Sunday, May 31, 2015

Texas, Li'l Darlin' — feat. Kenny Delmar

Artist: Kenny Delmar w/ Mary Hatcher and Chorus
LP: Texas, Li'l Darlin' [10" EP]
Song: "Texas, Li'l Darlin'" 
[ listen ]
Song: "The Yodel Blues" 
[ listen ]

I just got back from Dallas, Texas! I was there for an AIRS conference related to my work, but I did manage to slip away for a few hours to explore the city and to see if I could track down some records. My first attempt involved walking 2½ miles round trip in the muggy Texas sunshine from the Dallas Sheraton to Shake Rag Music. I had unwisely remained in the dark blue velveteen pants, dress shoes, and long-sleeved dress shirt that I'd worn at the conference, and by the time I arrived at the store I was a sweaty Texan mess.

[ Shake Rag Music Store — Dallas, Texas ]

It looked like a neat store from the outside, with the exception of this discouraging sign stuck on the door:

I set out the following evening in a slightly different direction (and in slightly more comfortable clothing) to visit Lula B's, an antique mall in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas that was rumored to have some vinyl. They did indeed have some records, including this terrific 1950 Broadway musical soundtrack 10" EP featuring eight songs from Texas, Li'l Darlin', a realistic portrayal of Lone Star state politics, where honesty, integrity, and old-fashioned American values triumph over corruption and deceit every time.

[ Lula B's — Dallas, Texas ]

Texas, Li'l Darlin' opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City on November 25, 1949 and closed on September 9th of the following year after 293 performances. I was excited to have stumbled upon a record that could double as a Texas souvenir, and when I got home I discovered that the show includes an upstanding primary lead character named Dallas, so that's even better! The show's song lyrics are by Johnny Mercer; the cast includes Kenny Delmar, Danny Scholl, Mary Hatcher, Fredd Wayne, and Loring Smith. You'll find brief cast bios along with the entire plot outline of Texas, Li'l Darlin' in the liner notes included below.
[ Kenny Delmar: September 5, 1910 — July 14, 1984 ]

[ Danny Scholl: July 2, 1921 — June 21, 1983 ]

[ Mary Hatcher: born June 6, 1929 ]

[ Fredd Wayne: born October 17, 1924 ]

[ Loring Smith: November 18, 1890 — July 8, 1981 ]

[ Texas Li'l Darlin' — Cast Photo ]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Terry Bér

Artist: Terry Bér
LP: Through the Eyes of Terry Bér — Songs of Terry Bér & Other Poets
Song: "Wouldn't You Like To Be Clothed Like a Tree"
[ listen ]
Song: "A Lullaby To Wander By"
[ listen ]

Here's some lovely and uplifting folk music for a warm and sunny final week of May here in Seattle. Both songs posted are written by musical folk gypsy and poet Terry Bér, though she also includes covers of songs by Leonard Cohen ("Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" and "Tonight Will Be Fine") and Donovan ("Colours") on her 1968 LP, which I picked up at The End of All Music in Oxford, Mississippi on my road trip last year. There's not any info on the web about Terry Bér that I could find...unless this is she. (If so, sounds like she's a little more settled than she was in the late 1960s; she's got a musical family and she's still writing songs!) But if that's not the same Terry Bér, then I don't know what's become of the lady who released this beautiful LP. If anyone's got any leads I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, have fun perusing the liner notes, included below. They're some of the neatest, most personal I've ever read.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Garland Jeffreys

Artist: Garland Jeffreys
LP: 7" single
Song: "Matador" 
[ listen ]

Earlier this weekend I took a bunch of 45s I'd pulled from my collection into Bop Street Records, one of my local neighborhood record stores. This 1979 Garland Jeffreys single is one of the things I picked up in trade. A top-ten hit in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium and The Netherlands, "The Matador" failed to appear on charts in the USA or, ironically, even in Spain, where matadors are a part of everyday life, like traffic signals and shopping

Speaking of shopping, Bop Street has lots of neat records. If you visit when Dave, the owner, is there, you will no doubt find him talkative and friendly. He will inform you that someone from The Wall Street Journal once named his store "one of the five best record stores in America" (the quote is immortalized on a plaque behind the register, in case you forget) and he will point out that it is his own face that's depicted above the store's entryway in stained glass, lit by the sun. Dave gave me a quick tour of the area where the 45s are stored (I was mainly interested in swapping singles for singles) and I spent several hours digging through numerous boxes; I came up with some interesting stuff. Unfortunately, Bop Street is one of those places where much of the inventory has no price on it; the cost of a particular record isn't decided until you've dug it out of the bins and have expressed an interest in purchasing it, which, of course, automatically increases its value. In this particular case, Dave additionally pulled a few obscure singles out of my stack before pricing them, saying he wanted to listen to them first to see if he really liked them. "If you really like them, will I have to pay more?" I asked with a smile. "No," Dave replied, "If I really like them then you can't buy them because I'm going to keep them for myself." 

It's too funny to get upset over, really—one could even say it's endearing. But I did find myself wondering if the guy from The Wall Street Journal was aware of the fact that the owner of Bop Street might not let you buy some of his records if he liked them too much when he called the place one of the five best music stores in America. If you ask me, this bizarre and subjective policy—and the fact that all copies of all of The Partridge Family's LPs are priced between $20 and $25, regardless of their condition—would knock the store down a few notches, making it one of the top 155. Still, Bop Street has an incredible amount of inventory, including lots of rarities, and they gave me a pretty good deal on trade, so I really can't complain. I recommend stopping by if you like vinyl, even just to thumb through the bins and to meet Dave the record guy.

[ Garland Jeffreys ]

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lena Zavaroni

Artist: Lena Zavaroni
LP: Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me
Song: "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
[ listen ]
Song: "River Deep, Mountain High"
[ listen ]

I'm back from Alaska—aka. The Land With No Record Stores. (Not in Ketchikan, Juneau, or Skagway anyway.) I did find one thrift shop that had a few records though, Rendezvous Thrift Store in Ketchikan, the first stop on my Ruby Princess cruise. All LPs were just 25¢. This 1974 Lena Zavaroni album is one of the ones I found there.

[ Rendezvous Thrift Store — Ketchikan, Alaska ]
As a label known for Southern and Memphis Soul, Stax Records released music by artists like Otis Redding and Booker T & the MGs, so it's hard to imagine what executives might have thinking when they signed Scottish 10-year-old Lena Zavaroni to the label in 1974. (Wikipedia says "a number of factors" caused Stax to close shop in the mid-1970s; it's nice that they don't mention Lena Zavaroni specifically.) I also find it hard to imagine how Lena Zavaroni's Stax record ended up in a junky little thrift store in Ketchikan, Alaska. But there it was.

Poor Lena Zavaroni—singing with her father in a fish-n-chips joint in the Scottish highlands one instant, then suddenly hitting the UK top ten, being whisked off to Stax headquarters to cut a record, and then on to Los Angeles, California to appear on "The Carol Burnett Show" the next. What a whirlwind! Of course little Lena went bonkers. Just because you can be famous doesn't mean you should be. After suffering from anorexia and extreme depression that started in her early teens and stayed with her for years, Lena died of pneumonia in 1999, at the age of 35. You can read more about this pint-sized singing dynamo on Wikipedia here. I've included a link below to Lena's 1974 appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, along with a 1989 interview clip with Lena and Peter Wiltshire, her new husband at the time (they split up 18 months later), and a beautiful, heart-breaking video of Lena singing "Help Me Make It Through the Night" on her wedding her wedding gown. 
Lena Zavaroni on YouTube:
[ "The Tonight Show" w/ Johnny Carson ]
[ Interview from 1989 ]

[ Lena Zavaroni: November 4, 1963 — October 1, 1999 ]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Harry Simeone Chorale

Artist: Harry Simeone Chorale
LP: It's Alaska
Song: "We're On Our Way/Come See a Land"
[ listen ]
Song: "It's Alaska"
[ listen ]

Well I've packed my fishing pole, my canoe and my harpoons; I've put the cat out and left a note for the milk man because today I'm going to Alaska! I need to find a land where my children can grow. I'll be getting to Alaska via something called the Ruby Princess, which I'm worried may be a little like being trapped in the Southcenter Mall with 3,000 other shoppers for an entire week. I've posted this record before, but now it has entirely new meaning. Bon voyage!

[ The other Ruby Princess. ]