Archive for the ‘1965’ Category

‘Who’

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

After a couple of previews six months ago, we finally get around to beginning the project called Journalism 101. Today, we’ll be sorting the 95,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for titles that contain the word “who,” the first of the five W’s of reporting. (I doubt this needs stating, but those W’s are who, what, when, where, and why. And we’ll include “how” in the project as well.)

That sorting brings us 740 tracks, twenty-six more than we found when we announced the idea back in February. As is usual when we do these types of searches, many of the tracks aren’t suitable for our purposes. Tracks from the Who, the Guess Who, a late Seventies group called 100% Whole Wheat, the novelty project Dylan Hears A Who, and more go by the wayside, as do some albums, including Kate Rusby’s 2005 effort The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly and the Warner Brothers loss leader from 1972, The Whole Burbank Catalog. We also have to discard eighty-one tracks with the word “who’s” in the title and four tracks with titles that carry the word “whoever” (I thought there’d be more). But we still have enough to find four worthy titles.

Given the alphabetical nature of the player’s search, the first track that shows up is “Who To Believe” by the Allman Brothers Band. It’s from the 2003 album, Hittin’ The Note, which turned out to be the group’s last studio release. It’s also the first album not to include guitarist Dicky Betts (and the first to include guitarist Derek Trucks). I’ve had the CD since not long after it came out, but I’ve not listened to it very often, which is too bad. Many of the pieces I’ve read since the recent death of Gregg Allman said that Hittin’ The Note was good work, and “Who To Believe” sounds very much as if it could have been recorded in 1970.

The digital shelves here hold six versions of “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” ranging from the original 1961 release by Charlie Rich (who wrote the song) to versions from 1975 by the Amazing Rhythm Aces and from 2003 by Janiva Magness. Those are only a taste of the number of times that very good song has been recorded, of course. The website Second Hand Songs lists forty-five versions (though there are likely more), with the most recent being a 2013 take on the song by jazz singer Tina Ferris. And though the bluesy versions by Bland and Magness call to me this morning, I think I’ll stick with the song’s country roots and offer Rich’s original version.

Then we come to the melodramatic “I (Who Have Nothing),” which comes up twice in our listings: the 1963 version by Ben E. King and a 1972 cover by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. King’s release was the first English recording of the song, and it went to No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, to No. 16 in the magazine’s R&B chart, and to No. 10 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart. Based on the information at Second Hand Songs, the tune was first recorded in Italian in 1961 by Joe Sentieri; the English lyrics are credited to songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. I’m a little surprised that I don’t have more versions of the tune in the stacks, especially the 1970 version by Tom Jones, which went to No. 14 on the Hot 100 (as well as to No. 2 on the AC chart). I could go wandering for other versions as well, but we’ll stick with King’s version of “I (Who Have Nothing)” this morning.

And what would a trek through the digital shelves here be without some 1960s easy listening combined with a theme from a spy movie? I have four versions on the shelves of the theme from The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, the 1965 movie based on the novel by John le Carré. I think I saw the movie when it came out. (That would have been on one of those Saturday nights out with my dad that remain a bit puzzling, as I wrote a few years ago.) Oddly, Sol Kaplan’s moody soundtrack is not on the shelves here, an absence that needs to be corrected. But the four versions I have of the disquieting theme are all pretty good (with that assessment coming, of course, from one who loves spy themes and mid-1960s easy listening), with the sources being the well-known trio of Billy Strange, Roland Shaw and Hugo Montenegro as well as the blandly named Jazz All-Stars. That last is a group of what I assume was studio musicians; they’re identified at Discogs as Bobby Crowe, Ernie Royal, J.J. Johnson, Joe Newman, Johnny Knapp, Larry Charles, Milt Hinton, Mundell Lowe and Sy Saltzberg, though I do not think all of those men played on the version of the theme I have. That version was included on Thunderball & Other Secret Agent Themes, a 1965 album on the Design label that came to me during my James Bond obsession.

‘East’

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

In our first two installments of our “Follow The Directions” adventure, we’ve hit “North” and “South” and for some reason bypassed “East” along the way. Today, we head that direction, looking for tunes for the eastward road.

A search for “east” on the RealPlayer gives us exactly 400 tracks, but as usual with these searches, many of those tracks will be dismissed. Anything recorded at the Fillmore East goes by the way, including the Allman Brothers Band’s astounding live album from 1971, a full concert by Leon Russell from 1970, and single performances by the Grateful Dead and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

We also lose some entire albums (except title tracks, in some cases): Mandrill’s Beast From The East (1975), Don Henley’s Building The Perfect Beast (1984), Tower Of Power’s East Bay Grease (1970), Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers’ East Carson Street (2009), the Patti Smith Group’s Easter (1978), Badly Drawn Boy’s The House Of Bewilderbeast (2000) and Jason Isbell’s Southeastern (2010).

Gone, too, are any tracks by East of Eden, the Voices of East Harlem, Head East, the Beastie Boys, Skip Easterling, the Eastenders, the East Texas Serenaders, the East River Boys, the East Side Kids and a few singles on at least two labels from over the years: “East West” and “Eastwest.” And at least eighteen additional tracks with the word “beast” in their titles (and a few with “Easter” and “feast”) go by the wayside as well.

But, as almost always happens, we have enough tracks left for us to sort through, and we’ve found four good examples to accompany us as we head east:

We’ll start with a track from a friend of mine, the late Bobby Jameson. His “Girl From The East” is a song he wrote and recorded as Chris Lucey in 1965 for the album Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest. (Performer Chris Ducey came to a disagreement with the Surrey label after he’d recorded an album by that title; Bobby was hired to write songs with titles matching those that Ducey had recorded for the album, and the album cover – already printed – was altered to make the performer’s name “Lucey” instead of “Ducey.”) “Girl From The East” was also recorded by the Leaves and showed up as a B-side on some versions of the Mira label’s release of “Hey Joe.” Here’s the video Bobby made in 2010 for “Girl From The East.”

One of the delights of the CD age has been the unearthing of alternate takes and unreleased tracks offered as addenda to long-familiar albums. An example of that for our journey this morning is “East of Java” from the 5th Dimension’s sessions for the 1968 album Stoned Soul Picnic. As it happens, the track could easily have been called “Java Girl,” because to my ears “east of Java” doesn’t come into the mix until near the end of the record. And for those looking for something with a South Asian/Indonesian flair, well, sorry. The track is firmly rooted in the L.A. session sound that the 5th Dimension offered on its thirty hits in the Billboard Hot 100 (including seven in the Top Ten) between 1967 and 1976.

On my 35th birthday in 1988, I got some records (huge surprise, right), scoring LPs by Cream, the Grateful Dead, the Who and Van Morrison. But the best album I got that day was Folkways: A Vision Shared, subtitled “A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly.” The album offered fourteen tracks written by the two long-gone roots legends as performed by artists ranging from Little Richard, Brian Wilson and Sweet Honey In The Rock to John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. One of those taking part, of course, was Arlo Guthrie, who offered his version of his father’s “East Texas Red” to the proceedings. The tale of the railroad guard and the men who eventually take their revenge is classic Woody Guthrie.

Also in my listening mix during the difficult year of 1988 was lots of Gordon Lightfoot (and his presence in my playlists remains even as the years have gotten better). His 1986 release East Of Midnight was on the turntable on occasion but not as frequently as some of Lightfoot’s other work, most notably Sundown, Shadows and If You Could Read My Mind. Still, I found myself humming the title track at odd times, as lines like “For the things that might have been, I need no more reminders,” and “The ocean is where lovers meet again” wound their ways into my head and heart that year. It’s an oddly metered song and probably not high on a curated list of Lightfoot’s work (it was not one of the two Lightfoot tracks that showed up on my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox), but for at least a few seasons, it was part of my life.

A Minor Mutiny

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Forty-five years ago tomorrow, I walked across a barely raised stage in St. Cloud State’s Halenbeck Hall, wearing a purple gown and mortarboard with braided black and orange honor cords draped around my neck, and graduated from St. Cloud Technical High School with the rest of the Class of 1971.

There were about 450 of us finishing up our high school years that evening; on another evening that week – I forget if it were earlier or later – the 450 or so members of the first graduating class of St. Cloud Apollo High School would make the same walk.

I don’t think I saw high school graduation as a major event; it was another step along an educational path that would continue in about three months when I started my freshman year at St. Cloud State. But I imagine that for, oh, maybe a third to a half of my classmates, graduation from Tech High was where education stopped, and their entry to the world of work began the next morning or perhaps the following Monday.

Well, in a sense, so did my entry to that world, too, as it was the following Monday when I reported to the Maintenance Building at St. Cloud State to begin what became a summer of lawn mowing and janitorial work (especially scrubbing floors). But that was a temporary gig, and I know that for some of my classmates, full-time permanent work began shortly after graduation. So for them, the graduation ceremony might have felt like a rite of passage; for me, it was just one more thing to get through.

There’s only one thing I really remember about the ceremony. The Concert Choir performed, with we gowned seniors making our ways from the long ranks of chairs to join the juniors – who would be seniors in less than ninety or so minutes – on the risers near the stage. There, we completed a minor mutiny in which we thwarted the plans of our director. The gentle rebellion began a few days earlier after the spring choir concert, during which the sophomore choir – it had a more formal name that I’ve long forgotten – sang “A Wonderful Day Like Today” from the 1965 Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.

We in the Concert Choir loved the tune when we heard the sophomores sing it. When we met for rehearsal the next day, about five days before graduation (I think), many of balked at practicing the piece that our director, Mr. Ames, had selected for us to perform at the ceremony. It was stodgy and serious, and we wanted to sing instead “A Wonderful Day Like Today.” I think our wishes surprised him, but he wasn’t at all resistant. All he wanted to know was if we’d work hard to learn the Broadway tune well enough to sing it for graduation.

We did work hard, work that wasn’t at all a burden because we loved the song and wanted to perform it well, which we did. And looking back this morning, maybe there was an object lesson in there for us as we headed to the world of work, either in the next few days or after more years of education: If you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t always seem like work.

Here’s the song as performed by Sammy Davis, Jr., on his 1965 album Sammy’s Back On Broadway.

Saturday Single No. 494

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

In the middle of this past week, a friend of mine on Facebook – also a fellow member of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – noted that she’d had to explain the concept of a punchbowl to her elementary-age students. And she wondered when was the last time her friends on FB had seen or used a punchbowl.

Well, noted another fellowship member, we use one every year at our annual dinner. Others mentioned graduation celebrations, formal dances and the other types of get-togethers one might expect.

I added that we’d used a punchbowl at the celebration of my mom’s 90th birthday almost five years ago, and I noted that the punch we’d served that day was made from the same recipe (and very possibly, now that I think about it, served from the same punchbowl) that was used for the punch at my sister’s wedding reception in 1972. The recipe, I told FB readers, was one my mom found in a magazine.

But as Wednesday faded and Thursday arrived, I wondered if that was the source of the recipe, which calls for pineapple juice, frozen orange juice and ginger ale. Certainly Mom could have found the recipe in a magazine in 1972. She subscribed to several publications that could have offered it: Better Homes & Gardens, McCall’s and Redbook come to mind. The recipe’s genesis wasn’t all that important, but I wondered.

We went to lunch Thursday, Mom and I, at, of course, the Ace Bar & Grill. She told me about a lovely funeral that took place earlier in the week for the woman who’d been the oldest resident in the assisted living center, and she asked how the Texas Gal and I were feeling, as she knew we’d been struggling through a couple ailments each. We were getting better, I told her, turning around in my mind the thought that funerals and ailments will likely be more and more frequent conversation topics as the years go on.

Then I asked her about the punch, and she remembered it clearly. “So good!” she said (and she was right about that). And I asked if she’d found the recipe in a magazine. No, she hadn’t. She’d gotten the recipe from her mother, my grandmother, and it had been served in 1965 at the celebration of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary at their farmhouse just outside Lamberton, Minnesota. That meant, I realized, that I had dipped and served some of that punch, as my cousin Debbie and I – we were both eleven – were on punch bowl duty for at least a part of that gathering at my grandparents’ home.

And, Mom went on, that punch had been served at the reception when she and my dad were married in July 1948; that celebration also took place at the Lamberton farm. So where had Grandma gotten the recipe? Well, Mom said, she’d gotten it from her sister Hilda. And Hilda, Mom said slowly, thinking, had gotten it from her roommate at nursing school.

The memories began to spool out, as they always do when Mom gets to talking about things that happened sixty or more years ago: Hilda was living in St. Paul, and the nursing school was at the long-gone Miller Hospital (and was a program of the University of Minnesota, according to the page about the hospital at Placeography).

Hilda’s roommate was a nursing student, too, Mom said, visibly sifting the memories as our lunch was served – eggs and hash browns for her; a German burger (a hamburger with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and bacon) and tater tots for me. Hilda’s roommate, Mom said, was Sophie, Sophie . . . Kashinsky. Sophie came from Hutchinson, Minnesota, a town about sixty miles straight west of the Twin Cities, with a population back then of not quite 5,000 people.

Where did Sophie get the recipe? Mom didn’t know. She’d met Sophie a number of times, the last occasion being a potluck picnic at the Hutchinson home of the recently married Sophie during the summer of 1950. Mom recalled the year of the picnic because she was pregnant with my sister at the time, and she also recalled that she brought baked beans to the picnic. I have no doubt that if I’d asked her what color the table cloth was, she’d have remembered.

But there was no answer to the question: Where did Sophie get the punch recipe? I didn’t say this at lunch, but it’s reasonable to assume, I think, that Sophie got the recipe from her mother, and I’d like to think that it was served at a reception for Sophie’s graduation from Hutchinson High School sometime during the 1930s, or maybe even at the reception when Sophie’s own parents were married, most likely in the early 1900s.

What I do know is that if one Googles “punch pineapple juice ginger ale,” the second recipe that pops up from allrecipes, called “Party Punch V,” is the one for which I bought the ingredients when we were planning to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday in 2011. It’s evidently a classic.

That’s a story that really didn’t go anywhere, I know. Life is like that sometimes. But when it came time to find a tune to pair with that meandering story, I got lucky pretty quickly. I found a track from the Temptations’ second album, The Temptations Sing Smokey, released in 1965. The album went to No. 35 on the Billboard 200 and to No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B album chart. It’s a  song more often associated with Mary Wells, whose 1962 original went to No. 9 on the Billboard 100 and to No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B singles chart.

It may be more familiar coming from Wells, but it’s pretty damned good coming from the Temptations, and that’s why the Temps’ cover of “You Beat Me To The Punch” is today’s Saturday Single.

The First Slow Dance

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Last Sunday, after I sang “Come To Me” at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship, I wandered over to one of the activity tables. At the other tables, kids and adults were doing word puzzles, making posters and making balloon figures, all centered on Valentine’s Day.

The table where I sat had started with folks drawing random topics related to the day and telling tales from their lives. By the time I got there, the kids had moved to other tables, and the activity had evolved to the three or four adults sharing a tale on the same topic.

As I got settled, one of the women looked at me and said, “Okay, your turn. First crush?”

I thought for a few seconds. Evidently thinking I was struggling to remember, one of the women said something like “Men don’t remember that stuff.” And I told my tale.

She showed up on the first day of third grade, Marilyn did. Her folks had bought a restaurant in town and they’d set up housekeeping near the far end of Kilian Boulevard from us. I liked her, but no more than that for a couple of years.

Somehow, by the time fifth grade was ending, two years and nine months later, I really liked her, and I didn’t mind her knowing. I was pretty unclear on what might happen after that, but I wanted her to like me back. She did, kind of. At least, that’s what I perceived from quick glances and heard through whispers. But she didn’t like me as much as I liked her.

Well, it wouldn’t be the last time my ardor outpaced that of my chosen one.

That’s how it stayed through sixth grade. When we moved from Lincoln Elementary on to South Junior High in September 1965, I thought I’d try again (though I was still unclear on how to nurture a relationship and would remain so for some years).

She still kind of liked me, and I still liked her a lot.

Then came the seventh grade dance. I think it was our first of the year; it could have been the second one. That I don’t recall. For a while, many of us danced in groups, seemingly not wanting to pair off with anyone specific. I wanted to dance with Marilyn, of course, but seeking her out would be a very public declaration of what just my friends and hers knew about my feelings. Scary stuff. So I stayed with one group or another. Sometimes, I just watched from the boys’ side of the room.

Then the teacher running the record player announced a “girls ask boys” dance. I had little hope that Marilyn would invite me to dance, so I thought I’d sit that one out. Then Carrie came over to me. I didn’t really know her, though I’d likely seen her in the hallways. She smiled nicely at me as she invited me to dance, so we took the few steps out onto the dance floor. I don’t remember the record, but it was a fast dance. And when it was over, we each retreated to our side of the room.

After a couple more records, I decided that I was going to ask Marilyn to dance. In the short gap between records, I – shorter than most of my classmates – raised myself on tiptoes and scanned the room for her. As I did, my eyes caught those of Carrie’s friend Candace, who helpfully pointed out where Carrie was standing.

Not being a cad, I put on a smile, walked over to Carrie and asked her to dance. We got onto the floor just as a slow record started. I nervously put my hands on Carrie’s waist, she put hers on my shoulders, and I had the first slow dance of my life.

I remember thinking she had nice eyes. I remember liking her hair, which was in a sort of pixie cut. I remember her burgundy dress. I remember being thrilled and terrified at the same time. And I remember nothing else after those moments about that seventh-grade dance.

I should have, of course, tried to connect with her somehow in the days after the dance, maybe – as those things were done during seventh grade – through her friend Candace. I didn’t, and I don’t recall ever seeing her again.

And Marilyn? I never did dance with her. My crush on her faded, and I turned my gaze in other directions.

I’m not entirely certain when that dance took place. It was likely early in the school year, as I remember clearly that Carrie’s burgundy dress was sleeveless. (It could have been springtime, but I don’t think so; by that time, I was getting over Marilyn.)

And I don’t recall at all what record was playing as I danced with Carrie. Given what I find on various WDGY surveys from the late summer and early autumn of 1965 at Oldiesloon, it could have been the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” It might have been the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” Maybe it was “Baby, I’m Yours” by Barbara Lewis.

Whatever the record was, it should have been “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by the Silkie. The British group’s cover of the Beatles’ tune was first mentioned in a WDGY survey at the beginning of October that year and peaked there at No. 17 late that month. And it would have been perfect for my first slow dance with Carrie:

‘They Won’t Tell Your Secrets . . .’

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Things start with a familiarly slinky piano riff joined by a girl group singing softly in the background. Then, enter Mitch Ryder.

“Sally,” he says, “you know I’m your best friend, right? And four years ago, I told you not to go downtown, ’cause you’re gonna get hurt. Didn’t I tell you you were gonna cry? Mm-hmm. So you kept hangin’ around with him.”

Then, sounding utterly fed up, Ryder hollers, “Here it is, almost 1968, and you still ain’t straight!”

And Ryder rolls into his own version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses,” one that works in the chorus to “Mustang Sally” along the way:

Ryder’s cover of the Jaynetts’ 1963 hit is on his 1967 album What Now My Love, and it’s just one of numerous covers of “Sally” in the more than fifty years since the Jaynetts’ hit went to No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty-seven of those covers – including two in French – are listed at Second Hand Songs. There are certainly more covers of the song out there, but as usual, that’s a good starting place.

That list of twenty-five covers in English range in time from a 1965 version by Ike Turner’s Ikettes that doesn’t roam very far from the Jaynetts’ original to a 2012 version from the album Moving In Blue by Danny Kalb & Friends – Kalb was a member of Blues Project in the 1960s – that’s instrumentally exotic but vocally drab.

