Light Amidst Dark – “Six Feet Apart”

My son turned me on to this song by Luke Combs in August.

He asked if I could teach him how to play it and, over the course of a couple of Sunday afternoon FaceTime guitar lessons, I did.

“Six Feet Apart” was written – two verses and a chorus – by Luke Combs, Brent Cobb and Robert Snyder on April 14, 2020. Their songwriting session had been scheduled before the start of the pandemic.

Luke debuted the song during a live-stream at-home performance on April 15.

Give a listen.

 

Talk about hot off the presses!

Luke, Brent and Robert captured so much of what so many of us have been feeling for all these months in a perfectly charming package of melody, lyrics and harmony. And Luke’s no-frills performance delivers the goods with warmth, sincerity and soul.

My favorite line comes at the end of the second verse. I’m pretty sure that, even after “this thing” is over, I will also still “probably over-wash my hands.”

Luke Combs released a full-band rendition of “Six Feet Apart”- recorded in a studio with everyone wearing masks and sitting in separate rooms – on May 1, 2020.

P.S.: If you want to try playing “Six Feet Apart” for yourself (as I’ve been doing)…

  • Hint #1: That sweet Gibson acoustic Luke’s playing is tuned down one half-step.
  • Hint #2: Fingering chords in the Key of G, Luke never uses a regular D major chord.

P.S.S.: Thanks, Tom.

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This Historic Day In Music: Buddy Holly

If asked, I could easily put together a list of my ten favorite Buddy Holly songs.

In no particular order…

  • “That’ll Be The Day”
  • “Not Fade Away”
  • “Oh Boy!”
  • “Everyday”
  • “Word Of Love”
  • “Peggy Sue”
  • “Maybe Baby”
  • “Well…All Right”
  • “It’s So Easy”
  • “True Love Ways”

But if I had to pick just one to put in this post, I’d have to go with: “Well…All Right.”

 

“Well…All Right” was recorded on February 12, 1958 at the Norman Petty Recording Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Buddy sings and plays acoustic guitar and is accompanied by Joe B. Maudlin on bass and Jerry Allison on cymbals. Buddy, Joe, Jerry and Norman Petty – who produced the recording – are all given songwriting credit.

“Well…All Right” was released by Coral Records on November 5, 1958. It was the B-side of the 45-rpm single on which the A-side was “Heartbeat.”

*   *   *   *   *

Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7, 1936 in Lubbock, Texas.

He made his first professional recordings for Decca Records in Nashville, Tennessee on January 26, 1956.

He recorded his first and biggest hit – “That’ll Be The Day” – on February 25, 1957 at the Norman Petty Recording Studio in Clovis, New Mexico.

Over the very short course of his career, Buddy Holly – songwriter, singer, guitarist, performer & recording artist – produced one of the most important and influential bodies of work in the history of Popular Music.

Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959 in Clear Lake, Iowa. He was 22 years old.

What Buddy Holly song would you have picked?

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This Historic Day In Music: The Last Hard Day’s Night

The Day: Monday, August 29, 1966

The Location: San Francisco, California, USA

The Venue: Candlestick Park (Opened: 1960, Demolished: 2015)

The Event: A Beatles’ Concert

 

 

The Significance: The Beatles’ Final Public Performance 

Members of The Beatles:

  • George Harrison – Guitar & Vocals
  • John Lennon – Guitar & Vocals
  • Paul McCartney – Bass Guitar & Vocals
  • Ringo Starr – Drums & Vocals

The Beatles’ Road Crew: Mal Evans

Concert Promotion: Tempo Productions

Poster Design: Wes Wilson

Concert Sound: McCone Audio-Visual; Mort Feld, sound mixer.

Number of Microphones Used On Stage: Five (for vocals only)

Official Photographer: Jim Marshall (Coined the phrase: “The Last Hard Day’s Night.”)

Catering: Simpson’s Catering

Special Guests: Joan Baez & Mimi Fariña

Opening Acts (In order of appearance):

  • The Remains
  • Bobby Hebb (accompanied by The Remains)
  • The Cyrkle
  • The Ronettes – with Elaine Mayes filling in for Ronnie Spector (accompanied by The Remains)

Master of Ceremonies: Gene Nelson, disc jockey at KYA 1260 AM.

