Posts Tagged ‘music’

Gullah singing

The Georgia Sea Island Singers have sung music of the Gullah culture for about 120 years. I first learned of them from 1960s recordings from the Newport Folk Festival. They are still going strong.

NEWPORT, RI – JULY 1964: Gospel vocal group the Georgia Sea Island Singers, led by gospel singer Bessie Jones (2nd from left), perform in July, 1964 at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images)

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I found my thrill…

Fats Domino (1928-2017) was a New Orleans blues pianist considered a father of Rock and Roll. His most famous songs are “Ain’t that a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill,” 2 songs I really love. He spoke Louisiana Creole French first, learning English when he started school. Despite his fame, he remained modest and caring—Chubby Checker’s name was inspired by him.

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Fiddling genius

Clayton “Pappy” McMichen (1900-1970) was a championship-winning fiddler, famous as part of the 1920s Skillet Lickers, possibly the first hit country act. His most famous song is “Peach pickin’ time in Georgia.” In the 1930s, he formed a dance band, the Georgia Wildcats, which played mostly jazz, but people such as Lester Flatt and Merle Travis played with him. My father, Charles G. Suddeth, listened to him over WAVE and WHAS live broadcasts in Louisville. My ex-mother-in-law, Mary Lorraine Horton (Dever), met him when she performed on radio.

He retired his band in 1955, but he continued to perform at his Louisville bar, Pappy McMichen’s (It continued as a bar until 2020, Spring Street Bar & Grill). Folklorists persuaded him to perform at the 1964 Newport Festival where I learned about him. He also appeared at the 1964 and 1966 Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festivals.

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Too strange to be fiction

Won’t come back from Dead Man’s curve!

Dead Man’s Curve was a 1964 hit for Jan & Dean about a wreck involving a Corvette Sting Ray and a Jaguar XKE. Dead Man’s Curve was a curve on North Whittier Drive, Beverly Hills. In 1966, Jan had a near fatal crash in his own Sting Ray near Dead Man’s Curve. He died in 2004 from a seizure possibly a result of the wreck.

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She’s gonna get a ticket!

Go granny, go!

“The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” was a 1964 hit for Jan & Dean. Sorry, but Granny wasn’t real—part of a 1964 Dodge ad campaign.  If you confuse Jan & Dean with the Beach Boys, don’t feel bad—Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote many of Jan & Dean’s songs.

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Why can’t you be true?

Oh Maybellene!

Chuck Berry’s Maybellene is one of my favorite 50s songs. The V-8 Ford he wrote about was his high school wheels—a 1934 V-8 Ford. He was chasing a Cadillac Coupe DeVille. Alas, Maybellene is not real, her name a variation of Maybelline as in cosmetics. The song is a variation of Bob Will’s Ida Red_ I doubt she exists either.

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The lyric genius of Chuck Berry: One of my favorite songs is Nadine, which is full of incredible similes: “campaign shouting like a southern diplomat” and “She moves around like a wayward summer breeze.”

Chuck Berry put new words to Ida Red, a Bob Wills song, giving birth to Maybellene, with incredible imagery: “As I was motivatin’ over the hill” and “The Cadillac lookin’ like it’s sittin’ still.”

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Roll over Beethoven!

The musical genius of Chuck Berry: Sometimes called the Father of Rock and Roll, he combined country/western swing with blues/R&B to make Rock and Roll. He wrote many hit songs, 2 of my favorite are “Nadine” and “Maybelline.” He was also a performer who wowed crowds. (He had personal issues, but this is about his genius)

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Next music craze?

I visited Hawaii twice but forgot how beautiful Hawaiian music is until HBO’s White Lotus series’s (sexual content warning) soundtrack. Forget hula dancers and ukuleles, the choral music is insanely beautiful. Now my local classical station (WUOL 90.5) is playing Hawaiian music, Queen Liliuokalani’s (last Hawaiian Queen) “Aloha ‘Oe”—Hawaiian anthem.

Mexican Indian cowboys brought over to introduce Hawaiians to cattle ranching introduced them to falsetto singing.

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Fretless joy

Once upon a time, banjos were made by poor people, fretless like fiddles. Companies made them with frets. Fretless banjos are back, used for country and blues. Fretless banjos can play blue notes, notes a quarter step above standard pitch, allowing blues banjo players to match fiddles. Jazz next?

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