Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Under The Knife

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook or my email correspondents already know what I’m going to say this morning, but I imagine – I hope, anyway – that the reach of this blog is greater than that.

I’m having surgery tomorrow morning at the St. Cloud Hospital to repair my back.

The surgeon, Dr. McIver, will do several things in my lower back: remove a bulging disc and replace it with a titanium one, realign with some small rods the vertebrae below the bulging disc, and clear out some more room in the spinal canal so the nerves there can function properly. Dr. McIver said Monday that the work he does will relieve pretty much immediately the hamstring pain I’ve been dealing with for nearly two years.

And yes, his name sounds like the television character, and he said he’s heard every MacGyver joke there is. The most frequent, he said, is when patients ask what he can do with duct tape, and he tells them “I can put it over your mouth!”

He said he expects me to be able to go home either Friday or Saturday, but I will be very restricted in what I can do. When I go out, I will have to wear a bulky brace – I got it Monday – but if I am careful at home, I can go without it there. I have to avoid things that cause twisting core motions – snow shoveling and vacuuming were two he mentioned – for some time, and for twelve weeks, I cannot pick up anything heavier than fifteen pounds.

That weight limit is going to make things hard on Little Gus, the youngest (and heaviest) or our three cats. Cubbie Cooper, our middle cat, is very good at jumping on laps. Oscar Charleston is a lap cat on occasion, but he’s happier getting his affection while lying on the floor. (The doctor said that if I am careful, playing with the cat on the floor is approved.) But when Gus wants laptime from me, he paws at my leg, and when I reach for him, he collapses into a twenty-two pound dead weight, way beyond my approved weight limit. He will be unhappy as I recuperate.

There is a possibility that I may have to spend some time in an after-care facility for healing and physical therapy, but Dr. McIver said that’s unlikely. He said that for this surgery, that’s generally for folks who are reliant on walkers and who are older than I am. That’s good news.

Whenever I come home, the Texas Gal will take the next week off from work. She may have to go in to deal with some administrative tasks unique to her position, but if so, she will make certain I am settled in one spot or else bring a friend in to keep me company.

While I am apprehensive, I will be relieved to have the procedure. The pain in my hamstrings has gotten to the point where even simple tasks have become very difficult to accomplish.

Things can happen, of course. While I am nearly certain that I will be back to post here sometime soon – perhaps next week – there is that small bit of uncertainty that goes with any surgical procedure. So, if things go wrong and this is my last post here, thanks for stopping by for these last eleven years. Thanks for reading my tales and listening to the music that moves me. Thanks for the corrections, clarifications and contrary opinions. Thanks for everything. I’ll see you on the other side.

A Bit Of ‘South’

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

We’re still planning here to resume our Follow The Directions whim, checking out tracks with directions in their titles. But we’ve been waylaid by the simple busyness of life and by checking out some previously unknown tracks and artists.

One of those artists is Marcia Waldorf, whose one album, Memoranda, came out in 1975 on the Capricorn label. I ran into her music on a couple of the loss leaders I wrote about a few months ago. Her track, “You Don’t Have To Beg For What You’re Man Enough To Steal” was on Peaches, Vol. 2, a collection of Capricorn tracks, and “The Rhythm Of The South” was on a 1975 Warner Bros. collection, I Didn’t Know They Still Made Records Like This. And, to get to the point, that last track popped up while looking for tracks with the direction “south” in their titles.

I listened to the track and, being easily diverted, started looking for more information about Waldorf. There’s not a lot out there. I found a post at the blog Ill Folks, and that post put Waldorf into a class with Patti Dahlstrom, as women vocalists whose southern-tinged work was unjustly ignored. (And it was at Ill Folks that I first learned about Dahlstrom and her work – which I’ve explored widely; links are here and here – some nine years ago.) I found a post at Skydog’s Elysium that got me a little more of Waldorf’s music to listen to and noted at the same time some of the musicians who supported Waldorf in Memoranda. And that was about it.

When I listen, I hear some Carole King, which makes some sense, and I hear a little of the feel of Jesse Winchester’s early 1970s work, which also seems reasonable. See what you think of this small taste of Marcia Waldorf’s music as I head off and gather more tracks and info for “South.”

One Chart Dig: January 1966

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Fifty years ago this week, six guys from Allen Park High School in Michigan – Allen Park is a suburb southwest of Detroit – saw their record sitting on the lowest rung of the Billboard Hot 100. “Wait A Minute” by Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons was bubbling under at No. 130 in the chart released on January 29, 1966.

Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons

Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons

Still, that was an improvement over the previous week, when the Bubbling Under section of the chart had listed thirty-five records, and “Wait A Minute” entered the chart at No. 131. The record would spend five weeks in the chart, peaking at No. 76. It was the only record the group ever placed in the Billboard charts.

The record was written by Rick (Tim-Tam) Wiesend and Tom DeAngelo, and I assume DeAngelo was a house writer/producer for Detroit-based Palmer records. It’s a not a bad record, kind of a mix of doo-wop and garage rock, and I do like the drum fills.

“Wait A Minute” would have fit right in with the records I vaguely recall from that winter’s seventh grade dance at South Junior High in St. Cloud. I do have some more vivid memories from that dance, and I may share them sometime, but for now, let’s just listen to Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons:


Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

As I write, the WeatherBug program tells me that it’s -20 Fahrenheit out at the St. Cloud Municipal Airport just a mile or two away. Factor in the 3 mph wind, and it feels like it’s -30. (Those temperatures are -29 and -34 for those keeping score in Celsius.)

I’m just back from dropping the Texas Gal at her workplace downtown so she wouldn’t have to walk either two blocks from the parking lot or four blocks from the downtown bus terminal. And although I have one errand to run later today – and of course have to go pick up the Texas Gal at the end of the workday – I will be content to spend the bulk of the day inside where it’s warm. To mark the chill, however, here’s a three-song sampler of “cold.”

Bobby Sherman was a regular chart presence on the Metromedia label between 1969 and 1971 – “Little Woman,” “La La La (If I Had You),” “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” all hit the Top Ten and a few others made the Top 40 – but before that, he scuffled around on at least two other labels. His “It Hurts Me” on Decca bubbled under the chart at No. 116 in 1965, and in 1967, his Epic single “Cold Girl” made no dent in the chart at all. I came across the record in the massive Lost Jukebox files I’ve mentioned several times before. Much of the stuff in those files is easily ignored, but “Cold Girl” is pretty good.

I’m not at all certain what Gordon Lightfoot is singing about in “Cold On The Shoulder.”

All you need is time
All you need is time, time, time to make me bend
Give it a try, don’t be rude
Put it to the test and I’ll give it right back to you

It’s cold on the shoulder
And you know that we get a little older every day

But it really doesn’t matter. Like most Lightfoot tunes, especially those from the mid-1970s, the title tune to his 1975 album Cold On The Shoulder is atmospheric, tuneful and catchy, all of which helped the album go to No. 10 on the Billboard chart. Many of Lightfoot’s lyrics became a little elliptical during those years (and continued to be so for a few years to come). That indirection, as I understand from various interviews, was because he was writing about things in his life that were difficult to come at from the front, so that’s understandable. And metaphor is generally easier to listen to than straight-on blood-letting anyway.

Speaking of metaphor, “Cold Bologna” by the Isley Brothers is both metaphor and tale, as the narrator notes that he’s five years old and “Mama’s out cookin’ steak for someone else,” with that someone else being the rich folks Mama works for. The track, written by Bill Withers, is from the brothers’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back, which went to No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 200 and to No. 13 on the R&B albums chart. Three singles from the album reached the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B singles chart. “Cold Bologna” was not one of them.

As 2013 winds down today and midnight leads us into 2014, the Texas Gal and I would like to pass on our hopes that the New Year will be one of those years that shines while you’re living it and shines even more brightly as it recedes in the past. See you on the other side of the calendar!

Just One Of Those Days

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I had planned an episode of the Ultimate Jukebox today, but I’m just not up to it. It’s just one of those days. But there’s another day to come. Here are Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite from Joy of Cooking with “Beginning Tomorrow,” a track from their 1977 album, The Joy.

We’ll see you tomorrow.

Tunes To File Tax Returns By

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

During the adult years when I sailed my ship solo – from 1976 into 1978 and then again from 1987 through 1999 – April 15 was a scramble day. Despite my intentions every year, I was never organized enough to get my taxes done with anything more than a day left until the deadline for filing.

It’s not that my tax returns presented any real challenges: There were no deductions beyond the basic, no special forms to fill out, nothing out of the ordinary. I was just – as I have been in many areas all my life – disorganized. So I would generally complete my tax returns the night before and had to make time the next day to photocopy them somewhere and then run them to whichever post office was closest to my place of work.

I always got it done. The returns always made the mail on April 15. But not without a lot of stress and some extra commotion, which was good neither for me nor, I imagine, for my co-workers.

It’s different these days. The Texas Gal and I file our returns electronically, and – due to her organizational skills – generally do so by the beginning of February. It might have been a little later this year due to her schedule. But those tasks were done far in advance of the deadline of midnight tonight. And that’s good. I don’t miss the stress.

Anyway, trying to find something musical out of all that, I got to wondering what songs were at No. 15 on April 15 during some of the years that this blog looks at. I went back to 1960 for my first one, and found a song that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard: “Step by Step” by the Crests. It peaked at No. 14.


And then it was on to 1965 and another record that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard. If so, it’s been infrequently and not for a long time: Jack Jones and “The Race Is On,” which during the week of April 15 in 1965 was at its peak position of No. 15.

Five years later, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition were sitting at No. 15 with “Something’s Burning” as Tax Day came in 1970. The record peaked at No. 11.

In 1975, the No. 15 song on April 15 was one that I became tired of hearing probably the second time it came on the radio: Leo Sayer’s “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance),” a record that unaccountably made it into the Top Ten, peaking at No. 9.

Five years later, Queen’s first No. 1 hit was sitting at No. 15 as Americans were rushing to get their taxes filed. I can’t embed the official video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” but you can see it here.

And we’ll close this Tax Day exercise with a look at 1985’s No. 15 song as of April 15. Holding down that position twenty-five years ago today was “Lover Girl” by Teena Marie, a record that went to No. 4.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the purposefully blurry video on that last one gets tiring after about twenty seconds.

‘Another Cup Of Coffee . . .’

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

One of the simplest pleasures in my life is coffee. That’s been the case – as I once wrote – since early in my college days. Those of us at The Table would sometimes sip enough coffee during the course of a college day to creating a leaning sculpture of more than sixty porcelain cups in the middle of the table.

I no longer build towers of cups, but I still start each day with cup or two of coffee, and for several years now – and at intermittent times along the way – I’ve been grinding my own coffee from beans. One of my favorite blends for the past few years has been the Flame Room breakfast blend offered by McGarvey Coffee, a Twin Cities firm. Since the Texas Gal and I moved to St. Cloud a little more than seven years ago, I’ve been able to find Flame Room blend – named after a long-gone but still fondly remembered Minneapolis restaurant – at the grocery store down the street, a Cub Foods store.

The store – along with its sister store on the west side of St. Cloud – was sold during the course of the past winter, and both became part of the Coborn’s company, which operates grocery stores throughout Minnesota and the Dakotas. Both stores were transformed into Ca$h Wi$e stores. (That’s how it’s spelled – with dollar signs.) And the new management promptly pulled McGarvey Coffee from its shelves.

I was disappointed but not devastated. There are other coffee companies, other bean blends that I find satisfactory for my early morning caffeine rush. (It’s not just the caffeine, though; I enjoy the flavor of coffee in many blends, an enthusiasm that baffles the Texas Gal, who cannot stand the beverage.) So, without McGarvey Coffee as a choice over the past month, I’ve brewed coffee from Cameron’s Coffee, another brand based in the Twin Cities. I’d had Cameron’s coffees before, and they were fine.

