Walking the floor over you

It seems to me that television is exactly like a gun. Your enjoyment of it is determined by which end of it you’re on.
― Alfred Hitchcock

Did you ever see something on an old television program that was immensely insignificant at the time, but you still think about it occasionally?  More to the point, and I’m really shooting in the dark here, did you ever watch the old Ernest Tubb television show?  If you don’t already know, Tubb was a famous country and western singer whose signature song was Walking the Floor Over You.  His TV program, aptly titled The Ernest Tubb Show, began airing in 1965, but it wasn’t until about 1974 when I watched my first episode.  It was not my choice.  It was my job.

In the mid-70s, I worked as audio-visual coordinator for a university library.  It was a great job that afforded me a chance to play with the latest technology and sit ringside during the wrestling match between Betamax and VHS.  It was a creative outlet too.  I was a technical assistant for the theater and music departments, mixing sound for stage productions and recording music tapes for student listening stations.  I even dabbled in 16mm filmmaking, shooting regional ethnic festivals for the sociology department one year, and creating a filmed song and dance number once for the spring musical, Godspell.  Here I am shooting the annual Syttende Mai parade at a Norwegian festival in Stoughton, Wisconsin.  (That’s me under the natty hair.  I worked near a beauty college where cheap haircuts reigned.  Students were learning to style Afros one day when I walked in.  The nascent hairdressers persuaded me to be their guinea pig.)To supplement my academic job, I was a part-time production assistant for the programming arm of a local cable television station.  It was before big business swallowed up the industry.  There, I operated a studio camera for news and entertainment shows.  One of my favorite gigs was a kids program, The Uncle Dan Show.  It featured a goofy host and a hand puppet sidekick, “Thurman the Worm,” operated by the station news director who was mostly hidden behind a curtain or under a table, except for his arm which was costumed in a green, snake-like sock-puppet.

Camera operation often required going outside the studio to shoot live remotes, mostly high school basketball games.  Imagine the challenge of covering a fast-paced basketball game with a single camera.  Some Friday nights would find us at the local Shakey’s Pizza Parlor to broadcast Shakey’s Jamboree.  It featured old-timey music, typically involving an upright piano and a banjo.  Here I am operating the camera at Shakey’s one night, obviously mesmerized by banjo music.

The most exciting remote shoot in which I participated was at the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Not a live shoot, it required trips there on two consecutive evenings to cover interviews with managers, bunnies and bartenders.  Oh, my.

The least exciting remote for which I became the weekly cameraman was the First Lutheran Church service, broadcast live every Sunday morning beginning at eight a.m.  It was a drag getting out of bed early to fetch a studio camera, load it, haul it, and set it up in a dim church balcony every Sunday morning.  Though it required little in the way of camerawork, I’d sometimes imagine Francis Ford Coppola shooting the baptism scene in The Godfather.  Zooming in and locking on the minister as he stepped up to the pulpit to deliver a homily was de rigueur, providing a welcome opportunity to lie down in a nearby pew and relax for a while.  I slept through sermons once or twice, waking to the howl of massive organ pipes jolting me upright in the pew.  Each time, I was unsure how long the camera had remained aimed at a deserted pulpit before I resurrected.

When not behind the camera, I could be found in the studio’s control booth, operating a mixing board and video playback machines.  Canned programs were broadcast by slipping large videocassettes into  a machine, pressing a couple of buttons and flipping a switch.  One program series was The Ernest Tubb Show.  Ernie had stopped producing new shows by that time.  These were all ten year old programs for which some local businesses bought advertising spots to broadcast on the new and exciting cable channel.

As you can see from the photo above, I was transfixed while monitoring Ernest Tubb & the Texas Troubadours as they plowed through thirty minutes of musical guests with no set changes.  One of the guests I clearly remember was a barely recognizable, clean-cut Willie Nelson.  Less memorable was a mother-daughter duo who, as I recall, were introduced as the “dancing Judds.”  The pair kicked up their cowgirl heels with great enthusiasm while a guest musician fiddled.  Years later, a mother-daughter team of Naomi and Wynonna Judd rose to country music fame as singing duo, the Judds.  But I can’t draw any conclusions.  I’ve never been able to  prove my hunch that the dancing Judds later became the singing Judds.  And while this unresolvable, immensely insignificant bit of trivia is still troubling me, dear Judds, it ain’t nearly enough to be walking the floor over you.

Link: Ernest Tubb – Walking the Floor Over You

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I was finishing my senior year in high school.  His senseless death impacted me.  I’d been accepted at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman for the fall semester where it didn’t take long before I’d become one of the “effete corps of impudent snobs” so colorfully described by vice-president Spiro Agnew.  We didn’t like war.  Or discrimination.  Or pollution.  Or republicans.  I guess that qualified me as an “effete snob” or, in the words of one conservative music blogger who no longer reads my work, a “smug hippie.”

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The memory of his senseless death impacts me all over again.  On this commemoration of his birth, January 15, I’ll broadcast my weekly radio show.  Every tune will deal in some way with resistance, struggle and hope.  Isn’t it strange?  Nearly fifty years have passed and we’re still singing about the same things.  Listen to Life Out of Tunes at 2:00 pm (EST) on MLK day for an earful.  “Remember.  Celebrate.  Act.  A day on… not a day off.”

Life Out of Tunes radio, hosted by Joey Books
Monday, January 15, 2018, 2:00-3:00 pm (EST)
Asheville FM, WSFM-LP, 103.3 (Asheville, NC)
Streaming globally at: https://www.ashevillefm.org/show/life-out-of-tunes/

From Sweetbottom to Genesis and beyond

While researching some background information for this week’s Life Out of Tunes radio program, I ran across a Wisconsin connection in one of the songs on the playlist.  In 1981, a group of musicians and other entertainers staged a show to raise funds and awareness for Amnesty International that became known as the Secret Policeman’s Ball.  One of the activist musicians participating was Phil Collins who had recently parted with the band Genesis to pursue a solo career.  Two songs performed by Collins for this show were among those preserved on an LP entitled The Secret Policemen’s Other Ball, which I purchased new in 1982.  As I recall, the album, which includes live solo performances by Sting, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Donovan and Pete Townsend among others, didn’t cost much and proceeds went to a good cause.

I’ll be spinning a Phil Collins track from that LP on Life Out of Tunes.  It’s just Collins on piano and vocals, accompanied by a banjo.  It turns out, that banjoist is Wisconsin native Daryl Stuermer, whose career began as guitarist for a Milwaukee jazz-fusion band, Sweetbottom.  Sweetbottom recorded a couple of albums and performed regularly at Milwaukee’s annual Summerfest music festival in the mid-1970s.  One of their shows caught the attention of keyboardist George Duke who was then touring in Frank Zappa’s band. Duke introduced Stuermer to jazz-fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty who was impressed enough to ask Stuermer to play acoustic and electric guitars on Ponty’s best-selling Imaginary Voyage album released in 1976.

Daryl Stuermer’s career led him to the progressive rock band Genesis in 1977 as a replacement for departing guitarist Steve Hackett.  He toured with Genesis for twenty years, but never appeared on any of their studio recordings.  He did play guitar (and sometimes banjo) for Phil Collins on virtually all of Collins’ records and tours.

We’ll hear Wisconsin native Daryl Stuermer pick a banjo and play soaring electric guitar on this week’s Life Out of Tunes.  I’ll also be uncovering some other Wisconsin connections, along with tunes from Chris Rea, Brandi Carlile and other gems.  Tune in and turn it up, Monday, December 11 at two o’clock eastern time on AshevilleFM.org.

Not-So-Cheap Self Promotion

Waking up grumpy on Mondays?  After your morning coffee and a quick walk around the neighborhood with Fido, you might be heading off to work.  Or perhaps you’re not working, whether by choice or by circumstance.  Whatever the case may be, figure out a way you can listen to my new radio show, Life Out of Tunes, on Monday afternoons at two o’clock on Asheville FM.  It could brighten your day.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking Accardi has sunk to a new level of cheap self-promotion.  I can assure you that is not the case.  Maintaining this blog isn’t cheap!

My first show will feature a sampling of great music from Chicago which has had an influence on me.  Tunes, old and new, from the Mauds, the Siegel-Schwall Band, Steve Goodman, Patricia Barber, Koko Taylor, Rotary Connection, Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker and the Safes, just to name a few.  But I’m warning you.  They won’t be the “hits.”  This ain’t no oldies program.  Together we can explore and enjoy a few deep tracks from these great artists.

Life Out of Tunes on the radio, hosted by Joey Books, can be heard Mondays, 2:00 to 3:00 PM (Eastern) on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP, 103.3) and streaming worldwide at http://ashevillefm.org.

Tune in and turn it up!

Life Out of Tunes: the Radio Show

I’m pleased to announce my new weekly radio show, “Life Out of Tunes” on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP 103.3).  Asheville FM is a volunteer-based, listener-supported community radio station and I’m proud to be aboard!

Broadcasting as DJ “Joey Books,” my show will begin Monday, December 4, 2017, airing weekly from 2:00 to 3:00 (Eastern) every Monday afternoon. It will feature a freeform selection of music with connections to this blog, Life Out of Tunes.

I’ll share a few memories and personal observations on the music that helped shape my life, so you can expect a wide variety of songs and an occasional story or two.

Asheville FM streams worldwide at ashevillefm.org, where you can check out the entire on-air schedule and “Listen Live.”  So tune in and turn it up!

 

A Progressive Thanksgiving Dinner

I won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year.  It’s happened before, missing the big family gathering along with all those special foods prepared for the occasion.

Instead, I’ll be hosting a Thanksgiving Day edition of Closer to the Edge, an outstanding Progressive music radio show on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP, 103.3).  I feel honored to have been asked to substitute for host JD, the “Professor of Prog” while he takes a well-earned holiday break.

For three hours, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm (Eastern) on Thanksgiving Day I’ll be serving up some of the best in classic Prog music for the main course, garnished with a healthful helping of contemporary selections.  We’ll begin with an Hors D’oeuvre (served with mathematical precision) and progress through each subsequent course until Supper’s Ready.

I’ll be spinning some delicious classic dishes from the likes of Touch, Wishbone Ash and the Moody Blues, followed by fresh desserts from Anathema and others.  There may even be something special from Wisconsin for all you cheeseheads.

So tune in Thanksgiving Day, November 23, at 2:00 pm EST to hear me, Joey Books, take over as guest chef on Closer to the Edge. You can stream it live on AshevilleFM.org by clicking on the “Listen Live” button.  Join me for a truly Progressive Thanksgiving dinner!

“Smug hippie anthems” (Pièces de résistance, partie deux)

Until recently, I was receiving weekly emails from a fellow blogger who also writes about music. He’s more prolific than I, writing weekly posts, waxing nostalgic or offering insight into music from his past, not unlike other writers I follow.  And like the others, I know how to access his blog so I didn’t need weekly reminders.  Determined to cut back on the number of emails infiltrating my inbox, I requested my name be removed from his list. I kept the message brief, figuring a long explanation wasn’t necessary.

Judging from his reply, he was deeply offended by my innocent appeal and wasted no time informing me, stating “(I’ll) Spare you the trouble of having to not read something.”  At first I thought he was joking, but he continued with a rather harsh criticism of my blog.  He wrote, “I haven’t read your blog since that head-up-the-butt ‘Songs of the Resistance’ post back in January. That would have been hard to top — or slide under the lowered bar, as it were — but I wasn’t interested in finding out whether you could, or did.”

I realize it’s not great literature, but “head-up-the-butt?”  Ouch!  Guess I touched a nerve.  Or struck a chord, so to speak.  His reply also included three unattributed quotations, all sharing the same general theme about “savage mobs” and “reverence for the law.”  At the end he finally alluded to the source of his quotations by posing a question, “How could Abe Lincoln have foreseen the #Resistance, Antifa, Black Lives Matters (sic), the anti-free speech mobs on campus, etc.”

Clearly, he appreciates neither the resistance nor my song list.  It brought to mind one of his previous blog entries in which he described a classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album as containing “smug hippie anthems.”

Rather than take umbrage at them, his remarks piqued my interest.  The words of respected historical figures are posted ad nauseam among social media groups and become rallying cries for various causes.  Some research revealed those three quotations my fellow blogger shared with me were excerpted from one speech Abraham Lincoln delivered on January 27, 1838 entitled The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois.  It’s been studied and debated by Lincoln scholars for years.  So was it an indictment of future Resistance, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or anti-free speech movements on campus?  I don’t believe it was, and here’s why.

William Herndon, who became Lincoln’s law partner in 1844, had this to say about the Lyceum speech:  “The speech was brought out by the burning in St. Louis a few weeks before, by a mob, of a negro. Lincoln took this incident as a sort of text for his remarks…”

Reading the entire speech, it becomes apparent that Lincoln, upset by the lynching of a black man in St. Louis and similar lynchings of black men and their white sympathizers in other states, was condemning those mob actions specifically.  If I were to respond to my detractor, I’d point out that black lives seem to have most certainly mattered to Abe.  I’d also reframe his question and pose it back to him:  How could Abe Lincoln have foreseen the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, the white supremacy movement, a president who is complicit, etc.?

Instead, I’ll resist the temptation to respond directly and simply dedicate the rest of this post, entitled “Smug hippie anthems” (Pièces de résistance, partie deux), to my fellow blogger and critic.  Having already written too many words, I’ll keep it brief.

Some time back, I was handed a page torn from an issue of Vanity Fair magazine.  It was a list of “favorite protest songs” by celebrities Lin-Manuel Miranda, Q-Tip, Mavis Staples, Tegan & Sara, John Mellencamp and Brittany Howard.  Even if you aren’t familiar with some of these artists, you might appreciate the song titles they shared.  I invite you to enjoy the following link to a list of their selections on the Vanity Fair website, each of which you can find on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or other purveyor of “smug hippie anthems.”  To see the list, click on this title: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s favorite protest songs.