Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2017

Archive for the category “Show Business”

Veeck (As In Wreck)

THERE ARE INVENTORS, CREATORS, AND INNOVATORS and then there was Bill Veeck.

If you are a baseball fan, a REAL baseball fan, you already know about Bill Veeck. Even if you are just a casual fan of The Game you are aware of his influence of the game.

The ivy on the walls of Chicago’s Wrigley Field? Thank Bill Veeck. That was his idea. He was always coming up with something. Honestly however, not all of his ideas were successful or appreciated.

Veeck would tell the story that in the early 1940s, when he was part owner of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers; he installed a portable screen that raised the height of the outfield wall. When the opposing team was at bat the screen would go up – and it was lowered when the Brewers were at bat. That lasted all of one day before the league banned it.

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“Do You Love me?” – Reblog from The Immortal Jukebox

Today we offer a reblog from “The Immortal Jukebox” about one of the early Motown Singing groups: The Contours and their hit, “Do You Love Me?”

Everybody dance!

The Contours : Do You Love Me (Motown – The Empire lifts off!)

 

 

‘ You broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t dance
You didn’t even want me around
And now I’m back to let you know
I can really shake ’em down!’ (Berry Gordy)

Roma uno die non est condita.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It takes time to found a mighty Empire that will conquer all the known world.

So, from the founding of Rome (let’s say 753BC) to the final defeat of Carthage it was all of 600 years.

It is therefore somewhat remarkable it took Berry Gordy less than a decade from the founding of Motown in 1959 to establish an Empire that colonised the hearts and souls of music fans from Addis Abbaba to Zanzibar and Zagreb!

An $800 loan from his family became a multi, multi million dollar record company which would record songs that will last as long as we have Spirits that need lifting, hearts that need stirring (or consolation) and hips that just gotta move.

First, get yourself a base that you own.

Let’s show our ambition and call this base, ‘Hitsville USA’.

A Studio come Clubhouse where your singers and musicians can find competition and camaraderie 24 hours a day (acording to legend the local beat cop thought 2648 West Grand Drive Boulevard must be an all hours drinking den given the numbers of shady looking characters turning up at all hours of the day and night).

Next get yourself a live and play in the Basement group of musicians with Jazz chops who can fashion a wholly new sound – which is not jazz, not old school R&B, Blues or Rock n’ Roll.

Let’s call them The Funk Brothers and let’s have one of them, James Jamerson on Bass, be a fully fledged genius who will add grace and depth to every recording he ever plays on.

Let’s have a slogan calling that sound, ‘The Sound of Young America’ and let’s make so many great records that the slogan will became an every day reality on the airwaves and the charts.

And, we don’t mean, in still highly segregated America, the Black Music Charts .

No, no, no.

We mean the Pop Music charts.

Where the real money is to be made.

Open for Business and cast a cool appraising eye on all the would be stars who beat a path to your door.

This kid Smokey Robinson’s a Keeper – he’s got a notebook with hundreds of songs and he can sing ’em like a bird and work the Recording Desk too!

Not that I can’t write and produce myself.

You ever heard, ‘Reet Petite’ or, ‘Lonely Teardrops’?

Big Hits but Berry didn’t get the money!

Not going to happen again!

So, in 1960, New Frontier!, we get our first hit.

Barrett Strong with, ‘Money’ (bunch of English guys in Hamburg called The Beatles will learn a lot playing that one!).

Then Smokey comes up with, ‘Shop Around’ and by the end of the year we got a Million Seller!

Here comes 1961 and we get ourselves our first Pop Number One!

The Marvellettes, ‘Please Mr Postman’.

I got my eyes and ears on that Brian Holland – there’s a lot more hits where that came from!

Early ’62 I figure we need to find a song like, ‘Twist and Shout’ that will have all the White Kids, all the Black Kids and everybody who ain’t tied to a chair out on the floor and running down to the record store to lay down their cash.

Let’s call it, ‘Do You Love Me’.

I thought it might suit The Temptations but maybe they just sing too well for this one (I got big plans for them later).

