“There Are (Songs To Be Sung)”

5/9/93

That’s the date in the top right hand corner of page 273 of the first volume of my songwriting notebooks.

Page 273 also contains the finished lyrics – four verses and a chorus – of the song I eventually titled “There Are (Songs To Be Sung).”

Page 264 in the large, black notebook contains the first mention of this new song; the original idea for what would become the chorus:

“There are songs to be sung, stories to be told,

There are hearts to be won and smiles to unfold.

There are bridges to be built, lessons to be taught,

There’s a torch to be passed and a dream to carry on.”

I remember deciding to write verses that would sequentially build upon the individual phrases of the chorus; making a sort of “list song” that would expand on each statement. For instance, “Stories to be told”  grew into “There are stories from the past, stories from the heart; it’s the stories we tell that tell us apart.”

I made pretty good progress with the songs/stories and hearts/smiles verses, but (according to pages 270 and 271) I seem to have gotten bogged down in the “lessons” half of the third verse. I also couldn’t come up with a convincing “torch” half of the fourth verse.

Somewhere in the now-forgotten ether between pages 272 and 273 – including multiple pages in each of two travel notebooks, the smallest of which I still keep in my briefcase at work – “lessons to be taught” became “roads to be walked down.” “There’s a torch to be passed and a dream to carry on” was upgraded to “There are dreams to be shared and secrets still to be found.” The corresponding parts of the bridges/roads and dreams/secrets verses somehow manifested themselves in that gap as well.

Since that long ago day in 1993, I have sung that song… well, I really cannot begin to tell you how many times. I’ve sung it in bars, restaurants, coffee shops, concert halls (including The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH), assembly halls, churches, chapels, meeting rooms, libraries, parks, parking lots, backyards, front yards, courtyards and porches.

I recorded “There Are (Songs To Be Sung)” at Fishtraks Recording Studios in Portsmouth, NH, in late-Fall, 1994. Joining me on the chorus were my friends, The Amity Singers, a gone-but-not-forgotten vocal group from Dover, NH, that I used to play guitar for.

“There Are (Songs To Be Sung)” became the opening track and title song of my first CD album, released in May, 1995.

I have embedded a link to that recording of “There Are (Songs To Be Sung)” twice here on sixstr stories: first in a piece entitled Many Thanks, Again posted on August 14, 2010 and then in the Theme Music & About section.

It’s time to give this song a post of its own.

“There are songs to be sung, stories to be told,

There are hearts to be won and smiles to unfold.

There are bridges to be built, roads to be walked down,

There are dreams to be shared and secrets still to be found.”

Give a listen and sing along!

JTLYK: There Are (Songs To Be Sung) was recorded and mixed by Jim Tierney and mastered by Jeff Landrock. The cover photo was taken by Frank Clarkson and the graphic design done by Kathryn deA. Klem.

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Quotations Marked 7

“How do you calculate the influence of a song in your life?

We have songs that carry enormous meaning for us,

songs we want played at our weddings or at our funerals,

songs that every time we hear them, every single time,

we pause, we remember, we smile, we sing, we ignite.

And maybe even more than that.

Maybe we have music that has changed or saved our lives.”

Louis P. Masur

From: “Runaway Dream: Born To Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision”

Every time I read that quote, my List of “influential” songs starts scrolling through my mind. I started putting The List on paper when I got the idea for writing this post. Just jotting down the title of each of these songs caused me to pause, remember, smile…

But wait!

In compiling The List of Songs, I came to realize that any serious attempt at a truly complete accounting of all the important music in my life would have to include The List of Albums.

Still interested?

Here you go!

(Keep in mind that these are partial lists. I didn’t want to get too carried away!)

Songs 

First off, two of the most important songs – “Thanksgiving Eve” by Bob Franke and “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan – have been with me quite a bit the past eight weeks or so as I listened, sang, played, and re-mastered them for performance.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the other songs from The List.

“Spirit In The Night” by Bruce Springsteen.

“Christmas In The Trenches” by John McCutcheon.

“You Are So Beautiful” by Billy Preston & Bruce Fisher; as recorded by Joe Cocker.

“Sitting On Top Of The World” by Walter Vinson & Lonnie Chatmon; as recorded by Jim Ringer.

“Deep River Blues” by The Delmore Brothers; as recorded by Doc Watson.

“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan.

“Rising Sun Blues/House of the Rising Sun” as recorded by Ashley & Foster, Georgia Turner, Bob Dylan, The Animals, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, et all.

“Stuff That Works” by Guy Clark.

“Wooden Ships” by Paul Kantner, David Crosby and Stephen Stills; as recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash and by Jefferson Airplane.

“These Days” by Jackson Browne; as recorded by Tom Rush and by Jackson Browne.

Albums 

A Hard Day’s Night (US), Beatles ’65, Something New, Rubber Soul (US)… and ultimately everything by The Beatles.

Big Hits: High Tide and Green Grass, Aftermath, Flowers, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones.

Greatest Hits – Vol.1, John Wesley Harding and Greatest Hits – Vol.2 by Bob Dylan.

Little Deuce Coupe by The Beach Boys.

Open by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity.

Live & Well by B.B.King.

Live Wire/Blues Power by Albert King.

Jackson Browne by Jackson Browne.

Ladies of the Canyon by Joni Mitchell.

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor.

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Shoot Out The Lights by Richard & Linda Thompson.

March 6, 1925-June 15, 1968 by Wes Montgomery.

At The Montreux Jazz Festival by Bill Evans.

Circle ‘Round The Sun by Leo Kottke.

The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.

Open All Nite by The Nighthawks.

Marshall Crenshaw by Marshall Crenshaw.

Finally, I have to include two crucial Songbooks:

Ramblin’ Boy and Other Songs by Tom Paxton and

Jerry Silverman’s Folk Song Encyclopedia, Volume 2.

That was fun!

If you’ve made it this far and actually read my lists, you must be starting to put together a list or two of your own. Care to share? Click on “Leave a comment” and pass on a title or two or three… please! I’d love to hear from you!

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“Deep River Blues” – Page 1 & Page 2

On April 7, 2013, I wrote a post about the song “Deep River Blues.”

In that post, I included a transcription – in standard musical notation and guitar tablature – of my Doc Watson-inspired, finger-picking arrangement of “Deep River Blues.”

That post has become one of the most viewed posts ever on sixstr stories.

For some reason, however, I included only the first page of the original transcription in that post.

Well.

Operating on my theory that late (even 5 years late) is better than not at all, I would like to rectify the situation.

Here, at long last, for your guitar playing pleasure, is Page 1 and Page 2 of my transcription of my arrangement of “Deep River Blues.”

 

Ta da!

Don’t play guitar? Tell your friends who do!

If you would like to learn more about “Deep River Blues” and/or hear a recording of this arrangement, then check out that original post of April 7, 2013.

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This Historic Day In Music: “Bull Frog Moan”

Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang needed another side.

How so?

Well…

In 1929, the standard format for the commercial release of recordings was a flat disc made of shellac resin and measuring 10 inches in diameter. The 78 RPM playback speed of these discs allowed for only about three minutes worth of music on a side. (The record industry was nineteen years away from “microgroove” technology.) The discs had music – one song or instrumental piece – on each side.

Lonnie and Eddie had cut three exceptional new guitar duets during their recording sessions on May 7 & 8, 1929: “Guitar Blues,” “A Handful Of Riffs” and “Blue Guitars.”

So, for OKeh Records to produce two more records by the increasingly popular Lonnie Johnson & Blind Willie Dunn, they needed a fourth recording. [The first OKeh record by Lonnie Johnson & Blind Willie Dunn/Eddie Lang contained the duets “Two Tone Stomp” and “Have To Change Keys (To Play These Blues).” Those sides were recorded on November 17, 1928.]

Lonnie and Eddie reconvened at OKeh’s New York City studio on May 15, 1929.

“Bull Frog Moan” was the result.

