Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Some Nutty New Year Tunes.



This year's cooked!

I believe these songs speak for themselves.

Still, I can't help but wonder: Think of how the '60s would have been different had "Mr. Jones" in Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" been Spike Jones?





If this guy shows up at your New Years party, just leave quietly. It'll be better that way, trust me.



And this next one, by ascended master Allan Sherman, gives a little hint of what's coming tomorrow .
on Throwback Thursday.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

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Sunday, December 28, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
Webcasting!
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)ksfr.org

Here's the playlist below
Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Terrell's Sound World Facebook page

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE

Friday, December 26, 2014

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST


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Friday, December 26, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
Webcasting! 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist below:



Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Santa Fe Opry Facebook page 

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE
Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Thursday, December 25, 2014

THROWBACK THURSDAY: At the Christmas Ball




Merry Christmas, blog fans.

Christmas comes but once a year, and to me it brings good cheer.

Those aren't my words. They were sung by Bessie Smith in her song that ought to be a Yuletide favorite, "At the Christmas Ball," recorded in 1925.

So let's kick off Throwback Thursday with Bessie's song and follow it with some other classic blues Christmas tunes.





And here's some "Christmas Morning Blues" with Victoria Spivey, written by Lonnie Johnson and recorded in 1927:

Here's

Christmas with Butterbeans & Susie with a song recorded in 1930.



And while this last one was recorded in the late '50s or early '60s, a few decades after the classic blues era, I just love "Santa Claus" by Sonny Boy Williamson. The moral of his story: Keep your hands out of drawers in which they don't belong!



Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Twisted Tales of Christmas from Rev. Glen

About 10 years ago, a colleague at KSFR turned me on to a cheerful little Christmas ditty that warmed my heart.

It was called "Even Squeaky Fromme Loves Christmas" and was sung by someone named The Rev. Glen Armstrong.

The song starts out, "When Jesus died for man's sins, he even died for Manson ..."

(It occurs to me that some of you youngsters might not be familiar with Ms. Fromme. Here, educate yourself ...)

Here's the song:


 

A few Holiday seasons later, I discovered another Christmas song by Rev. Armstrong, "The Death of an Elf." It's a little darker than "Squeaky."


So who is this guy?

I found a 2007 post on WFMU's Beware the Blog that contains a bunch of his (non-Christmas songs) from a 1990 album and this information:

Detroit hipsters remember Glen best as the leader of The Dirty Clergy, a loose configuration that would show up at bars, poetry slams and art galleries to deliver a most peculiar blend of beat poetry, free jazz and 60's soul music. I myself remember one night in the late 80's where Glen and band took the stage at a huge poetry gathering down at Detroit's Old Miami, played a raucous set that ended with Glen performing Hamlet's famous solioquy to the tune of "Land of 1,000 Dances" and a medley of Tom Waits's "Singapore" and The Beatles's "Helter Skelter," (with Armstrong playing banjo, no less. If this performance was ever released or bootlegged, please contact me!) I saw the band a number of times at Union Street and even the Majestic, but some time in the 90's Glen seemed to simply vanish.

The blog implies that Armstrong fell off the face of the Earth. But I located a 2011 interview HERE.

The Rev. isn't the first to sing about Squeaky. It's not a Christmas song, but Loudon Wainwright III mentioned her in this classic:



Now that Squeaky's been out a few years, maybe Loudon should do a sequel.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Song for Blixa

My friend Sluggo, who is lead guitarist for the San Francisco punk band The Grannies, has a seven-year-old song Blixa who has been fighting leukemia nearly half of his life.

Sluggo recorded this following song for Blixas with a band he calls The Hollow Log Sleepers, (which includes Sluggo's wife and Blixa's mom Laurian Rhodes.)

"Through his short life Blixa has taught our family, our friends and I the power of staying positive in the face of cancer. He hopes to be done with treatment next year, but in the meantime every purchase of this song goes to a health fund set up for Blixa," Sluggo said on his Youtube page.

Check out the video and then go buy the MP3 of it on iTunes to help the family with medical expenses. " After the conclusion of his treatment, the proceeds from this song will all be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society," says Sluggo.

Here's the video:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

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Sunday, December 21, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
With guest co-host Scott Gullett
Webcasting!
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)ksfr.org

Here's the playlist below

Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Terrell's Sound World Facebook page

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST


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Friday, December 19, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
Webcasting! 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist below:



Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Santa Fe Opry Facebook page 

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE
Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Thursday, December 18, 2014

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: Top 10 Country Christmas Songs

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
December 19, 2014


Trucks, trains, prison, Mama. And Christmas. These are some of the things that make a great country song. Indeed, some of my favorite Christmas songs happen to be by country or alternative country (whatever that is) artists. Country singers have loved singing about the holiday season for longer than I’ve been around. Some folks don’t realize that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” started out as a hillbilly tune, written and first performed by a singing cowboy named Gene Autry.

Here is a list of my personal top 10 country Christmas songs, in no particular order. (Warning: As noted above, some are probably considered “alternative.”) Though none are as famous as “Rudolph,” in my book, they deserve to be.

1. “Old Toy Trains” by Roger Miller. The multi- talented musician wrote this back in the late 1960s for his son Dean, a toddler at the time, and it became a holiday hit. When it first came out, I was too old to believe in Santa Claus. But it made me wish I wasn’t. While Miller is known for his clever, hillbilly hepcat lyrics, “Old Toy Trains” was a rare public glimpse into his sweet side.



2. “Lonely Christmas Call” by George Jones. There is something about Christmas that makes happiness happier and misery more miserable. George Jones, who had perhaps the most soulful voice in country, nailed the misery in this holiday heartacher. It’s about a guy whose wife abandoned him and their children on (you guessed it) Christmas Day. “The kids are lonely here without you/Even wrote ol’ Santa about you,” Jones laments. “If you could see their little faces/As round the tree they take their places.”




3. “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” by Buck Owens. This one’s not that deep. Just good holiday fun. Buck and the Buckaroos were at the peak of their power about this time, and this new take on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” made the season even jollier. Here's a version with Susan Raye.



4. “Santa Can’t Stay” by Dwight Yoakam. A darker version of “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”: On one level, it’s hilarious. A drunken father dons a Santa suit and barges in on Mama and her new beau, Ray, as the shocked and mystified children look on. But any divorced guy who can remember his first Christmas after the split-up can’t help but feel pangs of horror listening to it. “Mama said Santa can’t stay/Said he might just beat the crap out of Ray.”



5. “If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard. Written during a recession in the early ’70s, this song helped cement Merle Haggard’s reputation as a workingman’s troubadour. It’s the story of a guy who got laid off from his factory job right before Christmas. “Now I don’t mean to hate December, it’s meant to be the happy time of year/And my little girl don’t understand why Daddy can’t afford no Christmas here.” His situation, of course, doesn’t get resolved by the end of the song. But there’s hope that the family will be “in a warmer town come summertime.”



6. “Nothing But a Child” by Steve Earle. The late-1980s duet with Maria McKee of Lone Justice starts out by telling the story of the three wise men following the star to the manger in Bethlehem: “They scarce believed their eyes, they’d come so many miles/And the miracle they prized was nothing but a child.” But this isn’t really a song about the baby Jesus. It’s about the miracle of all babies. “Now all around the world, in every Iittle town/Every day is heard a precious little sound/And every mother kind and every father proud/Looks down in awe to find another chance allowed.”



7. “No Vacancy” by Marlee McLeod. One of my favorite tunes by the Alabama-born songwriter (who retired from the music biz way too early) tells the story of someone, a truck driver perhaps, who drives for a living. “Is that the star of Bethlehem?/No, that’s the Holiday Inn/Is that the light from a stable I see?/No, it’s a sign that says `No Vacancy.’ ” The guitar break is based on “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”



8. “Six Bullets for Christmas” by Angry Johnny and the Killbillies. Even murderous cretins love Christmas, and from the deepest backwoods of Massachusetts comes Angry Johnny, with this twisted holiday tale. Angry knows all those things that make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year: Santa Claus, drinking, snow, depression, gunplay, jingle bells, and homicide. In other words, all the elements of a good Angry Johnny song — plus all the Christmas trimmings. “Six Bullets” is on Angry Johnny’s 2010 Christmas album, Bang Bang Baby Bang Bang Merry Christmas, which is full of similar Yuletide musical mayhem.



9. “Merry Christmas From the Family” by Robert Earl Keen. This song, from Robert Earl Keen’s 1994 album, Gringo Honeymoon, deals with a lovable, if severely dysfunctional, Texas family that sits down for a hilarious holiday feast. There’s the brother with various kids from various marriages and a new wife who’s a 12-step zealot; the sister who brings a new boyfriend, whose ethnicity provokes suspicion (until he sings “Feliz Navidad,” which apparently redeems him in the eyes of the family); and Fred and Rita from Harlingen (“I don’t remember how I’m kin to them”). Keen actually wrote a sequel to this called “Happy Holidays, Ya’ll.” He shouldn’t have. The original never will be matched.



10. “Blue Christmas Lights” by Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen. Buck Owens co-wrote this sad Yuletide honky-tonk weeper with Red Simpson back in the 1960s. But I actually like this version, from the mid-1990s, better. Chris Hillman, a former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother, and Herb Pedersen make it haunting with their harmonies. As far as I can determine, this song was solely released by Sugar Hill Records, on a mostly unremarkable Christmas compilation called Tinsel Tunes. (The only other track worth noting is a live version of Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family.”)




Enchiladas roasting on an open fire: More music to ruin any Christmas party! Hear my podcast special at www.bigenchiladapodcast.com.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Getting Ready For Christmas with Rev. J.M. Gates

For today's Throwback Thursday, let's enjoy a little Christmas cheer with the Rev. J.M. Gates, a preacher from Atlanta. Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rock Dale Park was his church.

Gates recorded a number of short sermons between 1926 (when he was 42 years old) and 1941, the year he died. He cut more than 200 sides for a variety of labels.

As is typical with many old time African American preachers of his time, Gates' sermons usually start out as spoken, but gradually shift to singing. With call-and-response action from members of his congregation, Gates' best tracks are musical as well as rhythmic.

According to Bil Carpenter in his book Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia , Gates was responsible for introducing the gospel music of Thomas Dorsey to the black church market. Gates' first record was his biggest hit. That was one called "Death's Black Train." Carpenter said it sold more than 35,000 copies.

Gates' Christmas records are just as light-hearted and cheerful in tone. "We celebrate Christmas wrong, by the way I look at this matter," he declared in one of these records. Indeed, Gateswas a true hell-fire evangelist. His passion was unrestrained. He really did not want you to go to Hell.

For the first jolly bit of Christmas spirit, here's a message titled "Death May Be Your Santa Claus."



Here's one for "you midnight walkers," "you liquor drinkers," "you bootleggers" and "you slick-fingered gamblers" called "Did You Spend Christmas Day in Jail"



And this one is simply titled "Getting Ready For Christmas Day." Are you getting ready? Well, according to Rev. Gates, the undertaker, the jailer and the police force are getting ready for YOU!



Apparently Paul Simon is a fan of Rev. Gates and the above song. He sampled it -- and borrowed the title for this 2010 song. Simon talks about the song HERE.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WACKY WEDNESDAY: A Musical Battle Royal

Last week's Wacky Wednesday, where I toasted Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, whose hilarious repertoir incudes several tunes dealing with pro wrestling, got me thinking about other odes to the grunt-and-groan biz.

So this week I present several of my favorites about wrestlers and, in many cases, by wrestlers.

Let's just call it a loser-leave-town musical battle royal. Watch out for flying chairs!

Let's start with one of my favorite rasslers, the late Sputnik Monroe, who I saw wrestle many times at Stockyards Coliseum in Oklahoma City in the early '60s when I was but a lad. Sputnik was the Heavenly Body from Outer Space, The Body Men Fear and Women Love. In 1959  released one of the first, maybe the very first record by a professional wrestler, "Sputnik Hires a Band." WKNO, a Memphis NPR station, did a story on the song a few years ago, 

Unfortunately there's no Youtube of his lone single, "Sputnik Hire a Band." But thanks to a blog called Gemini Spacecraft, there is embed-able audio of the record. Play it below:



Here's a 1960s garage-rock classic, "The Crusher" by The Novas. (As the intro explains, this is not Johnny Cash.)



Tampa rocker Ronny Elliot does this heartfelt tribute to one of the titans of the field, Gorgeous George,



I apologize for the awful visual quality of this next one, and come to think of it, the audio ain't great either. But I love seeing a young NRBQ performing with their "manager," the great Capt. Lou Albano.



Thanks to Dr. Demento, this tune by Fred Blassie probably is the most famous wrestling song of all. Sell it to the circus, what the heck?



Former Main Event magazine editor Mike Edison shares his thoughts on the sport.



Here's perhaps the worst wrestling song ever recorded.



And, yes, I'll let Rev. Billy C. have the last word.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

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Sunday, December 14, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
Webcasting!
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)ksfr.org

Here's the playlist below

Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Terrell's Sound World Facebook page

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE

My Christmas Gift to the Internet: 2014 Big Enchilada Christmas Special


THE BIG ENCHILADA



The Big Enchilada: Fighting the War on Christmas since 2008! Indulge in some holiday cheer with some magical Christmas sounds from The Reigning Sound, The Chesterfield Kings, Das Black Milk, The Polkaholics, Jonny Manak, Deep Sombreros, Joseph Spence, Linn & Linda, Jim Terr, Snoop Dogg and more. 

 SUBSCRIBE TO ALL GARAGEPUNK PIRATE RADIO PODCASTS |

Here's the playlist:

(Background Music: Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Jackie & The Cedrics)
I Don't Believe in Christmas by Tallboy
Santa Stole My Whiskey by Jonny Manak
Keep Christin' Christmas by Geary Joe Wood
All I Want for Christmas is a CB by Jim Hubler
Yakov the Polka Reindeer by The Polkaholics
On a Good Time Sleigh Ride by The Peerless Quartet 

(Background Music: Little Drummer Boy by Jimi Hendrix & The Band of Gypsys)
O Santa by Thee Fine Lines
Brother Sylvest/God Rest Ye by Deep Sombrero
Christmas by Das Black Milk
Christmas Orphan by Linn & Linda with the Jordanaires & Millie
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight) by J.B. Beverley & Buck Thrailkill
Blue Xmas by Snoop Dogg
Frosty Balls by Jim Terr

(Background Music: Here Comes Santa Claus by Los Straitjackets)
Hey Santa Claus by The Chesterfield Kings
Good King Wencelas by The Butthole Surfers
Ice King Christmas Ninja Party by Jonathan Mann
Santa Won't You Please Bring Me Some Beer by Mojo Gurus
If Christmas Can Bring You Home by The Reigning Sound
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town by Joseph Spence

Play it here:




Find ALL my Christmas podcasts HERE

Friday, December 12, 2014

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST


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Friday, December 12, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
Webcasting! 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist below:


Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Santa Fe Opry Facebook page 

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE
Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Christmas at the Dawn of Sound

Yikes, it's only two weeks until Christmas!

So for this Throwback Thursday, I'm featuring a compilation of Christmas songs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries by a cool vintage audio blog called Dawn of Sound (which I found via The Free Music Archive.)

Voices of Christmas Past actually was released as an album back in 1998. The Free Music Archive wrote:

The recordings were cylinders and acetates from 1898 to 1922. Every year after the release, the website was inundated with requests for the CD. Once it was out of print, Dawn of Sound released it online for free.

The 23 tracks include religious songs, kiddie songs (Did you know that Santa hid inside the phonograph?), stories, comedy routines, some visions of sugar plums and herald angels, a little Nutcracker Suite, and an early, early version of "Jingle Bells."

But it wasn't the first recording of that song.  According to Peter Nagy of Dawn of Sound, a banjo plunker named Will Lyle recorded the first  “Jingle Bells”in 1889, It was "the very first Christmas record," Nagy said. (The song was written back in 1850 by a Massachusetts man named James Pierpont.)

No known copies of the Will Lyle recording exist, Nagy said, But Track 3 in this collection, an 1898 Edison brown wax cylinder titled, “Sleigh Ride Party,” featuring the Edison Male Quartette is centered around "Jingle Bells.

The original liner notes said:

This collection of carols, songs and monologues from the original vintage recordings capture the essence of the Christmas spirit as it was in the opening two decades of the 20th Century. So gather up the family, wind up the phonograph and take a trip back in time to the early 1900’s and celebrate the holidays with the “Voices of Christmas Past”.

You can play it below and download any or all of the songs at FMA.




Alas, it looks like the Dawn of Sound blog has been inactive for a few years. But it's still up for all to enjoy.

So merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WACKY WEDNESDAY: Words of Truth from the Rev. Billy

Back in the early '80s when I was trying to make it as a musician, I sometimes got compared with another singer with whom I wasn't familiar.

No, not Celine Dion. It was the Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, a South Carolina-born singer, piano player, comedian and true man of God.

I guess we had some similarities. Both of us sang funny, usually irreverent songs based in blues, country and primitive rock 'n' roll.

Both of us were played on the late, lamented KFAT radio in Gilroy, Calif.

Both of us had a perverse fascinations with Elvis, Satan and pro-wrestling.

Both of us have degrees in education. (He was a special ed teacher, while I never did find full-time employment as a teacher.)

But there were differences. I barely could strum a few chords, while Rev. Billy could actually play that piano. Hell, he was mentored by Sunnyland Slim himself.

Plus, Billy actually has landed paying gigs with pro wrestling!

So once I learned who Rev. Wirtz was, I was honored by the comparison. I took the compliment whether I deserved it or not.

Enjoy some videos:



And here's one of his best wrestling tunes:



And here's some surf music, Billy C style:



I just learned that Rev. Billy and I have something else in common: He does a radio show. Rev. Billy's Rockin' Rhythm Revival airs on WMNF in Tampa, Fla. (Apparently it airs on KPIG, the heir to KFAT, also.)

And he's got a podcast version too. I'm listening to one at the moment where he sandwiched an Iron Butterfly song between Big Mama Thornton and Memphis Slim. In some places they call that "Freeform Weirdo Radio"! You can play that episode below:


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Remembering John Lennon


Thirty four years ago, Dec. 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered by a crazed shithead with a gun.

I was in bed with my then wife, who at the time was eight months pregnant with a little human who would later turn out to be my beautiful daughter.

I cried. Spent the next day in weepy disbelief. That night I'd been scheduled to play on KUNM's Home of Happy Feet. I sang a very angry "Working Man's Hero" on the show.

I still get upset.

Here's a video of Loudon Wainwright singing his murder ballad inspired by the killing, "Not John."



Here's a radio report about the killing;

Monday, December 08, 2014

A New Gregg Turner Kickstarter Album



Brace yourself, Bridget, my Angry Samoan crony Gregg Turner has launched a new Kickstarter project for a new collection of songs that so far exist only in his troubled mind.

He's calling it "Chartbusters!" and. as he expains,  that's ...

Only suitable to follow the last one: Plays The Hits. Lotsa catchy melodics ("Franz Kafka"), some Del Shannon-inspired doo-wops (I beg indulgence for the comparison), a Roky Erickson rocker or two (the "Stand For The Fire Demon"-ish "Kremlin Dog" as well as a cover of "I Walked With A Zombie") and even a kids' song called "Hide And Seek" with my 11-year old daughter Nico joining in on the chorus !  Hey - and whatever happened to Sheila Klein and Marsha Bronson, Lou Reed's graduating class of 1967? Check out "The Box" for what will be the "Gifted" iconic/sonic sequel update 48 years later (pushing the boundary of blasphemy, I know).

Sammy the Spatula and Whitey discuss options
And yes, there's a new video featuring dramatic interpretations from the collection of weirdos I've dubbed the "Satan's Bride Players," including an Oscar-worthy (Oscar Meyer, that is) performance by ace thespian, ME. It's not only a cinematographic masterpiece, it's an incisive behind-the-scenes look at cutting-edge behavioral-health practices, 

(Sorry it's not on Youtube, at least not yet, so you'll have to watch it on the Kickstarter site.)

So check it out, Unlike many crowd-funding scams you might have read about recently, this one's reasonable. $15 bucks get you a coy of the CD, expected to be released next summer. And bigger contributions gets you prizes (including a "personal harassing phone call" from the Mean Nurse you'll meet in the video. (Who looks a lot like Satan's Bride herself.)

Discaimer: I'm writing this post not in my usual role as critic, but as a cheap hustler for a pal. Since I'm involved in the video etc., any pretense of critical integrity here would be an insult to us all.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

TERRELL'S SOUND WORLD PLAYLIST

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Sunday, December 7, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
Webcasting!
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)ksfr.org

Here's the playlist below: Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Terrell's Sound World Facebook page

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE

Friday, December 05, 2014

THE SANTA FE OPRY PLAYLIST


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Friday, December 5, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
Webcasting! 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)ksfr.org

Here's my playlist below:



Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Santa Fe Opry Facebook page 

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE
Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Thursday, December 04, 2014

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: Singing Instrumentals and Gnostic Hoodoo

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
December 5, 2014

Did you realize that many of the best-known rock ’n’ roll instrumentals of the ’60s, from “Pipeline” to “Telstar” to “Hawaii Five-O,” actually have words? Neither did I — until I heard the new album by Los Straitjackets, Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits.

And even if there weren’t lyrics when The Ventures, The Shadows, Dick Dale, and the others recorded them, Dickerson and his masked amigos have made them up for the benefit of this fun little album.

