It’s time for another round of Turntable Talk. This is the 14th edition hosted by Dave over at A Sound Day. As always he has presented our little group of music lovers with a great topic.
In his instructions he asks:
“Do you remember what the first album you bought was? LP? CD? Reel to reel, LOL? Why that one? Do you still have it? Would you want to ? Let your nostalgia run wild! Tell us about that first record you made your own.“
Let me start by saying that many of the albums my dad had, eventually wound up as “mine.” When I think back to the albums I remember there are some that I will never forget. To be clear, my dad bought these, but I wound up listening to them. He had many from Roy Orbison, Elvis, Lenny Dee, Herb Alpert, and so many others. The ones that eventually wound up in my room were a bit odd.
First, there was Dumb Ditties. An album of novelty songs put out by K-Tel. What 6 year old kid didn’t like silly songs?
Then there were two albums that had TV themes on them. There were not the original artists, and this was long before TV Toons put out their collections. They were actually pretty cheesy versions that a kid like me knew weren’t quite right, but close enough. They had goofy cartoon drawings of the main characters from the shows on the cover and were done by the Pop Singers and Orchestra. Was that even a real group?!
The last album that my dad bought that wound up in my record collection was the 1977 album of The Muppet Show. It had the theme song, Mah-Nah-Mah-Nah, and plenty of clips of the two old guys heckling the acts.
Now as far as the first album I actually bought, my memory is hazy. I know it had to be one of two and I know I would have bought them within a week of each other.
I had a paper route. I remember that you collected whatever your customers owed you for the week, and you paid for your papers. Whatever extra tip money you made was yours. I don’t recall making a lot of money, but it was enough to go up to the toy store to buy Star Wars stuff or to Harmony House to buy an album.
My dad had a couple of the Beatles albums. He had the blue and red greatest hits albums with them looking over the railing.
I loved the Beatles growing up – early Beatles. It took me a while to appreciate the later Beatles stuff. I recall walking into the Harmony House and grabbing either Beatles ’65 OR Beatles VI. I wish I could remember which one was THE first. I know, however, that these two albums were bought almost immediately after I began delivering papers.
Whichever one I bought first, I suppose doesn’t matter. These two albums contain some of my favorite songs by the Fab Four and they were played over and over again.
“This happened once before, when I came to your door. No reply….” A cold open starts Beatles 65. Boom! There’s John. What follows on the album was a variety of musical nuggets that my young ear just loved!
The harmonies sounded even better with headphones. I’m a Loser, Baby’s In Black, I’ll Be Back, and Mr. Moonlight each had me trying to sing all the different notes. There were great cover songs like Honey Don’t, Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby, and Rock and Roll Music. Then there was I’ll Follow the Sun. Beautifully simple.
Beatles 65 was an album I played from start to finish many times.
As for Beatles VI, there were “skip” songs on this one for me. Skip songs were You Like Me Too Much, Words of Love, Tell Me What You See, and Every Little Thing. Why those didn’t do much for me, I can’t say.
I, of course, loved those great cover songs – Dizzy Miss Lizzie, Bad Boy, and Kansas City. I knew all of these songs by their original artists, but came to dig those Beatles versions more.
As a kid, I often found myself drumming my desk in school to the opening of Look What You’re Doing. The teachers told me to leave the drumming to Ringo!
The one song that is the stand out for me on the album was Eight Days a Week. What a great song. It is one that even non Beatles fans know, love, and sing along to. I could be mistaken on this, but I swear there was no fade in on the album. I remember the first time I played this at a radio station and the fade in happened – it freaked me out. Either way, it is one of their best songs.
My love for the Fab Four started very early in life thanks to the musical influence of my mom and dad (and maybe that Beatles cartoon). That love for them continues to this day. It only makes sense to me that the first album I would buy would be from them! These albums remain as fresh today as they were when they were released – years before I ever got my hands on them.
Thanks again to Dave for inviting me to take part in this feature. As always, I look forward to reading the other contributions and to next month’s topic.
Once again, Dave from A Sound Day has asked some of us music lovers to participate in another round of Turntable Talk. This time around was a bit of a challenge for me. Dave’s e-mail stated:
“Put your thinking caps on and go through your stacks of records (or scroll thru that I-pod) and … come up with what you think the best year for music was. A tough call of course, thankfully there have been more than a few good ones! I’m interested in what you pick and don’t worry if yours duplicates someone else’s , you still have your reasons which might be different.” He goes on to say, “I think I have a guess on a couple of years that might come up more than once, but we’ll wait and see.”
This particular blog will be one of the last ones to be featured and I do not know if my year will be or has been featured. I plan on writing this KNOWING that the year I have chosen very well may be one that comes up in another post. Before I tell you the year I picked, let me tell you that I had a very difficult time narrowing it down.
My first thought was to go with 1956/1957 because those years were always so unique. You had the birth of rock and roll mixing with pop standards. When I worked at Honey Radio, I loved doing the Top 12 at 12 show when those years popped up because there was such a big variety in what was played. You could go from Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis to Pat Boone or Nelson Riddle. When I looked at the list of songs, however, were they really the BEST? No.
The same thing can be said for some of the years in the 70’s decades. I looked through many lists and while there were many great songs, there were also a lot of really crappy songs! I just couldn’t really come up with the conviction to pick a year in that decade as the BEST.
One year kept coming up every time I started thinking about it – 1964.
I want you to know before I continue that I was dead set AGAINST 1964 when I read Dave’s e-mail. Why? Well, I felt that it would just be too Beatle heavy and loaded with British Invasion stuff. And it is. On the Top 100 Chart, The Fab Four nabbed 9 spots. 18 spots were held by other British Invasion acts. In total 27% of the Top 100 were British acts. When I really looked at the chart, the more and more I felt like this WAS the year.
1964 really was the year of the Beatles, so let’s discuss them first. They were present almost right from the start as their “Introducing The Beatles” album was released in America on January 10th of that year.
This album preceded Capitol Records “Meet the Beatles” by 10 days and there was a lawsuit surrounding that whole issue. Capitol Records won an injunction and Vee-jay Records was not allowed to put out any more Beatles recordings.
In February of 1964, the Beatles arrived in the US and appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show three times (2/9, 2/16, and 2/23). In March of 64, Billboard magazine stated that the Beatles were responsible for 60% of all single record sales! In a feat that has yet to be matched, on April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the Top 5 spots on the Billboard chart!
A week later, the boys held 14 spots on the Hot 100 Chart! That broke the previous record of 9 spots held by Elvis Presley in 1956.
In May, The Beatles Second Album was released and in July, they would release A Hard Day’s Night in theaters. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” wound up being the #1 song for the whole year of 64 (“She Loves You” was #2) To say that they played a small part in the music of 1964 would be a huge understatement.
Among the other artists that came over from “across the pond” in 64 were Manfred Mann (Do Wah Diddy Diddy), Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (Little Children and Bad to Me), The Dave Clark Five (Glad All Over, Because, Do You Love Me), Peter and Gordon (A World Without Love), The Animals (House of the Rising Son), The Honeycombs (Have I The Right), Dusty Springfield (Wishin’ and Hopin’), Gerry & The Pacemakers (Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying and How Do You Do It), Chad and Jeremy (A Summer Song), The Kinks (You Really Got Me), and the Searchers (Don’t Throw Your Love Away and Needles and Pins). It is interesting to note that the Rolling Stones debut album was released this year, but no songs appear in the Top 100 for the year.
Once you move away from the British artists, the chart has a nice variety of pop, rock, folk, country, soul, and even a few novelty songs. I think that is what made me ultimately choose this particular year.
It was nice to look over the Top 100 and see Motown represented with some classics. The Supremes hold two of the six Motown songs (Where Did Our Love Go and Baby Love), Motown was female heavy as Mary Wells (My Guy) and Martha and the Vandellas (Dancin’ In The Street) grabbed the next two spots, and the male gender was represented by The Four Tops (Baby I Need Your Loving) and The Temptations (The Way You Do The Things You Do).
While they were not “oldies” at the time, there were some classic songs that are still in hot rotation today on the oldies stations across the country. Roy Orbison had a smash with Pretty Woman in 64, and also had a hit with It’s Over. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons grabbed three of the Top 100 with Rag Doll, Dawn and Ronnie. The Beach Boys only entry in the Top 100 was I Get Around.
1964 brought us classics like The Drifters Under The Boardwalk, Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups, Suspicion by Terry Stafford, It Hurts to Be In Love from gene Pitney and Come A Little Bit Closer by Jay and the Americans. Johnny Rivers had a hit with Chuck Berry’s Memphis, Bobby Freeman invited us to C’mon and Swim, Detroit’s Reflections offered up Just Like Romeo and Juliet and the Shangri-Las told us the story of the Leader of the Pack.
Car songs were well represented in 64! Ronny and the Daytonas had GTO, while the Rip Chords sang Hey Little Cobra, and the Hondells had Little Honda. Jan and Dean told us the stories of The Little Old Lady from Pasadena and Dead Man’s Curve, while J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers told us the tragic story of a Last Kiss.
Soul music is represented by The Impressions (I’m So Proud and Keep on Pushing), Joe Hinton (Funny How Time Slips Away), The Tams (What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am), Jimmy Hughes (Steal Away) and Nancy Wilson (How Glad Am I). If you throw Blues into the “Soul” mix, the great Tommy Tucker song “Hi Heel Sneakers” was out in 1964.
Instrumentally, Al Hirt had a monster hit with Java, The Ventures had Walk Don’t Run 1964, The Marketts had The Outer Limits, and Robert Maxwell had the incredibly cheesy lounge version of Shangri-la. While novelty songs included Jumpin’ Gene Simmons (Haunted House), The Trashmen (Surfin’ Bird) and Roger Miller (Chug-a-Lug).
While Rock was dominant in 1964, there were still some pop (and even folk) songs that made the Top 100 – one of them, doing the “impossible.” Two of the biggest pop hits of the year couldn’t be more different from each other. The third biggest hit of the year belonged to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his Dixieland hit “Hello, Dolly!” Barbra Streisand (who won Album of the year at the 1964 Grammy Awards) had the 11th biggest hit of the year with “People.”
Pop/Folk was also represented by Gale Garnett (We’ll Sing in the Sunshine), The Ray Charles Singers (Love Me With All Your Heart), Dionne Warwick (Walk On By), Al Martino (I Love You More and More Every Day), and Andy Williams (A Fool Never Learns). But the biggest surprise came from an artist who hadn’t had a top 40 record since 1958!
Dean Martin didn’t care for Rock and Roll. With the British Invasion in full swing, there was very little chance of him ever having another hit. His kids loved the new artists. His son, Dean Paul, loved the Beatles. Dean told his boy, “I’m gonna knock your pallies off the charts!” On August 15, 1964 – he did just that with a song that became his NEW theme song, “Everybody Loves Somebody.” (It replaced That’s Amore as his theme song)
The song knocked the beloved Beatles A Hard Day’s Night out of the number 1 spot! It went on to stay at #1 on the Pop Standards Singles Chart for 8 weeks. It also became the theme to his weekly television show in 1965.
I picked 1964 for a few reasons. Despite my initial worry about it being British act heavy, it was the year that introduced us to the Beatles (who changed the music scene forever!). It is also the year that one act held the top 5 spots on the charts (a record that remains in place). It is also the year that my favorite singer of all time bumped the biggest group in music out of the top spot.
It is also a year that encompasses such a vast variety of music. While there may be better songs that appeared before and after 1964, it truly represents a unique time in history. America was still recovering from the loss of a beloved president, there were still Civil Rights issues, and a war in Vietnam. The music of 1964 was a welcome escape from so many things.
Was it all good? No, and that is true of every year. However, as I look at the 100 biggest songs of the year, there are a lot of great songs that have gone on to become classics. There are so many songs that are still looked at as pivotal in the music scene. The fact that many of these songs are still getting airplay today is a statement to just how good they are.
Thanks again to Dave at a Sound Day for allowing me to be a part of this feature. I can only hope that my contribution is worthy of an invite to participate in the next round.
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?
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 FavoriteCovers
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.
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 ….”
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”
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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 –
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Recently, I did a blog based on a writing prompt that suggested finding a photo and blogging about the memories that it brings back to you. I enjoyed doing it and thought I would try to do one every Friday. I’m not sure I’ll have enough photos to post, but we’ll see.
The above photo is on my brother (left) and me (right) in our old house in Sterling Heights. The photo is probably taken around 1976. If I had to guess it is probably shortly after Christmas.
It is very easy to focus on the main action in the picture. We are obviously pulling on Stretch Armstrong. I remember seeing ads for Stretch as a kid and asked for it for Christmas or my birthday. It was one of my favorite toys. What I found interesting was looking at the things outside of the center of the picture.
