Quotations Marked 11

“Music is… the sound life uses to keep the living alive.”

Woody Guthrie

American Musician (1912-1967)

From: Woody Guthrie : songs and art * words and wisdom (2021) by Nora Guthrie & Robert Santelli.

Woody Guthrie’s music certainly keeps the living alive. And to me, the songs he wrote for his children in the 1940’s are among those most brimming with life.

Woody recorded many batches of these songs in 1946 and 1947 over the course of several sessions in the New York City recording studios of Moses Asch. One of my favorites of these wonderfully exuberant and joyful songs is called “Car Song.”

“Car Song” – aka “Riding In My Car” & “Take Me Riding In My Car” – was first released in 1950 by Folkways Records on an album titled: Songs To Grow On, Volume One: Nursery Days.

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Smithsonian/Folkways placed “Car Song” as the second track (right after “This Land Is Your Land”) on their 1997 release: Woody Guthrie – This Land Is Your Land, The Asch Recordings Vol. 1.

Here it is. Get ready to smile!

Two other of Woody’s children’s songs that I highly recommend are “Bling Bling” and “Mail Myself To You.” Check ’em out!

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Quotations Marked 10

“As far as music itself goes, 

the simplest thing to forget is that what music is about…

is creating the kind of things that you think are beautiful.

In other words, when you sit… and you’re creating,

you have to learn to be certain about what you like.

Not what you think sounds good to someone else.

First thing is…

you have to learn your own heart and your own mind about sound.

So whatever you think is beautiful, that’s what’s beautiful,

and you have to pursue that road.

Chick Corea

American Jazz Pianist & Composer (1941-2021)

Chick Corea certainly knew a thing or two about creating beautiful music.

My introduction to his magical creations was through the stunning 1973 ECM album he made with vibraphonist Gary Burton titled Crystal Silence.

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Chick Corea’s composition “Crystal Silence” is the first track on Side 2 of this album. It has remained one of my top-10 favorite pieces of music to both listen to and to play ever since I first heard it way back when.

I wish I could share that recording with you here, but the track from that album is not available on YouTube. The following live performance from September, 2019 featuring Mr. Corea and Mr. Burton is.

It is (almost) equally spectacular.

I highly recommend that you slip on your best headphones and take the time to watch and listen.

You’ll be glad you did!

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Sounds of Swasey

Ambrose Swasey was born in Exeter, NH, on December 19, 1846.

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This Exonian became a mechanical engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He made his fame and fortune with the Warner & Swasey Company, which he founded with his partner, Worcester Warner, in 1880 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Warner & Swasey Company specialized in designing and building astronomical observatories.

Ambrose maintained a home in Exeter and spent many summers there over the course of his life.

In August of 1929, Ambrose presented the town with an offer to provide all the funding needed to turn the town dump, located near downtown and running along the banks of the Squamscott River, into a park. The Olmstead Brothers, landscape architects from Brookline, Massachusetts, were hired to draw up the plans and work was begun in the summer of 1930.

The Exeter Shore Parkway was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 1931. Ambrose was in attendance. The people of Exeter were so pleased with the gift of this beautiful half-mile long jewel that now graced their town and riverfront that they soon decided to rename the park as the Swasey Parkway.

Here’s a photo I took on Swasey Parkway in September, 2020.

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To this day, Swasey Parkway is the highlight of downtown Exeter. It is a wonderful place to take a walk, sit for a spell on one of its many benches and, during the summer months, hear some live music.

The Exeter Parks & Recreation Department has hosted a summer concert series in Swasey Parkway for quite some time. Back in the 1990’s, then-director Doug Dicey frequently invited me to be on the roster and I have many fond memories of singing out across the green lawns of Swasey on a warm July evening with the Squamscott River flowing quietly behind me.

In the late Fall of 2020, I was walking on Water Street in downtown Exeter when I spotted a poster in the window of a coffeeshop. The poster announced the beginning of a local music profile TV show called “Sounds of Swasey.” Any local musician interested in being featured on the show was encouraged to contact Darien Castro at ExeterTV.

Given the way things were going in the Fall of 2020, my mental note to look into “Sounds of Swasey” promptly fell through the cracks.

However, in January of 2022, I received an email from Todd Hearon, my friend, colleague and a fellow songwriter, singer and guitarist. Todd had gotten a spot on “Sounds of Swasey” and said that Darien was looking for folks to be on the next season of the show. Could he send my contact info on to her? I eagerly replied in the affirmative.

Darien contacted me in February and finally, on the afternoon of Monday, June 20, she, videographer Garret Pray and I met on the covered stage in the heart of Swasey Parkway. Singing, playing, conversation and filming soon commenced.

Thanks to the additional extensive efforts and skills of ExeterTV’s executive producer Bob Glowacky, my episode of “Sounds of Swasey” went live on YouTube on August 24.

Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure.

The songs I performed – all originals – were: “Dancin’ In The Kitchen,” “Cherish These Moments,” “A Little Song,” and “There Are (Songs To Be Sung).”

The original promo video for “Sounds of Swasey” aired on YouTube on January 26, 2021. Darien Castro and the folks at ExeterTV produced a total of 16 episodes, all available on YouTube. They are well worth checking out.

PS: Ambrose Swasey passed away in Exeter on June 15, 1937.

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A Song My Mother Sang

As I recall, the song that my mother – Avis Louise Foss Sinclair (1914-2001) – sang the most often around the house when I was a kid was “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

“Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you…”

Those lyrics were written by Beth Slater Whitson and the music was composed by Leo Friedman. The song was published in 1910. The first recording was made on February 25, 1911, for the National Phonograph Company in Orange, NJ, and featured vocalist Arthur Clough. It was released on an Edison Record amberol cylinder, #637.

Give a listen!

My guess is that my mother got to know this song from the hit recording of it that Bing Crosby put out on Decca Records in 1934. Mom turned 20 years old that year and was a nursing student at the Exeter Hospital Training School for Nurses in Exeter, NH.

Somewhere along the way, I acquired a copy of the sheet music to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The piano/vocal arrangement on my now-very faded copy is in the key of B-flat. It includes chord diagrams  for ukulele (tuned A-D-F#-B, capoed at the first fret and fingered in the key of A).

I made my first attempts at arranging “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” for the guitar sometime in the 1990’s. My Compose Yourself: The Music Nothing Book music notebook has two hand-written transcriptions of the melody of the song’s chorus (the only part my mother sang), one in the key of D and another in the key of C.

This past winter, I tried again. I finally came up with an arrangement in the key of C, but fingered with my guitar partial-capoed at the 4th fret (the 6th string left open) and thus sounding in the key of E.

I recorded this arrangement playing my Epiphone Zephyr Regent archtop electric guitar, running through an original MXR Phase 90 pedal and into my Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue amplifier.

Enjoy!

(For those of you surprised to hear a recording of mine sounding like that, well, I’ve been listening to Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell quite a bit over the past year.)

So, thanks, Mom! This one’s for you, with much love.

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“Summer Solstice Rag” – Take 2

Today’s the day!

Here’s some finger-style acoustic guitar music to get your first-day-of-summer party started: my “Summer Solstice Rag.”

Hope you enjoy it!

And… here’s my guitar TAB transcription if you’re a picker and want to try it out yourself.

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I first posted this on July 23, 2017. How things have changed since then!

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Going To The Zoo

52 years ago, when I bought my first guitar – a mahogany-body Harmony H165 acoustic (aka: the best $50.00 I ever spent)…

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… I also bought my first song book: Ramblin’ Boy and other songs by Tom Paxton.

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That small 1964 Oak Publication became the source of many songs that I spent countless hours carefully studying and slowly trying to pick out on my trusty Harmony. A small handful of those songs I finally mastered and years later they became valued pieces in my performing repertoire.

