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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Episode 32 - Dig Infinity: A Passion Play in 4 Acts

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Act the First - His Royal Hipness

My lords and ladies of the Royal Court here assembled, let me lay on you some history.

Some thoughts, ruminations, correspondence, prose and poesy, cerebration, consideration, contemplation, deliberation, meditation, reflection, speculation, and cogitation upon one cool cat. A cat who would be at the ripe old age of 101 come this April 7th, 5th in the Year Of our Lord 2000 and 7.

So lend me your lobes, fellow Dreamers. Because I'm not making this scene to bury this hipster. No. but to dig him and to have him dug.

I'm talking about Buckley. Not William F. but the Lord. Lord Buckley. Richard "Lord" Buckley. Author and performer of "The Train" that so gently graced your shell-likes in Episode 45 of Theme Time Radio Hour.

Lumberjack, vaudevillian, master of ceremonies for - Yowza, Yowza, Yowza - those crazy dance marathons of the `3os. Disc jockey. Unlikely friend of Ed Sullivan, whose show he would appear on 11 times. And an even more unlikely court jester to Al Capone. "He was the only man who could make me laugh," Capone said.

But that was at the start of the Good Lord's career before he had donned his royal apparel. For years he was just "Dick Buckley," doing a standard comic nightclub act. But by 1950, at the urging of his wife, an ex-chorus girl named Elizabeth Hanson, he had fully adopted a persona that incorporated equal parts Louis Armstrong and Lord Kitchener, developed a patois he termed hipsemantic, began telling the stories he had previously only told backstage, and became the person it was so obvious he was always meant to be. His Hipness, Lord B.

It would be next to impossible for anyone to claim to be anything close to hip and not encounter Lord Buckley at some point in their life.

Maybe, if you were lucky enough, you caught one of his performances of "The Nazz," a hipsemantic retelling of the life and times of that cool carpenter cat from Nazarene. Maybe you found some reference to His Royal Hipness from some other artist you respected - Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters, Hunter Thompson, Ken Kesey, Henry Miller - and you decided to check out this hero of your heroes. Maybe some late night as you were half asleep a bored deejay decided it was time to wig out the night watch and this oratory floated from the radio speakers...
"Hipster, flipsters and finger poppin' daddies:
Knock me your lobes;
I came here to lay Caesar out, not to hip you to him.
The bad jazz that a cat blows wails long after he's cut out,
the groovyare often stashed with their frames;
so don't put Caesar down.
The swingin' Brutus hath laid a story on you that Caesar was hooked for
power: If it was so it was a sad drag, and sadly hath the Caesar cat answered it..."
Or maybe you were at a friend's house one soft, lazy Sunday and she says , "you have to dig this," and the next thing you know you were listening to what sounded like a half-crazed Baptist preacher crossed with a tea-smokin juke joint jazz baby except he's also got this upper-class British accent and he's talking about how the ol' Marquis de Sade couldn't get enough ballin' to satisfy, but it was a bad rap 'cause he was just following his nature. His naaaaaaaaatuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur, dig?

And you go "What?" and you go, "Who?" and your friend's got this half-smile on her face, 'cause she knows you've just taken up permanent residence in the Royal House of Buckley.

Act the Second: Black Cross

When Bob Dylan stepped out of a four-door Impala and onto the New York city streets in January of 19 and 61, Lord Buckley was already two months long gone from the scene, passing away at Columbia Hospital on November 12, 1960. He was 54 years old.

Dylan knew of him, of course, knew of him before he ever arrived in New York. Dylan mentions Buckley in his little-known 1963 poem that uses the same title as the famous song, Blowin' in the Wind, originally published in Hootenanny Magazine...

an Moondog's beatin his drum an sayin his lines -
Lenny Bruce's talkin
an Lord Buckley's memory still movin
... and again in his prose/poetry book, Tarantula which he began in the early `60s.

Look closely and you'll find The Best of Lord Buckley album displayed in the center on the mantelpiece in the cover shot of Bringing It all Back Home.

And then there's "Black Cross."

The poem "Black Cross" was published in 1948 by a Joseph S. Newman in a collection of poems entitled It Could Be Verse. The poet was not Paul Newman's grandfather, as Buckley mistakenly states in his recording, but Newman's uncle, and was 57 and a columnist for the Cleveland Press at the time the book was published. Newman would die at age 68 on November 10, 1960, just two days before Buckley's own passing.

Whether Newman and Buckley ever met and exactly how Buckley discovered Newman's poetry is a mystery, but it's obvious Buckley liked and admired Newman's work, recording three other of his poems besides "Black Cross," and performing it straight, an unusual move for a man who liked to put his own spin on all words. Here's Lord Buckley with "Black Cross."

Black Cross

by Joseph S. Newman,
as performed by Richard "Lord" Buckley

It's a beautiful thing.

It was written by Paul Newman's beloved grandfather, in Cleveland,
a Cleveland poet. It's "Black Cross."

There was Old Hezekiah Jones, of Hogback County.
He lived on a hill in a weatherbeaten hovel.
And all that he owned was a two-acre plot
with a bed and some books and a hoe and a shovel.

Old Hezekiah, black as the soil he was hoeing,
Worked pretty hard to make both ends meet.
Raised what he ate, with a few cents over
To buy corn likker that he drank down neat,

And a few cents more that he put in the cupboard
Against what he called "de rainy season,"
But he never got to save more'n two or three dollars
Till he gave it away for this or that reason.

The white folks around knew old Hezekiah...
"Harmless enough, but the way I figger
He better lay off'n them goddam books,
'Cause readin' ain't good fer an ignorant nigger."

Reverend Green, of the white man's church,
Finally got around to "comin' ovah
To talk with you-all about the Pearly Kingdom
An' to save yo' soul fer the Lawd Jehovah!"

"D'ya b'lieve in the Lawd?" asked the white man's preacher.
Hezekiah puckered his frosty brow,
"Well I can't say 'yes,' so I ain't gonna say it,
Caze I ain't SEEN de"

"D'ya b'lieve in Heaven?" asked the whiteman's preacher,
"Where you go, if you're good, fer yer last rewa'hd?"
"Ah'm good," said Hezikiah, "good as Ah'm able,
But Ah don't expect nothin' from Heaven OR the Lawd."

"D'ya b'lieve in the Church?" asked the white man's preacher.
Hezekiah said, "Well de Church is divided;
Ef they can't agree, than Ah cain't neither...
Ah'm like them....Ah ain't decided."

"You don't b'lieve nothin'," roared the white man's preacher.
"Oh yes Ah does," said old Hezikiah,
"Ah b'lieve that a man's beholden to his neighbahs
Widout de hope of Heaven or de fear o' hell's fiah."

There's a lot of good ways for a man to be wicked...
They hung Hezikiah as high as a pidgeon,
And the nice folks around said, "He had it comin'
'Cause the son-of-a-bitch didn't have no religion!"

From Way Out Humor, World Pacific, 1959. Recorded live at the Ivar Theatre, Los Angeles, 1959. Re-released as Lord Buckley in Concert, Demon Verbals, 1985

Act the Third - Hezekiah Jones

Dylan performed his version of "Black Cross," often labeled on bootlegs under the title "Hezekiah Jones," or simply "Hezekiah" publicly for about about a year according to Oliver Trager's "Bob Dylan Encyclopedia," Keys to the Rain (this is the same person who wrote the Lord Buckley biography, Dig Infinity!, by the way). Less than a year after the release of Bob Dylan, he had stopped performing the song, probably because Dylan was more focused on developing and performing his own material, possibly because he was already becoming uncomfortable with what he would later term, "finger-pointin' songs."

The book cites only two known extant Dylan recordings of "Black Cross" - both appearing on various bootlegs - the first originating from the so-called "Minnesota Hotel Tapes" recordings of 1961 - and the second from the "Gaslight Tapes" of 1962 (the song does not appear on the officially released Live at the Gaslight 1962). It's interesting to compare the Buckley and Dylan versions, one by an artist in his fifties who had built his career on delivering monologues, one by an artist barely in his twenties, still learning how to get the most effect from pacing, rhythm and words.

[Hezekiah Jones/Black Cross - from The Minnesota Hotel Tapes]

Act the Fourth - Finale

Lord Buckley would close his show with this thanks to his audience,

"People are the true flowers of life, and it has been a most precious pleasure to have temporarily strolled in your garden."

It's been my pleasure to have been allowed to stroll through your garden. This has been Fred Bals. Thanks to Dreamtime listeners Richard and Geoff for the idea for this show, and thanks to all of you for listening.

Sources: There's only one place to start on the web if you want to learn more about Lord Buckley, and that's

The lynching photo is real and is from a postcard depicting the lynching of Lige Daniels, Center, Texas, USA, August 3, 1920. The back reads, "This was made in the court yard in Center, Texas. He is a 16 year old Black boy. He killed Earl's grandma. She was Florence's mother. Give this to Bud. From Aunt Myrtle." - reproduced under a Creative Commons license from Wikipedia.

This show would not have been possible without the October 2002 episode of Give the Drummer Some, Doug Schulkind's WFMU radio show. The 3-hour show includes rare Buckley recordings, the "other" version of Dylan's "Black Cross," and an informative free-wheeling interview with the Royal Biographer, "Prince" Oliver Trager who certainly knows what the phrase "labor of love" means as well as I do. If he comes across this episode of Dreamtime, I hope he'll listen to it in that spirit. Thanks, Doug and Oliver!

You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals, and is a Not Associated With production. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at com. Our closing theme is performed by Lounge Affaire, courtesy of Christopher Murphy Studio.

We love your email and you can write us at

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

Visit the Dreamtime Store

Monday, March 26, 2007

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Click Clack

As a piece of useless trivia, Don van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart attempted to seduce my then-girlfriend during a flight from L.A. to San Francisco in 1971. He was unsuccessful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lord Buckley on You Bet Your Life

... as I prepare Episode 32. From October 11, 1956.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monkees - Last Train to Clarksville

Last Train to Clarksville was written by the songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who also had hits with Chubby Checker and Jay And The Americans; Lazy Elsie Molly for Chubby Checker in 1964, followed by Jay and the Americans' Come A Little Bit Closer, a top ten record later in the same year.

Boyce and Hart produced the songs for The Monkees television pilot in 1966, including doing the singing. Boyce and Hart also recorded vocals and backing tracks for the Monkees debut album (on which Last Train to Clarksville appeared), with the actual Monkees adding lead vocals later.

Recorded at RCA Victor Studio A, Hollywood, on July 25, 1966, Last Train to Clarksville went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, coincidentally knocking another Theme Time play 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians to the #2 slot.

As Dylan notes on the Trains (#1) episode of Theme Time, Last Train to Clarksville was a disguised protest against the Vietnam War. According to Bobby Hart, "We couldn't be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn't really make a protest song out of it - we kind of snuck it in."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Episode 31 - Flash! Bam! Alakazam!

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I'm back mining the rich vein of the "Colors," episode, first broadcast back in February. This time we're looking at an Orange Colored Sky. Like most music from the Big City, it has its own, strange story... with a cast of characters including Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Frank Zappa, and Robin the Boy Wonder.

I was walking along, minding my business
When out of an orange-colored sky
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
Wonderful you came by

I was humming a tune, drinking in sunshine
When out of that orange-colored view
Wham! Bam! Alakazam!
I got a look at you

One look and I yelled "Timber"
"Watch out for flying glass" '
Cause the ceiling fell and the bottom fell out
I went into a spin and I started to shout,
"I've been hit, This is it, This is it!"

I was walking along minding my business
When love came and hit me in the eye
Flash! Bam! Alakazam!
Out of an orange-colored sky.

"Orange Colored Sky" was co-written by Willie Stein and Milton DeLugg in 19 and 50. Stein would go on to become producer of the TV quiz show, "To Tell the Truth," and the original "Price is Right."

DeLugg and Stein may have written the song for one of the themes for Broadway Open House, a `50s variety show on the old DuMont TV network where DeLugg led the house band, but as far as I can determine two other pieces of music were used instead. Broadway Open House was hosted at one time by Morey Amsterdam, giving us even more Theme Time and Dreamtime connections.

DeLugg might be best known to you for his stint as band leader for the infamous "Gong Show," where he and his group were known as "Milton DeLugg and the Band with a Thug." If you're a bit older, you might also remember him as composer for the score of the equally infamous kiddie cult flick, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," featuring a 9-year-old Pia Zadora, later much better known for cavorting in public fountains in g-string bikinis.

In 19 and 67 DeLugg issued the solo album Accordion My Way--Ole!, with him featured wearing a Spanish bolero and an item still prized among collectors of space age pop lounge music.

Originally recorded by Stan Kenton and his Orchestra with The Nat King Cole Trio in August of 1950, Orange Colored Sky would be covered by Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 19 and 57. Hawkins' wild I Put a Spell On You was featured on Theme Time's "Halloween" episode. Sky would be another hit for Screamin' Jay, although it reached nowhere near the popularity of Spell.

According to a fan site, Hawkins picked up Sky because he had "always dug its strange changes." As he did with every piece of music he touched, here's Screamin' Jay making Orange Colored Sky his own.

[Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Orange Colored Sky]

Screamin' Jay Hawkins with lots of strange changes under an Orange Colored Sky.

We get a lot of mail here at Dreamtime, but here's a special one from a True Fan, who writes:
"Dear you, wonderful, fabulous, magnificent, exquisite Boy Wonder, A cold chill runs up my spine everytime I see you sock a villain, and, oh, how I cry when you're even scratched. Please, don't send me a mimeograph copy of interesting facts about you, I want your handwriting. I have a whole wall on my room dedicated to you.

Oh, Boy Wonder, I'm making a gum wrapper chain to symbolize my love for you. It's going to be as long as I am tall, and I'm 5 foot 10 inches in stocking feet. Please, Boy Wonder, PLEASE, come next Saturday and sleep for a week or two. I will feed you breakfast in bed, I will make your bed for you, and I like you so much that I want you to spend the whole summer with me.

(I hope you know this is a girl writing)"

Well, thank you fan, and I'm sure glad you're a girl. Keep on listening, okay?

Orange Colored Sky would be covered again in 19 and 91 by Nat's daughter, Natalie, on her album dedicated to her father's music, Unforgettable. But the song had an earlier cover 25 years before, in one of the strangest collaborations in music history... the day Frank Zappa met Robin the Boy Wonder.

[Batman theme]

In 19 and 66, the Batman television series was at its height of popularity, and the actor who played Robin - Burt Ward - was a major teen heart throb. Ward wasn't the first actor who the studios thought they could make a quick buck from by getting him to croon a few tunes for the kids, but the problem was that Ward couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Here's what Burt Ward had to say about his recording career

I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records... MGM staffer Tom Scott was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!

Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked Orange Colored Sky.

I can't bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped.

Orange Colored Sky was released as a single and it got lots of air play. I am told that thirty years later it is still played regularly on Dr. Demento's Sunday show.

In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the [next] two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, Boy Wonder, I Love You!

Showing the care and attention to detail that marked the entire recording session, the single was released to deejays under the mislabeled title, Oranged Colored Sky, with the B-Side holding Boy Wonder, I Love You! Because I love my listeners at Dreamtime, I won't inflict the recording on them. But to give you a taste of what a Burt Ward/Mothers of Invention collaboration sounded like, here's Burt Ward with the unreleased spoken word, Teenage Bill of Rights.

[Burt Ward - Teenage Bill of Rights]

Well, the the Bat-clock on the wall says our time is up for this week. Until next time, Dreamtime listeners. Same Bat time. Same Bat Station.

Sources: The Burt Ward/Frank Zappa connection; and a little bit more. Information on Milton DeLugg taken from here and here.

Burt Ward's recollections of the recording sessions, as well as the "Boy Wonder I Love You" mail are taken from Boy Wonder, My Life in Tights, Ward's 1995 memoir.


You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals, and is a Not Associated With production. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at com. Our closing theme is performed by Lounge Affaire, courtesy of Christopher Murphy Studio.

We love your email and you can write us at

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

Visit the Dreamtime Store

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bob Luman - Blue Suede Shoes

Another multiple Theme Time reference.

Bob Luman who performed "Blue Days, Black Nights" in the "Colors" episode, does just a wonderful "Blue Suede Shoes" at the Town Hall Party, September 27, 19 and 58.

The Beatles - Baby's in Black

Dreamtime's on a roll with videos from "Colors." Here's the Beatles in a "Ready, Steady, Go" performance where they may (or may not) be lip-synchn' to the studio version of "Baby's in Black."

I was very tempted to use Episode 5 of the Beatles Cartoon series, but the low-fi and flanging drove me crazy.

Pink Champagne by Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers

Another one from the "Colors" episode. A 1979 version of Pink Champagne by Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers.

Quoth the Raven - Ella Mae Morse

Ms. Morse performed "The House of Blue Lights" in the "Colors" episode.

This isn't it, but a swinging performance with lyrics inspired by that Fenderbender of a poet, E.A. Poe, so a double Theme Time connection.

Here's Kirby Grant and his Orchestra with Ella Mae Morse and the Mel-Tones, taken from the 1944 movie, Ghost Catchers.

Boozoo Chavis - Paper in My Shoe

Outside of it being a great performance, how can Dreamtime not feature an artist named Boozoo?