Sunday, December 13, 2009

Daddy-o Gives You a Bonanza of Box Sets in 2009

Here is my annual review of compact discs and records that I think were exceptional!

2008 was a slow year for me as far as there being a number of extraordinary compact discs and records released. Some yes, but not a lot. I thought the lousy economy had something to do with it and I expected the trend to continue in 2009. Not so. Early in the year, a number of multi-disc sets came out that had me in orbit! By years end there were several multi-disc CD sets released that I had dreamed about for years. They finally materialized and the discs were spinning madly at home and in my car. They are all pictured here and merit an alphabetical mention for each.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters "Nothing But Good (1952-1962)", Bear Family BCD16795EK

Let me start off by saying that in 2008 I swear I could hear vintage 1950s recordings on Bear Family compact discs with ever greater audio quality than ever. I am sure newer digital transferring methods are being used by Bear Family because their compact discs sound better than ever before and their CDs in 2009 confirm what my ears are hearing. This five disc set contains everything Hank Ballard and the Midnighters recorded for the King label in Cincinnati. Hank Ballard actually stayed on the label into the 1970s making solo recordings that went ignored by most. James Brown remained a champion for Ballard's cause which is a good explanation for his continued releases on the label. Those solo recordings are promised as a future box set as stated in the booklet contained in this box set. As for these recordings, having the opportunity to hear them all leaves me thinking that Ballard and company were very prolific and as such not every tune is a classic. The number of jaw-dropping tunes is pretty high, but there are some tunes where the ensemble sounds a little uninspired or tired. Complete sets like this make this apparent to the listener but that is what is nice about box sets like this. We get to hear them all and decide for ourselves which tunes are great and which are so-so. Hank Ballard and the Midnighters also help make clear the distinctions between doo-wop groups and tough-sounding rhythm 'n' blues vocal groups that come a lot closer to rock 'n' roll. Ballard had a handful of early hits about a loose girl named Annie, which inspired other rock 'n' rollers of the period to name-drop Annie in their songs. Then he invented the Twist and managed to make some of his best later hits while Chubby Checker claimed the hit version of "The Twist". My wife and I saw Hank Ballard and the Midnighters onstage in 1987. It was one of the wildest concerts I ever saw! When he first appeared onstage with his close-cropped hair, snug-fitting suit, and dancing my wife exclaimed "My God, he's the black Pee-Wee Herman!".

While on the subject of the King Record label, here is a good place to urge you all to read two excellent books about King Records. Can you believe it has taken this long for someone to write books about King? Shoulda happened decades ago! As it is we can thank these two authors:

"King of the Queen City: the Story of King Records" by Jon Hartley Fox, University of Illinois Press (This publisher has some really fine books on early rock 'n' roll and rhythm 'n' blues!) As expected the book is full of outrageous stories about label boss Syd Nathan, plus there are separate chapters about each type of music released on King and its subsidiary labels. The author goes to great pains to stress how the different types of music of that period drew inspiration from each other and is easily able to site specific examples that took place under the roof of King Records.

"King Records of Cincinnati" by Randy McNutt, Arcadia Publishing (This book is one of a large series of books in a series called "Images of America") McNutt became known to rockabilly fans years ago with his mostly-picture book entitled "We Wanna Boogie". This is a similar but more professionally produced picture book with very well written lengthy captions depicting the scenes of rhythm 'n' blues, country 'n' western and rock 'n' roll music that poured forth from the studios and pressing plant at King Records from the 1940s through the 1960s. While you are at it, you should read McNutt's other book in this series entitled "The Cincinnati Sound" which covers the music scene of the entire area, including the also fondly remembered Fraternity record label.

The Beatles: the stereo (16 CDs + DVD) and mono (13 CDs) box sets

The Beatles recordings for EMI/Capitol/Apple Records have been freshly remastered and reissued in individual albums as originally released in the U. K., and also in these box sets. There are subtle differences in these CDs in the way we have heard these same songs for decades on records, radio, and the older CDs. The big difference, I think, is that there are instruments and voices that were more buried in the mix on earlier versions that are heard here more clearly--not more loud but more separated and I like it. I listened to these discs and often remarked that in places I heard things I never noticed before. By no means did they change things and screw them up. I have had to explain to younger people the reason why there were mono and stereo Beatles albums in the first place is because for a decade EVERYONE released their new LPs in both mono and stereo because not everyone had stereo record players yet. There were format wars even back then, like a few years ago when movies were released on both video cassettes and DVDs--not everyone owned a DVD player yet. Now, in the case of the Beatles, we have heard especially since the 1980s that the difference between Beatles stereo and mono songs went beyond different mixes. In many cases significantly different takes and edits were used between the two. I am not going to list them for you here. I will say that I have heard both box sets and can tell there are a number of differences apparent. Enough people care about these differences to warrant the trouble of putting both stereo and mono versions on separate box sets. The limited edition of the mono box quickly sold out causing a panic so a second pressing was made, same as what happened when the Traveling Wilburys were reissued in a limited deluxe edition.

Allow me a few lines here to comment on the curious phenomenon of Beatle-bashing that seemed to start in the 1990s when the Beatles "Anthology" project was completed (The Internet started about the same time and is likely responsible for giving voice to this complaint). There seems to be two groups of people who gripe about the Beatles. The smaller, older group are those who were rock 'n' roll musicians in the early 1960s, mostly playing in surf or frat bands, who overnight found themselves musically out of style. I almost feel sorry for them. Then there are those younger folk who were a little too young to have experienced Beatlemania firsthand but liked punk rock in the 1970s. Many rockabilly revival fans seemed to have been part of the punk scene and often express disdain for the Beatles and the whole psychedelic era. I keep some distance from both camps because I have always liked the Beatles ("like" puts it too mildly, actually) and I heard psychedelic music in the 1960s that I still like today. For me, it was heavy metal that brought an end to my enthusiasm with new styles of rock music. So, for all my love of first generation rock 'n' roll music and its musical kissin' cousins, you won't find me among the Beatle-bashers. Nope. Not me. All you need is love.

Chuck Berry "You Never Can Tell: His Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966" Hip-o Select 93783

This is the second four-CD set containing the Chuckmeister's complete recordings for Chess Records. When Chuck got out of jail, he made some of his very best records in 1963 and 1964. They are among his biggest hits, too. In 1965, Chuck's guitar started sounding strangely out of tune all the time and his music went to Hell. There have been a very few flashes of brilliance from him since. This CD set is necessary because there is some very good music on it. At this point, Chuck left Chess for Mercury. Since Universal Music owns both labels these days they could put all of his Mercury recordings on another four CD set. It won't be pretty. Chuck returned to Chess near the end of the decade and remained until the label folded up in 1976. All of those later Chess records could come out on a final CD set. Completest fans will add both to their collections but few will enjoy the music as much as that heard on this and the first CD set. Again, it is nice to hear it all and judge for ourselves which songs are good.

Eddie Cochran "Somethin' Else: the Ultimate Collection" Bear Family BCD15989HK

A four CD box set by Eddie came out in the 1980s. Then the Rockstar label was created largely for the purpose of releasing rare and previously unreleased recordings by Eddie Cochran. Rockstar has put out MANY Eddie records and CDs some of them featuring Eddie playing guitar on other peoples' records since he was a daily fixture in Los Angeles recording studios before he was offered the opportunity to make records of his own. We will likely never hear the end of obscure records by singers no one remembers with Eddie plucking strings on them. Rockstar Records should be around for some time (even though they still don't have a website!). So it was indeed time for a fresh comprehensive collection of Eddie Cochran. This eight CD box set fills the bill. Discs 1 - 4 contain Eddie's studio recordings of his own. There are two discs of radio and television performances and interviews. There is one disc of Eddie playing guitar and singing on other artists' records (remember I said there are many more discs of this stuff elsewhere). The box ends with a disc of alternate takes of songs heard earlier in the box set. What is really smart is the fact that this box set was released on the 49th anniversary of Eddie's death rather than on the 50th anniversary as one would have expected. The reason being that as stories in the news about the 50th anniversary of his death rolls around this CD box set will already be in stock in stores and mail order firms thus making it easier to be purchased. Too bad a similar marketing strategy wasn't in place for the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly.

