Music: The FEVER was televised, 1962 - PEGGY LEE. Courtesy photo

REMEMBER THE OLD NOTEWORTHY?

I hope so. The pre-COVID one, where every week I would scour the listings and my contacts to find the best, don’t-miss shows of all sorts (mostly music, but also theater, a great art exhibit, jugglers and fire eaters, no limits) for the coming week, so that you do not spend your hours in weeping regret over what you missed.

We’re not there yet. Venues and programs are coming back slowly. So I will continue to throw out a few until I can get back to the full format, day-by-day mouthwatering menu. Just this last week, if you had followed the tips from last week, you would have seen our resident SM jazz drum legend Peter Erskine leading an airtight trio, you would have seen the brand new Yamaha C7 piano at LAX club Sam First played by the golden Alan Pasqua (his playing on “Wichita Lineman” might have made you weep), and heard him announce that he and Erskine had now been playing together 50 years. Even Peter shook his head in disbelief.

Sam First is a 20-minute drive away, but the night before I walked to Harvelle’s, on 4th Street (since 1931!) and closed the joint down at minutes before 2 a.m., with the Damn Well Please Organ Trio, who seemed ready to go another hour or two, if not for the legal closing time. If you are lucky, you may be able to catch that rousing show next Mardi Gras time. Keyboard maestro, spotlight grabber, musical director, bandleader, cat herder, perfect vocalist for all genres but especially N’Awlins — Darius Holbert, only comes out of retirement once a year, if then, to play for his buddies Damian and Jason at Harvelle’s. With beads, masks, king cake, Abita beers, Hurricanes and other regional cajunal drink specials and the musical madness (and excellence) on stage, it truly was Mardi Gras in June, here in our own backyard. What a town.

ALMOST FULL SCHEDULES

For both Harvelle’s and Sam First. SF has one you don’t want to miss — TONIGHT! two shows — the keyboard creativity and beauty of our homegrown Gerald Clayton. He moved his piano to Oregon but Sam First had become his home here, and I’m sure he was itching to lay hands on the beautiful seven-foot Yamaha they just installed. The following weekend don’t miss another piano giant, Eric Reed.

If you missed Darius and just gotta have a shot of the Crescent City on Fourth Street SM, Saturday night they have Alligator Beach and their “NO Brass Funk” party. And don’t forget, the unforgettable Toledo Show is back at Harvelle’s, every Sunday night. Now THAT is back to business (Toledo could never be considered back to normal, and that‘s a very good thing), an indication that the planets are still in their proper orbits.

“RANDOMLY NOTEWORTHY”:

(because I do not want to be sued by Jann Wenner)

I’ve been re-listening to a lot of rock n roll lately, ‘50s through ‘70s, for a project.

OK… “project” — I’m putting together a mixtape, sorta, for a kid, awright? A pre-toddler, if you will. The sweet smiling angel rocker Bryce, son of our neighbors Michelle and Chris. He won’t always be in a sweet world so he has to be musically prepared. Chris suggested it, I accepted with honor and humility, and then put it off but now they’re moving so I’ve got to attend to the young man’s education.

Daddy Chris says Bryce loves classic rock and he vigorously bounces to it in his bouncy seat, little feet pumping and driving the bounce, with great joy and that smile. But daddy doesn’t want to leave out any crucial songs, so enlisted me. It’s a heavy responsibility, but if it brings a smile and a bounce, I’m good, real good.

FEVER

In the course of it I have come across some interesting things I didn’t know. I did know that Peggy Lee’s “Fever” (not on my list for Bryce, at least until he starts dating) — famously, cleverly orchestrated by Lee with only spare jazz bass notes by Joe Mondragon. finger snaps probably by her, and minimal drum and cymbal punctuations by the South Bay’s own Shelley Mann, some with fingers not sticks or brushes — was first recorded by Little Willie John in 1956. The title song of his first album, he at first hated it and had to be convinced to record it. It was a hit, topping the R&B charts and #24 on Billboard’s Best Sellers in Stores list. Lee’s cool jazz version two years later, charting at #5 R&B and #8 on the most important pop chart, became the standard and was nominated for three of the very first Grammys awarded. But Little Willie John’s version sold twice as many records — a million. And most people have never heard of him.

It was written by Otis Blackwell (“Great Balls of Fire,” “Breathless,” “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Handy Man,” “All Shook Up,” “Return to Sender”) who wrote more than 1,000 songs, that sold nearly 200M copies), under the name of John Davenport, with his sometime writing partner Eddie Cooley. Songwriting wasn’t then, or now, any sure path to riches so they had an arrangement that Cooley would split his weekly paycheck as a jeweler with Blackwell, who would go to New York to hustle their songs. Blackwel gave “Don’t Be Cruel” to Frankie Valli, but took it back because he had a hunch about this up-and-comer Presley. That was a hunch with a lot of zeroes behind it.

Peggy Lee, from North Dakota, sang many years with the Benny Goodman Orchestra before going solo. When “Fever” hit she had been at it 20 years and was a ripe old 38. She and her husband rewrote the lyrics (Romeo and Juliet, Capt. Smith and Pocahontas), anonymously. Four years later she sang it on the Andy Williams television show, with guy dancers at her feet, fire, big kettle drums and a very red dress. One of the best songs ever, say many.

NICOLE RECOMMENDS:

ONCE UPON A TIME IN L.A. FEST — It’s in December, but tickets are going to go fast for this one day festival. Snoop Dogg, Live Nation and promoter Bobby Dee have teamed up to create a lineup that knocked me out of my chair the first time I read it: Al Green, The Isley Brothers, Cypress Hill, War, Cameo, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, The Dramatics, The Chi Lites, Brenton Wood, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, YG, Ice Cube, Zapp, Warren G, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, of course, very special guests Foos Gone Wild, and so many more. Tickets are now on sale. Get ‘em while they’re hot! Saturday December 18, Bank of California & Exposition Park, $160 GA .

Link to festival site: www.onceuponatimeinlafest.com

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com