Awesome-ness!

You are currently browsing the archive for the Awesome-ness! category.

Songs of Metric Man is one of the funkiest educational records we’ve ever heard. This 1976 album tells the story of Newton Joule, a mild-mannered substitute school teacher who works for M*O*M (Measures of Metrics) teaching America how to use the metric system. If he says the magic word “Kilometer!” he becomes Metric Man!

Metric Man fights against the Big O, who is the head of the Ounce Family, but he triumphs over his adversary and soon America was singing the praises of metric measurements.

The music is by Jimmy Vann and Richard Hieronymus and the lyrics by George Greer and Jimmy Vann. It was released by Educational Film Systems but is officially on Metric Records. Its track “I Weigh With Kilos” was sampled on a Ghostface Killah and Raekwon track.

Marine reservist Major Bill Hendricks started the Toys for Tots program in 1947, finding inspiration when his wife could not find a charity to take a homemade Raggedy Ann doll she hoped could go to a child in need.

In the sixty-nine years since, the organization has distributed more than 469 million toys to children. They stopped accepting second-hand toys in 1980, owing to the mixed-message implied and the time involved in refurbishing them, which previously had been done by Marine reservists.

In 1995 Secretary of Defense William Perry added the Toys for Tots program to the Marine Reserve Corps official list of missions. The organization distributes toys at other times of the year besides the holidays, for instance working with FEMA to provide toys for children during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

You can find opportunities to donate on their official website here.

Hendricks worked as a director of public relations for Warner Brother Studios when he founded the charity, and in its first year the familiar donation bins made their debut at Warner theaters. His position provided the opportunity to get celebrity support for the charity when it went national the following year.

This 1980 promotional record was sent to radio stations by Warner Brothers and features a side of celebrity spots, including Frank Sinatra, Michael MacDonald (of the Doobie Brothers) and George Harrison.

toys for tots

Depending who you ask, the American Recording Society was the first non-profit record label. Discogs considers it to be so, but sussing out the truth of such a claim lands a listener into the murky territory of Obi Wan Kenobi’s “certain point of view” pretty quickly. What is certain is that the ARS was historically significant to music lovers, even if the sort of record collectors who are only looking for things to sell on Discogs are unimpressed by the albums.

The label was launched in 1951 under the ‘book club’ model and with a specific goal of supporting American composers (think Copland, Ives and company). Its subscription service added a jazz series in 1956 under an arrangement with Norman Granz, familiar to collectors as the founder of Verve, Clef, Norgran and Pablo Records — all pretty essential jazz labels. ARS gave him the opportunity to move some of his stock of unissued recordings as well as promote artists under his umbrella.

When you’re digging through a box of albums, they don’t look like much — especially since they’re in these plastic sleeves. Audiophiles have discovered that the engineering of these records was of the highest quality. They came in soft plastic sleeves with fairly extensive liner notes included on an insert. The jazz highlighted in the short-lived series (about fifty records produced over a two year period) trends towards what you’d expect given Granz’s economic interests: there are sessions by Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz and Count Basie for instance. All were prominent artists recording for Verve Records at the time. One of the catalog’s standout releases was a “Modern Jazz” record with the Cecil Taylor Quartet on one side and the Gigi Gryce/Donald Byrd Jazz Laboratory on the other. Both sets were recorded at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival.

This was one of Taylor’s first appearances on LP, and almost certainly a surprising listen for the subscription label’s customers, who received the album in the mail in 1958. Taylor’s incredible approach was just forming at the time of this performance.

Our copy is not in especially great shape so we apologize for the so-so sound quality of these recordings. Somebody must have loved this album and played it a lot! Here, for those interested in early free jazz, is the Cecil Taylor side of the album:

 

This classic compilation of late 40s jazz singles contains several gems. The album’s liner notes remark that “the most important big band of the period … was that of Dizzy Gillespie,” and the record includes five tracks from the truly amazing large group led by Diz. Few records so successfully straddled the line between swing and bop, and Gillespie’s big band earned its place in jazz history.

The reason we love this compilation is that it is the only LP (that we know of) which contains “Rat Race,” a 1950 small group single by Count Basie. The tune is a tenor battle between Georgie Auld and Gene Ammons, and it also features guitarist Freddie Green — none of these jazz musicians are prominent figures in bop or modern jazz but each were enormously influential on the performers who were. “Rat Race” is a quintessentially swinging Basie side on the cusp of modern jazz.

An adapted version of the tune was arranged by Quincy Jones on the album One More Time in 1958.

Session guitarist Grady Martin appeared on so many hit 45s in his epic career it would take a collector a while to find them all. Everything from rockabilly classics like Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man” to country standards such as “On the Road Again” — with stops along the way to discover guitar fuzz on Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry” and offer up an enduring riff on “Oh Pretty Woman.”

He also recorded a number of records of his own. Included in them is this cover of the theme from Dragnet, which is both silly and awesome at the same time.

This post is a re-run of a post which originally appeared in 2014.

Our pal Craig is always bringing in odd finds from his thrift store trips, and he recently found this awesome tape of a 1988 radio documentary about Radio First Termer, a pirate station briefly broadcast in Vietnam.

vietnam radio first termerRadio First Termer broadcast just over sixty hours, for three weeks in January 1971. Its host, Dave Rabbit, is now known to have been US Air Force Sargent Clyde David DeLay. You can hear one of the only surviving recordings of the original broadcasts here.

Here is a fun 45 to brighten up this dreary Monday morning. You will almost certainly recognize the voice.

Jim Henson was one of the most universally beloved celebrities in America at the time of his sudden and tragic death in 1990, but he was hardly an overnight success. In fact, Henson’s slow rise to fame is an inspiring tale of perseverance and passion. It was a few years after the release of this single that Henson, as Rowlf the Dog, became a regular character on The Jimmy Dean Show – You can watch him clown around about one minute into this episode. He even makes a joke about his host having “a new hit record.” Henson himself, performing as Ernie, hit #16 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1970 with the single “Rubber Duckie.” This is one of several times Sesame Street produced an unexpected hit record.

One of Henson’s magical legacies is the way he, along with Sesame Street‘s musical directors Jeffrey Moss and Joe Raposo, revived the music of Vaudeville and early American theater. This was carried on when The Muppet Show debuted in the fall of 1976, and throughout the franchise’s ongoing films. This included performing early 20th century hits like “The Bird in Nellie’s Hat” and “The Varsity Drag” as well original songs like Henson’s incredible duet with himself in “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along.”

All of this was still in his future when Henson released “The Countryside” in 1960 with its ridiculous credit “Orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra.” Of course, years later Ol’ Blue Eyes did record Henson’s signature tune, “Bein’ Green,” which was written by their mutual friend Joe Raposo for Sesame Strret with the simple instruction, “We need a song for the frog.”

« Older entries

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.