Ticket Prices: $4.50, $5.50, $6.50.

Number of tickets available: ~30,000

Number of tickets sold: 25,000

The Beatles’ Take: $84,500

Weather: Partly cloudy; Temperature: 50-58º F; Gusty winds: 10-20 mph.

Gates Open: 6:30 pm

Concert Start Time: 8:00 pm

Time of The Beatles’ Performance: 9:27 – 10:00 pm

Set List (All songs by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, unless otherwise noted):

  • “Rock & Roll Music” (Chuck Berry)
  • “She’s A Woman”
  • “If I Needed Someone” (George Harrison)
  • “Day Tripper”
  • “Baby’s In Black”
  • “I Feel Fine”
  • “Yesterday”
  • “I Wanna Be Your Man”
  • “Nowhere Man”
  • “Paperback Writer”
  • “Long Tall Sally” (Richard Blackwell, Enotris Johnson & Richard Penniman)

Instruments & Equipment Used By The Beatles:

George Harrison:

  • Epiphone Casino ES-230TD Electric Guitar (with Bigsby Vibrato Arm/Tailpiece and pickguard removed)
  • Rickenbacker 1965 360-12 12-String Electric Guitar (w/capo at the 7th fret)

John Lennon:

  • Epiphone Casino ES-230TD Electric Guitar

Paul McCartney:

  • Hofner 1963 500/1 “Violin” Electric Bass Guitar (with pickguard removed)

Ringo Starr:

  • Ludwig 4-Piece Drum Set (finished in Black Oyster Pearl) with a 22-inch bass drum, a 20-inch ride cymbal, 18-inch splash cymbal and 14-inch hi-hat.

Instrument Amplification:

  • American-made Vox 120-watt Solid State Super Beatle Amplifiers. (There were 7 of these amps on stage and they were used by all of the groups in the show.)

Concert Recording: Done by Tony Barrow, the Beatles’ press officer, on a portable cassette tape recorder with a hand held microphone; at the request of Paul McCartney.

And here it is!

 

Immediate Post-Concert Transportation for The Beatles: an Armored Vehicle from the Loomis Armored Car Service with an escort of eleven San Francisco Motorcycle Police Officers.

A Review: Under the headline, Beatles Strike Out At The Ballpark, Philip Elwood wrote in the San Francisco Examiner:

“The whole evening’s production was an expensive and thoroughly synchronized bit of highly commercial machinery. Each of the preliminary throw-away acts did their stint to indifferent crowd response, and soaked up the minutes until The Beatles appeared. Then came the screams…”

Sources of Information:

  • Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles’ Last Concert by Eric Lefcowitz, with photos by Jim Marshall. Published in 1987 by Terra Firma Books.
  • Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments, From Stage To Studio by Andy Babiuk. Published in 2001 by Backbeat Books.
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Sparklers: “Shufflin’ The Blues” by T-Bone Walker

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

That introduction used to include this explanation: It was inspired by whatever god oversees the shuffle mode of my iPod classic during my morning walks.

Well, that’s exactly what happened today! So, when this piece poured out of my headphones this morning, I knew that I simply had to introduce you to…

“Shufflin’ The Blues” by T-Bone Walker.

Give a listen! You’re about to hear 3 minutes and 22 seconds of electric Blues guitar fabulousness spanning 11 choruses of the 12-bar Blues progression in the key of C.

 

“Shufflin’ The Blues” was written by Aaron “T-Bone” Walker. It is from the 1959 Atlantic Records LP T-Bone Blues. The performance you just listened to was recorded on December 14, 1956 in Los Angeles, California. Nesuhi Ertegun was the producer.

The musicians on that track are:

  • T-Bone Walker – Electric Guitar
  • Lloyd Glenn – Piano
  • Billy Hadnott – Bass
  • Oscar Bradley – Drums

Aaron Thibeaux Walker was born on May 28, 1910, in Linden, Texas. By the age of 15, he was performing professionally on the Blues club circuit in and around Dallas.

Under the title “Oak Cliff T-Bone,” Walker cut his first record in 1929, singing and playing acoustic guitar. He made his first significant recordings with an electric guitar in 1945.

