Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Classified as both cool and cheesy, the Hammond organ has made a mark in just about every musical genre. The creation of inventor Laurens Hammond was unveiled in 1934. Hammond had set out to somehow replicate the harmonic sound of a church pipe organ. Technically, Hammond allocated nine mechanical wheels to each key. Then he put in “drawbar” controllers that could fade in or out any of the frequencies from the various tonewheels in the organ. Thus countless combinations were possible.
The new organ found its way into churches and ice rinks. But when the B3 model emerged in 1954, the Hammond organ was about to flourish. Pop and rock stars found that the organ’s motor added versatility and soul.
Production of the B3 stopped in the 70’s but a new version came out in 2002. Whether the sound is wobbly or like a revving engine, the organ can be distinctive, standing out to make a piece even more noticeable and inviting.
Tonight, the famous B3. We open with the house band for the Stax/Volt labels. They appeared on more than 600 Stax/Volt recordings, but also were a successful recording group in their own right, cutting 10 albums and 14 instrumental hits.
The MG stood for Memphis Group.
In 2019 Booker T. Jones released his memoir, “Time is Tight: My Life, Note by Note.”
He’s had plenty to write about. During more than 60 years as professional musician, Jones has backed up famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson during an afternoon tea when he was 12 years old to playing with the Drive-By Truckers, contemporary Southern rockers, in 2019.
Now we’re talking baseball. Yes, baseball.
Pitcher Denny McLain compiled a 31-6 record in 1968 and led the Detroit Tigers to the World Series. McLain became the first pitcher in 34 years to win 30 games in a season. He won the Cy Young Award that season and shared the pitching honor in 1969 when he had a 24-9 record.
During his rise to the top, McLain showcased another talent: playing the organ. We’re talking major league ballpark organ playing quality. Immediately following the ’68 Series, McLain took a job playing the organ at a Las Vegas hotel. McLain was so good, he released two albums on Capitol Records, a major record label (Can you say, Beatles?).
You won’t be able to find those McLain albums, but some of his material is available on the Ultra-Lounge compilation series.
That was McClain performing on the Ed Sullivan Show on October 13, 1968. The Tigers had defeated the St. Louis Cardinals for the World Series championship just three days earlier.
About 16 months after that Ed Sullivan TV show life fell apart for McLain. In February of 1970, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended McLain until July 1 for bookmaking activities, one of three suspensions he was hit with that year. The suspension came after Sports Illustrated reported on McLain’s role in a bookmaking operation in Michigan during the 1967 season. McLain was never the same.
Convicted in the mid-eighties of federal racketeering charges involving gambling and cocaine, McLain spent 27 months in prison. Then in the 90’s, he returned to prison, this time for looting a company’s pension fund.
He retired from baseball in 1972 at the age of 28, leaving with a 131-91 career record in 10 major league seasons.
One of the top recording singles for Henry Mancini was the theme for the TV series, “Mr. Lucky” that had a dominant organ theme. The organist who played a smooth stylized Hammond B3 organ solo phrase on the popular theme recording was Buddy Cole, an organist based in Los Angeles.
Mancini would produce a Latin-themed response to Mr. Lucky. Reports are Buddy Cole was feelings hurt when Mancini did not use him on the sequel LP “Mr. Lucky Goes Latin.” So he thereafter accused Mancini of “stealing his sound.”
Mancini’s response was that he used other organists on other albums. When Cole refused to play organ on the Latin version of Mr. Lucky, Mancini went with Bobby Hammack.
From the original liner notes from the RCA Victor album “Mr. Lucky Goes Latin”:
“Too frequently, the term ‘Latin Music’ refers to wild, exotic and primitive rhythms. Although the rhythm is certainly a part of Latin music, there should obviously be more to it than that. And there is. When properly presented, there is melody, romance, humor and sophistication.
These are the elements emphasized in this album. The exotic rhythms are there, but the real accent is on romantic melodies, intriguing sounds and sophisticated humor… the stocks-in-trade of the incomparable Henry Mancini and his suave friend, Mr. Lucky. Lucky is on hand, too, his now famous theme gone delightfully native. Every selection shows overwhelming evidence of (to steal the title of one of his recent albums) ‘The Mancini Touch’.
The listener will find all of the taste and musicianship which have made Mancini one of the nation’s top composer-arranger-conductors, plus some new glimpses into his creative (and frequently whimsical) imagination.
“Mr. Lucky” was about the owner (Mr. Lucky) of a gambling casino ship. He kept the ship just outside the 12-mile legal limit off the coast of California. In each episode, it would appear that Mr. Lucky was involved in a crime with one of the “low-life” visitors to his ship. He would then have to prove his innocence to keep from going to jail. The show was based on a 1943 movie starring Cary Grant … also named, “Mr. Lucky.” It aired on CBS from 1959-1960.
Mancini died in 1994. He was 70.
From one legend to another. Guitarist Carlos Santana has a brother who also plays the guitar and also had his own band. Jorge Santana was leader of Malo in the early 1970’s, best remembered for their 1972 smash, “Suavecito.” Santana left the group in 1974.
The Latin-rock group’s third album released in 1973 features Ron DeMasi on the Hammond organ along with Santana. “Entrance to Paradise” was a composition the band did regularly before live audiences since 1971, but Santana was reluctant to include it on the album, thinking it sounded too much like his brother. It eventually made the cut and the result is beautiful.
Jorge Santana (above) died earlier this month at his California home of natural causes at the age of 68.
That’s it for this week’s segment.
Have a great weekend.
Let’s close with a classic. What should it be?
The Rascals: Good Lovin’
Steppenwolf: Magic Carpet Ride
Question Mark & the Mysterians: 96 Tears.
The Spencer Davis Group: I’m a Man
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Fire
Procol Harum: A Whiter Shade of Pale
Let’s go with:
The Doors: Light My Fire
In 1998, Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek told NPR’s Terry Gross that the lengthy album version which contained a Manzarek solo had to edited, more than chopped in half so a single could be made to get radio airplay and exposure. Here’s some of Manzarek from that interview.
Seven minutes. We had to cut down seven minutes to two minutes and under three minutes. You know, two minutes and 45 seconds. 2:50 would be ideal.
Paul – Paul Rothchild, brilliant, genius producer. And Bruce Botnick was our engineer. Those two guys were – those were the Door number five, Door number six. Paul said, I’m going to – I’m going to make an edit here. I’m going to do some edits. I’m going to cut “Light My Fire” down from seven minutes to 2:45, 2:50. I said, good luck, man. I don’t see how you’re going to do it. I figured he’s going to have to do little bits and cuts in here and there. And two days later Rothchild calls and said, OK, man, I got it. I said, you’ve got it. How did you do it so fast? You got a thousand cuts.
And he said, no, no, no. I’m – just come on in. I’m not going to tell you what I did, how I did it. I just want you to listen to it. So the song starts. We’re all in the control room on the big speakers at Sunset Sound. The song starts. We’re at the regular introduction. And it’s going along. And then come on, baby, light my fire. And that’s going along.
Now we’re into the second verse.Nothing has changed. Everything is exactly the same. Come on, baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.
Now it’s time for the solos. I think, where’s the edit, man? And we’re into the solos. And I thought, I don’t know where he’s going to cut. This is insane. And all of a sudden, where I’m supposed to go, you know, playing my organ solo, what happens? It goes to the end of the solos and then back into the turnaround. And there’s like not a solo. There’s no solos.
I’m out. I’ve got three minutes of solo. Robby’s got two and a half minutes of solo. It’s all gone. And then verse number four. And that’s the end of the song. And that’s it. It’s two minutes and 45 seconds long. And there are no solos in the entire song. And I thought, I’m going to kill this guy. And Paul said, hold it. Hold it. Listen. I know the solos aren’t there. But just think. You don’t know the song. You’ve never heard the song. You’re 17 years old. You’re in Poughkeepsie. You’re in Des Moines. You’re in Missoula, Mont. You’ve never heard of The Doors. All you know is a two minute and 45 second song is going to come on the radio. It’s called “Light My Fire.” Does that work? And we all looked at each other and said, you know what, man? You’re right. It does. It works.
Here’s audio of the album version along with various video clips.