There was no joy in Louisville this past weekend

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Saturday would have been the 146th Running of The Kentucky Derby. The race had been run 145 consecutive times but had to postpone until September 5, 2020, because of the coronavirus. For the first time in 75 years the race the race wasn’t run on the first Saturday in May.

PHOTOS: Churchill Downs racetrack sat empty on Saturday, May 2, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky.  Another lookWas a beautiful day for a race. Photos By Michael Clevenger/ Louisville Courier Journal

Much better weather than when we were at the racetrack last November on the day after Thanksgiving. Winter jackets were necessity.

 

We were in Louisville last November because Kyla and her friends and fellow dancers at Cashel Academy of dance competed at the annual  Mid-America Oireachtas that involves more than a dozen states. That meant another tourist destination was mandatory.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Louisville Slugger Museum tour the year before on a similar trip.   Once inside the museum production area Kyla was handed a billet, a core of maple or ash that has yet to be cut down to the shape of a baseball bat that measures 37 inches length and 2.75 inches in diameter.  This particular billet was to be made into a bat for Milwaukee Brewer superstar Christian Yelich.

No telling how many home runs Yelich might hammer with that baby.

Jennifer and Kyla were so excited that they missed the announcement by the tour guide that photos were not allowed in any part of that area of the bat production tour. Jennifer managed to get off one picture  before I quietly informed her about the rule she didn’t hear due to her excitement. Luckily we weren’t noticed, embarrassed, or ejected.

Later there was more attention to Yelich, photos encouraged.

Like just about everything in America the Louisville Slugger Museum has been shut down.

Sad news as no revenue is coming in.

Read the details here.

Did you know Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day? ZZZZZ

Image may contain: textObviously Earth Day was a lot different this year. But even if there was no coronavirus I would have observed the same way as I did in 2016 when I wrote the following:

I certainly thought about Earth Day, the holiday for the green movement that was the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Indeed, it crossed my mind, thus this blog. But that was the extent of my celebration.

I did not attend an Earth Day festival, event or fair.

I’m not sure if I ate locally grown food.

I didn’t purchase any eco-friendly products.

I didn’t listen to environment-themed music.

I did not encourage any friends or relatives to do any of the above.

I did not create a pledge board at work so my colleagues could promise to take environmental actions this year and track their efforts.

I did not track my energy use.

I did not track my online energy use.

I did not download any plug-in to determine my online usage and how many trees need to be planted to offset it.

Speaking of trees, didn’t plant one.

A big fat NO to this one…I did not sign a petition asking any government official to take action on climate change.

I did not join an environmental group.

I did not eat less meat. Didn’t eat more, but I didn’t eat less.

I did not give up bottled water.

I did not make a garden.

I did not (but maybe I will someday) take action to cut down on my junk mail.

I did not organize a community cleanup.

I did not change my shower system.

I did not make a fruit salad for breakfast.

I did not make any changes to my wardrobe.

I did not bike it to work.

I did not plan my next holiday by booking a stay at an eco lodge.

I did not shop at a natural foods store.

I may have tossed something into our recycling bin, but I did not decorate it.

Do I feel guilty? Not on your life, especially when ardent supporters question what has happened to Earth Day over 46 years. Freelance writer Brian Merchant editorialized in 2011:

Today, our Earth Day more resembles a toothless, consumerist Hallmark holiday like Father’s Day or Halloween. And I’m not even sure we’re better off that it exists at all — under the current Earth Day paradigm, people can watch an cable TV special or buy an organic t-shirt one day of the year, and feel like they’ve participated. Sorry, not helping. Not really. The environmental challenges we face are too great to stop there.

About those so-called “environmental challenges.” I’m not so sure.

I could have headlined this blog, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling…NOT!

Janie Cheaney has a very good piece about wild prognostications made around the first Earth Day and since.

All those predictions screamed from headlines in the early 1970s, while the authors of best-selling books like The Population Bomb and Famine 1975! were debating whether to cut the Third World off from dwindling food supplies or try to scrape by with compulsory birth control. Of course, a funny thing happened on the way to extinction: It didn’t happen.

You can read her entire piece here. I’ll do the same while chowing on a double cheeseburger.

Culinary no-no: The paczki edition

Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.

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Back by popular demand.

A Christmas Miracle

Do you believe in miracles? For me the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’

That’s because I know one, and having seen him again a few days ago at Sunday Mass inspired me to re-post his story.

His name is Dominic who was born in 2012 with a rare disorder called encephalocele. A part of the infant boy’s brain was exposed outside his head.

During the Christmas season of 2012,  Dominic’s parents who never thought of not having him took the baby out east for a critical operation.

It’s an amazing story of faith, hope, love, and yes, a miracle.

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Photo: The Daily Mail

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From September 2017, Dominic and his father exit St. Anthony’s Church in Milwaukee where I usher. My daughter Kyla is helping me hand out church bulletins.

Goodnight everyone, and get a kick out of your 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.

File this one under “They just don’t write them like they used to.”

Songwriter/musician Sammy Cahn once said Irving Berlin was one of the two most gifted men of American words and music. The other, said Cahn, was Cole Porter. We just ended October. One of the greatest contributors to the Great American Songbook, Cole Porter died 55 years ago October of this year. So tonight, the music and lyrics of Cole Porter that live on. Let’s get started.

In his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, Alec Wilder writes about our opening tune, “This is a very good, essentially simple song, in spite of its half note triplets, but, as is almost always the case with Porter songs, it is popular as much because of its lyric as its melody. This, however, is not true for jazz musicians who like it for its looseness, which provides ample room for improvisation. Needless to say, the half note triplets are, for the most part, ignored by them.”

Max Morath writes in The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards, “Jazz musicians go for it–they love most anything of Porter’s–those long melody lines and the beat, often Latin-tinged, that is so often implicit in his theater songs.”

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The Main Event was a TV special recorded at New York’s Madison Square Garden broadcast on October 13, 1974. Milwaukee native Woody Herman and his Orchestra backed up Sinatra.

I had the pleasure of working with a talented radio personality and writer during the 1980’s at WUWM and he and I became wonderful friends. Obie Yadgar approached me one day and inquired if he could produce a news segment for the all-news morning drive format. This request was unusual because Obie was our premier classical music announcer, not a reporter, though I knew he was an exceptional writer.

Sure, I said, what have ya got in mind?

Seems one of the biggest of the big band era stars had stopped in Milwaukee and Obie was able to get a one-on-one interview. Problem was that Obie said he had so much good material. No problem, I countered. Simply do a multi-part series.

Artie Shaw was a bona fide superstar during the height of the big bands making him a favorite of the gossip columnists. His wives included actresses Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and Evelyn Keyes (“Gone with the Wind”).

I’ll never forget Shaw telling Obie on tape about the heydays of the big bands when his orchestra would fill a ballroom far beyond fire department regulations. The dance floor would get so crowded and so hot that women would pass out. With nowhere to go, since they were held up from hitting the floor by the mass of dancers, the bodies would be hoisted up and passed like students at a football game and deposited on the stage.

Mom, I know Shaw and his signature song were big favorites. This one’s for you, from a 1970’s ensemble.

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Next up, another timeless treasure.

Trumpeter Chris Botti is joined by a young lovely he knows “Everyone in the world has a crush on.”

This video was difficult to find but we’ve got it. Just click here  and then click the play button for Chris Botti and his special guest performing with the Boston Pops in 2009.

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Yep, I think I’ve got a crush on her as well.

Katharine McPhee was named one of the 100 Most Beautiful People of 2007 by People magazine. She was voted No. 2 on FHM‘s 100 Sexiest Women in The World of 2007, and was also No. 47 on Maxim‘s Hot 100 Women of 2007.

It’s natural McPhee would be paired with Botti who People Magazine voted one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004.

There’s quite an interesting story about our next track that comes from the rock group Chicago’s 22nd album. From chicagotheband.com:

Back in the early ’70’s, (Duke) Ellington had asked to have Chicago appear on his TV special, Duke Ellington: We Love You Madly, along with such august company as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, and Count Basie. After the show, (Walter) Parazaider and (James) Pankow went to meet Ellington, who was near the end of his illustrious career. “I said, “Mr. Ellington, it really was an honor to be asked to be on your show,” Parazaider recalls, “and he looked at Jimmy and me, and he said, ‘On the contrary young men, the honor is all mine because you’re the next Duke Ellingtons.’

Jimmy and I were gassed to meet him and that he said that. We were going away, and I said, ‘Yeah, right, now if we can make another hit record to pay the rent we’ll be happy,’ not thinking about the long haul. When the idea for (a) big band album presented itself, at first it got a lukewarm reaction by the band. Then Jimmy and I remembered this, and I thought, maybe this is what we were supposed to do in the scheme of our musical life. So, that was one of the reasons that we warmed up to the idea of it.”

“The approach that we wanted to take on Night & Day – and I think were successful in doing – was to contemporize,” says Imboden. “We didn’t do anything traditional, at least in the rhythm section.” At the same time, however, the album continued the effort Chicago has always made to bring horns back to a primary place in popular music. “Horns were the vocals of the time,” says big band enthusiast Lee Loughnane of the Swing Era. “They did all the playing, and then halfway through the song the vocalist would come in with a couple of choruses, and then he’d sit down again. Then rock ‘n’ roll comes out, and what was the rhythm section, the guitar, became the lead voice for a long time. And then Chicago comes, and we try to make the horns the lead voice again, and we’ve been pretty successful at it.”

“It was a great musical experience, and that’s what it’s all about, in my mind,” (Lee) Loughnane concludes. “I think it should have been more popular than it has become, but it’s still a great piece of music as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll take that to the grave with me. I know we put everything we had into it, and it came out sounding great.”

In 1995 Chicago released their big band/swing music LP. Here’s the title track.

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That’s Chicago on the football field at the University of Notre Dame. One of the group’s original mentors, the late Rev. George Wiskirchen, C.S.C., served as assistant director of bands at Notre Dame from 1972 to 2001 and maintained a close connection between the Notre Dame Band and Chicago. The band’s manager is Peter Schivarelli, a 1971 Notre Dame graduate.

Only three of the original Chicago band members are left: Robert Lamm (vocals, keyboards), Lee Loughnane(trumpet),  and James Pankow (trombone).

“In a strange way, the guys who are maybe a generation younger who have come to fill in are better players than we were when we started out, so I would say the level of skill has improved with each sort of injection of fresh blood. The new guys have made the band better and maybe have more energy than the standard band that was showing up in the ‘90s and early ’00s, said Robert Lamm of Chicago.

“We’ve played some gigs with the current Blood, Sweat & Tears, and I think that from the listeners’ point of view it sounds like Blood, Sweat & Tears, even though they don’t recognize anybody on the stage from the first couple of albums, and it doesn’t seem to matter much. I think that could be the case with [Chicago] too.”

That’s it for this segment.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

We close with a song that displays that Cole Porter was not just an excellent composer, but he was a prophet, too.

These lyrics were perfect in 1934, and they’re just as perfect today.

Joel Grey does the intro, and our star is just about out of breath near the end of this exciting dance number.


In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
was looked on as something shocking.
Now heaven knows, anything goes.

Good authors too who once knew better words,
now only use four-letter words writing prose,
anything goes.

The world has gone mad today,
and good´s bad today, and black´s white today,
and day´s night today,
When most guys today that women prize today
are just silly gigolos.

So though I´m not a great romancer,
I know that you´re bound to answer
when I propose, anything goes.

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And yes, Sutton Foster was the winner of Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for ‘Anything Goes.’

Cole Porter (1891-1964)

Goodnight everyone, and have a groovy 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 inspiration for this weekly blog comes from many sources. First and foremost, it’s my love of music.

It could be a musical style, a birthday or anniversary, an event, history, even the weather. Sometimes the unexpected, something completely accidental can provide the weekly theme. This week’s popped after I heard a certain word for the first time in ages (it occurred in last week’s blog to be exact).

So that’s where we’re headed. Let’s get started with this special introduction!

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“Groovy People” was the follow-up to the biggest hit of Rawls’ career, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” in 1976.

Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 Rawls refused to give up. In an interview with The Arizona Republic Rawls said, “Don’t count me out, brother. There’s been many people diagnosed with this kind of thing and they’re still jumping and pumping.”

Rawls died the next year. He was 72.

We’re groovin’ this week. While you’re enjoying please ponder how and when the term “groovy” came to be. The answer is coming up later.

The latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced this week. The following American band was inducted in 200. The word “groove’ doesn’t appear in the title songs of this twin spin, but the music fits.

This video is from The Big T.N.T. Show (1965) that was filmed before a live audience at what was then the Moulin Rouge nightclub in  Hollywood.

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Above is lead singer John Sebastian around 2015. He’s now 75.

OK. What’s that?

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It’s vintage photography of a Milwaukee-area restaurant.

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In the mid-1970’s, can’t remember the exact year, I took my mom and dad to Alioto’s to celebrate their wedding anniversary that happened in early July. Our waitress, attractive and about my age, maybe a few years older, commented that I looked a lot like John Sebastian, who she was crazy about. In 1976 Sebastian scored a big hit with the theme to “Welcome Back Kotter” so I think it might have been that summer this all took place.

Even though my wired-framed glasses were not oval like the John Lennon version, she was right. There was a resemblance, so we got tremendous service from our gushing waitress. I’m not sure but I think Sebastian had appeared just days before at Summerfest and the lovely lass may have told us she attended. I also vaguely remember my dad saying “Who’s John Sebastian?” When I told him he was the Kotter guy he replied “Oh yeh” (Dad particularly enjoyed Horshack).

Sadly, I never had the chance to pursue a date. Well, maybe I did, but c’mon. Mom and Dad’s anniversary? And no, she didn’t have to flirt so much, and she did. I would have liked her anyway.

Question time. Can classical music be groovy?

Listen to a bit of the Rondo movement of Sonatina in G major, op. 36 no. 5 by Muzio Clementi.

This band was part of the British Invasion and backed up Wayne Fontana. Together they had a #1 smash, “The Game of Love.”

Then Montana and the group split. The Mindbenders kept on keeping on.

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Without Wayne Fontana, the Mindbenders climbed to #2 with “Groovy Kind of Love.”

Time now to answer the question about the origin of the G-word.

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in music education at New York University, and an adjunct professor of music technology at NYU and Montclair State University.  He writes on his blog:

The word “groovy” originates in jazz slang, referring to music that’s swinging, tight, funky, in the pocket. The analogy is to the groove in a vinyl record — the musicians are so together that it’s like they’re the needle guided by the groove.

Hein also quotes from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Slang sense of “first-rate, excellent” is 1937, American English, from jazz slang phrase in the groove (1932) “performing well (without grandstanding).” As teen slang for “wonderful,” it dates from c. 1941; popularized 1960s, out of currency by 1980.

This next song was written by Paul Simon and the lyrics are perfectly “groovy.”

On Sept. 19, 1981, Simon and Art Garfunkel who had a messy breakup reunited for a free concert in New York City’s Central Park. An estimated 500,000 people crammed into the park’s Great Lawn for the event. The live album came out in early 1982.

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That’s it for this week.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

Back in the 90’s I started moonlighting,  working security backstage at the WI State Fair. I got hooked into the job when I had press credentials from WTMJ, 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.

In August of 2007 Felix Cavaliere, the lead singer of the Rascals, received a national honor in Wisconsin, and yours truly played a small part in securing the former Young Rascal. Cavaliere was the honoree for the 2007 National Italian Invitational Golf Tournament for Charities at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva.

My role came totally unexpected  working backstage at the Main Stage at the 2006 Wisconsin State Fair. Cavaliere was opening on the final Sunday afternoon for Johnny Rivers. Prior to the show, while I was near the front of the stage, a man motioned for my attention. He introduced himself, local attorney Joseph Alioto. Alioto was very polite and asked if I could get a message backstage to Cavaliere that his organization held this golf tournament and every year they honored an Italian and for 2007 they wanted to pay tribute to Cavaliere if he would accept.

Keep in mind, it is day 11 of a long, grinding, tiring State Fair. Working backstage, I have heard 11 days of stories. This person has a friend who has a cousin who once met the wife of the brother of the drummer and could he please get backstage. That kind of stuff.

However, I had already met Cavaliere and found him to be affable and very easy-going. Knowing that he was going to meet with several fans in a “meet and greet” backstage, I thought Alioto’s request could work.

“Why don’t I see if I can arrange to have you invite Mr. Cavaliere personally” I said to Alioto.

Alioto was ecstatic.

I walked into Cavaliere’s dressing room where I had met him earlier and found him sitting in a large lounge chair. After briefly describing the situation and telling Cavaliere I believed it to be genuine, without hesitation he said, “Sure, send him in.”

When I went back to get Alioto, he had his young teenage son with him, apologized, and asked if his son could also be allowed backstage.

“Wait here,” I replied.

Back to the dressing room I went, Cavaliere gave another quick approval, and I ran out to usher Alioto and his son backstage.

I couldn’t just leave the two in the dressing room so I sat with Alioto during his entire conversation with Cavaliere, who, as he learned more and more, was flattered and very interested in the opportunity to be honored by Alioto’s group, of which Alioto is the treasurer. Alioto exchanged information with Cavaliere’s people and after about ten minutes, the negotiation was completed successfully.

Alioto must have thanked me what seemed a hundred thousand times on the way back to his seat.

Felix Cavaliere accepted and attended the National Italian Invitational Golf Tournament for Charities, and so did my wife Jennifer and I. We were excited to get photos and autographs.

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Cavaliere played a mini-concert that lasted over a half hour.

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Performing in Nippon Budokan, Tokyo in 1995…

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National Daughter’s Day?

I had no idea. Shame on me!

Wednesday was National Daughter’s Day. How am I supposed to keep track of all of this with everything  going on in the world?

I don’t think Hallmark has quite caught on, but this is a thing.

So my apologies to Kyla. Not sure how I could possibly make it up to her.

Oh I know. I’ll just spoil her a little bit real soon because I really don’t do it all that much.

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UPDATE: Big moment for the Fischer family today

Previously on This Just In…

The update:

This requires some background.

March 25, 2009, 10:45 pm.

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My darling wife, Jennifer, at first objected to me posting these pictures until I explained that no one gives birth looking like Melania Trump or Marilyn Monroe.

Of course, Kyla’s extremely Irish grandmother, Audrey Fischer came to visit wearing a sweater imported from Ireland.

Kyla & Gramma Audrey for Kyla's Project

Mom, who was extremely Irish, died the following January.  But her Irish influence remained alive, right up through today.

We’d take baby Kyla to Milwaukee’s Irish Fest where I’ve been a volunteer now for more than 25 years.

Kyla would see the Irish dancers in their finery on the grounds and openly wished she could be one someday.

We never pushed her but she told us she wanted to try dancing solely because of what she saw at Irish Fest.

So we enrolled her at Cashel Dennehy School of Irish Dance. Kyla’s baptism by fire came in a Summer Sampler course that would train her just enough to be on the stage in front of thousands at Irish Fest.

Here are some photos of a much younger Kyla in 2013.

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Wow. A real Irish girl!

Kyla continued her Summer Samplers for another three seasons and then started full time classes in September 2016.  Lesson after lesson after lesson (about six month’s worth) led to the school’s traditional welcoming event for all the new dancers, the Beginner Debut.

In February 2017, Kyla found herself dancing proudly onstage with a teacher because all the other dancers had already performed with a partner. So Kyla, with no partner of her own, was joined by one of her instructors Alyssa Harling who, because of her skills and love of high heels, danced with Kyla in monster stilettos.

Kyla’s school (Cashel Dennehy) and others can compete all over the Midwest in what’s called a feis, an Irish dance competition.

In various dance style compositions the dancers move from “beginner” to “novice” status. Once in novice status the dancers must achieve 1st place in a competition in order to go from the school dance costume to the opportunity to purchase their very own solo dress with all the bling, color, etc.

It’s quite an incentive. Victory doesn’t happen overnight.

The Badger State Feis took place Saturday, July 20, 2019.

Kyla and her dance friends from Cashel Dennehy did OK, but no solo dresses.

The next day, Sunday, July 21, 2019, the Cashel gods, and probably Grandma Audrey  were smiling down, big time.

First, Kyla’s partner in last November’s Mid-America Oireachtas ceili competition ( a massive regional event) in Louisville, Mallory Thomae, broke through the ice with a 1st. Mallory captured six awards on the day.

Mallory Awards Cream City 2019

Not long after Mallory won her 1st place Kyla performed in the treble jig.

The picture of the scoreboard every dancer wants to see.

First Place Results Posting

BAM!

Another Cashel 1st place.

Another ticket to go get that glittery solo dress!

Kyla won a 1st, two 2nd places, and one 3rd place finish. She was amazing! And on her Irish grandmother’s birthday weekend!

Kyla Trophy 2019

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Kyla and Mallory after their 1st place finishes.

Are you keeping score?

Mallory nabs a 1st.

So does Kyla.

And then came a long 50-minute lunch break.

More dances were still scheduled. More dancers had to worry through stomach butterflies.

What about Kyla’s dear friend, Erinn O’Neill?

Erinn had another dance after lunch.

To the scoreboard we go.

You wait and you wait in anticipation. When will they post the results? Please post them, please.

Erinn’s the girl in front, next to Kyla.

Eirinn Results Face 1

Eirinn Results Face 2

Yes, it is a magical moment, a dream come true.

Eirinn Jumping

That’s what it means to know you’re getting a solo dress.

Now the hunt begins. At each feis there are dozens of used dresses being sold. Irish  dance moms from all over the country and even overseas are on Facebook posting pictures of dresses they’re selling.  We did see some dresses we liked, but measurements weren’t quite right or they didn’t fit properly. So we kept looking and hoping.

Finally a dress looked promising. It was from another Cashel family, this one in Madison. Kyla tried it on last week and the dress needed some, not much alteration. Jennifer and Kyla took it to an Irish dance dress expert. The dress needed to be “let out” just a tad in the back. Could it be done and fit?

YES!

Kyla got the good news Thursday (yesterday).

Well worth the wait!

Here’s Kyla modeling her first solo dress that is now being altered.

This is one of the happiest moments of our little girl’s life. She will take both her school dress and solo dress when she and her Cashel teammates compete in The 2019 Mid-America Oireachtas will take place in Louisville, Kentucky on November 29, 30 and December 1, 2019.

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So that’s our big news. Our family is overjoyed.

As for those of you who thought…

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Sorry.

Goodnight everyone, and have a weekend with feeling

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.

“Country music isn’t a guitar. It isn’t a banjo, it isn’t a melody, it isn’t a lyric. It’s a feeling.”
Waylon Jennings

This Sunday documentary producer extraordinaire Ken Burns opens his latest major project on PBS that can be seen on Channel 10 in Milwaukee. From the PBS website:

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music. Country Music features never-before-seen footage and photographs, plus interviews with more than 80 country music artists. The eight-part 16-hour series is directed and produced by Ken Burns.

Some great country music in this week’s installment, but first, a video. Of course, Nashville will dominate this series, but Oklahoma played a part as well.

The documentary was written and produced by Dayton Duncan and produced by Julie Dunfey and they were interviewed on KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.

We have some memorable country selections from the good ‘ole days, so let’s get started.

Elvis leads off. Are you surprised? The King of Rock and Roll never forgot his roots, even when Elvis was rocketing up the charts in 1958, the year he recorded his version of this Hank Williams classic.

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Very early in his career Elvis toured and shared the stage with stars like Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Slim Whitman and Faron Young.

Elvis and his producer Felton Jarvis cranked out many songs during several recording sessions in 1970 that resulted in the album  “Elvis Country” that was released on January 2, 1971. The King of Rock and Roll was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

How do you follow Elvis? With what sounds like an odd combination. Country and…

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“I heard country-and-western music in Liverpool before I heard rock’ n’ roll,” recalled John Lennon. “There were established folk, blues and country-and-western clubs in Liverpool before rock’ n’ roll. I started imitating Hank Williams when I was fifteen, before I could play the guitar.”

The Beatles recorded several songs that had a country flavor, during that 1965 period, including “Act Naturally” with Ringo Starr doing the lead vocal.

“I used to love country music and country rock; I’d had my own show with Rory Storm, when I would do five or six numbers. So singing and performing wasn’t new to me,” said Starr.

“Act Naturally” was written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison, and first recorded by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. It reached #1 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart in 1963. Two years later the Beatles recorded their own version.

Capitol Records heavily promoted the song, running a full page advertisement in the September 11th, 1965 issue of Billboard magazine proclaiming “Ringo Starr Sings Solo!”  The B-side was “Yesterday.” That’s right, the B-side.

“Some of (Ringo’s songs) we just couldn’t get behind,” said Paul McCartney. “I must admit, we didn’t really, until later, think of Ringo’s songs as seriously as our own. That’s not very kind but it’s the way it was…I think John and I were really concentrating on ‘We’ll do the real records!’ but because the other guys had a lot of fans we wrote for them too.”

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This would mark the last time the Beatles recorded a song not written by a member of the group.

“Yesterday” as a B-side? That was a mistake. Capitol did make the decision to release “Yesterday” from the British soundtrack album of “Help!” as a single and it turned out to be far more popular than Ringo’s solo vocal. “Yesterday” shot up the chart to #1 for four straight weeks. “Act Naturally” only reached #47 on the Billboard singles chart.

Oh, the above album cover. The original release of the album Yesterday and Today by the Beatles featured the so-called “Butcher cover” depicting the Beatles dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by pieces of raw meat and plastic doll parts. A public outrage ensued and a more subdued design was produced replacing the original copies that quickly became collectors’ items.

THE BEATLES YESTERDAY AND TODAY US ORIG’66 CAPITOL STEREO 1 PRESS BUTCHER COVER

In several polls this next song is ranked as the best country hit … ever. Kris Kristofferson wrote and recorded it in 1970, and it became a huge success for Sammi Smith.

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Kristofferson and country singer Rita Coolidge were married from 1973 to 1979.

You know what yodeling is? Of course you do. Yodeling is when a singer repeats fast changes of pitch between a low-pitch register and a high-pitch register or falsetto. The style has been a part of country music history since the 1920’s so maybe it’ll get a mention in Ken Burns’ documentary.

The year is 1990.

The TV show is “Star Search.”

The host is Ed McMahon.

His guest sings a Marty Robbins smash from 1961.

Just a few years later when Rimes grew to the tender age of 13 (1996 to be exact),  she hit pay dirt.  Her recording went to #10 on the country chart. Again, she was 13. Let that sink in.

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Bill Mack wrote “Blue” in 1958. Rumor has it that he did so for Patsy Cline, but when she died it wound up many years later with Rimes.

Not true. Mack said he never wrote the song for anyone in particular, including Cline.

That’s it for this week.

Goodnight.

Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

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For as long as I can remember I’ve heard that jazz is America’s only true art form. Milwaukee’s own Woody Herman said that on stage all the time. This documentary intends to add country to the list.

“There’s something that we do in our culture in which we’re OK with sentimentality and nostalgia. I don’t know why, but that’s the enemy of good anything. We’re frightened of real, deep emotions. So we mask [discussions of country music] with jokes about pickup trucks, dogs, girlfriends and the beer. When in fact it’s about elemental things: birth, death, falling in love, out of love, seeking redemption and erring and all the things human flesh is heir to. That’s the stuff country music is about.”
Ken Burns

“It is part of who we are as Americans — as much as the New Deal and the Civil War and the slave trade. All the violence and all the beauty — it’s part of who we are, and we should know it.”
Rosanne Cash, daughter of johnny Cash

We close with an all-star cast and country classic that was written in 1907.