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Memphis Blues Again by the Dead

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Somebody stop me, for God’s sake!!! Two posts in one day!

In my last post, I referenced one of my favorite Dylan tunes: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. Is there any wonder that many of us in the late ’60s and early ’70s were so smitten with the Bobster?!??! Listen to the lyrics!

I had more than one friend in my high school and college days who, like me, had a sort of inside game we played on people. We’d try to converse the entire day using only Dylan quotes as our responses to what folks said to us. Crazy? Yes. Fun? Oh, HELL YES! And we could do it, too, couldn’t we, Andy McLenon and Bill Poteet and Ken DeVille? Goofing on people; it’s not just a way of life; it’s a religion.

Anyway, here’s a splendid cover of that splendid song by the Dead, with Bob Weir on lead vocals and shorty shorts, from 1989. Jerry’s playing his Doug Irwin Tiger guitar:

I don’t always like what the Grateful Dead did, but when I do like them, I like them a lot.

A jam buddy has said that he may invite a friend of his from Takoma Park, Maryland, John Kadlecik, to one of our Usual Suspects Saturday night jams. Furthur is the band that the surviving Dead band members have and John’s the lead guitar player. From what I hear, John’s a great guy. He’d fit right in with our ensemble; especially if he likes spicy shrimp!

Enjoy!

Always Missed . . .

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Charles Hardin Holley

Born September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas.

Died February 3, 1959, outside Clear Lake, Iowa.

Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts

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The festival was over, the boys were all plannin’ for a fall
The cabaret was quiet except for the drillin’ in the wall
The curfew had been lifted and the gamblin’ wheel shut down
Anyone with any sense had already left town
He was standin’ in the doorway lookin’ like the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

He moved across the mirrored room, “Set it up for everyone,” he said
Then everyone commenced to do what they were doin’ before he turned their heads
Then he walked up to a stranger and he asked him with a grin
“Could you kindly tell me, friend, what time the show begins?”
Then he moved into the corner, face down like the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Backstage the girls were playin’ five-card stud by the stairs
Lily had two queens; she was hopin’ for a third to match her pair
Outside the streets were fillin’ up, the window was open wide
A gentle breeze was blowin’, you could feel it from inside
Lily called another bet and drew up the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Big Jim was no one’s fool, he owned the town’s only diamond mine
He made his usual entrance lookin’ so dandy and so fine
With his bodyguards and silver cane and every hair in place
He took whatever he wanted to and he laid it all to waste
But his bodyguards and silver cane were no match for the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Rosemary combed her hair and took a carriage into town
She slipped in through the side door lookin’ like a queen without a crown
She fluttered her false eyelashes and whispered in his ear
“Sorry, darlin’, that I’m late,” but he didn’t seem to hear
He was starin’ into space over at the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

“I know I’ve seen that face before,” Big Jim was thinkin’ to himself
“Maybe down in Mexico or a picture up on somebody’s shelf”
But then the crowd began to stamp their feet and the houselights did dim
And in the darkness of the room there was only Jim and him
Starin’ at the butterfly who just drew the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Lily was a princess, she was fair-skinned and precious as a child
She did whatever she had to do, she had that certain flash every time she smiled
She’d come away from a broken home, had lots of strange affairs
With men in every walk of life which took her everywhere
But she’d never met anyone quite like the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

The hangin’ judge came in unnoticed and was being wined and dined
The drillin’ in the wall kept up but no one seemed to pay it any mind
It was known all around that Lily had Jim’s ring
And nothing would ever come between Lily and the king
No, nothin’ ever would except maybe the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Rosemary started drinkin’ hard and seein’ her reflection in the knife
She was tired of the attention, tired of playin’ the role of Big Jim’s wife
She had done a lot of bad things, even once tried suicide
Was lookin’ to do just one good deed before she died
She was gazin’ to the future, riding on the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Lily took her dress off; buried it away
“Has your luck run out?” she laughed at him,
“Well, I guess you must 
have known it would someday
Be careful not to touch the wall; there’s a brand-new coat of paint
I’m glad to see you’re still alive; you’re lookin’ like a saint.”
Down the hallway footsteps were comin’ for the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

The backstage manager was pacing all around by his chair
“There’s something funny going on,” he said, “I can just feel it in the air”
He went to get the hangin’ judge, but the hangin’ judge was drunk
As the leading actor hurried by in the costume of a monk
There was no actor anywhere better than the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

No one knew the circumstance but they say that it happened pretty quick
The door to the dressing room burst open and a Colt revolver clicked
And Big Jim was standin’ there; you couldn’t say surprised
Rosemary right beside him, steady in her eyes
She was with Big Jim but she was leanin’ to the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

Two doors down the boys finally made it through the wall
And cleaned out the bank safe; it’s said that they got off with quite a haul
In the darkness by the riverbed they waited on the ground
For one more member who had business back in town
They couldn’t go no further; not without the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

The next day was hangin’ day, the sky was overcast and black
Big Jim lay covered up, killed by a penknife in the back
And Rosemary on the gallows, she didn’t even blink
The hangin’ judge was sober; he hadn’t had a drink
The only person on the scene missin’ was the Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

The cabaret was empty now, a sign said, “Closed for Repair”
Lily had already taken all of the dye out of her hair
She was thinkin’ ’bout her father, who she very rarely saw
Thinkin’ ’bout Rosemary and thinkin’ about the law
But most of all she was thinkin’ about the Jack of Hearts

—Bob Dylan

Copyright ©1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music

Jim’s Acoustic Guitar Gizmo!

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A few years ago, I came up with an idea to keep an acoustic guitar’s strap from falling off the endpin pickup jack. I called this little thing my Gizmo.

There is a problem with acoustic guitars fitted with an internal pickup; if you have a cable in that jack, all is well because the cable will keep the strap from falling off.

If you don’t have a cable connected to your guitar, and most of the time you are playing you won’t, there’s nothing to keep that guitar strap from slipping off the endpin jack, and then your guitar hits the floor or deck or whatever else is under it!

This irritating and dangerous problem happened to me more than once and could have had bad results. So I came up with this little Gizmo to keep the strap from slipping off when there’s no cable in the jack.

Here’s a photo of the original brass Gizmo prototype made for me from my specs by my buddy Frank Ford, the guitar repair genius at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California. Frank is, in addition to being the fellow who sold Joan Baez her first guitar and the most talented guitar repair-person I know of, a skilled machinist:

Gizmo Prototype

Gotta include this charming photo taken recently of Frank and Joan playing with some ukuleles in Frank’s store:

Frank & Joan

A few months later, when I was visiting the CF Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, one day, I had Frank’s brass prototype of my Gizmo in the pocket of my jeans and showed it to Brenden Hackett, Martin’s marketing guru and a smart and supportive guy. Brenden loved the idea and we showed it to various folks at the Martin factory. It was Brenden who encouraged me to get the Gizmo patented.

Patents take a loooong time to research, write, get drawings for and so on, and once submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it takes a loooong time for them to be processed and reviewed. But I did all the stuff one has to do to submit the patent and it’s been at the Patent Office for a couple of years, inching its way through the pipe.

Page Patent

Here’s a very low-end video I made one morning on my iPhone that shows the Gizmo and what it does. I made this video in support of a Kickstarter.com effort for the Gizmo. I had some great and enthusiastic supporters for this Kickstarter attempt, but didn’t generate enough financial backing to make the Kickstarter threshold. So it goes!!!:

While the Gizmo was still “patent pending,” one of my other great friends, Bob Shade, president of Hallmark Guitars, joined with me to have some prototypes and samples made overseas. We made them from brass with finishes in nickel, black and gold. Here’s what those look like:

Gizmos Final

Larry Stein, my very patient patent attorney, emailed me Friday afternoon that my Gizmo’s patent application has been published (whatever that means) and is in the final review stage now, after about two years. Maybe the Gizmo will finally come to fruition after all this time. Whether anything comes of it after that, I can’t say; it’ll need to be marketed by a firm with more resources than I have.

But if Jim’s Gizmo can help prevent someone’s nice guitar from being smashed to bits after a five-foot drop, then it’s a good thing!

Wish me luck!

Ya Gotta Start Somewhere!

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Here are some amusing videos from YouTube for your weekend edification and enjoyment. The first shows a musical young man originally from Baltimore, Frank Zappa, on the Steve Allen Show in 1963. Frank plays the bicycle:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9P2V0_p6vE

Zappa In 1959

For those with a limited knowledge of early television, Steve Allen was a former jazz DJ who was the first star host of the Tonight Show. He was a respected musical composer and also guest starred in the Superman newspaper strip as a lookalike for Clark Kent.

Frank seems somewhat shy yet articulate in this amusing sketch. Zappa was later busted in a police sting for making an allegedly pornographic audio tape; he spent several months in jail but had a successful career after that ordeal as the leader of the Mothers of Invention and other brilliant music endeavors.

Next, a 14-year-old Jimmy Page in 1957 plays skiffle on a British television show; the Hofner archtop guitar he plays seems as big as he is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfZ1AEdfd1o

Jimmy is the young man in the dark sweater and white shirt. He went on to play guitar in British music producer Mickie Most’s studio band, backing singles by Herman’s Hermits, Donovan and Brenda Lee. After that, he was in the Yardbirds and, of course, Led Zeppelin.

Young Jimmy Rocks

Onward we go, still in the late 1950s. We meet a pair of young singers working for various low-budget record labels in the New York City area. They recorded a lot of covers and a few of their own songs. Known professionally as Tom and Jerry, they struggled for years before splitting up. The guitar player and songwriter of the duo, Paul Simon, went to England by himself to try his luck. Art Garfunkel, the lead vocalist, stayed in the NYC area and concentrated on his college math studies.

Tom And Jerry

A record producer, Tom Wilson, liked a cut on their very obscure 1964 album, Wednesday Morning 3am, and on his own volition, had electric guitar, bass and drums added to Paul’s simple background guitar on the tune. He released this version in 1965 without the knowledge or approval of Paul or Artie and it became very popular. Columbia Records quickly got the duo back together to capitalize on the unexpected popularity of the song, Sounds of Silence, and Simon and Garfunkel became a best-selling musical team.

Here’s a sweet-sounding 1960 single by Tom and Jerry entitled Just a Boy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGXLjRBcXyo

The Beatles Flunk An Audition

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At the end of the last Beatles public performance, held on the roof of their Apple Corps building on January 30, 1969, John Lennon remarked, “I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition . . .”

Seven years earlier, they didn’t. On January 1, 1962, The Beatles, consisting at that time of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best, auditioned for the Decca Record label in London; the Decca producer was Tony Meehan.

Decca Records rejected The Beatles, saying that “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” Of course, this verdict, delivered by an expert in a suit (no one at Decca Records would ever admit who it was) is the single most egregious mistake in the history of show business.

In the last few days, news outlets have been breathlessly reporting that the original Decca audition tape has been found after 50 years and will soon be sold at auction. What the articles usually fail to say is that Beatles manager Brian Epstein had several copies of that original tape made and that the audition has been available to Beatles fans for many years in very good-quality audio bootlegs.

Here’s CNN’s report:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/23/showbiz/england-beatles-audition-tape/index.html

And here’s TIME Magazine’s:

http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/23/rejected-beatles-audition-tape-to-be-auctioned-in-london/

One factor that might have lead to their rejection was the selection of songs that Epstein insisted they play at the audition. Epstein’s thinking was to show the range of material that The Fabs could handle, and he wanted to move them away from the rough-edged, leather-clad image they had developed on their own.

He put them in nice suits and chose their songs for them on this important day.  There were a few original Beatles songs mixed in with Broadway show tunes, a Buddy Holly cover, a couple of Coasters covers and some romantic ballads. There were no rough edges.

The order of the songs at the session was:

Like Dreamers Do (Lennon–McCartney)

Money (That’s What I Want) (Gordy/Bradford)

Till There Was You (Meredith Wilson)

The Sheik of Araby (Smith/Wheeler/Snyder)

To Know Her Is to Love Her (Phil Spector)

Take Good Care of My Baby (King/Goffin)

Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry)

Sure to Fall (In Love with You) (Cantrell/Claunch/Perkins)

Hello Little Girl (Lennon–McCartney)

Three Cool Cats (Leiber/Stoller)

Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Buddy Holly)

Love of the Loved (Lennon–McCartney)

September in the Rain (Warren/Dubin)

Bésame Mucho (Consuelo Velázquez)

Searchin’ (Leiber/Stoller)

Here are some of the tracks from that session:

01 Like Dreamers Do

07 Memphis

09 Hello Little Girl

14 Besame Mucho

Epstein continued shopping this audition tape around and on June 4, 1962, The Beatles were signed by EMI-Parlophone comedy-record producer, George Martin, who could see the group’s potential. Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) replaced Pete Best on drums in August of ’62.

Decca Records, stung by the ridicule they received after The Beatles became the most successful music group in world history, signed The Rolling Stones on the advice of George Harrison. And John Lennon told Brian Epstein to keep away from the musical side of The Beatles.

These Hits Missed!

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Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, kids were suddenly the buyers of popular music. AM radio (which at that time was really the only kind on the airwaves) was playing lots of music aimed at kids and young adults and wherever there’s a buck to be made, some sharp promoter will come up with a way to exploit the situation. Nothing illegal, but these experiences were how kids learned to read the small print and be less trusting of grownups.

In the third grade, my allowance was 25¢ a week, and I did my best to get the most value for my two dimes and a nickel. Once, on a grocery trip with my mom, I saw a standalone cardboard bin that sold hit records at a great price: 39¢!!! What a deal!!! At that time, a legitimate 45rpm single by Elvis or Chuck Berry might cost 79¢ or more.

So I saved my pennies and I saved my dimes and the next time I went to the store with mom, I bought the record.

Yeesh. I hadn’t counted on the hit song being performed by a studio band that wasn’t even close to what I was used to hearing:
Wake Up, Little Susie/Silhouettes by two unknown Tops Records bands, 1958:

That first track didn’t sound quite like The Everly Brothers and as for the second, it wasn’t even close to the version by The Rays or The Diamonds. What a burner for me, huh?

Nowadays, though, it’s kind of fun to search out some of these tacky cover versions. They range from lackluster to lame to absolutely rank. But the purpose was to get the pennies out of a kid’s pocket and into the cash register and I suppose that was one way to make a living playing music. The musicians and vocalists seldom got credit on the records, but they probably preferred it that way!

Here a Jailhouse Rock cover by Jimmy Helms from 1957 from one of those cheapo records; he doesn’t manage to get his phrasing of the lyrics in alignment with Elvis’, so he just drops lyrics here and there:

When The Beatles came out, there were a slough of fake Beatle records out there. Woe to the kid who, like me, lived in a small town and asked his mom to pick up a Beatles record when she was going to the big city for the day. That unfortunate kid might be surprised by something like this:

I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Doodles, 1964:

Or even this:


I Want to Hold your Hand, by The Buggs, 1964:

It happened to me more than once, and I learned not to ask my mom to purchase records for me anymore.

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