There have been plenty of others along the way. One that I’ve heard touted as worth hearing is a live performance from 1966 by the San Francisco group Great Society with Grace Slick. I found it uninteresting, as I did a 1974 version by the all-woman group Fanny (on the album Rock & Roll Survivors). Yvonne Elliman traded in the Jaynetts’ slinky piano for some weird late Seventies electronica when she covered the song on her 1978 album Night Flight, and that didn’t grab me too hard, either. More interesting was the funky 1971 version by Donna Gaines (later Donna Summer) released on a British single.

At a rough estimate, covers of “Sally” by female performers outnumber those by male singers by about a three-to-one ratio. Joining Ryder with one of the relatively few male covers of the tune was Tim Buckley, whose 1973 cover from his Sefronia album has an interesting folk vibe (though he wanders away from the lyrics and the melody for an odd bit in the middle).

Another folkish version of the tune comes from the British band Pentangle, who included the song on its 1969 album Basket of Light. The group’s version is one of my favorite covers, as is the version by the far more obscure group Queen Anne’s Lace, which put a cover of “Sally” on the group’s only album, a self-titled 1969 release.

But the honors for strangest version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses” that I came across go to singer Alannah Myles, who found an utterly weird – but compelling – Scottish vibe for the song on her 1995 album, A-Lan-Nah.

Of Pate & Rye

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Once more, we visit the ghosts of East St. Germain, the main drag here on the East Side of St. Cloud. It’s 1965, and we go once more into the dining room of the Ace Bar & Cafe, where the young whiteray, his parents and his sister are celebrating one occasion or another.

After we order, as we sit with our beverages – probably a Mountain Dew for me, a Coke for my sister, a Hamm’s Beer for Dad and an old-fashioned for Mom – our waitress brings us the relish tray: Carrots, celery, radishes, pickles, liver pate, probably some pickled herring, and an assortment of crackers in cellophane packages.

Restaurants don’t do relish trays anymore. They’re too labor intensive and too wasteful, I imagine. But fifty years ago, every “go out for a nice dinner” restaurant in the St. Cloud area offered them: The Ace, the Persian Club, the 400 Club, the Hub, the Log Lodge, and maybe more I can’t think of right now. The trays’ offerings changed a bit from place to place but a relish tray was a constant of a nice dinner out in those days.

My favorite portion of the relish tray, as I’ve noted here once before, was the liver pate. (I love pickled herring almost as much, but it wasn’t a rare treat, as we routinely had a jar of it in the fridge at home.) Almost as soon as our waitress placed the tray on our table, I’d have my eye on the pate, and I’d rummage through the selection of crackers until I found a packet of Ry-Krisp. The flat rye crackers seemed made for liver pate, and just thinking about that long-ago treat makes my mouth water as I write.

The pate and of the pickled herring on the tray were no doubt a reflection of the Northern European origins of many of the East Side’s residents back then. Most families on the East Side had been in the U.S. for a couple of generations – there were a few immigrants and first-generation Americans – but even second- and third-generation folks fifty years ago tended to hold onto the ethnic tastes and traditions of their ancestors.

There were still vivid connections to those immigrant ancestors: My mom spent a lot of time as a child with her maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Prussia as a child (and in fact, William Raveling lived long enough that I sat on his lap as an infant). My dad’s family had come to the U.S. from Sweden a little earlier but still held onto many of its Scandinavian traditions, lutefisk, pickled herring and flatbread among them.* The families of most of the kids I knew on the East Side were like that. Not all of them descended from Northern Europeans; the names I recall of some of my schoolmates reflect origins in England, Scotland, and the Slavic nations of Eastern Europe. But we all cared about our ancestors’ origins, and the folkways and tastes of those ancestors were important as well.

So why this today? Because last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Ry-Krisp has come to an end. After nearly a century, the company is closing. As Kevyn Burger wrote:

For as long as there have been modern grocery stores, there have been boxes of Ry-Krisp on their shelves. Every one of the commercially produced crackers inside was mixed, baked and packed at the world’s one and only Ry-Krisp plant in southeast Minneapolis.

But the Minnesota-born brand is no more. Production at the boxy white factory wound down in March. Soon the final packages of Ry-Krisp will disappear forever from the cracker aisles, and with them, a bit of local history will crumble.

