Boogie Woogie: A twohundredandthirtystr story

Boogie – (from: Merriam-Webster.com)

  • verb: 1) to dance to Rock music, also: revel, party. 2) to move quickly.
  • noun: 1) boogie-woogie. 2) earthy and strongly rhythmic rock music conducive to dancing.

Boogie Woogie – (from: Harvard Dictionary of Music)

  • Originally, a special type of piano blues first heard in Chicago in the early 1920’s.

The first time the term “boogie boogie” appeared on a record was in 1928.

The recording was “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” by Clarence “Pine Top” Smith. It was made on December 29, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, for the Brunswick/Vocalion record label.

Here are Clarence Smith’s spoken lyrics:

I want all of y’all to know this is Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie.

I want everybody to dance ’em just like I tell you.

And when I say “Hold yourself,” I want all of you to get ready to stop.

And when I said “Stop!”, don’t move!

And when I say “Get it,” I want all of y’all to do a boogie woogie.

Hold it, now… Stop!… Boogie Woogie!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Now when I say “Hold yourself” this time, I want all of you to get ready to stop.

And when I said “Stop!”, don’t move a peg.

And when I say “Get it,” ev’rybody mess around.

Hold it yourself, now… Stop!… Mess around!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Give a listen for yourself. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Clarence Smith was born on January 11, 1904 in Orion, Alabama. He gave his first public performance in Birmingham at about the age of fifteen. According to his wife, Sarah, he started playing “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” around 1924.

Clarence and his family moved to Chicago in 1928. There, over the course of three sessions – December 29, 1928 and January 14 & 15, 1929 – Clarence recorded 8 pieces for Brunswick/Vocalion Records. Three of those pieces were recorded twice – labelled as “Take A” and “Take B” – leaving Pine Top Smith’s total discography at 11 sides.

Clarence Smith died on March 15, 1929, two days after being struck by a stray bullet in a dance hall brawl. He was 25 years old.

Information for this post came from Mike Rowe’s liner notes to the 2007 Document Records CD (DOCD-5102): Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano, Volume 1: 1928-1930.

The title of this post is based on the first number – 230 – that came up when I searched for: “How many strings does a piano have?”

This post was written in response to the “Song Lyric Sunday” challenge – Boogie/Rock/Rolling Stone –  by Jim Adams on his excellent WordPress blog, A Unique Title For Me.

Here’s the link to Jim’s blog: Song Lyric Sunday.

 

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Sparklers: “Easter And The Sargasso Sea” by Leo Kottke

This is the third installment of my next-to-newest category here at sixstr stories.

It features recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you…

“Easter And The Sargasso Sea” by Leo Kottke.

Listen. You’ll be glad you did!

 

“Easter and the Sargasso Sea” was written and recorded by Leo Kottke. He released it in 1970 on his second album, Circle ‘Round The Sun. I bought my copy of the vinyl LP in the Fall of 1971 at a small record store in, I think, Springfield, Massachusetts.

For the guitar players out there, Leo is fingerpicking a 12-string acoustic guitar tuned to an open-G major tuning. Leo also has his instrument tuned below standard pitch like many 12-string players do. To be precise, Leo’s guitar is tuned 4 half steps low, actually sounding in E-flat major.

Hope you enjoyed “Easter And The Sargasso Sea” and… Happy Easter!

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No. 9

Another birthday, another telling of the tale…

sixstr stories was born on Sunday, April 18, 2010 in Somerville, Massachusetts.

I was visiting my daughter and casually mentioned to her that I was thinking of starting a blog. (At the time, she had a blog.) Before I knew it, she’d opened up her laptop and gone into WordPress.

She asked me if I had a name for my blog.

I did.

“Password?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Click, click. Tap, tap.

“There you go, Dad. You’ve got a blog!”

Nine years later and sixstr stories is still up and running and, I believe, going strong. I may not be prolific, but I’ve never missed a month. And I still enjoy it immensely.

In my very first post, I established the sixstr stories motto: “Good music doesn’t get old.” That quote comes from Mr. Ferdinand “Jelly Roll Morton” LaMothe (1890-1941), the man who invented Jazz. In November of 2018, I added a co-motto: “All valuable stories need to be told over and over and over again.” That one’s from Mr. Bruce Springsteen.

Over the years, I’ve celebrated each birthday with a number-appropriate piece of music. Last year, I rocked out with “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds. For No. 7, I shared a seven verse original called “Weekdays, Weekdays.” For No. 6, I couldn’t decided between Livingston Taylor’s version of “Six Days On The Road” or The Rolling Stones’ live take on “Route 66.” So I ran with both.

When I started planning for the big #9, the very first thing that came to mind was…

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

That’s right.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) started work on his Ninth Symphony in the Fall of 1822 and finished it in February of 1824. It is referred to as the German composer’s “Choral Symphony” because he chose to augment the symphony orchestra with four vocal soloists and a full choir in the piece’s fourth and final movement.

(This epic masterwork, with its then-completely deaf composer “conducting,” was performed for the first time on May 7, 1824 in Vienna, Austria. The crowd, to say the least, went wild.)

Beethoven chose a poem by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) as the basis of the text for the choral part. Schiller’s poem, written in 1785, was titled: “Ode To Joy.”

The melody that Beethoven wrote for the choir to sing Schiller’s verses to has also become known as “Ode To Joy.”

So, in celebration of sixstrstories’ 9th birthday, I give you “Ode To Joy.” My way.

Hope you enjoy it.

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This Historic Day In Music: Wes Montgomery – Take 2

I bought my first Wes Montgomery album when I was in high school.

The purchase was made in Boston, Massachusetts, at one of the two music stores that used to stand on the block of Boylston Street in between Tremont Street and Charles Street. It was either Carl Fischer Music or Boston Music. I can’t remember which.

The LP was entitled Wes Montgomery: March 6, 1925 – June 15, 1968.

The LP was a compilation released by Riverside Records in October of 1968. Its nine tracks featured the electric Jazz guitarist with a variety of small ensembles doing distinctive takes on seven standards – including “Satin Doll,” “Groove Yard” and “Body and Soul” – and Wes’ own “Jingles.”

My favorite track was Wes’ solo rendition of the Morty Palitz & Alec Wilder song, “While We’re Young.”

 

That was recorded on August 4, 1961 at Plaza Sound Studios in New York City. The album that it originally appeared on – SO Much Guitar! – was released on Riverside Records in 1961.

John Leslie Montgomery was born on March 6, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

He started playing on a 4-string tenor guitar at around the age of 12. When he was 19 and just married, he bought an electric 6-string guitar and an amplifier. His inspiration? “Charlie Christian, like all other guitar players. There was no way out. That cat tore everybody’s head up.”

With his new guitar, a record player, a stack of the records that Christian made with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra, infinite patience and an incredibly good ear, Wes taught himself to play all of Charlie Christian’s guitar solos note-for-note. Wes later explained: “I knew that everything done on his guitar could be done on mine… so I just determined that I would do it.”

It took him about eight months. And because much of the time he would be practicing late at night while his wife was sleeping, he got into the habit of plucking the strings with his thumb, which produced a softer sound than he would get if he used a guitar pick.

Wes’ ability to play Charlie’s solos got him his first gig around 1945 in Indianapolis. As Wes described it: “I got a job in a club just playing them. I’d play Charlie Christian’s solos, then lay out.”

As Wes improved and began to develop his own style, word spread. He was hired by vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and went on the road with Hampton’s big band from 1948-50. Later, in the mid-50’s, Wes played with his brothers Buddy and Monk in a group called The Mastersounds.

In 1957, Wes signed with Riverside Records and recorded his first album Fingerpickin’ that was released in 1958. After Riverside went out of business, Wes recorded for Verve Records and finally for A&M. His last album, released in 1968, was entitled Road Song.

Wes Montgomery still stands as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Jazz.

Wes passed away on June 15, 1968.

