Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Final Notes of 2009

Category: Tribute

Here is a list of the performers and music-related people we lost in 2009.

Lou Albano (October 14, unknown cause, age 76): pro wrestler who appeared in Cyndi Lauper videos and made an album with NRBQ (Lou and the Q).
Al Alberts
(November 26, kidney failure, age 87): member of the pop vocal group the Four Aces.
Dee Anthony
(October 25, unknown cause, age 83): manager of Peter Frampton during the days of Frampton's biggest success.
Thor Arngrim
(August 16, Parkinson's disease, 81): the man who managed the career of Liberace.
Ron Asheton (January 6, heart attack, age 60): guitarist for Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
Ernie Ashworth
(March 3, heart attack, age 80): Grand Ole Opry star best known for the 1961 hit "Talk Back Tremblin' Lips."
Leona Johnson Atkins
(October 21, long-term illness, age 85): member of the Johnson Twins on Cincinnati's WLW in the 1940s who gave up her career to be Mrs. Chet Atkins.

Clint Ballard Jr.
(December 23, 2008 and not announced until 2009, unknown cause, age 77): songwriter of hits such as "You're No Good" and "The Game of Love."
Barry Beckett
(June10, illness, age 65): a producer for albums in both rock (Bob Seger, Dire Straits) and country (Kenny Chesney).
Molly Bee
(February 7, stroke, age 68): west coast-based country singer who played with Tennessee Ernie Ford and Jimmy Dean.
Jay Bennett
(May 24, unknown cause, age 45): member of the alt-country band Wilco.
Randy Bewley
(February 25, heart attack, unknown age): member of the Athens, Georgia band the Pylons, who were an influence on R.E.M. They covered the Pylons' song "Crazy."
Bob Bogle
(June 14, unknown cause, age 75): bass player for the Ventures.
Jimmy Boyd
(March 8, cancer, age 70): the child singer who gave us "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
Tom Brumley
(February 4, illness, age 73): son of gospel songwriter Albert Brumley, Tom was the original steel guitarist for Buck Owens' Buckaroos.
Norton Buffalo
(October 30, lung cancer, age 58): session harmonica player (e.g., Bonnie Raitt's "Runaway") and actor (in The Rose) who spent 30 years in the Steve Miller Band.
Yvonne King Burch
(December 13, complications from a fall, age 89): member of the pop King Sisters.

Randy Cain
(April 9, unknown cause, age 63): member of the Delfonics.
Jim Carroll
(September 11, heart attack, age 60): Basketball Diaries author and poet who had an FM hit in the early 1980s with the song "People Who Died."
John E. Carter
(August 21, lung cancer, age 75): member of both the Dells and the Flamingos.
W.T. "Ric" Cartey
(August 5, unknown cause, age 72): songwriter responsible for Sonny James' breakthrough hit "Young Love."
John Cephas
(March 4, pulmonary fibrosis, age 78): Piedmont blues guitarist in Cephas and Wiggins.
Jim Chapin
(July 4, unknown causes, age 89): legendary jazz drummer and teacher who fathered folk music singers Tom and Harry Chapin.
Vic Chesnutt
(December 25, suicide [overdose of muscle relaxants], 45): critically-acclaimed Athens, Georgia-based singer/songwriter.

Liam Clancey
(December 4, illness, age 74): last member of the Irish folk group the Clancey Brothers.
Chris Connor
(August 29, cancer, age 81): female jazz singer who worked with Stan Kenton's band in the early 1950s.
Jack Cooke
(December 1, heart attack, age 72): one-time member of the Clinch Mountain Boys, the backing band of bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley.

John Dawson
(July 21, stomach cancer, age 64): co-founder of the 70s country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage.
Willie DeVille
(August 6, pancreatic cancer, age 58): leader of Mink DeVille.
Jim Dickenson
(August 15, heart failure, age 67): legendary producer of acts such as Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and the Rolling Stones.
Luther Dixon
(October 25, unknown cause, age 78): songwriter whose credits include "Sixteen Candles" and Charlie Rich's "Big Boss Man."
Jake Drake-Brockman
(September 1, motorcycle accident, age 53): keyboard player for Echo and the Bunnymen.
Hal Durham
(March 29, unknown cause, age 77): long-time Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM DJ.

