Category Archives: April 2007

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 9

Yesterday was like Christmas for Packers fans, given the first day of the NFL draft.

Today is like Christmas for my dad. This is the weekend for the annual Titletown Train Show. He’s an old railroad man and still passionate about it all. At 81, he’s good from the knees up, not so good from the knees down, so we take our time to look at the books, DVDs, videos and old photos. Sort of like crate digging.

Sleepy LaBeef, American treasure, knows a few train songs. This is one.

“Night Train to Memphis” was written by legendary country producer Owen Bradley, along with Marvin Hughes and Beasley Smith. It was a hit for Roy Acuff in 1942, and he starred in the Republic Pictures musical of the same name in 1946. It’s also been covered by Bobby Hebb, Jerry Lee Lewis and Dolly Parton.

Sleepy recorded this version at Blue Jay Studio in Carlisle, Massachusetts, in January 1996. The solos are by Duke Levine on guitar and Lisa Pankratz on drums.

So hop on board.

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“Night Train to Memphis,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Rockabilly Blues,” 2001.

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Green Bay is on the clock

Today has the feel of Christmas here in the shadow of Lambeau Field.

The Green Bay Packers, along with the other 31 teams in the NFL, get to unwrap their presents in the NFL draft.

My mission, should I decide to accept it, is to spend five hours watching the first round of the draft and posting to our newspaper’s Packers news site (and to handhelds) every time a team makes a pick.

No better way to prepare for that than to enjoy the music of Sam Spence.

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If the name isn’t familiar, the music is. You’ve heard his compositions countless times on the classic NFL Films presentations of the ’60s and the ’70s. They’re terrific.

Some years ago, I came across a CD of NFL Films music by Spence and a couple of other more contemporary composers. It’s terrific, taking you back to those great NFL Films.

So let’s hope someone picks a ramblin’ man from Grambling.

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“Ramblin’ Man From Grambling,” composed by Sam Spence, from “The Power and the Glory: The Original Music and Voices of NFL Films,” 1998.

Though this CD is plenty for me, there’s also a boxed set of NFL Films music. “Autumn Thunder” is available with 10 CDs or five vinyl albums.

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Nights on Hudson Street

Today, we celebrate Janet’s birthday. We’ve been together for 28 years, married for almost 20 years.

We met when we were seniors at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, both journalism majors.

We had known each other for some time, then got together on March 9, 1979, a Friday night. Over the next two months, I spent plenty of time at the house Janet shared with some other women. Just, ahem, resting.

There were a few albums we played over and over. These tunes take us right back to that couch in the living room of the house on Hudson Street in Eau Claire.

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“Passion Is No Ordinary Word,” Graham Parker and the Rumour, from “Squeezing Out Sparks,” 1979.

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“Affirmation,” by George Benson, from “Breezin’,” 1976.

Both albums came from Janet’s collection, which long ago became part of our collection.

Yes, we have some doubles. “Squeezing Out Sparks” is one.

Oh, and that kid holding the camera? He belongs to us, too. That’s Evan.

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My oldies station does not want me

Well, maybe it would like me to listen. But it clearly does not want my opinion about the music it plays.

The other night, I received a call from a woman with a honeyed Southern accent, asking whether I’d be willing to attend a local gathering to help rate music. Sure, I said.

Then she asked what radio station I most often listened to. I told her WAPL, our local rock dinosaur in this corner of Wisconsin (and whose playlist certainly can be described as “oldies”).

Then she asked whether I listened to an oldies station. Sure, from time to time, I said. She asked me which one. I drew a blank.

Oh, OK. Never mind. Thanks, but no thanks. Uninvited.

Shunned by what I am guessing is WOGB. It’s owned by Cumulus Media, based in Atlanta. That would explain the honeyed Southern accent.

I ran this past a friend who knows a lot more about radio than I do. He assured me it’s standard procedure. He also can explain it much better than I can:

“My guess is that for some reason they want to exclude people who cross over between ‘APL and whatever the oldies station is up there, although for what reason I don’t know. … These focus groups generally rely heavily on the station’s core listeners, because they’re the people most likely to have opinions about the station; the vast majority of people like their favorite stations but don’t obsess about it.”

OK, I’ll buy that. After all, I might have suggested they play oldies like …

One from 1969: “Kick Out The Jams,” by the MC5. You really ought to.

Or one from 1971: “We Got To Have Peace,” by Curtis Mayfield. Yes, we do.

Or one from 1974: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” by Gil Scott-Heron. Hey, I heard it on FM radio in Wausau, Wisconsin, when it came out in 1974, so why not now?

Or one from 1975: “Fight The Power (Part I),” by the Isley Brothers.

Nah, they’ll never play any of that. Talk about your bullshit going down.

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Filed under April 2007, Sounds like bull to me

Reunited with old friends, Part II

Of the six tunes posted last week from the late summer of 1969, this one has been downloaded most often: “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home?” by Joe South.

Good for you.

I always liked it, and I had it on a long-lost 45, but I didn’t have a digital copy until last year. Joe South and I were reunited by a long-lost friend who remembered I liked it — back in junior high school in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Mike and I were pals in the late ’60s and early ’70s, in third grade, then again beginning in seventh grade. We were passionate about comics, music and pop culture. Midway through ninth grade, I moved away. We briefly kept touch, but life went on.

Then, after 34 years out of touch, Mike and I were reunited, first via e-mail, then in person. After all that time, we remain passionate about most of the same things, and we have a similar world view. We live about three hours apart, and we get together a couple of times a year.

When we got together for lunch, I brought along a CD of songs that reflected 34 years of music I have enjoyed. Not really a soundtrack of my life. More like a road map of all the genres I like.

My journey through music is almost solely as a fan. Mike’s is more varied. He’s had gigs as a music teacher, a Nashville session musician, a radio host and — these days — a bluegrass musician. (He’s in The New Pioneers, who play the second Thursday of every month at Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.) His wife, Lori, is a singer. They have a home studio.

One day, Mike sent a CD of things he liked. One of the tunes was “Rings,” by Cymarron. He’d been looking for it, and I helped him dig it up. Another was the Joe South tune.

Here are a couple of other tunes from Mike’s CD, with his comments:

“Golden Ribbons,” Loggins & Messina, from “Loggins & Messina,” 1972.

“We had a juke box in the cafeteria at South High. People played it during study hall and someone kept playing this — the B side of “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” which I can’t stand. But this is a great song, in my opinion. Well-written, wonderfully performed, and I think it still holds up, seeing it was done in ’73 or ’74. This is among my all-time favorite tunes … with a heavy message to boot.”

“Everyone’s Agreed,” Stealers Wheel, from “Ferguslie Park,” 1973.

“Just an oldie but a goodie. Like ‘Rings,’ it’s one that I hadn’t heard in years and found on the Internet. I’ve downloaded other old favorites that made me wonder what I was thinking, but this one held up (again, in my opinion).”

Mike called that CD “Stuff for Jeff.” And now it is stuff for you. Enjoy.

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Filed under April 2007, Sounds