Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadian Navy.

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

I remember Guy Lombardo from when I was a wee lad. Every New Year’s Eve up until roughly 1976, there was Guy and his Royal Canadian Orchestra hosting their New Year’s Eve special. Sometimes I was able to stay up and watch at least part of it.

I associated Guy and the RCO with Lawrence Welk and Liberace and, for want of a better word, the kind of music my maternal grandmother and grandfather liked. But at the time, there were only three real television channels, I never really got into Dick Clark, and “Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadian Orchestra” flowed trippingly off the tongue.

I hadn’t thought of Guy in years, until a few paragraphs in The Power Broker got me wondering about him. How did he end up hosting those specials? What else did he do, and where did he come from?

Wikipedia turned up one of those odd historical byways that I’m so fond of. In addition to being the leader of the Royal Canadians, Guy raced boats. Seriously raced boats. As in, he won the Gold Cup (which is the biggest prize in boat racing) in 1946.

From 1946 to 1949, he was the reigning US national champion. Before his retirement from the sport in the late 1950s, he had won every trophy in the field.

Before his retirement, he was planning to make a run at the world speed record on water. His retirement may have been prompted by the fact that the boat he was planning to use disintegrated during a test run.

(As a side note, that record isn’t for the timid. Wikipedia claims “an approximate fatality rate of 85% since 1940“, though it should also be noted that this statement is tagged “Citation needed.” No matter what the actual percentage is, looking over the history of attempts makes it very clear that this is an expensive way to kill yourself very fast if anything goes wrong.)

And what’s the relationship between Guy and Robert Moses that brought this up in the first place? Guy and his RCO were basically Robert Moses’ house band. Moses set them up at Jones Beach and gave them an incredibly sweet deal: Moses didn’t just pay Guy and RCO to play at the park, but also absorbed all the costs of running the venue, and allowed Guy and the RCO to keep most of the ticket money and advertising revenue. In return, not only did Guy and the RCO play at Jones Beach, but they also entertained at various other offical functions for Moses, and Moses used them to impress people he needed to impress. For example, if you had a small child and Moses needed your help with something…well, Guy entered the Jones Beach theater every night on one of his speedboats. Wouldn’t your kid love to ride along with Guy as he made his grand entrance in Tempo? Of course they would.

(There are a couple of good biographies that need to be written. I can’t find any evidence that there was ever one written of Guy and his brothers, and it sure seems there’s more to their story. I think you could also get a good book out of the story of Rosebud Yellow Robe.)

Accordion Crimes.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Since the topic of accordions has come up several times in the past few days, I feel like I have to link to Popehat’s “A Story About Low-Key Policing and Corduroy“.

If you want to be unpleasantly technical I am not familiar with how an accordion is operated, at least as narrowly defined by uncharitable social convention. However, I believe that unbridled enthusiasm can make up for lack of formal training in many pursuits. There is evidently a difference of popular opinion on this point as it pertains to playing the accordion on a roof at one in the morning.

Also, posting this gives me a chance to test the “Save Draft” function. Yes, Lawrence, it works for me.

(Subject line hattip. It seemed appropriate at the time. Actually, I may have to read that book after I finish The Power Broker.)

Welcome to Hell.

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, Los Angeles had a well-established accordion ecosystem.

I have no joke here, I just like saying “accordion ecosystem”.

(Subject line hattip.)

Random notes: April 2, 2014.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Flames! Flames!

Whether Gray directed the scheme that has resulted in five of his top aides going to prison, or, as he contends, was ignorant of what was being done in his name, Democratic voters punished the mayor for the scandal, choosing instead a relatively unknown D.C. Council member, Muriel Bowser (Ward 4).

Obit watch: Charles Keating, of S&L scandal fame.

More flames!

…an uncommon sequence of events, including a cabinet appointment, an election and a corruption inquiry, has led Charlotte [NC] to the point where it will soon have its fourth mayor in less than a year.

The most recent mayor, Patrick D. Cannon, was arrested last week on public corruption charges and resigned.

In Ms. McCabe’s 15 years as an ambassador of the deuce, she has been flatly rejected at a bowling alley on Staten Island, was told to pay with something else at a bar in the East Village and is constantly solicited by people who want to buy her bills.

But has Ms. McCabe ever tried to use a $2 bill at a Taco Bell?

I wanted to link to, and comment on, the latest entries into the National Recording Registry, but the LOC didn’t have them up when I was working on this post earlier today. Now that they are up…well, I’m kind of curious about “Only Visiting This Planet” and “Copland Conducts Copland: Appalachian Spring” (I have recordings of “Appalachian Spring” but not that one). I think the original cast recording of “Sweeney Todd” is probably a good choice, and, yes, even though I think it has been overplayed, I can see putting Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” on the list.

Also: Shaft!

The only one that I really boggle at is “The First Family”. Not that I have anything against comedy, but is that album really memorable or significant? Especially when compared against some of the other comedy entries? Or is this just folks feeling bad (and perhaps rightly so) for poor Vaughn Meader?

Complete babbling.

Friday, March 21st, 2014

I was planning to steal a lyric from “Radio Free Europe” for this post title. Then I went to look up the actual lyrics, and found this; “complete babbling” seems like it fits just as well here.

By way of Big Jim, I found a rather interesting LA Weekly article on the latest goings-on at Pacifica Radio, about which I’ve written before. Some highlights:

On March 13, after weeks of rumors, Pacifica Radio’s board of directors voted to fire its executive director, Summer Reese, during what was essentially a conference call…
And so it was that Reese marched to the Pacifica national office in Berkeley on March 17, bolt cutters in hand, removed a padlock placed on the front doors over the weekend, and essentially occupied the building. When newly appointed interim executive director Margy Wilkinson showed up, Reese and 12 of her compatriots — including Reese’s mother, a longtime anti-war and civil rights activist — refused to let Wilkinson, her husband and two of her allies pass.

Pacifica’s New York station, WBAI, is even worse off, with too few listeners to register on the Arbitron rankings, and is all but bankrupt. Last year, most of the staff was laid off, including the entire news department.
Making matters worse, the federal government, via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is withholding Pacifica’s grant money, thanks to the network’s “failure to provide documentation” for a 2012 audit.

“We’re no longer a radio network, we’re a sad political glee club,” [Ian] Masters [a KPFK host - DB] says. “We desperately need adult supervision.”

Reese admits to having no Social Security number, saying she is legally exempt because of a “religious objection.” When asked her religion, she says only that she’s a Christian; when asked whether she pays income taxes, she says only, “I don’t think that’s relevant to the article.”

While KCRW holds two nine-day-long fund drives each year, KPFK holds a monthlong fund drive every three months — meaning one out of every three days is a pledge drive, days full of DVDs and nutritional supplements and get-rich-quick schemes such as the “Wealth Propulsion Challenge,” an online course that promotes “how to get rich holistically” — and quickly — via “subconscious reprogramming.”

Within a few months, Democracy Now! was privatized. In what may have been a reward for Goodman’s support of the revolution, she was handed complete ownership of the show. For free. In fact, they paid her to take it, handing Goodman a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — and gave her an automatic 4 percent raise every year, regardless of the size of her listenership or the money she raised…
Today, Pacifica’s debts amount to roughly $3 million; $2 million of that is owed to Democracy Now!, which is also the name of an independent nonprofit run by Goodman.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express” is the most important pop album of the last 40 years, though it may not be obvious.

Free Bubble-Up.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Preservationists are raising money to buy, restore and move the boxcar to the Kern County Museum in nearby Bakersfield, which is just under a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.

You may be wondering why this boxcar is so important to preservationists. After all, aren’t there plenty of boxcars in the world?

