Monthly Archives: November 2010

‘I hope you enjoyed the show!’

One of the nice things about Facebook are the little surprises that pop up from time to time. Today, there was this:

“It was 32 years ago to this very day that Clicker performed for the last time at the Skyline in Dixon. Ill. In reflecting on this anniversary day, I would like to personally thank each and every person that ever attended a Clicker gig. We needed the money!!! So thanks!! I hope you enjoyed the show!”

That was posted by my friend Cubby Tracy. He played drums, guitars, keyboards and sang in Clicker, a Wisconsin band that performed all over the Midwest during the 1970s. As it turns out, they played later into the ’70s than I thought.

That we’re still talking about Clicker 32 years later stands as proof that we enjoyed the show. I just wish I could remember more about the show I saw in Wausau, Wisconsin, in 1976 or 1977. It’s a delightful though hazy memory.

I mentioned that to Cubby, and he added:

“We did in fact work very hard to be all we could be with what we had to work with at the time.”

By all accounts, Clicker did exactly that. At times a quartet, at times a trio, they played pop, rock and glam covers and terrific original songs. Their energetic performances are fondly remembered by music fans of a certain age.

Their last gig came on a Wednesday night.

So there, another chapter of the Clicker story told.

The Skyline Lounge saw a lot of big acts — among them Conway Twitty, Ricky Nelson, Barbara Mandrell, Chubby Checker and David Houston — according to this 2009 story in the newspaper from nearby Freeport, Illinois. Most were booked by a guy named Lyle Grobe, who worked at the local radio station, WIXN, and led a country band on the side.

The Skyline was one of many venues on a Midwest club circuit that included these Wisconsin stops in the ’70s: Stone Hearth, Shuffle Inn, Club 18, Indian Crossing Casino, Silver Dome, Airway Bar, Tino’s, The Rafters, Country Aire, River’s Edge, Gary’s Bar, more than one Armory and our local club, the Shindig.

Many of them are gone now.

The Skyline closed in 1980, two years after Clicker played that last gig.

Perhaps this was one of the songs they played that night.

“Toto Comes Home,” Clicker, from “Harde Har Har Har,” 1975. It’s out of print.

Cubby Tracy wrote this instrumental. I’m told they played it as an encore number. I wish I could confirm that, but … ahhh … it’s all kind of hazy.


Filed under November 2010, Sounds

Coming attractions

Three things, briefly.

1. We’re moonlighting again over at The Midnight Tracker.

This is one of the songs featured tonight. It’s written by Joseph B. Jefferson, who also wrote three huge hits for the Spinners — “Mighty Love, Part 1,” “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” “(They Just Can’t Stop It) Games People Play.”

“Ain’t It So,” New York City, from “I’m Doin’ Fine Now,” 1973. It’s out of print.

We have Side 2 of this record over at The Midnight Tracker tonight.

2. You may notice that things look a little different.

Just as we reached 500 posts, WordPress decided to retire the theme we’d been using since the beginning. So we’ve gone from Pressrow to Pilcrow.

3. Any requests for Christmas music?

The Three Under the Tree series has been retired — three years is plenty — but we’ll be along shortly with Christmas tunes as usual.

Your wish list is welcome, even requests for favorites you’ve heard here before. Leave a comment, send an e-mail, tweet it, hit me up on Facebook.

We now return you to your regular programming.

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Filed under November 2010

Back home for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving night, much like Christmas night, once was a time when we’d have our legal limit of the family, flee the house and hit the bars with our friends.

But it was a cruel tease, especially if you were in college. You had a long weekend, then had to head back to campus for to grind it out for roughly three weeks — including finals — before you could return home for Christmas.

You’d come home, disconnected from your hometown, out of the social loop. You’d make a few phone calls — or hope that someone would call you — to try to figure out who was around and what was going on.

This is the first such Thanksgiving weekend for my nephew Jake, who almost certainly has relied on texts and/or Facebook — who makes phone calls anymore? — to try to figure out what’s happening around his hometown.

When Jake drives back to school on Sunday, he’ll take the same road I did in November 1977, after my first Thanksgiving home from college. Our schools are about 25 miles apart.

So, Jake, wanna hear what your old unk was listening to back then?

Ah, didn’t think so. Too bad, man. Gonna cue it up anyway.

“Gettin’ Lucky,” Head East, from “Gettin’ Lucky,” 1977. The LP is out of print but available digitally.

That never happened during Thanksgiving break. Or Christmas break. Or summer break. This tune, written by guitarist Mike Somerville, rather neatly sums up that futility.

Head East was one of those Midwest rock bands we dug at the time.

“I Never Dreamed,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Street Survivors,” 1977.

This laid-back tune about a spurned lover’s remorse comes from a record that got plenty of play at our tiny off-campus apartment that fall. Dig the sweet instrumental intro and outro.

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Filed under November 2010, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vol. 34

You can have too much of a good thing.

When Great Big Radio streamed tunes from 1970 all Labor Day weekend long, I was reminded again that while there were plenty of great tunes on the radio 40 years ago, it wasn’t all good. Listening to all that sapped some of my enthusiasm for revisiting songs from 1970.

But here we are again. And here comes Great Big Radio again.

From Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, it’ll stream tunes from 1973. That year was chosen by listeners in a poll in which 1966 finished a distant second and in which 1977, 1969 and 1974 split most of the rest of the votes.

Near the top of the charts on this week in 1973 was a tune that mixed soul and funk, with lushly orchestrated strings and horns going head-to-head with a scorching dance beat.

It tore out of the radio with an energy that exposed other hits of the moment — among them songs by the DeFranco Family, Marie Osmond, Jim Croce, Seals and Crofts, Art Garfunkel, Gilbert O’Sullivan, the Carpenters, Helen Reddy and Looking Glass — for the mush they were.

“Keep On Truckin'” made Eddie Kendricks a solo star and reaffirmed Frank Wilson’s status as one of Motown’s great producers.

Kendricks had left the Temptations two years earlier. Wilson, a renowned hitmaker who had worked with but was overshadowed by legendary Motown producer Norman Whitfield, was working with Kendricks to take him beyond the Tempts. They sought to make a break from the sweet ballads for which Kendricks was known.

This smash did it. It’s written by Wilson, Anita Poree and Leonard Caston.

Yeah, you know the one.

“Keep On Truckin’,” Eddie Kendricks, from “Eddie Kendricks,” 1973. The LP is out of print but the tune is widely available. You’ll find it on this “Ultimate Collection” CD put out in 1998.

This is the 8-minute LP cut. There also is a single edit that runs 3:30 and a Tom Moulton remix that runs 11 minutes plus.

This song is a pleasant, if familiar, reminder that for all the mush from 1973 — and there was plenty of it — there was a wave of soul, R&B and funk that has endured. That week alone, there also were tunes by Billy Preston, Al Wilson, the Isley Brothers and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in the Top 40.

What a time that was.


Filed under November 2010, Sounds

The time of a life

We’ve not visited Ray’s Corner for a while — nor done much of anything else here on the blog — largely because we’ve been visiting the real Ray’s Corner quite a bit lately.

My dad, who is 85, has had some health problems in the six months since a minor accident ended his driving career. He increasingly grew short of breath over the summer.

Long story short, a few doctor visits, a few tests. Heart trouble. Last month, Dad had three stents put in to clear blocked arteries. He’s feeling better, but I do the driving and grocery shopping. Some of that used to be time for blogging, or for working out. So it goes.

Today, though, I was reminded of a time that might have been the best of my father’s 85 years.

In the summer of 1964, my parents were in their late 30s, with three young boys. I was 7. My brothers were 5 and 1. Dad and Mom felt confident enough about their lives that they bought their first house.

This house, in a quiet, leafy older neighborhood in Columbia, Missouri. They paid $18,000 for it (about $127,000 in today’s money).

Things were so good in the summer of 1964 that my parents also bought a new car, a 1964 Pontiac Catalina, midnight blue. They paid $2,500 for it (about $18,000 in today’s money).

Mom loved living in Missouri, just far enough away from her family in Wisconsin. She loved that house, too. I saw today that it’s for sale.

Save for the two large decks and some necessary updating, it sounds largely unchanged from when we lived there. “The 3 bedrooms are clustered,” the description reads, “perfect for a young family.”

That it was, for exactly one year.

Dad worked for Railway Express Agency, something like today’s UPS. The gig in Columbia, a college town always shipping or receiving packages, must have seemed such a sure thing in 1964.

But business depended heavily on passenger trains, which were dying out. As business dried up, REA cut jobs. It allowed workers with more seniority to take the jobs of those with less seniority.

In 1965, just a year after buying his dream home and his dream car, Dad was bumped from his job. That summer, they sold the house and moved back to Wisconsin, where Dad bumped someone else.

That house in Columbia was the only house my parents ever owned. Thereafter, they always rented.

That year, 1965, was when Dad stopped buying records. His collection, part of which is mine now, ends that abruptly. You see why.

This was one of Dad’s records. I still have it, but it’s in rough shape. We listened to it with him over and over.

Now, 45 years later, one of its songs seems to summon the hope and dreams, the loss and wistfulness of that time.

“Walk On By,” the Baja Marimba Band, from “Baja Marimba Band Rides Again,” 1965. It’s out of print (but I have four copies). The song, an instrumental cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune, is available on this greatest-hits compilation CD from 2001.


Filed under November 2010, Sounds