In one short century, Ry-Krisp rose from humble origins to become a product distributed around the globe. The crunchy rye-flavored snack became an emblem for overlapping culinary trends, shifting from peasant fare to health food to diet aid until changing tastes led to the cracker’s quiet demise . . .

Reading that piece brought me back – as so many things seem to do – to the Ace Bar & Cafe. And it brought me back to the occasional stock of Ry-Krisp I used to keep on my shelves at home. I’d buy it as a snack – a platform for cheese – now and then, and about fifteen years ago, after my doctor advised me to adopt a whole grain diet and further encouraged me to avoid yeast and fermented products for a year, Ry-Krisp was one of my bread substitutes. I recall sitting at my kitchen table in my small apartment on Minneapolis’ Bossen Terrace, eating kippered snacks on Ry-Krisp for a quick lunch.

Once the prohibition on yeast and fermented products was lifted, I found myself a brand of whole wheat bread. At about the same time, whole grain Triscuits and Wheat Thins became my snack crackers of choice, and Ry-Krisp left my shopping list. Until this week, that is. Once I read the piece in the Star-Tribune, I knew I had to buy one last box of Ry-Krisp. And here it is.

My Last Box of Ry-Krisp

I wasn’t the only one with the idea, though: By the time the Texas Gal and I got to our neighborhood Ca$h Wi$e on Sunday afternoon, all of the regular Ry-Krisp was gone from the shelves, as was all of the seasoned Ry-Krisp. I was left with the consolation prize of a box of light rye crackers. (The company also made multi-grain and sesame versions of the cracker, but there was no shelf space for those new-fangled varieties at the local store.) It may be light, but it’s Ry-Krisp, and the ingredients are the same as they always were: Whole rye and salt. (The idea of a multi-grain Ry-Krisp, a version I don’t ever recall seeing in stores, bothers me, if only vaguely; Ry-Krisp was supposed to be rye, and when you start throwing other grains into the mix, you’ve got something else.)

So I’ve got my last box of Ry-Krisp, and I think I’ll head out sometime in the next few days to the Byerly’s grocery across town – it’s a little more high rent than Ca$h Wi$e – and see if there’s any liver pate from Scandinavia or even Germany on the shelves. (If I have to settle for French, I will.) Then I’ll have myself one more snack of pate on Ry-Krisp, and for a fleeting moment, it will be 1965 in the Ace Cafe once more. I think I’ll skip the Mountain Dew this time.

And here’s a record that we might easily have heard in the background at the Ace on a Saturday evening in 1965: “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by Sounds Orchestral was No. 1 for three weeks on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and went to No. 10 on the magazine’s Hot 100.

*That attachment to tradition was likely enhanced by the homogeneity of the area around Dad’s hometown of Cambridge – most folks there in the early 20th century could trace their roots to Sweden – and by multi-generational living: Among the members of Dad’s household during his childhood was his Great-Uncle Charlie, whose parents or grandparents came from Sweden. (Great-Uncle Charlie’s rocking chair, refinished and reupholstered a few years back, sits in my dining room.)

‘Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt’

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

As it sometimes is, easy listening music is on my mind, and today, it’s specifically easy listening music from 1965, the kind of stuff we would have heard coming faintly from the overhead speakers in nice restaurants.

There’s a reason for those thoughts, but the tale of the end of a Minnesota institution that sparked them will have to wait until tomorrow. Even so, I didn’t want to leave this little corner of the ’Net blank today. So, here is a 1965 piece by Horst Jankowski that was No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard Easy Listening chart: “A Walk In The Black Forest” or as it’s called in Jankowski’s hometown of Berlin, “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt.”

Black & Blue

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Every once in a while, the various ailments that escort me through life combine to make life, well, difficult. One of the least-liked phenomena around here is the body aches. I’ll be having a perfectly fine morning – like I was Wednesday, when I wrote about tape recorders and the Beatles – and my muscles will start to tighten, especially in my back.

