Gone in threes: 2017

They go in threes. They always go in threes.

In 2017, it hit home. My dad, at 91. My friend Dave, one of my mentors in the news biz, at 80. Plus the one that came out of nowhere.

Adventurers: Bruce Brown (“The Endless Summer” surf documentary), Jack O’Neill (invented surfers’ neoprene wetsuit), Robert M. Persig (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”)

Allman brothers: Gregg Allman (keyboards and vocals), Johnny Sandlin (engineer and producer), Butch Trucks (drums)

Angels among us: Jeanne Brousse (French resistance fighter who helped rescue Jews in Nazi-occupied France), Micheline Dumont-Ugeux (Belgian resistance fighter who helped hundreds of Allied troops evade capture by the Nazis), Kazimierz Piechowski (Auschwitz prisoner who led a daring escape in 1942)

At John Lennon’s side: Magic Alex Mardas (John’s friend and electronics guru),Pete Shotton (John’s close childhood friend and one of the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles), Walter Smith (Liverpool tailor who made the Beatles’ first suits)

Badasses: Loren Janes (Steve McQueen’s stunt double in the “Bullitt” chase, and more), Haruo Nakajima (the original Godzilla), Harry Dean Stanton (pretty much everything he did)

Beatlemania: Alan Aldridge (edited “The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics”), Rex Makin (attorney who coined the phrase “Beatlemania”), Jack Mendelsohn (co-wrote “Yellow Submarine” film)

Beyond The Outer Limits: Dominic Frontiere (composer), Don Gordon, Martin Landau (2 episodes each)

Big in France: Johnny Hallyday, Jerry Lewis, Jeanne Moreau

Blues men: Lonnie Brooks, James Cotton, Sonny Knight

Bond, James Bond: Roger Moore, Clifton James, Daliah Lavi

Calling Mr. Anderson: John B. Anderson (independent presidential candidate in 1980), Richard Anderson (actor), Sam Shepard (Mr. Anderson in “In Dubious Battle,” his second-to-last film) 

Country singers: Troy Gentry, Mel Tillis, Don Williams

Covered: Don Hunstein (Columbia Records photographer, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,”), Bob Seidemann (photographer, “Blind Faith,” “Late for the Sky,” “On the Beach”), Chris Whorf (art designer, Casablanca, Warner Bros., Dot, Stax labels)

Creative types: Gilbert Baker (gay pride rainbow flag), Joe Harris (“Underdog,” “Tennessee Tuxedo,” Trix rabbit), Joseph Schmitt (helped create NASA’s first spacesuits)

Distinctive voices: Dick Enberg (‘Oh, my!”), June Foray (“The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”), Dick Orkin (radio’s “Chicken Man”)

Divas: Barbara Smith Conrad, Carol Neblett, Roberta Peters

Double duty: Bernie Casey (NFL player turned actor), Gene Conley (played in MLB and NBA, won one World Series and three NBA championships), Rick Hader (high school teacher who became Myron Noodleman, Clown Prince of Baseball)

Elvis’ Memphis Mafia: Marty Lacker, Red West, Sonny West

Family ties: Dorothy Mengering (David Letterman’s mom), Barbara Sinatra (Frank’s widow), Roger Smith (Ann-Margret’s husband)

First ladies: Clare Hollingworth (scooped the world on the start of World War II in 1939), Sheila Michaels (created the Ms. pronoun), Lillian Ross (New Yorker writer who helped create literary journalism)

Gone too soon: Erica Garner, 27 (social justice activist); Tim Piazza, 19 (Penn State hazing victim); Otto Warmbier, 22 (North Korean prisoner)

Happier days: Erin Moran (series star), Rance Howard (3 episodes), Dick Gautier (1 episode)

Hasta la bye bye: Roger Ailes (Fox News), Hootie Johnson (kept women out of Augusta National Golf Club), Manuel Noriega

Hosts with the most: Chuck Barris (“The Gong Show”), Monty Hall (“Let’s Make A Deal”) Robert Osborne (Turner Classic Movies)

Inspirations: Blanche Blackwell (James Bond author Ian Fleming), Bruce Langhorne (Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”), Anita Pallenberg (Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and Keith Richards)

In this corner: Lou Duva (handler), Jake LaMotta, Ferdie Pacheco (“The Fight Doctor”)

I saw them live: J. Geils (Jan. 30, 1982), Malcolm Young (May 11, 2001), Don Rickles (September 2004)

I saw them live, too: Charles Bradley (Dec. 3, 2008), Chuck Berry (May 31, 2009), Pat DiNizio (April 10, 2016)

It’s the Bat-Signal! Adam West, Dina Merrill (Calamity Jan), Francine York (Lydia Limpet)

