Thursday, October 29, 2015

Marty Ingels Dead : The "I'm Dickens He's Fenster" March

I was saddened that Marty Ingels (Marty Ingerman, March 9, 1936 – October 21, 2015) died of a massive stroke…and that obits pretty much went with "husband of Shirley Jones" as his fame. He was a pretty unique comedian, even if his style, and his demons, got the better of him.

Yes, Marty was a "piece of work," but he did what he could with some serious problems. In the Shirley-Marty autobiography he mentioned some of the mental frustrations he had to deal with; everything from breakdowns that left him lying flat on his back and unable to move, to phobias that made life difficult (such as his fear of flying). He once suffered an anxiety attack while doing a stand-up routine — during an appearance on "The Tonight Show."

I didn't have that much contact with the guy. I was involved in one project with him, and years later, another which included a series of phone calls. On the latter, which involved a third party, the third party called ME begging, "Please talk to Marty and tell him to stop driving me crazy!" Yeah, Marty could be a bit "noodgy," or just "spooky-serious" (which always seems frightening to people who expect a comic to always be cheerful and cracking jokes). The problem was that these traits couldn't be excused with "ah, but he's a genius." He never got much of a chance to show genius in comedy, not even at the level of the notoriously nutty Red Skelton.

Marty was sort of a Jewish Red Skelton. He was tall, childlike and had a crooked grin and an amusingly raspy delivery style. He played good natured fools who meant well but were bumblingly aggressive and lacked some social skills. Playing Arch Fenster, a "man child" opposite the worried Harry Dickens (John Astin) he won some fans when he starred in the intelligent slapstick sitcom called "I'm Dickens He's Fenster." It was recently resurrected on DVD, complete with a booklet describing the show's pedigree (great writing, directing, co-stars) and how it was somehow a failure that maybe could've blossomed into a hit if given another season.

Marty did manage to tour in stage productions of well-known comedies, take some good supporting roles on TV and was in a variety of pretty dated 60's film comedies, and then turn to managing when he became older. He met Shirley Jones at a party in 1974 and they were wed in 1977. Like most comics whose trade is naive bumbling and goofy rudeness, his schtick just didn't work after middle-age. At that point, whether you're a Tommy Smothers or a Bill Cosby, you better find a new way of presenting yourself or you're going to be a nostalgia act at best. And Marty didn't have much for nostalgists beyond his "Arch Fenster" character. So he ended up Mr. Shirley Jones, and also a bizarre guy who was prone to litigation and fighting with his clients.

Probably his most notorious legal case involved his client June Allyson. In a dubious bit of brand-marketing, which made her the butt of many a stand-up comic's jokes, Marty signed June to do ads for Depend, an adult diaper. Later, Marty was pissed; he claimed June owed him money. He allegedly called her all day about it…making 138 calls. Apparently the phone company verified this, and ultimately Marty lost the case. It would not be the last time his rush to legal judgment ended with him paying court costs and suffering defeat.

As Variety's obit gently observed, "In his later years, Ingels was relentless in promoting various TV, film and stage projects he sought to get off the ground as a producer. He was known to make frequent calls to Variety editors and reporters with story pitches. A conversation with Ingels could be time-consuming, but it was never dull."

He never really changed. Even when he became another D-lister on Facebook, he was prone to driving everyone nuts. He'd suddenly go off on some conservative rage about politics and morality, and amid the "good for you, Marty" and "that's how I feel, too," he'd get a lot of shrugs of chagrin. Sometimes he'd apologize for going off, sometimes not. I am not sure if his Facebook account was "deactivated" when he died, or months earlier. He might well have scuttled it in anger and frustration over some real or imagined insult. The NY Times obit wittily remarked, that Marty "was by all accounts highly voluble, genially combustible, energetically litigious and unmistakably larger than life." Indeed.

Yeah, he was one of those guys that you might think twice about dialing up. He could easily find some reason to seize on a particular remark and become offended, or just take it in a wacky direction. But he was, though not given enough chances to show it, a genuine, authentic and charismatic character. Shirley Jones would tell baffled fans and friends and reporters that she too could find Marty a bit difficult and/or embarrassing. His death was announced via a statement from Jones, which ended with: "“He often drove me crazy, but there’s not a day I won’t miss him and love him to my core.”

So we leave it at that. Sometimes, especially with comedians, whom we are used to seeing as zany, smiling, good-natured and goofy, the other side seems a bit appalling and dark. But on a good day, he was very good.

And below? Two versions of the "I'm Dickens He's Fenster" theme song. The show's pedigree included having Irving Szathmary write the theme song. Who better? Irving (brother of Bill Dana, aka Jose Jimenez, and once known as Bill Szathmary) began his career helping to score Raymond Scott's zany instrumentals. He later recorded an eccentric ten-inch album (as Irving Zathmary) called "Moods for Moderns." It was a Leroy Anderson-type deal; he offered cartoonish versions of such dopey classics as "Sailor's Hornpipe," "Irish Washerwoman," and "Pitter Patter Polka." The kiddie classic "Hickory Dickory Doc" was "swung" into the re-titled ""Dick-Dockery." Irving would later achieve immortality writing the theme for "Get Smart." Here, his intent was very much to establish the link between the modern Dickens and Fenster and past masters at slapstick foibles, Laurel and Hardy.

You get two versions of the Dickens and Fenster march…the original TV soundtrack, and Nelson Riddle's expanded version. Here's to Irving Szathmary, whom Jose Jimenez would have noted, was a very talented Jungarian Hew.

Original TV THEME Just as it was heard on the sitcom soundtrack

Dickens and Fenster in STEREO Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra.

"A Satchel and a Seck" - "Guys and Dolls" becomes "Faygeleh and Doll" via Allan Sherman

One of the earliest parodies Allan Sherman wrote was "A Satchel and a Seck," lampooning one of the stupidest hit songs of the day. A song with THIS lyric just BEGS for parody:

"I love you, a bushel and a peck!
A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck!
A hug around the neck, and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap, and I'm talkin' in my sleep.
About you. About you! About you!
My heart is leapin'!
I'm having trouble sleepin'!
'Cause I love you, a bushel and a peck
You bet your pretty neck I do!
Doodle, oodle, oodle. Doodle, oodle, oodle. Doodle oodle oodle oo.

Back in 1951, Frank Loesser's "A Bushel and a Peck" (from "Guys and Dolls") was a big hit. So was Mickey Katz, a Capitol recording artist who specialized in taking pop songs and "kosherizing" them with idiotic kosher food references sung in a stereotypical, high-pitched nasal whine.

Allan wasn't able to interest a major label in his effort to compete with Katz, but he did manage to at least get his novelty tune released (originally on 78rpm). At this point the most notable thing about it, is the unexpected comic insult from duet partner Sylvia Froos: "You sound like a little faygeleh." Allan apparently doesn't know enough Yiddish to realize this is not a compliment!

Allan went on to stardom. It took a decade. As for Sylvia? She'd already known fame. She was a child star in vaudeville. While Al Jolson made the first feature-length "talkie, "Baby Sylvia" starred in two short sound films released six months earlier.

Sylvia, "The Little Princess of Song," remained popular through the 30's, and turned up in Shirley Temple's "Stand Up and Cheer." She even had her own radio show. Well before "A Satchel and a Seck," Sylvia scored some novelty hits including "Who's Your Little Who-Zis?"

This single (Sylvia was not on the flip side) was simultaneously a farewell to the winsomely lilting vocals of Froos and a hello to a new voice in semitic silliness. Allan died in November of 1973. Sylvia enjoyed a long, happy retirement and died in March of 2004.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Original Petticoat Junction babe Pat Woodell dead at 71 - Curt Massey sings theme

There were 3 "sisters" on the old sitcom "Petticoat Junction." The eye-catching opening for the show had the three of them (Betty Jo, Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo) skinny-dipping in the water tower. The wet silo was above the "Shady Rest" hotel, and giving the show its name, the girls' elaborate petticoats seemed to always be up there hanging out to dry.

It was a naive age, wasn't it? Kids growing up in the 60's were supposed to sigh and think of which one would be their ideal sweetheart. And ooh, petticoats! That was naughty enough back then!

