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Category Archives: oldies

The Day the Music Died: Finale – Buddy Holly

buddyholly

1936 - 1959

By now, you know the details of the crash fifty years ago that shocked the music world.  Graham Nash explains it best:

  Graham Nash talks about “The Day the Music Died”

 At 22, the lanky kid from Lubbock, TX  had been re-writing music rules.  At the tender age of 18, Holly had taken the sagging Rock & Roll scene by storm with stark rhythms and the strains of non-traditional instruments.  No hearthrob, Holly’s attraction was purely “the music”.

While Holly was quite a personality, it’s his music that has had the most lasting affect.  Many artists of the 60s and 70s, point to Buddy Holly as a major influence.  A young Robert Zimmerman’s life changed the night he watched Buddy Holly perform on the Winter Dance Party tour in Diluth, MN.  As Bob Dylan, he would also influence generations of music.

More after the jump

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The Day the Music Died: Part 3 – Ritchie Valens

valens2a

Seventeen years old.  Let that sink in a minute. 

My son is 17.  I cannot more imagine him dropping out of school to become a recording star at this age, than me becoming Secretary of State.  Yet, Richard Stephen Valenzueala did exactly that — dropped out of school at 16, as a matter of fact, and rode the whirlwind of fame in a stellar eight month career.

In May 1958, Ritchie landed a recording contract with the Del-Fi recording label out of Hollywood, CA.   In July, Valens recorded his first record, Come On, Let’ s Go, which became his first hit.  He was one for one.

  Come On, Let’s Go

Shortly after, he recorded his second, and most prolific hit, Donna:

  Donna

As is widely known, Donna was written by Valens for his girlfriend, Donna Ludwig.  In the late 1950s, inter-racial couples were not readily accepted nor encouraged.  Even though Valens was now a hero in the Latino community, he likely had a tougher time in society, as a whole.  His relationship with Donna was full of angst and longing, that resonated across racial lines and brought Ritchie into the mainstream when it went to #2 on the Billboard charts.

The flipside of Donna was a Mexican folk song that Valens’ mother convinced him to record.  La Bamba would become a mega-hit, but not until 1987, when Lou Diamond Phillips starred as Valens in the movie, La Bamba. 

 

Despite his Chicano roots, Valens had to learn the Spanish words to La Bamba phonetically, as he had only spoken only English since birth.  La Bamba is listed as the #345 on Rolling Stone‘s Top 500 Songs of All Time.  It is the only spanish language song in the Top 500.

The dual A-side recording of Donna/LaBamba would pay for a new house for Valens’ mother, but would be the last release of his life.  Several recordings were released after his untimely death, including Cry, Cry, Cry and my favorite, We Belong Together:

A talented, self taught guitar player, Ritchie was well-liked and had a notable energy on-stage.  He went on tour in Hawaii with Buddy Holly and Paul Anka and when Holly was looking for acts to join him for the ’59 Winter Dance Party, he immediately invited Ritchie Valens.  Valens agreed, and despite being a minor, went off on his own to follow his dream.

After extended freezing tempatures, grueling routes from point to point, and the isolation of being a teenager in a man’s world, Valens was homesick and miserable.  Traveling in the unfamiliar snow and cold of the Midwest was more than he had bargained for.  When he heard that Buddy Holly had chartered a plane to transport his band from Clear Lake, IA to Fargo, ND, Ritchie begged Cricket’s guitarist, Tommy Allsup to give up his seat to Valens.  Here is Allsup’s account:

Seventeen.

 

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The Day the Music Died: Part 2 – The Big Bopper

J.P. Richardson

J.P. Richardson

“Hellllllooooo, Baaaabbbeeee!………………….”

Consider J.P. Richardson, the DJ/Singer/Songwriter from Beaumont, TX the man who brought you such songs as Luckenbach, TX,  Amanda, Mamma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys and Suspicious Minds.  You can thank The Big Bopper for the legendary Outlaws album. 

On a frigid night in February, J.P. Richardson — The Big Bopper — simply couldn’t face another night on the cold, drafty bus that served as transportation for the 1959 Winter Dance Party Tour.  Suffering with the flu, Richardson was desperate to avoid another long ride in freezing tempatures, sleeping upright on hard seats.  When he learned that Buddy Holly was chartering a small plane to get to the next stop for him and his band, The Crickets, he approached the bass player and asked if he would mind giving up his seat so that The Bopper could get some rest and try to recover.  The young, affable 22 year old Waylon Jennings agreed.

Buddy Holly ribbed his bandmate about giving up the seat.  “I hope your ole’ bus freezes up again”.  Jennings sarcastically snapped back, “Well, I hope your damn plane crashes.”  Jenning was riddled with guilt for trading places with The Big Bopper and was very reluctant to ever discuss his role in “the day the music died”.

1958, The Big Bopper, traveled extensively on tour, promoting his music.  His new single, Chantilly Lace, had recently caught on when fate coupled him with new sensation, Ritchie Valens; rock and roll stalwart, Buddy Holly; and mega-popular, Dion & The Belmonts for the Winter Dance Party tour in early 1959.

  Chantilly Lace, The Big Bopper

The Big Bopper was big and bold.  After an army stint, J.P. Richardson returned to his hometown of Beaumont, TX and eventually ended up as a DJ at KRTM.  In 1957, he broke the record for continuous on-air broadcasting — 5 days, 2 hours, and 8 minutes.  Shortly thereafter, he adopted the name The Big Bopper, originated from watching college students in Beaumont doing the dance, The Bop.  His first foray into performing and recording was the old-time Country Beggar to a King, but it struggled to gain any traction on the charts:

  Beggar to a King, The Big Bopper

He quickly recovered with Chantilly Lace and took the show on the road to capitalize.  His goal was to make as much money as he could to build a recording studio in Beaumont where he could make music and produce other acts.  He was also working on a new concept that he called a “music video”.  His live shows were part skit, part song and he was wildly popular.

Back at home in Texas, his wife was pregnant with their second child, a son who would be born two months after his death.  J.P. Richardson, Jr. now performs as his father and oddly, “met” his father for the first time in 2007 when he had The Big Bopper’s body exhumed to rule out foul play.  (It was.)

Perhaps The Big Bopper’s most lasting legacy is the three songs he wrote that were #1 hits for other artists.  White Lightnin’ was recorded by George Jones in 1959 and ended up at the top of the Country charts. 

  White Lightnin’, George Jones

Richardson not only wrote Running Bear, but provided back up vocals on the Johnny Preston hit that was released in September 1959.  It hit #1 on the Country charts shortly thereafter.

  Running Bear, Johnny Preston

Finally, Jerry Lee Lewis re-leased Chantilly Lace, scoring a #1 Country hit in 1972.

  Chantilly Lace, “The Killah”

Much like Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson was an “evoluntionary”.  He was perfecting a successful songwriting formula, experimenting with new facets of music via film performances, and was aspiring to produce other acts.  At 28, The Big Bopper was pushing the “norms” of the music business and had nowhere to go but up.  

The plane crash threw his body 40 ft. from the wreckage and he suffered severe trauma, dying on impact.

 

Mad About Mad Men…

Oh my Lord in Heaven.

I’m not one for watching “series” on TV.  I usually can’t get interested in a story line long enough to watch for any length of time.  However, a few weeks ago Shrew recommended Mad Men.  “You will love it”, she said.  While skeptical, I decided to puruse Hulu to find it, but evidently AMC (American Movie Classics), the cable network that carries Mad Men, does not license through Hulu, BUT did have one episode — the second season premier.  I decided to watch this episode and if it garnered my interest, I would download season one from iTunes, to keep me company on my many business trips.

Naturally, I LOVED IT.  I have completed season one and am anxiously awaiting the weekend when I can catch up on season two, which is conveniently available (for free) on On Demand.  YAHOO!!!

If you watch Mad Men, you know how I can love it so.  If you haven’t watched, YOU HAVE TO!!  Set in the early 60s, the characters lives revolve around a Madison Avenue advertising agency.  The nostalgia is phenomenal, to the point where you think you’ve entered a time warp and are right there with the girls in the secretarial pool, adjusting your Playtex bra and dodging the wayward hands of your boss.

The show is so honestly unpolitically correct that it’s realism captivates.  Here is a video I found on YouTube that lists the Top 10 politically incorrect moments in Mad Men (so far):

Of course, the brilliance of this is that in 1960, this was perfectly accepted behavior.  And, there are many more where these came from.  Women smoking and drinking while pregnant, drinking in the office (at any hour), incessant smoking — anywhere and everywhere by everybody, and the perfect mother worrying about her six year old “getting fat” are just a few of the issues that folks today would simply be mortified over.

And then there’s the sex.  Everyone is doing or trying to do everybody else.  While likely a little over done, the show does expose “the greatest generation’s” proclivity for extra marital dalliances — particularly in action-packed New York City when commerce and culture were seeping from every pore of the city.

Oh, and the music….I love me some nostalgia music, as I call it and Mad Men does not disappoint.  Here’s a few of my favorites from the first two seasons:

  Band of Gold, Don Cherry

  P.S., I Love You, Bobby Vinton

  Babylon (Written by Don McLean)

  Botcha Me, Rosemary Clooney  (ignore the drag queen)

  The Twist, Chubby Checker

  Fly Me to the Moon, Julie London

  Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan

  Theme from Summer Place, Percy Faith Orchestra

  Break It To Me Gently, Brenda Lee

  I’m Through With Love, Marilyn Monroe

Man, I just LOVE this stuff.  The songs, the era, the stories, and oh, the characters.  My favorite is Ad Agency owner Roger Sterling, played superbly (and oh so handsomely) by John Slattery.

Yeah buddy.

Anyway, even though the story of Mad Men takes place a couple of years before I was born, there is something oddly familiar about it all.  Even though things had changed (and not necessarily for the better) by the early 70s and my formative years, alot of what is portrayed in Mad Men was still happening.  While society continued to become more “open”, it also became much less tolerant of, and dare I say militant against, the obvious sexism and male dominance of everything in business and otherwise.  

Even through the bawdy behavior and pervasive deceptiveness, there’s still a wonderful innocence of a world before assassinations, marches in the streets and really, really bad clothes.  Watching Mad Men provides a glimpse into the end of an era…likely the most exciting time in recent U.S. history.  Post WWII society, drunk on money, sex and freedom. 

While you may be shocked by some of the behavior of these peers of our elders, I dare you not to have a few good laughs when you watch Mad Men and relish in the fact that yes, “you’ve come a long way, baby”.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2008 in Good Stuff, oldies, Reviews, TV

 

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Simon LeBon is 50?!?!

Yes, that’s right.  Today is Simon’s 50th birthday.  Can it be?

Hard to believe that the Duran, Duran front man is half a century old, no?  Here’s to the olden, golden days…

  Perfect Day, Duran Duran

Welcome to the AARP, Simon!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2008 in music legends, oldies

 

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Colette’s Corner: Where There’s Fire….There’s Smokey

Nah, not that Smokey, THIS Smokey…
 
The Great Smokey Robinson.  Singer.  Songwriter.  Producer.  Talent Extraordinairre.
Here’s Colette’s entertaining homage to William Robinson, Jr.:
It’s wonderful  to sing well.  It’s even more meaningful to write a great and enduring song.
Both talents were bestowed on young William “Smokey”  Robinson, long before he helped to start Motown Records in Detroit in the early 1960s, with his friend Berry Gordy.
Gordy had the business acumen; Smokey had the musical chops.  By the time he was in his early 20s, Smokey was writing, recording and arranging a stream of hit tunes for this landmark record company, which blended bluesy soulfulness with sleek arrangements and killer hooks.  He also was a terrific talent scout, cultivating the musical gifts of the kids he grew up with in  Motor City.
As an entertainer, Smokey’s still terrific — I saw him recently, and in his late 60s he’s not only still in great voice (one of the best pop falsettos ever) but he’s still sexy, romantic and full of joy.
But while I’ve found a lot of great performances on video of Smokey, with his hit-making crewT he Miracles and after he went solo,  Part I of this tribute considers some Smokey tunes especially wrote (and produced) for other Motown masters.
What makes Smokey’s songs so memorable?  The lyrics, though inevitably about boyfriend-girlfriend passions, are so clever that Bob Dylan once called Robinson one of his favorite poets, and  John Lennon and George Harrison also gave him props.

Smokey knows how to twist a phrase to make it fresh every one of his songs tells a compelling story, and there are indeed poetic images in a lot of his tunes,  along with real wit.   But it’s also the arrangements he worked up with the fabulous Funk Brothers (Motown’s brilliant house  musicians), including the miraculous James Jamerson on bass, that make the best of the tunes he produced instantly unforgettable.  Listen to the baselines — a symphony in themselves! And there’s a perfect layering of percussion, piano, vocals, guitar, bass and backup voices (augmented sometimes by horns and violins). 

But Smokey’s been a huge fan of many kinds of music his entire life — from opera to Cole Porter to modern jazz.  A grouchy Boomer like me wants to encourage this in  young artists:  listen, listen, listen to all the greats, and absorb!
 

 
So from the more than 1,000 tunes in Smokey’s songbag, I’m picking out some gems.   (Later,  I’ll play tribute to Smokey doing his own material, with and without the fab Miracles.)

 

Let’s start with the suave, magical Temptations, since Smokey wrote their break-through hits.      Here are some  rare live  versions (sometimes with lipsynching, which was what some people did on TV at the time) with the ultra-suave Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin singing leads.  Do check out the choreography, created by such legendary jazz-tappers as Cholly Atkins and Honi Coles.  It’s a total delight.
 
First comes “The Way You Do the Things You Do,”  with a lyric led by Eddie that’s full of charming similes (“You got a smile so bright/You know you could’ve been a candle….”)
   “The Way You Do the Things You Do”  — The Temptations  (rare live on a NY TV show)
 
Another Temps classic.  Picture a little blurry, but the guys look so great, and move so hot:
 
   “Get Ready” — The Temptations
 
If you ever go see the Temps, and some incarnation of them is still out there touring, this is the tune they turn into a huge audience sing-along.  And who doesn’t know “My Girl”??  The song is in our collective bloodstream.  David Ruffin does the lead honors this time:
 
   “My Girl” — The Temptations
 
The other “My Girl” rendition that brings a different vibe and some rough-edged soul to the song is this live version by the incomparable Otis Redding, the Love Man.  ‘Nuff said.
 
    “My Girl” — Otis Redding  (with his great band, The Bar-Keys, live in England)
 
As a kind of book-end to “My Girl,” Smokey also conconcocted “My Guy” for Motown solo artist,  Mary Wells.  With its jaunty beat, witty internal rhymes  (“Nothing you can buy can make me tell a lie to my guy”), and that ultra-cool vocal by Mary, another favorite of the Beatles, it was another big-selling classic:
 
  “My Guy” — Mary Wells
 
The Smoke (as pal Stevie Wonder calls him) also took a strong interest in shaping the musical style of The Marvelettes, who  toured with the Beatles on their U.S. tour.  Talk about sexy, these girls were HOT, and I prefer them to the Supremes (shown here briefly).  Here’s one of the treasures Smokey wrote for them, featuring the sultry Wanda Rogers on lead —  one of the great “hands off, ladies!” tunes of all time.  And love their moves:
 
    “Don’t Mess With Bill
 
Finally, we have another Motown genius, Marvin Gaye, who was like a brother to Smokey.   The ebullient Gaye started out at Motown as a session drummer, but that skill was soon eclipsed by his mounting fame as a smooth, sexy, utterly distinctive vocalist.   Marvin is one of my soul gods! And these are his early classics, tailor-made for him by his pal:
 
   “Ain’t That Peculiar” —  Marvin
 
Another from Marvelous Marvin — what can I say?  I’m a sucker for a guy who looks this cool in a tux! :
 

   — Take This Heart of Mine — Marvin
 
Finally, a little novelty from the Smokey annals, first done by the Contours and later the J. Geils Band.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek tune about being a gold-digger, the lyrics are a hoot:

 

    
   “First I Look at the Purse” — The Contours
 
 
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Posted by on October 1, 2008 in colette's corner, motown, music legends, oldies, Soul

 

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Libra Dragons Rule!

 

  House of the Rising Sun, The Animals

  Oh! Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison

  Leader of the Pack, Shangra-Las

  SHINDIG!

>>>1964<<<

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2008 in oldies, on this day, that's life, through the years

 

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