Sunday, September 30, 2012

Midge Ure: Dear God

Today’s Spiritual Sunday’s selection will be the last in that category for a while, as I am retiring the daily category. This is one of the two categories that have been around since the beginning of the blog and specifically it was the lowest ranked category by my visitors in the most recent survey. Beginning tomorrow with October 1, I am making some sweeping changes in our categories by eliminating the lower ranked categories.

While Tasty Licks Tuesday, One-Hit Wonder Wednesdays, Friday Flipsides, and Saturday’s Bubbling Under feature will remain; other days will change. Monday’s selection will become Media Monday and will be an extension of TV Thursday with the addition of songs from motion pictures. Thursdays will offer Thursday Repeats and Threepeats, and Sunday will give me an opportunity to feature a variety of music.

Our song today is a song of doubt and searching and is sung by the former lead singer of Ultravox, Midge Ure. The song is a prayer from an individual who does not have a relationship with a Supreme Being and is asking for various virtues.

Released in 1988 from his “Answers to Nothing” album, “Dear God” charted as a single in the US at #95; however, it did better on the specialized charts. It placed at #6 on the Mainstream Rock chart and at #4 on the Alternative Music chart. The song sounds like it could have been performed by his previous band Ultravox.  The guitars, keyboards, and vocals are all handled by Ure.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Rolling Stones: Can't You Hear Me Knocking

I didn’t get The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” until several years after its release, so when I first heard today’s Bubbling Under hit, I was unaware of who it was. It was in 1974 and WAMX in Ashland, Kentucky played the most amazing album rock in the late evenings. I often would tape the station and go to sleep, and then later listen to the cassettes.

The first night I did this, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” was at the very end of the tape and only a portion of one verse was preserved. I never knew who it was or the name of the song as such a short segment was captured. Although in retrospect, I should have recognized Mick Jagger’s vocals; however, for some unknown reason, I didn’t.

What a great cut it is. It starts with a riff that Keith Richards played in taropatch tuning (open G) on his guitar in the right channel and is joined by Charlie Watts on drums, Bill Wyman on bass, and Mick Taylor on second guitar in the left channel. Mick sings lead with Keith on back-up vocals.

The first part of the song also features Billy Preston on organ. Then abruptly the song changes direction with congas by Rocky Dijohn and Bobby Keys on sax. Producer Jimmy Miller adds some additional percussion and Stones’ road manager Stewart is there on piano.

Once the sax lead quits, Mick Taylor and his Gibson ES335 is there for very clean lead parts. This second portion of the song really was not intended to be recorded, but it happened to be a jam that the engineers caught on tape. The originally plan was to fade the song, but the jam was so good – the entire session was kept. The song ends cold – as it should. No fade was necessary.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bruce Springsteen: Pink Cadillac

Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” the first single from his 15 times platinum “Born in the USA” album, was paired with a non-album cut – “Pink Cadillac.” While the A-side charted at #2 on the Hot 100 and at #1 on the Rock charts, the B-side was an album radio favorite in 1984.

The song would not be released on an album until 1998 when it appeared on the Springsteen’s “Tracks” compilation. It was later covered by Natalie Cole in 1987 and was subsequently released as the third single from her “Everlasting” in 1988. Her version peaked at #5.

Springsteen was highly complementary of Cole’s version who was impressed that a woman would record the tune. He had different ideas in 1983 when he prevented Bette Midler from releasing the song on her “No Frills” LP. His reasoning was that it was not a song that was appropriate for a woman to sing. Midler returned to the studio and replaced the cut with a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RIP Andy Williams

I learned yesterday of the passing of the great crooner Andy Williams on Tuesday from bladder cancer. He was 84 years old. While his music is somewhat out of character with the rest of the performances featured on this blog, his enormous talent cannot be denied. He at least deserves a mention.

While “Moon River” was never released as a single and probably should have been, it became Williams’ best known song and was sung on his weekly variety show for nine years. The song was so inextricably linked to Williams that it became his alter ego – his autobiography was titled “Moon River and Me: A Memoir.” In addition, Branson, Missouri was the home of the Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater.

He first sung “Moon River” at the Oscars in 1962, as it was the theme from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” In the movie, Audrey Hepburn sang this Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini collaboration. The song first appeared on his 1962 album “Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes,” which peaked at #3 and was certified gold.

While “Moon River” received mainstream radio airplay, it was never a Top 40 hit; however, it became a staple of Middle of the Road (MOR) stations – a format that was later branded as Adult Contemporary or AC. It also garnered some play on Beautiful Music/Easy Listening stations as its smooth rendition was synonymous with that style of performance.

In my years in oldies radio, “Moon River” was probably the only Andy Williams tune that I ever played – although not as often as I probably should have. Williams’ Christmas recordings would also get some airtime, as I frequently worked Christmas day to give my staff some time with their families. I was single at the time and had no local family, so it was no skin off my back to work an eight or twelve hour shift.

The work was easy, as most stations for which I worked tracked Christmas albums that were sponsored with commercials at the beginning, at the flip of sides, and the end of the album. It was basically me babysitting the equipment and answering the phone if necessary. Since I was salaried, I didn’t get time and a half for holidays – just some comp time later. During these long stretches of music, Andy Williams’ Christmas albums were pulled from storage and often played in their entirety.

Here’s to our “huckleberry friend” Andy Williams – may you rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

1000th Post / 3rd Year Anniversary: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Well, being that today is the 1,000th post and simultaneously the third anniversary of “Reading Between the Grooves,” it is the planned D-Day for this blog; however, at about 35 posts out, I started getting requests to keep it going. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” We’ll answer that later, but right now, let’s talk about the song of the day. I think it is a fitting title for the day I release my decision on closing down this blog or continuing it.

Back in 1982, CBS Records in the UK released The Clash’s single “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Since it charted at 17, which is a moderately good position, Epic Records in the US put out “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” not once, not twice, and not even thrice. The US single was released four times in 1982 and 1983.

The first release was a one-sided single that was hoping to capture some sales as the price was less than a conventional two sided 45 rpm. This special release was numbered as ENR-03571 and the tactic of issuing a low priced single flopped. There was another problem – while The Clash did well in the UK, they did not have that large of a following in the US. 1983’s “Rock the Casbah” and its memorable video would change that.

In June 1982, a conventional single of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” with “Inoculated City” as the “B” side was released as Epic 14-03006. Within six weeks, a third configuration with “First Night Back in London” was issued as Epic 34-03061. Finally in January 1983, Epic re-released the final version with “Cool Confusion” as the flip as 34-03547.

I remember CBS and numerous independent promoters beating me up about this song. Although I could see this song charting on an album rock station, I didn’t think it would fit Top 40 radio – and apparently I was not alone as the song only peaked at #45.

I even had one promoter to promise to send me one of every album in the CBS catalog that included Columbia, Epic, Portrait, and a handful of other labels. As tempting that offer was, I opted not to take the promoter up on his offer. I don’t really think he was really serious about this – but you can never be too sure.

In 1991, the single was re-released in the UK where it charted the second time at the #1 spot.

From the album “Combat Rock,” Mick Jones sings the lead on the song while Joe Strummer and Tex-Mex/rockabilly artist Joe Ely are singing the Spanish backup lyrics. The Spanish is not the typical Castilian version, but rather an Ecuadorian dialect.

While I didn’t add the record thirty-years ago, I still like the song, and its message is fitting for today.

Should The Blog Stay or Should It Go?

After much deliberation on this subject and the support of a number of people, I have decided to keep it going. Here are some of the comments that influenced my decision:

I really enjoy the music you provide on your blog, most of which I have not heard for years, some of it not at all. While I don't log-in every day - and even less often over the past few months- I do truly love listening and reading.

I only just came across this blog last week...please keep going!

Hard to pick a favorite feature. I dig Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays AND Saturdays!

I can't get enough historical information about music.

Porque se nota que sabes de que hablas,como lo escribes, aunque tenga que traducirlo y sabes porqué, pues porque si uno ama la música esto se nota. Translated by Babelfish as “Because it shows that you know of what you speak, how you write, even if you have to translate it and you know why, well because if one loves the music this is noted.”

I always learn something new, and just plain like listening to music.

Only discovered this a few weeks ago through the BLUES IN F story. I know a number of DC based folks with chops and historical knowledge (Big Joe Maher, Bill Kirchen) that can channel this sort of musical cultural stream-of-consciousness and tell stories like this but they’re not writing like you are. Selfishly, I say DONT STOP! Cut back if that'll keep you in the game.

I found your blog through family history connections but music comes higher up priority list than family history. Hope you keep going - but if not thanks for your brilliant efforts thus far.

I always enjoy reading your posts on the groups and the music that I grew up with. It helps me start discussions about the music with my college age children. Always good to learn new things!

I ended up on your blog in a roundabout way... from one of your community posts 23andMe, actually. Seems we have similar interests. I'm an author and teach journalism and mass communication at a state university, I play the guitar. I love music and pop culture. I'm 53 and have fond memories of Heart, the Allman Bros., the Doors, you name it. Great stuff, thanks.

I enjoy the insight into various music.

I have more than one favorite... u r a walking AMERICAN musical treasure trove ... if you cease this blog it will have an effect on those who don't even yet know it exists...but will read it later on in their lives... speaking of, you have your own to live and do as you must... if I were you, I would try to sell the service to a magazine or some other media... u get paid, we get the the mag charged for the blog...

I enjoy the wide variety of music you post. You've certainly added to my musical knowledge.

I learn a lot about music I didn't know before.

I love music, and you seem to have good taste in music.

It's just a great ideas with great execution

Perceptive comments, all-encompassing tangential thoughts, clarity of vision.

You can never get enough wild stuff that slipped through the cracks

I love finding out the interesting tidbits you include about the various songs and bands (from my 'youth')

I love reading all the blogs, even if they're not music that I'm usually interested in. I love learning new things about music and these blogs really branch out into some areas I'm not always familiar with.

I'm gonna miss these blog [posts] if they disappear.

Okay, I'm in a little more than a bit of a panic with only 35 posts to go. What will I do for music information? It's part of my daily routine.

I enjoy your posts....reminds me of days gone by.

I note that you are planning only a few more posts? I would urge you to carry on. Good criticism is all too rare on the internet.

I asked what features people liked the most, and of our current choices, the top three favorite features are One-Hit Wonder Wednesday at 30.43%, Tasty Licks Tuesday with 21.74%, and Saturday’s Bubbling Under Feature with 17.39%. It looks pretty good for those features to continue. I will probably scale back some when I need to – as I did last year.

In October, I will be moving and expanding TV Thursdays to Media Mondays and incorporate music from motion pictures as well as from TV shows, commercials, and live performances. Thursday’s feature will be Thursday’s Repeats and Threepeats – songs that were released more than once. I have a great one scheduled for next week. Over time, I will switch out some of the other categories when I feel that their life is abating.

In addition to the two daily changes, I plan to do a special focus outside of the daily parameters every second week of the month called the Second Week Special. My plan for October is to feature six rock songs that utilize the mandolin. Other features will be related to instrumentation, musical genre, record label, songwriter, or some other theme.

Thanks for participating in the survey and encouraging me to continue. If you want to know how this blog has done from the beginning, see the section below. Thanks again.

RBTG’s 1,000th Post/3rd Anniversary Retrospect

Like I had reported with every other 100th post anniversary, I took a look backward on how we are doing visitor wise. I began this blog on September 26, 2009, but did not start monitoring the visits until October 16, 2009. Currently, we have 57 declared followers of the blog – up from 51 in June 2012. There are many others who have visited frequently without declaring themselves as followers. The statistics are listed below:
Unique Visitors81,821
Times Visited90,610
Number of Pages Viewed134,212
People Visiting 200+ Times1,376
People Visiting 101-200 Times486
People Visiting 51-100 Times311
People Visiting 26-50 Times331
Number of Visitor Countries Represented164
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Search Engines64.96%
Percentage of Visitors Referred from Other Sites26.16%
Percentage of Visitors via Direct Access8.88%

The Top Ten Charts

As one would find in music trade magazines, I have prepared some Top Ten Charts for "Reading between the Grooves."

The Top Ten Visitor Countries

The rankings remain static when compared to the previous 900th Anniversary. Nine new countries and territories were added and include the following: Andorra, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar (Burma), Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tanzania.

Outside of large portion of Africa and some countries in Asia, the unreached nations include smaller countries and islands. Most of the island nations that are not represented were located in The Caribbean and Oceania.
1United States44,529
2United Kingdom7,568

Locations where RBTGs has been accessed. Click on the map for full sized image.

The Top Ten Pages via Direct Access

While most people (5,149) have visited the home page for “Reading Between the Grooves,” others enter distinct pages through page specific links and via search engine returns. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks’ “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away” rejoined the Top 10 this time.

The most significant move was Fairport Convention’s “Matty Groves,” which moved from six to four on the chart. This particular chart is slow moving as it is cumulative – newer features on this site will have to be really popular to catch up to the total direct access of these ten songs.

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. One day did not have associated content for that particular day.

All but one of the selections, the number one slot, came from the last 100 days. The #1 day is an anomaly as it represents a day that had intensive viewing of the entire blog by two new visitors. These two individuals spent a great deal of time on the blog and looked at hundreds of pages during one single weekend.

RankDayDateAssociated ContentVisits
1SAT16 JUL 2011Nektar – Let it Grow625
2WED13 JUN 2012The Stories – Brother Louie362
3SAT15 SEP 2012Genesis – Watcher of the Skies323
4MON16 JUL 2012Sandy Denny –Easy to Slip316
5FRI27 JUL 2012Linda Ronstadt – White Rhythm & Blues302
6TUE24 JUL 2012Stevie Wonder –Spain300
7SUN14 JUL 2012No Post Made298
8MON9 JUL 2012Silvertones – One Chance With You281
9MON11 JUN 2012Episode 900: In Memory of Bob Welch277
10WED04 JUL 2012Andy Griffith – What It Was, Was Football259

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. All but two of these days are new to this chart and eight are not older than 100 posts.

RankDayDateAssociated ContentNew Visitors
1MON16 JUL 2012Sandy Denny –Easy to Slip213
2SAT11 FEB 2011Johnny Guitar Watson – Real Mother for Ya198
3MON30 APR 2012No Post Made197
4TUE24 JUL 2012Stevie Wonder –Spain195
5WED04 JUL 2012Andy Griffith – What It Was, Was Football194
6MON9 JUL 2012Silvertones – One Chance With You192
7SUN29 JUL 2012Chuck Owston – Jesus Won’t You Come By Here192
8SUN22 JUL 2012Patty Griffin –Up To The Mountain190
9FRI27 JUL 2012Linda Ronstadt – White Rhythm & Blues187
10SUN26 AUG 2012The Mind Garage – The Lord’s Prayer184

As always, I want to take this time to thank all of you for your support of this site and the encouragement to keep going forward. Thanks again for Reading between the Grooves.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Charlie Christian Jammers: Waiting for Benny

Today is the last day you can register your vote to see if “Reading Between the Grooves” continues after tomorrow. This is post 999 and post 1,000, which lines up with the third anniversary tomorrow, is planned to be the last – that is, unless enough of you urge me to continue. To do that, register your feelings at the survey found at

Back in the early to mid 1970s, I was a subscriber to Guitar Player magazine and was amazed by the number of artists who credited influence from a 25 year-old guitarist named Charlie Christian. Christian’s one note solos were revolutionary during the short period (1939-1942) where he was in the spotlight as a member of Benny Goodman’s band.

At first Goodman wasn’t sure of the electric guitar, but was urged by John Hammond to add Christian to the band. Hammond, who was Goodman’s father-in-law, always had a good ear for talent – just ask Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

While many guitarists were doing only rhythm and chord leads, Christian’s style emulated the horn players surrounded him and he sounded more like sax and trumpet players than he did other guitarists. The single note leads were revolutionary for the period and his pre-bebop style was fresh sounding. Thousands of guitarists owe a debt of gratitude to the man who started it all – Charlie Christian. Because of this early influence, Christian was immortalized in the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame.

One can only imagine the range of influence and the changes in the music scene had Christian not died at 25 from tuberculosis. He contracted the disease in 1940 and finally succumbed to it on May 2, 1940.

Besides reading about Charlie Christian, I was introduced to his music with the purchase of the 1972 double album: “Solo Flight: The Genius of Charlie Christian.” I bought my copy sometime around 1976; however, I don’t remember the circumstances on where specifically I got my used copy. I know I played it during my Wednesday night jazz program over WKCC from 1976 to 1978.

The cut I have chosen is credited to the Charlie Christian Jammers – one of two cuts on the album that prominently features the guitar work of Christian. This recording was not indented for release; however, we can be thankful for the engineers at Columbia Records who recorded everything on acetate – including this jam that occurred while they were testing the recording equipment.

The song is titled “Waiting for Benny,” as Goodman was late showing up for the session. This warm up included Christian, Cootie Williams on trumpet, George Auld on tenor sax, Johnny Guarnieri on piano, Artie Benson on bass, and Dave Tough on drums. This warm-up was recorded in New York on March 31, 1941. A ten second warning to “stand-by” was given by one of the engineers. This is truly great stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tito & Tarantula: After Dark

As we countdown to 1000 posts, only two more posts remain; however, if you want this blog to continue, you can make a difference by registering your feelings in the survey found at

Recently, I stumbled upon Los Angeles based Tito & Tarantula’s recording of “After Dark” and discovered a sound that I really liked their sound. Somehow I missed this band and I had not seen Quentin Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn” where the band performs this in movie.

“After Dark” was originally performed by Tito Larriva’s band the Cruzados and was co-written by Larriva and Cruzado guitarist Steven Hufsteter, who later would join Tito & Tarantula in 2002. The band recorded “After Dark” in 1996 and it was later released on the band’s first CD “Tarantism” in 1997.

I’m not sure what genre of rock you would place this song, but I have always liked dark and foreboding music like this. Besides Larriva’s lead vocal and rhythm guitar, the cut features other Tarantulas Peter Atanasoff on lead guitar, Jennifer Condos on bass, and Nick Vincent on drums and percussion.

Lyn Bertles, also a member of the band at the time of the recording, is credited on the album, but I cannot place what she might be playing on the cut as she plays violin, mandolin, recorder, and harmonica. Mark Goldenberg, who was not a band member, added guitar to this track.

Live Version from 2008

This version was recorded in Germany where the band has a large following. Personnel include Tito Larriva on guitar and vocals, Steven Hufsteter on guitar, Caroline Rippy on bass, and Alfredo Ortiz on drums.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tres Chicas: Drop Me Down

Only three more posts are planned, but if you would like to see it continue, register your feelings at the survey found at

I heard today’s Spiritual Sunday tune a few years back on Pandora and was reintroduced to it again about two months ago from the same source. “Drop Me Down” was a song originally performed by Charlotte based Lou Ford; however, Lou Ford was not an individual, but rather a band.

In 2006, another Charlotte based group, Tres Chicas recorded “Drop Me Down” for their CD “Bloom, Red, & the Ordinary Girl.” The three part harmonies of Lynn Blakey, Caitlin Cary, and Tonya Lamm are exquisite. While there is piano, drums, bass, fiddle, accordion, and guitar, nearly all the critics mention the organ that is the glue of the track. One going as far as saying it sounded like Garth Hudson of the band. I hear it too.

Other critiques of the sound compare it to a variety of musicians. Rick Cornell of stated, “Tres Chicas' folk-gospel take reveals the song to be a close relative of [Bob Dylan’s] ‘I Shall Be Released,’ with a soulfulness that seems to echo from the soundstage where The Band and The Staple Singers teamed up on ‘The Weight.’”

Thom Jurek of AllMusic adds, “The opening cut ‘Drop Me Down’ comes from the North Carolina band Lou Ford, and in Tres Chicas’ reading of it, could easily have been done by Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels and Emmylou Harris with a gospel choir. To be truthful, it's devastatingly beautiful.”

I agree, and hope you do as well.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Edgar Winter's White Trash: Keep Playin' That Rock And Roll

In four days, “Reading between the Grooves” is scheduled to end; however, your votes can change its destiny. You can register your feelings at

Before the Edgar Winter Group, there was Edgar Winter’s White Trash. While many won’t remember the two albums from this group, they are foundational recordings of the early 1970s. The first of the two, “Edgar Winter’s White Trash” was the follow-up of Edgar Winter’s first LP: “Entrance.”

This 1971 album produced the single “Keep Playin' that Rock and Roll” which charted at #70. The album only made it to #111 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album chart. “Keep Playin' that Rock and Roll” was an autobiographical look at Edgar’s entry in the music business and mentions his brother Johnny in the lyrics.

Both album and single featured the guitar work of Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer. Derringer also produced the sessions. In 1970, Derringer and the Winter brothers had previously worked together in Johnny Winter And. Derringer would later join the Edgar Winter Group following the departure of Ronnie Montrose.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Badfinger: Money

It’s getting down to the wire – five more posts. If you want me to continue past September 26, please fill out the survey at

One of my all time favorite albums is Badfinger’s 1972 release of “Straight Up.” This album took over a year to make and many of the original recordings were shelved under the direction of producer George Harrison. When Harrison exited the project, Apple Records secured Todd Rundgren to complete the album. In his role as producer, he remixed the George Harrison’s cuts, but was not given coproduction credits on these songs.

The album produced two hit singles, “Day After Day,” which charted at #4 and “Baby Blue” that peaked at #14. The flip of “Day After Day” was Tom Evans’ “Money.” The production on this track is superb with the double tracked electric 12-string guitars – one in the left channel and the other in the right.

Rundgren also split the lead and harmony vocals to each channel, while the backup vocals were in the center. A volume pedal was used on the guitar at the end to cut the attack.

While “Money” was the US “B” side, “Sweet Tuesday Morning,” a Joey Molland cut appeared as the flip side in the UK. Take a listen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

AC/DC: Back In Black

Only 6 more posts are planned; however, you can request that “Reading between the Grooves” continues by filling out the survey found at

AC/DC’s “Black in Black” has been used in so many commercials that I should have used it as a TV Thursday tune many posts ago, but alas, it wasn’t until I heard it recently being used in a Wal-Mart layaway commercial that I considered it. The characteristic opening provided by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young may be one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of the present time.

I saw AC/DC in concert in 1978 when they opened for Cheap Trick in Huntington, WV. I wasn’t that familiar with the band at the time, but Bon Scott and Angus Young put on a mean show. A several points in the concert Young, dressed in his school boy outfit, even went out into the crowd with his characteristic Gibson SG guitar. When lead singer Scott died from misadventure in 1980, it was a loss for the music world.

However, their loss inspired the band to write a couple of tribute songs – one of which was “Back in Black.” The music was composed by the Youngs, and Scott’s replacement, Brian Johnson, was tasked to author the lyrics – on the condition that they could not be morbid. Depicting Scott as a cat with nine lives fulfilled the obligation.

While the single only peaked in the US at #37 in 1980, its popularity eclipsed its chart performance. Being that it is heavier than most single releases, the Top 40 radio stations were probably playing it during late afternoon and evening hours; however, AOR stations played “Back in Black” around the clock. I can remember playing it in morning drive during my short stint as an AOR jock in 1983.

Another reason for its popularity doing better than its chart position is that AC/DC fans were not buying the single, but rather the entire album of the same name. The LP “Back in Black” is either the second or third bestselling album of all time in the world – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is number one and there is debate whether “Back in Black” or Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” landed in the second slot.

With 22 million copies sold in the US, it is the sixth bestselling LP in America and is ranked behind “Thriller,” the Eagles “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975),” “Led Zeppelin IV,” Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” and Billy Joel’s “Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II.” Two of those albums, “The Wall” and Joel’s “Greatest Hits,” were double albums.

The song “Back in Black” is one of the more often used ringtones with over two million downloads purchased. I hear often in public. VH1 ranked “Back in Black” as the second greatest hard rock song only to be bested by Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”

In the mid 80s, I had the opportunity to play this tune with The Second Story Band. Being that I was the keyboardist and there were no keyboards present on this cut, I played claves.  I remember playing them so hard one night that I shattered one of the claves into three pieces.  All for the price of rock 'n roll. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paul Hardcastle: 19

With seven posts left for the planned ending of this blog, you can change my mind by requesting that it continue. Do this by filling out the survey at

While synthesist Paul Hardcastle had several hits in the UK, his US one-hit wonder was the anti-war song “19” that charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at #15 in 1985. The title was taken from the first line of the narration that the “in World War II the average age of a combat soldier was 26 – in Vietnam, he was 19.”

Dealing with the topic of Vietnam War veterans who returned with post traumatic stress disorder, it was somewhat controversial in the US, and the song was slow to chart. I was one of the programmers at the time that waited to add the record due to the subject matter. It was only after MTV made the single a hit that I reluctantly added the record and it began its slow ascent up the radio charts.

The artist and the author in Atlanta - 1985

That was not the case in the clubs as it was a number one dance record in the US, as well as being a number one hit in the UK, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. In Canada, it peaked at #2. In 1985, the pain of the Vietnam War still lingered in the US and it was not as popular as elsewhere in the world. In non-English speaking countries, the original narration was re-recorded in the national language, which made an easier path for success elsewhere.

The narration came from a 1984 ABC documentary, “Vietnam Requiem,” that dealt with the post traumatic stress disorder with which many Vietnam vets were still coping in the 1980s. ABC sued Hardcastle for his use of the narration, but was unsuccessful in the litigation. I would have thought that ABC could have won this case as others with lesser amount of usage set the precedence. The narrator was Peter Thomas who at 88 still narrates the TV shows “Nova,” “Forensic Files,” and “Medical Detectives.” His voice has also been used for numerous TV commercials spanning several decades.

Following the success of “19,” his former US label, Profile Records, re-released the instrumental single “Rainforest,” which charted the second time at #57. It failed to chart in the US when it was initially released in 1984. You occasionally hear “Rainforest” on the Weather Channel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pat Metheny Group: Last Train Home

Eight more posts are planned, but if you would like to see it continue, register your feelings at the survey found at

One of my favorite guitarists is Pat Metheny and I became aware of him back when I immersed myself in jazz music during the 1970s. I was particular fond of the albums that were released on Manfred Eicher’s German based ECM Records label.

In fact, I purchased albums in the mid ‘70s simply because of the strength of the label - having never heard the artist and Pat Metheny's recordings were of that number. Outside of a few avant-garde records from the early seventies that I didn’t like, the later recordings were masterpieces and I frequently featured my personal ECM catalog on my Wednesday night jazz show on WKCC.

Pat Metheny was one of those acts and time came for the Pat Metheny Group to move to a label with greater marketing and distribution. In 1987, Metheny moved to Geffen Records which had great success since David Geffen founded the label in 1980. Geffen had also founded Asylum Records in 1970, which was sold to Warner Communications in 1972.

“Still Life (Talking)” was the Pat Metheny Group’s first album with Geffen and it features the song “Last Train Home.” I could have used this song for TV Thursday feature as the song is frequently heard on the Weather Channel and was used by the Lakeland, Florida based Publix supermarket chain as background music for a Christmas commercial. The commercial ran from 1987 to 1996.

The brush work on the snare by drummer Paul Wertico and driving acoustic bass of Steve Rodby gives the illusion that you are actually riding the rails. Lyle Mays’ keyboards provide the necessary piano fills, strings and occasional train sound effects.

Although the instrument is not credited, Pat Metheny used a Coral electric sitar. He did make a modification to the instrument as it does not have the original Danelectro pickups – it appears that he is using Stratocaster pickups as replacements. I am not sure what he is processing the instrument through, but it gives it a nice sound.

During the bridge, Mark Ledford, David Blamires, and Armando Marçal provide vocals. Marçal is also the percussionist for the band. It’s a great tune that always brings a smile to my face. It exudes happiness.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mumford & Sons: The Cave

In nine days, “Reading between the Grooves” could be ending its run; however, a few have asked me to continue this blog. I have agreed that, on the condition that a certain number (which shall remain unidentified) of positive responses to the survey I’ve posted be met, then (and only then) will I continue this work. You can register your feelings at

Since my FM radio is on the blink (broken for non-Americans), I decided to stop by our local used record and CD store last week to get some music for my trip to Pennsylvania last week. While going through racks, I found the Mumford & Sons 2009 CD “Sigh no More.” The cover intrigued me and the name was vaguely familiar. There was an unusual banjo being held by one of the band members – so I bought the CD.

As the first track emanated from the speakers, I was not that impressed. My initial reaction was that the instrumentation was great, but the vocals seemed to be over produced with a Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” treatment. The dichotomy between sparse instrumentation and vocals akin to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was not terribly exciting to me. Marcus Mumford’s unusual voice did not bother me – it was these great swells of vocals that initially turned me off.

When the fourth cut emerged from the speakers, I readily remembered “Roll Away Your Stone” and cut number five, “White Blank Page.” I played “Roll Away Your Stone” several times on Wednesday night and when I got a chance, I checked and I had already featured this song in 2011. No wonder it sounded so familiar. Ah yes, memory is a wonderful thing - when you have it.

By Saturday, I was listening again to the CD and the second listen caught my ear and I immediately warmed up to the other tracks and now I had an admiration and understanding of the vocal swells – it finally made sense to me musically and from a production standpoint. Interestingly, I began to recognize some of the other tracks that I heard them before as well.

If I hear a song I like once, I generally recognize it later. This came in handy when I was programming radio stations. If I couldn’t hear it, I generally didn’t play it. “Sigh No More” is beginning to be one of my favorite albums and “Roll Away Your Stone” is still my favorite track on the CD. I really like this CD and I know that my wife would really hate it – but she hates most of the stuff I listen to anyway.

The CD has done very well in the US selling over two million copies and being certified as platinum. “Roll Away Your Stone” was the fourth single and was the worst performing of the four charting at 141 in Billboard. The third single, “The Cave,” did the best by charting at #27 and was the only Top 40 hit for the band.

One of the things about this band I like is Mumford’s voice – it’s odd and many people might not like it. Like Dylan, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, and others – it is not pristine – it’s unique and probably an acquired taste. I’m listening to this CD in my headphones now and it is even better without any other distraction. The other thing about this band is the lyrics are dark and realistic – just like folk music should be. Last year, I called the style “folk music with attitude.”

In addition to Mumford, who also plays guitar, the band consists of Winston Marshall on banjo, Ben Lovett on keyboards, and Ted Dwane on bass. All sing and three of the band (Mumford, Lovett, and Dwane) all play drums. If you purchase this CD, give it at least three listens to sink in and you’ll love it like I do.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Traffic: Holy Ground

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In 1994, Traffic recorded “Far from Home” – their first studio album in twenty years. The band dwindled from its seven member ensemble in the early seventies to just two individuals: Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi. Although “Far from Home” charted at 33 in the US, it was the band’s third worst charting album of their career in America.

The two worst charting albums were their first and final LPs: “Mr. Fantasy” peaked at 88 and the 2005 CD “Last Great Traffic Jam,” recorded during their 1994 tour, failed to chart on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. So by comparison, #33 is a pretty good showing for the band.

Our Spiritual Sunday selection is “Holy Ground” from “Far from Home.” The song deals with our ill treatment of the environment, ourselves, and the children of the world. While not overtly spiritual in nature, this song co-written by Winwood, Capaldi, and Davy Spillane uses religious imagery to convey their message.

Davy Spillane and his pipes.

While Jim Capaldi plays drums and percussion on this cut, Steve Winwood is featured on the lion’s share of instrumentation and the lead vocals. The uilleann pipes were provided by former Moving Hearts’ member Davy Spillane. The pipes add a nice touch to this song.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Genesis: Watcher of the Skies

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While I’ve probably seen only fifty concerts or so over the years, people often ask me, “What was the best show?” Well, I’ve seen some pretty good ones such as Bruce Springsteen at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium; Madonna at Madison Square Garden; Emerson, Lake, and Palmer at the Charleston, WV Civic Center; and Heart at the Huntington, WV Civic Center; however, the best show I’ve seen was on November 30, 1974.

I was on Thanksgiving break from college and my birthday present from my brother that year was a chance to accompany him to see Genesis live at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh. Sadly, this intimate and ornate hall is no more having been demolished to make room for something really important – a parking lot. Grrrr.

Every seat in the house was a great seat and I am not sure how many rows back from the stage we were situated, but we were in the last row at stage center – it was like being at the fifty yard line. It couldn’t have been more than 20 rows back. This was still very close to see all of the action and Peter Gabriel’s Genesis had plenty of action.

“The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” tour was not just a musical event; it was a theatrical event. This was the best concert, bar none, that I’ve attended. Apologies are extended to ZZ Top, Van Halen, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Robert Plant, Jefferson Starship, and a host of others that I’ve attended over the years.

I became a fan of Genesis when I heard selections from the “Nursery Cryme” LP played over Carnegie, PA’s WZUM – Sweet 16 on your AM dial. Being that Carnegie was some distance from my home (17 miles) and that this 1,000 watt daytime station was at the second worst dial position (1590) on the AM dial, it was difficult to pick it up always. (By the way, the worst position was 1600 kHz; however, since the medium wave spectrum was extended in the Western Hemisphere during 1993, 1700 is now the worst position on the dial.)

The station had a split format – ethnic (read Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, etc.) music until sometime in the afternoon (4 PM perhaps) and then album rock until signoff. I could not wait until the ethnic music went off the air. Whoever was programming the selections in the late afternoon did a great job. I shortly purchased my first Genesis album – “Nursery Cryme.” “Foxtrot” and “Genesis Live” followed shortly.

During the concert, I was hoping to hear some of their older material, but alas, only one older Genesis number was featured in the encore. It was “The Musical Box” from “Nursery Cryme.” While I like this particular song, I was hoping that at some point the song they used to begin shows would be used. This was the opening cut from their 1973 album “Foxtrot.”

“Watcher of the Skies” started out with keyboardist Tony Banks playing this surreal string intro on his Mark II Mellotron. The chords just sound fantastic. It is said that this particular string sound could was only available on the Mark II version. For the latest Mellotron emulator, the Manikin Electronics’ Memotron has samples from the Mark II Mellotron (recorded from the speakers no less) to get that true “Watcher of the Skies” sound.

When performed live, Peter Gabriel wore a headdress similar to bat wings. He also used fluorescent makeup that glowed under black lights on stage. I would have loved to have seen this, but I never got the opportunity.

The Single Mix

For a shortened version of the single, Genesis completely re-recorded “Watcher of the Skies” that cut the length down from the 7:52 version to 3:44. The guitar parts are very different on the single.

Also extricated from the song was its now famous Mellotron intro – which was too long of an intro for AM radio (excepting WZUM) and the newer breed of FM Contemporary Hit Radio stations. “Watcher” redux is good in its own right and worth a listen or two as it is a completely different mix. The single failed to chart in the Hot 100.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Moody Blues: Melancholy Man

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If you’ve noticed that the songs I’ve picked by the Moody Blues, they have leaned heavily toward Justin Hayward compositions with an occasional John Lodge or Ray Thomas piece.

“Blue World” – Justin Hayward
“Cities” – Justin Hayward
“Blue Guitar” – Justin Hayward
“Are You Sitting Comfortably” – Justin Hayward and Ray Thomas
“Legend of a Mind” – Ray Thomas
“Candle of Life” – John Lodge
“Emily’s Song” – John Lodge
“When A Child is Born” – not composed by the band, but sung by Hayward and Lodge

Although, I had picked today’s Friday Flipside before I did this exercise, I did not realize that I have never featured a Mike Pinder song. Mike was the master of the Mellotron and may have been the first artist to consistently use this new technology in the 1960s.

Other prog rock bands would learn to rely upon this strange but wonderful keyboard instrument that was belabored with mechanical problems, but it gave the illusion of a full orchestra, a choir, and provided other sounds at the hands of a master. It was the predecessor to technology that created digital sampling keyboards in the 1980s.

Mellotrons were big, clunky, and at the mercy of the roadies, voltage irregularities, and humidity. Come to think of it, my Ensoniq Mirage Sampler in the 1980s was subject to all of those same problems – especially problems in voltage fluctuation.

We used to play at this one venue in Summersville, WV where the out of phase wiring would cause my Mirage to go haywire. As for the roadies – we had none, but a friend during the post band years of mine dropped my keyboard and it remains broken; however, it is an easy fix. I’ll get around to it eventually. Ah yes, I had similar experiences to what Mike Pinder no doubt suffered with his Mellotron – that is sans the adoring fans, the recording contract, and a name known round the world.

Mike was the only member of the classic version of the Moody Blues that I have not met. Pinder left the band in 1978 and was replaced by Patrick Moraz. Although, Moraz’s role in the band was subject to some questioning, he stayed until 1992. The band claimed he was a sideman and not an actual member; however, Moraz sued the band and won the judgment; however, he was not awarded as large an amount of back royalties.

Well back to Pinder, most people assume that the recitations written by drummer Graeme Edge were all spoken by the creator – not so. Mike Pinder’s excellent speaking voice was the primary vehicle for Edge’s creations. Think . . . “Breathe deep the gathering gloom. Watch lights fade from every room . . .”

Today’s Friday Flipside is the “B” side to the “The Story in Your Eyes.” As with a number of singles, the flip comes from a previous album. While the “A” side was from “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” “Melancholy Man” was from “A Question of Balance.”

In France, “Melancholy Man” was the hit and was a number one record; however, in the US “The Story in Your Eyes,” which is one of my favorite Moody Blues’ singles only charted at #23. The single failed to chart in the UK, but was a Top 10 record in Canada. “A Question of Balance” did quite well charting at #3 in the US and Canada, #2 in Australia, and #1 in the UK. It was certified as a platinum release in both the US and Canada.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Styx: Lady

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Used in a 2002 commercial for California Happy Cows, our TV Thursday special is provided by Styx from their 1973 second album, which was appropriately titled “Styx II.” The song “Lady” eventually became a national hit in 1974 after much airplay by WLS’ Dick Biondi. Eventually after a re-release of the single, the band’s first hit charted at #6.

Styx’s first four albums were released by Wooden Nickel Records, which signed artists from its home base, the Greater Chicago area. Wooden Nickel, playing on its name, did not have Sides 1 and 2 of an album or the A & B sides to the singles; the sides were known as “Heads” and “Tails.”

“Styx II” did very well by charting at 20 and was their highest charting album until their seventh release, “The Grand Illusion,” peaked at #6 in 1977.

In 1995, several members of Styx reunited to re-record “Lady” so that it might appear on A&M Records compilation “Styx: Greatest Hits.” The new version, named “Lady 95,” is surprisingly close to the original and is the version that is generally found on YouTube. The selection below is the original single release.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer: From the Beginning

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There are songs and there are songs. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “From the Beginning” is in the latter category. From their fourth album “Trilogy,” 1972’s “From the Beginning” was their only top 40 hit in the US and therefore, it is a one hit wonder – just barely as it only peaked at 39.

I know people will take exception to the categorization of ELP being a one hit wonder, but the definition of the category is an artist who only has had one single to chart within the Top 40. No matter how popular a band or its songs may be, if it didn’t chart in the Top 40, it is not categorized as a mainstream hit.

ELP only had three other songs chart within the Top 100: “Lucky Man” at 48, “Nutrocker” at 70, and “C’est La Vie” at 91. Despite their lack of chart success, they remain one of my favorite progressive rock bands – a genre sometimes called classical rock or art rock back in the day.

Greg Lake shines on this number. He is playing umpteen guitars (several acoustics – and perhaps a 12-string), at least two electric guitars, and bass. I love the bass track on this recording. Carl Palmer is on drums and percussion. While Palmer plays the toms in concert by using mallets, I believe he is also playing congas on this track.

Arriving late in the tune is Keith Emerson doing one of his signature Moog synthesizer leads. One thing bothered me about this lead as that at the end he hangs on the “A” note four times before dropping an octave and repeating the “A” note all over again for five times only an octave lower. Not that I really disliked it, but I was wanting more – but as the old musical adage often rings true, “less is more.”

The song reminds me of 1977 when Jon Weiner and I performed it live during an open stage at The Portfolio on South Craig Street in Pittsburgh. I played my red España acoustic guitar while Jon did the synth parts on his ‘cello.

I learned the guitar parts from a guy by the name of Mike out of Ashland, KY. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name. He showed me this and the Allman Brothers' "Little Martha." I didn’t learn until recently, that I learned the wrong chords inversions for "From the Beginning"; however, the chords were correct and easier to play than the way Greg plays them. I never learned the guitar intro, but started playing where the single edit begins.

Greg Lake Version Live Version from 2005

Here’s a nice alternative version by Greg Lake. It is a slightly different arrangement with different instrumentation. I like the female backup vocalists – they give the song a dreamy timbre. I prefer Lake’s lead on the original to this version – it sounds too much like Peter Frampton with the auto-wah effect – not that there is anything wrong with that.

The keyboard starts out mimicking Keith Emerson’s lead, but switches to an electric piano sound that reminds me of Brian Auger. I learned something from this version – there was a line in the song that I could never quite understand it – so I sang, “The very latest.” It never made sense to me, but today after listening the first time, I finally understood what he was singing – “But there it is.” Duh. This is a very nice version, but I still prefer the original ’72 release.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yes: America

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Eleven years ago on this date America experienced the greatest act of terrorism in this country’s history. I will not belabor the point of where I was when I heard the news nor the nature of the attacks, as I did that in previous posts on the anniversaries of 911.

America changed that day and heightened regulations at airports commenced immediately as well as suspicions of anyone who is of foreign birth and even some folks who are native born. We all became scared and a little jaded. We will never forget; but in time, healing may come.

Today’s recording celebrates America with a trip of two lovers across the United States to their apparent destination of New York City. While New York is never mentioned in the song, it appears to be the logical conclusion of the trip that started in Saginaw, Michigan, and then to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and onto the New Jersey Turnpike. I featured Simon and Garfunkel’s original version during my September 11th tribute in 2010. Today’s Tasty Lick Tuesday selection is the cover from the progressive rock band Yes.

Originally released in 1972 as a non-album single, Yes recorded their version around the time of the session for the “Fragile” album. The full length 10:30 original version appears on the 1972 sampler album “The New Age of Atlantic.”

Most major labels in the early seventies provided samplers at a reduced price and it was a good way to introduce acts to the public. Both the Yes track and a Led Zeppelin B-side appeared for the first time on an album with this sampler.

Later in 1975, the full length version of “America” was added to the Yes compilation album “Yesterdays” and was the only track that featured the lineup of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Bill Bruford – the best known version of the band. The other selections on the album featured the previous lineup with Peter Banks and Tony Kaye. 

With the advent of CD technology that could feature up to 80 minutes of music, both the single and album versions were released as bonus tracks on the CDs “Fragile” (the full length version) and “Close to the Edge” (the single version). The single also appeared on the box sets “Yesyears” and “Yesstory.”

While a totally different arrangement than Simon and Garfunkel’s original, Yes’ “America” showcases the talent of this band and notably the bass of Chris Squire, the guitar of Steve Howe, and the keyboards of Rick Wakeman.

Full Length Version

Single Edit

1-2-3’s Version of America

While Yes’ arrangement of “America” was different, it may have been loosely inspired the arrangement of a Scottish band named 1-2-3. In 1967, 1-2-3 had performed as a house band at London’s Marquee Club. During their sets, they played “America,” a song that was learned from a demo tape cut by Paul Simon in 1966. In fact, I-2-3’s recording of “America” predated Simon and Garfunkel’s commercial release of the song.

It has been said that David Bowie, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman were present during the performances 1-2-3 and that Wakeman's and Emerson's performance styles were both influenced by 1-2-3’s keyboardist, Billy Ritchie.  Bowie later performed his own arrangement of “America” live using an Omnichord.

1-2-3 was only a three piece band, and beside Ritchie, it featured Ian Ellis on bass and vocals and Harry Hughes on drums. Although managed by Brian Epstein and later Robert Stigwood, 1-2-3 had little success. The band joined the Chrysalis management group and were rebranded as Clouds.

While Yes’ version probably took its initial inspiration from 1-2-3’s performance, there is enough difference between the two to conclude that Yes’ version was unique. I would liken 1-2-3 more to the sound of Vanilla Fudge and other bands that heavily used the Hammond B-3 organ.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Zon: Man In The Mirror

Have you registered your feelings about “Reading between the Grooves” continuing? If I get enough folks voting positively, I will continue the blog after September 26, 2012. On that date, we will have our 1,000th post and third anniversary. It also was my planned retirement date; however, some requested that I keep writing. Only 16 more posts are planned; however, you can make a difference by registering your feelings in the survey found at

For our Mélange Monday, I bring you a group with which most Americans are not familiar; however, they have a substantial following in their native Canada. Formed in Toronto in 1977, Zon was a progressive rock band that produced three albums during their short, four-year career. I characterize their sound as a poor man’s Styx.

I have their 1978 debut album “Astral Projector”; it was an import from Canada on Epic Records of Canada. I bought the album solely on the premise that it was released on blue vinyl. Being that I collected colored vinyl and other oddities at the time, I felt it was a good addition to my collection.

Although not having heard the group prior to buying the disc, I was pleased with the purchase. While some songs are stronger than others, I have selected my favorite – “Man in the Mirror.” It has screaming guitars, monophonic synthesizers, and tubular bells – what else could anyone want.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: I Find Jesus

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Since 1966, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has entertained millions with their brand of original and roots music. From 1976 until 1981, the name was shortened to The Dirt Band; however, by summer 1981 they returned to their original moniker. I saw them in concert at the West Virginia State Fair in Fairlea, WV during August 1981 and was impressed with their big sound.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, West Virginia State Fair, August 1981. 
Front row: Jimmie Fadden, Jeff Hanna, unknown fan, Michael Gardiner. 
Back Row: Richard Hathaway, Dave Blandford, Ron Hill, Jim Owston

I had a chance to meet most of the band after the show, but did not get to talk to them much. They seemed like a nice crew of guys, but they were also very rushed as the band was doing two shows that night and we had met them after the first set.

Jimmie Fadden and Jeff Hanna; August 1981

Released on their 2002 “Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume III” CD, Jimmy Ibbotson provided the song “I Find Jesus.” According to Jimmy on a Gaither Homecoming special,
“That song came to me in a dream. I was down in Costa Rica one night and I dreamt I was in this southern church and all the people were looking at me and going, ‘Get up and sing your song.’ And I didn’t know anybody in the church except through their smiles and their acceptance. And I said, ‘What do you mean? Get up and sing what song?’ Somebody said, ‘You’re new song’ and someone tapped me on the back and it was my dad who had passed on a couple months before. And he said, ‘Go on Jimmy, get up and sing it.’ So the thing came in real time.”

John McEuen; August 1981.

Today’s video features band members Jimmy Ibbotson on guitar and lead vocals, Jeff Hanna on slide guitar and vocals, John McEuen on mandolin, Jimmie Fadden on drums and harmonica, and Bob Carpenter on accordion and vocals. The bassist was a sideman and not a member of the band.

Enjoy our Spiritual Sunday selection.


I walk in silence when it comes
This feeling when the Spirit leads me on
If the dogs are barking and the night is rough
I take it as a sign to climb above.

The city to the hill among the clouds
Where I can see my Savior now
He's waiting with His palm to me outstretched
His mercy is a balm when I'm perplexed.

I find Jesus in the darkest night
I find Jesus in the morning light
I find Jesus in the face of those
Whose hearts are singing with the Heavenly Host.

Sometimes when I feel all alone
I look around and all are gone
The friends that I rely upon
Are busy doing what they want.

I look within and I am told
It's Sunday morning in my soul
And there I find a holy hall
Where congregations heed the call.

I find Jesus in the darkest night
I find Jesus in the morning bright
I find Jesus in the face of those
Whose hearts are singing with the Heavenly Host.

And when I lay down my last time
And feel a chill run up my spine
And recognize my time has come
I'll look around, He'll lead me home.

He'll reach His loving hand to me
And bid me climb to victory
Where we'll find kindred spirits there
Hearts raised in song without a care.

I find Jesus in the darkest night
I find Jesus in the morning bright
I find Jesus in the face of those
Whose hearts are singing with the Heavenly Host.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cleveland Rocks with WMMS

A few weeks ago, Greg Rector, who has been a constant reader of this blog since its inception, asked if I would do a feature on the legendary rock radio station WMMS from Cleveland. I have done radio features before and one that I had done early on regarding WHAM’s Harry Abraham has garnered me some lifelong friends who also listened to this legendary jazz announcer from Rochester, NY. So, I have done some radio features – but usually I had listened to a station quite a bit that I knew it well.

With the case of WMMS, I had heard the station during my travels throughout Northern Ohio in the late 1970s; however, I could not claim to be an expert the station. WMMS, however, was the only station I listened to while driving through that region and I remember hearing bands like The Pretenders first on WMMS. During my brief stint in Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio, I got to know the station better, as WMMS was considered one top AOR outlets in the US. If a cut was played on WMMS, dozens of others would add the song.

Ohio was a hotbed of AOR stations with excellent examples found in Youngstown, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Toledo, and elsewhere; however, Cleveland – the home of rock ‘n roll – had one of the better known AOR stations in the country.

The outlet began as the FM compliment to 5,000 watt WHK. When FCC rules enacted in 1967 required that AM and FM outlets (initially in the major markets) have unique programming, WHK-FM switched to the new progressive/underground format that in the 1970s morphed into AOR.

Metro Media, the owners of WHK-FM in 1968, rebranded the station as WMMS – for Metro Media Stereo – the call sign the station uses today even though ownership has changed several times since the Metro Media days. The progressive rock format did not initially perform well in Cleveland, and WMMS jockeyed a number of other formats during 1969 and 1970. It returned to the progressive/AOR format in 1970 and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the mid 1970s, WMMS adopted "The Buzzard" mascot – which simultaneously became the station’s alter ego. In 1981, Radio and Records (later R&R) declared that The Buzzard was the best known radio promotional emblem in the US. WMMS jocks simply referenced the station as "The Buzzard" as well.

While my listening to WMMS is limited, I got to know the station through my own work in radio. Even though most of the middle period of my radio career was in Contemporary Hit Radio, WMMS program director John Gorman was known nationally and across formats as one of the best program directors in the business.

Afternoon jock, Kid Leo, became a national celebrity appearing at conventions and later broadened his base in the music industry as the vice president for artist development at Columbia Records, a position he held from 1989 to 2002. While there were other well known personalities at WMMS, Gorman and Kid Leo are the only two with which I am familiar.

Ian Hunter: Cleveland Rocks

In 1979, former Mott the Hoople lead vocalist Ian Hunter released his best selling solo album, “You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic.” As a tribute to the birthplace of rock ‘n roll, Hunter recorded “Cleveland Rocks.” He felt that the Rust Belt city did not get the respect it was due.

The recording starts with a clip of legendary Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed and his Moondog show (over WJW) that ties the perspective of Cleveland being rock ‘n roll’s birthplace with the voice of its father. The song became synonymous with Cleveland and is played often today. Every Friday, as Greg told me, WMMS would kick off the weekend by playing Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks” followed by The Easybeats’ “Friday on My Mind.”

A cover by The Presidents of the United States gained national notoriety as the theme song to the Drew Carey Show which was set in Cleveland.

Ian Hunter: England Rocks

Two years previous to the release of the 1979 release of “You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic,” Hunter recorded the original version of “Cleveland Rocks.” At the request of CBS records to use another locale besides an American city, Hunter changed the lyrics to “England Rocks.”

“England Rocks” was released as a single in the United Kingdom by Hunter and his band the Overnight Angels. Hunter is clear on the subject of this version that “Cleveland” was the original and intended location for the song. I don’t know about you, but “England Rocks” just doesn’t have the punch that “Cleveland Rocks” has.

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