Link Davis "Big Mamou" Bear Family BCD16523AR

Back in the late 1970s when I first started listening to rockabilly music I got two really nice various artists compilation LPs called "Starday-Dixie Rockabillys" Volumes 1 & 2. I really like the tunes heard there by Rudy Grazell, Groovey Joe Poovey, and Link Davis. Many years later I got CD compilations by Grayzell and Poovey that further proved their impressive talent. There have been earlier compilations by Link Davis but in '09 Bear Family worked their particular reissue magic with this CD. By the way, this is the ONLY new single disc CD I heard in 2009 that really knocked me out. Link Davis, it would seem, cared little for the real world and was forever drawn to the muse and vibe of music and the good times where he played it. And what different styles he excelled at! On this disc you'll hear the most amazing Cajun music you will ever hear, honky-tonk stuff, and truly unhinged rockabilly! Link played fiddle on the Cajun tunes and saxophone on the rockabilly tunes. What a combination of instruments! He played guitar, too. It was the tune "Sixteen Chicks" that attracted me to Link Davis long ago. That tune is here along with everything else he had released on the Okeh and Starday labels. All of it just fantastic stuff. You really don't think of country musicians playing polyrhythmic music but, my God, wait until you hear "Slippin' and Slidin' Sometimes". There are percussionists beating out multiple African-sounding rhythms that are hypnotising. Unbelievable. Look at these photographs of Link, portraits and onstage shots. He always has a "What? me worry?" look on his face.

Buddy Holly "Not Fade Away: the Complete Studio Recordings and More" Hip-o Select B0012875-02

In 1979 a six LP box set came out with all then-known recordings by Buddy Holly. The rockabilly revival was in full swing at the time and fans were thrilled to hear all this music. More recordings by Buddy have surfaced over the years which were duly released on unauthorized records and CDs, some with very impressive sound and packaging. Rightful owners of Buddy's recordings are just now making legitimate release of all these recordings on this six CD set. It is very nice to have here the biggest collection of Buddy's music to date. The sound is really very good on the master recordings. Still, Buddy Holly fans are very hard group to make happy. Online forums list known recordings not included. A few alternate takes are curiously not heard. From the beginning we knew that this CD set would not include any of Buddy Holly's recorded interviews or guitar and vocal performances on other artists' records. These omissions are disappointing seeing as how those recordings are considered to be important and so much effort was otherwise made to make this CD set complete. Why not take that extra step and include everything? I have said in other posts on this blog that I greatly prefer compacts discs housed in jewel cases rather than any other kind of packaging. Major American CD labels really have this awful thing about making multi-disc sets with the CDs put in pockets that scrape the playing surface every time the disc is removed and put back. I REALLY don't like that and I want this practiced stopped. As I have said many times before, I prefer multi disc sets packaged in cube, long box, or LP sized boxes with all the discs in jewel cases. As Holly historian and consultant Bill Griggs recently said, if nothing else we get to hear recordings by Buddy Holly here that have never been legitimately released before.

George Jones "Walk Through This World With Me" Bear Family BCD16928EI (5 discs) and "A Good Year For the Roses" Bear Family BCD16929DI (4 discs)

These two box sets combined contain everything George Jones recorded for the Musicor label, which covers the years 1965-1971. George has said he recorded too many songs for Musicor. That comment is explained in the booklets enclosed with these CD sets. At the time these recordings were made George had been making records for ten years. At this point he had truly mastered the art of singing and the art of studio recording. He knew the studios, the musicians, and the engineers intimately. These people were able to make subtle shadings in their performances that were easy to hear and appreciate. Everything was in place to make brilliant recordings. And they did, many times. The only real weak spot were some of the compositions themselves. By the time these records were made, songwriting in Nashville had become a 9 to 5 job, with dozens of new titles published weekly with the hope that now and then some artist would breathe lyrical art in a few of them and convince the listening public to appreciate them. It sounds here like George and the band was pulling lead sheets off the top of a stack and giving them a whirl while the tape rolled. That may be just what happened. George's singing and the band were right on target almost every time. It is only the weakness of the lyrics and the repetition of rhythms and instrumental solos that make this body of work short of consistent brilliance. I'm not complaining, though! This really is excellent country music by one of the three greatest country singers of all time.

George Jones is the absolute champion when it comes to singing with a chip on his shoulder. This man's songs are so full of self-doubt, personal inadequacies, moral weakness, and suspicions of other people. A poster boy for mental health he ain't. Therein lies one of the fascinations people have with country music. That anyone can sing these kinds of songs or listen to them with a straight face is truly beyond me. I always listen to music like this with tongue firmly in cheek and I often burst out laughing during these songs when I am sure the artists meant nothing funny by them. I clearly don't take these songs seriously. Forgive me if I don't. But I do really enjoy country music.

Freddie King "Taking Care of Business (1956-1973)" Bear Family BCD16979GK

When I first started to listen to blues music in the early 1970s after I got out of high school, one of the very first things I was taught about the blues is that the best guitar players were all named King. That turned out to be close to the truth. There are few blues fans who don't love some of the records of B. B. King (the most famous blues musician of all time), Albert King (my personal favorite of the Three Kings of the Blues), and Freddie King, the most rocking sounding of the three. Freddie didn't start making records for Federal Records (a subsidiary label of the heralded King Records) until 1960, so he is considered younger than the Muddy Waters/Jimmy Reed/Howlin' Wolf generation of Chicago blues musicians. Freddie is famous for his guitar/piano/bass/drum quartet heard on many of his Federal records. No rhythm guitar, no horns, no harmonica. Just a solid quartet with Freddie playing all of the guitar parts and constant rhythmic support from Sonny Thompson on piano who never seemed to run out of ideas for piano counterpoint to Freddie's guitar. It was a formula that worked over and over on both vocal and instrumental tunes. Of course, they knew better than to use this instrumentation on EVERY song. On some they indeed added a couple saxophones for great effect. Freddie's recordings for all labels except one are heard here. His final recordings for RSO at the end of his young life are the only ones not included. The Atlantic and Shelter sides are here, too, on this seven disc set. But it is those steady rockin' tunes for Federal in the 1960s that made him a star, not the least of which is "Hideaway".

I saw Freddie King on stage one time, just a couple years before he died. He was the warm-up act for the Bachman-Turner Overdrive at a sold-out municipal auditorium show on a Monday night here in my hometown. By then he used a quintet group, again with himself as the only guitar player but flanked by an organ and a piano player as heard on his Shelter recordings of the period.

Little Walter "The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967)" Hip-o Select 97841

Little Walter is universally regarded as the best blues harmonica player of them all. I agree. Sonny Boy Williamson II and Big Walter Horton are my other favorites. In listening to all of Walter's own recordings on this five disc set, time and again I am amazed at how he would deliberately start and stop his own playing and singing in many measures in his songs a bit early or a bit late. Casually one would think this is simply sloppy playing. NO! He was doing this on purpose to keep his band members and listeners on their toes. No complaciency was allowed when it came to Little Walter Jacobs. When it was time to play or listen you had to be on edge to keep up with him. Now, even though you hear all of his Chess/Checker records under his own name here, remember that Little Walter was a frequent harp player on other records by Chess artists, notably those by Muddy Waters. You will have to hear those tunes elsewhere. And I urge you to seek them out. Blues music was at its ever lovin' best on the Chess label.

This CD set won a Grammy award. Richly deserved!

Hank Williams "Revealed" Time-Life 24922-D

This is the second three disc set to include radio performances by Hank Williams and his famous Drifting Cowboys from live morning radio broadcasts on WSM radio, sponsored by Mother's Best flour and cornmeal. There are a lot of radio broadcast recordings of Hank, and many fans have come to prefer these performances over his studio recordings as he sounds more relaxed and naturally emotional and the band sounds more adventurous. A real memorable tune here is his take on "On Top of Old Smokey", which he gives a feel of lament which you've likely never heard attached to this song before. Reviews of the first CD set in this series complained that there was too little between-song banter. In direct response, the producers cheerfully complied on this new CD set, even going so far as to include a complete start-to-finish 15 minute radio program at the end of each disc. This is not the last CD set in this series. There is more to come.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trip to New York Paid For by Paul McCartney

I was one of three winners of a contest put on by Paul McCartney. Paul, as you might know, purchased the ownership of the publishing rights to most of the songs written by Buddy Holly. This was in 1976 just two years before the very successful release of the motion picture "The Buddy Holly Story" starring Gary Busey. This movie had so much to do with restoring Buddy Holly's fame, thus a constant source of income for Paul McCartney. For decades Paul would put on some kind of annual event in the United Kingdom to promote Buddy Holly, usually near Buddy's birthday in September.