At the bottom is a yellow airplane. I recognized it immediately. In one of my early blogs I talked about the Fisher Price “Adventure People.” The plane is from one of those sets.
What I remember about those “Adventure People” is that eventually, their heads wouldn’t stay up. They always fell down to the chest.
To the right of the plane are some boxes. I wish I could make out what they are. They certainly look like they may be from toys or gifts, which is why I think this might be around Christmas.
Behind me in the picture is yet another “Adventure People” set. It was hard to make out, but I remembered it once I realized what it was. It is the FP Rescue Truck. If you look carefully, you can see the red “bucket” ladder in the picture.
Behind my brother is a book case. On the bottom shelf, it looks like there might be some of my dad’s school books to the right. To the left of those is some series of books with white covers. I’m not really sure what those are.
On the next shelf up is a series of blue books which I remember well. I cannot remember if they were from Reader’s Digest or World Book or some company like that, but they had all kinds of historical stuff in them. Some were about cars, some where about movies and TV, and others were about politics. I loved looking through those and looking at pictures of old movie stars.
On the shelves above that one I can see book bindings from some of my mom’s “beauty” books, cook books, a three ring binder, a couple Bibles, and paperbacks. I’m not sure why there is a green teapot on there!
On the bottom left there was a cabinet. I want to say that is where you could find some of the family photo albums. One of them probably held the picture that is the subject of this blog.
Above the cabinet door is a shelf that is loaded up with 12 inch Vinyl records. Even though I can’t see them, I can name albums that are on this shelf! They were the ones my dad played often. The Beatles Let It Be, Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits, Elvis In Concert, The Best of Lenny Dee, and about 20 compilation albums.
On top of the albums, there are some loose gloves (suggesting winter time), and what seems to be VHS tape holder. I know that is not what it is, because we didn’t even have VCR’s at this time. If I had to wager a guess, those drawers are probably holding 8-track tapes. (My dad used to record his own for us to listen to in the car.) The Phonograph turntable is probably on the shelf just above those albums with two speakers sitting next to it.
As I look at this picture I wish I could walk through it! While I don’t recall the layout completely, I do remember that my room was all the way at the end of the hall. I know behind me in the picture is the hall closet, my parents room would be at the end on the right, the bathroom is also on the right (you can kind of see the counter with a bottle of what looks like hairspray on it), and on the left across from the closet – my brother’s room.
I vaguely remember things about that house, as I was only there for 6 years of my life. I would love to be able to walk back through it and just take it all in. I’ve probably forgotten so much about it.
It’s actually neat to look beyond what was being captured on film. I wish that these old photos were clearer, so I could really dive into the things in the background.
I mentioned to my friend Max that I had hoped to post a Christmas song every day from December 1st through Christmas Day. When it comes to holiday tunes, I could probably post a favorite Christmas song for every day of the year …
At any rate, rather than spend the time to do that, I was asked by a friend to pick my Top 10 favorite Christmas Albums. How can I do that? I have so many! I could easily pick my Top 10 Christmas albums for each genre – pop, country, classical, jazz, etc… So here is what I decided to do. I took a piece of paper and jotted down the 10 albums I felt were “must have” albums for me every year. I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10, so I made it 12.
In no particular order, here is the Holiday Dozen I came up with:
Ok, you gotta have Bing! He was often referred to as “The Voice of Christmas,” and for good reason! It was an album that often accompanied us while we opened gifts.
A great album of great songs – Brenda Lee, Bobby Helms, Stevie Wonder, Roy Orbison, The Drifters, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin are all represented in this amazing collection!
When Charles Schulz was asked to write a Christmas Special, he said he would on one condition – it had to include the story of Christ’s birth. When he chose the soundtrack for the special, he wanted something that he felt could relate to everyone – so he picked Jazz. Vince Guaraldi’s songs are synonymous with Christmas for me.
Growing up, I always disliked The Christmas Song. I guess I couldn’t relate to it as a kid. As I grew up, it became more and more meaningful to me. This album is full of many other fantastic cuts that never get played on the radio.
This one represents the “novelty” side of Christmas! Yes, it includes the Chipmunks, but it also includes some classic novelty songs from Allan Sherman, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Cheech & Chong, and Weird Al Yankovic. It is also one of the few places you can find Stan Freberg’s Christmas Dragnet. Oh, yeah, and that dumb Hippopotamus song is on here, too (but I skip that one).
This is one that a friend told me about. The story goes that a couple of members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra were sitting around talking one day. They asked each other what they thought Glenn would be doing if he were still around. One of them said “Probably working on a Christmas album.” The idea was born. They contacted former members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra and they recorded this one. It is truly a great album and tribute to Miller.
Bing Crosby may have been called the “Voice of Christmas,” but Frank Sinatra was THE VOICE. This collection includes one of my favorites: Whatever Happened to Christmas. You also get his amazing version of Have Yourself a Marry Little Christmas and other classics.
Some great songs from Al Martino, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and other pop singers of the 40’s and 50’s.
I have talked about this one before. It is just an amazing album with something for everyone. I love listening to Doc and the Tonight Show Band jamming on songs like Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow, and my favorite version of Jingle Bells! You’ll also love the Children’s Choir and Bell Choir on other numbers.
Mel, of course, wrote The Christmas Song, and I just love to hear his version of it. Nat King Cole’s version doesn’t include Mel’s extra lyric: “Love and joy come to you, and a Merry Christmas, too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.” Known as “The Velvet Fog,” Mel’s voice is perfect on Christmas Time Is Here, The Christmas Medley, Sleigh Ride, and a Christmas version of The Glow Worm.
I have so many favorite Elvis Christmas songs that aren’t on this album, but I love how they have added the orchestra to his classics on this album. Santa Claus is Back in Town sounds so much fuller with them. I only wish that they had done If Every Day Was Like Christmas for this album.
Before both of his Christmas albums were made available, they took tracks from both his “Winter Romance” album and “The Dean Martin Christmas Album” and combined them for this collection. I have both of those albums now, but for one collection – I pick this one. Marshmallow World is one of my favorite cuts!
