57 Years Ago … Dean

“The Dean Martin Show” debuted on September 16, 1965. For most of its run, Dean’s variety hour was a fixture on the NBC Thursday night lineup. Martin was initially reluctant to do the show, partially because he did not want to turn down movie and nightclub performances.

His terms were deliberately unrealistic: as author Lee Hale recalled, “He presented [NBC] with a list of demands he thought it would be impossible to fill. He asked for an outrageous amount of money, of course, but there was more. He only wanted to work one day a week, and that day had to be Sunday. He didn’t want to do anything but announce the acts. He didn’t even want to sing if he didn’t feel like it… But surprisingly NBC agreed to each of his demands. ‘They should have thrown them in my face,’ Dean said later, ‘but they agreed to it all. So what the hell, I had to show up!'”

As his daughter, Deana Martin, recalled, after meeting the network and making his demands, Martin returned home and announced to his family, “They went for it. So now I have to do it.”

At first Dean had no regular supporting cast other than his accompanist, pianist Ken Lane. Guest stars were featured each week in comedy skits and songs, both alone and with Dean (who never rehearsed). Some of the young talent (including The Golddiggers and The Ding-a-Ling Sisters) also starred in Dean’s summer replacement series. The last show aired on May 24, 1974, but his “Celebrity Roasts” continued on NBC as a series of occasional specials.

57 years later, I can still watch clips of the show on YouTube and laugh like crazy! If you want to read a fantastic book about the show, find yourself a copy of “Back Stage At The Dean Martin Show” by Lee Hale. It’s a joy to read!

Christmas in September

To say that the past few days have been stressful is an understatement. There have been some very good moments and I tried to just take them all in. However, something was on my mind all weekend.

I’m not going to get into detail on that. I could, but I won’t. Let me just state that it is stress related to things outside of my home life. Read into that however you wish.

At any rate, after a particularly emotional and crappy Monday that was the culmination of all the things on my mind, I needed something – anything! My Monday evening walk with the kids helped. I was out in the neighborhood, counting squirrels, saying hello to our “puppy friends” and listening to AJ babble and Ella sing.

Sam knew the weekend and Monday had taken a toll on me. She never said it was her plan, but she suggested taking a trip to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth to look for our annual “ornament hunt.” Bronner’s is “The World’s Largest Christmas Store” and I have blogged about it before. You can read about that here:

We packed the family up in the car after Sam got home and we made the short drive there. It was the perfect day to go. Tuesday morning in September. Sure, there were people there, but not the normal crowd that is there. The sounds of Christmas music were playing through the outside speakers as we walked in.

(Johnny Mathis’ version of Marshmallow World was playing as I walked in. I found myself thinking that the Dean Martin version is FAR superior to this version. As a bonus, Dean’s version played before we left!)

I hadn’t thought about it but this was Andrew’s first trip to Bronner’s. He was in awe of all the lights and him and Ella were anxious to touch everything!!

Every year, we get an ornament that marks some big event that happened in the past year. We have an engagement ornament, a marriage ornament, a mother-to-be ornament, and two “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments. So what big event could we commemorate this year?

Neither one of us changed jobs. We didn’t get a new house or new car. Now that I think about it, the only big thing that happened this year was my vasectomy! I doubt they had an ornament for that, but then again, they have thousands of ornaments for just about every thing! They probably DO have something for that!!! Maybe I will call and ask …

Instead of an ornament, we got a snowman family plaque. You have probably seen what I am talking about. It has mom, dad, and snow-kids.

The one above is not the one we got, but it is similar. So we had them put our family name on it and then each of the snow kids had their name written on them. It came out really cute and we’ll either put it on the mantel or hang it on the main entry door.

Next year, Sam has said that she wants the kids to go and each pick out their own ornaments. I think that is a great idea and a good way to make it a tradition. We want them to have that experience and then every year when the holiday rolls around, they can look back on the ornaments and relive memories.

The kids were both getting a bit antsy, so as soon as the plaque was personalized, we headed out. We stopped for photo ops and walked outside. As we exited the building, there was a huge Santa Claus. Andrew saw it and began to point to it. It was a perfect (and frame worthy) photo.

It was just want I needed to get my mind off all that transpired over the past few days. A welcome distraction with those that I love.

One thing is for sure. Despite all the feelings that are churning around inside me, especially as I think about things, I think on the reasons why I keep going. The people who mean the most to me. I think of my wife and her never ending support and love. I think of my two older sons, and of course, the two little blessings who accompanied me on our trip to “Christmas in September” …

THEY are why I continue to do what I do. THEY are the reason I need to focus on getting healthy. THEY are the reason I am happy.

Turntable Talk – Cover Me

This blog is part of the next installment of Dave from A Sound Day’s Turntable Talk. This time around, the subject is “cover songs.” Per our instructions:

This time around, wanting to get your thoughts on Cover Songs…what makes a really good one, maybe what your favorite bold one is. Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction? Or conversely, what one is atrocious to you & why.

By ‘bold’ I mean covers of songs that were already known, and hits. I won’t set any minimum guidelines but as examples, most people never heard The Arrows version of ‘I Love Rock n Roll’ or The Clique’s ‘Superman’ so it was easy for Joan Jett & REM respectively make them their own.  But to do a Beatles song, like Joe Cocker did only a couple of years after the original was released… that took …something. 

So what cover songs work great for you?