In 1990, Paul decided to hold his annual Buddy Holly event in New York City to promote the Fall debut of the musical production "BUDDY: the Buddy Holly Story" starring Paul Hipp on Broadway. The event would include two nights of live music at the popular Lone Star Roadhouse, a nightclub more like what you would see in Texas than right around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater. The first night was an invitation-only event on September 4, 1990, the second night open to the public.

Members of the Buddy Holly Memorial Society and subscribers to Rockin' 50s magazine, both enterprises of Bill Griggs, received entry forms for a contest to win an all-expenses paid trip to New York to attend the invitation-only show at the Lone Star and guided tours of places where Buddy Holly and the Crickets performed in the 1950s. The entry form was a questionnaire enclosed in the June issue of Rockin' 50s. The questionnaire had twenty pretty tough questions about the music and life of Buddy Holly. I have all of the books about Buddy Holly and every magazine Bill Griggs has published, so I was sure I could find or confirm every answer if I just studied hard enough. There is another Buddy Holly fan here in town nicknamed Rory Borealis (you should hear his Sunday evening radio shows at who was also interested in entering the contest. So the two of us spent hours on two weekends looking up the answers and calling back and forth on the phone. We finally had nineteen questions nailed down for sure including things like the name of Buddy Holly's cat and how much Buddy Holly weighed in 1953. It turns out everyone had a tough time answering #16: "Which song did the Crickets perform during their audition for the Arthur Godfrey talent show?" Not until I was actually in New York could I ask the members of the Crickets in person. The best I could come up with was a Little Richard song, but which one? The Crickets couldn't remember but they were sure it was a Little Richard tune. So we were as right as we could be. I mailed my form in with a few days to spare. Only later I learned Rory did not mail his entry. He worked hard coming up with answers, too. He indeed deserved a chance to win, also. The Crickets manager seemed to have a hard time reaching me by phone to tell me I was one of three winners, so he sent me letter by overnight FedEx.

I flew to New York and met up with winners Alvis West from California and Bruce Christiansen from Florida at the Lone Star and Bill Griggs arrived shortly thereafter. Quite a group of hardcore rockabilly fans here! Our hotel was right next door. When we returned to the club later that day, the block was closed to traffic. Barricades kept the throng of Beatle fans at a distance. The head of club security saw us and motioned for us to come in. You should have seen the looks on everyone elses' faces! "Who the hell are these guys and how to they rate the red carpet treatment?" I counted twelve camera crews there in the balcony. Local TV stations, "Entertainment Tonight" and CNN. We met Maria Elena Holley: Buddy's widow, as well as performers Paul Hipp: star of "BUDDY: the Buddy Holly Story", the Crickets themselves: Gordon Payne, Joe Mauldin, J. I. Allison, Tommy Alsup: sometime guitarist with Buddy, and country singer Ricky Van Shelton. Paul and Linda McCartney took a secluded seat that immediately became to focal point of the building. I tried my best to squeeze in close enough for an autograph or a chance to thank Paul for this trip but no luck. It was time for me to go onstage with the other contest winners and receive a beautiful plaque (pictured above) presented by famed radio personality Scott Muni, who was tickled to know I am from Kansas. He told me he was from Wichita! Everyone is supposedly entitled to fifteen minutes of fame and I used up five minutes worth that night onstage! Back at our table I saw a man at the table behind us. I thought to myself "That guy looks like what Ahmet Ertegun would have looked like as a young man". I wished I had said something as we later learned that it really was Ahmet Ertegun, founder and President of Atlantic Records. What a missed opportunity! I would loved to have met him! Mayor David Dinkins issued a proclamation acknowledging Paul McCarney's presence in the city. During all this I missed out on the catered dinner, not a bite left of Linda McCartney's all-vegetarian menu.

All of these musicians mentioned performed onstage that evening along with rock singers Henry Gross (remember the Beach Boys-like "Shannon" in the 1970s?), Steve Forbert, Pat Denizio of the Smithereens, Joe Ely, and Max Weinberg. For the finale, Paul and Linda with Dave Edmunds belted out rockers with all the others returning for a jam on Buddy's "Oh Boy". We removed posters from the walls on our way out. I glimpsed Ben E. King, Little Steven Van Zandt, and MTV sweetheart Martha Quinn, (from whom I would have gladly accepted any invitation but alas, none!)

Next day, Christiansen, West, Griggs, and I had a guided tour of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. The cab driver pointed out the Dakota apartment building on the way, where John Lennon was killed--a chilling site. The Apollo was an amazing place. Generations of African-American entertainers have performed there. We saw the stage, the theater, the lobby, the backstage areas, the television and editing studios there. Everywhere are these beautiful framed photographs of entertainers who have performed there with their names deliberately not displayed. Turns out our guide told us their names are displayed on the backs so we had to peek at a few we couldn't guess. These framed pictures would be worth a fortune. A talk show originated on stage at the Apollo each weekday morning and broadcast locally on cable TV. There was a small audience in attendance while we walked around on the tour. That was an incredible rare opportunity for four white guys from the hinterlands. (If I had known about it at the time, a few minutes at Bobby Robinson's record shop next door would have been nice. He was a famed record producer and a great story teller.)

We were scheduled to take a tour of the Ed Sullivan Theater, too, but we took too much time at the Apollo, which didn't bother us. It would have been nice to see where the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and the Crickets, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley, and countless others (Louis Prima, Jimmy Durante, George Carlin, etc.) performed live on TV on Sunday nights for decades. The theater was not being used at the time. It would be two years before David Letterman would move here for his new show.

We then had lunch at P. J. Clark's restaurant, where Buddy Holly reportedly proposed marriage to Maria Elena decades before. It was a nice old restaurant. Joining us was Paul McCartney's manager at the time Alan Crowder and his wife (who explained to me how British television and radio networks work, at my urging), Will Byrd, The Crickets manager, who was responsible for this entire tribute show, and the manager of the Lone Star, whom I quote here: "Look at this guy. He comes here all the way from Kansas to eat corn on the cob." Doncha just love those New Yawkers. Alan Crowder had one of the very early cell phones, almost as big as a WWII walkie-talkie. He took a call from, I am sure, Paul himself. We hinted that a chance to thank Paul in person would be nice.

The taxi rides were all death-defying but none so rough as the landing in Atlanta where we changed planes. Bruce Christensen rode with me on this flight, a packed 747. The wings see-sawed up and down as we landed almost touching the runway. Bruce turned every color imaginable. When he could breathe again he said he has flown dozens of times on business and that this was the worst landing he ever had.

Sometime later I sent a thank you card and a picture of my wife, kids, and I to Paul McCartney at the address of his MPL Productions London office. This was a trip of a lifetime. Thank you again, Sir Paul.

Video has surfaced of the Paul's performance at the Lone Star.  Not everyone gets to see Paul McCartney perform in a nightclub that seats 500 people.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

See My Photographs at Flickr:

Above: Legendary Chicago Blues singer and harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold (left) and Daddy-o Dilly (right), backstage at the 2006 Ponderosa Stomp festival, Memphis, TN. See many more photographs like this at Daddy-o Dilly's Flickr Photo Albums:

Favorite CDs Released in 2006

My favorite music releases for 2006 have received due consideration.

The four CDs of distinction for the year just ended are:

various artists: "Rockin' Bones" Rhino R2 73346, 4 CD set w/ book101 1950s and early '60s rockabilly classics, not so much the obvious hits but those records that have attained a new lease on life since the 1970s when a new generation of listeners discovered this weird and wonderful music. Fanzines, record shows, the odd radio show here and there, and the occasional rockabilly festivals all helped to create more interest in many of these records and the artists heard on them than when they first came out decades ago. Problem is, they've been out of print longer than some fans have been alive. I have been known to be a bit put-off by Rhino Records phrase "We collect records so you don't have to!" but in this case their intent and efforts are appreciated. Obtaining a collection of original 45s of even half the songs on this collection is beyond the price range of many.I am stunned to find a record from my hometown included, "Hot Shot". I have been further surprised to know a guy here who remembers the singer, Ronnie Pearson. Local rock 'n' roll expert Carl "Crazy Legs" Palmer recalls that Pearson was from Osage City, Kansas, and was seen promoting his disc from a convertible in a parade in downtown Topeka back at the time. The producer of this recording, Bob Bobo, ran a local record label here in the 1960s called Casino.I am disappointed that Sonny Burgess from Sun Records was not included on "Rockin' Bones", a serious omission. And I wish multiple disc sets like this housed the discs in jewel cases enclosed in a box with a lid on it, rather than this often used "book" style of packaging.

The Music Machine: "The Ultimate Turn On", Big Beat/Ace CDWIK2 271, 2 CD set w/ videos!Finally a definitive CD reissue of the Music Machine's classic "Turn On" LP. The Music Machine, along with Count Five, turned out the best mid-1960s garage band era LPs that I have ever heard, and both are now available in superlative CD compilations from the Ace label in the U. K. Both mono and stereo mixes of the LP are heard here along with the band's non-LP singles and previously unheard recordings for the Original Sound label, plus great looking TV appearances. The Music Machine's hit "Talk Talk" and the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" were utterly terrifying records in 1966, the kind that surely inspired teen-aged angst and self loathing, resulting in detention hall assignments galore. These guys had a loooong head start on the goths! I'm sure radio station program directors scratched their heads and fretted while previewing discs like these and had to think awhile before OKing adding them to the playlists. Didn't one writer once say that Sean Bonniwell was everything Jim Morrison ever wished he could be? Did I coin this phrase? I might have.

Sonny Burgess and the Rhythm Rockers: "Tear It Up!", St. George STG7712I think this just might be the best recording Sonny Burgess has ever made. He has recorded a few new albums since the 1990s and this one is the best. It might even be better than the Sun records he made in the 1950s, the ones that made him well-known to rockabilly hounds in the first place. Pretty tall order but I think its true. "Farmers Blues" is very convincing. The frustration of crop failure as sung here sounds very authentic. I'm told these records may have been made over a year prior to release. I love it.

The Alarm Clocks: "The Time Has Come", Norton CED321This album made out in time for 2006 (time-related funnies are easy when referring to this group!) with little time to spare. These guys were skinny 13-year-olds in 1966 when they could barely give away their lone 45rpm. Last year they finally had a reunion playing only a few shows before recording this great new set of songs. They accurately retained the mid-'60s garage band sound.I saw really knockout performances by both the Alarm Clocks and Sonny Burgess at the 4th annual Ponderosa Stomp festival at the Gibson Guitar Factory's performance center in Memphis, Tennessee, in May, 2006. That trip to Memphis was the most fun I had in 2006! My opinions of their respective CD releases above are indeed influenced by the great shows they played in Memphis!!

Dewey Phillips & Gene Vincent: Matching Leg Injuries

I've just finished reading the book "Dewey and Elvis" by Louis Cantor. It's not really a book about Elvis. It's a detailed biography of Dewey Phillips, the hugely popular radio and TV disc jockey in Memphis during the 1950s and 1960s. The last three chapters are absolutely heartbreaking. The last ten years of his life were a steady downhill slope to physical and mental ruin. I did not know this, but Dewey had a horrible physical affliction just like Gene Vincent. It seems he, too, had a leg badly injured twice in car wrecks. Just like Gene, he should have had it amputated. Again, like Gene, he refused and the leg deteriorated, described in this book very much like the descriptions we've read about Gene's bad leg. And again, like Gene, Dewey sought relief from pain with alcohol and prescription medicine, too much of both. Whereas Gene was at least able to work until his death, Dewey was separated from his wife and children, lived with his Mother, but was most often seen babbling to himself in Memphis street gutters. The author of this book is a lifelong Memphian and worked at radio stations in Memphis in the 1950s. His firsthand knowledge of the city and the people involved in the local music scene there make this book one of the most authoritatively written books about rock 'n' roll in Memphis that I have read. This book was published in 2005 by the University of Illinois Press.

Documentaries Yet To Be Made

Here is my response to a discussion on the lack of a documentary on Del Shannon in the Del Shannon Yahoo Group:

What I have envisaged for some time now is an extensive series of definitive DVD documentaries on first generation rock 'n' roll musicians with as many uncut TV/film performances as possible as bonus features on a second disc. In some cases there are already really good documentaries like on Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley. But I think there are several artists who have yet to have much of anything made in the form of documentaries at all or, better yet, a really great documentary. Del Shannon is one artist who begs to have a documentary made. What a great story there is to tell here. There are plenty of interviews, especially from the 1980s in existence. Plus there are TV performances from three decades and several countries.

Bobby Fuller is another. There were stories about Bobby on "Unsolved Mysteries" and a half hour story on "The E! Mysteries and Scandals" series. Still, a definitive documentary is due.

Gene Vincent is yet another. In Gene's case, there was a remarkable "fly-on-the-wall" documentary made at the time of his 1969 tour of the UK, which could be used in part in a film on his entire life.

One documentary on Roy Orbison has lengthy interviews with Fred Foster, producer and owner of Monument Records. This was the first time I'd ever seen him interviewed, which was long overdue. I think a definitive documentary on Roy has yet to be made.

Imagine the challenge of making a documentary of Link Wray. Nerves of steel and infinite patience my be necessary here.

Bill Griggs, West Texas music researcher, has often commented that a frustrating thing about even well-made documentaries on musicians of all styles is that so often just as you are about 60-90 seconds into a memorable vintage TV performance, the narrator, or worse yet, an endorsing 1970s rock star cuts in before the clip is completed. That why I think DVD releases of music documentaries ought to have at least one bonus disc with all these famous TV performances presented uncut. Get the clearances and royalties in order and get the darn things on the market!

I think the likelihood of documentaries like this will show up in time. There many really fine documentaries on blues, jazz, and county musicians (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Louis Prima, and Hank Williams come to mind.) The DVD format with bonus features remains a massively successful home video format. Right now, an authorized documentary on Wanda Jackson is in production and promises to be good.

But, yeah, you're right, the Del Shannon story needs to be told on the tube!

Rare Live Performance of Rockabilly in Topeka

Did this really happen? On October 7, 2006, on a beautiful full-moon-lit Saturday night, 10th Street in downtown Topeka was closed-off between the State Capitol and Supreme Court buildings. A stage was erected, surrounded by customized cars. A few hundred people showed up and watched performances by Lee Rocker and his band and the Rumblejets from Kansas City. Live rockabilly music, outdoors, for free, and I didn't have to drive 75 miles to see it? Nor was it all canceled the day before due to screw-ups or moral objection? And it didn't rain. God, I must be dreaming! And they promised to do it again next year? Am I still in Topeka? And after it was all over I didn't have a 90 minute drive home. God forbid, did something CHANGE here? The point I find hard to believe is that someone actually went to the trouble to have ROCKABILLY music performed live on stage here. Not country, not metal, not rap, not even blues, but ROCKABILLY! And some people even stayed until it was all over. ROCKABILLY, I can't believe it. Here. Surely something else was planned and it didn't work out and this was their second choice.

Pardon my sarcasm but after traveling to Kansas City and Lawrence a few times a year to hear live music for the last 35 years, it is hard to believe an event like this took place where I live. My deepest thanks to El Centro, a local organization, for even thinking about having live rockabilly music on stage here. It was a big risk. I'm glad it was as nice as it was.

Ronnie Pearson: 1950s Kansas Rockabilly

Anyone care to comment on "Rockin' Bones", the 4 CD set of 1950s rockabilly music released by Rhino in July? I play it over and over. Like Rhino's first Doo-Wop box, about the only complaint is what got left off (no sonny Burgess!) I still prefer box sets w/ discs in jewel cases. No such packaging here.

I was stunned to see a record here from my hometown: look at page 30 in the enclosed book: "Hot Shot" by Ronnie Pearson. It says he is from Topeka, KS, and his manager was Bob Bobo (who is also credited with writing this song). I never heard of Ronnie Pearson. Bob Bobo ran a restaurant called Bobo's, just two blocks from where I grew up. (It's still in business.) Bobo had a record label in the early and mid 1960s called Casino. Some garage-band era rock bands here had records on Casino. As to Ronnie Pearson, I asked local cats Carl "Crazy Legs" Palmer and Dick Ryan. Carl Palmer says he remembers Ronnie. He says Ronnie came from Osage City (35 miles South of here). He says he remembers seeing Ronnie in a parade sitting on a convertible promoting his record. He said if Bob Bobo recorded him it was probably in his studio in his house on SE Hudson St. I don't know how he might have gotten three records released on Herald, which is a New York label famed for doo-wop records, not Midwest rockabilly! (This friend of mine, Carl Palmer was a friend of the elusive Dale Lowery who interviewed Buddy Holly on tape here in '57. Carl's information was crucial in locating Dale Lowery a few years ago!) Dick Ryan told me just two days ago that he has the original 45rpm of Ronnie Pearson's "Hot Shot" on Herald and that his copy is autographed by Bob Bobo!

There is just no end what's to be heard in rock 'n' roll. Don't ever think you've heard it all.

Monster Movies on TV in the 1960s recalls monster movie TV shows in Kansas City.

My recollections sent to him follows:

Spooky Tom:I have seen your website about TV movie horror hosts in Kansas City. I watched the monster movie shows on KMBC television in the 1960s. Here's what I recall. In the early and mid 1960s KMBC had two monster movie shows on Saturdays. "Son of Chiller" was on at 6:00pm through 7:30pm. This was back in the days when network prime time programming started at 6:30pm Central time, NOT 7:00pm as it has been since 1971. So, any ABC network programs between 6:30 and 7:30 were not seen on KMBC on Saturdays because of "Son of Chiller". The host was Penny Dreadful. She really was good lookin'! Hot, actually. I thought she was some kind of spooky, sexy nun because of her clothes, kind of a long dark nun-habit like robe, with a big wide white collar that almost looked like wings, and a dark covering over her head that came to a point on her forehead. The show would start with spooky music as the camera panned down and then up a painting of a path leading to a tall spooky mansion. As it would pan up the tower on the mansion it would fade to another camera panning up a set design of the tower. At the top, there would stand Penny Dreadful in a dark window where she would announce that night's movie. She would also call out orders to an always-off-camera servant, suggesting he was some kind of gorilla or large beast. I think she called him Igor. She was just short of being bossy to him. One time, she was offering to mail photographs to fans, but cautioned that autographs were out of the question. I sent her a letter decorated as best I could with haunted illustrations and lettering that looked like dripping blood, complete with frayed edges as though an ancient manuscript. My artistic efforts were rewarded with an AUTOGRAPHED picture and thank-you note in a photo album, suitable for setting on my desk. Autographed and a note--exactly what she SAID on TV what she would NOT do, suggesting my letter stood out from the others! God, I was in love with her, even though I was about 11 years old! The movies she showed were both horror and science fiction of then-recent vintage, which meant 1950s B movies like "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", "The Giant Gila Monster", and (REAL favorite) "Earth Vs. Flying Saucers". It is very possible that Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" was shown. I know Ed Wood's "Bride of the Beast" was shown because I remember it. The other show was "Chiller" featuring Gregory Grave, which was on at 10:30pm. This show, in contrast, was much more likely to show classic horror movies from the 1930s and 1940s. I recall being really terrified by Boris Karloff as the Mummy, especially when he slowly opened his eyes through his bandages! I was torn between watching "Chiller" or "Wrestling With Bob", the professional wrestling show on KFEQ, channel 2, from St. Joseph, MO, which was on at the same time. I usually watched wrestling, putting up with the poor (pre-cable TV era!) reception."Son of Chiller" did not last too many years. "Chiller" was moved to the 6:00pm time slot. Penny Dreadful was gone and Gregory Grave was on at a much earlier time. This is when the "Joe Pine Show" started being seen at 10:30pm which would have been 1967. I recall "Chiller" with Gregory Grave lasting until about 1970.Gregory was in an upright coffin at the start of each show. It had a sliding window, which he would open, look left and right, blow cigar smoke, then open the lid. He would walk over to his haunted talk show host desk, ancient, filthy, and littered with ghoulish gizmos. He would crack jokes as if he thought he was Johnny Carson. A skull wearing glasses was on his desk. He would often ask it questions. The camera would show a close-up of the skull which would answer back with an assortment of pre-recorded answers. The voice of the skull (can't remember the skull's name! Cranston, maybe?) sounded like Torry Southwick of "Torry and Ol' Gus" fame on KMBC's after school cartoon show. The projector for showing that night's movie was supposedly under Gregory's desk. He would ask the projectionist if the film was ready. A hairy arm (which was clearly operated manually by Gregory) would come out of a hole on the desk top waving "OK" indicating it was movie time.I hope this information is of interest. No, I no longer have the photo of Penny Dreadful, but it was the same picture you show on your website.

Protect Your Hearing & BALANCE

I'm as serious as a heart attack here, people.

Those of us who like to listen to loud music have got to protect our ears. At home or in the car, you can simply turn to the volume down so it doesn't hurt anymore. We have control over that. But when you are at a concert, you really ought to have a pair of ear plugs in your pocket. Depending on who is playing or the size and acoustic quality of the performance venue, you really ought to give yourself the option of reducing the decibel level in your own ears. Pictured here are my favorite brand of ear plugs, which I see in Walgreens drug stores wherever I go. 35 decibels is about the highest reduction level you'll likely find on ear plug packaging. These help.
About five years ago, I simply gave up using headphones. I simply never use them for listening to music anymore. I think having a sound source that close to my eardrums is not safe at any volume level. Recent stories in the news express similar concerns in regard to iPods.

All my life everyone told me to protect my ears so as to not loose my hearing. Well, guess what, that's not all you can loose. You can also loose your sense of balance if you abuse your ears, too. No one ever told me that. I wish they had. Your sense of balance is regulated in your inner ears.

As a child, I had virtually year-round ear infections. Our local pediatricians and ear, nose, throat specialists were in agreement that I had the worse case of ear infections they had ever seen. I'll spare you the details. I really outgrew ear infections by my 30s, but by then I had developed scar tissue on my left ear drum that caused me to loose about one third of my ability to hear in my left ear. Not only that but during the 1980s, my left ear started hearing everything with some distortion which leaves me now without the ability to hear sound (and music) as pure as before. Growing old is a bitch ain't it?

In the last two years I have been diagnosed as having Menieres Disease in my left hear which makes me dizzy and lightheaded about 75% of the time, but on the left side of my body only. I have never felt localized dizziness like this before. Certain body or head movement will trigger a momentary dizziness. I have learned to ignore it and go about my merry way. It has not caused me to loose any sense of balance, just cause me to exert greater strength to maintain my balance which leaves me more tired at the end of the day. I repeat, growing old is a bitch, ain't it?

The best thing I can do is to preserve my remaining hearing. So I do all of the things mentioned above and I do them willingly. My advice to you is to protect your ears from unnecessarily loud sound, music and machinery particularly, and also to take extra precautions against getting head colds that can settle in your ears and cause infection. Washing your hands with soap a water often is the best prevention for catching colds. Do these things now so you can enjoy music your whole life.

2009 UPDATE: In the Fall of 2006, I made the difficult decision to simply stop going to concerts because I just don't think my left ear can tolerate amplified music even with ear plugs. Anyone experiencing constant vertigo as I have since 2004 will do ANYTHING to make it stop or at least get a little better. I can not take any chances on the vertigo getting worse. Some days, weeks, or months are better than others. I'd love for it to completely go away.

Hap Pebbles Remembered

Hap Peebles was a concert booking agent and promoter who put on concerts in about ten upper Midwest states. His headquarters was in Wichita, Kansas. His biggest specialty was country music. Country music biographies and documentaries have mentioned him often with the highest praise, saying that signed contracts were unnecessary as his word was good and that if he said he would do something he would plus more.

A local friend, Carl "Crazy Legs" Palmer brought over a couple of plaques that were given to Hap, one an appreciation from radio station KFDI in Wichita and one from the Jaycees in Topeka for his emergency relief fundraising immediately after the devastating tornado on June 8, 1966, that practically cut the city in half.

At the recent Ponderosa Stomp festival in Memphis, Tennessee, Sun Records rockabilly legend Sonny Burgess asked where I was from. As soon as I told him he immediately said Hap Pebbles booked their shows in this area in the 1950s and 1960s and that he was a good person to work for. Another testament to his good reputation.

Peebles died in 1993.

Please take a look at the photos of these plaques in my Flickr Photo Album entitled "Hap Peebles".

Poor Early Examples of Stereo and Fake-Stereo Records

Here is a response I composed for the Rockin' 50s message board run by Bill Griggs on the topic of overdubs added to Buddy Holly's demo and apartment recordings:

In the 1960s record labels would do anything to make low fidelity recordings sound like high fidelity. Stereo was new and being accepted. Multi-track technology was making lots of new developments throughout the decade. Consumer demand was there, too. Had record labels released demos and air checks without enhancements, there would have been complaints. It was not like it is now where consumers want vintage recordings to sound as much like originals as possible with as little evidence of deterioration as possible. These days people tend to know what they are getting and like it that way. Back then, most everyone wanted everything to sound brand new like it had been recorded that year. Thus record companies would overdub new instruments and voices, usually in stereo and overdub them onto older mono recordings, some being masters, others being demos or air checks.

Most often, though, mono recordings would be filtered into fake stereo, tuning out treble one one stereo channel, and bass on the other. This effect was way too common through the end of the 1970s. It almost always sounded terrible and to me physically painful when heard with headphones. Even worse, the RCA label would, in addition to this, DELAY the right stereo channel a bit from the left creating a crisscrossing effect. Way too many Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, and God-knows how many country LPs had this effect applied. Thus, Elvis or Sam could be heard harmonizing with themselves, totally different from the mono 45s or older mono LP pressings.

Some Sun recordings made at 706 Union had stereo overdubs made at the new 639 Madison studio, Charlie Rich's "Lonely Weekends" being one.

Duck Dunn and Al Jackson re-recorded their bass and drum parts in stereo to make early Otis Redding mono recordings into stereo. Their efforts were subtle and don't sound too bad.

B. B. King's earliest mono records on the Modern label had big band overdubs in stereo added on LP releases in the late 1960s to try to make these records sound like his then current LPs on the ABC label. The orchestra used was of exceptional quality (even making me wonder if it was Count Basie's orchestra making extra bucks but PLEASE don't hold me to this. This is how rumors get started!). Listen to these same mono originals on current CDs. They sound so incredibly good. Why would anyone want to add to these? Well, it's 'cause they were not in stereo and they had to be in stereo so they could put the word "STEREO" in big letters on the cover so people would buy them.

Hank Williams SR had too many demo and masters overdubbed in stereo with ever increasing numbers of added instruments as the years went by. They just ruined Hank's original sound.

At some studios, mono recordings were recorded in two tracks, instruments on one channel, voices on another to facilitate better balancing at the mix down stage. Yet when the demand for stereo came around these two track recordings, never intended for stereo in the first place, got released in stereo. The all voice track on one side and all instrument track on the other sounds, again, just really awful. This happened to lots of early Beatles records on American LPs.

Fake live LPs happened then, as well. Existing or new studio recordings would have fake audience applause grafted on. Some labels just couldn't manage recording concerts.

So, it was the same when it came to putting out Buddy Holly's numerous demo and homemade recordings. These days, efforts would be made to restore these recordings to their original sound, but in the 1960s, like everyone else, the recordings had to be in modern sounding high fidelity stereo. I prefer to hear the undubbed versions when ever possible, but I actually like the Fireballs' overdubs. The Jack Hanson group can be heard struggling to follow Buddy's momentary breaks in rhythm. The Fireballs sound much more confident and seamless. I am particularly fond of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping". George Tomsco is a great guitarist and I think the whole group, under the direction of Norman Petty, sound fine on the overdubs. So much so that I think had Buddy lived he should have recorded an entire LP with Fireballs as the back-up group. I think it would have given Buddy a proto-surf sound which, in the early 1960s, would have modernized his sound a little and would increase his chance of new Top 40 hits on the charts and on radio.

At any rate, I really dislike the things done in the 1960s and 1970s to try to make old recordings sound new.

Profession Wrestling Pre-WWF As I Remember It

Here is copy of the email sent to Larry Matysik, author of an excellent book on professional wrestling in St. Louis, Missouri. This pretty much details my fascination with professional wrestling:


I could not put your book down! I love "Wrestling At the Chase"!

I am a life long resident of Topeka, Kansas. I have been a fan of professional wrestling since the early 1960s when I was about ten years old. I remember exactly how I became a fan. One day my Mom and one of her sisters where laughing their heads off in the living room. I asked what was so funny. They were recalling the early days of television and how wrestlers like Gorgeous George would carry on to get the audience all worked-up. I asked if they still did anything like this on TV. They said yes. Well, a lot of ten years olds have TV Guide figured out by that age, so a careful study revealed that we had not one but two professional wrestling television programs every Saturday. "All Star Wrestling" was seen Saturday mornings at, I think, 11:00am on WDAF, channel 4, from Kansas City. Then after the 10:00pm news, there was "Wrestling With Bob" on what was then called KFEQ (now KQTV), channel 2, from St. Joseph, MO.I quickly became a fan and had to watch every week.

My Mom said that since I liked this so much we ought to go see a card at the Municipal Auditorium. I couldn't believe she would make such an offer. She didn't have to ask twice! That would be the beginning of me going to see live wrestling dozens of times during the 1960s.I recall that All Star Wrestling had a regular weekly circuit that was followed very consistently during the 1960s. As I recall they were in Wichita every Monday, Sedalia, MO, every Tuesday. Wednesday seemed to be a night off, maybe? Then there was wrestling in Kansas City every Thursday in Kansas City, even on holidays. Then it was St. Joseph every Friday. Saturdays seemed like a busy day. They taped "All Star Wrestling" during the morning, "Wrestling With Bob" was broadcast live from the TV studio in St. Joseph at 10:30pm, and they had a card at the Fort Riley Army base on Saturday nights a couple times of month. Then, every other Sunday afternoon All Star Wrestling came to the Municipal Auditorium here in Topeka.

That was a perfect time for me!!It was at the auditorium where I saw Bulldog Bob Brown and Texas Bob Geigel as an unstoppable tag team, Pat O'Connor, the Viking, Roger "Nature Boy" Kirby, Rufus R. Jones, Mike George, Dave Peterson, Jeanie Antoine, Betty Nicolai, several midgets, Danny Little Bear, and so many more! I recall seeing special guests like Bobo Brazil, Ernie Ladd, and especially Antonio Rocca, the barefoot high-flyer! I seem to recall seeing Edouard Carpentier. I'm pretty sure I saw him. I could swear I saw Andre the Giant at some time here perhaps in the 1970s. Is that possible?We rarely saw Harley Race. Seems like when we did he was always just back from some distant place. Even then he was wrestling around the world and often not here in the Central States area.

Then a terribly exciting thing happened. At the first card I attended in 1968, ring announcer Bill Kirsten breathlessly announced that the weekly TV taping of "All Star Wrestling" was moving from WDAF to Topeka, to our brand new state-of-the-art television station, then called KTSB (now KSNT), channel 27, our NBC affiliate. Thus began a weekly trip to the TV station on U. S. highway 24 between Topeka and Silver Lake. Every Saturday at 9:30am we had free ringside seats to see the stars of "All Star Wrestling". There were about 60 bright red wooden folding chairs set up on two sides of the ring for the audience. A lot of the same people came every week. For about four years, I had little trouble getting neighborhood friends, school friends, and even out-of-town cousins and uncles and aunts to come with us to the TV tapings. One day we actually had three carloads of friends and relatives go with us. Man that was a lot of fun! I remember how amazed everyone was when they brought out the Spoiler! He was covered from head to toe and had cat-like agility. Man, he had the crowd worked up.

Another time a wrestler I think named Bob Blunt had what looked like a for-real epileptic seizure in the ring and had to be led out of the studio. I don't think that was supposed to happen.

I used wear goofy hats to the show so I could see myself on TV when I got home and watched the show at 11:00am. I had a hillbilly hat with patches, buttons, a feather, and a corn cob pipe stuck in it. One time Dick Murdock jumped out of the ring, snatched the hat off my head, pulled out the corn cob pipe, got in the ring and rubbed it in his opponent's eyes. He might have been disqualified for using a foreign object! I got it back.

Another time, before the taping began, announcer Bill Kirsten told us that at the end of the show us kids were urged to chase Bulldog Bob Brown around the ring and out the door to the parking lot on cue and that the cameras would follow as far as they could (this was LONG before hand held TV cameras!) We did and it looked great on TV later. We threw gravel at Brown in the parking lot until he yelled at us, telling us he'd fix it so we would never get to come back. We took that as cue to stop. We got some exercise that day!

"All Star Wrestling" was syndicated to local TV stations all over the Central States area. So, I can remember before being let in to the TV studios, we could hear them in there taping interviews and promos to promote the cards being held in each city where the show was broadcast. Thus before taping the show, they would do promos for cards in Wichita, Kansas City, Lincoln, etc. The promos for the arena cards in Topeka were always done during the taping of the show itself.

The weirdest thing that happened at the TV tapings was this: For a couple weeks in the audience there was a group of about five or six teenagers who were patients from the State Hospital, accompanied by a uniformed hospital aide. These kids were very clearly schizophrenic cases. I am surprised they would even brings kids who were already nervous, excitable types like this to something as stimulating as a professional wrestling card. Strangest of all was that one of them was a guy I remember from junior high school. He wasn't there long. He was the first guy we knew to use drugs. He was way over the top and disappeared from school. Now here he was a mental patient and looked like he was up to no good. This one Saturday during the TV taping a wrestler (I forget who) was knocked out of the ring on the floor right in front of these kids from the State Hospital. As though they had this planned they got up and attacked the wrestling while he was down. They kicked him repeatedly. The other wrestler (I am sure Dick Murdock) got out of the ring and really punched our former classmate on the nose and knocked him out cold on the floor. He never came to. The hospital aide and the old security guard quickly removed the other patients. The fellow who was knocked out was picked up a hauled out of the studio. A lady who was in the audience every week with her son spoke to Bob Geigel. When she came back to her seat she told us she was a nurse and offered to administer first aid to the out-cold attacker. She said Geigel told her to go sit down and don't mention this to anyone. I thought for certain they would not show this scene on TV. By golly, they did. All of it. These kids from the State Hospital never came back.

The show was taped here for about four years when they started to tape the show at the arena cards at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. Actually, of the two weekly TV shows we had here, the show from St. Joseph could be pretty exciting. It was live so there were all the unexpected things that can happen on live TV. One time at the end of the show a skinny guy in the audience was so mad he got in the ring and challenged Bob Brown. There was a stand-off. Finally Brown pushed him down under the ropes. They left the cameras on! Another time, the action in the ring was dull and the audience pretty quiet. Some guy yelled out "Do something, guys, or I'm gonna send my wife up there to whip ya both!" Everyone was laughing so hard, even the wrestlers! Even referee Dick Moody, who was such a stoneface, had to stop!Even the commercials were live. The local Ford dealer would saunter out with his hands in his pockets and suggest coming by the lot after church on Sunday and kick tires when there was no one around, then call on Monday. These little old ladies would demonstrate their sewing machines from their fabric shop. A farm supply store would set up a display with bags of seed, salt blocks, and garden tools which a couple of times got used as foreign objects in and around the ring. Weirdest of all was a local pharmacist who would advertise his pharmacy, or "prescription shop" as he called it. What was funny was that when he first started advertising on TV he was scared stiff. Over time, he loosened up quite a bit. Eventually, too much. He gradually evolved into a swinger Playboy tuxedo type using his paid advertising time to announce what nightclub he would be at and that women ought to join him for a drink. When that happened all of his advertisement after that week were pre-recorded. No more hustling chicks on TV! That guy was likely taking too much of his own medicine! Promoter Gust Karas was a constant presence on the St. Joseph TV show. He looked like a gangster with his gravel voice, hat, and suits with dark shirts and white ties.

Your book, Larry, answers a lot of questions about what was going on over there in St. Louis. The NWA had the country divided up in pretty distinct regions, or districts as I always called them. All Star Wrestling put on cards throughout Kansas, much of Nebraska, always including Lincoln but always excluding Omaha, much of Iowa, Missouri, but excluding St. Louis. On our TV shows we often saw tapes provided from other parts of the country announcing the arrival of visiting wrestlers. But I just don't recall hearing much about what was going on in not-so-distant St. Louis. Surely, St. Louis was part of the NWA Central States district but how come we rarely heard about what was going on there? Well, your book clearly tells the story of the unique wrestling promotion you had there. So many large cities had professional wrestling EVERY week. I often wondered if that was too often and led to frequent poor attendance. From your book, I see that Sam Muchnick felt that every three weeks, not weekly but a little more often than monthly, was the right frequency for having a card at Keil or the larger Arena. Very smart move!

Your book, like the autobiographies of Harley Race and Ric Flair, detail with some disbelief the unfolding of events in 1984, the year professional wrestling changed forever. I myself, as a fan, was excited by the new found popularity of professional wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s, but at the same time missed the style of regional promotions like we had before the rise of nationwide promotions like the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling.I always watched WCW on television. I always watched " WCW Nitro" and "WCW Saturday Night". I often watched "WCW Worldwide". I think "WCW Thunder" was one show too many.

During the 1990s, WCW came to the Kansas Expocentre here eight times and I attended every time. "Clash of the Champions", "Worldwide" and "Thunder" originated from here at one time or another. I know so much has written about how WCW was a badly run business, but from my viewpoint as a fan, I think this is where the best wrestling took place. Boy, things came unraveled during those last two years, but I really miss WCW. During the last two years of its existence, All Star Wrestling no longer produced a TV show. During its time slot it showed the AWA weekly syndicated program and included advertisements and interviews for the upcoming local cards. This program and the 1980s ESPN program are what I have seen of the AWA. They were an excellent promotion. I miss them, too.

I liked ECW, too. They came to Kansas City twice in 2000. We went both times and loved it! We never saw "ECW Hardcore" on TV here. The DVDs and "ECW on TNN" is all I ever saw of ECW on television.

I have all of your St. Louis Wrestling DVDs. I haven't watched them all yet. (I have two boxes full of DVDs I have bought that I have yet to watch!) But I have seen the volume with the Sam Muchnick tribute. That was really nice!I really appreciate the detail in your book. You obviously have a huge amount of material for research for your book, That along with your firsthand recollections and your excellent writing style made it an memorable experience for me to read it. Thank you again. Now I know what was happening in St. Louis. Now I need to finish watching your DVDs!

King of Surf Guitar Acknowledges Daddy-o From Stage, Killer Rocks KC

May 9 and 10, 2006, was an exciting rock 'n' roll weekend for your truly. I went to Kansas City both nights. On Friday, Jerry Lee Lewis performed at the Folly Theater. This was the first of a series of concerts put on by Bill Shapiro, DJ on KCUR radio, possibly for broadcast. The Folly Theater was described as the oldest theater in Kansas City, having opened in 1900. This was the first time I had ever been there. It is located at 12th and Central, right across the street from Municipal Auditorium. I thought the Uptown Theater was older. At 7:00pm, Shapiro gave a 30 minute lecture on Jerry Lee Lewis, his music, life, and place in the world. I suppose this was the longest introduction I'd ever heard. Jerry gave a rockin', good natured performance including "You Belong To Me" ("see the Pyramids along the Nile"). What was kinda funny was that right after the very first song some Englishman indignantly yelled out "We've come all the way from England to hear you play the piano and we cannot hear the piano." Jerry twiddled a knob or two on his amp. God Lord, mate, give the guy at the mixing board a chance. It always takes a song or two to get the balance right. Once His Majesty was mollified, he again yelled out a request for "Kansas City" which Jerry and group honored with great gusto. EVERYBODY adds "Kansas City" to their set list here, no matter what kind of music they play. It always gets a lusty audience response. Locals are far from indifferent to this song. Of note, this night's bass player was B. B. Cunningham, a Memphian of great renown. His group the Hombres had a 1967-68 hit with "Let It All Hang Out". By God, Jerry actually kicked the piano stool during the finale. The audience went nuts. Jerry's band hung out with fans by the bus for a good half hour posing for pics and signing autographs. This was the third time I have seen the Killer. I saw him twice in the 1980s.

On Saturday, I saw the King of the Surf Guitar, Dick Dale for the 13th time since 1995, at the Grand Emporium. I will never forget these blazing concerts! Dick is indeed a living legend. For the first several songs Dick was clowning around on stage, playing song fragments, unintentional medleys, and joking with the audience. He was no doubt happy to be playing the final date of his six-week long annual Spring tour and was letting himself go. Though, by the time he got to "Miserlou" he got down to business and for the rest of the show showed everyone just exactly what he can do, playing guitar that has inspired endless other players for decades. He, as usual, also played drums simultaneous with the regular drummer, played drum sticks on the strings on the bass guitar, and trumpet! Dick announced that he has recorded a song for inclusion on a tribute album to Joe Maphis, the famed country and rockabilly guitar player remembered for his double-necked Mosrite guitar. He then played a country guitar medley as an example of what Maphis would play. He started with a few notes and asked "Anyone know this one?" I yelled out "Wildwood Flower". Everyone looked at me. Dick said "Say again?" I repeated my answer. He pointed at me and said he didn't think anyone would know that. He then said "I'm gonna play this one for you, friend!" Since I think 1996, Dick Dale has played these six-week long Spring tours that cover the northeast quarter of the United States. He usually starts in Colorado then goes as far northeast as Maine, then works his way back to the Midwest. Kansas City is usually the last or next to last stop on these tours. He'll play six nights a week on average. Last night he referred to these tours as "Blood Alley". In the last six weeks, I attended all three nights of the Ponderosa Stomp in Memphis, Tennessee, and concerts by Wanda Jackson, Sonny West, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Dick Dale. I've seen more live music in last month than I usually see in years. Please see photographs of these concerts in my Flickr Album! After the concert Dick confirmed that Sundazed Records is indeed in production of reissues of all his 1950s - 1960s recordings for the Deltone and Capitol labels. Dick has often expressed misgivings about his old recordings, but these are indeed the records that, along with his West coast concerts, made him famous. Fans think they are great and no doubt will love to hear them scratch-free. Dick owns these master tapes, not Capitol/EMI.� Two compilations of these recordings came out on Rhino in the 1990s. I think Dick has sat on these recordings for long enough. Each of his LPs are to be reissued with non-LP bonus tracks on both CD and LPs. I really hope these will include his records on the Cougar label, which I think Dick owned. My guess we'll hear these in 2007.

CDs and Records From the Ponderosa Stomp 2006

Attending the Ponderosa Stomp in Memphis has inspired some fine additions to my music library.

I bought these CDs and LP at the Stomp:

Clarence "Frogman" Henry: "Ain't Got No Home" autographed
Sir Douglas Quintet:"Best", "SDQ is Back"
Warren Storm: "King of the Dance Halls" autographed
Travis Wammack: "Live Rock 'n' Roll Party", "Scratchy", "Snake Rattle and Roll", "Still Rockin'", all autographed
Wilson Pickett "Right On" This LP is yet to be released on CD.

Since returning home, I have purchased these CDs, many cheap as used or cut-outs. In each case, these artists have been under-represented in my collection. All were at the Ponderosa Stomp and performed with the exception of Big Sandy who was there as a fan:
Alarm Clocks: "Yeah!"
Billy Boy Arnold: "Ten Million Dollars", "Goin' to Chicago", "Eldorado Cadillac", "Live at the Venue", "Boogie 'n' Shuffle", "Consolidated Mojo", "Catfish"

Big Sandy: "Feelin' Kinda Lucky", "Dedicated To You", "Radio Favorites", " Night Tide","Rockin' Big Sandy","It's Time"
"Sonny Burgess: "Classic Recordings 1956-1959", "Tennessee Border", "untitled", "Arkansas Rock 'n' Roll"
Deke Dickerson: "Number One Hit Record", "More Milion Sellers"
Hayden Thompson: "Love My Baby"."Rockabilly Rhythm"
The Wailers: "The Fabulous Wailers", "At the Castle"
various: "A History of Garage and Frat Bands in Memphis 1960-1975" vols. 1-2

Sonny West: Rare Chance to Hear First Generation West Texas Rockabilly

I had the rare honor of seeing Sonny West in concert on May 20, 2006. Sonny, of course, wrote two of Buddy Holly's biggest hits ("Rave On" and "Oh Boy") and recorded excellent records of his own. He played a concert in a club I never heard of in Mission, KS, a suburb of Kansas City, on May 19, then at the Performing Arts Center in the historic downtown area of Leavenworth, KS, on May 20. This is a beautiful old movie theater with about 500 seats and old Altec speakers (so common in the old theatres AND Norman Petty's control booth in Clovis!). Both concerts were apparently recorded for release on CD and DVD. Sonny played a really nice set of his old rockabilly tunes, his hits for Buddy, and a killer version of "Haunted House" (the Jumpin' Gene Simmons hit), masterfully strumming a cream colored Fender, creating a tone younger guitar players just can't get. In between songs he told jokes demonstrating a modest, understated sense of humor that seems common among folks from West Texas. He seemed actually shy while speaking but tore it up while singing. Unfortunately, there were only 25 people in the audience. There seemed to be very little advance publicity that I know of. Maybe the Kansas City media had something. I sure didn't see anything even on the Internet. The only reason I knew about it is because they were handing out fliers at Wanda Jackson's concert at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, MO, on May 18. Sonny signed the cover of my copy of the Rockin' 50s magazine with his youthful face on the cover! Seeing Wanda Jackson and Sonny West in person just a week after attending the Ponderosa Stomp festival in Memphis, I'm still in a spin over all the great live music I've heard this month!

Books About Record Producers and Label Owners & DJs

In the last few years, many of the best books I have read about music are not about musicians but other people in the music business. Biographies about record producers and record label owners are very readily available these days. Here are my favorites:

"Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records"
by Nadine Cohodas
Both a biography of Leonard and a history of the Chess label. Add to this book recent biographies of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and the book about Chuck Berry's legal problems and you get quite a story about Chess Records. There are two other biographies about Leonard Chess. One I am not wild about and I haven't read the other.

"Dewey and Elvis: The Life and Times of a Rock 'n' Roll Deejay"
by Louis Cantor
Very little about Elvis, actually, and that's OK. This book is about the legendary radio DJ Dewey Phillips, in a town full of legendary DJs. When I finished this book, I felt as if I had prowled through every street and haunt in downtown Memphis. The quality of writing in this book is a massive improvement over the author's previous book which was about WDIA radio.

"My First 90 Years Plus 3"
by Kenneth F. Nelson (Ken Nelson)
Ken Nelson produced thousands of recordings for Capitol Records and I have long thought of him as one of the best producers. So little had ever been publicly known about Ken Nelson. Now, at the end of his life he tells about everything, more detail then I would ever expect to known about Nelson, even stuff like family problems.

"Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers" by John Broven
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this wonderful book about independent record labels from the mid 1940s through the late 1960s. I really think John Broven deserves to be nominated for literary awards for this book. Are you aware of book awards for music history, oral history, or business & enterprise history that could possibly be awarded for this book? It's that good.

Next up is the autobiography of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. I'm really looking forward to this one!

I think the biography of Sam Phillips was published in England only? Am I right about that? This may explain why I've heard little about it.

I regret not reading Jerry Wexler's bio while it was still in print. Used copies are pricey. Have any of you read Ahmet Ertegun's book?


It is now August, 2007, and I have just now gotten around to reading "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" by Lester Bangs. Years ago, I checked this book out of the public library and flipped through it long enough to know I wanted my own copy. I bought one in 1999 (the receipt is still stuck in the middle) and have just now read the darn thing. (At any given moment I own about twenty books I've bought but have not gotten around to reading. I am usually reading a couple of books. I'll get around to reading them all eventually and this is one that just didn't seem urgent.)

Boy, this Lester sure gets worked up over things. Time and again while reading this book the author reminded me of a dog furiously chasing after his own tail. I can sympathize with him, especially in his articles dated in the early 1970s. In these earliest essays, he suggests that all he really wants to do is just listen to some new, good, basic rock 'n' roll music. Well, in those days that was pretty hard to come by since we were deep in the heart of the prog rock era. It is obvious that he, like myself, found a lot to like in the 1960s but were not too happy with the 1970s. It almost seems that we took different directions at about that time. Whereas he took a path that led him to the likes of David Bowie, Kraftwork, and Richard Hell, I took the path to the dimly lit, unswept corners of record stores where they kept a few blues records. I was thoroughly happy learning the joys of blues by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Big Walter Horton, and Hound Dog Taylor. Not long after I learned just how similar were the sounds of rockabillies like Gene Vincent and honky-tonkers like George Jones. At this point, I knew I had found my home, musically. I wonder if Lester Bangs would have shed his frustration and found a greater contentment if he had taken a similar direction musically? Might he have penned less anguished missives at an earlier age writing for Living Blues than Creem? Had he lived to the present day, would he have danced the night away at British rockabilly "weekenders" or festivals like the Ponderosa Stomp or Cavestomp? Dunno, maybe, hope so. Or would he be one those guys who must always find something to feel uncomfortable about?
Near the end of the period covered in this book, Lester seems to have identified some kind of inner contentment, if not able to completely embrace it then at least face toward it. If only he'd taken a few more steps in that direction before it was too late for him.
Indeed he made an impression.