I'll confess, of the originals, I preferred the kinda slutty Jeannine Riley. It seems most thought she was the hottest, which is why Jeannine stayed around only two seasons, replaced by Gunilla Hutton and then Meredith MacRae. Also leaving at the same time was our recently departed Pat Woodell (replaced by Lori Saunders). In Pat's case, the lure was a singing career and a record contract. The one woman who never left the show was Linda Henning...who happened to be the daughter of the show's producer, Paul Henning.

In a strange twist of fate, the late Woodell's replacement Lori Saunders, was scheduled to appear at the infamous "Chiller Theatre" convention in pathetic Parsippany this weekend (23rd-25th). Lori was ready to allow various old hoobastanks to pose with her and get her autograph. Alas, she had to cancel due to health problems. The show does have Henning, and one of Riley's replacements, Gunilla Hutton. But it's eerie that she cancelled and, as it turns out, Woodell had gotten The Big Cancellation a few weeks earlier.

Yes, Pat Woodell actually died a few weeks ago (July 12, 1944 – September 29, 2015) but for some reason, nobody found out till today, October 19th. The news was broken by the L.A. Times and Variety. She had been ill with cancer for many, many years.

Born far from Hooterville, in Winthrop, Massachusetts, Pat got her break at the Warner Bros. lot, appearing in their various TV shows including "Cheyenne," "Hawaiian Eye" and "77 Sunset Strip." Within a year of these guest spots, she was cast for "Petticoat Junction." Probably her favorite memory of the show was when she and the other sisters pretended to be the female Beatles, "The Ladybugs." Aside from doing songs on the show, "The Ladybugs" managed to get a booking on Ed Sullivan's show. It was nowhere near as earthshaking as The Beatles.

Pat had a promising new start as a singer, opening for Jack Benny across the country, and releasing an album. Pop music in the late 60's was switching from wholesome types to rockin' babes. She switched back to acting, and made a few films in the early 70's, but retired after a few discouraging years. Perhaps somebody told her to have her head examined, because she left show biz for the Erhard Seminars Training group ("est") which offered bizarre pop-cult "awareness" techniques.

She made herself available for some "Petticoat Junction" nostalgists (she was on a documentary about the show) and was still married to husband #2 when she suffered the health problems that eventually led to her demise.

Below is the theme song as recorded by Curt Massey, who co-wrote it (with producer Paul Henning).

And what good would it do to offer one of Pat Woodell's solo songs? Well, it would show that she really could sing. So below is "What Good Would It Do." Pat's legacy remains tied to a petticoat on a sitcom some still remember with fondness and a teaspoonful of lust.

CURT MASSEY Petticoat Junction Theme PAT WOODELL What Good Would It Do?

Colin and Rod, "JUST OUT OF REACH" in 2013 and Now, Too

Look, there's a lot of ageism in rock. The New York Post writers ALWAYS refer to Mick Jagger as a "wrinkly rocker." Keith Richards gets it, too. Should those guys Botox themselves and look like zombies instead?

Speaking of The Zombies, some are complaining that they should hang it up, and that sometimes the high notes are "Just Out of Reach." Yeah, they, McCartney, Brooker, Ian Anderson etc. sometimes hit a clinker, but so what. Perhaps some anhedonia-prone fans get to a certain age, don't like to see their idols aging too, and the twinge of mortality makes 'em say "Please, don't remind me. Please retire!"

Looking on the bright side (as grinning old Eric Idle does), the fact that a geezer won't go away and leave the stage to Viley Virus and Justa Beeper is a rockin' sign of rebellion. As George Foreman once said, "Being 50 is not a death sentence." Or 60. Or 70. Or even 80 in somecases.

If you think about it, it's great that Rod Argent still has ANY enthusiasm playing the same old songs over and over. So if he looks like he's waiting for the Viagra to kick in, fuck it.

As for his cute lead singer, well, the guy's older and his face has character!

Yes, Colin Blunstone looks an awful lot like Bill Murray. So what. It's not a bad look, especially compared to the bassist. (Just keeding...whoever you are).

No kidding, here's a 2013 performance of "Just Out of Reach," which was when the photos above were taken. The crowd's loving it. The Zombies play smaller venues but still have enthusiastic people coming to see them. Who knows how long they'll be staggering around with original band members? Thanks to old fans, and perhaps interest in zombies in general (zombies are now much more popular in film than vampires) they are currently touring the world yet again. They will even be joining the Moody Blues on a cruise in the winter of 2016. Book now!

