Goodnight everyone, and have a whimsical summer weekend!

“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”
Author Sarah Dressen from her book, Just Listen

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.

August is almost gone. Back to school sales are underway. My wife’s mail-order catalogs are pushing fall clothes and end of swim season deals. The  days are shorter.  Temperatures of 90 or more are less likely.

Summer’s on its way out, but it’s certainly not gone. Tonight, whimsical music to remind us of fun summer days ahead.

When the Beatles were recording the monumentally successful and trend-setting LP “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” it was John, not Paul who was influenced to write a whimsical tune based on the above Pablo Fanque Circus Royal poster from 1843.

Could it be, somewhere, somehow, out there this summer you could still find a show on trampoline, men and horses hoops and garters, a hogshead of real fire, a splendid time guaranteed for all!

Can you imagine?

Outdoor summer entertainment, you never know what you might encounter.




People with talent like you saw on Ed Sullivan on Sunday night TV in the 60’s.

OK. That kind of stuff might be hard to find around these parts, but c’mon, don’t ruin the moment. Play along!

One of the greatest years in pop music history in my view was 1969. That summer The Friends of Distinction released a monster hit, a remake of a tune the previous year from sax man Hugh Masekela.

Perfect summer music, say, at a picnic?

Here’s a remake by smooth jazz artists, saxophonist Boney James and trumpeter Rick Braun.

What are the best things about summer?

lemonade stands





napping in a hammock

daytrips to the beach

iced tea out of mason jars


outdoor movies


drippy ice cream cones

kids playing in sprinklers and open fire hydrants

eating outside

going to a baseball game

blowing bubbles

water balloons


mini golf

state fairs (and food on sticks)


flip flops

the smoky smell of people barbecuing

dogs with their heads out car windows, tongues wagging

bicycles built for two

Merry go rounds

That’s it for this Friday night segment.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

There’s still some summer left!

Goodnight everyone, and go to Irish Fest this weekend!

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!

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Normally we do this whole deal on Friday nights. What’s going on?

Irish Fest began today at 5:00.

We traditionally use this blog feature to highlight some of the musicians who are are appearing at the festival. Because it’s a 4-day festival we need to blog accordingly. We can’t do all the performers, but let’s face it. Stop at any stage any time at Irish Fest, and you can’t go wrong.

Let’s get started.

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BackWest consists of a fusion of three elements- music, song and dance across a range of genres, the primary one being that of Irish Traditional Music.

“…an innovative, thrilling ensemble of high calibre and vastly experienced musicians.”
Irish Music Magazine

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Now an Irish Fest favorite. Award-winning quartet WeBanjo3 from Galway, Ireland combine Irish Music with Old-Time American and Bluegrass influences to reveal the banjo’s rich legacy and roots.  Featuring banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, vocals and percussion We Banjo 3 make a bold and extraordinary musical statement.

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This next band from Belfast is new to Irish Fest. Described by Irish Music Magazine as “a full bodied pipe and whistle extravaganza,” Réalta make full use of the intricate melodies and driving rhythms that make Irish music so loved throughout the world. They perform on dueling uilleann pipes, whistles, bodhrán, guitar, bouzouki, and double bass.

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The Whileaways are also making their Irish Fest debut, three distinct voices that combine on beautiful harmonies.

“stake their claim to being among the finest singers in the country”
Edwin McFee, Hot Press

Prepare to be spellbound”
Sligo Live Festival

“hollers for a chance to be heard in a live setting, so rich is its lyrical tapestry”
Siobhan Long, Irish Times

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That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend!

Now a very exciting close. They’re the most famous bagpipe band on the planet.

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Here is the complete Irish Fest schedule.

Goodnight everyone, and have an I DO weekend! Part II

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.

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Last Friday the feature was wedding music. Honestly I had so much fun putting it together I wanted to highlight some more.

Love to open with a rousing number. When my buddy Jim Kaluzny and I spun tunes at wedding receptions this was a must. And not just the customary single, but the movie version that is available on CD.

