“Like Joan Sutherland and Kermit the Frog . . .”

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Hey; he said it; I didn’t!

Great clip of three of my favorites live at The Odeon in NYC in 1983: Linda Ronstadt, Randy Newman and a slicked-down Ry Cooder. I have the complete performance on VHS somewhere but no way to play it.

Here’s their version of Mr. Newman’s Rider in the Rain from his Little Criminals album. On the record, he’s backed up vocally by The Eagles, who started as Ms Ronstadt’s backup band.

This clip is a great example of what I believe is a good rule for music and other things: Take the prep and practices seriously, but have fun with the performance. It’s obviously sung in a key that isn’t Mr. Cooder’s first choice, but I love what he does with it.

When Patty, her brother Billy and I saw Randy Newman at the spooky old Tampa Theater live in the 1970s, he worked solo. He is so talented and tuneful.

In George Martin’s memoirs of his days with The Beatles, he describes visiting Mr. Newman at a jingle factory in LA. He had been sent by The Fabs to recruit Newman as their first Apple Records artist. Newman turned Mr. Martin down, as writing jingles on demand was steady work and he had a family. The Beatles chose James Taylor instead for an Apple release, and he’s done pretty well!

As has Randy Newman.

You Gonna Lose That Good Thing, Baby– Oh, YEAH!


I found this on YouTube today and can’t stop playing it. It’s from the early-1960s and had Barbara Lynn and her band live playing You’ll Lose a Good Thing:


Please notice that’s she’s playing, not a Telecaster, but a Fender Esquire– no neck pickup– lefthanded. Many folks don’t realize that Leo Fender’s original design for what became the Tele was what was later called the Esquire, as it was a bridge-pickup-only guitar.

If you think that band behind Ms Lynn is totally locked in a perfect groove, you’re correct! And what a band that is. On piano is Mr. Johnnie Johnson who played behind Chuck Berry on all his sides, and many believe he actually at least co-wrote many of the songs Berry took credit for. He was just a stunning piano player. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 after Keith Richards waged a campaign for years for his inclusion.

On bass is Mr. Billy Cox, who was Jimi Hendrix’s first and last bass player. He’s played with everybody at one time or another and is still going strong. He was in both the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsies. He met Jimi when they were in the Army together and encouraged his guitar playing. That bass he’s playing appears to be a Fender Precision fitted with a Jazz Bass neck.

On the maple-glo Rickenbacker guitar is none other than Mr. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who was a guitar legend. Originally a drummer, he got his first break as a very young man filling in for an ailing T-Bone Walker on guitar and never looked back. He’s in the Blues Hall of Fame and may be better known in Europe than he is here in the States. Guitar-slingers study Gatemouth Brown and take careful notes.

As for Ms. Lynn, she’s living in Beaumont, Texas, and still plays out regularly. I refuse to give her precise age, but she’s two days shy of being ten years older than yours truly.

Notice her left hand; she’s using a thumb pick and her strumming is almost all upswings. Also, that Esquire has a rosewood fretboard and she kept the bridge cover on it. Cool guitar– and a pink strap! Oh, YEAH!!! Ms Lynn plays a white Strat nowadays but I hope she still has that Esquire in a closet somewhere.

That’s MISTER Blue To You . . .

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Anyone taking on the task of covering the 1959 Fleetwoods hit, Mr. Blue, has a big job on their hands.

The original version has a lead vocal by The Fleetwoods’ Gary Troxel, who originally auditioned for Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis, the founding members of the group, as a trumpet player, and Gary is one of the smoothest singers of that era.

Here he and (I believe) Gretchen, joined by an unidentified background vocalist, do a live version of the song on the TV show Midnight Special 15 years after their single came out:


Still has his chops, eh? I’ve seen recent videos of him in the current incarnation of The Fleetwoods, and he still has the seemingly easy delivery he had as a teenager.

This great and evocative song is a bear to sing, especially if you’re playing an instrument at the same time. I’ve always ditched the spoken intro, which I consider a tad too hokey; Pat Boone’s cover from 1962 or so also ditched it. Interestingly, The Fleetwoods, who were from Washington state, I believe, always recorded their vocals accappella, and their LA producer would drop in the instruments later. Glen Campbell on guitar and Leon Russell on keyboards worked on their records, so they didn’t lack for talent!

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, we now have a lovely cover of this tune by a young fellow named Steven Oakland:


I have no info on Steven other than I envy him not only his vocal talents but the maple-necked sunburst Tele on the wall behind him in this video. He chose to use a Boss harmony pedal instead of background vocalists but otherwise he nails a very difficult project with elan. Why he hides his face behind his microphone and pop filter is a mystery.

G.E. Smith And His Telecaster Lead Me Astray . . .

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G.E. Smith Telecaster

I never paid much attention to G.E. Smith until early this year. He was the leader of the Saturday Night Live band and he was in some concert videos I had, but I hadn’t focused on him.

My loss!

I was starting to research the history of Leo Fender and came across this YouTube video (link above) where Mr. Smith talks about his signature Fender Telecaster. It’s a twenty-minute video, but Mr. Smith is smart, articulate and he knows what he’s talking about. He’s also pretty musical! He really has command of his instrument, as you’ll see if you watch the video. So watch it!

I’d never owned a Tele before, but this video got me wanting one. Since I have way too many guitars and basses already, I decided to use my way-too-ample spare time to research the various iterations of the Telecaster since 1950 or so; they started as the Esquire, then Broadcaster, then no official name for a while (now called No-Casters) and finally Telecaster. TV was just becoming available then and that name was a natural.

The Telecaster I put together, after countless hours of research and comparisons, is now my pride and joy. It has the big boat-hull-shaped solid-maple 7-1/4″ radius neck of the original Teles and, unlike most modern instruments, has a nitrocellulose-lacquer finish on the neck and body. The body is ash wood, so the guitar weighs a ton but is resonant with amazing sustain. I decided on gold-plated hardware simply because I had never had that on a guitar before. After researching a component of the Tele, I’d order exactly what I decided on from wherever in the world I could find it. Took me a few months to get it all together.

I like it:

I keep fiddling with this Tele I built (people call these “parts-casters”) and I just tonight ordered, with the help and advice of two talented and knowledgeable buddies (thanks, Slim and Don!) new pickups for it. It’s the guitar I love to play the most and it demands more of me than my other guitars do. Yet, it makes me a better player.

Go figure! Thanks, G.E. Smith, for your enthusiasm and knowledge.