I heard the motorcycle approaching from my left when I was about twenty paces from the crosswalk.
The pedestrians ahead of me had paused to let a few cars go by – something that actually happens on occasion in this small New Hampshire town – resulting in the Harley becoming the caboose of a slow-moving but short train of traffic.
The man driving the motorcycle was bearded, approximately middle-aged and looking very relaxed. He wore sunglasses, a military-style helmet and a particularly bright, multi-colored paisley jacket.
I didn’t hear his music until he was just past the crosswalk.
“Saw my baby down by the river. Knew she’d have to come up soon for air.”
I watched, smiling, as he drove off up the street, and walked on into the sunshine daydream of a now very cool April afternoon.
This is the tenth installment of this category featuring recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or – outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.
Good day, Viewers & Readers! Let me introduce you to…
“Tootie Blues” by Paul Geremia.
Give a listen. (You’ll be glad you did!)
That recording was released in March 2004 on Paul’s Red House Records album Love, Murder & Mosquitos.
The song “Tootie Blues” was originally recorded in 1928 on Paramount Records by Blind Blake, the master Piedmont Blues fingerpicking guitarist & singer from Jacksonville, Florida.
Paul Geremia was born on April 21, 1944 in Providence, Rhode Island. He recorded his first album – “Just Enough” – in 1968 for Folkways Records and his eleventh and most recent one – “Love My Stuff” – in 2011 for Red House.
His phenomenal skill as a 6 and 12-string acoustic guitarist and his passionate dedication to keeping the timeless music of the Country Blues players of the 1920’s and 1930’s alive and very well has made him a truly legendary artist.
If listening to that performance of “Tootie Blues” from Love, Murder & Mosquitos did not convince you that Paul Geremia was at one time “the greatest living performer of the East Coast and Texas fingerpicking and slide styles,” but also “a national treasure,” then maybe watching him perform it will do the trick.
The following video is from the 2007 Vestapol Productions DVD Guitar Artistry of Paul Geremia – Six & Twelve String Blues.
I may be a little early getting to the party, but I did not want to risk missing the day and have not posted something!
100 years ago – on March 3, 1923 – Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was born in Deep Gap, North Carolina.
Doc Watson is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. His playing – both flat-picking and finger-style – is unparalleled; simply the purest sound I’ve ever heard anyone coax from an acoustic guitar.
There are so many recordings that I could include here, trying to pay some small tribute to this great musician, but I’m going to go with the two recordings that Doc made of one of my favorite songs.
In 1965, Doc recorded “Rising Sun Blues” along with his son, Merle, and released it on the album titled Doc Watson & Son. Merle was 15 years old when he recorded this record with his Dad; the debut album for the duo who went on to make music for the next 21 years.
Doc wrote in The Songs of Doc Watson (1971, Oak Publications) that their arrangement of “Rising Sun Blues” was “influenced ninety-five percent” by the version he learned from his old friend, Clarence “Tom” Ashley. (Ashely recorded the original version with his friend, Gwen Foster, in 1933.)
In 1999, Doc and his grandson, Richard, recorded “House of the Rising Sun” and included it on their album, Third Generation Blues. Richard, son of Merle, was 33 years old when he recorded this album with Doc.
If you enjoyed listening to those half as much as I do, you just had really nice time.
Doc Watson gave his last performance was on April 29, 2012 when he played with the Nashville Bluegrass Band at MerleFest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
On Monday, February 26, 1917, five musicians – pianist Henry Ragas, clarinetist Larry Shields, trombonist Eddie Edwards, cornetist Nick LaRocca and drummer Tony Sbarbaro – gathered in the New York City recording studio of the Victor Talking Machine Company.
This quintet was known as the Original Dixieland Jass Band and that day they recorded two of their original compositions: “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step” and “Livery Stable Blues.”
Victor Records released those recordings in May 1917 on a 10-inch, 78 rpm disc, #18255. “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step” was labeled as the A-side; “Livery Stable Blues” was the B-side.
That record stands today as the first recording of Jazz music ever released.
Check those sides out for yourself!
In late 1917, the spelling of the band’s name was changed to: Original Dixieland Jazz Band.
The original quintet made several more recordings over the next year for three different companies: Columbia, Aeolian-Vocalion and Victor.
However, in 1918, Eddie Edwards was drafted, serving in the United States Army through the end of World War I and Henry Ragas died of influenza in February 1919 during what is now known as the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
The replenished line-up of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band finally disbanded after recording two last sides for OKeh Records on April 20, 1923.
I hope you enjoyed those recordings as much as I do. As I’ve always said: “Good music doesn’t get old.”
This is the ninth installment of this category featuring recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or – outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.
Truth – the 1968 debut solo album by Jeff Beck – was an early addition to my record collection.
I listened to it often and enjoyed it so much that when Truth and a handful of other LPs were stolen one day from the back of my parent’s station wagon, I went out as soon as I could and bought another copy, this time on cassette tape. (So that I could listen to it while driving around in that station wagon.)
When I heard the sad news of Jeff Beck’s death earlier this month – January 10, 2023 – I simply had to get that tape out of storage and envelope myself once again in all of the guitar wondrousness of Truth.
I also read as many of the obituaries and tribute articles to Jeff Beck that I could find online. (The best, in my mind, were the ones published in the Boston Globe.) But after all of the stories and the countless well deserved accolades, I noticed that not a single author mentioned my favorite guitar performance on record by Jeff Beck.
Jeff Beck’s solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar arrangement of this traditional English folk song – the tune of which dates back to the late 16th-century – starts off Side 2 of Truth.
It proved to be an incredibly influential performance in my life as both a musician and a guitarist.
I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to it for yourself.
Thank you, Jeff Beck, for this and all of the truly inspirational guitar music you left behind.
These Songs of 2022 are not songs that I wrote this past year.
They are the songs that came back to haunt me; songs that I finally finished; songs that got into my head and fingers for many days at a time and songs that I will always connect to some of the events and moments of the year about to go by.
“Go!” first came to life in May, 2018.
I wanted to see if I could again write a song where every line started with the same word. I’d originally given myself this challenge back in 1989. The resulting song was called “What” and it has been a staple of my repertoire ever since.
In August of this year, I finally fixed the rather pesky third verse and recorded “Go!” with the addition of a harmonica solo as the finishing touch.
On your mark…
* * *
The beginnings of “Candles” – my personal “Happy Birthday” song – is a bit of a mystery.
None of the pages in my songwriting book containing the initial drafts of its lyrics are dated. I have a tape of a concert from 1992 where I performed it in a medley with an instrumental version of “Old Folks At Home,” so I guess “early 1990’s” is going to be as close of a date as I can get.
Most years I give it a whirl on or around my birthday, but this summer I also gave the second verse a serious rewrite and recorded the upgraded version around the time I recorded “Go!”
I guess I’ll call this: “Candles (2022).” The chorus still applies.
* * *
“Love Like Gold” is the song I wrote for my son’s wedding.
I started writing it in August 2021, not long after he got engaged. I sang it to him and his bride in October of this year as part of the wedding ceremony during their wedding celebration in Tamchen, Mexico.
I hope you enjoy it as much as they did.
* * *
There were other songs in 2022, but these three are the ones that first came to mind when I had the idea for this post. I tend to trust first impressions.
“Music is… the sound life uses to keep the living alive.”
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.
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!
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 thatroad.”
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.
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.
Ambrose Swasey was born in Exeter, NH, on December 19, 1846.
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.
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.
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.
(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.