My sources for the information and quotes in this post were:

  • The Guitar Players: One Instrument & Its Masters In American Music (1982) by James Sallis
  • Music journalist Ralph J. Gleason’s 1958 interview with Wes, as published in the July/August 1973 issue of Guitar Player Magazine. 
  • Wikipedia.
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Something New

Jim Adams hosts a weekly song lyric challenge on his blog, A Unique Title For Me. It’s called “Song Lyric Sunday” and the prompt for today is: Harmony/Melody/Music.

I’ve never responded to Jim’s challenge before but that prompt… well, it struck a chord!

My contribution is “Sing To The World,” an original song that I posted about here on sixstrstories in December, 2013.

I wrote the song – more of a hymn, actually – back in 1996 with inspiration from a variety of sources including Rev. David Slater, Lech Walesa, Sir Isaac Watts and Woody Guthrie.

I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the link to Jim’s blog: Song Lyric Sunday.

Sing To The World

Words, Music, Guitar & Vocals by Eric Sinclair

Sing to the world a new song, sing with a joyful heart
Sing to the world a song that welcomes all with open arms
Sing to the world with countless voices joined in harmony
Sing to the world a new song that all the world can sing.

Sing to the world far and wide, sing with sparkling eyes
Sing to the world a song that keeps the flame of hope alive
Sing to the world that we may find a path to common ground
Sing to the world a song that calls us all to gather ‘round.

Sing to the world hand in hand, sing with love revealed
Sing to the world a song that knows how songs should make us feel
Sing to the world a song that shares its smile with ev’ry face
Sing to the world a song that holds the world in a warm embrace.

Sing to the world loud and long, sing with sounding joy
Sing to the world a song that fills the air with wond’rous noise
Sing to the world a song of peace to ring through ev’ry land
Sing to the world a song for ev’ry woman, child and man.

© ® 1996 EFS Music/BMI

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Some Kind Of Smelling Salts

“Music. What is it good for? Why do you seek it?”

Journalist Christopher Hislop, skilled chronicler of the large and vibrant music scene here in my neck of the woods, poses those questions to everyone he interviews for his weekly column, 5 Spot. (5 Spot appears in EDGE, the “Everything Arts & Entertainment From The Seacoast To The Tri-City Region” magazine that arrives with my Thursday edition of Foster’s Daily Democrat.)

My answer to those questions would be, as you might imagine, not short. A part of it however, would simply be: “Music is the best caffeine.”

Not all music, of course, but a distinct selection of creations and performances that I find to be deliciously intoxicating, undeniably invigorating and unapologetically addictive.

Thus, sixstrstories’ newest category: Some Kind Of Smelling Salts.

Ta da!

The title comes from “Recovery,” a song by Frank Turner.

I started listening to Frank Turner after his song “The Way I Tend To Be” burst from my radio one day back in 2013. Soon after, I picked up a copy of his then-newest and highly recommended album, Tape Deck Heart. (Yes, I actually went to a brick-and-mortar music store and purchased the CD!) “Recovery” was the first song on the disc.

Oh, my.

The line, “Some kind of smelling salts,” culminates the song’s second verse and occurs at the 1:12 mark in the recording.

Listen.

No, really. You’ve got to listen to this.

 

See what I mean?

“Recovery” was recorded by Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls.

  • Frank Turner – Words & Music, Vocals & Acoustic Guitar
  • Tarrant Anderson – Bass & Backing Vocals
  • Ben Lloyd – Electric Guitar & Backing Vocals
  • Matt Nasir – Keyboards & Backing Vocals
  • Nigel Powell – Drums, Percussion & Backing Vocals
  • and Rich Costey – Electric Guitar (Mr. Costey also produced, recorded and mixed the track.)

So, Some Kind Of Smelling Salts is going to feature songs from my personal playlist of musical stimulants & audio caffeine delivery systems. Listening not for the faint of heart.

Stay tuned!

Do you have music that gets your motor running? Lights a fire in your engine room?

That always takes you higher? Makes you jump a little lighter?

That doesn’t just make you want to shout, but throw your hands up and shout?

That puts the whop in your bop ba looma?

If so, please let me know.

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To The Museum, Once Again

This is my third post about the guitars on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

The first – A Trip To The Museum – went up on March 13, 2014. It features three very old guitars (circa 1628, 1680 & 1725) found in the MFA’s “Musical Instruments” gallery. The second post – Another Trip To The Museum – appeared on September 2, 2017. It features three newer guitars (circa 1840, 1954 & 1964) also (still!) to be found in Gallery #103.

On my latest trip to 465 Huntington Avenue this past January, I visited Level 3 of the MFA’s Art of America wing and took a close look at the two gorgeous guitars on display there.

The two musical works of art share a tall square glass case. The case stands just about in the middle of the floor in the back gallery on the right hand side of Level 3. Both instruments are products of the National String Instrument Corporation.

(The National String Instrument Corporation was formed in 1927 in Los Angeles, California by John Dopyera and George Beauchamp. The company manufactured the first resonator guitars.)

The acoustic guitar pictured below is a Tri-Cone Resonator guitar built in 1934. Its body is made of nickel alloy plated with nickel silver.

Here is a photo of the guitar that hangs in the case behind the resonator guitar.

This electric instrument is a Lap Steel Guitar, the “New Yorker” model, made in 1947. It is made of wood and plastic.

Both of these remarkable guitars are meant to be played “Hawaiian” style: the instrument lies horizontally across the player’s lap and the strings are “fretted” with a round steel bar or glass tube (or bottle) held in the player’s left hand. The player picks the strings finger style with his/her right hand. Hawaiian music with its distinctive swooping, sliding and melodious lead guitar was immensely popular in the United States during the first decades of the 20th century.

These instruments, and the others on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, remind me that what I always say is so very true: “The world of guitar is a vast, wonderful and fascinating place.”

P.S.: Level 3 of the Art of America wing at the MFA is also home to two of my favorite paintings: Number 10 (1949) by Jackson Pollock and Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors – 7th Avenue Style (1940) by Stuart Davis.

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Truck Day

Truck Day is the day celebrated each year by the fans of the Boston Red Sox Baseball Team as the “official” start of the new baseball season. It is the day that the team’s equipment truck begins its journey from Fenway Park in Boston to Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers, Florida for the start of Spring Training.

Truck Day 2019 is today, Monday, February 4.

Starting at 7:00 am, the 53-foot-long truck will be loaded with a wide assortment of essential baseball supplies and equipment including:

  • 20,400 baseballs
  • 1,100 baseball bats
  • 160 white game jerseys
  • 400 t-shirts
  • 400 pairs of socks
  • 20 cases of bubble gum
  • 60 cases of sunflower seeds

The truck will be driven on its 1,480-mile trip for the 21st consecutive year by Mr. Al Hartz of Milford, Massachusetts. Participants in this year’s event will include the team’s mascots Wally the Green Monster and his sister Tessie.

All fans and media outlets are invited to join in on the celebration.

One of these years, I hope to be there myself.

Meanwhile, the new schedule is printed and ready to hang on the front of the fridge…

…and I’ll keep singing…

 

Go Red Sox! Do it again!

 

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Walkin’ Blues

It was a Saturday morning in the middle of January.

I was out for a long walk with my favorite accompaniment: my iPod classic, set to “Shuffle Songs,” playing through my Sony headphones. I’d been serenaded by Billie Holiday, The Beatles, Etta James, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Josh Ritter and Gillian Welch.

Then I heard an acoustic guitar playing a Blues turnaround. Another acoustic guitar joined in and the duo started picking through a very fine 12-bar instrumental.

“Who’s this?,” I thought.

The layer of scratch crackling in the background signaled that this was a old recording. Was it one of those Sylvester Weaver & Walter Beasley duets? If so, there should be some slide guitar…

…then a singer entered in, and I really had no idea.

“Four-o’clock flowers bloom out in the mornin’ and close in the afternoon

 Four-o’clock flowers bloom out in the mornin’ and close in the afternoon

 Well, well, they are only so much beauty, woo hoo, Lord, boy, so as my little Betty June.” 

I really enjoyed the recording. A very good Blues singer/guitarist joined by a talented lead guitarist who surrounded the vocals with a constant stream of tasty guitar fills and licks. After three verses, the duo laid down an excellent solo chorus after which two more vocal verses wrapped things up quite nicely.

When I got home, I got my gloves off, dug the iPod out of the deep pocket of my heavy winter coat and checked the listing on the display screen.

I’d been listening to “Four O’Clock Flower Blues” by William Brown from the album, The Land Where The Blues Began.

Oh!

Turns out that “Four O’Clock Flower Blues” was a field recording, featuring not only guitarist William Brown but also singer/guitarist Willie Blackwell. The duo had been recorded by Alan Lomax, on a cultural mission from The Library of Congress to record Delta folk songs.

Here’s the library card from the Library of Congress.


The location was called Hamp’s Place – a shack in the middle of an enormous cotton field that served as a country store by day and a dance hall and gambling joint by night – on Sadie Beck’s Plantation in Arkansas. The date was July 16, 1942.

Listen for yourself!

 

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.

Willie “61” Blackwell, as he came to be known, recorded seven other songs that day for Alan Lomax. William Brown recorded three solo pieces. One of them, “Mississippi Blues,” has been regarded as the “Stairway To Heaven” of Mississippi Delta Blues.

Looks like I’ve got some more listening to do!

“Good music doesn’t get old.”

The sources for the information used in this post were:

The Land Where The Blues Began by Alan Lomax, 1993. Published in paperback by The New Press, 2002. (Highly recommended!)

The William Brown – Mississippi Blues page at MetaFilter.com.

The Library of Congress at loc.gov.

 

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This Historic Day In Music: Atlantic Records SD 8216

I wish I could tell you that I remember when I first heard them, but I can’t. I do remember that in 1969, starting in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I was crazy about the new band from England called Led Zeppelin.

My guess would be that I first heard Led Zeppelin on the radio since I was a devoted listener in those days to WBCN, 104.1 FM, broadcasting from Boston, Massachusetts.

‘BCN was simply the best Rock radio station ever and they were always premiering a cut from the latest album by all the greatest bands, old and new. So I probably first heard Led Zeppelin beckoning from the black, boxy Philco AM/FM radio that graced my bedside table.

Led Zeppelin’s first LP Led Zeppelin was released on Atlantic Records on January 12, 1969.

I started listening to Led Zeppelin again a few days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The thing that really struck me was the dazzling array of guitar sounds that Jimmy Page created and spread across the span of the album’s nine often lengthy tracks. There is the tight metallic crunch of the power chords in “Good Times Bad Times,” the rich, woody acoustic arpeggios of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and the thickly oozing, super-saturated lead guitar lines in “You Shook Me.”

I should also mention the swooping Country-tinged pedal steel on “Your Time Is Gonna Come,” the fingerpicked jangle of the DADGAD-tuned acoustic on “Black Mountain Side,” and the echo-soaked, psychedelicized swirl that permeates “How Many More Times.”

But wait! There’s more!

Led Zeppelin is a grand master class in the limitless tonal possibilities of the guitar.

So, what track from Led Zeppelin should I add to this post for your listening pleasure?

After much consideration, I decided on Track 3: “You Shook Me.”

Why?

After all the cozy familiarity of listening again to “Good Times Bad Times” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “You Shook Me” took me by surprise.

The first instrumental solo in this slow and luxuriously long Blues is taken by John Paul Jones on the organ! And that organ solo is followed by Robert Plant’s harmonica solo! Then comes Jimmy Page’s guitar solo!

Wow. Hadn’t remembered that.

Listen for yourself!

 

The musicians of Led Zeppelin were:

  • John Bonham: drums, tympani & backing vocals
  • John Paul Jones: bass, organ & backing vocals
  • Jimmy Page: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar & backing vocals
  • Robert Plant: lead vocals & harmonica
  • Viram Jasani: tabla drums on “Black Mountain Side.”

One last thing that I remember about being a Led Zeppelin fan in a small New Hampshire high school in the winter of 1969 is that no one except me and my good friend, Tom, knew who they were!

Our little secret, of course, did not last for long.

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