Tag Archives: 1968

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.]

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Filed under April 2020, Sounds

National anthem performances, ranked

On this Independence Day, a ranking of the top national anthem performances of all time. This is a highly subjective list. Yours likely will be different. That’s what makes America great.

1. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969. The national anthem as searing social commentary. A month later, he talked about it with Dick Cavett.

2. Marvin Gaye at the NBA All-Star Game, 1983. It was “groundbreaking,” Grantland wrote. It became “the players’ anthem,” sung by “the archbishop of swagger,” The Undefeated wrote. “You knew it was history, but it was also ‘hood,” said no less than Julius Erving, the mighty Dr. J himself.

3. Jose Feliciano at the World Series, 1968. Controversial at the time, it paved the way for Hendrix and everyone else who dared do the anthem a different way. Feliciano’s version came “before the nation was ready for it.” NPR wrote. It “infuriated America,” Deadspin wrote. Ever since, it has “given voice to immigrant pride,” Smithsonian magazine wrote.

4. Mo Cheeks helping a 13-year-old girl who forgot the lyrics, 2003. A beautiful moment of empathy and grace. “Treat people the right way. That’s all that is. It’s no secret. It’s no recipe to it,” the modest, humble Cheeks told the Oklahoman in 2009.

5. Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl, 1991. An epic performance at a time when America desperately wanted to wrap itself in the flag, ESPN wrote. Truth be told, this isn’t one of my favorites because it came at this time and in these circumstances, but it belongs in the top five.

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Filed under July 2019, Sounds

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!

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Filed under November 2015, Sounds

Was the Camaro’s radio on that night?

Little mysteries are fascinating. Especially little mysteries about old cars fished out of water after many years missing.

That happened here last summer. A guy went to a blues club one cold Saturday night in March 1979 and someone stole his baby blue 1975 Plymouth Valiant. They found it at the bottom of the Fox River 33 years later.

It happened again earlier this month near Elk City, Oklahoma, a small town on old Route 66 roughly halfway between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas.

Police divers were testing sonar — just as dredging crews were using sonar here — when they came across a 1969 Chevy Camaro about 12 feet down in Foss Lake. They came across two cars, actually. The other was a 1952 Chevrolet. Each car had three bodies in it.

On Nov. 20, 1970, a Friday night, Jimmy Williams and his pal Thomas Rios hopped in Williams’ car, the Camaro. They drove from Sayre, the next town west of Elk City, up to Hammon, the next town north, to pick up Jimmy’s girlfriend, Leah Johnson. Then they went back to Sayre, to a bowling alley. Then they headed to a football game in Elk City. Or maybe they went hunting.

They were never seen again.

Turns out, Jimmy Williams drove into Foss Lake. It was an accident. He might have gotten lost. He might have been driving too fast. The Camaro hit the water so hard that the drive shaft was knocked off. The fuel pump was broken off, as was part of the motor mount.

That blue Camaro was Jimmy’s pride and joy. He’d had it six days.

Jimmy was 16. Leah, his girlfriend, was 18. Thomas, his pal, was 18.

Lots of questions linger, most of them heart-wrenching, especially for the families. Mine is a more innocent question. Trivial, perhaps.

Three kids riding around on a Friday night. Not too many years later, that was us, in central Wisconsin. Were they listening to the radio, as we were? What would have been on the radio on that last Friday night before Thanksgiving in 1970?

That poses another little mystery.

Most of the songs on the Top 40 chart from WHB, 710 AM in Kansas City, issued earlier that Friday in November 1970, are familiar. Save for one, the one sitting just outside the Top 10 that week. Perhaps they heard it in Oklahoma.

“Holy Man,” by Diane Kolby.

It’s a gospel-rock single I don’t recall ever hearing. It appears to have been only a regional hit. In September and October 1970, it spent six weeks in the Top 40s at KADI in St. Louis and KDWB in the Twin Cities. Then it spent nine weeks in the Top 40 in Kansas City. It didn’t catch on anywhere else, reaching only No. 67 on the Billboard chart.

Diane Kolby was an east Texas singer who wrote and cut that single, then an LP, then abruptly quit the music business. It wasn’t compatible with her Christian beliefs. The comments in this 2008 post at a blog called Michael’s Mixed Media Playroom offer those clues.

She’s apparently still around, in her late 60s now, and living near Austin, Texas. According to a niece: “Her last name is spelled Kolbe. The record company made her change it to be phonetic. And she is an absolute hoot to be around. She is always, joking, singing and praising her Lord.”

One more note: Kolby’s producers were the late Scott and Vivian Holtzman, a husband and wife also from east Texas. If you’re into obscure late-’60s psych, dig this: The Holtzmans also produced and wrote most of the songs for Fever Tree, a Houston band, including this memorable single from the summer of 1968.

“San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native).”

Which I have heard.

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

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Filed under September 2013, Sounds

Mission: Accomplished

Why so few posts here lately? Blame it on senioritis.

Our son’s senior year of high school, now down to just a handful of days, has been a blur. You want to save each memory, savor each moment, but there are so many, and they come so fast.

One such moment was Wednesday night, when Evan sang in his last choir concert. A bass-baritone, he was in four groups and sang in 12 numbers. The one that might linger longest in our memories is the surprise from the ’60s.

In the program, the first number for the Concert Choir was listed as “Mission: Impossible,” arr. Emerson.

Can’t be the same song, I thought. If it was that “Mission: Impossible,” Lalo Schifrin would be listed as the composer. Can’t be a song for a choir, I thought. There aren’t any lyrics.

Oh, they sang “Mission: Impossible,” all right. They sang the Schifrin composition, “a great a cappella showcase for pop, jazz and show choirs” as arranged by Roger Emerson.

Many of the 32 members of the Concert Choir reached into their jackets and dresses and put on shades. Then they clasped their hands, pointed their index fingers and cocked their thumbs. Then the IMF team moved stealthily about the stage, mixing precise choreography with precise scat singing.

“You know,” I said to Evan after that tremendous performance, “I have several versions of that song at home.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I even have a soundtrack LP from that show.”

But we’ve explored that here before. Here’s another cool cover, with the great Jimmy Smith giving the Hammond B-3 organ another workout.

jimmysmithlivinituplp

“Mission: Impossible,” Jimmy Smith, from “Livin’ It Up!” 1968. The LP is out of print as such, but is available on a 2-on-1 CD with Smith’s 1967 “Respect” LP and digitally.

If you’re wondering what the East High performance was like, this is close. It’s from Fort Collins High School in Colorado from 2010. They also did a good job, but the East Concert Choir turned IMF team had better choreography.

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

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Filed under May 2013, Sounds