Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stanley Clarke is 58

Renowned bass guitarist Stanley Clarke celebrates his birthday today.
Born in Philadelphia on June 30, 1951, Stanley Clarke burst onto the jazz scene in the early '70's.
Clarke instantly became recognized for his ferocious dexterity on the bass. He was an expert performing the instrument’s traditional role as a timekeeper, yet he possessed a sense of lyricism and melody inspired by his bass heroes Charles Mingus, and Scott LaFaro, as well as non-bass players like John Coltrane. It was also in the early 1970's, that Stanley teamed with pianist Chick Corea in the group Return To Forever, one of the chief bands that ushered in the evolution of the jazz fusion genre.
Throughout the following decades, Clarke teamed numerous musicians, both on tour and in the studio (including world tours with Jeff Beck, Keith RichardsNew Barbarians).
His creativity has been recognized and rewarded in most every conceivable manner, ranging from gold and platinum records, GRAMMY Awards, Emmy Awards, and winner of virtually every readers and critics poll in existence including being named Rolling Stone’s very first Jazzman of the Year, and bassist winner of Playboy’s Music Award for ten straight years.
Stanley has also composed numerous film and television scores.

Clarke has most recently toured and recorded as part of the bass supergroup SMV, which also featuers Marcus Miller and Flecktone Victor Wooten.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

His High-de-Highness of Ho-de-Ho

Cab Calloway was a legendary figure in American pop culture.An energetic showman, gifted singer and talented actor, Calloway also led one of the greatest bands of the Swing Era.
Through his "party" songs and Hepster's Dictionary, Calloway provided a vast lexicon for the youth subculture that surrounded the swing genre
Cabell "Cab" Calloway III was born on Christmas Day 1907 in Rochester (DRINK!), NY.--the family would later move to Baltimore, MD.His middle-class parents had hoped that Cabell would become a lawyer (as his father), but the young Calloway had dreams of being an entertainer,and despite his parents' disapproval of jazz, Calloway began frequenting and eventually performing in many of Baltimore's jazz clubs.It was in one of these clubs, that he met trumpeter Louis Armstrong, who taught him to sing in the scat style.

In 1930, the Cotton Club emerged as a hip new night spot in Harlem, known for its lavish stage shows and talented musicians — most notably Duke Ellington. Calloway's singing and showmanship captured the attention of the owner, and his band was hired to replace the Ellington band.
In 1931, Calloway and his manager, Irving Mills, put together a song that will forever be identified with Calloway: "Minnie the Moocher." That song and "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "The Old Man Of The Mountain" were performed for the Betty Boop animated shorts; Minnie the Moocher, Snow White and The Old Man of the Mountain, respectively. Through rotoscoping, Calloway not only gave his voice to these cartoons but his dance steps as well.

Betty Boop: The Old Man Of The Mountain (1933):

By the late 1930s, Calloway's band was one of the top-grossing acts in jazz, and had become a proving ground for young talents such as Dizzy Gillespie.By the late '40s, however, Calloway's financial mismanagement and gambling caught up with him, and the band broke up.

In his later career Calloway became a popular personality, appearing in a number of films (among them Hi De Ho, in which Cab Calloway plays himself in a plot about jealousy, night clubs, and gangsters) and stage productions that utilized both his acting and singing talents.Many of you may remember him best for his role in 1980's The Blues Brothers.

In May 1994, Calloway suffered a stroke then died six months later on November 18, 1994.

In the player below:
MINNIE THE MOOCHER; Moon at Sea; Old Yazoo; Peckin'; REEFER MAN; She's Tall, She's Tan, She's Terrific; SMOKIN REEFERS; THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE; The Scat Song

... and as an added bonus, here's Cab Calloway's "The Man From Harlem" recorded on November 30, 1932.