T-Bone Walker is now widely recognized as The Father of the Electric Blues Guitar. He has been readily listed as a primary influence by such major musicians as B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix.

Aaron Walker passed away on March 16, 1975, in Los Angeles, California.

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“Crazy Blues” – The Centennial

One hundred years ago today – August 10, 1920 – Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds recorded “Crazy Blues.”

The recording was made in the New York City studios of OKeh Records. Ralph Peer, the recording director for OKeh in New York, supervised the session.

“Crazy Blues” was the first Blues recording by an African/American singer.

The vocalist, Mamie Smith, was 37 years old. She had sung and danced and played piano on the Vaudeville circuit since she was 10.

“Crazy Blues” was written by African-American composer Perry Bradford in 1912. Originally called “Nervous Blues,” Bradford changed the title for its original sheet music publication in 1915.

The members of the Jazz Hounds who accompanied Mamie Smith on the session were:

  • Perry Bradford – Piano
  • Ernest Elliott – Clarinet
  • Dope Andrews – Trombone
  • Johnny Dunn – Cornet
  • Leroy Parker – Violin

Today, this type of Blues is referred to as “Classic Blues:” a female vocalist with at least a piano for accompaniment, all instrumentalists playing in the Jazz style of the times.

In 1920, however, this was something new.

Give a listen.

 

The success of “Crazy Blues” b/w “It’s Right Here For You (If You Don’t Get It, ‘Taint No Fault Of Mine)” by Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds took everyone by surprise.

Especially OKeh Records.

75,000 copies of the 78-rpm disc – #4169 – were sold in the first month after its release and 1,000,000 before six months had passed.

“Crazy Blues” proved that there was a very real market for music by African-American artists. American record companies soon began recording and releasing such records in earnest. Established performing artists including Bessie Smith (“Empress of the Blues”), Alberta Hunter, Sara Martin (“The Blues Sensation of the West”), Ma Rainey (“Mother of the Blues”) and Victoria Spivey became recording artists as well.

In 1924, OKeh recorded Ed Andrews, the first male Blues singer/guitarist.

By the late 1920’s, five different record companies competed for sales in this new category, one that they called “Race Records.”

A few years after the release of “Crazy Blues,” Metronome magazine boldly proclaimed: “Blues are here to stay!”

As I always say, “Good music doesn’t get old.”

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This Historic Day In Music: The Carter Family

In the evening, on August 1, 1927, The Carter Family – Alvin Pleasant Carter, his wife Sara Dougherty Carter and Sara’s younger cousin, Maybelle Addington Carter – made their first recordings.

The recording session took place in a make-shift recording studio located on the second floor of the building used by the Taylor-Christian Hat Company at 408 State Street in downtown Bristol, Tennessee.

Ralph Peer, a traveling talent scout for New York City-based Victor Records, had set up the studio and produced the recording session.

The Carters stood together that evening on a small wooden stage in the middle of the blanket-draped room and leaned into the single microphone. Sara played the autoharp and sang lead, Maybelle played a small Stella acoustic guitar and together with A.P., sang harmony.

When the session was done, they had recorded four songs and, though no one knew it yet, they’d made history.

Here’s one of those recordings. Give a listen.

 

Years later, Maybelle would recall this day:

“When we made the record and played it back, I thought it couldn’t be. I just couldn’t believe it, this being so unreal, you standing there and singing and they’d turn around and play it back to you.”

Over the next seventeen years, The Carter Family would record – and listen to the playback of – hundreds of songs. Their music would come to define Country music for decades.

The Carter Family was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988. They were given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

To this day, A.P., Sara and Maybelle are widely referred to as “The First Family of Country Music.”

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The First Record With A Fender

It was a Country record on the Capitol label.

Released in July of 1950, Capitol Record #1124 was available in two formats: a 78 rpm 10″ shellac disc and the more modern 45 rpm 7″ vinyl “single.”

“I’ll Never Be Free” by Bennie Benjamin & George Weiss was the song on the A-side. On the B-side was “Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own” by Irving Taylor.

