Tag Archives: Musical Interlude

Rock, Rock, Rock! ► Monday Musical Appreciation

A precurser to the Baby Boomer Youth Culture to come, Rock, Rock, Rock! is one of the earliest Rock and Roll movies, released all the way back in 1956.

Youth culture was a phrase barely known when this movie was released and I was a mere 4 years old.

Top billed is Disk Jockey Alan Freed, who coined the term Rock and Roll and was an important link for teenagers until the Payola scandal brought him down in the early ’60s. Despite this disgrace, Freed was among the first class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The RnRHoF was placed in Cleveland to pay tribute to Freed and his Moondog Coronation Ball, considered the first major Rock and Roll concert.

Rock, Rock, Rock! was the first movie for Tuesday Weld, years before she appeared as Thalia Menninger in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Her singing was dubbed by Connie Francis. This is also the film debut of Valerie Harper — seen at the middle table during the performance of Cirino and the Bowties‘s tune “Ever Since I Can Remember” — and actor Jack Collins, who played dozens of roles on tee vee.

Not only was the movie in Black and White, so were the performers. According to jgp3553@excite.com on the Internet Movie Data Base:

A young teenage girl desperately tries to earn enough money to buy a dress for a school rock and roll dance. This early rock and roll feature, the 3rd in a series of 5 staring Disc Jockey and Rock N Roll impresario Alan Freed, includes performances by artist Chuck Berry, LaVern Baker, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Flamingos, The Moonglows and The Johnny Burnette Trio.

Because the movie entered the Public Domain, as the result of not getting the copyright renewed, it can be posted here without fear of a lawsuit. Enjoy:

Mrs. Miller ► Monday Musical Appreciation

The ’60s are known for great discoveries in music, from Motown to The British Invasion to Psychedelia. However, there was no greater discovery than Mrs. Miller, born on this day in 1907. 

Mrs. Miller was Kitch before Kitch was Kool.

She was discovered in the early ’60s by LA DJ Gary Owens, better known as the announcer on Laugh-In. However, her star didn’t begin to rise until she was signed to Capitol Records in 1965. According to the WikiWackyWoo:

Singing in an untrained, Mermanesque, vibrato-laden style, according to Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace in The Book of Lists 2, Miller’s voice was compared to the sound of “roaches scurrying across a trash can lid.” [1]

While growing up in the ’60s, I was fascinated by Mrs. Miller. I couldn’t wait for her many appearances on the various talk shows of the day. I thought, “If she can make it in Show Biz, then so can I,” which may have been my impetus for starting Cobwebs and Strange, a band I formed with my childhood friends.

According to Searching For Mrs. Miller:

From Claremont [where she lived] to Capitol is two hours in average traffic. There is a piece of story missing here, being that an organist/pianist on these sessions, Fred Bock, by all accounts a smart man with a sharp sense of humor, knew he’d found something unique. Fortunately, he knew somebody of consequence in the music business.

Lois Bock recalls: “Mrs. Miller would come to the L.A. studios and make recordings to send as gifts to orphanages those old, old songs like ` Alice Blue Gown’ in what she called her `operatic style’, and, on one of these sessions, Fred talked her into doing `Downtown’, which he took to Lex, who was an employee of Capitol at the time, and he heard something there.” She was signed to the venerated label, and work began on her debut, Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits.

Barry Hansen, a/k/a Dr. Demento raised an interesting point. “It took some imagination on Lex De Azevedo’s part to make an album of her doing all rock ‘n’ roll songs. It certainly was a departure from what she had recorded before.” Conventional legend has it that Mrs. Miller had no idea that she was a novelty act, but Lois Bock is quite clear about what Mrs. Miller was told. “Fred and I were honest with her. We told her it would be funny. And the audience loved it. The more they laughed, the more she would, you know, work it. I don’t know if she knew more than she let on, because she was always quite a character. But she loved audiences.”