One of them – from the section in the book titled “Children’s Songs” – is still among the highlights of that list today: “Going To The Zoo.”

I must have sung “Going To The Zoo” a thousand times: to my kids at home; at their (early) birthday parties; at their kindergarten when I’d go in for a visit. We sang it together when we went to York’s Wild Animal Kingdom in York, Maine; to the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois; and when they were teenagers and we went to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. I sang it for many years on multiple Sunday afternoons in the Fall to smiling apple-picking families at a couple of local apple orchards.

This past March, I sang it with my grandson when he and I spent a wonderful day together exploring the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC.

Then this morning, my daughter texted to tell me that she and my grandson were going to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park today with his kindergarten class… and they’d been singing “Going To The Zoo” together since last night.

I smiled and my heart was warmed.

Tom Paxton first released “Going To The Zoo” in 1962 on a privately produced live album called I’m The Man That Built The Bridges. The song’s major label debut came in 1964 on Tom’s first Elektra Records album: Ramblin’ Boy.

Here’s the track from that LP.

 

I hope you sang along to that! (How could you not?!?)

Well, as I always say: “Good music doesn’t get old.” 

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This Historic Day… My Granddaughter

My granddaughter, Margaret – aka Molly – was born this day, May 25, in 2021.

Though I didn’t get to meet her in-person until about two weeks later, I had this song all ready to serenade her with as I danced her around the kitchen for the first time.

I have had the great pleasure of singing and playing it for Molly many times since.

Hope you enjoy it, too. (The chorus makes for a fun sing-along!)

“A Little Song” – Words, Music, Guitar & Vocals by Eric “Grampa” Sinclair.

Happy 1st Birthday, Molly.

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Sparklers: “Nowhere Man” by Bill Frisell

This is the eighth installment of this category featuring recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or – outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.

So, ladies and gentlemen! Let me introduce you to…

“Nowhere Man” by Bill Frisell.

Give a listen. (You’ll be glad you did!)

That recording was released in September, 2011 as part of “All We Are Saying…”, Bill Frisell’s tribute album to the music of John Lennon. The album was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California, in June & July of that year.

The musicians collaborating on that epic performance were..

  • Bill Frisell – Electric Guitar
  • Greg Leisz – Steel Guitar
  • Jenny Scheinman – Violin
  • Tony Scherr – Upright Bass
  • Kenny Wollesen – Drums

I’ve been listening to Bill Frisell quite a bit lately. I find his exquisite tone and especially creative way with a melody to be positively entrancing and completely addictive. I really love the way he keeps the melody of the piece he’s playing – even when he’s playing a simple Folk tune like “Shenandoah” or “Sitting On Top Of The World” (highly recommended recordings, by the way) – constantly recognizable throughout his performance.

William Richard Frisell was born on March 18, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland, but spent most of his youth living near Denver, Colorado.

While the clarinet was his first instrument, Bill started playing guitar as a teenager. He studied with a number of teachers over the years, beginning with Dale Bruning (in the Denver area) and moving on to Johnny Smith (at the University of Northern Colorado) and Jim Hall (at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts). (That explains his penchant for playing the melody!)

His first solo album – In Line – came out in 1983 on ECM Records.

I certainly hope you enjoyed Bill Frisell & Company’s rendering of “Nowhere Man” as much as I do.

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This Historic Month In The World of Guitar

April is “International Guitar Month.”

Ok, but I’ve got five very good reasons why I think March should get that honor.

They are: Doc Watson, Wes Montgomery, Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Eric Clapton.

Why those five?

Each of those wondrous wizards of the fretboard were born in the month of March! (And here at sixstr stories, birthdays are a Big Deal!)

Allow me to elaborate.

Arthel “Doc” Watson was born on March 2, 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina.

Doc appeared on record for the first time in 1961, adding his considerable talents to the Folkways release, Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s. He signed a contract with Vanguard Records in 1961 and released Southbound – his 5th album for the label – in 1966.

