Monday, January 21, 2019

Clarence Fountain

Artist: Clarence Fountain
LP: Soul, Spirit and Song
Song: "Oh! Happy Day"
[ listen ]
Song: "Sending Up My Timber"
[ listen ]

I figured some good old fashioned gospel music would make a nice tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. on this special day. What I didn't realize until doing a little research just now is that Clarence Fountain was one of the original founding members of The Blind Boys of Alabama, the famous gospel group that actually performed at benefits for Rev. King during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. 

This 1974 LP is one that Fountain released during his ten-year hiatus from The Blind Boys, when he decided to try his hand at a solo career. His solo work sounds pretty terrific to me (that voice! And he makes particularly nice use of the electric organ as accompaniment), but in the late 1970s Clarence went back to perform with the group he'd founded. When Fountain passed away last June at the age of 88, he left Jimmy Carter as the only remaining founding member of The Blind Boys of Alabama; Jimmy still performs with the group today. Happy Martin Luther, King Jr. Day!

[ Clarence Fountain: November 28, 1929 — June 3, 2018 ]

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Moments

Artist: The Moments
LP: Look At Me
Song: "Girls (French version)"
[ listen ]
Song: "Look At Me (French version)"
[ listen ]

Last night I went sifting through my soul and R&B records to find something quiet and romantic to bring my enjoyable evening to a delicate close. This 1975 LP by The Moments that I put on the console was already hitting the spot, and then they started singing in French!

I had not realized until now that The Moments were the same fellows who later turned into Ray, Goodman, and Brown. Stang Records evidently wouldn't let the trio keep the name when The Moments decided to leave the label in 1979. (Update: Oh. I guess I did know this 10 years ago. My memory just ain't what it used to be.) Mais peu importe comment vous les applez, ils sont simplement magnifiques! 

[ Harry Ray: December 15, 1946 — October 1, 1992 ]

[ Al Goodman: March 30, 1943 — July 26, 2010 ]

[ Billy Brown: b. June 30, 1946 ]

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Rose Maddox

Artist: Rose Maddox
LP: Rose Maddox Sings Bluegrass 
Song: "Footprints In the Snow"
[ listen ]

This nifty little bluegrass ditty has been stuck in my head all week! It may be one of the only love songs ever recorded in which romance blossoms as the result of a wintry mountain rescue mission.

[ Rose Maddox: August 15, 1925 — April 15, 1998 ]

Friday, January 18, 2019

Bonnie Guitar [1923-2019]

Artist: Bonnie Guitar
LP: Moonlight and Shadows
Song: "Moonlight and Shadows"
[ listen ]

As I mentioned in my Carol Channing post a few days ago, country music pioneer Bonnie Guitar also died this week. After starting life in Seattle in the 1920s and living in the Puget Sound area for her first few decades, Bonnie left Washington in the 1950s to work as a session musician and record a few albums in Los Angeles. Her first LP was the lovely "Moonlight and Shadows," released in 1957. She scored a crossover hit single called "Dark Moon" that same year; the song went to #14 on the country charts, while peaking at #6 on the Billboard pop charts. Bonnie then returned to Seattle and started her own record label called Dolton Records, on which she launched the careers of The Fleetwoods and The Ventures

Bonnie eventually settled in Soap Lake, WA, where I once had a good diner breakfast after camping overnight just north of town on an Eastern Washington State Rodeo Tour with my good friend Theresa. It was in Soap Lake that Bonnie died the other day, at the age of 95. I bet we've eaten at the same diner! I'm kicking myself for not having gone to see Bonnie perform in Soap Lake or at one of the local county fairs. It would have been divine to have seen her with my friend Ryan, who's also a fan. 

One of my favorite things that I've just learned about Bonnie Guitar is that in 1969 she married a man by the name of Mario DePiano. (Made for each other!) You can read all about Bonnie's career on Wikipedia here, and here you'll find her obituary in The New York Times. 

Bonnie Guitar on YouTube:
[ "Dark Moon" - 1957 ]
[ "Dark Moon" - 2013 ]

Bonnie Guitar
[ March 25, 1923 — January 12, 2019 ]
We will miss you, Bonnie.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Carol Channing [1921-2019]

Artist: Carol Channing
LP: Carol Channing
Song: "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"
[ listen ]

Today was quite a day. First my friend Ryan informed me that Carol Burnett had died. I was heartbroken. I'd grown up watching her show on weekend evenings at my Grandma Bea's house. When I asked my coworkers if they'd heard that she'd died, they said they had heard that Carol Channing had died, not Carol Burnett. I looked it up online and they were right. I was relieved. Not that I wanted Carol Channing dead, but she was 97 after all, whereas Carol Burnett is still a sprightly 85. 

Then this afternoon I decided to try calling Marsha, my friend and former piano teacher. She hadn't been well lately and I'd meant to reach out to her over the past weekend to let her know I was thinking of her and to see how she was feeling. When she answered and I told her it was Alex, she simply stated "Alex," as if she didn't remember who I was. I told her I was thinking of her and wanted to give her a call to say hello. "Alex" she said again. And then, "This is Gloria. You didn't get my email." Marsha had passed away the night before, just after she'd gone to sleep. I was heartbroken again. I've lost a friend.

[ Marsha Wright ]

I left work early and went to see WIDOWS to get my mind on something cheerier (theft, betrayal, and murder to be precise). Then this evening my friend Ryan texted again to say that Bonnie Guitar had died! (I quickly checked online to make sure she didn't mean Bonnie Tyler.) So now I'm headed to bed, but with three fewer wonderful Washingtonian women in the world than there were just a few days before. 

That's right—Carol Channing was born right here in Seattle back in 1921. Her father was working as city editor for the Seattle Star. He took a job in San Francisco and the family moved to California when Carol was only two weeks old. But yeah, Carol Channing is originally from somewhere right up the street from me. 

Now I've got to get to bed, so I'll leave you with Ms. Channing's Wikipedia page here, and here is her obituary in the New York Times. As I type this I hope Carol, Marsha, and Bonnie are standing together at some pearly gates or whatever, waiting for security clearance and talking about music and the beautiful state of Washington they've all left behind.

Carol Channing
[ January 31, 1921 — January 15, 2019 ]
We will miss you, Carol.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Charly and the Bourbon Family

Artist: Charly and the Bourbon Family
LP: 7" single
Song: "Boogachi"
[ listen ]

According to Larry at the Funky16Corners blog, this dance-inducing b-side ditty from Charly and the Bourbon Family is a cover of "Look-Ka Py Py" by The Meters. And after giving The Meters' song a quick spin on YouTube, I'd say they're right. This is one of the records I found when I was in Barcelona back in August.

[ Charly and the Bourbon Family ]

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pete Shelley [1955-2018]

Artist: Pete Shelley
LP: 7" single
Song: "(Millions of People) No One Like You"
[ listen ]

Another December death I was sad to hear about on the radio was former Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley. I never saw Pete at Jazz Alley or anything, and to be honest over the past several years I've always been on the verge of tossing his records out of my collection. You see, I'd actually not been that familiar with him, and yet I've got a bunch of his LPs, 12" singles and 45s. So multiple times as I've gone rummaging through records to make more space over the years, I'm like, "These Pete Shelley records sure are taking up a lot of room. Maybe I'll get rid of them!" But then I listen to them and they're brilliant, so back on the shelf they go. 

I vow in 2019 to stop listening to my Pete Shelley records for discard pile consideration, and instead will be listening to them for pure enjoyment. "(Millions of People) No One Like You" was unfortunately not a hit for Pete, peaking at #93 on the UK singles charts in 1983. 

Pete Shelley was kinda different from other rockers in the British punk movement of the 1970s in that he didn't take on a rebellious persona. In fact, he reportedly said at some point when he was with Buzzcocks, "I won't be nasty. We're just four nice lads, the kind of people you could take home to your parents." Indeed, I wish I had. 

I've also just learned from Wikipedia that Pete Shelley was a pioneer of sorts in the LGBTQ movement by speaking openly about his bisexuality early on—you know, before it was popular. His song "Homosapien" (lyrics below) was actually banned by the BBC for its "explicit reference to gay sex." I don't get that from his lyrics, which seem sad and romantic more than anything else. But I do remember how much the morality patrol loved banning things in the '80s after insisting that the lyrics were actually code for cunnilingus or whatever. Anyway, you can read more about Pete Shelley's work with Buzzcocks and his subsequent solo career (more synth, less guitar) on Wikipedia here and go here to find his obituary in The Guardian. 

"Homosapien" - lyrics by Pete Shelley

 I'm the shy boy, you're the coy boy
And you know we're Homosapien too
I'm the cruiser, you're the loser
Me and you sir, Homosapien too

Homosuperior in my interior
But from the skin out
I'm Homosapien too
And you're Homosapien too
And I'm Homosapien like you 
And we're Homosapien too

And I think of your eyes in the dark
And I see the star
And I look to the light
And I might wonder right where you are

All the Gods in the sky, way up high
See the world spinning 'round
But the sun and the moon
And the stars are so far from the ground

I'm the shy boy, you're the coy boy
And you know we're Homosapien too
I'm the cruiser, you're the loser
Me and you sir, Homosapien too

Homosuperior in my interior
But from the skin out
I'm Homosapien too
And you're Homosapien too

And I'm Homosapien like you
And we're Homosapien too

And the worlds built of age are a stage
Where we act out our lives
And the words in the script seem to fit
'Cept we have some surprise

I just want this to last
Or my future is past and all gone
And if this is the case
Then I'll lose in life's race from now on

Homosuperior in my interior
But from the skin out
I'm Homosapien too
And you're Homosapien too

And I'm Homosapien like you
And we're Homosapien too

And I just hope and pray
That the day of our love is at hand
You and I, me and you
We will be one from two, understand?

And the world is so wrong
That I hope that we'll be strong enough
For we are on our own
And the only thing known is our love

I don't wanna classify you
Like an animal in the zoo
But it seems good to me to know
That you're Homosapien too

I'm the shy boy, you're the coy boy

I don't wanna classify you
Like an animal in the zoo
But it seems good to me to know
That you're Homosapien too

I don't wanna classify you
Like an animal in the zoo
But it seems good to me to know
That you're Homosapien too

I don't wanna classify you
Like an animal in the zoo
But it seems good to me to know
That you're Homosapien too

Pete Shelley
[ April 17, 1955 — December 6, 2018 ]
We will miss you, Pete.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Nancy Wilson [1937-2018]

Artist: Nancy Wilson
LP: Tender Loving Care
Song: "Close Your Eyes"
[ listen ]

The lovely song stylist Nancy Wilson passed away at the end of 2018 just a few weeks before Christmas. I first saw her perform at Jazz Alley here in Seattle back in the late '90s when I was still pretty new in town. I invited some loser I was dating at the time. We arrived early to get good seats, but he couldn't handle "crowds" so we had to sit back in the corner and I had to twist like taffy to even glimpse Ms. Wilson on the stage. She was dressed in red and was vibrant and exciting, or so I was told. 

Nancy returned to Jazz Alley in late September of 2010, and this time I invited my friend Gene, who is not a loser, to go with me, since I knew he would appreciate the show. Though Nancy had been in and out of the hospital with health problems in 2006 and 2008 and her performance was more subdued than the previous time, she was very elegant, still had all her charm (she was very chatty!) and still had that incredible, beautiful voice. Someone captured video of her performing "When October Goes" that evening and put it on YouTube here

You can read all about Nancy Wilson on her Wikipedia page here (she's won three Grammys!) and check out her obituary here in The New York Times. And if you'd like to see another neat picture of Ms. Nancy Wilson, click here.

Nancy Wilson
[ February 20, 1937 — December 13, 2018 ]
We will miss you, Nancy.