Thursday, February 7, 2019


 (I was the one with crooked bangs on the lower right. K is behind me.)

I didn't know that life was stark when I was a kid. I never felt poor ~ my mom made sure I had all the same things that kids in my classroom had. The early sixties weren't the age of conspicuous consumption. Sure, the clothes she picked out for me must have been clearance items, because they were so ugly. Either that, or Mom had really bad taste. But I never cared about clothes anyway.

We lived in an old farmhouse that was eighty years old (that would be about one hundred and forty years old now, if it's still standing.) I liked it. It had a hard wooden winding staircase leading up to the second floor and there was a cross-hatched vent about midway down that I could peek through and see everything happening in our living room (not that anything was happening). It had a scary unfinished basement that is a prerequisite for kids ~ scary things are de rigueur. How else would we ever learn to navigate life if it weren't for being scared so much that our breath catches in our chest?

I was lousy at making friends. Granted, living in the country precluded sleepovers. I never even had a best friend until I was in the fourth grade, and I met her on a walking bridge on the way to Wednesday catechism. My only real friend 'til then was my cousin K. K's dad was my dad's much younger brother, and Uncle A worshiped my dad (who wouldn't?), so our families spent an inordinate amount of time together. It was one of those rare perfect storms in which my mom and her mom actually liked one another. You know how couple friendships are ~ either the women are best pals and one guy learns to tolerate the other, or through family, the married pairs are thrown together and everybody decides to make the best of it. K's mom brought out the best in Mom ~ taught her to loosen up; not be such a prickly thorn.

K was one year older than me, which was acceptable in the annals of little-kid approval. From about age five, we tagged along together, creating tiny-girl mayhem.

She was one of those flawless beings ~ golden-haired and sky-blue-eyed ~ who couldn't do anything wrong even if the notion had flitted like a fat bumblebee into her mind. I, on the other hand, was a mess of dense red hair with a tangled desire to create something, but no earthly idea how to do it.

My mom actually preferred K to me. It didn't hurt my feelings ~ much. I would prefer K to me. In later years, Mom actually took vacations with her. Nevertheless, my cousin and I bonded over Ricky Nelson songs, like this:

Our eight-year-old paths converged. 

My dad got it into his head that I should take accordion lessons (I was apparently the experimental kid in the family), and thus, K and her brother took lessons, too. Our music teacher thought it would be neat to form a little trio with the three of us. (Of course, K played her accordion perfectly while I was admonished for dragging my basses). 

Somehow we were coerced into buying matching bandolero outfits, with Cordobes hats, white-fringed black felt skirts, and plastic cowboy boots. We may have even had neckerchiefs. Our mothers paraded us out to local nursing homes to ply our trade. By then I had been relegated to snapping brushes against a snare drum (because my accordion skills were so lacking). K's brother claimed the accordion spot and K strummed a guitar. We were the complete package. Our big number was "Bye Bye Love", on which I somehow snagged the solo on the opening verse. We eventually harvested more money than any eight-and-nine-year-olds could dream of reaping ~ through drunken tips ~ not from nursing home residents! (see below).

K and I (and her big brother) actually ended up living together for half a year. Our bachelor uncle had purchased a triple-threat establishment in a small town that featured a bar, a restaurant and a service station; and he sorely needed a cook. So my mom and K's mom rotated weeks of short-order hash-slinging for extra seed money; and thus it only made sense to move us kids there permanently and enroll us in the local parochial school. We were ensconced in Uncle Howard's attached apartment and plied our trade as traveling minstrels, holed up in the service station lobby as drunks exiting the bar threw quarters and dollar bills at us. The three of us purchased glass piggy banks at the local mercantile and stuffed those hogs with loose cash and coin. K and I periodically raided our stash and bought colorful beaded necklaces and miscellaneous scraps at the five-and-dime.

Our first day at Catholic school, K, naturally, was a big hit; while I wanted to crawl inside a culvert. I think I eventually made one friendship ~ a girl who was as mousy as I. K was effervescent. Complete strangers would amass at her feet. She instantly became the most popular girl in her fifth-grade class. At home, she and I were best buds, but out in the real world K had many universes to command, and she precisely ignored me. I didn't have enough friends that I could afford to diss any of them. K was a princess in any company.

Our life in Uncle Howard's apartment was a cornucopia of new rock and roll sounds and images on the black and white TV. There was a syndicated program called The Lloyd Thaxton Show that was the poor itinerant's alternative to Bandstand, but, holy cow, was it great!

Here is what our eyeballs witnessed on our cathode-ray tube:

I guess you had to be there:

Albeit not rock and roll, this guy was everywhere in 1964:

Yep, The Beatles didn't appear on Lloyd Thaxton's show in '64. I guess Lloyd just didn't pay enough. Not that we didn't know who The Beatles were. We had to appease ourselves with our pocket-friendly transistor radios to hear the most influential band of all time.

The last time I saw K, I was eighteen and not quite moved out of my house, and she and some friends came to visit my mom. Not me. My mom.

But one can't sweep away what once was. K was a huge part of my life; at least a very momentous piece of it. 

I bet she's still out there, sweeping strangers off their feet.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Movie Review ~ Jersey Boys

Due to the polar vortex, (or "cold weather") I took a couple of days off this week. That afforded me some time to catch up on my Netflix bookmarks. I watched two depressing documentaries about the Fyre Festival (two-plus-some hours I'll never get back and a story I found I don't actually give a damn about), and I also watched Jersey Boys, primarily because it was directed by Clint Eastwood, who normally directs awesome movies.

Plus, it was a music flick about artists I am actually familiar with ~ The Four Seasons.

To assign a letter grade to the movie, I would rate it a C minus.

The first act is unnecessarily long. We get to know little Frankie Castelluccio, soon to be "Valli", sixteen and yelled at a lot by his mother for staying out late. Frankie cuts hair by day, his main customer being a Tony Soprano-like mobster played by Christopher Walken. Everyone acknowledges that little Frankie is a wonderful singer, even though his singing voice is catastrophically nasal to the point at which a good allergist might prescribe bed rest and a strong humidifier.

The main character in Act One, however, is Tommy DeVito (or "Chandler Bing"), a small-time hood who nevertheless fronts a musical trio and ultimately brings little Frankie into the group, due to his ability to snort snot onto the female audience members and send them into phlegm-induced convulsions.

This goes on and on, until little Frankie meets a hard-edged woman who talks him into changing his last name, and upon hearing this revelation, he immediately proposes marriage. (Frankie and Hard-Edge ultimately have three daughters, to which he sings inappropriate lullabies about how his eyes adored them, but he never laid a hand on them. Whew!)

The little quartet doesn't gain any traction, though, until DeVito's friend Joe Pesci (yes!) introduces them to a songwriter who has absolutely no cognizance that he's, in fact, gay. But that's neither here nor there in the arc of the story.

New songwriter writes a song called "Sherry" and their flouncy record producer, for whom the group has been singing background vocals, realizes that it's a hit in the making.

This begins a whirlwind of hit recordings and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show with Topo Gigio.

Act Two introduces us to the anonymous bass player's exasperation at having to share a hotel room with Tommy DeVito, who is a certified slob whose habits ultimately lead to Anonymous Bass Player quitting the band. Plus DeVito (Chandler) is constantly badgering the group's accountant for loans to pay off Tony Soprano's designated loan shark. We're not sure why Tommy needs to borrow money all the time, but he claims it's to "keep the band afloat". Apparently the record company contract is woefully paltry. We're not sure.

Eventually there is a band showdown in Tony Walken Soprano's living room, during which Little Frankie tells Tommy that enough is enough, and DeVito is banished to Las Vegas and reduced to being Joe Pesci's go-fer, while Joe peruses scripts that include the role of a sad-sack "mobster" who terrorizes Macaulaly Culkin.

Little Frankie, altruistically, volunteers to cover all of Tommy's debts. That leads to Act Three, during which Frankie plays bowling alleys and diners, collecting his twenty-dollar wages in all ones. Meanwhile, he hooks up with an unnamed newspaper reporter, who eventually just "can't deal with it" and leaves, stuffing her suitcase full of way too many articles of clothing than a normal person would pack for a weekend getaway.

Eventually, one of Frankie's generic kids dies from some malady and Frankie suffers guilt pangs until closeted gay writer pens him a new hit, which makes everything all right.

Many years later, the Four Seasons (who took their name from a bowling alley ~ not the same one in which Frankie later shilled for dollar bills) are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and meet for the first time in decades outside the hall. Frankie sports a fake "old person" look, as do the other three seasons. No one, however, is leaning on a cane. Each of the Seasons gets their turn to speak directly into the camera, to tell their side of the story, by which point the viewing audience is checking the time on their phones and Googling "good rock movies".

The movie ends by every...single...member of the cast (even the "dead" ones) performing a choreographed dance on a sound stage street. Apparently it was supposed to be an homage to the Broadway show from which the movie was adapted. But it was....weird.

Clint, Clint, Clint...I don't know what you were thinking. Maybe, like I do sometimes, you got so far into the thing that you just kept going and hoped it would all turn out all right.

I bet there's a good movie to be made about this seminal sixties group. This wasn't it.

The thing about the Four Seasons is, they were always there. No, they weren't cool. But there was something about their sound. You couldn't ignore them. Even Frankie's comeback song, which he did as a solo, will live on forever. Me, straddling the era of my big sisters and big brother and ultimately my own, felt like I'd always known them.

Sorry this video sucks, but it's the only original I could find (and good luck finding "Sherry", by the way):

This was not a huge hit, but I like this one:

This was definitely from my era:

In case you were wondering, this was Frankie's comeback song (again, 1967 ~ my era):

In 1975, I was minding my own business, listening to AM radio like I always did, and this song came on. "Is this the Four Seasons? I thought they all died in 1969!"

Speaking of Christopher "Tony Soprano" Walken, Frankie actually gets hit in the Sopranos.

And we never heard from him again.

Just kidding.

The Four Seasons legacy is way stronger than a crappy movie. 

Although I do wonder whatever happened to Chandler Bing.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Everything Old...

(It didn't do anything else. It was just a radio.)

At my 5:00 a.m. daily stop at the convenience store yesterday, the piped-in music was playing a song from 1976. I thought, well, that's interesting. Are they trying to bring 40-year-old music back? I can't blame them, really. Number one, it's good to keep in mind the clientele. Who else is stopping in for a $1.49 styrofoam cup of coffee but doddering oldsters? Additionally, is there actually any real current music?

The song playing took me back ~ back to my poor times, when all I had was (essentially) the radio pictured here. It was on my bedside table, and I left it on all night, which made for some odd dreams at times, but it was my conduit to the outside world. I didn't have a TV in the bedroom (who owned more than one TV?) and wouldn't have had a place to put one if I had it.

I was newly pregnant and alone in my euphoria, with no one to confide in who'd understand. My little sister was fourteen and my mom was dealing with issues of her own (Dad). That portable radio was my lifeline. My husband was working the night shift, so it was just me alone in a little trailer that suddenly seemed cavernous and eerily dark. The DJ would announce around midnight that radar indicated a strong thunderstorm was rumbling across the prairie, and I'd shift my body to a more baby-pleasing position and try to remain awake in case I'd need to flee, but would ultimately drift off, with no ultimate harm done.

Remembering that time, I don't recall feeling lonely or afraid. In hindsight, it was a trailer park, with its requisite miscreants; but we had a stable couple living on one side who were clearly biding their time until they could move on out...and up. It would take me nine more years to move on. The neighbors on the other side liked to crank up AC/DC 'round midnight and guffaw and shout a lot through their open windows.  No wonder I shoved up the volume on my bedside AM radio. My pitiful "partying" days had ended long before I found I was pregnant. I'd attend my husband's company Christmas party and down two glasses of champagne and stagger out of the Elks Club dizzy and nauseous. I also may have danced.

But I was more than ready to get on with life. I wanted a baby. That tiny trailer had a second bedroom that I constantly fussed with, hauling home pieces of baby furniture; attaching a musical clown mobile to the crib rail, installing a rocker in the corner; tacking cheap art to the faux-wood paneled walls.

And the radio was a constant backdrop for my contemplations.

Convenience Store Song:

This song sort of took me back to my two-glass champagne days, because it was so vomit-inducing. It was a hit during the summer of '76. I was on a fishing trip to (aptly-named) Fish Creek and clearly baby-bumped, enough so that I had to accede to maternity wear. I was wearing a lime green eyelet-trimmed tunic and the radio was playing, as it always was, and this is what came out:

1976 was the nadir of Wings. John Lennon was hiding somewhere in LA, so I was left with a bunch of silly love songs. I was torn. It was like a lullaby from the womb, hearing Paul's voice; yet the songs were lacking. Nevertheless:

I sort of dismissed this at the time, but I was wrong. I know about Dan Seals; have no idea what became of John Ford Coley. I think this song may have been too "soft rock" for me at age twenty-one. But it was everywhere ~ and deserved to be:

I still maintained a friendship with Alice II. After we resigned from the State Health Department simultaneously, she got a job...somewhere...I can't remember...and I scurried back home to work for Mom and Dad. Alice II had gotten married a couple of months after me and our lives sort of paralleled one another. She was the first to become pregnant and was living in a mobile home in the country (mobile homes weren't looked down upon in the mid-seventies), on a ranch where her new husband worked. As I always had, I took my cues from her. I admired all her baby paraphernalia and immediately went to the mall to purchase the exact same items. Neither of us knew what sex our babies would be ~ technology hadn't advanced that far ~ but both of us gave birth to boys.

Meanwhile, music was changing imperceptibly.  Neither Alice II nor I knew that something that will forever live in the annals of infamy would rear its ugly head, but it started then, in 1976:

If you listen to, God forbid, classic rock radio, you'll eventually hear this song. It's not because it's by The Who or Aerosmith, but because the song is great. It's, in fact, one of the best things, musically, to come out of the mid-seventies:

But let's get real. This is the song that's powered so many commercials for forty years and the one that screams "1976" (sorry for the poor quality, but this is the only version I could find that doesn't feature seventy-year-old Orleans hawking their greatest hit in 2013):

Work friendships ultimately don't last, because the ties that connect you only exist in the work world. I'm not sure which friendships last; maybe high school bonds. I didn't have that luxury, because Alice One's life and mine had diverged so jaggedly. Alice II and her husband and baby eventually moved about a hundred miles away, and I visited her one more time, in '77. We cooed over each other's baby boys and laughed and drank iced tea, and then she was gone.

But we'd always have Elton John:

Other artists took their bow that year:  Chicago, featuring that new lead singer who'd anchor every soundtrack of every single eighties movie, Peter Cetera; Hall and Oates, who would explode in the following decade. Who could forget Barry Manilow (even if they tried)? Some band called "The Eagles" crept up. Boz Skaggs hadn't yet hit his stride as a balladeer, but would soon. Some dude named Peter Frampton was coming alive for kids like my little sister. A band called KISS wanted to rock and roll all night (right after they removed their makeup).

There was goofy shit, like "Convoy" and "Disco Duck" ~ nothing like the seventies for crappy novelty hits. John Travolta was everywhere, especially on ABC TV, where my lovely John Sebastian was now shilling for sitcoms:

1976 was still mining the fifties (yes), with a remake of an Everly Brothers song:

This song encapsulates music in 1976:

Looking back, that year was rather frenetic, musically.

But meanwhile, come November, I had my baby boy.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Over-Rated Artists

(Just kidding!)

Tonight as I was clicking around my favorite channels on SiriusXM, it struck me that some artists are perhaps misguidedly exalted. Famous for being famous. Celebrated not so much for their music but for their persona. 

Everyone has their own list, and some people will detest me for my choices, but they're mine. And I'm not saying I loathe these guys; I'm just saying they're perhaps a pinch over-rated.

No one loves Bruce Springsteen as much as Bruce Springsteen does. I tried to read his autobiography, but it was so bloviated and precious, I gave up. His cloying exertion to come across as a "real writer" exhausted me. I don't want to be cognizant of an author's writerly struggles ~ I have enough of my own.

I was watching the 10,000 Pyramid sometime in the mid-seventies, and Dick Clark was doing the requisite celebrity interview. Some actor who I've forgotten (as has everyone else) was asked by Dick who the best rock singer was. This guy said, "Bruce Springsteen"; a name I'd never once in my life heard. Dick said something like, "A lot of people would disagree with you," and this flash in the pan responded, "Well, they'd be wrong." The actor in question was clearly from New Jersey. There's something about people from New Jersey ~ they're very sure of their opinions and that their judgements are the correct ones.

I've got nothing personal against Bruce Springsteen ~ he had his best success in the eighties when I was watching MTV, although I'm sure he would disavow those hits, because he's rather above it all, ACT-ually. My only point is that, taken as a whole, his catalog is sub-par. I do like this one, though:

Rolling Stone Magazine love-love-loves Johnny Cash. I'm not entirely sure why, but he did wear a black waistcoat, so there's that. As someone who was heavily steeped in country music in the sixties, I can tell you with certainty that Johnny Cash was not at the top of any country fan's playlist. The truth is, all his songs sounded almost precisely the same. Folsom Prison was a remake of a song he'd originally recorded in the fifties on Sun, and even in 1968 it still had that thump thump thumpety thump, like every single Johnny Cash song in history. The good news is, even I could play that intro on the guitar, and I was a shitty guitar player.

Someone with actual talent:

I do like this song, though:

My meager knowledge of the nineteen fifties confirms for me that music was putrid until Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis came along. I guess there was Perry Como and some chick singing about a doggie in the window...and maybe The Percy Faith Orchestra. The fifties were a staid time, so I can forgive the teens of that era for falling (hard) for someone who had even a semblance of spark. And granted, my perception is colored by the caricature he became, but I never understood Elvis.

I'm puzzled, much as my dad probably was when my older sisters swooned over the grainy black and white image on our TV screen when Elvis serenaded a hound dog on The Steve Allen Show. I'm torn about that appearance, because TV variety shows all the way through the nineteen sixties liked to make fun of rock/pop artists; and in this case the aim appeared to be to humiliate the future king. I'm not on board with that. I guess Steve didn't like Presley usurping Eddie Fisher's popularity.

Nevertheless, I don't "get" Elvis. Maybe it was real, but his on his singles he always sounded like he was posturing...embellishing. The only time I remember him sounding real was on a hit from 1965, "Crying In The Chapel", which also convinced my dad that this dude maybe wasn't so bad after all.

Even leaving aside his Vegas period, Elvis's RCA works were...odd. I don't know if he was popular because of the visuals, because his recordings were badly produced (sorry, Chet Atkins). The mark of a true artist is that you don't have to see them to recognize their artistry. I'd never laid eyes on the Beatles when I heard, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on my AM radio.

However, I like this one:

These are my top three. There are others, to be sure, but I've probably offended enough people for one night. Maybe I should do a post about the most under-rated artists of all time, but that would be very lengthy ~ actually it would go on forever.

Red River's New Digital CD!

All the cool kids are doing it, so we are, too! Nobody buys physical CD's anymore, but that doesn't mean Red River can't get its music out to the public.

Our new release, Life Is A Dream, is now available on our website, and will soon be available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Shazam, Pandora, and YouTube Music, which I didn't even know was a thing. I'm unclear regarding Amazon ~ there's a bunch of legalese on CDBaby's site regarding that, but I'm rather pumped about all the different distribution sites at our disposal.

If you've ever uploaded something for sale online, you know that having one's teeth ripped out would be more fun, but I accomplished in an afternoon, after editing most of our music tracks for one reason or another. Now I wait...well, I wouldn't still be waiting, but when our CD went live, I wasn't happy with the sound quality of three of the tracks, so I re-edited them and re-uploaded. DYI is great...

I can say that I'm very happy with how the project turned out, and I want to thank our designer, m2design for delivering awesome cover art.

Even if you're not in the mood to buy, surf on over to our website and click on a couple of track previews, and leave us a message if you're so inclined.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Red River Is Back!

We've been away for a while due to financial considerations, but now Red River once again has its own website. And I managed to snatch up our old domain. I am rather averse to change, after all.

You can find Red River here:

We soon will begin selling our new digital album online. Stay tuned!

Am I excited? I am!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Seventies ~ Who Knew?

If you know me, you know that I've been consistent in denigrating nineteen seventies music. My long-held stand has long been that the seventies were the absolute worst musical decade. So why am I drawn to the "70's on 7" channel on Sirius? Could it be that I've wiped that musical period from my memory? And if so, why? The seventies were most certainly the most formative season of my life. After all, I graduated from high school in 1973, and by '76 I was a mother.

I think I was torn then. I'd been steeped in country music since roughly age thirteen, and I felt like a traitor listening to pop music, which I most certainly did, especially in 1973. Then I got married to a man for whom top forty was foreign gibberish, and since I actually, technically still liked country music, I set my pop stylings aside.

But when I hear certain songs from that era, I'm practically giddy. Not all of them, mind you; just certain ones. I still can't stomach Debbie Boone who likened her new paramour to God; or Paul Anka, who was bursting with pride that he managed to inseminate a woman. Both of those songs are creepy in their own inimitable way.

Then there is this:

And I'm no snob:

Elton's best:

For personal reasons, this is my favorite:

To be continued, but damn. I'm going to immerse myself in more nineteen seventies music...