ISSUE #21, March 8, 2013
I expected to have this out before the end of 2012, but I was waiting for Greenback Dollar to be published.
It was worth the wait! Bill Bush has done a first-rate job telling the Trio's story. He interviewed everyone still living connected to the group's wonder years (1958-1967), and since he was working on it years ago with Nick and John (and later with Bob), it is all that we could have hoped for, and more. Lots of historical tidbits and stories that shine a light on Dave, Nick, Bob, John, Frank, Voyle, and all the others who made it happen and lived the dream. Here's an edited sample from pages 104-106 about the Trio's March 13, 1959 farm field landing in Goshen, Indiana:
Well, if that doesn't have you running to the bookstore, I don't know what will! The only nit-picking I will do about this book is that it is a 281-page paperback with 16 pages of black and white photos, with a suggested list price of $45.00. I'm also told that it is not available as a digital book, for those of you with Nooks and Kindles. But will you enjoy reading it? Absolutely. I feel it makes a great companion piece to The Kingston Trio On Record. Between the two, you pretty much have everything covered, Trio wise.According to the South Bend Tribune, the Trio's plane came to a halt at 5:45 p.m. in a field just off Elkhart Country Road 38, one mile south of Goshen and twenty-five miles from Notre Dame. "Skid marks on the mud indicated the plane wasn't braked until the final ten feet of the landing," the paper detailed, saying the pilot John Rich was a veteran of twenty years flying and was accustomed to forced landings including one on Iwo Jima in a B-29 with seven feet of wing shot off and with inoperable controls. That experience probably saved their lives.....Dave Guard was terrified. "We thought, Oh Christ! Something bad's happening," Guard remembered. "This was just about the time Buddy Holly got killed, and we were flying in a little plane of our own around the Midwest in the worst of weather. There was a blizzard starting up and some airplanes were lost in the area and every airplane had to maintain radio silence. We got totally lost and then the electricity went out on the plane - there were no lights or anything like that. So we had to swoop down and read road signs to find out where the heck we were. We finally landed in a farmer's field with all these frozen turkeys wrapped in plastic in it and then skidded to a stop like about three feet 'way from the fence. Pretty exciting stuff. When we were hitting ground, I said 'Here's to the Big Bopper!'".....Dozens of people came on to the field from out of nowhere to see if the passengers were okay only to be greeted by Bob Shane, who held up his right hand and said, "How!" Indian style......The performance at Notre Dame in South Bend was one the most memorable and emotionally charged in the Trio's history. By this time, the news of the crash landing had reached the University and the crowd was waiting for them......Addressing the audience after their first number, Guard said that it was great to be alive and that they were sure it was only because they were playing Notre Dame on a Friday night. The crowd, of course, erupted in wild cheering once again. "If it wasn't for you guys, we wouldn't be here, so we're gonna do a really good show," he promised. "But we've been told that we can't do our full night club act because it would ruin the school's reputation." In response, a voice yelled from the back of the audience, "AW, HORSE SHIT!" The crowd reaction was thunderous. "The noise was the loudest I've ever heard," Guard recalled, "and it was just one continuous roar all night long. So it's like a combination of coming from the darkest moments of your life to the brightest on the same night."
BUFFY FORD STEWART
SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL
Rediscover Music, owned and operated by my old friend Allan Shaw, has done it again. They have released a unique CD by the Kingston Trio. It's called Something Really Special, and it includes the 1962 Capitol album Something Special plus versions of all the songs before Jimmie Haskell added lush orchestral and choral arrangements to them. Also included are the original mono single versions of Old Joe Clark and Jane, Jane, Jane, for a total of 28 tracks. Although the vast majority of this appeared several years ago on Bear Family's The Stewart Years, a great many fans were unable to afford that sweeping set and will enjoy having this opportunity to enjoy these unadorned versions. While I have always liked much of the original album (you can't find a much better Trio performance than One More Town, for example), the "pure" pre-Haskell songs are a revelation. And through the recent innovations in engineering and digital remastering, these sound even better than they did on the Bear box. No one knows why, but they do.
Some of the standouts include Nick's great solo, Little Boy, Bob's great solo She Was Too Good To Me, and John's great solo Portland Town. Also of interest are the two songs from the Something Special sessions that did not make it on to the original album, Darlin' Are You Dreaming and All the Good Times Are Past and Gone. I also learned a few things from the excellent liner notes by Dave Samuelson. Portland Town was originally a "bittersweet anti-war" song by "expatriate banjo player Darroll Adams," which John "retooled" into a love song. And Jimmie Haskell was the uncredited arranger and producer for many of Ricky Nelson's hit singles! The original Something Special reached #7 on the charts and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Folk Album category.
Here's a link to the un-Haskelled version of Portland Town:
Something Really Special, the Greenback Dollar book, and many of the other releases mentioned here can be ordered from Allan's catalog at:
Something Really Special, the Greenback Dollar book, and many of the other releases mentioned here can be ordered from Allan's catalog at:
TROUBLE IN THE FIELDS
One of the items mentioned in OBN #20 has finally been released. Trouble In the Fields: An Artists' Tribute To Nanci Griffith is available on Long Island's Paradiddle Records. 14 songs covered by Tom Russell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Carolyn Hester, Tracy Grammer, and Sara Hickman, among others. Produced by Pete Kennedy, who also contributed the liner notes. By now you either know and love Nanci's music, or you don't. Here's a snippet from Pete's notes:
Some really fine performances on this CD, but front and center is John Stewart's reading of Last of the True Believers, with backing vocals from Buffy Ford Stewart and Maura Kennedy (Pete's wife and musical partner in The Kennedys). John does it as an uptempo spoken word that really works well, and it may well be the last John Stewart recording we will ever get to hear. (I had erroneously stated in OBN #20 that it would be Late Night Grande Hotel that John would be covering. My apologies!)I was daydreaming one morning in the lobby of a small hotel in midtown Manhattan, when Harlan Howard, lounging in the chair next to mine, nudged me and pointed to the front desk, "See those two over there?" Nanci and Emmylou Harris were waiting to check out. Harlan squinted in their direction. "They're the ones nowadays who take me back to Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, and you know why?" He leaned closer, "Because they don't sound like anybody else." Harlan, who wrote I Fall To Pieces and a fistful of country classics, knew of what he spoke.
THE KINGSTON TRIO
A couple of months ago I gambled $20 on something on Amazon that I had never seen before. It turned out to be a Kingston Trio concert program book from 1961, with lots of photos I had never seen before, all dating from the Close-Up era. Throughout the month of January they were all featured on The Kingston Trio On Record's Facebook page, along with all of the narrative that went with them. I'll whet your appetite with a couple of the photos, but I recommend you visit Facebook (you don't have to join) to see them all. It was great fun discovering this artifact!
One of the other great "finds" this year goes to Maine's biggest Trio fan, Al Cook, who discovered a Kingston Trio appearance at the end of a Beach Boys YouTube video from 1964. There is no audio, but great video of the Trio at an Oklahoma airport, met be Ida Blackburn of the "Ida B. Show." We have reached out to the Oklahoma Historical Society and hope they will be able to find the actual episode of the show that the Trio appeared on. With any luck, there will be a link here to it, but if that fails, you can watch it on the KTOR Facebook page.
Others videos on that page include interviews from the Kingston Trio & Friends Reunion with Nick, Bob,and Dave, plus John and ChuckMcDermott performing Coal Tattoo. Well worth your time and effort to check out.
In other Kingston Trio news, The Kingston Trio legacy Project got their traveling exhibit up and running on November 2 in Coronado, California. It will be there until early April. Here's a link:
Beach Boy Al Jardine has created a terrific solo album, titled A Postcard From California. It's a sunny California treat, reminiscent of the early work by his famous band. Guests include Glen Campbell, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Alec Baldwin, David Crosby, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Steve Miller, Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, David Marks, Flea, and John Stamos. Al reworks his biggest Beach Boys solo, Wilson and Love's Help me Rhonda, as well as his own BB classic California Saga, and the Mamas & Papas' California Dreamin', but the majority are new Jardine originals, like Don't Fight the Sea. Here's a link to an 8-minute video on the making of the CD:
Becky and Nathan Bliss are the great new duo Barnaby Bright. New to me, at least, as I believe they are now on their third album, The Longest Day. Some one shared their video of the song Old Coats on Facebook, and I was hooked. There's a duo I'm sure you heard of called The Civil Wars, who have won a lot of acclaim and Grammys lately, and their success has opened the door for other male/female duos to get some attention. I hope these two make it to the top of the pile. They write all their own stuff and play lots of instruments. Very cool.
Here's a link to Old Coats:
I mentioned in OBN #20 that Voyle Gilmore's son, John, had recorded a CD of Frank Sinatra songs that were originally produced by his father (who also did all of the Kingston Trio's Capitol masterpieces).
Here it is, and it's a gem. John is Sinatra on many of these tracks, including One For My Baby and I've Got You Under My Skin. He also plays a mean piano. I got one of the last copies from Amazon's dealers, but John says if your are truly interested then you may email him and he will try to accommodate you.
Not sure if I got around to mentioning this CD last time, but if I did please forgive the repetition. I was lucky enough to be there in Naperville, Illinois, the night Allan Shaw presented John Stewart and Chuck McDermott in concert. What an outstanding concert it was, as John and Chuck had an amazing chemistry that has never been duplicated. It was taped for a local cable TV broadcast, and many years later Jeff McDonald (more about him later) took the old, worn audio track from the video tape and with his resources at Sweetwater Sound (where he also had restored John's Bite My Foot and The Piano Album to beauty) created this 2-CD treasure called Illinois Rain for Folk Era Records. Some great stuff here, available from Rediscover Music.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLpBPiGt248Here's a link to an audience video of Fat of the Land:
David Mallett's latest CD (on his own North Road Records) is titled Greenin' Up, with a portion of sales going to the Maine Farmland Trust ("We aim to keep farms working, and to inspire new farmers to enter the field, so that Maine's farmland continues to feed us and feed our economy"). Dave has rerecorded several of his old favorites that have an agricultural theme, including Garden Song, The Haying Song, and the title track. He's also included 3 new compositions: Fat of the Land, Dogs & Horses, and the amazingly poignant Beautiful Rose. An outstanding album.
JEFF MCDONALD & MARK THACKER
Jeff McDonald, whose recording remastering expertise was mentioned earlier, has one of those names that keeps popping up in discussions about John Stewart. It was Jeff who decades ago wrote what remains the finest of many John Stewart tribute songs, Thank You Lonesome Picker, which was especially nice because John was still alive to enjoy it. In fact, John and Jeff became friends. Jeff has recorded many of John's songs, and two more grace his latest album, a double CD collaboration with friend Mark Thacker titled Over On Paint Street. It also includes their cover of the Trio's Oh Miss Mary, as well as songs by Hartford, Prine, Hardin, Ochs, Sebastian, South, Webb, Arlo, and Nanci Griffith. The two Stewart songs are California Bloodlines and Never Goin' Back. Plus nice takes on traditional tunes like Shine On Harvest Moon and Tell Old Bill. Plus several McDonald and Thacker originals.
I always imagined John Stewart's song China Sky would be made into a movie. This CD brings it one step closer. Long-time Stewart and Kingston Trio fans John August Lee and Fred Grittner have invested heavily of their time and money to make this album, and it is worthy of your attention. Don't expect to see it on the Billboard chart any time soon, but what does the public know about good music, anyway? There are many highlights, including their covers of the title track and Stewart's Long Train of Dreams. Grittner has written a sequel to Stewart's Trio classic Run the Ridges titled Ridges We Have Run, as well as a beautiful farewell song to his hero titled Where the River Meets the Sea. The duo also honor Travis Edmonson with a nice cover of his Kingston Trio-recorded South Wind and Born To the Sun (co-written with Allan Shaw). Guests include John Stewart's sidekick Dave Batti and the current members of the Kingston Trio.
Well done, John and Fred. And thank you!
Well, as usual I am sure there are things I've forgotten and people I should have thanked. But I think this is long enough to subject you to Old Ben's Music for this time out. Tying up a loose end from OBN #20, I am pleased to report that This One's For Him did win the Americana Music Association's album of the year award. Unfortunately it did not win at the Grammys for best folk album. To use the low brow vernacular, "They was robbed!" After the last issue Rosanne Cash was kind enough to point out to me that the lovely lady next to Guy Clark on the cover had recently passed away after a long illness. So farewell to Susannah Clark, a fine songwriter in her own right, who kept her husband intact for a lot of years.
And farewell to all of you. Until next time in cyberspace, keep it flying...