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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Episode 51 - Hadacol (That's All)

"What's Hadacol? Well, basically, it's a patent medicine—a little honey, a little of this and that, and a stiff shot of alcohol hyped up with vitamin B. Actually it's a great deal more. It's a craze. It's a culture. It's a political movement." — Newsweek, 1951


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Friends, before we start the show I'm proud to tell you that Dreamtime has acquired a sponsor. That's right, friends and neighbors, the good people of Hadacol have jumped on the Dreamtime bandwagon, and we're proud and happy to have them aboard.

"Hadacol?" you ask. And I say, "Yes!"

Thanks to Hadacol, our 17-year-old Top Cat, Curly Lasagna, no longer suffers from the rheumatiz! Now he romps again like the Kittenish he once was. It's true! And then I saw that our other Top Cat, the Amazing Shaggy Bear, who weighs about 16 pounds, was having a little difficulty making those elegant jumps to the kitchen counter that he did so easily when he was a much lighter kitten. So I fed him eight - that's right, friends - eight - bottles of Hadacol, and now I laugh aloud watching Bear jump over a six-foot-fence with ease.

And that's not the half of it, neighbors. Yes, Hadacol will work wonders on the livestock. And I've even known some folks to add a bottle of Hadacol to their car's gas tank to put some pep in the old motor. But, speaking of putting some pep back into those old motors, where Hadacol really shines is what it can do for you and me, brothers and sisters.

Here's a true story: I was so thin and exhausted and worn to a nub that I went to the Doctor and told him that I was worried that it might be the Hadacol.

"Well, stop taking it," he answered.

"Doc, it ain't me that's taking it!" I said. "It's my wife!"

We'll be back in just a moment, friends, with more about the wonders of Hadacol, but here's a good friend of us all with a musical message.

[Hadacillin Boogie - Hank Penny]

[Theme Time Radio Hour on Hadacol - (Everybody Loves That Hadacol excerpt) "Hadacol was one of the most famous patent medicines in history. It was an elixir created by a Louisiana state senator, Dudley J. LeBlanc. Hadacol is a contraction of 'Happy Day Company' with an 'L' at the end because that was LeBlanc's initial. He mixed the first batch in big barrels. Twelve percent alcohol. B-complex vitamins. Some iron, some calcium. Some phosphorus. Little bit of honey. He put out a pamphlet called 'Good Health, Life's Greatest Blessing,' and talked about how Hadacol was a good remedy for anemia, arthritis, asthma... it goes all the way down to 'ulcers.' By 1950, he had grossed about 20 million dollars.

(Valse de Hadacol excerpt) "He resurrected the old-style Medicine Show, and made it even bigger. He had a caravan of 130 vehicles, traveling through the South selling Hadacol. Dixieland bands would play. There were chorus girls and big stars like Connee Boswell. Carmen Miranda, Roy Acuff, Chico Marx, Minnie Pearl, and Hank Williams. And at one point they had a midget and a man over nine feet tall, who displayed the 'before and after' effects of Hadacol.

"I'm not doubting its medical usefulness, but in certain dry areas of the South, druggists sold it by the shot, and in certain mid-Western communities Hadacol could be found pretty easily at High School parties. You hear references to Hadacol in lots of Cajun songs, country songs, and lots of rhythm and blues songs (Hadacol Bounce excerpt)." - Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Doctors"]
In 19 and 43, Louisiana state senator Dudley J. LeBlanc got a bad pain in his right big toe, a pain that didn't go away but spread to his knees, his arms, and eventually to his neck. Doctors offered different diagnoses—it was gout, it was arthritis. One doctor claimed it was beriberi. Finally, another doctor offered up a miracle cure—a shot that almost immediately began to alleviate LeBlanc's pain.

"What is that?" Dudley asked.

"Trade secret," answered the doctor. But LeBlanc pocketed the bottle on the sly, had it analyzed, and found out he had been treated with a B vitamin mixture. And thus, Hadacol was born.

Or so Dudley LeBlanc claimed. His version of the doctor's miracle dose included iron, calcium, phosphorus, diluted hydrochloric acid, and honey as well as B vitamins. But it also had alcohol, and lots of it, as Our Host noted. LeBlanc mixed up the first batches of his Hadacol in big barrels behind his barn, with neighbor daughters helping out by stirring the mixture with boat oars. When he thought he had the formula right LeBlanc sent samples off to his neighbors, who reported that the stuff made them feel good. No surprise there, as one eight-ounce bottle of Hadacol was the equivalent of two stiff shots of booze.

