Tag Archives: 1959

It’s a Pandemic Pick Parade!

Record digging — the actual physical act of flipping through bins of records — is just one of things you can’t do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our local record stores closed, then found ways to reinvent their business. The Exclusive Company in Green Bay, one of seven stores statewide, has turned to phone orders and curbside pickup. Rock N Roll Land, an indie, has turned to a Discogs online store, gift certificate sales and something creative and fun.

Grab bags of records outside of Rock N Roll Land in Green Bay, Wisconsin

On Saturday, April 18, which would have been Record Store Day, my friend Todd from RNR Land posted this on Facebook:

“Would anyone be interested in a Record Grab Bag Special today? X amount of Records. Curbside Pickup first come first serve. $20 Cash mystery bag.”

The results were “awesome,” Todd said. Lots of people came out on one of the first really nice spring days in our corner of Wisconsin.

I missed out on that party — found out about it too late — but the results have been so awesome that Todd has continued to offer record grab bags. I stopped by last week to get a couple of them. Grabbed a couple from these crates just inside the front door.

Record grab bags inside front door of Rock N Roll Land in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Do I need a couple of bags of records I’d probably never otherwise buy? No. Could my friend’s store use a little help? Yep. That’s what it’s all about.

So let’s dig through the grab bags!

Bag No. 1

How I grabbed it: I saw the last record through the white plastic bag — “24 Groovy Greats.” That can’t be all bad, I figured. It’s not.

How many records in the bag: 13.

Best 3 records: Dean Hightower — “Guitar … Twangy with a Beat” (1959); Frank Sinatra and Friends — “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (1961); “24 Groovy Greats” (1965).

Oldest record: “The Vikings” soundtrack by Mario Nascimbene from 1959.

Newest record: “Plumbline” by Justo Almario from 1987.

Best-looking cover: Jack Davis drew the cover for “Wine, Women & Song” by Ben Colder from 1967. Ben Colder is actually Sheb Wooley, moonlighting.

Found first: The first record in the bag is from 1965, an Everest Records comp of instrumental folk played by Wrecking Crew session guitarists — Glen Campbell, Billy Strange and Tommy Tedesco — plus Roger McGuinn (billed as James McGuinn) and Mason Williams.

“Ramblin’ On” by Roger McGuinn, recorded as James McGuinn in 1963.

“Thirteen Dollar Stella” by Mason Williams.  He later re-recorded it for “The Mason Williams Ear Show” LP in 1968 and released it as the flip side to his “Greensleeves” single in 1969.

Fun find: Dean Hightower is actually electric guitarist George Barnes, the jazz swing session legend, moonlighting in the Duane Eddy style popular in 1959. This was a one-off, not even mentioned on Barnes’ Wikipedia page. (I’ll go fix that.) Dig a couple of George Barnes originals!

“Moon Rocket”

“Train To Teentown”

Fun facts: One of the records has a price sticker from Plan 9 Records in Richmond or Charlottesville, Virginia. … The next record in the bag has a price sticker from Academy Records in Brooklyn. … The next record in the bag has a price sticker from Steady Sounds, a record store in Richmond, Virginia. … “24 Groovy Greats” features great singles by Little Eva, Tommy James and the Shondells, James Brown, the Dixie Cups, Ramsey Lewis, the Dave Clark Five, Wilbert Harrison, Lee Dorsey, Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Barretto, Percy Sledge, Fontella Bass and more! Single edits, of course, but yeah!

Bag No. 2

How I grabbed it: Pretty much at random.

How many records in the bag: 13*.

Best records: “The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper” (1968); Iron Butterfly — “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (1968); Roberta Flack — “First Take” (1969).

Oldest record: “Moondreams” by the Norman Petty Trio from 1958.

Newest record: “Body Wishes” by Rod Stewart from 1983.

Best-looking cover: Norman Rockwell painted the cover for “The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.”

Covers worth noting: “Dear Mr. Fantasy” by Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

“Compared To What” by Roberta Flack.

Fun facts: The Norman Petty Trio song “Moondreams,” is listed as “Moonbeams” on the jacket. It’s not the version on which Buddy Holly sings and plays guitar. All the songs on Side 1 have “moon” in the title. All the songs on Side 2 have “dream” in the title. … There were two Righteous Brothers records in this bag — “Greatest Hits” from 1967 and “Give It To The People” from 1974. … There were two two-record sets in this bag. However, one is missing a record*. We have only half of “The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.” … The “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack is the other two-record set. Though “Hearts Against The Wind” is credited to J.D. Souther and Linda Ronstadt, it’s said to be mostly Souther and Ricky Skaggs duetting. Skaggs also plays mandolin. But, yes, Ronstadt is there, singing some of the harmonies. … The second-to-last record in the bag is a one-sided James Galway classical flute sampler/promo. On the back, it says: “Do not play this side. This is a silent groove to improve the molding of your pressing.”

[Photos courtesy of Todd Magnuson of Rock N Roll Land.]


Filed under April 2020, Sounds

Merry Christmas, hip cats!

edd byrnes

This used to be the place where you could find all kinds of Christmas music come this time of year. If you’re disappointed that it no longer is, well, sorry/not sorry. It just isn’t my cup of tea anymore.

That said, here’s a fun little story about a Christmas record. This one.


Seeing the cool cover, I dug it out of a dollar bin at one of my favorite record stores several years ago. But I didn’t look at it closely, and when I got it home, I found there was another Christmas record inside. That record did not have 13 great Christmas favorites sung by Warner Bros. stars.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. While digging through the crates at a record show, I found this record again. This time, it has the right record inside. My friend Scott says it’s mine for half-price, which is fine.

Tonight, as Christmas draws near, enjoy what all the cool TV watchers enjoyed at Christmas 1959. Warner Bros. had hauled the stars of some its TV productions into a recording studio and cut “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” for its year-old record label.

So, that guy at the top, at the top of the tree? That’s Edd Byrnes. In 1959, he was just about the hottest thing on TV. He played Kookie, a real cool cat, on “77 Sunset Strip,” a detective show set in Los Angeles. His Christmas song is “Yulesville,” a mashup of jazz and noir and Christmas and hipster jive patter.

That said, “Yulesville” is really the only the thing that veers into novelty on this record.

eddie cole

Long forgotten is “Bourbon Street Beat,” a detective show set in New Orleans that lasted just one season. One of its supporting players, Eddie Cole, is featured here with a swinging take on “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” Cole has the chops. His younger brother? Jazz singer Nat King Cole.

ponce and conrad

If I tell you Robert Conrad also sings “White Christmas” on this record, you might think of anything from “The Wild Wild West” to “Baa Baa Black Sheep” to those old Eveready battery commercials, then you might smirk and scoff. But Conrad, who in 1959 was one of the stars of “Hawaiian Eye,” a detective show set in Honolulu, does a nice job. He also was a singer before turning fully to acting.

The guy sitting next to him is Poncie Ponce, a Hawaiian actor who played a cab driver on the show. He parlayed his role in the popular show into a modest music career in the early ’60s. His song on this record? “Mele Kalikimaka,” of course.

roger moore

Long before he was the fifth Bond, James Bond, even before he was the first Bret Maverick, Roger Moore starred in “The Alaskans,” a forgotten Western that lasted only one season. Thus, he’s featured here. Moore gives an elegant reading of “Once In Royal David’s City.”

A Christmas Yuleblog, which went dark four Christmases ago, wrote lovingly about this record in 2008. It also features Warner Bros. actors Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Connie Stevens, Peter Brown, Ray Danton, Dorothy Provine, Clint Walker and Ty Hardin.

“We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” from 1959, is long out of print.

Looking for more Christmas music? Search our posts from previous Decembers. Much of that music is still up.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2015, Sounds

A birthday at Ray’s Corner

Ray turned 84 today.

You know Ray. He’s my dad, the guy who lives at Ray’s Corner, the apartment with the loud music, and the place where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away.

When my dad gave away his record collection a couple of years ago, I got first dibs. One of the records I kept was this one:


“Time Out,” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, from 1959. Dad played it often when we were kids.

Turns out this record is celebrating a birthday, too. It was recorded 50 years ago this summer. NPR’s “All Things Considered” had a nice piece about it last week.

Though this album came out in 1959, its biggest splash came two years later, when “Take Five” became the first million-selling jazz single on the Billboard charts.

They must have played it on the radio at the time, because I couldn’t otherwise begin to imagine where Dad, then in his mid-30s, might have heard “Take Five” and dug it enough to buy the album. At the time, we were living in Ironwood, Michigan, an all-but-played-out iron mining town not far from Lake Superior in the most distant corner of the Upper Peninsula.

“Time Out” was, and is, notable for experimenting with time signatures other than 4/4. Here’s what the liner notes say about “Take Five,” which was composed by sax player Paul Desmond, one of Brubeck’s longtime collaborators:

“‘Take Five’ is a Desmond composition in 5/4, one of the most defiant signatures in all music, for performer and listener alike. Conscious of how easily the listener can lose his way in a quintuple rhythm, Dave plays a constant vamp figure throughout, maintaining it even under Joe Morello’s drum solo. It is interesting to notice how Morello gradually releases himself from the rigidity of the 5/4 pulse, creating intricate and often startling counter-patterns over the piano figure. And contrary to any normal expectations — perhaps even the composer’s! — ‘Take Five’ really swings.”

OK, class dismissed. Time to dig it.


“Take Five,” the Dave Brubeck Quartet, from “Time Out,” 1959.

Here’s a cover, one that uses the Brubeck original as a jumping-off point for a stone funk arrangement full of horns and wah-wah guitar. Probably not Dad’s thing, but I like it.


“Take Five, the Kashmere Stage Band, from “Texas Thunder Soul, 1968-1974,” 2006. Remembering the sizzling high school band that came straight outta Houston.


Filed under June 2009, Sounds

Winter Dance Party

Once a year for the past decade, our town — Green Bay, Wisconsin — has stepped forward to reclaim its place in rock ‘n’ roll history. This year, that night was Friday night. The place, as always, the historic Riverside Ballroom.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Winter Dance Party. That was the early rock ‘n’ roll tour that became legend when a small plane crashed in a corn field northwest of Clear Lake, Iowa, killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) and their pilot, Roger Peterson.

The tour’s second-to-last stop was at the Riverside in Green Bay, on Sunday night, Feb. 1, 1959.


For the past 10 years, they’ve revived the Winter Dance Party at the Riverside. A musician named John Mueller plays Holly. A musician named Ray Anthony plays Valens. The Big Bopper is played by his son, Jay Richardson, who was born two months after his father’s death. They’re backed by a four-piece band. It’s the best tribute show I’ve seen.

The revival plays some of the other original venues, but its stars say there is no place like Green Bay.


The Riverside was sold out well in advance, with more than 1,000 people — many of them getting up there in years — packing the place.

Twice as many people were there in 1959, but back then, everyone was younger, and everyone stood. These days, not everyone can stand for a show that runs three hours plus. So they set up long banquet tables at the back of the big room. Only the young, and the young at heart, stood at the front of the stage.

There usually are special guests. This year, one was Bob Morales, the older half-brother of Ritchie Valens. Bob Morales is in his 70s, but he’s still a badass. He wore biker leathers and boots and was rocking a white Fu Manchu mustache. When he took off his black cowboy hat, he was rocking a wispy white Mohawk with a ponytail.

During the first intermission, they introduced some more special guests — 40 or so people who were at the Riverside for the original Winter Dance Party show 50 years ago.

A local gent, improbably named Jim Morrison, also was there 50 years ago. He was back at the Riverside on Friday night as one of the emcees. As he introduced the show, he mentioned “American Pie,” the 1971 song in which Don McLean recalled Feb. 3, 1959 — the day of the crash — as “the day the music died.”

“He was wrong,” Morrison said. “Three gentlemen died, but the music will never die.”

Not as long as Green Bay remembers its place in rock ‘n’ roll history.


“Come On Let’s Go,” Ritchie Valens, from “Ritchie Valens,” 1959. (Re-released on Rhino Records in 1987. This is what I have.)


“Maybe Baby,” Buddy Holly, 1958 …

“Chantilly Lace,” the Big Bopper, 1958 …

Both from the “American Graffiti” original soundtrack, 1973.

And one more …


“Maria Elena,” the Smithereens, 1990, from “Attack of the Smithereens,” 1995. It’s out of print.

This tune is the B side to the cassette single of “Blues Before and After,” released 19 years ago today, Jan. 24, 1990.

From Pat DiNizio’s liner notes: “The full band version appears on the third album ‘Smithereens Eleven,’ but this version is how I heard the song in my head originally, just acoustic guitar, accordion and vocal. Lyrically about Buddy Holly’s widow Maria Elena Diaz.”

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Filed under January 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 15

As we swing into the third week of this series, the sun is out in our corner of Wisconsin. It feels good on your face as you step out of the car. Hey, it’s a relatively balmy 25 degrees.

But that’s nothing compared to Christmas in Hawai’i, where we’re finding today’s three under the palm trees.

We served up a cut from Arthur Lyman’s “With A Christmas Vibe” the other day. From the liner notes to that 1959 album:

“The 50th state lends its own distinctive twists to the season, warmly spicing the festivities with a tropical clime and an exotic flair. Santa surfs past Diamond Head; hostesses wrap red and green leis around your neck; mai-tais are swizzled with sticks of Rudolph and kin; palm trees sway, festooned with ornaments, and Arthur Lyman and the boys send out holiday vibes way after the last rays of the Christmas sun have ruffled the horizon.”

We’ll start with Lyman, a native Hawai’ian who from the ’50s to the ’70s cranked out a form of jazz that came to be known as exotica, then lounge.


“We Three Kings,” Arthur Lyman, from “With A Christmas Vibe,” 1959. The album originally was released as “Mele Kalikimaka.”

This odd version, heavy on percussion, suggests the three kings in transit. There’s just a small slice of the familiar tune.

We’ll finish up with some more authentic Hawai’ian music.


“Ho’onani I Ka Hale (Deck the Halls)” and “Dear St. Nick,” Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i, from “Christmas Time with Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i,” 1978.

I don’t know much about Hawai’ian music. However, I received this CD some years ago from my friend Conan, who lives in Hawai’i and either ran a record store or worked at one. Conan has excellent taste.

Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i are cultural legends in their home state. Kamae, a ukelele player, got together with slack-key guitarist Gabby Pahinui, steel guitarist David “Feet” Rogers and bassist Joe Marshall in 1960 to play traditional Hawai’ian folk music. The Sons went through a variety of lneups until Kamae retired in 1992 to become a filmmaker, focusing on Hawai’ian culture.

Rogers has the slack-key steel solo on “Ho’onani I Ka Hale (Deck The Halls),” which blends traditional Hawai’ian music with the tune you know.

“Dear St. Nick” is a pleasant little original written — and I think sung — by Dennis Kamakahi, who wrote many of the Sons’ songs from the late ’70s on.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds