Category Archives: Sounds

Changes in attitudes

My memories are hazy, but 42 years ago tonight, on March 31, 1978, I saw Jimmy Buffett play at the St. Paul Civic Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Because my memories of that night are hazy, I emailed my friend Doug this morning: “What are your memories, if any, of seeing Jimmy Buffett at the St. Paul Civic Center 42 years ago tonight, March 31, 1978?”

Doug and I had been friends and co-workers for little more than two months back then, but he asked me to go along. Sure, it sounded like an adventure. However, Doug’s memories also are hazy. “Did Linda Ronstadt open?”

No, man, it was Emmylou Harris, and I had look to that up some years ago. I remember nothing from her performance.

Our memories are hazy because both Doug and I are older than dirt, and because way too many substances legal and illegal were enjoyed that evening.

Man, how long ago was that night? I was still almost a year away from dating the young lady I eventually married. So long ago that she and I have since seen two Jimmy Buffett shows together but both were almost 30 years ago.

What I can tell you about that night, having found a review of that show:

— The Concert Bowl was set up in the Civic Center — a hockey rink — by hanging a huge black drape across one of the blue lines, cutting the place in half. There were about 6,000 of us in the place.

— The sound was terrible, especially for two acts with solo acoustic sets.

— It was the first stop on Emmylou’s American tour. She’d just wrapped up a six-week European tour and had a new version of her backing band, the Hot Band. She covered Chuck Berry’s “C’est La Vie” and the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere.”

— Buffett played for almost two hours. Here’s the set list from two nights before at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Guessing the St. Paul show was much the same. I imagine 21-year-old me got pretty fired up when Buffett played “Margaritaville” and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” and “Cheeseburger In Paradise.” But I really don’t remember.

42 years on, give me the more thoughtful songs that 21-year-old me almost certainly didn’t appreciate.

Like this one, co-written by Buffett’s friend, the late, great Steve Goodman.

“Banana Republics,” Jimmy Buffett, from “Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes,” 1977.

It’s said to be from another show on the Cheeseburger In Paradise tour, from June 1978, a little more than two months later, at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

Somehow, it seems timely to still be singing about banana republics all these years later. Doesn’t seem that it’ll be too long before we have a bunch of soon-to-be expatriated Americans fleeing to the tropics, one step ahead of the law.

Late at night you will find them
In the cheap hotels and bars
Hustling the senoritas
While they dance beneath the stars

One more fun fact: The night before, Journey played the same venue with Van Halen and Ronnie Montrose as opening acts. Tickets were $6.

Van Halen was just a month into its first national tour.

Leave a comment

Filed under March 2020, Sounds

The smoker you drink …

50 years ago last night, on Tuesday, March 10, 1970, The Association played a show at the old Brown County Arena in Green Bay. I posted that music history tidbit to our local Facebook history groups last night.

Which led my friend Kim to ask …

“No idea if it’s true or not, but I had heard many years ago that the original James Gang with Joe Walsh was the opening act at this show. AND that the illustrious Mr. Walsh got arrested at the Midway Motor Lodge for possession of pot. After all these years, can anyone confirm or deny this story for me?”

Well, now. Can’t resist that one. It is mostly true.

The James Gang did not open for The Association at the Arena that night. However, the James Gang was on a bill with the Youngbloods at the Arena roughly 6 months later, on Friday, Sept. 18, 1970.

And, yes, Joe Walsh, 22, of Kent, Ohio, was busted for possession of marijuana after the Brown County Sheriff’s Department raided his room at the Holiday Inn on Friday, Sept. 18, 1970. He was freed on a $500 bond so the James Gang could begin a month-long tour of the UK three weeks later.

Joe Walsh — thereafter referred to as “Joseph F. Walsh” in the Green Bay paper’s court stories — apparently never returned to Green Bay to face the music.

On Monday, Nov. 2, 1970, Walsh missed his arraignment date. That day, the James Gang was off between shows in Dania, Florida, and Atlanta.

Four days later, on Friday, Nov. 6, 1970, Walsh was arraigned, represented by two attorneys from Milwaukee. That day, the James Gang played two shows at the Westbury Music Fair in Jericho, N.Y.

In late April 1971, Walsh’s lawyers were still arguing their case. Walsh’s case was continued to May 20, but there’s no further mention of it in the Green Bay paper. That day, the James Gang was off between shows in New York and Cincinnati.

Three local college students — a 19-year-old man, a 19-year-old woman and an 18-year-old woman — also were charged with possession in the wake of the bust at the Holiday Inn. Their cases were dismissed.

My guess, having covered the courts in the late ’70s: Either Joe Walsh’s case also was dismissed or the judge simply forfeited Walsh’s $500 bond and called it a day. $500 was a lot of money back then — $3,300 in today’s dollars.

Now, about that Youngbloods/James Gang show. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, it was a …

Weird Night at the Arena

Melanie, the pop-folk singer, was to have been the headliner. She didn’t show. She was said to have had “a bronchial ailment.”

So the Youngbloods took her place. They rehearsed on stage, then started the show, playing first. “The Youngbloods were plagued by electronic breakdowns, feedback and tuning troubles,” my friend Warren Gerds wrote in the next day’s paper. That, and the Arena’s poor acoustics swallowed up their sound.

Then the James Gang came on stage.

“The James Gang is a head band. Upon finding that out, about 100 listeners headed for the door. Others left in a steady, strong trickle,” Warren wrote. “The James Gang had no problems with acoustics because they overpowered the arena’s echoing traits.”

At the time, the James Gang was still touring behind its 1969 debut LP, “Yer’ Album.” Here’s a cut that “head band” may or may not have played that night in Green Bay, clearing the house on a night when only 500 people came out to a show in a 5,000-seat venue.

“Funk #48,” the James Gang, from “Yer’ Album,” 1969, which I saw while record digging not too long ago. All three band members — Joe Walsh, bass player Tom Kriss and drummer Jim Fox — are credited as co-writers.

This is the only James Gang LP on which Kriss plays. Dale Peters took his place for the next record, “James Gang Rides Again.” On which, of course, “Funk #49” was the first cut.

1 Comment

Filed under March 2020, Sounds

Loitering in the driveway

Yesterday was one of those long days that turned into a long night.

As I pulled into the driveway 14-plus hours after I’d left for work, a cool old song came on the radio. At first I thought it was Wilson Pickett. Then I realized, no, he didn’t cover that Beatles song.

It was Otis Redding doing “Day Tripper,” from 1966. So I sat there under the garage light, tired and wanting to go into the house, but hey, it’s Otis.

Today, we had king cake and paczki at work for Fat Tuesday, so I brought some home for Janet over the noon hour. Another cool old song came on the radio.

So I sat there in the driveway in the middle of the day, listening to Nancy Sinatra doing “Drummer Man” with the great session man Hal Blaine on the drums.

Been looking for that song, but it’s not on the LP shown above, at least not the original 1967 version. They did stick it on a 1996 CD reissue as one of the three extra tracks. Guess I’ll just have to keep digging.

Sometimes, it’s just that simple. You sit in the driveway and listen to one more song.

Today, by the way, is the 13th anniversary of this blog.

I wrote the first post on AM, Then FM on this day in 2007.

More to come, including the rest of a story started here not too long ago and what I hope will be an enjoyable new series of posts.

Thanks as always for reading!

3 Comments

Filed under February 2020, Sounds

The rise and fall of Stiller’s Top Ten

On Memorial Day weekend in 1965, the folks in the music department at the Stiller Co. in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, launched a Top 10 singles chart just as summer started.

They put it in an ad, which was published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Friday, May 28, 1965. The Stiller’s Top Ten singles chart appeared in the Green Bay paper every Friday evening for the next 245 weeks, give or take a week or two when it was left out for some reason.

The last Stiller’s Top Ten chart appeared 50 years ago this week, on Friday, Feb. 6, 1970. It’s on the right, opposite the first chart.

The first and last Stiller Top Ten singles charts from the Stiller Co. in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Stiller charts are a fascinating look into pop music tastes in a conservative Midwest town during the latter half of the ’60s.

Though the early charts say the Top Ten was based on record sales, the first Stiller Top 10 chart is exactly the same as the Top 10 chart from WDUZ radio in Green Bay for that week. That practice continued well into 1966. After that, and until the end of the run, the Stiller charts and the local radio charts are similar but not mirror images of each other.

The “By Actual Sales” notation eventually disappeared from the ads in the paper. In fact, actual sales may rarely have been a factor. I’ve been told that young women who worked at the store were influential in shaping each week’s Top Ten, picking their favorite records. For that reason alone, the Stiller charts may not be representative of what Green Bay listeners really liked.

The Stiller charts were flawed in another, more culturally significant way. Though the Supremes and the Dixie Cups show up in the first chart and Eddie Holman in the last chart, black artists were underrepresented.

That said, black artists also were underrepresented on the playlists at WDUZ radio and WBAY radio, Green Bay’s Top 40 stations. The Stiller store was tight with both stations throughout the Top Ten’s four-year-plus run, sponsoring radio shows that almost certainly hyped records the store wanted to sell.

The great value of the Stiller charts is when local and regional groups turn up with singles in the Top Ten.

The first chart has one such entry at No. 4 — “Baby Doll” by the Dupries. They were a local group featuring three Duprey sisters — Annie, Joanie and Carol — along with three guys. The band’s name was a play on their last name.

In early May 1967, “Rapid Transit” by the Robbs, a Milwaukee group, was No. 1 on the Stiller chart for two weeks.

In November 1967, just before Thanksgiving, “Stop and Listen” by the Shag, another Milwaukee group, was No. 1 on the Stiller chart for a week.

The arc of the Stiller charts sort of parallels the Beatles’ career arc. The chart debuts as the summer of 1965 begins, with Beatlemania going strong in America for at least a year. From 1965 to 1969, at least 10 Beatles singles reach No. 1 on the Stiller charts. In the last chart, the store hypes a new Beatles LP as “coming soon.” That record is “Let It Be,” the Beatles’ last LP.

As the ’60s give way to the ’70s, the Stiller’s Top Ten chart seems to be staggering to the end. Is it still relevant? The editing gets sloppy. Does anyone care?

Led Zeppelin is listed as “Leo Zepplin” and remains that way for three weeks before being corrected to “Led Zepplin.” Not getting a whole lotta love there. “Creedance Clearwater Revival” has a new LP, “Willy Poor Boy.” “Laura Nyrol” and “Rod McKuern” have new LPs, too.

In the final chart, there are four typos in artists’ names — “Vanity Fair” instead of Vanity Fare, “By Jefferson” instead of Jefferson, “Lenney Welch” instead of Lenny Welch and “The Bad Finger” instead of Badfinger — and an extra S tacked on to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

The last Stiller’s Top Ten chart seems to be sending a farewell message. It’s right there, at No. 6 and No. 7.

Oh, well. Breaking up is hard to do.

3 Comments

Filed under February 2020, Sounds

The wish list, sort of

After posting here last month that I’d found the record that had been No. 1 on my wish list for 10 years, my friend Jim dropped me a note from across town. We had this exchange on New Year’s Day:

Jim: How cool that you found the Larry Williams & Johnny Watson LP. Glory be. You got the soul, brother. 

Me: Yeah, I finally found that record. What do I do now? Don’t think I’ll quit digging, though. Still a handful of records left on my wish list.

Jim: I would like to see what’s left on your “wish list.” Must be some rather hard-to-find albums. 

So I thought for a while and sent Jim this list toward the end of the evening:

  • “Noah” by the Bob Seger System
  • “Brand New Morning” by Bob Seger
  • “Music from National Football League Films,” Vols. 2, 3 and 4
  • “Merry Soul Christmas — George Conedy at the Hammond Organ”
  • “Shaft” by Bernard Purdie
  • “David (Unreleased LP and More)” by David Ruffin
  • “Lady Lea” or “Excuse Me, I Want to Talk To You” by Lea Roberts
  • Late ’60s/early ’70s Little Richard: “The Explosive Little Richard,” “Every Hour With Little Richard,” “King of Rock and Roll,” “The Second Coming,” “Right Now!” (Though I have seen a couple of these but passed for budget or quality reasons.)
  • Late ’60s/early ’70s Mongo Santamaria: “Soul Bag,” “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing,” “Stone Soul,” “Feelin’ Alright,” “Mongo ’70”
  • Anything by black college marching bands with rock/soul/R&B covers

It didn’t take long before I realized the list was incomplete. Also looking for stuff by the Easybeats … another record by the Foundations … another Lionel Hampton record on Brunswick … and, well, you get the idea. It’s a fairly fluid list. That opens up possibilities for finding records I’m not looking for while digging. Which explains why the last three records I bought were:

  • “Baby Dynamite” by Carolyn Franklin from 1969.
  • “Heart & Soul” by Johnny Adams from 1969.
  • “Candy” soundtrack featuring the Byrds, Steppenwolf and Dave Grusin from 1968.

But back to the list I sent to Jim. Why, for example, am I looking for records from black college marching bands? Because “Tiger Time” by the Grambling University Marching Band is one of the coolest records I ever found, and I wasn’t looking for it. Now I’m looking for more, if they exist at all. Here’s why. Dig this!

“Ode To Billie Joe,” the Grambling University Marching Band, from “Tiger Time,” 1971. Yep, a marching band covering Bobbie Gentry.

Check out my original post about finding this record — a $2 record — to hear some cool soul covers. Dig the scintillating action they’re putting down!

 

3 Comments

Filed under January 2020, Sounds

Here’s hoping Santa is cool with this

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can come clean.

Six days before Christmas, my son and I took a quick overnight trip to Minneapolis. For Evan, it was an opportunity to do some research at one of the University of Minnesota libraries.

For me, of course, it was a chance to go record digging. For the record, so to speak, I went record digging while fully mindful that it was a time to be looking for a few last things for other people, not for myself.

After dropping off Evan at the library, I made a bee line for Mill City Sound in suburban Hopkins. My friend Todd tipped me to it a couple of years ago. It’s one of the best record stores around. Highly recommended.

When I walked in, there was a guy looking at the new arrival bins. He was taking his time, which is fine, so I headed for the soul and R&B bins. Along the way, I glanced at the collectible records on the wall. Always interesting to see what they have up there.

So I dove in, flipping through the letter A soul and R&B records. Nothing for me. I took a couple of steps to my right, and started flipping through the letter B soul and R&B records. About a dozen records in, I glanced up at the wall in front of me. What I saw took my breath away.

There, among the collectible records on the wall, right smack in front of me, was the LP that has been No. 1 on my wish list for the last 10 years. I immediately took it off the wall. Never mind that it cost about four times what I’d planned to spend on records on this trip.

Behold.

“Two For The Price Of One” is a soul scorcher by Larry Williams and Johnny Watson, released on Okeh in 1967. The title cut is proof.

My friends Larry and Derek tipped me to Larry Williams and Johnny Watson on their blogs way back in 2009. The closest I’d come to finding that record was coming across a CD re-release while digging at Amoeba Records in Berkeley, California, in the summer of 2010. I’d never seen a vinyl copy in the wild.

I found no other records that day at Mill City Sound, nor at either of the other Minneapolis record stores we visited. Finding that one kinda negated the need to look for anything else.

Now, with Christmas come and gone, I can fess up.

That record has been sitting in a Mill City Sound bag for the last nine days. I didn’t say anything about it to Evan during our trip, nor to Janet when we got home, nor have I put it on the turntable. Until tonight, that is.

Santa’s listening, you know.

Leave a comment

Filed under December 2019, Sounds

The gift that keeps on keepin’ on

Christmas has come and gone for another year, but some gifts you never forget.

50 years ago, for Christmas 1969, Santa brought a radio. Yep, that Panasonic RF-930 AM-FM radio. It changed and shaped my life.

I took it upstairs to my bedroom and set it on top of my filing cabinet. I tuned in WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee, one of the great Top 40 AM stations of the era, and started digging all kinds of pop, soul, R&B and rock. I can’t think of many more exciting times to listen live to the Top 40 than 1970 and 1971.

— One night, without asking my parents’ permission, I quietly made a long-distance call to WOKY because I could win a record if I was the right caller and knew the answer to a certain question. I knew that Creedence Clearwater Revival started out as the Blue Velvets and the Golliwogs. I won the record. A couple of weeks later, my record arrived. It was an obscure record sent to DJs. I had never heard of Bob Summers. Certainly not on WOKY. Yeah, just slightly disappointed. I no longer have the record I won, but I did buy another copy years later.

— WOKY ran a contest to get petitions to try to persuade the Beatles to not break up. One of my junior high classmates gathered signatures for one such petition. If memory serves, she won some kind of prize for her efforts.

— WOKY’s morning DJ, whom I could listen to only during the summer and during school vacations, was Bob Barry. It was quite a kick to hear some of his stories and meet him at a book signing last year.

My other regular stop was WTMJ, Radio 620. “Packers, Badgers, Brewers, Bucks! Hear ’em all on WTMJ, Milwaukee.” At night, when the clear channels were crystal clear, I’d surf the AM dial for distant baseball and basketball games.

Not long after Christmas 1971, we moved, and I switched over to FM — yep, it was AM, then FM.

WIFC, the Big 95 out of Wausau, Wisconsin, was a tremendous small-market station during the ’70s, Top 40 during the day and free form after 9 or 10 p.m. Those free-form hours, jam-packed with deep album cuts, introduced me to so much great rock and, yes, even some pretty cool jazz.

When I was a high school senior in 1975, I spent a cold February morning with WIFC’s morning DJ. I sat in on his show to write a feature for the school paper. Ten years ago, I reconnected with Bruce Charles and interviewed him again. That three-part story is here, here and here.

From 1970 to 1977, that radio was my constant companion while at home.

Then I got my first stereo system, and its receiver pretty much took the radio’s place. (For the record, that stereo consisted of a BIC 940 belt-drive turntable, an Akai AA-1010 receiver and Atlantis speakers.)

In the late ’70s, I took that radio with me when I went to shoot baskets. I’d set it at the base of the hoop while I played. It took a few shots from balls that came straight down off the rim. One such wayward shot bent the antenna. It eventually broke, so there’s long been just a stub of an antenna. I’ll forever associate the Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” LP with that radio. In the summer of 1978, it sat at the base of the hoop at the park and the Stones poured out of it.

50 years on, I still have that radio, and I still listen to it.

On fine summer days, I set it out on the patio, sit in the sun and listen to the Brewers. During football season since at least the ’90s, I set it next to me in the rec room during Packers games, turn off the TV sound and tune in the Packers Radio Network.

If there’s one song that demonstrates how that radio changed my life, it’s the Jackson 5’s take on “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town.” It blew my 13-year-old mind when I heard it for the first time on WOKY at Christmas time in 1970. I had no idea there were pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. What a magical thing.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” the Jackson 5, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Originally released on “Jackson 5 Christmas Album,” 1970.

Truth be told, though, I haven’t listened to music on that radio for a long time. But I still hear it.

3 Comments

Filed under December 2019, Sounds