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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Sparklers: “Rollin’ Blues” by Lowell Fulson

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

Ladies and gentlemen! Let me introduce to you…

“Rollin’ Blues” by Lowell Fulson.

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

 

I discovered this piece on an LP I purchased at the University of New Hampshire Bookstore some time in the late 1970’s. The album was titled: America’s Musical Roots.

It was produced by Jim Pewter and Rick Donovan and released by Festival Records in 1976.

Mr. Pewter writes in the liner notes: “Lowell Fulson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma of Indian descent on his guitarist father’s side. He took up the guitar as a boy and by 1938 had his first regular musical job. ‘Rollin’ Blues’ is a down home instrumental recorded in 1955.”

Singer, guitarist & songwriter Lowell Fulson was born on March 31, 1921. He is best known for his songs “Reconsider Baby” and “Three O’Clock Blues.”

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This Historic Day In Music: Tommy Gallant (Take 2)

I’ve been getting together with some old friends and colleagues lately; catching up, reminiscing. Got me thinking about…

“Bonjour,” he’d say, with a little chuckle and a smile.

Tommy Gallant always brought a smile. “Bonjour,” as I remember it, was the punch line of one of his favorite jokes. More often than not, he would follow his “Bonjour” with: “Have you heard the one about…?”

As good as he was at telling a joke, when Tommy Gallant played the piano, smiles were absolutely guaranteed.

And when Tommy Gallant played the piano, he played Jazz.

Thomas L. Gallant was born on July 14, 1935, in Exeter, NH. He was the only son of Thomas and Doris (Lary) Gallant. (Tommy’s dad and my dad were classmates at Exeter High School.) By the time he was in high school, Tommy played piano with several local Jazz bands. He spent many, many hours in those days – often with his trombone-playing friend Phil Wilson – learning new tunes and further mastering his craft on the piano in his parents’ living room.

Tommy served in the United States Marine Corp after high school. He then studied piano and music theory at the University of New Hampshire and the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Settling down in the New Hampshire seacoast, he proceeded to build a life-long career as a performer, a teacher (at UNH, Berklee and Phillips Exeter Academy), and as a dedicated promoter of Jazz.

In an early draft of this post, I attempted to describe how Tommy Gallant played the piano. I wrote, among several even longer sentences, that Tommy had “the priceless ability to endow each and every note with the exact measure of joyfull, spirit-lifting, smile-inducing and simply irresistable swing.”

I have decided that it would be far better to let you hear Tommy Gallant’s piano playing for yourself.

On November 25, 1983, Tommy Gallant recorded a superb album of solo Jazz piano music.  The session took place in the Bratton Room in the Paul Arts Center at the University of New Hampshire. Gaylord Russell was the recording engineer.

TomGBest

Released in 1984 by the New Hampshire Library of Traditional Jazz, Tommy Gallant… by himself starts off with the song “Danny Boy.” (The melody of “Danny Boy” is also known as “Londonderry Air,” a traditional Irish Folk tune that first appeared in print in 1855.)

Here it is!

 

In 1988, The Tommy Gallant Trio – Tommy with longtime collaborators Jim Howe on bass and Les Harris, Jr. on drums – released an album called Jazz at the Pilot House.

Jazz at the Pilot House was recorded on January 25, 1988 at the Pilot House Restaurant in Rye, New Hampshire. Gaylord Russell again served as recording engineer.

The second track was a Tommy Gallant original: “The Pilot House Blues.”

Check it out!

 

Tommy Gallant passed away on September 28, 1998, after a long battle with cancer.

He had played literally countless gigs throughout the Northeast over the course of his career. He performed solo, with The Tommy Gallant Trio and with his legendary New Orleans-style, Traditional Jazz ensemble known as The Tommy Gallant All-Stars.

But in this corner of New England, Tommy is best remembered for the two decades of Sunday night Jazz sessions that he hosted at The Press Room on Daniel Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

When Tommy Gallant played his final Sunday night at The Press Room, the last piece that he played was a song written in 1928 by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin.

The song was “When You’re Smiling.”

Everyone knew the words: “When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…”

A few weeks before he died, I visited Tommy in the hospital. I brought him a joke. Not having his gift for the telling of a joke, I had the joke written down and I read it to him and his wife Patricia. When I finished, they laughed and then, still laughing, Tommy said “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone read a joke before!”

Well, I’ve never heard anyone, before or since, play the piano, play Jazz, and make it smile like Tommy Gallant.

JTLYK: In 1999, the annual Portsmouth Summer Jazz Festival – of which Tommy was a founding father – was renamed The Tommy Gallant Jazz Festival. This year the festival will be held on Sunday, August 11, 2019, in downtown Portsmouth’s lovely Prescott Park.

Happy Birthday, Tommy. Miss you.

P.S.: The black and white portrait of Tommy above was taken by Jim Howe; as talented of a photographer as he was as a Jazz bassist.

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The Ticonderoga & The New Orleans Hop Scop Blues

The Shelburne Museum is located at 6000 Shelburne Road in Shelburne, Vermont.

Spread across the 45 acres of the museum’s grounds are 39 buildings housing a world-renowned collection of art and Americana numbering over 100,000 items. There are also 22 gardens, a carousel, a passenger train, a covered bridge and a boat.

The boat is known as the Ti, short for the Ticonderoga.

The Ticonderoga is a 220-foot, 892 ton, 5 deck, side-paddlewheel steam boat.

Here’s a vintage postcard image of the vessel back in its sailing days.

The Ticonderoga was put into service in 1906 and operated as a day boat on Lake Champlain. It served the ports of Burlington and St. Albans, Vermont & Essex, Plattsburgh, Port Kent and Westport, NY. Its last cruise was on September 20, 1953.

In 1955, the Ti was incredibly transported two miles over land from the waters of Lake Champlain to the grounds of the Shelburne Museum. The boat was then meticulously restored to its original grandeur and, on January 28, 1964, was declared a National Historic Landmark.

The first thing a visitor sees after walking up the port-side gangplank and stepping onto the main deck is a sign welcoming you to “Steamboat Ticonderoga.”

Beneath that title, in a much smaller font, is a date: October 3, 1923.

The sign goes on to explain: “Over its 48 years of operation, the steamboat Ticonderoga served as a passenger and freight ferry, excursion boat, and floating casino and showboat. The ‘Ti‘ as you see it today is restored to appear much as it did on October 3, 1923.”

The sign then invites the visitor to actually imagine that it is October 3, 1923. It even provides a good bit of contextual history for that date to assist the visitor’s imagination.

For example, on that date…

  • Vermont native Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States.
  • Vermonters owned about 50,000 of the 10 million cars in the U.S.
  • There were 350,000 people in Vermont and 360,000 dairy cows.
  • Prohibition against the sale and consumption of alcohol was in its 4th year.

The sign offers the visitor these last encouraging words: “Step back in time to October 3, 1923. Imagine the wind blowing and the paddlewheels churning. Welcome aboard the Ticonderoga.”

During my recent visit to the Shelburne Museum, I spent a most enjoyable hour exploring the Ti, taking photos and pondering the significance of October 3, 1923.

Here’s a shot taken from the starboard side of the Forward Promenade/Salon Deck, near the bow of the boat.

This is the view looking aft through the Salon Deck, at the stern of the boat.

This last one is also a look aft along the starboard side of the Main Deck Dining Room.

 

Upon returning home, I was still thinking about October 3, 1923 and wondering if it had any historical significance in the world of music. A search through my reference library came up with nothing on that specific date.

However, a few events from my “This Historic Day In Music” lists did come kind of close.

Bessie Smith had her recording debut on February 15, 1923. The vocalist cut “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” and “Downhearted Blues” that day for Columbia Records.

Sylvester Weaver made the first recordings of solo acoustic Blues slide guitar music on November 4, 1923. He recorded “Guitar Blues” and “Guitar Rag” for OKeh Records on that day in New York City.

I did an online search next and… Bingo!

Google introduced me to a book: “Black Recording Artists, 1877-1926: An Annotated Discography,” edited by Craig Martin Gibbs and published in 2012.

Specifically, pgs.169-170 in Mr. Gibbs’ book which contained the listings for two bands and two vocalists who had recording sessions on October 3, 1923.

They were…

Deppe’s Serenaders – an eleven-piece ensemble from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, featuring baritone vocalist Lois Deppe and pianist Earl Hines – recorded 3 songs in Richmond, Indiana for Gennett Records. “Falling” and “Congaine” made up the two side of the group’s first release. The third song, “In The Evening By The Moonlight,” was not issued.

Fannie May Goosby – a Blues singer, pianist and songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia – recorded 3 songs in New York, New York for OKeh Records. Ms. Goosby cut “I’ve Got A Do Right Daddy Now,” written by pianist Eddie Heywood (who accompanied her on this session) and two originals: “I Believe My Man Has Got A Rabbit’s Leg” and “Goosby Blues.”

[Fannie May Goosby is believed to be one of the first female Blues artists to record her own material. She made her first record – “Grievous Blues” – on June 14, 1923 in Atlanta for producer Ralph Peer. She accompanied herself on the piano for this recording.]

Tudie Wells – a Vaudeville singer trying her hand at the Blues – recorded two songs in New York for Pathe Records. Accompanied by pianist F.H. Henderson, Jr., the songs “Baby’s Got The Blues” and “Uncle Sam Blues” would prove to be Ms. Wells’ only two recordings.

