Monthly Archives: February 2008

Late to our own party

AM, Then FM quietly turned a year old earlier this week.

Quietly, as I told our friend Scholar over at Souled On the other night, because I was so busy earlier this week with other things that I hadn’t had time to do a one-year anniversary post.

Before we snap the caps on the bevvies …

Thanks to all the music fans who stop by regularly. Hope you’re finding tunes you dig. Thanks to all the music bloggers who have made us welcome and provided wise counsel.

Now, as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King says, some facts about AM, Then FM’s first year that may interest only me:

We did 212 posts. The “Three under the tree” series of Christmas tunes was by far the most popular thing we did all year.

Otherwise, our three most-read posts were on the 30th anniversary of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crash, a novelty piece of Chicago house music from the ’80s and my favorite cut from the soundtrack to the Disney film”The Jungle Book.”

The No. 4 most-read post was from baseball’s opening day, but I suspect that has more to do with aging horndogs curious about a certain ballgirl once employed by the Cubs. She was mentioned and pictured in that post, and her name turns up almost every day in the search statistics.

So, what to expect in AM, Then FM’s second year? We’ll just keep on keepin’ on.

We have a lot of vintage vinyl (and a fair number of CDs) waiting to be ripped. Sleepy Sundays have ended, but we’re working up a year’s worth of posts on another of my faves. The Christmas tunes will return in November. Remember also that we take requests, so don’t be shy. Finally, I promise to try to write shorter than longer. Easier on everyone that way.

Today’s tune? A greatest hit of sorts. You liked it in September. Enjoy it again.

“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima and Phil Harris, from “The Jungle Book” soundtrack, 1967, with dialogue featuring some of the other voice actors from the film. I don’t recall where I found this version, nor do I know its source.

And again.

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“I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song),” Louis Prima, Gia Maione and Sam Butera and the Witnesses, from “The New Sounds of the Louis Prima Show,” 1969. Dig the Hammond organ on this one. (The album is out of print, but it’s available as a download at Amazon and eMusic.)

After we posted this in September, our friend Larry from the wonderful Funky 16 Corners added this note: “I’d be willing to bet that the Hammond on that record is Richie Varola (Varhola), a young organ virtuoso that played/recorded with the Witnesses in the late 60’s/early 70’s. He did an LP for Verve as ‘Little Richie Varola’, which has some blistering cuts on it.”

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Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 52

So we come to the end of our Sleepy Sundays.

When I started this blog a year ago, I wanted to shine some light on Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure and human jukebox. I’ve seen him play live four times, and each time was terrific.

When Sleepy played here last May, I chatted briefly with him, telling him about these Sleepy Sunday posts.

“Keep it up!” he said in that distinctive baritone.

That we have, for a year.

We’re going out in style today. The best way to appreciate Sleepy is to see and hear him live, so we’re going to serve up two more cuts from Sleepy’s great live album, “Nothin’ But the Truth.”

Recorded live at Harper’s Ferry in Allston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 22, 1985, these two cuts are the bookends on Side 2 of the album.

It’s midway through the show and Sleepy’s starting to crank it up on our first tune, a cover of an Otis Blackwell song. Listen for him to holler for “Piano!” about 2 minutes in.

Sleepy’s in high gear by the time he wraps up the show with a closing medley of “Jambalaya,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Let’s Turn Back the Years,” “Hey, Good Lookin’” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”

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“Let’s Talk About Us” and “Medley,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Nothin’ But the Truth,” 1987. (These rips are from the original vinyl, which leaves a little to be desired on “Medley.” Damn thing skips a couple of times.)

If you have a chance to see Sleepy live, by all means go!

At the moment, his tour schedule shows only two gigs in the United States this year — April 12 at the Americana Roots Ramble in Media, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, and Aug. 15 in Milwaukee at a place to be determined. I know where I’ll be on Aug. 15.

(If you’re wondering, we’re moving on to a new series of posts on another of my faves. And, yes, we’ll still be doing Sleepy posts from time to time.)

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Nine lives, indeed

In the mail the other day was a note asking, essentially, “Will you help us spread the word about a new album by Steve Winwood?”

Sure, why not? I’ve long enjoyed Winwood’s work, especially with Traffic in the ’70s and then as a solo performer. It’s elegant, graceful, thoughtful and intelligent, then and now.

Winwood’s new album, due out April 29, is “Nine Lives.” The single they’ve released to promote it is “Dirty City,” on which old pal Eric Clapton joins Winwood.

That’s no coincidence, because Winwood and Clapton are playing three sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden next week. Almost 40 years ago, they played there with Blind Faith. It was opening night of the band’s one and only tour — July 12, 1969.

It’s difficult to assess an entire album on the basis of one cut, but “Dirty City” shows promise.

The sounds are familiar — Winwood’s voice soaring over his Hammond B-3 organ, plenty of laid-back percussion and, of course, Clapton’s guitar providing a sharp edge where needed. I’d have to agree with a comment posted on iTunes and say this cut sounds more like Traffic than Winwood’s solo work. Whether the other cuts do, I can’t say.

