Thursday night at the Cedar Cultural Center we’ll celebrate the the latest release on our in-house record label (Hymie’s Records, of course!) — six new songs by ragtime pickin’ blues singer Lonesome Dan Kase!
Hours Seem Like Days looks at the world and the passage of time through the eyes of shelter animals. Part Piedmont part Delta, the 10″ record features some of the finest playing Lonesome Dan has ever recorded, and gorgeous artwork by Shelley Rohlf.
Woody Guthrie recorded his children’s records for Folkways (Songs to Grow On and Nursery Days) in the late 40s when his own children were fairly small. During this time he lived in the now-famous Mermaid Avenue house on Coney Island, and produced a variety of songs, poems and drawing now archived by his family.
While much of his work in these years was inspired by his domestic life in New York, he continued to document the struggles of working people — for instance, in 1948 he wrote on of our favorites of his songs, “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” after reading about the death of 28 migrant workers who were being sent back to Mexico.
It may not be the coolest choice but “Car Song” is probably our favorite song by Woody Guthrie. Why don’t they make cars with horns that go “Ah-ooo-gah!” anymore?
From the picture on the back of The 12 Sides of John D. Loudermilk, the singer-songwriter hardly looks like bad news, but he wrote some of the baddest outlaw tunes around. Our favorite is this 1963 single, which, like many of his songs, has been covered pretty widely over the years. Country fans likely know it as through Johnny Cash’s recording, and more recently it became a sort of signature tune for Whitey Morgan and the 78s.
Paul Revere and the Raiders had the biggest hit from a cover of one of Loudermilk’s songs with “Indian Reservation” in 1971. He wrote the song after a family of Cherokee Indians took him in when he was stranded in a blizzard, and they asked him to write a song about the plight of their people.
Historian Dee Brown calmly describes the period following the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (and the subsequent Cherokee Removal Act of 1838) as “a bad time” in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The Cherokee people have long called it “The Trail of Tears,” as nearly their entire nation was forced to march more than a thousand miles with minimal supplies in one of the most shameful chapters in our nation’s history.
When telling the story of “Indian Reservation” to the Viva! Nash Vegas radio program (here), Loudermilk says that after being awarded a medal by the Cherokee nation, he was asked to read from a ledger from the Cherokee Trail of Tears and was shocked to find the names of his great grandparents, who were ninety-one years old when forced by the US Military to leave their home.
A small number of Cherokee escaped the forced removal and remained, and they now have a reservation as The Eastern Band of the Cherokee, not far from Loudermilk’s hometown of Durham, North Carolina. He wrote a song about his childhood there called “Tobacco Road,” which was also a hit after it was covered, this time by the Nashville Teens and later Eric Burdon and the Animals. The song has since become a standard and probably the most commonly covered of Loudermilk’s songs.
John D. Loudermilk passed away two years ago. He is one of our favorite songwriters. In fact, last winter we posted a novelty song he recorded in 1957 without even knowing it was one of his songs (here).
The same day we posted Lenny Bruce’s “Djinni in the Candy Store” last month, we came across this album while cleaning a great crate of jazz records.
Keyboardist Bobby Lyle has made his most indelible mark as the musical director for hugely popular singers in the 80s — Bette Midler, Anita Baker and Al Jarreau — but he has sporadically recorded soulful jazz albums under his own name as well.
He is also part of the Minnesota jazz legacy, growing up just a couple blocks off Lake Street and cutting his teeth at clubs like the Blue Note and Herb’s back in the sixties. Jay Goetting’s history of Minnesota jazz, Joined at the Hip, includes an impressive story about Lyle. When Wynton Kelly was playing at Herb’s with his trio, Lyle stepped up and played during their smoke break. Mickey McClain was there, and remembered, “Kelly looked up and exclaimed, ‘Who the fuck is that?'”
Another legend about Lyle is that he nearly started a jazz fusion band with Jimi Hendrix. The two jammed, along with Willie Weeks and Gypsy drummer Bill Lordan, but the project never went further before Hendrix passed away the following year.
Lyle lives in Texas now, but according to Goetting’s book he occasionally returns to the Twin Cities.
Jazz legend Earl “Fatha” Hines had a little to say with this oddball single, released during the California gubernatorial campaign of 1966. His parody of “Mack the Knife,” a jazz standard taken from The Threepenny Opera, responds to the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, who at the time promised to “get the welfare bums back to work, and to “clean up the mess at Berkeley” (in the Gipper’s own words).
Hines speculated on the effects of Reagan’s budget proposals, which in fact did freeze and then cut funding to both the University of California, and Medi-Cal, the state’s medical assistance program. The flip side was an instrumental (“The Medi-Cal Blues”).
Earl “Fatha” Hines was sixty-three the year he cast his vote for Governor Pat Brown, and had only recently come out of a lengthy retirement from jazz, during which he ran a tobacco shop in Oakland. Just a couple years earlier his friend and oftentimes manager, jazz writer Stanley Dance, had pushed the pianist to perform again, leading to a surge of recordings in the mid-60s which were highly praised by jazz critics all over the country (Downbeat named him the “#1 jazz pianist” in 1966 — the first of six times he would receive their venerated award). Dance is one of our favorite writers, and we last referred to his amazing contributions to the history of jazz in this post about Johnny Hodges pet monkey, Shuma. For his part “Fatha” became an essential link between early jazz and it’s modern children, performing with musicians from several generations extensively until he passed away in 1983 at the age of seventy-nine.
Highlights from Hines’ post-retirement career include a session of duets with Jaki Byard which is one of the most interesting explorations of jazz piano ever recorded, and a fun appearance on Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch where the two perform Blind Blake’s “Ditty wa Ditty” [sic]. Hines’ other duets from this period include duets with Marian MacPartland, Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson. He also joined legendary bassists Charles Mingus and Richard Davis, drummer Elvin Jones and singers Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington on sessions in his seventies. “Fatha” was so important to the history of jazz that no less an authority than Count Basie called him “the greatest piano player in the world.”