This Historic Day In Music: Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson – the singer, guitarist & songwriter who became known as the “Queen of Rockabilly” – was born in Maud, Oklahoma on this day, October 20, in 1937.

In 1956, 19-year-old Wanda signed with Capitol Records and soon saw the release of her first single for the label: “I Gotta Know” b/w “Half As Good A Girl.”

Her first album for Capitol, Wanda Jackson, came out in July of 1958 and contained the song that – in 1960 – would become her biggest Top 40 Pop hit: “Let’s Have A Party.”

Rock journalist Ed Ward, writing in his excellent 2016 book, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1, describes Wanda Jackson’s now-legendary talents: “Her powerful, brassy voice could – and did – belt out country music, but she also could – and did – rock like crazy.”

Listen for yourself!

 

“Let’s Have A Party” was written in 1957 by Jesse Mae Robinson and originally recorded by Elvis Presley for the movie Loving You.

Did you notice Wanda’s guitar in the picture above?

That’s a 1950 Martin D-18 acoustic guitar, hand painted and equipped with a sound-hole pick-up.

Here’s a close-up picture of that instrument, complete with Wanda’s guitar strap, from when it was on display as part of the recent Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

 

Happy Birthday, Wanda Jackson! Hope the party is still going strong!

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This Historic Day In Music: Chuck Berry

This songbook has been in my music library for many years.

Fred Sokolow’s excellent note-for-note transcriptions of 17 Chuck Berry classics have repeatedly proven themselves to be invaluable to me as a guitarist and as a teacher.

The Michael Ochs Archives photograph that graces the cover provides not only a fine portrait of Mr. Berry, but a tantalizing view of one of his guitars; a guitar that (thanks to my incredible children) I had the very good fortune to be able to see “in person” this past September.

Chuck Berry’s guitar – a 1958 Gibson ES-350T archtop thinline hollow-body electric guitar – was the opening act, the greeter, for Play It Loud: Instruments Of Rock & Roll. 

Play It Loud was an absolutely amazing exhibition of more than 130 instruments that filled Exhibition Gallery 199 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this past Spring and Summer. (My daughter, son and I were there on Sunday, September 29.) To be able to stand just a few feet – often just a few inches – in front of so many famous and historically important musical instruments was a truly breathtaking and unforgettable experience.

According to the exhibition catalog – by Jayson Kerr Dobney & Craig J. Inciardi – that Gibson ES-350T was “Chuck Berry’s main guitar from 1958 until about 1963.”

That means that Chuck Berry most likely played that guitar on this recording.

 

“Carol” was recorded on May 2, 1958. The musicians accompanying both of Chuck Berry’s guitar parts (listen closely!) on that track were:

  • Johnnie Johnson – Piano
  • G. Smith – Bass
  • Ebby Hardy – Drums

“Carol” was released as a single – b/w “Hey Pedro” – by Chess Records in August, 1958.

Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born on October 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri.

He passed away on March 18, 2017.

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The Beginning

The first time I gave a guitar lesson was on Monday, October 13, 1975.

My student’s name was Catherine. She was 13 years old.

Catherine’s Mom was a classroom teacher at the elementary school where I was the brand new, guitar-toting music teacher. She stopped me in the hall one morning to ask, “Would you be interested in giving my daughter guitar lessons?”

That first lesson was held in the living room of Catherine’s home.

My fee was $3.00.

I taught at that elementary school for four years, giving after-school guitar lessons to a growing roster of students.

I became a guitar teacher full-time, working mostly with high school-age students, in the Fall of 1979.

And that is still what I do.

This past Summer, I ran into Catherine’s Mom at the ice-cream shop downtown.

I took the opportunity to thank her for launching my career.

 

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One Thing Leads To Another

That’s me.

I’m standing in the middle of Jones Street, just off of West 4th Street, in Greenwich Village, the borough of Manhattan, in the city of New York.

The picture was taken by my son on a magical Saturday afternoon at the end of this past September.

Why there?

That is where, in February 1963, photographer Don Hunstein took the picture of Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo that was used on the cover of Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Pretty cool, don’t you think?

I’ve been listening to that album quite a bit since getting home from New York and the second track – “Girl From The North Country” – really stayed with me.

So, I decided to learn how to play it.

I could hear that Dylan was using the same Cotten-style fingerpicking patterns on “Girl From The North Country” that he used on “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – a song I know quite well. I recognized an open-position G major chord at the start of the intro and soon established that Dylan had his guitar capoed at the third fret.

But what was the chord he was playing behind the start of – and throughout – each verse?

It took me a few tries, but I finally identified the fingering as a two-finger Am7 moved two frets up the neck. With the open 6th string bass note his thumb plucks on the first and third beats of each four beat measure, that fingering sounds as an Em9 chord.

Dylan consistently followed the Em9 with a D7/F# chord before heading back into the G major. I located an occasional “plain” Em chord and many-more-than-a-few C/G’s, and – voila! – the chord progression was mine!

The lyrics to the song as they appear on bobdylan.com are not exactly the same as the ones he sings on the album, but I easily penciled in the corrections on my print-out.

Getting the way Dylan phrases those lyrics in his vocals is the hard part.

In my quest for some confirmation of my chordal discoveries, I found this video.

Take a look (and a listen).

 

That performance was filmed in March, 1964, for a Canadian television show called Quest.

Bob Dylan recorded the version of “Girl From The North Country” that appears on The Freewheelin’… on April 23, 1963 in Columbia Records’ Studio A, in New York City.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan LP was released by Columbia Records on May 27, 1963.

I’m definitely enjoying playing and singing “Girl From The North Country.” As Bob does in the video, I’m more comfortable doing it without a capo on my guitar.

Wouldn’t it be something to someday sing “Girl From The North Country” while standing again in the middle of Jones Street?

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Some Kind Of Smelling Salts: “Groovadelphia”

Some Kind Of Smelling Salts features songs from my personal playlist of musical stimulants and audio caffeine delivery systems; a distinct selection of creations and performances that I find to be deliciously intoxicating, undeniably invigorating and unapologetically addictive.

Listening not for the faint of heart.

The title comes from the second verse of the song “Recovery” by Frank Turner. (See the introductory post of …Smelling Salts published on February 17, 2019.)

Today’s dose is “Groovadelphia,” an instrumental by the trio Organissimo.

This may not be a hell-bent potboiler like the first two selections that I posted in this category, but it sure put a spring in my step and smile on my face when it shuffled up on my iPod during a recent morning walk.

 

See what I mean? (I hope you listened to the whole track!)

Organissimo is:

  • Jim Alfredson – Hammond XK System (XK3) Electric Organ
  • Joe Gloss – Electric Guitar
  • Randy Marsh – Drums

“Groovadelphia” is the title track from the band’s third album. It was recorded by Jim Alfredson in April 2008 and released later that year on Big O Records.

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This Historic Day In Music: “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)”

On September 13, 1947, Aaron “T-Bone” Walker went to work in the recording studios of Black & White Records in Hollywood, CA. With a five-piece band behind him, the Blues guitarist/singer/songwriter recorded the song that would become his biggest hit.

“Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)” was released on a 10″, 78-rpm disc by Black & White Records in November, 1947. (The flip side was a song called “I Know Your Wig Has Gone.”)

The band playing behind T-Bone included:

  • Lloyd Glenn, piano
  • Arthur Edwards, bass
  • Oscar Lee Bradley, drums
  • John “Teddy” Bruckner, trumpet
  • Hubert “Bumps” Myers, tenor saxophone

T-Bone Walker’s playing on “Call It Stormy Monday…” influenced countless aspiring electric guitarists including B.B. King.

Mr. King once said: “He was the first electric guitar player I heard on record. T-Bone Walker had a touch that nobody has been able to duplicate. He made me so that I knew I just had to go out and get an electric guitar.”

Billy Vera wrote in the liner notes to the Rhino Records 2000 CD The Very Best of T-Bone Walker: “If T-Bone had done nothing more in his career than write and record this one tune, his esteemed place in the history of American music would be guaranteed.”

“Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)” was inducted into the Blues Foundation Blues Hall of Fame in 1983, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2007, the U.S. National Recording Preservation Board selected it to be included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Listen for yourself! You’ll be glad you did.

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This Historic Day: The March On Washington

Today is the 56th anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

On August 28, 1963, an estimated 250,000 people peacefully gathered in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The purpose of the march was to call for fair treatment and equal opportunity for African Americans and to advocate for passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Mahalia Jackson and Joan Baez were among the fourteen performers who contributed songs to the day’s long program of speeches, remarks and prayers.

Here are two fascinating films of these remarkable women from that most historic day.

First, Mahalia Jackson singing a gospel song, “How I Got Over.” (Her singing – with the lyrics – begins at the 30-second mark in this video.)

 

And next, Joan Baez in the midst of leading the multitude in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

 

Biographer, journalist and professor Jon Meacham writes in his wonderful new book Songs Of America: Patriotism, Protest, And The Music That Made A Nation: “The songs of the March on Washington offer a microcosm of the political panoply of life in (those) years as gospel and folk, and black and white came together to acknowledge the difficulty of the struggle and the justice of the claims of those seeking equality.”

The most well known speech that day was given by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. That masterpiece has become known as Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

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This Historic Day In Music: Led Zeppelin – August 21, 1969

My friend Tom had his driver’s license and a car.

Somehow we’d gotten two tickets.

Led Zeppelin, our favorite band, was playing at the Carousel Theater in Framingham, Massachusetts and we were going to be there!

Also, I’d just purchased my first good camera: a Mamiya/Sekor 500 TL 35-mm single-lens reflex with a 50-mm lens. I had loaded it with a roll of Kodak Ektachrome color slide film and was really looking forward to taking some pictures at the concert.

The drive from Southeast New Hampshire to Framingham on that Thursday afternoon took a bit longer than Tom and I had anticipated, but we rolled into the parking lot of the Carousel Theater well before the start of the concert.

The Carousel Theater was a “theater-in-the-round” that operated only in the summer. The seating area was basically a big bowl (it held about 2500 people) with a circular stage down in the center. This “theater” was enclosed and covered by a very large tent. Although our seats were located behind the performers and their amplifiers, Tom and I still had a clear view of the stage.

Here’s the view from our seats, taken towards the end of the concert:

 

The opening act that evening was Orpheus, a band originally from nearby Worcester, Massachusetts. Orpheus was a major player in the recently popular “Bosstown Sound” craze and their big radio hit was a song called “Can’t Find The Time.”

When it was time for Led Zeppelin to start, I took my camera and made my way around the theater and down an aisle to a great spot right at the edge of the stage. (See the girl in the lower right hand corner of the picture above leaning with both elbows on the edge of the stage? That’s just about where I was.)

As the band rocked, I clicked away.

 

Here’s what I’ve learned since taking those photos:

On August 21, 1969, Guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, bass guitarist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham were in midst of the Led Zeppelin Summer 1969 North American Tour. It was their third tour of North America.

The set list for the tour was made up mostly of songs from the band’s first album, Led Zeppelin, that had come out the previous January. Significantly, the Framingham show was the first (or second) time that Jimmy, Robert, John Paul & John played “What Is and What Should Never Be” – a song destined for their second album – in concert.

The Led Zeppelin Summer 1969 North American Tour had begun on July 5th at the Atlanta International Pop Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.

The night before coming to Framingham, the band had played at The Aerodome, an approximately 3000-seat nightclub in Schenectady, New York.

The Carousel Theater show was the 39th of the tour.

When the tour concluded on August 31st at the Texas International Pop Festival in Lewisville, Texas, Led Zeppelin had played 46 shows over the course of 58 days.

Isn’t it amazing how much Rock concerts have changed in 50 years?!? In looking at these photos again, I am once more fascinated by what I see and especially by what I don’t see on the stage of The Carousel Theater that evening in 1969.

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Three Guitars

This summer, the featured exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire is titled Medieval to Metal: The Art and Evolution of the Guitar.

Medieval to Metal is a traveling exhibit curated and produced by the National GUITAR Museum. It debuted at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin in February, 2015 and has a tour schedule with bookings into 2022.

