Sunday, October 3, 2021

Caffeine


Just say no to drugs -- unless the drug is caffeine.

My handy Mister Coffee slowly died over the last couple of days. I didn't want to believe it was true. After all, it dripped approximately a tablespoon of tepid coffee into the decanter after about an hour. I tried smacking it, unplugging it, repeatedly punching the "brew" button on and off, but I finally had to accept the sad fact that Mister Coffee had passed away. 

Thus, I was marooned on a sad island bereft of sweet, sweet mocha beans. I thought I could fight through it. I had some Diet Dr. Pepper in the fridge, so I guzzled a couple cans, but my surly disposition told me Diet Dr. Pepper was a woeful substitute for the real stuff. (How much caffeine is contained inside a twelve-ounce can of soda, really?)

I finally had to admit the truth -- I am an addict. A caffeine addict. 

Step 1 -- I admit I am powerless over caffeine. My life has become unmanageable.

I need go no further than Step 1. 

Being without (currently) a mode of transportation, I scraped Amazon for coffee makers I could afford, and most importantly, one that could be delivered TODAY. Nobody could guarantee same-day delivery, so I went to the Target site and paid an extra ten dollars just to get a sleek carafe deposited on my doorstep. 

And I got it! Same-day delivery is phenomenal!

So, when I awake in the morning, if the heavens align, I will have a steaming cup awaiting me. 

And life will once again make sense.

Everybody's got their vices. Everybody. 

This is one that doesn't hurt anybody. Except perhaps my pocketbook. 

But I can live with that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ Part Three

 


Watch this:


And this:

No, Don Rich wasn't inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in the Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician category (again). That anti-Bakersfield bias lives strong within the mysterious HOF voters. But is there any other sideman more famous than Don Rich? (answer: no) But of course, Don Rich died in 1974, so those mysterious voters no doubt assume that everyone's forgotten him.

So, we have a tie this year: Pete Drake and Eddie Bayers. Funny how the HOF can sometimes induct more than just a single artist.

Before Lloyd Green came along, Pete Drake was the most famous studio steel guitar player in country music. He played on hits such as Rose Garden, Behind Closed Doors, and Stand By Your Man, among innumerable other tracks, hits and non-hits. His fingers must have gotten awfully sore. 

Drake passed away in 1988, which means Jerry Lee Lewis only has about thirty-three years (at age one hundred and eighteen) until, he, too, gets honored.

I almost didn't include Pete Drake's more creepy side, but any summation of his career would be incomplete without his infamous "talk box". Of course I was a kid when I first heard this on the radio, and it was the stuff of nightmares. Nice little novelty, though, I guess. 


Regardless, Pete Drake deserves his due.

Eddie Bayers, on the other hand, has no creepy proclivities that I'm aware of. Eddie has played on tracks by artists ranging from Tanya Tucker to Reba to Garth to George Strait. He also was a member of the Notorious Cherry Bombs, and played on tracks such as this:


On the plus side, at least Eddie is still alive to enjoy the honor.

Studio musicians, like Hargus (Pig) Robbins (2012) and Lloyd Green (not yet!) absolutely deserve any accolade bestowed upon them. So many of the tracks we love and cherish wouldn't be the tracks we love and cherish without these musicians' contributions. 

Still mad about Don Rich, though.



2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ Part Two

 

In order to be eligible for the Country Music Hall Of Fame's veteran's category, an artist must have reached national prominence at least forty years prior.

That list of performers thus include artists such as Tanya Tucker, Lynn Anderson, JERRY LEE LEWIS, among others.

So, what did the mysterious HOF members do? They inducted R&B star Ray Charles.

Ray Charles recorded one ostensibly country album in 1962, Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (first clue that someone is not country: call it country and western).

I was seven years old in 1962 and I do remember hearing a couple of the tracks from the album on the radio:

Even at seven I knew this wasn't country. The second track is how country would sound if Andy Williams tried to sing country (Andy would, no doubt, add the "and western" to his track label). The first track is fine as an R&B version of Don Gibson's country song.

So eighty-five-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis, who devoted years and years to actual country music, can smile down from heaven when he is finally inducted into the hall of fame. Maybe Faron Young who, too, only got inducted after he died, can join him in his celebration.

Ray Charles was a great artist. He just wasn't a country artist. So why was he inducted into the HOF, bypassing actual deserving country stars? 

The Hall Of Fame needs to widen its induction process. Why only one artist in each of the three categories per year? Come on. If they're going to be politically correct, fine, I guess. But how about three in each category? Even then they wouldn't be able to keep up.

Yes, Jerry Lee Lewis deserved this. He absolutely deserved this. 

I've pretty much washed my hands of this "organization".

2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees - Part 1

 

 

I admit, I was a year off. That's not bad, though. I had no hope nor expectation that Marty Stuart would be inducted in the Modern Era category in 2020. I simply felt it was The Judds' time.

I readily admit I completely missed The Judds' rise. I'd abandoned country music for about a decade, which was completely country music's fault; not mine. And nineteen eighties pop was really, really good; I don't care who wants to argue the point -- while country music was putrid. Sure, I missed country's renaissance, but how was I to know country that would suddenly heal itself? I'd chalked it up as a lost cause, after too many Sylvia and Billy Crash Craddock singles. 

I sure didn't know about this:


Or this:


Or this:


In fact, I missed the best of The Judds. I did keep up with them via People Magazine, though. Constant drama is a catalyst for bad, and The Judds were nothing if not drama. I scrolled through the articles about Wynonna's marriages and Naomi's and Wynonna's squabbles. They became tabloid fodder and diminished the talent that they were. But living in the spotlight probably changes a person; makes them keen to their public image. 

By the time I learned to appreciate The Judds they were almost over. Their hit-making days didn't last long, basically from 1984 to 1991, but they did score fourteen number ones in only eight years.

A few of their better recordings:

To be eligible for the modern era category, at least twenty but not more than forty years, must have passed since the artist reached national prominence. What this means is that The Judds beat out the obviously most deserving candidate, Dwight Yoakam. The Country Music Hall Of Fame and Nashville in general has long had a bias against Bakersfield artists (Merle Haggard simply could not be ignored), so it will be interesting to witness the HOF twists themselves into knots in the future to NOT induct Dwight.

I rarely agree with the Hall Of Fame choices, but I don't begrudge The Judds. They simply could no longer be ignored by whoever the mysterious HOF voters are. I will say, however, that three superior recordings do not necessarily elevate an artist to superior status. But no one can deny that they left their imprint on country music.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Tom T. Hall

 The first time I became cognizant of Tom T. Hall was via a hit record that I quickly grew to hate:


It was one of those tracks that intrigues you the first time you hear it, but over-exposure bakes in its more annoying features, like the dobro riff that completely devalues a wonderful instrument like the dobro.

Nevertheless, I don't even know how I knew that Tom T. Hall wrote the song, nor did I have a clue who Tom T. Hall was. Radio in 1968 didn't exactly tout the writer of a hit song. Maybe his name stuck in my head because he, like Jeannie C. Riley, incorporated his middle initial into his name.

As I became more cognizant of him as a pre-eminent country songwriter, I noticed something odd -- his songs rarely included choruses. They were a series of verses, prose; a narrative story. They didn't fit the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure that everyone in music understood was the norm. Yet somehow they worked. Often the listener didn't notice there was no chorus. The most one could claim about Hall's songs was that they included a "refrain".

I suspect Tom T. was a frustrated novelist. Yet he had the magic spark that spun his songs into gold. 

I've written before about the first country song I actually swooned over the first time I heard it late one night on a scratchy signal from Ralph Emery's WSM:


It may have been simply because it was Faron or perhaps it was the arrangement, or both; but I can't deny that this track clutched my heart. And Tom T. Hall wrote it.

Then I found out that Hall also wrote this:


 And this:

(This one actually does have a chorus)

And this:

 
I bought a Tom T. Hall album. Not sure why, but I bought a lot of albums, basically whatever was available in J.C. Penneys' basement in 1968 - 1971. I think it might have been because I liked this track:
 

I confess I never understood Hall's songwriting method, but no one can deny that it worked. Somehow. Few can go against the grain and yet produce something timeless. 
 
And I'll always be in his debt for giving me my first country music swoon.
 
RIP, Tom T. Hall, who passed away on August 20, 2021.
 
"Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes
God bless little children while they're still too young to hate"
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
'Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine


 



Don Everly


When I was nine, I along with my two closest cousins took accordion lessons (it was something our dads wanted). Music lessons, regardless of the instrument, are a valuable tool -- studying an instrument enhances brain development and memory and concentration, as well as coordination. And it can be fun if the kid is matched to the right instrument. Accordion wasn't for me, but learning how to play pleased my dad, so that was a net plus.

Anyway, our teacher decided it would be fun for the three of us to form a little trio. I don't know if it was simply a fun diversion for her or if she actually saw something in us (it was the former, no doubt). Thus, I got moved to the drum (yes, drum, singular -- a snare drum), my cousin Paul stuck with the accordion, and his sister Karen got to learn some guitar chords. For the life of me, I don't remember what we called ourselves -- something Ramblers, I think. Our moms were excited. They outfitted us in fringed felt skirts (not Paul), plastic boots and matching black bolero hats. We memorized our meager repertoire and showed up to entertain at nursing homes and street fairs. I liked performing, really liked it. Our appearances were a welcome diversion. I've always been prone to boredom, and these little entertainment moments stirred up a bit of excitement.

What does this have to do with Don Everly?

Well, our trio's big "hit number" was Bye Bye Love. Though my teacher favored my cousin Karen, she inexplicably gave me the first verse to belt out. I felt like a star. And our version of the song was a hit, at least with the geriatric crowd and later with my uncle's bar patrons, who proffered dollar bills or a couple of quarters to have us sing it again.

So, Bye Bye Love has always held a special place in my heart.

There goes my baby with someone new

He sure looks happy, I sure am blue

Frankly, at nine, the Everly Brothers were a little bit before my time. I'd of course heard them on my mom's kitchen radio, but Bye Bye Love was the only track of the brothers that actually registered with me. My brother, who was nine years older then me and owned (it seemed) every album in the world, possessed their greatest hits album, and I eventually, after I got done secretly borrowing every other LP he owned, got around to listening to the Everlys.

Little kids don't like ballads. Their musical taste is sadly unsophisticated. So I was drawn to more peppy, simpler tracks, like this:


 This one, though, written by Don, might be my favorite:


Later, of course, I was introduced, sometimes in a roundabout way (hear me, Nazareth and Krauss/Plant?) to their phenomenal ballads.


(best quality video I could find)

As my tastes (and I) matured, I grew to love the Everlys' ballads, like these:
 

 

Their hits that were written by Felice and Beaudloux Byrant weren't among my favorites (except for Bye Bye Love), maybe because they smacked of novelty songs, although Wake Up Little Susie wasn't bad. (Don's opening guitar riff improved the track by miles).
 

In 1984, when an Everlys track blasted out of my radio speaker, I was happy. Though this is nowhere near the best song Paul McCartney ever wrote, it's all in the presentation, kids:
 

What did the Everly Brothers do for music? From The Guardian:

Quite aside from the Beatles, the Everly Brothers were feted by everyone from the Rolling Stones – Keith Richards hailed Don as “one of the best rhythm guitar players I’ve ever heard” and called their voices “almost mystical” – to the Beach Boys. Paul Simon called them “the most beautiful-sounding duo I ever heard”, Bob Dylan claimed “we owe these guys everything – they started it all”, while Neil Young suggested his entire career was based on trying and failing to sound like them.
 
The duo fractured acrimoniously in 1973 and would remain broken for almost ten years, until a breathtaking reunion concert at Royal Albert Hall in '83 reminded everyone of the treasure we'd all been missing. I can't count the number of times I watched the concert on HBO; then ran out and bought the live album. I'm not sure I really, truly appreciated the brothers until then.

Phil Everly passed away in 2014. Don Everly died August 21, 2021 at the age of 84. 

Nobody (nobody) is going to come along to replace the Everly Brothers. And that's okay. Some artists are considered singular for a reason. 

And thanks, Don and Phil, for providing me with my short moment in the sun.






Saturday, July 31, 2021

Estimated Audience - Two


Yep, my Hitsvilly podcast is three weeks old and Anchor tells me my estimated audience is two.

That's okay -- I'm new. And I'm enjoying the process. One has to enjoy what they do. The podcast might catch on or it might not. It's still a win/win for me.

But please check it out if you have a minute.