Posts Tagged ‘Mongo Santamaria’

Bread In The Night

Friday, March 6th, 2015

One of my regular stops here on the East Side is the Country Hearth bread store, where the nearby bakery sells second-day bread and goodies. Second-day? Well, sometimes third day, I suppose, but the bread is fresh enough. And it’s much cheaper than any of the grocery stores in town: I get my whole grain bread for $1.99, and the Texas Gal’s plain white bread runs – depending on sales – about $1.25. That saves us at least three bucks.

The bread store’s been there a long time, right next to the bakery building, which has also been there a long time, at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and East St. Germain. One of the most potent sensory memories I have comes from a moment just south of that intersection: It’s a Monday in autumn, probably around 1965, and the weekly meeting of Boy Scout Troop 112 has just ended at nearby Salem Lutheran.

I pilot my Schwinn bicycle east from the church and reach Wilson Avenue just a block from St. Germain, and the night air is filled with the tangy aroma of yeast and the hearty and somehow comforting smell of baking bread. I pause at the stop sign and draw in a breath, savoring the aroma of the night shift’s work.

As I think of that moment – most likely late September, for the leaves were turning, crackling softly on the trees in the breeze that brought me the bakery’s aromas – I also see the long-gone Dairy Bar just across Wilson Avenue from where I stood. That’s where we sometimes bought Cheerio ice cream bars – chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream on a stick – during the summer. During the school year, however, the Dairy Bar felt like foreign territory, for that’s where the kids from the nearby St. Augustine School – a parochial school – bought their candy.

(I suppose the kids from Lincoln School who lived nearby – north of the state highway that separated Lincoln from St. Augustine – went to the Dairy Bar. Most of Lincoln’s students lived south of Highway 23, and we did our candy shopping at three other locations: the Wilson Avenue Store just south of the highway; Tuey’s Grocery – once Wyvell’s and eventually Norb’s – on Fifth Avenue just half a block from our place on Kilian Boulevard; or the Hilltop Store, about eight blocks further south on Kilian.)

In memory, I turn from the Dairy Bar to the next block on the right, and I’m not certain if the current Church of St. Augustine is there or not. It was built sometime in mid- to late 1960s; until then, St. Augs’ parishioners – including Rick and Rob and their family – went to Mass in a basement church on the far right end of the block across Wilson Avenue from where I stood breathing in the night’s aroma.

And I look in memory to the left of the Dairy Bar, toward the bakery, which still stands today. It’s been expanded over the years and now fills the entire block, including the place where the Dairy Bar – and several homes behind it, I think – once stood. Large red letters on the western wall of the oldest portion of the bakery now proclaim “Country Hearth.” As I stood there in the autumn of what was likely 1965, however, that western wall was painted something like the picture below. (I can’t find the exact graphic, but this one’s pretty close.)

Sunbeam Bread

And if I did indeed glance at the bakery while savoring its aromas on that autumn evening, I likely thought about touring it a few years earlier as a Cub Scout, seeing the huge metal bowls with their robotic mixing arms, the immense ovens turning out ranks upon ranks of loaves, all of them winding their ways down the roller paths to be sliced and then wrapped in heat-sealed cellophane wrappers. (Plastic bags and twist-ties came along a few years later.)

And I also likely thought about the Saturday morning kids’ gathering a couple years earlier at the Paramount Theatre downtown. Several cartoons and a pitch for traffic safety (I think) were interspersed with on-stage appearances by Clarabelle the clown from the Howdy Doody show and Miss Sunbeam, her golden curls shining in the theater lights.

And all of that would have coursed through my mind in just a few moments, of course, with me straddling my Schwinn at the stop sign. After those moments, I would have turned right on Wilson Avenue toward Highway 23, leaving the fragrances of yeast and baking bread behind me and heading for Kilian Boulevard and home.

Here, unrelated except in title, is the slinky “Sometimes Bread” by Mongo Santamaria. It’s from his 1971 album Mongo’s Way.


Thursday, April 18th, 2013

It’s time for “Nine” as the integers march on, and when we sort the 67,400 mp3s on the digital shelves, we come up with ninety-one mp3s, but only about ten of those tracks will suit our purposes this morning.

What do we leave behind? Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Muddy Waters’ “She’s Nineteen Years Old” won’t work for us, nor will “John Nineteen Forty-One,” the elegiac closing instrumental on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970 opus Jesus Christ Superstar. We’ll pass on “19 Somethin’,” a 2002 tribute to the 1970s and 1980s by country boy Mark Wills, and we’ll pass as well on Paul McCartney’s 1973 track “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.” Also unqualified are Julius Daniels’ 1927 recording of “Ninety-Nine Year Blues,” several versions of “Ninety-Nine And a Half (Won’t Do)” and the Sonics’ 1965 album track “Strychnine.”