NGM launched its first (and on-going) traveling exhibit – GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World – in February, 2011.

The show at the Currier presents 40 instruments that “showcase the rare and antique to the wildly popular and innovative.” Besides the obligatory American-made icons (a Martin D-28, a Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson Les Paul and a Rickenbacker 360/12), Medieval to Metal included three eye-catching European guitars from the 1960’s.

The Hagstrom Standard 80 (1960)

Hagstrom is a musical instrument company founded in Sweden in 1925. Originally selling accordions, the company began producing electric guitars in 1958. In designing the Standard 80, Hagstrom “took the standard electric cutaway shape and added flamboyant elements wherever possible.”

Hagstrom’s U.S. distributor decided to market the guitar in America as the Goya 80.

 

The Mark VI or Teardrop (1964)

The Jennings Musical Instruments company – JMI – was formed in 1957 in England to produce and market Vox guitar amplifiers. In 1963, JMI designed an electric guitar – the Mark III – with a body made in the shape of a guitar pick. The Mark VI featured the addition of a Bigsby tremolo arm.

 

The EKO 700 (1965)

EKO is an Italian acoustic guitar company founded in 1959. The company started producing its 700 series of electric guitars in 1965. The instrument’s design elements featured “dramatic curves, bold sparkle paint jobs, large swaths of chrome and more buttons than American guitars.”

As I like to say, “The world of guitar is a wide and wonderful place.”

I think I need to change that to: “…a wild and wonderful place.”

Would you agree?

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The Ballad of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

Verse 1

The melody came first.

Published in Paris, in 1761. It was titled “Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman.” (“Oh! Shall I Tell You, Mummy”) from a collection called Les Amusements dune Heure et Demy. 


Verse 2

Then the words.

From a poem called “The Star,” written by Jane Taylor (1783-1824), an English poet. It was published in 1806 in a collection called Rhymes for the Nursery.  

Here’s how “The Star” looked in an American edition of Rhymes for the Nursery, published in 1849.

Verse 3

And finally, the song.

“Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman” and “The Star” were first published together as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in The Singing Master: First Class Tune-Book, Second Edition, by William Edward Hickson, in London, 1838.

Here’s how it looked in an edition from 1840.

sing00hick_orig_0119-e1565098741110.jpg

Verse 4

The melody proved to be rather popular, well before becoming “Twinkle, Twinkle…”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote “Twelve Variations on ‘Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman'” K.265/300e, in 1781/1782. It was published in Vienna in 1785.

Here’s a contemporary performance by pianist Christoph Eschenbach.

Give a listen! It’s quite the piece.

 

Also, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) performed an improvisation on “Ah, Vous Dirai-Je, Maman” in a public concert in Prague in October, 1798. (He also played his Piano Concerto, No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 and two movements from his Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2, No. 2. in that concert.)

Verse 5

The melody has been published with several other texts. Two of the best known are…

“A B C D E F G,” (aka “The ABC Song”) first published in Germany in 1824; then in the United States (where it went under the title “The Schoolmaster”) in 1834 and…

“Bah, Bah, Black Sheep” published in the U.S. in 1879.

Verse 6

Way back in my Folk-singer-on-a-Fall-weekend-at-the-apple-orchard days, I used to do a crowd-pleasing medley of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “The ABC Song” and “Bah, Bah, Black Sheep.”

Then I discovered a songbook with a transcription of “Twinkle, Twinkle…” that had four verses! This was an actual song! I made a copy of the page of lyrics…

…and never wrote down the title of the book it came from!

Oh, well.

Those four verses – whoever adapted them from the original – made for a very nice arrangement that these days goes like this.

Verse 7

So. Is this all a rather big to-do for a little kid’s song?

Well, I don’t think that “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is a little kid’s song.

I think it’s an everybody song.

My original blog motto is: “Good music doesn’t get old.”

Maybe I should change it to: “Good music is ageless.”

The End

Most of the information used in the writing of this post is from: The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular and Folk, Fifth Edition, Revised and Enlarged (2000) by James J. Fuld.

 

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