It’s been a little teary-eyed around here lately. I’ve noticed that as a part of aging I find myself experiencing periods of sadness more frequently and I’m sure it’s attributable to witnessing the normalcy or familiarity of life fading away. I don’t know who the popular entertainers are, I couldn’t tell you the name of a professional baseball player, I don’t know what a “Karen” is, and I’ll never understand why anyone would give up beer in favor of flavored seltzer water.
Sunday I watched a PBS documentary about Jewish-Americans who fought in the American military during World War II. So many were first-generation immigrants whose families had escaped the horrors of Hitler’s Europe only to find themselves fighting to free the very places their families had fled from.
Several months ago my son, Mike, told me about a video I needed to watch of a young Taiwanese ukelele player named Feng E. I found it on YouTube and was blown away. Later he told me to check out Feng E playing a duet with Tommy Emmanual, the great Australian guitarist. Then yesterday he said I had to watch a jam between Feng E and Queen guitarist Brian May.
Keb’ Mo is one of the most talented, loving, and caring performers on today’s blues scene. Yesterday he performed an hour-long free concert from his home just to give us a break from all this virus stuff.
For this final day of Black History Month, I went to blackfacts.com looking for a topic. I quickly noticed that Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to win an Academy Award on this day in 1940. McDaniel won the Oscar for her performance of Mammy in Gone With the Wind.
As I began writing about her the names of other black performers who’d became famous playing racially stereotypical characters came to mind and I went to YouTube and watched some videos of Stepin Fetchit, Pigmeat Markum, Moms Mabley, and Eddie Anderson. I’m old enough to remember when these people performed on radio and in the movies and that I remember them as really being funny. Such is not the case today. I think with age and education our awareness and sensitivity have been attuned to what was behind it all and how offensive it must have been for those who were forced to make their livings from playing these parts.
I was an early convert to folk music back in the 1950s and one of the first songs I learned to play on my cheap Harmony guitar was Freight Train. Like so many folk songs I just assumed the author was long gone and long forgotten.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered Elizabeth Cotton, the very old and very talented lady who on her cheap Sears & Roebuck guitar, wrote the folk classic, Freight Train.
A friend recently posted an audio recording of country music performer, and Greenfield native, Brad Martin performing the hit record, Before I Knew Better, he cut back in the early 2000s. I dug a little deeper and found a video of Brad being introduced to a Grand Ole Opry crowd by Little Jimmy Dickens.
Burning Man, if you’re one of the thirteen people who don’t know, it is an annual festival in the Nevada desert that draws over 70,000 people and is basically an excuse to get mostly naked and stay high on the street drug of choice for a week or so. It concludes with a huge bonfire and the burning of a male sculpture, thus its name.
NOTE: I originally published this collection of memories on February 12, 2004. It mostly consists of input from people who knew or knew of Clyde Beatty.
NOTE X 2: I mentioned on Facebook that I’d recently observed a Clyde Beatty Exhibit or Museum in a Bainbridge storefront. A friend sent me this link to the exhibit and its hours of operation. ClickHERE.
Bainbridge’s Clyde Beatty
My wife is a black and white game show addict. During the night, when she can’t sleep, she often watches old reruns of What’s My Line, I’ve Got A Secret, etc. When she sees something that I may be interested in, she will frequently record it for me. Last night she was watching a rerun of What’s My Line and the featured “Mr. X” turned out to be Bainbridge’s own Clyde Beatty. If you’re too young to remember Clyde, he was a renowned animal trainer who appeared in several movies and with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus for many years. I did a little Internet snooping and came up with the following information:
Most music lovers have probably never heard of Sam Hopkins. But call him Lightnin Hopkins and maybe the light bulb switches on. Hopkins was from Texas and before his death in 1982 he became one of the best known of all the early blues pioneers. He was also one of the most prolific and frequently recorded.
People always reference Robert Johnson’s style of guitar playing as being the best but best is something hard to define. I personally don’t know any blues picker better than Hopkins.
Hearing Greenfield people talk about how much they enjoyed the Midsummer’s Night on Midway events back in the early 2000s got me thinking negative things. People are always talking about there not being anything to do in a small town and then when something does happen, most don’t show up.
This was true in 1970 and truer today. I’d guess it is due to there being more recreational options and greater pressure on people’s free time. I don’t know about other towns but I suspect it isn’t much different.
Back in the 1950s metal motor oil cans were everywhere and there were no American Pickers can collectors to gobble them up. Look behind most service stations and you’d find a pile of discarded oil cans leaking their remaining contents onto a thoroughly saturated and toxic plot of soil. I don’t know what eventually happened to these piles of cans but I guess junkmen came along and hauled them to Charley Cohen’s.
I’ve written about Sister Rosetta Tharpe at least one other time. She is arguably one of the most important persons in the history and development of Rock and Roll music. All one has to do is listen to here guitar rifts and you’ll hear what the Chuck Berry’s of rock built their sound on. Tharpe showed them the path.
Anyway, I came across an article about the Sister that I wanted to share with you rock historians. It was written by James Jordan for The Writing Cooperative and contains a couple of examples of her music. Click the photo below to read James Jordan’s article. Enjoy.
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My great-aunt Allen got her first black and white Crosley television back in the late 1950s and instantly became addicted to Western shoot ’em ups and Saturday afternoon pro wrestling. Pro wrestling matches were held at Veteran’s Memorial, broadcast on WLWT, and sponsored by Lex Meyer’s Chevrolet. The big names of the local ring included Buddy “Nature Boy” Rogers, Great Scot, Oyama Kato, Fritz Von Goering, Johnny Barend, and Magnificent Maurice. I can’t remember which but some of these guys were braggarts, some were villains, and some were handsome and heroic. I think my aunt loved Johnny Barend and despised Nature Boy Rogers. No amount of persuasion could convince her that these matches were fake and that every step-over arm-lock camel clutch was well rehearsed.
I was digging around the Internet and came across an article from Rolling Stone Magazine about some of the various collaborations Chuck Berry performed with other personalities. I found them historically interesting and thought some of you might also enjoy them. Click on the button to be linked to the RS story and videos.
I don’t know when I first heard Bolero but my best guess would be in the late 1960s while in college. I just remember being smitten by it, totally consumed. In the late 70s I bought a high-end stereo system and a new vinyl of Bolero. I was between marriages and building a new house. Living alone I would put Bolero on the turntable, turn on the repeat button, and listen to this magnificent crescendo while working on the home. I remember stopping occasionally and pretending like I was conducting the LA Philharmonic using my hammer as a baton.
The only other musical piece that had such an effect on me was the musical score from Les Miserable. I’m soon to be seventy-five years old and my hearing is shot to hell. Some great degree of the loss is probably a result of traveling with Bolero and Les Mis’ blasting from my car’s stereo system. At least I can say I lost my ear hairs to a class act!