Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Pace Of Life

I am not a fan of cold snowy weather but I have to admit this "slowing down" of life and activities this week because of the snow is kind of nice. Nothing's wrong with doing it every now and then. It has been a while since we have experienced a "slow down" such as this. Sometimes we need to take a little break and just breathe, spend quality time with family, catch up on projects, read a book, etc.

With school out and many businesses closed, our local county cooperative extension service held a Snow Day photo contest, which resulted in some amazing photographs of the snow and the beautiful countryside where I live. It has been refreshing, to say the least (click here). If it takes an act of mother nature to make us see that there is more to life than the normal hustle and bustle routine, then so be it. A few days away from that isn't going to hurt us at all.

The way the weather has brought things to a halt, or near that, this week has reminded me of one of the more famous episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. "Man in a Hurry" first aired on January 14, 1963 (season three, episode 16). In that episode, Robert Emhardt plays Malcolm Tucker, a motorist who becomes frustrated with Mayberry's simple, relaxed ways. His car breaks down on the outskirts of town and he hopes to have it repaired in time to attend his meeting in Charlotte the next morning. Unfortunately, it's Sunday and Wally the mechanic refuses to do it. Finally, Gomer agrees to have a look at it, but not before Mr. Tucker learns a valuable lesson about the pace of life.

Barney: You know what I think I'm gonna do?
Andy: What?
Barney: I'm gonna go home, have me a little nap and go over to Thelma Lou's and watch a little TV.
Andy: Mmm-hmm.
Barney: Yeah, I believe that's what I'll do: go home... have a nap... then over to Thelma Lou's for TV.
Andy: Mmm-hmm.
Barney: Yep. That's the plan: right home... a little nap...
Mr. Tucker: (explodes) For the love of Mike, do it, do it. Just do it! Go take a nap, go to Thelma Lou's for TV. Just do it!
Barney: What's the hurry. (gets up to go) I'll see ya, Anj.

After spending the day with Andy at his home, Mr. Tucker begins to re-assess his values and priorities. It is a lesson we all can learn from. Even though we all have things we need to get back to, and we will soon enough, take a moment to slow down and enjoy life.

For the love of Mike, do it, do it. Just do it!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Buddy Holly: The Decca Recordings

The first major record label Buddy Holly recorded for was Decca Records in Nashville. The Decca recordings failed to produce a hit single, but after Buddy had some success with recordings on the Brunswick and Coral labels, Decca decided to package the 1956 tunes into an album. That'll Be The Day was the third and final studio album released before Buddy Holly's death on February 3, 1959. Recorded January 26, July 22 and November 15, 1956 at Bradley Film and Recording Studios, 804 16th Ave. So., Nashville, Tennessee, the album was released in April of 1958, ten months before Buddy's death.

"That'll Be The Day (Decca, 1958)"
(Side 1) You Are My One Desire, Blue Days Black Nights, Modern Don Juan, Rock Around With Ollie Vee, Ting A Ling and Girl On My Mind. (Side 2) That'll Be the Day (July 22 version), Love Me, I’m Changing All Those Changes, Don’t Come Back Knockin’ and Midnight Shift.

On October 14, 1955, Buddy, Bob Montgomery and Larry Welborn performed at Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock in a show featuring Bill Haley and The Comets and Jimmy Snow. Eddie Crandall, a Nashville agent for country singer Marty Robbins, watched their performance. 14 days later, the trio appeared at the same venue, opening for Marty Robbins. Crandall see's Buddy perform again.

About the first of December, Crandall wrote to “Pappy” Dave Stone, radio station KDAV manager, asking for exclusive rights to help Buddy obtain a recording contract. He needed a recording of four original songs. On December 7th, Buddy, Don Guess and Jerry Allison drove to Wichita Falls to record at Nesman Recording Studio. The four songs: Love Me, Don’t Come Back Knockin’, Moonlight Baby, and I Guess I Was Just A Fool were submitted on acetate to Decca.

Around January 23, 1956, Buddy negotiated a recording contract with Decca and a three-year songwriter’s contract with Cedarwood Publishing Company. The first session on January 26th in Nashville included Buddy, Sonny Curtis and Don Guess under the name, Buddy and the Two Tones. They and the Nashville musicians recorded four songs: Blue Days, Black Nights, Don’t Come Back Knockin’, Love Me and Midnight Shift.


Buddy's legal name was Charles Hardin Holley. On February 8th, he received Decca’s contract from Jim Denny of Cedarwood Publishing. Someone had inadvertently left out the E in his last name. As a result, Buddy adopted the Holly spelling for his last name.

On July 22, 1956 Holly, Curtis, Guess, and Jerry Allison went to Nashville for the second Decca recording session. The songs that were recorded were I’m Changing All Those Changes, Girl On My Mind, Rock Around With Ollie Vee, Ting-A-Ling and a slowed-down version That’ll Be The Day, which was also four steps higher than the later hit record released on Brunswick. Buddy detested the Decca version.

On November 15th, Buddy returned to Nashville for the third and final recording session with Decca. Rock Around With Ollie Vee, Modern Don Juan and You Are My One Desire were recorded.

The complete personnel list from the Decca recording sessions was: Buddy Holly — vocal & guitar, Sonny Curtis — lead guitar, Grady Martin — rhythm guitar, Doug Kirkham — bass and percussion, Don Guess — bass, Jerry Allison — drums, Harold Bradley — guitar, Floyd Cramer — piano, Farris Coursey — drums, E.R. “Dutch” McMillan — alto saxophone, Owen Bradley — piano and Boots Randolph — saxophone.


On January 22, 1957, Decca informed Buddy that his renewal option was not going to be exercised and that his contract would expire on January 26, 1957. On February 24th and 25th, Buddy traveled to the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico and recorded I’m Looking For Someone To Love and what would become the hit version of That’ll Be The Day. Besides Holly, the other players were Larry Welborn on bass, Allison on drums and Niki Sullivan, Gary Tollett and Ramona Tollett singing sing background vocals on That’ll Be The Day.

Afterwards, Buddy found out he was restricted from recording any of the songs that were done under his contract with Decca. A name, other than Buddy Holly, would be needed in order to release the new version of That’ll Be The Day. Buddy's group considered briefly, then discarded The Beetles before selecting The Crickets.


Norman Petty was able to secure a record deal for The Crickets with Brunswick Records and a record deal for Buddy Holly as a solo artist with Coral Records. Buddy knew Norman Petty's recording of That'll Be the Day was special. He sold the future hit to Brunswick and when Decca got wind of it, they tried to sue Brunswick before realizing they owned Brunswick. They also found out they owned Coral as well.

Over the next month, the make up of The Crickets came together as: Buddy Holly, vocals and lead guitar; Jerry Allison, drums; Joe Mauldin, bass; and Niki Sullivan, rhythm guitar. After Buddy was killed, his eventual replacement became Sonny Curtis, who still sings lead for the Crickets today.


("Buddy Holly Collector's Edition", 2008)

Buddy Holly "The Collector's Edition," is a 3-CD package that comes with a booklet that tells much of the history of Buddy Holly. It comes in an attractive collectors tin box. The last CD is a reissue of the MCA release of the Decca recordings, minus Ting-A-Ling. It's what I have been listening to lately. All of the recordings are great, with the exception of the slowed-down higher-pitched version of That'll Be The Day.


This 1967 release, "The Great Buddy Holly," on Vocalion Records is a collection of the Decca recordings, minus Ting-A-Ling.


This 1982 release, "The Great Buddy Holly," on MCA Records is a reissue of the 1967 Vocalion Records release of the Decca recordings, minus Ting-A-Ling.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Talking Bible

The American Bible Society's The Talking Bible, an audio recording of the King James Version bible, was first recorded on vinyl around 1950. The project, narrated by actor Alexander Scourby who is heralded as having the greatest voice ever recorded, was done on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. It took more than four years to complete, but it was a best-seller. The records, which have the titles etc. in brail on one side and writing on the other side, are now part of the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.

The Talking Bible in vinyl was recorded using the 16 2/3 rpm format, which was used for a short period of time beginning in 1950. The speed, mostly too slow for recording music, was perfect for recording spoken words. Play time was almost double that of a 33 1/3 rpm record.

The 10-inch16 2/3 rpm records were considered novelties even during the years they were available. For obvious reasons, the invention of the cassette killed the 16 2/3 rpm format. But, for a brief era, it served a specific and useful purpose. This historic Talking Bible vinyl set (15 records of the new testament) is a nice addition to my growing record collection.

The Murder of James Holt

James Holt came to Kentucky from Virginia. He married Rebecca Brown in 1825 and they settled on Illwill Creek in Clinton County, where James took up farming and they began raising a family.

When Rebecca died years later, James decided to move out west. It was about 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon of Friday, November 15, 1850, when James stopped by a dram shop at Old Jackson in the northern part of Lawrence County, Arkansas and commenced to drinking. While doing so, he very imprudently remarked that he was prepared to pay one-thousand dollars down for a tract of land.

No one took him up on his offer so James mounted his horse and left. He was going to take his search for land elsewhere. After traveling only a short distance, Holt came upon a man by the name of James Minor, who was standing in the road. Holt stopped and asked how far it was to a place where he could bed down for the night. After the two men talked, Holt started to ride on, but as he passed by, Minor, who was still standing in the road, struck him across the forehead with the barrel of his rifle.

Sometime during the night, Holt woke up in a wooded area. He had been beaten and robbed of his money, horse, pistols and anything else of any value, and left for dead. After wandering about in the woods for some time, he found a road and managed to make it to a home not too far away. But, his injuries were too severe and James Holt died the next day.

A posse of thirty armed men took off after Minor. After a pursuit of some thirty miles, they came upon him and his wife, and another man, Samuel McGhee, who had been an accomplice in the killing. As the posse was bringing them in, Minor leaped from his horse and dived into Leven Point River as they were crossing it. Luckily, one of the members of the posse jumped in after him and Minor was recaptured.

All of Holt's belongings were recovered, including the money. A jury did not believe Minor's claim of self-defense and on December 6, 1850, he and McGhee were executed for the murder and robbery of James Holt.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Remembering Buddy Holly in 2015

For me, every day is a Buddy Holly day, not just on Feb. 3rd, the anniversary of the day the music died. I've been a Buddy 'Holly-ic' as long as I can remember. In 1990, I found and purchased "The Complete Buddy Holly," a $100 valued set of the entire discography, for $20 at a Somerset pawn shop.

Since then, I have been able to secure the autographs of the remaining Crickets as well as the real Peggy Sue, who sent me a copy of her book. Tommy Allsup, the session guitarist on many of Buddy's recordings, was on that ill-fated 1959 tour. He was supposed to be on the plane with Buddy but Ritchie Valens, who was sick, won a coin toss and boarded the plane instead. In 1990, Allsup came to Burkesville, along with Nashville session fiddle player, Buddy Spicher, and performed at a barbecue put on by the late Tom Parkman. Lucky for me, I was friends with Parkman so I was invited to attend his party. While there, I took a picture of Tommy Allsup and got his autograph. When I mentioned I was a Buddy Holly fanatic, he just lowered his head and did not reply. The only Buddy Holly-related autograph I was never able to get was Crickets guitarist Niki Sullivan and Waylon Jennings, who was also on the 1959 tour as Buddy's bass player.

Buddy Holly's music was fresh and energetic. Buddy knew how to arrange. Vie Petty's piano playing on those songs is amazing and, of course, Buddy Holly was a phenomenal guitarist. Buddy Holly greatly influenced the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Buddy once said, "Without Elvis, none of us would be here." In the mid 70's, before his own death, Elvis said, "Looking back over the last 20 years, I guess the guy I've admired most in rock and roll is Buddy Holly." Now, that's respect. On January 31, 1959, Robert Zimmerman, the future Bob Dylan, went to see Buddy Holly perform at the Duluth, Minnesota National Guard Armory. Three days later, Buddy was killed. Accepting a Grammy for Album of the Year for Time Out Of Mind in 1998, Dylan said: "When I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him…and he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was — I don't know how or why — but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way."

Here is a nice 'local' connection to Buddy Holly. Sonny West wrote two of the Crickets' hits: Rave On and Oh Boy. In 1960, he started frequenting Mike's 66 Bar on Route 66 in Grants, New Mexico. The reason was a guitar player by the name of George Hudson. George was my dads guitar playing partner and friend. Every year at this time I try to write something about Buddy Holly, to help bring some awareness of Buddy Holly to my little corner of the world. It's not so much about the day the music died as it is about the man who took rock and roll to a whole other level. In his book, "Rock 'n' Roll: The 100 Best Singles," Paul Williams wrote, "It only fully became rock and roll when Buddy Holly started singing it."

Rave on...Buddy Holly Lives!

"Memories will follow me forever, Tho' I know our dreams cannot come true, All those precious things we shared together, Time goes by, I'll still remember you" (from Buddy's song, That Makes It Tough).

Friday, January 16, 2015

Remembering 1970's Martial Arts Films

Martial arts in Hollywood was practically unknown in the 1930's and 1940's, except maybe for the judo of Asian detective hero Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) and later in films by James Cagney. After World War II there was jiu-jitsu. After the Korean Conflict, tae-kwondo and karate. After Vietnam there was Thai boxing."By the 1960s, karate-chopping was used in lots of films, even in cartoons, but never central to the plot. Things were different in the Far East, where, beginning in 1949, Wong Fei-Hung (Master Wong) was a lion dancer mythologized into a Robin-Hood-style action hero. The character was so successful, more than 100 features were made. Hong Kong studios cranked out mass-quantities of action tales that combined balletic fighting styles with motifs drawn from history, folklore, nationalism, crime and bestselling novels.

These native martial-arts features were worlds away from the Hollywood productions where kung fu was just another weapon up the sleeve of cop, detective or spy. Beginning in the 1970's, martial-arts movies with cryptic plots and outrageous stunts began being exported to the U.S. The films were shoddily- overdubbed into English, in a mishmash of accents with no real care for what the original Hong Kong scripts might be saying. With few recognizable stars (except for Bruce Lee), the movies were widely ignored by mainstream critics and audiences.

One place they were not ignored was in my home. Because my brother, Mark, was into martial arts, we watched a lot of those movies during the 1970's, usually on Sunday afternoon. Each one had the really bad English overdubs and outrageously iconic sound effects. I remember Kung Fu Theater, Jimmy Wang Yu, Jim Kelly and Chuck Norris, although specific movie titles elude me. While we often giggled at the poor overdubs, the movies were actually good. Lots of fighting and Bruce Lee was all that was needed to keep us watching. The bad English overdubs were an added attraction. While on the screen you could plainly see the Asian actor speaking many words, the English overdub would only be three words, like "I KILL YOU."

1970's martial arts films are a cherished memory from my childhood. I would love to go back to those days and watch those movies again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Three Chords

It doesn't take long for a kid who's bought a guitar and is jamming away in the basement to figure out that all he needs is three chords. Or, let me say that another way: If you are a kid who has bought a guitar, head to the basement, or the bedroom, and learn the three chord arrangements...the I, IV, V's of music, and soon you will be on your way to music bliss. Nothing's wrong with complexity if that is what you're into, but the wonderment of it all is when you learn those three chords, like G, C and D, E, A and B, or C, F and G, and and soon you find yourself with tons of material.

What's so hard about three chords? Nothing, well it's a bit more complex than that, but consider all the famous musicians down through the years who succeeded with just three chords, four at the most. That takes in just about every single artist or band that's ever strung up a guitar, through all decades and music genres. AC/DC built a career around three chords. So did Willie Nelson and the Everly Brothers, not to mention Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and that band from Liverpool -- The Beatles. And, consider that little ol' band from Texas, ZZ Top...same three guys, same three chords.

Country songwriter Harlan Howard said all you need is three chords and the truth, though Woodie Guthrie claimed that if you play more than two chords, you're showing off. Seriously, looking back on music during my lifetime, there are so many out there who went through twenty-five years, eighteen albums, fourteen tours, nine number ones and three chords. From Elvis to James Brown, the Ramones, Patsy Cline and on and on, right through today's musicians, it's as easy, or as hard, as three chords.

I am self-taught and mostly play by ear. I can remember when I first caught on to it. Finding the major chords led to the discovery of minor chords. I would play one, then the other. The difference was clear, and it was also amazing. It was a HUGE discovery, and when I wondered why my three chords did not sound like the three chords on the record, I stumbled upon inverted chords (the different ways to play one chord) and instantly a whole new and exciting world opened up for me. Suddenly, my chords sounded like the record. And, of course, when I discovered all the above, I discovered vocal harmony. Sitting at that old piano on our back porch, that was a great day, hahaha. I LOVE music!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Night Before Christmas With Steve Lawson

'Twas the night before Christmas when all over Facebook, not a member was posting, not even a look. The folks with computers were sitting in chairs in hopes that their weatherman would soon be there. When up on the screen there arose such a clatter, I spit Coke all over the place, what on earth was the matter.

I signed into Windows and quickly I dashed to open up YouTube and watch Johnny Cash. Keith Moon on drums with the Who, Hall & Oates, Dave Letterman and Paul Shafer on the late night TV show, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but Fleetwood Mac, I had nothing to fear.

There was an old, old drummer, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment the singer was Stevie Nicks. With more harmony than the Eagles, the Beatles they came and I whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now George! Now Ringo!
Now Paul and John, too!
And the 5th one, Billy Preston!
Oh, and Brian Epstein can't forget that dude!
To the top of the charts!
To Royal Albert Hall!
 She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
John, George, Ringo and Paul!"

Well, I grabbed a Twinkie as I heard on the roof, the shingles were dancing, it was the wind you goof! I put down my laptop after turning down the sound, in came Steve Lawson, he was back from town.

He was dressed like a drummer from his head to his foot. I started to leave but he said stay put. A bundle of drum sticks he had flung on his back. He looked like the drummer from the rock group, The Knack.

I choked on that Twinkie when he sang Chuck Berry, he sang Guns N Roses right after Peter, Paul and Mary! He had a crumb on his face and a smudge on his belly, then he asked me if I, too, wanted a peanut butter and jelly.

He wasn't chubby or plump, more like an elf on the shelf, and I laughed when I saw him, then spilled Sprite all over myself. A blink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know he was out of bread.

He said a few words, then went straight to work on a can of pop, he was a soda jerk. After taking a tissue and blowing his nose, he unplugged his iPod, then out the door he goes.

As he left he sang to a beat while I whistled. It sounded pretty much like a bear in a thistle. Then I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, here's the weather you all, it's gonna be a good night!