Hello, my friend. Sorry I have been away for a bit. My last blog led to many friends on Facebook reaching out to see if I was okay. I wasn’t. When I wrote that blog, I obviously was a bit frazzled, but had yet to reach my breaking point. That only took an extra few days.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail, but I finally cracked. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically. The stresses alluded to in my previous blog, and the stress of everything that is going on eventually led to this. During a visit with my physician, she stated that she was very concerned about me. She decided it was best for me and my health to be off work for a few weeks. I am hoping she is right.
Since the doctor visit, I have been home. I have only ventured out in the car a couple times – to pick up groceries we ordered online and once with Sam (more on that in later). Many think I am crazy, but after the things I heard and seen at the hospital, the first thing I did when I brought the groceries home was set them on the porch. With gloves on, I went bag by bag and wiped everything down with bleach wipes. How do I know who touched the things we bought?
Remember the blog I wrote about things to do while at home? Yeah, despite the sudden abundance of extra time, I haven’t really had a chance to do much of what was on that list. The stack of unread books remains unread – for now. Exercise – I took a walk or two and put leaves in bags (does that count?). Plenty of movies I have yet to watch. Clear coat on the wall in the kitchen – can’t do any home improvements. Organizing digital music and folders and radio stuff – you would think I’d be on the computer more than I have been, but I am not. Clean the basement – I did this partially. So many things on my list that I just haven’t done. Sigh. How damn sad is this? I finally have the time, but just can’t put myself in the right frame of mind to do them.
While I am trying to limit my time on social media, I admit, I still get on Facebook more than I should. It’s not that I don’t like it, it is just that it is flooded with so many things I am trying to avoid.
Political Bullshit. Blaming Republicans and Democrats for everything. Trump bashing. Trump Praising. Governor bashing. Governor praising. Polarizing stuff. The world is full of division and it shows on Facebook. You have your right to your opinion and to post what you want, however, I have programmed myself to scroll by this stuff.
Corona Virus – Covid 19 stuff. Being in the hospital setting, I know the numbers. I know the severity of it. The various theories and conspiracies and people re-posting every article they find to “prove their point” is NOT what I need to see. The only things I pay attention to are the things posted by the CDC and World Health Organization.
Sad stories. There are PLENTY of them. Emotionally, I know they are out there, I just can’t handle them.
I have a page I update called Celebrity Passings. When a celebrity dies, I post a picture and farewell. There have been more than I can count lately – some Covid 19 related, some not. My heart is just not in it right now.
One thing I am enjoying are some of the Facebook “games” that are out there. One of the ones I am doing right now was a challenge to post an album that influenced your musical taste for 10 days. In support of the 2020 seniors, some are posting their own high school senior pictures (I need to do that). Another one that was fun was to zoom in on a picture of an album cover, or a scene from a TV show or movie and post the zoomed in part to see if people can guess what it is. I zoomed in on Doc Brown’s eyes from Back to the Future – LOL! Great Scott!
The one thing that I have been able to do is spend time with my family – at least most of my family. It has been very nice to spend time with my wife and daughter. This certainly has been a wonderful way to de-stress. Ella is getting so big, and it is amazing how her features seem to change every day!
I have been feeding the baby more lately. She often will fall asleep while eating. When this happens, I usually let her sleep in my arms. I may have mentioned this before, but one thing that I love is when she smiles in her sleep. It is just so cute.
She is actually smiling a whole lot more. She has a little floor mat with toys that hang down from it. She loves lying on her back and looking at the toys. She’s also been able to hold her head up for longer periods of time. She has a “Bumbo” chair, and she loves sitting in it.
Ain’t it cute how she is giving us a “thumbs up” in that picture?
When the weather cooperates, we’ve been trying to get out and walk the neighborhood. The other day it was 70 degrees. The following day we had temps in the 30’s and 40’s with rain, snow, wind, thunder, and some sunshine! Only in Michigan! I had the chance to do a daddy/daughter walk through the neighborhood. It was very relaxing and she enjoyed the time in the fresh air.
This will be Ella’s first Easter. We had hoped to have some professional pictures done, maybe one with the Easter Bunny. Obviously, with the current situation and social distancing, that can’t happen. So we’ve been trying to get some pictures here at home. We’ll post them on Facebook for Easter. During today’s shoot – I had to laugh. In one picture, she curled her lip up like Elvis! Just typing this makes me laugh. Here she is channeling her “inner Elvis.”
Her hair continues to baffle us. Some days it looks brown. Some days it looks blonde. Some days it looks red! A red-headed Italian?! Oh boy, am I in trouble!!??
Missing My Boys
As I stated above, I have had the chance to spend time with almost all of my family. My sons are with their mom as this quarantine continues. I haven’t seen them in almost a month, maybe more (all the days are running together). I have video chatted with them a few times, but I miss them. When we do talk, I always have the feeling that their mom is looming over them and they aren’t free to talk.
One call from my oldest made me especially sad. The 4th was my mom’s birthday. She would have been 72. Every year, my sons and I visit her grave at the cemetery. I was planning on going, but that day, I took a new medication that was prescribed by my doc and the side effects hit me pretty hard. I was dizzy, lightheaded, and felt sick. I took a nap and when I woke up my sons had called. I called them from bed to tell them I was staying home. They video chatted with me from the cemetery. It was sad that I wasn’t they with them. They were both in tears. My oldest was upset because he was close to her. My youngest was upset because he never had the chance to meet her and it still bothers him. I told them that when this was all over, we’d go and visit.
It has just been awful not seeing them. I miss them terribly. My oldest video chatted yesterday and was showing me that he is growing his beard. He turns 18 tomorrow. I won’t even be able to hug him! I have a gift for him. I plan on wrapping it and driving it to his house and leaving it on his porch for him. I told him I bought a cake and will make it and celebrate when we get the chance to be together.
Outside of going to the grocery store, I have only left the house one time. Actually, it was me, Sam, and the baby. I was feeling down. Sam said we were going somewhere. She said she had wanted to do this for a few weeks. It obviously wasn’t a restaurant or anything, so I had no idea what she had in mind. We all got in the car and she drove. She drove to the cemetery. She knew I was upset that I didn’t get to go with the boys, but she also wanted to take Ella. She said it she wanted Ella to see one of the Pamela’s she was named after.
As you can imagine, it was emotional for me. Sam brought a blanket and Ella and I laid on it by my mom’s grave. My mom always hoped for a granddaughter. I know she would have spoiled her big time! Just like with my youngest son, it makes me very sad that she never got to meet her grandma. Sam’s grandpa is also buried at the same cemetery, so we took Ella to see her great grandpa, too!
