Posts Tagged ‘music’

Doc Watson (1923-2012) is one of my favorite musicians—I got to see him in person at Michigan State University years ago at a small lecture hall. His son, Merle Watson (1949-1985) accompanied him. Doc was a guitarist who started out busking, then played in a Western Swing Band. His specialty was taking old songs and breathing new life into them. The folk music people and the Bluegrass people loved his style. He won 8 Grammy awards.

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Oh what a voice

Mac Wiseman (1925-2019) was one of my favorite singers, yet few know of him.

Educated in a conservatory to sing opera, he co-founded the Country Music Association AND the International Bluegrass Music Association.

He started out playing guitar for Bill Monroe and other bluegrass stars.

In 1951, Mac’s single “’Tis Sweet to be remembered” became a hit, and he began a career singing mostly country songs.

In recent years, he recorded Western Swing, which I dearly love.

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Rocking and a rolling

One of my favorite Beach Boys songs is Barbara Ann, released in 1965 (Jan & Dean also sang). It was written in 1958 by Fred Fassert, named in honor of his sister. His band, the Regents, had a 1961 hit with it.

A Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Barbara Ann

Went to a dance, looking for romance…..

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Sometimes Lady Luck intervenes


Some projects succeed after meticulous planning, others succeed with just improvisation and blind luck as happened with the Canadian Rock Band, The Guess Who, about 1969. Just before the show, Guitarist Randy Bachman broke a string and was tuning it, in the process inventing a new riff and played it again. The band came to the stage and joined in, creating a jam session around the new riff. Lead singer Burton Cummings rushed onto the stage and improvised lyrics.  Afterwards they realized they had a great song and found a boy on the front row who’d recorded it. American Woman was released in 1970, number 1 in USA and Canada. Great song, blues-rock.

American Woman Lyrics

American woman
Stay away from me…

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I found my thrill…..

Fats Domino’s bluesy rock and roll song, Blueberry Hill, is one of my favorite 1950s songs, BUT it first appeared in a 1940 Gene Autry movie. The music is by Vincent Rose, an Italian immigrant, the lyrics by 2 Tin Pan Alley songwriters—Larry Stock & Al Lewis. 6 more people recorded it in 1940, including a hit by Glen Miller. In 1949, Louie Armstrong had a hit with a blues version. Then in 1956, Fats Domino makes it his song (Yet he spoke French Creole, learned English in school).

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Life is a roller coaster

Zanesville, Ohio melodrama: Martha Blocksom was engaged to a young minister, Henry Webster. Her wealthy family refused to allow her to marry him. She handed him a Dear-John letter. (Both subsequently married someone else and had long/ happy lives)

Heart-broken, Henry used some of the lines in the Dear-John letter to write the lyrics to “Lorena,” Joseph Webster composed the music. (He also composed Sweet By-and-By and Wildwood Flower) Published in 1857, the song became a hit in the North and the South and still shows up for Civil War movies and documentaries. [I don’t know for sure if both Websters are related]

Oh, the years creep slowly by, Lorena,
The snow is on the ground again…

… But there, up there, ’tis heart to heart.

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Serendipity: Bob Wills “King of Western Swing” took punches and got stronger. Early in his career he was with a country group Lightcrust Doughboys that played on radio—when the flour company dropped them, Bob formed the Texas Playboys and added blues and jazz to play at dances. He hired an announced who was a skilled trumpeter. Thinking Bob hired him for the band, he rehearsed with them. Bob found out and loved it, adding more horns until they could play Big Band music.

WW2 came and Bob and most of his band joined the army. In 1943, he received a medical discharge, and formed a new band, but with few horns, adding electric guitars, the band most people remember. He influenced early rock and roll stars like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Though time took a toll on him, one of my favorite Bob Wills songs was “Lily Dale,” released in 1956 as a B-side single, one of his last singles I believe. (1905-1975)

/Western swing pioneers The Light Crust Doughboys, featuring (l to r): Milton Brown, Durwood Brown, Truett Kinzey, Bob Wills, and Herman Arnspiger, 1931. Credit: Crossroads of Music Archive and Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University

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Henderson Kentucky is an Ohio River town with a rich musical heritage; space permits mention of 2 people.

W. C Handy “Father of the Blues” (1873-1958) married a Henderson lady and lived here in the 1890s. He was a composer and band leader, most famous for the “St. Louis Blues.”

Grandpa Jones (1913-1998) was born on a farm near Henderson. Though best known as a Hee-haw comedian, he was an accomplished musician and songwriter, his most famous song, “Eight More Miles to Louisville.” I saw him in person at his 75th Show business anniversary in Louisville.

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John Jacob Niles (1892–1980), born in Louisville had 2 musical careers. He was a composer and opera singer. His second career was collecting, writing, and performing folk music. He was one of the first to use and champion the mountain dulcimer and performed at the Newport Folk Festival. He was influential in the rise of 50s and 60s folk music. Two of his most famous songs were “I wonder as I wander” and “Go ‘way from my window,” the latter being quoted in a Bob Dylan song. Iroquois Park had Kentucky Music Weekends starting in 1976, but I don’t recall him being there—perhaps his health was poor by then. [Boot Hill Farm, Winchester]

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Whistlin’ Dixie

Who wrote Dixie? Dan Emmett (1815-1904), a minstrel performer, is credited as composer BUT: His 1850s story of composing it changed over the years, and he delayed filing a copyright. Though musicologists claim Dixie resembles his other songs, he wrote few. As buying songs to perform was common, doubt exists.

Dan’s neighbors were the Snowden Family Band, a family of freed slaves. None of their songs were written down, but a tradition exists in Ohio that they performed it first.

Will S Hays (1837-1907), a prolific Louisville songwriter and his publisher claimed ownership, but lost after years in court. [some claim the melody was borrowed from older English songs so the story may not be over]

John Snowden

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