Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Dynamic Duo

The long-awaited gig has come and gone. I played a couple of half-hour sets with the remnants of my "work band," the DOLI Llamas, today at a work party. We had to do it as a duo, 'cause Dave, our intrepid piano player,was called away on a family emergency. We gave it our best shot, though, and here we are "Under the Boardwalk." That's my friend John on vocals and guitar, and, as always, keep on rockin'!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Milk - It's What the Cowsills Drink!"

Today in rock history, Billy Cowsill died in 2006 at the age of 58 of complications brought on by alcohol and drug abuse. You may remember the Cowsills, a “bubblegum” music group formed in 1965 by Billy and his brothers Bobby, Barry, Pauly, sister Susie, and mommy Barbie. There may have been some other relations in there too, but you get the idea. They were an enormously popular pop group, known for their Beach Boys-type harmonies, which had a number of top 10 hits from 1965 to 1971. I actually went to one of their concerts when I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1969. I know – what was I thinking? I was restless and bored, and it was free, probably. At any rate, let us celebrate Billy’s life by watching this video of “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things,” that made it to #2 on the pop charts in 1967. Check out the big gap in the lead singer’s front teeth – apparently the kids were too busy for orthodontia. Thanks to and for the trivia, and keep on rockin!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Billy Ward and the Dominos

The great thing about "the internets" is how you can think of something, then something else, then do a little research, and within minutes. come up with a fully-formed blog out of a half-baked idea. I've got a gig coming up with my work band "The DOLI Llamas." We're playing a couple of Drifters tunes that I'm learning the bass parts for. I got to thinking...Drifters...Clyde McPhatter...hmm, where did he come from, where did he get his start? A few clicks and we have Billy Ward, who died on this date in 2002. He founded the doo wop group "Billy Ward and the Dominos" in 1951, where Clyde McPhatter (and later Jackie Wilson) got their start. The group toured widely, building up a reputation as one of the top R&B acts of the era, and an audience which crossed racial divides. However, Ward's strict disciplinarian approach, and failure to recompense the singers, caused internal problems. The name "The Dominoes" was owned by Ward and manager Rose Marks, who had the power to hire and fire, and to pay the singers a salary. Clyde McPhatter was being paid barely enough to live on, and often found himself billed as "Clyde Ward" to fool fans into thinking he was Billy Ward's brother. McPhatter later left to form The Drifters, and the rest is doo-wop history. Here the Dominos perform "These Foolish Things" in 1953. I hope you like the still of the group, because you're going to be staring at it for 3:15. Thanks to and for the trivia, and keep on rockin'!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who are you?

On this date in 1970, the Who recorded their legendary "Live at Leeds" album, destined to become one (if not the one) of the best live albums ever. Here's a BBC TV special on the subject, hosted by Yes's Rick Wakeman. Watch it and you will find out that, if it hadn't been for a recording mixup, the album would have been called "Live at Howell" (the next date in the tour - doesn't roll off the tongue, does it?). Thanks to for the trivia, and keep on rockin'!

Long Distance Information

... get me Memphis, Tennessee...this week in rock history in 1972, John and Yoko hosted the Mike Douglas show for a of their featured guests was Chuck Berry, who was still playing the guitar like "a ringin' a bell." Here John joins Chuck and his latest pickup band on "Memphis"...notice the happy hippies in the background, grinnin' like idiots - they knew they were in the presence of greatness! Thanks to for the trivia, and keep on rockin!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"That's What I Want..."

Born today in 1941: Barrett Strong, a Motown soul singer who hit #1 on the charts with his self-penned "Money (That's What I Want)" in 1960. Never a strong singer or vocal talent, he continued with Motown as a staff lyracist, teaming with producer Norman Whitfield. Together, Strong and Whitfield wrote some of the most successful and critically acclaimed soul songs ever to be released by Motown, including "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"by both Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight & the Pips, "War" by Edwin Starr, "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by The Undisputed Truth, and the long line of "psychedelic soul" records by The Temptations including "Cloud Nine", "I Can't Get Next to You", "Psychedelic Shack", "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone", amongst others. Strong received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1973 for co-writing "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone".

So let's celebrate "Money" and Strong's life today, and watch this version by John Lennon from the Peace Festival in Toronto in 1969. Check out Clapton's blistering solo on this song - just wish he'd had time to stretch out and they'd given him a closeup and more camera time! Also in the band: Klaus Voorman on bass and Alan White on drums. Oh, and by the way - that's Yoko in the bag... Thanks as always to and for the trivia, and keep on rockin!

Friday, February 1, 2008

"We Gotta Go..."

#6 in the charts on this day in 1964 was "Louie Louie." Now what were the real lyrics to this song? (see below - they just sounded "dirty") Here are the Kingsmen performing the song in 1965...And why don't bands still do those unison dance steps... I miss those days!

The venerable Paul Revere and the Raiders, who were also from Portland, where the Kingsmen got their start, also had a regional hit with "Louie Louie". Here's their effort. The Kingsmen beat them in the race to get the song on the charts, but was their version better? You decide...