Cover Songs

If you do a Google search on “cover songs,” there are plenty of links to articles containing lists of “the best” ones. There are also links to video’s that feature countdowns and lists of “best and worst” cover songs. Those lists, no doubt, will include: Twist and Shout by the Beatles, Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner, Hurt by Johnny Cash, Last Kiss by Pearl Jam, Mony Mony by Billy Idol, All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, and many many more!

Many people are unaware that some of their favorite songs are actually cover songs. A lot of the early Rolling Stones and Beatles songs were actually covers of songs they loved by other artists. In a way, a cover song is the ultimate “hat tip” to a band’s early influence.

Personally, I tend to love cover songs. If you were to grab my iPod, that becomes very clear! I recall a time when I was married to my ex-wife and her iPod was dead. She wanted to go walk and asked if she could take mine instead. Upon returning home, she said to me, “How many different versions of a song do you need?!”

Cover Song Example

Dave asked “what makes a good” cover song? He also asked, “Do you like ones really faithful to the original, or ones that spin it in an altogether direction?

It is difficult for me to say what exactly makes a good cover song because I think it can be one that is faithful to the original, spun in a different direction, or a mixture of both of those elements. Take for example, the Rodgers and Hart song – Blue Moon.

The song was written in 1934. There were recordings made as early as 1935. One of the best known versions is the Doo Wop hit from 1961 by the Marcels. Dean Martin did a stripped down version with piano and drums that was performed as a slow ballad. Frank Sinatra’s version was more “swingy”. Sam Cooke’s “bounced” and in 1997 a swing band called the Jive Aces covered it as a bouncy boogie woogie sounding cover. Every single version I mentioned, I like for different reasons.

Some of My Favorite Covers

If I were to make a list of all the cover songs I have on my iPod and feature one a day on my blog, I would have enough songs to write about for about 6 months! Instead, I grabbed a piece of paper and off the top of my head started jotting down the cover songs that came to mind. I gave myself 5 minutes to do this and came up with about 18 songs. The reality is that I know that I will complete this blog and after it posts say, “Oh, man! I forgot (insert cover song here)!” That’s ok.

While it may be hard for me to tell you exactly what I love about cover songs, maybe by giving some examples of some of my favorites, the music will answer the question for both of us.

The first three I came up with are all from movie soundtracks. There is no shortage of cover songs in the movies. These covers will often give new life to old songs – examples include Sweet Child of Mine by Sheryl Crow from Big Daddy, Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright from Shrek, Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bangels from Less Than Zero, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon by Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction, and, of course, I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston in The Bodygaurd.

Johnny B. Goode – Marty McFly and the Starlighters

From Back to the Future, this is the song Marty McFly plays at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. In the movie, He goes off on a Eddie Van Halen type solo and the entire crowd looks at him stunned. On the soundtrack, however, there is a full version with an additional verse not in the movie. What I love about this version is the stripped down instrumentation, the saxophone and piano, and the whole feel of it. It really sounds like an “early” version of the song. It’s actually quite good.

https://youtu.be/RelL4BS2lEQ

All Shook Up – Billy Joel

From the soundtrack of Honeymoon in Vegas, which contains some very good Elvis covers. This one is my favorite. It has the feel of the Elvis version, with a little “boogie woogie” piano feel to it. Simple background vocals enhance the Billy Joel version. One addition I love is the bass drum hit after he sings, “I’m in love ….”

https://youtu.be/IsktHpH5QGk

I’m Ready – Taj Mahal

I stumbled on this by accident. This cut was used in the movie Little Big League. I’ve always been a fan of Fats Domino, but this version is just so much better. It has “meat” to it. The driving bass line keeps it moving, the piano is still there, and those saxes in the background – LOVE them. Add the electric guitar and Taj Mahal’s vocal to the mix and it is just perfect! This is one that I find myself listening to at work when I need a “pick up”

https://youtu.be/KZkRSP2oe8c

Sea of Love – The Honey Drippers

Phil Phillips did the original of this, but how can you NOT love this version?! First and foremost, you have Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page as well as Jeff Beck in the group! Add a beautiful string arrangement and background singers to compliment them and you have a top 5 record!

https://youtu.be/2BoUzzFXuVU

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

Not many people are aware that this is actually a cover song. It was originally done in 1964 by Gloria Jones. The song was written by Ed Cobb, who was in the Four Preps, and was actually the B-side of a song called My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home. The original had a “Motown” feel to it, while Soft Cell certainly has more of an 80’s feel to it.

Here is Soft Cell: https://youtu.be/22mYcScS_88

Here is the original: https://youtu.be/NSehtaY6k1U

Hard to Handle – Black Crowes

This one was written and recorded by the legendary Otis Redding. Otis’ version is already great, but I love this one equally. It certainly has a great feel to it. It doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s funky and a great jam!

https://youtu.be/BRcs_OzQb14

You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr

The original was done by Johnny Burnette, who was known for rockabilly, in 1960. It’s not that I dislike the original, I just think Ringo’s version is … more fun. For years I thought Paul McCartney was playing Kazoo in this, however, one article says, “Michael Verity has quoted the song’s producer Richard Perry as revealing that it wasn’t actually a kazoo: “In fact, the solo on ‘You’re Sixteen,’ which sounds like a kazoo or something, was Paul singing very spontaneously as we played that track back, so he’s singing the solo on that.” Ringo’s version remains one of the few No. 1 singles to feature a ‘kazoo-sound’ solo. (It sure sounds like a kazoo to me!) I also love the driving piano bassline in his version.

https://youtu.be/vkR7u_sOtHI

I’m Down – Aerosmith

Originally done by the Beatles, this is almost a carbon copy of the Beatles version. I like it because I think Steven Tyler’s vocal perfectly fits the song.

https://youtu.be/oYGmtGnhdks

Look at Little Sister – Stevie Ray Vaughn

I picked this song in the recent song draft and you can read about it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2021/08/10/song-draft-2021-round-3-look-at-little-sister-hank-ballard-stevie-ray-vaughn/

Steamroller Blues – Elvis

Elvis did his share of covers, and this is one that comes from his Aloha From Hawaii concert special. I have always preferred this version to the James Taylor version. To me, it is more “bluesy.” I love everything about this cut!!

https://youtu.be/4vAuXP4hIoo

Baby, I Love You – Andy Kim

This one was originally done by the Ronettes in 1963 and featured Phil Spector’s “wall of sound.” Andy Kim recorded his version in 1969 and had a top 10 hit with it. It mimics the “wall of sound” but if you listen in headphones, there is a lot of little stuff going on in the background – jingle bells, glockenspiel, castanets, and more. I remember hearing it a lot as a kid.

https://youtu.be/kdrpRKiVwi8

Since I Met You Baby – Dean Martin

This remake I stumbled on by watching MTV!! The original was done by Ivory Joe Hunter in 1956. I remember seeing the Title and Artist show up on the bottom left side of the screen when the video started and couldn’t believe that Dean Martin was on MTV. He recorded it for his The Nashville Sessions Album and I love that it stays true to the original, yet is purely Dean.

https://youtu.be/9Ls6X0-rgd4

Think – Joan Osborne

It better be good if you are covering the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and this one is! Aretha did the original in 1968 and then covered herself for a version in the Blues Brothers. I don’t remember how I stumbled on Joan Osborne’s version, but it is different enough that I love it. It has such a cocky attitude to it. Dig it –

https://youtu.be/RNskLOOwvvI

Mustang Sally – Buddy Guy

Originally done by Wilson Pickett, this is one of greatest soul songs of all time! I heard this on the Blues channel on Sirius XM and fell in love with it. I’ve always dug Buddy Guy and while this stays pretty true to the original, it has a sound of its own!

https://youtu.be/eAyFynJXe4g

Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis

Carl Perkins seemed to have all of his songs covered and many times, his songs became associated with the other artist rather than him. That’s the case with Blue Suede Shoes – it is Elvis. Elvis’ version is so much better than Carl’s in my opinion.

https://youtu.be/HeXnFx7aPOE

Your Cheating Heart – Crystal Shawanda

Originally done in 1952 by the late Hank Williams Sr. this takes a whiney and twangy song and cranks it up about 10 notches. We had Crystal in for a show when I worked at the country station and she was fantastic. This was on her debut album. I’m not sure she isn’t a huge star. Her voice is amazing and she is very talented.

https://youtu.be/GLVYxAKT12g

Dirty Laundry – Lisa Marie Presley

Written by and a hit for Don Henley, I have always loved this song. The content of the song is about mass media and how they exploit just about everything. Henley had a top 5 hit with it. I didn’t even know that Lisa Marie Presley had done this song until I heard it on some Pandora playlist. Her vocal is sultry and sells the content lyrically. A great cut!

https://youtu.be/u9_Bf1pVWOk

As a bonus – here is a live and unplugged version:

https://youtu.be/8jUBEj_8x5s

Please, Please, Please – Delbert McClinton

A cover of James Brown’s classic! James has a hit with this in 1956 and it went top 10 on the R&B charts. I think Delbert McClinton is someone who just doesn’t get enough praise for all he does. He’s a singer songwriter who can play many instruments and has released many albums. This version comes from his Honky Tonk and Blues album, which is a personal favorite.

https://youtu.be/HCs8m27CiCM

Call Me Irresponsible – Michael Buble’

Jimmy Van Heusen composed this song in 1962 with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. According to Mel Torme’, the song was written for Judy Garland to sing on her TV show. It was written as a parody to her well-known problems. Many people have done versions on the song – Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Eddie Fisher, Julie London, and more. Michael Buble’ used this as the title track for his 2007 album. It get’s me right from the opening “walking” bass lick. Buble’ has made a career out of covering so many songs from the Great American Songbook, as well as many originals. He has a great band backing him and he sings this effortlessly.

https://youtu.be/oj_eUUaWBu0

Ok – Just One That I HATE

Lean on Me – Club Nouveau

I love Bill Withers. he wrote and recorded this for his 1972 Still Bill album. It was a smash and was a number 1 song. I never cared for the cover version. Yes, it stayed very close to the original, but I just never cared for the arrangement at all. It’s almost annoying to me. It is actually playing in my headphones as I am typing this. To me, the whole 80’s synth sounds just sound out of place. Not to mention the whole “We be jammin” part – URGH!! One good thing about this was that it won a Grammy for Bill Withers as the writer for Best R&B song.

I reluctantly post the link to the video here ….

https://youtu.be/kbyjaUJWWmk

Final Thoughts

So what can we say about cover songs? Are they done as a tribute to the original artist? Are they done because it’s a favorite to perform? Are they done to “improve” on the original? Are they done because an artist feels it should be presented in a different way? Who knows, really!? One could easily ask the same questions about all the crappy movie remakes that have come about.