It was a very special trip.
One of the changes that happened recently is that we had to find a new home for one of our cats. We had two. Moe was our first. Then we got Maizey. Moe was huge. He ate so much! When we brought Ella home, we worried. How were they going to react? They both did well, so we didn’t think we were going to have issues. We didn’t, until one night we found Moe in Ella’s bassinet. He was laying on her, and we knew this was dangerous.
We didn’t know what to do. By a stroke of luck, my sister-in-law’s ex’s parent’s cat had died recently. They were looking for a cat! They took him and treat him like a king! We heard he has eggs for breakfast – at the table!! He has his own heating pad on the couch. He is living it up. I miss him, but am happy he found a good home.
As for Maizey, well, when Moe was here, she was moving. She never laid by you. She never let you hold her. She never purred. Well, that has all changed. She loves being by us now. She meows and likes her tummy rubbed. She always seems to be by me now. She loves to be petted and now purrs like nobody’s business.
We’ll be staying home for Easter, obviously. We’re not even sure what we are doing for Easter dinner. But we plan on dressing up and enjoying our day as a family. We have an Easter basket for Ella and a very cute Easter outfit. I am sure there will be many pictures!
I’m not one to push religion on anyone. I understand that everyone believes what they want to believe. I realized how far from my faith I have been through this whole situation. Over the past two weeks, I began watching messages from pastor friends of mine, and got back into reading my bible. A friend asked me some questions about the Antichrist and it was fun to re-study that topic and chat with her. Bottom line, my faith is important to me. It is a key element in my coming out of this in a better frame of mind. I plan on spending a bit more time focused on that (and Him) in the future.
A friend of mine took this picture in Grand Blanc this week (about 30 minutes south of here). It was such a beautiful picture, I want to share it here. Enjoy your holiday. Happy Easter. Count your blessings.
I appreciate you reading. Sorry to have been away for so long. I’ll get through this. It just may take some time.
I hope to be back to my normal blogging self, soon.
According to the calendar, it is still officially Autumn. There are still colored leaves on the trees here in Michigan. Many people haven’t even started raking them yet. This, however, may be the shortest Autumn I can remember as we were hit today with quite the winter storm!
I guess we broke the record today for “most snowfall” on November 11th. The record (for the Detroit area, anyway) was set back in 1984 – 4.1 inches. That record was surpassed as early as 1pm today. The snow continued to fall throughout the evening and made for one hell of a ride (3+ hours) into work!
The snow brings out a lot of anger in people. People waste no time talking about how much they hate the snow. “It’s too early,” they say. It’s not like we haven’t had snow early in November before, we have. As a matter of fact, it was one year ago I posted about it snowing on Facebook. We’ve certainly seen snow as early as late October, too! While I don’t necessarily like having to shovel it, or drive in it, I do like the snow. I marvel at the beauty of it when it has first fallen on the ground. Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it is SO true:
“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”
Sometimes, in life, we need to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.
At any rate, all the snow brought me back to a thought I had while writing a recent blog about Christmas music (Is It Too Early? – on November 2). Some radio stations (both local and on Sirius XM) have started playing all Christmas music. On my drive in, I was flipping around and stopped on the local station, because they were playing a song that would be considered a Christmas song, but actually worked because of the weather.
Here I am driving 30mph while the snow is falling, and Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is playing. It was the perfect song for the weather. Which brings me back to the thought I had in the previous blog – why can’t stations play “winter” songs before Christmas, and after Christmas? I compiled a list of songs that could certainly be played as just “winter hits”.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm
Song For A Winter’s Night
Hazy Shade of Winter
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
There are SO many more. Jingle Bell Rock could easily be a “winter song”. Frosty the Snowman is a “winter song”. Sleigh Ride is also a snowy “winter song”! It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to enjoy those songs. Am I forgetting any? What can YOU add to the list?
I should mention that my wife listens to Christmas music all year round. AND she likes to be able to enjoy the decorations, so when we have our first snow, the tree goes up. Yes, it is up and decorated…and the cats are already enjoying it.
I guess I should make sure the snow blower starts when I get home ….
Today I would like to salute three of my closest friends. I guess, in a way, I am taking the easy way out by including all three of them in one blog. I am doing it this way because they all celebrate birthdays this month. So here are some thoughts on three great guys.
Joe – October 15
Joe is my Polish brother. He says that I am his Italian brother. The great Red Buttons used to joke that “there is only one difference between the Polish and the Italians – One year of high school!” We truly are like brothers. Joe and I met in junior high school. We had band 1st hour. It was in this class that I also met Steve K, who you will hear about shortly. We all hit it off immediately, and have been friends ever since.
In high school, I used to pick Joe up and drive him to school. He used to run out of the house with a bowl of cereal in his hand. I remember that cereal was Fruit Islands. They don’t make it anymore, but the commercials had some guy saying “Ayumma yumma”. Not sure why, but I will always remember that.
All of the guys I am talking about were in band. Steve K, Joe, and I all graduated the same year. Steve M, graduated before us. Joe and I were band officers. We were both librarians. That meant we were responsible for all the music. We copied it and made sure the parts were placed in the right folders for band members. Our senior year, Joe was head librarian and I was band president. We spent many hours after school working on music and hanging with the band director and custodian. We were probably more of an annoyance than anything!
Bill, the custodian, was such a cool guy! He invited us to his wedding! We used to pick a day and he would make sure not to bring lunch that day. We’d order a pizza from Sorrento’s and eat it in the band room. We’d sit around telling stories and laughing. Such fun times!
There was a brief period where I switched from trumpet to tuba. Joe was the lone tuba player. I played tuba at the commencement ceremonies for the class of 87, and then played it briefly for marching band. I was asked by the band director to switch back to trumpet. He said we needed more trumpets – but now that I think about it, maybe I was just a real crappy tuba player!
It seems like Joe and I have been golfing and bowling together for as long as I can remember. I remember bowling at this little hole in the wall dump in St. Clair Shores with Joe. It was always such fun there, and we are still friends with many of the folks we met there. Eventually we joined a league at Pastime Lanes. It was there we made more friendships, and I watched him bowl a 300 game. Pastime is long gone, but we still have many memories there.
Steve K, Joe and I all golfed for Senior Skip Day. Steve borrowed our buddy Wayne’s golf clubs. On the first tee, he hit the ball, but the club head broke off the driver. The club head went farther than the damn golf ball! Joe and I laughed like hell! One time Joe and I were golfing in Lapeer and there was an electrical wire that went across the fairway. What are the odds that one of us would hit that? Joe did. He teed off – it hit the wire and dropped like a stone in the fairway.
