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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Email: Dead Man's Hand

An email from Dreamtime listener Jennifer had me thinking about aces backed with eights. Jennifer wrote...

While I was on my way to work this morning, I heard a song I hadn't listened to in a long time: "Rambin' Gamblin' Willie" from [Dylan's] first Bootleg Series set. I had forgotten that at the end of that song, Willie is shot, and he's holding the 'dead man's hand'--aces and eights. Just like {Dylan] mentioned in last year's Death & Taxes show.

If you're a poker player or were a fan of the late, lamented Deadwood series, you might know that most famous of dead man's hands. On the 2nd of August, 18 and 76, Wild Bill Hickok was playing cards in Deadwood, in what is now South Dakota, and then was simply known as the Dakotas, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Legend has it Wild Bill held a pair of black eights and a pair of black Aces when he died, which became known both among poker players and popularly as a "dead man's hand."

McCall said he believed that Hickok had killed his brother in Kansas. Although from all reports McCall was a bad-natured drunk who didn't need much of an excuse to pull his gun, this may have even been correct. His brother Lew had supposedly died in Abilene, Kansas in a gunfight with a "lawman." In 1871 Hickok had been employed as a marshal in Abilene. He was paid $150 a month plus a bounty of 50 cents for every unlicensed dog he shot. While Hickok had spent most of his Abilene employment playing poker, he had shot and killed at least two men during his time there. One of the victims may have been Lew McCall. Other stories have it that Jack McCall had lost $110 to Hickok the night before and was still smarting - as well as still drunk.

Biographers have never found a contemporary citation confirming that Hickok was holding Aces and eights, and the term, dead man's hand,was in use 10 years after Hickok's murder in relation to a different set of cards. An 1886 article from the Grand Forks Daily Herald notes...

I was present at a game in a Senator's house one night and saw him win $6,000 on one hand. It was the dead man's hand.

What is the dead man's hand? Why, it is three jacks and a pair of tens. It is called the dead man's hand because about forty seven years ago, in a town in Illinois, a celebrated judge bet his house and lot on three jacks and a pair of tens.

When his opponent showed up he had three queens and a pair of tens. Upon seeing the queens the judge fell back dead, clutching the jacks and tens in his hand, and that's why a jack-full on tens is called the dead man's hand.
If you're a poker player, your immediate question would be what was the fifth card in Hickok's hand? Did he fill the full house? It's possible - since Wild Bill was playing draw poker - that he had already discarded a card and was shot down before he could draw the missing card. For reasons unknown the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas had a 5 of diamonds on display as the fifth card. With the Stardust now, ah, dust, the card has moved over to a display in Deadwood. Another display in Deadwood uses the 9 of diamonds, supposedly reported in first-hand accounts as the card. The 9 of diamonds was also used in the Deadwood series as the missing card.

James Butler Hickok was buried in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery outside Deadwood. Calamity Jane insisted that the man she loved have a proper memorial, and had a stone enclosure with an iron filigree built around Hickok's burial plot.

In 1900, Calamity Jane was photographed next to the burial site. She posed with a flower in her hand, and she said in an interview published with the photo that when she died she wanted to be buried next to the man she loved.

Three years later, she was.

In 2001, the older section of the cemetery was restored and many of the graves now have new homes, including those of Hickok and Calamity Jane. But the two still repose side by side on the hill.

As I replied to Jennifer, I suspect that, like me, Our Host is a regular poker player. Between being pals with Ricky Jay (Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie also shows up on Jay's great compilation CD, Ricky Jay Plays Poker), and the very funny Love and Theft promo video, I think I've read that Dylan and the boys in the band while away the hours on the bus with some vicious poker games. And certainly Huck's Tune is filled with poker references and slang that you wouldn't know unless you were a Texas Hold `Em player.

I've thought of doing a poker-themed Dreamtime, and may still, although I wouldn't be surprised if TTRH does one first.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TTRH Authorized CD Set Available through Amazon U.S.

... as an import. Full information can be found at the Amazon U.S. site here (and if you're thinking of buying the set, please consider doing it through the Dreamtime link). Here's the full info from the product description...

2008 double CD paying tribute to Theme Time Radio Hour hosted by Bob Dylan.

For those that are new to the show, each program lasts an hour and has a different theme each week, for example Drink or Mother. Each track is introduced by Dylan with his dry humor, eclectic interest and vast musical knowledge. His voice does not appear on this CD, just tracks selected from the shows. It can be regarded as the best introduction to music ever. This is the only officially-authorized release - and is compiled by the show's producer Eddie Gorodetsky and Ace's own Roger Armstrong. Features 50 tracks, representing the 50 programs of the first series of radio shows. The tracklisting reflects Dylan's wide taste and ranges from Billie Holiday and George Jones, through Aretha Franklin to the Clash and the White Stripes. The sleeve notes include a track-by-track commentary by some of the world's great music writers including Barney Hoskyns, Colin Escott, Billy Vera and Fred Dellar. Each track, no matter how obscure, is illustrated with a sleeve, label shot or photo of the artist. Ace.
Amazon lists the set as to be released on February 26, 2008, but can be pre-ordered now. Current U.S. price is $27.99. Be interesting to find out how well this sells. As one fan noted over in the Expecting Rain TTRH forums, the hard-core Theme Time fan probably already has all the cuts with Dylanesque commentary on CD through one source or another. But on the other hand, I can see the less-technically sophisticated XM Radio listener, the completist, or someone who just wants a great collection of music that incidentally reflects Bob Dylan's tastes all purchasing this collection.

Hank Thompson - Whoa, Sailor

"I realized I'd never be able to play my style of music in Nashville. . . . They didn't allow any electric instruments. They didn't allow drums. They didn't allow horns. And where was I gonna work up there? Down in Texas I knew all these bars and honky-tonks where I could get work, because by then I was playing dance music." - Hank Thompson
We couldn't find Hank's Rockin' in the Congo as a video, so we pulled up this somewhat "Around the World"-related tune, Whoa, Sailor, instead.

The King of Honky-Tonk Swing, Hank Thompson had a sixty-year career singing about booze, babes, and generally raisin' hell. Over a twenty-year period, from 1948 to 1978, Thompson had 28 Top-10 hits. His backup band, the Brazos Valley Boys, was Billboard magazine's top-ranked Western swing band from 1953 to 1965.

As a high school student in the early 1940s, Thompson hosted a Waco radio show, billing himself as "Hank the Hired Hand." After his discharge from the Navy following WW II, Thompson returned to radio and had a regional hit in Texas with his recording of Whoa Sailor.

In 19 and 52, incidentally the year Your Host was born, Hank would have his first national #1 single, The Wild Side of Life, a song which contained the memorable line, "I didn't know God made honky-tonk angels." That sentiment would end up launching Kitty Wells career, who protested in a reply song, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, that cheatin' husbands were leading girls astray rather than the Good Lord.

Thompson hosted a television variety show in Oklahoma City from 1954 to 1957, which was the first music variety show to be broadcast in color. He was also the first country-western performer to record a live album in Vegas, Live at the Golden Nugget. He was, however, no fan of the Grand Ole Opry, as his quote that opens this article notes.

With a man whose repertoire included A Six-Pack to Go and Bubbles in My Beer it's no wonder that one of Hank Thompson's TV sponsors was Falstaff Beer, once one of the biggest-selling labels in the U.S., but gone where the wild goose goes in 2005. In our continuing "Commercial Affiliation" sub-theme, here's a video of Hank endorsing Falstaff.

Sources: Washington Post obituary; Wikipedia

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gerry & The Pacemakers - Ferry Cross The Mersey

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way

So ferry 'cross the Mersey
'cause this land's the place I love
and here I'll stay.
Released in late 1964 in the UK and in 1965 in the US. Ferry... was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching #6 in the US and charting twice in the UK.

Gerry Marsden formed the group in 1959 with his brother, Fred. For a time, G & the Ps held their own against the Fab Four, whose career they somewhat eerily paralleled.

Both groups played on the same circuit of clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool. The band was the second to sign with Brian Epstein, after guess who? Their first release, How Do You Do It? had been recorded first by those mop-tops, who shelved it in favor of Please Please Me. Produced by George Martin, the song became a number one hit in the UK, until being replaced at the top by From Me to You, the Beatles' third single.

Marsden wrote most of the group's following songs, including Ferry Cross the Mersey, as well as their biggest U.S. hit, Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying. But their first single would be Gerry & The Pacemakers only number one single in the UK.

The band starred in a moderately successful 1965 film also called Ferry Cross the Mersey, sometimes uncharitably referred to as "Gerry & The Pacemakers' version of A Hard Day's Night."

By late 1965, the group's popularity was declining on both sides of the Atlantic, as the Beatles and other members of the British Invasion kept on pushing the musical envelope into a realm that Gerry & the Pacemakers couldn't follow. They disbanded in 1966.

The so-called "Mersey Beat" sound was born in Liverpool, and was used interchangeably in the media with "the Liverpool sound," thanks to the Beatles. According to publicist and author Bill Harry, he coined the original term for his newspaper, also called Mersey Beat, dedicated to the local bands of the Merseyside area.

More info on the Mersey Beat and Mersey Beat can be found at Bill's exhaustive web site. Click on the banner below...

Mersey Beat - It's still happening, man.  click here

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Voicemail question on Blossom Dearie

A listener called in to the Dreamtime voicemail line asking where I had found my information on Blossom's "retirement" to Woodstock, as many of her fans are concerned about her well-being, since both Daffodil Records and Blossom's own web site are closed.

I should clarify that "retirement" is an inference I made, since Blossom is in her eighties now, and the tone of the comment made on Blossom's Verve Records page indicated that she was no longer working. That comment (scroll down the page) made in November, 2007 notes, "She's 80 years old and lives in Woodstock, NY. And until recently has performed regularly in New York City."

Blossom was still performing at Danny's Skylight Room as late as August 2006, according to this New York Times listing. Danny's closed in late 2006/early 2007, and as far as I can determine, Blossom Dearie hasn't performed publicly since 2006.

Dreamtime tends to get a lot of traffic through search engines, so somebody with more information may pass through and share it. Wherever you are, Blossom, you have many fans who wish you well.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Episode 49 - Blossom and Jack

Direct link to mp3.

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Overture - The Girl with the Baby Doll Voice

[Figure 8 - Blossom Dearie]

Blossom Dearie with the winsome Figure 8 from Schoolhouse Rock!. And to answer the second question that everyone asks, the story goes that she got her first name after her delighted brothers brought fresh pear blossoms into the house to celebrate her birth. "Dearie" is a family name originating in Scotland.

Born in upstate New York, Blossom Dearie began playing piano at an early age and studied classical music before switching over to jazz while in high school. She headed straight to New York City after graduating, playing at clubs both solo and with other performers, including the titian-haired Annie Ross, who would later go on to be the "Ross" of the Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross scat jazz group. Even though Blossom Dearie recorded her first album for Verve in 19 and 56, and had nearly a half-dozen years of performing under her belt by that time, she later said that she felt her professional career didn't really begin until the early 1960s when she began writing songs while working at a London jazz club and making regular guest appearances on the popular Not Only... But Also television show with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook.

Dearie is probably best remembered by jazz aficionados for her string of records for the Verve label in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and her regular appearances on the New York City cocktail club circuit. Dave Garroway, original host of the Today show, was a huge fan of Blossom Dearie's, featuring her on the morning show several times, which helped expand her audience past New York City and Europe.

John Lennon was another Blossom Dearie fan, and the feeling was mutual. Blossom would write a fan letter in song, 1970s Hey, John, after meeting Lennon on a television show.

And Blossom Dearie was no stranger to commercial affiliation either, which Our Host would likely approve. In 19 and 62, she recorded a radio commercial for Hires Root Beer, a song that proved so popular that the company commissioned Dearie to record a full LP, Blossom Dearie Sings Rootin' Songs. Hires offered the album as a mail-in premium that could be had for two bottle caps and 50 cents. Today, the original LP goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay - when you can find a copy - or as a pricey CD import from Japan.

In her later career, Blossom Dearie was a fixture at Danny’s Skylight Room, a back room lounge of a New York Theater District Thai restaurant that played unlikely host to many legendary jazz artists. She sang in that sweet baby-doll voice from the 1990s almost up until the Skylight Room's closing, a frail lady in her seventies, still winning over crowds and critics alike, garnering enough attention that several of her classic Verve albums were finally re-released on CD as the new century began. After her set, Blossom would sit in a corner booth, receiving fans, signing autographs and selling CDs from her own private label, Daffodil.

Now 80, Blossom Dearie seems to have finally retired, both professionally and from the world. Her web site and record label site are closed, and little information is available about her after 2006. She reportedly lives a quiet, private life in the Woodstock, New York area.

I like to think that you might go out to Woodstock on some winter's day and see a little old lady skating by herself on a frozen pond, quietly singing Figure 8 in that baby-doll voice.

Intermezzo - Schoolhouse Rock!

If you're a child of the `70s or `80s, you probably first heard Blossom Dearie's voice on Schoolhouse Rock!, the educational animated shorts that originally aired on Saturday mornings on the ABC network during the early `70s into the mid-'80s. Advertising exec David McCall had the original idea for Schoolhouse Rock! when trying to help one of his sons memorize the multiplication tables. As usual with kids, McCall's son seemed to remember the lyrics of pop songs effortlessly, and McCall wondered whether a catchy tune might be the key to help kids learn their three Rs. In a stroke of genius, McCall's agency commissioned be-bop great Bob Dorough to write a test tune, and Three Is A Magic Number was born. McCall's agency pitched the idea of an animated series based on the song idea to ABC, and Schoolhouse Rock! was on its way to becoming a Generation X legend.

Of course, the "Rock!" portion of Schoolhouse Rock! is a little misleading, as there's little rock-and-roll in the 52 episodes of the series. And you know, that may be what made Schoolhouse Rock! so memorable. Instead of forgettable bubblegum pop that the series could have easily adopted, we got catchy, jazzy tunes from greats such as Bob Dorough, Grady Tate, Blossom Dearie, and, of course.... Jack Sheldon.

[I'm Just a Bill - Jack Sheldon]

Finale - The Last Cat Standing

Jack Sheldon is one of those ubiquitous characters that you've seen or heard whether you know you have or not. If you're close to my age, you probably first encountered Jack as resident sidekick and foil to Merv Griffin, who - after the jokes and insults - would often break loose with just these incredible trumpet solos. Or maybe you saw him on the Dragnet series of the `60s and `70s. Jack would usually play the same character, sometimes the bewildered victim, sometimes a slightly drunk or drugged hipster witness. Or maybe you were a fan of his one-season series from the `60s, Run Buddy Run, a very loose comedy version of The Fugitive.

