Friday, April 30, 2010

Syl Johnson: Take Me To The River

It’s First Fridays and being that it’s my blog, I am allowed to take any liberties that I want with that designation. Today, I am not going to feature the first recording of the tune (although I am including it), I am focusing on the first single release of an Al Green and "Teenie" Hodges composition. Syl Johnson’s interpretation of “Take me to the River” was released a year after the original and in my opinion (which it and $7.50 will get you a double latte mocha espresso) is the better recording – and far superior to the Talking Heads' hit version.

Memphis based Hi Records, which had both Green and Johnson as part of their stable of artists, decided not to release Al Green’s original as a single, but rather saved the song for Johnson’s single release off of his “Total Explosion” LP. It proved to be the most successful single of his career charting at #7 on the R&B charts and #48 on the Hot 100. Only one single did better on Billboard’s Hot 100 at that was the 1974 release of “I Want to Take you Home” which peaked at #40.

There are numerous similarities between Johnson’s and Green’s recordings of this tune and this can be attributed to the fact that, while the final mixes of the two were different, the arrangements are basically the same, were both produced by Willie Mitchell, and featured the likes of the same rhythm and horn sections.

The Hi Rhythm Section featured Howard Grimes on drums and the three Hodges brothers: Charles on organ, Leroy on bass, and Mabon “Teenie” (the song’s coauthor) on guitar. The Memphis Horns, featuring Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love. appeared on nearly all of the recordings at cross-town rival Stax/Volt Records. They really became part of the unique Memphis sound. Originally a six-piece, the Memphis Horns eventually dwindled to only Jackson on trumpet and Love on tenor sax. Willie Mitchell’s brother James provided the horn arrangements.

Al Green’s Original

Although the two versions shared enough musical DNA to prove the same ancestry, they were unique vehicles of expression. Notably, Syl Johnson’s version has him playing harmonica – which greatly adds to the appeal of his rendition. Additionally, Johnson’s mix is hotter as well. This was presumably done for the benefit AM radio audiences listening via small speakers in their cars and on transistor radios. The AM factor was often considered in relation to a single's mix down of recordings. Remember 1975 was still before the popularity of FM radio completely overtook AM, the invention of boom box, and custom car audio that accentuated the low end of songs. Finally, the horns are out front (right channel only) in Johnson's single and not subdued as they were in Green’s original.

Even with the better mix, Johnson’s version has been relegated to the forgotten song bin, as when oldies stations play "Take me to the River" – it is nearly always Al Green’s recording that is played. Green dedicated this record to his late cousin, the Little Junior Parker. Although the song has some strong religious undertones and it remains a popular Green recording, he dropped it from his repertoire when he became the minister of the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church. Rolling Stone places Green’s version at 117 of the top 500 recordings of all time.

Talking Heads’ Hit Version

The song took on a third life in 1978 when Talking Heads recorded “Take me to the River” for their second LP, “More Songs about Buildings and Food.” Coproduced by Brian Eno, the Talking Heads version was a head-on collision that occurred at the intersection of R&B and Punk. David Byrne admitted in The Independent that he was drawn to this song because it “combines teenage lust with baptism - not equates, you understand, but throws them in the same stew, at least. A potent blend.” While not as good as either Green or Johnson’s recording, it was the hit version charting in the US at #26 in 1979.

And now you know the reason why I picked Syl Johnson’s version to feature.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Crowded House: Don't Dream It's Over

Today’s TV Thursdays’ song was used in numerous TV episodes and promotional advertisements in the US; therefore, it would be difficult to enumerate them all. So I'll be lazy and not even try. Crowded House from New Zealand released “Don’t Dream it's Over” in 1986 on their debut LP. It charted at #2 in the US and was a number one record in Canada and their native New Zealand.

This was one of my favorite songs of the mid 1980s. So much so, I used to perform this with the bands The Game and Lyvyn Daylytz. While the range was a little high for me even then, we tended to do this later in a set to give my vocal chords time to stretch. Being that this was over 20 years ago, it would be impossible for me to even try and hit those high notes these days.

I also loved the Hammond organ on this song and would emulate it with my Prophet 5. The Prophet’s setting at 23 was the perfect sound for this organ part. The mod wheel even allowed for a pseudo Leslie speaker effect. This was before I got my Oberheim OB-3X (Hammond emulator) which can sound exactly like the real thing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

I was considering another song today, but the more I thought about it, there are very few songs that I consider haunting. One in particular was Roberta Flack’s “The First Time I’ve Ever Saw Your Face” is one. This particular song was not so much because of its performance, but rather for the circumstance surrounding my hearing the tune and finally attending to its message.

When I was a sophomore in college, one Friday evening I wasn’t feeling well, so I opted on staying in while it appeared that everyone else in the dorm either was on a date, had left for the weekend, or had attended the home basketball game. I thought I was alone, but I was wrong. Some other poor, miserable, and wretched soul was also alone and confine to the dorm on a Friday's eve. As I lay in my bed, I could hear this song being played by another one of the dorm's residents – probably from the floor above me. Whoever he was, he repeated this track over and over.

Its haunting feel was accentuated by the tomb-like ambiance of the dorm - concrete and devoid of life. The song played ever so faintly in the background, but it was loud enough to discern every word. It was especially poignant with the reprise, “your face, your face, your face . . . your face.” Prior to that moment, I hadn’t given much thought to this song, although I had heard it many times before.

The song originated in 1957 as a folk ballad written by Ewan MacColl for his future wife Peggy Seeger. The song became a giant hit in 1972 for Roberta Flack after it was featured the previous year in Clint Eastwood's movie, “Play Misty for Me.” It was a number one song on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts and the single was certified gold. One source admitted that Ewan MacColl hated this and every version of his handicraft, and he especially despised Elvis’ rendition. It is said that he referred to these covers as his own “chambers of horrors.” I'm sure he cashed the royalty checks just the same.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Amazing Blondel: Celestial Light

I remember their name – Amazing Blondel – who could forget a name like this; however, I cannot say that I ever heard their music until my brother sent me this cut about a month ago. Their name came from Blondel de Nesle the court musician of Richard the Lionhearted, who when he found out that his master was imprisoned somewhere on the continent began traveling to every castle in central Europe so that he may find his king and help him escape. The “amazing” adjective was added to be similar to the “Incredible” String Band. This song was performed live in Norway in 2004 and is called “Celestial Light.”

