Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Now 90+, and looking the same as he did when he emerged in the late 1950's as cult tv's undead "Cool Ghoul," John Zacherle is a legend. He spliced himself into the old horror movies he was hosting, created a low budget world of support characters (one was pretty much a huge slab of gelatin) and laughed at his own bad horror puns with a cheerful barking yock. He got the cover of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" without making a film (although his records were sold in the back pages), had a novelty hit via "Dinner with Drac" and even covered "Monster Mash." After influencing Vampira, Elvira and dozens of other would-be horror TV hosts he miraculously went from East Coast TV phenom to rock disc jockey on WPLJ in New York. Very cool! That's just the merest thumbnail sketch, because I lost the actual thumb I was typing with! Ha...ha...yock....
Here's a sample of vintage and recent Zach tunes, to put a Sardonicus-grin on your otherwise normal face.
The lucky 13 download includes "Coolest Little Monster," "Sure Sign of Spring," "Transylvania PTA," "Graverobbing Tonight," "Formaldehyde" and even a cover of Tom Petty's "Zombie Zoo." download, my dear. Ha ha...."


Some people think Neil Young is a very effective singer. Others don't.
The same is true of The Kings Singers, who have spent decades creating a capella harmonies out of all types of tunes, including rock classics.
They are either an irritating barbershop quartet that went too far (ie, added two extra singers) or the loveliest sextet of tonsils in the United Kingdom.
You could got out and buy a whole bunch of their albums, or you could just go out of your mind.
Here's your introduction to The Kings Singers.

KINGS SINGERS do NEIL YOUNG Listen on line or download. No pop ups no porn ads no Paypal donations accepted.

ANNE PRESSLY (1982-2008)

The statement from Anne's parents on October 25th:
"It was our hope, as was yours, that Anne would overcome the injuries inflicted upon her in the brutal attack at her home. We were with her in her last moments, and although our hearts are broken, we are at the same time comforted by our faith knowing that Anne is now with our heavenly father."
Reported on the website of KATV, Arkansas:

From a song by Cindy Bullens about her deceased daughter:

"I watched the news on TV. The new breakthroughs in technology.
Can you find your way back? Will you find your way back?
If they find water on the moon, if they discover life on Mars
Does it mean you'll be home soon? Can I hold you in my arms.
I used to believe in miracles.
There was a time when I could be so inspired by life's mystery.
Can I find my way back? Will I find way back?
....Oh I know you're somewhere...somewhere out there.
If I could go, I'd be there. I would be there...
I want to believe in miracles..."

Most anyone dealing with the grief process would benefit from hearing Cindy's album "Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth," a concept album with songs of tears, anger, frustration, confusion, coping and finding a way to remember the past while facing the future.

"Water on the Moon" sung by Cindy Bullens Listen on line or download.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

HEFTI'S BAG: more than Odd Couple & Batman

Along with the late (see the entry further down the page) Nappy Brown, Neil Hefti was another jazz artist who barely missed getting another birthday under his belt. Hefti died on October 11th. He was born October 29th. (That's October 29, 1922 – October 11, 2008 if you're the linear type).

Like his jumpy-cadenced colleague Burt Bacharach, Hefti's most creative era was the 60's, when his unique jazz-pop rhythms enlivened many movie and TV soundtracks. Of course the two numbers that leap to mind would be the silly and cartoonishly discordant "Batman" theme and the dippy and splashy theme for "The Odd Couple."

The Omaha-based trumpet player came East to work with Bob Astor's band, Charlie Spivak, a variety of influential be-bop artists, and then Woody Herman's big band on the West Coast. More than playing music, he enjoyed writing it, and creating charts...and early Hefti tunes "The Good Earth" and "Blowin' Up a Storm" were Woody Herman hits. Hefti arranged songs for Woody's girl singer Frances Wayne...and married her.

One reason Hefti's later work would be so fresh and original was that he was absorbing both the new styles of Dizzy Gillespie and the contemporary classical works of Igor Stravinsky. He won the admiration of Charlie Parker who covered a Hefti chart called "Repetition." Parker's stamp of approval helped Neil Hefti join Count Basie in 1950. Several of the Basie-Hefti albums (including "Atomic Basie") are considered jazz classics. Miles Davis even declared that it was Hefti's composing and arrangements that made the Basie band worth hearing. No doubt the hip swing of Hefti-Basie influenced many jazz and pop artists into choosing a more "jumping" brand of arrangement. Frank Sinatra would soon work with Basie and use Hefti arrangements.

There would be various vinyl tributes ("Steve Allen Plays Hefti," "Basie Plays Hefti," "Harry James Plays Hefti") but ironically, Hefti had few hits in the jazz field. The soundtracks were more lucrative and he won a Grammy for "Batman." He also had Grammy nominations for "Girl Talk," a song on the soundtrack of his score for the Carroll Baker movie "Harlow" and for "The Odd Couple."

Below, a retrospective of Neal's pop pallette. You'll find various tunes that may remind you of his contemporary eccentrics like Burt Bacharach and Vic Mizzy...guys who also tended to tilt around with syncopation, zany melody, and near-parodies of pop.

1. ODD COUPLE (with the lyrics! from The Odd Couple)
2. FRAULEIN D-CUP (from Boeing Boeing)
3. Main Title Theme (from Boeing Boeing)
4. LONELY GIRL (from Harlow)
5. WALTZ FOR JEANNIE (from Harlow)
6. SCRAMBLED EGGS (kicky instrumental from Harlow)
7. CARROLL BAKER A-GO-GO (from Harlow)
8. OH DAD POOR DAD (vocal version, from Oh Dad Poor Dad...)
9. SPOOKY COFFINS (harmless funeral march from Oh Dad Poor Dad...)
10. SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL (Fran Jeffries vocal from the film)
11. HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE (vocal, from the film)
12. BATMAN radio tie-ins (J.C.Penny ad and WPCG disc jockey rip-off)

A Dozen HEFTI Pieces

The Charming Miss Edie Adams

Different erotic strokes for different ill folks...Edie Adams, who died a few days ago at age 81, may not have been a big star, but she made an impression in many different ways.
For some, she was the 50's version of Mae West, the sultry sexpot whose commercials for Muriel cigars included the line, "Why don't ya pick one up...and smoke it sometime..." She would play Mae West in a cameo scene for a 1984 film bio of Ernie Kovacs, "Between the Laughter." A later Muriel commercial was built around a parody of "Sweet Charity" and the line, "Hey big spender...spend a little DIME with me..."
Many recall her as a warm, nice-looking comedienne able to play a sexy housewife (the film "Mad Mad Mad Mad World") or a charming fairy godmother (the original TV production of "Cinderella") or the prototype for bustin' out hillbilly temptresses (the stage production of "Lil Abner")
For some, Edie was simply a living link to the cult idol Ernie Kovacs, and for a rather small group, Edie was known as a capable pop singer...although she didn't exactly get into the studio too often.
Born Elizabeth Edith Enke, April 16, 1927, she was a pretty, and pretty straight when she enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music...and while she had some technique, most of her teachers felt the bland blonde didn't have the skills or vocal personality to really be successful as a soprano or as a pop signer. On looks alone, she auditioned and won the minor job of singing on a local TV show. It was hosted by an obscure Hungarian named Ernie Kovacs...but with Ernie's guidance, Edie loosened up and emerged as a versatile entertainer who could sing, do impressions, and star in skits. She would soon make her Broadway debut in "Wonderful Town," and take nightclub work mixing songs with her comic impressions of Marilyn Monroe, Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. Her next Broadway role was a lead: Daisy Mae in the 1956 production of "Li'l Abner." Her next part, quite different from Daisy Mae, was as the magical, chucklesome fairy godmother in the Julie Andrews TV production "Cinderella." In the late 50's she also issued a few records, notably "The Charming Miss Edie Adams" which included a few songs penned by Ernie Kovacs, including "He Don't Wanna Be Kissed."
Kovacs was killed in a car crash in 1962, and despite doing well as Sid Caesar's wife in "Mad Mad Mad Mad World" a few years later, Edie was not often prominent in films or on TV in the 70's. Her own TV show, "Here's Edie" had a brief run. In 1982, Mia, the daughter of Ernie and Edie, was killed in a car accident, thrown through the sun roof of the vehicle. Her boyfriend survived with minor injuries. Over the years Edie had the usual TV guest credits; Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote and Designing Women among them. She married twice more, to actor Marty Mills (they had a son) and to jazz musician Pete Candoli (they were officially divorced in 1989, but had been separated for a decade).
Edie's "charming" album with various Kovacs tunes was re-issued by Varese Sarabande on CD, and "Cinderella" and "Li'l Abner" (stage, not film version) are also easily available for Edie let's go back to where it all began and hear an example of Edie's "straight" work and Ernie Kovacs being Ernie, on "Indian Love Call."
INDIAN LOVE CALL by Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.


"I don't consider myself as being a heckuva singer," Levi Stubbs said, "I'm more of a stylist, if you will."

Think about it. What made the Four Tops lead singer stand out was not smooth warbling, but shouting, bellowing and exasperated talking!

The classic Four Tops tunes were unlike anything else on the radio because the lead singer did not really sing...not in the smooth way of The Supremes, The Temptations, or the anguished white guys out there like Del Shannon and Roy Orbison. Levi Stubbs didn't sing. He agonized.

He also had an "old voice." Everybody else you heard on Top 40 radio stations sounded under 30. They sang about teen problems...puppy love gone wrong. Not Levi Stubbs.

Born Levi Stubbles (June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008) he was about 30 when he was putting together that string of hits. But he sounded 40. Who but an older guy would even have a woman he could call "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch?" That's Kingfish's wife, not a Top 40 teen singer.

And in his best songs, he simply bellowed his aggravation, his rage at living in "Seven Rooms of Gloom," or his grim rap in "Shadows of Love," where his shout out is: "Gave you all the love I had, now didn't I? And when you needed me I was always there, now wasn't I?" How about "Reach Out," where he doesn't sing out but call out, "Come on Girl, Reach out to ME!"

What also augmented the agonized style of Levi Stubbs, was that the charts were written high...and so Stubbs, a natural baritone, had to strain on most of those tunes. It's no surprise that most karaoke fans, who can't handle an Orbison tune, or an Elton John song (he, who referenced "those great old Four Tops songs") can at least stumble around Stubbs and chant "Standing in the Shadows of Love."

Often a Four Tops song was about snarls and spoken passages and yelps. Was he really singing "Can't Help Myself" or just crying it? Was he crooning "Seven Rooms of Gloom" or talking it through? Wasn't it usually his help-mates, the other Tops, who led him into the melodic chorus ("Reach Out, I'll Be There") after he spent most of his time barking out his frustrations? Was he singing "Bernadette" or shouting her name? Classic Four Tops songs portrayed a grown adult male driven to his knees by love or hate, being sung from one place: hell.

As writer David Hinckley said of Stubbs' voice, "It wasn't exactly a gospel voice, it wasn't exactly soul," and it wasn't exactly singing all the time. Hinckley also notes, the prime of The Four Tops "lasted three years, from "Baby I Need Your Loving" in 1964 to "Seven Rooms of Gloom" in 1967." That's 30 years (the original Four Tops began to need replacement in 1997) of playing the oldies circuit and having a minor hit now and then...which qualifies The Four Tops for being on the illfolks blog as an often underappreciated group.

Any of you have much Four Tops or Levi Stubbs music recorded from the 70's, 80's or 90's? Once in a while Stubbs and/or company made their way back into the charts. Stubbs voiced the man-eating plant in the film version of "Little Shop of Horrors" while the Four Tops performed 'Loco In Acapulco' for the soundtrack to 'Buster.' The biggest shot the group had for returning to form was 'Indestructible,' used on a 1988 Olympic Games soundtrack album.

Levi Stubbs had worked the oldies circuit long enough so that most fans knew his weird trademark of jet black hair and a gray-white beard. In 1997 the first of the original Four Tops died, Lawrence Payton, and three years later, Stubbs, already diagnosed with cancer, could no longer perform with the group. Theo Peoples has been the lead singer since 2000, with Ronnie McNeir replacing Payton.

Of course those old Four Tops songs are classic, and you can check out the "Little Shop of Horrors" movie anytime, so the choice for a tribute is the appropriately titled "Indestructible," a pretty good comeback tune with Stubbs and the gang still giving more of a shout-out than a sing-along.
Indestructible! sung by LEVI STUBBS Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Big Dirt Nap: Nappy Brown's 6 Feet Down

"Nappy Brown." Well, maybe that's not the most politically correct name of all time, but that's what Napoleon Brown Culp chose for his singing career, and it was catchy enough to keep him working for about 50 years.
Nappy, who didn't miss his next birthday by much (October 12, 1929-September 20, 2008) had his biggest hit in 1955 when Brown reached #2 (go ahead, search for the feeble joke) with "Don't Be Angry."
The song's notoriety resided in the opening line, where Nappy tossed in a dozen or so stuttery "LILs" before asking his girl (named Lil?) not to be angry. Nappy fit nicely between The Platters, Fats Domino and Louis Jordan...but didn't quite have their level of continuous hits on the straight or R&B charts.
Nappy made the circuit again and again, and lived to see his minor chart tune "Piddly Patter" turn up in the John Waters-Johnny Depp classic, "Cry Baby." In 2007, Brown made a comeback album called "Long Time Coming" guessed it...was asked to re-do his hit "Don't Be Angry."
You get both the old and new versions below.
And something else. While Nappy could certainly chop his way around any earnest R&B ballad or blues number, he had a special affinity for nuttier stuff, and so let's include "Something Gonna Jump Out the Bushes," a rudely fleshed-out tune that merely borrows a line from its ancestor, "Out the Bushes" (a hit by The Treniers, also obscurely covered by Murray the K) before going off into its own lascivious territory.
Nappy was lively and performing as late as May of 2008, before he became the late Nappy Brown. So, "Don't Be Angry." He had a pretty long and strong career, and his rollicking blues and lively R&B tunes will continue to knock 'em dead.
The original DON'T BE ANGRY Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.
2007 Re-make of DON'T BE ANGRY Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.
Something Gonna Jump Out the Bushes (and grab you) Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

Ill-Ustrated Songs #16 "Yiddishe Mama" in SPANISH Neil Sedaka

Posted in time for the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, here's Neil Sedaka singing the tearjerker "My Yiddishe Mama" in Spanish.
There's nothing too surprising about a link between the Jews and Latin countries. The great ventriloquist Senor Wences was Jewish. The Sephardic Eydie Gorme recorded many albums in Spanish. And Neil Sedaka very carefully made sure he was in key (it was the day of attunement) when he recorded his favorite tunes en Espanol.
Even so...this is posted in time for Yom Kippur, because if there's anything that could make the day more gloomy, THIS IS IT.

MY YIDDISHE MAMA in SPANISH Listen on line or download, porn-ad free.

Six Days on the Road - Colleen Peterson

Colleen Susan Peterson died on October 9, 1996. She was born November 14, 1950. You do the math, and see she died too young.
Signed to Capitol, she released "Beginning to Feel Like Home" in 1976, and the reason for her classy, lilting style with country-rock was obvious to anyone reading her publicity material: she wasn't from America. She was Canadian. So, like members of The Band, or like Neil Young...she had a fresh it shit-kicking without the smell.
While cross-over C&W artists like Crystal Gayle add down-home warmth to their mainstream recordings, Peterson added Canadian cool to redneck numbers like "Six Days on the Road."
The Ottawa artist who'd won "Most Promising Female Vocalist" Gold Leaf honors in 1967, and was later part of the group 3's a Crowd, had a decade of mileage by the time she was ready to take on America, and she did reach the Billboard charts with "Souvenirs." But she never did make a major dent in the USA, and after "Colleen" (1977) and 1978's "Taking My Boots Off," she was off Capitol, and less the spotlight attraction than the support. She guested on some Charlie Daniels records, and sang back-up for Waylon Jennings, Marty Stuart and others.
Colleen staged a comeback in Canada in 1986. She scored a hit with "I Had it All" and released her first album for the new decade, 1988's "Basic Facts." She had many more hits in Canada, and in 1994 became part of a new group, Quartette, for albums and touring. But just two years later, Colleen was dead of cancer, age 45. A posthumous album, "Postcards from California," was cobbled together from demos Colleen Peterson and writing partner Nancy Simmonds had put together over the previous few years. Some of the profits from the album go to winners of the annual "Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award."
SIX DAYS ON THE ROAD...smoothed out by the late, great Colleen Peterson