Monthly Archives: December 2007

It’s New Year’s Eve! Stand back!


It wasn’t until we owned our first house that Janet and I felt grown up enough to host a New Year’s Eve party.

Until then, we were out at the bars with all the other amateurs on New Year’s Eve. We were young enough that New Year’s Eve was essentially one big high school or college reunion night.

But as 1988 turned into 1989 — as best we can remember — we hosted a New Year’s Eve party at our rambling old house on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin. We had lots of food, drink, friends and party favors.

Our lingering memory of that party is that of one of our friends — who shall remain nameless — holding court in our dining room, holding party poppers and blasting away.

“Stand back!” our friend would shout. Then our friend would pull the string — pop! — and shower the room with confetti.

Ever since, every time we see a party popper … “Stand back!”

Or, every time New Year’s Eve rolls around … “Stand back!”

Having a New Year’s Eve party? You may want these tunes for your mix.


“Thank You for a Good Year,” Alexander O’Neal, from “My Gift to You,” 1988.

Or one of these three versions of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” That familiar tune was written in 1947 by Frank Loesser, who also wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”


A bluesy instrumental version by King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1990. Recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York on Oct. 23, 1968. That’s a young Duane Allman on guitar.


A swinging big-band version by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” 2005.


A laid-back acoustic version by Mindy Smith, from “My Holiday,” 2007.

Oh, and be sure to get plenty of party poppers.

Credit Where Credit Is Due Dept.: The photo of the party popper was taken by Hazel Jones of the UK and was posted online in July 2007 at the Museum of Temporary Art.

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Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 44

Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is a man of the world, and a worldly man.

Tonight’s cut was recorded in England and released by a German label.

Of course, good music knows no boundaries.

Tonight, Sleepy covers a tune written and originally performed by Jimmy Reed, an electric bluesman from Mississippi. “Shame, Shame, Shame,” released in 1963, was Reed’s last single to hit the charts.

Sleepy recorded this cover at Regent Sound Studio in London on April 23, 1979, backed by a five-piece group.


“Shame, Shame, Shame,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin” Decade,” a 1997 compilation issued by Germany’s Charly Records.

The Rolling Stones have performed this tune since they did it as a demo when they were just getting started in the early ’60s.

This video is of the Stones playing it live at the Double Door, a small club in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, on Sept. 18, 1997.

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Real gone, man

I don’t know about you, but I read the obits every day. In my local paper, in the papers from the towns in which I grew up, in the Los Angeles Times, which writes some of the best obits.

The stories of the lives of people well known and little known are equally fascinating.

These are some of the people we lost in 2007. For better or worse, it’s my list. It’s not meant to be all-inclusive.

Yvonne De Carlo, 84, Jan. 8. Lily Munster? Sure. But she also played a supporting role in “McLintock,” a 1963 John Wayne comedy that’s one of my favorite films.

E. Howard Hunt, 88, Jan. 23. His memoir — “American Spy” — was one of the best books I read this year. Sure, he’s spinning the Watergate story his way, but it’s fascinating to see how a man gets to that point in his life.

Frankie Laine, 93, Feb. 6. If only for the theme song to “Blazing Saddles,” the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy I’ve seen dozens of times. Brooks advertised in the trades, seeking someone to sing it in Laine’s style. Laine showed up at Brooks’ office a couple of days later. No one told him it was a comedy, so Laine essentially was spoofing his own image — he was known for singing “Rawhide” and other Western themes — by singing it straight.


Dennis Johnson, 52, Feb. 22. For most of the ’80s, DJ and the rest of the Boston Celtics routinely crushed my once-beloved Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA playoffs. (Photo from this Flickr gallery by Satdishguy.)

Tom Green, 50, March 1. The one, the only, Elvis tribute entertainer in Wisconsin since the ’80s.

Brad Delp, 55, March 9. I thought I’d never get to see Boston play live, but I finally did in 2004. He was great, his voice soaring over an otherwise muddy sound mix. “Come a day when you’ll be gone” … from “Peace of Mind,” off Boston’s debut album, 1976.

Calvert DeForest, 85, March 19. Larry “Bud” Melman, from David Letterman’s glory days.

John P. Ryan, 70, March 20. A veteran movie bad guy, he played the brutal warden in “Runaway Train” and meets a violent end in “The Cotton Club,” two more of my favorite movies, both from the mid-’80s.

Kurt Vonnegut, 84, April 11. I read “Slaughterhouse-Five” in high school. It was much later before I understood most of what I had read.

Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96, April 17. Singer, actress and grande dame of the arts? Sure. But I remember her as a panelist on “To Tell the Truth.” I used to watch a lot of TV.

David Halberstam, 73, April 23. He wrote fascinating books on sports and wars. He also wrote some of the longest sentences I’ve ever read. Sometimes, they were almost incomprehensible.

Tommy Newsom, 78, April 28. My dad and I watched “The Tonight Show” together for years. Tommy was like one of the family.

Wally Schirra, 84, May 3. One of the original seven Mercury astronauts. You could not be a kid in the ’60s and not know all of the astronauts by name. They were, and are, true American heroes.


Charles Nelson Reilly, 76, May 25. Another of our constant companions during high school. Many afternoons misspent watching “The Match Game.”

Ralph Stayer, 92, June 24. We love Johnsonville brats and sausages. He founded the company, using family recipes.

George McCorkle, 60, June 29. I saw the Marshall Tucker Band play a show in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in 1977. I partied so hard before the show that I remember almost nothing about it.


Charles Lane, 102, July 9. You may not know his name, but you know his flinty face and voice. He played crabby guys on ’60s sitcoms and in older films. (He also looked like my grandfather, who did not live to 102.)

Lane played Homer Bedloe on “Petticoat Junction.” I had no choice in watching that show as a kid. My dad loved to watch the old steam engine and laugh at the railroad men. Worst. Show. Ever. (But I also will entertain nominations for “Green Acres” as worst show ever.)

TV Land honored Lane when he turned 100, and he announced “I’m still available,” meaning still available for acting work. Great line.

Dennis Getto, 57, July 24. The guy who knew every decent restaurant — from white linen tablecloth to burger joint — in Wisconsin. He wrote for the Milwaukee papers.

Tom Snyder, 71, July 29. Another Wisconsin guy. I spent many late nights in front of the TV with him, more so in the ’90s than the ’70s, though.

Hughie Thomasson, 55, Sept. 9. I saw him play with Lynyrd Skynyrd twice. That three-guitar attack was terrific. When I heard he’d left the band to revive the Outlaws, that was a mixed blessing. Glad to hear the Outlaws again, but I’m not sure I want to see Skynyrd with just two guitarists.

Joe Zawinul, 75, Sept. 11. If only for Weather Report’s “Birdland.”

Brett Somers, 83, Sept. 15. See Charles Nelson Reilly.

Marcel Marceau, 84, Sept. 22.

Bud Ekins, 77, Oct. 6. Ekins — and not his pal Steve McQueen — jumped the barbed-wire fence on that motorcycle in “The Great Escape” in 1963 and drove that Mustang in the big chase scene in “Bullitt” in 1968.

Sigrid Valdis, 72, Oct. 14. She played Helga on “Hogan’s Heroes.” If it looked like Helga and Col. Hogan were getting it on, they were. Valdis and Bob Crane were married on the set in 1970. Did you know she was born Patricia Olson in Bakersfield, California?

Max McGee, 75, Oct. 20. The unlikely hero of Super Bowl I? Sure. But we spent Sunday afternoons with Max for 20 years as he called Packers games on the radio. Also like one of the family.

Dick Wilson, 91, Nov. 19. Mr. Whipple from the Charmin commercials. My mom and dad always bought store-brand toilet paper, so damn right I squeezed that Charmin every time I saw it.

Ike Turner, 76, Dec. 12. Too bad it’s politically incorrect to like Ike.

He long was considered an “Evil Man.” (From “Come Together,” by Ike and Tina Turner and the Ikettes, 1970. It’s a gender-flipped cover of Crow’s “Evil Woman” from 1969.)

This is from The Associated Press story on Ike’s memorial service:

“Stop holding this mess — whatever it is — against this man. Even Jesus forgives,” said Little Richard, 75, who left the service early, aided by a walker and several assistants.

I saw Little Richard live earlier this year. He used crutches as he walked on and off stage, saying he had sciatica. Appreciate his greatness, too.

Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 71, Dec. 13. In the early ’90s, I got into “The X-Files.” Westerman had a great supporting role as Albert Hosteen, a Navajo code breaker, in the second and third seasons. What I did not know was that he also was a well-regarded country singer and songwriter.


Filed under December 2007, Sounds

Laughter in the snow


This is what our neighborhood looked like late this afternoon, after a day of steady snow.

It also is what my first girlfriend’s neighborhood looked like about this time, shortly after Christmas 1974.

Just before Thanksgiving of that year, our senior year in high school, my friend Joe started seeing Teri, who went to another school in our town. I wasn’t Joe’s wingman — he never needed the help — but we were tight.

One night, Joe dragged me along to Teri’s church to see or hear her in something. There, I met Karen. She and Teri were friends. So it seemed natural when Karen and I started seeing each other as well.

Now, 33 years later — and it still seems like yesterday — it’s a pleasant memory.

One of the things I remember is heading home from Karen’s house late at night, on a night with lots of new-fallen snow, a night like tonight. Everything is quieter, muffled by the snow. On the drive home, the only natural sound is the snow being crunched by the car.

The other sounds are these. They were on the radio in late December 1974, and they always take me right back to that time.


“Everlasting Love,” Carl Carlton, from “Everlasting Love,” 1974.


“You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” Barry White, 1974, from “All Time Greatest Hits,” a 1994 compilation.

… and the song I most often associate with those snowy nights …


“Laughter in the Rain,” Neil Sedaka, 1974, from “The Definitive Collection,” 2007.

For all the laughter in the snow, though, neither Teri and Joe nor Karen and I were together all that long. Six weeks, tops. Just long enough to enjoy the Christmas season together.

When Teri and Joe broke up, that was the end for Karen and me, too.

Joe remembers it this way: “That was one of those mini-relationships. … Lots of fun condensed into a six-week courtship.”

Indeed it was.

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Three under the tree, revisited

As promised, here’s the recap of all the songs posted in our “Three under the tree” series. The tunes will remain available for the rest of the year, then will come down on or about Jan. 1.

Thanks to all who visited. We set all kinds of records as we listened to all kinds of Christmas records.

Thanks especially to those who left comments or sent e-mails. It was a pleasure fulfilling requests and tailoring some posts to Christmas wishes.

I think we might do it again next year. Until then, if you missed it …

Vol. 1: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the Jackson 5; “Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen; “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” John Lennon, Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir.

Vol. 2: “Soul Santa,” Brook Benton; “Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter; “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” the Tractors with Buck Owens.

Vol. 3: “Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You,” Billy Squier; “2000 Miles,” the Pretenders; “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” Barenaked Ladies.

Vol. 4: “Winter Wonderland,” Arthur Lyman; “Feliz Navidad,” Robert Greenidge; “O Come All Ye Faithful,” unknown artist from “Christmas in the Caribbean.”

Vol. 5: “Joy to the World,” “Medley: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing/O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night, Holy Night,” all by John Fahey.

Vol. 6: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Gary Chapman; “Feliz Navidad,” Los Straitjackets; “Gettin’ in the Mood (for Christmas),” the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Vol. 7: “This Christmas,” Donny Hathaway; “You’re All I Want for Christmas,” the Salsoul Orchestra; “Christmas Blues,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

Vol. 8: “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “There Was a Star,” the Staple Singers; “Born in Bethlehem,” the Blind Boys of Alabama with Mavis Staples.

Vol. 9: “Let It Snow,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; “Winter Wonderland,” Steve Goodman; “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews.

Vol. 10: “Come On Santa, Let’s Have a Ball,” “Santa’s Doing the Horizontal Twist” and “I Know What You Want for Christmas,” all by Kay Martin and Her Body Guards.

Vol. 11: “O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas; “Ave Maria,” Stevie Wonder; “Silent Night,” the Staple Singers.

Vol. 12: “Santa Claus is Back in Town,” “(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” all by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Vol. 13: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio; “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” McCoy Tyner; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Tori Amos.

Vol. 14: “My Gift to You,” “Our First Christmas” and “Remember Why (It’s Christmas),” all by Alexander O’Neal.

Vol. 15: “Run Rudolph Run,” Dave Edmunds; “Sock it to Me, Santa,” Bob Seger and the Last Heard; “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Los Straitjackets.

Vol. 16: “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” Luther Kent; “Let It Snow,” the Dixie Cups; “Merry Christmas Baby,” Dr. John.

Vol. 17: “The Little Drummer Boy,” the Salsoul Orchestra; “Frosty the Snowman,” Shirley Alston; “I Want a Casting Couch for Christmas,” Kay Martin and Her Body Guards.

Vol. 18: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Jimmy Smith; “Merry Christmas Baby,” Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra; “The Christmas Song,” the Kaz Jazz Quartet.

Vol. 19: “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” Angela Strehli; “Merry Christmas Darling,” the Fabulous Thunderbirds; “Please Come Home for Christmas,” Lou Ann Barton.

Vol. 20: “Christmas Wish (Sides 1 and 2),” NRBQ; “Rockin’ Little Christmas,” Carlene Carter.

Vol. 21: “Twelve Days of Christmas,” Bob and Doug McKenzie; “Santa Claus and His Old Lady,” Cheech and Chong; “Good King Wenceslas,” Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors.

Vol. 22: “What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’?), Louis Prima and His New Orleans Gang; “Jingle Bells,” Duke Ellington; “Winter Wonderland,” Alexander O’Neal.

Vol. 23: “Halleujah! It’s Christmas,” “It’s Christmas and I Miss You” and “O, Holy Night,” all by .38 Special.

Vol. 24: “Carol of the Bells,” Nancy Wilson; “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald; “This Christmas,” Patti LaBelle.

Vol. 25: “The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble and unknown artists from “Christmas Party Dancing.”

Vol. 26: “Santa Claus is Comin’ (In a Boogie-Woogie Choo-Choo Train,” the Tractors; “Mary’s Boy Child,” Harry Belafonte; “White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint.

Vol. 27: “Jingle Bells,” Luis Villegas; “Yuletide Zeppelin” and “Yuletide Zeppelin II,” Mojochronic; “Beautiful Dream (Holidays Are Coming),” Melanie Thornton.

Vol. 28: “Linus and Lucy (Hark, the Holler remix),” Pocketknife; “Christmas Time is Here,” Steve Vai; “You Shook Me All Noel,” dj BC.

Vol. 29: “Christmas Medley,” the Salsoul Orchestra; “Cool Yule” and “’Zat You, Santa Claus?” Louis Armstrong and the Commanders.

Vol. 30: “The Night Before Christmas,” Louis Armstrong.

If you’re wondering what I found under my tree on Christmas morning, this was one of the highlights.

It’s part of a clip featuring Tom Jones and Joe Cocker duetting on “Delta Lady” and backed by the Grease Band, from the legendary “This is Tom Jones” variety show that aired on ABC-TV from 1969 to 1971. This show aired on Feb. 19, 1970.


It’s from the three-disc DVD set “This is Tom Jones,” 2007.

(And there’s a second set due out in February.)

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007

Three under the tree, Vol. 30


‘Tis the night before Christmas,
(That’s Evan with our tree);
Time to wind up our series
With just one offering, not three.


“The Night Before Christmas,” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985.

It’s an a capella reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem, which was titled “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” upon its first publication in a newspaper — the Troy Sentinel in Troy, New York — on Dec. 23, 1823.

Armstrong recorded this just a few months before his death on July 6, 1971.

As you’d expect, Satchmo makes it his own.


Oh, and one more thing …

Our Christmas is all the merrier for having rediscovered this classic Miller High Life commercial. It may just be a Midwestern thing, but this used to be a familiar sight at this time of year. It debuted in 1977; this clip is from Dec. 7, 1980.

A friend of ours worked at Miller Brewing in Milwaukee about that time. She told us people so loved this commercial that they’d start calling the brewery in November to try to find out when it was going to air.

… so to all, a good night, and a merry Christmas.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 43

Won’t be long, and we’ll be back to Sleepy Sundays as our only regular feature around here. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Tonight, Sleepy isn’t sleepy. Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is rocking.

We’ve heard Sleepy cover Little Richard before. I’m still not sure it worked.

But on this one, there’s no doubt. Sleepy’s cooking.


“Long Tall Sally,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Rockabilly Blues,” 2001.

Sleepy recorded this at Shook Shack in Nashville in 1980 during his first sessions after signing with Rounder Records. That’s Texas honky-tonk piano legend Earl Poole Ball pounding those keys and former Elvis sideman D.J. Fontana on drums.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds