo, played 33s, 45s and 78s. Also, in the photo you see one blue wall, but it was a suite in that there was a side room that I made into a study (?), and all the other seven walls were that blue, and when it was dark and we only used a candle, the room was very... enveloping. This was the room where, as I wrote in my article on The Sons of Champlin, where my mother took several of my Fillmore posters and GLUED THEM TO THE WALL. I'm almost done with therapy on that one. The British flag was the curtain for the bedroom and a smaller one was used for the study. I still have them both. As to how out there they were, I agree that "Rain" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" were also out there, this was the single by an unknown band. No label wanted to release a single that wouldn't be a hit with the kids, but Pink Floyd did that. And the rest of the LP: wow! Thanks for the responses. I appreciate them all. I also want to say that I am really enjoying writing these.