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Friday, January 30, 2009

A Cartoon History of King Records

While cruising around the 45 RPM Records site, I came across this delightful graphic history of King Records, first published in September 2000. Click on the graphic or link for the full cartoon. It's too large to reproduce on Dreamtime.

Any regular listener to Theme Time Radio Hour will be familiar with Syd Nathan's voice and his recorded rants on everything from how to make (and sell) a hit record to the perils of overseas travel. In the early `40's, Syd Nathan was successful enough selling used records out of his downtown Cincinnati dry goods store that in 19 and 43 he decided to try his hand at his own record label. He set up shop in an old icehouse on Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati and released the first records on the King label. King liked to target niche audiences, country western and hillbilly for the whites and rhythm and blues for the blacks. But Syd Nathan's real genius was having his black acts take a turn at covering country western tunes and vice versa. In some ways, Syd Nathan was the real godfather of rock-n'-roll.

As well as Hank (and Jimmy) Ballard, the roster of artists who recorded for King and its affiliate labels included Little Willie John, Billy Ward and the Dominos, Bill Doggett, Earl Bostic, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson, the Delmore Brothers, Moon Mullican, Grandpa Jones and Cowboy Copas. Indeed, as we mentioned in an earlier Dreamtime, Cowboy Copas was one of Nathan's talent scouts who scoured the South for new songs, and missed the chance to buy The Tennessee Waltz for all of $50.

As you'll read in the cartoon, the biggest King star of all was James Brown, who was brought to the label by A&R man Ralph Bass in early 1956. “I would be telling a lie if I said I would be a world star without the help of men like Mr. Nathan. He was the first one willing to take a chance on me.” Brown once said.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And Even Something More About Jimmy Ballard

If this keeps up, I may need to rename the site to Jimmy Ballard Time.

During one of my periodic breaks from "real" work, I decided to do another hunt for info on Jimmy/Jimmie Ballard, and ran across the so-called "John Patrick Collection", a folklore collector whose main area of interest seems to be drinking and bawdy songs from various eras.

A page on the site features mp3 snippets from the 2007 CD compilation Griddle Greasin' Daddies and Dirty Cowboys, as well as a transcription of the liner notes. Griddle Greasin' Daddies includes two Jimmy Ballard numbers: Chicken Plucker, Birthday Cake Boogie, and another - straight country-western - version of She's Got Something. And according to the liner notes, Ballard is also the featured vocalist on two other numbers found on the CD, Butcher Shop Blues and T'aint Big Enough, making it nearly a Jimmy Ballard collection. Here's the relevant sections on Ballard from Al Turner's liner notes...

"...Charlie Aldrich's "Kinsey's Book" is not so much a risque song, more a commentary on Dr. Kinsey's weighty analysis of sexual behaviour in the USA. Whilst there is little to offend in Aldrich's song, many Radio Station's banned the record solely because of its reference to Kinsey's work. The Nov-Ettes, were an ad hoc ensemble put together for a single KENTUCKY session, this outfit appears to feature the doyen of Hillbilly Risque singers, Jimmie Ballard. That particular songster is also to be found as the vocalist on Buffalo Johnson's "Tain't Big Enough", the subject matter here one could, tongue in cheek, describe as a perpetual fixation of males worldwide....

...Cumberland Valley Barn Dance star Jimmie Ballard, was a veteran of the Country music scene. Born in Middlesboro, Kentucky in 1932, Ballard turned professional when he was eighteen. Whilst better known these days for his risque material, Ballard was also a devout Christian with a string of sacred recordings to his credit. Ironic perhaps, but Georgia Tom, whose early repertoire contained several risque songs, is cited by many as one of the founding fathers of contemporary Black Gospel music. Thankfully "Chicken Plucker" is a song that the Very Reverent Dr. Spooner was never asked to sing! Ballard has two further songs on this compilation, his original (Pre KING) recording of "She's Got Some Something", and his reading of Billy Hughes' "Birthday Cake". The practice of Hillbilly artists covering R&B numbers, and Visa Versa, was quite common place at KING records..."
[Photo: Members of the Cumberland Valley Barn Dance - 1950. Jimmy Ballard, who is listed as "master of ceremonies and popular singer" is in the center.] The photo and more information on the Cumberland Valley Barn Dance can be found here.