Walking becomes difficult. Sitting becomes difficult, though a little less so than walking. And a mind-numbing fatigue sets in. So I begin to cancel plans. On Wednesday, that meant dropping an errand for my mom and a meeting for church. Yesterday that mean altering significantly an errand for my mom; I attended a church meeting in the evening, though I likely should not have. I had no plans for today, and that’s just fine.

This will pass, as it always does. But I may be scarce in these precincts for a while. Or at least terse.

Here’s Judy Roderick’s “Black & Blue” from her 1965 album Woman Blue.

What’s At No. 27?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

So, with today being February 27 and Odd, Pop and I being short of ideas this morning, we’re going to look at a few Billboard charts released on this date over the years and check out what’s hiding at No. 27. Along the way, we’ll check out the No. 1 records of the times, too. There are four such charts during the span of years that tends to interest us here. We’ll start in 1957.

One of the odd things about the earlier charts in the files I have is that records are often tied for a spot. In the Top 100 for February 27, 1957, two records are tied at No. 26, which means there really was no record at No. 27. So we’ll look at both records at No. 26. The first listed is “Lucky Lips” by Ruth Brown. The record, which went no further on the Top 100 but went to No. 25 on two of the other main charts Billboard issued at the time, is the first listed under Brown’s name in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where the listings start in 1955. Brown was a force long before that, of course; her listings on the magazine’s R&B chart start in 1949. “Lucky Lips” went to No. 6 on that chart.

The other record at No. 26 on this date in 1957 was a pairing of artist and song that seems incongruous from a distance of nearly sixty years: “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” by Jerry Lewis, whose image in my mind starts at goofy comedian and ends at smarmy telethon host and doesn’t come close to hit singer at all. (The combination evidently seemed so bizarre to the anonymous person who transcribed my collection of Billboard charts that he or she credited the record to Jerry Lee Lewis, which caused me a bit of confusion.) Lewis offers the song over a Vegas-style big band arrangement that serves it well although the whole thing sounds odd to me. Listeners liked it, though; the record peaked at No. 10 on the store sales list. Lewis had one other hit: “It All Depends On You” went to No. 68 on the Top 100 later in 1957.

Sitting at No. 1 on this date in 1957 was “Young Love” by Tab Hunter, by far the most successful single the actor ever had to his credit. (I recall Hunter’s smiling visage on the front of a comic book that told the tale of one of Hunter’s movies. I forget which movie, and a look at Hunter’s credits this morning doesn’t help.)

The next time Billboard released a pop chart on February 27, it was 1961, and the chart was called – as it would be past the turn of the century – the Hot 100. Parked at No. 27 was “What A Price” by Fats Domino. The slow, sad record, which was the forty-fourth of an eventual seventy-seven Domino placed in or near the Hot 100, was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 22 (No. 7, R&B). Should it have done better? Well, yes, because Fats Domino should always be in the Top Ten.

The No. 1 record as February approached its end in 1961 was Chubby Checker’s “Pony Time.”

It took only another four years before a Billboard Hot 100 touched down on a February 27, and the No. 27 record on this date in 1965 was the first track on one of the first pop LPs I ever owned. My sister gave me Herman’s Hermits On Tour (which was made up of studio recordings, not the live recordings that the album’s title might have implied), and “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” led off the album. As a single, “Heartbeat” went to No. 2, the first of nine straight Top Ten hits for Peter Noone and his group. (The Billboard Book of No. 2 Singles tells me that the Hermits’ single was blocked from the top spot by the Supremes’ “Stop! In The Name Of Love.”)

The No. 1 record fifty years ago today was “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys.

And the last of the February 27 Billboard charts that we’re concerned with today came out in 1971. (There were charts on February 27 in 1982, 1988 and beyond, but that gets us into years we are not all that enthusiastic about.) The No. 27 record at the end of the last February of my high school days was “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by Sammi Smith, written by Kris Kristofferson. Smith’s plaintive performance was on its way to No. 8; it would go to No. 1 on the country chart and to No. 3 on the easy listening chart. I’m not sure I had much regard for “Help Me Make It Through The Night” when I was a high school senior, but now I think it’s pretty great stuff.

And to finish this off, the No. 1 single during on this date in 1971 was the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple.”

Here’s Smith’s single: