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Category Archives: Music History

On This Day…1977

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No mention on the news.  No acknowledgement that I’ve seen today.  However, today is the 32nd anniversary of the death of Elvis. One place that never, ever forgets Elvis is his home town of Memphis.  Death Week festivities culminate with the “vigil”, each August 15th.  Having witnessed this firsthand during our six year stint in Memphis, I must say that seeing the thousands upon thousands standing silently with candles and moving through the gates of Graceland is quite touching.

My Elvis love has been well-documented in several posts, here, here, and here.  As I reflect on the death of Les Paul and his dramatic impact on modern music and Rock & Roll, in particular, I can’t help but also think about Elvis’ significant influence.  These people made HUGE changes to their worlds.  Makes me wonder….just where are this generations change agents?  Miley Cyrus?  The Jonas Brothers?  Where are the new “originals”?

In this age, where non-conformity is the norm, it is hard to appreciate just how odd and different Elvis was.  Coming out in the Deep South, where good, upstanding citizens listened to clean cut white boys in the vein of Pat Boone, Elvis’ loud clothes, swiveling hips, provacative dance moves, and strong R&B leanings were not exactly embraced by the adults of the South (or otherwise).  But, the kids got it and they LOVED it.

America loves an original, and Elvis was definitely original.  In the thirty odd years since his death, I’ve often thought about what Elvis would have done, had he lived.  Would he have joined the fitness revolution and slimmed down?  Would he have realized that overuse of prescription drugs IS drug abuse and checked himself in to Betty Ford?  Would he have made a big comeback?  And, just WHAT would he look like at 74?  Well, wonder no more…

ElvisPresleyAgeProgression 

Oh, to go back to when Elvis was Young & Beautiful….

 
 

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The Original Guitar Hero

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Les Paul, 1915 - 2009

A real revoluntionary of the music business is gone.

Les Paul, inventor of the electric, amplified guitar and picker extraordinnaire passed away today from complications of pneumonia at the age of 94.  Born in 1915 with a love of music, Les Paul began playing harmonica and guitar on the street, while still in his childhood.  When a listener critiqued the volume of his guitar playing, Les was determined to find a way to increase the sound.  While gainfully employed as a musician throughout his teens and early adulthood, Les continued to tinker until he created “The Log” — a 4″ X 4″ with amplified strings with a guitar body attached for asthetics.  

As early as 1939, Les Paul brought his “invention” to Gibson Guitar company where he was summarily laughed off the property.  However, they eventually worked with Paul to create the legendary solid-body design that caries his signature and name.  Probably one of the most famous Les Paul models is “Lucille”, B.B. King’s infamous instrument.

bb king lucille 

Generations of guitarists have chosen the signature Les Paul Gibson as their axe of choice, including guitar greats Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler and Les Paul’s close buddy, the late, great Chet Atkins.  Chet’s half-brother, Jim, was a member of the Les Paul Trio, who famously played throughout the 50s and 60s.  Both Les and Chet have been major influences in the evolution of the guitar as a forefront instrument.  They were good friends with a strong, mutual respect for each other.

  The Birth of the Blues, Les Paul & Chet Atkins

Amazingly, Les Paul could not read music.  However, his superb ear and creativity provided ingenuity in playing that basically made the guitar speak.  He brought personality to guitar.  He also brought it to the recording studio.  Using his wife, Mary Ford’s pure voice, Les Paul began over-dubbing and multi-track recording, revolutionizing how recordings were made and producing rich sound that resonates deeply within.

There are so many facets to Les Paul and the genius of his 94 years.  I strongly encourage you to look him up on YouTube and Google and watch the documentaries and performances about this icon who literally changed the face of modern music. 

Perhaps Guitar Hero will add a Les Paul version to honor the Original Guitar Hero.  (They may need to add a looping accessory….)

 

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R.I.P. Bob Bogle

bob bogle

 

 

Bob Bogle, lead guitarist for the legendary surf-rock band, The Ventures, lost a battle to leukemia at the age of 75. 

Considered pioneers of hard guitar laced, instrumental “surfer” rock of the very early 1960’s, The Ventures are the guys responsible for such surf-rock staples as:

  Wipeout

  Perfidia

walk-dont-run-the-very-best-of-the-ventures

Perhaps their most well known “hit” was courtesy of Steve McGarrett:

  Hawaii Five-O Theme

However, the genesis of surf-rock actually started with the Tacoma, Washington band’s release and hit of Walk, Don’t Run in 1960.

Typical of musical kun-NECK-shuns, Walk, Don’t Run was actually a cover for The Ventures.  The song was originally done by the one and only Chet Atkins. 

One of the bandmembers had been listening to the guitar impresario and it was decided to update Walk, Don’t Run to their signature sound.  The rest is history.  The Ventures (and Bob Bogle) were signficant influencers to many rock legends to come.  In 2008, they were indcuted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Bob Bogle was too ill to attend.

  John Fogerty induction of The Venture  into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2008

So, a tip of the hat to one of the guitar legends of rock.  May he rest in peace.

 

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40 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper…

Well, wrong album…right group.

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That’s right.  Just over 40 years ago, The Beatles recorded Get Back with a B side of Don’t Let Me Down as part of the new album that would become Let it Be.  To commerorate their collaboration with Billy Preston, they headed for the roof of the Apple Building at 3 Savile Row in London to perform a few numbers off the anticipated album.  Of course, cameras were rolling in anticipation of a clash with police, however the appropriately civil bobbies would not provide that satisfaction.  “Just shut down the noise, please”, after 42 minutes of Beatlemania.

The Beatles hadn’t performed live together since 1965, so I can imagine the startled passersby and rooftop audiences’ glee in the impromptu and one of a kind “concert”.  It also marked the beginning of the end for the most prolific band ever.  Less than a year after this dramatic rafter jam session, the fab four were individually persuing music down four separate paths.  

But for one dreary, London afternoon The Beatles made the world right and exciting.  Where is this kind of musicianship and desire to share new music from artist to fan, today?  I would love to see/hear John Mayer do a rooftop concert somewhere in Brooklyn…with Eric Clapton…in that Captain’s suit.  Ok, I digress…

The Beatles were originals and perhaps it’s just impossible to re-capture their spirit and connection to fans.  Only Paul and Ringo are left to tell the tales of the rooftop, now, as John and George are gone, as well as the great Billy Preston, who famously played the organ on Get Back. (He is left of, and behind, Paul.)

40 years.  I remember my parents talking in those increments and never being able to comprehend that time span.  Now…I see.

In May of ’69, both of these songs would be on the charts, with Get Back at #1.

  Get Back

  Don’t Let Me Down

To view the Rooftop Concert in its entirity, click here.

 

I’m Your Puppet…

 

For two solid days, four plane rides, 13 hours in airports, through three client meetings, in my dreams at night and of course, while driving…I have had this tune incessantly playing in my head.

Yesterday, on the way to the airport, I was singing it out loud under my breath.  After we returned the rental car and were walking to the terminal, my boss began to sing it.  I think he now has the “Puppet Blues”, as well.  Somewhere in Omaha, a guy is walking down the street humming this…

  James & Bobby Purify

Originally released in 1966 by James & Bobby Purify, I’m Your Puppet was written by FAME studios legend, Spooner Oldham (with Dan Penn).  If Spooner’s name isn’t familiar to you, other songs that he has written will be….When A Man Loves a Woman, Mustang Sally, I Never Loved a Man….you get the picture.

I’m Your Puppet stayed on the charts for 14 weeks in 1966 and sold over a million records, getting as high as #6 on the Billboard charts.  Mr. D was a senior in high school and the song takes him right back to Prom.

Evidently, my subconcious is talking to me for some reason.  Cosmically, who knows?  All I know is that it goes on an on…

Pull the string and I’ll wink at you, I’m your puppet
I’ll do funny things if you want me to, I’m your puppet

I’ll be yours to have and to hold
Darling you’ve got full control of your puppet

Pull another string and I’ll kiss your lips, I’m your puppet
Snap your finger and I’ll turn you some flips, I’m your puppet

Your every wish is my command
All you gotta do is wiggle your little hand
I’m your puppet, I’m your puppet

I’m just a toy, just a funny boy
That makes you laugh when you’re blue
I’ll be wonderful, do just what I’m told
I’ll do anything for you
I’m your puppet, I’m your puppet

Pull them little strings and I’ll sing you a song, I’m your puppet
Make me do right or make me do wrong, I’m your puppet

Treat me good and I’ll do anything
I’m just a puppet an you hold my string, I’m your puppet
Yeah, I’m your puppet

Walking, talking, living, loving puppet
I’m hanging on a string girl, I’ll do anything now

I’m a walking, talking, living, loving puppet, and I love you

I’m a smiling happy face when you want me to
Even make you happy when you’re feeling blue

I had no idea about the eclectic group that have covered I’m Your Puppet.  Most recently, the song was featured on Bernie Mac’s last movie, Soul Men.  The background singers are a little rough, but John Legend saves it.

  Bernie Mac, Samuel L. Jackson, John Legend

A lovely rendition by Motown royalty:

  Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell

Now, this brings me back….1971.  Posters on the wall.  Heavy sighing.   Dear Donny….

  Donny Osmond

Sir Elton?  Who knew?

  Elton John & Paul Young

And a nice touch by the Drive-By Truckers with Kelly Morris….

  Drive-By Truckers

I guess there’s worse songs to have philandering around in your head than I’m Your Puppet.  It could be Soft Cell’s Tainted Love.

Have a great day.  :)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 22, 2009 in cover songs, motown, Music History, oldies

 

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Every Day I Have the Blues…The Progression

Yep.  Every day. 

every_day_i_have_the_blues

  Originally recorded by Memphis Slim, 1948

  Elmore James

  Professor Longhair

  B.B. King

  T-Bone Walker & Chuck Berry

  Buddy Guy

  Eric Clapton

  John Mayer

 

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Bigger Winner of the Night

The Grammys took a baby step to redemption in recognizing Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’s awesome CD, Raising Sand, as Album of the Year, and Please Read the Letter as Record of the Year.  But perhaps my favorite on the CD is a cover of the Everly Brothers’ Gone, Gone, Gone

Contrast and compare.

 

  Gone, Gone, Gone — The Everly Brothers

 

  Gone, Gone, Gone  — Alison Krauss & Robert Plant

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 8, 2009 in grammys, Music History, music legends, oldies

 

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