Monthly Archives: May 2007

Pusher men

These two songs are forever linked in my head, cued up to a certain time and place.

“Pusherman,” done by Curtis Mayfield for the “Superfly” soundtrack in 1972, hid its tough message under Mayfield’s falsetto and a solid soul/funk groove. The fantastic percussion subtly added some street cred.

It was a song you could play anywhere in the winter of 1972-73 and get away with it.

Not so “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf. Nothing subtle about their 1968 cover of this Hoyt Axton tune — growling, spitting out “God damn, The pusher/God damn, God damn, the pusher/I said God damn, God, God damn the pusher man.”

Found that out one night on the way to a junior varsity basketball game. Someone on the bus played the Steppenwolf cut a little too loudly, sending “God damns” raining all over the place.

“Hey!” the coach yelled from the front of the bus. “Enough!”

Enough for him, maybe, but not for us.

“Hey!” he yelled a little louder, a little more insistently. “I said enough, all right?”

I wish I could say someone had the presence of mind to follow it up with Curtis Mayfield, but all I remember is an awkward silence … then a few quiet laughs among the lads and another Steppenwolf song, the volume turned down just a tad.

So here, 34 years later, is that sequence, the way it should have been on the school bus to Shawano that night.

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“The Pusher,” Steppenwolf, from “Steppenwolf,” 1968. (Also on the “Easy Rider” soundtrack, of course.)

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“Pusherman,” Curtis Mayfield, from “Superfly” soundtrack, 1972.

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Another visit to Ray’s Corner

It’s been a while since we stopped by Ray’s Corner and checked out something from my dad’s collection.

Dad is 81. He has the apartment with the loud music.

Here at Ray’s Corner, the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away.

So cool it, man, and enjoy …

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“Sway,” Dean Martin, 1954, from “Dino: The Essential Dean Martin,” a 2004 release.

If you dig this rumba-flavored tune, be sure to stop by ilovedinomartin, the blog faithfully maintained by our pallie Dino Martin Peters.

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“Gene’s Blues,” featuring Gene Krupa on drums, 1955, from “Krupa and Rich,” reissued in 1994.

Playing along with Krupa and Buddy Rich on this album are some of the biggest jazz stars of the day: Oscar Peterson on the piano, Dizzy Gillespie and Roy Eldridge on the horns, Illinois Jacquet on the sax, Herb Ellis on guitar and Ray Brown on bass. Oh, yeah, it swings.

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Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 13

Slowly but surely, we’re getting out the word about Sleepy LaBeef, the Human Jukebox, national treasure.

My old pal Meat wrote last week to commiserate about missing Sleepy live at the Krypto Music Lounge in Rockford, Ill. Sleepy played there the night after I saw him here in Green Bay.

Not only did Meat miss Sleepy, but Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick joined Sleepy for a set. Meat’s friends, who paid a mere $5 cover, said “it was pretty wonderful.” I would imagine so.

Wonder whether they paid tribute to the ailing Bo Diddley by covering one of his tunes.

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“Gunslinger,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Nothin’ But The Truth,” 1987.

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A visit to Southside

My old pal Doug is a hardcore Springsteen fan. He’s traveled all over the Midwest to see Springsteen. Less so these days, but he’s paid his dues.

Yet for all these years, it’s been tough to hang with Doug when he’s deep into Springsteen. To be honest, I’m not really much of a Springsteen fan.

But we long ago came together and agreed on another member of the extended Springsteen family, another group from the Jersey shore.

The sound of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes was distinctive in 1977 and remains so today. It’s inspired by ’50s R&B and driven by a big horn section.

My favorite Southside album then and now is “This Time It’s For Real,” from 1977. These cuts are from that album. They’re written by Little Steven Van Zandt and some guy named Springsteen.

Guess I like a big sound — dig the majestic horns on “Love On The Wrong Side Of Town” and that out-of-nowhere jungle intro to “When You Dance” — more than a spare sound.

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“Love On The Wrong Side Of Town,” Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, from “This Time It’s For Real,” 1977.

“When You Dance,” Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, from “This Time It’s For Real,” 1977.

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Last call at the Stick

Get to be old enough, and they start closing all of your old haunts.

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Sneaky Pete’s, one of the clubs we frequented in Wausau, Wisconsin, in the mid-’70s, has long been this restaurant, Wausau Mine Company.

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It’s so named because it looks like a cave inside, as it did when it was Sneaky Pete’s. But I’ll never get used to being seated at a table on what used to be on the dance floor.

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The New Home Tavern in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where Phyllis served us hot beef sandwiches at lunch in the late ’70s, was torn down long ago to make way for a bank.

New Home was an ancient place where you took three or four steps down from street level to get into the bar. Look out the window, and you’d see only the feet of people walking along Graham Avenue. Under a low-slung ceiling, the walls and back bar were full of off-sale beers — including Walter’s Beer, the local brew — and liquors.

And now the Stick is gone.

Milt Dalebroux opened the Candlestick Lounge in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1962. After Milty retired (he just moved to the other side of the bar), his daughter Debby ran the place.

Back in the early ’80s, we’d play basketball at the Y after work, then walk across the bank parking lot and into the back door of the Stick for happy hour. Some nights, we had dinner there — beer, popcorn, veggies and dip, and beer.

The Stick was a sports bar before there were sports bars. A couple of TVs did the job. One night — this has to be 1985 — we went there after the Packers had played at home. The place was jam-packed, and one of the Packers’ players, Paul Coffman, was holding court behind the bar. I was wearing a Missouri football jersey that night, and Coffman had played at Kansas State, so of course he good-naturedly razzed me.

When Janet and I were married in 1987, the reception started at the Holiday Inn, but ended at the Stick. When we arrived, Debby broke out a bottle of champagne for us — a gracious gesture considering we were only occasional visitors and far from regulars.

But times change, kids arrive and old routines fade. In recent years, we gathered at the Stick only when old friends were back in town.

The Stick closed for good last weekend.

Now it’s just a pleasant memory from another time, like this:

“If You’ve Got the Time, We’ve Got the Beer,” Miller High Life commercial theme, 1971.

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Showtime at Washington

We went out to another big show on Tuesday night — Evan’s spring band concert — in the beautiful WPA-era auditorium at his school.

He plays alto sax in the Prep Band, for kids with two years’ experience.

One of their selections was “Pirates of the Caribbean,” an adaptation of some of the music from the Disney movie. Evan was into it, even though he’s never seen either of the movies. He prepared a PowerPoint presentation as the backdrop to the piece, then insisted we get the soundtrack from the library and load their songs into the big Mac.

So, imagine if you will, almost 100 middle school kids doing Michael Sweeney’s concert band arrangement of …

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“The Medallion Calls” and “The Black Pearl,” Klaus Badelt, from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack, 2003.

A birthday present for Jefito: You are living right, my man. After last week’s rant about Smashmouth, you would have enjoyed this on your birthday: The closing number for the seventh- and eighth-grade beginning band was “All-Star,” played just as you’d expect middle school kids to play it. Nice and rough, as Tina Turner would say. Ah, I should have turned on my phone and recorded it for you, but so it goes.

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Adventures in Retroville, Part II

Well, I was back out among all the fine-looking ladies and gents at the Rockin’ ’50s Fest at our local casino on Friday night, and these are some of the things I saw and heard:

New Orleans R&B legend Frankie Ford wrapped up his set with — what else? — “Sea Cruise.” Nice purple jacket, too!

The Go-Getters, rockabillies from Sweden, wrapped up their set with a cover of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

I went there mostly to see Sleepy LaBeef, American treasure, of course. He was to have played with three other rockabilly veterans. Only one, Alton Lott, made it. I’d never heard of Lott, but he can play, and I really enjoyed his set. He was part a duo, Alton and Jimmy, back in the ’50s.

Then Sleepy came on and tore through about an hour-long set that was over way too soon. So it goes. Gotta keep that festival running on time. He invited an old pal, Glenn Barber, on stage to join him for a couple of numbers. They recorded together at Starday Records in Texas back in the late ’50s. A nice gesture, but Barber had all he could handle to keep up with Sleepy, who at 71 remains a force of nature.

After the show, Sleepy met the fans, posed for pictures and signed autographs. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to bring along the album cover from the only Sleepy vinyl I own — the great live album “Nothin’ But The Truth” — and he signed it. I’m not a big autograph guy, but I do like to get a special one now and then.

Also had a chance to say hello again to Sleepy’s partner on the road, drummer Jerry Cavanagh. After they get done playing, Jerry sells Sleepy’s CDs to the faithful. Sadly, Jerry didn’t have anything new to sell me, just as he didn’t have anything new to sell me when Sleepy played the Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, a few years back.

The best young group on this night? The Vincent Black Shadows, an eight-piece band out of Chicago — nine with a guest sax player. A big sound, with three girl singers fronting the band. Lots of energy.

As I poked around the record shops in the main ballroom, I kept hearing this great R&B from the stage. Turned out to be Ray Sharpe, a Texas performer who hit it big with “Linda Lu” in 1959.

What followed was even better, and I gave it my full attention. Barbara Lynn, who hit it big on the R&B charts with “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” in 1962, sounded great and looked great. She can really play that left-handed guitar, and she can belt it out. She’s a lovely 65. She could pass for 45, easily. I need to get some Barbara Lynn into my collection.

Finally, after midnight, it was time for The Head Cat, a three-piece group fronted by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead on guitars (and harmonica!) with Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats on the stand-up drum kit. The other, less well known guy is guitarist Danny B. Harvey.

Robert Williams — aka Big Sandy, the night’s emcee — said it best: With all these legends on hand, all the buzz was about Lemmy.

Hey, the guy’s a legend in his own right, and it was fun to see him cover the tunes he grew up with. Lemmy has a voice like six miles of bad gravel road, but he can play.

He brought the right attitude for a midnight show, ragging on the sound crew to “fix the fookin’ feedback,” then introducing a Buddy Holly tune and declaring: “He was pretty good.”

But here’s a cut from from the only album I bought during the festival (alas, too many tunes, not enough scratch). I so enjoyed Alton Lott’s set that I bought one of his homemade CDs and he graciously signed it. It doesn’t do his live performance justice, but it has its moments.

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“Why Do I Love You,” Alton Lott, from “Rock My Blues Away.” This cut was recorded in 1959 at Sun Studios in Memphis, with Sam Phillips at the controls. Lott was just 18 or 19 at the time.

One other thing I saw at Lott’s show … and at Sleepy’s show … and at Barbara Lynn’s show … and at Lemmy’s show: The same young woman, looking a little like the actress Lauren Graham but dancing like Elaine Benes. Not a pretty sight.

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