If you're a bit younger than me, you know Jack best from Schoolhouse Rock! of course, and I'm Just a Bill and Conjunction Junction (What's Your Function?). Sheldon would later parody his classic Just a Bill performance on both The Simpsons and Family Guy.

But, if you're a bit older than me, you probably know Jack Sheldon best as a jazz giant, collaborator with Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Mel Torme, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, and Rosemary Clooney, among many others. Blossom Dearie is one of those "others." Sheldon backed her on Dearie's probably most successful album, May I Come In?, and Jack was reportedly deeply in love with Blossom for a time.

Billy Crystal calls Jack Sheldon "the last cat standing," a man who survived drugs and a tough personal life and kept on going, still playing his music every day.

[Dylan on seeing Jack]

Our Host wasn't kidding, either. You can catch the Jack Sheldon Cool Quartet nearly any weekend at a variety of clubs in L.A. And in March of this year you can catch the premiere of a new documentary on Jack, "Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon" at the Crest Majestic Theater in Westwood, CA.

Closing out our show tonight is Jack Sheldon performing the theme from The Sandpiper, a very bad movie starring, as one critic put it, "Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and a bird." But that forgettable movie left us with an unforgettable piece of music... The Shadow of Your Smile, as played by Jack Sheldon.

[The Shadow of Your Smile - Jack Sheldon]

Sources: Most of the information on Blossom Dearie and Schoolhouse Rock! comes from their respective Wikipedia articles. Blossom's personal web site and her label - Daffodil Records - site are both closed, and the last information on her at the Verve Records site and on MySpace is from circa 2001. According to newspaper listings, she was still performing at Danny’s Skylight Room into 2004, and may have performed there up till the club closed in late 2006. While researching her whereabouts, I came across a unverified fan comment noting her retirement to Woodstock.

As well as his Wikipedia listing, information on Jack Sheldon came from his web site and the site of the new documentary on his life:
"Trying to Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon."

For an excellent synopsis of Sheldon's discography, I recommend this posting at the Rifftides site. A commenter there notes, "my wife and I stayed at a 5 unit court owned by Jack's aunt. His aunt taught babies how to swim and one of Jack's first albums has Jack, trumpet and baby swimming underwater." That album is Freaky Friday - no relation to either of the Disney movies - whose cover is reproduced above.

Like the late Down in the Flood show, the Destinyland podcast seems another unfortunate podfading victim, but still up on its site are two good episodes: one on Schoolhouse Rock! and one on Blossom Dearie. Both are recommended listening, as are all the Destinyland shows.


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

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. 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.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Trying to Get Good - Jack Sheldon

We'll have more to say about Jack Sheldon - he of Schoolhouse Rock, the Merv Griffin Show, Dragnet, Run Buddy Run, even Star Trek: TNG, as well as author of some of the sweetest sounds to ever come out of a horn - in an upcoming podcast. But for the moment, enjoy this trailer from the documentary Trying to Get Good - the Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon. More info can be found at the documentary's web site.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Elis Regina, Águas de Março

It's stick, it's stone
It's the end of the road
It's a rest of stump
It's a little alone - Águas de Março (Waters of March)
The famous bossa nova song composed by Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim, named as the all-time best Brazilian song in a poll of more than 200 Brazilian journalists, musicians and other artists. Covered in the U.S. by Jane Monheit, Holly Cole, Art Garfunkel, and Cassandra Wilson among many others, and probably known best to the general public thanks to the Coke commercial. Here's the definitive original performed by Elis Regina, a woman whose voice I am deeply in love with.

Known as "The Little Pepper," and sometimes as "the Hurricane," Elis Regina was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 19 and 45. She began her career as singer at age 11 on a children's radio show. At 13, she recorded her first LP, Viva a Brotolândia.

In 1965, Regina sang at Brazil's first National Festival of Music - winning both first prize and kicking her career into hyperdrive with a blistering rendition of Arrastao, a song that had almost been censored by Brazil's new ruling military junta, apparently because of its allusions to a fisherman alone at sea, hauling in his nets while praying to St. Barbara for aid, being a little too close to the situation of the Brazilian everyman. In the incident that Dylan refers to in the TTRH Around the World episode, Regina posed in Christ-like crucifixion, tears streaming down her face, at the song's conclusion. Regina's 1965 performance is actually on YouTube, and can be found here.

From Dylan's remarks, the TTRH researchers seem to have conflated that story with a later one from Elis Regina's career. In 1969, while Elis was touring in Europe, she referred to the junta ruling Brazil as "gorillas." While her popularity precluded the military from immediately jailing Regina upon her return, she was pressured to "rehabilitate" herself by singing the Brazilian national anthem at a ceremony put on by the government to celebrate the anniversary of Brazil's independence - about the equivalent of convincing Bob Dylan, say, to perform at Richard Nixon's second inauguration. According to later reports, Regina was threatened with prison if she didn't show up and sing. She did both, and following her performance at the junta's celebration, Regina appeared as the subject of a newspaper political cartoon in which she was portrayed as Maurice Chevalier singing to a crowd of saluting Nazis.

The criticism that she was a junta sympathizer and collaborator lasted almost a decade, until Regina recorded a song in 1979, O Bebabo e A Equilibrista (The Drunk and The Tightrope Walker) an allegory about the absurdity of the military government. The song became the anthem for the amnesty movement to return exiled Brazilians to their home, a movement which eventually succeeded. Elis Regina would sing the song triumphantly to a cheering crowd when the government capitulated.

Regina apparently began using cocaine around the time of the breakup of her second marriage. As Dylan noted, she was careful to hide her use of the drug from family and friends, secrecy which ironically probably contributed to her death. As the new year of 1982 began, Elis Regina had many new ventures underway: she was planning a new marriage and a new home for her family, she had a new recording contract, and was starting a new album. Alone in her bedroom, studying songs for that new album, Regina accidentally overdosed on a lethal combination of cocaine, tranquilizers and Cinzano.

It was yesterday, January 19th. It was twenty-six years ago yesterday, 1982. She was not yet 37 years old.

Regina's collaboration with Jean "Toots" Thielemans on Aquarela Do Brasil that Mr. D. played on TTRH can be found on the album of the same name at Amazon. Highly recommended, as is nearly everything in Elis Regina's canon.
"When I get old like Edith Piaf, they will put me on the stage. It's the only thing that I know how to do, and which will be left to me: singing." - Elis Regina
Sources: Elis Regina Life Story (Google cache only); Wikipedia article; translation of 1965 newspaper article reporting Regina's performance of Arrastao.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Blossom Dearie - Surrey With the Fringe on Top

On the Dreamtime list of shows that need to be done is one on Blossom Dearie and her School House Rock colleague, Jack Sheldon, another unique performer who our host mentioned in an aside in another TTRH episode.

Unfortunately, the two available YouTube videos of Dearie singing Rhode Island is Famous for You also feature miming performers in drag, so I think we'll take a pass on those and do another Broadway classic, Surrey With the Fringe on Top.

Dearie's version of Rhode Island... can be found on CD or as a downloadable MP3 at Amazon, from her album Soubrette Sings Broadway Hit Songs. Highly recommended for those who like Broadway show tunes, or those just discovering Blossom Dearie.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sous Le Ciel De Paris - Édith Piaf

A slideshow of the City of Lights with English subtitles added by a TTRH fan.

For a famous singer and cultural icon, little of Piaf's life is documented, her legend intertwined with the known facts. She was reportedly born on the pavement of Rue de Belleville 72, in Belleville, Paris. She was named Édith after the World War I British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping French soldiers escape from German captivity. Piaf — French slang for "sparrow" — was a nickname she would receive later in life. Before enlisting with the French Army to fight in World War I, her father took Piaf to his mother, a cook in a Normandy brothel, where the prostitutes there would help to look after Piaf.

From the age of three to seven, Piaf was allegedly blind as a result of conjunctivitis. According to one of her biographies, she recovered her sight after the prostitutes pooled money to send her on a pilgrimage honoring Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, resulting in a miraculous healing.

Her first mentor - a nightclub owner - was murdered a year after discovering (and nicknaming) Piaf in 1935. By the `40s, she was one of the most popular performers in Europe. It took a bit longer for Piaf to win over U.S. audiences, but she would eventually appear on the Ed Sullivan Show eight times and make two Carnegie Hall appearances.

Piaf also helped to launch the career of Charles Aznavour (Azanour's I Drink was featured in TTRH Season 1's "Drinking" episode) in the early 1950s, taking him on tour with her in France and the United States and recording some of his songs.

Piaf's signature song La vie en rose was written in 1945 and was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.

Piaf died of liver cancer at Plascassier, on the French Riviera, on October 11, 1963, at the age of 47.

Source: Wikipedia article

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jake Shimabukuro - While My Guitar Gently Weeps

New listener Steve Ramm, who writes the monthly Anything Phonographic column for In the Groove emails Dreamtime ...

I found your Podcast by accident when I was searching for Eddie G. I love it!

Just listened to the Watchtower episode. Never heard of Kimo Watanabe before but I cover pop uke music and records. One of the best young Uke players is Jake Shimabukuro whose version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is great. It started on You Tube but is on his CD too. And George Harrison approved of it before he died.

Have you heard Jake?
And no, I hadn't heard Jake but I sure am listening to him now. More on Jake can be found in this Wikipedia entry and his official web site. Thanks for the tip, Steve!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why I'm Walkin' - Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson at the Grand Ole Opry, appropriately enough, as the singer's career has been intertwined with that hall. Jackson was the first performer ever to join the Opry without first having a recording contract, back in 19 and 56, and the first performer ever to record live from that stage.

In early 2007, the 75-year-old Jackson filed a $20 million age discrimination lawsuit against the Grand Ole Opry, claiming that the show's general manager had said, "he didn't want any gray hairs on stage" and that Jackson was "too old and too country," and had sidelined him in favor of younger acts.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Walk Away Renee - The Left Banke

The video is from October 19 and 66, less than a month after Walk Away Renee was released. I was in a boarding school in Arizona when the song hit the airwaves, and can still remember it playing incessantly on the A.M. radios that nearly every student carried.

The Left Banke was a New York-based quintet. Michael Brown, the leader of the group, was only sixteen when he wrote Walk Away Renee. The song was inspired by a Renee Fladen, a young woman who had befriended the band.

According to Brown, the song - which took about eight weeks to write and record - was rejected by ten major labels before being picked up by Smash Records. Walk Away Renee would eventually chart to #5 and would place at #82 in Rolling Stones Top 100 Singles.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Authorized Theme Time Radio Compilation Coming in March

UPDATED January 15, 2008 - Ace has now released a full track list for the compilation and has a link to the set on the Amazon UK Web site. It doesn't appear that Dylan's commentary is included.


Ace Records has announced that it will be releasing the first authorized CD compilation of TTRH on March 5, 2008. Grandpa Jones' Turn Your Radio On (featured on the Radio episode) will open the collection. Ace's announcement is below:

Ace are [sic] excited to announce the release of the authorised CD of music from award-winning XM music show “Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan” on March 5th 2008.

The compilation, a 2CD 50-track set, produced for reissue by “Theme Time Radio Hour” producer Eddie Gorodetsky and Ace’s own Roger Armstrong is based around the 828 tracks played in the 50 episodes of the first series.

The compilation represents the vast range of music played on the show, with a song list spanning ‘Papa’s On The Housetop’ by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell recorded in 1930 to Mary Gauthier’s ‘I Drink’ recorded in 2005. Artists as diverse as The White Stripes, Grandpa Jones, Jerry Butler, The Clash, Memphis Minnie, Bobby Darin, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Modern Lovers, Billie Holiday, George Jones, Bo Diddley, Alton Ellis, Louis Jordan, Santiago Jimenez, James Carr, Gerraint Watkins, Slim Gaillard, Otis Rush and many others sit happily side by side on this highly eclectic collection.

The package, designed by Phil Smee at Waldo’s Design and Dream Emporium, includes a fully illustrated 40-page book packed full of rare photographs and memorabilia alongside detailed notes on each track, by experts in each genre.

Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" debuted to popular and critical acclaim on XM Satellite Radio in May 2006, and was subsequently broadcast on both BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music. The Times described the show as “the most consistently entertaining hour on radio”, while The Observer noted, “The triumph of Dylan's show is that it really is unlike anything else you could hear, and as such is priceless." Among the show’s accomplishments of the past year, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum added the "baseball" episode of "Theme Time Radio Hour" to its archives in June 2006.

Bob Dylan is one of the world's most popular and acclaimed songwriters, musicians and performers, having sold over 100 million albums and performed thousands of shows around the world in a career spanning five decades. His newest album, “Modern Times”, has already sold more than two million copies, reaching the number one slot in 13 countries. The first volume of his memoirs, Chronicles, was one of the most acclaimed and best-selling non-fiction works of 2004, and 2005’s No Direction Home film, directed by Martin Scorsese, captivated audiences worldwide as it documented Dylan's early career and rise to fame.
The announcement leaves the question open as to whether Dylan's original commentary on the tracks will be included. Eddie Gorodetsky's involvement is a good sign, though. Ace is a British label, and there's also no word as to whether the compilation will be available in the U.S.

Leave your radio on, though, and I'll provide updates as I find them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Episode 48 - That Fateful Day: The Lost Songs of Hank Williams

Direct link to mp3.

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Sometime in 2008, we should see a CD collection of new Hank Williams songs - or at least songs started by Williams before his death on that fateful New Years' Day in 1953 - a compilation produced by Bob Dylan and possibly including at least one Dylan contribution. The still not officially announced project is using as its lodestone a portfolio of 35 unrecorded songs that were found in Williams' briefcase after his death, many with complete lyrics, but all without music. According to reports, back in 2004 Sony/BMG and the administrators of the Hank Williams estate approved "the idea of Bob Dylan taking a run at putting music" to those lyrics, as one of the lawyers put it, and the songs were sent off to Dylan.

The project apparently went on a back-burner for the next few years, or Dylan was unhappy with whatever results came from his doing the work solo, because nothing more was heard about the Briefcase Songs* until 2007 when Paste Magazine published an interview with Dominic Suchyta, a bassist with the band Steppin' In It, and a friend of Jack White. Suchyta noted that he had recently backed White, the man who seemed to be Dylan's new best friend in 2007, on a Williams song called You Know That I Know for the Dylan project.

You know that I know that you ain't no good
You wouldn't tell the truth if you could

Lying is a habit you practice wherever you go
You may fool the rest of the world, but you know that I know

"... it was a Hank Williams lyric sheet that Jack put to music and edited a bit,” says Suchyta. “[Dylan] sent most of or all of the unfinished tunes and [Jack] picked this one to finish."

According to Suchtya, other participants recording the Hank Williams songs include Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, and later reports have added Lucinda Williams and Alan Jackson to the group. Suchtya also speculated in the interview that Dylan himself had recorded at least one tune for the project during the 2006 Modern Times sessions, a guess that was later reported as fact in follow-up articles. But whether Dylan actually has recorded any of the Briefcase Songs - or will be recording any of them during the recording sessions he's rumored to have planned for 2008 - still remains to be seen, or to be heard.

There's a nice parallel between the Briefcase Songs and the two Mermaid Avenue collections, the 1998 and 2000 albums showcasing a group of till-then unheard lyrics of Woody Guthrie, with music provided by Billy Bragg and Wilco. As readers of Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One remember him writing,

"On one of my visits, Woody had told me about some boxes of songs and poems that he had written that had never been seen or set to melodies - that they were stored in the basement of his house in Coney Island and that I was welcome to them...

I found the house...One of Woody's kids, Arlo...told the babysitter to let me in. Arlo was probably about ten or twelve years old and didn't know anything about any manuscripts locked in the basement....

Forty years later, these lyrics would fall into the hands of Billy Bragg and the group Wilco and they would put melodies to them, bring them to full life and record them. It was all done under the direction of Woody's daughter Nora. These performers probably weren't even born when I had made that trip out to Brooklyn".

Dylan - as well as Bruce Springsteen and even Guthrie's son, Arlo - all reportedly later campaigned to get their hands on Woody's lyrics. But Nora Guthrie ultimately made the decision to turn the songs over Bragg, who she contacted on her own. Although one published report has it that there was a falling out between Nora Guthrie and Dylan that influenced her decision, it's more likely that her comment in the liner notes of Mermaid Avenue that she wanted to bring Woody's music to a younger generation of listeners is closer to the truth. Certainly if Dylan, Springsteen, or even Arlo had taken on the job, it would have been a much different project, and would have had a vastly different audience.

When I first heard about the Dylan project in 2007, I thought the Hank Williams songs were from the rediscovered "Lost Songbook," that came to light in 2006, after two collectors - and the proprietors of the Honky Tonk Hall of Fame - revealed in the Chicago Sun-Times that they had purchased it. But that tattered, brown notebook is something different - containing twenty handwritten, unpublished Hank Williams lyrics and song fragments from 1947 through 1949, seventeen of which were never recorded.

While nobody disputes its legitimacy, the provenance of that notebook is much murkier than the songs from Hank's briefcase. A woman claiming to have various country music-related items, including "some Hank Williams things," offered the notebook up for sale, although she mistakenly believed it had belonged to Roy Orbison. However, the two collectors recognized the songbook as the same one photographed for the book Hank Williams: Snapshots From the Lost Highway, and purchased it for a reported $1500.

How the notebook - which collectors have valued for as much as a quarter-million dollars - disappeared from the Acuff-Rose archives, where it was photographed in 1998, is unknown. One theory has it that it was thrown out or misplaced after Sony/BMG bought Acuff-Rose in 2002. Sony/BMG claims that it was stolen, and in fact prosecuted the woman - who turned out to be a janitor at the Sony building and stated in court that she found the notebook in a dumpster - and one of the collectors for theft. The criminal case was dismissed in March 2007 for lack of evidence, although Sony is now pursuing a civil lawsuit to recover what it still claims is its property.

Hank Williams' notebook currently is being kept under lock-and-key at the Sumner County, Tennessee courthouse.

*Briefcase Songs is a placeholder title I created for the purposes of this article and is not the title of the still-announced Dylan project.

Sources: Chronicles: Volume One, pages 99-100. The clip is from the audio version of the book, read by Sean Penn.

The Chicago Sun-Times, September 3, 2006 - Lost and Found: Hank Williams Lost Notebook.

Various news reports on the ongoing saga of the lost notebook.

The Hank Williams radio show excerpts are from the second episode of Williams' first syndicated series - The Health and Happiness show - recorded in October 19 and 49. Several of the shows can be downloaded from the Internet archive, and all eight shows are available in CD and MP3 format at Amazon.


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

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. 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.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Number One (with a Bullet) at the Dreamtime Store

Doesn't happen all that often that I'm able to find all the cuts from a Theme Time playlist at Amazon, but "Number One" is an exception to that rule. Usual caveats apply. The cut I've found may not be the exact same cut played by Theme Time, and you may be able to do better on price with a different album/store. For example, I'm sure you can find Josh White's One Meatball on several other compilations for a heckuva lot less than $56-odd bucks. On the other hand, I have the Elektra Years, and it's a great set for anyone who likes Josh White.

Also of interest are the two biographies Mr. D. mentioned, Anita O'Day's High Times, Hard Times (highly recommended) and Jan Howard's Sunshine and Shadow. Howard's book appears to be out of print, but copies can still be bought at the Amazon link, or through Jan Howard's web site.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

More commercial affiliations

apropos of our earlier post.

"...Anticipating Richard Hamilton by four years, Hank Williams first uttered the term pop art from the stage of the Grand Old Opry in 1952. Hank could see stretched out before him a future in which art would inextricably entwine with advertising. It was not an unappealing prospect, and Hank embraced it, envisioning museums filled with Brillo boxes and Ken-L-Ration labels and Goodyear Tires winged feet. He had always considered such works on a par with the output of the top European modernists, and all the more engaging because they had been devised by ordinary Americans without pretense, who got their hands dirty and enjoyed the song of the meadowlark at sunset.

He could imagine taking that song and fitting lyrics to it that would tell folks about Cities Service gasoline and Wheatena breakfast cereal, things he himself loved, and in return the gasoline people and the cereal people would put his name on a pump and his face on a box. It was all about people helping each other out, and it was also about the clean, uncluttered thrust of American imagery. He never quite understood why it was that when he visited a picture gallery, the paintings of streets never showed the Dr. Pepper signs and the Coppertone billboards and the barns were bereft of their Chew Mail Pouch in big letters. He thought it was a lot like pretending that people never had to go to the bathroom. It was like visiting somebody's house who had made a fortune running burlesque theaters and finding it full of plaster copies of Roman statues..."

Hank Williams didn't really invent the term pop art on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1952, but it's one of those things that might have happened in an alternate universe.

is busy putting together our next podcast - on Hank Williams and his death in the back of a Cadillac on a cold New Year's Day in 19 and 53, and synchronous to our research came across this publicity photo of Hank promoting Pops-Rite Popcorn ("Loads of Fun to Pop at Home"), which was evidently a fulfillment item that Pops-Rite - a Grand Ole Opry Sponsor - sent to listeners.

The Blevins Popcorn Co. was founded by James Victor Blevins in 1945. Blevins had been operating a Nashville food brokerage business when he noticed the movie industry boom was boosting sales of popcorn, and signed a contract to supply all the popcorn for a Middle Tennessee movie chain, marketing a hybrid corn that produced better-tasting, fluffier popcorn. Blevins was also instrumental in introducing popcorn to the home market when the movie biz started to slump in the `50s.

Blevins named the business' home base "Popcorn Village," as can be seen in the banner behind Williams, and dubbed himself both "Popcorn King" and "Mayor of Popcorn Village."

Besides Pops-Rite, Williams' sponsors on his 15-minute morning radio show on WSM included Duckhead Overalls and my personal favorite, Mother's Best Flour.

Bet Hank never said, "My music's too sacred, I won't sell pop-corn" either.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day on January 11, 2008

Harrisburg, Pa. -- Governor Edward G. Rendell has proclaimed January 11, 2008 as “Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day” in the State of Pennsylvania. On this day, the friends and family of the late Sister Rosetta Tharpe will come together for a benefit concert to honor the gospel music legend at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA.

Performing at this historic concert will be; The Dixie Hummingbirds, Willa Ward with The Johnny Thompson Singers, Marie Knight, The Huff Singers, and Odetta. Proceeds from this event will provide for a memorial at Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s unmarked gravesite in Philadelphia’s Northwood Cemetery, and contribute to Community Music Scholarship Programs at Temple University’s Music Prep and Settlement Music School.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, gospel music’s first superstar, who influenced an entire generation with her song and spirit, called Philadelphia her home for more than 15 years. In referring to her as a “truly amazing and inspirational musician,” Governor Rendell also added, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a pioneering gospel singer, songwriter, and recording artist. She took gospel music into the mainstream with her unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock accompaniment.”

GREETINGS from Governor Edward G. Rendell:

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome everyone gathered tonight at the Keswick Theatre to honor the late gospel musician, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and to pay tribute to this musical legend that influenced an entire generation with her song and spirit. I would also like to give a special thank you to those performing in the benefit concert—The Dixie Hummingbirds, Willa Ward with The Johnny Thompson Singers, Marie Knight, The Huff Singers, and Odetta.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a pioneering gospel singer, songwriter, and recording artist. She took gospel music into the mainstream with her unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and early rock accompaniment. She became the first great recording star of gospel music, first surfacing on the pop charts with her 1938 original composition “This Train.” As she crossed the line between sacred and secular, her witty, idiosyncratic style also left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists, such as Ira Tucker Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s soprano singing voice, masterful guitar playing, and commanding stage presence influenced an entire generation of musicians—most notably, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Isaac Hayes, and Etta James.

As Governor and on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, I am proud to join with the friends and family of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in celebration of January 11, 2008, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day. I thank everyone gathered in Philadelphia this evening for paying tribute to this truly amazing and inspirational musician.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Deep Tracks (and Theme Time) Back on AOL Radio

As AOL promised after removing XM Deep Tracks from its playlist late last year, the XM station that's home to Theme Time Radio Hour has now returned to free AOL Radio in 2008. That means that for those whose circumstances don't allow any other way of getting TTRH their fix is back, at least for awhile until AOL rotates the playlist again. will get you to the AOL XM Radio guide. Scroll down a bit to find XM Deep Tracks. Sometime since the last time I checked AOL improved its web and radio player interface to work with Firefox, too.