Tag Archives: 1975

Remembering the big man

On this New Year’s Day, here’s something that’ll make those of us of a certain age share a wistful smile at the memory.

The actor Victor Buono died 40 years ago today, on New Year’s Day 1982.

The big man specialized in playing bad guys with big personalities. King Tut on “Batman,” a role he loved because he could overact and get away with it. Mr. Schubert on “Man From Atlantis.” Count Manzeppi on “The Wild Wild West.” Twice a murderer on “Perry Mason.” No, not Wo Fat but the thief Eric Damien on “Hawaii Five-O.”

But there was another side to Victor Buono.

On talk shows, he was a gifted storyteller who often recited his comic poems. The proof: 30 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” 14 appearances on “The Joey Bishop Show,” 10 appearances on “The Mike Douglas Show,” eight appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Here’s Victor Buono making one such appearance on “The Tonight Show” from 47 years ago today, New Year’s Day 1975. He shares some New Year’s resolutions, then riffs on a news story while sitting next to Johnny Carson.

(Oh, that clip going around with Betty White and Johnny Carson as Jane and Tarzan? Victor Buono was a guest on that show, too. It aired Aug. 14, 1981. It was his second-to-last talk show appearance and his last with Johnny.)

It’s been at least a decade since I found Victor Buono’s LP of comic poems.

Victor Buono "Heavy" LP

Here’s a wonderful cut from that.

“Fat Man’s Prayer,” Victor Buono, from “Heavy!” 1971. (Sharing a video here because my copy skips at one of the many good lines.)

Victor Buono always played and seemed older than he really was, perhaps because of his size. When this LP was released in 1971 — many of his most memorable TV and film performances already behind him — he was just 33. He was just 43 when he died of a heart attack at his California home.

1 Comment

Filed under January 2022, Sounds

The most amazing Rhythm Ace

Russell Smith, first-rate singer, first-rate songwriter, died last week. He was 70.

The Amazing Rhythm Aces got lumped in with the country crowd in the latter half of the ’70s, but their sound — shaped largely by Smith — was a savory Memphis BBQ rub spiced with country, soul, R&B, swing, blues, calypso and rock.

When you dropped one of their records onto the turntable, it was time to kick back, put your feet up and pop open a cold beverage. You couldn’t help but smile at some of their songs and nod knowingly at the rest.

I could go on, but Russell Smith’s warm, laid-back voice and charming songs say so much more. A most pleasant listen, then and now. Enjoy.

The cover of "Stacked Deck," released by the Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1975.

Let’s start with “Stacked Deck,” 1975. That was the Aces’ debut, recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. If all you heard was “Third Rate Romance,” you had no sense of their versatility.

“Third Rate Romance.” The song that started it all. Still a damn fine song.

“The Ella B.” Swamp rock, choogling between Tony Joe White and John Fogerty.

“Who Will The Next Fool Be?” In which the Aces cover Charlie Rich.

“Emma-Jean.” Unrequited love for one of the “lovely lesbian ladies slow-dancing on the parquet floor” next door. Ah, life in the tropics.

“Why Can’t I Be Satisfied.” A bit like Fleetwood Mac at a jazz club, showcasing Barry “Byrd” Burton on guitar and some combination of James Hooker and Billy Earheart on piano and organ.

The cover of "The Amazing Rhythm Aces," released by the Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1979.

“The Amazing Rhythm Aces,” 1979, is another of my favorites. It was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound with the Muscle Shoals Horns.

“Love and Happiness.” Russell Smith’s distinctive voice infuses this Al Green cover. A couple of Memphis guys.

“Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette).” This was my introduction to the Allen Toussaint song first done by Benny Spellman.

“Say You Lied.” She left. Fine harmonies and fine picking by Duncan Cameron.

The cover of "Chock Full of Country Goodness," released by the Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1994.

The Aces broke up in 1981, then got back together in 1994, releasing their own material. “Chock Full of Country Goodness” came out in 1998.

“The Rock.” He’s leaving. This one is co-written by Smith and Jim Varsos.

Technical note: I suppose the cool kids would just create a Spotify playlist, but I’m not on that, sorry.


Leave a comment

Filed under July 2019, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 11

Last night was the winter choir concert at Green Bay East High School. Our son Evan, a senior, sings bass in the concert and chamber choirs.

Each year, the concert closes with “Carol of the Bells.”

It’s a tradition at East for the choir alumni to join the combined choirs on stage for the final number, so you’re seeing them along with the Red Devil Chorale, Belles Voix, Concert Choir and Chamber Singers.

“Carol of the Bells” is a work built around “Shchedryk,” a traditional Ukrainian folk chant. Music was added more than 100 years ago, and lyrics added in the 1930s. Though often sung during the Christmas season, it’s actually a New Year’s carol. A variation dating to the late ’40s is known as “Ring, Christmas Bells.”

Here’s a folk guitar version that matches the elegance of the East singers’ performance.


“Carol of the Bells,” John Fahey with Richard Ruskin, from “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II,” 1975. It’s out of print as such. However, all but one cut from that LP is available on the CD version of “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album,” his great 1968 Christmas album. Also available digitally.

John Fahey’s music has been a part of our Christmases seemingly forever. I believe I bought “A New Possibility” in the early ’80s, most likely on a tip from Mike, the laid-back gent who ran — and still runs — Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin. I don’t know how I otherwise would have found out about an obscure Christmas record from 1968.

Or one from 1975, the year I was a senior in high school.

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

What’s that in your pocket?

America’s pent-up passion for football is about to explode.

You feel it every day when you live in the shadow of Lambeau Field. You feel it this weekend as college football starts. Some of it remains simply a love of the game. But not much.

That passion for football, be it the NFL or college football, is increasingly driven by equal parts marketing, gambling and fantasy leagues. Even the TV and radio talking heads are geeked up.

Is that a microphone in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

This week, we’re getting our close-up. Right here in the shadow of Lambeau Field, it’s the NFL Kickoff Weekend, starring Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5! Oooh, Matt Lauer and Al Roker will be live from here, too! Oooh, Jay Leno is going to talk about us in his monologue!

It is, in the eyes of one David Fantle, the deputy secretary of tourism in Wisconsin, “almost like a mini-Super Bowl.” Then he added:

“It’s invaluable. It’s the kind of exposure you can’t buy
— or you can’t afford to buy.”

Is that a brat in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

I wonder what Vince Lombardi would think of all this. His teams won championships, then opened the next season with little more than a baton twirler and a marching band. That was a different time, of course.

I also wonder what George Carlin would think of all this.

“Baseball-Football,” George Carlin, from “An Evening With Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo,” 1975.

Baseball isn’t so innocent anymore, either, but Carlin’s take still goes a long way toward exposing the absurdity of what we’re seeing this week. That this was spoken in March 1975 and still holds true is testament to Carlin’s genius.


Filed under September 2011, Sounds

Jerry’s basement

Explosions have rocked our basement this summer.

Our rec room, of course, is where our 16-year-old son and his pals gather to play video games and watch Netflix.

There is an old 26-inch TV to which the Xbox is attached. The old stereo components are still there, too. A turntable, a CD player, a receiver and two small but nice speakers, all dating to the early ’90s. One day, our son found out that the TV was hooked up to the stereo system. If you turn on the receiver while playing video games, the explosions blast through the speakers.

It was not all that different in Jerry’s basement in the summer in the mid-’70s.

We didn’t have video games, of course. We had APBA, a table-top baseball game with cards and dice. There were three, four, five, sometimes six of us. We played in the afternoon, went home for supper and at times resumed at night.

Fairly clear now why the ladies did not dig us then.

Jerry also had a stereo. If memory serves, it was one of those old compact stereos from which the turntable dropped down and the speakers swung out. We cranked up the volume as best we could, but there were no explosions.

Jerry didn’t have many records — none of us did then — but we often played most of what he had. So much so that I remember most of those records to this day, more than 35 years on. They included:

“Montrose” by Montrose (1973). We were listening to Sammy Hagar before he was Sammy Hagar.

“Desolation Boulevard” by the Sweet (1974). Try as I might, I can’t remember hearing the original version of “A.C.D.C.,” which Joan Jett has so memorably covered.

“Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin (1975). I wasn’t much of a Led Zep fan, but I loved “Boogie With Stu.” Still do. Last summer, one of my son’s pals — a guitar player — said he’d love to get a copy of this record. You should have seen his face when I handed him the vintage vinyl a couple of weeks later.

“16 Greatest Hits” by Steppenwolf (1973). This, for us, was classic rock. I really didn’t dig them much at the time. Neither did our JV basketball coach.

“The Adventures of Panama Red” by the New Riders of the Purple Sage (1973). Um, so, yeah.

“That Nigger’s Crazy,” by Richard Pryor (1974). Hugely influential in honing our collective sense of humor, which at the time also was being shaped by the National Lampoon (the magazine and the radio show), Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, Monty Python and Johnny Carson.

Again, fairly clear now why the ladies did not dig us then.

Hey, we were 16. It was 1973. Here are some more sophisticated artists we weren’t digging in Jerry’s basement. If we knew then what we know now …

“Dirty Ol’ Man,” the Three Degrees, from “The Three Degrees,” 1973. This was their first studio album. It’s full of Gamble and Huff’s great Philly soul. This is a great tune that was bigger in Europe than in the States.

“Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” Barry White, from “I’ve Got So Much To Give,” 1973. This was his first album. There was a time before everyone knew Barry White was synonymous with seduction. This was that time. (This edited version of this Four Tops cover is from “Barry White’s Greatest Hits,” 1975. The original LP version which runs longer.)


Filed under August 2011, Sounds