Tag Archives: 1967

An impromptu Christmas

There once was a time when you’d find Christmas music posted here pretty much every day before Dec. 25. Those days are long gone.

My passion for Christmas music has waned. It seems like the soundtrack to all the insanity, all the hype of the Christmas retail machine.

Instead, I’m going zen, remaining open to random, inspired moments of Christmas music. The unexpected. The genuine. One such moment when our son and his fellow university chamber singers performed “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” a week ago. Enjoyed that.

Another such moment came the other day, via a comment left by Jeremy from Arizona on a Christmas blog post from some time ago.

“I found out about Alice McClarity’s ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’ from a friend’s Christmas compilation and haven’t been able to find anything about it online. I’d love to hear some other tracks.”

There we go. Some random inspiration at Christmas.

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Six years ago, we featured some cuts from “Christmas Gospelodium,” which was released on the Verve label in 1967. That Alice McClarity song was one of them. I’d found it in a thrift store in Madison, Wisconsin. Had never seen it before. Haven’t seen it since.

It’s a compilation that was co-produced, arranged and conducted by Robert Banks, a gospel singer, pianist and choral director.

Jason Stone, writing in his Get On Down With the Stepfather of Soul blog in 2008, had this to say about Banks:

Robert Banks is best known among soul fans, and Northern Soul fans particularly, for the rocking “A Mighty Good Way” on Verve. … Banks recorded an album for Verve, “The Message,” which featured Banks and other soloists doing gospel tunes with touches of soul and pop.”

That pretty much describes “Christmas Gospelodium,” too. Hear, then, five more cuts not included in our long-ago post (which has been updated with the three cuts posted back then).

“The Silent Night Sermon,” Robert Banks with the Golden Voices Ensemble.

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” Golden Voices Ensemble.

“A Blessing,” The Gospel Ambassadors.

“Glory To The New Born King,” Bill Hardy with the Golden Voices Ensemble.

“So Much To Thank Him For,” Robert Banks with the Shockley Sisters.

All from “Christmas Gospelodium,” 1967. It’s out of print.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

 

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2014, Sounds

Cookie, Glick and Larry, Esq.

When we were kids, there always were a few baseball or football cards that just never turned up. Not for you, not for your friends, seemingly not for anyone where you lived.

cookie rojas 1968

So it was in the spring of 1968. No one in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, had Cookie Rojas, No. 39 from the first series of that year’s Topps baseball card set.

Fast forward to the spring of 1972. We had moved to Wausau, Wisconsin, about 150 miles to the northwest. My new best friend Glick and I bonded over many things, music and baseball cards among them.

As we talked about hard-to-get cards one day, I mentioned Cookie Rojas from 1968. Glick gave me his best you-must-be-shitting-me look. Cookie Rojas? He reached for his cards and said something like “Here, how many do you want?”

Somehow, Cookie Rojas was much more widely distributed in packs sold in Wausau than in packs sold in Sheboygan. Go figure.

Which brings us back to record digging, as usually happens here.

Last month’s vacation provided my first opportunity to go digging in the South. As you’d expect, there are lots more soul records in Mississippi and Tennessee than in Wisconsin. Not quite the same as the random Cookie Rojas distribution model, but there are similarities.

While digging through the soul records at one stop, I looked up and had my own you-must-be-shitting-me moment. There, on the wall, was a copy of this record, priced at $25 or so.

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The Esquires, from Milwaukee, on the Bunky Records label out of Milwaukee. As you’d imagine, this is one of the soul records we see in Wisconsin. They likely don’t see it as much in the South, even if it was distributed nationally by Scepter Records.

I’ve found two copies of this LP in Wisconsin, and I don’t think I paid more than $5 for them combined. Can’t imagine paying $25 for it. I mentioned that to my friend Larry, who runs the fine Funky 16 Corners and Iron Leg blogs.

“It’s the regional discount,” he sagely advised.

That said, this summer, I think I’m going to get on up …

“And Get Away,” the Esquires, from “Get On Up And Get Away,” 1967.

… seeking records (and perhaps a regional discount) not found in Wisconsin.

(“And Get Away” was the soundalike follow-up to “Get On Up,” the Esquires’ biggest hit. It also did well on the charts, peaking at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching No. 9 on the black singles chart.)

(Three years ago, Larry told me his copy of this LP “was among the many fine albums sacrificed in the vinyl-to-CD purge in the 80s.” So, after I found a second copy, I sent one to Larry in New Jersey.)

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under May 2014, Sounds

Another Christmas with old friends

It was late 1969, when I was 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model, though this is not my radio. I still have mine. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken off.

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I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.

When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away. This song.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973.

I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I once was passionate about that kind of Christmas music. Now, not so much.

Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 25

“Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no war.”

Someday.

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“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, 1967, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. That tremendous compilation, one of the first Christmas records we bought back in the late ’70s, is out of print but is available digitally.

This is the title track from Wonder’s 1967 Christmas record. A Motown original written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells, it addresses the social concerns of that time — and of our time — war, poverty, hunger, civil rights, injustice.

“Someday at Christmas, man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail”

Someday.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 12

Driving home from the post office just now, the guys on the morning radio show were wrapping up an interview about football.

Then they took a left turn and asked their guest this: Which TV actress was your crush while growing up?

The guest reached back into his memory bank — way back, apparently — and mentioned an actress from a show that aired in the late ’80s and went off the air in 1990.

Good God, I must be old. My TV actress crush was Suzanne Pleshette.

Another was Connie Stevens, who is one of the TV stars who sing on this Christmas record.

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I have this record jacket, but not the record that’s supposed to be inside. I didn’t look closely enough when I picked it out of a dollar record bin a couple of years ago. This is “We Wish You A Merry Christmas: 15 Great Christmas Favorites Sung By Warner Bros. Stars,” from 1959. You can read about it here and here.

So I believe at this moment, I will embrace my older-than-dirtness, retreat to a more innocent time and drop a song that those of us of a certain age enjoyed when we were younger. It isn’t Christmas without this song, either. People still dig it.

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“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.) Also available digitally.

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

The Royal Guardsmen, who got started in Ocala, Florida, in the mid-’60s are still around, still recording and playing the occasional gig. Three of the original six members, that is. Lead singer Barry Winslow and drummer John Burdett appear to have some kind of beef with the group’s management, but support the current lineup and wish them well.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

I approved this message, too

Heading out to lunch today, we saw a campaign sign stuck in the ground at the corner as we turned onto the highway. Heading home, we saw three more on the other side of the corner.

The only problem: You can’t plant campaign signs on the public portion of highway right-of-day in Wisconsin.

My friend Glick checked the law and sagely observed: “Fines: $10 to $100. The cynic in me thinks some will see this as chump change and a small cost of doing business.”

He could be right. Perhaps it’s all part of …

“The Plot,” Lalo Schifrin, from “Music from ‘Mission: Impossible’,” 1967. It’s out of print, even a 1996 CD reissue.

If you watched “Mission: Impossible” at all during the ’60s and ’70s, you probably heard bits of this as things got dicey. This is the full version, one you may not have heard, complete with groovy, mood-setting harpsichord.

This is just a little taste of what’s new at The Midnight Tracker, a lightly-traveled blog where we feature album sides brought back from the sweet blue haze of time. Your mission there, should you decide to accept it, is to enjoy our notion of a soundtrack for the political intrigue of the moment.

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Filed under November 2012, Sounds

The trail leads to Duck Duck Goose

They’ve solved the little mystery of how an old car wound up on the bottom of the river, and the trail led directly back to an old hole-in-the-wall nightclub.

On a Saturday night in March 1979, Paul Renard went to a blues bar on the near east side of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was 27, probably home for the weekend, visiting from Minnesota.

He parked his baby blue 1975 Plymouth Valiant outside, letting the motor run in the late winter’s cold. When he came out of the bar, his car was gone. He reported it to the cops, but the car never turned up.

Until yesterday, that is. They fished Paul Renard’s car out of the Fox River, 11 blocks west of where it was last seen. A dredging crew using sonar to map the river bottom came across the Valiant last week. They contacted the cops, whose dive team hauled it up from 18 feet down.

Whoever stole the Valiant drove it to the river, put the tire iron on the gas pedal, put it in drive and dumped it into the drink. After the cops ran the vehicle ID number, they matched it up with the stolen car report from 33 years ago.

However, Paul Renard is no longer with us.

Nor is Duck Duck Goose, the blues club he visited that night.

Duck Duck Goose, which I visited only once (that I can remember), was one of those great old ’70s hippie bars. It had a bar, of course, but I most remember the couches and overstuffed chairs. There also was shag carpeting on the walls.

Duck Duck Goose was here, in this brick building. The entrance was in the back.

It’s in an area just east of downtown that was, and is, mostly blue collar. It’s flanked on two sides by tire warehouses. Within a block’s walk are the Ten-O-One Club, one of the city’s oldest taverns, and the strip club formerly known as the Bamboo Room. These days, that brick building is home to a gritty rock/metal club called Phat Headz.

But back when Paul Renard left his Valiant running outside in the cold, Duck Duck Goose was part of Green Bay’s passionate little blues scene. Chicago blues acts drove up and made the rounds of Duck Duck Goose, a nearby club called Klark Kent’s Super Joynt and even the Rathskeller at the university farther out on the east side. All three places were part of a Midwest club circuit that was hanging on as the ’70s turned into the ’80s.

My friend Hose remembers Duck Duck Goose as a “great dirty venue for live music” and recalls seeing Lonnie Brooks on its tiny stage. My friend Jim, another local, recalls that “it was definitely a blues/R&B venue. It wasn’t my favorite hangout as it was a little too much that sound and very little rock.”  I think still another friend has a poster for a Luther Allison gig there.

Duck Duck Goose was, it seems, a place where you could …

“Let It All Hang Out,” Lonnie Brooks, from Chess 2028, a 7-inch single, 1967. It’s out of print and apparently not available on any other records.

This tune comes to us via the consistently tremendous Funky 16 Corners blog. Six years ago, Larry dropped it into his Funky 16 Corners Radio V.7 Funky Shing-A-Ling mix. That was, I believe, the first mix I ever grabbed from Larry as I started to explore what then was the new frontier of music blogs.

It was, as they say in the movies, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Speaking of which, on March 9, 1979, the night before Paul Renard left his Valiant running outside Duck Duck Goose, a certain college senior agreed to a first date with me. The lovely Janet and I have been together ever since.

It was she, still another local, who remembered the shag carpeting on the walls at Duck Duck Goose. I had forgotten.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under June 2012, Sounds