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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)