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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Episode 42 - I Was Dancing with My Darlin'





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It's a Dreamtime potpourri this time around with some thoughts, talk and music on the big little man Pee Wee King and his songwriting partner, Redd Stewart; the song they composed on a matchbook cover; how Cowboy Copas and Syd Nathan could have bought it for $25; and then a look and listen to Theme Time Radio Hour's resident hillbilly expert, Deke Dickerson. You can tell we have a full plate tonight, so we better get started...

[Dylan on Pee Wee King]

As well as introducing the accordion to country-western music, Pee Wee King brought electric instruments, drums, and horns to the Grand Ol' Opry. And the next time you're admiring Mr. D's sartorial style on stage, you might give a thought to Mr. Pee Wee King of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who was the first in the Grand Ol' Opry to dress up his band members in tailored Western clothing direct from Nudies of Hollywood.

Nicknamed "Pee Wee" by Gene Autry because he was only 5'6", King was born Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski (koo-CHIN-skē) in 19 and 14. His father led a polka band, and the young Frank, who used the second of his three given names, became a member of the band, playing both accordion and fiddle. By age 14, King was doing radio appearances, and formed his own band, which played a mix of polka and country-western... putting the accordion to use no matter what the style of music.

In 19 and 36, Pee Wee formed The Golden West Cowboys, which he would lead through a variety of personnel changes for over 30 years. Fiddler Redd Stewart, who would later become Pee Wee's songwriting partner, joined the group the following year, although he would be drafted in 1941 and not come back to the Golden West Cowboys until the end of World War II.

1937 was a big year for The Golden West Cowboys. They were also invited to join the Grand Ol' Opry that same year, an invitation that some of the show's traditionalists might have later regretted. By 19 and 40, Pee Wee was using an amplified guitar on stage, and in 1947 brought drums to the Grand Ol' Opry for the first time in its history.

1947 also brought other changes. After a 10-year run at the Grand Ol' Opry, Pee Wee was ready for something new, and brought the band to Nashville and to television, where "The Pee Wee King Show" ran for another decade. Redd Stewart - who was back with the group by this time - took over lead vocals for the band, and Pee Wee concentrated on business and songwriting.

The Tennessee Waltz

The story goes that Pee Wee and Redd were on the road heading for a gig in Tennessee and riding in the luggage truck so they could work on songs together without distraction. Bill Monroe's Kentucky Waltz began playing on the radio, which inspired one or both of them to start thinking about a similar waltz for the great state of Tennessee. Providentially, the Golden West Cowboys had been using a waltz melody as the band's theme song for several years, a tune that up to then had had no lyrics. Stewart later recalled that he scrawled the first version of Tennessee Waltz on the back of a matchbook cover, although it took the two songwriters over 18 months before they came up with the final lyrics, set to the tune of the band's "No-name Waltz" theme music.

[Tennessee Waltz - Redd Stewart]


The Cowboys of the Golden West, with Redd Stewart on vocals, single of The Tennessee Waltz made the country charts on April 3rd 19 and 48 and peaked at the #3 position. It would stay on the charts for 35 weeks. Cowboy Copas also scored a #3 hit with the song that same year, and Nick Tosches tells a funny story in his 1977 book
Country, about how the Cowboy let the rights for Tennessee Waltz slip through his fingers. Lloyd Copas, better known as Cowboy Copas, was one of the most popular country performers of the later `40s, and was recording for King Records at the time. King Records, as you may remember, O Constant Theme Time Radio Hour Listener, was owned and operated by Syd (Tosches refers to him as "Sid," but my later research indicates Nathan spelled it "Syd.") Nathan, whose frenzied sales exhortations have been played on several Theme Time episodes.

Copas made regular pilgrimages from Cincinnati, home of King Records, down to Nashville to hear - and buy - the latest songs. Syd Nathan purchased the publishing rights for the songs Copas bought, and Copas kept the author rights. Copas came back from one trip, noting to Nathan that he had passed on one song offered to him, because the writers wanted $25 for it, nearly double the normal asking price.

"All it was was a copy of 'Missouri Waltz.'" Copas said.

Intrigued, Syd Nathan replied that maybe they should pick up the song anyway, and fronted Copas an extra ten bucks to get it on his next trip to Nashville. But when Copas returned, he still didn't have the song. "They sold it, huh?" Nathan asked.

"The bastards put the price up to fifty dollars, and I wasn't going to pay that much," Copas replied.

"You done right," Syd Nathan said. "There ain't no song in the world worth fifty dollars."

In 1965, The Tennessee Waltz became the fourth official song of the state of Tennessee.

The Hardest Working Man in Rockabilly

[Dylan on Deke Dickerson] [Deke Dickerson - Broken Heart]

That was Deke Dickerson with Broken Heart, from his latest CD - The Melody. After I got over my funk that I wasn't Theme Time's resident hillbilly expert, I decided to do some research on Mr. Deke Dickerson and, in the course of my studies, ended up emailing Deke, only to find out that he's a pretty nice guy, even if he did take the job I've been angling for these last 42 episodes.


Thirty-nine years of age, Deke is a native of Columbia, Missouri. He formed his first band, Untamed Youth, at age 17. Untamed Youth was a retro surf guitar garage band, whose song
Santa's Gonna Shut 'Em Down was featured on Eddie Gorodetsky's Christmas with Eddie G. compilation CD. Untamed Youth gained a strong rep. in the Midwest, did some national tours, and released four CDs on indie labels. The group broke up after Deke decided to head out to the sun and beaches of L.A. in 1991, where he became a regular on the rockabilly and roots scene. In L.A. Deke teamed up with Dave Stuckey , and the two formed the team of Deke & Dave. The duo focused on an eclectic mix of hillbilly, surf, and rock-n`-roll music, released two CDs, and were a major attraction at rockabilly shows.

By 1997, Deke decided to try a solo career and formed his back-up band, the Ecco-Fonics, which ranges in membership from a stripped-down three to a full-tiltboogin' fivesome. Ecco-Fonics is also the name of Deke's label, which has released music from several hillbilly, country, and rockabilly artists, including Deke himself.

Armed with his custom-made double-neck Mosrite guitar, Deke and the Ecco-Fonics play an average of 225 shows every year throughout the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Australia, including the Irvine, California annual Fourth of July Hootenanny and the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly spectacle in Las Vegas, Nevada. Deke is also an accomplished engineer and studio producer, and writes articles and liner notes for music magazines and CDs.

And, of course, we're hearing Deke now on TTRH. In fact, when you hear guitar music between segments, the chances are that's Deke you're listening to. The first two shows that included Deke's music were Season One's Luck and Laughter episodes, and, as Deke notes on his web site, Season 2 of TTRH will be featuring clips of him speaking on rockabilly and a variety of other subjects.

As I mentioned, in-between bouts of jealousy I emailed Deke, asking him if he'd be interested in providing Dreamtime with a song or two for this episode. And, he was nice enough not only to get back to me, but to offer me essentially anything I wanted from his catalog. So, I can't really hate him, and I encourage you to go check out Deke's web site, -- dekedickerson.com -- links are also at the Dreamtime web site (that's right here) - where you can buy his music as either high-quality MP3 downloads, on CD, or in some instances, even on vinyl.

I recommend Deke's latest, The Melody, which is like turning on the radio and finding everything on the dial is coming from 19 and 55, from rockabilly to country, to doo-wop, and this song coming up, the heavily-Buddy Holly influenced, Tell Me How. This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast, and here's Deke Dickerson, the hardest-working man in rockabilly, closing us out with Tell Me How.

Sources and Further Reading/Listening: Pee Wee King bio at CMT.com Redd Stewart page at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; Country by Nick Tosches (pages 123-124); Deke Dickerson's web site; Deke's MySpace page; Deke's bio from Answers.com; Broken Heart and Tell Me How are from the album The Melody, Deke Dickerson & The Ecco-Fonics, used by permission. Thanks, Deke!

***

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. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.


Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at music.podshow.com.

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. You can write us at dreamtimepodcast@gmail.com

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hello, I Must Be Going - Groucho Marx



Captain Spaulding, the African explorer, arrives, only to note that he must depart. From 19 and 30s Animal Crackers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dreamtime Episode List - Season 1

With TTRH Season 2 underway, Dreamtime is picking up many new reader/listeners, and receiving more than a few questions asking what we're about.

The Dreamtime blog/podcast is occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, usually about something Dylan has said during one of his shows that has intrigued me, or my digging a little deeper into one of his stories about the musician or song. The "occasional" is in there because at times I'll go off on a tangent that has little or nothing to do with "Theme Time."

The shows can be listened to or downloaded here on the site, or you can subscribe through the RSS Feed or through iTunes. I try to document my sources, for those interested in learning more about whatever subject I've addressed in that episode. I encourage comments, especially if you're pointing out something I got wrong, which happens more than I like - but my reader/listeners help keep me walking the straight-and-narrow.

Needless to say - but I'll say it anyway - Dreamtime is not associated with XM Radio, Theme Time Radio Hour, or Bob Dylan.

I decided Dreamtime began its Season 2 with Episode 41, to parallel TTRH's Season 2. Season 1 shows can be found through the links below, and in the "Archives" section in the right-column. You can also find/subscribe to the Dreamtime podcasts through the link to your right, and you'll find a blog-roll of TTRH-related sites, and/or sites that have been kind enough to link to me.

Email is always welcome, and I try to answer every email I receive: dreamtimepodcast@gmail.com

Dreamtime Season 1 Episode Guide

Episode 1 - Elvis & Dino - The Elvis Presley/ Dean Martin connection (Weather)

Episode 2 - The Ol' Ball Game - The story behind "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (Baseball)

Episode 3 - A Single Olive - Victor Feguer's last meal (Jail)

Episode 4 - Tiny, I never saw a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game. The Tiny Tim/Dylan connection. (Flowers)

Episode 5 - Two voices from Chronicles - Fred Neil and Karen Dalton (Chronicles)

Episode 6 - Juneteenth and Fatso - The song and the singer (Summer)

Episode 7 – The donkey that wouldn't die - On "Hee Haw" (Mothers)

Episode 8 - 14 Views of the Big City - A tone poem (Theme Time intros)

Episode 9 - The Outro - On Coco Shinomiya, Eddie Gorodetsky, and Top Cat (Theme Time closing credits)

Episode 10 – Too religious for the country crowd, too country for gospel fans - The Louvin Brothers (Devil)

Episode 11 - All mobbed up - Ol' Blue Eyes and the Rat Pack croon for Pete Epsteen's Pontiac (Cars)

Episode 12 - Love, Theft, and Emails - In which Your Host spins some platters and reads emails ("Love and Theft" antecedents)

Episode 13 - Stay away from planes and automobiles - A Theme Time roll call of musician wrecks and crashes (Various Theme Time episodes)

Episode 14 - Working for the Yankee dollar - The twisty history of "Rum and Coca-Cola" (Drinking)

Episode 15 – I ran at Bakersfield - The James Dean/Dylan connection (Cars)

Episode 16 – "Gene Vincent said, 'Bubba, let's go on tour'" - High School U.S.A. the "Facenda Freeze" and more than 15 minutes of fame. (School)

Episode 17 - October in the Railroad Earth - On Jack Kerouac - defest of poets (Rich Man, Poor Man).

Episode 18 - High on a Mountain - this one on Ollabelle (the band) Ola Belle Reed (the musician), and Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles. (Bible).

Episode 19 - That Ol' Black Magic - Dreamtime has its Bob Dylan mask on with a special Halloween show that includes The Little Man Who Wasn't There; Samantha Stephens; Peggy Lee; Jerry Lewis; The Five Blobs; a young Bob Dylan; a Dylan imitator; Judy Garland; The Jitterbug; and The Munsters. (Halloween)

Episode 20 - Heart of Mine - A show done on the road, so Your Host's audio quality isn't of the best, but maybe Maria Muldaur's stunning live redition of "Heart of Mine" will make up for the audio engineering problems. Also, some information on Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour and an excerpt from Kitty Wells 1952 hit, "It wasn't God who made Honky-Tonk Angels." (There ain't nuthin' about that woman I don't like)

Episode 21 - Def Poets Society - That's def, not deaf, Fred. A primer on defness for the somewhat - like me - thick, plus a poetry reading and thoughts on Richard Farina. (Def poetry)

Episode 22 - All Along the Watchtower - Some brief thoughts on All Along the Watchtower, inspired by Kimo Watanabe's stark, spooky cover version performed on ukelele. Yes, ukelele. (No Theme Time content in this one)

Episode 23- In Search of Eddie G. - Writer, musicologist, Mix Master, cartoon character, game inventor, radio producer, Eddie G. seems to have re-invented himself as many times as Bob Dylan. (On Theme Time's producer)

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. (Dogs)

Episode 25 - The Name Game - In the first show of 2007, Dreamtime does a semi-countdown using Women's Names, inspired by Episode 35 of Theme Time. Where else will you find the Ramones and Allan Sherman on the same playlist? (Women's Names)

Episode 26 - Bessie with the Laughing Face? - The story behind Phil Silvers writing the Frank Sinatra classic. (Women's Names)

Episode 27 - Hey, Hey, I'm a Monkee -
Featuring Mike "Wool Hat" Nesmith, Liquid Paper, Tiger Beat, Charlie Manson, Jimi Hendrix, and the Mike Nesmith/Bob Dylan non-collaboration, "Rio." (Musical Instruments)

Episode 28 - Psycho killer, Qu'est que C'est? - With a few sentences, Dylan would send me off on a journey that would lead me to Texas snipers, blind singers, 100 proof honky-tonkers, and a country subgenre I never knew existed - Psychobilly. (Luck)

Episode 29 - Please Don't Go Topless, Mother - No TTRH radio content directly related to this episode. The stories of Bennie Hess, Troy Hess, and the song.

Episode 30 - A Good Walk Spoiled - In honor of the Theme Time's Host purchase in Scotland, Dreamtime plays at "Theme Time," with an extra-long episode featuring music, jokes, email, and commentary all related to the the theme, "Golf," for your amusement.

Episode 31 - Flash! Bam! Alakazam! - This time we're looking at an Orange Colored Sky. Like most music from the Big City, it has its own, strange story... with a cast of characters including Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Frank Zappa, and Robin the Boy Wonder. (Colors)

Episode 32 - Dig Infinity: A Passion Play in 4 Acts - Some thoughts, ruminations, correspondence, prose and poesy, cerebration, consideration, contemplation, deliberation, meditation, reflection, speculation, and cogitation upon one cool cat - Lord Buckley. Including the Dylan/Lord Buckley versions of Black Cross. (Trains)

Episode 33 - Oh Baby, Me Gotta Go - More Louie Louies than you can shake a stick at. How does Dreamtime fit over 50 Louies in a 14-minute show? Listen and find out. Starring Bob Dylan, Julie London, and even Your Host singing the religious version of Louie Louie, an experience not be missed. (Fathers, Tears)

Episode 34 - He Was a Graveyard Smash - A tribute show to Bobby "Boris" Pickett, who passed away in 2006 (Halloween).

Episode 35 - Cooking (and Drinking) with Bob - Today on Cooking with Bob, Mint Juleps! (Bombay) Rum and Coca-Cola! Barbecue! Beer! Figgy Pudding! And Bob's Mom's Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf Bread! (Various TTRH episodes where Our Host imparts recipes)

Episode 36 - Stagger Lee Shot Billy - A Summer hiatus show, with no direct connection to TTRH. All about that bad man, Stagger Lee. The usual suspects, including Frank Hutchinson, Mississippi John Hurt, and Lloyd Price, all join in. Plus a few appearances you might not expect, such as Dick Clark, Jiminy Cricket and Samuel L. Jackson.

Episode 37 - Chasing the Rising Sun - Another Summer hiatus show, inspired by Ted Anthony's brilliant book Chasing the Rising Sun. From the lips of a 16-year-old Kentucky girl to New York and Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan and then on to England and The Animals.

Episode 38 - A Wink or a Nod From Some Unexpected Place - According to the story in Chronicles, Gorgeous George told Bob Dylan, "You're making it come alive." Here's a brief biography of the man who during his heyday was one of the most famous entertainers in the world. (Chronicles)

Episode 39 - The Lost Theme Time iPod - Here's the story. Sometime in 2005, somewhere in Los Angeles, Bob Dylan is in a studio. He does whatever he came there to do, and then makes like a tree... and leaves. But he forgets his iPod. (The roots of TTRH?)

Episode 40 - A Ghost in Blackface - This is a story about a ghost who made music, a ghost named Emmett Miller, a forgotten son of a embarrassing and often deliberately forgotten American art form, the blackface minstrel show. (Masked & Anonymous)




Saturday, September 22, 2007

Episode 41 - And the Angels Sing




Listen now with the Dreamtime Player




Except for passing references to Ruth Brown, Rick Nelson and Bob Wills, there's nothing particularly TTRH-related in this episode of Dreamtime. But I suspect Our Host shares my respect for these ladies of rockabilly and r&b. So, with Season 2 just underway, hang in there with me for a bit longer, if you will, and let me tell you the stories of four forgotten angels this week. I don't think I'll disappoint you.

I've said it before: it's not easy being a professional musician. It's even tougher if you're a woman in the business. People want to pigeonhole you. You're a delicate songbird. You're a hard rockin' mama. You're a sex kitten. You're a dyke. Anita O'Day remarks in her great biography High Times, Hard Times that rumors started flying that she was a lesbian after she began wearing a variation of the Benny Goodman band's uniform - pants and jacket - because keeping the traditional evening gown clean on the road was costing her too much money.

And of course, if you're a woman you're getting hit on by fans - and, more regularly, by the boys in the band, and managers, club owners, publicists, record flacks, god knows what all. And even if you fell in love, or thought you were, you couldn't afford to get knocked up. That is, if you wanted to keep your career. Until relatively recently your choices were limited to one of two if you were a singer who got pregnant - you could have an abortion or you could have the baby. And quit the business.

There are dozens of male rockabilly and r&b performers whose time was the `50s and `60s and who have now faded away into obscurity. Who remembers the Emeralds or Wes Holly And His Rhythm Ranchers anymore except hard-core fans? But maybe because they had so far and so high to climb, the women who fell - or the ones who never quite made it to the top - have a particular attraction to me.

There are eight million stories in the Big City. Here are four of them.

[Fay Simmons - And the Angels Sing]

Fay Simmons - Who is She? Where is She?

Fay Simmons is a challenging - frustrating - subject for any dedicated researcher. The most detailed information about her on the Web begins with the lines, "Fay Simmons - Who is she? Where is she from?"

It's hard to believe that someone with that voice, sometimes reminiscent of Dinah Washington, could somehow disappear off the face of the planet. Today her best-known song is the novelty number, You Hit Me Baby Like an Atomic Bomb, that wasn't even discovered and released until the `90s. No other evidence of her existence except a pile of brightly-colored 45s from labels with names like Jordan, Rainbow, VTone, Ruthie, and the ironically named Gone. All gone now, as gone as Fay Simmons.

Her first known recordings were released in 1954, so she was probably born somewhere between 1930 (if she got a late start - late if you're a girl singer) and 1938 (if she started her professional career at the the tender age of 16). She'd be in her early to late `70s now in 2007, so she could well still be alive.

She may have been born in Philadelphia. All the evidence points to her starting out her career while a Philly-area resident. If she worked the Philadelphia club circuit, the evidence is buried in attics, back rooms and garages, and in old-timer memories. But she was recording in Philadelphia studios, and with Philly-based musicians such as Doc Starkes and His Night Riders.

Sometime around 19 and 57 Simmons may have moved to New York to try her luck. Maybe. New York City is an easy train trip from Philadelphia. Easy enough car or bus ride, even in the late `50s. But she was there in `57, recording for the New York-based Port and Gone labels. She may have still been in the city up till 1962, as she did sessions with both the Jordan and Senca labels, both based out of New York City.

The early `60s looked like they were good years for Fay Simmons. She released 10 singles in 1960, including And the Angels Sing. In March of 19 and 60 she was part of one of New York DJ Tommy Smalls' - known on the air as Dr. Jive - legendary Apollo Theater shows. Simmons shared the bill with the Emeralds, the Coasters, the Isley Brothers, Jimmy Reed, the Cruisers, and the Clickettes. The show was so successful it was held over for a second week.

Simmons also had her single, Everybody's Doin The Pony hit some local charts in 1961 on the Eastern Coast, including taking the Number #1 position slot on the "Soaring Seven Singles" for WABC in New York. She beat out Elvis, even it was just on a local radio chart for just a short time.

By late '62 it looked like Fay Simmons had headed back to her Philadelphia home base. There was one last possible New York recording session released on Bill Grauer's Pop-Side label in 1963, but her remaining recordings were all done for small Philadelphia-based labels.

The Fay Simmons story ends in 19 and 65, with the re-release of And the Angels Sing.

The rest is silence.

***


[Drugstore Rock-'n-Roll - Janis Martin]


Janis Martin - The Rise & Fall of the Female Elvis

Billed as "the female Elvis," a title that Presley himself reportedly approved, Janis Martin had a short but memorable rockabilly career during the mid-'50s. Born in 1940 in Sutherlin, Virginia, Martin began playing guitar at age four, having to hold it upright like a bass fiddle because it was too large to get her hands around.

By age 11, she was a regular on the Old Dominion Barn Dance radio show, second only to the Grand Ol' Opry in popularity among country music listeners. Still performing on the Barn Dance into her teens, Martin began to tire of country and move towards a r&b sound, sometimes confounding an audience still expecting the old, slow ballads with songs like Ruth Brown's (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.

At the age of 15, Martin cut her first record. Two announcers at WRVA - the Virginia radio station home of the Barn Dance - asked Martin to sing a song they had written, a rockabilly ditty called Will You, Willyum, on the show. The two songwriters taped the performance and sent the demo off to New York, which resulted in a recording gig for Martin with RCA. Will You, Willyum turned into Martin's biggest hit, selling three-quarters of a million copies, and charting into the Top Forty on the 1956 Pop Singles chart.

On the B side of Will You, Willyum was a song that Janis Martin herself had written, Drugstore Rock-n-'Roll.

"I wrote that song in about 10 minutes," Martin later said in an interview. "Everything in that song is actually the scene that was happening for us as teenagers."

With a hit single, appearances on American Bandstand, The Today and Tonight Shows and voted "Most Promising Female Artist of 1956," it looked like the 16-year-old had nowhere to go but up. But Martin had secretly married her boyfriend that same year, and became pregnant at age 17 after visiting her soldier husband during a USO tour. Unable to do live performances in her obvious delicate condition, Janis Martin recorded her last songs for RCA in 1958, in her eighth month of pregnancy, and RCA dropped her like a very pregnant hot potato as soon as the last notes faded away.

The female Elvis' career was over less than two years after it had started. But Martin's story would eventually have a happier ending. In the late `80s, now in her mid-40s, with two failed marriages behind her and on her own, Janis Martin formed a new band and struck out on a European tour, where she was greeted by enthusiastic neo-rockabilly audiences. She became a regular at rockabilly conventions, still belting out the old songs, saw her complete recordings compiled and re-released by the respected Bear Family label, and married for a third time to a man who had first seen her perform as a teen at the old Barn Dance show in Virginia. This time the marriage stuck, and they remained together until her death in 2007.

"She was a cute little old gal in a ponytail just belting out that music that nobody else was doing," her husband told the papers.

Timi Yuro - "This is your last song, young lady."

[Timi Yuro - Hurt]

The phrase "blue-eyed soul" was coined for Timi Yuro, one of the least remembered r&b singers of the early `60s. Dinah Washington once said of her, "Timi's voice doesn't come from the throat, but from the heart. She doesn't just sing the song, she lives it." She was one of Elvis Presley's favorite singers, with the King reserving a ringside table for every night of Yuro's Vegas performances. Presley would later have a Top Ten Country hit with his version of Yuro's signature song, Hurt.

Born Rosemary Timotea Yuro, in 19 and 40, Yuro's family moved to Los Angeles in 1952 where she became the resident singer in the family restaurant by age 14. Her mother was less enthusiastic about the teenager's nightclub gigs, breaking up one performance by shouting, "This is your last song, young lady!"

But Yuro had just started. Frankie Laine's vocal coach was so impressed after hearing her that she offered Timi free training, and Yuro quickly caught the ear of record scouts. Signed to the Liberty label at age 19, she was saddled with recording lightweight pop hits totally unsuited to her style. A frustrated Yuro took matters into her own hands and broke into an executive meeting, threatened to tear up her contract, and broke into an A Capella version of Hurt , a 1954 hit for Roy Hamilton that Timi had wanted to record since first hearing it.

She got her wish, with Hurt going to #4 on the Billboard singles charts in 19 and 61, and a follow-up hit in 1962 produced by Phil Spector - What's a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)? - charting to the #12 position. But Yuro's career didn't seem to pick up much traction past that point. Possibly because many of her listeners thought she was black. Possibly because the early waves of the British Invasion were turning popular taste elsewhere. Possibly because Yuro continued to innovate and stretch her musical boundaries, releasing an album of country and blues standards in 1963 (and incidentally introducing some of Willie Nelson's first songs). Make the World Go Away was praised by the critics, and the single of the title track made the US Top 30, but Yuro would not release another album until 1968, and she quit the business altogether in 1969.

A decade later Timi Yuro prepared a comeback, but it became increasingly difficult for her to sing. Doctors eventually discovered she had throat cancer. Her last recording was 1984's Timi Yuro Sings Willie Nelson, produced by her old friend. Timi died in her sleep at her home in Las Vegas on March 30, 2004.


Lorrie Collins - Rockabilly Kid Phenom

[The Collins Kids - Rock Boppin' Baby]

Lawrencine "Lorrie" Collins and younger brother Larry were a pair of rockabilly kid phenoms in the late `50s. The crew-cut Larry was an accomplished guitar whiz by age 10, known for playing a double-neck Mosrite guitar just like his mentor, Joe Maphis, and bouncing around stage, as one YouTube commentator memorably puts it, "like Beaver Cleaver on speed."

At age 12 Lorrie was equally at home singing country-western standards or red-hot rockabilly numbers. In fact, some of Lorrie's rockabilly performances were so steamy that they sparked complaints among her audience. It also probably didn't hurt that the pre-teen resembled a cross between Ann-Margaret and Tuesday Weld.

The Collins' parents moved their family to California in 19 and 53, when Lorrie was all of 11 and her brother 9. A year earlier the popular "Town Hall Party" barn dance-style program had begun broadcasting from Compton, CA over both radio and TV. Larry and Lorrie entered a talent contest sponsored by the show one Friday night in February 19 and 54 and were immediately hired to perform for the "Town Hall Party" the next day - ultimately appearing in every episode thereafter into 1957. Thanks to the show, the duo signed a recording contract with Columbia in 19 and 55 and churned out singles into the early `60s.

Even though they never hit the charts, the Collins Kids were a popular stage act and regulars on other television variety shows, including the Arthur Godfrey, Perry Como, Dinah Shore and Steve Allen shows. They made it to the Grand Ol' Opry and toured with both Johnny Cash and Bob Wills.

Wills unfortunately threw up on Larry in the back seat of a limousine during that tour. While Cash apparently had better control, their joining his tour would eventually lead to the Collins Kids' downfall.

After Rick Nelson spotted Lorrie at the "Town Hall Party", he had her cast as his girlfriend in his parents popular sitcom, "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet." Even as wholesome as the Nelsons were, the brothers had an eye for good-lookin' girls. Rick's brother, David, would eventually marry June Blair, a 1957 Playboy centerfold, who would also play his on-screen wife.

Rick and Lorrie were also briefly engaged in real life and the story, probably apocryphal, goes that Nelson recorded his first single, a cover of Fats Domino's I'm Walkin', in order to impress Lorrie. But Lorrie - in a move somewhat reminiscent of Janis Martin - would start a relationship with Johnny Cash's manager while on tour when she was just 17, marry him, and give birth to their first child at age 19, effectively killing the Collins Kids' career.

Larry would turn to songwriting, and have more than a little success, penning Delta Dawn which would become a #6 Country hit for 13-year-old Tanya Tucker, as well as a #1 Pop hit for Helen Reddy in 19 and 73. Again, like Janis Martin, brother and sister Collins would re-ignite their careers and reunite regularly at rockabilly revivals and conventions, where they remain a popular act to this day.


***
Sources and Further Reading/Listening:

Top photo: Detail from Johnny Mercer's grave site, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA.

Fay Simmons: Almost all the information on Fay Simmons is taken from the "Fay Simmons Record Label Shots" page at colorradio.com. About the only new thing I was able to discover was an appearance of Simmons at the Apollo as part of a 1960 Dr. Jive show, as noted in one of Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks. If you haven't already, check out Dreamtime Episode 39 - The Lost Theme Time iPod - to hear You Hit Me Baby Like An Atomic Bomb.

If you have any information on Fay Simmons at all, please write to Dreamtime!

Janis Martin: My sources on the "female Elvis" include Janis' page at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; her MySpace page maintained by her granddaughter; and her obituary from The Boston Globe.

Timi Yuro: We lost a wonderful voice when we lost Timi. My sources included her Wikipedia entry and various fan pages, primarily this one from Tom Simon. Various videos - usually slideshows accompanied by her music - are available around the Web.

The Collins Kids and Lorrie Collins: The always-useful Rockabilly Hall of Fame was a primary source; this article from The Washington Post is the source of the story that Bob Wills once threw up on a young Larry. Happily many of the Kids' performances at the "Town Hall Party" were preserved, and can be viewed on YouTube and other sites. Lorrie Collins, there ain't nuthin' about that woman I don't like.

***

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. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at music.podshow.com.

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. You can write us at dreamtimepodcast@gmail.com

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

Visit the Dreamtime Store

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dr. Jive brings the Apollo to the Ed Sullivan Show

video

The work Dreamtime goes to for its listeners/viewers, you wouldn't believe.

From November 20, 19 and 55, New York DJ Tommy Smalls (Dr. Jive) brings about 10 minutes of one of his legendary Apollo Theater shows to the living rooms of America via the Ed Sullivan Show.

Featured in the jam-packed session are Bo Diddley, LaVern Baker, the Five Keys doing a very politically incorrect Ling Ting Tong, and Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson's Orchestra, whose closing set just about burns down Studio 50.

For Dreamtime readers too young to remember much about Ed Sullivan, he was an entertainment gossip columnist for the New York Daily News turned improbable successful television host. His stone-faced demeanor and bobbled introductions were legendary. This clip is a classic example, as Sullivan comes up with in quick succession, "roll and rhythm," "rhythm and roll," and my personal favorite "rhythm and color," before remembering that the term he wants is "rhythm and blues."

A larger - although no better in quality clip is available at YouTube here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some More on Emmett Miller's Any Time


Dreamtime had an email over the weekend that led me into an interesting search for the origin of Emmett Miller's signature song, Any Time.

The song was written in 19 and 21 by a Herbert "Happy" Lawson, of whom there is a little information available on the Web. Any Time has proved to be a durable legacy for Mr. Lawson, though. The song charted as a #1 Country Hit for Eddy Arnold in 19 and 48, 24 years after its creation. Arnold's version also made it to #17 on the Pop charts, and a cover version by Foy Willing and The Riders of the Purple Sage - who would later become Roy Rogers' backup band - placed as a #14 Country hit that same year.

Among many others, Any Time has also been covered by Eddie Fisher, Pat Boone, Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Duane Eddy, Connie Francis, Bill Haley, Dean Martin, The Osmond Brothers, Arlo Guthrie, and Leon Redbone.

One of the more interesting things about Miller's version of Any Time is that it includes three opening stanzas that aren't part of the printed sheet music. Lawson's "official" version, and the one used by most performers with some variations, has the lyrics...

Any time you're feeling lonely
Any time you're feeling blue
Any time you're feeling down-hearted
That will prove your love for me is true.

Any time you're thinking 'bout me
That's the time I'll be thinking of you
So, any time you say you want me back again
That's the time I'll come back home to you.
Fairly straightforward, right? It could be a spooner singing goodnight to his sweetie, or even a soldier bidding his girl goodbye. But Miller's version puts a darker spin on the song...
Now, I'm so sad and blue
'bout nobody but you
Why you don't seem the same to me.

I told you that I love you
right from the start
You told me the very same thing
and now you try to break my little heart.

If you don't want me
Why don't you come on and tell me so
I love you, and I'll say just before I go....

Now, any time that you are lonely
Any time that you are blue
Now, any time you're feeling down-hearted
That will prove to you my love is true.

Now, any time you're thinking of me
That's the time I'll think of you
Now, any time you want me back again
That's the time I'll come back to you.
... which describes a breakup much more emphatically than Lawson's version. I'm guessing that because he did Any Time as part of his minstrel act, Miller added the opening stanzas as a skit he performed with a female partner... probably something to the effect of her telling him her love had gone cold, his replying with the little three-stanza ditty about how she's made him "sad and blue," and then his going into the actual Lawson song.

But there's also a surprising variation from Lawson's in the last line of the fourth stanza, with Miller clearly singing, That will prove to you my love is true, rather than the printed lyrics, That will prove your love for me is true. Miller's singer emphasizes that his love is so true that it will overwhelm the girl's feelings, whether she's actually in love with him or not. Lawson's singer more reassuringly notes that the girl's feelings are natural because she's already in love with him.

At this point, I could pull a Nick Tosches and start bringing in everything from Bob Dylan to how the introduction of the automobile was changing American dating habits in the `20s, but I'll resist.

Fascinating guy, that Emmett Miller.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Episode 40 - A Ghost in Blackface



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This is a real ghost story, but like all real ghost stories, you don't get to see the ghost. Hey, you boy there! What did I just tell you? Please don't attempt to look at him straight on, son. The harder you try, folks, the more he fades, and he's just barely with us as it is now.

You'll have better luck looking away. Pretend you don't see him, and maybe you'll catch a sidelong glimpse from the corner of your eye. Wait quietly and you'll soon feel his presence in unexpected places. His influence, from the unexplained creak on the stair, the glass mysteriously falling from the table, music and voices coming from a empty downstairs room.

[Emmet Miller Mashup]

Is that Lovesick Blues? No, maybe it's Bob Wills. Or maybe I'm totally wrong, and it's really Jimmie Rodgers. It's so faint, so hard to hear. It's like a ghost singing.

This is a story about a ghost who made music, a ghost named Emmett Miller, a forgotten son of a embarrassing and often deliberately forgotten American art form, the blackface minstrel show.

Born in Macon, Georgia on February 2, 1900, Miller's family later said he had wanted to become a minstrel show comedian almost from the time he spoke his first word. And he achieved that goal by the time he and the new century had reached their mid-20s. While the early part of Miller's life is still a mystery between 1919 - when he left home to pursue his dream - and 1924, he had built up his career enough that an August, 1924 issue of Billboard noted that he had played a three-day engagement with the Dan Fitch Minstrels in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Becoming a successful blackface comedian in 1924 must have been a little bit like finally attaining a lifelong dream to become a horse collar maker. While there was still work for both professions if you tried hard enough to find it, your day was done before you had even gotten started.


Any Time and Lovesick Blues

Our ghost would have probably disappeared unknown, unloved, and unmourned except that Emmett Miller also made his first recordings in the late fall of the that year, 1924, for the Okeh label. The recordings included Any Time, his signature song on stage.

[Any Time (1928 version) - Emmett Miller]

By any measurement and in any time, Miller's Any Time is one strange song, beginning with what sounds like a cry of pain after a straightforward jazz introduction and then Miller's blackface partner incongruously noting, "Emmett, you're looking mighty happy today."

But Emmett doesn't sound happy at all, as he begins Any Time with a stereotypical minstrel routine, and then moves into the actual song, which in his hands - or maybe more accurately, his voice - becomes a witches brew of exaggerated blackface vocalization, jazz phrasing, and country yodeling.

Yodeling. But not the yodel-lay-hee Sound of Music Lonely Goatherd style of yodeling. Miller's yodel sounds more as if the lyrics were suddenly disappeared. As if become exhausted, the singer is now without recourse to words, and what bursts out is this awful, inarticulate cry, until Miller seemingly recovers himself and remembers that there is a next line.

Small wonder that Miller became known as the man with the "trick" or "clarinet" voice.
"Without a doubt my father learned Lovesick Blues somehow from Emmett Miller. It was either by record or he heard him perform it in person at a minstrel show." - Hank Williams Jr.
The version we heard of Any Time was cut in the fall of 1928, with Miller backed by a band dubbed the Georgia Crackers and which included both Tommy Dorsey and his brother Jimmy, as well as drummer Gene Krupa. In an earlier session, Miller and the boys also did a remake of his Lovesick Blues, which he had first recorded in 1925, and would eventually become the foundation for Hank Williams' 1949 hit.

As Hank Williams Jr. noted, maybe his father learned Lovesick Blues directly from Miller - at least one person remembers Hank praising Miller's version of the song - or maybe it was from one of the cuts Miller put on record. In either case, when Williams recorded his version, it was obviously influenced by Miller's vocal style.

[Hank Williams - Lovesick Blues]

Lovesick Blues was written by Irving Mills and Cliff Friend in 1922. Incidentally, Friend's best-known song is probably 1937's The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, which became the signature song for the classic Looney Tunes cartoons. Lovesick Blues had been recorded by several artists before Miller picked it up, but it's his take on the song in 19 and 25 that put it on the musical map and would eventually catch Hank Williams attention.

[Emmet Miller - Lovesick Blues]

The Blue Yodels

We can't let our ghost rest in peace until we take a look at the Emmett Miller/Jimmie Rodgers connection. It's known that during 19 and 25, Rodgers "put on the cork," as the minstrel show saying had it, and was working as a blackface performer. He wasn't alone. As well as Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Roy Acuff, and Clarence Ashley all appeared in blackface during the course of their careers. But what's less certain is whether Rodgers ever ran into Emmett Miller and heard Miller's unique yodel.

Miller was in Asheville, North Carolina in the summer of 1925, and while Rodgers didn’t move to Asheville until 1927, the city was one of the premiere stops on the minstrel show circuit. So it's possible Rodgers at least passed through town while Miller was in residence and caught one of his performances. And two years later there's some circumstantial evidence that the two may have even performed together.

Ultimately, like all good ghost stories, it remains a mystery whether Emmett Miller and Jimmie Rodgers ever met, and whether Rodgers Blue Yodels evolved from Miller's yodeling style.

[Jimmie Rodgers - Blue Yodel # 9]

'You Look Familiar'

Oscar Vogel: Hello Jack. Do you know me?

Jack Fate: You look familiar.

OV: I was the star of the show here. One of the biggest stars. I was one of your father's favorite performers once. Everything was going great... just as long as you kept your mouth shut. But he was doing things that were wrong, your father. His desire for retaliation and revenge was too strong.

I was the only one in any position to say anything, everybody else was too scared. I had the show, I had a forum. So, I spoke out. It's not what goes in the mouth. It's what comes out that counts.

OV: They said it was an accident (strums banjo). Some even said it was a suicide. Some people choose to die in all kinds of ways. Some people jump out of buildings and slit their wrists on the way down. Some fall on their own swords. I opened my mouth. You remember? My name is Oscar Vogel.

JF: Oscar Vogel.

OV: (strums banjo)

JF: Well, I gotta get back to the stage.

OV: The stage? Ah yes, the stage. 'The whole world is a stage.' - Masked and Anonymous

By the end of the decade popular interest in minstrel shows had all but faded away although, like an inconvenient ghost, the cork kept re-appearing on stage and in film. Well into the next decade, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would appear in blackface in 1939's Babes in Arms. Bing Crosby appeared in blackface in 1942's Holiday Inn, the precursor to the better-known White Christmas, released in 1954, and which also included a minstrel show number, but which, happily, was not done in blackface. The Black and White Minstrel Show was a popular British television series with a 20-year run into the `70s that presented traditional American "Deep South" songs - usually performed in blackface.

But even though it kept rolling in the grave well into the 1950s, the minstrel show was certifiably dead by the early `30s, with the popularity of movies putting the final nails in its - and its descendant, vaudeville - coffins. Interestingly, many of the minstrel show performers just put on a new mask - one that didn't require the cork - and moved into "hillbilly" music, masquerading this time as folksy hicks, rather than as rural blacks. In time, many of the pseudo-hillbillies and cowboys like Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills would in turn make the move into the more sophisticated country-western genre.

But what of our ghost, Emmett Miller? As far as the record shows, Miller apparently stuck to the cork to the bitter end. During the last part of his recording career, he tried to tame down his vocal style in an attempt to imitate then popular crooners like Rudy Vallee. But it didn't take, possibly because Miller kept including dated blackface routines with his music. His final recording sessions were in 1936.

But he never stopped working until the work dried up, performing when and where he could in minstrel revivals, vaudeville, even appearing with Scatman Crothers in a 1951 movie, Yes Sir, Mr. Bones.

But that was the last gasp for the cork and for Emmet Miller. He'd return to the town where he was born and die in Macon, Georgia in 1962.

Bob Dylan's thoughts on minstrel shows and blackface are unknown. But given the fact that he named an album after a book about the history of minstrel shows, it's pretty obvious that he does have some thoughts on the subject. And then there's Masked and Anonymous, of course. In the movie, Dylan - as the character Jack Fate - receives a visitation from his predecessor, a blackface minstrel.

"Do you know me?" he asks.

"You look familiar," Dylan replies.

The minstrel man later claims his name is "Oscar Vogel." But I'm not so sure. I think he may have worked under more than one name. He was once the star of the show here.

More Reading and Listening: The Wikipedia article on Emmett Miller; The Red Hot Jazz site, which has an excellent collection of Emmett Miller songs in RealAudio format; There's also a good overview of Miller, and his importance to country music, written by an an AnnMarie Harrington in 2003 at the appropriately named "Take Country Back" site.

Much of Harrington's article appears to be sourced from the touchstone of all Emmett Miller arcana, Nick Tosches' 2001 book Where Dead Voices Gather. Alternately fascinating and maddening, the book is no easy read. Tosches' prose can become so dense as to be impenetrable and much of Where Dead Voices Gather seems to have been written as stream-of-consciousness. When Tosches runs out of things to say about Miller, which happens quite often, he falls back on interminable lists of recording dates, forgotten songs, and minstrel show bookings until something new apparently occurs to him. The digressions can range from slang terms for female genitalia to whether Dixie was Abraham Lincoln's favorite song. And we're off and running with Nick again.

Tosches also isn't particularly well-liked in the small but active Emmett Millerphile community, where he's been criticized for sloppy - or no - research. Even I caught him out in a mistake while reading Where Dead Voices Gather. Tosches claims Wanda Jackson recorded the same Right or Wrong as Miller, but just a listen to a few seconds of either piece of music shows that they're completely different songs that happen to share the same title.

Having said all that, I still commend Where Dead Voices Gather to your attention. As frustrating as the book can be, it's still on a par with Greil Marcus' The Old Weird America as a document of Americana music.

Finally, our ghost in blackface is alive and well in the digital age, 107 years after his birth.

***

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. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at music.podshow.com. The closing segment's music was an excerpt from Ol' Time Banjo, by David Miles Huber.

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. You can write us at dreamtimepodcast@gmail.com

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

Visit the Dreamtime Store

Welcome to Season 2 of Dreamtime

With Mr. D. readying Season 2 of TTRH next week, I've decided to take Dreamtime into its second season with Episode 40, which will be posted later today... only 10 shows short and about two months over my original goal of 50 shows in one year... but not bad, I think, for an amateur effort.

I want to give my thanks to all who have supported Dreamtime in its first season; either through linking to the blog, publicizing it around the Web, or through your comments and/or emails telling me what you liked, or sometimes what I got wrong.

Also, a big thanks to those of you who have used the Dreamtime store as your launching base into Amazon. Whether you purchase something I recommended or not, when you go to Amazon from a Dreamtime link, I get a small piece of the action from purchases, at no additional cost to you. While my costs to do Dreamtime are minimal, there are some costs, mostly for podcast storage/bandwidth. It's nice to be able to offset even that small expense. So again, thank you, and a reminder to others... just like NPR or PBS, think of using Dreamtime store as your entry point into Amazon.

Off to Season 2!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Theme Time Season 2 Begins September 19th!

via USA Today


On the air: Launching with the topic "Hello," Dylan hosts the second season of XM Radio's Theme Time Radio Hour Sept. 19 (XM 40, Wednesdays, 10 a.m. ET/7 PT). Future shows will center on such motifs as "Young & Old," "California," "Dreams," "Fruit," "Something," "Nothing," "Streets," "Parties" and "Mail," with guests to include Luke Wilson, Amy Sedaris, Jack White and John Cusack. The satellite radio program draws nearly 2 million listeners weekly.
and an update just in from bobdylan.com
Theme Time Radio Hour
On Wednesday, September 19, Bob Dylan's award-winning XM music show, Theme Time Radio Hour, will kick off its much anticipated second season. Along with the show's signature eclectic mix of songs related to a specific theme and entertaining stories about the music and topics of interest, listeners will hear contributions from special guests, including Luke Wilson, Amy Sedaris, Jack White, John Cusack and Richard Lewis. The sultry voice of Ellen Barkin, will continue to herald the start of each "Theme Time" episode this season.

The first episode of season two will be devoted to the theme "Hello," with a typically wide, varied and surprising song list. Fans can expect to hear future episodes this season dedicated to themes such as "Young & Old," "California," the 2nd Annual Countdown Show, "Dreams," "Fruit," "Something," "Nothing," "Streets," "Parties," and "Mail."

New episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour, which airs Wednesdays at 10 a.m. ET on XM's Deep Tracks (XM 40), will also be available all day every Wednesday on XMX (XM 2). In May 2006, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour debuted to critical-acclaim exclusively on XM; the show has become one of the network's most popular programs, and is heard by nearly two million listeners each week. Among the show's myriad accomplishments of the past year, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum added the show's "Baseball" episode to its archives in June 2006.
and a little bit more from the press release...
The first episode of season two will be devoted to the theme "Hello," with a song list that spans "Hello, Mello Baby" by The Mardi Gras Loungers, "Hello Trouble" by Buck Owens and "Hello in There" by John Prine, among many others. Fans can expect to hear future episodes this season dedicated to themes such as "Young & Old," "California," "Dreams," "Fruit," "Something," "Nothing," "Streets," "Parties," "Mail," and the 2nd Annual Countdown Show.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dreamtime - the Video Promo

video

via dylanmessaging.com where you too can create your very own.