Frank Gutch Jr: The Little Record With the Big Hole: A Look Beneath; plus Noteworthy Notes of Notable Noting…

I wonder if anyone back at the turn of the century bemoaned the loss of the cylindrical “records” Thomas Edison invented for use with his tinfoil phonograph (or was it someone else?).  One time whilst digging through  the junk shops in Portland (though “junk” is hardly the term— many of the items for sale were downright antiques and worth collecting) I ran across a huge cardboard box of what looked like plastic tubes.  I asked the owner of the shop about them and he said that they were records— very early records— and he proceeded to pull down a small machine the size of a portable typewriter from the shelves and demonstrate.

Edison kicking out the jams to some George Washington Johnson

SIDEBAR

Born a slave, George W. Johnson became the first African American recording artist in 1890. His tune, The Laughing Song was a huge hit. By 1895, Johnson’s tunes were the best-selling recordings in the United States. The total sales of his wax cylinders between 1890 and 1895 are estimated to have been at 25,000 to 50,000, each one recorded individually by Johnson. He continued recording throughout the 1890s and eventually was recorded by Berliner, Edison, and Columbia.

Warning: Historical recordings may contain offensive language. This selection is presented as part of the record of the past. It is an historical document which reflects the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. 

He grabbed one of the tubes, stuck it in a hole and hand-cranked some of the damnedest music I had theretofore heard, driving me nuts because he was ancient enough to have played with the machine as a teen and his shaky hand and arm wavered with each turn giving the music an aura of a Model A being cranked up.  Though the sound was far from perfect, it was a revolution to a guy so engrossed in the late-sixties rock sweeping the world that he had hardly given a thought to the development of machines which gave music beyond that of live performances to the world.  A cylinder?  I had never even heard of such a thing!  Of course, not too long after the tinfoil model, there came the windup model and then the development of the flat disc and…  Well, you should know where I am going with this.

The standard of the day when I was a kid was the 78— RPM, which stands for Revolutions Per Minute.  My parents collection was limited, the discs costing more than my mother and father could afford on a regular basis.  I grew up on a diet of T. Texas Tyler, Bing Crosby, Red Foley, and a few of the big bands lucky enough to still be recording in the early fifties— and a whole string of oddball singles which did or did not make the charts or get radio airplay.  Indeed,  as hard as I tried, I was never able to figure out why Momma and Dad made the music choices they did.  Mostly it was Country & Western, which I believe was Dad’s preference, but there was also opera, classical, the standards (which in the fifties and sixties became MOR or middle-of-the-road— just music, in other words), with the occasional novelty song thrown in (Yes, We Have No Bananas and Phil Harris‘s The Thing immediately come to mind along with a couple of selections by Yogi Yorgesson like I Yust Go Nots at Christmas).  As I grew, their tastes settled into the obvious, Momma, swayed by the hits of the day, fell in love with Dinah Shore (Buttons and Bows) and Doris Day (Secret Love)and even my favorite of the day, Jo Stafford, whose hit Shrimp Boats floated mine all the way to present day.  Dad stuck with Country & Western which eventually turned into Country, though he had a special place in his heart for female artists such as Patsy Cline, Teresa Brewer, and later, Anne Murray and Petula Clark.

The thing about those old 78s were that they weighed a ton and shattered when you dropped them (our floors were linoleum until I went to college and, what with the kids being out of the nest, Momma sprang for carpet (You can’t imagine the shock of coming home from college and being able to walk from the bedroom all the way to the kitchen on warm, soft carpet— it was pure heaven).  I remember loading up the 78s on the automatic changer and dropping one.  Flashes of my youth came back and I was afraid I had sent yet another record to the graveyard, but it bounced softly and settled, my heart settling alongside it.  I had been responsible for more than one vinyl death over my youth.  I did not need more added to my conscience.

Looking back over the years, I wonder if our little collection of 78s and then 45s hadn’t set my musical path for me.  We had so few records and I played them every chance I got to the point that the oddest ones became my personal favorites, from The Blue Sky BoysTears On Her Bridal Bouquet to Homer & Jethro‘s Pizen Pete.

Since the advent of albums, we have lost the real importance of the single.  What they call the single today is hardly what it once was.  Before, they were one song adventures in music— a way of discovering new music without bankruptcy.  They were a social media as strong as any social media.  We talked about them around water coolers before we even knew what water coolers were.  We pulled for the ones we liked and verbally abused those we didn’t (I may accept it now, but God, how I prayed The Letter would disappear from every Willamette Valley radio stations library)For a time, I tossed aside policeman, fireman and jet pilot and aspired to be a program manager at a radio station.  For a time, driving a train took a distant back seat to radio.  Choosing the music to be played?  That was power!

I could go on and on.  A large portion of my life has been radio-driven.  But this is not about radio.  This is about me because I am slowly weaning off my record collection.  (I know— funny word, “wean.”  But you get my drift, eh?)  I used to have about ten thousand records, counting EPs and 45s.  I dove into them every day like Uncle Scrooge dove into his swimming pool bank vault.  But I am not young anymore and the last thing I want to happen is to (not) see my record collection turned over to the vultures that feed on Goodwill.  I have been weaning for years, in fact, but what I have now are those gems which did not make it, many of which have fallen completely out of the consciousness of all but collectors.  In fact, I am putting together a package for a friend who has decided that hoarding 45s is admirable.  He will know most of what I send, but it will be a Christmas surprise, nonetheless, for few know of the depth of my mania when I was a kid and which grew through manhood.  Here are a few I remember well.  Not all will be in the package, my friend, but some might.

I can think of only a few bands with which I have been enamored over the course of my life more than Gruppo Sportivo.  A Dutch band, they had their one big chance in The States thwarted by a chaotic college radio promotion and a package so cool that only Sire Records could have thought up.  Basically, it consisted of releasing and album of tracks recorded in the late 70s (from two albums, I believe— 10 Mistakes and Back to ’78.  The Sire album was titled Mistakes and included a six-song EP (with picture sleeve) titled More Mistakes which they taped to each album cover with scotch tape.  Unfortunately, the packaging was so poor that the vast majority of the albums warped in storage.  The sales were lacking or it would rank among one of the biggest marketing/packaging SNAFUs in record history.  It was a good idea, though, and the album/EP is one of the best albums I have ever heard.  Wotta band!  The first video is of a track from More Mistakes, the second from Mistakes.

Just to give you a visual…

When I first heard this She Talks In Stereo every cell in my body screamed hit!  Unfortunately, if it was a hit it wasn’t in Seattle.  It should have been, though.  One of the many Texas bands which should have charted bigtime.  To my knowledge, Gary Myrick is still pounding out the music down south and that’s is as it should be, but those days with The Figures were something else!  The single, fyi, is stereo/stereo.  I guess the record industry was giving up on mono at the time.  Idiots!  Then again, it was 1980.

Charlie came along about the time I was falling in love with 10CC.  The vocals emulate that venerable band so well, I grabbed the single.  I don’t know how well Charlie did nationwide or worldwide but they got a bit of airplay in Seattle upon its release in 1978.  Deservedly so.

I’ve not owned an Asleep at the Wheel album other than the self-titled one on Epic, but I love those guys.  Choo Choo Ch’Boogie mad me dance on the inside and when this track followed, it was like shock therapy.  It’s Country but it’s not.  Circa 1974.

Tim Renwick is one of those guitarists known mainly to guitarists.  He began an early association with Al Stewart, moved on to play with Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, and spent stints with Pink Floyd and Elton John.  Everyone seems to forget that he was also a member of pop group Fancy, but everyone isn’t me.  I thought it a good fit.  Here he is playing guitar with the Sutherland Brothers, who I believe opened for either Heartsfield or Barclay James Harvest when I saw them at the Troubadour in the mid-70s.  When the Train Comes was released on 1975.  Another mono/stereo promo I picked up somewhere.

When T.G. Sheppard decided to cover Neil Diamond‘s Solitary Man back in 1976, I didn’t give him much chance of making it, but I was wrong.  The arrangement fit the voice so well, it actually impressed the hell out of me.  Unfortunately, that was the best thing he ever did, to my mind.  Still and all a great cover version which went to #14 on Billboard’s “Hot Country Songs” chart.  An oddity in that it was on Hitsville, a subsidiary of Motown, which was attempting to advance beyond the soul market.

Everyone knows It’s a Beautiful Day, but the vasr majority only know the original album which they call the White Bird album.  My favorite tracks on that album have always been Wasted Union Blues and Bombay Calling.  When the Duck moved down to Eugene after we got out of the Army, he forced their Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime album and I discovered an even better band.  They pretty much rocked out on one side (Choice Quality Stuff) and saved their less rocking piece for the other side (Anytime).  I have all of the original IABD albums except Marrying Maiden (I just couldn’t quite get into that one), but Choise Quality Stuff/Anytime has remained my favorite.  I picked up a mono/stereo promo copy of Anytime somewhere in  my journeys.  Always fun to pull it out for a quick listen.

Dewey Terry was half of the duo Don & Dewey (the other was Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris) who had a fairly large hit back in the late fifties with Big Boy Pete (also covered by The Olympics, an often covered dance tune by Pac NW bands.  After they split up, they both stayed with music and while never having any hits, did fairly well for themselves.  Terry ended up signing a deal with Bill Syzmczyk and released an album titled Chief which used a takeoff of the Big Chief notebook tablets as an album cover.  He had a lot of funk in him, did Terry, but played straight rock just as well.

By 1980, The Flying Burrito Brothers had become The Burrito Brothers and Gib Gilbeau had joined the band.  Gram Parsons was far in the past, but they kept hopping bars and pulling in the crowds because they were still a hot band.  I caught them just before they signed with Curb Records when they were touring to support the Live From Tokyo album.  They were outstanding, playing to a sold out crowd at The Fabulous Rainbow Tavern in Seattle.  A few months later I grabbed this promo 45 (stereo/stereo) when it passed through Peaches Records where I worked.  Good score.

When I was in the Army, I embraced the whole hippie lifestyle thing, calling it a back to the earth movement.  When I got out in the summer of ’71 I put into practice all that I thought it entailed— sharing, helping, caring.  I embraced the music too, which I always thought was country rock.  It just seemed more natural.  More homegrown.  One of the bands I got into was Calico (no, not Calico the band), another smooth country rocking outfit from Texas.  They put out at least one album (on United Artists Records in 1975).  I found three promo singles from the band, one of which I found on YouTube.

Wow!  While looking for a video of Don Nix‘s Going Down, I ran across this beauty of a video highlighting the history of Nix and a live version of the song performed live b y Nix and Larry Raspberry.  I had no idea this even existed and I am a big fan of both artists.  This was one of those songs you couldn’t get away from back in the day.

Nix will probably be most remembered for writing and recording the song, but he also played on a lot of recordings by other artists.  At one time, his album with the Alabama State Troupers was riding on the tails of Leon Russell‘s popularity and much in demand in San Diego where I worked at the time.  Going Down was getting massive airplay at the time.  Here’s why.

There is something about the song I can’t get out of my system, and the cool thing is that there are numerous versions to choose from.  This, by Hydra, is my all-time favorite.

I am sure you guys are tiring of this little game, but sometimes I can’t help myself.  I have one more for you before I call it a night, though.  It keys on a band I grew up with, Seattle’s The Viceroys.  They had had a pretty good run in the sixties, what with Granny’s Pad and Goin’ Back To Granny’s lodged in Seattle’s Top Ten, but they had at least one more surprise.  In fact, it was The Surprise Package.  You see, toward the end of the bands run, they recorded this song which totally swept me away.  They had eschewed the Seattle recording studios for one in Los Angeles to record it and it made the difference.  I remember where I was when I heard this for the first time— studying in my dorm room at the University of Oregon, listening to a radio station I will never forget— KASH.  The really cool thing about KASH was that you were never sure what you were going to hear.  During the late sixties, disc jockeys would sometimes slap a promo 45 on the turntable just because they liked the color of the label or something, so you can imagine what it must have been like when I heard That Sound.  Crazy thing is that a little less than a year later, they popped up on Columbia Records as the aforementioned Surprise Package with a different version of and a different title to the song.  Check this out.

I tell you, the only thing cooler than looking through bins of 45s was listening to what you found with friends.  This, my friends, is why us old-timers talk incessantly about the old days.  We shared our music and not just by telling people about our finds, but we listened to it.  In the same room.  At the same time.  In the early days with probably glasses of Coke in our hands and later with a bottle of beer or  passing around joints.  Those were good, good days, my friends, but they ended.  Just as I will end here.  Except we still have to take care of the…

Notes…

Jeff B. Cohn covers a side of the music industry I somehow miss now and again.  He pointed me to The Unthanks, a group I had heard of but never heard, so he linked me to this.  Not at all what I expected.  Much more complex.

From the ashes— Tashaki Miyaki:

It is not often I get a chance to witness music in progress (though unless you’re on the music industry, the opportunities are limitless to you), so I will pass along a rough cut of Adele H & Buck Curran doing their version of Chris Whitley‘s Dirt Floor.  From Buck: “Been showing Adele H Chris Whitley’s song ‘Dirt Floor’…so we recorded a first take Demo on my ipod. She’s still learning the words/meaning/pronunciation and I’m not sure how to arrange the guitar yet …but I think it works as a first go. If we can do the original justice…perhaps we’ll cut a proper recording and release it .”  Thanks for posting it, Buck.  Always happy to follow the progress.

You may not recognize the name Frank Secich, but it is a name of consequence when it comes to sixties/seventies rock music.  You should know him from Blue Ash and if not there from his stint with Stiv Bators, the Dead Boys frontman gone solo.  Well, Frank gone and wrote himself a book recounting those days and damned if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it.  Seems like rock stars (and even just rock musicians) have stories to tell and he tells more than a few in Circumstantial Evidence.  I remember reading it the first time, laughing through some parts (especially the “What do you say, Ray?” part )and a bit stunned by others.  I wrote a column about the book which you can access here.  It will give you an idea…  In the meantime, take a look at this clip which is packed with Secich-related images.  And there is music, too.  Here you go.

The Soundcarriers have been a favorite for a number of years now.  Diagnos sounds a bit like them.  Nice stuff.  Thanks to Dominic Valvona over at Monolith Cocktail for the link.

Musician friend Terry Tufts just made me aware of a project he is involved with called Sonic Palette.  Basically, the idea was to write a series of musical vignettes pieced together to honor the 100th anniversary of the  death of Canadian painter Tom Thompson  and the 150th anniversary of Canada.  To do this, they formed a group they call The Algonquin Ensemble, a small folk/ classical group they hope to tour across Canada.  After listening to the snippets in the following Indiegogo presentation, I think they pass the test.  While I wouldn’t be in Canada for the tour, I would gladly attend were they of the mind (and finances) to take it international and tour The States.  Take a listen and if you’re Canadian and of a mind to support this, please do.  It will be worth it.

The songs are composed and arranged by Kathryn Briggs, John Geggie, and Terry Tufts, who are also involved as musicians.  They are joined by three others (Lisa Moody– viola; Laura Nerenberg– violin; and Margaret Tobolowska– cello) to complete the ensemble.

To help you make up your mind, here is one of the works in its entirety.

Happy Anniversary, Canada!

Damn!  Here is a beautiful track by Jimmy Lumpkin & The Revival.  I love stuff like this.

Susan Cattaneo sez it all comes down to what’s In  the Groove.  No argument here.  Worth it for the guitar of Bill Kirchen alone.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

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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