So, what about The Contours?

 

Probably the best dancers of anyone who ever came through these doors!

Come to think of it Billy Gordon got a, ‘Wake the Dead and get ’em up Dancin” Voice if I ever heard one!

Next time they come through I’m gonna sit down at the piano and teach them the song one evening and record it the next day.

Gonna tell James to drive this one like a runaway train.

None of his fancy jazz licks – nail that backbeat to the Basement floor!

Of course, when Benny Benjamin is behind the Drums, the record is going to sound immense.

Immense.

Maybe I’ll start with a spoken intro and then let The Funk Brothers explode and tell Billy I don’t want him to be able to sing this song a second time ’cause I want him to tear his throats to shreds the first time!

Ok – let’s go!

Now, if that ain’t shaking ’em down I don’t know what is!

The Funk Brothers never let up and Billy Gordon’s lead vocal comes at you like a tidal wave.

Hubert Johnson, Billy Higgs, Joe Billingslea and Sylvester Potts make up a chorus that has an irresitble goofball charm. The trilling guitar comes from Huey Davis.

When I’ve managed to master some skill which has previously eluded me (and there’s a lot of them!) I just can’t stop myself singing, ‘I’ m back and I can really shake ’em down – Watch me now!’.

I love the corny spoken introduction, the false ending, the references to the Mashed Potato and The Twist and the bullfrog, ‘Um, Bom, Bom, Bom, brrrmm’ backing vocals.

Of course Berry got his hit!

Top 5 in every Chart and well over a Million copies sold.

They say it was the fastest selling single in the history of Motown.

Malheureusement, it was the pinnacle of The Contours career though they did make a handful of other excellent recordings.

They were simply too low down in the pecking order of Motown Vocal Groups.

And, when you consider they were up against the likes of The Four Tops and The Tempatations that is hardly to be wondered at.

There’s almost always been a version of the group out there driving a crowd crazy with, ‘Do You Love Me’.

And, by some mysterious alignment of the heavens, in 1987 the song gained a wholly unexpected new lease of life through being featured in the world wide hit film. ‘Dirty Dancing’ (even if they did, disgracefully, chop off the ending!).

One of the versions of The Contours got to go on a world tour and enjoy the big time once again.

Not so, for poor Billy Gordon.

For Billy died in poverty after spending time in prison (bizarrely with one time colleague Joe Billingslea being a Corrections Officer in the Prison!).

So it goes. So it goes.

Yet, every day someone, somewhere, has their life lit up by hearing Billy intone:

You broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t dance
You didn’t even want me around
And now I’m back to let you know
I can really shake ’em down!

And then, if they’ve got any blood in their veins they’ll go stone crazy for the next two and a half minutes.

Watch me Now!

Dedicated to :

Billy Gordon (RIP)

Sylvester Potts (RIP)

Hubert Johnson (RIP)

Huey Davis (RIP)

James Jamerson (RIP)

Benny Benjamin (RIP)

Joe Billingslea

Billy Hoggs

Notes:

Britain’s Ace Records has two excellent complications documenting The Contours recorded legacy.

Tracks to look out for –

‘First I Look at the Purse’

‘Whole Lotta Woman’

‘Shake Sherry’

‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’

The Contours : Do You Love Me (Motown – The Empire lifts off!)

Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Film Stock

ELVIS HAS LEFT THE FOOD CHAIN! I have to admit that was the nastiest and most snarky comment I heard tossed around on the 16th, the 40th anniversary of Elvis shuffling off his mortal coil.

In a way that seemed to me to be more of a celebration of that event rather than a commemoration the TCM Channel ran 24 hours of nonstop Elvis movies. That is not an easy thing to deal with. I think looking up at the sun on acid while eating ghost peppers would be less difficult.

According to the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) Elvis made 31 movies, BUT the people at TV Guide say that he cranked out 34. How there can be that much of a discrepancy is beyond me. Of course, a lot of things are beyond me, i.e. MTV that doesn’t play any music.

