Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: The ultimate example of Americana

Mickey Newbury was considered one of the best and most influential songwriters of his time, the late 60’s and early 70’s. 1968 was a monumental year as Newbury garnered three number one songs and a number five on four different musical charts:

1) Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) on the Pop/Rock chart by the First Edition (#5)

2) Sweet Memories on the Easy Listening chart by Andy Williams (#1)

3) Time is a Thief on the R&B chart by Solomon Burke (#1)

4) Here Comes the Rain Baby on the Country chart by Eddy Arnold (#1)

No one’s done it ever since. A possibly even bigger feat, though, was still ahead.

From an essay on Newbury’s own website:

Imagine merging Civil War era songs of the North, South and African-American slaves into one unified movement. On a starry evening in May of 1970 while appearing on stage at the Bitter End West, Newbury did just that. The impromptu arrangement just came together on that magical night and in one moment of brilliant inspiration.

We get more details from Australian blogger Geoffrey McDonnell who writes about that night backstage at the Bitter End West in Los Angeles.

It was a time of frequent newspaper headlines about whites in newly integrated Southern schools insisting on Dixie as the school fight song, and blacks protesting because to them it was an anthem of white supremacy.

Newbury was annoyed because he saw nothing in the song itself that should make it the exclusive property of one-time segregationists, and on a whim he announced that he would sing it that night just to prove a point. The Bitter End’s manager, Paul Colby, was alarmed at the prospect — at first laughing nervously on the off-chance that Newbury was joking. But when he realized that the star of the evening was absolutely serious, he began explaining with rapid-fire urgency that Dixie was not exactly the type of song that a bunch of radicalized young Californians had turned out to hear.

No matter. Newbury was undeterred, and when he got onstage he ran through part of his normal set, and then with a gentle strum of his guitar, he began to sing the words, ”Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton.” But instead of belting them out in the rebel-yell style that everybody was accustomed to, he plucked the notes slowly on his old guitar, and his voice took on a rich, haunting quality that called up a different set of images — visions not of a mean-spirited South, but of a poignant South, a land caught in the grips of tragedy and suffering for 150 years.

There was power in the transformation, and it grew even stronger as Newbury shifted in midnote to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and then to an antebellum gospel song called All My Trials. Before the impromptu trilogy was completed, it had become one of the most supercharged events in the history of the Bitter End West.

“An American Trilogy” has been called “an indelible, essential work of the American songbook,” and “a great slice of Americana” that “bonds minority, Southern and Northern issues into a common lament.”

Brian Hinton wrote it has become “the ultimate example of Americana. It somehow evokes the birth of modern America.”

Newbury died in 2002. He was 62.

A remarkable 530 different artists or groups have recorded “An American Trilogy,” but none more famous than Elvis who made it a staple of his live concerts. Elvis’ rendition is stirring and emotional to say the least and his fans know it very well.

“Elvis on Tour” is a Golden Globe Award-winning American musical-documentary motion picture released by MGM in 1972. It was the thirty-third and final motion picture to star Elvis Presley before his death in 1977.

The force. It’s there. Prepare to be blown away.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: She’s #1 again, and again, and again

hen it comes to music, this nostalgic blogger knows that what is old can be new.

Until a little over two years ago the last time Diana Ross had a solo hit that went to #1 was in 1980 with “Upside Down.” Not that her incredible career needed any additional gold. But more chart-toppers were on the way.

Today (Friday) “Supertonic” featuring new remixes of nine classics by Ross is released  on CD and crystal-clear vinyl. The collection was remixed by Eric Kupper, American DJ, producer, arranger, writer and remixer who has had tremendous success with his mixes of Ms. Ross’ work. All remixes are created from the original multi-tracks of the masters taken from the Motown vaults.

“Supertonic” includes four consecutive #1 hits.  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” reached #1 in 2018, “I’m Coming Out/Upside Down” also reached #1 in 2018, “The Boss” in 2019, and the latest, “Love Hangover” in March of this year. All four topped Billboard’s Dance Club Songs Chart.

