Saturday, March 28, 2015
Song:Big Rock Candy Mountain
I'm pretty sure most of you think Big Rock Candy Mountain is a classic children's song as popularized by Burl Ives. But the song started out as a hobo song written by real life hobo Harry McClintock. He performed as Haywire Mac but he never recorded Big Rock Candy Mountain until 1953. He was born Oct. 8, 1882 in Knoxville, TN. He sang in church when he was a child but he also ran away from home to join the circus. By age 14, McClintock left home for good and spent most of his time riding trains as a hobo. He was also in The Philippines during The Spanish American War and was a one time union organizer. His experience as a hobo led him to write Hallelujah I'm A Bum and then Big Rock Candy Mountain. Both of these songs are considered to be traditional folk songs so McClintock didn't get credit for writing them. In 1925, McClintock got his own radio show and then recorded for RCA as Haywire Mac. He eventually sued to establish his copyright for Big Rock Candy Mountain. The song is about fantasies McClintock heard when he was a child. But the song also has hobo references that he had to remove before anyone would record the song. Big Rock Candy Mountain by Robert "Tex" Morgan topped the country charts in 1939. But the song was a huge hit when Burl Ives recorded it in 1949 and today that recording is considered a children's music perennial. Big Rock Candy Mountain was also featured in the 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou. McClintock moved to Hollywood in 1938 and appeared as a bad guy in westerns. He moved to San Francisco in 1953 to host a radio show. And that's also when folksinger Sam Eskin interviewed him and got him to sing some of his songs. These recordings are available on CD from Folkways Records. McClintock continued with his radio show until he died on Apr. 24, 1957 at age 74. Here's a video for Big Rock Candy Mountain by Harry McClintock.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Song:Quarter To Three
Album:The Very Best of Gary U.S. Bonds: The Original Legrand Masters
Gary U.S. Bonds topped the charts in 1961 with the quintessential party song Quarter To Three. Then he disappeared but he charted in the 80s with the help of Bruce Springsteen. He was born Gary Anderson June 6, 1939 in Jacksonville, FL and he grew up in Norfolk, VA. His group The Turks got the attention of local record store owner Frank Guida and Anderson signed with Guida's Legrand label. Guida gave him the name Gary U.S. Bonds hoping that radio stations would think the record was a public service announcement and the record would get more airplay. Bonds' first single New Orleans reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. And then Quarter To Three topped the charts in 1961. Quarter To Three is based on an instrumental called A Night With Daddy G by The Church Street Five and written by that group's leader Gene Barge. He recorded for Legrand. Bonds wrote the lyrics and Guida invited some teens into the studio so the record would have a party atmosphere. Bonds had other top ten hits like School Is Out, Dear Lady Twist and Twist Twist Senora. Bonds recorded two albums in the early 60s and then didn't record again until the 80s though he did co-write the 1972 Johnny Paycheck hit She's All I Got. You can get all his 60s hits on this budget comp from Varese. Bruce Springsteen played Quarter To Three in New Jersey clubs. When Steven Van Zandt approached Springsteen with the opportunity to record Bonds, they got him a deal with EMI Records. He charted with This Little Girl in 1981. The comeback lasted for a couple of years. Bonds has recorded occasionally since then and he still tours the oldies circuit and he wrote his autobiography in 2013. Here's Gary U.S. Bonds performing Quarter To Three probably in the mid-60s.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Song:I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home)
Though they were never a critic's darling, Grand Funk Railroad was one of the most popular rock groups of the 70s. I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home) was their most popular early song. They softened their sound in the mid-70s and were very successful with hits like We're An American Band. Grand Funk Railroad were from Flint, MI. The group name was a goof on the Grand Trunk Railroad that goes through Flint. Guitarist Mark Farner and drummer Don Brewer were members of the modestly successful band Terry Knight and the Pack. When they split up, Farner and Brewer formed Grand Funk Railroad with Question Mark & The Mysterians bassist Mel Schacher and Knight became their manager and producer. Cream was the prototype for a power trio like Grand Funk Railroad and they signed with Capitol Records in 1969 after a performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival. Though they didn't have any hit singles, their albums were an immediate success. Their 1969 debut album On Time was certified Gold and their 1970 album Grand Funk was certified Platinum. But when I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home) reached #22 on the Billboard Hot 100, the 1972 album Closer to Home was certified 2XPlatinum. Farner wrote most songs including I'm Your Captain. But they fired Knight in late 1971 and Schacher was replaced by Craig Frost. Grand Funk self produced the 1972 album Phoenix. Then they decided to head in a more mainstream pop direction and they hired Todd Rundgren to produce the 1973 album We're An American Band. The singles We're An American Band and The Loco-Motion both topped the charts. So the stylistic change made them even bigger. After two albums with Rundgren, Grand Funk switched to producer Jimmy Ienner for the 1976 album All The Girls In The World Beware!!!. Some Kind Of Wonderful and Bad Time were top ten hits. But the band was burned out and wanted out of Capitol. They moved to MCA and after one Frank Zappa produced album, they split up in 1976. You can get all their hits on this budget comp. Farner recorded two solo albums for Atlantic. The other members recorded for Columbia as Flint. Grand Funk reformed briefly in the early 80s. Then Farner went solo again and Frost and Brewer joined Bob Seger's band. The original members reformed to play some gigs in 1996. After Farner returned to recording Christian music, Brewer and Schacher recruited 38 Special lead singer Max Carl and Grand Funk Railroad still play occasional gigs. I used to think Grand Funk Railroad were terrible but now I don't think they were as bad as I thought at the time. Here's Grand Funk Railroad performing I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home) at Shea Stadium in New York City 1970.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Song:In The Middle
Gospel singer Isaac Carree is best known as a member of the group Men Of Standard. He went solo after they split up in 2010 and topped the gospel charts with the single In The Middle. He was born Apr. 29, 1973 in Greensboro, NC where his mom was a church pastor. So he grew up singing in church and later he was a member of John P. Kee's VIP Choir. That's where he met Lowell Pye and they formed Men Of Standard with Bryan Pierce. Men of Standard split up in 2010 after recording six albums. Carree joined Kirk Franklin's group and appeared on the 2007 CD The Fight Of My Life and the 2011 CD Hello Fear. Meanwhile, Carree released the 2011 CD Uncommon Me which topped the gospel charts and so did the single In The Middle. In The Middle was written and produced by Gerald Haddon and his wife Tammi. Haddon is the brother of popular gospel artist Dietrick Haddon. Gerald appears in the video for In The Middle. He has recorded albums but he is mainly a producer these days. Other producers on the album include Warryn "Babydub" Campbell and James Fortune but several tracks were written and produced by Eric Dawkins of Dawkins & Dawkins. Carree has toured with Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary among others. He released his latest CD Reset on his own Door 6 label again working mostly with Eric Dawkins and featuring guest appearances by Kirk Franklin, Lacrae, Kierra Sheard, Joe and R. Kelly. I don't see Carree crossing over to mainstream music but he's a great singer worth checking out. Here's the video for In The Middle by Isaac Carree.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Song:One Fine Morning
Album:20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Lighthouse
One Fine Morning was the biggest hit for Lighthouse in 1971. They were very popular in their native Canada but One Fine Morning was a top 30 hit in the US. Lighthouse was from Toronto. Drummer Skip Prokop was a member of The Paupers. He met pianist Paul Hoffert on a flight from New York to Toronto. They discussed the idea of a rock band with a jazz horn section and a classical string section. This was in 1968 when the jazz rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears were emerging and a lot of similar bands would follow. Prokop recruited guitarist Ralph Cole to move from his home in Detroit to Toronto. Prokop had been on shows with Cole when The Paupers played Detroit. The other original members of Lighthouse were Grant Fullerton on bass and lead singer Vic "Pinky" Dauvin. They recruited strings from the Toronto Symphony and local jazz musicians like Freddy Stone on trumpet, Howard Shore on sax and Russ Little on trombone. Duke Ellington introduced them at their first show in Toronto. Stone had played with Ellington. Lighthouse released two albums on RCA and played some high profile gigs. But the albums didn't sell and Lighthouse went through some changes. The biggest change was Bob McBride replaced Pinky Dauvin as lead singer. Lighthouse signed with GRT Records in Canada and Evolution Records in the US. GRT was a subsidiary of GRT audio tape manufacturing but they were only active as a record company in Canada. Evolution was owned by the Longines watch company. One Fine Morning was a huge hit in Canada reaching #2 on the RPM chart. It reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. I think being on the small label in the US hurt Lighthouse and they just weren't able to break through. But they continued to have hits in Canada like Sunny Days. Hoffert left in 1973 when he tired of the road. And they started having problems with McBride. He missed a recording session and Prokop sang lead on Sunny Days. As is known now, McBride had drug problems. Prokop left in 1974. Cole attempted to continue but Lighthouse split up in 1976. They reunited briefly in 1982 and then more permanently on 1989 initially with Prokop, Hoffert, Cole and McBride. But McBride was soon replaced by Dan Clancy due to his drug problems. McBride died in 1998. This comp CD was released in 2010 and Lighthouse still plays occasional gigs. Here's Lighthouse performing One Fine Morning 2012.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Song:Stay With Me
Album:In The Lonely Hour: Deluxe Edition
Right now British blue eyed soul singer Sam Smith is very popular. He just finished winning four Grammys. It remains to be seen if he can have longevity. One thing in his favour is he writes his own songs. But wasn't he Robin Thicke a couple of years ago? And we know what happened to him. Smith was born May 19, 1992 in London, England. He trained in musical theater but classic soul music is Smith's number one influence. He first got attention when he appeared on Disclosure's 2012 hit single Latch. Smith continues to work with Disclosure producer James Napier. Smith released the EP Nirvana May 2013 and then he signed with Capitol Records. Stay With Me is Smith's biggest hit to date. It topped the British charts and reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Smith and Napier wrote and produced the song. But they were contacted by Tom Petty's publisher and told that Stay With Me is too similar to the 1989 song I Won't Back Down. Smith said he had never heard the song. But rather than go to court, they gave Petty and Jeff Lynne a 12.5% songwriting royalty. A live performance of Stay With Me featuring Mary J. Blige is on the 2014 CD Live From The Roundhouse. This Deluxe Edition of In A Lonely Hour has four bonus tracks including Disclosure's Latch. Smith performed Stay With Me on the Grammy Awards broadcast and then won four Grammys including Song of the Year. He is currently on his first world tour. We'll see if he can keep it up. But even if he doesn't, he can write and produce songs for others. Right now he seems to be a flavour of the month. Here's the video for Stay With Me by Sam Smith.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Here's the match video of Amanda Nunes vs Shayna Baszler from last night's UFC show in Brazil. Both fighters were coming off of a loss but they're probably going in opposite directions. Amanda is still a top contender. Her rep is she is very aggressive at the start of fights but if she doesn't get a finish, she runs out of gas. And that's what happened to her when she lost to Cat Zingano. Amanda said she has solved this problem by switching to American Top Team in Florida. UFC Strawweight Nina Ansaroff was in her corner. Maybe we'll find out about Amanda's endurance down the road. But I didn't think this fight would get out of the first round. Shayna's loss to Bethe Correia was pretty bad. She got hit with one hard punch and then stopped moving. As much as we all respect Shayna for her longevity in women's MMA, she hasn't won a fight in almost three years. And I think she's lost a lot of her quickness over the last couple of years. Father Time always wins that battle. I didn't think she could keep up with Amanda. That's very clear if you watch the fight. Amanda hurt Shayna with strikes and Shayna wasn't returning fire. Then a kick to the knee and Shayna goes down. It's all over. Shayna's only hope was to get past the first round but it was unlikely she would be able to hold Amanda off. Maybe she went into the fight with a bad knee. I would like to see Shayna retire before she embarrasses herself further because her last two losses were embarrassing. But fighters can be very stubborn and Invicta has a bad habit of running pointless nostalgia matches with longtime fan favourites. I'm sure it won't surprise anyone that I hate nostalgia matches. Look, time catches up to all fighters but some fighters don't recognize when it's time to go. I can only analyze what I saw last night and Shayna's past accomplishments will tarnish the longer she hangs on. Fighting spirit isn't enough. Amanda said afterwards that she would like a rematch against Cat Zingano and the result will be different this time. Maybe we'll see. Enjoy the video!
Song:The Book Of Love
Album:Vintage Music: Collector's Series Volumes 1 & 2
The classic doo wop song The Book Of Love was the only hit for The Monotones in 1958. The song got a big boost when George Lucas used it in the 1972 film American Graffiti. The Monotones were from Newark, NJ led by lead singer Charles Patrick. They sang at the New Hope Baptist Church led by Cissy Houston. That's right, Whitney Houston's mom. Charles and his brother James Patrick were cousins of Cissy Houston and Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick. Other group members were Warren Davis, Charles Malone, John Smith, Warren Ryanes and his brother John Ryanes. They were all high school students. In 1956, they won Ted Mack's Amateur Hour performing The Cadillacs' Zoom. James Patrick left The Monotones to join the rival group The Kodaks. The story goes that Charles Patrick heard a Pepsodent commercial on the radio and the slogan I Wonder Where The Yellow Went inspired him to write The Book Of Love. Davis and Malone helped him write it that day. They recorded a demo and this got them a deal with Hull Records who released it on their Mascot label. It got too big for Hull who licensed it to Chess Records who released it on Argo. The Book Of Love reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. After subsequent singles went nowhere, The Monotones split up in 1962. You can get The Book Of Love on this various artists budget CD. The song got a big boost when it appeared in American Graffiti. They started touring the oldies circuit and a version of The Monotones still tours today. Here are The Monotones performing The Book Of Love on The Dick Clark Beech Nut Show Apr. 12, 1958.