The average "rockin' 5 day cruise" might be described as Ringo Star's All-Stars without Ringo, but with sea-sick bags. Now why these bags just don't stay in Miami I have no idea. Off they go, climbing aboard a ship in order to see rock acts almost as old as they are. The Zombies' cruise will feature, in addition to those guys who are famous for songs about nights or knights in white satin or Satan, supporting geezer groups The Strawbs and Vanilla Fudge.

Just how many 60's and 70's acts SHOULD hang it up, well, you can find a lot of nasty remarks on YouTube comments for various bootleg camcorder recordings. Still, the unsteady camera jerks want to capture their favorites, and their youth…a time when they weren't obese, impotent and irrelevant. Mostly, the 60's and 70's rockers still out there are doing little harm. But really, if you and Micky are singing "Daydream Believer" together, you should pay closer attention to the hospice care brochures that arrive in the mail.

Hopefully the 2016 Cruise will get a better review than the 2013 version.

Meanwhile, most fans of The Zombies insist their gratefully undead faves ARE almost as good as ever, on a good night. See 'em while you can, because immortality is…JUST OUT OF REACH.

THE ZOMBIES Just Out of Reach

I DO (not) LIKE TO BE BESIDE THE SEASIDE - Bitter End Singers, Lesley Duncan & Suicidal Mark Sheridan

We're approaching Halloween, which means a preoccupation with ghouls, zombies, death and ISIS. Oh, no no, that's TOO grim. Nobody's going to trick-or-treat as Jihadi John. Or suggest that the burqa is a ridiculous costume that shouldn't be worn at all. ("Let's have transparency," declared Julian Assange, looking at a kodachrome slide of Justin Bieber naked).

One of the grim things about this time of year, is that it's COLD out. Christmas greed is just around the corner. And all the seaside resorts from Coney Island to Blackpool are shuttered, or offering shuddery and pathetic off-season attractions at low prices ("Opening Night Offer - Two tickets to see a blobulent geezer who used to be in the rock band SWEET for the price of one. £6 to £8,Concessions £2.00 off!')

Over a hundred years ago, there was a popular song called "I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside."

Mark Sheridan first recorded it in 1909. The tongue-twister was resuscitated by Basil Rathbone when he impersonated a vaudeville singer during a light moment in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." (And yes, you can go to Blackpool's Grand Theatre and see a production of "Sherlock Holmes and the Ripper Murders" for a bargain price this time of year.)

The eccentric Mr. Sheridan, in top hat, with wacky bell-bottoms strapped to his knees, twirling an umbrella, toured the U.K. again and again yammering about loving to be beside the sea. But beside that, and secretly, he was depressed. At the age of 50, no doubt afraid of being replaced in the public's affections by Miley Marie Lloyd or somebody else, he began his rehearsals for retirement. He recorded only one single in 1912, nothing in 1913, one side in 1914, and just one more in 1915.

Taking the advice of a middle-aged music fan called Senior Mole (I think), he decided "to tour, and forget about making money from recordings." He drew the line at selling t-shirts. All seriousness aside, Sheridan did continue the uncomfortable and unpleasant life of the touring entertainer. He played a comical Napoleon in a show called "Gay Paree." The morning reviews from the Glasgow papers were negative, and Sheridan was positive there was no hope. You'd think that he would've gone to be beside the seaside, and take a rest. Well, he did take a rest. Permanently. He walked into Kevin Grove Park and shot himself.

It would've been more ironic if he drove to the seaside, walked into the waves to had a watery grave. But when you're suicidal you're usually not all that rational, or care about whether you're death will get good reviews and be considered memorably theatrical.

Reflecting the underlying grimness of Halloween, the still-sprightly "I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside" is contrasted here by downloads for utterly depressing seaside death songs from Lesley Duncan and Bitter End Singers.

Duncan's dry-eyed and morose "Walk in the Sea" (written by Alan Hull) starts with loner complaints and drifts into pessimism: "think I'll go walk in the sea. Nothing much better to do. No, nothing for me. Not even you."

The Bitter End Singers received liner note praise from Tony Bennett: "The Bitter End Singers absolutely gassed me." (Gee, Tony, I didn't even know you're Jewish.)

The group's album, tempting fate, was called "Discover the Bitter End Singers." The song, "A Song By the Seaside," is complex, and you'll need to acclimate. Frankly, it didn't get to me the first time around. Once the tangled, sea-weed murky melody line became familiar and I got used to the group's MOR-Mitch Miller approach, I began to get into the repulsive minor key discord that was intending to evoke turbulent seas, and I caught the dank spray of the lyric lines.

The seasick song is about a wife who misses her husband in the worst way: "One day when she cried all the tears she could cry, she ran from the house where the wild swallows fly. She walked to the ocean, she smiled at the foam. She walked in the ocean. She smiled at the foam..." guessed it.

The late (as of June, 2015) Will Holt wrote it. He's best known for "Lemon Tree," which seems like an old folk song but isn't. He also wrote that 60's variety show perennial called "One Of Those Songs." Will always had a kind of amused chagrin about that one. If someone said, "Oh, you're a songwriter, what did you write?" He'd say "Lemon Tree" and get an approving nod. Then he'd say, "I was the first one to record and adapt "The MTA Song" which became a hit for the Kingston Trio." Another nod. Then he'd say, "I also wrote 'One of Those Songs.'" That would get no reaction at all.

Will would then sing the opening line, ala Durante: "It's just one of those songs that you hear now and then..." Ohhhhhh! THAT song...

The Bitter End Singers were three men and three women) including two guys formerly in The Ivy League Trio, and the always provocative Nancy Priddy (mother to Christina Applegate, and already mentioned on this blog in regard to her solo album).

And now, the music.

Mark Sheridan Beside the Seaside

Bitter End Singers Song by the Seaside

Lesley Duncan Walk in the Sea

Friday, October 09, 2015


Yes, that's the "Greatest Hits" CD collection. Billy autographed the back panel for me, and one thing I have to say about getting autographs of CD panels; they preserve very nicely when put back in the plastic case.

"Down in the Boondocks" was, like "Patches" by Bobby Goldsboro or "Harper Valley PTA" from Jeannie C. Riley, a kind of "country crossover" that everyone could love. I mean, everyone. The song charted higher in Great Britain (#3) than it did in the states (#9). It was written by Joe South, who also gave the world "Games People Play" and "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden."

Yeah, the song was a hit back in 1965 but Billy Joe Royal (April 3, 1942 – October 6, 2015) was still working, almost to the end.

Royal's last concert was at the Gwinnett County Fair in Georgia, back on September 24th. Billy was born in Georgia, spending his early years in Marietta. He died in his sleep a few nights ago, at his home in Morehead City, North Carolina.

A down-home, nice and neighborly guy, Billy had a friendly nature, as you can see from this picture:

Though his national fame peaked 50 years ago, Billy scored a few lesser hits (including "Cherry Hill Park" in 1969) and made several C&W albums over the years. It's been said that his song “Burned Like a Rocket” could've returned him to the Top Ten...except that radio stations began pulling it after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Country fans would tell you they bought Top 100 singles by Billy Joe including “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow,” “Tell It Like It Is,” and “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore.” Thanks to these more recent C&W songs, as well as the old classic about the boy from down in the boondocks, Royal was welcome as part of touring shows featuring other older stars including Ronnie McDowell and B.J. Thomas. Billy's 2007 album "Going By Daydreams" was released on B.J. Thomas's record label. Thanks to the universal appeal of his biggest hit, Billy could also turn up at oldies shows, the kind that would feature Peter Noone and Jackie DeShannon.

He weathered sudden but fleeting pop music fame, crossing back into pure country music, and the worries about which new single, if any, would climb the charts and refresh his fame. “I heard stories about how Clark Gable would finish a movie and say, ‘I’m never gonna work again,’” Royal recalled. “So I guess everybody worries about that kind of stuff. After a while I just stopped worrying about it.”

A modest man, Billy said of his smash hit, "Once in a while I hear it on the radio, and it still stands up. The song meant everything to my career. I was making about $125 a week before that."

In 2009 Billy recorded "His First Gospel Album," but it's turned out to be his last. He's survived by his mother, some ex-wives, and his daughter Savannah. Below? Billy Joe Royal was a very fine singer, and he could tackle even the toughest of songs, including the Roy Orbison (Del Shannon, Don McLean) classic, "CRYING."

Crying Billy Joe Royal


Not many child actors are role models, or handle adulthood very well. Kevin Corcoran, who died the other day, was one of the elite few. For a few years (1957-1964) he was arguably the best kid at playing a kid in movies.

Kevin's nearest competition, at least for being a little kid other little kids could identify with, probably came from television. Despite the regional accent, Ronny Howard's "Opie" on Andy Griffith's show was also a nice looking, average All American Boy. You might add Billy Mumy, although he played average kids in less than average situations, both in "Twilight Zone" episodes and "Lost in Space." You can add Micky Dolenz as "Circus Boy," in a role similar to Corcoran's "Toby Tyler."

If there was a defining thread to Kevin's roles, it was that he tended to play smallish kids trying to be noticed in the adult world, or accepted by their older and bigger peers. One of his first key roles was in "Old Yeller," (1957), which was either about a dog that was colored yellow, or one that barked a lot. It's been a long time since I saw it. Three years later he had a hit with another canine film, "The Shaggy Dog." For some reason, many of the characters he played in his Disney movies were nicknamed "Moochie." That would include "Moochie of the Little League," a 1959 effort about a kid who longs to be the catcher on his team. It co-starred Lee Aaker (a kid actor best known for the "Rin Tin Tin" TV show). Among the goofy adults were Stu Erwin and Alan Hale Jr., and it was directed by the venerable "One Shot" Beaudine. It was a different age...meaning, hardly anybody watches those somewhat maudlin and corny All-American films anymore. They were great at the time. It would be nice if more eight or ten-year-olds would stop fingering their iPads and go play baseball instead, like the mythical Moochie.

Trivia fans probably know that Corcoran came from a big family of kid actors, including his sister Noreen, who was the teen star on John Forsythe's "Bachelor Father" sitcom, another vintage item reflecting a very bygone lifestyle. A smart kid, Kevin gave up acting to attend school. Very few (Ronny Howard comes to mind again, along with Richard Crenna) made any kind of transition from child star to acceptable teen and adult in front of the camera. After graduating college Kevin returned to Disney for behind-the-scenes work as an assistant director. He was soon directing and producing a variety of things, from kiddie fare ("Return from Witch Mountain" and "Herbie Goes Bananas") to adult television ("Quantum Leap" and "Murder she Wrote.")

The long career of Kevin Corcoran (June 10, 1949 – October 6, 2015) ended a bit prematurely, due to colorectal cancer. In many cases, that's a form of cancer that can be rectified (pardon the pun) if caught in time. He's survived by his wife Laura, whom he married in1972.

Kevin Corcoran calls out and Jerome Courtland sings about... OLD YELLER

Eleanor McEvoy - October 9th - (John Lennon's 75th Birthday)

It's a story I've told before.

It was the night of October 9th, some eleven years ago. Mid-way into her set, Eleanor McEvoy did what I was hoping she'd do...sing "Last Seen October 9th."

By way of preface, expecting her song title for an answer, she asked the audience, "Anyone know what day this is?"

From my ringside seat, I answered, "Yes...John Lennon's birthday."

"Is it? Really. I didn't know that..."

Today, the connection between this date and Lennon may be in the news. Today October 9, 2015, John Lennon would have celebrated his 75th birthday.

Eleanor won't be playing the song tonight. Not in public, anyway. She told me that she only plays the song on stage if it actually IS October 9th. Today, Eleanor is somewhere between Lancaster, Pennsylvania (where she performed last night) and Somerville, Massachusetts (where she'll perform Saturday night).

The song is about a person gone missing, not someone assassinated, but the effect is the same. The song, in its quiet, sober, somber simplicity, says a lot about life's fragility and the emptiness that goes with loss. After the show, I mentioned to Eleanor that home-made "last seen" signs, xeroxed with a snapshot of the missing loved one, were vivid on bus shelters and lamp posts and in store windows after 9/11, and stayed up until the rains and wind mottled and bent them, and the faces and names on them were faded and streaked. It was impossible to hear her song that night without thinking about all the "gone missing" people, from the thousands on 9/11 to John Lennon and that night of December 8th 1980 that remains one of the most scarring moments in my psyche.