“Sweet Georgia Brown” is the third track on Side 1 of Southbound and features Doc at his fabulous flatpicking best. Accompanying Doc are guitarist John Pilla and Russ Savakus on upright bass.

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

Wes made his first recording as bandleader on the Riverside label in 1959. On August 4, 1961, he recorded the album So Much Guitar! for Riverside at Plaza Sound Studios in New York City. On this rendering of the 1945 Duke Ellington tune, “I’m Just A Lucky So and So,” Wes’s always-dazzling electric guitar playing is accompanied by Hank Jones on piano, Ron Carter on upright bass and Lex Humphries on drums.

“Mississippi” John Smith Hurt was born on March 8, 1892, in Teoc, Mississippi.

John cut his first record on February 14, 1928 in Memphis, Tennessee for OKeh Records. He recorded again for OKeh on December 21 and 28, 1928 in New York City. Then not again until his rediscovery in 1963 was the music of Mississippi John Hurt captured in a recording.

In 1964, Hurt recorded the 12 tracks that became the posthumous 1966 Vanguard album Mississippi John Hurt – Today! “Corrinna, Corrinna” – Side 1’s closing number – showcases his inimitable fingerpicking and vocals.

Samuel John “Lightnin'” Hopkins was born on March 15, 1912, in Centerville, Texas.

Sam made his first recordings for 1946 in Los Angeles, California for Aladdin Records. The guitarist was teamed with pianist Wilson “Thunder” Smith and the record company decided to thus call him “Lightnin’.”

Sam recorded prolifically as a solo singer/guitarist/songwriter for Gold Star Records in Houston, Texas between 1947 and 1950. In November of 1948, Sam recorded his version of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” a traditional Blues song popularized by Big Joe Williams in 1935. Gold Star released it on a 78 rpm disc in 1949 and in 1990, Arhoolie Records placed it as the second track on their CD: The Gold Star Sessions, Vol.1.

Eric Patrick Clapton was born on March 30, 1945, in Ripley, Surrey, England.

Eric started his illustrious and on-going recording career in 1964 as a member of the London-based R&B band, The Yardbirds. In 1966, the guitarist/vocalist formed the band Cream with bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker.

Cream recorded their second album, Disraeli Gears, in May, 1967, at Atlantic Studios, in New York. “Sunshine of Your Love” was released as a 45 rpm single in the United States in December, 1967 and in the United Kingdom in September, 1968.

This is one of those recordings that puts the “classic” in Classic Rock.

So, there you have ’em! My five votes for making March “International Guitar Month.”

Don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine The World of Guitar without those five.

(Did I miss any other noteworthy guitarist who was born in March? Please let me know!)

P.S.: The next “National Guitar Day” is February 11, 2023.

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Finding Covers – “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie”

I’ve been a big fan of Gillian Welch & David Rawlings since I first heard them perform in August 2004 as part of The Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue.

The last time I was fortunate enough to see them in concert was on July 21, 2018 at the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Here’s a photo from that show.

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So, in July 2020, when the duo released All The Good Times – their pandemic album of home recordings – I zipped on over to iTunes and downloaded a copy.

The more I listened to and enjoyed this fabulous, now Grammy Award winning album, the more I knew that I would eventually need to purchase a “hard copy.” I finally did and since the CD arrived in the mail from Bull Moose Music, I’ve been listening to it in my car every time I go for a drive.

Elizabeth Cotten’s “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” is the opening song on All The Good Times and Gillian & David’s cover – two acoustic guitars, two voices, two supremely talented musicians – is simply superb. 

Give a listen for yourself.

 

All ten tracks on the album were recorded live in Gillian & David’s Tennessee home on an Otari MX55 1/4″ 2 Track reel-to-reel tape deck. (You can hear the “click” of David turning on the machine at the beginning of the cut!)

Elizabeth Cotten’s recording of “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” was released in 1958. It was on Elizabeth’s first album – Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes – on Folkways Records.

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