Greg Haymes a/k/a Sarge Blotto, RIP

The music video for I Wanna Be A Lifeguard, with the lead vocal by Sarge, was played on music television’s very first day on the air in August 1981.

greg haymesIt occurred to me that I’d known Greg Haymes, also known as Sarge Blotto, almost since I moved to Albany in 1979. Greg DEFINED Albany for me.

FantaCo, that comic book store on 21 Central Avenue in the city, where I worked starting in May 1980, also sold a handful of music-related items. That would mean Japanese imports of Beatles EPs and Goldmine magazine.

It would include Hello, My Name Is Blotto, What’s Yours? a four-song EP by a bunch of folks who, like the Ramones, weren’t REALLY related. The store sold a second collection called Across and Down. Blotto performed Lightning Strikes on a regional compilation called Hudson Rock, another item we sold.

A Blotto member also found a couple of copies of a single called Wings in Japan by the Spastic Phono Band, which you can listen to HERE. I secured a rare recording at that time.

Then MTV happened. The music video for I Wanna Be A Lifeguard, with the lead vocal by Sarge, was played on music television’s very first day on the air in August 1981. The awe and mystery that was Blotto put Albany, and the band, on the music map.

The guys primarily interacted with Raoul Vezina, FantaCo’s resident artist, and front-of-the-store guru. When he died unexpectedly in November 1983, it was unsurprising that the fellows in the band all went to the funeral.

Afterward, and I’m not sure how it happened, I ended up at a restaurant in Troy with the band, swapping Raoul stories and complaining about the church service. (The priest, several times, referred to the deceased as “Ralph.”)

Eventually, I left FantaCo, and did the librarian thing. But I would run into Greg Haymes fairly regularly at some concert or art opening, usually while he was doing his job as a reviewer for the Albany Times Union. My wife agreed he would be at an eclectic mix of performances. He refused to allow me to promote him to Lieutenant.

His greatest gift might have been Nippertown, the online magazine he and Sara Ayers produced. It was “based in the greater Capital Region and Hudson Valley regions of New York and western Massachusetts, writing about local art, music, theater, film and anything else that interests us.” It published from May 2009 until April 10, 2019.

Metastatic cancer, while in his mid-60s. “A prolific writer, musician and visual artist who was a vital part of the Capital Region arts scene for more than 40 years.” I can scarcely believe it. Fellow musicians, writers, and fans are all devastated by the loss of his generous and talented spirit.

Here’s Chuck Miller’s take, which includes musical links.

V is for Victor and Voice

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.

Ultimately, the logo was on a wealth of RCA Victor records. RCA Victor put out an 80th anniversary series of albums in 1997. The earliest album represented a period when “Victor was the leading jazz label.” But I associate RCA V with classical music, often played by the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra. RCA Victor was always a technological pioneer, experimenting with 33 1/3 RPM as far back as 1934, and introducing the 45 RPM in 1949.

When a Long Island photographer recently described a local Nipper as “a big kitschy dog”, I wonder if she knew about REAL kitsch and a REALLY big dog:

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?

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

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