From “For Elvis Fans Only”

It often has been reported incorrectly that Elvis was the choreographer for the big ‘Jailhouse Rock’ production number in this film. Alex Romero was the choreographer for the film, but Elvis’ own natural moves were Romero’s inspiration. Mr. Romero had designed the production number for the song ‘Jailhouse Rock’ . Then, when Elvis tried the Fred Astaire type of steps that has been planned, they found that it wasn’t going to work. So, Mr. Romero asked Elvis to perform several songs as if he were on stage. After watching Elvis perform ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and ‘All Shook Up’, Mr. Romero announced ‘I got it. See you later, Elvis’. and then explained that he was going home to work out a routine using Elvis’ natural movements. The next day, they worked their way through to create the now-classic ‘Jailhouse Rock’ production number, one of pop/rock music’s greatest and most iconic moments on film, a performance considered by many to be ahead of its time and the father of modern-day music videos.

Time to lay it on you Daddy-O!

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No trouble getting people up and dancing on that baby.

Did you notice the background in the movie scene? Fast forward to Elvis’ famous 1968 Comeback Special and the opening number.

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Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Audience participation is a great deal of fun at weddings. Did somebody say “The Locomotion”?

And this next selection is another winner. It really works.

Yes it does.


Sure fire.

Every time.

Don’t believe me?

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That was their first single and hit. It was released in 1985. Can’t you tell?

Question: So why do brides toss away their pretty and costly bouquets?

The tradition dates back to the 14th century. Brides were considered to be lucky. So lucky that the guests would grab and try to tear off shreds of the wedding gown. Someone came up with a way to change that. The bride would toss her bouquet in to the crowd to distract her guests, so she could then leave with her husband to the bridal chamber.

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Sometimes the single ladies promenade around the bride while music plays before she finally makes that toss.

“Man! I Feel Like a Woman!,” by Shania Twain

“Last Dance,” by Donna Summer

“I Feel Love,” by Donna Summer

“Love Shack,” by The B-52’s

“Ladies Night,” by Kool & The Gang

“How Will I Know,” by Whitney Houston

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, by Whitney Houston

“She’s a Lady,” by Tom Jones

“Foxey Lady,” by Jim Hendrix

“Brick House,” by The Commodores

“P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing),” by Michael Jackson

“Uptown Girl,” by Billy Joel

“Hot Stuff,” by Donna Summer

“One Way or Another,” by Blondie

“Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” by Pat Benatar

“Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen

“Foxey Lady,” by Jim Hendrix

“Oh, Pretty Woman,” by Roy Orbison

“Rocky Theme aka Gonna Fly Now,” by Bill Conti

Unless instructed otherwise, Jim and I usually went with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by Cyndi Lauper.

After that, another tradition, guaranteed to set off some hootin’ and hollerin’.


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Like the bouquet toss, this tradition is based on a superstition that owning a piece of the wedding dress would bring good luck. The poor ladies had people ripping at their gowns. To put an end to the destruction brides wore and then gave away lucky garters but not before the article was carefully removed.

Hot in Here – Nelly

Beat It – Michael Jackson

Legs – ZZ Top

Rico Suave – The Escape Club

Bad to the Bone – George Thorogood

Stray Cat Strut – Stray Cats

Let’s Get it On – Marvin Gaye

I Like It Like that – Dave Clark Five

I’m Just a Gigalo – David Lee Roth

Shaft – Isaac Hayes

Another One Bites the Dust – Queen 

If You Think I’m Sexy – Rod Stewart

Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers

Mission Impossible Theme    

Oh Yeah – Yellow

Jaws Theme  

Wild Thing – Tone Loc

Strokin’ – Clarence Carter

Just a Gigilo – David Lee Roth

I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred

All good choices for this ritual. But the best?


gold wedding reception garter grab

Doing or Ditching: The Garter Toss? 1

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So the single woman who caught the bouquet and the single gentleman who caught the garter are said to be the next to get married. Maybe or maybe not to one another.

The couple dances, and after a verse we’d invite the crowd to come out and join them.

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As I mentioned last week wedding receptions these days don’t offer enough of those slow, romantic numbers. To end this installment here are three such songs that Jim and I on occasion would close out the last ten minutes or so.  This trio is a rather interesting juxtaposition of love songs that chart a couple’s growing affection for one another.

To start it off, once again, Gloria Estefan and her re-make of Mel Carter’s 1965 hit.

That’s how it all begins, right?

OK. Holding and thrilling. We move on.

There’s an old joke that this singer’s real name was Charlie Poor, until this recording.

 Several Orlando Disney resorts have got rid of their do not disturb signs

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

Here’s that third song to end the wedding reception evening. Definite pattern going on.

Goodnight everyone, and have an I DO weekend!

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.


Many years ago my friend and WTMJ colleague Jim Kaluzny had his own deejay service and asked me to assist at wedding receptions. The stories I could tell.

There are definitely crowd pleasers that draw folks to the dance floor. To me, some are so natural, so obvious that there should be some stipulation that unless they’re not played at a wedding the couple isn’t legally married. 🙂

To this day I can’t attend a ceremony without critiquing. Why aren’t they doing this? Why haven’t they played that?

Wedding “must plays” this week.

Jim would more often than not actually line up the recordings and I would intro them. A nice opener to break the ice after the couple’s official first dance was this oldie.

If it was good enough for the legendary Glenn Miller it was good enough for us. Nice crisp clean sound.

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Today there simply aren’t enough bumpers and grinders, slow dances played at weddings. That’s too bad because they work.

Like this classic from the King.

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And some reports indicate Elvis didn’t want to record this song, but others insisted. It made it all the way to #2 where it just couldn’t knock off Joey Dee and “The Peppermint  Twist.” But you won’t hear that at a wedding.

Time to liven (speed) things up. They’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so why not give ’em a spin!

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From Facebook:

A national sensation, they toured extensively and were co-headliners on the 1959 Winter Dance Party, the tour that took the lives of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. Dion was, in fact, scheduled to fly in the fateful plane that went down. The headliners flipped a coin to see who was going to fly. The Big Bopper and Dion won the toss. Then Dion discovered that the flight would cost $36 — the exact amount of rent his parents paid monthly. He said, “I couldn’t bring myself to pay a full month’s rent on a short flight. So I said, ‘Ritchie, you go.’ He accepted and took my seat. Only the four of us knew who was getting on that plane when we left the dressing room that night. Of those four, I was the only one who survived beyond February 3, 1959.”

Dion’s memorable career lives on. The Wanderer: Based On The Life and Music Of Dion will have its world premiere at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in the spring of 2020 a 2020 prior to an expected Broadway run.

To quote Johnny Mathis, “Chances are” you’ll hear this song in the first 15-30 minutes at a wedding.

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Now another cuddler. Most often the Frank Sinatra version gets the attention and that certainly isn’t bad. I like this rendition where the DJ can talk over the piano intro. Great vocal by Steve Tyrell and wonderful sax solo. And sorry, Frank. This recording is a bit better and easier to dance to. I give it an 87.

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OK. I admit. I can’t help myself. One more. One more. Some of these are just plain perfect for the occasion. And so is this next selection. Weddings seem to bring on and ooze sentimentality. There aren’t more songs that are prettier than this. And might I add this would be ideal for the father -daughter dance. I personally recommend that a DJ play this as early in the evening as possible for ultimate happiness.

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Everyone knows this incredibly talented family, thus, a popular wedding choice.
Nat King Cole died on Feb. 15, 1965. He was only 45.

Natalie Cole died on December 31, 2015, at the age of 65.

There are so, so many others that are great wedding choices.

A polka, of course
The Chicken Dance
Old Time Rock and Roll-Bob Seger
Twist and Shout-Beatles

Jailhouse Rock-Elvis
Grease Medley
Dancing Queen-ABBA

YMCA-The Village People
C’mon Eileen-Dexty’s Midnight Runners
Footloose-Kenny Loggins
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg-The Temptations
Brown Eyed Girl-Van Morrison

Love Shack-The B-52’s
Shout-The Isley Brothers
Funkytown-Lipps Inc.
Shake It Off-Taylor Swift
All About That Bass-Meghan Trainor

Colour My World-Chicago
Crazy-Patsy Cline
Close To You-Carpenters
Unchained Melody-The Righteous Brothers
Behind Closed Doors-Charlie Rich

Don’t hear ’em? Go request ’em!

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

We close with a dance floor favorite. Jive Bunny was an English pop act that did medleys of popular music hits that were a wedding DJ’s best friend. On their big album they recorded eight (8) medleys. Jim and I always played this. Slam dunk winner. The “That’s What I Like” medley. See how many you a) remember and b) would love to dance to on a Saturday night in all your finery.

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Goodnight everyone, and have a Christmas in July weekend!

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.

Christmas planning began this week in the East Wing of the White House.

“I’m looking forward to sharing our final vision for this unique tradition in the coming months,” said First Lady Melania Trump.

Participants enjoy their annual saltwater bath at Bellevue beach in Bakken, Denmark, this week, which is held on the sidelines of the Santa Claus World Congress. Photograph: Liselotte Sabroe/AFP/Getty Images

And there were all kinds of Christmas in July goings on going on, too.

So this week’s musical theme is…


Before I move to something else, Kev, are you saying you’re going to hit us with Jingle Bells, ho ho ho, and all that jazz when it’s 80-plus degrees outside?

In a word, yes. But listen. This will be Christmas music that is Christmas music that doesn’t really or immediately sound like Christmas.

C’mon, admit it. You’re curious. What do we have up our sleeve to pull this off?

Well, let’s get started with the biggest seller of Christmas music ever and an appropriate intro.

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Here’s the Grammy Award-winning Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band with a selection from a modern film adaption of “A Christmas Carol” where Daffy Duck, in an Ebenezer Scrooge role, is visited by three Christmas Ghosts.

Yes, “Christmas” is in the title. But you’d never know it’s a Christmas melody just by listening, unless you knew the song.

You’ll never hear this on the radio this December.

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By the way, just try, try to find any other versions of this tune.

Next up trumpeter and flugelhorn player Rick Braun. His Christmas album is loaded with lots of original material, like this.

Is this idea farfetched?

From NPR:

According to Mel Tormé’s youngest son, James — an accomplished jazz singer himself —  it was on a hot, oppressive summer day in 1945 that his father, Mel, went over to the house of one of his writing partners, Bob Wells.

“Wells was nowhere to be seen,” James says, “But there was a spiral pad at the piano. There were four lines scribbled down on it in pencil.”

Those four lines were: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire / Jack Frost nipping at your nose / Yuletide carols being sung by a choir / And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

When Bob Wells eventually appeared, he told Mel that he had been trying to do everything to cool down on that hot day. Wells said, “I thought that maybe if I could just write down a few lines of wintry verse, I could physiologically get an edge over this heat.”

Forty-five minutes later, the lyrics of what would be “The Christmas Song” were finished.

An article about "The Christmas Song," San Diego Union newspaper article 24 December 1978

Back in the mid 1970’s I saw the late comedian Paul Lynde at the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee. At the very beginning of his show the orchestra played a short medley of Christmas songs while images of snowflakes, etc., were shown on the stage curtain.

Lynde emerged and explained he thought Christmas music was so good enough that it should be played at other times throughout the year. As we speak Christmas albums to be released later this year are now being recorded in studios.

The majority of our next artist’s music is created partly or entirely on his Macintosh computer, along with synthesizers, guitars, and various other instruments. David Arkenstone blends rock, global, and cinematic elements into his unique New Age sound.

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Now a Christmas song that has nothing to do with the holiday, although it does refer to “brown paper packages tied up with strings.”

And isn’t the movie it comes from usually replayed on television at Easter time?

Check out this popular tune done bossa nova style.

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Christmas in Rio.

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

So many Christmas songs are about the weather.

This legendary band has been around for more than 80 years and finally recorded their first Christmas album in 2015.

Some interesting twists and improvisations here.

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Goodnight everyone, and have a lunar landing weekend!

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.

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TIME magazine, July 25, 1969:

THE ghostly, white-clad figure slowly descended the ladder. Having reached the bottom rung, he lowered himself into the bowl-shaped footpad of Eagle, the spindly lunar module of Apollo 11. Then he extended his left foot, cautiously, tentatively, as if testing water in a pool—and, in fact, testing a wholly new environment for man. That groping foot, encased in a heavy multi-layered boot (size 9½B), would remain indelible in the minds of millions who watched it on TV, and a symbol of man’s determination to step—and forever keep stepping—toward the unknown.

After a few short but interminable seconds, U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong placed his foot firmly on the fine-grained surface of the moon. The time was 10:56 p.m. (E.D.T.), July 20, 1969. Pausing briefly, the first man on the moon spoke the first words on lunar soil:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

With a cautious, almost shuffling gait, the astronaut began moving about in the harsh light of the lunar morning. “The surface is fine and powdery, it adheres in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the soles and sides of my foot,” he said. “I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles.” Minutes later, Armstrong was joined by Edwin Aldrin. Then, gaining confidence with every step, the two jumped and loped across the barren land scape for 2 hrs. 14 min., while the TV camera they had set up some 50 ft. from Eagle transmitted their movements with remarkable clarity to enthralled audiences on earth, a quarter of a million miles away.

This week, 50 years after that historic accomplishment, moon music.

Let’s be honest. The moon has been a Friday night music feature in the past. We do it again because of the anniversary, but also because it’s such good stuff.

We open with a homemade video from You Tube that actually was well executed.

Tom Jones sang this on his TV show that began in the very late 1960’s, and also included it as a track on one of his albums.

The video shows his TV rendition and a concert version almost 30 years later.

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Friday nights.

Tom Jones on TV.

My late Auntie Lucy said back then, “I love the way he moves.”

That classic standard is closely associated with Frank Sinatra, but he didn’t do it first. Kaye Ballard did in 1954.

Then came Johnny Mathis, Nancy Wilson, Eydie Gorme, Peggy Lee, and Connie Francis with their recordings BEFORE Sinatra in 1964.

By the way, did you know the moon has a distinctive smell?

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin said it smells like…

Firecrackers going off.

Back to the music. And possibly the most famous and most popular “moon” song…ever!

The Jazz Ambassadors are the premier touring jazz orchestra of the United States Army.

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Man securely on the moon. Did you know that the Apollo 11 astronauts landed with less than 30 seconds of fuel to spare?

Her father sang it, and she paid him tribute.

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Neil Armstrong

It’s May of 1961.

Did you know that in 1961 NASA spent $1 million on Apollo 11. In 1966 it was spending $1 million every three hours.

In 1970 a Northern Irish singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer released a biggie.

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Who created the spacesuits the astronauts wore?

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And finally this fact. The astronauts had to declare their moon rocks and moon dust at customs when they returned to Earth.

And who says my blog isn’t educational.

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

“Space Oddity” is a song written and recorded by the late David Bowie that was first released on July 11, 1969. The United States’ Apollo 11 mission would launch five days later and would become the first manned moon landing a few days after that.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you

[spoken]Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much
she knows

Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead,
there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you….

Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue

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Goodnight everyone, and have a RW & B weekend!

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.

The 4th of July is over, but we are still in the midst of Independence Day Week. This week, we have some great selections that just ooze Americana.

You’ll love it, so let’s get started with one of our typical rousing beginnings.

Aaron Copland is one of the most famous American composers of all time. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and went to France as a teenager to study music.

Copland wrote music with a very “American” sound.  One of Copland’s best known compositions is “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Copland wrote it after the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra asked several composers to write fanfares during World War II. Copland’s music has become a great part of American history. He chose the title because he wanted to honor every person who worked for victory, including those who weren’t on the battlefield.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Fanfare, but if not, here’s a brief example from the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. You’re bound to say, yes, yes, yes, of course I know that.

THIS, on the other hand, is a far more upbeat version of Copland’s masterpiece by James Last and his Orchestra.

Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland. He died in 1990.

Skyscrapers bloom in America.

Cadillacs zoom in America. 

Industry boom in America.

Twelve in a room in America.

Leonard Bernstein was one of the first American-born conductors to receive worldwide fame. He composed the score for the Broadway musical West Side Story.

Bernstein first played piano at the age of 10. His Aunt Clara was going through a divorce and needed a place to store her massive upright piano. Bernstein’s father refused to pay for piano lessons, so Bernstein raised his own money. By the time his bar mitzvah came his father saw enough talent that he bought his a baby grand piano.

Bernstein went to Harvard University where he studied music theory. In 1937, he attended a Boston Symphony concert. The conductor was Dmitri Mitropoulos. Bernstein was taken by Mitropoulos who enthusiastically led the orchestra with his bare hands.

The next day Bernstein played a sonata at a reception attended by Mitropoulos who was so impressed he invited Bernstein to come to his rehearsals. After spending a week with the conductor, Bernstein realized music had to be and would be the focus of his life.