The band consisted of John Gladwin, Eddie Baird, and Terry Wincott. Wincott is the individual playing the unique wind instruments. He starts with a tenor recorder, moves to a crumhorn, and finishes off with what appears to be a bass recorder. I was very pleased with their Renaissance influenced instrumentation on this tune. Also, their vocal harmonies are “amazing” – unlike the Incredible String Band which are not so “incredible.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sheryl Crow: Walk Away

As with every Monday, I feature a cover of a song that was made famous by someone else. Today’s cover has Sheryl Crow doing a song from the James Gang’s third album (“Thirds”). Normally Crow plays guitar; however, she moved to the bass on this number. There is a quite a bit of negativity on the Internet concerning her covers of earlier rock songs. I’m really not sure why folks don’t like her – but even my friends have expressed disdain towards her. Needless to say, I believe she does an excellent job these old rock tunes as she does with her live recording of this James Gang classic.

James Gang original

Although I don’t consider myself a purist, I still prefer the James Gang’s original over Crow’s excellent cover. Written by Joe Walsh, the North East Ohio band released this single in 1971. While “Walk Away” failed to enter the Top 40, it did get significant airplay in the Rust Belt. Nationally, the single charted at #51 and was the band’s highest charting single. The album peaked at #27.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Seatrain: Song Of Job

Back a few weeks ago, Greg Rector suggested a song for a Spiritual Sunday selection. I had forgotten about Seatrain – a band that is a cross between folk and fusion. From their second album, “Seatrain” – today’s selection, “Song of Job,” tells the story of the Old Testament character from the poetic book that bears his name. It is a pretty good representation of the story.

Seatrain was an outgrowth from the previous band Blues Project and featured vocalist Jim Roberts, guitarist Peter Rowan, violinist Richard Greene, drummer Larry Atamanuik, keyboardist Lloyd Baskin, and bassist Andy Kulberg. This album was produced by George Martin who produced all of the original Beatles albums except “Let it Be.” I believe this was Martin’s first production assignment after the Beatles. The album was released on Capitol Records in 1970.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Following the release of Fairport Convention’s most successful album “Liege and lief,” lead vocalist Sandy Denny, who encouraged the band to discover their English folk roots, left the band – because she wanted explore her own songwriting skills. Her next project was named Fotheringay after the Northampton castle where Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587. Sandy had previously written a song by the same name and was released by Fairport Convention on their second LP, “What we did on our Holiday” (one of two LPs that was named “Fairport Convention” in the US).

Fotheringay included Sandy’s boyfriend (and later husband) Australian Trevor Lucas on guitar and vocals, Gerry Conway on drums, Pat Donaldson on bass, and American Jerry Donahue on lead guitar. Lucas and Conway had previously been in the folk-rock band Eclection, while Donaldson and Donahue were former members of Poet and the One Man Band. Although material was gathered to release a second album by the band, only the self titled album would be released during the lifetime of the band, Sandy Denny, and Trevor Lucas.

I got thinking about this album recently as my friend John Sellards just got a copy of the American vinyl release on A&M in perfect condition. I’d been telling him for some time that this is a recording that he needed to have as he is a Sandy Denny fan. I purchased my copy in 1973, but at that time I had to get the British import, as the local stores were no longer carrying the American issue, although it was still in print. I liked the album so much, that it was one of the 25 albums I took to college that fall. I left the remainder of my collection of about 150 albums back home.

Four years ago, I received a copy of the reissue CD with three additional cuts. The original album is as good as I remember it; however, as much as I liked Sandy Denny, my favorite cut of the album is Trevor Lucas’ rendition of the Gordon Lightfoot tune “The Way I Feel.” Since I have already featured this song, my second favorite also features Trevor Lucas with their rendition of Bob Dylan's "Too Much of Nothing."

After one year, Fotheringay disbanded and everyone but Donaldson found their way into Fairport Convention. Initially, Gerry Conway was a sideman on three cuts on the album “Rosie”; however, he has been a member since 1999. Lucas and Donahue were members from ’72 to ’75 and Sandy rejoined from 1974-75 and appeared on one live and one studio LP.

The LP in its Entirety

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jimi Hendrix: Angel

Well this is the last day of my Ronnie Lane marathon and my Friday First tune is the original recording that was covered by Rod Stewart (and the Faces) – Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel.” Following Hendrix’s death on September 18, 1970, drummer Mitch Mitchell and recording engineer Eddie Kramer began listening to hundreds of unreleased Hendrix recordings. Some were complete; however, the majority of the songs were not.

In 1971, Reprise Records released the first posthumous Hendrix album, “Cry for Love” based on the material Mitchell and Kramer believed to comprise the song list of what Hendrix intended to release on his next LP. “Angel,” the second single from the album, failed to chart.

Rod Stewart’s Version

In 1972, Rod Stewart recorded the song for his fourth solo album “Never a Dull Moment.” While the Faces appeared on the album with Rod, they were credited individually, but not as the band. This was done for contractual reasons because Rod was under contract as a solo artist with Mercury Records and Faces (as a unit) recorded for Warner Brothers.

Released as the follow-up single to “You Wear It Well,” “Angel” was a top five hit in the UK, but only charted at #40 stateside. The single was issued with a non-album track, “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Made a Looser out of Me),” and since this song wasn’t available on the album, I did what I typically did in those instances – I bought the single. The flip would later surface on “The Best of Rod Stewart” in 1976. Even though “Angel” had a lackluster performance in the US, it still out performed Hendrix’s original.

Frequently, Rod and the Faces appeared on the British TV show “Top of the Pops.” While the instrumentation on the performances was the actual backing tracks, artists typically sang live while the band pretended to play. The Faces used this opportunity to not take themselves too seriously.

On one of their performances of “Maggie May,” British broadcaster and journalist John Peel can be seen mimicking the mandolin parts while Ron Wood and Rod Stewart kick a soccer ball at the back of the stage. On another performance, Ron Wood plays a guitar made from a toilet seat. Still on another performance, all of the band members are intentionally playing the wrong instruments.

When they performed “Angel” on “Top of the Pops” in November 1972, all of the band was present except bassist Ronnie Lane – well, uh sort of . . . as a life size cutout of Lane playing bass was onstage with the band. At one point in the performance, Ian McLagan stands behind the cutout acting like he is playing the bass. While Lane is present in spirit, he bass is heard on the recording. That performance can be found below.

That concludes my tribute to one of the lesser known, but major contributors to the world of rock ‘n roll – Ronnie Lane. I hope you enjoyed this week as much as I have.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Faces: Ooh La La

Every Thursday I feature a song that has a connection to American television. Some songs are themes to television shows and other songs are featured in commercials. The title cut to the Faces’ 1973 “Ooh La La” album has been used in at least two TV commercials and two promos in America; there are numerous other examples elsewhere in the world.

Co-written by Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane, “Ooh La La” features Wood on the lead vocals. The song was originally intended for Rod Stewart to sing; however; producer Glyn Johns felt Wood’s voice was better suited for the song. While the song was released by Warner Brothers as a promo copy for radio, it was not available commercially in a 45 rpm format.

Like yesterday’s song “Itchycoo Park,” “Ooh La La” is another example of a song with an obscured title. The hook line, which is not “ooh la la,” but “I wish that I knew what I know now . . . when I was younger,” is a perfect bed for commercials dealing with the coming of age and the ignorance that normally accompanies youth.

Mitsubishi Commercial

In 2001, the song was used in a Mitsubishi Galant commercial that features a young boy learning how to drive.

Nike’s “Kid Tiger” Ad

While I’m definitely not a Tiger Woods’ fan, Nike used the song to promote Tiger’s endorsement of their products in a unique look at him as a young boy on the golf course. I’m sure back in November, he was probably thinking “I wish that I knew what I know now” as he was in a self-imposed exile after his, uh, accident. Perhaps if Tiger would have followed "Old Grandad's" advice about women, he may have a larger fan base today.

Men of a Certain Age promo

Last year, “Ooh La La” was used for two TV promos: Major League Baseball and for TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age.” Like Tiger Woods, I don’t have much use for this show. While it had two of my favorite TV stars, Andre Braugher and Ray Romano, I anticipated its arrival. Unfortunately, I barely made it through the pilot. Being a man of that certain age, I thought it portrayed us as buffoons. Well, we might be buffoons at times, but we certainly don’t want to be reminded of it constantly as this show seems to do. Anyway, “Ooh La La” was used for many of the promos for the show.

Faces Related Covers

“Ooh La La” was the final studio LP by the Faces; and in little over a year following its release, the band broke up. Ronnie Lane, who felt the Faces had been relegated to being Rod Stewart’s back-up band and not their own unit, left in 1973. Lane was replaced by Tetsu Yamauchi who was the final bassist for Free. In 1975, Ron Wood began touring with the Rolling Stones which precipitated the Faces’ demise.

The song was performed by several ex-Faces members including its co-authors.

Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance

Recorded in April 1974, Ronnie Lane with the ever changing line-up of his band Slim Chance. Ronnie is playing a Zemaitis resonator guitar.

Tony Zemaitis took the resonator from Ronnie Lane's
Gretsch Sho-Bro model to make this custom guitar

Ron Wood

Thirty years after Wood sang the original, he performed it in the accompanying video. His voice is not a strong as it was in 1973 – he has become the “Old Grandad” as referenced in the song. This video was recorded for “Strat Pack” a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster.

It is ironic that Wood is not playing a Fender instrument, but rather a guitar made by their American competitor Gibson. Similar to the “Gibson Ron Wood Signature J-200” model, the guitar is a J-180, which originally was sold under the “Everly Brothers” model name. The differences between Wood’s J-180 and an original “Everly Brothers” model are as follows: the body is red and not black, it has the abalone flame inlays as found on his signature model and not mother of pearl stars, and it has white and not tortoiseshell pick guards.

Gibson Everly Brothers Model (now J-180)

Rod Stewart & the Corrs

In 1998, Rod recorded the song for his “When We Were the New Boys” album. As a single, the song charted at #16 in the UK and #39 in the US. From May 1998, Rod performs on stage with the Corrs who contributed as session musicians on the album.


Poor old Granddad
I laughed at all his words
I thought he was a bitter man
He spoke of women's ways

"They'll trap you, then they use you
Before you even know
For love is blind and you're far too kind
Don't ever let it show"

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.

The Can Can's such a pretty show
They'll steal your heart away
But backstage, back on earth again
The dressing rooms are grey

They come on strong and it ain't too long
Before they make you feel a man
But love is blind and you soon will find
You're just a boy again

When you want her lips, you get a cheek
Makes you wonder where you are
If you want some more and she's fast asleep
Then she's twinkling with the stars.

"Poor young grandson, there's nothing I can say
You'll have to learn, just like me
And that's the hardest way

Ooh la la, Ooh la, la, la
Ooh la la, Ooh la, la, la”

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Magic of Tape Flanging

While it can be done electronically today, a studio technique that was occasionally used on rock ‘n roll records in the 60s and 70s was called tape flanging. Used as an effect on several hit records, flanging is often described as being "jet like" or like a whooshing sound. One of the landmark recordings that used tape flanging was Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park” – their only American hit.

The song features flanging during guitarist Steve Marriott’s vocals on the bridge where he sings:
“I feel inclined to blow my mind; get hung up; feed the ducks with a bun.
They all come out to groove about – Be nice and have fun in the sun.”
The effect continues into Kenney Jones’ drum fills. It returns during the ending choruses as well.  The song's flanging is accentuated in a stereo recording, as illustrated below.

The song is our third in our series of recordings this week featuring Ronnie Lane. “Itchycoo Park” was co-written by Lane and Marriott; on the recording, Ronnie plays bass and provides backing vocals. It is also is an example of an absent or obscured title that is not part of the song’s hook. In this case, the chorus is “It’s all too beautiful.” Since “Itchycoo Park” is found once in the song, it is an obscured title. Songs like Robert Plant’s “Big Log” and Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women Numbers 12 and 35” have absent titles as they never appear in the song’s lyrics.

“Itchycoo Park,” which got its name from the stinging nettles found in a park in Ilford where the band had hung out, was a number one record in Canada. It charted at 3 in the UK and was a top 20 record (#16) in the US. The main attraction to the song was the use of tape flanging, which provided a psychedelic feel to this 1967 hit. Similar to phase shifting and chorus effects, which generally process two signals electronically; flanging differs because the delay in those signals is much longer – usually between 40 and 50 milliseconds.

Phase shifting allows one signal (the wet signal) to be processed in and out of phase in intervals that can be controlled with the speed of the effect. The dry or untouched signal interacts with the wet signal to perform a Doppler or circular effect. Mechanically, early phase shifting was accomplished by using a Leslie rotating speaker. Most often used in conjunction with Hammond Organs, George Harrison often played slide guitar through a Leslie speaker.

Chorus effects have a shorter delay at about 10-30 milliseconds and the wet signal is delayed from the dry signal and can provide a fatter sound. When used on a single instrument, a chorus delay gives the appearance that one of the signals is out of tune. On a piano the effect creates a honky-tonk piano sound. At one point in time, I was using both a chorus and phase shifter simultaneously on my Prophet 5’s strings settings to make the sound much fuller. It worked in giving the string sound more presence in a live context.

For completeness sake, I should mention three other related effects: reverb, delay, and echo which can be performed mechanically or electronically. Reverb is a repeat of a signal with a short delay but a long decay of the sound. The effect can be generated digitally, through magnetic tape (as a feedback of the dry signal), or as in amplifiers - the wet signal is sent along a spring. The delay effect which can be produced digitally or via a tape transport is a longer delay of the wet signal than flanging and echo is even longer yet. In all three, the wet signal does not (typically) match or compete with the dry signal. It is used to enhance the dry signal and not to change the overall sound as in phase shifting, chorus, or flanging effects.

Tape flanging, the subject of today's post, is quite unique in its presentation and how it is generated. Flanging is accomplished by having two reel-to-reel tape decks of the song play simultaneously while the two signals are mixed down to a third record deck. The delay caused the jet like whoosh was accomplished by the engineer touching the edge (flange) of the take up reel on one machine to slow down the speed of one deck to create a delay and then he repeated the process on the second deck to return the machines to being in sync. The process of going out and back into sync created the distinctive sound.

It is said that the name flanging originated with Beatles producer, George Martin. Since the engineer touched the flange, George began using the term “flanging” for the process. Apparently, John Lennon popularized its usage outside of the Beatles’ circle of influence, and the rest they say is history.

Miss Toni Fisher: The Big Hurt

While there are competing earlier incidents of the effect being used, it is generally thought that Miss Toni Fisher’s #3 recording of “The Big Hurt” was the first use of flanging on a popular recording. David S. Gold and Stan Ross, owners of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, acknowledge this claim and it is often cited in various books on studio recording.

The engineers at the session were attempting to create a stereo mix by combining two mono signals of the same recording. The original intention was to mix each deck’s signal down to separate tracks by placing one of the decks out of phase; however, the engineer summed the signals and voila – instant flanging. The whooshing sound which occurs throughout the song can be attributed to minor fluctuations in the speeds of the two master decks. No hand manipulation was used on this recording.

Eric Burdon and the Animals: Sky Pilot

Generally considered a Vietnam War protest song, Eric Burdon’s song about military chaplains is not overtly anti-war, but it is not pro-war either. The flanging effect is more like “The Big Hurt” than “Itchycoo Park,” as the effect is throughout the entire song and not controlled. “Sky Pilot” charted in the US at #14 in 1968. Back home in the UK, the song just barely hit the top 40.

The Doobie Brothers: Listen to the Music

From The Doobie Brother’s second LP “Toulouse Street,” “Listen to the Music” was their first top-40 single charting at #11 in 1972. What’s not to like about this song. It’s positive, upbeat, has a banjo, and features tape flanging. Although uncredited, the banjo was played by Patrick Simmons. The flanging effect here mimics the usage by Small Faces as it is only used on the song’s bridge.

Be careful of sites on the Internet that purport to have listings of songs with flanging effects. As I listened to many of these songs, I discovered that flanging wasn't being used - as it has a unique sound. For example, the Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine" is a song found among many of these lists - the effect used on that recording was tape reverb and not flanging.

When you spend 20 years in radio, you learn how to do interesting things such as this and I guess my first experience with flanging happened at WAMX in Ashland, KY in 1979. One night, the fellow who worked the graveyard shift (and went by the name of "The Mole") showed me how to do this with two records. So when I wanted to play around with it, I would put copies of the same recording on both turntables and let them whoosh. In the 21st century, flanging can be emulated digitally through filters and the whooshing sound can be synthesized; however, nothing beats good old-fashioned, mechanically produced tape flanging.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane: Annie

Was I fibbing or was it just a change of plans? Pick one. Yesterday, I promised a half-marathon of Ronnie Lane related music and . . . I am not going to fulfill that promise; I going to exceed it with a complete marathon. I didn’t think I could find TV Thursday or First Friday selections, but I wracked my brain yesterday and came up with some interesting inclusions for the remainder of the week.

It’s Traditional Tuesday and that designation is very loose indeed. Sometimes the songs are actual traditional selections and other times the songs have a traditional feel. For today, it is the latter and our featured tune was co-written by Eric Clapton, Ronnie Lane, and Ronnie's wife: Kate Lambert.

It comes from the collaborative work of Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane titled “Rough Mix.” On the song “Annie,” Lane handled lead vocals, Clapton played Dobro,© and Peter Hope Evans and Benny Gallagher respectively added harmonica and accordion. One reviewer of the LP at stated, “Annie is a song that might have been popular a hundred years ago.” I agree – it has always been my favorite song off the album.

I forgot how good an album this was. I don’t remember the circumstances of why or where I bought it, but I probably got it from a record store in Huntington, WV that sold promo copies illegally. I bought all of my records from this store – as they were dirt cheap. All I know is I was living in Ashland, Kentucky at the time and the corner is cut on the album indicates that it was either cut out or a late promo copy – without the stamp and white label. Brett Hartenbach’s review of the album states, “Rough Mix stands as a minor masterpiece and an overlooked gem in both artists’ vast bodies of work.” Hartenbach added, “Lane’s tunes, especially the beautiful ‘Annie,’ possess an underrated charm.”

The album, which credits the collaborators as playing “various acoustic & electric guitars, mandolins & bass guitars, ukuleles & very involved mind games,” was recorded following Lane’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis – the same degenerative disease from which his mother suffered. It is said that Pete Townshend suggested the project to help Lane with his medical bills. Other stories indicate that the album was completed to fulfill Lane's contract with Atlantic Records for a release by the reformed Small Faces that never was recorded.

While Lane and Townshend didn’t write any songs together for the album (Pete doesn’t work that way) and only sang together on three cuts, they collaborated instrumentally along with a star studded cast that included: Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, John Entwistle, Mel Collins, Ian Stewart and others. Released originally in the US on ATCO, the album peaked at #45 on Billboard’s Top Album Charts in 1977.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Faces: Maybe I'm Amazed

Lately I’ve been ruminating over rock musicians that I’ve lost track of over the years and one of these was Ronnie Lane. Ronnie Lane, hmm, now there’s a name I hadn’t thought about for years and in the last several weeks I reacquainted myself with this rock ‘n roll legend from the ‘60s and 70s. I had lost all track of him in the 80s and did not realize that he had contracted multiple sclerosis and had eventually succumbed to pneumonia in 1997.

For those who remember his name, he needs no introduction; for those who don’t, Ronnie was the bassist in both Small Faces and Faces. In 1973, he left Faces and began touring and recording on his own and in collaboration with others. With my recent rediscovery of his music, I have decided to feature three days of music by Ronnie Lane. To fulfill Monday’s cover feature, I bring you Faces cover of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

The song, which features lead vocals by Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart, is found as a live recording on 1971’s “Long Player” album.  I believe I received "Long Player" as a birthday present in 1973 or 74.  Warners issued a studio version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” in advance of the LP; however, it never charted. The album peaked at #29 in the US and #31 in the UK. "Long Player" was released with two different covers – an art-deco cover for the UK release and a nostalgic style cover for the American release.

UK Release

US Release

The song also features keyboardist Ian McLagan playing a Wurlitzer Electric Piano and organ (it sounds like a Hammond, but I can't be sure). Having owned a Wurlitzer, it was a great little instrument that I bought in 1977 and kept until 1987 – selling it for the same amount that I paid for it -$250. In ten years, I beat it to death and the upper pickups were about gone – but you still couldn’t beat its sound. While the Rhodes Electric Piano was the mainstay instrument for most bands, I found the action – well, a little mushy. Although its bell like sounds and the optional Leslie stereo speaker system gave the Rhodes its own distinctive sound, I still liked my Wurlizter. There were others who chose the Wurlitzer sound over the Rhodes - most notably the Atlanta Rhythm Section.

Paul McCartney’s Original

From the solo LP “McCartney,” “Maybe I’m Amazed” received considerable airplay as an album cut in 1970. Paul played all of the instruments on the album and it was a commercial success staying at #1 for three weeks in the US and debuting at #2 in the UK where it stayed for three weeks. It was unable to knock Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” album out the top spot that it held for 41 non-consecutive weeks.

Paul McCartney & Wing’s Cover

Although Paul McCartney never released a studio version of the single, a live version by Wings was issued as a 45 in 1977. Coming from the “Wings over America” album, the single peaked in the US at #10 and at #28 in the UK.

Tomorrow, I'll feature another Ronnie Lane tune that has a traditional flavor and that comes from the "Rough Mix" collaboration with Pete Townshend.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Casting Crowns: If We Are The Body

The other night, my youngest daughter and I had the opportunity to see Casting Crowns in concert in Charleston, West Virginia. The show started out with a set by Caleb and Will Chapman, sons of Steven Curtis Chapman. Caleb, who is the main performer, played guitar and Will accompanied him on a variety of instruments.

The second act was Tenth Avenue North who also did a yeoman’s job in opening up for Casting Crowns. When Casting Crowns hit their first note onstage, it was obvious that the sound system was theirs and the sound techs were familiar with their music as the performance was powerful. One of the songs the band did was “If We are the Body.”

The song speaks of the church being the body of Christ; however, the body may not be performing in the manner that it should. This is a very powerful message that is accented by the delivery of this contemporary Christian group. I was not only impressed by the strong vocal talent of Mark Hall, but I was especially pleased with Melodee DeVevo’s violin work – it really added to the overall performance.

One thing I learned about this band is that all of its members are involved in youth work at local churches and they have set their tour schedule to be at home on as many Sundays as possible. What a great witness to all of us, because

“If we are the body, Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the Body , why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way? – There is a way.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

David Gilmour's Debut Solo LP

It was May of 1978 and David Gilmour’s first solo LP hit the stores and I believe I got it during the first week it was available. I was not disappointed, as it is an excellent album that I nearly wore out that summer before my first year of graduate school and the adverse poverty associated with being a graduate assistant making $55 every two weeks.

The album opened with an instrumental which is one of my two favorites from the LP, a song named after David Gilmour’s yacht – the Greek form of Michael – "Mihalis." The other favorite from the album was the single that received massive airplay on US album radio – “There’s No Way Out of Here.”

I had been a fan of Pink Floyd for six years running and had many of their albums that I amassed in the year before going to college. Come to think of it, I bought a lot of records during that year. The first was “Ummagumma” which I was attracted to largely because of the back photo showing the band’s instrumentation set up like an aircraft’s armaments.

“Ummagumma” was unusual in that sides one and two were live mixes of songs the band had previously released as studio recordings during and immediately following the era of Syd Barrett, the band’s originator and initial lead guitarist. Sides 3 and 4 were divided up as solo performances by each of the four members of the band each getting a half a side.

I remember trudging through the woods to the mall to buy the LP with my hard earned money from my 60 customer paper route hawking The Daily News and Pittsburgh Press. Having returned home shank’s mare, I couldn’t wait to put the LP on the turntable. Not to disturb anyone else in my family, I plugged in the headphones and plopped down on my bed. The first tune, “Astronomy Domine,” which was up-tempo, was a great headphone tune.

The next song was mellower, but had a strange title – “Careful with that Axe, Eugene.” It primarily featured Richard Wright’s keyboards and David Gilmour added some ethereal guitar effects using amp tremolo and while he played with volume control on his guitar. This Middle Eastern sounding tune was overlaid with some esoteric vocals by someone in the band – probably Roger Waters.

The song was very transcendent. I was half asleep when Roger Waters whispered, “Careful with that axe, Eugene.” Suddenly, Waters let out a blood curdling scream and I swear I levitated three feet off of my bed. I probably knocked five years off of my life that night. That was my introduction to Floyd. Wow, what an experience. Side two was better with “Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” and no screams, shrieks, or any other heart attack inducing effects.

More albums by the band would be added to my collection including their debut LP “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” – the import version with different songs than the American release. It had “Astronomy Domine,” “Flaming,” and “Bike,” which were not on the American release on Tower Records. Tower had released “Flaming” backed with “The Gnome” as a single and I picked up a promo copy of it at a flea market in 1973. The only other difference was the American LP had the British single, “See Emily Play,” which was not on the UK album release.

The other Floyd related albums I amassed included both of Syd Barrett’s solo albums (“Barrett” and “The Madcap Laughs”). Although both have their moments, they can be summarized in a word – awful. There also were “A Saucerful of Secrets,” “The Soundtrack from the Film More,” and “Obscured by Clouds.” The latter two being my very favorites – that is until “Dark Side of the Moon” was released in 1973.

College severely cut into my record buying habits, although I did get “Wish You Were Here” when it came out; however, I took it back because it skipped. The store was out of the LP so I got something else and never bothered to replace it. With all of my Floyd recordings, I had gravitated towards Roger Waters as being my favorite band member and this was probably due to his half-side on “Ummagumma” – even though I’ll die earlier now due to his scream from side one.

David Gilmour’s debut solo album changed that and it pushed him into the number one spot in my book as Pink Floyd members go. Although my introduction to Pink Floyd was “Ummagumma,” listening to that album sounds very passé in 2010. I wouldn’t buy it today if I were looking at adding to my collection; however, David Gilmour’s debut LP is a different story. It is as relevant today as it was in 1978 and has held up very well over the years. To provide you an opportunity to enjoy it in its entirety, I have created a YouTube playlist featuring the album in its entirety and in order – enjoy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Robert Gordon: Someday, Someway

I feel like a little rockabilly today, so for my Friday First recording I am in a quandary as it becomes the age old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” It may also like the old riddle, “The man who made it doesn't want it. The man who buys it doesn't need it. The man who needs it doesn't know it.”

The problem with my song of choice in this regard is that the Marshall Crenshaw composition, “Someday, Someway” which was a mid charting hit for the songwriter in 1982, was actually recorded first by someone else. That someone else is notably rockabilly vocalist Robert Gordon who released the song in 1981 and charted at #76 in the USA. While the scenario has occurred before and since, typically a singer-songwriter releases his or her own song before others.

Marshall Crenshaw’s Hit Version

The very next year, Marshall Crenshaw, who got his start playing John Lennon in "Beatlemania" and Buddy Holly in "LaBamba," released his own song as a single. It was Crenshaw’s only hit in America – charting at #36 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Crenshaw would continue to get a modicum amount of airplay on album radio, but neither he nor Gordon ever received the level of popularity that both deserved.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

War: Lowrider

“Hey you got your cowbell in my TV Thursday’s song!” “No you got your TV Thursday song with my cowbell.” While researching cowbell songs for yesterday’s post, I was reminded of “Lowrider” by War. It fits the TV genre as it was the theme song for George Lopez’s sitcom, which is not to be confused with his current TBS late night show.

War featured the harp (er, harmonica) playing of Lee Oskar. Oskar, who was born in Copenhagen as Oskar Levitan Hansen, left his native Denmark at the age of 18 for New York City. Eventually, he met Eric Burdon and became a member of his new band War. His signature playing can be heard on most of the band’s hits.

A number of years ago Tombo began marketing a brand of harmonicas under Oskar’s name and they are sought by players because of their rigid construction and ease of playing. Tombo makes four types of Lee Oskar harps. Prior to the Lee Oskar brand, Lee would retune Hohner harmonicas so he could play in certain styles and musical modes. The retuning was done by filing down the reads.

Lee Oskar produces the standard diatonic harmonica, the Melody Maker that can be used in country music, the harmonic minor that allows the player to easily provide harp parts to a variety of music styles, and the natural minor that is a minor blues harmonica. I stocked up on diatonic harmonicas in the 1970s when I bought all 12 keys from Clyde Bryant at his store in Logan, West Virginia.

Several of the original harps eventually blew out and I replaced these over the years – so I haven’t had the need to replace any more; however, I did purchase the Hi G and Lo F models. Over the years, I have purchased some of the other types of Lee Oskar harps – with the majority of these being harmonic minors.

By the way, yesterday’s post on “more cowbell” had the highest number of page views with 143. The previous daily high was 89.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Episode 200 - The Prescription Is More Cowbell

Well today is my 200th post (actually the 202nd, but since two are no longer available, I’m counting this one as post 200). At the end, I’ll provide some of the data about the visitors to this blog. I was surprised when I pulled down the information, and I think you will be as well. If you’re interested, scroll to the bottom of this post.

With this momentous anniversary, I need to induct you into the Ancient Order of the Cowbell. You can do this at home. Blindfold yourself, place the blade of a butter knife on your right shoulder and repeat after me that mystical chant, “Magis bovis campana; Magis bovis campana; Magis bovis campana.” All may not be worthy, and to those, we must proceed by entering into this covenant with a brief introduction from “The” Bruce Dickinson and a Saturday Night Live skit from April 2000. If you cannot see the video below, click here.

Of the several jokes in this sketch is the name of Christopher Walken's character Bruce Dickinson. While Sandy Pearlman was the official producer of "Don't Fear the Reaper," Bruce Dickinson is an actual Columbia Records employee who was listed as the reissue producer on the band's greatest hits CD. Although Will Ferrell's character the late Gene Frenkle is purely fictional, fans often express sympathy to the real band over his supposed death in 2000.

While I won’t be featuring Blue Oyster Cult, I’ll echo the sentiments of Bruce Dickinson: “I have a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell.” Although long associated with rock music, the cowbell got its start as – well – a bell for cows. It allowed cattle ranchers to track their herds as the distinctive bells clapped as the cows swayed back and forth.

The cowbell entered the realm of music in the 1920s being used as a percussive feature of hillbilly bands. In the 1930s, it was one of the many novelty instruments of jug bands joining the washboard, washtub bass, spoons, and jugs. In the 1940s, Spike Jones and his City Slickers utilized the cowbell and other strange and exotic instrumentation on their numerous novelty recordings.

The clapperless cowbell gained its prominence with salsa music alongside the percussive sounds of claves, timbales, guiro, and congas. While it gained more popularity with rock songs beginning in 1965, an early example of the cowbell was Annette Funicello’s 1959 recording of “Tall Paul.” To celebrate the 200th post, I bring you “more cowbell” with four selections.

Mountain: Mississippi Queen

No Virginia, he doesn’t sing Pittsburgh – it’s Vicksburg as in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Named after large front man Leslie West, Mountain also included former Cream producer Felix Pappalardi and drummer Corky Laing. Laing cowrote their only hit with David Rea and it begins with Laing’s signature cowbell. Mississippi Queen charted at 21 in June 1970.

The Beatles: Drive My Car – Two Versions

Even the Beatles succumbed to the cowbell craze as Ringo Starr added it to the song “Drive My Car.” As an album cut, it originally appeared on most countries’ versions of the LP “Rubber Soul”; however, in North America, it was issued on the contrived Capitol LP “Yesterday and Today.”

I have provided two rehashed versions of "Drive my Car." The first example is my favorite cut from the CD “Love.” This tune combines “Drive My Car” with “What You’re Doing” and “The Word.” It also contains the horns from “Savoy Truffle” from “the White Album” and the lead guitar from “Taxman.” The second cut is from the remastered version of the “Rubber Soul” CD.

Grand Funk Railroad : We’re An American Band

The title cut from the “We’re An American Band” album, Grand Funk originally released this single and album in gold vinyl. This #1 song from 1973 features the cowbell of Don Brewer. Brewer penned the song after Grand Funk and Humble Pie were arguing about which country produced the better musicians. After listing a number of seminal rockers such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Fats Domino, Brewer stood up and defended his homeland by uttering, “We’re An American Band.” The next morning he wrote the song.

Free: Wishing Well

I remember buying this single at the Eastland National Record Mart in North Versailles, PA in 1972 without even hearing it – well, because it was Free. I also liked the new label design for Island Records – to match the label art, the sleeve was pink.

“Wishing Well” wasn’t an American hit, as was their previous A&M single “All Right Now,” but it is an excellent rock tune. It was one of three top 10 singles in their native Britain. From their final LP “Heartbreaker,” it features Paul Rodgers on vocals and drummer Simon Kirke on cowbell on the intro and during the choruses.

If you are interested in cowbell, check out Latin Percussion’s Top Ten Cowbells. It allows you to listen to the sounds of the best selling LP cowbells.

Statistical Overview

I began this blog on September 26, 2009, but did not start monitoring the visits until October 16, 2009. Since that time, we have had the following:

Unique Visitors2,431
Times Visited3,251
Number of Pages Viewed5,914
People Visiting 200+ Times230
People Visiting 101-200 Times105
People Visiting 50-100 Times60
People Visiting 26-50 Times50
Number of Visitor Countries Represented70
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Search Engines51.89%
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Other Sites33.34%
Percentage of Visitors via Direct Access14.76%

Without much promotion and largely based on my own views about music, it really amazes me that so many have found these pages – even once.

The Top Ten Charts

Just as the music industry has a variety of charts (have you looked at Billboard lately?), I have prepared some Top Ten Charts for "Between the Grooves."

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

1United States2,150
2United Kingdom221
10The Netherlands33

The Top Ten Pages via Direct Access

While most people (770) have visited the home page for “Between the Grooves,” others enter distinct pages through page specific links and via search engine returns. These are the top ten pages bypassing the home page entering the site through a specific daily post.

The Top Days by Total Visits

This chart represents the days that encountered the most visits and the content that was featured on those particular days.

The Top Days by New Visitors

This chart represents the days that encountered the most visits by first time visitors and the content that was featured on those particular days.

Thanks to all who have visited and a special thanks to our repeat visitors.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

East of Eden: Jig-A-Jig

A hit record can be a blessing and a curse and that’s what it was for the prog rock band East of Eden and their only hit single: “Jig-a-Jig.” The blessing – a band’s single to chart in the top 10 is always welcome and this single did just that in peaking at #7 in the UK. The curse was that this traditional medley was a “one off” and nothing like East of Eden’s other recordings and it typecast the band as a folk-rock unit. Because of its roots, “Jig-a-Jig” is our Traditional Tuesday feature.

The song’s title is a misnomer as none of the three tunes that are a part of this medley are jigs. “Jig-a-Jig” includes "The Ashplant Reel," "Drowsy Maggie," and "Jenny's Chicken." All three of these songs are actually reels and not jigs. Jigs are in 2/4 time while reels have a time signature of either 2/2 or 4/4. So to be totally honest, it should have been named “Reel-a-Reel.” The song is based around the core instrumentation of drums, bass, and fiddle. In addition, there are hand claps, claves, and the occasional electric guitar.

Although “Jig-a-Jig” proved that the band could do folk-rock, they were far more eclectic. Drawing their influence from hard rock, symphonic rock, psychedelic, jazz, as well as folk and Gypsy music, East of Eden is difficult to categorize. Unfortunately, they never enjoyed the success of their 1971 single release.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Golden Earring: Eight Miles High

Monday’s cover comes from the Dutch rock ensemble Golden Earring. The band was only able garner two US hits: “Radar Love” in 1974 and “Twilight Zone” in 1982. Due to their popularity as an opening act for other artists during their US tours, Atlantic Records picked up the option in 1969 to release their fifth LP in the US. Listed on the album under the name of  "The" Golden Earring, the band eventually dropped the article "The" as they did the plural "Earrings" from their name a few years earlier.

Because their European label did not yet have a US counterpart, Polydor brokered the release of their recordings in the US with other labels. During the late 60s and early 70s, Atlantic was often given the option of first right of refusal and many times they took chances on these artists (i.e., Cream, Blind Faith, Clapton, etc.). The album “Eight Miles High” on Atlantic was Golden Earring’s first release in the US. The title cut, a remake of the 1966 raga-rock hit by The Byrds, was popular at Golden Earring concerts and often could last as long as 45 minutes.

When released, the song ran 19 minutes and took up the LP’s entire second side (shades of “In A Gadda Da Vida”). It really was reminiscent of one of their concert jam sessions which extended into the fourth dimension a song that The Byrds released on their album "Fifth Dimension." While I remember seeing this album in the stores and later at flea markets, I never bit; however, I somehow ended up with a promo copy of the 45 that came from somewhere. I even used it on my aircheck when applying for my job at WCIR in 1981.

The Byrds’ Original – Remastered

While I like Golden Earring’s cover of "Eight Miles High," it would have made an excellent seven minute LP cut rather than the extended 19 minute jam.  Even editing it down to fourteen minutes would have been more palatable as there were parts of the jam that made no sense to include.  In addition, Golden Earring's version doesn’t hold a candle to the 1966 original. Roger McGuinn and company were many years ahead of their time with this song that charted in the top 20 in the US.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Link Wray: Fire And Brimstone

In 1971, Polydor Records released the long awaited comeback album for 50s and 60s guitar legend Link Wray. Primarily known for his instrumental work characteristic of his two biggest hits “Rumble” and “Rawhide,” Wray did not sing much in his early days as he lost a lung to tuberculosis that he contracted during his service in the Korean War.

Wray’s self titled LP was a critical success, but a financial failure. Mainstream and album radio failed to support the album that largely was only played on college radio stations. Later covered by the Neville Brothers, one of the album’s better cuts was the apocalyptic tune: “Fire and Brimstone.” Because the song largely draws from the book of Revelation for its lyrical content, it qualifies to be today’s Spiritual Sunday feature.

I bought the album in early 1973 at the Kmart in North Versailles, PA. It was discounted as Polydor had cutout the album from production. I think I paid something in the neighborhood of 99¢ for the LP at a time when albums were priced between $3.99 and $4.99. The album features a profile of Wray that celebrates his Shawnee heritage. The photo is actually cut out from the album stock; therefore, it is a partial gatefold album.

The album was recorded at his homemade studio located in an old chicken shack on his Maryland farm. He called it “Wray’s Three Track Shack.” The three tracks refer to the number of tape tracks that could be recorded on a single piece of quarter inch magnetic tape. The three track machine was ground-breaking technology in the 1950s, as it allowed the backing tracks to be recorded on two tracks and the vocals on a separate tape track. In the 60s, four track machines were in vogue. By the time Link recorded his album, most studios were recording on 8-track or 16 track machines (no not the 8-tracks that we had in our cars) that used up to 1 inch tape widths.

“Fire and Brimstone” also features Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Link Wray on slide guitar. I didn’t plan this, but for the last three days, I’ve featured cuts that utilized slide guitar. There must be something subliminal occurring. Be that as it may, the world lost an excellent musician on November 5, 2005 when Link passed away in Denmark where he was making his home with his current wife and youngest son. He was survived by nine children in all.

In addition to his membership in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, he was posthumously inducted into the Native American Music Hall of fame in 2006; however, he has yet to be considered for induction in the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Little Feat: A Selection of Live Recordings

Well, I got my first official request the other day and I am going to honor it. Greg Rector who was a year ahead of me at Kentucky Christian College (now University) contacted me via my Facebook account and asked if I would feature some Little Feat music.

He specifically mentioned the late Lowell George in his request. Greg had the most amazing record collection in college. I had to pass his room to get to mine in the dorm and there was always something great on the turntable – remember those?

I know I used to bug him to death as I would hear a song and if the door was open, I’d shout the name of the artist, album title, and some other useless trivia about the band. I specifically remember hearing one song in particular that was playing that stumped me. It was Aerosmith’s “Train Kept A Rollin.”

I hadn’t heard Aerosmith's version from “Get Your Wings” as of yet, but was familiar with the Yardbirds’ cover on “Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page.” So my hats off to my old rock ‘n roll aficionado friend, and today I honor his love of music with Little Feat.

Originally, I had told Greg that I was going to play selections from the album “Sailin’ Shoes,” however, only one cut from the album is available on YouTube. Lately, I’ve noticed a lack of cuts on YouTube from the WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) family of labels. Apparently they have cracked down the posting of their recordings online and require YouTube to pull these cuts. By the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube is required to do this after the initial warning to avoid copyright infringement. I wish they would adopt the open policy that is found among some of the other labels.

Most of what is on YouTube for Little Feat is live, and that’s OK as being one of the premier jam bands, they are often better live anyway. So in order to fill Greg’s request, I am suspending my album feature for today and we are going to jam out with a selection of Little Feat and Lowell George live selections.

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

From the Pink Pops Festival held in Galeen, The Netherlands on June 7, 1976, “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” was the title cut of their fourth album. It features Paul Barrère doing all of the guitar parts while Lowell George is playing maracas – which he pitches one by one to the audience. As far as Bill Payne’s keyboard set up, he has a Hammond Porta-B on the bottom and a Mini-Moog synth on top. I’m not familiar with the instrument in the middle of his stack, but it appears to be a piano of some sort. This has the appearance of being an encore performance of this tune.

Rock ‘N Roll Doctor

From a 1975 TV performance, “Rock ‘N Roll Doctor” was also from “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.” Sam Clayton is playing two cabassas on this number. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen someone play two at once before – it is definitely an interesting concept.

 Dueling Cabassas

Dixie Chicken

When I moved to Southern West Virginia in 1981, I soon learned that this particular song was extremely popular throughout the region. I would assume that it may be anthemic across the entire south as well. This recording of the “Dixie Chicken” LP’s title cut features vocal help from Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and Jesse Winchester. It comes from one of the two great weekend rock shows on 70s TV – Midnight Special. The other was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. I tried to see them both when possible.

Teenage Nervous Breakdown

Recorded at the same 1976 Dutch concert as referenced above, “Teenage Nervous Breakdown” was from the band’s second LP “Sailin’ Shoes.” Lowell George and Bill Payne both shine on this number.

Lowell George on Slide Guitar with Rocket In My Pocket

This is actually two pieces in one. The first portion has the band joining Lowell doing “China White” as he demonstrated slide guitar for a German TV show. The second is “Rocket in My Pocket” from “Time Loves A Hero.” The first segment is excellent as Lowell mimics Ry Cooder’s playing style and Lowell's impersonation is distinguishable from the playing of this other slide guitar master.

This video also explains part of Lowell’s slide sound is based on his tuning. Part of his sound based upon his use of compression and the rest must come from his version of open G tuning. Typically open G is tuned D-G-D-G-B-D, while Lowell explained that D-G-D-G-B-G is the tuning he uses. The high G (which probably results in a lot of broken strings) gives him a really unique sound.

Well I had to try it. I was playing slide a couple of nights ago, so I already had a guitar tuned in G and it just meant tuning up the E string (or D in my case) up to G. That was the most difficult part as I had visions of the string breaking and the end smacking me in the face – so I took it very slowly. When I finally got to G, I tried it out – it definitely changes the quality of the leads in the upper register. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it as you would need an electric to really carry the sound of the high G. My acoustic didn’t give it justice – so I’ll stick with the G tuning I’ve been using since 1973.

Willin’ with Linda Ronstadt

Our final track is from WHFS-FM in Bethesda, Maryland with a live radio show in 1975 featuring Lowell George and Linda Ronstandt with “Willin’” – a signature Little Feat cut. Reportedly, it was this song that got George fired from the Mothers of Invention. It can be found on the first two Little Feat albums with Ry Cooder playing slide on the “Little Feat” album because Lowell had injured his hand prior to the session. It was repeated on the second LP “Sailin’ Shoes” with Lowell doing the slide part himself. Linda Ronstadt also recorded the tune on her 1975 “Hearts like a Wheel” album.

Bill Payne on Lowell George’s Death

On June 29, 1979 George, who was on tour supporting his solo album, died in Arlington, Virginia of an accidental overdose. He was a man of excess that included weed, whites, wine, and China white. Longtime band mate Bill Payne talks about Lowell’s drug problem and his eventual death.


In 1987, the band reformed and continues to tour. When reforming in 1987, Craig Fuller and Fred Tackett joined the band. Because touring was taking a toll on his family life, Fuller left the band. Shaun Murphy, who had sung backup for a number of artists, replaced Fuller and remained with the band until 2009. She has not been replaced. Recently, drummer Richie Hayward was diagnosed with liver cancer. Until Richie can rejoin the band, Gabe Ford will temporarily replace him. Ford has been the drum tech with Little Feat since 2006.