We used to play pinochle over at Joe’s parents house till all hours of the night. Their house was just one of many houses that hosted pinochle nights. Eventually, he and his sister moved into their own place and the card games moved there. We’d sit around drinking Bud Light listening to 580 CKWW or WCXI and play cards all night. So many nights of crazy conversations about music, movies, and TV.
Steve M – October 19
Steve and I had probably met before, but we really got to know each other because of Alumni Band. I remembered that alumni had played once or twice at homecoming while I was still in school. When I graduated, I wanted to make sure that the tradition continued. So I bugged the band director and we threw it together. The first year was a small group. The second year it was a little bigger. It was a way for us to get together and play and have fun.
Steve and I hit it off immediately. We both were trumpet players. I knew his younger brother, Jeff, because he was my brother’s age. He was also a DJ and did weddings and we loved to talk music. He hosted some alumni band BBQ’s and was a key part in the success of the group.
I am not sure exactly how we ended up DJing together. I think it was because he had a light show and I didn’t. I brought him along and we ended up having so much fun, we kept doing it. Little by little we added things to the gigs we did. We both did this stupid Blues Brothers intro to kick off dancing. I had this bad Elvis wig and would go out and sing to a female wedding guest (story about the wig in a sec). We had blow up instruments and silly cardboard things we’d hold up while we danced. We had a friggin blast!!
One time, Steve had his truck backed into the garage. He had the tailgate glass up and I went inside to comb the Elvis wig down. I used to put it on my head and comb it down before I put it on this stupid Styrofoam head I had. I was in his bathroom combing and I heard the truck start and all of a sudden a huge crash. I walked to the door of the garage and saw that the tailgate glass had caught the garage door and shattered all over the place. I stood there, wearing that dumb wig, and asked what happened. At the time, it wasn’t funny (It was raining, we were running late, when we got the gig, Steve had forgotten his shoes, so I went to Kmart to buy him a pair, it was a mess!). We look back now and Steve will still laugh, “You were standing there wearing the King’s hair!” After weddings, it was tradition to grab White Castle hamburgers! Some of my favorite gigs were DJing for cancer benefits or VFW steak outs. When Steve M was living in his apartment, his crazy neighbor (who we called Fruit Loops) used to always come out when we were loading or unloading for DJ gigs. I wonder what happened to her….LOL
Steve M, Steve K, Joe, and I spent many nights singing karaoke. We used to have so much fun. We’d go to these two dive bars – McGee’s and Grady’s. We’d drink, sing songs and laugh like hell. We all had specific songs we used to do. We used to have these guys who’d get up and sing that we’d make fun of. There was a guy who looked and sounded like Bela Lugosi! He’d sing Let Me Call You Sweetheart with that accent! Then there was “Opera Man”. We called him that because every song he sang, he’d sing it like he was one of the Three Tenors! I would sing harmony for Steve M on Losing My Religion a lot. We’d have such a fun time! Now, he is actually hosting karaoke every week at a few places. I’m over due to get out and sing!
Steve K – October 28
Steve and I became friends in junior high, in the same class as Joe. Here’s the thing – we almost didn’t stay friends. Admittedly, we all kind of picked on Steve. We razzed him – a lot. Steve and I both played trumpet. Now I am not sure why he found my trumpet to be better than his. I do know that he would often switch his with mine. Well, one day he was walking in the band room and he dropped “his” horn and bent the bell. I laughed. We all did. I probably said something like “You idiot! Nice job!” or something like that. He looked at me sheepishly while I laughed and said, “Uh, Keith….this is YOUR trumpet.” My laughter stopped and I grabbed him by the throat! Our band director, Mr. Mest, came running over and pulled us both into the office.
Steve and I were in 2nd hour with each other. After the “incident” we went to the next class. I was still upset about the whole thing and kept egging him on throughout the class. I was calling him names, and just being an ass. He finally got up and walked over to me as I was talking to our buddy Warren. He grabbed the desk I was sitting in and literally flipped it over – with me still in it! It totally took me by surprise! Needless to say, we both were sent to the office. I don’t know if detention was given or not, but I know we both got “yellow slips”. This was bad, I just don’t know or remember how bad.
I think our dad’s ended up having to talk to each other about the incident and arrangements were made to take care of the horn. I think we both got a “talking to” by our dads and we stayed friends. We always seemed to be together. We sat next to each other in band for as long as I can remember. I often call Steve “Norton” because he reminded me so much to Ed Norton on the Honeymooners. He’d say some of the silliest things. We’d laugh all the time. That Senior Skip Day, he even golfed like Norton did in that episode of the Honeymooners!
The only real time I got in trouble in band class was with Steve. The other trumpets always waited for us to bring up our horns. They never seemed to count the rests. So Steve and I were talking and saying “Let’s bring up our horns early and fool those guys.” Well, we were rehearsing for band festival and the band director was in no mood for jokes. He stopped the music and asked what we were talking about. When I told him he simply pointed to the door and said “Bye.” We were told to wait until after rehearsal and then talk to him afterward. We both felt like crap. You just didn’t tick off the band director – not when festival was the next day! We were allowed back to rehearsal shortly afterward, but we both still felt stupid!
We’d spend hours in the car driving around. I would make “driving tapes” and we’d pile in and spend the night driving around the neighborhood. We’d cruise Gratiot and look at girls. We’d drive with the windows down, jamming to our favorite songs and singing at the top of our lungs. We’d harmonize to Huey Lewis & the News, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Ford, and so many other artists. It was what we did!
He was with me when I got my first speeding ticket (on my way to Sam’s Jams) and he was with me when I had my first car accident. I was driving in my ’79 Caprice Classic (ok, my dad’s ’79 Caprice Classic) and it had rained. I was going to his house to drop him off. I made the left turn and the roads were wet. I began to go into a skid (rear wheel drive). I remembered Driver’s Ed class “turn into the skid”, and I did. Too bad I was literally in front of a parked car when I turned into the skid. I slammed into the front of this car! Steve’s mom called my dad. I was in shock. I knew I was a dead man. My dad drove over and walked right past me and looked at the car. I heard him mumble under his breath “There’s about $1500 worth of damage here.” I later said, “You didn’t ask about me at all!” to which my dad replied, “I saw you standing there – I knew you were ok!”
I don’t recall if it was our senior year or not, but we had a band trip to Cedar Point. I am not a ride person. Steve, me and Chris walked around most of the day probably looking at girls. We stumbled on this “You Be the Star” booth. This was LONG before karaoke was a thing. You went into a sound booth, put headphones on and sang to an instrumental track of a song. Then, you got a cassette tape of your recording. I think we did Twist and Shout, Steve did Mack the Knife (which would become his karaoke theme song), and we all did Hip to Be Square by Huey Lewis. The song had just come out and he said he knew it, so he sang lead on it. Chris and I sang the “Hip. Hip. So Hip to be Square” lines in the background. I think I may still have that tape!
At my graduation party, my dad and some of his band buddies set up and played music at the party. My dad had typed up the lyrics to Weird Al’s parody of La Bamba (Lasagna) and his band played it while me, Joe and Steve all sang it. Steve was leaving to go to basic training soon after we graduated. It was sad to know my buddy was going to be leaving. I’m not sure what happened, but he never ended up staying in the navy. He did, however, move to one of the Carolinas for awhile. I’d get in trouble for long distance calls to him talking about stupidity…LOL. He would tell me all about these silly sweepers he’d hear on a station called The Frog out there!
When he moved back to Michigan, Steve also used to DJ with me. He would bring these crazy songs I had never heard before and want me to play them. Sometimes they’d work, sometimes they didn’t. One day, Steve M and I were DJing at the VFW right by Steve K’s house. He came to the event. He was dancing like crazy on the dance floor. I think his wife wanted to go home and he wanted to stay. She left and went home. He had to call her later to come pick him back up because while he was out on the floor dancing he split his pants! Typical Steve. Stuff like that happened to him all the time! That is one of my favorite Steve stories.
He was always my pinochle partner when we played with my grandparents (and when we played with Tonya, Michelle and the gang). You could always count on him having the Ace of Clubs! A trickless is when you and your partner take every possible trick in the hand. Steve and I pulled one against my grandparents once. It pissed my grandpa (who was very competitive) off! The next hand, we pulled another one! That was the end of the card playing that night! Grandpa was done! Somewhere, I still have the yellow legal pad with those back to back trickless hands written on it!
One day, we were all playing cards at Tonya’s house and the “F You’s” were flying around the table. Steve meant to say, “F You and the horse you rode in on”, but instead said “the horse you rode on in.” I am not sure why that made us all laugh so hard, but it did. To this day, I say it wrong – because of Steve! I am sure I could devote an entire blog to some of the silly things Steve has said.
He recently had a stroke. That being said, he is recovering well. I have to tell you though, when I heard the news I was scared! This is my buddy and I can’t imagine not having him around. When I went to the hospital to see him, I was like all emotional. I hid it very well, but here is a guy, one of my closest friends, who was my age (not even 50!) and this happened to him. I was happy that he was ok, and that the prognosis was good, but just knowing that it could have been a very different outcome freaked me out. It was an eye opening experience. I guess that’s why I am writing this blog.
I want these three guys to know how glad I am to have their friendship. We all share a love of music. We all have the same taste in movies. We all love a funny joke or pun. We have all shared silly conversations, as well as deep serious conversations. I have one blood brother, but I am blessed to have these guys as brothers and friends. In 30+ years, I have been lucky enough to share laughter and tears with these guys. All of them stood up in my first wedding and I stood up in Joe’s and Steve K’s weddings. We can go months without chatting and then pick right up where we left off. Conversations always include laughter, movie quotes, and a whole lot of love.
Even though two of them have already celebrated theirs, and one is a few days away – Happy Birthday, Boys. I love you guys! Thank you for being such amazing friends for so many years!
Joe, my brother Chris, Me, Steve M. Jeff, and Steve K at my first wedding.
It was 52 years ago today, on September 10, 1967, that Elvis Presley recorded the song “Guitar Man” in the RCA studios in Nashville. The song was written and originally recorded by Jerry Reed (who went on to act in Smokey and the Bandit and other films). Jerry’s version reached only #53 on the country chart that year, and Elvis would see much greater success with it. Jerry enjoyed that success, too, because he was playing on the Elvis version.
One of my favorite interviews I ever did was with Jerry Reed, shortly before he passed away. I asked him about his connection with Elvis. He told me that Elvis was in the studio trying to record the song. He was unhappy with the way the guitar part sounded. He kept telling the guitar player “That don’t sound like Reed’s record.” Jerry’s version of the story is that the guitar player told Elvis, “If you want it to sound like Reed’s record – you better get Reed in here!” (Another version of the story says that Elvis said, “Get me that redneck picker who’s on the original tune!”)
Jerry told me that he was out fishing or something and someone from his office was finally able to reach him by phone and said that Elvis wanted him in the studio. Jerry said that he hadn’t shaved in days and walked into the studio looking a bit shaggy. He said Elvis looked at him and said, “Lord, have mercy! What is that?!” Jerry went on to tell me, That he never thought of himself as a Nashville recording musician. He called himself a stylist. He said he had his own way of tuning. He said “they were trying to record Guitar Man, and they couldn’t make it feel like my record.” He said that those players use picks, and he uses his fingers. He said that once he “wound up his guitar” and got it all set he told me that “as soon as we hit the intro, you could see Elvis’ eyes light up he knew we had it”. (Jerry also played on other songs in that session including Big Boss Man) It was so cool to hear Jerry tell this story!
In 1981, the song was re-recorded with Elvis’ vocal left intact. That version went to #1 on the country charts.