But over the past week, as I worked my way through a fairly good French roast blend from Cameron’s, I began to yearn for McGarvey’s Flame Room blend. The nearest Cub Foods store is now in Monticello, a little less than thirty miles away; we could head that way sometime during the weekend. Until then, however, I would still need some coffee beans, so on my way home from running some errands yesterday, I stopped off at the nearby Ca$h Wi$e. And on the coffee shelves there, I found a bank of white packages with red and black trim: The McGarvey coffees were back. Without hesitation, I grabbed a bag of Flame Room blend beans and made my way to the checkout.

And this morning’s coffee tastes pretty damned good.

Here’s Osibisa performing “The Coffee Song” on a British television show in 1976:

Here’s Julie London with “Black Coffee” from around 1960:

And finally, here’s Bob Dylan with Emmylou Harris (never mind the pictures of Joan Baez) with “One More Cup Of Coffee” from the 1975 album Desire:

I’ll be back Saturday.

Some Thoughts On March 17

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I could post some Irish music, maybe some Clannad or the Corrs or something from deep in the files. But if there are ten thousand music blogs out there, then I would guess that at least one-third of them will mark in just that way the Irish holiday that seems to be far more important in the U.S. than it does in Ireland.

If that’s the case – and I do think from what I’ve heard and seen over the years that St. Patrick’s Day is observed with far more intensity here than it is in Ireland – then why is that so? Well, I think that the central function of those American parades and celebrations over the years has been to maintain a connection to the homeland, a link to the marchers’ Irish heritage. That means, I would guess, that the St. Patrick’s Day parades in Boston and New York and elsewhere are remnants of a time when being Irish in the U.S. was almost as much of a drawback as was being black.

That may sound like overstatement, but in my reading over the years, I’ve seen photos and citations of many Nineteenth Century job postings and notices that clearly indicated that those of Irish and African descent need not apply. The Irish certainly served their time – as a class – on the lower rungs of America’s ladder. I’ve also seen numerous citations in my reading about the American Civil War noting that Union soldiers of Irish heritage were glad to fight to preserve the Union, but when the purpose of the war metamorphosed into freedom for the slaves, the Irish in general were far less than enthusiastic, because freed slaves in the postwar world would mean, basically, greater competition for jobs. Again, that’s an indication that the Irish at the time – especially in the cities – were quite low in the nation’s cultural and social structure.

In such circumstances, then, it’s not unreasonable to have ethnic celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day, celebrations linked to the spiritual and cultural traditions that the emigrants left behind. It’s also worth keeping in mind that in the Nineteenth Century, those who left Ireland or any other foreign shore for the United States were almost certainly seeing their homelands – and the relatives and friends who remained there – for the final time. We tend to take for granted intercontinental travel these days, but in historical terms, the opportunity for an emigrant to return to the homeland is a very recent development. Easy and inexpensive travel by air is a late arrival, spanning at most – depending on one’s definitions of “easy” and “inexpensive” – the sixty-five years since the end of World War II. Until then, memory was all there was.

So for those people who arrived here in years earlier, home was a memory and not a place they could realistically hope to see again. Celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day – or the Swedes’ Svenskarnasdag or any number of other ethnic celebrations – were cultural and spiritual connections to the places and the people left behind. As years passed and the Irish – and similar ethnics groups – were accepted and took their places in the American mosaic, the parades and celebrations became as well an expression of accomplishment and belonging in the New World.

In one sense, it’s sad that over the years, March 17 has evolved into a day of silliness and unrelieved drunkery, of green balloons, green hats and green beer. On the other hand, it’s both interesting and in a way encouraging that vast numbers of Americans gather together to celebrate – even if it’s in the most oblique way – a people and a culture that not all that long ago, as history runs, were considered only a small step above animals.

It’s also worth remembering that – from my interpretation, which I think is well-founded, based on reading over the years – it was a simple thing that the Irish trying to do with those earliest St. Patrick’s Day parades. They were trying to remember what it was like to be home. And that’s something that belongs to everyone.

