Rewriting The Record For The Electric Guitar Again

One sentence.

“On September 23-25, 1935, Leon McAuliffe, a brilliant player from Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose phrasing could have well influenced Charlie Christian, featured both electric steel and electrically amplified Spanish guitar on the first recordings of Bob Wills’s Texas Playboys.”

That sentence is from pg.15 of Talking Guitar: Conversations With Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music by Jas Obrecht. Pg. 15 is in the chapter titled “Guitarchaeology.”

I don’t know why that sentence didn’t register the first time I read that chapter back in March, but it sure caught my attention this last time.

September 23-25, 1935.

Those sessions started four days before Roy Newman and His Boys recorded “Rhythm Is Our Business” with Jim Boyd playing an electric Spanish guitar. (See my post of August 6, 2018.)

So, Leon McAuliffe…

…is the first guitarist to play the electric Spanish guitar on record?

Not Jim Boyd?

Seems to be.

The complete listings for the September 23-25, 1935, Dallas, Texas recording sessions by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys are on pages 176-178 in Discography Of Western Swing And Hot String Bands, 1928-1942. (by Cary Ginell and Kevin Coffey)

 

The line-up of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys for those sessions was:

  • Bob Wills, fiddle & vocals
  • Herman Arnspiger, guitar
  • Jesse Ashlock, fiddle
  • Smokey Dacus, drums
  • Tommy Duncan, vocals
  • Art Haines, trombone & fiddle
  • Sleepy Johnson, guitar & vocals
  • Son Lansford, bass
  • Leon McAuliffe, electric steel (Hawaiian) guitar, electric Spanish guitar & vocals
  • Ruth McMaster, fiddle
  • Zeb McNally, alto saxophone
  • Al Stricklin, piano
  • Jonnie Lee Wills, tenor banjo

The sessions operated under the direction of Art Satherley, A & R man for the American Recording Corporation, parent company of Vocalion Records.

JTLYK: In 1935, the art and science of recording was about capturing a live performance. The recordings contained in this post capture the performances of a band of as many as thirteen musicians playing together in one room, carefully positioned around a single microphone.

In Dallas, Texas, circa 1935, that “recording studio” could be a hotel room, a church, an office, a banquet hall or a radio station.

Wherever the session took place, the musicians in those days knew full well that it was the expectation of the record company that they would give a good, releasable, approximately three minutes in length performance of each piece they played the first time they played it.

On September 23rd, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys kicked things off with an up-tempo instrumental called “Osage Stomp.” Leon McAuliffe played “steel guitar” on this number.

The second piece they recorded was the song “Get With It.” On this track, Leon McAuliffe played “electric guitar.”

In his liner notes for the 2006 Sony Legacy 4-CD box set Legends Of Country Music: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Rich Kienzle writes that Texas Playboy vocalist Tommy Duncan wrote “Get With It,” by “adding original lyrics to the melody of the Mississippi Sheiks’ 1930 recording ‘The Jazz Fiddler.'”

Mr. Kienzle goes on to say: “While Bob Dunn played amplified steel guitar on records by the Musical Brownies, no country record had ever featured amplified lead guitar – until Leon’s solo here.”

Leon’s solo starts at the 1:49 mark, behind Bob Wills’ encouraging words: “Take it away, Mr. Leon! Play that guitar now.”

Listen for yourself.

 

So there it is!

“Get With It” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys with Leon McAuliffe henceforth holds the title of “The First Recording To Feature An Electric Spanish Guitar.”

Ta Da, Again!

“Get With It” b/w “Osage Stomp” was released in December, 1935, by Vocalion Records on a 10-inch, 78-rpm disc, #03096.

However…

Before the September 23rd session was over, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys made finished recordings of thirteen pieces. (Twelve of them only needed one take!) Leon McAuliffe contributed electric Spanish guitar solos to two of them: “St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy and “Good Old Oklahoma.”

Leon McAuliffe also played his electric Spanish guitar on five of the seven recordings the band made on September 24. Those five were: “Who Walks In When I Walk Out,” “Oklahoma Rag,” “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” “Four Or Five Times” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied.”

In the recording session on September 25, Bob Wills recorded four fiddle solos accompanied only by Sleepy Johnson on acoustic guitar.

Out of those twenty-four recordings, the two that Vocalion Records chose to be on the first release by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were: “St. Louis Blues” and “Four Or Five Times.”

“St. Louis Blues” b/w “Four Or Five Times” was released in October, 1935 by Vocalion Records on a 10-inch, 78 rpm disc, #03076.

Therefore…

The first record anyone heard that featured an electric Spanish guitar was “St. Louis Blues” b/w “Four Or Five Times” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

Listen for yourself.

 

 

 

William Leon McAuliffe was born on January 3, 1917 in Houston, Texas. He began playing both Spanish and Hawaiian (or steel) guitar at the age of fourteen and soon joined his first band, The Waikiki Strummers. After a short stint with The Light Crust Doughboys, Leon became a member of the Texas Playboys in 1935.

Leon McAuliffe recorded what would become his signature number – “Steel Guitar Rag” – with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys on September 29, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois.

After serving as a flight instructor during World War II, Leon formed his own band called The Cimarron Boys. He recorded and performed extensively under his own name throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, even reuniting with Bob Wills in 1973.

Leon McAuliffe passed away on September 20, 1988 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Good music doesn’t get old.”

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Sparklers: “Autumn Leaves” by Kenny Burrell

This is a new category here at sixstr stories.

It will feature recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances –  for your listening pleasure.

It was inspired by whatever god oversees the shuffle mode of my iPod classic during my morning walks.

Here’s the first of many.

“Autumn Leaves” by Kenny Burrell.

Listen.

 

That recording is from Mr. Burrell’s 1991 album Sunup To Sundown on Contemporary Records.

Accompanying Mr. Burrell:

  • Cedar Walton, piano
  • Rufus Reid, bass
  • Lewis Nash, drums
  • Ray Mantilla, percussion

“Autumn Leaves” was written as “Les feullies mortes” in 1945 by Joseph Kosma with lyrics by Jacques Prévert. It was originally featured in the 1946 film. Les portes de la nuit. Lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics in 1951.

Kenneth Earl Burrell was born on July 31, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. He recorded his first album as band leader for Blue Note Records in 1956.

Mr. Burrell’s instrument of choice throughout most of his career has been a Gibson Super 400CES hollow-body archtop electric guitar.

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Rewriting The Record For The Electric Guitar

The book was called: Discography Of Western Swing And Hot String Bands, 1928-1942 by Cary Ginell and Kevin Coffey. It had been published in 2001.

I found it one afternoon a few months ago in the Performing Arts Reading Room, located in the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The original subject of my research that day was Muryel “Zeke” Campbell. Mr. Campbell was an electric guitarist who had played and recorded in the 1930’s with the Texas-based Western Swing band known as The Light Crust Doughboys. (More on Zeke Campbell in a future post!)

Having found the information I was looking for about a 1937 Doughboys’ session featuring Mr. Campbell, I decided to look up a recording session by Roy Newman & His Boys that had been held on September 28, 1935.

Longtime readers of sixstr stories might remember that on September 28, 1935, Roy Newman and His Boys recorded “Hot Dog Stomp”: the first recording to feature a Spanish (not Hawaiian) electric guitar! Jim Boyd was the electric guitarist on “Hot Dog Stomp.”

Well, I found the entry for the September 28th session in the discography.

But I also found something else!

The discography showed that Roy Newman and His Boys had also done a recording session on September 27, 1935. And, during that session, the band recorded two songs – “Rhythm Is Our Business” and “Slow And Easy” – that featured Jim Boyd on electric guitar!

What?!?!?

Moving into the Reading Room’s Recorded Sound Reference Center, I sat down at a computer station, slipped on a set of headphones and went online.

YouTube.

Search: “Rhythm Is Our Business” by Roy Newman and His Boys.

Bingo!

I eagerly pushed “play.”

First, Roy Newman on piano, then His Boys. Vocalist Ray Lackland sings: “Rhythm is our business, rhythm is what we sell…” Next verse: “He’s the guitar man in the band…” and, sure enough, right at the 0:48 mark, there’s Jim Boyd letting loose on his electric guitar!

Listen for yourself!

 

Ok. Stop the presses! Time to rewrite the history books! (Or at least, my blog.)

“Hot Dog Stomp” by Roy Newman and His Boys is no longer to be known as “The First Recording To Feature A Spanish Electric Guitar.”

Henceforth, the holder of that title is… (drum roll, please)…

“Rhythm Is Our Business” by Roy Newman and His Boys.

Ta Da!

“Rhythm Is Our Business” b/w “Slow And Easy” was released in December, 1935 by Vocalion Records, on a 78-rpm disc, #03103.

“Rhythm Is Our Business” was written by Saul Chaplin, Jimmie Lunceford and Sammy Cahn. It was first recorded and released by Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra in 1935.

The line-up of Roy Newman and His Boys for the September 27 & 28, 1935 recording sessions in Dallas, Texas was: (Standing, left to right, in the photo below)

  • Walter Kirkes, tenor banjo
  • Buddy Neal, guitar
  • Thurman Neal, fiddle
  • Ish Erwin, upright bass
  • Jim Boyd, electric guitar
  • Ray Lackland, vocals
  • Earl Brown, guitar
  • Jesse Ashlock, fiddle
  • Holly Horton, clarinet
  • Roy Newman, band leader and pianist, seated in the front.

 

If you would like to learn more about other early recordings featuring the electric guitar, see my blog post of June 15, 2010 called Recent Discoveries.

If you would like to learn more about – and listen to – “Hot Dog Stomp” and Roy Newman and His Boys, see my blog post of June 23, 2013 called Hot Dog!

If you would like to learn more about Jim Boyd, see my blog post of June 27, 2013 called Hot Dog! P.S.: Jim Boyd.

If you’re reading this on your phone, enter “Jim Boyd” into the search function and you’ll get all three of those posts!

P.S.: Help! I have been completely unable to find and/or listen to “Slow And Easy” by Roy Newman and His Boys online. If you can find this recording and would be kind enough to send me a link to it, I would be eternally grateful.

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A Photo a Week Challenge: Music

This is my first time entering a photo challenge. But when I found the nancy merrill photography blog and the topic of her weekly photo challenge, one image immediately came to mind.

I took this photograph on Father’s Day in 2005 at The Press Room in Portsmouth, NH.

I call it: “Jazz On A Summer Sunday Evening.”

Here’s the link to nancy’s blog.

https://nadiamerrillphotography.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/a-photo-a-week-challenge-live-music/

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This Historic Day In Music: Sara Carter

Sara Carter was born Sara Elizabeth Dougherty on this day, July 21, in 1898, just north of Copper Creek, Wise County, Virginia. She was one of five children born to William Sevier and Nancy Elizabeth (Kilgore) Dougherty.

One day when Sara was sixteen, she was standing in the front room of her Aunt Susie Nickels’ house in Copper Creek. She was playing her autoharp and singing “Engine 143,” an old song she’d learned as a little girl. A knock came at the door, which Aunt Susie answered.

It was 21 year old Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter from Clinch Mountain. He had been walking towards the house, looking to see if Mrs. Nickels (the mother of Alvin’s mother’s cousin) would be interested in buying a fruit tree or two from the nursery that he worked for. The singing A.P. had heard coming from inside the house had quickened his step.

Aunt Susie welcomed A.P. in. He entered the front room and stood, listening. When Sara finished her song, he said to her: “Ma’am, that was might pretty playing and singing, and I sure would like you to play that over again for me.” So Sara did.

A.P. would later often say that although it was Sara’s voice that first attracted him, “It was the way her dark eyes held a constant play of sparkling light that transfixed him.”

A.P. Carter and Sara Dougherty were married on June 18, 1915.

Starting around December of 1925, Sara and A.P. put together a trio with Sara’s young cousin and sister-in-law, Maybelle Addington Carter. Maybelle played guitar and sang, A.P. “bassed in” and played a little bit of guitar. Sara played autoharp, second guitar and was the lead vocalist. They called themselves “The Carter Family.”

That’s Sara on the right, A.P. in the middle and Maybelle on the left.

On July 31, 1927, The Carter Family drove the 26 miles from Maces Springs, VA to Bristol, TN. They had an audition on August 1st for Ralph Peer, the traveling talent scout for Victor Records. Peer had set up a “recording station” on “the second floor of the building formerly occupied by the Taylor-Christian Hat company” at 408 State Street in downtown Bristol.

In his later years, Peer would say: “As soon as I heard Sara’s voice, that was it. I knew it was going to be wonderful.”

The Carters recorded four songs at the August 1st session: “Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow,” “Little Old Log Cabin By The Sea,” “Poor Orphan Child” and “The Storms Are On The Ocean” Peer was so impressed that he invited them to come back the next day. Sara and Maybelle did and recorded two more songs: “Wandering Boy” and “Single Girl, Married Girl.” All of these performances featured Sara’s vocals.

On November 4, 1927, Victor Records released the first record by The Carter Family from those Bristol sessions. The song on one side was “Poor Orphan Child,” with vocals by Sara and A.P. The song on the other side was “Wandering Boy,” with Maybelle on guitar and  Sara singing and playing autoharp.

Listen.

 

By the 1930’s, The Carter Family had become “the most bankable Country music group in America, with total sales of more than a million records.”

Even though Sara and A.P. separated in 1933 and ultimately divorced in 1936, The Carter Family performed and recorded together into the next decade. They did their last recording session for RCA Victor in October, 1941 and finally disbanded in March of 1943.

The Carter Family was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970.

Sara Dougherty Carter passed away on January 8, 1979 in California.

The information and quotes in this post came from the wonderful book: Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg, 2002.

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A Day In Boston, Highlights & Traditions – a no-str story

Boston, Massachusetts. Friday, June 22, 2018.

Morning: looking up from the deck of the U.S.S. Constitution.

Afternoon: looking down through a window at the top of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Snacking under a tree on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in the North End.

Listening from a bench in the Public Garden.

Evening: dining al fresco on Boylston Street.

“Catching” first pitch at Fenway Park, 7:11 pm.

And… three hours and thirty-four minutes of sitting, watching, groaning, believing, applauding, cheering, mooing, chanting, standing, waving, singing, dancing, whooping, laughing, high-fiving and reveling later…

14-10!!!

What a day!

(Thanks for that last picture, Jack.)

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“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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