This track is eerily similar to Lou Reed's "I'm Waiting for the Man" from The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut album.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ulcer at Work (1957)

Steve Hall, an executive at his firm, is having trouble with his work and home life relationships because he has a horrible pain in his side. Steve's boss forces him to go see a doctor who diagnoses him with an ulcer. Oddly enough, his wife is partially blamed for causing the ulcer!

An excellent noir-type film about pressures facing a white-collar worker whose ulcer drives him to psychological extremes.
Run time: 28:38

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

“I’ve only written about 200 good songs. The rest are B sides.”

Throughout the years, Ray Davies has proved to be one of rock music's most talented and prolific lyricists.His songbook is one of rock’s greatest treasures.

Raymond Douglas Davies was born on June 21, 1944 in Muswell Hill, London, ENGLAND.
Davies is best known as the chief songwriter-singer and guitarist for The Kinks, one of the most influential bands of the '60s British music scene.
Davies' songwriting has often been called more mature, sophisticated, and subtle than that of many of his peers.

Observing light, life and human nature with superhuman focus is Davies’ stock-in-trade. His best songs feel photorealistic and sound suspended in time. They are sometimes nostalgic and beautiful, and other times they are cynical and brutal. Davies himself is just as contradictory: combative and sensitive, a shy, self-examining middle-class hero from north London who’s had no problem indulging in rock ’n’ roll excess and showmanship. He’s often called a creative genius and a control freak, which are both compatible and necessary traits for the life he’s led.~Ira Kaplan

The Kinks (formed with younger brother Dave Davies) first gained prominence in 1964 with their third single, the hit "You Really Got Me".The band's early hard-driving singles set a standard in the mid-1960s for rock and roll, while albums such as Face to Face, Something Else by The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur, Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One and Muswell Hillbillies are highly regarded by fans, critics, and peers, and are considered amongst the most influential recordings of the sixties rock era.
Ray Davies spent the early Seventies composing a series of concept albums (Preservation, Soap Opera and Schoolboys in Disgrace) that made for entertaining stage theater.

Since the demise of the Kinks in the mid-90s (reunion rumors persist), Ray Davies has embarked on a solo career as a singer-songwriter.His new songs provide a striking contrast to anything he's written before. While he has long been known as the great chronicler of British working class woes, this time American workers have earned his gaze. The inspiration came from his U.S. tours over the last decade.Davies got the see a darker side of this country directly, when he became a victim of violence a few years ago. He was shot during a robbery in New Orleans, where he was living at the time.

In 1994 Davies published his "unauthorized autobiography", X-Ray.

Ray also runs a a week-long, residential songwriting course.My friend Bill Richard attended one of these workshops a while back (the thought of this, for me, conjures up images of Kramer at the Yankees' Fantasy Camp).Bill has some great photos from the experience.
Most recently, Ray Davies has completed The Kinks Choral Collection, a collaboration with the Crouch End Festival Chorus, to be released this month.
I've posted a few videos below for your enjoyment.There's a couple of solo performances, and one with the Kinks.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Genius Of Rock

Legendary composer, producer, arranger and performer Brian Wilson, formerly of the Beach Boys, celebrates his 67th birthday today.

Brian Douglas Wilson is responsible for the Beach Boys' unique sound that fused harmonious rock with the ethos of surfing.

After the success of the Beach Boys, Wilson had a much-publicized 20-year struggle with drugs and emotional problems.
In 1988 he produced his first solo album, Brian Wilson. Ten years later he recorded another solo album of new material, Imagination.A new studio album, Gettin' in Over My Head, was released in 2004, and featured collaborations with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Wilson's deceased brother Carl. The album was almost entirely composed of re-recordings of unreleased material, and received mixed reviews.

On September 28th, 2004, Brian released the legendary unfinished album, SMiLE.

Work on the original Beach Boys version of Smile (what Brian Wilson called 'a teenage symphony to God') had begun in 1966, following the release of their album Pet Sounds.

A combination of resistance from the other members of the band, recording difficulties, Brian Wilson's dissatisfaction with the project itself, and his eventual mental breakdown led to the collapse of its sessions.

Upon its release, SMiLE received high critical acclaim from music critics.
The new SMiLE album was followed by two U.S. tours.Gator and I were fortunate to catch a performance in Wallingford, CT.Brian led his band through a set of classic Beach Boy's tunes, and then performed the SMiLE album in it's entirety.It was a great show.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered"

Singer-guitarist Lester Flatt helped define the sound of traditional bluegrass music.

Lester Raymond Flatt, born in Overton County, Tennessee on this date in 1914, is best remembered as half of the duo Flatt & Scruggs.

Flatt and Earl Scruggs were originally brought together by Bill Monroe in 1945, when they joined a band that also featured fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Cedric Rainwater. This quintet created the sound of bluegrass and helped bring it to national recognition through radio shows, records, and concerts. After three years with Monroe, Flatt left, and Scruggs followed his lead shortly afterward. The duo formed their own band, the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Flatt & Scruggs would reach a new audience in the late '50s, when the folk music revival sparked the interest of a younger generation. The duo played a number of festivals targeted at the new breed of bluegrass and folk fans. Their popularity peaked in 1962, when they recorded the theme song to the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbilles. The theme, called "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," became the first number one bluegrass single in early 1963.They also made a number of cameos on the show.

In 1969, and the duo parted ways. Flatt formed a traditional bluegrass band, the Nashville Grass, while Scruggs assembled a more progressive outfit, the Earl Scruggs Revue.

Lester passed away in 1979 after a prolonged period of ill health.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sir Paul

McCartney - turns 67 today!

"I am alive and well and unconcerned about the rumors of my death. But if I were dead, I would be the last to know."

"Secret Website Show" (30:54)
This show consists of eight songs performed by Macca and his kick ass band during rehersals for the Back in the World tour: Honey Hush/Foxy Lady, Blackbird, Calico Skies, Honey Don't, Celebration, Secret Song, India and Lady Madonna

Paul McCartney - Secret Website Show (live)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


a.k.a. David Akeman (6/17/15 – 11/10/73)

In my last post, I paid tribute to television's HEE HAW.Today I will remember an individual member of the cast--a great man, who met a tragic and untimely death.

Stringbean, was a banjo player and comedy musician.He is best known for his role on the hit television show Hee Haw, but his work also goes back to the 1940s and a three-year stint with Bill Monroe.Oddly, it was as a ballplayer -- not a banjo player -- that Akeman first came to the attention of Monroe, who fielded a private semi-pro team.It was during this period that Akeman teamed with Willie Egbert Westbrook as "String Beans and Cousin Wilbur," a comedy duo, who often worked on the same bills with Monroe's Blue Grass Boys.
Stringbean would leave Monroe's group in 1945.

David Akeman was born to a farming family in Annville, KY. He built his first homemade instrument (at age seven) out of a shoe box and thread borrowed from his mother.
During the Depression-era, Akeman spent time working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, building roads and planting trees ("shovel-ready" projects?).
One day he entered a talent contest that was being judged by singer-guitarist-musical saw player Asa Martin, and won. He joined Martin's band, and during one performance the bandleader stumbled over Akeman's name and, unable to remember it, introduced him to the crowd as "String Beans." With his tall, lanky frame, the name was a natural and it stuck.In 1946, he first began working with Grandpa Jones (Louis Marshall Jones), a fellow old-time banjo player with a penchant for comedy.During the late '40s, Akeman also formed a team with Lew Childre and became a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry.It was also around this time that he became a protégé of Uncle Dave Macon, a banjo-player/comic and one of the Opry's most beloved performers.

It was in 1969 that Stringbean and Grandpa Jones became founding members of the cast of Hee Haw. Stringbean became an instant hit, his lanky figure and bewildered expression, coupled with self-deprecating one-liners, made Akeman one of the most popular members of the cast.One of his regular routines was to read a "letter from Home" to his friends.He was also known for being the "Scarecrow" in the cornfield, who would shoot off one liners before being shouted down by the "crow" on his shoulder (The Scarecrow would remain in the Cornfield as a silent tribute after his untimely death).

Akeman lived an extremely modest, simple life. Remembering the hard times of the Depression, Stringbean and his wife lived in a tiny cabin near Ridgetop, Tennessee, approximately 20 miles outside of Nashville. Their only luxury was a Cadillac.
Stringbean did not trust banks due to the multiple bank failures of the Hoover years, and he kept thousands of dollars on his person, which he was known to flash around. It was rumored that Stringbean had a fortune in cash stashed at his house. It was these rumors that led two cousins, John and Marvin Douglas, on the night of November 10, 1973, to break into the cabin.
Returning from a performance at the Grand Old Opry, the burglars shot Stringbean dead after he entered his house, then ran down and killed Estelle. By immediately murdering Stringbean, they had no chance to question him on the whereabouts of any hidden cash, which they were unable to find. They managed to steal some firearms and a chainsaw, all at the cost of two lives. Stringbean and Estelle's neighbor Grandpa Jones discovered his slain friends the next morning.
David and Estelle Akeman are buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

Jackson County, Kentucky now hosts the annual Stringbean Memorial Bluegrass Festival.

Below, Grandpa Jones pays tribute.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Anniversary "SA-LUTE!" to the folks of Kornfield Kounty

One of the most popular and longest running variety shows in the history of television made it's debut 40 years ago on this date.

HEE HAW was a television variety show, co-hosted by musicians Buck Owens and Roy Clark, featuring country music and humor with fictional, rural "Kornfield Kounty" as a backdrop.

HEE HAW, sort of a country version of Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, was unlike anything else on television – a variety show that embraced the rural lifestyle of the South with skits, curvaceous country girls and the corniest jokes around.

The highlight of HEE HAW was the musical performances that filled each episode, not only by co-hosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark, but an array of country music superstars and singers on the rise performing music that ranged from classic country to contemporary, and gospel to bluegrass.

Virtually every major country superstar appeared on Hee Haw at one time or another – Charley Pride, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Sonny James, Ernest Tubb, Charlie Rich, Ray Price, Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, the Statler Brothers, Alabama, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill ... and many more.

But not all the guests on the show were from country music. Frequently, there were singers from other genres who became popular with country audiences, plus actors and comedians appeared as well.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

MEMPHIS MINNIE (1897 - 1973)

Guitar player and blues singer Memphis Minnie is considered by many to be the best female blues artist of all time.
Minnie (born Lizzie Douglas) was as tough a drinker and blues singer as any man. She not only ranks along with the blues' best female artists, but also along with the best male blues artists.
Lizzie received her first guitar in 1905 as a Christmas present. She was soon playing guitar and banjo, and sometime during her early teens began running away from home to play on Memphis' Beale Street.
Minnie would play anywhere she could- on the street, in juke jives, in dives, in the park, at house parties, anywhere they’d listen.
Memphis Minnie’s innovation and rhythm on guitar impressed her contemporaries and her teachers alike. She traveled all over the States, and she easily changed her sets or arrangements to suit the chemistry of her audience.
Minnie was married three times, and each husband was an accomplished blues guitarist: Kansas Joe McCoy later of the Harlem Hamfats, Casey Bill Weldon of the Memphis Jug Band, and Ernest "Little Son Joe" Lawlers.

"When The Levee Breaks"
by Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie

Memphis Minnie, Joe McCoy - "Pile Driver Blues"; Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey - "Down By The Riverside"; Memphis Minnie, Memphis Jug Band - "Bumble Bee Blues"

In the mid 1950s, her health began to fail. Minnie returned to Memphis and retired from performing and recording. She spent her twilight years in a nursing home, where she died of a stroke in 1973. She is buried at the New Hope Baptist Church Cemetery in Walls, Mississippi.
A headstone paid for by Bonnie Raitt was erected by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund on 13 October 1996.

The inscription on the back of her gravestone reads:

"The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie's songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"The Ultimate Jew"...

... turns 78 today, as Borscht-belt comedian Jackie Mason celebrates his birthday.
Mason (born Yacov Moshe Maza, on June 9, 1936, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin) has had several one-man comedy stage shows over the years.

Visit his official site, or view one of his politically charged vlogs (like the one below).

Pelosi: Like a deranged pig in heat

Also celebrating today, is guitar wizard Les Paul.
Here's last years post (just add one year).

Sunday, June 7, 2009

That Cat Fats

Last weekend a film was posted over at Pass The Popcorn Please.That film, Tin Pan Alley Cats, -which depicts Fats Waller as a cartoon cat-got me to thinkin' that I should briefly resurrect my old series to pay homage to this great artist.

Fats Waller

Thomas Wright Waller (May 21, 1904 - December 15, 1943) was an American jazz pianist, organist, composer and comedic entertainer.
Waller was one of the most popular performers of his era. His songs have become standards of the jazz repertoire.
Fats wrote many songs, among them are "Squeeze Me" (1919), "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now", "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1929), "Blue Turning Grey Over You", "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" (1929), "Honeysuckle Rose" (1929), and "Jitterbug Waltz" (1942). He collaborated with the Tin Pan Alley lyricist Andy Razaf.
Waller also composed stride piano display pieces such as "Handful of Keys", "Valentine Stomp" and "Viper's Drag."
In addition to his virtuosic playing, Waller was known for his many quips during his performances, including:- "One never knows, do one?" ... "No lady, we can't haul your ashes for 25 cents, that's bad business" ... "Mercy!" ... "Well, all right then!" ... "I wonder what the poor people are doing - I'd love to be doing it with them!" ... "Run in and stab me, but don't bruise me!" ... "Wot's da matta wit DAT?!" ... and - of a large lady vocalist - "All that meat and no potatoes!"

The last few years of Waller's life involved frequent recordings and extensive tours of the USA. In early 1943, he returned to Hollywood to make the film Stormy Weather with Lena Horne and Bill Robinson, in which he led an all-star band including Benny Carter and Zutty Singleton.
Fats contracted pneumonia and died on a cross-country train trip near Kansas City, Missouri on December 15, 1943. His ashes were flown and spread over Harlem by the famous World War I aviator known as "The Black Ace".

In the player below
; 18th Street Stomp (1926), Baby, Oh Where Can You Be (1929), Blue Black Bottom (1926), Loveless Love (1926), Numb fumbling (1929), Savannah Blues (1926), The Digah's Stomp (Pipe Organ Solo) (1927), Valentine stomp (1929), You Rascal, You! (1929)

Friday, June 5, 2009

".... so much applause, that at times it seemed like he was addressing the WhiteHouse press corps."

Obama gave his big Muslim speech in Cairo. How did Muslims react? What about Israel? Most importantly, what about Jackie and Dunlap?

Thursday, June 4, 2009


RIP KOKO TAYLOR (1928 - 2009)

Grammy Award-winning blues legend Koko Taylor, 80, died on June 3, 2009 in her hometown of Chicago, IL, as a result of complications following her May 19 surgery to correct a gastrointestinal bleed.
Born Cora Walton on a sharecropper’s farm just outside Memphis, TN, on September 28, 1928, Koko, nicknamed for her love of chocolate, fell in love with music at an early age. Inspired by gospel music and WDIA blues disc jockeys B.B. King and Rufus Thomas, Taylor began belting the blues with her five brothers and sisters, accompanying themselves on their homemade instruments.

Koko Taylor was one of very few women who found success in the male-dominated blues world. She took her music from the tiny clubs of Chicago’s South Side to concert halls and major festivals all over the world. She shared stages with every major blues star, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy as well as rock icons Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.