Ean (Donald) Evans
(May 6, cancer, age 48): bassist for current Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Chris Feinstein
(December 14, unknown cause, age 42): bassist for Ryan Adams.
Steve Ferguson
(October 7, cancer, age 60): founder of the band NRBQ.

Vern Gosdin
(April 29, stroke, age 74): in country music, he was "the voice."
Kelly Goucutt
(February 18, heart attack, age 63): bassist for the Electric Light Orchestra.
Bobby Graham
(September 14, stomach cancer, age 69): British session drummer who claimed that he was offered a job with John, Paul, and George.
Ellen Greenwich
(August 26, heart attack, age 68): songwriter of "Leader of the Pack" and the "dead girl song" classic "Tell Laura I Love Her."
Buck Griffin
(February 14, heart failure, age 85): country/rockabilly singer.
James Gurley
(December 20, heart attack, 69): guitarist in Big Brother and the Holding Company, the band that brought Janis Joplin to stardom.

Jon Hager
(January 9, illness, age 67): surviving member of Hee Haw's Hager Twins died less than a year after identical twin brother Jim's death.
Tim Hart
(December 24, lung cancer, 61): co-founder of the band Steeleye Span.
Hugh Hopper
(June 7, leukemia, age 64): bassist in the progressive rock band Soft Machine.

Lux Interior
(February 4, heart ailment, age 62): co-founder of the punk band the Cramps.

Michael Jackson
(June 25, cardiac arrest, age 50): self-proclaimed "king of pop."
Duane Jarvis
(April 1, colon cancer, age 51): guitarist who played with the likes of Dwight Yoakam, the Divinyls, Lucinda Williams, and Ben Vaughn.
Uriel Jones
(March 24, heart attack, age 74): Motown session drummer.

Bob Keane
(January 22, renal failure, age 87): founder of Del-Fi Records, the label Ritchie Valens got his start on.
Arthur Kent
(January 26, natural causes, age 88): songwriter best remembered for penning Skeeter Davis' hit "The End of the World."
Larry Knechtel
(August 20, illness, age 69): studio keyboardist, bassist and arranger who worked with the Beach Boys, the Doors, and Simon & Garfunkel.
Tim Krekel
(June 24, stomach cancer, age 57): singer/songwriter who wrote songs for Crystal Gayle and Jimmy Buffett and played in Buffett's band.
Gary Kurfirst
(January 13, unknown cause, age 60): manager of the Ramones and Talking Heads, he also jump-started the careers of Hendrix and Joplin.

Greg Ladanyi
(September 29, head trauma from a fall, age 57): producer of albums by Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, and other L.A.-based performers.
Jack Lawrence
(March 13, complications from a fall, age 96): pop songwriter of hits like "Beyond the Sea," "Tenderly," and "Linda." (TRIVIA: Lawrence couldn't pay his attorney so he wrote a song and named it after his lawyer's daughter. The song was "Linda," and the little girl it was named for was Linda Eastman -- later to be known as Linda McCartney.)
Drake Levin
(July 4, cancer, age 62): guitarist in Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Big Bill Lister
(December 1, illness,age 86): member of the Drifting Cowboys who was the first singer to commercially recorded "There's a Tear in My Beer."
Alan Livingston
(March 13, natural causes, age 91): Bozo the Clown creator also oversaw Capitol Records' singing of acts such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Steve Miller.
Hank Locklin
(March 8, natural causes, age 91): legendary country singer of "Please Help Me, I'm Falling," "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On," and many others.
Huey Long
(June 10, natural causes, age 105): the last surviving member of the 50s band the Ink Spots.

Irby Mandrell
(March 5, unknown causes, age 84): the father and manager of Barbara Mandrell died shortly after the announcement that his daughter had been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Dewey Martin
(February 1, natural causes, age 68): the drummer in Buffalo Springfield.
Al Martino
(October 13, heart attack, age 82): pop crooner best known as playing Johnny Fontane in The Godfather.
George McPherson
(June 3, lung cancer, age 78): manager of Victor Borge and Harry Belafonte.
Coleman Mellett
(February 12, plane crash, unknown age): member of Chuck Mangone's band who died in the crash of Continental flight 3407.
Taylor Mitchell
(October 28, mauled by coyotes, age 19): young, critically-acclaimed Canadian folk singer.
Vic Mizzy
(October 17, heart failure, age 93): television theme show composer who gave us the themes to Green Acres and The Addams Family.

David "Fathead" Newman
(January 20, pancreatic cancer, age 75): jazz saxophonist who played with Charlie Parker.
Gerry Niewood
(February 12, plane crash, age 62): member of Chuck Mangone's band who died in the crash of Continental flight 3407.

Nancy Overton
(April 5, esophageal cancer, age 83): member of the Chordettes, the vocal group who did "Mister Sandman."

Tam Paton
(April 10, heart attack, age 70): manager of the 70s teenybopper band the Bay City Rollers.
Les Paul
(August 13, pneumonia, age 94): a guitarist's guitarist who also invented multi-tracking recording and the solid-body electric guitar.
Dickie Peterson
(October 12, cancer, age 61): bassist for the 60s hard rock band Blue Cheer and the lead singer on their version of "Summertime Blues."
Fayette Pinkney
(June 27, acute respiratory failure, age 61): member of the 70s band the Three Degrees, who did the song "When Will I See You Again."
Billy Powell
(January 28, heart attack, age 56): keyboard player for the original line-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Steve Raitt
(April 4, brain cancer, age 61): Minneapolis-area sound engineer who was also the brother of Bonnie Raitt.

Kenny Rankin
(June 7, lung cancer, age 69): pop singer ("I Like Dreamin'") and songwriter (wrote "Peaceful" for Helen Reddy).
Ron Richards
(April 30, unknown cause, age 80): British record producer and engineer who worked with the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Hollies, and many others.
Billy Lee Riley
(August 2, colon cancer, age 75): rockabilly singer.
Stacy Rowles
(October 27, injuries from a car wreck, 54): daughter of jazz performer Jimmy Rowles who followed her father into jazz music performing.
George Russell
(July 27, Alzheimer's, age 86): influential jazz composer.

Sky Saxon
(June 25, infection, unknown age): member of the 60s garage band the Seeds.
Aaron Schroeder
(December 2, Alzheimer's, age 83): songwriter for Presley ("Stuck on You," "Good Luck Charm") and record producer for early Randy Newman and Gene Pitney.
Clive Scott
(May 10, stroke, age 64): keyboard player in the band Jigsaw, who had the one hit "Sky High" in the mid-70s.
Dan Seals
(March 25, mantle cell lymphoma, age 61): brother of Seals & Crofts' Jim Seals, he began in pop as "England Dan" with John Ford Coley, then moved into country in the 1980s.
Mike Seeger
(August 7, leukemia, age 65): folk singer and younger brother of Pete Seeger.
Bud Shank
(April 2, pulmonary failure, age 82): flute player who worked on "California Dreamin'."
Shelby Singleton
(October 7, brain cancer, age 77): influential Nashville producer who signed Roger Miller to Smash Records and launched the career of Jeannie C. Riley. He also owned Sun Records starting in 1969.
Garry Stevens
(December 8, natural causes, age 93): billed as the "boy singer" with big bands in the 1940s, he was the first person to commercially record "White Christmas."
Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan
(December 28, natural causes, 28): drummer in the band Avenged Sevenfold.

Lenny Sullivan
(October 26, drug overdose, age 36): Bruce Springsteen's cousin and assistant road manager.

Koko Taylor
(June 3, gastrointestinal surgery, age 80): she was to blues what white is to snow.
Sam Taylor
(January 5, heart disease, age 74): guitarist and singer who worked with Joey Dee & the Starlighters and the BT Express.
Wayman Tisdale
(May 15, cancer, age 44): one-time NBA player who gave it up to be a jazz musician.
Mary Travers
(September 16, leukemia, age 72): the "Mary" of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Lucy Volden
(September 28, Lupus, age 46): a schoolmate of Julian Lennon whose drawing inspired the title "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

Gordon Waller
(July 17, cardiac arrest, age 64): the "Gordon" of Peter and Gordon.
David Williams
(March 6, post-stroke complications, age 58): guitarist who worked with the Jacksons and Madonna.
John "Bootsy" Williams
(September 21, unknown cause, age 69): singer in the doo-wop group the Silhouettes (of "Get a Job" fame).
Kyle Woodring
(September 8, suicide [hanged self], age 42): session drummer who worked with Deana Carter in country and Survivor in rock.
Eric Woolfson
(December 2, cancer, age 64): co-founder of the Alan Parsons Project.
Ruby Wright
(September 29, heart disease, age 69): daughter of Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright who had an "answer song" to "Dang Me" ("Dern Ya") become a hit.
Timothy Wright
(April 23, injuries from a 2008 car wreck, age 61): singer in gospel.

Otha Young
(August 6, cancer, age 66): songwriter, best-known for Juice Newton's "The Sweetest Thing."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five Reasons Remakes Stink

Category: Opinion

A recent flop of a remake of a classic television series inspired this blog about five remakes that never should have been.

The Prisoner -- Patrick McGoohan created and starred in a 16-part show that, to this day, people are at a loss to categorize: was it drama? Science fiction? Mystery? Dry British comedy? Who cared, it was a masterpiece, one of the greatest television series in history. So, naturally, the legions of fans the original had made it rife for a remake. The 2009 A&E series owed far more to the original film Rollerball than the original Prisoner: a corporation controlling everything (remember that "corporate anthem" that played before the Rollerball games began?) to the point where Jonathan"Six" can see what's going on; as opposed to the mysterious nature of just who ran the Village ("that would be telling," was the reply when McGoohan's Number Six asked, "Who's side are you on?"). And, of course, it was all filmed with typical music video 0.0385 second-per-shot editing. One of the rovers from the original series should have headed this remake off at the pass.

The Electric Company -- the PBS show that taught kids to read in the 1970s was equally popular with older people because of its Vaudeville format. The remake is more episodic -- and boring. No J. Arthur Crank, no Rita Moreno yelling "Hey, you guyyyyyyyys!", no Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader, and no superb cameos (my favorite: after a cartoon featuring the joke about "there's a banana in your ear" with the reply, "I can't hear you, there's a banana in my ear," Lorne Greene popped in and said, "I can't hear you, there's a Bonanza in my ear!"). If the boy in "Love of Chair" (the first season lampoon of soap operas) had seen the remake, the script would have read, "The boy is throwing up."

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) -- speaking of ITC shows (the company that produced The Prisoner), another charming program from the British vaults was 1969's Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (which aired here in syndication in the mid-70s as My Partner the Ghost). The series rubbed out one of the main characters before the second commercial break (hence the "deceased" part), but fear not, Marty Hopkirk spent the rest of the 26 episodes as a ghost that only his private detective agency partner Jeff Randall could see. When the series was remade in the early 2000s it starred the British comedy team of Vic Reeves (as the ghost) and Bob Mortimer (as Jeff). The computer-generated special effects were a major improvement from the 1960s wire and pulleys to move objects (some of which were plainly visible in the scenes) and "Pepper's ghost" effects to make Marty walk through walls. The plots, however, were mostly rehashes of the original series -- and bad rehashes at that. To be fair, when the remake went for originality it showed definite promise; however, that was too few and too far between to keep fans of the original series and fans of Reeves & Mortimer interested for more than 13 episodes before it joined Marty Hopkirk in death.

AfterM*A*S*H -- M*A*S*H lasted about three seasons too long to begin with, so there was no way AfterM*A*S*H was going to relive the glory of the heyday of the legendary series. We really were ready to give the series up. Unfortunately, CBS didn't realize this until after they subjected us to this hunk of junk.

Burke's Law -- the original, starring the late Gene Barry, was one of the best TV series ever despite its absolute ridiculous plot (a millionaire police homicide captain today would make everyone yell "kickbacks!"). In the mid-90s this show was revived, this time with Barry as an octogenarian. Lightning did not land in the bottle the second time around, and it was wrong to think it would to begin with. Runner-up goes to Amos Burke, Secret Agent, which was ABC taking a very good thing -- and ruining it by trying to turn Burke's Law into something along the lines of "The Millionaire Police Homicide Captain from U.N.C.L.E."

And I'm going out on a limb here to add one that I am almost certain will be on this list this time next year:

The Green Hornet -- given the track record of TV shows that become movies, I am not holding my breath in anticipation of a masterpiece of this forthcoming (Christmas 2010) film version of the TV series. One of the great things about the television series (and the movie serials before it) was that Britt Reid, as a rich man, could afford gadgets that "regular folks" could not, things that gave him an edge in his crime fighting. It's the 21st century now, we all have the gadgets. Worst of all, the movie will not have what the TV series had that made it special: Bruce Lee.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Burke's Law

Category: Obituary/News

You just cannot beat a plot like this: a millionaire L.A. police homicide captain who's a playboy gets chauffeured to the scene of every crime in a Rolls. That was Burke's Law, the intelligent and extremely funny series that aired in the early 1960s. Gene Barry played Amos Burke, the captain who usually found his date interrupted by a phone call from one of his detectives, asking him to come to the scene of a murder. Every episode's title began "Who Killed..." Sometimes the answer was obvious; other times it was a total surprise.

Gene Barry died December 9 at a retirement home, apparently of natural causes.

Barry played many other roles in his life -- Bat Masterson, Glenn Howard in The Name of the Game, and Gene Talbot in Our Miss Brooks. But there was nothing like Amos Burke -- not before, not since.

Gene Barry was 90.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Americana 101

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Starting Tomorrow
ARTIST: Marshall Crenshaw
SONGWRITER: Marshall Crenshaw
ALBUM: Life's Too Short

I guess that, if I had to explain my stuff, one thing I'd say about it is that what I usually present on my records is a guitar-dominated soundscape.
(Marshall Crenshaw)

When Marshall Crenshaw first burst onto the scene in 1982 people were doing a lot of physical comparisons. He had played John Lennon in a production of Beatlemania and also had a Buddy Holly look about him (he later would play Holly in the film La Bamba). Musically, however,
the only person Marshall Crenshaw could be compared to was Marshall Crenshaw.

His first album yielded a minor hit ("Someday, Someway") and songs for others to cover (blues singer Lou Ann Barton covered "Brand New Lover" on her 1982 album that was produced by Glenn Frey).
Most importantly, it produced some of the absolute best music of the early 80s and ushered in a "roots-rock" sound that relied more on guitars and less on synthesizers. It also introduced the world to one of the best performers in American rock and roll.

Crenshaw quickly faded into "cult star" status, which is too bad for those who have yet to discover his talents. He popped out album after album of music that was good, great, or memorable. Falling in the latter category: 1991's exceptional Life's Too Short album. Shining as a gem from that album is the mid-tempo ballad "Starting Tomorrow."

The song begins with a marvelous line: "Starting tomorrow, if this night ever ends." That line evokes something everyone can relate to, from students to people sitting in the waiting room of a hospital. In this case Crenshaw is waiting for the new day so he can get off the road and go home to his family. "All night long it seems like time was running slow," he complains, and the listener empathizes completely. The wait that never seems to conclude has a pay-off: "I'll feel more alive as soon as I'm not alone." Crenshaw is torn between being a touring musician ("the feeling in my heart that won't let me settle down") and a family man ("it only comes around and bothers me when I'm away from you"). He's not the first performer to feel these conflicting feelings and he won't be the last; however, he did one of the greatest jobs of articulating the pain.

The world needs more rockers like Marshall Crenshaw. Thankfully, we have Crenshaw himself.


The entire Life's Too Short album
-- great music from start to finish with warnings about consuming too much ("Stop Doing That," "Better Back Off") highlighting the album.

The entire Marshall Crenshaw album -- the debut album that nearly everyone wishes they could make as their opening statement. "Rockin' Around in NYC" should have been a major hit.

"I'm Sorry (But So is Brenda Lee)" (from Downtown) -- with a title like that, one would expect something from the Homer & Jethro discography, but the cover of a Ben Vaughn song is actually a break-up tune that is as good as the title is clever.

"You Should've Been There" (from Good Evening) -- this song that is thematically similar to Porter Wagoner's "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name" features backing vocals by the BoDeans (who co-wrote "Radio Girl" on the same album).


Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine