50 years ago yesterday, on Sunday, Jan. 23, 1972, the CloseUp section of the Green Bay Press-Gazette carried record reviews, as it did almost every Sunday.
Some of the records reviewed on that day by free-lance writer David F. Wagner: “I Wrote a Simple Song” by Billy Preston, “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens” by Sandy Denny, “Angel Delight” by Fairport Convention and “From the Witchwood” by Strawbs.
Billy Preston? “He jumped off soul’s deep end, and every cut here is overripe and out of hand.” Sandy Denny solo? “Not exactly stimulating.” Fairport Convention? “Few ideas of consequence.” Strawbs fares best. “The lyrics get a little pretentious at times, but … a pleasant combination of rock and English folk music.”
But I’m burying the lead here, and the lead item in the column was Wagner’s vaguely racist review of “Black Moses” and the “Shaft” soundtrack, both by Isaac Hayes. It’s astonishing that his editors deemed it suitable for print.
“WHAT is obvious to anyone moderately familiar with r&b through the years is that much of the soul of ‘soul music’ is self-indulgence; understandable in a musical format in which ‘form’ consistently overrides content.”
“Enter Isaac Hayes … again. Friend or foe? Don’t answer that; after all, he’s the best Black Moses we have.”
“Hayes’ recordings have been superfantastic sellers, presumably in the black community. True, he goes over extremely well in concert before the blacks and is a sex symbol for many sisters. But I suspect a good many honkies are buying his lush gush, too.”
Here is an ill-informed white guy, 31 years old, writing for a white audience his age and older, at best trying to be edgy and at worst fancying himself a music critic on par with those in Rolling Stone.
“What he does is done well — except for the slight consideration that he can’t sing at all. It’s just that he is the epitome of corniness, black or white. He reads beautifully, but his narrations (better known as raps) are embarrassingly banal.”
Save for the most adventurous of them, Press-Gazette readers likely never heard anything by Isaac Hayes beyond “Theme from Shaft.” Wagner declared the “Shaft” soundtrack “the preferable product” because “it is mostly instrumental, so there are no raps and only a minority of bad singing.”
Anyone else feel like they need a shower? Let’s let Isaac Hayes wash over us for the next 19 minutes instead.
They go in threes. They always go in threes. 2021 was no different.
Adventurers: Greg “Da Bull” Noll (big-wave surfer), Carla Wallenda (matriarch of Flying Wallendas high-wire act), George Whitmore (one of the first El Capitan climbers)
A league of their own: Audrey Haine Daniels (one of the top pitchers in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League), Helen Nicol Fox (winningest pitcher in AAGPBL history), Joyce Hill Westerman (AAGPBL catcher for 8 seasons)
All that jazz: Chick Corea, Pat Martino, Dr. Lonnie Smith
All the president’s men: G. Gordon Liddy (Watergate burglar), Eugenio Martinez (Watergate burglar; Dominic Chianese played him in the film), Harry M. Rosenfeld (Washington Post editor who directed Watergate coverage; Jack Warden played him in the film)
Backing the Beatles: Lizzie Bravo (singer, “Across the Universe”), Sheila Bromberg (harp, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), Kenneth Essex (viola, “Yesterday”)
Backup singers: Evette Benton (Sweethearts of Sigma, the Sweeties), Jessie Smith (an original Ikette), Pervis Staples (Staple Singers)
Badasses: Melvin Van Peebles, Clarence Williams III, Michael K. Williams
Basketball legends: Elgin Baylor (Lakers), Jerry Harkness (helped desegregate college basketball in the South in the early ’60s), Sam Jones (Celtics)
Beatlemania: Ron Campbell (“Yellow Submarine” animator; I saw this “Yellow Submarine” piece at his pop-up show in Green Bay in 2019), Maureen Cleave (conducted Lennon’s more-popular-than-Jesus interview in 1966), Denis O’Dell (Beatles film producer, name-checked in “You Know My Name [Look Up the Number]”)
Black aces: Jim “Mudcat” Grant (first Black pitcher to win 20 games and a World Series game in the AL), Grant Jackson (pitched 18 years; winning pitcher in Game 7 of 1979 World Series), J.R. Richard (tall, flame-throwing pitcher; career cut short by a stroke)
Blacklisted: Walter Bernstein (screenwriter, “The Front”), Hal Holbrook (appears in “The Majestic,” a 2001 film about a blacklisted screenwriter), Norman Lloyd (actor)
Black power: Lee Elder (golf), Lee Evans (1968 Olympics), Marvin Hagler (boxing)
Black Uhuru: Mikey “Mao” Chung (guitar, keyboards), Garth Dennis (vocals), Robbie Shakespeare (bass)
Bonded: Remy Julienne (stunt driver and coordinator on six Bond films), Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big, “Live and Let Die”), Tanya Roberts (Stacey Sutton, Bond girl in “A View to a Kill”)
British invaders: Graeme Edge (Moody Blues drummer), Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers), Hilton Valentine (Animals guitarist)
Cable news: Jeanetta Jones (Weather Channel), Larry King (CNN), Allison Payne (WGN, Chicago)
Check the label: Quinton Claunch (Hi and Goldwax Records co-founder), Bob Koester (Delmark Records), Johnny Pacheco (salsa percussionist, Fania Records co-founder)
Child actors: Dustin Diamond, Dean Stockwell, Jane Withers
Children’s bookshelf: Eric Carle (“The Very Hungry Caterpillar”), Beverly Cleary (“Henry Huggins” and “Ramona” books), Richard Robinson (Scholastic books)
Comedy writers: Anne Beatts (National Lampoon, “Saturday Night Live,” “Square Pegs”), Frank Jacobs (MAD magazine), Paul Mooney (Richard Pryor, “In Living Color”)
Comic book creators: Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly (first woman hired to write “Wonder Woman”), Frank Thorne (drew “Red Sonja”), S. Clay Wilson (underground comix)
Composers: Dolores Claman (“Hockey Night in Canada” theme), Alan Hawkshaw (British film and TV themes), Mikis Theodorakis (Greek and prolific; scored “Zorba the Greek,” “Z” and “Serpico”)
Country rockers: Paul Cotton (Poco), Michael Nesmith (Monkees, First National Band, solo work), Rusty Young (Poco)
Critical thinkers: Lawrence Ferlinghetti (poetry and arts), bell hooks (feminist and social issues), Greg Tate (Black culture)
Curtain call: Leslie Bricusse, Stephen Sondheim, Jim Steinman
Directors: Michael Apted, Richard Donner, Lina Wertmuller
DJs: Bob Fass (‘60s free-form radio pioneer), Paul Johnson (Chicago house DJ, influenced Daft Punk), Janice Long (first woman with daily show on BBC Radio 1)
Entrepreneurs: Peter Buck (Subway co-founder), Dennis Murphy (American Basketball Association, World Hockey Association, World Team Tennis co-founder), Ron Popeil (infomercial pioneer, invented Veg-O-Matic, Chop-O-Matic, Ronco Pocket Fisherman)
Fast company: Bob Bondurant, Al Unser, Bobby Unser
Football trailblazers: Sam “Bam” Cunningham (USC fullback who helped desegregate college football in the South by beating Alabama in 1970), Irv Cross (first Black sports analyst on TV), John Madden (NFL coach turned broadcaster turned video game icon)
Freedom fighters: Meredith Anding (one of the Tougaloo Nine readers at peaceful sit-in at white-only library in Mississippi in 1961), Robert Parris Moses (civil rights activist, Freedom Summer organizer, beaten during Mississippi voter drive in 1961), Gloria Richardson (Maryland civil rights pioneer, pushed away National Guardsman’s bayonet during protest march in 1963)
Go big or go home: Ted Gardner (Lollapalooza co-founder), Ken Kragen (We Are The World producer), George Wein (Newport Jazz Festival founder)
Gone, country: Nanci Griffith, Tom T. Hall, B.J. Thomas
Hasta la bye bye: Rush Limbaugh, Bernard Madoff (Wall Street Ponzi schemer), Phil Spector (see also Legends, unfortunately)
Here come the brides: Bridget Hanley (“Here Come the Brides”), Tawny Kitaen (“Bachelor Party”), Jane Powell (“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”)
Heroes among us: Gertrude Pressburger (Holocaust survivor who warned Austrian voters about threats from the far right in 2016), Justus Rosenberg (helped rescue artists and intellectuals from Nazis, then a French Resistance fighter during World War II), Faye Schulman (survived Holocaust, photographed Russian partisan fighters during WWII)
Her stories: Eve Babitz, Joan Didion, Anne Rice
Hip-hop pioneers: Biz Markie, Prince Markie Dee (Fat Boys), Shock G (Digital Underground)
Inventive: Kenneth Kelly (Black designer of antennas for satellite TV/radio, NASA), Bruce Meyers (created Meyers Manx, first fiberglass dune buggy), Spencer Silver (3M chemist accidentally invented Post-It Notes adhesive)
It’s 1941 again: Ned Beatty, Frank McRae (he pops out of the tank, wearing baseball gear, at 0:27), Walter Olkewicz (not seen here, but a soldier in the scene where the tank smashes through the door … hey, it’s one of my favorite movies)
JB’s soul brothers: Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis (bandleader, arranger, sax), Melvin Parker (drums), Danny Ray (emcee and cape man)
Kid stuff: Joanna Cameron (“Isis”), Billie Hayes (Witchiepoo on “H.R. Pufnstuf”), John Paragon (Jambi on “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” … and that’s Lawrence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis and a young Natasha Lyonne in that clip)
Last laughs: Norm Macdonald, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl
Last man standing: Hubert Germain (last French liberator honored with Order of Liberation), Leon Kopelman (last known surviving fighter of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising), Josep Almudever Mateu (last survivor of International Brigades vs. Franco)
Legends: Don Everly, Lloyd Price, Phil Spector (see also “Hasta la bye bye”)
Let’s boogie: George Frayne (Commander Cody), Dusty Hill (ZZ Top), Tom Morey (Boogie Board inventor)
Let’s play: Maki Kaji (Sudoku creator), Reuben Klamer (created Game of Life, Man from UNCLE gun, Star Trek phaser rifle), Henry Orenstein (Holocaust survivor developed poker’s hole-card camera, Transformers toys)
Let’s rock: James Giombetti (Mr. G of Wisconsin’s indie record chain, The Exclusive Company), John Koss (co-inventor of first stereo headphones), Lou Ottens (helped invent cassette tapes, CDs)
LGBTQ icons: Steve Bronski (Bronski Beat), Alix Dobkin (lesbian singer and activist), Sophie
Lights out in the WJM newsroom: Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Betty White
Loyal opposition: Rennie Davis (Chicago Seven), George Holliday (taped Rodney King beating), Allan McDonald (Challenger engineer and whistleblower)
Making the scene: Connie Hamzy (groupie made famous by Grand Funk), Ricky Powell (New York hip-hop photographer), Mick Rock (rock photographer)
Man behind the music: John Davis (one of the real Milli Vanilli voices), John Miles (“Music” was his 1976 hit), Chuck E. Weiss (in love, name-checked by Rickie Lee Jones)
Mary Tyler more: Allan Burns (co-creator, wrote 168 episodes), Cloris Leachman, Jay Sandrich (directed 119 episodes)
Milwaukee County Stadium glory days, playing: Hank Aaron (Braves and Brewers), Del Crandall (played for Braves, managed Brewers), Lew Krausse (Brewers pitcher who signed this autograph for me in 1971)
Milwaukee County Stadium glory days, watching: Frank Charles (Brewers organist), Bud Lea (covered the Braves for the old Milwaukee Sentinel), Tom Skibosh (Brewers PR guy)
Name-checked: Jay Black (Jay and The Americans), Billy Hinsche (Dino, Desi & Billy), Michael Stanley (Michael Stanley Band)
Night Court, out of session: Larry Gelman, Markie Post, Charles Robinson
Oscar nominees: Olympia Dukakis, Christopher Plummer, Cicely Tyson
Out of the west: Johnny Crawford (“The Rifleman”), Henry Darrow (“The High Chaparral”), James Hampton (“F Troop”)
Outrageous women: Fanne Foxe (exotic dancer in 1974 sex scandal with Congressman Wilbur Mills), Margo St. James (sex worker and sex-positive feminist), Tempest Storm (exotic dancer)
Power of the press: Larry Flynt (Hustler publisher, First Amendment activist), Neil Sheehan (got the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg and exposed them), Richard Stolley (got a copy of the Zapruder film for Life magazine, first People magazine editor)
Pumped up: Dave Draper (bodybuilding), Black Jack Lanza (’60s and ’70s wrestler), “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (’80s and ’90s wrestler)
Redheads: Arlene Dahl, Betty Lynn, Rusty Warren
Reggae royalty: Astro (UB40), Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bunny Wailer (the Wailers)
Sitcom regulars: Frank Bonner (“WKRP in Cincinnati”), Peter Scolari (“Bosom Buddies,” “Newhart”), Gregory Sierra (“Sanford and Son,” “Barney Miller”)
Sitcom sidekicks: Arlene Golonka (“Mayberry RFD”), Eddie Mekka (“Laverne & Shirley”), Felix Silla (Cousin Itt on “The Addams Family,” Twiki on “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”)
Soul brothers: James Burke (Five Stairsteps), Joe Simon, Ronnie Wilson (Gap Band)
Soul sisters: Sarah Dash (Labelle), Mary Wilson (Supremes), Wanda Young (Marvelettes)
Space, the final frontier: Bruce Blackburn (helped design NASA “worm” logo introduced in 1975), Michael Collins (Apollo 11 astronaut), Glynn Lunney (NASA flight director helped save Apollo 13 mission)
Talk-show treasures: Dick Carson (Johnny’s younger brother, directed “The Tonight Show” and “The Merv Griffin Show”), Charles Grodin, George Segal
That voice: Marion Ramsey (“Police Academy” movies), Paul Soles (Hermey in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Spider-Man”), Samuel E. Wright (Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid”)
True crime: John Artis (wrongfully convicted with boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter), Theodore Conrad (Cleveland bank robber inspired by “The Thomas Crown Affair,” lived second life in Massachusetts as Thomas Randele for 50 years), Ronald DeFeo Jr. (murderer inspired “The Amityville Horror”)
TV moms: Gloria Henry (“Dennis the Menace”), Pat Loud (“An American Family”), Jessica Walter (“Arrested Development”)
Unforgettable solos: Duke Bootee (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, spoken solo on “The Message” — “It’s like a jungle, sometimes it makes me wonder.”), Gil Bridges (Rare Earth, flute solo on “Born to Wander”), Ron Bushy (Iron Butterfly, drum solo on “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” cued up here, starting at 6:23)
The Untouchables: Michael Constantine (5 appearances, 1961-63), Nicholas Georgiade (last surviving regular, played Enrico Rossi), Chuck Hicks (LaMarr Kane, 1959)
Wise counsel: F. Lee Bailey (for the defense), Brian Rohan (San Francisco “dope lawyer” for ’60s rock stars), Sarah Weddington (Roe ‘s attorney in Roe v. Wade)
World leaders: Walter Mondale, Prince Philip, Archbishop Desmond Tutu
World music: Buddy Deppenschmidt (bossa nova drummer), Vicente Fernandez (Mexican ranchera music), Paddy Moloney (Chieftains)
Gone in Threes, the band
Band leaders: Les Emmerson (Five Man Electrical Band), Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire), Leslie McKeown (Bay City Rollers)
Guitar: Bruce Conte (Tower of Power), Mike Mitchell (Kingsmen), Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls)
Bass: Morris “B.B.” Dickerson (War), Leonard “Hub” Hubbard (Roots), Alan Lancaster (Status Quo)
Drums: Charles Connor (Little Richard), Jerry Granelli (Vince Guaraldi Trio), Roger Hawkins (Muscle Shoals sessions)
Horns: Joey Ambrose (Bill Haley and the Comets sax), Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas (Kool & The Gang sax), Johnny Trudell (Motown trumpeter and brass leader)
Keyboards: Louis Clark (Electric Light Orchestra, for whom he also was conductor and arranger), Gary Corbett (KISS, Cinderella), Gene Taylor (Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds)
The last word
Some memorable farewells
Renay Mandel Corren, 84, of El Paso, Texas: “The bawdy, fertile, redheaded matriarch of a sprawling Jewish-Mexican-Redneck American family has kicked it. … The family requests absolutely zero privacy or propriety, none what so ever, and in fact encourages you to spend some government money today on a 1-armed bandit, at the blackjack table or on a cheap cruise to find our inheritance. She spent it all, folks.”
Marilyn DeAdder, 80, of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada: “She excelled at giving the finger, taking no shit and laughing at jokes, preferably in the shade of blue. She did not excel at suffering fools, hiding her disdain, and putting her car in reverse.”
Carol Lindeen, 81, of Madison, Wisconsin: “In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Ron Johnson’s opponent in 2022.”
Milton Munson Jr., 73, of Grand Island, Nebraska: “The grim reality of the Nebraska Cornhuskers finishing yet another season with a losing record proved to be too much to bear for Milton Andrew Munson, who decided he’d seen enough of this world during the team’s recent bye week.”
Joyce Uren, 76, of Schofield, Wisconsin: “She is limiting crying to one hour, and then we go out to eat, on her! Please note her change of address; Forestville Cemetery, Ringle, WI, Row E, #11.”
A furious farewell
Mike Malecki, 70, of Schenectady, New York: “Michael Joseph Malecki died needlessly from Covid-19. … He did not believe in masks, tests, vaccines, or the virus; he was ill for less than 48 hours. … He liked to say he lived his life according to his favorite songs, ‘My Way’ and ‘I Gotta Be Me.’ He was certainly him, and it probably killed him.”
The stunner: There always is one death that takes your breath away. I was going to put Hank Aaron here, then Michael Nesmith. But I knew both weren’t well. No, in 2021, it was breathtaking to lose Charlie Watts, gone at 80. The Rolling Stones have always seemed invincible, especially with Charlie setting the beat for 58 years. Perhaps more stunning than Charlie’s passing was the Stones’ decision to soldier on without him. All good things end, gents.
This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who died in 2021. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.
Each year, I use these sources for this list.
We start with Wikipedia’s month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. Then we check with our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each monthp. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended. Then we go through a year of Mojo magazines, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful. Other solid sources include News from ME (the blog by comics and animation writer Mark Evanier), Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.
(If you wonder why this always lags the new year by a few days, it’s because some deaths aren’t announced immediately. But I can’t wait too long. For example, this new year is but 13 days old and already we’re going forward without Ronnie Spector, Dwayne Hickman, James Mtume, Bob Saget, Peter Bogdanovich, Sidney Poitier, Calvin Simon and Max Julien.)
On this New Year’s Day, here’s something that’ll make those of us of a certain age share a wistful smile at the memory.
The actor Victor Buono died 40 years ago today, on New Year’s Day 1982.
The big man specialized in playing bad guys with big personalities. King Tut on “Batman,” a role he loved because he could overact and get away with it. Mr. Schubert on “Man From Atlantis.” Count Manzeppi on “The Wild Wild West.” Twice a murderer on “Perry Mason.” No, not Wo Fat but the thief Eric Damien on “Hawaii Five-O.”
But there was another side to Victor Buono.
On talk shows, he was a gifted storyteller who often recited his comic poems. The proof: 30 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” 14 appearances on “The Joey Bishop Show,” 10 appearances on “The Mike Douglas Show,” eight appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show.”
Here’s Victor Buono making one such appearance on “The Tonight Show” from 47 years ago today, New Year’s Day 1975. He shares some New Year’s resolutions, then riffs on a news story while sitting next to Johnny Carson.
(Oh, that clip going around with Betty White and Johnny Carson as Jane and Tarzan? Victor Buono was a guest on that show, too. It aired Aug. 14, 1981. It was his second-to-last talk show appearance and his last with Johnny.)
It’s been at least a decade since I found Victor Buono’s LP of comic poems.
Here’s a wonderful cut from that.
“Fat Man’s Prayer,” Victor Buono, from “Heavy!” 1971. (Sharing a video here because my copy skips at one of the many good lines.)
Victor Buono always played and seemed older than he really was, perhaps because of his size. When this LP was released in 1971 — many of his most memorable TV and film performances already behind him — he was just 33. He was just 43 when he died of a heart attack at his California home.
These are mp3s from my collection, taken from vinyl whenever possible. Enjoy. All music presented here is shared under the premise of fair use. This blog is solely intended for the purpose of education, a place for me to tell stories and write about music and cultural history. If you are a rights holder to any of the music presented and wish for it to be removed, please email me directly and it will be taken down.
About the words
The text is copyright 2007-2023, Jeff Ash. Text from other sources, when excerpted, is credited.