Some of my favorite concert memories are hearing the singer do a song that is totally unexpected. My favorite memory of the Billy Joel concert I attended wasn’t Piano Man. It was when he talked about loving the Motor City and breaking into his own version of I Heard it Through The Grapevine! Magical!! Aaron Tippin played a county fair for us and one point he threw on a fedora and sang Fly Me To the Moon, which blew my mind! Very cool songs – never released – but covers, nonetheless.

In the end, a good song is a good song. I love listening to a great song done by many other singers. It says something about the song melodically and lyrically. I don’t always love the cover, but that’s ok. It’s fun to hear the artist’s take on it.

I want to thank Dave for allowing me to ramble on and on about this month’s topic. I’ve wanted to feature cover songs on my site, but just couldn’t figure out how to present it. I guess I better stop typing because the more I think about it … the more songs are coming to my head!

Thanks for reading!

TV Show Draft – Round 4 – Columbo

Welcome to my fourth round pick in the Hanspostcard TV Draft. Last round I chose Perry Mason, which was the ultimate court room “whodunit!” You never knew who committed the crime until the end of the episode. I thought it appropriate to choose Columbo for this round, because it is almost the exact opposite of Perry Mason, in that you know who the killer is right from the get go. It was called a murder mystery where the murder was no mystery.

The show pioneered the “inverted mystery” technique/format. Almost every show begins with a crime and the audience knows who the culprit is. Then enter the LAPD’s Lieutenant Columbo who spends the remainder of the show looking for clues, pestering the criminal, and eventually solving the case. The show was not a “whodunit” like Perry Mason, but rather it has been described as a “how’s he gonna catch him?”

The first season of Columbo began in September of 1971. I know that most of the shows being picked by others in the draft ran on a weekly basis. Columbo did not. Most episodes were featured as part of the NBC Mystery Movie rotation. It ran for 35 years with a total of 69 episodes.

The show was created by schoolmates Richard Levinson and William Link. The character first appeared in 1960 on The Chevy Mystery Show in an episode called “Enough Rope.” That episode was then adapted for a stage play entitled Prescription: Murder, which was then adapted for television in 1968. Columbo was played by Bert Freed in Enough Rope and by Thomas Mitchell in the stage version in 1962.

The writers of the show had originally wanted Lee J. Cobb to play Columbo, but he was unavailable. They next approached Bing Crosby, who turned down the role because it would take away from his time on the golf course. Peter Falk came across the script for Prescription: Murder and contacted Levinson and Link and said, “I’d kill to play that cop!”

Peter Falk and Gene Berry

They weren’t really sure about Peter Falk, who was only 39 at the time. They envisioned the character as being older. He won the role, and he plays him as a much straighter, cleaner, and firmer Columbo in the first episode. It was a huge hit! The Columbo quirks and mannerisms that fans came to know and love would develop as he continued to play the role.

Peter Falk really threw himself into the role. He wore his own clothes. The suit was one that he had dyed brown, because he felt that looked better. He wore his own shoes. The world famous raincoat was one that he purchased in New York City while caught in a rainstorm. It cost him a mere $15. One difference between Peter and Columbo – Columbo preferred cigars, while Falk enjoyed cigarettes.

I am currently reading a fantastic book on the show written by David Koenig.

Columbo is like no other cop. Koenig says, “There was nobody or nothing like Columbo at all before him. All the detectives were these hardboiled, emotionless, tough guys. And he was the opposite of that in every way. He hated guns and violence.” He describes the show this way, “Columbo wasn’t really a cop show. It was a drawing-room mystery done backwards with a cop as the lead. It was an anti-cop show.”

During the first few seasons of Columbo, it really set the standard for what some refer to as “event television.” There were some fabulous guest stars who played the murderer. Those stars included Gene Berry, Jack Cassidy, William Shatner, Dick Van Dyke, Ruth Gordon, Robert Vaughn, Anne Baxter, Janet Leigh, Robert Culp, Donald Pleasence, Eddie Albert, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Cash, and Patrick McGoohan – just to name a few!!

After the murder, when Columbo finally shows up, his genius is hidden by his often confused look. It is also hidden by the way he is dressed and by his friendly demeanor. He is looked upon as a stupid fool. The killer has no idea what a brilliant man Columbo is and they are lured into a false sense of security. The killer becomes even more arrogant and dismisses Columbo as a dope, only to be caught in the end.

One of the things that certainly added to the character was his little idiosyncrasies like fumbling through his pockets for a piece of evidence, asking to borrow a pencil, or being distracted by something in the room in the middle of a conversation. Falk adlibbed those moments on camera while film was rolling as a way to keep the other actors off-balance. He felt that it really helped to make their confused and impatient reactions to Columbo more genuine. It really truly worked.

On the show, the murderer is often some famous person, or someone who is cultured or from high society. Either that, or some sort of successful professional (surgeon, psychologist, etc…). Paired up against Columbo, it is gold! The interactions between the two become such a marvelous part of the show and brings out Columbo’s character and cunning genius!

In those conversations Columbo is often confused. He doesn’t know anything about classical music, chess, fine wines, photography or pieces of art. One article on the show stated that his “ignorance” will often “allow him to draw in the murderer with a cunning humility that belies his understanding of human behavior and the criminal mind.”

The last episode of Columbo aired in 2003 and was entitled “Columbo Likes the Nightlife.” Falk had planned for one final episode. It was to be called “Columbo’s Last Case” which was to begin at his retirement party. There was a lack of network interest and with his age and failing health, the episode was never to be.

