Showing posts sorted by relevance for query silvertone. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query silvertone. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
The contradiction of Mama and Daddy's 78s


The album-cover challenge continues, Part 4. The thing is, this ain't an album. It's a few 78s, ones that I've been playing since I was old enough to work a record player, which was age 4-ish.

First, behold this influential record of my youth -- Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up," on glorious shellac.

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

Now I have brought much of my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess, preserved on not-so-glorious hard drives these days. (Don't worry; I still have the records.)

"All Shook Up." I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

In 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it still was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it still is today.

Me (age not quite 3) and the Silvertone . . . and the records
THAT GOES as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it sitting on a 1952 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and more, the Elvis records still sound pretty much like new. Hell, I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. I mean, some of these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

Now let's turn to a couple more 78s that more fully became touchstones when I hit my 50s -- Walter Brown's "Fine Brown Baby" / "My Baby's Boogie Woogie" and The Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me."

In 1946, when my parents were still newlyweds, they were buying "race" records and hillbilly blues records from their favorite Baton Rouge music emporiums.


LOW-DOWN BLUES. R&B. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers.

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side.

If you want to know the music of my soul, my folks' old 78s will get you close.

If you want to know what was it that made me the musical creature that I am -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record changer -- here you go. This and Fats Domino . . . and Ivory Joe Hunter . . . and Fats Domino . . . and Hank Williams . . . and Louis Jordan.

This is about as personal as it gets.

This is who I am. The music of my parents' young adulthood (and my record-geek childhood) sounded like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into damn near six decades ago.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure.

Take Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone console -- even if they couldn't sit next to each other at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

AND NO ONE thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of the 1940s and '50s, long before I came along and, a few years later, started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Williams, Louis Armstrong and Jim Crow -- who could in 1946 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist, probably because of the fatal combination of "beatnik music" and race mixing on "American Bandstand."

Those George Wallace and David Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

Go figure.

The South: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. These records give you a peek under its hood a little bit . . . its and mine.

You might not completely understand either of us, me and the South, but it will be a start.


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

It's the Big Sound

Believe it! Be there!
Your Big Show does sound better on a big console.
Me and Silvertone, Christmas 1963
AND YES, I may have a history with this particular 1948 Silvertone console radio / phonograph / wire recorder.
Back in the spring of 1948, this beauty could be had at your local Sears and Roebuck store for $495. That, friend, was an investment. In today's inflated dollars, that $495 in 1948 would be a cool $5,210.71.

I still have that console today, and the actual value of it is . . . priceless.

Friday, March 27, 2015

3 Chords & the Truth: The gift of music

 
This week's edition of the Big Show is about precious gifts.

One of my earliest was the gift of music. The gift of a love of music, and records . . . and ultimately a love of sharing that great bequest with others.

That gift -- music -- I got from my mother at a young age. I remember as a little kid, maybe 4 years old, playing my parents' 78s and 45s and even LPs on the big Silvertone console and thinking it was one of the coolest things ever. And I've been doing it ever since.

IT'S A GIFT that has enriched my life and ultimately led me to the radio -- and being on the radio. And it has reached its fruition, so far, in this little endeavor we call 3 Chords & the Truth.

The gift of music came from my mother some 50 years ago now. It's probably the greatest thing she ever gave me, apart from life itself.

Mama passed away in a hospital here in Omaha early the morning of March 21, three days before my 54th birthday. This episode of the Big Show is for her.

God bless you, Mama. And thank you for the music.


Friday, December 09, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Shellac touchstones


You know what kind of music my parents were buying in 1947? Walter Brown -- "My Baby's Boogie Woogie."


Low-down blues. "Race" music. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers (above).

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side -- and you will . . . on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

This is a special one, this episode of the Big Show. If you want to know the music of my soul, this will get you pretty close.

If you want to know what was it that made your Mighty Favog the musical creature that he is -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record player -- this is it.

This is personal.


THIS WEEK'S 3 Chords & the Truth is who I am. This week's program sounds like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into a half century ago. It's a sequel to this episode of the Big Show, only I go "there" a lot more this time around.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure. So is the show today.

Take Walter Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone . . . even if they couldn't share a seat on a city bus.

And no one thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of 1947, 14 years before I came along and about 18 years before I started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams and Jim Crow -- who could in 1947 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist.

Those Wallace and Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

THE SOUTH: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. This week, you can look under its hood a little bit
-- its and mine. You won't totally understand either of us at the end of this particular installment of the Big Show . . . but it will be a start.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The house on Geronimo Street


In my mind's eye, I still see the tidy little house on Geronimo Street in north Baton Rouge -- the front yard planted thick with flower beds, and the flower beds planted thick with "elephant ears," and a birdbath sitting in the middle of it all.

I can see the little living room, decorated in early Catholic. The little dining room, used more as a pantry and usually dark, with the refrigerator straight ahead as you walk in the door. Inside the fridge, Chek colas from Winn-Dixie (correctly pronounced WinnandDixie). Inside the freezer, 3 Musketeers bars for the young'uns to have with their Chek colas.

Back in the living room of 3439 Geronimo, there are a couple of 1950's couches, a big cabinet-style gas space heater, a Silvertone color TV with a rounded screen, and a white upholstered rocking chair where my elderly grandma watches her "stories."

It's about 1971, give or take.

North Baton Rouge was solidly working class, intractably on the "wrong side of the tracks," and the home of "those people," as my kinfolk and their confreres were known by the middle-class swells on the right side of the tracks. Four decades ago, it always seemed to me that the "wrong side of the tracks" was a pretty comfortable place to be -- tidy, homey, down to earth and comfortable like an old shoe.



ON SCENIC HIGHWAY
-- which wasn't, really -- you had the Esso refinery (which everybody still called Humble Oil or Standard Oil), any number of chemical plants, and the Ethyl refinery, too. These gave north Baton Rouge its daily bread . . . and a lungful of complex-hydrocarbon je ne sais quoi.

When I was really little, I used to say "it smells like Grandma." Not that Grandma smelled like complex-hydrocarbons with subtle tetraethyl-lead overtones, of course -- it's just that every time over the tracks and down Winbourne to Grandmother's house we went, that was the snoutful I got.

Grandmother's house actually was Aunt Sybil's and Uncle Jimmy's. Aunt Sybil worked at WinnandDixie, and Uncle Jimmy worked in sheet metal, but their real vocation was as family caretakers and our unofficial keepers of the Catholic faith. This chapped my fallen-away mother's ass . . . but that was her problem, not theirs.

Aunt Sybil reminded all us kids that "you got to humble yourself" before, during and after you offer it up. Uncle Jimmy, meantime, sang in the St. Anthony choir as he kept calm and carried on amid the daily blitz of the incendiary Gallic horde he married into.

They put their godchildren through Catholic school when parents could not, then they sowed the seeds of faith in my life when parents would not. The center of all this was the little house at 3439 Geronimo St., where Grandma said her prayers and watched her stories while Jesus and the apostles oversaw it all from the Last Supper painting hanging on the wall.

WHEN I was a kid, we were over there at least once a week. Daddy would bring Grandma a six-pack of Jax beer, much coffee would be drunk, everybody would watch some TV, and I'd end up falling asleep on the sofa.

A whole slew of cousins pretty much grew up in that little house, into which you could fit an amazing number of laughing, drinking, smoking and chattering relatives every Christmas Eve for the making of the gumbo. In my family, the night before Christmas was never as quiet as a mouse and always
was fairly well soaked in chicken gumbo.

To this day -- at least for me and mine -- Christmas just isn't Christmas unless, first, you make a roux. All you need is flour, oil, a hot stove and the memory of a time, a place, and loved ones long gone.

Grandma died in 1973, when I was 12. That was about the same time that north Baton Rouge started to die, too. It was for the usual reasons.

Aunt Sybil and Uncle Jimmy hung on there as long as they could amid the flight of the white working class -- which was fueled by the siren song of suburbia and fear of The Other -- and the subsequent arrival of the black underclass. Long before the decade was out, they moved east to the new working-class enclave, and the little house on Geronimo was relegated to blessed memory. I think the last straw was when someone crapped on their sidewalk.

The racial Unwelcome Wagon, ironically, is an equal-opportunity despoiler.


SOON ENOUGH, Geronimo Street -- the whole "wrong side of the tracks" expanse of north Baton Rouge -- hardly could be described as tidy, homey, down to earth or comfortable like an old shoe. To be brutally honest, it now was the 'hood, with all that entailed. It seemed as if folks like me and mine were about as welcome in our old stomping grounds as they and theirs were in white-flight land.

Baton Rouge is nothing if not a tale of two cities -- segregated suburban sprawl and "Oh, sweet Jesus!"

And the powers that be in my hometown are more than happy to let Oh, Sweet Jesusland go to the devil. Which it has. Because no one cares.

Above you see what's left of the little house at 3439 Geronimo -- it has become a metaphor for the dysfunction of a city and its sins of omission.

A nasty metaphor has replaced the flower beds, the house and a way of life. Fortunately, metaphor is no match for blessed memory and the love that once lived at 3439 Geronimo St.

For that, I give thanks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low

When I was back in the homeland, I took the opportunity to retrieve some old LPs from a hall closet in my childhood home, where for years they'd been sitting, absorbing the smell of cedar.
These are among the buttons on the jukebox of my musical formation -- eclectic selections that once spun on a 1948 Silvertone, that or a 1962 Magnavox. They spin still in my memory . . . and now on a couple of turntables in my Omaha studio.
There's a date on the back of this Jim Reeves album -- 6-9-1962. It seems to be in my mother's uneven hand. She was 12 years younger than I am now, and she lived in a different world. Different worlds, actually.
So did we all then.
THERE'S STILL a price tag from D.H. Holmes on it . . . several of them.

In 1962, D.H. Holmes department store --
D.H. Holmeses to Mama, Irene Reilly and half the people in south Louisiana -- was all that and a Dixie 45. D.H. Holmeses was where we bought our TV sets and records and other cool stuff . . . and, of course, your macaroons and tea cakes.

D.H. Holmeses ain't dere no more. The one on Canal in New Orleans now is a hotel, but Ignatius still waits under the clock in front for his mama. He's a good boy -- not at all like them "gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs and lesbians, all too well protected by graft" that New Orleans is so infamous for.

The big Holmeses in Baton Rouge -- our Holmeses, which still was little in relation to the big, old Holmeses some 80 miles south -- now is a ghost in the middle of what used to be the Bon Marché shopping center, which now is the Bon Carré bidness park.

And if you listen real hard, you can hear the new Jim Reeves album playing in the record department. Close by, Mr. Ruffino is selling a 21-inch Magnavox black-and-white console TV to my old man.

But not the color set. Color television is just a fad.

Might even be communiss. You never know nowadays.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When radio was an art form


Computer chips are boring square blocks with a porcupine fetish.

Transistors are little blocks of plastic, metal and minerals.

Vacuum tubes are Dale Chihuly masterpieces of glass and wonder. The older they are, the more spectacular, these little jars of fire and light that bring the world wondrous sounds.


I WAS THINKING about that after our little video demonstration Wednesday of my 1928 Radiola 18 console. Really, that radio is so old, it was made when RCA was an American company.

A big American company at the forefront of an exciting modern world of sound . . . and eventually sight.

Magic waves flying through the ether.

An entire world flooding your parlor at the flick of a switch.

It was the birth of the first "golden age" of mass entertainment. The birth of the "network." The birth of a truly mass culture.


THIS OLD Radiola represents an age of technology that looked a lot more like art. It represents an age, too, where life was more Chihuly and less commodity.


I WAS born into the last echoes of that age -- the age of wooden cabinets and shiny metal trim and tail fins. The age of RCA and Zenith and Philco and Silvertone. The age of flying by the seat of your pants and artistic statements.

The age where radios meant a warm, orange glow in a darkened room, a certain "ethereal" aroma and friendly voices from far away on a summer's night.

I was born into the age of vacuum tubes. And I miss it so.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mr. Rock and Mr. Roll . . . together again


Go grab youself a cold one, Cap, then get back here.

You good?

OK, now sit youself down and watch this story from WWL-TV in New Orleans. After a bunch of years, Channel 4's Eric Paulsen brought Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew back together to remember the days when they were helping to birth rock 'n' roll . . . and to play some of the old songs, too.

This is as close as you're ever going to get to seeing -- alive and still kickin' and in the flesh -- the origins of the music that changed the world.

Look at this. These are the men of a time, of the glory days, of the most musical place on earth.

IF YOU WANT to see inside the soul of Louisianians of a certain age -- black and white, rich and poor -- if you want to see what makes up a goodly portion of my soul . . . formed in my parents' back bedroom in Baton Rouge, playing Fats Domino 78s on a 1949 Silvertone console, you're looking at it right here.

The Times-Picayune's Keith Spera describes the scene:
Dave Bartholomew straightens up and pulls on his gray suit jacket. He enters the home, the residence of an old friend he hasn’t seen in years.

Fats Domino.

Together, Bartholomew and Domino authored the richest chapter in New Orleans music, making rock ’n’ roll history along the way. Bartholomew “discovered” Domino, co-wrote his hits and produced the recordings that sold millions of copies in the 1950s and early ’60s.

Next week, Bartholomew and Domino are the subject of the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s 15th American Music Masters series. A week of lectures, interviews and film screenings at the museum and a day-long conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland culminate with a Nov. 13 tribute concert featuring Toots & the Maytals, Lloyd Price, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Theresa Andersson, the Dixie Cups and many more. Bartholomew, 89, plans to travel to Cleveland for the concert; Domino, 82, is not making the trip.

In 1999, Bartholomew and Domino sat down with me for a joint interview prior to their separate performances at that year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Since then, they’ve had little contact.

In advance of the Hall of Fame festivities — only the third time the prestigious American Music Masters series has honored living musicians — WWL-TV news anchor Eric Paulsen conspired to reunite Bartholomew and Domino. Paulsen and Domino are buddies; it was Paulsen who spirited Domino to the Fair Grounds in an unsuccessful gambit to get him to perform as scheduled at the 2006 Jazz Fest.

Paulsen arranged for Bartholomew to visit Domino’s post-Hurricane Katrina home in Harvey for the first time on Oct. 5. The result of that effort airs on Thursday, Nov. 4 during WWL-TV’s 10 p.m. newscast.


(snip)

Domino’s infamous performance anxiety stems in part from doubts about his own abilities. He’ll tinker on a piano at home with family and friends, but his days of performing publicly are likely over.

With a camera rolling, he is reluctant even to play at home. But grudgingly, he takes a seat at a black baby grand. A Lifetime Achievement Grammy and a commemoration of his 1986 induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame rest atop the piano. Gold records hang above a couch fashioned from a classic pink Cadillac’s tail section. The couch was salvaged from his flooded Lower 9th Ward home, and restored.

Bartholomew hoists his trumpet to his lips. Domino touches the piano keys. Instinctively, his right hand reels off triplets as his left struts to a distinctly New Orleans rhythm.

Bartholomew encourages him: “Antoine, you still got it, man!”

“You still got it, too!”

They knock off the first verse of “The Fat Man,” Domino’s first single, recorded in December 1949 on North Rampart Street. Bartholomew reminisces about their initial encounter at the Hideaway Lounge in the 9th Ward.

Meanwhile, Domino picks up steam at the piano.

“Just get him started and he’ll never stop,” Bartholomew says. “Yeah! Yeah you right!”

Paulsen notes that the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame considers “The Fat Man” one of, if not the, first rock ’n’ roll songs.

“I’m glad they said that,” Bartholomew says. “Because Fats had been playing the blues for a long, long time. It was good that somebody actually recognized what we were doing.”

They slip into their old roles of producer and artist, with Bartholomew directing and coaching. “Why don’t we play ‘The Fat Man’ all the way?”

Domino plunges in. Bartholomew cheers him on: “That’s you! That’s you!” But Domino loses steam, and they don’t make it all the way.

Bartholomew spins tales set in Philadelphia and London, two stops for the barnstorming Domino band back in the day.

Paulsen wants them to do “I’m Walkin’”: “How’s that song go, Fats? I can’t remember.”

“How I start it, Dave?”

“A-flat,” Bartholomew says, humming the melody as a guide. Domino launches, then abandons “I’m Walkin’” in favor of “Blue Monday,” a favorite of his. He turns to the WWL cameraman and grins, a sign that he’s having fun.

“The city of New Orleans has been so good to us, spread our music all over the world,” Bartholomew says. “We’ve been blessed by God. At this age I still can play the trumpet. And you can still play the piano. Two blessings together.”

“I’m still hanging in there,” Domino agrees.
FROM THEIR lips to God's ear. And may we always be walkin' to New Orleans.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Musical youth


Just sittin' here thinkin' early on a Sunday morning. And for no particular reason, here's a brief timeline . . . of my musical youth.

1966:
"Dem goddamn Beatles say dey bigger den Jesus Christ. Dey muss be a bunch a commerniss."

I am 5 and easily bullied by parental units. Original copy of "Meet the Beatles' given to me by Aunt Sybil ends up busted up and pitched into the garbage as some sort of religious act. As opposed to . . . going to church?

1966-67: Take to playing the phonograph in the 1949 Silvertone console, cutting musical teeth on old 78s by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five, Ivory Joe Hunter, Hank Williams and (yes) Elvis Presley (quite rare, as it turns out). Burn through vintage 45s by the Everly Brothers, Elvis (again), Jerry Lee Lewis, The Kingston Trio, et al.

Unfamiliar enough with the concept of "irony" not to appreciate it in the context of what I've just been listening to from my folks' 1940s and '50s records as compared to their rants about "n****r music."



1971: "C'mon Mama, it's the Carpenters. The Carpenters ain't hippie music."

"Oh, all right."



1971: Out at camp in Head of Island, stay awake half the night under the covers, earphone in ear, listening to acid rock on the "Chad Noga Choo-Choo" on Rampart 102 in New Orleans.

1972: Score 45s by Joe Tex, Dr. Hook, Edgar Winter Group and Gallery, among others, at Howard Bros.


1973: Score 45s by George Harrison, Paul Simon, Billy Preston, Wings, Clarence Carter, Dobie Gray, Elton John and Three Dog Night, among others, at TG&Y.

Have a knack for winning stuff on the phone from
WLCS.

1975: Divide listening time between WLCS and Loose Radio.

1976: Skip lunch a lot to spend lunch money on LPs. All "hippie music."

Regular midnight announcement from parents' bedroom -- "CUT THAT S*** OFF!"


SUMMER 1977: "It's the Sex Pistols. So what?"

FALL 1977: Radio teacher John Dobbs bans from the WBRH airwaves (and confiscates) the copy of "God Save the Queen" my Aunt Ailsa brought back from London that summer -- just as I begged her to. I get my 45 back after promising never to bring it to school again.

Thus ends the last time ever that Baton Rouge was a trendsetter.

NOVEMBER 1977:
Special trek to Musicland at Cortana Mall to buy "Never Mind the Bollocks." Lustily sing the chorus to Bruce Springsteen's "Badlands" while playing air guitar.
For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside
That it aint no sin to be glad you're alive
I wanna find one face that aint looking through me
I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these Badlands
You got to live it every day
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you got to pay
We'll keep pushing till it's understood
And these badlands start treating us good


1979: Find now-rare "fire cover" of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Street Survivors" (complete with concert-schedule insert) hiding in the bins of the little-visited Sears record department. Also find "Let It Be" with a rare red-apple label.

1980:
Finally get around to replacing that copy of "Meet the Beatles."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Firing up the Silvertone, dusting off the vinyl

We're doing things a little bit differently on the Big Show this week, our first podcast since getting back from a trip back home to Baton Rouge, La.

The trip has led your Mighty Favog to take up the challenge of an old friend and do an extra-long, extra-tasty stroll down memory lane on the Revolution 21 podcast, looking at the music of my misspent youth, why it was important and how it fits in with who I am today.

Or something like that. Mainly, we're just reminiscing and reflecting.

Pretty much.

I'm glad I did it, being that it's been something of a tonic to salve the more bittersweet parts of the trip back home to Louisiana -- like going back to my beloved high school and documenting how it's fallen into ruins . . . all the while kids who don't deserve to learn amid squalor still attend classes there.

I guess I'll never understand how adults in positions of power can be that indifferent toward beautiful, majestic old buildings and beautiful, intelligent young people. It's a crime, and I wish the public treated it as such.

But there are wonderful things -- still -- about my home state, and I have some fond memories of growing up there. And I hope this episode of the Revolution 21 podcast conveys that with all the love I intended.

Listen now.

Be there. Aloha. Cher.