It was late 1969, when I was 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model, though this is not my radio. I still have mine. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken off.
I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.
When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away. This song.
I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I once was passionate about that kind of Christmas music. Now, not so much.
Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.
“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, 1967, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. That tremendous compilation, one of the first Christmas records we bought back in the late ’70s, is out of print but is available digitally.
This is the title track from Wonder’s 1967 Christmas record. A Motown original written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells, it addresses the social concerns of that time — and of our time — war, poverty, hunger, civil rights, injustice.
“Someday at Christmas, man will not fail Hate will be gone and love will prevail”
Another was Connie Stevens, who is one of the TV stars who sing on this Christmas record.
I have this record jacket, but not the record that’s supposed to be inside. I didn’t look closely enough when I picked it out of a dollar record bin a couple of years ago. This is “We Wish You A Merry Christmas: 15 Great Christmas Favorites Sung By Warner Bros. Stars,” from 1959. You can read about it here and here.
So I believe at this moment, I will embrace my older-than-dirtness, retreat to a more innocent time and drop a song that those of us of a certain age enjoyed when we were younger. It isn’t Christmas without this song, either. People still dig it.
The Royal Guardsmen, who got started in Ocala, Florida, in the mid-’60s are still around, still recording and playing the occasional gig. Three of the original six members, that is. Lead singer Barry Winslow and drummer John Burdett appear to have some kind of beef with the group’s management, but support the current lineup and wish them well.
Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.
Heading out to lunch today, we saw a campaign sign stuck in the ground at the corner as we turned onto the highway. Heading home, we saw three more on the other side of the corner.
The only problem: You can’t plant campaign signs on the public portion of highway right-of-day in Wisconsin.
My friend Glick checked the law and sagely observed: “Fines: $10 to $100. The cynic in me thinks some will see this as chump change and a small cost of doing business.”
He could be right. Perhaps it’s all part of …
“The Plot,” Lalo Schifrin, from “Music from ‘Mission: Impossible’,” 1967. It’s out of print, even a 1996 CD reissue.
If you watched “Mission: Impossible” at all during the ’60s and ’70s, you probably heard bits of this as things got dicey. This is the full version, one you may not have heard, complete with groovy, mood-setting harpsichord.
They’ve solved the little mystery of how an old car wound up on the bottom of the river, and the trail led directly back to an old hole-in-the-wall nightclub.
On a Saturday night in March 1979, Paul Renard went to a blues bar on the near east side of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was 27, probably home for the weekend, visiting from Minnesota.
He parked his baby blue 1975 Plymouth Valiant outside, letting the motor run in the late winter’s cold. When he came out of the bar, his car was gone. He reported it to the cops, but the car never turned up.
Until yesterday, that is. They fished Paul Renard’s car out of the Fox River, 11 blocks west of where it was last seen. A dredging crew using sonar to map the river bottom came across the Valiant last week. They contacted the cops, whose dive team hauled it up from 18 feet down.
Whoever stole the Valiant drove it to the river, put the tire iron on the gas pedal, put it in drive and dumped it into the drink. After the cops ran the vehicle ID number, they matched it up with the stolen car report from 33 years ago.
However, Paul Renard is no longer with us.
Nor is Duck Duck Goose, the blues club he visited that night.
Duck Duck Goose, which I visited only once (that I can remember), was one of those great old ’70s hippie bars. It had a bar, of course, but I most remember the couches and overstuffed chairs. There also was shag carpeting on the walls.
Duck Duck Goose was here, in this brick building. The entrance was in the back.
It’s in an area just east of downtown that was, and is, mostly blue collar. It’s flanked on two sides by tire warehouses. Within a block’s walk are the Ten-O-One Club, one of the city’s oldest taverns, and the strip club formerly known as the Bamboo Room. These days, that brick building is home to a gritty rock/metal club called Phat Headz.
But back when Paul Renard left his Valiant running outside in the cold, Duck Duck Goose was part of Green Bay’s passionate little blues scene. Chicago blues acts drove up and made the rounds of Duck Duck Goose, a nearby club called Klark Kent’s Super Joynt and even the Rathskeller at the university farther out on the east side. All three places were part of a Midwest club circuit that was hanging on as the ’70s turned into the ’80s.
My friend Hose remembers Duck Duck Goose as a “great dirty venue for live music” and recalls seeing Lonnie Brooks on its tiny stage. My friend Jim, another local, recalls that “it was definitely a blues/R&B venue. It wasn’t my favorite hangout as it was a little too much that sound and very little rock.” I think still another friend has a poster for a Luther Allison gig there.
Duck Duck Goose was, it seems, a place where you could …
“Let It All Hang Out,” Lonnie Brooks, from Chess 2028, a 7-inch single, 1967. It’s out of print and apparently not available on any other records.
It was, as they say in the movies, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Speaking of which, on March 9, 1979, the night before Paul Renard left his Valiant running outside Duck Duck Goose, a certain college senior agreed to a first date with me. The lovely Janet and I have been together ever since.
It was she, still another local, who remembered the shag carpeting on the walls at Duck Duck Goose. I had forgotten.
Always delighted to hear from you. Your guide can be reached at jeffash at new dot rr dot com
About the music
These are mp3s from my collection, taken from vinyl whenever possible. Enjoy. They are intended to encourage you to get out to the music stores, real or virtual, or out to support live music.
If you hold the copyright to something posted here, and you don't want it posted, please e-mail me at jeffash at new dot rr dot com and I'll remove it. Then again, who else is exposing your music to a new audience today?
About the words
The text is copyright 2007-2014, Jeff Ash. Text from other sources, when excerpted, is credited.