The original version of “Love Hangover” went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Soul Singles and Hot Dance Club Play charts simultaneously in May 1976. The disco recording began with a slow, sultry intro.

“Things came out of my mouth that I didn’t even expect,” said Ross.

All remixes are created from the original multi-tracks of the masters taken from the Motown vaults.

BONUS

Last December, Eric Kupper remixed Judy Garland’s “The Man Got Away” marking her first entry on the charts in 74 years. It peaked at #10 on Billboard’s dance chart.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Like father, like son? Not really

I’ve got some dots to connect, so follow along and please pay attention. Here we go.

Have I ever mentioned how amazing my wife is?

Well, probably not on this particular blog feature. But it’s so true. Jennifer is amazing, and inspiring, too!

For example, during the pandemic she came across and shared with me a Facebook page that was perfect for people cooped up…all around the world.

“This group has been created to connect people from all around the World during these tough times. Every day, through our windows, we have the same view. Take a photo! only one. LET’S SHARE IT! Should you see the rooftop of your town, overview a parc, your tiny garden, see buildings, the ocean or a tiny street, our idea is for you to share the atmosphere of your daily Life, from BEHIND YOUR WINDOW, where you live during Covid19 lockdown. The project ‘View from my window’, which was launched by Barbara Duriau on the 22 March, is a non-profit group, with the collaboration of volunteers.”

Here’s a recent submission (by the way the site is so immensely popular it no longer is accepting new group members) from central New Jersey.

Keep that in mind as we move closer to this week’s oldie and connect those dots.

More info related to the oldie from USA TODAY:

The summer solstice – the exact moment when the sun is at its highest point in the sky each year – is at 5:44 p.m. EDT June 20 (4:44 pm Saturday June 20 Wisconsin time). This marks the beginning of astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Are you keeping track?

How about this clue?

A legend.

Jerry Lewis had children, including…

The band enjoyed top 10 songs such as Save Your Heart For Me, Everybody Loves A Clown, She’s Just My Style, Sure Gonna Miss Her, and many more.

In 1965 Gary was Cash Box magazine’s “Male Vocalist of the Year”, winning the honor over other nominees Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. He was the first and only artist during the 1960’s to have his first seven releases reach Billboard magazine’s Top 10 on the Hot 100 chart.

OK. Dots. Let’s connect.

Views.

Outside the window.

Summer is like, just about here.

Legendary comedian.

Legendary comedian’s son.

Popular recording artist.

We’ve added it all up.

This went to #8 on the Billboard chart in 1966. Listen closely in between your dancing,  finger snapping or toe-tapping.

BONUS!

One more!

They sounded so nice gonna do them twice!

This went to #3!

In its infinite wisdom, the military, a la Elvis, drafted Gary Lewis  from 1967 to 1969 into the United States Army, thus depriving the US from millions of income tax revenue dollars. During his two years of service, Lewis spent two months at the Saigon Airport during the Vietnam War, and the remainder of the time in South Korea. Gary has witnessed the deaths of two close friends and, like many returnees, suffered from the trauma for years.

When he was released his once skyrocketing career took off again.

ANOTHER BONUS

Bobby Lewis died April 28 after contracting pneumonia. He was 95.

A song Lewis co-wrote  about being restless with insomnia went big in 1961. The record  hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 10 of that year, staying at the top spot for seven weeks,  an unusually long reign in the chart’s early history. It was used in the the movies American Graffiti (1973) and Animal House (1978). Of course, he sang it in oldie concerts everywhere.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “I just want your extra time and your…”

When I was a very young boy, not even 10 years old, I went through a very sad period.

I would drive with my Mom and Dad to what was then the old Milwaukee County General Hospital to visit my grandmother, Nana, who I loved deeply (She would pass away I think a few weeks later and I was an alter boy at her funeral).

Regulations prevented me from going up to her hospital room, even with parents. So I sat outside (it was during a warm weather time) on a concrete slab in the driveway the public buses would use (As a youngster I was fascinated by the local bus system).

To pass the time, I brought along my prized RCA Transistor radio in its light brown case, and listened  with an appropriate  volume to my favorite station, WRIT-AM, 1340 on the dial (WOKY-920 AM was the local ratings favorite).

I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time I heard that song. Mid-60’s. No cable or Internet. The artists didn’t have quick exposure. If a magazine article came out, even about Elvis, you had to wait awhile to see it.

Great voice, I thought, as it blared I thought with a towering sound from my teeny tiny battery-driven transistor. Even at that age, having been exposed to music from my parents and brother, not to mention TV and radio, I fancied this prepubescent kid as a music “expert.”

This new song, heard for the first time where the vocalist belted it out and a half told me he just had to be black. Of course that didn’t matter. I was hooked, hoping for the next time WRIT would play it .

Soon, on a Sunday night like most others back then, the family was watching the Ed Sullivan Show.

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Jones has sold over 100 million records with thirty-six Top 40 hits in the United Kingdom and nineteen in the United States.

Jennifer knows that in my view the quality of popular music officially died on January 1, 1980. Unlike my wife, I am NOT a fan of 80’s music, so I rarely post any in this blog. I’ll make an exception this week and dedicate this 1988 hit to Jennifer.

This is soooo 80’s.

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“Women and girls rule my world.”

Cool.

So very cool.

Why Tom Jones this week?

Last Sunday he turned 80.

I’m still in a state of shock.

BONUS!

Jones is one of the judges on The Voice UK along with will.i.am, Olly Murs and Meghan Trainor. Earlier this year…

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Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: 400,000 photos

On Sunday the premium cable channel EPIX airs the second and final part of “Laurel Canyon,” a documentary about the Los Angeles rock scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s. A critical component in addition to footage and interviews is the work of Henry Diltz, one of American popular music’s most noted photographers. Diltz had inside access to one of the high water marks in rock history.

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In 2015 CBS Correspondent Anthony Mason produced this feature on Laurel Canyon  Henry Diltz.

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I’ll have more on Laurel Canyon in my mega-Friday night music blog after 7:00 this evening.

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Where, who, why?

Something different this week. Typically we open with the backstory to the oldie before hitting the music. Just the opposite this time as we’ll dive right into the oldie and explain after.

No cheating. No looking ahead.

Ready.

Click.

OK.

Not exactly a forgotten oldie. Or forgotten entertainer.

So why that song by that artist?

Seems there are a few mysteries surrounding “Sweet Caroline.”

Read what they are as well as the answers in this column.

 

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: Woodstock, then and now

Woodstock?

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That Woodstock?

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That’s the feature this week?

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But there’s no special anniversary going on. The 50th was last year.

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So what gives?

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. Sounds like he’s pretty sharp.

In a nutshell, Tucker brilliantly observes that we practically made nothing of the filth and germs that surrounded the masses at Woodstock, and survived …during a pandemic.

This month Tucker wrote:

The flu spread from Hong Kong to the United States, arriving December 1968 and peaking a year later. It ultimately killed 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly over the age of 65, and one million worldwide.

Nothing was closed by force. Schools mostly stayed open. Businesses did too. You could go to the movies. You could go to bars and restaurants.

Stock markets didn’t crash because of the flu. Congress passed no legislation. The Federal Reserve did nothing. Not a single governor acted to enforce social distancing, curve flattening (even though hundreds of thousands of people were hospitalized), or banning of crowds. No mothers were arrested for taking their kids to other homes. No surfers were arrested. No daycares were shut even though there were more infant deaths with this virus than the one we are experiencing now. There were no suicides, no unemployment, no drug overdoses attributable to flu. 

Media covered the pandemic but it never became a big issue. 

There’s more in his column that I strongly encourage you to read, whether or not you were around back then. One more Tucker point:

If we used government lockdowns then like we use them now, Woodstock (which changed music forever and still resonates today) would never have occurred. How much prosperity, culture, tech, etc. are losing in this calamity?

