“This is theater as teaching tool, artistic expression and catharsis”
One of my pet peeves – nah, it’s stronger than that, more an irritation – happens when I hear folks from around the Capital District say, “There’s nothing to do around here.”
For instance, last weekend was chock full. On Friday, author L. Lloyd Stewart spoke at my church about his 2013 book The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vranken Family and Other Free Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.
Now mostly rural, Washington County, not far from Albany, is not a place people around here think of as an African-American stronghold. But the growth of free blacks, and slaves – the institution didn’t end in the Empire State until 1827 – was huge.
Times Union newspaper critic Steve Barnes wrote: “This is theater as teaching tool, artistic expression and catharsis, for the performers and their audience, and it is often deeply moving to experience.” It was so much so that our daughter went AGAIN on Sunday afternoon.
Peter Lesser from The Egg, the venue where the event took place, started things off. Sara Ayers, true love of Greg. was wonderfully gracious. Then Paul Jossman (guitarist Bowtie Blotto) and Bill Polchinski (guitarist/songwriter Broadway Blotto) gave touching and funny tributes to their band mate.
Michael Eck (Ramblin Jug Stompers) was particularly emotional. Local musician Bryan Thomas spoke of Greg’s encouragement. Kirsten Ferguson discussed Greg’s light touch as Nippertown editor. The aforementioned Steve Barnes marveled how Greg could know EVERYTHING about what was happening in the local music scene.
Rosanne Raneri and Steven Clyde sang and played a Jefferson Airplane tune. Then there was proper New Orleans sendoff with The 2nd Line Driveby Jazz Band. A wonderful celebration.
We were so busy that weekend, we didn’t make it to the annual Greek Festival. Monday night, I had three choices of activities, including something promoting the census; I did none of the above.
This is not a complaint, but most of my weekends have been very busy all year. There’s NEVER “nothing to do.” I can tell as my email queue gets longer and my prepared blog post list gets shorter.
“Cliff Barrows has led more people in singing than any other man in the world.”
Sir Neville Marriner died in 2016. Initially, I was going to get representative tracks from ALL the musicians who died this year, but that became too onerous. The list includes:
Pierre Boulez, the famed French composer, and conductor, died Jan. 5 at 90. Otis Clay, soul singer and Blues Music Hall of Famer best known for 1967’s “That’s How It Is (When You’re In Love),” died Jan. 8 at 73. David Bowie died Jan. 10, two days after his 69th birthday, after an 18-month secret battle with cancer. René Angélil, musical producer, singer. Manager (1981–2014) and husband (from 1994) of singer Celine Dion, died Jan. 14, two days shy of his 74th birthday, of throat cancer. Glenn Frey, The Eagles guitarist, and co-founder, died at 67 on Jan. 18. Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane co-founder, and guitarist, died at 74 on Jan. 28. Signe Anderson, the original Jefferson Airplane singer who was replaced by Grace Slick, died at 74 also on Jan. 28. Maurice White, a founding member of the disco-funk group Earth, Wind & Fire, died Feb. 3 at 74. Dan Hicks, who led ’60s band Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, died Feb. 6 at 74. Vanity, an ’80s singer-actress and Prince protege also known as Denise Katrina Matthews, died Feb. 15 at 57. Sonny James, the country singer behind hits like “Young Love,” died Feb. 22 at age 87. Lennie Baker, the voice of Sha Na Na’s doo-wop hit “Blue Moon,” died Feb. 24 at age 69.
George Martin, the “Fifth Beatle” best known as a producer for The Beatles, died March 8 at 90. 10 Hours that Changed EVERYTHING. Keith Emerson, founder, and keyboardist of the progressive-rock band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, died March 11 at 71. Suicide. Frank Sinatra Jr., singer, and son of Ol’ Blue Eyes, died March 16 of cardiac arrest at 72. Lee Andrews, ’50s doo-wop singer, and father of The Roots drummer Questlove, died March 16 at age 79. Daryl Coley, the Grammy-nominated gospel singer, died the week of March 16 at age 60.
Gato Barbieri, Grammy-winning Latin jazz musician and “Last Tango in Paris” composer, died April 2 at 83. Merle Haggard, the country music legend who had more than 30 No. 1 hits, died April 6 on his 79th birthday. Les Waas, songwriter for nearly 1,000 jingles include the Mister Softee ice cream truck song, died April 19 at 94. Prince, music legend, died April 21 at 57. Tribute at Coverville 1123 Lonnie Mack, blues guitar great, died April 21 at 74. Billy Paul, a Grammy-winning jazz and soul singer best known for the 1972 hit “Me and Mrs. Jones,” died April 24 at 80.
Madeleine LeBeau, best known for singing “La Marseillaise” as Yvonne in the 1942 film “Casablanca,” died May 1 at 92. Julius La Rosa, a pop singer famously fired on the Arthur Godfrey show in 1953, died May 12 at 86. Bill Backer, the real-life Don Draper who came up with Coca-Cola’s iconic “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad, died May 13 at 89. Jane Little, Atlanta Symphony bassist who held the Guinness World Record for the longest professional tenure with a single orchestra, died May 15 at 87 after collapsing on stage during a performance. Guy Clark, Grammy-winning country singer-songwriter, died May 17 at 74.
Christina Grimmie, a former contestant on The Voice TV show, died on June 10 at 22. Shot and murdered by a “fan.” P.M. Dawn’s Prince Be, singer-rapper born Attrel Cordes and best known for the 1991 hit “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” died June 17 at 46 from complications of diabetes and renal kidney disease. Ralph Stanley, bluegrass music legend and “O Brother Where Art Thou” singer, died June 23 at 89. Bernie Worrell, the masterful Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist, died June 24 at his home at age 72. I saw him when he played with the Talking Heads. Scotty Moore, the pioneering rock guitarist for Elvis Presley, died June 28 at his home. He was 84.
Bonnie Brown, of Country Music Hall of Fame trio The Browns died July 16 at 77. Alan Vega, Suicide singer, and punk rock pioneer, died July 16 at 78. Marni Nixon, ‘The Sound of Music’ singer best known dubbing vocals for Hollywood stars in ‘The King and I,’ ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘West Side Story,’ died July 24 at 86.
Ricci Martin, singer and youngest son of Dean Martin, died Aug. 3 at 62. Glenn Yarbrough, a founding member of folk trio The Limeliters, died Aug. 11 at 86. Ruby Wilson, blues, soul and gospel singer known as “The Queen of Beale Street,” died Aug. 12 at 68.
Bobby Hutcherson, a legendary jazz vibraphonist, died Aug. 15 at 75. Lou Pearlman, the creator of Backstreet Boys and NSync, died in prison Aug. 19 at age 62. Toots Thielemans, a jazz harmonica legend heard on ‘Sesame Street’ theme, died Aug. 22 at 94.
Kacey Jones, singer-comedienne best known for “I’m the One Mama Warned You About,” “Donald Trump’s Hair,” and an appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” died Sept. 2 at 66. Charmian Carr, who played Liesl von Trapp in ‘The Sound of Music,’ died Sept. 17 at 73. Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr., Buckwheat Zydeco leader and Louisiana accordionist, died Sept. 24 at 68 Jean Shepard, Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member, died Sept. 25 at 82. Rod Temperton, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ songwriter and Heatwave member, died in September at 66. On rereleases of Off the Wall and Thriller CDs, he describes the writing process of some of the songs.
Neville Marriner, British conductor behind Oscar-winning “Amadeus” soundtrack, died Oct. 2 at 92. Joan Marie Johnson, The Dixie Cups singer known for ‘Chapel of Love’ and ‘Iko Iko,’ died Oct. 3 at 72. Bobby Vee, ’60s teen idol who replaced Buddy Holly and helped Bob Dylan get his start, died Oct. 24 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease at 73.
Kay Starr, bluesy singer of swing, pop, and country songs on Nov. 3 at age 94. Leonard Cohen, the singer-songwriter behind ‘Hallelujah,’ died Nov. 7 at 82. Tribute at Coverville 1148. Leon Russell, influential singer-songwriter and all-star collaborator, died Nov. 13 at 74. Buck Malen, bassist with the early-’80s rock band French Letter, and many other bands died Nov. 13 at 66. David Mancuso, DJ and New York nightlife pioneer who popularized breaking new music in clubs via a “record pool,” died Nov. 14 at 72. Mose Allison, the great jazz pianist, died Nov. 15 at 89. Sharon Jones, the Grammy-nominated soul singer with The Dap-Kings, died Nov. 18 at 60 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Cliff Barrows, who directed music for Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades, died Nov. 24 at 93. “Cliff Barrows has led more people in singing than any other man in the world,” Graham said in 1992.
Greg Lake, King Crimson singer-bassist and ELP co-founder, died Dec. 8 of cancer at 69. Joe Ligon, the lead singer for the Grammy-winning gospel group Mighty Clouds of Joy, died Dec 11 at 80. Alan Thicke, composer of the original themes for Wheel of Fortune, Celebrity Sweepstakes, The Wizard of Odds, and Diff’rent Strokes, the latter of which he also sang, died Dec. 13 at 69 after a heart attack. George Michael, the pop singer who was half of the duo Wham! before superstar solo career, died Dec 25 at 53 from heart failure. AmeriNZ remembers. Alphonse Mouzon, the legendary drummer, died Dec. 26 at 68 of Neuroendocrine Carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. Debbie Reynolds, singer – Tammy was a gold record which went to #1 in 1957 – and actress (Singin’ in the Rain) died Dec. 28 at 84 after a stroke. Allan Williams, the Beatles’ first manager, died Dec. 30 at 86
And there are others with whom I was not familiar.
Here’s an album I actually own, on vinyl. Sir Neville Marriner: Masters of Music (Händel / Mozart / Rossini – 1972)
GEORG FRIEDRICH HÄNDEL (1685-1759)
1. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Sinfonia from “Solomon”) 2. Concerto grosso in D, op. 6 no. 5
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)
3. Divertimento in D, K. 136
GIOACCHINO ROSSINI (1792-1868)
4. Sonata for String Orchestra no. 1 in G
ACADEMY OF ST. MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS conducted by NEVILLE MARRINER
Fun facts: Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His father, John A. Chaffetz, was previously married to Katherine (Kitty) Dickson, and they had one son, John. Later, John Sr. married Jason’s mother, Margaret A. Wood. Kitty subsequently married Michael Dukakis (D-MA), the now-former governor. Jason worked on Michael Dukakis’ 1988 Presidential campaign.
Metalhead by Blotto featured guitarist Buck Dharma.
For Ask Roger Anything, Tom the Mayor, who used to work at FantaCo, the now-defunct comic book store in Albany, NY, inquired:
What is your favorite Blotto song (For you Albany people)?
For you non-Albany people, Blotto was a popular local band who performed with humor and panache. Like the Ramones, the various performers took on the S-less band name as their surname. It was vocalist Sarge, bassist Cheese, guitarist Broadway, guitar-vocalist Bowtie, and drummer Lee Harvey Blotto. Female lead singer Blanche joined the band for a while, then quit, and was replaced by Chevrolet Blotto.
As you know, Tom, FantaCo sold the band’s various EPs, their single, and the album Combo Akimbo during the 1980s. The cover was designed by the late John Caldwell. I hung out with some of the guys at a Troy diner after the funeral of FantaCo mainstay Raoul Vezina back in 1983.
From Wikipedia: “The band in its current incarnation (Broadway, Bowtie, Sergeant, F. Lee Harvey, Clyde, and Hammerhead Blotto) is still active, and has reunited for occasional concerts in the Albany area.”
My five favorite Blotto songs:
5. She’s Got A Big Boyfriend HERE. I especially like the call-and-response. “I’ll make him laugh.” “He’ll break you in half.”
4. I Wanna Be A Lifeguard HERE or HERE. This was the 36th video played on the first day of MTV, I read, and got played a LOT. I’m surprised that the single never charted.
3. Goodbye Mr. Bond HERE or HERE. It has every 007 cliche.
2. Metalhead HERE or HERE. This was an over-the-top parody, which eventually found its way onto a compilation album called “Metal for Breakfast.” The song DID feature guitarist Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult.
1. We Are the Nowtones HERE or HERE. The part “she can sound like Linda/she can sound like Joni” floored me when I first heard it. “Play something good!”
I wonder if she knew about REAL kitsch, and a REALLY big dog.
The story of Nipper is rather interesting, involving struggling artist Francis Barraud, and his by-then deceased dog, which had previously belonged to his brother. The painting was originally called “Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph”; only later would it be dubbed “His Master’s VOICE”. Through a series of transactions, as described here, Nipper became the trademark of the VICTOR Talking Machine Company. The original 1900 trademark is shown below.
From Wikipedia: “A huge, four-ton Nipper can be seen on the roof of the old RTA (former RCA distributor) building on Broadway in Albany, New York.” It is likely the largest extant Nipper in the world, though the Baltimore Nipper DOES include “a gramophone for Nipper to listen to.” More details about Albany’s Nipper, a local landmark that I see every weekday on my way to work, can be found here.
Local musician Greg Haymes, a/k/a Sarge Blotto from the legendary Albany band Blotto, has a blog with Sara Ayers called Nippertown, where they run down the current happenings in and around New York State’s capital city. And guess what appears in the logo?