Follow by Email

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

As Heroes Vanish One by One

The recent passing of one of our great musical heroes, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, reminded me once again of the bittersweet and fleeting nature of life - not only by way of losing one of the originators of the influential and groundbreaking music we all grew up with and treasured -  but in human terms.
 
Ray seemed like a good friend of mine. I spent many hours with him playing those records over and over again - memorizing the lyrics - singing those songs in my head to the point where the music became the anthems of my existence and in some way validated my path through the tangled weeds and broken glass of teenage rebellion.
 
As our heroes vanish one by one, there is a longing to trace backward and search for the ruins of our youth in memories we've made safe by the nature of our revisionist imaginations. This is the core of the power of cherished music - that nuclear center of it - that creates some kind of fission that sparks energy when the paths of our collective past collide with the reality of our existential dilemma.
 
It's that almost irreconcilable clash between the present moment and the awareness of our impending yet inevitable mortality.  
 
That fission takes place in the face of impossible odds, against terrible dangerous visions we conjure from the shadows of things yet to be haunt us, if not consciously, but just below the surface. The power of the music takes us back to a safer and more innocent time we believe was happier. Perhaps that is the power of art - to give us some sense of truth.  
 
The psychology of it notwithstanding, these heroes were the architects of a revolutionary sound that was created from the raw cloth of the Blues and the swinging sounds of the post-war era, in an electric wave of energy that exploded into our atmosphere and changed forever the way we looked at the world  - and each other.
 
As a curator of music, as a creator and as a preservationist, there is a sense of duty to maintain and purvey the legacy these heroes have left us. Nothing lasts forever - not even the pyramids, and one day all of our collective work will go the way of all atoms.  
 
All the more reason to celebrate life and art and love one another like there's no tomorrow.  
 
In the end, we are all just Riders On the Storm.
 
   
         

Monday, May 13, 2013

When AM Ruled the World: Philly Dreams, WFIL and Jerry Blavat

As a baby boomer myself, I have fond memories, almost painful in their nostalgia. I grew up in a sleepy suburb forty five minutes drive from Center City Philadelphia in a tiny and then-quiet hamlet of Exton. The AM airwaves crackled with an intense buzz - an energy that hinted at something profound and exciting - almost like the promise of sex or religious ecstasy.
 
In the mid-sixties, the music available to me on my beat up hand-size transistor radio was limited.
 
The choice, always, was "Famous Fifty Six," 560 on your AM dial: WFIL-Philadelphia. They played I guess what was considered Top 40 - but it was rich in the heritage of the area. Philadelphia was the home of many great groups and had its own heady and unique blend of Soul, Rhythm and Blues and Black-Oriented Funk. Later this became known as "The Sound Of Philadelphia," but at the time, it was considered simply "the music."
 
Little did I know at the time that the music of groups like The Delfonics, Archie Bell and the Drells, Sam and Dave and The Four Tops would influence me profoundly in my own musical career. I also had no idea at the time the legacy that had come before it: namely Doo-Wop and Fifties music. (Just down the pike from me in Pottstown there was another guy named Daryl Hall listening to the same stuff, and he had still not yet met John Oates.)
 
Philadelphia had been called by some "The last bastion of doo-wop culture in a McDonald's world."    These words were written about Philadelphia, but they apply equally to Philadelphia's legendary radio personality Jerry Blavat -- The "Geator with the Heater," the "Boss with the Hot Sauce."  The unique DJ, still going strong and now as much a Philadelphia institution as a cheesesteak or the Academy of Music.
 
At the time, we didn't know Jerry Blavat would become a broadcasting legend - the East Coast's heir apparent to Dick Clark. (Clark of course made his own stellar contribution to putting Philly on the map in that his original 'American Bandstand' was broadcast from 1957 to 1963 from the City of Brotherly Love on WFIL-TV 6)
 
Jerry Blavat - The Geator With the Heater
 
There is so much we did not know - that Vietnam's dilemma had reached a breaking point; our country would soon be divided by the conflict of war in the same way as North and South Vietnam had been geographically split. The encroachment of our own government's collusion with Big Business hadn't started yet - and radio was still in it's own golden age, uncorrupted by corporate power.  
 
Jerry Blavat's voice came out of the air as a god-sent revelation: 'Come on, come on, West Philly, come on, South Jersey, come on, yon teen agers everywhere. Hit that thing now. Hey, hey, ho, ho. Let me say greetings and salutations. Welcome to the biggest of all big-time ones. Once again, yours truly, the Geator with the Heater and, of course, everybody here, swingin', tick-tock-rockin' with the big time Chez-Vous tower of power. The toughest dances in the entire world! Let's kick it off the big time, Du-Ettes -- 'Please Forgive Me' -- oooohh!'
 
Those beautiful summers we spent listening to all the great oldies in a mix that was selected by the boss jock are brought back each time I tune in to the few stations left still keeping this vital music alive. It was kinetic, when moments were connected like the cosmos connected stars and atoms.
 
Each time I hear those nostalgic sounds takes me back to a more innocent time -  when the possibilities were endless - when harmony and melody mattered - when dreams and reality met the horizon like the earth meets the sky.  
 
All across America, boomers were grooving to the anthems that would become the soundtracks to our lives, on radio stations large and small - in other hamlets and towns not yet realized and in the hearts and minds of the multitude that would go on to form empires from the dust of the Earth.
 
As they happen the seconds as they occur seem inconsequential, but in hindsight they mean everything.
 
The way backward may be lost, but as we grope blindly forward into the future in this stream of onrushing technological change, trying to understand our vast universe and our place in it, the sounds of those oldies but goodies echo back to reassure us that greatness is still possible.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chuck Berry Still Rocking The Oldies!


Commemorating Rock n Roll Innovator Chuck Berry's recent Lifetime Achievement Award and current tour of Russia, I thought my readers would enjoy a little background, courtesy of my good friend, Bob Fotentot.      
 
Others may claim the title "creator of rock and roll," but Chuck Berry arguably has more right than most. This has something to do with his inimitable guitar style -- the "Chuck Berry intro" is the building block for any traditional rock and roll tune -- but it has more to do with his songwriting. Berry is simply one of the greatest writers of this or any other musical era, a canny synthesist who took the structure of blues, married it to hillbilly rhythms, and tied the whole thing into ageless teenage concerns like getting girls, racing cars, and trying to find work. In Berry's hands, the traditional laments of the blues found a parallel in every kid's struggle to be taken seriously.
Chuck Berry was a stylistic innovator in his head from the very beginning, a man who worshipped Nat King Cole and Muddy Waters with equal fervor. But it was in 1953, when the young hairdresser and guitarist joined The Sir John's Trio in his native St. Louis, that he hit upon the formula that would change history. Playing a little of everything in order to maximize his audience, Chuck learned a few hillbilly riffs and mixed them in with the blues he'd been performing. Black AND white audiences ate it up, and when his idol Waters suggested Chess Records, Berry auditioned with a revamped version of an old bluegrass tune, "Ida Red." It was renamed "Maybellene," and the rest, as they say, is history.
 
Chuck didn't have an easier ride than any of his contemporaries; although he was a shrewd businessman, his sexual appetite and thorny personality helped land him in jail twice. But Berry adapted, experiencing not one but two comebacks -- once during the British Invasion, when admirers like the Beatles covered his songs, and again during the late Sixties and early Seventies, when he reintroduced himself to festival audiences as a blues-rocker. Thing is, he never changed his sound to do either. The music of Chuck Berry embodies the rock and roll spirit so perfectly, he never needed to.
 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bringing Back Those Oldies But Goodies....

Welcome to the newly created Oldies But Goodies Blog!

Do you love "Oldies" Music?

Visit here often for unique and interesting information on your favorite oldies artists and music. In addition, I'll keep you up to date on the upcoming oldies concerts we present at performing arts centers throughout Southern and Northern California!

Hey, just what the heck are "Oldies But Goodies," anyway?

In a general sense, this is music recorded mostly during the 1950's and 1960's, with some overlap in years.

Musical styles range from Rock/Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop, Soul, Motown, Blues and, well, you get the idea.

It's the music we baby boomers grew up with during the fabulous fifties and swinging sixties!

It's the music that defined a generation.

This blog is but one element of the free content we feature on our website at OldiesConcerts.Org, where you can listen to our 24-Hour Cruisin' Oldies Radio Station, watch our YouTube Channel at CruisinOldiesTV, and catch up with the latest news on the great music and entertainers of the era.

If you love what you see and hear, subscribe to our Facebook Page, our YouTube Channel and our Blog.

Live music is a shared experience.

We welcome your input and feedback!

We promise to bring you more of the music and news relevant to you, the oldies music lover - paying tribute to the greatest music of the last century.

Mark W. Curran - Managing Director
Cruisin' Oldies Concerts - OldiesConcerts.Org
http://www.OldiesConcerts.Org
https://www.facebook.com/CruisinOldiesConcerts
https://www.youtube.com/CruisinOldiesTV


Monday, May 6, 2013

Welcome to the newly created Oldies But Goodies Blog!



Welcome to the newly created Oldies But Goodies Blog!

In regular installments I will bring you unique and interesting information on your favorite oldies artists and music. In addition, I'll keep you up to date on the upcoming oldies concerts we present at performing arts centers throughout Southern and Northern California!

Live music is a shared experience. We welcome your input and contributions.

Firstly, let's define "Oldies But Goodies."

In a general sense, this is music recorded mostly during the 1950's and 1960's, with some overlap in years.

Musical styles range from Rock/Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop, Soul, Motown, Blues and, well, you get the idea.

It's the music we baby boomers grew up with during the fabulous fifties and swinging sixties!

It's the music that defined a generation.

This blog is but one element of the free content we feature on our website at OldiesConcerts.Org, where you can listen to our 24-Hour Cruisin' Oldies Radio Station, watch our YouTube Channel at CruisinOldiesTV, and catch up with the latest news on the great music and entertainers of the era.

If you love what you see and hear, subscribe to our Facebook Page, our YouTube Channel and our Blog.

We promise to bring you more of the music and news relevant to you, the oldies music lover - paying tribute to the greatest music of the last century.

Mark W. Curran - Managing Director
Cruisin' Oldies Concerts - OldiesConcerts.Org
http://www.OldiesConcerts.Org
https://www.facebook.com/CruisinOldiesConcerts
https://www.youtube.com/CruisinOldiesTV