Here’s how Dickerson — an ace guitarist himself and former member of The Untamed Youth — explains it in a news release: “In case you’re confused, imagine Bill Murray’s classic lounge singer character on Saturday Night Live belting out drunken made up lyrics to the ‘Star Wars Theme.’ It can be done, it has been done, and these songs truly come alive once you hear them sung … with words!”

Indeed. And the next time you hear the original version of any of these on the radio and feel compelled to sing along, you won’t have to sing “duh-duh-duh-duh dum-dum duh” anymore.

Granted, some of these selections already had lyrics. Back in the ’60s, The Lettermen (an easy-listening hit machine in their day) had a syrupy cover of the theme from A Summer Place. Dickerson and the boys do a pretty good imitation of the trademark Lettermen falsetto here. And while “Perfidia” was recorded by The Shadows, a British group, and The Ventures, the song’s recording history features vocal versions by everyone from Desi Arnaz to Julie London to Ben E. King. With lyrics referring to betrayal by a beautiful woman, the song inspired the title of James Ellroy’s latest crime novel. Los Straitjackets do it as a quasi-ska tune.

Hearing words sung to these songs is truly a gas. Also admirable are the original arrangements on many of them. “Miserlou,” for instance, was originally a Greek song that spread to Turkey and the Arab world. In the ’60s it came to the U.S., thanks to Dick Dale’s classic surf-rock version. (Dale is of Lebanese descent.) Los Straitjackets turn it into an exercise in exotica that might remind Elvis Presley fans of the soundtrack from Harum Scarum. “Apache,” The Shadows’ biggest hit, is done here as a goofy faux-disco-rap number that’ll make you think of Blondie’s “Rapture.”

A couple of songs even get new titles with their new lyrics. “Hawaii Five-O,” The Ventures’ great television theme, becomes “You Can Count on Me,” with appropriately cheesy lyrics: “If you get in trouble, come on home to me/Whether I am near you, or across the sea.”

And The Tornados’ “Telstar” becomes “Magic Star,” with Dickerson singing even cheesier lyrics: “Magic star above, send a message to my love.” This isn’t the first time somebody’s put words to “Telstar,” though. Fans of the late Michael O’Donoghue’s 1979 dark comedy, Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video, should remember it as “The Haunting Theme Song,” the movie’s recurring strain in which Julius La Rosa sings, “that wacky world of Mondo Video.”

Two of my favorites here are songs that began life as Los Straitjackets originals: the cranked-up opening song, “Fury,” in which Dickerson borrows the pro-wrestler growl of The Novas’ garage-rock classic “The Crusher,” and “Kawanga,” in which Dickerson tips his hat to the vocal stylings of singer/drummer Steve Wahrer, of The Trashmen. The latter shouldn’t be surprising: Dickerson recorded an album, Bringing Back the Trash, with those “Surfin’ Bird” maniacs that was released earlier this year.

For the record, this isn’t the first time Los Straitjackets (probably the finest instrumental-rock guitar group of the past 20 years) have done an album with vocals.

Back in 2001, they hit us with Sing Along With Los Straitjackets, featuring a revolving cast of singers that included the likes of Dave Alvin, Nick Lowe, Raul Malo, and Reverend Horton Heat. The real show-stealer, though, was Mark Lindsay, of Paul Revere & the Raiders, who tore into Roy Head’s “Treat Her Right” with amazing energy. In 2007 came Rock en Espanol Vol. 1, which had Cesar Rosas (Los Lobos), Big Sandy (Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys), and Little Willie G. (Thee Midniters) taking turns singing Spanish versions of songs like “Hang on Sloopy,” “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy,” and — my favorite — Arthur Alexander’s “Anna,” sung by Little Willie.

As much as I admire the crack instrumental prowess of guitar stud Eddie Angel and the other Straitjackets, good vocals do nothing but add to my enjoyment of their sound.

Also recommended:

* 3: Trickgnosis by Churchwood. This band is from the Lone Star state and has its roots in blues rock, but this ain’t your average Texas blues band.

As the title suggests, this is the group’s third album. And, like its first two, it’s got cryptic but alluring lyrics — singer Joe Doerr, who wrote many of the words, is an English professor by day — with references to Gnosticism, voodoo, God, and Satan. Some kind of cosmic struggle seems to be playing out from song to song, though there’s no easy story line to grasp.

And, as Churchwood fans have come to expect, these weird tales are sung over musical backdrops with changing time signatures and unpredictable twists and turns, with nods to Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Pere Ubu (I hear this influence especially in the song “I Spit You Out”), and maybe even Mr. Bungle.

Churchwood’s two guitarists, Bill Anderson and Billysteve Korpi, lead each other down strange corridors — and yet the band maintains an undeniably rootsy quality.

There are several standout songs on Trickgnosis. The aforementioned “I Spit You Out” features Doerr singing like some high priest at the Temple of Doom sentencing a hapless sinner over Black Sabbath guitar riffs. “Chemtrailer Trash,” the song with the funniest title, is simple breakneck punk rock.

“Eminence Gris Gris” borrows the main hook of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” as Doerr tells the story of a New Orleans root doctor, while name-checking an actual hoodoo musician who died in 2011: “He got a cane and a turban, a little juju for the enemy/He got a sack full of mojo, a John the Conquer root, a marigold/He got a friend in Coco Robicheaux, the Loup Garou, and the cat bone.”

But my favorite, at least at the time of this writing, is “Hanged Man.” With its funky harmonica and horn section that punctuates the refrain, this upbeat number is the bluesiest track on the album. Doerr happily quotes from a famous scene in Touch of Evil before the story ends with murder and possibly suicide.

Churchwood is a band that never will find a place in the mainstream. But the group definitely deserves wider exposure. Every time I listen to Trickgnosis, I find more surprises that delight and amaze. For more on the band, including a fascinating interview with Doerr and Anderson, visit www.saustex.com/churchwood.html.

Video time!



And here's a Halloween party out of control with the 'jackets, Deke and The dadgum Fleshtones. (Miriam Linna of Norton Records, A-Bones etccan be seen among the onstage dancers.)



And here's a little Churchwood just to twist your head off:

THROWBACK THURSDAY: I'll See You in My Dreams

Back in the late '70s when local TV stations would actually shut down for a few hours at the end of the broadcast day, KOB TV in Albuquerque, following Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show for awhile signed off with a short music video.

The song was "I'll See You in My Dreams," a classic old crooner tune from the 1920s.  I don't know who performed the version used by Channel 4, but it featured a tenor crooning and cheesy skating-rink synth fills (mostly after the vocalist sang the word "dreams.")

This version skipped the (mostly forgotten) intro to the song and got straight to the verses:

I'll see you in my dreams
Hold you in my dreams
Someone took you right out of my arms
Still I feel the thrill of your charms

Lips that once were mine
Tender eyes that shine
They will light my way tonight
I'll see you in my dreams

The video consisted of various scenes in which a pair of woman's eyes would appear in the sky overhead.

For some reason, I became obsessed with the song as well as the cheaply-done video. I actually began looking forward to it and would refuse to turn off the television until it was over, often to my then-wife's consternation, ("Why do you like that stupid song?")

"I'll See You in My Dreams" was written by Isham Jones and lyricist Gus Kahn and published in 1924. Jones recorded it with the Ray Miller Orchestra (vocals by Frank Besinger) and had a number-one national hit with it the next year. Here's that version:




Lots of artists, well known and otherwise covered it. Louis Armstrong did an instrumental of it as did guitarist Django Reinhardt, who inspired a version by country artist Merle Travis.



My favorite take on this tune, however, goes back to 1930. That's the one by singer Cliff Edwards, also known as "Ukulele Ike." Even if you've never heard of Edwards, I'm almost certain you're very familiar with one of his songs. He was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's Pinocchio in 1940. He sang "When You Wish Upon a Star."

So when you play the video below, imagine Disney's famous bug crooning it.



Although I can't imagine anyone replacing Edwards' "Dreams" as my favorite, some of my favorites have covered it. Bob Wills did a western-swing version, while Jerry Lee Lewis did a rocking instrumental. Leon Redbone, The Asylum Street Spankers and Dan Hicks (who inhjected it with some new lyrics, some scat-singing and hot guitar) all have felt the thrill of this song.

I did stumble across this lovely -- and I have to say, dreamy -- re-imagining by French-born singer Scarlett O'Hanna and Greek guitarist Panos Giannakakis from 2013:



See you in my dreams ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Check Out The New Look




I gotta admit that for the last several months -- o.k., dammit, years! -- I've kind of let this music blog slide. Sometimes for weeks at the time all I had here would be my radio show playlists and my Tuneup column.  

Pretty skimpy, I know. It became even more obvious a few months ago when I began doing Tune-up only every other week.

Finally last month I decided to force myself to create more content every week by adding two new features, Wacky Wednesday (some funny music to help you make it through the middle of the week) and Throwback Thursday (some fun musical history from long-gone eras). I'll also be looking for various other music-related things to post at other times during the week.

To mark these additions I decided to change the look of this joint, including a new collage for the header.

Remember, even though Terrell's Tune-up runs in the New Mexican, I do all this stuff on my own time. (And just to reiterate my disclaimer, the views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Santa Fe New Mexican or santafenewmexican.com (Same goes for KSFR. Don't blame them for anything weird I might post here.) 

And by the way, I recently got my own domain name for this blog: www.steveterrellmusic.com. It's still on Google blogger, at least for the time being, so the old link should still work. But if I decide to move on (after 11 years now!) the domain will still stay the same.

So keep coming back and tell your friends that The Stephen W. Terrell (MUSIC) Web Log is alive.


WACKY WEDNESDAY: Are You Ready, Hezzie?



Before there was Spike Jones, and long before there was the Bonzo Dog Band, there was The Hoosier Hot Shots, a band that bridged Vaudeville and Hollywood. A band in which the lead instruments were a clarinet and a slide whistle.

Behold:



Three of the four Hot Shots played together since the 1920s, playing the Vaudeville circuit as part of Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band. These were clarinet man Gabriel Ward and guitarist Ken Trietsch and his brother Paul "Hezzie" Trietsch, who, with his animated eyebrows, was the real comic of the group. He played the whistle as well as a souped-up washboard and an arsenal of bells. whistles and percussion. Frank Delaney later joined playing stand-up bass.

After the Great Depression killed off Vaudeville, the Hot Shots became national radio stars on the National Barn Dance, on WLS in Chicago and later as regulars on the Uncle Ezra Pinex Cough Syrup show on NBC.

They moved to Hollywood in the late '30s. There, they would appear in 22 films, mostly westerns, and "soundies" such as the above video of From the Indies to the Andes in His Undies.

A personal note about Hezzie Trietsch: When I was a kid and my grandmother was taking me somewhere, she'd often say, "Are you ready, Hezzie?" She'd just laugh when I'd ask who Hezzie was. It wasn't until well into my adulthood, when I discovered The Hoosier Hot Shots that it all became clear to me.

Cub Koda wrote in the All Music Guide:

Although nowhere near as wild as Spike Jones, nor possessing the `thinking man's hillbillies' personas of Homer & Jethro, it is impossible to think of either of those two acts existing -- much less prospering and finding an audience -- without the groundbreaking efforts of the Hoosier Hot Shots.

All true.

Here are a couple of more live songs from these Indiana crazies, "Darlin', You Can't Love But One" and a highly Hoosierized "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" :

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Make Your Road The Jukebox Highway

Interstate 10 in south Texas is a seriously boring stretch. But I learned a couple of days ago that it's far more bearable when you turn it into The Jukebox Highway.

To translate, during that part of the drive home from Austin I played some recent episodes of my old friend John Egenes' excellent radio show.

Longtime followers of Santa Fe music know that Egenes was for years an integral part of the local scene. A singer, guitarist and master of mandolin, dobro, banjo, steel guitar and more, he was in more bands than I can count. He moved to New Zealand a few years ago where he's got some academic gig. But he still plays and he's got this cool weekly radio show which is available worldwide via podcast.

Egenes has great taste in country, bluegrass and folk music. In the episodes I heard Sunday he played lots of old favorites like Buck Owens, Guy Clark, Lefty Frizzell, Uncle Tupelo, Dillard & Clark, Rhonda Vincent, etc. and recent favorites like Rachel Brooks. He also played some of his New Mexico cronies like Tom Adler and Wayne Shrubsall and some local New Zealand artists.

But I was most imressed that he played a George Jones that I was not familiar with. That's a wonderful murder ballad called "Open Pit Mine," which deals with a deadly love triangle in an Arizona copper-mining town.

In short, all fans of The Santa Fe Opry should check out The Jukebox Highway.  A bunch of recent episodes are HERE. You can subscribe HERE and you can find the playlists on the show's Facebook page. (Come on, press that LIKE button.)


TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: Wolves, Angels and BBQ

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican   May 26, 2017 “Anger is an energy,” John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, inf...