Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Doc

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Doc Severinsen turned 92 this week.

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From the Associated Press:

Severinsen, best known for leading the band on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,″ was born Carl Severinsen in Arlington, Ore., and nicknamed Doc for his dentist father. As a boy he wanted to be a jockey. He played trumpet in a band that performed between horse races in the afternoon and at horse shows at night at the Oregon State Fair.

“I’d walk around the stables looking at my favorite horses,″ he recalls. “I had afternoon and evening horses I loved. I know their names to this day.″

He got his first big music job at 16, when he went on the road with the Ted Fio Rito Orchestra. He later played with the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Charlie Barnet and became a freelance musician in New York.

Severinsen says he still remembers locations of restaurants with cheap spaghetti.

When he took a sideman job with NBC in 1949, Severinsen says, “There were so many jobs for musicians in those days, most of the good trumpet players weren’t interested. I thought, `This is terrific.‴

He was a “Tonight″ band member when Carson became host in 1962 and was promoted to leader in 1967.

“The show was put together as we went along. A lot of it, we would just wing it. It was stimulating,″ Severinsen said. “You never knew what was going to happen when you went to work. And it stayed stimulating.

“The last six months with Johnny Carson were even more so. Once people realized he was leaving and there was going to be a big change, everybody wanted to be on the show. People started watching it more intensely than they had, and the buildup of emotion was tremendous.″

Severinsen said he was prepared to stay with the show as long as Carson did. But when Carson left in 1992, so did Severinsen.

One of the biggest thrills of my broadcasting career came in either 1980 or 1981 when I was working in news at Milwaukee Public Radio.

The station programmed news and jazz music at the time.

One day we were doing one of those God-awful annoying on-air fundraisers, and that afternoon I was in one studio and the on-air jazz host in an adjacent studio, and the two of us begged for money.

Severinsen was in Milwaukee to perform a concert that night, and the station arranged for Severinsen to call in for a live interview done by the jazz host and me.

We were about the time Doc was to phone us when the host (I just can’t remember his name, good guy) informed me on-air that we would not be getting the call as expected.

Why not?

“Because,” the host said, “Doc is in the hallway right now and is about to join you in the studio.”

In mere seconds the celebrity trumpeter walked in, extended his hand, said hello, and plopped himself in the chair to my right. It was amazing.

For over an hour we interviewed him even though his staff person said it could only go about 45 minutes as I recall. He was every bit as personable and funny as you’ve seen him on TV.

Doc also came bearing gifts. Anyone who called in with a pledge would receive tickets to the show. The phones went bananas.

Somewhere in my basement is a cassette tape with the entire interview. Unforgettable.

I also remember that the vast majority of those who called in for tickets never paid their pledges.

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From the spring of 2011 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, with the Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force.

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “Don’t call a doctor, Don’t call her momma, Don’t call her preacher”

Do you recognize these ladies from 1967.

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Diana Ross (middle) and the Supremes.

Ross turned 75 on May 26th, and this week began a series of concerts tied in with her yearlong “Diamond Diana” celebration. The tour includes several shows in Las Vegas along with more than 20 North American stops on her itinerary. One of them is an upcoming July 14th date at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee.

From 1964 to 1967, 10 of the Supremes’ singles reached No. 1.  Ross left the group in 1970 and went on to solo superstardom, with appearances in the films “The Wiz,” “Mahogany” and “Lady Sings the Blues.”

In 1997 Ross did an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine:

We (she and the Supremes) actually created an image for girl groups. I was brought up with people who lived with the golden rule. They had a lot of integrity, were clean-living people, caring about others and so on. And my first job was at Hudson’s department store, so I was very influenced by windows and fashion magazines. I went to Cass Technical High School and majored in costume design and fashion illustration. I’ve always been interested in fashion, cosmetics and makeup and hair, so the image that we created was very ladylike, very feminine.

Our image was really a reflection of beauty and glamour. The image onstage was always ladylike. Our movements were never bumping and grinding – it was very smooth and rhythmic [she sways her arms to demonstrate], and the music was the same. All of us were high-school graduates, so we spoke well. This is my upbringing –very respectful. People always ask me, “Why do they call you Miss Ross?” In Detroit anybody past a certain age were called Mr. and Mrs. You didn’t refer to them by their first names. As life went on and people started calling me Miss Ross, some people got so ruffled about that. But it was not a big thing as far as our upbringing.

I feel very sexy. I’ve always been sexual. I haven’t given up on sex yet – that’s probably why I’ve got five kids. I like it a lot. It’s my form of intimacy in my personal relationships. I feel my femininity when I’m working. When I walk through audiences, I like to touch them and hold them, and they like to touch and hold me. “Reach Out and Touch” was all about that. I dress sensually. My boobs aren’t hanging out, but my dresses are very pretty. I’m pretty satisfied with who I am, and I think that shows.

The year was 1976…

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie/Goodnight Everyone: Jerry Carrigan

Beginners Guide to Buying Drums & Percussion

This week for the first time we’re combining our two Friday music segments into one special feature.

Nashville session drummer and producer Jerry Carrigan died last Saturday at the age of 75 in Chattanooga.

Carrigan played with dozens and dozens of stars and even though his name be unknown to many, he was heard on pop, R&B and country radio. His resume included jingles for 7-Up, Coke, Chevrolet, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, or “Me and My RC”; television soundtracks for Maverick and Simon & Simon; and movies Nashville, Every Which Way But Loose, Six Pack, This Is Elvis, Urban Cowboy, and The Gambler.
He played for Tommy Roe in a live performance in Washington, D.C. where they shared the bill with the Beatles during their U.S. debut.

In 1965 Carrigan moved to Nashville,  the city that exploded into a major recording spot during the 1970’s. Country music was booming with stars galore who demanded Carrigan be their drummer.  By 1977 he was playing approximately twelve three-hour sessions per week with his innovative  “big fat drum sound.”

“I started playing real loose, deep-sounding snare drums on country records,” said Carrigan. “So I started experimenting with different things, different kinds of drums. I bought the first set of concert tom-toms that were in Nashville. I think that’s one reason the producers liked my sound. I had a different approach.”

We’ll  feature just a few of the numerous hits Carrigan collaborated on along with his own accounts of some of the celebrities he teamed with.

Let’s get started.

“I love them (The Oak Ridge Boys).  I did their things back when they were a Gospel group, as well as their pop-hit things like ‘Elvira.’ I’m the one who told them what the bass singer should say: ‘Oom papa, oom pop, oom papa mow mow.’ I knew what it was because I played on Dallas Frazier’s original version of it.”

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Carrigan in center

Guitarist Chet Atkins and the Boston Pops.

“That was…a wonderful experience. We did three concerts and an album. We’d do these tunes, and Arthur Fiedler would stop us and say, ‘You’re not following me.’ Chet would say, ‘He’s not used to following people. He’s used to people following him.’ Arthur just said, ‘It’s going to be different this time. He’s going to follow me.’ That was a wonderful experience. I had always imagined doing something like that, and I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”

“I did a country album with (Henry Mancini) called Mancini Country. He had the parts all written, and he sat down at the grand piano and played and conducted. It was another highlight. That was with a full 40-piece orchestra.”

Mancini did a cover of Floyd Cramer’s #2 hit from 1960, “Last Date.” Cramer was prevented from hitting #1 by a certain side-burned singer from Tupelo.

Mancini added some organ to Cramer’s piano arrangement.

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A positive session is “when the artist knows the material, can sing the song, and can give you a genuine feel for it, instead of just sitting there and reading the lyric off into a microphone. It’s where the artist has it together and the producer tells you, ‘I want it to be this way or that way.’ I like a direction.

“I can play a lot of different things until hands are spanked. I like someone who will tell me, ‘I do like this,’ or ‘I don’t like this.’ So many times, you’ll go in and they might not like it. Then, they’ll go out later and say, ‘Listen to what so-and-so played here. I don’t like it.’ Don’t tell me a month later that you don’t like it. Tell me now and we’ll do something about it, instead of just letting it go. A bad session to me is when you go in and nobody is prepared. The singer doesn’t know the song, so you end up tracking it, a lot of times, without even a scratch vocal. What kind of emotion am I to put into something where I don’t know what kind of emotion this singer is going to put into it? How can I do my job?”

George Jones

He was always my favorite country singer. I think he’s the best pure country singer who ever lived.”

About this country classic Jones said, “Nobody’ll buy that morbid son of a bitch.”

In 1980 it was Jones’ first hit in six years, and revived his dying career.

MONTGOMERY, AL - MARCH 25: Inductee Jerry Carrigan speaks at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame's 13th Induction Banquet and Awards Show at the Renaissance Hotel on March 25, 2010 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Inductee Jerry Carrigan speaks at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s 13th Induction Banquet and Awards Show at the Renaissance Hotel on March 25, 2010 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

The Carrigan quotes came from an article in Modern Drummer where Carrigan was interviewed by Robyn Flans in September of 1986.

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Carrigan in upper row, far right

“I first worked with (Elvis) in 1970. What a thrill that was! The first thing we did was ‘I’ve Lost You.’ I never was crazy about what I played on that stuff, but he always wanted you to have a charging feeling about everything. He wanted you to push him to the wall. I thought it sounded like I was rushing all the time, but they loved it. He would stand out in the middle of the studio, just like being on stage, and he would face you. He would wiggle and point to you when he’d want you to do a fill or something. The first week I worked with him, we did 35 tunes. We blasted through that stuff. We started at 6:00 at night and worked until 6:00 the next morning. He was definitely nocturnal. He was wonderful. I’ll tell you, when he walked into that studio and I saw him for the first time, there was no doubt that a real star had just appeared. He used to change clothes three times during the evening. It was like a performance.”

At this stage of his life and career Elvis would go into the studio and pour his heart out about the loss of a woman: “Separate Ways,” “You Were Always On My Mind” (Elvis did it first, not Willie Nelson), and “I’ve Lost You.”

Elvis and Priscilla Presley walking out of court after their divorce on September 10, 1973. Photo: LA Times

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Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: The Hologram Tour

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The “Rock ‘N’ Roll Dream Tour” is coming. Back-up singers and musicians will be onstage with hologram images of Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly.  Audience members will hear remastered recordings of the late stars.

The tour kicks off September 19th in San Francisco and concludes November 20th in Toronto. On October 25 there’s a tour stop scheduled at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison.

 Brian Becker, Chairman and CEO of BASE Hologram

Orbison, who died of a heart attack at age 52 in 1988, landed nine songs — including “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Crying” — in the Top 10 of Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart.

Holly, who died in a plane crash at age 22 in 1959, was known for songs such as “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue” and “Not Fade Away.”

My father’s music meant the world to not just us Orbison’s but to millions of fans worldwide,” he said. “Being able to reopen his legendary songbook and again hear his voice bounce off great concert hall walls is both a transcendent and cathartic experience,” said Roy Orbison, Jr., President of Roy Orbison Music. “Dad jammed with Buddy in Lubbock Texas and helped change music history by turning Buddy on to Norman Petty Studios; Buddy later returned the favor by recording two of Dad’s songs on his first Cricket’s album. How beyond cool and special that these two great friends, now get to tour the world together.”

Here’s how Orbison will look.

Now the non-hologram Orbison.

He wrote this song  that was released on the album “Mystery Girl”  a few months after he died in December 1988 of a heart attack. The single reached #9 in the US.

The Diamond Awards Festival in Antwerp, Belgium on November 19, 1988, 17 days before his death…


Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: The Winstons and a twist

There aren’t all that many great, or even very, very good Father’s Day songs.

Oh Mein Papa – Eddie Fisher

Daddy’s Hands – Holly Dunn

Butterfly Kisses – Bob Carlisle

Daddy Sang Bass – Johnny Cash

Here’s one that fits into our occasional series this year of songs from 1969, 50 years ago.