The legendary composer and conductor died of a heart attack caused by progressive lung failure in 1990 at the age of 72.  Bernstein’s death followed by five days the announcement that he would retire from performing due to health problems that may have been caused, in part, by his frenetically paced schedule. A heavy smoker for most of his life, he had been suffering from emphysema, pulmonary infections and a pleural tumor.

Bernstein’s official website describes his music being “wrapped in the rhythmic propulsion of a great American urban landscape. He has left us an aural image of his time and place and, at the same time, an eternal voice of humanity.”

Leonard Bernstein

“I can’t live one day without hearing music, playing it, studying it, or thinking about it.”
Leonard Bernstein

Now back to the 1970’s when disco for a short time ruled popular music.

No one gave young musician Walter Murphy a chance until Private Stock Records signed him on where he produced a very contemporary version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  The recording that had to drive purists out of their minds went all the way to #1.

Murphy also put his touch to many other famous works.

“Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” was a ballet composed by Richard Rodgers that is seen near the end of “On Your Toes,” a 1936 Broadway musical comedy.

The ballet is the story about a jealous premier male ballet dancer who hires a thug to kill a rival during the premiere of a new ballet. “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” deals with the seedy denizens who patrather at a strip joint near the New York waterfront where brawls are the norm.


A hoofer falls in love with a stripper and is discovered with her after closing time by the club’s owner, the Big Boss, who accidentally shoots her. The “corpse” of the stripper manages to pass a note to the hoofer warning him of the real murder plot. Once aware that the thug, who is sitting in one of the theater’s boxes, is planning to shoot him when he stops dancing, the hoofer keeps repeating his closing phrase until the police arrive.

BTW, the 1957 film of the same name…

Has absolutely nothing to do with ballet.

During a PBS special many, many years ago, Milwaukee’s own famous bandleader Woody Herman noted the only true American art form was jazz. Others have probably said it as well, but it’s his quote I remember.

Duke Ellington, composer, pianist, and big band leader is credited with writing more than 1,000 compositions.

Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe wrote, “In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington.”

He composed lyrics like:

You must take the ‘A’ train
To go to Sugar hill way up in Harlem
If you miss the ‘A’ train
You’ll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem

Hurry, get on now, it’s coming
Listen to those rails a-humming
All aboard, get on the ‘A’ train
Soon you will be on Sugar hill in Harlem

“Take the ‘A’ Train” was the Duke’s signature theme. But it almost never was.

Billy Strayhorn wrote it along with other Ellington songs, but would toss it in the trash, claiming it sounded too old.

Ellington’s son, Mercer Ellington retrieved it, salvaging a major contribution to music history.

This next track is from an album that’s a collection of digitally mixed and mastered compositions written by and usually associated with Duke Ellington. His son, Mercer Ellington conducts the Duke Ellington Orchestra for this project recorded in 1987. The digital updates are a crisp and clear, timeless tribute to the Duke.

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That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

Be grateful for American music.

And now for our finale. No American group has sold more records than this band. Here they are on Memorial Day in 2016 with a terrific medley.

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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Goodnight everyone, and have a great start to summer weekend!

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.

Today is the first day of summer. Thank goodness. Spring was nothing to write home about.

There are tons of songs about the warmest season.  Pete Sirianni, an editor of the New Castle News in New Castle, PA, and a millennial, just this week wrote, and good for him:

Summer songs exude happiness, sunshine and wholesome feelings. As happy as people get to be outdoors, enjoy some sunshine and longer days, summer songs encapsulate all of those things , jam-pack them into a tidy three or four minutes and then blast them over pop radio for years to come. They don’t have to be award-winning songs, and most of them aren’t. The best part of a summer song is it’s ability to make you move, make you sing along and ultimately bring you back to a younger, less consequential life of yesterday.

Picking this week’s theme was simple.

Let’s get started.

The Beach Boys were the kings of surf music, the poster boys for the genre. Here’s a great experiment and combination.

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No American group or performer has sold more records than the Beach Boys.

BTW, Thursday was Brian Wilson’s 77th birthday.

Question time.

What is definitely, if you had to choose, one of the greatest and most successful pop instrumentals of all-time? Remember our theme.

If you really give it some serious consideration, it’s a breeze.

The artist was a child piano prodigy, but his hands were burned in a fire at the age of 18. So he switched to conducting and arranging.

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That move cemented a successful career.

And it led to a legendary piece of music as noted by Gary Belshaw,  the executive director of the Plainview Civic Music Association in Planview, Texas:

“That recording is so well-known that it may be the very epitome of the genre of music called ‘Easy Listening’ – music that is easy on the ears, easy on the soul, easy on the emotions – unless you count shedding tears among the not-so-easy emotions.”

That recording by Percy Faith and his orchestra was a Number One hit for nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1960. That’s not all. It remains the longest-running #1 instrumental in the history of the chart.

Here’s a rare live recording, Percy Faith leading his orchestra. Who knew so many old white guys could be so good, so cool.

Let’s be honest. There are some performers where the mere mention of their names causes people to cringe. I would put Barry Manilow into that category.

When Kenny G first emerged I couldn’t take him. Too much screechy alto sax. I preferred when he picked up a tenor sax, instead. What I do like about Kenny is when he does a fabulous job on old standards and classics.

And we just happen to have an example, composed back in 1934 by George Gershwin.

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Hey,  did you know this about Kenny G? The guy can really….

Kenny G started playing golf and the sax in grade school. Entering Franklin High in Seattle, he made the golf team but not the jazz band.

One of the best pop instrumentals ever recorded in my view was “Summer Samba” by Walter Wanderley in 1966. I remember it well even though it didn’t get much airplay on Milwaukee’s two Top 40 stations, WOKY and WRIT. Still I got to hear it often in 1966 because it was on WEMP’s playlist, an easy listening station that Dad had playing in his car. BTW, thanks Dad.

The instrumental had words as well. Bebel Gilberto sang in 2000. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Gilberto is the daughter of  Joao Gilberto, whose wife Astrud was the lead singer on “The Girl from Ipanema.”

If I may indulge you with a story. Before Jennifer and I were married we’d often hit The Packing House restaurant on many a Friday night after I was done taping “InterCHANGE” on  Channel 10 Milwaukee Public Television.

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Because we were regulars we got to know lots of folks there, including keyboardist extraordinaire Jeff Stoll who has performed at The Packing House Restaurant for 40 years—the longest continual run at one venue for a Milwaukee musician!

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Lem Banks (L) and Jeff Stoll (R)

One night after yet another great meal we made our usual pit stop at the bar and Jeff was wowing the crowd, again.

Something hit me. I told Jennifer to go ask our friend to play “Summer Samba.” It was as if Jeff went into another gear. Before he got to the actual theme his dancing fingers performed an amazing buildup intro.

Wanderley would have been so proud.

From that night forward we never had to make the request again. If Jeff saw us seated at the bar it didn’t take him long to break into “Summer Samba.”

Then Jennifer and I got married. And we set off to a three-island Hawaiian honeymoon. First stop, the island of Oahu and the Halekulani resort on Waikiki Beach.

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Ah yes, we had a room just like that.

One night we dined at La Mer that has been awarded a five-star designation by Forbes Travel Guide for multiple years — the only restaurant in Hawaii to receive this accolade. It’s recognized as the finest restaurant in Honolulu.

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Very strict dress code there. Lucky for me I brought along a conservative tie.

Halekulani Dinner

On another night after dinner, a visit to a place with that also had a dress code.

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That’s Lewer’s Lounge in the hotel with contemporary and classic cocktails, tempting appetizers and desserts, and live jazz music every night of the week.

Casual t-shirts, tank tops, beachwear, exercise attire or flip-flops are not permitted. Fine with us. Note in the above picture in the far left the roomy couch for two.

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We were seated and ordered tropical cocktails, of course. And I swear to God within 15 minutes, without any suggestion from the new couple, the jazz combo launched into “Summer Samba.” We had to.  After Jennifer and I got up to dance, the floor was suddenly filled. It was Kismet.

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“Summer Samba” has Brazilian roots, being a smash hit from the bossa nova playbook.

This is a fantastic cover version from the talented Diana Krall performing for a live recording from Rio. And think about it as you listen to the lyrics. It’s the perfect honeymoon song. It was for us.

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Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

For our closing song, here’s a tiny, tiny clue.


Pin-Up Yellow Polka Dot Pucker Back Bikini

Need another one?

Didn’t think so.

The young guy was just 16 when he made it all the way to #1.