Here is the song from 52 years ago:
Here is Jerry Reed’s original version:
Well I quit my job down at the carwash I left my mama a goodbye note
By sundown I’d left Kingston with my guitar up under my coat
I hitchhiked all the way down to Memphis got a room at the YMCA
For the next three weeks I went a hauntin’ them night clubs
Lookin’ for a place to play
Well I thought my pickin’ would set ’em on fire
But nobody wanted to hire a guitar man
Well I nearly bout starved to death down in Memphis
I run out of money and luck
So I bummed me a ride down to Macon Georgia
On a overloaded poultry truck
I thumbed on down to Panama City
Started checkin’ out some of them all night bars
Hopin’ I can make myself a dollar makin’ music on my guitar
Got the same old story at them all night piers
There ain’t no room around here for a guitar man
We don’t need a guitar man son
So I slept in hobo jungles bummed a thousand miles of track
Till I found myself in Mobile Alabama at a club they call Big Jack’s
A little four piece band was jammin’ so I took my guitar and I sat in
I showed ’em what a band would sound like with a swingin’ little guitar man
Show ’em son
So if you ever take a trip down to the ocean find yourself down round Mobile
Well make it on out to the club called Jack’s if you got a little time to kill
Just follow that crowd of people you’ll wind up out on his dance floor
Diggin’ the finest little five piece group up and down the Gulf of Mexico
And guess who’s leadin’ that five piece band
Why wouldn’t you know it’s that swingin’ little guitar man yeah
I have to admit that I almost picked a Ringo Starr song today, because of his birthday this week. I didn’t because I really couldn’t decided whether to pick a solo song or some of his Beatles stuff. I am guessing that’s a future blog – I’ll add it to my “blog topics” list. Instead, the picture below was posted on Facebook this week and prompted the songs I am writing about.
I’ll be the first to admit that I did my share of recording songs off the radio. I cannot remember how old I was when I got my first “boom box.” I do remember getting it for a birthday gift. I remember buying tons of cassette tapes to record songs on, and I spent many hours listening for my favorite songs.
Not knowing that I would eventually become a radio DJ, I remember how difficult it was to record a song without the DJ talking over the intro. You would hope to catch the song coming out of a jingle or sweeper – that was usually a good way to catch it with a “talk free” intro. Guys like me got pretty good at timing and using the pause button.
I can distinctly remember being the listener that would eventually drive me crazy! I spent many hours calling up the radio station asking for songs. When I didn’t hear them, I would call back and ask again. Of course I didn’t know how radio worked and that with each call, I was just pissing off the DJ! The more you call, the more likely the DJ will NOT play your song! I also did the “kid disguising my voice to sound like an adult” thing, which every DJ can hear immediately! (You’re not fooling us, kids!)
At any rate, there are two songs that I can distinctly remember trying to record on tape. (Let me interject here that I am sure I had my paper route at this time, and why I just didn’t go buy the record is beyond me). I guess I remember these two in particular, because I have two specific memories to accompany the songs. On to song #1:
Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
I remember calling over and over to ask for this song. I remember I was in elementary school and my friend Billy used to get his mom to give us a ride home. This song always seemed to play on our ride home (I know this probably was not the case now, knowing how music is scheduled and such). I remember us both asking his mom to turn up the radio when it played.
The story goes that Freddie Mercury wrote this while the band was touring in Germany. He wrote it on an acoustic guitar and it didn’t take him long to do it. He said it “took me five or ten minutes. I did that on the guitar, which I can’t play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords. It’s a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn’t work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think.”
Some sources say he wrote it as a tribute to Elvis. Roger Taylor said he wrote it while lounging in a bath at a hotel during one of their extensive Munich recording sessions. Some stories say that Freddie also played the original guitar solo, but it was lost and Brian May then played it for the single (Not sure how true this is). Brian played the solo on a Telecaster guitar (Perhaps to make it sound like an older song. Many artists played Telecasters). Brian, however, didn’t really care for the Telecaster and when playing the song live, he’d play the solo on it, and go back to his favorite guitar (his Red Special).
One of my favorite parts of the song is when the bass guitar has its solo moment toward the end.
This thing called love
I just can’t handle it
This thing called love
I must get round to it
I ain’t ready
Crazy little thing called love
This thing (this thing) called love (called love)
It cries (like a baby) in a cradle all night
It swings (ooh, ooh), it jives (ooh, ooh)
It shakes all over like a jelly fish,
I kinda like it
Crazy little thing called love
There goes my baby
She knows how to rock-n-roll
She drives me crazy
She gives me hot and cold fever
She leaves me in a cool, cool sweat
I gotta be cool, relax, get hip
Get on my tracks
Take a back seat, hitch-hike
And take a long ride on my motorbike
Until I’m ready
Crazy little thing called love
I gotta be cool, relax, get hip
And get on my tracks
Take a back seat, hitch-hike
And take a long ride on my motorbike
Until I’m ready (Ready Freddie)
Crazy little thing called love
This thing called love
I just can’t handle it
This thing called love
I must get round to it
I ain’t ready
Crazy little thing called love [repeat to fade]
The second song I have a distinct memory of is from ELO.
ELO – Rock and Roll is King
The reason why I remember recording this song off the radio is simple – I screwed it up the first time I tried to record it! It has what we call in the radio biz a “fake cold.” A cold ending is when a song doesn’t fade out, it just stops. This song has a point before the last line, where the song stops….there is silence….and then the band comes back for the final line and the real cold ending. I remember it because when the fake cold happens, I hit the pause button on my cassette player and messed up the recording because I missed the end of the song!
The song could be found on ELO’s 1983 album Secret Messages. I read an article that said the song was originally called something else and had an entirely different set of lyrics before it was re-worked. The song reminds me a bit of their 1981 hit “Hold on Tight,” as it has the same sort of feel to it. The song only made it to #19 on the charts in the US. This was one of the first songs I heard from ELO, and it made me start picking up more of their stuff. I really thought it was cool how they used string instruments in their songs.
“Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King”
Listen everybody let me tell you ’bout the rock ‘n’ roll
Feel that rhythm and it’s really gonna thrill your soul
She said come along with me, to a land of make believe
She said wamalamalamalama rock ‘n’ roll is king
She loves that rock ‘n’ roll and she plays it all night long
That’s all she ever tells me when I call her on the telephone
She says feel that jumpin’ beat, and git up on your feet
She says wamalamalamalama rock ‘n’ roll is king
Oh let those guitars play
Play for me play for me
Oh let that song ring out
That’s how it’s meant to be
It rolls like a train that’s comin’ on down the track
She rolled over Beethoven and she gave Tchaikovsky back
She loves that drivin’ beat, she goes dancin’ on down the street
She said wamalamalamalama rock ‘n’ roll is king
When she comes around and I’m listenin’ to the radio
She says you can’t do that ’cause all I wanna do is rock ‘n’ roll
Now here I’m gonna stay where that music starts to play
She says wamalamalamalama rock ‘n’ roll is king
Jeff Lynne wrote the song and I love the line “She rolled over Beethoven and she gave Tchaikovsky back.” It is obviously a nod to Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven (which ELO covered, and is awesome!).
Jeff, continues to tour with his current version of ELO, and also was a member of the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison.