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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rock Me Baby - Sugar Pie DeSanto

If Theme Time Radio Hour ever does a Sugar episode, I'll guarantee that the little lady with the wonderful name and the big voice - Sugar Pie DeSanto - will make an appearance.  In his new book, "The Best Music You've Never Heard," Nigel Williamson writes of Sugar Pie...
Of all the great artists to record for Chicago's legendary Chess Records, perhaps the most unfairly overlooked is Sugar Pie DeSanto. She stood no more than 5ft tall – but as she shouted in one of her better-known songs, "if you know how to use what you got, it don't matter about your size".

With her razor-sharp, don't-mess-with-me delivery, she was every inch a match for similar red-hot mamas such as Koko Taylor and Etta James, and was a far superior singer to Tina Turner, with whom she toured. She was a better dancer, too, with a famous stage routine that included acrobatic back-flips. James Brown was so impressed that he asked her to be his support act and kept her on the road with him for two years.

Born Umpeylia Marsema Balinton in San Francisco in 1935, she was dubbed "Little Miss Sugar Pie" by the bandleader Johnny Otis, who discovered her in a talent contest in the early 1950s. She eventually signed to Chess in 1960, but the label never really utilised her talent. In seven years on Chess, she recorded no more than 30 sides and released just one solitary LP.

It remains one of life's mysteries how such magnificent songs as "I Want To Know", "Soulful Dress", "Slip In Mules", "Do I Make Myself Clear" and "Use What You Got" remained so little heard. After parting company with Chess, DeSanto moved back to San Francisco where she remains a stalwart of the local blues circuit.
Much of Sugar Pie's ouevre is in print on CD and mp3 and can be found on Amazon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Email, Top Cat and the Mysterious Mr. "McCowan"

Dreamtime reader/listener Bill recently sent an email with a couple of closing credit questions, reaching all the way back to the Rocktober Classic Rock episode of Season 2. Bill writes:

In your recent excellent piece on frequently asked questions, I was excited to learn that the background music for most of the credits portion of the program is "Top Hat (Underscore). " I am not certain who the musicians are for this acoustic version. Any idea?

Further, the background during the credits changes for the Classic Rock show and "Pierre Mancini" near the end of the "thanks to" portion gives "super thanks to" (sounds to me like) "Val McCowan (sp?)". Do you have any knowledge about who that might be or what the name is precisely? Or info on the music itself?
To date I haven't been able to find a source crediting the musicians playing that jazzy variant of "Top Cat." According to various interviews, Hoyt Curtin (the composer of "Top Cat," as well as literally hundreds of other cartoon scores) tried to use the same session musicians as much as possible, so the pianist on "Underscore" may be Curtin's long-time pianist, Jack Cookerly. Either Alvin Stoller or Frankie Capp may be playing drums. I can't find any info on who might have been on bass.

The answer to the question may be in the booklet included with the Hanna-Barbera's Pic-a-Nic Basket of Cartoon Classics collection, another out-of-print CD compilation that also includes "Top Cat (Underscore)". While I don't own that set, I've read reviews that indicate its liner notes have details on the musicians who played the pieces.

The closing credits for Season 2's Classic Rock episode are out of the TTRH norm in at least two respects. Instead of the usual jazz piano "Top Cat," we have a thumping fuzz guitar version of that piece. And during his acknowledgments, Pierre Mancini - who sounds as if he's phoning in through Skype - notes, "super-special thanks to Val 'McCowan.' That's him you hear groovin' in the background."

I had tried researching the mysterious Mr. "McCowan" and variants of his name, guessing that he was a musician friend of Eddie G.'s, if indeed that was him groovin' in the background. I was right about that, although wrong about the spelling of his name. Listen carefully and you'll hear that what our friend Pierre is actually saying is Val McCallum. McCallum is an L.A.-based guitarist who has worked with a variety of artists including Natalie Merchant, Peter Gabriel, Seal, Sheryl Crow, Joan Osborne and Tim McGraw. That info is from The Wallflowers web site - McCallum has provided guitar work on various Wallflower tracks - which gives us our connection to Mr. D. McCallum is also a regular player in Vonda Shepard's band (whose music was regularly featured on the Ally McBeal sitcom), which gives us yet another connection to Eddie G.

In 1999, McCallum joined up with Davey Faragher and former Attraction Pete Thomas to form the publicity-killing band, "Jack Shit". Just to digress for a moment, you have to kind of admire a trio that would take that name. You're not going to get too many reviews of either gigs or albums with a name like "Jack Shit." Nevertheless, the band has released two albums, the first self-titled, with the members no doubt giggling to themselves thinking of fans walking into a store and forced to ask, "Do you have Jack Shit"?

And Jack Shit also has a web site , which is here.

Thanks Bill, for an interesting set of questions!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

In the "It's About Time" Category

Wanda Jackson, "an atomic fireball of a lady,” as Mr. D has noted on TTRH, is one step closer to entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  From The Oklahoman web site , which has one of the more detailed articles on Jackson's nomination...

"I've been there once before, a few years ago, but I think maybe this is the year. Who knows,” Jackson said in a phone interview from her Oklahoma City home...

...For the past few years, Wendell Goodman, Jackson's manager and husband of almost 47 years, has spearheaded a campaign to get her into the rock hall. She also credited her fans for supporting her and sending letters on her behalf.

"They all were in a rage about the fact that I was the first one (woman) to record rock ‘n' roll ... and they had just totally overlooked me all these years,” she said.

Elvis Costello, who was inducted in 2003, wrote a stinging letter to the rock hall a few years ago, saying that Jackson's absence "risks ridicule and having the appearance of being a little boy's club.”...
Full article is here .

Saturday, September 20, 2008

No Woman, No Cry - Kimo Watanabe

Dreamtime favorite Kimo Watanabe and his take on the Bob Marley classic.  If you haven't heard it, check out Kimo's spooky version of All Along the Watchtower that we featured on Episode 22 of the Dreamtime podcast.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We Have the Date for the Start of Season 3 of Theme Time Radio Hour!

Thanks to our friends over at XM Radio...

Hi Fred,

That premiere date for the new Theme Time season would be Wednesday, October 8 at 10am ET.
The countdown clock is updated (you may have to refresh your browser). 21 days 19 hours and counting.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Picasso from Belgium"

The internet is a weird thing, allowing you to develop friendships - sometimes very close friendships - with people you never meet in person.  Sometimes all you know of them is a nickname and an avatar and what they write.

Back in 2006, when I started up Dreamtime, the blog started receiving a lot of hits from another blog where a group of Theme Time Radio Hour enthusiasts had gathered and essentially taken over a comment thread there.  One of the most enthusiastic of those enthusiasts was a person going by the on-line handle of "Picasso from Belgium," whose name I later discovered was Pierre Ponette, and who was indeed from Belgium.  Picasso wasn't a native English speaker or writer and sometimes his posts were a bit hard to interpret, but his love for the music played on Theme Time came through loud and clear.

As time passed, Picasso and I both settled into the Theme Time Radio Hour forum at Expecting Rain.  We'd occasionally pass emails back and forth, but usually communicated through posts on that forum, sometimes answering the other's question on a piece of TTRH trivia, sometimes just saying "Hello" or acknowledging an interesting post.

Picasso spent much of his energies in the Forum cataloging the music played on TTRH, defining each piece by its year of release, and often nailing down exactly what version had been played.  That's trivial I know to the average Bear, but interesting to those of us who love music.  Picasso was instrumental in creating the listings used for the TTRH CD artwork that many fans have downloaded.

In 2007, Picasso had a personal loss which he felt deeply, and his postings decreased.  Yet, after a several month absence, he returned to the Forum and completed a complete playlist for the second season of Theme Time.  He was obviously looking forward to Season 3, his last posting on the site was in August - a placeholder topic that he was ready to fill with the Season 3 playlists. "Inch'Allah, available here as from 10SEP08..." he wrote.

But that topic will remain empty.  His daughter wrote to Expecting Rain...
It is with deepest sorrow that I announce the death of my dad, Pierre Ponette. He passed away Wednesday, September 3 in his sleep, following a cerebral aneurysm. His funeral will take place this Saturday September 13, at the church Saint-Martin de Frasnes-Lez-Buissenal at 11 a.m.
Sometimes you develop friendships  with people you never meet in person.  Sometimes all you know of them is a nickname and an avatar, and what they write.  But maybe in the end it's what they write that is the most important thing.

Picasso from Belgium - Pierre Ponette. He was a good friend who I never met, and I will miss him.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Still No Word on Season 3 of Theme Time Radio Hour

UPDATE: I've amended the countdown clock to reflect a new placeholder date of October 1st, following my original instinct as noted below. You may have to refresh the page to see the updated countdown. Right or wrong? We'll have to wait and see. ~ fhb


We're getting lots of email and site hits from people looking for the start date of TTRH Season 3, but the Dreamtime team is as clueless - probably more so - as any one of the hoi polloi. I'm resisting re-setting the placeholder date on our countdown clock until at least tomorrow although I suspect a start date of September 10th is now unlikely. In any case, I want to hear if anything is said on either Deep Tracks on the XMX all-day re-run tomorrow. Since a lot of people tend to take what they see on the Web as gospel, let me re-state what the copy under the timer already says: it's a placeholder date only until I know the real one. Dreamtime has no insider information (Note to Eddie G.: Insider info would be most welcome).

If you go by Season 2, XM announced the start of that Season, which began September 19th, two weeks earlier in a September 6th press release. Actually, the news was broken one day earlier than the press release in a USA Today article dated September 5, 2007. (Writer Edna Gundersen seems to have a special relationship with the Dylan camp).Going by that history, we may see an announcement later this week for September 17th. Maybe. But I'm also starting to think that my original guess that the Season might not start until October 1st - or almost six months to the day after the end of Season 2 - may have been correct, giving the TTRH team a "six-months-on-the-air six-months-off" schedule.

I'm still resisting the various theories brought up by several of my correspondents that the Sirius/XM merger or Dylan's touring schedule or his announced work on Chronicles Volume 2, may be the root cause and there may be a delayed Season 3 or even no Season 3 at all. No evidence for it, and no evidence ag'in it, I'll admit. But I'm still going by my correspondent's note about meeting Eddie G. that yes indeedy there will be a Season 3.

And soon, I hope.

In the Great North Woods For a Spell

Your Host rusticatin' at Dreamtime North, Beaver Cove, Moosehead Lake, Maine, August 2008, as he studies the next podcast script.