Like so many superstars that burned far too bright, Mrs. Miller eventually flamed out:

As Lois Bock said, “She had a good run for eighteen months, which was seventeen-and-a-half more than anyone had a right to expect.” Mrs. Miller continued to perform sporadically, playing more benefits than just about any performer I can name, including one to raise funds to build a hospital in her hometown Jetmore, KS. When the hospital was built, she personally furnished the nurse”s lounge. She also devoted much time to raising her niece, Audrey.

[…] She retired officially in 1973, resigning from the Screen Actors’ Guild in honorable standing, and eventually settled into a condo at 9535 Reseda Blvd in Northridge, CA (the Valley). Unfortunately, in January 1994, the huge Northridge Quake destroyed the complex. Old age took its toll. Elva relocated to the Garden Terrace Retirement Center, in Vista, CA, where she died in 1997, at the age of 90. She is interred at the Pomona Mausoleum, near her beloved Claremont.

However, we still have her music to keep us warm on those cold nights:

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels Gets The Full Treatment

Circle the date. On October 23rd Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels will get the full orchestral treatment for the first time since 1970, when the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed it live in the movie of the same name.

In fact, the entire score has never really been performed by just an orchestra, the movie soundtrack having been augmented by The Mothers of Invention, newly-reformed by Frank Zappa in 1970 to make the movie. This group of Mothers featured members of the hit-making Pop-Rock act The Turtles on vocals. However, due to a shitty contract that Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan signed with White Whale Records, as teenagers, they were not allowed to use their real names for recording, so they took the names Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, respectively.

But, I digress . . .

According to Billboard Magazine, Gail Zappa has been in negotiations with the L.A. Philharmonic on and off over the years to bring Frank’s music to the ‘Merkin concert stage. While Europeans have had the experience of hearing Zappa’s music played by full orchestras, that pleasure has been denied people on this side of the pond . . . until now.

“I believe in my heart of hearts that someone on the board (of the Philharmonic) said it’s about time,” Zappa’s widow Gail Zappa told Billboard. “This music was written before our children were even conceived and they have never had a chance to hear his music in a proper concert hall.”

L.A. Philharmonic president and CEO Deborah Borda said “a lack of resources and imagination have kept it from getting to the concert hall. [Conductor laureate] Esa-Pekka [Salonen] said the first person to call and welcome him (in 1992) was Frank Zappa. Beyond any Esa-Pekka connection, it’s our connection to L.A.” Zappa died in 1993.

Frank Zappa explaining the scene from 200 Motels in which “The Girl Wants to Fix Him Some Broth.”

200 Motels was a movie way ahead of its time. It’s nice to see the L.A. Philharmonic catching up. However, I can just imagine Walt Disney turning over in his grave when the orchestra begins playing “Half A Dozen Provocative Squats” in the concert hall which bears his name.

Coming soon: A review of Howard Kaylan’s autobiography “Shell Shocked; My Life With The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. . . .” which will feature an exclusive interview with Mr. Kaylan. You can read an excerpt of the book at Rolling Stone Magazine.

Frank Zappa ► A Musical Appreciation

Dateline December 4 – On this day in 1971 Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were on stage in Montreax, Switzerland when the casino caught fire. The night was immortalized in Deep Purple’s song “Smoke on the Water.” On the same date 22 years later Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer.

The ugliest LP cover I had ever seen.
I had to own it.

Not to brag, but I was there from the beginning. I discovered Frank Zappa some time in 1966 when I first set eyes on the cover of Freak Out at my local Kresge’s record department. As one descended on the escalator into the basement, a gap opened in the wall revealing Kresge’s 2-rack record department. The farther one descended, more of the record department was revealed in the expanding triangle of the record department. As teens we’d crane our heads into that crack to see what was new each week.

One day in 1966 my eyes spied what was the ugliest record cover I had ever seen. I had to own it.

It was a double-record set in a gatefold cover, among the first for a Rock and Roll LP. The music was also a revelation. One LP was all Doo Wop, but done in a slightly demented style, as opposed to straight up. The other LP contained longer songs and musical collages that were NOTHING like demented Doo Wop, but were demented all the same. I became an instant fan and followed Frank Zappa’s career, like a lemming follows whatever a lemming follows, ever since.

When I signed up I didn’t realize that by the time it was over I’d have collected some 90 albums, many of them double and triple sets, making Frank Zappa one of the most prolific artists/composers/Rock musicians of the 20th Century. However, I wasn’t a fan because he was prolific. I was a fan because he made great music. Here’s just a small taste of what Frank Zappa composed and released. Enjoy.

Musical Appreciation ► Bob Weir

DATELINE October 16, 1947 – Robert Hall Weir is born in San Fransisco, California and grew up in nearby Atherton, on the other side of the bay, with his adopted parents. He picked up the guitar at the age of 13. Three years later, on a New Year’s Eve, he followed the sound of banjo playing to meet Jerry Garcia for the first time. After jamming all night they decided to form a band. At first they called themselves “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions,” which became “The Warlocks,” and finally “The Grateful Dead.”

There is no ‘Merkin band with the same storied romance between its fans and the group. Long before most people even knew about Bootleg recordings, The Grateful Dead would allow fans with tape machines to plug directly into the sound board. Dead Heads would follow the band around the country, and across the world, to take in as many shows as they could. An entire culture grew up outside Grateful Dead concerts, not to mention inside the shows.

While with The Dead, and after the death of Garcia in 1995, Weir also performed with such bands as Kingfish, Bobby and the Midnites, RatDog and his latest band Further, which is named after the bus used by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, where the Grateful Dead got their start, and the subject of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, one of Tom Wolfe’s early books.

However, it will always be about the music.


Chow Mein and Bolling 9 ► A Vice Presidential Debate Review

Put down Bully Boy Bolling as another bullshit artist from Fox “News” who didn’t much like Vice President Joe Biden’s debate performance. 

The so called “Fair and Balanced” network has spent plenty of time since the end of the debate alleging Biden was drunk, rude, disrespectful, an unhinged cranky old man, and even attacked him for things he didn’t say. However, leave it to Bully Boy Bolling to take it so far over-the-top that it barely resembled what the rest of the country saw. However, before Bully Boy weighed in, The Five played a greatest hits package of Fox “News” personalities criticizing the Vice President.


ANDREA TANTAROS: Eric? Rude, cranky, disrespectful. Really unprecedented behavior and, if you’re trying to swing voters in your camp when you’re down, probably not the the way to do it.

BULLY BOY BOLLING: Yannow, umm, unfortunately Joe Biden — Mr. Vee Pee — confirmed all our suspicions. He’s a real jackrabbit. He embarrassed himself, he embarrassed the office, he embarrassed the country. Her lied about taxes. He lied about contraception. He lied about his voting record on wars. And, most importantly, he lied about what went on in Libya. The scary fact is this guy is one heartbeat away — a condescending smug, morally and intellectually bankrupt man — is one heartbeat away from the presidency. Your question, Andrea, four more years or four more weeks?


It was only a few days ago that Fox “News” was trying to make the case that the Obama campaign calling Mendacious Mitt a liar when they called out his lying lie was “unseemly.” However, it seems Bully Boy Bolling has no trouble calling the Vice President a liar. 

The Five: Still the worst show on tee vee. Bully Boy Bolling: The worst person on the worst show on tee vee.

Chow Mein and Bolling ► A Musical Interlude

Unretouched photo of Bully Boy Bolling taken off my tee vee screen

I get email. Several people have asked me me how I came up with such an odd name for a series that (quite rightly) skewers Bully Boy Bolling for being the supreme asshole that he is. While I explained in the first episode of Chow Mein and Bolling, I guess it would be hubris for me to expect my faithful readers to go back that far.

The truth of the matter is I stole the name from Mike Nesmith, my favourite Monkee, who named a terrifically funny song “Chow Mein and Bolling.”

Now I guess I need to apologize to Mike Nesmeth, Nez to his fans, because my popular series Chow Mein and Bolling has knocked Nesmith off the top of the Google listings. I’ll do that my treating my fans to another great Mike Nesmith song, which helps put Bully Boy Bolling’s tee vee bullshit into the proper perspective.

Does that answer your question?

Musical Appreciation ► Thelonious Monk ► A Jazz Great

Dateline October 10, 1917 – Thelonious Sphere Monk is born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. When he was 4 years old his family would move to the “San Juan Hill” area of Manhattan. A year later he would start playing piano after listening to his sister’s music lessons. By the time of his death in 1982, he would be one of only 5 Jazz artists to appear on the cover of Time Magazine (the others being Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis and Dave Brubeck). Today he’s generally considered The Father of Bebop music.

According to The Monk Zone:

With the arrival Thelonious Sphere Monk, modern music — let alone modern culture — simply hasn’t been the same. Recognized as one of the most inventive pianists of any musical genre, Monk achieved a startlingly original sound that even his most devoted followers have been unable to successfully imitate. His musical vision was both ahead of its time and deeply rooted in tradition, spanning the entire history of the music from the “stride” masters of James P. Johnson and Willie “the Lion” Smith to the tonal freedom and kinetics of the “avant garde.” And he shares with Edward “Duke” Ellington the distinction of being one of the century’s greatest American composers. At the same time, his commitment to originality in all aspects of life — in fashion, in his creative use of language and economy of words, in his biting humor, even in the way he danced away from the piano — has led fans and detractors alike to call him “eccentric,” “mad” or even “taciturn.” Consequently, Monk has become perhaps the most talked about and least understood artist in the history of jazz.

The WikiWackyWoo says, “Monk is the second-most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70.

It wasn’t just his own compositions. When Monk covered another artists’ song, he had a way of turning it inside out and creating his lovely dissonance, where it none had before.

Clint Eastwood, when he’s not berating empty chairs, is a great aficionado of Jazz. He produced this 1988 documentary, directed by Charlotte Zwerin that can say far more than I can:

If that has whetted your appetite, here’s a Thelonious Monk Jukebox I put together:


Musical Appreciation ► Brian Wilson is A.L.i.V.E. ► Rich Aucoin

Before Mike Love stabbed his cousins in the back and fired Brian Wilson and Al Jardine from The Beach Boys, it was gratifying for this long-time fan to know they were back on the road making music. On the same day I read that Mike Love fired his band mates of 50 years, I discovered this wonderful tribute to Brian Wilson. I not only loved the song, but dug the whole video production, which touches upon some of the highlights and lowlights of Brian Wilson’s life.

This video made me curious. Knowing absolutely nothing about Rich Aucoin, I used Der Googalizer. The WikiWackyWoo wasn’t much help, although it told me that this was a good Canadian boy from Nova Scotia. It also informed me:

[H]e also recorded material across Canada with a wide variety of musicians, friends and fans for what would become his debut full-length album, 2011’s We’re All Dying to Live; in total, the album features over 500 guest musicians, including Jay Ferguson of Sloan, Becky Ninkovic of You Say Party and Rae Spoon. The album’s release party, held at the 2011 Halifax Pop Explosion festival, featured over 80 musicians onstage.

Even his Official Web Site had very little actual information, but it did open up a treasure trove of videos. The music and the videos will just have to do the talking for Rich Aucoin.

And, if you have your anaglyph 3D glasses, you’ll get the most out of this video:

It’ll be interesting to see what Rich Aucoin has up his sleeve next time.



A Musical Appreciation ► Louis Armstrong

Dateline August 4, 1901 – A Black boy is born into a world of extreme poverty and Jim Crow laws in New Orleans, Louisiana. By the time Louis Armstrong died in 1971, in Queens, New York, he was one of the most recognizable musicians on the planet. Along the way he entertained millions and became one of the greatest performers in all of Jazz. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While I’ve been a fan of Louis Armstrong for many years, I became a huge fan all over again by what Jazz historian Gary Giddins said in Ken Burns’ (amazing multi-part) Jazz documentary. Giddins was asked whether Armstrong was a genius. Giddins replied (paraphrasing), “We tend to throw the word ‘genius’ around. However, if by ‘genius’ you mean that after him nothing was ever the same again, then by that measure Louis Armstrong was a genius.”

“You can’t play anything on a horn that Louis hasn’t played”
~~~~~Miles Davis

It was Louis Armstrong’s praise of Bing Crosby talents that made me reassess everything I ever thought about Der Bingle. Here they are together in one of my favourite Louis Armstrong clips, a terrific Cole Porter tune from the movie High Society:

“What was the greatest band of the 20th century? Forget the Beatles – it was Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and its subsequent incarnation, the Hot Seven… these bands altered the course of popular music.”
~~~~~Playboy magazine

 There are two things that have always impressed me about Louis Armstrong and neither have to do with his music.

Armstrong being fitted by Toronto’s world famous hatter Sam Taft

1). In the mid-’40s, when he was just starting to make some really good money, he bought a house on 107th Street in Corona, Queens, NYC. He lived there the rest of his life, long after he could have afforded to move to better and more expensive digs. When he wasn’t touring he was known for sitting on his porch and greeting the neighbourhood kids, who all called him Pops, and giving them apples and unconditional love. That house was made a National Historical Landmark in 1977 and is now the Louis Armstrong House and Museum.

2). During his lifetime Armstrong was criticized for being an Uncle Tom for playing to segregated audiences, accepting the title “King of the Zulus” in the 1949 Mardi Gras parade, and not doing more for ‘his people.’ Billie Holliday was even quoted as saying, “Of course Pops toms, but he toms from the heart.” Aside from the fact that being named King of the Zulus was a singular New Orleans honour misunderstood elsehwre in the country, when Louis Armstrong made his views on race relations known, the entire world listened.

In 1957, during the desegregation controversy in Little Rock, Arkansas, Arstrong sppoke out loud and clear. He called President Eisenhower “gutless” and “two-faced” for sitting on his hands and doing nothing. And, to put his money where his mouth was, Armstrong cancelled a tour of the Soviet Union he was about to do on behalf of the State Department. Uncle Tom would never have said, “The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.”

“Louis Armstrong is the master of the jazz solo. He became the beacon, the light in the tower, that helped the rest of us navigate the tricky waters of jazz improvisation.”
~~~~~Ellis Marsalis

Louis  Armstrong also helped change Jazz singing. He wasn’t the first to Scat, but he helped popularize the genre with his joyful Scat singing, which was as revolutionary as is trumpet playing.

As for honous: 

  • When his version of “Hello Dolly” knocked The Beatles off the top of the charts in 1964, he became the oldest person to have a #1 hit on the Billboard charts; 
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed his 1928 version of “West End Blues” as one of 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll;
  • On what would have been his 100th birthday New Orleans renamed its airport Louis Armstrong International Airport
  • Also on his centenery the United States Postal Service put Armstrong on a First Class stamp;
  • He was given a postumous Lifetime Grammy Award in 1972;
  • Eleven of his songs have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame;
  • President Richard Nixon released a statement upon Armstrong’s death calling him Mr. Jazz. 

“I’m proud to acknowledge my debt to the ‘Reverend Satchelmouth’ … He is the beginning and the end of music in America”
~~~~~Bing Crosby

However, it’s always been about the music. Louis Armstrong recorded hundreds, maybe thousands, of sides in his lifetime. Here is just a small sample of what made Louis Armstrong one of the greatest musicians ever.

“If you don’t like Louis Armstrong, you don’t know how to love”
~~~~~Mahalia Jackson