Also going by the wayside are two versions of “Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street)” – one by Bob Dylan and one by country singer John Berry – along with most of the tracks on the Cloud Nine albums by the Temptations (1969) and George Harrison (1987). We’ll also ignore Steve Winwood’s 2008 album, Nine Lives, and the few tracks I have from Bonnie Raitt’s similarly titled album from 1986.

One Nine Seven Zero, a 1970 album by French singer Françoise Hardy also goes in the “no thanks” pile this morning as do single tracks by Nova’s Nine, James K. Nine and two similarly titled tracks: “Janine,” a 1971 plaint by Parrish & Gurvitz, and “Jeannine,” a decent 1969 single from Neil Sedaka.

Having disposed of those and others, where do we start? With some tasty slide guitar, I think, found in “Cloud 9” from Harrison’s similarly titled 1987 album. The album, produced by Harrison with fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, was seen as one of Harrison’s best and went to No. 8 on the Billboard 200; the single “Got My Mind Set On You” went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart. I don’t know why Harrison used the numeral “9” in the title of the track and the word “nine” in the album’s title, but either way, the sweetly morose “Cloud 9” is a nice way to start our short journey this morning.

And we’ll stay with clouds for another track: A cover of the Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” by Cuban conga player Mongo Santamaria. There are four albums of Santamaria’s work from the late 1960s and the 1970s on the digital shelves here, all of them good for getting the feet tapping, the head bouncing and the fingers dancing on the keyboard. “Cloud Nine” comes from Santamaria’s 1969 album Stoned Soul, and a shorter version of the track went to No. 32 on the Bilboard Hot 100 as well as to No. 33 on the R&B chart and No. 30 on the AC chart. It was the second of two Top 40 hit for the Cuban percussionist; in 1963, “Watermelon Man” went to No. 10 on the pop chart, No. 8 on the R&B chart and No. 3 on the AC chart.

At the thoroughly enjoyable blog, Dr. Schluss’ Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities, the good doctor had this to say about Sitar & Strings, a 1968 album by the Nirvana Sitar & Strings Group: “I’m always up for a psychsploitation album early in the morning . . . and this one can certainly fill in for the cheese missing from my eggs. Just as the title sort of suggests, we’ve got a bunch of late 60’s hits with the melody lines played on a sitar while 101 Strings-style orchestrations lumber on in the background. You’re either in for this ride or you’re not.” Well, I’m in, and the NS&SG’s track “Nine O’Clock” twangs and twingles along nicely this morning. The group’s Sitar & Strings album, according to Leonard at red telephone 66, had eight covers and three originals, and as I don’t see any listing of a tune titled “Nine O’Clock” making the charts, the track must have been one of the originals. (If I’m wrong, someone please let me know.) It’s good, trippy Thursday morning music.

“Nine Pound Hammer” is a traditional English folk song, and the earliest recorded version of it, according to Second Hand Songs, came from Al Hopkins & The Buckle Busters in 1927. The earliest version in my stacks comes from the Monroe Brothers, who recorded it for Bluebird in 1936, and the best-known version of the tune is likely the 1947 cover by Merle Travis (who, having added a few lines to the traditional song, is frequently given writing credit). The version on the table this morning, however, comes from the Beau Brummels, better known for the 1965 hits “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just A Little.” In 1967, the San Francisco group recorded “Nine Pound Hammer” for their album Triangle, a collection of songs that All Music Guide called “a ruminative dream cycle.” The album barely edged into the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 197.

Janis Ian’s 1975 comeback might have seemed to come out of nowhere. That was when her album Between the Lines went to No. 1 and its single, “At Seventeen,” went to No. 3 in the Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the AC chart. But the foundation for that comeback seems to have been laid the year before when Ian’s album Stars went to No. 83 and a single from the album, “The Man You Are In Me,” went to No. 33 on the AC chart. (It bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 104.) Now, those aren’t great numbers, but keep in mind that Ian had been absent from the singles chart since 1967. “Page Nine” was one of the tracks on Stars, and like the album it comes from – and Between the Lines a year later – its sound is for me one of the defining sounds of the mid-1970s.

Over the course of something like 1,200 posts at this blog, I’ve mentioned the British progressive group Caravan twice: Once when cataloging the records I brought home in a certain November and once when I included a track from the group in a random mix. Today, we’ll make it three mentions with the inclusion in today’s offerings of the group’s side-long suite, “Nine Feet Underground” from the group’s 1971 album In the Land of Grey and Pink. In his assessment of the album, Bruce Eder of All Music Guide called the piece “musically daring,” noting that it “didn’t seem half as long as its 23 minutes” and adding that it was “a dazzling showcase for Pye Hastings’ searing lead guitar and Dave Sinclair’s soaring organ and piano work.”