Columbo remains as popular as ever. It was one of the most watched shows on streaming platforms during the pandemic. Author David Koenig says about the show, “It has stood the test of time for 50-plus years now. That character is still vibrant and alive, appealing to people. People love that central character, that basic format, the fact that it’s not political, it’s not violent, it’s not all the things television shows are today, it’s something different. And that is charm. That’s what people love about it.”

Columbo Facts:

  • Steven Spielberg directed the first episode of Season 1 – Murder by the Book.
  • Peter Falk won 4 Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Columbo (1972, 1975, 1976, and 1990)
  • He also won a Golden Globe Award for the role.
  • Patrick McGoohan played a murderer more times than any other actor – 4 times. Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp each had 3 times, William Shatner and George Hamilton each played a killer twice.
  • Columbo’s name is never revealed – although a close up of his badge in the first season says it is ‘Frank.’ The creators of the show have stated that his first name was never known, so take that however you want to.
  • Columbo drives a 1960 Peugeot 403 convertible.
  • Columbo’s favorite food is chili and black coffee is his drink of choice.
  • In the 1972 episode entitled, “Etude in Black,” Columbo rescued a basset hound from the dog pound. The dog could be seen in many other episodes, and was as close to a sidekick/partner as Columbo ever got.
  • In 1997, the episode Murder by the Book was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list.
  • In 1999, Lieutenant Columbo was ranked #7 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time.”
  • There is a bronze statue of Columbo (and his dog) in Budapest, Hungary. It was unveiled in 2017. Peter Falk is rumored to be a distant relative of the well-known Hungarian politician Miksa Falk (1828-1908).
Columbo Statue in Budapest, Hungary

I thought I would close with little treat for you. In one of the Dean Celebrity Roasts, Frank Sinatra was the Man of the Hour. Now, these roasts were often edited down to make sure all the best stuff was shown on TV. In Lee Hale’s book, he stated that there was only one performance that was shown in its entirety – Peter Falk’s appearance during the Sinatra roast.

Falk appears from the audience – as Lt. Columbo. The entire 11 minute bit is just priceless. It is a must see. Enjoy:

Celebrity Passings

The news broke earlier yesterday of the passing of actor Sidney Poitier at age 94. He was the Academy Award winning actor who starred in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Lilies in the Field, In The Heat of the Night and so many other great films. I’m sure there were other minor celebrity passings already this year, but his death is the first “big” one. Betty White, of course, was the last “big” one of 2021.

I’ve always found it fascinating to go back at the end of each year and look back at those celebrities who have passed away. USA today used to (and may still) put out a special edition that saluted those famous people who passed away the previous year. I know People Magazine and other publications do this as well. There are also many In Memoriam videos that are produced by various outlets that feature those who have passed as well. Those videos are often a highlight at award shows.

The problem with them is that they are always produced before the end of the year. I remember when Dean Martin died on Christmas Day of 1995, he wasn’t in any of those publications or videos. He was often forgotten in the following year’s as well. This will probably be the case with Betty White this year.

I have found that when I go back and look through the list, there are many people I forgot about. Some celebrity passings go by with little or no fanfare and then on the anniversary of their death a year (or sometimes 3-5 years) later, people post it on social media without even realizing that the celebrity has been gone for some time.

Now that we are a week into the new year, I decided to go back and look at some of those we lost in 2021. So many great talents. Many managed to live to a nice old age, while others were gone very young. I’ll give you some of my sources for the lists. If you wish, check them out. Which ones stick out to you? Which ones did you forget passed away? Which ones did you not know passed away?

One of the most comprehensive lists for people in entertainment comes from my friend, and author James Neibaur. His blog can be found here:

https://jln4151.wixsite.com/jlneibaur-writer/single-post/farewell-to-the-showbiz-stars-we-lost-in-2021?fbclid=IwAR3a-uP1AAuCW2vSE0m_DA7GEVQ5fC2hzOZvLRyv3U6LY005QahfnRFmQ4U

Find a Grave is a site that is helpful if you are looking for ancestry stuff. It also has a section for celebrities and a yearly necrology you can check out. It is not as exhaustive as some of the other lists, and it tends to focus on just the “big” names. Here is a link to that:

https://www.findagrave.com/necrology?necYear=2021&necCat=all

A source that is extremely exhaustive (almost TOO exhaustive) can be found on Wikipedia. A simple search of “Lists of deaths by year” will bring you to a place where you can look by year, by month, and by day. The only issue I have with this is that the list has just about everybody and anybody from all over the world. While sports figures from Scotland or actors and actresses from Russia are of interest to folks in those countries, they aren’t quite what I am interested in. Here is the link to that page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_deaths_by_year

IMDB produced their video on December 20th –

ABC News’ video is a lot more thorough … produced December 27th

WMUR produced this video and it includes Betty White, John Madden and others that were left out of the earlier produced tributes:

https://www.wmur.com/article/in-memoriam-2021-notable-deaths-of-2021/38593827

One of my favorites every year is produced by Turner Classic Movies – It was produced on December 21st:

It seems like every year I look at those lists and am amazed at the talent that is represented on them. Gone, but not forgotten. How wonderful that we can revisit them often in their books, on television, in movies, by listening to their music, and many other ways.

Spaghetti? I Was Just Dreaming About That …

Today is National Spaghetti Day here in the United States. I didn’t know that until a friend of mine posted it on Facebook earlier today. I also didn’t know it was National Trivia Day in the United States. The same friend posted that, too. So before I tell my story … how about a tidbit of spaghetti trivia?

Did you know that the word spaghetti is plural for the Italian word spaghetto, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning “thin  string” or “twine?” You do now!

Dean Martin eating spaghetti

It is probably a total coincidence that I had a dream about spaghetti last night. Usually when I have a dream that I am trying to figure out, I wake up and email myself what I remember. Nine times out of ten, it is a bunch of misspelled words that I have to wonder just what I was trying to type.

So my dream, I admit, doesn’t make much sense at all. Although it was almost like there should have been a message in it or something. So, here is (to my best recollection) the dream:

There is a mixture of humans and cartoon characters in it. I don’t really understand it, but that is like most dreams I suppose. The family from Bluey is in it (probably because my daughter and I were watching it before bed).

The Heelers from Bluey

At first I think I am at some sort of spaghetti dinner, like a fund raiser or something. Then I realize that this event is some sort of celebration or ceremony. It has something to do with the children – and the number of meatballs on the child’s plate. It was sort of like a karate/kung fu belt ceremony.

Each child walks through the line with a plate of spaghetti and when the reach the appropriate server, he plops a certain number of meatballs on the plate and explains what it means. No meatballs meant they were newcomers, one meatball was a novice, two meatballs meant they were intermediate, three meatballs signified above average, and four meatballs was a pro/master.

Anyone who got four meatballs got a huge round of applause from the crowd. It was almost like some sort of Jewish Bar Mitzvah or something, “Congratulations! Four meatballs! You are now a man!” I stood there puzzled by the whole thing and then I realized that I am in line, holding a plate of spaghetti. The server drops three meatballs on my plate and tells me to move on.

I am stumped. I am confused. Why do I not have four? What exactly are you a pro at if you DO get four meatballs? I don’t even know!

I walk away staring at these three meatballs and Bluey’s dad, Bandit, comes up to me and says, “Only three, huh? That’s they way it goes sometimes, Mate.”

Then I wake up.

Weird. Weird. Weird.

Oh, and the guy dishing out the meatballs? Frank Sinatra!

Inspired by Blogmas

A few blogs that I follow, started to talk about “Blogmas” a week or so ago. From what I can tell it is a list of 25-31 Blog post ideas. Sort of a daily writing prompt that are all Christmas related. I did a search for “Blogmas” and read through a few of them. The list seems to vary a bit, but mostly contains the same prompts. The idea is to blog about each of these prompts daily. Some of the lists stop at 25 (Christmas Day) and some end at day 31 (New Year’s Eve).

The ones I read yesterday were under the title “Christmas Tag.” In essence, you answer the 20 questions and then tag a blogger to answer the same. I won’t tag anyone at the end of this blog, since I am technically not officially committed to “Blogmas,” but I liked some of the questions on the list and thought they would make for good reading (even though I may have answered a question or two in more detail in past blogs). So here goes:

  1. When do you start getting excited for Christmas? I would say that I probably start getting in the Christmas mood right after Halloween. Many radio stations begin playing Christmas music then. I could listen to Christmas music any time of the year, but hearing it on the radio starts to get me excited for the season.
  2. Is Christmas your favorite holiday? I would say yes. I have so many wonderful memories of past Christmases. I love that people’s attitudes tend to be happier during the Christmas season. There just seems to be a lot more joy around Christmas.
  3. Do you prefer to stay at home or travel for the holidays? I guess I prefer to stay home – or close to home – for the holidays. When I read the question, travel seems to insinuate going out of state or a lengthy trip. Most of my family is within a 60-90 minute drive, so that really doesn’t seem like travel to me.
  4. Be honest: do you prefer giving or receiving gifts? Definitely giving. I love to see the look on a person’s face when they receive a gift from me. I wouldn’t consider myself the best gift giver (trying to buy anything for my wife is SO difficult). I like to have some sort of idea of what a person wants before I shop for them. As far as receiving gifts – I never really feel comfortable when someone buys me something.
  5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve? I have every year since I was a kid. We always went to my grandma’s house for Christmas Eve and opened all our gifts. During my first marriage, we always let my sons open one gift on Christmas Eve (usually Christmas pajamas). Today, my sons come over the day before Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve morning is our “Christmas.” They spend Christmas morning with their mom. My daughter and my son will have some gifts to open Christmas Eve morning with their brothers and then more for Christmas morning.
  6. Have you ever built a snowman? Yes. Quite a few actually. I remember loving when the snow was “good packing” and you could build snowmen and snow forts. Just recently, my daughter and I started a snowman, but she was so excited to play in the snow, he was never finished. Can’t wait for our next opportunity to build one.
  7. Do you decorate the outside of your home for Christmas? Yes. Usually the front and side porches. It is by no means the best on the block, but I’m happy with it. One day I hope to be courageous enough to climb up on the roof and do more. For now, I’m happy with it.
  8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake? Fake. In all my years, we’ve never had a real tree. I enjoy them when they are at someone else’s house, though. I enjoy the smell of the pine tree. I am not sure that if we ever got a real tree that I’d be comfortable with it. You know, fire hazzards, bugs or animals possibly still being in them, the fact that you have to water it each day, and stepping on pine needles for months after….
  9. Most memorable holiday moment? How does one even begin to answer this question?! I have so many from childhood, and now even more with each of my children. I just couldn’t narrow it down to one.
  10. What do you like to do over Christmas break? What break?! I have a couple days off and work the rest of the days in between. I wish that I could stockpile vacation time up so I could actually take more time off during the holidays so I could spend it with family.
  11. Which holiday traditions are you most looking forward to this year? One thing that I have come to really look forward to is driving through the Holiday lights display at Crossroads Village on Christmas Eve night. It doesn’t change too much every year, but I always love going through and seeing the lights.
  12. Best Christmas gift you’ve ever received? Urgh – again, very difficult to chose one. Maybe it was the Atari 2600. It also could be the cribbage board my grandpa gave me. Or it could be the gold trumpet charm from my mom. Stretch Armstrong? I just can’t narrow it down.
  13. What is your all-time favorite holiday treat? Toss up between Pignolata (loved when my grandma made this!) or cannoli. Both were staples at Christmas time (along with many many Christmas cookies).
  14. Your favorite Christmas movie? I would say A Christmas Story or any version of A Christmas Carol. (Christmas Vacation could easily be in there, too!)
  15. Your favorite Christmas song? Man, all of these “favorite” questions are just to difficult! Dean Martin’s Marshmallow World is a definite favorite! Santa Claus is Back in Town from Elvis, Mel Torme’ The Christmas Song, Doc Severinsen’s Jingle Bells, the list goes on and on!
  16. What makes the holidays special for you? Family! Spending time with my family is all that matters! Sharing those special moments with them is everything!
  17. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season? I’ve never really been away for the holidays, but I know some places go all out. Disney, Branson, and so many other places really have some amazing things going on. Maybe one day we’ll be able to check them out.
  18. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you stick to them? I used to. I don’t really any more. I shouldn’t need a new year to want to make changes in my life. For many years, I would make them and would fail miserably at them.
  19. You have been granted one Christmas wish, what will it be? I would wish to make a difference. Included in the wish, I would wish to be a role model for my children, a good friend, a good husband, and a man whose faith helped lead others to the Lord.
  20. Who’s “it?” At this point on the list you are supposed to pick someone to answer the same questions. If you are so inclined, you may do so. If not, I hope you enjoyed my answers.

Song Draft 2021 – Round 10 – Final Pick – Superstition – Stevie Wonder

We have reached the final round of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard. I want to thank Hans for allowing me to be a part of it, and also thank the other participants who welcomed me into the draft. I have truly enjoyed being a part of this!

Prior to the draft, I made a list of possible song choices. As the draft continued, each round I would look at my list (and at the songs picked by the others) and decide which one would be my next choice. Some of the picks were easy, while others were more difficult. A few of them were spur of the moment picks that weren’t on the original list.

As I looked at that list in preparation for my last pick, I see many artists that I’d love to have featured: Aretha Franklin, The Honeydrippers, Big Joe Turner, Bob Seger, The Go-Go’s, Bill Withers, Johnny Lang, Queen, Buster Brown, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Guy, Neil Diamond, Mel Torme’ and so many more! I stared at my list for a long time and thought about it. Since I began the draft with a Michigan artist, I should wrap up with a Michigan artist. So my final pick for the draft is – Superstition by Stevie Wonder.

Stevie was born a little over 100 miles north of Detroit in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950. He would forever be associated with Detroit and Motown records. In a 1990 Detroit appearance at Tiger Stadium, Nelson Mandella said, “It is motor town that gave the world a great singer – Steve Wonder!”

In 1963, when he was known as “Little” Stevie Wonder, he had his first #1 song with a cut called Fingertips Part 2. Personally, I could never stand that song. It was in a heavy rotation at the first radio station I worked at, and I found it annoying. It would be 10 years before he received his next #1 song – Superstition.

The song was released on his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book.

Guitarist Jeff Beck was a fan of Stevie’s music and Stevie heard about this just before recording the Talking Book sessions. Though at this point he was playing virtually all of the instruments on his songs by himself, Stevie preferred to let other guitarists play on his records, and he liked the idea of a collaboration with Beck. An agreement was quickly made for Beck to become involved in the sessions that became the Talking Book album, in return for Wonder writing him a song.

According to legend, between the album sessions, Beck came up with the opening drum beat. Stevie told Jeff to keep playing while he improvised over the top of it. He improvised most of the song, including the funky riff. They wound up creating a rough demo of the song that day.

After finishing the song, Wonder decided that he would allow Beck to record “Superstition” as part of their agreement. Originally, the plan was for Beck to release his version of the song first, with his newly formed power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice. Their album’s release, however, was delayed.

From Songfacts.com: When Stevie turned 21, he was no longer obligated to Motown Records, and used his clout to sign a deal with the label giving him unprecedented control of his music. He got a large share of royalties and publishing rights, and Motown was not allowed to alter the albums once they were delivered. One thing Motown did control, however, were what songs they released as singles. Knowing Jeff Beck was about to record his version, Motown head Berry Gordy made sure this was the first single and released it before Beck could get his out.

This was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, which is where Jimi Hendrix recorded. The studios stayed active after Hendrix’ death, with artists like Miles Davis and Deep Purple also recording there.

At the time, Wonder would keep the studio booked so he could record when inspiration hit. Stevie’s bass player at the time, Scott Edwards, told Songfacts this was not always convenient for his band. “Because he does not have sight, he’s not controlled by daylight,” said Edwards. “So he may begin his night at midnight. Which is bad, because if they want you to come do an overdub or something, he may call you at 4 a.m. and say, ‘Come on in.'”

I always loved the funky feel of this song, and I always played it when I was DJing Halloween parties.

Aside of Jeff Beck’s version, many others have covered this song. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version still gets radio airplay today on many Classic Rock stations.

In 1974, the song earned Stevie his first Grammy Award.

Superstition – Lyrics

Very superstitious,
Writing’s on the wall,
Very superstitious,
Ladders bout’ to fall,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck,
The good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition aint the way

Hey

Very superstitious,
Wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem,
Do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream,
Keep me goin’ strong,
You don’t wanna save me,
Sad is the soul

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
Yeh, yeh

Very superstitious,
Nothin’ more to say,
Very superstitious,
The devil’s on his way,
Thirteen month old baby,
Broke the lookin’ glass,
Seven years of bad luck,
Good things in your past

When you believe in things
That you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way,
No, no, no

As a bonus – here is the official video of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s cover….watch for a cool cameo at the end ….

My “Go to” Karaoke Song(s)

It has been some time since a “Daily Writing Prompt” moved me enough to use it as a blog idea. Today’s though, was definitely one I could use. The Prompt? “What is your ‘go to’ karaoke song?”

I have to admit, I have sung a lot of karaoke. I did this mainly when I was in my mid 20’s to early 30’s. My friends and I had a couple places that we’d go and sing at. Looking back at it, I have to laugh because they were all dive bars.

I started singing karaoke with my old morning show partner, who actually COULD sing. He had a great voice and often sang ballads from the Great American Song Book. It was always funny because you’d have these people up there singing Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Queen, and Prince. Then he would get up and sing something from Robert Goulet!

At one point, between radio jobs, I actually hosted karaoke, which I thought would be fun, but it really wasn’t. It was then that I realized there were plenty of people who “thought” they could sing, but couldn’t. They come up to you with requests like, “Put some reverb on my voice” or “Pitch the song up or down” or “Give me more volume on my microphone” … It was crazy! These people are up there thinking their Shania Twain or John Lennon or something.

I have never claimed to be a good singer. I have a handful of songs that I can sing and sing them well. I know which songs my voice will never be able to handle. I stick with the ones I know I can do without embarrassing myself. In my repertoire were songs like: The Wonder of You (the Elvis version), Bad Bad Leroy Brown, Bad Case of Loving You (Robert Palmer), The Lady is a Tramp (Sinatra) , Mack The Knife (Bobby Darin), And I Love You So (lol – yes! The Perry Como song!), and That’s Amore (Gotta do some Dean Martin!).

If I had to pick the 3 karaoke songs that people would associate with me, they would be:

#3 – Tutti Fruiti by Little Richard

The reason for this is that back in the day, I used to change the lyrics to this. The lyrics were … well, not clean. People always laughed when I did this, however, today, I couldn’t do that any more. It’s just not who I am. I actually kind of cringe when I think of some of the lyrics I sang.

#2 Delilah – Tom Jones

I’m not going to lie, this was always a hard song to sing. Tom has such a great and powerful voice. The end of this song is tough. The night is fairly high – and you have to hold it for some time. That high and long note was nothing for my old morning show partner. He used to do this song a lot. I am not sure how or why I started singing it, but it became one I was always asked to sing.

#1 – Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers

By far, one of my favorite songs to sing, and hence, my “go to” karaoke song. It was always a favorite of mine growing up. The Johnny Rivers single was recorded live (I think at the Whiskey A Go Go). I probably heard my dad play this hundreds of times on his guitar. It has such a great intro and awesome solo. I remember one time I brought a fedora and a trench coat to the place we were singing so I could wear them when I sang this. Yeah, I was quite the dork in my 20’s!

While I loved singing karaoke, eventually it got old. I felt like I was going out and wasting money on alcohol, and being forced to sing the same things every time. There were plenty of other songs I would have loved to try, but the people I was with always made me sing the ones they wanted to hear (“It’s my birthday! You HAVE to sing Bad Case of Loving You!” etc…) The karaoke “scene” just wasn’t were I wanted to be anymore.

If there was karaoke at a work party or back yard BBQ, would I get up and sing today? Yeah, probably, but I would leave the fedora at home!

Happy 79th to Capitol Records

On this day in 1942, Johnny Mercer and Glenn Wallichs launched Capitol Records in the United States. Wallichs was the man who invented the art of record promotion by sending copies of new releases to disc jockeys. It wasn’t until 13 years later, in 1955, that the now famous Capitol Records building was built.

The first artist to record at Capitol was Martha Tilton in April of 1942. She recorded the song “Moon Dreams”

Capitol Records was home to some of the biggest musical artists in history! Here are just a few:

Nat King Cole –

(Mona Lisa, A Blossom Fell, Answer Me My Love, Unforgettable)

Louis Prima and Keely Smith –

(Just a Gigolo, Old Black Magic, Jump Jive & Wail, What is This Thing Called Love)

Peggy Lee –

(‘Deed I Do, Fever, Big Spender)

Dean Martin –

(That’s Amore, Return To Me, On An Evening in Roma)

Frank Sinatra –

(One For My Baby, I Get a Kick Out of You, Love & Marriage, All The Way, Young At Heart)

The Beach Boys –

(Help Me Rhonda, Fun Fun Fun, Surfin’ USA)

The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney –

(TOO many to list!)

Stan Freberg

St. George and the Dragonet, Yellow Rose of Texas, Heartbreak Hotel, The Great Pretender)

The Bee Gees, Garth Brooks, The Letterman, Jerry Lewis, Heart, Al Martino, Johnny Mercer, The Steve Miller Band, Katy Perry, Sammy Davis Jr., Tennessee Ernie Ford, Gene Vincent, Bob Seger …. The list goes on and on!

So many amazing singers and talents sang in the Capitol Records studios. Happy Birthday!!