The featured vocalists on the record were Capitol Records artists Kay Starr…

…and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

 

Ms. Starr and Mr. Ford recorded “I’ll Never Be Free” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own” at Capitol Records’ studios in Los Angeles, California on June 28, 1950.

There were two guitarists among the studio musicians gathered for the recording session.

One of them was Speedy West on pedal steel guitar.

The other was Jimmy Bryant on electric guitar.

 

Jimmy Bryant was a 25-year-old, Georgia-born, Jazz-influenced Country guitar player working in the Southern California area. In early 1950 he had become quite well known for his dazzling guitar duets with Speedy West on a local Country music TV show. Although Speedy had been recording for Capitol since late 1948, the June 28, 1950 date was Jimmy’s first recording session.

The instrument that Jimmy Bryant played that day was a Fender Esquire solid body electric guitar.

It would be the first time a Fender guitar was used on a record.

Here now are both of those remarkable and most enjoyable recordings. Give a listen!

Speedy West’s pedal steel is most prominent on “I’ll Never Be Free,” but Jimmy adds in some very tasty fills at the 0:19, 0:42, 1:28 and 2:15 marks.

 

Just To Let You Know: “I’ll Never Be Free” would reach the #2 spot on the U.S. Country chart and #3 on the Pop chart before the end of the year.

Jimmy Bryant’s superb playing is showcased on “Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own.” He takes the opening solo and then a breathless full solo starting at 1:09. He contributes endlessly inventive counter melodies behind the vocals on most of the verses and all four statements of the chorus.

 

JTLYK#2: The record pictured in those YouTube videos – Capitol Records EAP 1-621 – was a 45 rpm 7″ vinyl EP (extended play) record released in 1955.

 

The Fender Esquire solid body electric guitar was designed by Leo Fender. In 1950, it became the first electric guitar manufactured and sold by Leo’s company, the Fender Electric Instrument Company of Fullerton, California.

 

Jimmy Bryant had been a devoted fan of the Fender electric ever since the Fall of 1949. That was when Jimmy got to try out Leo Fender’s recently-completed prototype for his “standard electric” guitar one night at the Riverside Rancho dance hall in northern Los Angeles.

That prototype guitar was part of the Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from April to October, 2019 BP. I took this photograph there on September 29.

Leo Fender built a second prototype of his “standard electric” – one with all six tuning pegs lined up on the left side of the headstock – in the winter of 1949/50. Finally, when all the details of the design had been decided, the manufacturing of Leo’s guitar began at Fender’s Fullerton facility in March, 1950.

Don Randall, the company’s salesperson, christened the instrument “the Esquire.”

Given how ubiquitous and iconic Leo Fender’s electric guitars – the Telecaster (1951), the Stratocaster (1954) –  have become in the past 70 years, the discovery of these two recordings was a real thrill.

For the discovery of those recordings (and the writing of this post) I am most grateful to Mr. Ian S. Port for his truly exceptional book: The Birth Of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock ‘N’ Roll.

One last detail: Speedy West played a three-neck pedal steel guitar (see picture above) that was custom built for him in 1948 by Paul Bigsby of Downey, California; another major guitar pioneer who plays a big part in Mr. Port’s book.

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Opening Day 2020

Baseball – at least for now – is back!

Yesterday – Thursday, July 23, 2020 – was the Official Opening Day of the 2020 American Major League Baseball Season.

But today – Friday, July 24, 2020 – is Opening Day 2020 for the only team that really matters (to me): the Boston Red Sox!

And I’m ready!

I’ve got the 60-game schedule printed and hanging on the front of the refrigerator.

 

I’ve got a picture I took at Fenway Park during a game I went to in August 2018 as the desktop image on my laptop.

 

I’ve got my gear on.

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And I’ve got Steve Goodman and Jethro Burns cranked up on the jukebox.

 

Yeah, I’m ready.

GO RED SOX!!!!

So, who are you rootin’ for?

(That crackerjack rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” is from Steve Goodman’s excellent 1984 album Affordable Art. Steve steps up to the plate on acoustic guitar and vocals with designated hitter Jethro Burns knocking it out of the park on mandolin.)

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Sparklers: “Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers” by Lonnie Johnson

This is the sixth 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 to you…

“Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers” by Lonnie Johnson.

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

 

Lonnie Johnson recorded that piece for OKeh Records on May 1, 1927.

I discovered it on an album I bought many years ago at the Tower Records (Remember Tower Records?!?) that used to dominate the corner of Newbury Street and Mass Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts.

That album was released on the Origin Jazz Library label in 1980. It was produced by Lawrence Cohn.

Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 8, in either 1889, 1894 or 1899. (His passport said 1894.) He passed away on June 16, 1970 in Toronto, Canada.

His recording career began in 1925 after winning first prize for eight weeks in a row in a Blues contest sponsored by OKeh Records at the Booker T. Washington Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri.

Music journalist Pete Welding proclaims Lonnie Johnson to be “…one of the greatest, most accomplished, and most widely influential of all Blues performers.”

Fellow Blues musician Johnny Shines claimed that his friend Robert Johnson admired Lonnie’s music so much that Robert “…would tell people he was one of the Johnson boys from Texas. He’d give people the impression that he was from Texas and was related to Lonnie Johnson.”

If you enjoyed “Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers,” Lonnie Johnson left an extensive legacy of equally brilliant recordings. (He was a fabulous vocalist, too!) They are well worth searching out!

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This Historic Day In Music: John & Alan Lomax Meet Huddie Ledbetter – Take 3

In early June, 1933, Texas-based Folk song collector John Lomax and his 18-year-old son Alan drove out of Dallas on a mission. They were going on “the first major trip in the United States to capture black folk music in the field.”

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the 1992 book The Life & Legend of Lead Belly by Charles Wolfe & Kip Lornell.)

The elder Lomax was no stranger to song collecting. In 1910, his book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads had made him “a national figure in the field of folk song.”

Now John envisioned a new book that would “especially focus on the neglected genre of the black work song.” He even had a title: American Ballads and Folk Songs.

To collect such music, John decided to visit “sections of the South with a high percentage of blacks.” Specifically, his journey would pinpoint “labouring camps, lumber camps… and eventually, prisons and penitentiaries.”

Prisons and penitentiaries?

Alan Lomax answered that question in his 1993 book, The Land Where The Blues Began:

“We thought we should find that the African-American away from the pressure of the church and community, ignorant of the uplifting educational movement, having none but official contact with white men, dependent on the resources of his own group for amusement, and hearing no canned music, would have preserved and increased his heritage of secular folk music.”

John Lomax convinced the Macmillan Company publishers to give him a contract and a small cash advance. He also secured research funds and the promise of a new state-of-the-art portable recording machine – one that used 12-inch annealed aluminum discs – from the Library of Congress. This 315 pound disc-cutting behemoth was not received by the travelers, however, until they’d reached Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in early July.

But it arrived just in time.

In mid July the Lomaxes spent a few days at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

On Sunday, July 16, Andrew Reaux, the captain of the prison’s Camp A, introduced them to inmate Huddie Ledbetter.

John later wrote about that meeting:

“We found a Negro convict so skillful with his guitar and his strong, baritone voice that he had been made a ‘trusty’ and kept around Camp A headquarters as laundryman, so as to be near at hand to sing and play for visitors. Huddie Ledbetter…was unique in knowing a very large number of songs, all of which he sang effectively while he twanged his twelve-string guitar.”

Huddie – who went by the nickname “Lead Belly” – played and sang seven songs for the Lomaxes that day.

They were (in approximately this order):

  • “The Western Cowboy”
  • “(Honey) Take A Whiff On Me”
  • “Angola Blues”
  • “Frankie and Albert”
  • “Irene”
  • “You Can’t Lose Me Cholly”
  • “Ella Speed”

But since John and Alan were still learning how to use their new equipment, they only recorded a part or two (three for “Irene”) of each song.

The original discs from that July 16, 1933, recording session now safely reside in the archives of the Library of Congress.

The recordings on those discs were copied and eventually digitized by the Library. In 1997, they were released by Document Records on a CD titled: Field Recordings, Vol.5 – Louisiana, Texas, Bahamas. The tracks from that album were posted on YouTube in 2005.

I discovered them there yesterday.

Here they are.

I sincerely hope you take the time to listen to them both. I think you’ll find they make for a fascinating listening experience.

 

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