The other eight cuts on the album: “I’m Not Drowning,” “Fly,” “Raging Sea,” “We’re All Looking,” “Hungry Man,” “Secrets,” “At Times We Do Forget” and “Other Shore.”

Here’s how the publicists describe them:

“Each of the nine tracks on the aptly-titled ‘Nine Lives’ paints a musical portrait of spiritual transformation as Winwood continues the exploration of soul, rock, blues and world music.”

It’s been five years since Winwood last released an album. He’s touring to support “Nine Lives,” so you’ll have a chance to see him if you’re so inclined. Winwood is opening all summer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on a tour that begins May 31 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But enough talk. Listen and decide for yourself.

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“Dirty City,” Steve Winwood, from the upcoming album “Nine Lives,” 2008. The single is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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My pappy said …

Reading the Los Angeles Times this morning, I came across this headline: “Charles Ryan, 92; co-wrote pop hit ‘Hot Rod Lincoln.’”

Ryan, a country singer and songwriter, wrote this classic rockabilly tune with W.S. Stevenson and recorded it in 1955. It didn’t become a hit until Johnny Bond recorded it in 1960.

According to the AP story in the Times: “The song was inspired by Ryan’s commutes in his 1941 Lincoln from Spokane (Washington) to play gigs at the Paradise Club across the state line in Lewiston, Idaho.”

My introduction to this tune came — as yours probably did — from Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, a band out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, led by the gravel-voiced George Frayne, a/k/a Commander Cody. They launched it into the Top 10 in 1972.

Once I heard this tune, the Commander’s mix of country, swing and boogie-woogie had me hooked. I have six of their albums, all from the early to mid-’70s. I can’t say any of my friends really dug the Commander, so I’d guess you’d have to call it a guilty pleasure.

So let’s honor Charles Ryan, a Minnesota native who died last week in Spokane, and indulge.

For the record, here’s the version you know:

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“Hot Rod Lincoln,” Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, from “Lost in the Ozone,” 1971.


Here’s an even better version, recorded live in England in the winter of 1976. They take some liberties with the lyrics. It starts out this way:

“My pappy said, ‘Son … you worthless hippie … you shameless drug fiend … you no-good alcoholic … you commie punk! You gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that hot rod Lincoln!’”

The pursuit just gets wilder from there, especially at about 3 minutes in.

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“Hot Rod Lincoln,” Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, from “We’ve Got a Live One Here!” 1976.


But wait! There’s more!

Here are two other versions, both from Chris’ epic post on driving songs from last summer’s “7 Means of Movement” series over at Locust St. To learn more about these cuts, head over there.

“Hot Rod Lincoln,” by Johnny Bond, 1960, available on “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Vol. 8.”

“Hot Rod Lincoln,” by Jane Bond and the Undercover Men, 1982. Released only as a 7-inch single. Not available on CD.

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All this snow and ice feels like 70

Whoo! Finally coming up for air. That’s what it seems like after working for eight straight days, feeding the news of the day to the web as it happens.

It comes with the territory when you work in journalism, but six of these last eight days have been wall-to-wall Wisconsin presidential primary coverage mixed in with a modest snowstorm and then an every-church-called-off winter storm on Sunday.

So now that I finally have a couple of days off, I’m ready to kick back with some tunes. Some ’70s tunes, to be precise.

But I need your wise counsel.

This weekend, I’m going to be burning seven CDs of ’70s music to be auctioned off at a benefit dinner next week. The themes probably will be chosen from this list — radio hits, soul, R&B, dance, funk, outlaw country, soundtracks, ladies, love songs, Christmas.

So I welcome your suggestions on ’70s tunes that aren’t the usual suspects. Either put a note in the comments or drop me an e-mail.

Enjoy seven from the ’70s as you think about it.

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“Getting the Bills (But Not the Merchandise),” Clarence Carter, from “Patches,” 1970.

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“Sugar, Sugar,” Tom Jones, from “Tom,” 1970. Not available on CD that I can find. (Yes, this is what you think it is. A cover of the tune by the Archies. Classic ’70s harmonic convergence, if you will.)

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“What’d I Say,” Rare Earth, from “Rare Earth In Concert,” 1971.

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“If You Can Hully Gully (I Can Hully Gully, Too),” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Feel Good,” 1972. (This entire side also featured over at our other blog, The Midnight Tracker.)

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“Armed and Extremely Dangerous,” First Choice, 1973, from “The Original Funk Soul Brothers and Sisters!” a compilation CD included with the July 2005 issue of Uncut magazine.

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“Silverbird,” Mark Lindsay, 1973, from “20 Rock Super Hits,” a Columbia House compilation. (Also available, as shown, on “Golden Classics: Arizona/Silverbird,” a 2-for-1 issue on CD.)

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“They Say I’m Different,” Betty Davis, from “They Say I’m Different,” 1974.

Now you see my problem. It took no time to rack up seven, and we barely got halfway through the decade.

So you see why your wise counsel is welcome.

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