Friday, January 23, 2015

Country Boy Rock and Roll and a Rock-Boppin' Birthday Blowout

Well, it's been a fun week of music here in Bloomington, IN and it's going to continue on through the weekend. Early in the week our TV segment on The Weekly Special, produced by William Keuchenberg for WTIU, aired and it yielded some real fun YouTube videos. The first of which is our tribute to Rex Trailer, my late friend, mentor, and undergraduate advisor. Many New England fans know Rex from his highly successful television show Boomtown (1956-1974), but I met Rex as a student at Emerson College where Rex was then teaching. We became good friends, wrote and recorded a country music album together (the result being my first CD, on which Rex also sang with me on two songs-- the original version of "An Immaculate Confection (The Necco Song)" and "The Remote to the TV"), and my band even got to back Rex at many of his public appearances over the years. Unfortunately, I never could get Rex to play his TV hit "Hoofbeats" at any of his live shows. The original version, recorded and released on ABC-Paramount in 1956, included a 32-piece orchestra directed by Sid Feller and Rex felt like he wouldn't be able to match that epic sound with just a small combo. Well, I'm not sure I matched it either, but back in the mid-2000s Tony Savarino and I worked up an arrangement and I've been playing it in my sets ever since. Just this November I finally got a chance to go into the TV studios and make a recording of it with the current band: Jerry Miller (guitar), Mike Lee (upright bass), and Tim Moore (drums).


I always consider it a real privilege to share the stage with Jerry, and no show is complete without featuring Jerry's crazy-good guitar skills on an instrumental or two. With that in mind, here's another video of us pickin' through one of Jerry's original tunes, "Slaughter on Roosevelt Blvd." I'm told that more videos will be released in the coming days so STAY TUNED for that!


Last night we were also featured on local radio station WFHB's Local Live show and played a very enjoyable half hour set of country boy rock and roll which included both originals and tributes to Little Jimmy Dickens, Hoagy Carmichael, Herb Remington, the Virtues, and Leon Bass. Soon soon the entire show should be available for stream or download via the WFHB Local Live website: http://wfhb.org/music/locallive/

A lot of the late TV and radio promotion has been in anticipation of this Saturday's big birthday throwdown gig which we are sharing with Rockabilly Hall of Famer and 1950s Cherry Records recording artist Art Adams and the Art Adams Band as well as the U.S. debut performance of Al Backstrom (country music from and about Australia). It's both Al's and my own birthday party, it's also the WFHB show of the month for January, and WFHB's own DJ Angela Backstrom-- an expert on all things country music, local, and good-- will be spinning tunes before, after, and in between sets. We have moved the venue from the recently closed Max's Place (RIP Max's Place) to Serendipity Martini Bar and Restaurant and look forward to filling one of the nicest dance floors around tomorrow night! Doors at 9:30 pm, music starts at 10:00 pm, $5 cover, and pints of beer are as cheap as $2! Hope to see some friends out on the town!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another Semester Ends With A Bang

Just had a really nice end to the semester and our Music, Identity, and Social Life course. One of my students plays on the IU Women's Basketball team and the game last night vs. IPFW was also their Faculty Appreciation Night. Each member of the team got to pick their favorite instructor(s) and I was mighty honored to be among the fifteen or so faculty/employee honored at halftime. 



It was a really fun game to watch (an 80-37 blowout victory), enjoyed with fantastic company (thanks again Langston Collin Wilkins!), and it was awesome to discover that my student was the star of the team, signing autographs for all the kids after the game, and even had her picture on all the concession stand cups. 



Way to go, Taylor! Thanks again for a great semester in class and thanks also for the super nice end-of-semester shout out!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

S.E.M. Part I: My many thanks to Craig Gill & University Press of Mississippi

I had a great time in Pittsburgh last week at The Society for Ethnomusicology national conference and I plan to make a few posts about the recent trip. Consider this post here to be Part I. Beyond simply meeting with several brilliant scholars, hearing many interesting papers, and meeting lots of other talented future faculty/professionals (not to mention some real fun record hunting expeditions at Jerry's Records), I also had the privilege to meet up once again with one of the key people most responsible for making The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built a reality-- University Press of Mississippi Editor-In-Chief, Craig Gill. According to Craig, the press is very pleased with the Starday book's success and it remains one of their best sellers! Hooray!

Craig, thanks again for everything that you do on behalf of this book including promoting it at various national conferences like SEM all across the country! I am mighty proud to be associated with U. Press of Mississippi and continually thankful that they took a chance on this idea and contributed so much to making it happen!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Switchyard Comes to Indiana University!

I'd like to take a moment to publicly thank Laura Wanner and Tim Baker for coming to our Music, Identity, and Social Life class today at Indiana University to talk about their roles in creating and operating The Switchyard. You guys are awesome and it was fun to see so many students attentive and interested in alternatives to mainstream music and how these house concerts promote and sustain community. 



We've been having some great discussions in class about DIY music scenes and social action in Canada, Morocco, Brazil, and Indonesia, but it was really great to bring those concepts to a local level and focus on our own backyard Bloomington, IN gem for acoustic house concerts and potluck dinners--where Sunday night dinner meets back porch picking! As Tim says, "If you already know about the Switchyard, well then you're cool. And if you don't... then you're about to get cool." The next throwdown is Sunday Nov. 16 and I hope y'all can make it out and experience the magic for yourself. More details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/TheSwitchyard



Thanks again, Tim & Laura (and thanks also to Kurt Baer for taking photos)!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy 30th Anniversary to Goofin' Records!

Today I'm wishing a HUGE Happy 30th Anniversary to Pete Hakonen and his Goofin' Records label.




[Pete Hakonen and I, August 2014]

For the past 30 years Goofin' has been releasing some of the best country, rockabilly, bluegrass, rautalanka, western swing, and rock and roll from Finland and around the world (discography here: http://goofinrecords.com/shop/index.php?topic=93&offset=0). Today is the big 3-0 celebration in Helsinki with High Noon, Wildfire Willie & the Ramblers, The Fanatic IV, Vesa snygg sekรค satelliitti-yhtye, and DJ Bill Smoker


Wish I could be there to celebrate with y'all, but instead my internet congrats from afar will have to suffice. Pete, thanks again for your friendship, your warm welcome to Finland and everything you did to help me get acclimated, as well as welcoming me into the Goofin' family. Kiitos paljon! I'm mighty proud of our last release together and I look forward to many more projects in the future.

[Goofin GRCD 6177, The Starday Sessions]

For those unfamiliar with the great Goofin' legacy, you can stream or download DJ Bill Smoker's excellent 5-part podcast exploring the label here: http://www.rockabillydj.com/?name=2014-10-04_podcast_1404_-_focus_on_goofin_records_30th_anniversary.mp3

I also produced one podcast all about Goofin' artists covering Starday artists and the parallels between the two labels here: http://nathandgibson.blogspot.com/2013/07/new-podcast-tribute-to-goofin-records.html

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A World Series Lineup of Kansas City-Themed Country Music Songs

So, I recently got into one of those pointless online debates with a mutual friend of my pal Thomas Grant Richardson. Thomas, who works at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, solicited the advice of his Facebook friends to “help me pick a team for the World Series.” Knowing that he likes country music, I attempted to appeal to his musical taste as a way of winning over a new Royals fan. Despite the obvious food advantage (BBQ is WAY better than Rice-A-Roni!), I suggested that there were easily more country music songs about KC than there were about Frisco. Perhaps I was choosing to be willfully ignorant of the large mass of San Francisco-themed country songs, or perhaps I was just nostalgic for my days growing up in Kansas, but either way it was just one of those unresearched gut-feelings filled with “truthiness” and everything that is right in the world. Thomas's friend disagreed and suggested that I had “far overstate[d]” my assumption.

Well, as I don’t really have time to research all the country music songs that are either about or mention Kansas City, as I think that list would be HUGE, I thought I’d just go ahead and make a lineup of the strongest Kansas City-Themed Country Music Songs that I could find and see if anyone else can make a San Francisco Country Music Song lineup that matches up! Dare ye to take the challenge? I’m sure a good one can be made and I’d love to see a comparison in anticipation of Tuesday’s big Game One!

1. Lead-off tune. The Royals are known for their speed, so this one’s gotta be quick… I’ll go with Merle Travis’ “Kansas City Blues” from his Unissued Radio Shows, 1944-1948 CD. At 1 minute and 40 seconds, this tune is QUICK and to the point!
2. Batting second, I need a free-swinger to get the line-up moving… Bob Wills is about the most swinging thing in country music, so I’ll go with his rockin’ version of “Kansas City” from Bear Family's  Faded Love 1947-1973 box set [CD9]. (Though the swinging duet version by George Jones and Johnny Paycheck gets an honorable mention if a pinch-hitter is needed.)
3. Batting third, if I am to match KC’s lineup, I need a lefty in here to mix it up, so I’ll go with Flatt and Scruggs’ “Kansas City” from their A Boy Named Sue album. (In this case, “lefty” being a not-so-subtle reference to Earl Scruggs’ left-leaning politics.)
4. Batting clean-up I need a heavy hitter, and Buck Owens had a #2 Billboard smash hit with his “The Kansas City Song” on Capitol 2783.
5. And of course, every good line-up has to have a big hitter backing up the clean-up spot, so I’ll go with Roger Miller’s 1965 Top 10 hit “Kansas City Star” on Smash 1998.
6. For the 6-spot, I’ll go back to the mid-80s, the last time KC was relevant in either the baseball or country music charts, with Steve Wariner’s #15 hit “Kansas City Lights.”
7. But of course, this year’s Royals team is defined by its youth, so for the seventh spot I’ll pencil in Crazy Joe and his Mad River Outlaws. Crazy Joe was just 28 years old when he released “Kansas City Baby” on his The King of Nerd-A-Billy album, coincidentally the same age as the average of all players on the Royals’ 40-man roster. (http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/teams/roster/KC/kansas-city-royals, accessed 10-21-14)
8. At the bottom of the order there’s generally more speed, so I’ll follow Crazy Joe with the excellent speedy (read: up-tempo), swinging “Kansas City Kitty,” by Dave Stuckey and the Rhythm Gang, from their Get A Load of This CD.
9. And because the Royals have been eeking out their 1-run victories thanks to their speedy base-running, I’ll go with another speedster in the 9-hole: One of the fastest pickers in all of country music, Mr. Joe Maphis and his “Kansas City Shuffle” from his Starday LP King of the Strings.

Now that there’s a speedy, young country music lineup with some heavy-hitters thrown in for good measure. Here's hoping someone is up to the challenge of making a lineup to face-off against it. I know there are indeed a lot of good country San Francisco songs. I checked iTunes and there are roughly 120 “San Francisco” or “Frisco” songs in the country-related genres (compared to roughly 150 “Kansas City” songs in similar genres), so to all of my San Francisco fan/country music-loving friends, I’d love to see how your Lineup of Frisco-Themed Country Music Songs compares #1-9!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

High-Res Starday Album Covers Have Been Posted To the Starday Story Facebook Page

Howdy internet... I just posted some higher res versions of the first 100 Starday album covers ever made over on my The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built page. Feel free to check 'em out if you're into that sort of thing. And while you're there, please feel free to give the ol' Starday book page a 'like' if you're so inclined. It's just a wee shy of 1,000 likes milestone at the moment and I'm trying to keep it up to date with new posts once a week or so. Thanks for your continued support! - Ndg

The actual link: http://goo.gl/5xZXtw


SLP 101 - George Jones