One of the nice things about having a real CD instead of a blip in your iPod, is you have the artist's complete vision, including the booklet and lyrics. You also have something that can be autographed. My copy of her album is reproduced here, amended a bit in tribute to John.

"Last Seen October 9th" appears on "Yola," Eleanor's first album after going indie. The new one's called "Stuff," since it's a collection of singles, and obscure tracks that fans have sometimes found hard to find. Of course she was selling this at the show I attended recently, and I bought a copy. She told the crowd that she wouldn't have titled the album "Stuff" if she'd known it was such a popular slang word for drugs!

I'll always go to see Eleanor McEvoy in concert. She is simply one of the most ebullient, touching and talented artists around. She loves her audiences and they love her. From her biggest hits ("Only A Woman's Heart" and "Sophie") you might get the idea she's one of those "dull and sullen" types, but in live performance she actually apologizes when she covers one of the sadder tunes. Her life is a lot happier now, and she makes audience joyful every time she performs.

Her show is a dazzling display of musicianship (she was classically trained and between 1988-1992 was part of a symphony orchestra in Ireland). She moves from piano to guitar to violin with both virtuosity and an almost child-like enthusiasm, and even performs a cappela while slapping her guitar for rhythm or rattling two boxes of matches.

All that, plus a repertoire of songs that range from haunting love ballads to lusty blues to unique covers make for an evening that flies by. One night you might get a surprise version of Bob Dylan ("Just Like a Woman" or "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight") or anything from a rousing "Eve of Destruction" to Joni Mitchell's wickedly amusing Afro-samba "Carey." On her CDs she's offered a very surprising and intimate take on Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee" and a baroque "God Only Knows," which typically highlights her classically trained piano skills. Her piano, violin or guitar accompaniment always has layers, textures and nuances that richly enhance the melodies.

Eleanor also has a kind of Carol Burnett-like (or for younger readers, Ellen Degeneres-like) talent for ad-libs, anecdotes, and breaking down the wall between stage and seats. You almost feel like you're in her living room, as she prefaces songs with funny stories or suddenly kicks off her shoes so she can better hit the pedals on the keyboard.

You might ask, "Well, why haven't I heard of her?" In her native Ireland, where the best selling pop album in Irish history features "Only A Woman's Heart," she's very well known. She's also got a strong cult following all over the world, which is fairly similar to what Randy Newman has. Even "Short People" didn't widen Newman's basic core audience. Often one big hit is simply that; Loudon Wainwright III had one with his "Dead Skunk" novelty single but isn't a big CD seller and tours comfortable smaller venues. Warren Zevon (who had a novelty hit with "Werewolves of London") needed cover versions by Ronstadt and others to bring real royalties in. He too played smaller venues and there were sometimes years between label deals. Like Randy, Loudon and Warren, Eleanor is perhaps so distinct and intelligent, she connects best when playing in front of loving, attentive, intimate audiences.

Long ago, Eleanor chose to leave Columbia Records and be an indie artist. Perhaps part of being "non-commercial" is that she doesn't model clothing ala Stevie Nicks, and doesn't swirl around in something from the Witch's Taffeta Collection. She's down to earth. She drives around in a hearse, not because she's eccentric or death-obsessed (which you could easily think from so many of her earlier songs) but because a hearse can fit all her musical equipment.

Her voice isn't that commercial. The beautiful Irish accent is unique, and the tone she has is sort of "French Horn." It's a beautiful instrument, but it's not like a trumpet or sax, so a McEvoy album tends to stay in the same groove whether the song is slow or fast. She's not going to suddenly belt out a dramatic number like Dame Shirley Bassey. The closest she gets to a bluesy lady like Judy Henske is having the same lovably eccentric hairstyle. And so, (to borrow a Fleetwood Mac reference) she goes her own way, creates indie CDs of beautiful sonic quality, and is perfectly happy doing so. Her live shows are a celebration, and often at venues that allow the customers to enjoy a beer or two. Or three.

I just wish whoever introduces her makes sure to get her name right. At the last gig I saw, someone lumbered out, read credits off a card, and welcomed to the sage "Eleanor Mick-avoy." The last name's pronounced Mack-evoy.

Apologies for offering one of her more stark numbers, but it IS October 9th.

OCTOBER 9th Listen on line, no pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.