Last but not least, Clarence Williams’ Blue Five cut three numbers on October 3, 1923 in New York City for OKeh Records. (I wonder if they went before or after Fannie May?)

The numbers were: “‘Taint Nobody’s Bus’ness If I Do,” “Oh Daddy! (You Won’t Have No Mama At All)” and “New Orleans Hop Scop Blues.”

I like this one. Give a listen for yourself.

The musicians performing on that recording were:

  • Sidney Bechet – Soprano Saxophone
  • Buddy Christian – Banjo
  • John Masefield – Trombone
  • Thomas Morris – Cornet
  • Clarence Williams – Piano

“New Orleans Hop Scop Blues” was written by George Washington Thomas Jr. and published in 1916. It was first recorded as a song by Sara Martin and released on OKeh Records in September, 1923.

So, on October 3, 1923, Deppe’s Serenaders, Fannie May Goosby, Tudie Wells and Clarence Williams’ Blue Five collectively made 10 contributions to the then-rapidly growing cannon of Blues and Jazz recordings in America; and the Steamboat Ticonderoga made “a special trip to pick up 316 bushels of apples for delivery to the Delaware and Hudson Railway station in Westport, New York.”

Quite the day.

Information used in the writing of this post came from the following sources.

The welcoming sign on the “Steamboat Ticonderoga.”

The “Welcome Aboard the Ticonderoga” brochure published by the Shelburne Museum.

The Shelburne Museum website: http://www.shelburnemuseum.org.

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at http://www.loc.gov.

“Black Recording Artists, 1877-1926: An Annotated Discography” Edited by Craig Martin Gibbs.

Wikipedia & YouTube

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This Historic Day In Music: “Like A Rolling Stone”

Bob Dylan started recording songs for his sixth album on Tuesday, June 15, 1965. The session was held in Columbia Records’ Studio A, located at 799 Seventh Avenue in New York City.

Tom Wilson was the producer and the band that he put together for this session included:

  • Mike Bloomfield – electric guitar
  • Bobby Gregg – drums
  • Paul Griffin – piano/organ
  • Bruce Langhorne – tambourine
  • Joe Macho, Jr. – bass guitar

Bob Dylan sang and played electric guitar, piano and harmonica.

The first two songs that Dylan presented to the band in the June 15th session were “Phantom Engineer Number Cloudy” (eventually to be titled: “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry”) and “Sitting On A Barbed Wire Fence.”

The third song that the musicians worked on was called “Like A Rolling Stone,” one of Dylan’s newest compositions. The song was in 3/4 time – a waltz – and in the key of D flat major. Five takes, or “rehearsals” were recorded with only the fifth – and last of the day – being close to a complete run-through.

All involved with the June 15 recording session reconvened at Studio A the next day, Wednesday, June 16th. The only song on the agenda was “Like A Rolling Stone.”

Joining the proceedings that day was Al Kooper, a 21-year-old studio guitarist and guest of Mr. Wilson.

Somewhere in between the end of Tuesday’s sessions and the beginning of the Wednesday sessions, Dylan decided to switch “Like A Rolling Stone” into 4/4 time and drop it a half-step to the more guitar-friendly key of C.

The ensemble – with Paul Griffin on piano, Al Kooper on electric organ (!) and Dylan now playing electric rhythm guitar – ran through two rehearsal takes of the “new” “Like A Rolling Stone.” Everyone (especially Dylan, to my ear) struggled to get acclimated to the new key and time signature. When “Take 1” was officially announced, it lasted all of one minute and fifty-seven seconds before Dylan broke it off.

As they prepared to try again, Dylan declared: “Even if we screw it up, we keep going.”

Take 2 however, stopped after 30 seconds and Take 3 only lasted for 19. (These would both be labeled “false starts.”)

Producer Wilson then called “Take 4” and Bobby Gregg’s snare and kick drum confidently sounded the charge. The band followed suit.

Bloomfield, Gregg, Griffin, Kooper (playing an instrument he’d never played before!), Langhorne and Macho performed with confidence, focus, cohesiveness, clarity, finesse, passion and daring; each surely wondering to some degree if at any moment everything would again fall apart around them. But they followed Dylan’s lead every step of the way and triumphantly made it through the entire song.

Six minutes and eleven seconds after it started, Take 4 ended and producer Wilson happily proclaimed, “That sounds good to me.”

Dylan, however, was not convinced and wished to persevere.

The septet tried and tried again; eleven times, actually. Each false start and breakdown  they endured was more discouraging than the last. Even the lone complete run-through – Take 11 – was not even close. Finally Tom Wilson brought the proceedings to a halt, rewound the tape and suggested a closer listen.

Everyone soon agreed that the mark had unquestionably been hit way back in Take 4.

Perfection had indeed been achieved.

Flawless? No.

Perfection? Yes.

Listen for yourself.

 

Columbia Records released “Like A Rolling Stone” b/w “Gates of Eden” as a single on July 20, 1965. It was then featured as the opening track of Highway 61 Revisited – Dylan’s sixth album – released on August 30, 1965.

“Like A Rolling Stone” reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on September 4, 1965. (“Help!” by The Beatles was #1.)

It was ranked #7 in The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) by Dave Marsh. (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye was #1.)

In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine put it at #1 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In 2005, music journalist Greil Marcus wrote a book called Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. In it he states: “‘Like A Rolling Stone’ is a triumph of craft, inspiration, will and intent; regardless of all those things, it was also an accident.”

 

The information used in the writing of this post came from the following sources:

Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions [1960-1994] (1995) by Clinton Heylin

Greil Marcus on Recording “Like A Rolling Stone” – an NPR “Music Interview” posted April 11, 2005 on NPR.org. (This “Music Interview” is actually an excerpt from Mr. Marcus’ book quoted above.)

The “Deluxe Edition” of Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series, Vol.12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 released by Columbia Records on November 6, 2015. (Disc 3 of this six-CD set contains the entire studio session recordings of “Like A Rolling Stone” – all 20 takes -from June 15 & 16, 1965. Highly recommended listening.)

The Wikipedia page for “Like A Rolling Stone.”

P.S.: Happy Father’s Day!

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Finding Covers – Chapter 5

The first time I heard and saw Leon Redbone sing and play his guitar was late at night on Saturday, February 28, 1976.

Leon was the musical guest on that evening’s episode of Saturday Night Live. (It was the 15th broadcast of the series’ now-legendary first season.) Actress Jill Clayburgh was the host and she gave Leon a smiling and enthusiastic introduction.

The camera revealed the mustachioed musician sitting crosslegged on a short stool in a pool of light from an overhead spot. He wore a black suit, white dotted tie and a white panama hat pulled close to the top of his dark-tinted glasses. On his lap was a small mahogany-body Martin acoustic guitar.

The song he performed so brilliantly that evening was “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

Originally published in 1929, the words to “Ain’t Misbehavin'” were written by Andy Razaf and the music composed by Thomas “Fats” Waller and Harry Brooks. It was first performed that year at a Harlem nightclub as part of a musical comedy play called Connie’s Hot Chocolates.

The song has been recorded countless times by a long list of musical greats including Ruth Etting, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Johnny Hartman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.

Leon included his rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” on his 1975 debut album, On The Track. Jazz violinist Joe Venuti joined Leon on the recording.

Here it is.

 

To say that Leon’s performance that evening on Saturday Night Live was a boost to his career would be a huge understatement.

I can also safely say that Leon’s performance changed my life, too.

Soon thereafter, I purchased a copy of the sheet music for “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and – once I’d translated the ukulele chords to guitar chords – worked out my own rendition of the song. Then, as one good thing leads to another, a string of “vintage” songs made their way onto my set lists. Among them were: “Swinging On A Star,” “Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Lulu’s Back In Town” and the always-popular “What You Goin’ To Do When The Rent Comes ‘Round?”

Learning those songs greatly expanded my chord vocabulary (I finally had to learn how to play barre chords!) and pushed my fingerpicking chops into regions previously unexplored. Then those chords and techniques started showing up in my original songs.

Then… about a year ago, I put together a new arrangement of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” in the key of G, Cotten-style.

Influence is a wonderful thing.

Leon Redbone was born Dickran Gobalian on August 26, 1949 in Nicosia, Cyprus.

He passed away on May 30, 2019 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Leon once said about his work: “The only thing that interests me is history, reviewing the past and making something out of it.”

Thank you, Leon, so very much. Behave yourself.

 

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Some Kind Of Smelling Salts: “Fire In The Engine Room”

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 “Fire In The Engine Room,” a song by Richard Thompson.

It was the first song on the second side of his highly recommended 1985 solo LP, Across A Crowded Room. 

This is a “potboiler” – a term coined by producer George Martin – if I ever heard one.

 

See what I mean? (You did listen to that, didn’t you?)

“Fire In The Engine Room” was performed by:

  • Richard Thompson – lead vocals & lead electric guitar
  • Simon Nicol – 12-string Rickenbacker rhythm guitar
  • Bruce Lynch – Bass
  • Dave Mattucks – drums, percussion & keyboards
  • Alan Dunn – accordion
  • Pete Thomas – tenor saxophone
  • Dave Bitelli – baritone saxophone
  • Philip Pickett – shawm & crumhorn
  • Christine Collister, Clive Gregson & Phil Barnes – backing vocals

Across A Crowded Room was recorded during September & October, 1984 at RAK Studios in London, England. Joe Boyd was the producer. The album was released in April 1985 on Polydor Records.

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