Monday, September 19, 2016

Fred Hellerman, the LAST OF THE WEAVERS

For some of us, the road to Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and the other singer-songwriters, began with The Weavers.

For a variety of artists, including Bob and Phil, and most certainly the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary, The Weavers were the first and the best; they taught by example. For many generations, the first music they heard was either church hymns or folk music.

The Weavers updated "To Tell Aunt Rhody" and "My Darling Clementine," and added a vast repertoire in concert.

One of the first albums to influence me was "The Weavers on Tour," which had a wonderful segment of comic folk songs.

The Weavers were Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman. I was able to pay my respects to Pete and Fred. With Pete, I could mention that not only was I delighted with his own comical "Talking Blues" on that Weavers record, but how he supported and validated the young stars who came after him, including Phil Ochs.

With Fred, I mentioned how much I loved "The Frozen Logger" on that record. Pete Seeger set up the story, with Hellerman as the love-lorn waitress. Why not Ronnie Gilbert? It was funnier from Fred.

Fred Hellerman (May 13, 1927 – September 1, 2016) was more than a fourth of The Weavers. He had an active solo performing career, and he was even a producer ("Alice's Restaurant" for Arlo Guthrie). Like Seeger, he was very active in his old age, and was often on hand at gatherings of folk greats. If you check for photos on Fred, you'll see him hanging around with a guitar in hand, with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, among many others.

One of the least appreciated aspects about folk music is its humor. Maybe that's because it's actually pretty hard to create a really good comic song. "The Frozen Logger" is just such a tall tale, relying as it does on humorous imagery. Here's a guy so tough that he gets rid of his whiskers by driving them in with a hammer, and biting them off inside.

Like the stories by everyone from Jack London to Mark Twain, the fun is in the imagination, and in this little song, there's a sweet, ludicrous element of wistfulness in love lost and perhaps found again some day.

It's a bit sad that the window from childhood to adulthood is so narrow now. The time for enjoying a melodic little song is shorter. Too soon reality interferes, and very quickly "hipness" and "coolness" are all that's important. The rag doll is kicked under the bed and stays there, along with the crayons and the drawing paper. It's more important to fiddle with a computer and a cellphone. A teddy bear is nothing compared to a sleek piece of plastic that can help you get free porn, free noise and a chance to collect non-existent Pokemon blips.

A documentary on The Weavers was called "Wasn't That a Time." Wasn't it? The Weavers. Peter Paul and Mary. The Beatles. There was a time when discovering music was a joyous thing. Your favorite performer didn't strut around on stage sticking her tongue out and waving a dildo.

There was some humanity in stories about life on "Penny Lane," about Puff the Magic Dragon, and about a waitress recalling her lover: "There's none like him today." No. And not like Fred Hellerman, either.

FRED HELLERMAN The Frozen Logger

Friday, September 09, 2016


On September 7, 2003, Warren Zevon died. For those who remember his song about breathing polyvinyl chloride in a factory, it was not a surprise that his death was caused by mesothelioma. “Some get the awful-awful diseases…” he sang in another song, pre-diagnosis.

On September 7, 2016, Bobby Chacon died from a fall while in hospice care. For over a decade, his awful-awful disease was dementia, the result of all the incredibly violent battles he fought against the likes of Ruben Olivera and Bazooka Limon, Alexis Arguello, Cornelius Boza Edwards, Art Frias and…immortalized in a Zevon song, Boom Boom Mancini.

Back then most boxing matches were free on ABC’s afternoon series “Wide World of Sports.” So, yeah, “hurry home early, hurry on home: Boom Boom Mancini’s fighting Bobby Chacon.” I was probably already home, since it was a Saturday and I had no job. Years later, Ray signed my copy of the Zevon CD.

Out of the ring, Chacon was well known for spending his money fast, and indulging himself in every way possible. It seemed his lifestyle might change once he got married. His wife not only wanted a stable home life, she begged him to quit boxing before he got seriously hurt. He refused. She shot and killed herself. This would not be the only gun tragedy in Bobby’s life. About a decade later, his son was murdered. A decade later, and he was slowly becoming brain-dead from the effects of all his fights.

A famous song by a certain Paul McCartney asks, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64.” The answer in Chacon’s chase was not really, and without much enthusiasm. At 64, he was just another hospice patient, with some of the nurses probably not caring much of he lived or…fell down and died. Which is what happened to him. How do you fall down and die? Probably nobody even asked that question, figuring the main thing was that Bobby was out of his misery and everyone else’s.

Bobby Chacon (November 28, 1951 – September 7, 2016) was a macho guy, one of the great fighters of his day. Below, a live performance from Zevon, who, as the title suggests, was chronicling another great, tough competitor, Ray Mancini. One of the reasons people still think so highly of Ray, is that he faced off against dangerous Bobby Chacon.

WARREN ZEVON in Paris, February 5, 1988



One of the last of the classic TV western heroes, Hugh O’Brian is best remembered as the clean-shaven version of Wyatt Earp, “brave, courageous and bold.”

Born in New York (Hugh Charles Krampe; April 19, 1925 – September 5, 2016) the rugged star enlisted in the Marines in 1943, and after service, enrolled at Yale with the intention of becoming a lawyer. Somehow he ended up dating an actress in Santa Barbara, with a day job as a clothing salesman.

His girlfriend was appearing in a play called “Home and Beauty.” When an actor dropped out, the play’s director, Ida Lupino asked him to give the part a try. He got some good reviews and soon after signed a contract at Universal. Four years later, 1955, he landed the Wyatt Earp assignment.

There were plenty of actors impersonating famous names from the West, including Guy Madison (Wild Bill Hickok), Gene Barry (Bat Masterson), Barry Sullivan (Pat Garrett), Leslie Nielsen (“The Swamp Fox”), and Fess Parker (Davy Crockett). Almost nobody resembled the original, and half the time there was some historian or other to cast doubt on how heroic the original actually was.

There was plenty of competition from actors playing fictional characters, including James Arness (Matt Dillon), John Russell (Dan Troop), Steve McQueen (Josh Randall), Richard Boone (Paladin), James Garner (Maverick), Jack Kelly (another Maverick), Clint Walker (Cheyenne Bodie) as well as Nick Adams, Tom Tryon, Dale Robertson, Clayton Moore, Wlil Hutchins and many more.

Some of the shows hold up, some don’t. Most of the better ones were “adult westerns,” which had some complexity to the lead character, and plots that didn’t always revolve around a gunfight ending. Unfortunately, “The Adventures of Wyatt Earp” was a bit more oriented toward younger viewers, and is distractingly handicapped by a weird soundtrack; instead of music, there’s the Ken Darby singers, offering “ooh and ahhh” a cappella mewlings. Very strange.

And…yeah, when it came time for the almost obligatory “the hero SINGS” album, it was Ken Darby and his annoying singers who were enlisted. Unlike many albums that relied on traditional folk songs (Pernell Roberts comes to mind), O’Brian’s album featured originals hastily penned by Ken Darby, and heavily relying on his chorus to help mask any problems with O’Brian’s vocals. How much of the lead singing is even Hugh O’Brian as opposed to some guy who sounded a bit like him, I have no idea.

Your sample from the 1957 album is “The Bushwacker Country,” a pretty offbeat ballad about Earp and his dealings with The Ben Tompson Gang. It offers some eerie minor key moanings. And hey, the title has both BUSH and CUNT in it.

O’Brian went on to many other assignments in movies and on TV, and trivia fans happily note that when Raymond Burr missed a “Perry Mason” show in 1963, Hugh came in to take his place as one of Perry’s attorney friends. He was often on game shows, and was quite a literate presence on “Password.” O’Brian’s other TV series was the short-run “Search” in 1972. Once in a while he gave a nostalgic reprise to Wyatt Earp, notably “The Gambler Returns” (1991) and “Return to Tombstone” (1994). O'Brian became something of an authority on Earp, who married a Jewish woman (very daring at the time) and is buried in a Jewish cemetery, "on the other side of the hills from the San Francisco airport. That's where Wyatt is buried with Josie."

Fans of Hugh have their own favorite films, including a remake of “Ten Little Indians,” the romantic comedy “Come Fly With Me,’ “Love Has Many Faces,” “In Harm’s Way,” and “Murder On Flight 502,” which had a neat plot twist for his character. He turned up in all sorts of things, playing Arnold Swartzennegars' father in the movie "Twins" and along with Buddy Hackett, became a comedy team when Abbott & Costello were not available for an item scripted for them, “Fireman Save My Child.” I was glad to mention some of my favorites to him (no, not at some memorabilia event with a bunch of grimacing Huelbigs standing on line to pay him) and chose a non-Earp photo for him to sign...a picture of Hugh with his (not-Monty) python in "Africa, Texas Style." He was much more than Wyatt Earp. He married rather late in life, and in his 80’s was quite different in appearance from his TV hero days; a guy with long hair, problems walking, and difficulty hearing.

At 90, he wrote his autobiography and titled it: “Hugh O’Brien, Or What’s Left Of Him.” As most self-published or desperate authors do, he booked himself on Connie Martinson’s pay-to-be-interviewed book review TV series.

O’Brian always knew there were ways of changing the world beyond being an actor. Back in 1958, he was meeting with Albert Schweitzer and looking for ways to use his fame in the most positive ways possible. O’Brian founded the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation. While millions have been entertained by O’Brian’s acting work, there are about a half-million whose lives have been changed thanks to their high school years that were enhanced by the Foundation.

A bit of philosophy from Hugh O’Brian:

“I do NOT believe we are all born equal. Created equal in the eyes of God, yes, but physical and emotional differences, parental guidelines, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual's development. But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize their potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream? I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose, to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.

HUGH O’BRIAN Bushwacker Country

THE LEASEBREAKERS go brassy with The Beatles HELP

Back in September of 1965, just about any cash-in on The Beatles was bound to get some airplay. There are plenty of bootleg CDs just loaded with songs about The Beatles, songs by groups trying to sound like The Beatles, as well as novelty cover versions of Beatles tunes.

One that has been overlooked, is The Leasebreaker’s version of “Help,” produced for United Artists by Gerry Granahan. No, that's not the surviving Leasebreakers in the photo. It's Gerry and two other survivors of the golden age of transistor radio-driven pop songs.

Born in Pittston, Pennsylvania (April 20, 1932), he worked both as a disc jockey and as a singer in local Poconos and Catskills resorts. A labelmate of Bobby Darin’s at Atco circa 1957, he struggled for a few years, under his own name, as well as aliases Jerry Grant and Nick Rome. He then became Dicky Doo and with his group, The Don’ts, and scored with the single “Click-Clack,” inspired by his pal Bo Diddley.

This was followed by the peculiar “Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu” (which was covered by Jonathan Winters!) and, once again using his own name, “No Chemise Please.” He juggled concert dates as both Gerry Granahan and Dicky Doo & The Don’ts. He also produced singles for The Fireflies. At 28, he formed his own label, Caprice Records, and allied himself with other new talents, including Sonny Bono and Mac Davis. He discovered Janie Grant, and her song “Triangle” became his label’s first Top 40 hit. His next discovery was James Ray, who had a hit with “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody.” Ray’s album included a song called “I’ve Got My Mind Set On You,” which became a hit album track for George Harrison some 26 years later.

Though Caprice Records folded in the mid-60’s, Granahan had no trouble finding a new home. It was at United Artists. Granahan produced hits for Jay and the Americans there, and guided the singing career of TV sitcom star Patty Duke. He also produced the comedy albums of Pat Cooper, and a single called “Wild Thing,” for a group called The Wild Ones. Yeah, it became a hit for The Troggs. The label owned the soundtrack to The Beatles’s “A Hard Days Night” film, and eventually Gerry got around to covering The Beatles by producing the Leasebreakers’ novelty version of “Help.”

This instrumental version of “Help,” seems to owe its inspiration more to Herb Alpert (who first charted with the Tijuana Brass in 1962) than to the early, noisy, “How to Break a Lease” novelty albums from the late 50’s. It’s basically a fairly credible attempt to kick some brass into the Fab Four, more than be Spike Jones about it.

It might be a minor footnote in Gerry’s career (which of course continued well past the 60’s) but this site likes to bring obscurities to life. This blog always tries to…HELP!



Sad to say, if Kacey Jones' 2009 track about Donald Trump's hair starts getting airplay, and YouTube hits, she will not be impressed.

She's dead.

Her "GoFundMe" campaign to raise money for her cancer treatment was still ongoing when she went. Here's how it looked on that site:

Kacey Jones had her first musical success under her real name. Gail Zeiler (April 27, 1950 – September 1, 2016) co-wrote Mickey Gilley’s "I'm the One Mama Warned You About.”

Realizing her talent as a comic singer, she became Ethel (“Ethel and the Shameless Hussies”) and then “Kacey Jones,” releasing her 1997 album “Men Are Some of My Favorite People,” followed by “Every Man I Loved is Either Married, Gay or Dead” (2000) and “Never Wear Panties To a Party” (2001). She continued on with the novelty stuff, including “Donald Trump’s Hair” (2009).

She had a bit of a narrow market on this material, since country music fans don’t normally appreciate a smart-ass woman, and a lot of her material was most definitely in that smirky category of hen-party put-downs that most men don’t appreciate. Guys don’t have many Christine Lavin records either, and they loathe Amy Schumer. No, in comedy the put-down and misogynistic jokes of a “Dice” Clay or Sam Kinison tend to only get laughs from guys, and songs about how men are stupid dickheads only get titters from, well, titters.

Aside from her novelty recordings, Kacey was a partner with Kinky Friedman when he formed the punny Kinkajou Records label. She produced “Pearls In the Snow,” a collection of Kinky’s songs as performed by Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and other top names.

Things began to go sour around 2013, when she was diagnosed with cancer. She sought holistic cures, and as her money ran out, she did what so many people do. She went to GoFundMe. She did pretty well, too, raising a pretty impressive $50,000. She was still collecting donations when she had to go into hospice care.

Kacey Jones Donald Trump’s Hair (live performance)


The somewhat perky and swingin’ “Back to School Blues” has a “Splish Splash” Bobby Darin vibe to it. Like Bobby, Jack Larson had a good, strong voice that didn’t have the usual eccentricity of teen rockers (like Freddy Cannon, for example).

“They gonna start this jazz about stayin’ out late, ya gotta get up early and educate. That’s why I got this thing about summer bein’ over, me goin’ back to school blues.”

For years, Jack Larson the singer was often wrongly identified as the same guy who starred as Jimmy Olsen in the 50’s TV version of “Superman.” While a singing voice is often different from a speaking voice, it’s pretty obvious that actor Jack’s higher, raspier tone couldn’t magically change for full-throated singing.

Also, Jack Larson the singer’s career began in 1959, and by that time “Superman” was off the air. Its star, George Reeves died in August of 1959. Generally a singing actor will get tie-in music assignments while his show is still popular. Not so with the actor Larson, who never sang on a record.

In August of 1959, Billboard noted “the signing of Jack Larson singer-impressionist of the U.S. Army's "Rollin' Along" show, to a six-year management and recording pact…Larson, who for two years in a row was voted the No. 1 talent in the Army show, had his initial release on the Frat label last week, a novelty tune titled "Roaches." Flip is "Little Miss Starry Eyes." He opens for Lee Zeiger at the Casino Royal in Washington, Monday night…Larson is also set for a spot on Ed Sullivans' all-Army show August 30. He winds up his Army hitch Tuesday…"

“Back to School Blues” was a 1961 attempt. Jack thought it was going to be helped by his cameo role in the movie “Teenage Millionaire,” which headlined Jimmy Clanton. Jack was still hoping for some way of breaking his music career when he turned up in a 1963 episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” He played Kenny Dexter, a hack comedian who can’t be saved by Rob Petrie’s jokes. Not when the kid insists on doing his own horrible celebrity impressions and an off-key song.

Nothing off-key about your download below:

“The only time I really have a ball. All summer long I’ve been a Number One lover, back when I like it best of all. Everything’s swingin’ in the summer time. Won’t be long and I’ll be outta my mind. I got this thing about summer bein’ over. I got the back to school blues.”

“Back to School Blues” is not confined to kids. ADULTS have the blues because the brats are back in town. It was a peaceful summer when most of them were packed off to camp. Now? They’re b-a-a-a-ck, noisy and obnoxious. The teens are psychos who are either preoccupied with their selfies or paranoid and ready to take out a weapon and kill you.

The pre-teens are little monsters, squealing just because they can, chasing each other all over the sidewalk, filling up the fast food joints with their giddy idiocies and Pokemon chasing, and generally behaving like they should’ve been left inside a drippy condom tossed in the toilet.

Well, an obnoxious sperm that manages to push and slither its way past a million other quivering wrigglers, is bound to grow up to be an arrogant, self-entitled, noisy kid, not disciplined by adults and corrupted by Millennial selfishness. You can almost pity them, since their hedonism comes from knowing the food supply is tainted, climate change and Muslim loonies are ruining the fun, and sex can be fatal. You can only hope that maybe, just maybe, their childhood squeals will mature into some memorable vocalizing.

This vocalizing could be singing OR it could be commercial narration. Yes, “Larrs Jackson” IS available for acting work and commercial assignments. You can find out more at his dot com, larrsjacksonvo. Larrs is also on Twitter but hasn’t Tweeted for a few years.



What would a Four Seasons song sound like…without The Four Seasons?

Your download awaits you.

Bob Crewe tried and tried to find a female Frankie Valli when, as we all know, he already had one. Well, a castrati IS sort of female, and “the sound” as Frankie was oft billed, involved a pretty cunty falsetto.

A traditional hand-clappin’ pop tune with a backing chorus of chicks, this ain’t “My Boyfriend’s Back,” it’s “He Never Came Back.” Shoo-la shoo-la!

Hedy (whose brief singing career also included “Bad”) doesn’t sound too heartbroken about this, or even pissed off in a Lesley Gore way. This 1964 Crewe-cut is on Philips, which was having hits with The Four Seasons. You can almost imagine this having more traction as a Frankie Valli item.

The 1964 single which Crewe co-wrote has an amusing credit. It was “Arranged and Conducted by “Calello.” Huh? What’s a CALELLO? This was Charlie Calello, who I guess figured that using a single name would make him seem magical or mysterious.

As another pioneering falsetto guy, Lou Christie, used to sing, “Oh, NO NO NO, no no no no.”

Hedy may be best known for her role in the 1971 movie “Doc.” She was 30 at the time. In the still above, she’s hanging around while director Frank Perry talks to star Faye Dunaway. Hedy may not have had a big film career, but she’s well respected as an acting teacher. A senior faculty member of the Actors Studio, she’s been allied with Cafe La Mama in New York and the United Performance Studio in Japan.

HEDY SONTAG He Never Came Back