A bit more searching brought me to the 45 RPM Records site, specializing in local labels from the Ohio River Valley. And searching for "Ballard" revealed a discography of about 10 small label singles, ranging from Just A Closer Walk With Thee, recorded in 19 and 53 to the aforementioned T'aint Big Enough, probably recorded that same year. Note that Ballard did most of his recordings for the KENTUCKY label, based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati was also the home base of KING records, which may be how Jimmy came to the attention of Syd Nathan.

So, more and more interesting. Risque songs. Sacred recordings. WMIK radio personality. Cumberland Valley Barn Dance star. Jimmy Ballard, country western renaissance man. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Something" More on Jimmy Ballard

Thanks to the efforts of Dreamtime pal Adam Dean, we have a little more information on country-western singer Jimmy Ballard, as well as one of the few known photographs. Ballard's She's Got Something was played on the recent "Something" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour, and Mr. D. expressed interest in learning more about the man, one of the first country-western artists to cross-over into the new rock-'n-roll style.

Ballard is pictured above in a radio station WMIK (Middlesboro, KY) staff photo from 19 and 50. Jimmy is the man standing above the gentleman with the cake, and identified in the photo as "country singer Jimmy Ballard.". WMIK was owned by the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company (CGBC), one of Kentucky's foremost radio broadcasting corporations.

The photo - as well as the photo of a "deejay special" release of Ballard's The Creek's Gone Muddy (And Tthe Fish Won't Bite) - are taken from Chuck Owens ongoing documentation of the history of the CGBC. The copy on the single relates: "Born in Middlesboro, Kentucky in 1932, Jimmy Ballard started his musical career at the age of 15. When he was 18, he left home for a musical job in Knoxville, Tennessee, his first professional appearance."

WMIK began broadcasting on November 14th 19 and 48, and Owens reports that Jimmy, sometimes known as "Jimmie," had a show "at the start." Ballard was definitely on the air by December, 1948, as he's listed in the program logs as having a show airing from 6:00 to 6:30 every morning. And if you had been lucky enough to be in Middlesboro on January 19th 19 and 49, you could have caught Jimmy live at Central School Auditorium at 2:30 pm. Also appearing were The Pine Mountain Boys, Clayton York, Crusaders Quartette, Cumberland Valley Quartette, Kentucky Sweetheart, the Golden Sisters and Shorty Ward, and The Dixie Drifters.

The Dixie Drifters appeared to be WMIK's house band, and occasionally backed Ballard, although you'll note that both King singles displayed here list Ballard's backing musicians simply as "String Band." Here's an unfortunately abridged version of Birthday Cake Boogie performed by Jimmy Ballard and the Dixie Drifters from around 1950.

Interestingly, a "Jim Ballard" became the general manager of WMIK sometime in the `60s into the `70s, but based on a photo from 19 and 66 which you can find here, it appears to be an improbable coincidence of names, as "Jim" doesn't look at all like "Jimmy," plus looks too old to be Jimmy Ballard's son. And, it's hard to believe that Chuck Owens, who created both pages, wouldn't take the time to note that country singer Jimmy became or was related to general manager, Jim.

It's hard to tell whether Chuck Owens is still updating The Cumberland Gap Broadcasting site, but if his email address is still valid, he'd probably be the best starting point to find out even more about Jimmy Ballard. Born in 19 and 32, Jimmy would be in his late `70s now, and could very well still be in Middlesboro.

Thanks again, Adam, for setting this old hound-dog on the trail.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tennessee, Tennessee

In a Season 3 full of firsts, the "Something" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour had - as far as I can tell - the first phone-in call from a real person...

Our Host: We're talking about something here on Theme Time Radio Hour, "Something" in particular. I think I'll check Line 1. Oh, it's not working. Line 2 is always good. Hello, caller, you're on the air. What's your name and where you calling from?

TT: My name is Tennessee Thomas, and I'm calling from Brooklyn, where I'm on tour with my band, The Like.

OH: How's the tour going?

TT: The tour is going really well, thanks.

OH: Are you listening to the show today?

TT: Yes, I've been listening to the show, and it's great. And, you asked a question earlier about a guy and I have some information for you.

OH: Oh, great!

TT: Well, um, he did the original version of The Twist, and his band was called The Midnighters.

OH: Oh, Tennessee! You're thinking of Hank Ballard. We were tring to find out about Jimmy Ballard.

TT: Oh, nooo!

OH: Well, that's all right. It was really nice of you to try to help. Have fun in Brooklyn. There's some great places to eat there. Make sure you try the Totonno's pizza on Neptune Avenue.

TT: Maybe I will go there.

OH: Ya can take it on the bus with you. Good luck on the tour.

TT: Thanks a lot!

OH: We'll see you soon.

OH: Nice of her to try to help. Still no closer to learning about Jimmy Ballard though. Perhaps it's lost to the mists of time.


As Tennessee noted, her band is The Like, an improabably young group which includes Elizabeth "Z" Berg (vocals/guitar), Charlotte Froom (bass/vocals) and Tennessee herself (drums/vocals). Now all of 24 years old, Tennessee and the other women formed The Like in 2001 at the tender ages of 16, 16, and 17 respectively. Tennessee is the daughter of Pete Thomas, longtime drummer for Elvis Costello.That may be the connection with Mr. D., or it may be through The Kings of Leon - who The Like opened for during a 2005 tour - or there may be some other mutual acquaintance.

The Like released their first album, Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?, on the Geffen label in September 2005. If the band is touring now, I can't find any info about it. The last touring info I can find is from 2006, when The Like was in Europe. The band's MySpace blog hasn't been updated since 2007, and information on their web site seems to end at 2006. I'll resist digressing into a rant but note to bands: There are many good reasons why you don't want to do your Web site totally in Flash. Take heed.

End of rant.

Our Host seems to be on a kick of foodie recommendations of late, having giving the nod to The Rojo in Birmingham, Alabama during the "11 On Up" show, and now Totonno's in Brooklyn. Can an "Eating Out With Bob" book be in our future?

And, as he noted, there's a paucity of information about Jimmy (not Hank) Ballard, stumping even the crack Dreamtime team. According to what I discovered, She's Got Something was the B side of a single on the King label. Although hard to believe, the A side featured (I Want A) Bow-legged Woman, also a hit for Ballard, and both songs are cited as two of the earliest cross-over examples from country-western to rock'-n-roll. Ballard's other King singles included Creeks Gone Muddy and Till the End. And the rest, as Mr. D. said, seems to be lost in the mists of history.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

At Least The Name Is Spelled Right

I'm not sure whether to be more amused or annoyed by Rick Dumont's article about Dreamtime published in today's Nashua Telegraph.

As either Mae West or Oscar Wilde once said, "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right." But the name is about the only thing that the reporter did get right. Every time I see a media report on something that I actually know something about, and see how much the reportage differs from the reality, it reminds me to be very skeptical of everything I read.

And, y'know, I'm just a schmuck from Merrimack, New Hampshire. Imagine what Bob Dylan goes through.

For the record:

* I did say the very early Elvis modeled himself after Dean Martin, but have no idea where the line, "But feeling that image wouldn't be marketable, Elvis' handlers molded him into what he became..." came from. However, I didn't say it, and neither did Mr. D.

* I didn't say that Dylan modeled Theme Time Radio Hour after Woody Guthrie. I don't even know what that means. I mentioned, as I usually do in interviews, that I suspect that the idea for TTRH's theme format may have come from Guthrie and Alan Lomax's "Back Where I Came From."

* Obviously, I didn't say Morey Amsterdam wrote "Rum and Coca-Cola." I said he stole the song.

* The "radio station" is WFMU.

* Yes, a writer from the "venerable" Rolling Stone did interview me. But it was about TTRH, not Dreamtime. As it turned out, my interview was completely edited out of the published article, except a line about "Back Where I Come From," and my name wasn't even mentioned.

* I am appreciative of the fact that the Telegraph reporter did get my response right about not knowing (and little caring, because it's not why I do Dreamtime) whether Mr. D. knows about Dreamtime, especially as it seemed he was doing his damnedest to get a quotable quote out of me. I must have repeated the "Don't know. If he does see it, I hope he likes it." line five times in different variations to that question.

*And the photo published with the article should have been credited, "P.W. Bals." Or maybe "Jailbait Jones," I can't remember who took it. In any case, if I had my druthers, I would have preferred the one above, also by P.W. Bals. Or maybe JJ.

I don't want to be too dog-in-the-mangerish about this. Appreciate the publicity and all that. But I mean really, I was interviewed for this over three weeks ago. What, 10 minutes to either send me the article or go over it with me by phone?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Little About Nothing

From Theme Time Radio Hour, January 14, 2009, Nothing


"We got nothing else going on, so why don't we check and see if we got some email. Let me just pull one out. This is from Bill Sheil in London, Ontario. Bill writes: 'Dear Theme Time, I really enjoy your show. A couple of weeks ago you played a country song about a couple who wasn't getting along. Could you tell me the name of it?'

"Well, Bill, you're going to have to give me more information than that. That could be any country song. Bill continues: 'I enjoyed the song because it reminded me of my life. I've been married for three-and-a-half years and my wife and I have spent three of them fighting. We've been to couples counseling, we've seen mediators, we've gone to therapy. I'm afraid the next stop is lawyers. I love her, and I want to stay with her. Do you have any advice?'

"Well, Bill, first of all, let's say you do get divorced. You can start writing country songs. If you don't want to change careers, and you want to stay with her, I do have one piece of advice. I call it "The Theme Time Radio Hour Silent Treatment." Here's whatcha do...

The Theme Time Radio Hour Silent Treatment

[music] You and your wife sit in a room. Just look at each other, and nobody says nuthin'. Just keep quiet. Eventually you're gonna want to talk. Don't! This is where most people make their mistake. The frustration works its way to the surface, and whatever you say will just make the other person angry. Keep quiet awhile longer. Look at the other person. Remember why you were with them. Finally, you'll know it's time to talk. When you remember how much you missed them, the silence you hear is what your life will be like without them.

Sometimes it's important to just take the time to remind yourself why the other person is there. I guarantee you it'll work.

There you go. You got Freudian therapy, Jungian therapy, Reichian therapy, and now "Theme Timeian" therapy. You know which one my money is on.


Def poetry

This very obscure poem took a little bit of diggin' to find, not least because, to cover his bases, Our Host pronounces the poet Jean Passaerat's first name as both "Gene" and "John," and the title, which sounds as if it's the English "Neil," "Neal," or "Kneel," turned out to the Latin, "Nihil," which, of course means "Nothing."

Nihil (A Latin Poem)

Nothing is richer than precious stones than gold.
Nothing is finer than adamant, nothing is nobler than the blood of kings.
Nothing is sacred in wars, nothing is greater than Socrates wisdom.
Indeed, by his own affirmations, nothing is Socrates wisdom.

Nothing is the subject of the speculation of the great Zeno.
Nothing is higher than heaven, nothing is beyond the walls of the world.
Nothing is lower than hell, or more glorious than virtue. ~ Jean Passerat, "Nothing poet, and I don't mean that judgmentally."

"There were many nihils written in the Renaissance of which the most famous was the Latin poem published by Jean Passerat, professor of rhetoric at Henry III's Palace Academy in Paris. This poem was published, republished, imitated, and annotated throughout the next fifty years." [Colie, Paradoxia Epidemica]


Phone Call

Our Host: This is Theme Time Radio Hour, and we're talking about "Nothing." Let's go to the phones. Oh, they're all lit up. Why don't I just try this one. Hello caller, you're on the line.

Female Caller: Hi Bobby! I am listening to your show about "Nothing," and, uh, boy! It's perfect for me because I have nothing going on right now in my life.

OH: Well, it's not fair to say that.

FC: Well, it's my life, and I'll tell ya, there's nothing happening. But, uh, I just wanted to say, y'know, Mose Allison did a great song called "Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues," and I'm wondering if you could play that one.

OH: Oh, we'd be happy to.

FC: Sometimes I feel like that's just what I got: nothing but the blues, man.

OH: Well, thanks for calling, and we're going to get it on for you right now.

FC: Okay, thanks so much and, uh, by the way, "q-o-p-h" is also an acceptable Scrabble word.*

OH: Thanks a lot for calling.

FC: All right. Bye bye.

OH: Well, I can't believe she's got nothing going on. If nothing else, she's got great taste in music.

*Our Host had earlier recited a list of useful Scrabble words. The unnamed caller is either a Scrabble scholar or Jewish, or both, as "qoph," ((ק the 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is indeed listed in the "Official Scrabble Players Dictionary" as one of the few acceptable "q without u" words. Interestingly, so is "sheqel," a variant spelling of "shekel."

Just to disappear completely into our own navels, Mr. D. could have replied with the three Hebrew letters, "Shin Qoph, Resh," to the heckler who cried out "Judas," during the infamous Manchester concert. The letters spell Sheqer, which is the Hebrew word for a lie. As Wikipedia notes, it would be akin to an English speaker saying, "That's a L-I-E."

The Abridged Fugs "Nothing"

As a commenter over at the TTRH Expecting Rain forum noted, TTRH played, without explanation, an abridged, possibly censored, version of The Fugs, Nothing.

The studio versions of Nothing weigh in at around 4 minutes and some-odd seconds. The cut played on TTRH was 2 minutes and 30 seconds, trimming away almost half of the original song. The explanation could be as simple as Nothing, whatever its charms, is a fairly repetitious piece, and you more or less get the Fug's gist that all is nada in 2 1/2 minutes. Or, it may be that someone decided to deliberately remove such offending lines as: Fucking nothing, sucking nothing, flesh and sex nothing, which is part of the original piece.

The debate has moved back-'n-forth in the Forum without complete resolution. Was there an released alternate studio version of Nothing that was used in TTRH? The Fugs discography adds to the confusion as their first album where Nothing appears (The Village Fugs) was originally released on Broadside/Folkways and then re-released as The Fugs First Album by ESP. Wikipedia claims that re-release includes "alternate takes/edits of at least three songs and stronger language" (emphasis mine), but the claim is unverified and current evidence points against there being two different versions of Nothing on the two albums.

A letter reproduced in the forum also notes another Dylan radio connection to Nothing.

"...the version of "Nothing" on the original Folkways album is the regular full-length version, so Dylan must have played some weird edit that his producers made for him or something.

Ironic, because on the 1966 Bob Fass [Radio Unnameable bootleg] Dylan requests that Fass play "Nothing" and Bob says that he can't do it because of the language... I wonder if Dylan was reminded of this exact moment 40 years ago now that the tables are turned and HE is the DJ!
As many other of Tuli Kupferberg's songs were, Nothing was based on an older song, in this case a Yiddish folk melody called Bulbes about the monotony of having nothing to eat but potatoes.

Potatoes ("Bulbes')
On Sunday - potatoes, on Monday - potatoes,
on Tuesday and Wednesday - potatoes, on
Friday - potatoes, on Sabbath - a novelty, the
potato kugel. On Sunday - potatoes again.
Bread with potatoes, meat with potatoes, lunch
and dinner. Potatoes, potatoes over and over
One meal is a novelty - the potato pie.
On Sunday -- potatoes again

I couldn't find an "official" lyric sheet of Nothing, but Joel Feingold's excellent article about the song, A Whole Lotta Nothin', offers what seems to be a pretty accurate transcription...

Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday and Thursday nothing, Friday for a change, a little more nothing, Saturday once more nothing.
Sunday nothing, Monday nothing, Tuesday and Wednesday, nothing, Thursday for a change, a little more nothing, Friday once more nothing.
Montik gornisht, dinstik gornisht, mitvokh un donershtik gornisht, fraytik for a novehneh, gornisht gigeleh, Shabbos vider gornisht.
Lunes nada, martes nada, miercoles y jueves nada, viernes por cambio un poco mas nada, sabado otra vez nada.
Na na nana, na na nana ...
Oh, Village Voice nothing, New Yorker nothing, sing out in folk ways nothing. Harry Smith [the goyishe kabalist/folk wonk who produced the record] and Allen Ginsberg [Tuli’s only fan], nothing nothing nothing.
Poetry nothing, music nothing, thinking and dancing nothing. The world’s great books, a great set of nothing. Haughty and foddy, nothing.
Fucking nothing, sucking nothing, flesh and sex nothing. Church and Times Square, all a lot of nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing!
Stevenson nothing, Humphrey nothing, Averell Harriman nothing. John Stuart Mill nill-nill, Franklin Delano Nothing.
Carlos Marx nothing, Engels nothing, Bakunin Kropotkin — nyuthing! Leon Trotsky, lots of nothing. Stalin less than nothing!
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, a whole lot of, a whole lot of nothing. Nothing, lots and lots of nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.
Not a goddamn thing.

Note the name-check of Harry Smith (labeled a goyishe wonk by Feingold), who was probably better-known for the seminal Anthology of American Folk Music.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Highland Park bar and eatery on lookout for Bob Dylan

via The Birmingham (AL) News:

Music icon Bob Dylan gives bar a shout-out
Thursday, January 15, 2009
News staff writer

It's not every joint that can get The Voice of a Generation as its pitchman.

But music legend Bob Dylan gave a shout-out to Rojo, the neighborhood bar and eatery in Birmingham's Highland Park, during his weekly satellite radio show.

"Theme Time Radio Hour," which showcases quirky music and Dylan's offbeat observations each Wednesday on XM satellite radio, was based on the theme "Numbers 11 and Larger."

Following a song by the band NRBQ called "12 Bar Blues," Dylan croaked, "That was a song about 12 bars. Here's four more that I like. If you're in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by the Rojo. That's Spanish for red."

He went on to mention bars in Burlington, Vt.; Providence, R.I.; and New York City.

Full article here. And the Rojo's web site is here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mysterious Stripper

Anybody need a great blog headline writer?  Step right up, ladies and gentlemen.  Four chairs, no waiting.

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  In our previous post about Tom Waits and the Small Change cover, we mentioned Our Host's report that the red-headed stripper pictured was rumored (emphasis there) to be that cross between Valley Girl and Vampirella, Elvira, back when she was Cassandra Peterson.

Commenter "Edward" replied to the post that the Lady in Question might actually be an acquaintance of Waits who opened the show for his "live" album of 19 and 75, Nighthawks at the Diner.

Her name variously reported as "Dewana," "Deewanna," "Dewanna," and even "Dwana," she's described as a "classic old tassle-twirler," and an "old-time burlesque queen," who Waits apparently met during his wanderings through the Hollywood underworld.  One person mentioned in a near-Dylansque non sequiter that "her husband was a taxi driver."

"Edward" also noted, "...if you look at the original LP cover (I know, I know, but believe me such things did exist) you can see her face well enough to see that she's probably a bit more well-worn than Cassandra Petersen would have looked, even without makeup, in the mid-70's."

I'm leaning towards "Edward's" theory, as the timing is right, and there seems to be a better connection between Dewanna, however her name is spelled, than Elvira and Tom Waits. The Elvira claim smacks of the sort of urban myth that gets repeated on the Web until it's taken as gospel.  The first reference I can find to the Elvira/Small Change connection is a 2002 USEnet post, and most of the few citations offered on various sites, including Wikipedia, point back to a 2006 music article.  In neither case do the original authors offer any proof, simply writing the claim as fact.

Who knows?  We'll have to wait for the next cassette from Tom.  I was thinking of doing a side-by-side photo analysis of the red-headed stripper and one of the nude shots of Cassandra Peterson available on the Web, paying ah, special attention to secondary sex characteristics, but Jailbait Jones violently objected when I floated the idea.


UPDATE: And the Lady Herself adds to the mystery...

Q: Did you keep in touch with Tom Waits after you got photographed with him for the cover of Small Change?

CP: That's such a mystery to me. I mean, I see the cover and I go, "That looks like me." But I do not have one recollection of doing it. Then again, I don't have a single recollection of the '70s. I went straight from the '60s to the '80s. Isn't that sad?

Q: Were you hit on the head or were the drugs that good?

CP: Who knows. I was a Playboy model — for the club, the modeling agency and the magazine. I did a million things: music videos, album covers, romance novels where the guy with the long hair is leaning over the girl draped across the bed, movie one sheets. Ever see Raggedy Man? I'm on the poster. Not in the movie.


Actually, if you go check out posters of Raggedy Man, the woman pictured is another good-looking redhead, Sissy Spacek, who did faintly resemble Peterson.  Maybe it's Sissy Spacek on Small Change!

More on the Nighthawks at the Diner sessions and the mysterious "Deewanna" here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Most-Played Artist on TTRH: George Jones Deposed

Even though we're only midway through Season 3 of Theme Time Radio Hour, and the scramble for top slot could certainly change again, it's worth noting that with the airing of the "Work" episode on the 7th, Tom Waits officially became the "most-played" artist on TTRH, slippin' past George Jones, who had led the pack at the close of Season 2.

Given that Tom is still continuing to mail cassettes of commentary ("Thanks for the marmalade") to Our Host, he may also hold the record for being the most-referred-to artist, too.

According to "Absolutely Sweet Marie" over at the Expecting Rain TTRH forum, Waits has now been played 10 times, with George Jones and Dinah Washington tied for 2nd, with nine airplays each. Personally, I'm pulling for Dinah. You can read the full list here...

To your left (or above, dependent on how this ends up formatting), is the cover of Small Change, Waits' album of 19 and 76. Mr. D. played I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (and See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue) from that album towards the close of the "Work" show mentioning, in one of his patented asides, that the stripper pictured behind Waits was rumored to be Cassandra Peterson, better-known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and later Mistress of All Media.

Elvira's life could easily fill a Dreamtime podcast by itself. In her Cassandra persona, she was listed in the Guinness World Book of Records at age 17 for being the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history; hung out with Elvis Presley; became the lead singer of an Italian rock band, had a bit part in a Fellini movie, did improv comedy; auditioned for the role of Ginger for the third Gilligan's Island TV movie (howza 'bout that for a Dreamtime connection) appeared in a half-dozen sit-coms including Happy Days; and eventually became Elvira.

It seems to be generally accepted on the Web that the "stripper" is Peterson/Elvira, although as Mr. D. was careful to mention it is a rumor -- or at least I coudn't find anything that even resembled an "official" citation. It's probably worth noting that the cover isn't mentioned in Peterson's biography at the official Elvira site. On the other hand, neither are Peterson's nude layouts for various men's magazines of the `70s and `80s.

Who knows? Maybe Tom will enlighten Our Host and he'll pass the true git onto his listening audience.

Although I've told the story before, articles are fleeting here at Dreamtime, so I'll mention again how I once rescued Tom Waits from imminent arrest by a rent-a-cop.

My initial college career - such as it was, and it wasn't much - was interrupted by the draft in the early `70s, and consequently I started college several years later than most of my peers. I eventually graduated from the University of Southern Maine in the late `70s; then known as the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham, or sometimes as Pogo U., which may be why the name was changed by the College Fathers.

In any case, although I was less than full of school spirit, I did haphazardly participate in several activities and organizations, including the college paper; a group that put on cult films; and another group that brought music acts to the school. During that time I helped produce USM concerts for such `70s period acts as Loggins and Messina; Phoebe Snow; and Maria Muldaur.

Out of the dozen or so acts that I dealt with, Maria was one of the nicest, a fact that I'd remind her of when I interviewed her for a web site column I was writing at the time (the web site and I parted ways, but you can still read the interview here). Maria was still at the height of her Midnight at the Oasis fame in those days, and Tom Waits, who was promoting his Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night album, was her opening act.

I didn't have all that much conversation with Waits, who I had never heard of at the time, which was around 1974 or `75. But I did go out and buy his album the next day. But off-stage he was a strange, scruffy, boho-type character wearing a cheap Salvation Army suit and with not the best personal hygiene. In fact, he reeked.

Getting ready to go on, Waits decided he wanted to bring a beer on-stage. Some security guy stopped him, and I had to intercede when the argument began to get heated. While I had the rent-a-cop distracted, Waits hid several cans of beer in his suit jacket, walked out on stage, sat down at the piano, reached inside his jacket, pulled out a beer, popped the top, put it on the piano, turned to the backstage, and gave the security guard the finger. I spent the rest of Waits' set talking the security guy out of stopping the show, noting that he'd be taking his life into his own hands if he tried to pull Waits off-stage in front of an audience of several thousand. Either from luck or recognizing that discretion might be the better part of valor, Waits departed from the other side of the stage at the end of his set.

When I told that story to Maria, some thirty-odd years in the future, and mentioned that I remembered Waits had smelled a little, ah, ripe, she began to laugh. "My God," she said. "I haven't thought of that tour in years. You're right, Tom was pretty pungent. We used to have to make excuses not to sit at the same table with him. We were saying, 'My God, doesn't this guy ever bathe?'"

Friday, January 09, 2009

Nothing Coming 1/14 and Something 1/21

Mistakes should be admitted and apologies made when necessary.  After beating up the faceless XM Radio post-production team for forgetting to edit in the name of the next show at the close of the "Work" episode, I blush to find that the omission was a deliberate joke. 

According to the XM Program Guide, the 1/14 episode of Theme Time Radio Hour will be about "Nothing" and the following week's theme will be about "Something." Thanks to "jckinnick" for the tip, and congratulations to CS Nielsen for getting the joke and correctly predicting next week's show.

If you buy into the theory that the "Street Map" episode was a re-titled "Streets,"  "Nothing" and "Something" will complete the Season 3 broadcasts of the announced but unaired shows of Season 2.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Work Highlights

The Theme Time Radio Hour widget is back at the top of the page, containing the playlist for this week's episode, "Work," as well as a selected video - this time around the fabulous Honey Cone performing Want Ads - and a countdown to next week's show, so you always know how long you have to wait.

Have a blog, MySpace or Facebook page? Share the wealth and the widget by using the "Share" button in the lower right.

A few thoughts on the show, which I listened to in real-time for a change. Music highlights for me included...

- The Coat and the Pants Do All the Work (and The Vest Gets All the Gravy) by Harry Reser. Reser was quite a character who, as Our Host noted, operated under so many pseudonyms with some many different bands that it's impossible to list his complete discography. I think my favorite Reser band name was The Clicquot Club Eskimos, which played for a decade on the NBC radio network.

- I Can't Work No Longer by Billy Butler and the Enchanters. From 19 and 65 on the OKeh label.

- Want Ads - by the aforementioned Honey Cone. Go look at that video.

Although not mentioned by Mr. D., Honey Cone has a connection to two earlier episodes of TTRH. Member Carolyn Willis had been a member of The Blossoms, and, as Our Host did mention, is the sister of Darlene Love, also a one-time member of The Blossoms. Dreamtime Constant Readers will remember that The Blossoms sang backing vocals for Jerry Lee Lewis in Catch My Soul.

Eddie Holland of Holland/Dozier/Holland came up with the name Honey Cone, which I always mishear as either Honey Cones or Honey Comb. Want Ads was written by Greg Perry, Barney Perkins, and "General" Norman Johnson. The story goes that studio engineer Perkins came up with the idea for the song after seeing an open Classifieds section on his sound board. Want Ads became Honey Cones biggest hit, reaching Number One with a bullet on Billboard's R&B and pop singles charts in 19 and 71.

Favorite quote (in reply to a listener's email) - "Great indebtedness does not make men grateful, but vengeful; and if a little charity is not forgotten, it turns into a gnawing worm." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Def Poetry reading - "The Village Blacksmith" (excerpt) - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "out-of-date poet."

XM Radio still seems to be suffering the effects of the merger with Sirius, with no one there seemingly on the job taking care of TTRH business. Although the closing credits were read by the ubiquitous Pierre Mancini, someone forgot to edit in the title of next week's show, leaving Pierre - and us - hanging as he closed with, "Join us next week, when we take a look at [...]

[...] indeed. See you next week.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday

A postcard from the hanging.  Strange Fruit began life as a poem by Abel Meeropol, written sometime in the mid-1930s, and eventually published in 1936 under Meeropol's pen name of Lewis Allen. Meeropol wrote Strange Fruit after seeing the infamous 1930 photo of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.  Meeropol would eventually set the song to music, and Strange Fruit enjoyed a minor notoriety among the New York intelligentsia club set during the late 1930s before becoming popularized by Lady Day.

Although Billie Holiday is often mistakenly identified as one of the authors of Strange Fruit (a fiction compounded by her Lady Sings the Blues ghostwriter) she probably wasn't familar with the song until 1939, when the owner of the Cafe Society in Greenwich Village, Barney Josephson, brought it to her attention.  Strange Fruit quickly became a staple of Lady Day's live performances. Holiday also recorded the song for the Vocalian label in 1939 after Columbia - fearing a backlash from their Southern customers - refused. As it turned out, Strange Fruit would become Holiday's biggest selling record.

A man without fear, Abel Meeropol would also write the lyrics for the Frank Sinatra hit, The House I Live In, and with his wife Ann adopted the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after their parents execution for espionage against the United States.