The piece starts with a repeated croaking low-note riff played by Eddie Lang. Lonnie Johnson enters with a responding melodic lick and the two are soon off at a swinging, mid-tempo pace for another delightful excursion through the Blues in the key of D.

Listen for yourself!

 

 

“Bull Frog Moan” was released with “A Handful Of Riffs” on OKeh Record #8695.

You can learn more about Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang , how their first recording session came about, the guitars they played and even listen to those first two duets in my This Historic Day In Music post of November 17, 2017!

Want more?

Scroll down to my This Historic Day In Music posts of May 8, 2018 and May 7, 2018.

Good music doesn’t get old.

 

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This Historic Day In Music: “A Handful Of Riffs” & “Blue Guitars”

On Wednesday, May 8, 1929, Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson and Jazz guitarist Eddie Lang returned to the OKeh Records studio at 11 Union Square in New York City.

Having cut “Guitar Blues” – their third duet – the day before (see my This Historic Day In Music post from May 7, 2018), Eddie and Lonnie set about adding to their collection of duo recordings.

The results of their “jiving” on this day were “A Handful Of Riffs” and “Blue Guitars.”

Lonnie Johnson plays lead guitar on his Acosta 12-string acoustic from start to finish on “A Handful Of Riffs.” He strings together more than a handful of ever more dazzling riffs, licks and improvised melodic lines over Eddie Lang’s consistently rock-solid and highly inventive accompaniment. The duo dashes through fourteen choruses of Blues in the key of D at breakneck speed, with only a brief breakdown right in the middle (at 1:25).

Listen for yourself.

 

“Blue Guitars” is also a Blues in the key of D, but at a much slower tempo than “A Handful Of Riffs.” Eddie plays the languorous intro on his Gibson L-5 archtop acoustic and then settles into the 12-bar progression in accompaniment of Lonnie’s 12-string improvisations. At 1:12, Eddie steps out for a solo of his own and then returns to laying down the rhythm for Lonnie’s leads over the final three choruses.

Again, give a listen.

 

 

Jas Obrecht wrote in his fine book, Early Blues: The First Stars Of Blues Guitar (2015): “The improvisations capture the musician’s warmth, humor, and mutual admiration, and they’re as fresh-sounding today as they were on the day they were recorded.”

Yes, indeed.

“A Handful Of Riffs” b/w “Bull Frog Moan” was released on OKeh Records, #8695.

“Blue Guitars” b/w “Guitar Blues” was released on OKeh Records, #8711.

The artist’s credit line on both recordings reads: Lonnie Johnson & Blind Willie Dunn.

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This Historic Day In Music: “Guitar Blues”

In the late 1920’s, Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson and Jazz guitarist Eddie Lang recorded ten landmark duets.

Lonnie and Eddie recorded their first two duets – “Two Tone Stomp” and “Have To Change Keys (To Play These Blues)” – on November 17, 1928 in the recording studios of OKeh Records at 11 Union Square in New York City.

(You can learn about Lonnie and Eddie, how that first recording session came about, the guitars they played and even listen to those duets in my This Historic Day In Music post of November 17, 2017!)

“Guitar Blues” was the title of Lonnie and Eddie’s third duet. They recorded it on May 7, 1929 in the same OKeh Records studio in New York.

Eddie plays the brief introduction to “Guitar Blues” and then provides back-up to Lonnie’s 12-string lead guitar solos. At 1:06, after four 12-bar choruses, Lonnie seamlessly slips into the role of accompanist while Eddie solos on his six-string archtop twice through the form. At 1:38, the guitarists switch places again and Lonnie takes the lead for the remaining six choruses.

In The Guitar Players: One Instrument & Its Masters In American Music (1982), author James Sallis writes “These duets are infectious, provocative music, as fresh and vigorous today as when they were recorded.”

I completely agree.

Listen for yourself.

 

“Guitar Blues” b/w “Blue Guitars” was released on OKeh Records, #8711. The artist’s credit line on the label reads: Lonnie Johnson & Blind Willie Dunn.

If you enjoyed “Guitar Blues,” stay tuned!

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A Belated Birthday Celebration

The Library of Congress was established on April 24, 1800.

On that day, “President John Adams signed an act of Congress providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. Part of the legislation appropriated $5,000 ‘for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress… and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them.’ Books were ordered from London, and the collection consisted of 740 books and 3 maps which were housed in the new United States Capitol.” (Wikipedia)

The Library of Congress today consists of three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and one in Culpeper, Virginia.

The Thomas Jefferson Building, located on First Street SE in Washington, D.C., is the main building of The Library and my favorite place in the city. Construction of the Jefferson Building began in 1890 and was first opened to the public in 1897.

Here are a few photos from some of my visits to the Jefferson Building over the years.

 

Happy 218th Birthday, Library of Congress!

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No. 8

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.

Fortunately, I did.

“Password?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Click, click. Tap, tap.

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

Here it is, eight 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.

As of today – April 18, 2018 – sixstr stories contains 353 posts and has been viewed 32,432 times. I know that’s a far cry from viral, but I’ll take it.

An added bonus: it seems that the nice folks at WordPress have protected my site from 43,149 spam comments.

But, hey! Enough with the stats. This is a birthday party, isn’t it?

Well, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate sixstr stories 8th birthday than with my favorite (and probably the first) Psychedelic Rock song!

So… “Ladies and gentlemen, The Byrds.”

 

“Eight Miles High” by The Byrds was released as a single by Columbia Records on March 14, 1966. The song was written by Gene Clark, Jim (Roger) McGuinn and David Crosby.

The line-up of musicians on that recording was: Gene Clark, vocals; Jim (Roger) McGuinn, electric 12-string lead guitar and vocals; David Crosby, electric rhythm guitar and vocals; Chris Hillman, bass guitar and vocals; and Michael Clarke, drums.

“Eight Miles High” was included on The Byrds’ third album, Fifth Dimension, released by Columbia on July 18, 1966.

The album pictured above, The Byrds Greatest Hits, was my first Byrds album. It was released by Columbia on August 7, 1967. (Don’t you love David Crosby’s hat?)

Finally, to each and every one of you who visit, read, follow, listen to, like and/or comment on my random musings and enthusiasms here at sixstr stories, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I am sincerely grateful for all of your support; past, present and future.

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A Ballad Of The Blues & The Electric Guitar

Verse 1

I recently found a book at my local library: Talking Guitar: Conversations With Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music (2017) by Jas Obrecht.

The first chapter in this extraordinary collection of interviews is titled: “Guitarchaeology: Setting The Stage.” In the section of this chapter under the heading, “The Players Adapt,” Mr. Obrecht writes about the March 1, 1938 recording session during which George Barnes became the first person to play an electric guitar on a Blues record. Mr. Barnes was part of the 4-piece ensemble that backed up vocalist Big Bill Broonzy on that Tuesday in Chicago. The two songs the quintet recorded were “Sweetheart Land” and “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame.” (See my “This Historic Day In Music” post of March 1, 2018 to listen to those fine performances.)

Then Mr. Obrecht writes: “Immediately afterward, he (George Barnes) accompanied Curtis Jones singing the same two songs.”

Verse 2

Earlier in the chapter there had been a footnote (#38) referencing an article from the April, 1995 issue of Guitar Player magazine.

The article was “Birth of the Blast: The First Electric Guitars on Record” by Dick Spottswood. In this detailed and fascinating article, Mr. Spottswood also wrote of the March 1, 1938 session stating that: “Each singer (Broonzy and Jones) recorded separate versions of ‘Sweetheart Land’ and ‘It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame,’ with Barnes credited as Hobson (Hot Box) Johnson on the Jones versions.”

Verse 3

Sure enough, in Blues & Gospel Records 1890-1943 (4th edition) by Dixon, Godrich & Rye, Blues musician Curtis Jones recorded “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” and “Sweetheart Land” on March 1, 1938. Mr. Jones sang and played piano. He was accompanied by George Gant on alto saxophone, Hobson “Hot Box” Johnson on electric guitar and an unknown string bassist.

“It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” b/w “Little Jivin’ Woman” by Curtis Jones was issued later that year on Vocalion Records, #04027. Mr. Jones’ recording of “Sweetheart Land” was never released.

Give a listen to Curtis Jones.

 

That was, of course, electric guitarist Hobson “Hot Box” Johnson/George Barnes doing a very fine job on the opening solo of that track.

Interesting to note that the opening solo on the Big Bill Broonzy recording of “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” was given to the tenor saxophonist. The man cutting loose on that solo was named Bill with the last name of either Osborn, Austin or Owsley, depending on the source.

Verse 4

Curtis Jones – born on August 8, 1906, in Naples, Texas – was a Blues singer, pianist, occasional guitarist and songwriter.

Mr. Jones’ recording career began in Chicago in September, 1937. His most well-known songs were “Lonesome Bedroom Blues” – released in 1937 on Vocalion Records – and “Tin Pan Alley” – released in 1941 on OKeh Records.

Curtis Jones did not record from the start of World War Two until 1953 when Parrot records issued the single “Wrong Blues” b/w “Cool Playing Blues.” His first full length album – Trouble Blues – came out in 1960 on the Bluesville label.

In 1962, Curtis Jones moved to Europe where he recorded and performed extensively until his death in Munich, Germany on September 11, 1971.

Of special note: in 1962, Bob Dylan included a rendition of “Highway 51 Blues” on his debut album for Columbia Records and credited “C. Jones” as the songwriter.

Verse 5

I found another book (this time on-line): Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy by Roger House and published in 2010 by Louisiana State University Press.

In the “Recording Sessions” section of this book, I located the entry for the March 1, 1938 sessions. It shows that Mr. Broonzy and company first recorded “Sweetheart Land” (Studio log #C-2145-2) and then cut “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” (Studio log #C-2146-1).

Also noted in the entry is that “Sweetheart Land” was released on Vocalion records #04041. (It was backed with “I Want You By My Side.”)

Then Mr. House lists Big Bill Broonzy’s recording of “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” as: “ARC unissued.”

The American Record Company was one of several labels that released Mr. Broonzy’s recordings in the 1930’s and it seems that, for some reason, they decided to take a pass on “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame.” Didn’t they know it was one of the first Blues records to feature an electric guitar?

Big Bill Broonzy’s recording of “It’s a Low Down Dirty Shame” did not see the light of day until Columbia Records issued it on their “Roots N’ Blues” series album Good Time Tonight (CK 46219) in 1990.

Verse 6

Of all the numbers in this post – years of publication, dates of recording sessions, record company catalogue numbers of 78’s and albums, recording studio log numbers of songs and their “takes” – I find that two of them are especially significant. They are…

04027: the Vocalion Records catalogue number for the Curtis Jones record of “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” and…

04041 – the Vocalion Records catalogue number for the Big Bill Broonzy record of “Sweetheart Land.”

If a record company’s catalogue numbers are indicative of the chronological order in which their records were released, then Curtis Jones’ recording of “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” is the first time anyone heard an electric guitar on a Blues record.

The End.

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This Historic Day In Music: “Sweetheart Land” & “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame”

On March 1, 1938, singer/guitarist Big Bill Broonzy entered the NBC studios in Chicago, Illinois.

Mr. Broonzy was a popular Chicago-based Blues musician who’d cut his first record in 1927. The names of the musicians playing piano, tenor sax and string bass on this March 1st session are uncertain, but it is known that the person playing electric guitar was 16-year-old George Barnes, the soon-to-be staff guitarist at the NBC studio.

The songs recorded that day – “Sweetheart Land” and “It’s A Low Down Dirty Shame” – were written by Mr. Broonzy.

These energetic, vibrant recordings mark the first time an electric guitar was used on a Blues record.

Listen for yourself.

 

 

 

P.S.: On March 18, 1938, The Kansas City Five, with Eddie Durham on guitar, cut the first Jazz records featuring an electric guitar. See my post from March 18, 2017 – “This Historic Day In Music: The Kansas City Five” – for more details.

P.S.S.: “Good music doesn’t get old.”

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