One of my all-time favorite bands played Woodstock on the final day. But you probably  wouldn’t know or remember. Blood, Sweat, and Tears, jazz-rock pioneers, performed for about 60 minutes, but like many groups that weekend were not paid at all because the concert organizers had no money.  Management for BS & T presumed the band would be getting $12,000, a lot of money for 1969. David Clayton-Thomas, the lead singer, said they had no idea the magnitude of Woodstock.

“No, we didn’t much keep track of the itinerary or where we were going,” Clayton-Thomas said. “If you’ve ever been on the road, you wake up in the morning and you look at the telephone book beside your bed to find out where you slept last night and ask the road manager where you’re going next. And of course on the road the most valuable thing is trying to get enough sleep. You go to bed at midnight after a show. You have a 3 o’clock wake-up call to get to the airport, so you get your sleep an hour or two at a time.

“So no, we didn’t really know where we were going; we just knew there was a gig in New York. We didn’t really understand what was happening until we landed at LaGuardia Airport. And the road manager said, ‘I don’t think the show tonight’s going to happen. All the traffic is jammed. Nothing is moving. There are 600,000 at this concert.’

“There were 600,000 people and maybe six cops and a couple of state troopers for the little local surrounding towns. How do you control 600,000 people with six cops? And if the artists didn’t show up, there might be a riot. So, we got about a third of the way there before the traffic completely stopped and we went to a little motel and they brought in a National Guard helicopter and flew us into the site.”

Here was a band that peppered its set list with pieces containing lots of jazz solos. How could that possibly go over?

“Everybody there knew us, said Clayton-Thomas. “I would say 70 percent of the people in that audience were from New York, and we were a New York City band. That was our base. They’d seen us play in clubs and colleges around the New York area.”

You won’t find BS & T in the “Woodstock” movie. How come? Clayton-Thomas answered  it was all about the money.

“Backstage there was a lot of controversy going on. The managers were in a trailer with the promoters, going, ‘How does my band get paid?’ They [the promoters] said, ‘They broke down the fences. We don’t have any money.’ So some of the managers, in particular Albert Grossman, who managed Dylan, the Band and Janis [Joplin], said, ‘OK then, no pay, no filming.’ The headliners, in their contracts, had a percentage of the film rights. Since there was no money to give them [the bands], they simply just edited us out of the film. I think they actually recorded only one song at Woodstock. But the quickest way to not pay the headliners is just edit them out of the film. I’ve got to live with that, with my daughter going, ‘Dad, I thought you were at Woodstock. I saw the movie and you weren’t in the movie.’ The managers felt that was the only leverage they had to get their bands paid. And it’s not just greed. I mean, it was financial reality. We had airfares to pay, we had musicians to pay, we had road crew to pay and we weren’t going to get any money for this gig. Normally, if we we’re doing a concert and the promoter didn’t come up with the money you just don’t put the show on. It’s his problem. You can’t do that with a half a million people.”

Yes, things were a lot different during the late 1960’s pandemic as compared to today. Just listen to this BS& T Woodstock performance of one of their biggest hits, their last song before their encore.

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“That generation approached viruses with calm, rationality and intelligence. We left disease mitigation to medical professionals, individuals and families, rather than politics, politicians and government.”
Jeffrey Tucker

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “Whop bop b-luma b-lop bam boom”

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We lost another rock legend.

Bill Flanagan of CBS put together a nice tribute.

BONUS

Back in the 90’s I moonlighted working security backstage at the Wisconsin State Fair. I got hooked into the job when I had press credentials, and some of the backstage people whom I’d known for a long, long time asked if I would put on a bright yellow Security shirt and give them a hand.

Here’s one of those backstage security memories from a blog I wrote in 2007.

LITTLE RICHARD

“I’m not going on. No. Hear me and understand, Little Richard is not going on.”

The man who gave us Long Tall Sally and Lucille refused to get out of his limo and take the stage until he was paid. Apparently State Fair management pays their acts after the show is completed. Little Richard would have none of that, and he was serious.

After awhile, the State Fair brass got together and presented Little Richard a check.

With a holler of WOOOOOOO!!! Little Richard in his white flowing outfit jumped out of the limo and began his show, even inviting audience members onstage to dance, a practice normally frowned upon by management and security.

To this day, rumor is the check was a bouncer, and that the REAL check was given to Little Richard after he was done performing.

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ANOTHER BONUS

A Little Richard influence. September of 1956. Little Richard’s song was performed in front of 60 million people watching on TV.

 

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “So much rhythm, grace, and debonair for one man”

Old-time record players where you could listen to 45s and LPs are relics of the past that aren’t dead, but they’re certainly not en vogue. CDs are taking a back seat in popularity, too, as streaming and digital have taken over with popular services like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify.

Record companies today have catalog departments comprised of their collections of non-contemporary songs that include some of the biggest hits of the last several decades, as well as all the duds, unreleased tracks and true obscurities. Some artists may have enjoyed a few hits that can last a career, but haven’t released any new music for a number of years.  Catalog departments are now attempting to develop marketing strategies to communicate to newer, young audiences about older music.

Here’s an example. More and more, record companies want to capitalize on the so-called  “what-was-that-song?” market of consumers that hear music on a commercial, TV show or movie,  like it, and want to listen again. When the song was released doesn’t matter. What’s important is likeability.

Tim Fraser-Harding is the president of global catalog of recorded music at the Warner Music Group.

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One Sunday night in 2018 a member of Fraser-Harding’s team  heard a 1976 track by the Spinners being used in “Avengers: Infinity War.” By lunchtime the very next day Warner had come up with special digital playlist, a partnership with the movie studio, and a complete marketing strategy around the song.

This tune is about a guy who makes sounds with a rubber band stretched between his toes. Thom Bell, the Spinners’ producer wrote this song for his son with help from his songwriting partner Linda Creed. The boy was large in size, so his schoolmates called him “The Fat Man,” and at first Bell thought of using that for the record title.Bell changed his mind saying, “It was written for big people who were hip, to change the whole idea of a person being large being sloppy, slow.” A dance routine was even choreographed for the song.

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The song peaked at #2 for three weeks but couldn’t crack the top spot. That belonged to Rod Stewart and “Tonight’s the Night.”

BONUS!

Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: “Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you”

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Malaysia is a country of more than 31 million in SE Asia. Recently Malaysia found itself in hot water from all around the world.

Malaysia’s Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development published some online posters giving some tips to women working at home on how to treat their husbands during the current pandemic lockdown.  The exercise turned out to be a colossal embarrassment.

One of the posters urged women not to nag their husbands.

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Another pictured a man sitting on the couch while asking his wife not to be “sarcastic” about the household chores.

Malaysia's coronavirus lockdown advice for women sparks sexism ...

“If you see your partner doing something wrong, avoid nagging – use ‘humorous’ words like saying: ‘This is how you hang clothes my dear’ (imitate Doraemon’s voice and follow up with giggles!).” Doraemon is a popular Japanese cartoon character that speaks in a high-pitched, nasally voice.
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And one more poster suggested wearing makeup and office clothes so as not to offend their husbands. In a few images on the poster a woman is shown rejecting a sweater, applying  lipstick, blush, and eye shadow, and wearing a tight skirt and blouse instead.

This screenshot shows a poster from Malaysia’s ministry of women that encourages women to avoid “home clothes,” dress up neatly and wear makeup as usual.

Avoid wearing home clothes. Dress up. Look sexy. Keep your hubby happy.  Promote household harmony.  Sorta like…

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The campaign bombed.

“We apologize if some of the tips we shared were inappropriate and touched on the sensitivities of some parties,” the ministry said in a mea culpa statement.

Musically speaking it was a different story in 1963. The amazing team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote the lyrics and the music for this Jack Jones hit that won a  Grammy for Jack Jones. The Huffington Post wrote in a headline it “Could Be One Of The Most Offensive Songs, Ever.”

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The song reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

BONUS

Recognize that voice?

Of course you do.

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