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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Boogie Woogie: A twohundredandthirtystr story

Boogie – (from: Merriam-Webster.com)

  • verb: 1) to dance to Rock music, also: revel, party. 2) to move quickly.
  • noun: 1) boogie-woogie. 2) earthy and strongly rhythmic rock music conducive to dancing.

Boogie Woogie – (from: Harvard Dictionary of Music)

  • Originally, a special type of piano blues first heard in Chicago in the early 1920’s.

The first time the term “boogie boogie” appeared on a record was in 1928.

The recording was “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” by Clarence “Pine Top” Smith. It was made on December 29, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, for the Brunswick/Vocalion record label.

Here are Clarence Smith’s spoken lyrics:

I want all of y’all to know this is Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie.

I want everybody to dance ’em just like I tell you.

And when I say “Hold yourself,” I want all of you to get ready to stop.

And when I said “Stop!”, don’t move!

And when I say “Get it,” I want all of y’all to do a boogie woogie.

Hold it, now… Stop!… Boogie Woogie!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Now when I say “Hold yourself” this time, I want all of you to get ready to stop.

And when I said “Stop!”, don’t move a peg.

And when I say “Get it,” ev’rybody mess around.

Hold it yourself, now… Stop!… Mess around!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Give a listen for yourself. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Clarence Smith was born on January 11, 1904 in Orion, Alabama. He gave his first public performance in Birmingham at about the age of fifteen. According to his wife, Sarah, he started playing “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” around 1924.

Clarence and his family moved to Chicago in 1928. There, over the course of three sessions – December 29, 1928 and January 14 & 15, 1929 – Clarence recorded 8 pieces for Brunswick/Vocalion Records. Three of those pieces were recorded twice – labelled as “Take A” and “Take B” – leaving Pine Top Smith’s total discography at 11 sides.

Clarence Smith died on March 15, 1929, two days after being struck by a stray bullet in a dance hall brawl. He was 25 years old.

Information for this post came from Mike Rowe’s liner notes to the 2007 Document Records CD (DOCD-5102): Boogie Woogie & Barrelhouse Piano, Volume 1: 1928-1930.

The title of this post is based on the first number – 230 – that came up when I searched for: “How many strings does a piano have?”

This post was written in response to the “Song Lyric Sunday” challenge – Boogie/Rock/Rolling Stone –  by Jim Adams on his excellent WordPress blog, A Unique Title For Me.

Here’s the link to Jim’s blog: Song Lyric Sunday.

 

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Sparklers: “Easter And The Sargasso Sea” by Leo Kottke

This is the third installment of my next-to-newest category here at sixstr stories.

It features recordings of outstanding performances by noteworthy guitarists – or outstanding guitarists giving noteworthy performances.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you…

“Easter And The Sargasso Sea” by Leo Kottke.

Listen. You’ll be glad you did!

 

“Easter and the Sargasso Sea” was written and recorded by Leo Kottke. He released it in 1970 on his second album, Circle ‘Round The Sun. I bought my copy of the vinyl LP in the Fall of 1971 at a small record store in, I think, Springfield, Massachusetts.

For the guitar players out there, Leo is fingerpicking a 12-string acoustic guitar tuned to an open-G major tuning. Leo also has his instrument tuned below standard pitch like many 12-string players do. To be precise, Leo’s guitar is tuned 4 half steps low, actually sounding in E-flat major.

Hope you enjoyed “Easter And The Sargasso Sea” and… Happy Easter!

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No. 9

Another birthday, another telling of the tale…

sixstr stories was born on Sunday, April 18, 2010 in Somerville, Massachusetts.

I was visiting my daughter and casually mentioned to her that I was thinking of starting a blog. (At the time, she had a blog.) Before I knew it, she’d opened up her laptop and gone into WordPress.

She asked me if I had a name for my blog.

I did.

“Password?”

“Sure,” I replied.

Click, click. Tap, tap.

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

Nine years later and sixstr stories is still up and running and, I believe, going strong. I may not be prolific, but I’ve never missed a month. And I still enjoy it immensely.

In my very first post, I established the sixstr stories motto: “Good music doesn’t get old.” That quote comes from Mr. Ferdinand “Jelly Roll Morton” LaMothe (1890-1941), the man who invented Jazz. In November of 2018, I added a co-motto: “All valuable stories need to be told over and over and over again.” That one’s from Mr. Bruce Springsteen.

Over the years, I’ve celebrated each birthday with a number-appropriate piece of music. Last year, I rocked out with “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds. For No. 7, I shared a seven verse original called “Weekdays, Weekdays.” For No. 6, I couldn’t decided between Livingston Taylor’s version of “Six Days On The Road” or The Rolling Stones’ live take on “Route 66.” So I ran with both.

When I started planning for the big #9, the very first thing that came to mind was…

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

That’s right.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) started work on his Ninth Symphony in the Fall of 1822 and finished it in February of 1824. It is referred to as the German composer’s “Choral Symphony” because he chose to augment the symphony orchestra with four vocal soloists and a full choir in the piece’s fourth and final movement.

(This epic masterwork, with its then-completely deaf composer “conducting,” was performed for the first time on May 7, 1824 in Vienna, Austria. The crowd, to say the least, went wild.)

Beethoven chose a poem by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) as the basis of the text for the choral part. Schiller’s poem, written in 1785, was titled: “Ode To Joy.”

The melody that Beethoven wrote for the choir to sing Schiller’s verses to has also become known as “Ode To Joy.”

So, in celebration of sixstrstories’ 9th birthday, I give you “Ode To Joy.” My way.

Hope you enjoy it.

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This Historic Day In Music: Wes Montgomery – Take 2

I bought my first Wes Montgomery album when I was in high school.

The purchase was made in Boston, Massachusetts, at one of the two music stores that used to stand on the block of Boylston Street in between Tremont Street and Charles Street. It was either Carl Fischer Music or Boston Music. I can’t remember which.

The LP was entitled Wes Montgomery: March 6, 1925 – June 15, 1968.

The LP was a compilation released by Riverside Records in October of 1968. Its nine tracks featured the electric Jazz guitarist with a variety of small ensembles doing distinctive takes on seven standards – including “Satin Doll,” “Groove Yard” and “Body and Soul” – and Wes’ own “Jingles.”

My favorite track was Wes’ solo rendition of the Morty Palitz & Alec Wilder song, “While We’re Young.”

 

That was recorded on August 4, 1961 at Plaza Sound Studios in New York City. The album that it originally appeared on – SO Much Guitar! – was released on Riverside Records in 1961.

John Leslie Montgomery was born on March 6, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

He started playing on a 4-string tenor guitar at around the age of 12. When he was 19 and just married, he bought an electric 6-string guitar and an amplifier. His inspiration? “Charlie Christian, like all other guitar players. There was no way out. That cat tore everybody’s head up.”

With his new guitar, a record player, a stack of the records that Christian made with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra, infinite patience and an incredibly good ear, Wes taught himself to play all of Charlie Christian’s guitar solos note-for-note. Wes later explained: “I knew that everything done on his guitar could be done on mine… so I just determined that I would do it.”

It took him about eight months. And because much of the time he would be practicing late at night while his wife was sleeping, he got into the habit of plucking the strings with his thumb, which produced a softer sound than he would get if he used a guitar pick.

Wes’ ability to play Charlie’s solos got him his first gig around 1945 in Indianapolis. As Wes described it: “I got a job in a club just playing them. I’d play Charlie Christian’s solos, then lay out.”

As Wes improved and began to develop his own style, word spread. He was hired by vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and went on the road with Hampton’s big band from 1948-50. Later, in the mid-50’s, Wes played with his brothers Buddy and Monk in a group called The Mastersounds.

In 1957, Wes signed with Riverside Records and recorded his first album Fingerpickin’ that was released in 1958. After Riverside went out of business, Wes recorded for Verve Records and finally for A&M. His last album, released in 1968, was entitled Road Song.

Wes Montgomery still stands as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Jazz.

Wes passed away on June 15, 1968.

My sources for the information and quotes in this post were:

  • The Guitar Players: One Instrument & Its Masters In American Music (1982) by James Sallis
  • Music journalist Ralph J. Gleason’s 1958 interview with Wes, as published in the July/August 1973 issue of Guitar Player Magazine. 
  • Wikipedia.
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