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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best wishes for the New Year from Your Station Manager

One of the (many) joys of doing Dreamtime is the feedback from listeners/readers. I'd do it anyway :-), but hearing that people really enjoy the podcast is an added benefit. And sometimes you even hear from one of your heroes...

Dickie "Be-Bop" Harrell - the original drummer for Gene Vincent's Blue Caps - recently dropped me a line, complimenting me on my story about Tommy Facenda (Episode 16 – "Gene Vincent said, 'Bubba, let's go on tour'") and passed on a reunion photo of the Blue Caps. Click on the photo for a larger version.

From Left to Right: Johnny Meeks, guitar; Tommy "Bubba" Facenda, vocals, clapper; and Dickie "Be-Bop" Harrell, drums.

We used to play these shows in the beginning; we had George Jones and Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison and different ones and this and that. We played shows with Johnny Burnette. And at that time, when we were doing all this stuff for them, the big thing for them was just to go out there and do their thing. But hell, we'd go out there and act stupid and fall all over the damn place and jump in the audience and run up and down the aisles and all that. They'd just sit around and look and just think you lost your damn mind! - Be-Bop Harrell
Rockabilly gods. Thanks for writing, Be-Bop! And thanks to all my listeners and to everyone who has written in. The staff of Dreamtime - Jailbait, Curly, Bear, and Your Host wish you a happy and safe New Year. More Dreamtime coming in 2007!

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Episode 24: 1953 and Changes in the Wind

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Episode 24 - 1953 and Changes in the Wind

Dreamtime closes out 2006 with a turn around the radio dial and a look back at a year when music was about to change forever... 1953.

Harry S. Truman hands over the reins of power to Eisenhower. Peter Pan and the first 3D movie, Bwana Devil, premieres. Ian Fleming publishes the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Both the U.S. and Soviet Union announce the development of a hydrogen bomb.

The Korean War ends and the Kinsey Report issues Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Pat Benatar, Desi Arnaz, Jr., Cyndi Lauper, Alan Moore, and Kim Basinger are all born in 1953.

On January 1, 1953, Hank Williams hired a chauffeur to drive him to his next gig in Canton, Ohio from Knoxville, Tennessee. Williams left in a Cadillac, carrying a bottle of whiskey with him. When his driver pulled over at an all-night service station in Oak Hill, West Virginia, he discovered Williams dead in the back seat. Hank Williams was 29.

Williams' single, the eerily-titled I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive would hit #1 on the Billboard Country Charts on January 24, 1953, and is our first stop in our spin around the 1953 airwaves.

As Dylan says in the Dogs episode of Theme Time, Patti Page's (How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window? - which she recorded on a Thursday, the week before Christmas, a date which also happens to be the date of my birth, December 18, 1952 - would hit the top of the single charts on January 10th, 1953, and remain there until finally booted off by Percy Faith and his Orchestra's Song From Moulin Rouge, also known as Where is Your Heart?

In turn that single would lose the #1 slot to I'm Walking Behind You, sung by Eddie Fisher. Turn on your Dreamtime radio and listen in as we broadcast a collage of popular music from January through June of 1953, including all three, as well as Perry Como's Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes, the first #1 pop single of 1953.

But change, as the man says, was in the wind.

Crazy Man, Crazy, recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets in April 1953, would be the first rock and roll single to make it on the American musical charts, where it peaked at #12. Crazy Man, Crazy may also have been the first rock and roll recording to be played on national television in the U.S. when it was used in the soundtrack of Glory in the Flower, an episode of the CBS anthology series, Omnibus. Interestingly. Glory in the Flower starred James Dean, soon to become iconic in Rebel Without a Cause.

On August 1, 1953, The Orioles' biggest hit, Crying in the Chapel, enters the R&B charts, and will go on to top the charts for the next eight weeks. A decade later, Elvis Presley would cover Crying in the Chapel for his gospel album How Great Thou Art. And Elvis, as Dylan says, would begin his Sun recording career in the summer of 1953, most likely prompted by an article in the local paper on Sam Phillips's recording of the Prisonaires, a group of prisoners from the state penitentiary, as faithful Theme Time listeners already know.

Elvis walked into into 706 Union Avenue and asked to record for the very first time. The two songs he cut were My Happiness, originally written in 1933 by Betty Peterson and Borney Bergantine and That's When Your Heartaches Begin, written in 1940 by William J. Raskin, Billy Hill and Fred Fisher. Elvis later re-recorded that one for RCA as the B side to the single All Shook Up and it peaked at #58 on the Hot 100 Chart...

...and meantime, back in 1953 the doggie was growing up to be a hound dog. We wind up our Dreamtime radio tour with Big Mama Thornton's original 1953 version of Hound Dog, written Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Big Mama Thornton is backed on this cut by by Theme Time favorite Johnny Otis, who also got author credit on the original pressings.

You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals, and is a Not Associated With production.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at music.podshow.dot com. Our closing theme is performed by Lounge Affaire, courtesy of Christopher Murphy Studio.

We love your email and you can write us at dreamtimepodcast@gmail.com

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcer is the lovely Jailbait Jones.

Until next time, dream well.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Episode 23 - In Search of Eddie G.


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Episode 23 - In Search of Eddie G.

["Here Comes Eddie" - The Eddie G. Singers]

With the Christmas season coming up, it seemed like the right time to take another* look at the producer of "Theme Time," Mr. Eddie Gorodetsky, better known to his fans as "Eddie G."

"Eddie G. has fans?" you say. "And what does he have to do with Christmas?"

Glad you asked.

I mentioned in that earlier show that Eddie was a writer for TV shows such as "Dharma & Greg," "Saturday Day Night Live," the animated Batman series, and various Penn & Teller specials. He also writes liner notes for CDs - which almost appears to be a second career for the man. But Eddie G. may be best known among a small, select circle for his annual holiday mix tapes.

Starting sometime in the early 1980s, Eddie G. began circulating Christmas mix tapes on cassette to family and friends. The tapes were a compilation of weird, strange, forgotten, and sometimes very cool Yule tunes, culled from 45s, albums, and promotional tapes from Gorodetsky's collection; reportedly one of the largest privately-owned Holiday Music collections in the world. By 1999, he was sending out over 1500 copies of his Christmas mix tapes.

In 1990, Columbia released a commercial CD version of Eddie's annual tape mix titled, "Christmas Party with Eddie G." Now out-of-print, but regularly available on eBay. "Christmas Party with Eddie G." could almost be an episode of "Theme Time" with tracks featuring The Skeltons, Louis Prima, Huey "Piano Smith" and the Clowns, Rufus Thomas, and George Jones and Tammy Wynette among others.

One of the very interesting things about "Christmas Party with Eddie G." isn't the music, but the label. I mentioned that Columbia issued it. Actually that isn't quite right. The disc is a "Columbia publication," under the "Strikin' It Rich" label. Strikin' It Rich was created in October of 19 and 90 with the reported goal of "releasing rare and interesting rhythm and blues material."

And who was behind "Strikin' It Rich"? Our Host, Bob Dylan.

"Christmas Party with Eddie G." was apparently the only disc ever released under the Strikin' It Rich imprint. When the disc was re-released in 1998, it came out under the Columbia/Legacy brand.

Not to re-open the debate which broke out about how much involvement Dylan actually has with "Theme Time," but my research makes me increasingly of the opinion that Gorodetsky plays a major role in the creation of "Theme Time," which would make sense, since that's what a "producer" does after all.

I think Dylan is much more than just a voice talent or the name they needed to make "Theme Time" work, although "Theme Time Radio Hour with Your Host, Eddie G." would have had a much smaller audience. A read through Chronicles is pretty clear evidence that many of the "Theme Time" selections are coming directly from Dylan's input. But the man also released a record album in 2006, just finished a major U.S. tour and is now blasting his way through Europe and (I hope) is working on the second volume of Chronicles and God knows what all. It's hard to think he's hauling his record collection along on the bus, or calling home and saying "Will you FedEx out that 78 of 'I Heard The Voice Of A Pork Chop'" for me? I think the last time I saw it was on the kitchen shelf."

I wonder if the scenario at the Abernathy Building when Lee Abrams was finally able to set up a meet with Dylan and "his people" went something like someone on Dylan's side saying, "Y'know, we should get Eddie G. in on this. This is like what we were trying to set up with Strikin' It Rich, but even better, 'cause it's radio! Eddie knows as much about Ol' Weird America music as Bob does, and their tastes run the same."

And now there's some brainstorming every couple of weeks when the next Themes get picked and Eddie and Bob swap playlists and take stuff off and put stuff on until they get something down they like, and the licensing and permission teams of Diane and Debbie go to work and the research team hits Wikipedia for some color and Bob does his commentary and Eddie keeps all the other plates spinning and the balls in the air in order to produce a weekly hour-long radio show.

Who knows? But it's fun to speculate. And I sure wish I had been a fly on the wall when they were setting this up.

So, who is this man, Eddie G. What more do we know about him?

"I started collecting records in high school, in the early 1970's," said Gorodetsky in an interview for CollectorMania!. "I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and I remember hearing legends about record stores in Boston that have bins full of these records that you couldn’t find anywhere, and I remember hitchhiking with a couple of friends of mine up to Boston more than once to go to stores in Roxbury and Boston. I ended up living in Boston and working in a half-dozen record stores there."

In the late `70s, Eddie also worked as a columnist for the Boston Rocks music fanzine, and occasionally as DJ for WERS-FM , doing a rhythm and blues show called, "Real Oldies."

A bogus posting, maybe from Eddie G. himself, on a J. Geils Band message board claims that he was also an M.I.T. post-grad, working on a study of earthworms and their reaction to rock and roll, particularly of the J. Geils Band's music. Earthworms aside, Eddie G. was tight with several of the band members, especially Peter Wolf, and would appear on Wolf's solo album "Light's Out" after the breakup of The J. Geils Band. Here's Eddie G. as the radio announcer from Peter Wolf's "Mars Needs Women."

[Mars Needs Women excerpt]

As I noted in my opening, Eddie G. has also worked on several Penn & Teller specials. Penn Jillette calls Eddie, "one of the funniest guys in the world." coming up with up with the idea for a proposed Penn & Teller videogame for people who didn't like violence, "Desert Bus."

The goal of Desert Bus was to drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada, a very long, boring drive, since your bus could not go over 45 miles per hour, and nothing happened. You simply saw desert scenery.


The bus' steering was also slightly out of alignment, meaning the player had to be on the controller at all times. And, the game happened in real time, and couldn't be saved. The only way a player could win was to drive the whole trip in one session. One eight hour plus session.

Rumor had it that if you accomplished the eight-hour trip and made it to Vegas you scored... one point.

"Desert Bus" was never officially released but bootleg copies of the game can still be found on the Web. Another legacy from Mr. G.

If you do a deep enough search, you'll eventually find references to the ubiquitous Eddie everywhere, including cartoonist's Paul Dini's site detailing the adventures of Santa Claus' daughter, Jingle Belle.

"The coolest elf at the North Pole," , says Jingle in her description of Eddie the Music Elf. "[He] has the biggest record collection this side of Greenland. True, a lot of it is Xmas music, but a surprising amount of it does not suck. If you want a great ska version of "Frosty" or a hot zydeco rendition of "Sleigh Ride" Eddie’s the man to see. Each year Eddie descends into his subterranean subarctic Xmas record vault to blend the familiar, the obscure and the just plain weird into a holiday mix."

Writer, musicologist, Mix Master, cartoon character, game inventor, radio producer, Eddie G. seems to have re-invented himself as many times as Bob Dylan himself. Where he'll appear next, no one knows, but whatever he does next, you can bet it will be interesting.

["So Long Eddie" - The Eddie G. Singers]

This had been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. Dreamtime is a Not Associated With production, and indeed, is not associated with much of anything. Special thanks to the contributors at the Theme Time message boards. Dreamtime's opening segment provided by Jailbait Jones. Background music for this podcast was provided by Kimo Watanabe, via the Podsafe Music Network. Our closing theme is performed by Lounge Affaire, courtesy of Christopher Murphy Studio.

Until next time, dream well.

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*Dreamtime's first look at Eddie G. can be found here.

Sources: The J. Geils Band Message Board; A Christmas Yuleblog; Doo-Wop Around the Christmas Tree; Whistle Bait: 25 Rockabilliy Raveups; Interview with Paul Dini; Penn Jillette discusses unreleased game; CollectorMania! - When L.Ps.s Roamed the Earth (Acrobat document)