Jazz men: Larry Coryell, Al Jarreau, Grady Tate

Last laughs: Shelley Berman, Bill Dana, Ken Shapiro (“The Groove Tube”)

Last Laugh-In: Chris Bearde (writer), Chelsea Brown, Patti Deutsch

Legends: Glen Campbell, Fats Domino, Tom Petty

Loose balls, or remembering the ABA: Steve “Snapper” Jones, Skeeter Swift, Fatty Taylor

Mannix boys: Mike Connors (series star), Jack Bannon (4 episodes), John Hillerman (3 episodes)

Mary Tyler and more: Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Gwendolyn Gillen (designed Minneapolis’ Mary Richards sculpture)

Motown songwriters: Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles), Sylvia Moy (Stevie Wonder), Leon Ware (Isley Brothers, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye)

My baseball cards from 1968: Ruben Amaro, Bill Hands, Paul Schaal

My favorite roles: Joseph Bologna (King Kaiser, “My Favorite Year”), Stephen Furst (Flounder, “Animal House”), Bill Paxton (Chet, “Weird Science”)

My football cards from 1968: Ken Gray, Tommy Nobis, Wayne Walker

Nightclub singers: Buddy Greco, Della Reese, Keely Smith

Notorious: Clifford Irving (Howard Hughes literary hoax), Christine Keeler (Britain’s Profumo affair), Charles Manson (Tate-LaBianca murders)

Producers: David Axelrod (Lou Rawls, Cannonball Adderley), Paul O’Neill (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), George Young (Easybeats, Flash and the Pan, AC/DC)

Record players: George Avakian (Columbia Records, championed LPs and live records), Ilene Berns (ran Bang Records), Nigel Grainge (founded Ensign Records)

Resist: Dick Gregory (comedian and activist), Willie Evans (University of Buffalo football star whose team boycotted 1958 Tangerine Bowl over Tampa stadium’s ban on black players), Liu Xiaobo (imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate)

See you in court: Ed Garvey (NFL Players Association executive director), Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade abortion rights case), Edith Windsor (fought for federal recognition of same-sex married couples)

See you in court, too: Harvey Atkin (“Law & Order” judge), Barbara Hale (“Perry Mason”), Joseph Wapner (“The People’s Court”)

Soldiering on: Jim Nabors (“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”), Stanley Weston (created G.I. Joe), Jerry Yellin (fighter pilot in last World War II combat mission)

Soul brothers: Wayne Cochran, Bunny Sigler, Bobby Taylor (singer and producer also brought the Jackson 5 to Motown)

Space, the final frontier: Gene Cernan (last man to have walked on the moon, Apollo 17, 1972), Dick Gordon (flew Apollo 12 to the moon, 1969), Bruce McCandless (first untethered free flight in space from Challenger, 1984)

Standing tall: Orsten Artis (co-captain of Texas Western’s 1965-66 team, first with all black starters to become NCAA champions), Sid Catlett (starred for DeMatha Catholic of Maryland in legendary 1965 high school basketball game vs. Lew Alcindor’s Power Memorial team from New York), Connie Hawkins (New York playground legend, ABL, Harlem Globetrotters, ABA and NBA)

Sunny pop vocals: Clem Curtis (“Baby Now That I’ve Found You,” Foundations), Gary DeCarlo (“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” Steam), Sonny Geraci (“Time Won’t Let Me,” the Outsiders, and “Precious and Few,” Climax)

The in crowd: Hugh Hefner (Playboy), Mario Maglieri (Whisky A Go-Go, Rainbow Bar & Grill), Harold Pendleton (Marquee Club booker, British festivals)

This film is played at concert volume: Jim Burns (co-creator of MTV’s “Unplugged”), Jonathan Demme (”Stop Making Sense”), Murray Lerner (“Festival,” followed by others)

Trailblazers: Mamie “Peanut” Johnson (first female Negro League pitcher),Luis Olmo (first Puerto Rican MLB position player), Perry Wallace (first black SEC basketball player at Vanderbilt),

Wrestlers: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Ivan Koloff, George “The Animal” Steele

Writers: Jimmy Breslin, Frank Deford, Nat Hentoff

Gone In Threes, the band

Singers, the men: David Cassidy (Partridge Family), Bobby Freeman, Cuba Gooding Sr. (The Main Ingredient)

Singers, the ladies: Valerie Carter, Maggie Roche (the Roches), Joni Sledge (Sister Sledge)

On guitar: Tommy Allsup (the Crickets), Walter Becker (Steely Dan), Allan Holdsworth

On bass: Lyle Ritz (Wrecking Crew), Pete Overend Watts (Mott the Hoople), John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson)

On drums: Grant Hart (Husker Du), Sib Hashian (Boston), Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown)

On the keys: Goldy McJohn (Steppenwolf), Walter “Junie” Morrison (Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic), Marvell Thomas (Stax session man)

Special mention

The shocker: There always is one death that takes your breath away. Even in a year in which my dad died, it was not my dad. No, in 2017, that one was my friend Meat. Two years younger than I, he died while working out at the Y. Brian and I went to high school and college together, then worked together in the news biz. Gone is my strongest connection to back home, the guy who kept in touch with everyone and kept me updated on folks I didn’t know as well as he did.

Noteworthy

— This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2017. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.

— Each year, I use three prime sources for this list.

First, the Wikipedia contributors who compile month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. That’s where we start.

Second, our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each month, along with a year-end roundup. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended.

Third, the folks at Mojo magazine, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful.

This year, two additional sources: Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.

Previous “Gone in threes” entries

2016 * 2015 * 2014 * 2013 * 2012 * 2011 * 2010

Before “Gone in threes,” there was …

2009 * 2008

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Filed under January 2018

The three always under the tree

Christmas Day is here!

It’s been a nice morning, and I hope it’s been one for you, too.

These three songs always make my Christmas.

An 11-year-old Michael Jackson will forever convey the excitement of Christmas morning. That Christmas songs could sound like this was a revelation to 13-year-old me.

“One more time, yeah! Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Oh, yeah!”

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Also available digitally.

A holiday toast!

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. Also available digitally.

A Christmas wish.

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971.

I’d always had it on “Shaved Fish,” the 1975 compilation LP from Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Until this year, that is. Found this while record digging. Delighted to have it.

It’s also available digitally, of course.

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017, Uncategorized

‘Happy Christmas to all!’

It’s getting late. Time for a story.

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day more than 40 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

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“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985.

It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay. I found my copy when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records. I’ve since found another copy. It seems to be common.

louisarmstrongnightbeforexmas45

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017

The Zen Christmas

This year, I wanted to experience the Christmas season on the fly, seeing what I could see and hearing what I could hear at random.

So, when I was out and about, or in the car, or at home, it was fun catching the snippets of Christmas music that came along at random in the stores and on the radio and online. That includes the WFMU “Testify!” and Funky 16 Corners Christmas shows from my friend, the mighty Larry Grogan. (Who, by the way, should unwrap a MacArthur genius grant one of these years.)

Some were new to me, some not. It was good to appreciate again the great horn charts on the Carpenters’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

I wanted to try something different, to get away from the same old, same old Christmas experience from time to time. To that end, I have a lot of Christmas music in my collection, and I listened to almost none of it.

There are a few exceptions, of course. On Christmas Eve, this is one.

Reverent yet thrilling, Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” is done as a New Orleans-style dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup.

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Ten years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared this to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine, if you can find it.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017, Sounds

How to shop for record diggers

As the holiday season arrives, we present the following as a public service.

Your loved one is a record digger. You want to give them a good gift. I’m blessed to have a family who gets it, and is good at doing so.

If you’re Santa, here are a few guidelines. If you’re waiting to unwrap the gifts, please feel free to share with your loved ones.

Less is more, Part I. It’s better receive one nice record than an overstuffed, overpriced box set.

Less is more, Part II. It’s better to receive one nice record that gets dropped right onto the turntable than a stack of records that goes unplayed.

Talk to the folks at the record store. They might know your record digger better than you do, and they’re more than willing to help you find what you seek.

It’s OK to give a gift certificate. Let your record digger pop for obscure stuff neither you nor the record store folks would ever have considered. (Which explains how “The Hullabaloo Show” by The Hullabaloo Singers & Orchestra made it into one of my crates last month.)

It’s OK to ask for a wish list. That’s the best possible scenario for all parties. The giver is confident of giving something the recipient wants to receive.

That happened this summer. Four days before my June birthday, I went to see Garland Jeffreys. When I got home, I mentioned that he had a new record out. (Money was tight, so I didn’t stop by the merch table.) A couple of months later, out of the blue, we had to stop at the record store while running errands. Turns out a certain special order had come in.

“Waiting for the Man,” Garland Jeffreys, from “14 Steps to Harlem,” 2017. On which he covers his friend Lou Reed. He played this one for us that night.

Speaking of wish lists, here’s the one I typed into my phone while hanging out at the record store not too long ago.

— Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “Soul of a Woman”

— Bob Seger, “I Knew You When”

— Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black”

— The Isley Brothers and Santana, “Power of Peace”

— The “Soul Christmas” reissue on Stax

— My friend Norb’s book “Fear of a Norb Planet”

Ahem.

 

 

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Filed under November 2017, Sounds

Still not my (trick-or-treat) bag

At the Green Bay Record Convention on Saturday, one of the record diggers asked whether I had any spooky or eerie music. No, sorry. But I did have a suggestion. So here, adapted from a blog post written 10 years ago, is my take on Halloween and my recommendation for that gent.

Halloween is not my thing.

We always went trick-or-treating when we were kids, but we never had the cool costumes. Our parents raised three boys on a rather modest income, so we would get a mask — usually a popular cartoon character — and that would be about it. Just the way it was.

Masks meant a choice of the lesser of two evils: Wear my glasses under the mask and have the mask not fit properly, or go without my glasses and not see anything clearly. I remember going as Superman because it was easy enough to scare up a cape, and you didn’t need a mask. (And you could take the glasses on and off as needed.)

On Halloween 1970, we were visiting my grandmother, so we had to go trick-or-treating in her town that Saturday night. Grandma lived in an old rental house in a rundown neighborhood hard by the railroad tracks in a small central Wisconsin town. We were kids, so we never really noticed. It was just Grandma’s neighborhood.

My brothers and I — we were 13, 11 and 6 — had covered a couple of blocks when we walked up to a low-slung one-story house with a flat roof and a bunch of junk in the yard. It faced the tracks. We rang the doorbell and shouted “Trick or treat!”

After a short while, the door creaked open and a disheveled middle-aged woman peered out. Startled, it took her a couple of moments to comprehend what we were doing there. I was only 13, but somehow, I knew what was going on. She wasn’t expecting anyone.

The woman didn’t say much — maybe “Oh, my” — and then walked away from the door. Through the screen door, we saw her rummaging around a table. She came back to the door and dropped a couple of pennies into each of our bags.

The woman who wasn’t expecting anyone didn’t have anything to give anyone, either. I suppose we kept on trick-or treating that night, but that was it for me. Done forever.

I’ve always wondered whether the kids in that little town just knew — or were told — not to go down to that house. We were visitors, and kids, and didn’t know any better.

Ever since, Halloween has not been my thing.

However, in the spirit of the season, I will confess …

gomeztish.jpg

— I greatly prefer “The Addams Family” over “The Munsters.” Make of that what you will.

— Horror movies? Also not my thing, though I watched enough of them late at night in the mid-’70s. I had a girlfriend who liked them more than she liked me. The ones I enjoyed most had Vincent Price in them. He was cool, as my friend Andrew explained long ago in one of his lovingly crafted Halloween countdown posts over at Armagideon Time.

— I like “The Cask of Amontillado,” an Edgar Allan Poe story in which a man is plied with wine, then sealed behind a brick wall and left to die. I discovered it in high school. Some 20 years later, in 1995, I also dug the “Homicide: Life on the Streets” episode partly based on that story.

“The Cask of Amontillado” also is one of the cuts on the only album I associate with Halloween. It is, of course, “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” the first album by the Alan Parsons Project. It’s a prog rock concept album based on Poe’s stories.

By the mid-’70s, Parsons was highly regarded for his work as an engineer on albums by the Beatles, Paul McCartney, the Hollies and Pink Floyd. He then became a producer, then created “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” with Eric Woolfson, who pitched him the idea.

More than 200 musicians played on that 1976 album, which was arranged by Andrew Powell.

You know “The Raven” from that album. It wasn’t the single — that was “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” — but it became more widely played, and rightly so.

So, for your Halloween listening pleasure … two treats only. No tricks.

“The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the Alan Parsons Project, from “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” 1976.

(Arthur Brown does the wild vocals on the latter.)

My copy is the original vinyl. I haven’t heard the late ’80s CD version, to which Parsons added readings by Orson Welles and extra synthesizers.

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Filed under October 2017, Sounds

Remembering Muddy Wilbury

Everyone takes something different away from the music they hear.

Sometimes an obscure lyric or chord or melody is seared into your head forever. Sometimes something everyone else digs barely registers with you.

There you have the sum of my experience with Tom Petty.

When he died earlier this month, there I was, standing off to the side again. As the parade of deeply felt and richly deserved tributes streamed past, there I was, holding up a tiny sign that read “I liked the Traveling Wilburys.”

“Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3” came out 27 years ago next week, in late October 1990. It’s one of my favorite records from a time when I wasn’t exactly sure what I liked. That was a time when many of my favorite artists had either lost their way or fallen off the map. It also came out at a time when CDs were overtaking vinyl, and I was still sorting all that out. I have the CD. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Roy Orbison — old Lefty Wilbury — was gone, so this incarnation of the Wilburys consisted of Spike, Muddy, Clayton and Boo Wilbury. You know, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan. Still a good group. I’d listen to any group with Spike and Clayton, then and now.

Muddy sang lead on two of the 10 cuts on the record. This one, with Clayton singing the bridge, has long been one of my favorites.

“You Took My Breath Away,” the Traveling Wilburys, from “Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3,” 1990. It’s still available.

Still a good way to remember Tom Petty.

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Filed under October 2017, Sounds