Frank Gutch Jr: Paradise Is Paved, Here Comes the Parking Lot… plus a Voluminous Collection of Note(s)

Goldband Studios is gone.  Here I have been spending the past few years singing the praises of Research Turtles— I call them the boys from Lake Charles— without realizing that the city/town/parish also was home to Eddie Shuler and Goldband.  Dumb me.  I have known of Goldband since I was in college, having found them through That Dorm Guy who was somehow plugged into anything and everything musical.  I look back now at him and wonder how he was able to find so much music in a land with pretty much nothing but Billboard Magazine to guide him, but he did.

In his usual nonchalant way, That Dorm Guy would pull records out of the sky with not so much as a have-you-heard-this and I (we, for there were a handful of us who would visit his den of musical iniquity) would walk away the wiser if nothing else.  Southern music was one of his favorite areas for discovery— gospel, blues, cajun, rock— and he filled us in on what he found.  Admittedly there was not as much as you find on the Net these days but the fact that he found it at all I always considered a miracle.

Well, Dorm Guy, they bulldozed Goldband.  Chomped it to bits.  Took Eddie Shuler’s legacy and kicked it to the curb.  The buildings.  But you can’t stop the music.

I find it a bit sad that today’s world needs to reflect on a very young teenaged Dolly Parton on which to focus because that was hardly the legacy of the studio or the era.  It was a fluke, though an historical one.  Kid walks into a studio and lays down a couple of tracks and goes on to be famous is something, I guess, but no more noteworthy than “Billy” Gable, later known as Clark, working in Silverton, Oregon at a sawmill before making the trek to Hollywood.

The razing of Goldband, though…  I knew of Goldband but only because of groups and artists such as Cookie & The Cupcakes and Eddie Shuler & His All-Star Revellers but had no idea of the deep deep history behind the studio and label,  It took an excellent written work by John Broven to put the music of Louisiana in perspective.  South To Louisiana I found to be enlightening at the very least.  Labels, artists, venues, towns— all were covered in copious detail and I found myself not only becoming engrossed but obsessed.  At a time the Pac Northwest was just beginning to awaken to records, Louisiana was selling them by the thousands.  I thought I was happy about what I knew.  I was actually shocked to find out what I didn’t know.

For instance, I didn’t know that Bill Haley‘s hit, See You Later Alligator was a cover of a song already released by Bobby Charles.  And that Charles (real name, Robert Charles Guidry), a Louisiana boy, recorded it in Chicago for Chess Records.

I chuckled when I read about Charles showing up to play shows in the South and at first being denied access because everyone thought he was Black.  As usual, when the music started, race became a non-issue.  Bill Haley, of course, had the big hit with it.  The few kids I knew who actually had record players back in those days all had the Haley version.  No one even knew of Charles.

It wasn’t all that long ago I reviewed Tamara Saviano‘s excellent biography of Guy Clark.  When I finished it, I thought holy shit!  Texas is THE music state.  Then I remembered that when I read South to Louisiana, I thought the same thing about that fine State.  Tony Joe White is from down there.  He drove me crazy with Polk Salad Annie.  I liked it okay until the ten thousandth listen.  I may have gone postal a few times after that but South To Louisiana brought me back.  When you know the stories and the period.

John Broven wrote the book, you know.  The same guy who wrote Walkin’ to New Orleans, released in the US under the title Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans.  It is an excellent book.  A fascinating book which covers the golden era of New Orleans rock.  A friend of mine gave it to me for my birthday one year.  A handful of years later he gave me South To Louisiana.  Those kinds of friends remain friends for life.  Two of the best-researched books I’ve ever read.

The big difference between them is that one confines itself pretty much to New Orleans and the other covers the entire State.  If you read STL, I suggest you keep a map handy.  Lake Charles wasn’t the only town/city/parish of consequence.  There was Crowley, Lafayette and Baton Rouge, among others.  It may have been a State but it was the music that kept it together.

One of the biggest supporters of Louisiana music was one Chris Strachwitz, whom I knew through my dealings with a record distributor he once owned, Bayside Distribution.  He was a businessman, tough but fair, but he had this love of what people these days call “roots music.”  He loved New Orleans jazz and cajun and zydeco and, basically, swamp music.  He spent much of his time and money searching out the artists and their haunts, ran a label called Arhoolie Records which featured much oif the music he found, and spent a lot of time chronicling the history.  Were it not for Strachwitz, I might not have ever found one of my very favorite cajun bands, Beausoleil (pronounced Bow-so-lay).  I can still remember the day Bayside’s salesman George Bigley brought in a copy of Hot Chili Mama.  It opened up a whole new world of music

He also chronicled the music itself, even taking a part in a documentary titled This Ain’t No Mouse Music.  It is at the top of my list of movies to see.

Speaking of cajun, my dad loved it.  We would be listening to Grand Ol’ Opry back in the day and when the occasional cajun artist was featured, he would sing along, off key of course. It didn’t matter at all that he didn’t know the lyrics.  I sometimes think he didn’t even know he was singing.  The music would somehow click a switch and off he would go.  Here was one of his favorites,

Speaking of tearing down recording studios, some developers tried to bulldoze RCA’s famous Studio A not that long ago.  Ben Folds raised a stink (something developers hate unless they’re the ones doing the raising) and over a short period of time people found a way to save it.  Granted, Goldband was surely in far worse shape than Studio A.  Still, I hate to see the old places disappear.

Crap!  When will I ever learn?  Bit of a heatwave here and the power just ate a good hour+ worth of work.  But rather than get bummed, I shall end the regular portion of our program with a song which pierces my heart every time I hear it— Jim of Seattle‘s By Inches.  A downright amazing song.

Don’t worry.  We;re not done yet.  What say we cap it all off with some…


I’ve done a bit of backtracking lately and ran across a video I have watched many times just to remind me of what real musicians do sometimes.  Have I ever told you about the talent of Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri?  If I haven’t, I have.  You just missed it.  I missed this live concert of Sproule and Curreri from long ago and regret that I did.  It is a cover version of Black Uhuru‘s Spongi Reggae.  I’m not a huge reggae fan, but listen to the intricacies of the guitars!

Which leads me to this, God knows why.  The beat, maybe.  Or maybe I’m hungry, though this is about getting eaten and not eating.  I fall back on The Dementians when I need a chuckle or pick-me-up.  One of the songs is about being cut off in heavy traffic.  Road Rage Rock.  I can dig it.

In fact, everyone should take a gander at this Dementians video.  This is why we don’t have any good music anymore… because you idiots don’t GET IT!

Why isn’t Morgan Cornwell a household name when it comes to music?

Friend and musician Harry Hoggard has been schooling me on the blues lately.  One dude he has been concentrating on is Buddy Whittington.  After hearing this, I have to say I hear you, Mr. Hoggard,  And I hear Mr. Whittington, as well.

Seems like it’s feast or famine with Keb’ Mo’ these days.  Right now it’s feast which makes me very happy.  The work he did with Taj Mahal is freaking outstanding and he is showing up on a lot of people’s songs, including this one by Dustbowl Revival,  Just in time for summer.

Sometimes I am in the mood for smooth and Los Colognes has enough smooth for all of us.

Dang but if I’m not starting to hanker for Beth Garner, whose album Snake Farm is plain getting g under my skin.  Never mind that she covers Ray Wylie Hubbard on the title track, she plain Tony Joe Whites herself on her new video.  Dig this.

In case you missed it, here is the title track.  That Ray Wylie knows how to write ’em, doesn’t he?  You gotta love a song which has lyrics like “Snake Farm, it just sounds nasty, Snake Farm, it pretty much is…”  I mean, them’s lyrics, Skeezix!

For those interested in the I Am What I Play documentary, it is available now on demand from Vimeo.  Just plug in here:   For those who don’t know what it is, here is the trailer.  It is about disc jockeys and their egos as far as I can tell.  Yes, they were powerful and, yes, they were music freaks but they were not infallible.  Anyone who gained the power of a Pat O’Day or a Real Don Steele packed guns loaded with ego.  That’s not a bad thing, necessaroly— it’s just how it was.  So take what these people say with a grain of salt.  They may badmouth corporate but they all reached points where the lines drawn in the sand were washed away for lines further down the beach.  That said, that is why I really want to see it.  They were personalities and were welcomed by almost every teen into their homes and to their parties.  It will never be the same.

A good news moment— Drew Gibson is working on a new album, tentatively titled Shipbuilder.  He just keeps getting better and better.  Here he is performing a version of one of the songs live.  Damn!  He just keeps getting better!

For those who have never experienced the music of Sun Ra.  Man, he was from another planet.  I first heard him sometime in the mid- to late-sixties and it threw me into shock.  Most of my friends ended up holding their crucifixes between the music and themselves, it was so other-worldly.  It didn’t bother me that much but it did a little.  When I finally began seeing clips of the Arkestra, I began feeling a little more comfortable.  Still, the music was unsettling.  But fascinating.  This film clip is one of the best introductions to his music I have ever seen.  I wish I had seen it before listening.

I have Soundcarriers‘ withdrawals on a regular basis.  Heather Trost is helping.  Agristi has that intense keyboard sound that made early Soundcarriers a favorite.  Not really sure what the video is all about but I like it.

Another Elvis sighting, this one by The Ratboys, only they don’t sound like they’re all boys.  In fact, I think it’s a hoax, though they did offer to let me see.  Evidently, Elvis Is In the Freezer.  I like this one.

I saw a PBS program of The Secret Sisters performing in some kind of underground cave.  I was not impressed.  Then I found this.  I am now impressed.

Boo Ray has pared his music down to two things— tattoos and babes.

I couldn’t really find anything new on this song by Shantell Ogden but she and the band have the formula in the right places.  Very, very nice.


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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dbawis-button7Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at Frank bottle capone time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”


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