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That’s My Cue

BE WARNED. I’VE GOT ON MY THINKING CAP.

When that happens the dogs howl, babies cry and milk goes bad on the “Best if used by…” date. And I usually end up with my neck in a wringer.

What triggered my lobes into action was a feeling, a nostalgia, perhaps. I got an email from a local theater group that is holding auditions for their next production. I have no interest in that particular play, but it hit a responsive chord in my heart.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “When Sylvie Sang” from February 2015

Fiction Saturday Encore – from February 2015

When Sylvie Sang

Microphone LargeThis story was created as a performance piece. I presented it a number of times over the years.

It is longer than my usual posts.  

I hope you enjoy it.

 

WHEN SYLVIE SANG the men at the bar would stop and turn on their stools to listen.  The bartender would dry his hands, move to the end of the bar and light up a cigarette.  The waitresses would huddle by the wall and hug their trays.  And the drunken man who cried softly to himself in the corner by the door would lift his eyes and rub his hands together underneath an invisible spigot.

When Sylvie sang, the room was locked in glass and still – as still as a new widow hearing that first long silence. 

In the spotlight the smoke was frozen.

“When Sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy.”

When Sylvie sang she never really heard the music or thought about the words.  She was far away in a small town by a riverbank, holding onto someone she loved.  She only heard his voice, felt his heat, and the nightclub disappeared.

When Sylvie sang she wasn’t there and the people she sang for knew that because she took them with her.

“What would they say if we up and ran away from the roaring crowd?”

But the song always has to end and when the music stopped the men at the bar would turn again and start to laugh and talk.  The waitresses would rush to cover their thirsty stations and the drunken man would close his eyes again and descend inside himself.  Sylvie would go out into the alley and smoke until the next set called her back.

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Throwback Thursday from July 2015

Throwback Thursday from July 2015

I Can Smell Them

theater in the roundA FEW DAYS AGO I got into a discussion with an acquaintance about what it is like doing a play in “The Round.”

Theater in the Round is where the stage and the actors are completely surrounded by the audience. There is no formal stage separation with the audience sitting “out there” beyond the footlights. Such an arrangement can create problems for both the performers and the audience members.

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School Boy Heart

I’M A FAN OF JIMMY BUFFETT. I’m not a fan to the point of calling myself a “Parrothead” which is similar to avid fans of the Grateful Dead calling themselves “Deadheads.” No, I’m not a “Parrothead.” I don’t hitchhike around the country to attend Buffett concerts and I don’t have any Buffett tattoos. I can’t afford the ticket prices and I’m too old to start siring kids named “Cheeseburger” or “Margaritaville.”

I guess I’m more of a “Parakeet” than a “Parrothead.”

I just like his music and I admire him because as a man of 70 he can still take his show on tour without the need for a fulltime medical staff.

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May The Farce Be With You

MY WIFE, THE LOVELY AND WONDERFULLY OBSERVANT, DAWN, and I were having a discussion about our favorite movies when the “Star Wars” franchise came up. I remember seeing the first film back in 19…whatever it was. I know we had electricity, so it was sometime after World War One. It’s been a while that I know.

I enjoyed the movie, but despite all of the special effects and nifty costuming, I realized that “Star Wars” was really just a Cowboy Movie. It was a fun and rollicking Cowboy Movie to be sure, but an Oater nonetheless.

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Throwback Thursday – from 2015 “I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong”

Throwback Thursday – from 2015

I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong

Harry1I TURNED ON THE TV THIS MORNING looking for some mild entertainment. I usually fire up the Tube as background noise while writing. My hope was for an old musical – you know, a Fred and Ginger type of film.

I didn’t find it.

Instead I was treated to a “Dirty Harry Marathon.” A bit different than I had hoped for, but…I felt lucky and it made my day. After all, a man’s got to know his limitations – at that time of day.

So – I started to work on a piece about the arrival of all the colorful birds in our backyard –Harry3 Hummingbirds, Cardinals, Finches, and even the big Redtail Hawks. I thought that a Fred and Ginger musical would help me rhapsodize about the songs I could hear drifting from the trees. That was my plan anyway, but Dirty Harry and The Dead Pool took me in a different direction.