The Winstons firmly are entrenched into that “one-hit wonder” category. They were an inter-racial group that got their start in Washington D.C. The lead singer, Richard Spencer was inspired to write a song about a stepfather that treated his stepchildren as if they were his own. Spencer’s “real” dad left town and his family on a Greyhound bus and was not “killed in the war” as he wrote in the song that reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969. It also won an R & B Grammy Award.

What an interesting twist. This successful record about a father is really a song about a stepfather.

An image of The Winstons taken from a 1969 edition of Billboard magazine.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: The Night Tripper

Though Dr. John (real name was Mac Rebennack) had been around a while, the first time I saw him was on television in 1973. The heavily New Orleans-immersed musician was riding the success of a top 10 single, “Right Place, Wrong Time,” and sang it and other songs on “In Concert,” a late Friday night show similar to “The Midnight Special.”

During Dr. John’s final number, “Mama Don’t Allow,” he stood up from his piano with a bag over his shoulder and proceed to throw as Dick Clark, the producer of the program later said, “15 pounds of glitter” on the stage and audience.

The pianist, singer, songwriter and producer died of a heart attack Thursday. He was 77.

Dr. John was a showman,  and I’m not talking the showmanship of say a Liberace. Think voodoo. Beads. Feathers.

Photo: David Warner Ellis/Redferns

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Tossing glitter on “The Midnight Special” (Photo by Frank Carroll /NBC via Getty)

Early in his musical life he was tutored by Walter (Papoose) Nelson, who played guitar with Fats Domino.

“In the days when it was very difficult for a black guy and a white guy to socialize, for a black guy to give a white guy guitar lessons, beyond beautiful,” Dr.John once said.

His fortunes would change for the worse, and the better it turns out.

Back in 1961, Dr. John tried to help out when a friend got into a fight.

“I got shot in my finger before a concert. A guy was pistol whipping Ronnie Barron, our vocalist. Ronnie was just a kid and his mother had told me, ‘You better look out for my son.’ Oh god, that was all I was thinking about. I tried to stop the guy, I had my hand over the barrel and he shot.”

Ultimately he lost his left ring finger. So he was forced to switch from the guitar to piano, which he mastered.

Despite his immense fondness for the Crescent City, Dr. John left his beloved New Orleans in 1962 after a new district attorney began cracking down on clubs and nightlife to curb vice. He moved to Los Angeles where he came up with character of “Dr. John the Night Tripper,” a voodoo sorcerer and healer.

Finally in the early 1970’s he hit commercial pay dirt with singles “Right Place Wrong Time” and “Such a Night.”

This track is from the 1975 album “Hollywood Be Thy Name” recorded at Cherokee Recording Studios in Los Angeles with a live audience.

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Dr. John took advantage of his gravelly voice that wasn’t always stamped with a New Orleans flavor. Like everyone else, he actually did some standards. And Disney, too.

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Dr. John won six Grammy Awards and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“There’s kind of a code amongst musicians that if you’re ever really satisfied with what you do, you must be dead — because you ain’t growing.”
Dr. John

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: The Moth Confesses

When you think of a rock opera what immediately comes to  mind?

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Tommy is the fourth studio album by the English rock band The Who, a double album first released in May 1969. The album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend as a rock opera that tells the story about a “deaf, dumb and blind” boy, including his experiences with life and his relationship with his family. It sold 20 million copies.

That was 50 years ago right about this time. Also happening then was the release of the album, “The Moth Confesses.”

The LP was the brainchild of Nashville-based session player and vocalist Don Gant and  writer/arranger Tuppy Saussy. The latter was best known in the spring of 1969 for having adapted some of the Mary Poppins songbook to an adult oriented jazz sound via “The Swinger’s Guide to Mary Poppins” recorded in 1964. From the album liner notes.

Here is Mary Poppins as you’ve never heard it before. Tupper Saussy’s warm, amusing piano and Charlie McCoy’s engaging harmonicas take the magical Poppins music through the realm of jazz, giving it fresh new life.

Saussy admits that there was a temptation for the group to make the astonishingly simple chords of the original Sherman score more complex, which is the usual approach in jazz interpretation. “But rather than transform Mary Poppins to contemporary jazz harmonies,” Saussy says, “we decided to apply a contemporary jazz feeling to the Mary Poppins aura, thus preserving the original intentions of the composers.”

The music on this album, therefore, is quaint and swinging.

Charlie McCoy’s earthy harmonica is oft recorded and can be heard on dozens of hit pop records. Working with the Saussy group, this is his jazz debut.

Whether or not you’re a jazz buff, you’re sure to welcome this fresh look at one of the happiest motion pictures ever made.

Here’s the opening track from that 1964 LP.

 Gant and Saussy were eventually signed by Warner Brothers and their debut album on the label was “The Moth Confesses.” From the album liner notes:

“The Moth Confesses is a condensed opera, with variations on a single itinerary theme: desperation. There is great movement in desperation. The state of being desperate implies a choice between alternatives, and as we watch a protagonist choose his  directions we are held in suspense. The protagonist in this miniature opera is moth like, indeed. He is hardly bound to one place; he is always looking for an elusive light. He emerges from his cocoon in the first song, in which he shares his initial fascination for making love with his first lover. It might be said that all the remaining songs have to do with rediscovering, recreating that feeling … Don Gant’s rough hewn voice gives the material a very exciting texture.”

The artists behind the album were called “The Neon Philharmonic,” a chamber-sized orchestra of musicians from the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.  A single, “Morning Girl” made it to #17 on the  Billboard chart.

In those days Milwaukee had two popular Top 40 radio stations: WOKY at 920 on the AM dial, and WRIT down the dial at 1340.

“Morning Girl” timed in at just a tad over two minutes. The  condensed opera also had a track entitled “Morning Girl Later,” just slightly longer than the single that received radio airplay.

WRIT would occasionally play the extended versions of singles (think FM radio) whereas WOKY would not. So you could catch on WRIT “Morning Girl” and “Morning Girl Later” edited together (the two tracks were on opposite sides of the album).

Tupper Saussy’s son, Haun Saussy, a professor of comparative literature one said, “The Neon Philharmonic stuff is so ornate. There’s so much going on, it can almost be overwhelming, but when you do strip it down to just the bones of the music, you really realize how beautiful and elegant and simple the melodies and the chords are.”

Listen and see if you remember.

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Don Gant died in Nashville in 1987 after a serious boating accident in Florida.He was 44.

Tupper Saussy died in 2007 at his home in Nashville of a heart attack. He was 70.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Fire and Rain

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This week the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra along with AJ Swearingen and Jayne Kelli (above) performed in a concert featuring the music of artists and their 1970’s songs that combined folk and rock. They included  singers like  Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Cat Stevens, and James Taylor.

I wasn’t at the concert, but I can only assume that the title of the show was also on the set list.

James Taylor has never been my cup of tea. Some critics have labeled his material as too sensitive, personal, sentimental. I simply find his voice and style to be dull.

Here are two versions of “Fire and Rain,” written about Taylor’s childhood friend Suzanne Schnerr who committed suicide, with some news reports saying she jumped in front of a subway train.

Time to decide which version you think is better. We start with the original that blew open the doors for Taylor when he was a mere 20 years old.

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Now onto one of my favorite groups.

Blood, Sweat & Tears’ first album…

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Then came the Grammy-award winning…

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There was no way the jazz-rock band could fully measure up to the success of the above album in their third. The self-titled album contained three songs that neared the top of the charts as singles — “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “Spinning Wheel,” and “And When I Die.”

Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 was a solid recording that spent two straight weeks at #1 on the LP chart. But it didn’t enjoy the same blockbuster commercial popularity as its predecessor. There were a few cover versions including James Taylor’s ode to his friend.

OK. You decide. Sweet Baby James or BS & T.

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Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Beatles on the Big Screen

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What’s better than a Beatles song? How about seven of them.

In 1982 executives at Capitol Records had witnessed the success of the Stars of 45 medleys and the Beach Boys medley from 1981. Capitol had an entire catalog of Beatles’ recordings. So…

This week in 1982 a Beatles medley of clips from their movies had been climbing up the charts up to #12. It would go no further. Still, it was a top 20 hit that simply took some clever editing.

Click here for a video that accompanies the medley.