“Home” by Blue Rose from Blue Rose [1972]

Something For A Monday Morning

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I’m moving a little slowly this morning, and I’m going to put off the next installment of the Ultimate Jukebox until tomorrow or Wednesday.

In the meantime, the mailman dropped off a nifty CD Saturday: The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show, 1969-1971. As one might expect, there’s plenty of classic country on the CD, with performances by Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Bobby Bare, the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers and a few others.

But Cash always had a wide view of the world of music. One of the guests on his first show in 1969 was Bob Dylan (whose performances, sadly, are not on the CD). Other performers who do show up on the CD include Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, Roy Orbison and James Taylor.

And then there was the show that aired January 6, 1971, when Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon – Derek & The Dominos – showed up to play. After performing “It’s Too Late,” the band welcomed Cash and Carl Perkins to the stage for a killer trip through “Matchbox.” That latter performance wasn’t included on the CD I got Saturday, but the video of the entire segment is available on YouTube:

And here’s the performance that starts off that clip:

“It’s Too Late” by Derek & The Dominos
On The Johnny Cash TV Show, January 6, 1971

A Note From Maxine Starr

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Last July, I opened a post by asking, among other questions, “Who was Maxine Starr?”

All I knew as I typed the question was that she had recorded one of the 45s I’d pulled out of the mystery box that morning, “(I’ll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time” b/w “Love Is.” And some digging around on the ’Net that morning brought me no more real information (beyond finding a few copies of the record for sale at various online outlets).

Well, today, I know that Maxine Starr is living in Colorado and still sings and teaches voice.

How do I know? Because she stopped by the Echoes In The Wind archives blog last week and left a note. She wrote:

“Believe it or not, Maxine Starr is alive and well and living in Colorado! While searching for my recording of ‘The Wishing Star’, a friend of mine came across your blog and forwarded it to me. I’m not sure how he found it, but he did.”

In July, when I wrote about Starr and the single on the New-Hits label I’d found in the box in my study, I could find no real clue as to when the songs were recorded: no date on the record, no hard information online. The sound was that of the early 1960s, and I ended that portion of the post by saying, “So we don’t know a lot about this one, not even a recording date. But I’m going to guess around 1962, just on a hunch.”

I feel pretty good about that, as Starr said in her note this week that: “Love Is” and “Apple Blossom Time” were recorded in June of 1962. She added, “The record received ‘split airplay’ on the radio stations which diluted the chance for one side to really take off.”

“Apple Blossom Time” was tagged as the A Side of the single, but as I noted in my post last July, I found one record shop in northern England selling the single on the basis of the B Side, which it tagged as a “Northern Soul” record. (That’s a description that sometimes baffles me, as deciding what’s Northern Soul and what isn’t seems to be dependent on the judgment of the audience more than on any intrinsic qualities of the record.)

Starr noted that the New-Hits label also released the previously mentioned “The Wishing Star,” which was the theme from the 1962 film Taras Bulba, a tale of Cossacks in Ukraine that starred Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis. That record was backed with “Sailor Boy.” Starr added that New-Hits was a subsidiary of Newtown Records, which she noted was Patti LaBelle’s first label: “She recorded ‘I Sold My Heart to the Junkman’” for Newtown, Starr said.

As is the case with “Apple Blossom Time/Love Is,” there are a few copies of Starr’s version of “The Wishing Star” available out there. One copy that she has in her collection is intriguing: “I happen to have an unplayed demo version of ‘The Wishing Star’ which was pressed on the London Label as they were interested in distributing it, but nothing came of it. I don’t think they ever mass pressed it and I think my copy is a ‘one of a kind’ recording.”

Here’s a YouTube video of Starr’s version of “The Wishing Star.”

And we’ll close this with a repost of the single from my mystery box. Thanks for the note, Maxine. It’s truly a pleasure to hear from any of the performers I write about.

“(I’ll Be With You In) Apple Blossom Time” by Maxine Starr
“Love Is” by Maxine Starr
New-Hits 3009 [1962]