Friday, February 19, 2010


One of the strangest musical acts of all time, "Rambling Syd Rumpo" sang folk songs filled with nonsensical pornography. Instead of dirty words, writers Marty Feldman (pre-acting fame) and Barry Took filled their songs with terms such as "grossets" and "cordwangle." Their singer, Mr. Rumpo, added his own bizarre spin to the proceedings, since he was portrayed by Kenneth Williams, a celibate homosexual (he claimed to have remained a virgin all his life) who made a leering career out of acting comically unhinged over chesty women.

It's taken a while for Illfolks to get around to Kenneth Williams, but here he is, in honor of his upcoming birthday (February 22, 1926) which he of course, will not celebrate, having committed suicide via a famous "what's the point" diary entry and some pills (April 15th, 1988 at the age of 62).

Williams, who was a beloved comic character actor via the "Carry On" movies that began in 1958, also thrived on radio where he co-starred on Kenneth Horne's "Beyond Our Ken" show and "Round the Horne," spanning 1958 to 1968. It was on the latter series that Williams sometimes dropped by in a parody of folk singers and the folk song boom. "Rambling Syd Rumpo" wasn't based on any particular artist (certainly not Rambling Jack Elliot) and was unlike anyone else on the radio airwaves.

With a warbling vibrato, a vividly eccentric flamboyance and an almost gruesomely enthusiastic delivery, Rumpo would come out, lecture for a moment or two in ridiculous quasi-informational style, and then deliver thoroughly inane one-joke madrigals. These were the days when Oscar Brand's "Bawdy Folk Song" series was in stores, as well as Ed McCurdy's "When Dalliance Was In Flower" albums. These guys (and a few others) were getting snickers for their "ribaldry." Williams, via Rumpo, simply upped the ante by lowering the panties and showing off the troth, or perhaps the moolies.

So here's Syd, "dipping into the old gander bag," in what turned out to be Kenneth Williams' last radio appearance, just a few weeks before his death. "

Kenneth Williams resurrects Rambling Syd Rumpo...and dies a few weeks later

ART VAN DAMME DIES - Jazz-Pop Accordionist

"The World's Greatest Accordionist" was the billing Columbia gave to Art Van Damme for his "Swings Sweetly" album. Not many argued the point at the time. The most famous accordionist of the day was probably polka star Frankie Yankovic and things haven't improved much with "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Other famous accordion players? Well, most of them didn't take their instruments seriously: Pete Barbutti (who did a routine about an "accordeen school") and Judy Tenuta. Jo Basile recorded a few albums that benefitted from sexy babes on the cover.

A little better regarded is Astor Piazzolla, who played the bandoneon, an instrument that does seem to have a little more flexibility, especially in tango-classical pieces.

Van Damme, born in Norway (a town in Michigan) in 1920, played accordion in Ben Bernie's band, formed his own quintet, and even had his own 15 minute radio show on NBC, where he was a staffer from 1945 to 1960.

Those were his prime years for "light jazz" albums, including such middle of the road discs as "Cocktail Capers," More Cocktail Capers," "House Party," and "Martini Time." The albums were hardly intended to showcase some hidden hipness in the accordion, an instrument as limited as the harmonica (an annoying instrument even in the hands of Johnny Puleo or Larry Adler...and just mention Max Geldray to a Goon Show fan and watch the eyes roll). With little competition, Van Damme was the usual jazz poll winner on his chosen instrument. And with little real interest in mild jazz accordion in the 70's, he was off Columbia and recording for the German label MPS until he semi-retired.

He died on February 15th, age 89. As you'll hear from the sample of "In the Wee Small Hours..." playing a modest MOR pop tune on an accordion (or harmonica) is modestly entertaining, but doesn't quite grab the attention as much as a vocalist, saxophone player or singer can. The full "Swings Sweetly" does indeed swing most pleasantly; perfect for sipping a martini or two.
"After You've Gone" 1949 song by the Art Van Damme Quintet
A whole Damme album

KATHRYN GRAYSON DIES "All of A Sudden My Heart..."

One of the oddest hit songs of all time was Kathryn Grayson's "All of a Sudden My Heart Sings," which was basically the scale set to lyrics. Any idiot who could play "Chopsticks" could whack out the melody to "All of a Sudden My Heart Sings."

What made the song actually sing, was Kathryn Grayson, the lovely lady of light opera and silver screen musicals, who made it one of her biggest hits, along with "Jealousy," "Lover Come Back to Me" and "Will You Remember?"

Some still remember. Her early hits were soon put out on a new-fangled ten inch "long play" album by MGM. Many more records followed, containing pop tunes, Broadway tunes and even opera. Grayson could do a credible job on most anything from "Sempre Libera" (from "La Traviata") or "The Bell Song" (from "Lakme") to the soft pop hits of the 50's and 60's including "Both Sides Now" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." Her soprano style, to the far right of Judy Collins or Julie Andrews, was certainly considered more piquant by fans of opera and classical music than big band or jazz...and there were more of them in the 40's and 50's than today.

Grayson, who died February 17, 2010 at 88, was born Zelma Kathryn Hendrick in North Carolina. She was well trained in opera by the time she was 15, which was when she was signed up by RCA's Red Seal classical division as a prospect. Her all-American good looks had MGM showing interest as well. In this era of Deanna Durbin and other fresh-scrubbed singer-actresses, Grayson fit right in. She made countless musical films, including Rio Rita (1941), Thousands Cheer (1943), Anchors Aweigh (1945), Show Boat (1951), Lovely To Look at (1952), Desert Song (1953) and Kiss Me Kate (1954).

While she only appeared on Broadway in Camelot (1962) and wasn't often seen on television variety shows, she was not forgotten by her fans, who eagerly came to see her in touring productions of hit shows. She continued a pretty heavy work schedule even into the 80's and 90's.

In the 80's she appeared in "straight" acting assignments including both dramas such as "Night Watch" and comedies including "Noises Off." A little too old for the lead roles in such standards as "Kiss Me Kate," she reprised the best songs from her favorite musicals via "An Evening with Kathryn Grayson," and toured with this one-woman show from 1988 to 1997. She made a rare TV appearance via "Murder She Wrote," Angela Lansbury's show that often gave one last look at beloved stars "of a certain age" who otherwise weren't working. Grayson though, was always working. When she retired from active performing, she turned to teaching voice to private students.

Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. A sample song has been re-upped individually via a better service:

KATHRYN GRAYSON -- All of a Sudden My Heart Sings

"TAXMAN" in memory of JOE STACK (1956-2010)

Yesterday, February 18th, Joe blew his stack. He was mad at the I.R.S. He was mad at Wall Street and the government's bureaucracies. He was mad at the farce of health care, most certainly mental health care as much as physical health care. He was mad at the way pensions for ordinary people were destroyed while conniving lawyers and accountants flourished. He was mad, period. As in crazy.

Which is why Andrew Joseph Stack left his wife and daughter and flew a small plane into an Austin office building that housed some offices for the local I.R.S. Instead of becoming a hero and martyr, he was almost instantly written off as a babbling lunatic...and news reports focused, as they should, on his reckless act that created havoc for a lot of innocent people.

"Joe Stack (1956-2010)" (that's how he ended his last "rant") has gone down in flames.

But take a moment from damning his insane act to read some of his last words. The FBI was quick to take down the tax scofflaw's website but thesmokinggun has it all:

And here, some choice excerpts from an obviously troubled, paranoid and bitter man who nevertheless, had some very truthful points to make about the government, the fat cats of Wall Street, the corrupt and do-nothing politicians (of whom Sen/ Evan Bayh just divorced himself) and most of all, the Internal Revenue Service, aka TAXMAN.

" taxation without representation...These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a crackpot, traitor or worse...
"...why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty comint to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system...are murdering tens of thousand of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple...
"...political "representatives" (thieves, liars and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around...and debate the state of the "terrible health care problem." It's clear they see no crisis as long as...corporate profits roll in...
"How can any rational individual explain...our tax system...
"...he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement...incompetent management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement..
"...The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies...have certainly reinforced it for all of us...nothing changes unless there is a body count...I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change...
"...I have just had enough...
"...I can only hope that...the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less...violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing...
"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

Ugly crash. Terrible story. Stack was a crazy man who refused to pay his taxes some years, and who, for all his bitching and moaning, did have enough money to muck around with a private plane any time he felt like it, and had a $232,000 home in a pleasant neighborhood. Many people are in worse shape financially than he was. Mentally, perhaps not. Maybe some members of the I.R.S. will not "sleep well" over the next few days...but his wife and daughter will be suffering worse nightmares.

Joe Stack's favorite way of blowing off steam was walking the bass in local Texas bands. When "Nightline" and other programs showed a picture of the mad aviator, it was often a shot of the 50-something with his guitar.

And now, Black Oak Arkansas swamp-rockin' through "Taxman." It's live, unlike Joe Stack.

TAXMAN, for all sufferers of Mr. Big Brother IRS man, politicians, bankers and million dollar corporations that never listen

DALE HAWKINS - Rockabilly author of "Susie Q"

Most everyone knows "Susie Q," but chances are, they know it from Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1968 version, and figure John Fogerty wrote it. Originally titled "Oh Suzy Q," it appeared on the 1958 album from its author, Dale Hawkins. Delmar Allen "Dale" Hawkins died on February 13, 2010.

Only two days earlier, Dale's website alerted fans to send him e-mails of support:
"As most of you know, Dale has been valiantly fighting colon cancer for more than four years. In this time, he has continued to travel the world and make new friends, and record exciting new music as well. His doctors at the VA in LR have done a wonderful job for him. However, since the first of the year, his condition has really deteriorated and he is now very ill. We took him to the Hospice Center at St. Vincent's Doctors Hospital in LR Tuesday. He is doing the best possible under the circumstances. Prayers from his friends would really be welcomed. Thank you! You can send him good wishes at his email:, or at his MySpace page - myspace.dalehawkinsoficial."

Hawkins evolved his "swamp rock" out of Shreveport, Louisiana, creating a mix of blues and rockabilly. He issued an album's worth of hot titles (some of them in the download below) before moving on to become a record producer, working with The Uniques, The Five Americans and Jon & Robin. He was an exec with Bell Records and later an A&R man for RCA. Considered a legend for those early solo sides he recorded, he found his way back into the recording studio for "Wildcat Tamer," released in 1999. In 2006 he began chemotherapy for colon cancer, and the following year, he released "Back Down to Louisiana." For so many musicians, music is their life, and when life becomes precious, they only devote even more time to it.

Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. "Susie Q" has been re-upped individually via a better service:



Singer of the most famous stutter-song after "My Generation," Doug Fieger offered the maddeningly catchy punk-pop masterpiece "My Sharona," and followed it with another sassy-snotty song about teen teasers, "Good Girls Don't, But I Do."

He died a few days ago (August 21, 1952 - February 14, 2010), after a long struggle with brain tumors and lung cancer, and to the surprise of many, there was not only an expected outpouring of sympathy for the still-young (only 57) musician, but respect for his group, The Knack. When they were popular, well, they weren't; critics hated them and most listeners considered "My Sharona" a guilty pleasure. The Knack was too overpowering to ignore but a little too obnoxious to love.

Too power pop for the new wave crowd, and a bit too rude and annoying for the teenyboppers, The Knack filled their first few albums with some tracks as worthy as ones to be found on Tubes or Cheap Trick records. The Knack may have been in the right place at the right time. Disco was huge in 1979, with Donna Summer's 'Bad Girls,' Rod Stewart's disco anthem, 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy,' and a ton of Bee-Gees tracks dominating the Top 10. Listeners needed a bit of commercial new wave power pop to break up the monotony, and The Knack provided it, via a sweaty, dirty ode to Fieger's girlfrend Sharona Alperin.

Little recalled trivia: the song had a profound effect on "Weird Al" Yankovic. His parody, "My Balogna," got a lot of airplay via Dr. Demento's radio show, and Doug helped him get a record deal. On Doug's passing, Yankovic recalled that the Knack lead singer and co-writer was "the first artist to ever approve one of my parodies."

Commenting on his death, Sharona Alperin said, "Doug changed my life forever. He left on Valentine's Day, a day of heart and love, and that was Doug, all heart and love."

Love didn't seem to have that much to do with the song itself, and even less with its teenybop follow-up "Good Girls Don't But I Do." Maybe Doug's singing blurred some of the refrain? Here it is:

And it's a teenage sadness
Everyone has got to taste.
An in-between age madness
That you know you can't erase
Til she's sitting on your face.

Yes, The Knack had a definite knack for playing with a particular brand of teenage lust peculiar to the 70's...a time when the sexual revolution was on, and "good girls" were getting it on...but usually not with YOU. Fieger's songs were panting and misogynistic at the same time, frantic and silly but also simmering with resentment. While Cheap Trick grimaced at the parents ("Surrender") more than the offspring, The Knack were flat out saying that jail bait bitches were driving 'em crazy.

Sharona was one of 'em: "Basically, we were both in relationships when we met. I was maybe 16, 17, he was about 9 years older than me and was introduced to me at that time by a girlfriend. When he met me, I remember him gasping. And before you knew it, he told me that he was in love with me. He ended that relationship, but it took me one year to leave my relationship. And in that time he wrote many songs -- "Frustrated," "She's So Selfish," a lot of songs on the first Knack album. He just thought I was his soul mate..." They did get together but didn't stay together as a couple. They remained lifelong friends. She even has a website:

Fieger was known as a confident, charismatic musician back when he attended Oak Park High School in Michigan, and his bravado showed with his first band, Sky. (There's a 60's group called The Knack...nothing to do with Fieger's bunch). Sky recorded two albums for RCA. He was also in The Sunset Bombers (one album on Ariola) before forming The Knack and signing to Capitol in 1979 for their breakthrough debut album. Interest in the band cooled by the mid-80's.

Fieger's health problems became common knowledge back in 2004 when he was first diagnosed with a lung tumor. Doug had not smoked in 20 years. He was also a vegetarian. But not only was the tumor cancerous, it spread from his lung to his brain. In 2006 he had brain surgery to remove two tumors. A year later, it seemed the cancer was in remission, but he had to go in for more brain surgery. He was touring with The Knack and kept it up as long as he could. "Chemotherapy is pretty horrible," he admitted, but added, "I live a full life. I'm not infirm in any way."

Even recently, he put off the question of mortality this way: "Everybody knows they're going sooner or later. I don't know any better than anyone else when I'm going. I've had 10 great lives. And I expect to have some more. I don't feel cheated in any way, shape or form." Says Sharona: "His incredible optimism remained until the very end."

The Knack's material is easy to find, but maybe you'd like to hear one of the demo versions of "My Sharona" that Doug and the band kicked around....

DEMO version of MY SHARONA
Download or listen on line. No capcha codes. No porn ads. No percentage going to the blogger for his "hard work." The hard work was done by the artist.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

PROCOL HARUM 1992 Free Kick in the Balls

Here, fitting on one CD if you care to burn it that way, is an 80 minute "essential Procol Harum live" package, all from a Nuremberg radio broadcast in 1992.
You'll hear such favorites as:
"Conquistador," "Bringing Home the Bacon," "Shine on Brightly," "Homburg," "Grand Hotel," "Whisky Train," "A Salty Dog," "All Our Dreams are Sold," and a rare "complete" version of "A Whiter Shade of Pale."
The first time the band recorded it, they skipped a fandango, and cut a verse. They left it out of almost all live shows too, a stanza that includes some obscure ponderings: "If music be the food of love, and laughter is it's queen. Likewise if behind's in front and dirt in truth is clean..."
"All Our Dreams are Sold" was on their comeback album, "Prodigal Stranger," which they were trying to support via this free radio concert.
Lead singer Gary Brooker ends this song by saying:
"All our dreams are sold. Believe it. Ain't nothin' you get for free except a kick in the balls."
We all get our music free. That's a kick in the balls for the musicians. It tells them we don't value what they do and don't care if they making a living or not.
But, in this case, this was a free radio show, not a live CD sold in stores, so offering it here shouldn't cause Mr. Brooker to reach for the aspirin or a protective fur-lined jockstrap. But yes, generally the difference between the professional and the amateur is payment, which is also a sign of respect and appreciation. It's a sign of desperation to have to give it away free, and quite demeaning when the choice is made for you by someone else.
In this case Procol felt that the trade-off for giving a free concert was that it might bring in sales for their new album. Did it work? "Prodigal Stranger" didn't sell enough copies, and Procol Harum did not get another record deal for twelve years.

PROCOL in NUREMBERG (Sorry, Rapidshare timed this one out for not having enough downloads in a month)
And still around
Procol Harum concert in Hell

The Brothers sing Warren Zevon & Randy Newman

No, Zevon and Newman didn't record together, but they each wrote a side of an obscure White Whale 1967 single by THE BROTHERS. Zevon wrote "The Girl's Alright" and Randy Newman "Love Story."
Zevon was on the White Whale label as half of Lyme and Cybelle. Lyme and Cybelle issued two singles before The Brothers turned up with the failed combo of "It'll All Wash Away with the Rain" and "Today Is Today," followed by their second and last: "Love Story" backed wih "The Girl's Alright." A brief salute to an obscure but tasteful group that covered two of our finest composers.

IT'S A HEARTACHE - in German - Wencke Myrhe

Happy birthday to Wencke Myrhe (February 15th, 1947). Yeah, "It's a Heartache" knowing that she'd be putting enough candles on that cake to simulate a forest fire, but as the cliche goes, "the alternative is worse." Hard to believe she's a 60-something. Why, it seems like only 20 years ago that I happened to see Ms. Myrhe on an enticing album cover (of an album released probably 10 years earlier) and figured she needed to be part of my collection (making up for my lack of frankincense).

It was titled "Wencke Myhre Album," and what made it a "must buy" was checking the back cover songwriter credits and seeing she was covering, re-titled, Eric Clapton's "Sorry Sally," Juice Newton's "Der Mann auf einem Seil," and Bobbie Gentry's "Billy Joe McAllister." I also surmised that "Wenn Du mich beruhrst" credited to Hill-Mann had to be "Sometimes When We Touch."

A Norwegian who also sings in German, it's no surprise that depending on the country of origin, her albums will be credited either to "Wencke" (Germany) or to "Wenche" (Norway).

Either way, she was most definitely born on February 15, 1947. But not in Norway or Germany. It was in Sweden.

In 1963 Wenche had three songs in the Norwegian Top Ten, and was ready to annex Germany as the next challenge. Singing in German, she won the Deutschen Schlagerfestival in 1966 with "Beiß Nicht Gleich In Jeden Apfel." It became a #1 hit in Germany, and she followed it in 1967 with the Top Ten "Komm Allein." The following year, she branched out to sing in Swedish, scoring with "Det var en ding-dong rena rama sing-sång." She sank her teeth into Danish songs, too.

Through the 60's and 70's, Wencke was in her prime, appearing in films and TV specials in Norway, Sweden and Germany, and in 1972 "Jeg og du og vi to og mange fler" proved to be her biggest Norwegian hit ever, spending 30 weeks on the charts and hitting #1. In 1978 she scored her final Top Ten in the German language with her cover version of "It's a Heartache," re-titled "Lass mein Knie, Joe." She lacks Bonnie Tyler's rasp, but whatever she's saying to Joe...he should've listened.

In the 80's and 90's, Myrhe was still very popular in Norway. In 1983 she became the first Norwegian to record a CD (it went gold) and she kept releasing new material through 1997, when she recorded "Vannmann." Her greatest hits have been re-packaged many times since, and she still tours in concert. As we say in Norway, I think; Gratulerer med dagen, Wenche.


JOHNNY DANKWORTH: Sir John Dies at 82

At the time of his death, he was Sir John Dankworth, a legend in Great Britain. But for most of his life, (September 20, 1927-February 6, 2010) he was "Johnny Dankworth," the cool alto saxophone player who helmed the Dankworth Seven, swung at Birdland and the Newport Jazz Festival, and even charted with an instrumental, "African Waltz" in 1961. He also wrote the original "Avengers" theme (when Honor Blackman was starring) and of course was married to singer Cleo Laine. They were still touring in October of 2009 when John's health began to fail. He played his sax while sitting in a wheelchair at the London Jazz Festival in December, one of his last public appearances.

In addition to his many jazz albums, you'll find plenty of soundtracks with Dankworth's name on them. Though perhaps not as well known in this field as the usual suspects, from Jerry Goldsmith to John Williams and back, he scored an impressive number of films, including "The Servant" (1963), "Darling" (1965), "Morgan!" (1966), "Modesty Blaise" (1966), "Accident" (1967), "Fathom" (1967), "Salt and Pepper" (1968), "The Magus" (1968), "The Engagement" (1970), "Perfect Friday" (1970), "10 Rillington Place" (1971), "The Kingfisher Caper" (1975) and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2000).

In America, Dankworth's most popular single was "African Waltz," on the Roulette label. The piece was composed by Galt MacDermott (yes, the guy who wrote the Broadway musical "Hair") and it received Grammy awards for Best Instrumental Theme and Best Original Jazz Composition in 1961. It was the same year that Peter Nero was voted "Best New Artist," and Grammies also went to Jack Jones (for "Lollipops and Roses") and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (for "High Flying.") PS, there were lyrics to "African Waltz," but nobody was too thrilled with them. Donna Loren performed them on an episode of "Shindig." Let's just say the Dankworth version is the classic.Danke, John.