NOTEWORTHY column for Thurs., Oct. 26, 2017
By CHARLES ANDREWS
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Yes, Aerosmith, 1976, rocking out of the car speakers — but who did the original song with that title?
Radio-movies-TV’s singing cowboy Gene Autry, 1941. Pretty different version. And then I might sing a few lines, Autry-style, to demonstrate the contrast.
Wait. You’re admitting to torturing your kids?
This was part of car rides with Dad if you were one of my two rugrats (growing up at separate times). Was I brainwashing them? Of course, but they loved it. Gene Autry, that was obscure information, music trivia, file it away, but the game they relished was Name That Band. Easier than Name That Tune, and they delighted in getting it right, quick as can be, in seconds or often less. I would immediately celebrate their correct answer with a whoop, awriiiiight! or high five.
We might be riding along, talking about something, then a new song would come on and I’d quickly crank it up and challenge — Who’s that!? After a while, I didn’t even have to prompt, they would just call it out. Sometimes the song title too, but more important was to recognize a style identifiable to a band or vocalist. Pretty subtle stuff. But it’s the kind of learning kids are great at, if you give them the chance.
IT WAS A GAME
That was also a kick for me, but one that I hoped would give them a challenging but fun introduction to a deeper, discerning listening to music, that might open up a world I had discovered, filled with soul-enriching treasures. Anyone can enjoy a bouncing Dr. John song, but if you know something of his personal history and the rich, varied New Orleans tradition he came from, you’re getting even more out of it.
I might also throw out to my little captive listener a quick comment on Fleetwood Mac’s famous rhythm section, or their original incarnation as a really cool British blues band with a parade of talented guitarists, or how to listen for signature guitar tones on any song that might instantly give a clue as to who was playing. But I was always careful not to make it a dull academic exercise. Quick bursts of fun little facts.
I can now report that it worked. Both my kids have enjoyed a life enriched by all sorts of music, and my daughter graduated from UCLA last year with a degree in ethnomusicology that she almost immediately turned into a job in the music biz, as a music curator for a small but very cool international British company, health insurance, 401K, paid vacay, oh yeah. My son was program director of his high school (!) radio station and had a show under the name of Christafari; he did not pursue it professionally but was known to all his friends for his passion for music and huge reggae LP collection.
WHAT I MEANT
By leading off with the Autry song title was, it looks like I’m back in the saddle of writing about music again (after 44 years off-and-on, then 5 years abstaining), since this is the second installment of the now-weekly “Noteworthy” column, every Thursday.
Is there enough music stuff to write about every week? P’foo. You bet. Will I be able to
survive back-to-back all-nighters to crank it out every week following Wednesday’s
“Curious City” effort? Well, we’ll see about that.
Before I leave Gene Autry on the dusty trail, I would suggest you read one of several bios of him, or at least some short biographical sketch. Fascinating career. None other than Will Rogers heard him singing and urged him to go professional, after he got fired for strumming and humming on the job as a young telegraph operator.
Besides owning the Anaheim Angels baseball team, he was VP of the American League from 1983 until his death in ‘98, in Studio City. His epitaph read, “America’s Favorite Cowboy… American Hero, Philanthropist, Patriot and Veteran, Movie Star, Singer, Composer, Baseball Fan and Owner, 33rd Degree Mason, Media Entrepreneur, Loving Husband, Gentleman”.
He flew dangerous missions over the Himalayas during WWII. He had a media empire and sold KTLA-TV in ‘82 for $245M. He made nearly 100 movies, nearly 100 episodes of his TV series, and recorded 640 songs, half of which he wrote or co-wrote.
He could have had a pro baseball career but turned it down for his railroad job (free train trips). His records sold more than 100M copies. He’s the only person with stars in all five categories on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He sang labor songs, hillbilly tunes and blues, and was awarded the very first Gold Record. He wrote “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
BLUEGRASS AND CLASSICAL GAS
Yes, I know I used that line last week, but I have to keep the Mason Williams fans happy. (Who knows what else he was known for? Send me your answer, but no googling! See how much useless information you get from my columns?)
I did it, lounged on the blue grass of Reed Park in the gathering twilight last Saturday and heard some dang fine greengrass music by Devitt Feeley’s Acoustic Carnaval.
Whenever you see his name on some group (he’s part of several), just go. You’ll be glad
Then I walked the six blocks to the First Presbyterian Church downtown for the season opener for the innovative Jacaranda Group.
I’ve now seen a few concerts by them over the last few years and while I’ve enjoyed others more, this one lived up to their highest standards of composition and performance.
And how often do you see the composer pulled out of the audience for a bow? I mean, Sibelius is really good, but he’s dead. I’m excited to see the rest of their season unfold, and I will keep you posted.
RECOMMENDED: For you rockers (of any age), great two-day festival, very mixed bag, outstanding bands, at the waterfront in San Pedro this weekend. The Growlers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bad Brains, Butthole Surfers, Tinariwen, B-52s, Hepcat, Fear, Big Sandy, Sly and Robbie, the Weirdos, the Warlocks, more. $66 for one day, $150 for two. I’d be there if I wasn’t out of town this weekend.
For you calmer souls, try the season opening performance of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, Sunday 2 p.m. at the same First Pres Church on 2nd Street. A Brandenburg program. Pay what you can.
LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “Human kindness is overflowing, and I think it’s going to rain today.” — Randy Newman (“So Long, Dad”)
SPECIAL NOTE: Happy 32nd anniversary today to my amazing wife Dian.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org