Today at 6:46 AM
March 23, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 56
By Claude Hall
You will be pleased to learn that some of your favorite acts are still around and still sassy in Las Vegas. The Temptations will be at the Orleans March 21-22 and followed by the Osmonds April 10-12. And BJ Thomas will perform March 28-29 at the Suncoast. Now this one, I don’t believe: The Four Freshmen will be at the Suncoast April 4-5. These aren’t the only acts in town, of course. You can even catch the CSNSongs, a group “celebrating” Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The town, of course, is full of entertainment, new and unknown (at least to me), slightly known and the really famous. There is no way you could catch all of the shows. Even if you wanted to and had the tickets. I don’t know if Las Vegas is still the Entertainment Capitol of the World, but would surmise this is so.
Two of my sons know music much better these days – yonder and when and now – than I do … my youngest son Andy, a poet and college professor, and John Alexander Hall, a lawyer in Los Angeles. But I’ve caught live music in shacks on stilts outside of Corpus Christi, old jazz, including Sweet Emma the Bell Girl, and new jazz in New Orleans and New York City at the old Jazz Gallery and been on stage with Willie Nelson in Nashville (he didn’t know I was there) and Mountain (who did). And I’ve gone backstage and received an autographed program by Segovia (a few times). And been backstage with Linda Ronstadt and told her I’d been a fan since “Up to My Neck in High Muddy Water” and she said, “Bless you, child.” Had a rather pleasant and engrossing music life. As, I suspect, most of us all have enjoyed.
I especially enjoy Tom Russell. For me, he’s the best thing going in music today. He will knock you off your feet and bring the tears. Make your heart pound and your head think. I’m sitting here bawling as I listen to “Hair Trigger Heart.” I have to hear the song again. Surely, it’s not that great. But it is. I can not stop crying. “Pistol-packing mama lay that pistol down … I’m still around … Lord, I’ve got one more round … and I shall hit the mark.” God, how those simple lyrics hit you when Tom Russell sings them and he’s a better writer than a singer. The music and the lyrics get you in the heart. Guarantee it!
Tom Russell, I believe implicitly, fancies himself a cowboy poet. He has been at those distant meetings around the campfires of the Real West. However, he appears to have more guts than most singers and songwriters and producers. He steps aside to sing “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well” with Eliza Gilkyson, currently one of my favorite women singers. And Maura O’Connell sings “I Talk to God” without his help. Gospel on a pop CD? Gretchen Peters is here, too, on “When the Wolves No Longer Sing.”
But Tom Russell is there and hard with “Doin’ Hard Time in Texas” and “He Wasn’t a Bad Kid, When He Was Sober,” a honky tonk tune. Love the piano! Real barroom. “Midnight Wine” is fascinating. Ah, Tom … God bless you for keeping this old buzzard alive, meaning me, with music to enjoy life by!
One of my favorites on this promotional CD is “Tularosa” … Mexican-flavored. A line: “The long way around must be the shortest way home.”
Promotional CD? Yes. Because Tom Russell has recorded a western opera. Produced by Tom and Barry Walsh. My compliments, gentlemen.
The body of work of Tom Russell is phenomenal. I consider such songs as “Touch of Evil,” “When Sinatra Played Juarez,” “A Little Wind (Could Blow Me Away),” “The Eyes of Roberto Duran,” “Jai Alai” with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, “Muhammad Ali,” “Haley’s Comet,” “The Pugilist at 59,” and several others that he has written as cultural masterpieces. Entertaining, yes. Pithy. Memorable. Listen to “The Blue Men” and you’ll feel uncomfortable and squirm in your chair. Several of his songs are like that. On the other hand, “All the Fine Young Ladies” brings a bit of warmth to the old heart.
So, it’s no surprise to me that Tom Russell comes forth with a western opera “The Rose of Roscrae.” It’s not western, per se, but it is historic without question and definitely in the folk realm. And, yes, the “Hair Trigger Heart” is here as well as the other tunes in the promotional CD.
The full package includes two CDs and a book “Program Guide With Libretto.” It’s an amazing project. Fifty-one songs, some with friends such as Joe Ely, Augie Meyers, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and others. Fascinating, entertaining, history of the west. For example, Tom narrates to music about Charlie Goodnight, a rancher of the days of the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail, and the Comanches who wanted one more buffalo. (The first real story that I wrote for the El Paso Herald-Post after I became a reporter was about the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail.) The voice of Walt Whitman is also captured on this CD. In context. I got a laugh out of the bit of Tex Ritter’s “Blood on the Saddle.” I probably still have a copy of the real thing somewhere around this house. I loved Tex Ritter. Had coffee with him one afternoon the Palisades Amusement Park. And I recall a night when he spun some old tales to me and some radio men in the old Andrew Jackson in Nashville.
A classic collection of life as it used to be … a collector’s item. A treasure to have on your shelf. A treasure to listen to on a long, lonely evening.
My compliments Tom Russell.
A cutie: Tom emailed and asked for my permission to send the same package to Don Imus. I explained to him that he didn’t need my permission. Tom had previously wanted to send some of his CDs to Imus and Imus was kind enough to say yes and give Tom his home address. Don’s son is a rodeo performer and Tom thought he might enjoy some of his western tunes.
As some of you may know, of my three sons, both John and Andy, the baby, grew up around music in Los Angeles. I used to have a print of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” on my wall. It’s a tremendous guide/inspiration when you’re writing. When he could barely stand up, Andy scrawled “94.7” on the bottom. I had an 8-track in the MGB. Andy loved “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. I think we wore that tape out! I had records around. The quad system was always going in the house … even over the swimming pool out back. And Bobby Vee and his sons, also musically inclined and now all professionals, lived just up the street. Then, there were the live performances and the concerts. Today, Andy even has an underground hit in Las Vegas. “Sea of Vomit.” And, yes, Barbara and I attended a concert in Summerlin and, voila, the entire audience sang along. He has been written about in the Los Angeles Times. Andy, a poet, is now teaching English at UNLV. So, I persuaded him to write the review of Sandy Bainum’s CD.
Sandy Bainum shows she has the stuff Broadway is made of in her latest collection, “Simply.” Working with Producer Bruce Kimmel and Arranger, Orchestrator, and Musical Director Lanny Meyers, her voice soars through the uptempo cabaret tunes, and softly yet strongly delivers the ballads such as on "Goodnight, My Someone" from “The Music Man” which crests at the end as she vibrates through the high registers showing her vocal prowess. Yet, she never indulges in her voice, but uses it for the delivery of the song ... as an actress, she serves the art of the songs and tells the stories. On the title track, composed by Kimmel, Sandy beckons listeners to let love be enough. "Bluesette," among others, features Sandy's jazzy bravado as she bounces in between low and high notes. If anything, she gives us beauty and joy, but behind the simplicity, she and the band are doing a lot of fine hard work. Also to be applauded are the song selections which survey Broadway classics, but digs up more obscure material not often recorded by chanteuses. "A Cockeyed Optimist" from “South Pacific,” "Pure Imagination" from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Sandy Bainum shows she has the vocal chops as well as the acting chops to light up the stage for years to come.
Thank you, Andy, and my very best to you, Sandy. I understand from the promotional guru Don Graham that you’re already receiving some excellent airplay. Good on you!
Woody Roberts: “Claude, I’m sending this from my backup account and found several never seen issues of the Commentaries that I will now enjoy. The film portion of South by Southwest 2015 had three musician bio documentaries that will interest many of your readers. Joe Nick Patoski previewed his ‘Sir Doug & the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove’.
It was the local favorite, but in a city where there is a Doug Sahm Hill could be a bias. I met Doug at 2 a.m. in December of 1960 when he rapped on my control room window. I had just arrived from a PD job in Fort Lauderdale, the station's national PD was Jim Ramsberg. I wanted to learn the McLendon Top 40 format first hand so was willing to move cross country, take a pay cut and work all night to absorb it. Doug Sahm had brought me his newest 45 and invited me to see his band at the Purple Onion cellar club. It was a blues band complete with horns and when I walked in they were playing ‘Stormy Monday’. It was the start of a 40-year friendship. ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’ is definitely a film to watch for; it's an eight-year labor of love with highly innovative editing and was directed by Brett Morgen. Plus -- be on the lookout for a great
documentary by the critically applauded late filmmaker Les Blank spotlighting Leon Russell. It is called ‘A Poem Is a Naked Person’. This was filmed in the early 1970s when Leon had Shelter Records with studio in Tulsa but was in Austin to record Freddie King live at Armadillo World Headquarters and discover Willis Alan Ramsey who composed ‘Muskrat Love’. Yes, Leon was here before Willie Nelson.”
Don Graham: “At Johnny Holliday’s request, we forward to you the following sad news that Sal Licata passed away Thursday, 3/19, in Florida. We know that many of your Commentary readers, in our business, have known and respected Sal through the years … regretfully.”
Johnny Holliday had written: “Sal passed away peacefully yesterday at 2 p.m. at Good Samarian Hospital in Palm Beach, FL. He had suffered a fall a few days after Christmas and was never able to recover. His wife Carol Lee's address is 25 Grand Palm Way, Palm Beach, Gardens, FL 33418. There may be plans for a memorial service at a later date and I will keep you informed. If you could let his many friends in the business know, I know the family would really appreciate it. We went all the way back to 7th grade together. I will miss Sal terribly.”
A followup from Jerry Sharell: “Just heard about the death of Sal Licata and sat down and cried. Sal and I were promo guys ‘on the streets’ of Cleveland/Akron/Youngstown and vicinity in the mid-60s and I had a huge respect for him for being such a ‘good guy’, a talented professional and a solid friend. Like a lot of us of that era, Sal proved to be a promoter who believed in the music and the artists he represented … and he helped break a lotta records! He will be missed … BIG-TIME. I hope he will save me a good seat up there and say ‘HI’ to Frank, Dean, Sammy and Elvis!”
Bob Fead: “Special man … friendship always came first! I shall miss his friendship.”
Carol Lee, our best to you. We come, we do, we go.
Frank ‘O Boyle: “Happy St Paddy's Day! Quick seque from Robert Richer's and Marlin Taylor’s equally great recap of classic story about WNCN - WRFM and the Quad experiment. But who can forget that the National TV and NYC Radio Voice of GAF was Henry Fonda? Who called it the ‘Chee -- Aye -- EF Corporation. No PD taught Mr. Fonda how to pronounce the G properly. Marlin and Robert never got the rich credit they deserved for successfully smashing rating records with ‘The Good Music’ tsunami. Remember how many call letters got changed to fit in ‘EZ’ ... sorta the second coming of the phonic McLendon call letters. Speaking of call letter changes -- I come from Detroit Radio originally. Nobody did the change with more guts and within a Top Ten Market than John Richer did with the old WJBK. Which went thru new owners and formats like crazy in a 10-year period. Then John got there -- changed the calls to WDEE -- which he cunningly said stood for ‘We've Done Everything Else’ and went Country. Do you recall how long Ron Ruth and WOR-FM calls lasted? For small mkts I give the Oscar to Ed Perry, Marshfield, Mass (The Irish Riviera) south of Boston for his WNTD – ‘We're Near The Dump’. OK, it's St. Pat's day and that's what green beer will do to you. Hope your foot gets better.”
Jack Gale: “Hey, Claude … I was thinking the other day. What do old disk jockeys do when they reach 90 years old? Rather than just fade away … they go back into radio. So I did. I gathered up a collection of crazy skits and bits that I did years ago in Boston, Cleveland, Baltimore, Charleston and Charlotte, and started a show on the internet. I do one show a week for an hour, it runs 24/7, and then the following week another show appears. It's radio as we knew it. So far two stations have picked it up and are running it with more coming on board. The website is JACKGALERADIO.COM. Click on the site, and everything is there. Thought you might enjoy the memories.”
Proud of you, Jack!
Scott Paton: “Please let Danny Davis know how much I anticipate his promised book on Phil Spector. Despite the several bios that have preceded it, Danny's ‘in the cockpit’ perspective will be fascinating. I can still recall the epiphany I had 40-some years ago that Danny was not the Chet Atkins cohort of the eponymous Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass. Record promotion and trumpet playing definitely seemed like an odd dual career. I'm guessing that ‘titled back side to a tune...’ Danny referenced in last week's column was perhaps the Rolling Stones' ‘The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man’, the flip to ‘Satisfaction?’ It kind of pokes fun at the business, but I'd heard that it was inspired, in part, by Danny. And just as Philles Records got its name as an amalgam of Spector and the great Lester Sill's first names, Phil's other label -- Phi-Dan -- of course, was Phil and Danny. Danny, if you need a co-writer.... And, Claude, since there's been no mention of it for a couple of weeks, I trust that you've abandoned that silly notion of ‘retirement’ from this column!”
Ken Dowe sends a message that has been circulating. “Jack Woods, 80, passed away last night in San Diego. He had been recovering from a stroke several weeks ago and died in the hospital Wednesday at 8p, according to his son in a conversation with me this morning. Jack was Charlie Brown of the famed Charlie & Harrigan Top 40 radio duo, originally at KLIF, Dallas teamed with Ron Chapman, later with Paul Menard for years in San Diego at KCBQ, KFMB and other stations.”
Don Sundeen: “Hi, Claude, my new blog/site, TheDonRocks, is up and open for browsing Monday, March 23rd. Appreciate if you’d share this with your Commentary readers: Now available, the Premier issue of TheDonRocks, the new History of Rock and Roll blog, with memories of Rock Radio, Hit Records and the Artists themselves. Don Sundeen talks about Elvis Presley's influence on his life and the rise of Rock and Roll music in general. Captain Vinyl spotlights Little Richard and the white singer who got rich covering him, Pat Boone. Bob Shannon asks 20 Questions of the legendary radio deejay and programmer John Sebastian with insightful answers. John Hale remembers The Big Bopper, and Jacqui Kramer’s Rock and Roll Heaven kicks off with the late Janis Joplin’s crazy life and death.”
Just go to: http://www.thedonrocks.com/
Larry Irons, Number One Songs: “Was there no Commentary sent out today? I didn’t get it today. I’ve become addicted to reading them!”
My apology to everyone. I get hungup in this “spam nonsense” now and then. I’m trying to do this thing as cheap as possible. You priced eggs benedict lately? I cannot imagine what it’s like to have breakfast in the Polo Lounge anymore. Oh, well. I’m doing the best I can, eggs benedict or not … even at the Silver Sevens in Las Vegas. Thus, if you don’t receive Commentary on a Monday, usually early in the day, please let me know.
Ron Brandon: “Hi, Claude ... enjoy your weekly ramblings ... don't know if you might have seen the pic (attachment) from one of our old collections. There may be one or two more on my FB timeline … over 1,000 pics there, mostly of those good old days.”
Just FYI, “Claude’s associate” is Sandy Donner, who worked for Howard Hughes for many years, and, after he retired, became an actor. We hungout for a while. Barbara is still good friends with his widow, Verla.