Drawing most of the name from one of his earlier ventures, Happy Day Headache Powders, which had been shut down by the FDA, LeBlanc launched Hadacol, joking, "Well, we hadda to call it something." The patent medicine was an immediate hit in Louisiana, one druggist noting that customers with "holes in their shoes" would lay out as much as $3.50 - serious money at the time - for a 24 oz. bottle of Hadacol.

A typical Hadacol ad was laden with testimonials such as, "I . . . was suffering from ulcers of the stomach . . . . my wife persuaded me to take HADACOL. . . . I can now eat almost everything . . . even pork." In 19 and 48 Senator Dudley gathered up the best of those testimonials and reprinted them in the pamphlet Dylan mentions: Good Health, Life's Greatest Blessing. Grateful customers cited how Hadacol had cured them of various ills, including anemia, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, heart trouble, high and low blood pressure, gallstones, paralytic stroke, tuberculosis, and ulcers.

[La Valse de Hadacol - Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc]

By 19 and 50, the Hadacol empire had grown to embrace over 22 states, grossing over $20 million that year. Twenty million bottles sold in ten months. Twenty-seven million bottles sold in a year. "You have to be satisfied," the Hadacol ads ran. "Or we'll gladly send back your money."

In the summer of 1950 Hadacol sent out a caravan of 130 vehicles to tour the South, including seventy trucks, twenty-five cars, two air-conditioned buses for the talent, a rolling photolab , two beauty queen floats, three sound trucks, two airplanes, steam calliopes, and sometimes a train dubbed the Hadacol Special.

The first edition of the Hadacol Caravan covered 3,800 miles, playing one-night stands in 18 cities. The shows were nominally free, "free" meaning customers could bring in two Hadacol box tops, the equivalent of $3, for admission. Each night an average 10,000 fans would show up up to hear a Dixieland band play Hadacol Boogie, a song originally commissioned by LeBlanc for the jukebox crowd, and to watch chorus girls give an animated history of the bathing suit. As Mr. D. noted, stars such as Carmen Miranda, she of the fruit bowl head dress, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and Chico Marx would be some of the headliners.

To digress for a moment, Our Host also mentioned Connee Boswell as another star of the Hadacol Caravan, a name that's probably not as familiar to my listeners as the others. Together with Martha and "Vet" Boswell, Connee had been part of The Boswell Sisters, a major vocal act of the `30s. The Andrews started off their careers as Boswell Sister imitators, and Ella Fitzgerald cited Connee's vocal styling as an influence. By the mid-1930s the sisters had broken up, and Connee would go on as a successful solo act, including stints with the Hadacol Caravan.

Dudley LeBlanc acted as the master of ceremonies for the Hadacol Caravan until the troupe invaded the West Coast, where he turned hosting duties over to Mickey Rooney for a month-long stand in Los Angeles, and brought A-level Hollywood stars on board the Caravan, including Chico's brother, Groucho, and Mickey's best gal pal, Judy Garland.

[Hadacol Corners -Slim Willet and the Brushcutters]

Next year, the Hadacol Caravan was at it again, this time producing the biggest Medicine Show of all time. Clowns whose noses would light up after a big sip of Hadacol. A swing band and Dixieland jazz. A home-town beauty contest every night. A man who skated on his head. Dancing girls, tumblers, comedians, funny songs from Carmen Miranda and Minnie Pearl, a midget and a man over nine feet tall. A rotating cast of big-name stars played host, including Caesar Romero, Jack Benny and Rochester, Milton Berle, Rudy Vallee, Bob Hope, and Jimmy Durante. Even heavyweight Jack Dempsey showed up to pitch war bonds to the crowd.

And closing the show... a driftin' cowboy named Hank Williams. Williams was no stranger to Hadacol, the nostrum having been the main sponsor of his Health and Happiness radio show, excerpts of which we played back on Episode 48 of Dreamtime. And Williams was a major attraction - maybe the major attraction of the 19 and 51 edition of the Hadacol Caravan. Bob Hope made the mistake of insisting that he had to close the show after joining up with the Caravan in Kentucky, and in retaliation Williams played a blistering set as next-to-last act, closing with a Lovesick Blues that had the crowd screaming for more. Bob Hope tried to take the stage and was greeted with jeers and calls for Hank to come back. Hope eventually pulled an oversized cowboy hat over his head, and when the crowd quieted enough for him to be heard, sheepishly introduced himself as William's long-lost brother, "Hank Hope." When he made his way off-stage, Hope turned the closing slot back over to Williams, saying he'd never make the mistake of following him again.

But, all was not well with the Caravan, and the end was near. On Saturday, September 15th, 19 and 51, Dudley LeBlanc sold the Hadacol name, formula, and production company for a reported eight and a half million dollars, and shut down the caravan on the following Monday, incidentally stiffing many of the performers with rubber checks as their final payment.

LeBlanc would later regret the sale, claiming he never saw more than a $500,000 down payment, and noting in an interview that, "...if television had been as big back then...I'd never have sold. I'd have put a dead woman on the ground, poured a bottle of Hadacol in her, and have her spring to life!"

You can only imagine the number of bottles that TV infomercial would have been sold. The Amazing Ginsu would have had nothing on Hadacol.

There's a lot more stories about Hadacol, the Caravan, and Senator Dudley LeBlanc. I haven't told you about LeBlanc's offer to provide a parrot with a gold cage and entree to the finest hotels if it would only learn to say, "Polly wants Hadacol!" or the "Captain Hadacol" comic book, where the namesake character offers eight bottles of Hadacol to a young fan, telling him to drink them all at once for "immediate super-strength." I haven't mentioned the story about Hank Williams threatening to break his guitar over Milton Berle's head, or the other Hadacol touring show, featuring jazz and blues artists, instead of country-western stars, and designed exclusively for Black Southern audiences.

But our time is short, so I think I'll just leave you with the parting words of Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc while being interviewed on the Groucho Marx radio show. Groucho asked what Hadacol was good for, and the good Senator replied:

"Why, it was good for five-and-a-half million dollars for me last year."

[Hadacol (That's All) - The Treniers]

Our Hadacol Play list:

  1. Hadacillin Boogie by Dreamtime favorite, Hank Penny

  2. La Valse de Hadacol - Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc (no relation)

  3. Hadacol Corners -Slim Willet and the Brushcutters. It's worth noting that the B-side of this single was Willet's composition and mega-crossover hit, Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes, a song and story that deserve their own Dreamtime.

  4. Hadacol (That's All) - The Treniers. Another group that deserves its own Dreamtime.

Sources: For those interested in learning more about Hadacol, the Hadacol Caravan, and Senator Dudley LeBlanc, a good starting point is the Wikipedia article on Hadacol.

Also worth reading is Chapter 15 of The Medical Messiahs: A Social History of Health Quackery in Twentieth-Century America, which I'm pretty certain was the primary source for the Theme Time Radio Hour research crew and Our Host's monologue.

Other sources I used included: Snake Oil, Hustlers and Hambones: The American Medicine Show by Ann Anderson; The Hadacol Boogie by Jeremy Alford; Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen; Sing a Sad Song: THE LIFE OF HANK WILLIAMS by Roger M. Williams; and Hank Williams, So Lonesome by Bill Koon and George William Koon.

***

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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Friday, February 22, 2008

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937


Mentioned by Our Host in the recent "Doctors" episode, with a sly aside that he has "nothing against downloads and mp3s," but still recommends that you buy the full CD (given that you can't find the more desirable 12" L.P.) in order to get the 72-page booklet, which you can even read without 'lectricity.

Interestingly, one of the accolades on the Amazon page is from Jack White, who noted in a 2005 interview,

"But what I'm listening to most of the time at present is an album called Good For What Ails You, which is an album of songs that people used to listen to at medicine shows all over the States. It's quite an interesting album and I think that people would be well advised to pick it up."
Fans of Emmett Miller will be pleased to find his The Gypsy here, one of Miller's stranger offerings in a strange career. And I'm not sure whether XM Radio or charlespoet added the musical coda after the TTRH close, but if you heard and liked the very weird The Cat's Got The Measles, The Dog's Got The Whooping Cough by Walter Smith you can also find that here on this wonderful compilation. Music directly from Weird Ol' America.

From Amazon: Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Artist's Choice" CD Liner Notes?

UPDATE:

As it turns out the information below was apparently fan-created notes, but still interesting information.

I picked up the CD on Tuesday, fanboy that I am driving through a snow storm to do so, and was amused to find in the credits:

Compilation produced by Tim Ziegler.

Apparently ol' Tim's complaints to Our Host back in the "Lock & Key" show impressed him. Maybe there's hope for us yet.

Dylan's liner notes could have come straight from TTRH. In fact, I'll have to go back to my own notes, but the story he tells about Junior Parker and I'm Going to Murder My Baby sounded very familiar. It also looks like XM and the TTRH team are still taking advantage of cross-promotion when they can There are blurbs both for the TTRH show and for Starbucks XM Cafe on XM Radio.

***

Courtesy of our friends at the All Along the Watchtower.dk forums, what may be the liner notes for the upcoming Starbucks' "Artist's Choice" Bob Dylan CD.

MUSIC THAT MATTERS TO HIM
Artist's Choice: Bob Dylan
Starbucks Entertainment
B0014A6DZQ



1. Pee Wee Crayton - Do Unto Others (2:23)
Connie Curtis "Pee Wee" Crayton (1914-1985), guitarplayer and singer, went like many others from Texas to California and started in 1944 in the music business after working in the shipyards. One of his main inspirations was Charlie Christian, but he learned from T-Bone Walker who he met and befriended. He seems to be the first blues guitarist who played a Fender Stratocaster. Recording since 1947, he signed in 1954 with Imperial, and had Do Unto Others, written and produced by Dave Bartholomew, out in June of that year ("this obscure cut is nothing less than a revelation").
On: Complete Aladdin & Imperial Recordings (1996).

2. Clancy Eccles - Don't Brag, Don't Boast (2:32)
Clancy Eccles (1940-2005), ska & reggae singer, songwriter, promoter,but most of all pioneering producer, started his singing career when he moved to Kingston in 1959. He was one of the first Jamaican singers with socially-oriented lyrics, connected with the Rastafari movement and the Jamaican Labour Party.
On: Clancy Eccles Presents His Reggae Revue (1995).

3. Stanley Brothers with The Clinch Mountain Boys - The Fields Have Turned Brown (2:32)
Carter (1925-1966) and Ralph (1927) Stanley started their famous bluegrass career after the war.This song by Carter was the b-side of their 1950 single Old Home.
On: Angels Are Singing (1966); The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers (1996); The Roots Of The Grateful Dead & Jerry Garcia (2001); The Definitive Collection 1947-1966 (2007).

4. Gus Viseur - Flambée Montalbanaise (Valse) (2:02)
Belgian/French accordionist (1915-1974) started playing the streets of Paris. Met Django Reinhardt in 1934 and was a member of the Hot Club de France. Helped create the accordion-jazz style known as manouche or Gypsy Swing. Recorded all the genres of the musette repertoire: valse, tango, paso-doble. On many compilations. Worked also with Edith Piaf. Lived 1960-1969 in Canada.
On: De Clichy A Broadway (1962).

5. Red Prysock - Hand Clappin' (2:38)
Wilbert Prysock (1926-1993) was one of the first big tenor sax players of rhythm & blues and rock & roll with a honking and growling sound. He played with Tiny Bradshaw and Lonnie Johnson before he joined the band for Alan Freed's stage shows in 1955. Hand Clappin', his instrumental classic and signature song came out in 1955 with That's The Groovy Thing as a single for Mercury.
On: Rock 'N Roll (1955).

6. Sol Hoopii & His Novelty Quartette - I Like You (2:.?)
Solomon Ho'opi'i Ka'ai'ai (1902-1953) was the youngest of 21 children. He came as stowaway to America in 1919 and had his first recording in 1927. He often mixed jazz and blues with traditional Hawaiian music and performed in many movies. He developed a C# minor tuning (BDEG#C#E) oposed to open A or G tuning. I Like You (1933) by Andy Lang and Sam Koki was the last recording before he switched from acoustic to electric guitar. In 1938 he joined evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and ended his active career.
On: King Of The Hawaiian Guitar, Acoustic & Electric 1927-1936 (2006); Classic Hawaiian Steel Guitar Performances 1933-1934 (2007).

7. Ray Price - I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me) (2:26)
Ray Noble Price (1926) started singing in 1948 after serving in the Marines. He met with Hank Williams Sr. and took over his band when he died. In 1953 he formed the Cherokee Cowboys, with famous members like Roger Miller and Willie Nelson. He is well known from songs like Release Me, Crazy Arms, Danny Boy and Heartaches By The Number and wrote this song with Rusty Gabbard.
On: The Essential Ray Price 1951-1962 (1991).

8. Stuff Smith & His Onyx Club Boys - I'se A Muggin' (part 1) (3:13)
Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith (1909-1967) started playing classical violin but was influenced by Louis Armstrong to play jazz. In the 1920's he moved from Texas to New York, where he soon was a regular at the Onyx Club with his own band. He also performed with Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Sun Ra and others. He must be the first to play electric violin and was famous long ago. This song, a scat-like novelty, was a hit in 1936. From 1965 he lived and worked in Europe. He died in Denmark and is burried there.
On: Complete 1936-1937 Sessions (2007).

9. Charley Jordan - Keep It Clean (2:48)
Charley Jordan (1890-1954) was a singer, guitarplayer and talent scout. This song, from 1930, was one of his biggest hits. He worked also with Memphis Minnie, Roosevelt Sykes, Peetie Wheatstraw, Big Joe Williams and others. Also a bootlegger besides his musical work, he was shot in the spine in 1928 and therefore had to walk with crutches.
On: The Essential Charley Jordan (2003).

10. Junior Wells - Little By Little (I'm Losing You) (3:11)
Amos Blakemore (1934-1998) better known as Junior Wells, was a blues singer/harmonica player. As a boy of 18 he was working with Muddy Waters. He also played with Buddy Guy and others and even the Stones and Van Morrison.
On: Coming At You (1968).

11. Patty & The Emblems - Mixed-Up, Shook-Up Girl (1:59)
Soul group around lead singer Patty Russell (+1998). Kind of one-hit wonder with this Top 40 hit from 1964 by Leon Huff.
On: Golden Classics (1997).

12. Gétatchéw Kassa - Tezeta (fast) (4:01)
Gétatchéw Kassa is one of the most succesful Ethiopian singers from the early 70s with more than 5000 copies sold of his hit record. The song starts slow and ends fast, so this is the second part. Tezeta is not only the title of this song, it's the name of a whole style. The word, pronounced: te-ze-TAH, means memory, or nostalgia. It's a genre like the blues or the fado.
On: V.A.: Ethiopiques, Vol. 1, Golden Years Of Modern Ethiopian Music 1969-1975 (2002).

13. Flaco Jiménez with Toby Torres & José Morante - Victimas De Huracan Beulah (4:03)
Flaco Jiménez (1939) is a wellknown and Grammy winning Tex-Mex accordion player. He worked ofcourse with Doug Sahm, but also notably with Dr. John, Ry Cooder and others.
On: Un Mojado Sin Licencia (1977).

14. Wanda Jackson - I Gotta Know (2:30)
Wanda Jean Jackson (1937) was as Little Miss Dynamite the first female rock & roll singer, later country & western. This is her solo debut from 1956.
On: Greatest Hits (1979); Queen Of Rockabilly (2000); Rockin' With Wanda (2002).

15. Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra - I Hear Music (3:59)
Eleanora Fagan Gough (1915-1959), better known as Billie Holiday, was one of the greatest blues singers of all time. This Columbia recording from 1940, written by Frank Loesser and Burton Lane, is not with "her" orchestra, but with the Teddy Wilson band. Famous members are Kenny Clarke, Don Byas and Roy Eldridge.
On: Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia Vol. 6 (2001).

16. Junior Parker - Pretty Baby (4:15)
Herman Parker Jr. (1932-1971), aka Mr. Blues, was influenced as a harmonica player by Sonny Boy Williamson. He worked also with Howlin' Wolf, Bobby Bland and B.B.King. He started his own band in 1951 and got a record contract first with Modern Records, in 1953 with Sun and later with Duke. This song was a single with That's Alright in 1957.
On: Backtracking: The Duke Recordings, Vol. 2 (1998); Way Back Home (2000).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dylan "Artist's Choice" CD Available in Starbucks Feb. 26


Another CD compilation to add to the "nearly-Theme Time Radio Hour" list. This one's track listing (courtesy of Uncut magazine actually courtesy of the All Along the Watchtower.dk forums) includes:


1. Pee Wee Crayton - Do Unto Others
2. Clancy Eccles - Don't Brag, Don't Boast
3. Stanley Brothers with The Clinch Mountain Boys - The Fields Have Turned
Brown
4. Gus Viseur - Flambée Montalbanaise
5. Red Prysock - Hand Clappin'
6. Sol Hoopii & His Novelty Quartette - I Like You
7. Ray Price - I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)
8. Stuff Smith & His Onyx Club Boys - I'se A Muggin' (part 1)
9. Charley Jordan - Keep It Clean
10. Junior Wells - Little By Little (I'm Losing You)
11. Patty & The Emblems - Mixed-Up, Shook-Up Girl
12. Gétatchéw Kassa - Tezeta
13. Flaco Jiménez with Toby Torres & José Morante - Victimas De Huracan
Beulah
14. Wanda Jackson - I Gotta Know
15. Billy Holiday & Her Orchestra - I Hear Music
16. Junior Parker - Pretty Baby

To say that the track listing is interesting is an understatement.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Anita Carter & Hank Williams - I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)



Not the greatest video quality, but one of those performances that makes you sit up and say, "Jesus!" It's what country music was all about, and occasionally - very occasionally - still is today.

I have a good friend from Alabama who spent most of her teen years trying to ignore country and the redneck white boys who proclaimed that it was the be-all and end-all of all music. Of course, back in the `70s contemporary country music was already well on its way to sucking, and the state of the art hasn't improved greatly. My friend Jill has always been vastly amused that a Northern boy was as deeply in love with country music as I am, but has come around a bit after hearing some of the older stuff, the "real country music" as Our Host would say. As I've often told her, growing up in Maine in the `60s was in many ways the equivalent of growing up in the South. At least as far as music went. I think the first time I saw a black person was when I was 7 years old, on a family trip to New York. In any case, as weird as it seems, Maine was a hot-bed of country music, both on the radio and on the tube. I used to regularly watch one-eyed Dick Curless, whose Tombstone Every Mile was featured on the Classic Rock episode of TTRH, on a local country-western music show.

The clip is from the Kate Smith Evening Hour, April 23, 19 and 52, and would be Williams' final television performance before his death in January, 1953. This was Williams second turn on the show. He first appeared with much of the cast of the Grand Ol' Opry in March `52, and that performance proved such a hit, that the producers of the show asked Hank and the rest of the Opry cast back for a return engagement. June Carter (who is not in blackface, let the video play for a few seconds) introduces her baby sister.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Episode 50 - Short-Shorts




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[Dylan on "The Letter"]

"By the way, 'The Letter' is the second shortest single to reach Number One. It's under two minutes long. The only song shorter was 'Stay' by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs." - Bob Dylan, "Mail" Theme Time Radio Hour, Season 2.

[Stay - Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs]

Outside of being the shortest song ever to reach #1 on the charts, clocking in at a tight 1:38, Maurice Williams' 19 and 60 Stay has stayed a popular song for years, gaining a whole new audience in 19 and 87 when it was showcased in the movie, Dirty Dancing.

Maurice Williams was born in Lancaster, South Carolina sometime between 19 and 38 and 1940 (sources differ on the year). He formed his first group, The Royal Charms in 1953, the same year that he'd write Stay and another mega-hit for the group that would become the Zodiacs, Little Darling. Both songs were written by Williams for a girl he was wooing.

By 1956, the Royal Charms had signed with Excello Records, based out of Nashville, and had changed their name to the Gladiolas, a kind of weird replacement suggested by the head of Excello, who thought there were already too many Royals and who liked flowers.

Little Darling by the Gladiolas was released by Excello in January of 19 and 57. It did great on the R&B charts, making it to the #11 spot, but Little Darling couldn't break into the Top 40 on the pop charts. But Little Darling would be a hit - in fact, chart to #1 - just not for the Gladiolas. A white group - the Diamonds - would cut their own version of the song, eventually selling over a million copies, as well as establishing the doo-wop style. Since Williams had retained full rights to the song, Little Darling ended up making him bags full of money at the tender age of 17.

In 1958, the Gladiolas decided to move from Excello, requiring yet another name change, as the label owned their name. A member of the group saw a German car, liked the name, and "the Zodiacs" were born. Two years later, the Zodiacs were cutting demos for Herald Records and Williams revived Stay for one of the recording sessions. Stay became their debut on the label, hitting the #1 slot in the fall of 1960, and became the biggest hit in the history of Herald Records.

Williams and the Zodiacs never had another record nearly as big as Stay, which has sold over 10 million copies and been covered by a variety of artists including the Four Seasons, Jackson Browne, and Chaka Khan.

Not bad for a song not much longer than a minute-and-a-half.

We'll be back to the second-shortest song to reach #1 in a bit, but to go up the charts, the all-time shortest charted single is Little Boxes by the Womenfolk, which ran just two seconds over a minute, and went to #83 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 19 and 64. The song was written by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, and made popular by Pete Seeger, whose own version ran over two minutes.

Little Boxes is featured in the Showtime TV series Weeds as its theme song. The first season used Reynolds' recording, and later seasons have included versions by Elvis Costello, Engelbert Humperdinck, Randy Newman, Joan Baez, and Death Cab for Cutie, among others.

We also have the term, "ticky-tack" thanks to Little Boxes, a particularly annoying tune that Tom Leher once described as, "the most sanctimonious song ever written," which I tend to agree with, and is the reason why I'm not inflicting any version on you.

[Some Kinda Earthquake - Duane Eddy]

Duane Eddy's 1959 hit Some Kinda Earthquake remains the shortest song to ever hit the American Top 40, officially weighing in at 1:17. Two other very short songs that made it into the Top Ten include The Dave Clark Five's I Like It Like That (#7 in 19 and 65), which ran a brisk 1:37 and which was the same length as Leslie Gore's Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows, which also charted that same year.

But beating them both as the shortest Top Ten single is this 1:28 number from 19 and 61, a one-girl duet that made it to #8 on the charts...

[Let's Get Together - Hayley Mills]

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hayley Mills was a young Fred's heart-throb back when I was just a sprout in Saco, Maine, and I would probably still come running if she crooked her finger at me.

Let's Get Together
is from the original The Parent Trap, one of the best live-action movies Disney ever made. As well as the 15-year-old Mills, the movie stars Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith doing his best John Wayne imitation. The role of the father, Mitch Evers , was originally written for John Wayne, with O'Hara slated for her regular role as his feisty Irish love interest. But the notoriously cheap Disney Studios refused to pay Wayne's going price, and substituted Brian Keith as a Wayne clone. Close your eyes and listen to Brian Keith's take on the role, and you can almost see John Wayne as father to the twins, Sharon and Susan.

The Disney songwriting team of the Sherman Brothers - who churned out most of Disney's hits in the `60s and `70s - wrote Let's Get Together, as well The Parent Trap's title song, which incidentally is sung by my other Disney girl, Annette Funicello. If anybody could have made me jilt Hayley, it would have been Annette.

I should note that the cut I played is taken from the movie. Hayley Mills' hit single has her doing the song as a solo. Of course, she did the other song as a solo too, I guess.

Okay, time to talk about the second-shortest #1 single ever, and I've got a problem, because I'm not sure Our Host and the Theme Time Radio Hour crack research team have it right that The Letter is the one. In fact, there's some pretty convincing evidence ag'in it. But considering how Mr. D. wailed on poor ol' Tim Ziegler about being too anal over facts and figures in the Lock & Key episode, I'm a little scared about bringing it up.

[Dylan - This isn't a classroom]

But, what the hell. Here's the deal. Nowhere can I find any evidence that The Letter was the second-shortest single ever to reach #1. "Under two minutes," yep the song certainly is. I've found versions ranging from a high of 1:57 to a low of 1:52. But let's give the original single the benefit of the doubt and say it clocked in at that 1:52. That's still eight seconds longer than the song which probably has the best claim to actually be the second-shortest #1 single.

[(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear - Elvis Presley]

From 19 and 57, Mr. Presley's #1 Summer Hit... all one minute and 44 seconds of it.

Now, I suspect this is one of those geeky things that guys in thick glasses and over-tight t-shirts argue about at record conventions, and who knows who's right? Are we counting what it says on the record label or are we timing it? Are we using the single that actually charted or another version? Does anyone care?

Maybe somewhere out there there is a version of The Letter shorter than 1:52, maybe it's even shorter than Teddy Bear. But in the end it probably doesn't matter except to guys like Tim Ziegler... because it's all about the music.

But I still think you got it wrong, Bob.


Some show notes: This Dreamtime marks our 50th podcast, believe it or not. When I started way back in July 2006, I had 50 shows targeted, the same number as what we thought was going to be Theme Time's total run at the time. But Our Host has decided to keep on going... and I've decided I'm still having too much fun doing Dreamtime to stop.

So, thank you all who have been with me from the beginning, welcome to those who have recently joined the Dreamtime audience, and I hope you all stay on-board as Dreamtime continues to roll along, talking about Theme Time Radio Hour trivia as we find it.

Thanks to all of you, and we'll be back soon with a new show.

Sources: The primary source for this show was The Both Sides Now Stereo Chat Board.

Maurice Williams biographical information comes from his home site.

***

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, February 07, 2008

Theme Time Radio Hour CDs - The List

A reader/listener wrote to Dreamtime recently asking if there were any "official" releases of Theme Time on CD, which got your host studying on the subject last night. As far as I know there are at least four different TTRH-related CDs either available, or soon to be available - all with different degrees of "officialness," I guess. In no particular order, those are:

Theme Time Radio Hour with Your Host Bob Dylan

From Ace Records U.K. To be released February 26, 2008. Available in the U.S. as an import from Amazon, or from Amazon. U.K. 50 tracks 2-CD set representing an excellent overview of the TTRH playlist. The full track list can be found here. Dylan's commentary is not included.

Ace claims this as the "authorized" TTRH compilation, done in conjunction with Theme Time producer Eddie Gorodetsky. The set is advertised as coming with a 40-page book of photographs, illustrations, and liner notes.

As a piece of trivia - which is what Dreamtime is all about after all - The Ace promotional copy notes that 828 songs were played on Theme Time in Season 1.

THE BEST OF BOB DYLAN'S THEME TIME RADIO HOUR

From ISIS Magazine. Available now. 2-CD 52-track set (one track from each TRRH show of Season 1, plus two extra songs from the Time and Hair episodes). Comes with 16-page booklet. Track list can be found at the link above. Dylan's commentary is not included.

Can be ordered through ISIS (see link above) or from Amazon U.K.

To editorialize, I suspect this not-quite-a-bootleg release is what prompted the "authorized" version. As far as I can determine, no one from TTRH was involved in its creation, and the track list relies heavily on artists whose music is out-of-copyright, at least in the U.K.

Radio Bob: 15 Brilliant Tracks from Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour

A promotional CD that came with the 10th anniversary issue of Uncut magazine in 2007. Track list:

1 - Dave Alvin - Fourth of July
2 - Hank Williams - My Son Calls Another Man Daddy
3 - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - The Big Guns
4 - Sonny Boy Williamson - Pontiac Blues
5 - Sexsmith & Kerr - Raindrops in My Coffee
6 - Bukka White - Fixin' to Die
7 - Laura Cantrell - When The Roses Bloom Again
8 - Blind Willie Johnson - John the Revelator
9 - The Detroit Cobras - Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat)
10- Robert Johnson - Me and the Devil Blues
11 - Mary Gauthier - I Drink
12 - Elmore James - Talk to Me Baby
13 - John Prine - Christmas in Prison
14 - Muddy Waters - Blow Wind Blow
15 - Richard & Linda Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights

No Dylan commentary. Not available in stores. Best way of tracking this one down is probably through eBay, where it can be found relatively cheaply. Nice compilation of music even without the TTRH connection, and it contains, as Dylan noted in Season 2, the first artist played on Theme Time: Muddy Waters and Blow Wind Blow.


Baseball: Theme Time Radio Hour with Your Host Bob Dylan

As close as we're likely to get to an "official" Theme Time release anytime soon. This was a promotional CD never, as the saying goes, sold in stores.

As with the Uncut CD, it can regularly be found on eBay and Amazon, sometimes at ridiculous prices, more often at prices more reasonable.

The complete Episode 4 of Season 1 first broadcast May 2006, including Dylan commentary. Track list:

* Take Me Out To The Ball Game - Bob Dylan
* Take Me Out To The Ball Game - The Skeletons
* Baseball Boogie - Mabel Scott
* Home Run - Chance Halladay
* Baseball Baby - Johnny Darling
* Baseball Canto - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
* Three Strikes And You're Out - Cowboy Copas
* The Ball Game - Sister Wynona Carr
* Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball - Buddy Johnson
* Joltin' Joe DiMaggio - Les Brown & His Orchestra (with Betty Bonney)
* Joe DiMaggio's Done It Again - Billy Bragg & Wilco
* Don Newcomb Really Throws That Ball - Teddy Brannon Orchestra
* Newk's Fadeaway - Sonny Rollins
* Say Hey - The Treniers
* The Wizard Of Oz - Sam Bush
* 3rd Base, Dodger Stadium - Ry Cooder
* Heart - Damn Yankees (Original Broadway Cast)

If you have an objection to "unofficial" collections of Theme Time, and want to give someone a taste of what the show is all about, this one is the one to get.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rants and Raves: "This isn't a classroom here."


In my copious free time, I need to document the various rants Dylan occasionally lets forth on TTRH. I think this one, from the recent Lock & Key episode, ranks as #3 among my favorites, right behind "What happened to country music?" and "Commercial affiliation."

Note the perfect, stubborn geekiness of "Tim," who isn't going to let go from his assertion that, by God, it was the wrong label, no matter what Mr. D. says:

Our Host: "What's that Tex? Someone needs to talk to me on Line 2? All right. Hello caller, you're on the air. What's your name and where you calling from?"

Tim: "Yeah, uh, my name is Tim Ziegler calling from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois."

OH: "Why, that's beautiful country. What can I do for you, Tim?"

Tim: "Yeah, uh, I've been listening to the show all day, and that song you just played, 'Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door.' Well, you know, you told everyone it was on the King Record label, and, uh, I went to Wikipedia and sorry to tell you, it was on Apollo Records."

OH: "Huh! What do ya know? You're probably right, Tim. You know, sometimes we tell you who wrote the song, what kind of music it is, who else recorded it. But, you know, sometimes we don't get it right. I mean, it's important to remember, this isn't a classroom here. This is music we're playing. It's music of the field, of the pool hall. The back alley crap game. The bar room and the bedroom. We don't want to make it dusty and academic. It's full of sweat and blood. It's like life itself. If every once in awhile we get a name wrong, or we tell you it's on the wrong label, it's not going to kill anybody, Tim. Just listen to the music."

Tim: "Well, I hear what you're saying. But, ah, you know, it was on the Apollo Record label."

OH: "Thanks for your call, Tim."

Tim: "Yeah, thanks."

OH: "Well, there's no pleasing some people. That was 'Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door' by Wynonie Harris on the Apollo Record label. You happy, Tim?"