Instead of something idyllic and suitable for reading over a glass of wine it came out reading like something from the first draft of “The Birds.” In real life I doubt that two Finches could take down a Condor and pluck him bare – and I’m not really sure that the Woodpecker in our backyard was strapped. It was perhaps the strangest 1500 words I’ve ever written.

After about three hours I just gave up on the writing part and moved from my office/kitchen Harry poptable and moved to the Rip van Winkle Memorial Chair in front of the Big Screen TV. It was now me and Inspector Callahan taking care of business. Popcorn – I needed popcorn.

A minute and a half later I was back in my chair with a hot bag of popcorn and a Diet Somethingorother.

“Did I fire six shots or only five?”

“It was six you big dummy. Harry, munch, munch, gulp, bluffed you.”

Most of those movies (I can’t call them “films.”) were shot in San Francisco while I was living there and I knew a few comedians who got small parts in one flick or the other. They played punks/thugs or ambulance drivers – not exactly roles that win Oscars. Some of them didn’t even get their name in the credits, but they did get paid which is, of course, the most important part.

I was never in any of them. My film career was limited to two “Independent films.” That means that nobody in their right mind was willing to finance the project so it was shot in pieces as they could scrape together some money. I agreed to be in the movies as a favor to the director, but only if I got paid in cash – no checks. My Momma didn’t raise no fools (a couple of whining neurotics perhaps, but no fools.).

I sat there for three more hours watching David Soul be a vigilante cop and Tyne Daly getHarry5Harry4machine gunned on Alcatraz. Luckily, they both went on to star in their own Cop Shows (“Starsky and Hutch” and “Cagney and Lacey”).  

One of these days I’ll try the Singing Bird thing again, only I’ll check the listings first to see what movies will be running. I won’t even try if they are going to be doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger Marathon. I’ll wait until I see a Busby Berkeley mob of Bleach Blonde Chorines hoofing it across the screen.

I’d even settle for an Abbott and Costello Festival. At least then I’d know who was on first.

Harry6

What Do You Mean, “Move?”

I LOVE OLD MOVIES. It doesn’t hamper my enjoyment if it is a film that is 20 years old, or 30, 50, or even older than me.

“Oh, it has sound. What fun!”

Last night, at an ungodly hour, I grabbed the remote and tuned into my 173rd viewing of “The Producers,” a gem of a movie from 1967 with Gene Wilder in his first major role and the completely insane Zero Mostel.

If you have never seen this movie, Shame on you! Go to your room!

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What, And Give Up Show Business?

WE ARE DOWN IN TEXAS FOR A SHORT VISIT. Not only is that a good thing in and of itself, but the weather is certainly better than up north – no snow and I’m actually going around clad in the season’s first outings for my Hawaiian shirts. I look like a tourist.

Another difference, whether we travel to Texas, Ireland, or wherever is local television. Local television outside of your major markets is where you can see careers beginning, careers flourishing, and careers ending – sometimes all within the span of a few days.

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I’m A Slow Learner

50183_2061823_5045_nlcvinyl_1_901930424__v13I’VE BEEN WEARING A SWEATSHIRT today that trumpeted my old college alma mater – well, one of them anyway. It took four different schools for me to finally earn my degree. I attribute that high body count to

1) Moving from one state to another.

2) Not going to class, and

3) Finally getting serious about it all.

My sweatshirt is from Baldwin-Wallace University. Never heard of it? It is one of those school that ranks at the top of the list nationwide, but to most people, it might as well be the University of Neptune.

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We’re Doomed! What’s For Lunch?

happy-danceICE? WHAT ICE? I DON’T SEE NO ICE.

I take that back – I see ice in my coffee, but there is no ice on the roads or on my windshield. I’m not complaining mind you. In fact, I am doing my Happy Dance – big time.

For the last week the Weather Bunny on Channel Two has been predicting that Terre Haute (That’s French for “What’s that floating in the Wabash?”) was going to be hit with several days worth of ice storms, Sleet, Freezing Rain and NCAA Athletes. I don’t mind the athletes, but the ice, sleet and freezing rain I can do without.

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Doctor! Doctor! Give Me the News!

doc2IT HAS BEEN THREE MONTHS SINCE I SAW MY DOCTOR. It seems like only six months.

After all of the usual thumping, poking, and listening he seemed to be relatively pleased, almost surprised it seemed to me, that I was still alive and kicking. I admit that I don’t kick as well as I used to, but I have the “alive” part down cold.

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A Life Well Lived

200wTHEY ARE DROPPING LIKE FLIES. Celebrities seem to be competing with each other – which one of them can die first with the most overblown publicity.

When George Michaels, erstwhile singer and public facilities critic, passed away recently someone mentioned that they thought he was already dead. Obviously not. The Obit that was being read on the TV sounded familiar to them. My guess is that George must have done something a while ago to get a mention on the air, and to save having to actually do any real work, the newsreader (“reporter” in their own mind.) simply pulled George’s pre-written obituary and read from that – and then put it back in the file drawer to await George’s permanent shuffling off of his mortal coil.

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The Name Game

f0bf7e046eb40ca7200c68cb9f6c806bI TOOK MYSELF ON A LITTLE FACT FINDING MISSION the other day. It was inspired by seeing a picture of the actress Tuesday Weld. Most men my age remember her from the TV show, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” She played the gorgeous blonde Thalia Menninger. After she left the show nobody cared about it any longer.

My research topic had little to do with the lovely Thalia, but more to do with Tuesday – and Wednesday and Thursday, etc.

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Throwback Thursday – “Do We Need More Performance Art?”

Throwback Thursday 1

 

 

 From November 2015

 

I HAVE BEEN SURVEYING THE WORLD OF PERFORMANCE Aperformance art2RT.
It’s not hard to do –just look in your local newspaper for listings under “Live Entertainment and whenever you see something that boasts only one person doing the show, you’ve found it. But beware and tread carefully.

Most of the “Performance Art” solo performers that I’ve met over the years have been solo because nobody else in their right mind would get on a stage with them. Would YOU want to share the stage with a guy smearing ice cream all over his body? Not unless you brought the chocolate syrup and a spoon. But that would also call for a very low passable sense of culinary hygiene.

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I Decline To Recline

retired1EVEN THOUGH I’M TECHNICALLY RETIRED I still find my days filled. I’m not “busy,” but “occupied.” And I don’t mind that at all. I think it helps to keep my mind and body just clicking along.

We have all known people who have retired only to take up permanent residence in a recliner in front of the TV. That is what they do – and they are dead within a year. These are also the same people who, if you asked them to tell you about themselves, would start off by talking about what they did for a living. I’ve never understood people like that.

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You And Me, Version 1.0

me1WHAT MUST IT BE LIKE TO BE SOMEONE ELSE – ANYONE ELSE? All of my life I have only been me. You have been you and, Thank God, They have always been them.

Despite the daily trials, tribulations, and just plain old pains in the tuchus, I would not want to be anyone else. Oh, sure, there have been those moments when becoming someone else seemed like an attractive option – like when you see flashing lights approaching in your rear view mirror.

The 7 year old me wanted to be Buck Rogers and the 10 year old me wanted to be Mickey Mantle. At 17 becoming Paul McCartney looked really cool – and it had nothing to do with music.

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Throwback Thursday – Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be

Throwback Thursday1

From September 2015

Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be

FB_IMG_1441895951206THERE IS A GOOD REASON my wife, the lovely and unfailingly perceptive, Dawn, calls my trips to St. Arbucks, along with, “The Usual Suspects,” my “Play Group.” I admit that there are some days when the maturity level drops below Pre-School closing in on Pre-Natal.

For several days now the main topic of conversation among the group has centered on the television western series, “Gunsmoke.” This show hasn’t been on the air since 1975. Why this has become important enough to warrant two days of conversation is unknown.

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