The records left behind

Sunday’s road trip took us to Madison, Wisconsin, where there are several fine record stores.

One of our stops was at Strictly Discs, not far from Camp Randall Stadium. It opened in 1988, when we lived in Madison. But I never went there back then because it was strictly a CD store, and I was one of those dinosaurs who still hadn’t switched from vinyl to CD.

Now, though, Strictly Discs has plenty of vinyl, with lots of nice used stuff in the basement. There, one of my record-digging rules came into play. If you see something you’ve never seen before, you ought to think about getting it.

Indeed, as I dug through the soul records in the basement, I came across two I’d never seen before. I inspected them, Googled them, pondered them.

Then I put the first one back.

Billy Preston That's The Way LP

Billy Preston’s “That’s The Way God Planned It,” from 1969, on Apple.

Then, a tad more reluctantly, I put the second one back.

Jackie Wilson Count Basie MOS LP

Jackie Wilson and Count Basie’s “Manufacturers of Soul,” with arrangements by Benny Carter, from 1968, on Brunswick.

Maybe another day. Each cost more than I usually spend on a record.

On this day, it seemed more important to set that money aside to buy lunch for Evan and the other college kids.

If I lose some of my record-digging cred, I’ll blame Dave Edmunds. Long one of my faves, he makes an interesting confession in the current issue of Mojo magazine.

“I don’t even have a record player at home any more. I’ve bailed out of playing albums because iTunes and YouTube are so convenient. With that predictive thing one track will lead on to the next. I find that exciting.”

So, no, I didn’t bring “Manufacturers of Soul” home from Madison yesterday. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a listen. Most of the covers on this great album are on YouTube, and that’ll have to do for now.

In which they cover Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her.” Dig that!

In which they cover Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.” Dig those trumpets and dig that Brunswick rainbow arrow!


Filed under November 2015, Sounds

Those TV themes of intrigue

“Ooh, ooh! Green Hornet marathon on Decades!” my friend Larry in New Jersey announced yesterday. Likewise, my friend Bruce in Philadelphia announced it was “binge time.”

Dang. We don’t get that channel in our corner of Wisconsin.

So I had to make do with the next best thing.


“The Horn Meets The Hornet,” a 1966 album full of TV theme songs by jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, was one of the first cool records I ever found while digging.

So I mentioned that record, found eight years ago, and Larry noted its cover of “Night Rumble.” Hm. Not familiar with that one. Turns out it was sort of a mod instrumental done in the spring of 1963 by a group called The Mark V and released as a 45 on ABC-Paramount. Here you go, my friend.

“Night Rumble,” Al Hirt, from “The Horn Meets The Hornet,” 1966. It’s out of print.

Of course, there also is that great “Green Hornet Theme,” which is Hirt’s take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” as orchestrated by Billy May and conducted by Lionel Newman.

Among what the LP’s back cover bills as “TV Themes of Intrigue” are two other interesting but largely forgotten pieces by composers who wrote other, more familiar TV themes.

Hirt covers the theme from “T.H.E. Cat,” an NBC action drama that starred Robert Loggia. It aired only during the 1966-67 TV season. This muscular bit of mid-’60s jazz noir was written by Lalo Schifrin, who did the still-cool “Mission: Impossible” theme the same year.

He also covers the theme from “Run Buddy Run,” which aired for only the first half of the 1966-67 season. It’s written by Jerry Fielding, who’d done the “Hogan’s Heroes” theme the year before. “Run Buddy Run” was a CBS sitcom about a guy on the run from the mob, and Fielding’s theme plays it straight, reflecting that potential danger rather than going for laughs.

The star of “Run Buddy Run” was jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon, but it doesn’t appear he played trumpet on the show’s theme.


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Filed under November 2015, Sounds

The end of the season

This scene from “Major League,” filmed at our beloved Milwaukee County Stadium more than 25 years ago, pretty much sums up what kind of a season it was for the Milwaukee Brewers.


This first Sunday afternoon of October was spent at work, handling our live Green Bay Packers coverage as usual. I watched the Brewers’ last game of the season for only a couple of minutes and didn’t listen on the radio.

Appropriately enough, Brewers radio broadcasts once ended with a cover of the Beatles’ “The End.” That I knew. But until earlier this year, I didn’t know who did that cover.

Then my friend Larry Grogan dropped it into his Funky 16 Corners Radio Show one night in February, while the Brewers were in spring training. The second-to-last song in an hour’s worth of Beatles covers was that one, the cover that once was the outro for Brewers games on the radio.

It’s by jazz keyboardist Gap Mangione, from his 1972 LP, “Sing Along Junk,” which appears to be long out of print. That’s a young Steve Gadd on the drums. His first professional gigs were with the Mangione brothers, Chuck and Gap, in the late ’60s.

On the old Brewers broadcasts, they’d let this run for about the first 30 seconds. Then they’d talk over it and read all the sponsors’ names. Then they’d return to the music for the last 10 or 15 seconds, the true outro.

They don’t play “The End” at the end of Brewers broadcasts anymore.

But all I need do is listen to those last 10 or 15 seconds, and I know another baseball season is over in Wisconsin.


Filed under October 2015, Sounds

Dig the scintillating action!

The record digging on vacation was nothing to write home about. Not sure why, but I’ve never had much luck when digging in Minneapolis.

Except at the fine Hymie’s Vintage Records, that is. It’s in the Longfellow neighborhood southeast of downtown. Hymie’s has thousands of records, carefully yet irreverently inventoried. Proof of that:

hymies bongos

Along with “Make-Out Music” and “Awkward Chris†ian Records.” Sure, there are plenty of conventionally named bins. But you get the idea.

You never know what you’re going to find in these charmingly classified crates.

I looked through the “Sports” records and found a record that made my day. It was the only record I bought Monday — Hymie’s was the third and final digging spot of the day — and a $2 record at that.

Ladies and gentlemen, from 1971, the Grambling College Marching Band doing soul covers!

grambling band lp

The name of the record is “Tiger Time,” on the Mercury label. This image, from Discogs, gives you an idea of what it looks like.

Mine once was “PROPERTY OF WTBU RADIO,” as scrawled all over the cover in thick black Magic Marker. Damn Boston University kids. Mine is a white-label promo copy with a clear sticker with recommended cuts at lower left.

From the liner notes written by Chester Higgins, a senior editor at Jet magazine:

“It is sometimes said that the half-time show — precision marching bands, shapely baton-twirling majorettes, and all the other hoopla — is better than some of the football games that sandwich them. If this observation has a ring of truth, measure it against the colorful Grambling (La.) College Marching Band, a 135-member, white-shoe, white-glove wearing, black-and-gold uniformed, high-stepping, stutter-stepping or ditty-bopping aggregation during any half-time show, dig the scintillating action they’re putting down and then draw your own conclusions.”

In 1971, Mercury took roughly half of the band — 65 members — into the studio and recorded these covers. They are every bit as tasty and upbeat and funky and soulful as you’d hope from one of the great show bands from one of America’s great historically black colleges.

grambling strip

“Ball Of Confusion,” covering the Temptations smash.

grambling girls

“The Love You Save,” covering the Jackson 5 smash.

grambling band 1

“Turn Back The Hands Of Time,” covering the Tyrone Davis smash.

grambling jackie porter jet 12161971xxAnd now something less familiar but no less interesting.

“Same Thing,” covering a tune written and sung by Margie Joseph and released on the Volt label at the time, but never a hit for her.

It’s sung here by Grambling student Jackie Porter. This tremendous version was released by Mercury as a white-label promo for this LP. It’s on eBay if you want it.

All from “Tiger Time,” the Grambling College Marching Band, 1971. It’s out of print.

(The Jackie Porter clipping is from the Dec. 16, 1971, issue of Jet magazine.)

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Filed under September 2015, Sounds

Asbury Park, 854 miles that way

It’s all over Facebook and Twitter today. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” LP was released 40 years ago today, on Aug. 25, 1975.

Many of my friends are Springsteen fans, and I understand and appreciate their passion for The Boss. I just don’t share it, at least not with that intensity.

I vividly remember when Springsteen was the hottest thing in music, making the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week. That came in late October 1975, a couple of months after “Born To Run” came out.

That was during the first semester of my freshman year of college, when I was stepping out into the world on my own for the first time. Into that new world came that new sound. I remember thinking: So this is what music is like now.

springsteen born to run lp

But at 18, I just wasn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate it all.

As you might imagine, Springsteen sounded like nothing else we’d heard in central Wisconsin. The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, was 854 miles from where I lived. It might as well have been halfway around the world.

At the time, I still viewed music largely through the prism of the radio. In the Midwest, Springsteen’s R&B-influenced Jersey Shore rock seemingly wasn’t suited for anything but free-form FM radio, which by late 1975 was starting to fade from the scene. So we didn’t hear a lot of Springsteen, save for the occasional album cut.

Wanting to be sure I wasn’t remembering it wrong, I checked some of the Wisconsin radio charts from that time. There’s no sign of “Born To Run,” the album or the single.

It wasn’t until after those Time and Newsweek covers came out that Springsteen even registered on the charts at Chicago’s WLS, whose playlist often influenced what other Midwest stations played. Even then, “Born To Run” lasted only two weeks on the WLS album charts. At year’s end, “Born To Run” wasn’t among WLS’ Big 89 songs of 1975.

None of my friends were Springsteen fans. Until I met my friend Doug in 1978, that is. He tried to get me to dig Springsteen in the late ’70s. He tried hard. We met halfway, on another member of the extended Springsteen family. I’ve long enjoyed Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. But I’ve never seen Springsteen live, nor do I have any of his records, much to my son’s chagrin.

Over time, though, I started digging covers, first by others doing Springsteen songs, then by Springsteen doing others’ songs. Here are a couple of those.


“From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come),” Dave Edmunds, from “D.E. 7th,” 1982. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This song, an outtake from “The River” sessions, was given to Edmunds by Springsteen in 1981. Springsteen’s version wasn’t released until 2003.

Springsteen covered “War,” the Motown classic that’s one of my all-time favorites, during his Born in the U.S.A. Tour in 1985.


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Filed under August 2015, Sounds

It was 50 years ago today …

One of the joys of digging through old newspaper microfilm is finding things you didn’t expect to find. So it is as I’ve started a project to live-tweet, sort of, the Green Bay Packers’ championship run of 1965, 1966 and 1967 as it happened, 50 years after it happened.

It’s been barely a month and already the late summer of 1965 also has seen the Watts riots, the Beatles at Shea Stadium and Lassie at the county fair.

Fifty years ago today, on Friday, Aug. 20, 1965, as the Packers rested for the next’s afternoon’s preseason game in Milwaukee, the Beatles played two shows at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Sharon Simons, an 18-year-old woman who’d graduated from Green Bay West High School just two months before, took the train to Chicago, went to one of the shows and wrote it up for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Tickets were $3.50, $4.50 and $5.50, or about $27, $34 and $42 in today’s dollars.

beatles ticket 08201965

Before the Beatles ever took the stage, she saw the King Curtis Band, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Brenda Holloway, Sounds Inc. and Gordon Waller, the latter half of Peter and Gordon. The whole thing was emceed by Ron Riley, Art Roberts and Don Phillips of WLS, the mighty top-40 AM station in Chicago.

The Beatles played a typically fast but short set: “Twist And Shout,” “Baby’s In Black,” “She’s A Woman,” “I Feel Fine,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help” and “I’m Down.”

Then the wild Comiskey Park scoreboard went “TILT!” and blasted off fireworks.

Here’s a little of what that day was like.

Some other memories from that day …

7 more flashbacks, via the Chicago Tribune, plus some great color photos.

Larry Kane interviews all four Beatles in the basement at Comiskey Park.

Ringo didn’t care for shows in ballparks.

“Not as much as indoor with the people a bit closer, you know. ‘Cuz they’re too far away, really.”

John didn’t care for the stands left empty behind the stage, which sat on second base on the Comiskey infield.

“Yeah, it does put you off a bit, you know. Even though they keep saying, we don’t allow them to sit there. I dunno, I wish they’d hide it. Whereas there’s also kids always half behind, you know. And I’m really looking ’round so they get to see something, anyway.”


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Filed under August 2015, Sounds

Summer’s over, man

It’s been a weird summer, and now it’s over.

Your calendar doesn’t say so, but ours does. Packers training camp started today, and that is the beginning of football season in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It’s the first summer in more than 40 years that I haven’t had a car. No car means no summer songs blasting on the radio. No, not even Boston.

A song for the summer of 2015 might be “Gwan,” by the Suffers, the scorching 10-piece Houston soul/R&B group seen by about 100 of us in downtown Green Bay last month. We rarely see anyone that cool. Go see them if they’re near you.

In 1970, that summer’s song was, and is, “In The Summertime,” by Mungo Jerry. It was starting its rise up the charts on this week in 1970, entering the WLS Hit Parade at No. 22. This week in 1970, I was 13, and I suspect it wasn’t too long before I bought this 45, which I loved.

You know “In The Summertime,” of course. But I also loved the rollicking flip side on that Janus 7-inch: “Mighty Man.”

Mungo Jerry records are on my digging wish list, but you rarely see them.

I found one a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t have any of the cuts I seek, neither “Mighty Man” nor the Sgt. Pepperesque “Memoirs Of A Stockbroker” (also possibly influenced by Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”) nor “Little Miss Hipshake,” which sounds a little like T. Rex. I bought it anyway.

mungo jerry pye history lp

On “Mungo Jerry: The Pye History of British Pop Music,” a 1975 compilation that’s long out of print, I found this Dylanesque tune. In it, our hero’s girlfriend’s parents freak out over his long hair, and he’s hassled by “the fuzz.”

Ah, those glorious ’70s.

“You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War,” Mungo Jerry, 1971. Originally released on a 45, then on the LP of the same name, both long out of print. It’s available digitally on any number of Mungo Jerry comps.

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Filed under July 2015, Sounds