Yes. But this isn’t just any boxcar: this is Merle Haggard’s childhood home.

Though the house was intended to be temporary, the remodeling was a family effort: James Haggard added a pop-out dining area, a wash house and a hand-poured concrete bathtub and front steps; his wife, Flossie, planted fruit trees, climbing roses and a backyard grape arbor, drying raisins for pies on the roof.

I wanted to drop some Haggard into this post, but I had a lot of trouble finding a performance of “Rainbow Stew” or “Fighting Side of Me” on YouTube that allowed embedding. So how about this: Merle Haggard in 1978 on “Austin City Limits”.

Obit roundup: February 24, 2014.

Monday, February 24th, 2014

There will be more to say about this tomorrow, but Harold Ramis is dead. I liked this line from the Chicago Tribune:

Ramis also left behind a reputation as a mensch and all-around good guy.

I didn’t post this yesterday, because I couldn’t find any obits I wanted to link to. While this has been well covered, I wanted to mention the passing of Maria von Trapp, last of the singing von Trapps.

And I missed this earlier in the week, but Richard Cabela, founder of the eponymous chain, passed away.

Mr. Cabela was a vocal supporter of the National Rifle Association. In a video posted on the group’s website this week, Mr. Cabela was asked what he would say to someone who identifies as a hunter but who does not belong to the N.R.A.
“How are you going to hunt without a gun?” he responded. “These guys protect your right to own a gun. That’s what it’s all about.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 14th, 2014

How about a little musical interlude? This is one of my favorite songs; oddly enough, it is also the only one I can think of off the top of my head that works for both Valentine’s Day and Halloween.

And if you haven’t purchased something for your significant other yet, you may wish to check this out. Usual conflict of interest disclaimer applies.

Just not feeling it.

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Sorry. Nothing much going on, nothing really engaging me, and the Japanese “composer” story was already on FARK. If you missed it: NYT.

(Mike the Musicologist points out that Beethoven was not the only deaf composer in history. Noted for the record.)

The weather here is crap and possibly getting worse and work has been mildly frustrating (thank Ghu for free coffee, though). I’m ready for a battery recharge.

Too bad I have no musical talent.

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The Government Series II Les Paul guitar. (Hattip: Sharp as a Marble.)

What I really want is for Oleg Volk (or an equally talented photographer) to do a shoot with this and a Colt Government Model. Why? No reason, really; it just tickles my sense of whimsey.

Quick random stuff.

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

The NYT has a feature on the “industrial musical”.

The 1956 Chevy show cost $3 million, while “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway with a budget of $500,000. Big budgets attracted top-drawer talent. “Go Fly a Kite” was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the team behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote “Ford-i-fy Your Future” for the tractor and implement division of Ford, as well as the songs for “Fiorello!” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Bob Fosse was already at work on “The Pajama Game” when he toured with “The Mighty ‘O’,” a 1953 Oldsmobile show.

$3 million in 1956 money works out to about $25,700,000 in 2013 money. Or about a third of the cost of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”. The NYT piece seems to be mostly promotion for a new book: Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals. But I’ll admit: I’m intrigued by the book, and will probably purchase it at Half-Price when it shows up there.

Apparently, there was a serious proposal last year to add bass fishing to the list of high school sports which are approved and regulated by the Texas University Interscholastic League. It did not pass. And honestly, I’m a little weirded out by the idea; where would students practice? How? How often? In boats or from the shore? Can you practice bass fishing in Midland? What would the bass fishing championship look like? Would it be televised on one of cable’s many outdoor channels?

(Not making fun of bass fishermen at all. I realize there’s an active bass tournament scene, and if that’s your thing, God bless you. I just think the logistics of doing this at the high school level are strange. Especially since if you’re a high school bass fisherman, you can probably compete in professional tournaments for real money; it isn’t like professional bass fishing is subject to the same sort of size and weight issue that high school football is.)