Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Welcome to our beautiful home at . . .

. . .The Landfill Arms.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


As gawd is my witness: one time in the lobby at the Roosevelt Cinegrill I said to David E., "I feel like I'm in the presence of palpable evil." D. said, "Turn around." I did . . .and THERE he stood surrounded by a bevy of bodyguards. One of only three parapsychological experiences of my life.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Karen C. would've loved this . . .

Kurt Reichenbach

Sunday, December 21, 2014

And what would XMAS be w/o . . .

Merry ChristyMas

Here is some of the rough draft research material I sent to the liner notes writer, Keizo Takada, for the 2010 Japanese reissue of June Christy's "This Time of Year." Fans of the album, of which there seem to be an increasing number, might find this interesting. I also transcribed the English language lyrics for the booklet. I seem to recall that this Christmas suite was not actually commissioned by Christy, but that the Millers wrote with June in mind and presented to her.

Connie Miller (pen-name Connie Pearce) was born... 1920... really rough childhood in depression-stricken South Side Chicago... married her first serious boyfriend and fled Chicago for San Francisco... eventually abandoned by husband, worked odd jobs (two at a time to support her children), she discovered a musical side while working Wired Music (the forerunner of the modern Juke Box).

During WWII, she was working as a Wired Music operator in the afternoons, and a second-shift welder in the shipyards of Mare Island (a true "Rosie the Riveter")... landed a gig in a vocal group in San Francisco, appeared with many of the big bands of the day... during a jam sessions met another singer, writer, and orchestral arranger, Arnold E. Miller, Jr., who was singing with the group "The Mad Hatters." They split off with singers from both groups (Virgil McNabb and Niki Arlow) and formed "The Double Daters". She married Arnold Miller in 1949, had one son... mid-1950s began writing again (with Arnold). Among her works were NO SAD SONGS FOR ME, the title track of Alan (formerly of "The Modernaires" and now singing with "The Mods") Copeland's only solo album. THIS TIME OF YEAR was recorded by June Christy in 1961, but went out of print a few years later. Connie died in L.A. at age 73. My guess is that Arnold is dead also.

According to Todd Everett's liner notes in the 2005 reissue of This Time of Year, the Millers made up half of the Double Daters, a San Francisco vocal group. During World War II, the group sang locally with touring big bands that couldn't afford to travel with a vocal group. After the war, the couple moved to Los Angeles, where Arnold worked in advertising and Connie stayed at home. I do not know whether the Millers were part of the Double Daters that recorded If I Ever Love Again with Frank Sinatra in July 1949. Discographies don't list the group's members, and several vocal groups used the name, including one formed by vocal arranger Ray Charles, who worked with Sinatra at the time.

In Los Angeles, the Millers continued to write and publish songs. In the late 1950s, the couple was introduced to June Christy and her husband, tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper. In Christy recorded one of the Millers' tunes, Night Time Was My Mother, on her LP The Song Is June. Michael, the couple's son, is quoted in the liner notes: "Writing This Time of Year was their passion. They wanted to capture all the emotions of Christmas, from the joy to the sorrow. There are some emotional moments but also a lot of upbeat jazz."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


There's a cat (Kuro) in the box at the bottom of the tree. (Difficult to see because I didn't want to freak him with a flash.) Note: The other night Letterman said the reason that the Pope didn't, recently, specifically mention felines going to heaven is because "god is not a cat person."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas with Winters (Pinky, that is)

"Live" at Tokyo's Cafe Albert; piano: Kiichi Futamura ; video by J.K. - 12/13/2006

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day nine: Q.O.T.B.

This SHOULD be a seasonal standard.  Just listen to Rebecca Kilgore sing it some day and I think you'll agree. For that matter,  listen to Bessie Smith right now! (IMHO Dana Owens is NO Bessie.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Friday, December 05, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

On the 3rd day of Christmas. . .

.  . .my true love gave to me this track by Jack Sheldon. More Kubis/Sheldon/Xmas here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Christmas countdown. . .

 Track from the rare Duncan Sisters EP

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Michael Dees!

I feel honored to have written the liner notes for singer Michael Dees' forthcoming CD "The Dream I Dreamed" (release details to be announced shortly).Inasmuch as all 14 tracks possess music and lyrics by Michael, I should have written "singer-SONGWRITER Michael Dees." Here is but a taste of the opening track, "In a Moment, featuring, as does the CD throughout, Terry Trotter (piano), Chuck Berghofer (bass) and Steve Schaeffer (drums). And on this track, Doug Webb (tenor sax) & Don Williams (bongos). The tempos, moods and themes of these new numbers vary greatly throughout the album, but the one thing they have in common with "Moment" is their stick-to-itiveness. Hear 'em once and—à la "Rodan"—you probably won't be able to get these "monsters" out of your mind. Here's a clip:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Preer here

. . . and here: http://tinyurl.com/qy7e3kj

Click and chip in: This is a request for some economic assist in getting a Preer CD released. There is NO commitment just for viewing the Indiegogo page and video. Pass it on . . .

Saturday, November 08, 2014

New from SSJ

Current batch of SSJ (Japan) releases includes a fairly "new" issue, i.e. the Japanese version of singer Linda Purl's 2013 U.S. release entitled---on SSJ as well---"Midnight Caravan." With a bonus of Purl singing "Shall We Dance" in Japanese (quite well, I think). A very rewarding CD; it includes a verse to "I Feel a Song Coming On" that I have NEVER  heard before, and an Ira Gershwin - Vernon Duke rarity, "Spring Again." The second SSJ is by a singer who's fairlee recherche, Norma Mendoza. It's a reissue of her 1960 "All About Norma" (as opposed to "Ronnie"). Demonstrating once again that ---in general---fairly much everybody USED to be able to sing. In other words, a very commendable effort. Maybe a One Shot Wonder?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


In my first column for (West Virginia State College) "The Yellow Jacket" I had written something that was clearly an homage, albeit unconscious, to this widely-praised local gadfly. After all, how better, than a la Anderson, to skewer the noxious jingoism of "Up With People." In the phone call I received from Anderson, not only was I complimented on my "Up With People" roasting, he also offered me a job at the Charleston Gazette. This, after my having written exactly one piece of journalism in all of my nineteen years. I accepted his gracious offer on the spot, but I'll probably never know whether it was my "School of Anderson" approach to writing, or else L.T.A's sensing potential writerly talent, based on the slimmest of evidence, that caused him to hire me. 

Showing up for work a few days later, in classic newspaper fashion, I was set to work rewriting obituaries. Almost immediately, however, things began to go south when it became apparent that my "Up With People" column was a fluke: I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag. The second week, Anderson called me over to his desk to get to the bottom of things. "For a journalism major, you sure do make a lot of errors," he said. "But I'm not a journalism major." "Oh well, just come to see me every day after we put the paper to bed and I'll teach you everything you need to know about writing for a newspaper in no time." If he was worried about his impulsive act of hiring me, it didn't show.

That afternoon, after the paper was put to bed, the thirty-or-so of us in the city room looked on, grinned and rolled our eyes heavenward as Anderson leapt up on his desk and launched into his regulation, old-fashioned, practical neo-Marxian oratory on the folly and illusion of private property. Thrusting his index finger downward, and in the style of the Bible Belt preachers he otherwise abhorred, he inveighed: "Who or what gives you or anyone else the right to say that you and you alone OWN the land under your very feet. . .?" And so on and so forth. He proceeded to lead the assembled faithful in singing the old Protestant hymn, "Bringing in the Sheaves." He was in earnest, but trying to come off like too much of an unreconstructed Commie via the injection of his strong stock-in-trade-humor. It was a masterful performance. Then, true to his word, he leapt down off his desk, ripped a length of copy paper out of the typewriter, seated himself, and called out my name:

 "Young Reed! It's time for your lesson. Beginning with the golden mean of journalism, the inverted triangle. Always start your most important information and then arrange the remainder of your paragraphs in descending order of importance so that the editor always knows to cut from the bottom if the piece needs to be sheared away at for space." With that, he commenced upon a several-months-long daily seminar on the not-so-intricacies of newspaper writing. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Julie and Japan

I don't know whether to be proud or sad that an article I wrote about Julie ("She Just Singsand Swings the Song and Goes Home) London appeared, in translation, in the very last edition (6/2010) of that venerated (founded 1947) Japanese jazz mag,  Swing Journal. ("Will the last Swing Journal writer please turn out the lights and close the door behind you.") Was it something that I said (wrote)?

My guess is that SJ didn't necessarily close down because business was allll that bad. Methinks they just saw the handwriting on the wall and wanted to get out while the getting was good. Such a venerated Japanese institution!, SJ's demise was nearly analogous to what it would be like if the New Yorker ever folded in the U.S. To actually get paid for writing about one of my most favorite singers in my favorite mag in my fave foreign locale! Some people have all the luck. In this instance, it was I! Here is the English language original:

Considering that  Julie London (1926-2000) is one of the foremost jazz interpreters of American Popular Song, there is surprisingly little information available about the actual production of her recordings. Although the backing she received on many of her releases is in-the-pocket jazz, on the vast majority of them, the liner notes identify neither the arranger or the musicians. Not even the great also saxophonist Benny Carter, clearly recognizable on her "Julie" album---that's the one where she's clad in a skimpy nightie reclining in a transparent butterfly chair---is credited.  In the 1950s, London was noted more for cleavage-driven record jacket photos than for her first-rate vocal skills. Perhaps that is why the management at London's label, Liberty, were wary of listing personnel on her albums, lest her sex bomb image be sullied by the merest suggestion she might actually be a first rate  jazz singer in the bargain. Think Mood Music, instead.

Not that all of her albums are devoid of personnel. A few contain partial listings, and those who made the cut over the span of London's 34-album catalog, include: Jimmy Rowles, Howard Roberts, Andre Previn, Barney Kessel, Gerald Wilson, Bud Shank. And, most significantly bassist-arranger-conductor Don Bagley. And that is because, he appears in one capacity or other on nearly every London recording made between 1960 and right on up to the very end, He does not recall, however, working with London on her 1969 album Yummy, Yummy, Yummy. Understandable, because, this one, her last studio affair, is one of the singer’s few recordings that is, perhaps, best passed over in silence.

I first spoke with Bagley when I phoned him up for a few pieces of discographical information for a Japanese jazz critic friend of mine. He was very helpful, and after a few more minutes of conversation, it was apparent that here was the go-to guy regarding London’s post-1964 studio and live performance activities. And so I made an appointment to sit down and talk with him at his Northridge, CA home in mid-May.

Aside from his musical alliance with London, clearly the longest of his career, the Utah-born musician has worked on extensive basis with the diverse likes of Stan Kenton and Burt Bacharach, and with hundreds of shorter stops along the way for such as Nat ‘’King” Cole, Lars Gullin, Frank Rosolino and Zoot Sims. He has also composed and arranged extensively for movies and TV.

“I first became involved with Bobby Troup in the late fifties,” Bagley recalls. “Troup and Julie had not gotten married yet. He had a TV show, Stars of Jazz, and he was working places around L.A. and I started working clubs with him and got to know Julie. I think I first recorded with her on the  At Home album in 1960.” And yes, Bagley tells me, the album really was recorded at Julie and Bobby’s house.

“When we did Julie at Home, we had a few drinks, dinner, then we recorded. She just loved the musicians.”

At one point in my interview, I tell Bagley my theory as to why there is little hard core discographical information on the back of the album, i.e. that Liberty was trying to “disguise” what were essentially jazz albums as easy listening or mood music albums and he agrees, adding:

“She liked Jimmy Rowles a lot, On the sessions we’d have the very best guys. The Condoli brothers, Bud Shank, Bob Copper, Jack Nimitz. She had been a big fan of the Kenton band. Knew all the guys who were with that band when I was.”

At first, when Bagley began working “on the road” with London, her group consisted of guitar, drum, bass and trumpet.

“But Julie decided she wanted to start playing more Vegas-type places and so we began planning those kinds of shows, which included a big band, a vocal group. She loved the Four Freshmen, so she hired Ken Albers, who was one of the Freshmen, to write the vocal charts. The singers traveled with us. That was leading up to the Americana in 1964. We also worked Vegas, Tahoe, Puerto Rico, Australia, Japan with the big band.”

Bagley did the arrangements, conducted, and rehearsed the band, along with playing bass, too. “I was the guy who established the tempos, got the band off. I was the musical director.”

London’s respect, admiration and love of musicians was a thread that ran throughout my conversation with the musician. This became especially apparent after the singer began touring with the expanded format of a big band.

“I remember one time,“ the bassist fondly recalls, “we went to Miami. It was one of those big hotels run by the mob but with an ostensible front man posing as the owner. This guy sent word to the dressing room, ‘Mister so and so would like to have dinner with Julie after the show.’ And she said, ‘What about my musicians?’ Meaning her four key people. And they said, ‘It’s principals only.’ And she said, 'You tell Mister so and so, I will have dinner with the musicians instead.' And she did!’

But London still depended on guitar, even with the big band, Bagley says. There were always a few spots in the show that used just guitar, bass accompaniment, especially in the recreation of the singer’s patented Julie is Her Name “sound.” Over the years, London had had all the great players, Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts, et al

“But when we got to New York for the Hotel America date, the hotel’s band guitarist was a disappointment, and it just didn’t work for her. I had been with Sal Salvador on Kenton’s band and he was in New York and I called him and asked him if he would do the job. He agreed to do it, but one night, he had to send a substitute, and it was Bucky Pizzarelli. Julie never got over how great Bucky played for her. But it’s Sal Salvador on the album that was recorded there.”

It must have been especially heartening to London when she, Troup, and her core group of players touched down in Japan in 1964 for their first of two visits there (the other was in 1966) and management’s concern, unlike Miami, extended beyond just the star herself.

“I remember how great Tats Nagashima, the booker, was. He was the booker for high-priced talent in Japan at the time. He treated everybody just royally. Not only Julie, but the musicians. He took us out to dinner every night for Kobe beef.  We had a Mercedes downstairs 24 hours a day with a driver. I was with Julie on both tours.”

This was, of course, in keeping with London’s dealings with her musicians. “She treated the musicians so well,“ says Bagley. “If we gave her a price, she’d go higher. We always got paid up front. We were family when we went to the house.” And again he repeated,   “She just loved the musicians.” It’s no surprise, then, that the long-time career musician pauses a moment, then adds, “Julie London was the best boss I ever had.” 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

GBS, Jr.

One time in the ninth grade in class my friend Bruce J. and I were watching a "sex education film" about venereal disease. It was rife with scenes so gross as to turn just about any teen off to the very idea of EVER having sex, much less catching VD, i.e., various and sundry lesions, physical paraphernalia (noses, etc.) falling off, teeth dropping out, and so on and so forth. And then at one point Bruce turned to me and said, "Some people will do anything to get into the movies."  I laughed so hard that I was taken out of class and placed in detention while the film just kept on a rollin'

I think of Bruce often . . .  mostly silly things. My memory today was triggered by a current, non-stop "human interest" segment on CNN about a woman who has announced the date of her euthanasia. Sad, perhaps, the first few times they ran the story. Finally, however, I could take no more and turned to David and observed, "Some people will do anything to get into the movies." Note that I said "movies" and not "TV." And then the above all  all came flashing back to me! Stuck in my brain pan lo these many years, Was there ever a ninth grader in human history who EVER made a remark that droll? Not to mention downright witty.

I wonder if he's still that funny sixty years later?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


I still recall the date: July 2, 1955. Our junior high school was in California on a ninth grade class trip. Ordinarily, I would never have been able to break free from the group, but my classmates said they would cover for me with our chaperones if I sneaked out; they knew how much of a June Christy fan I was, even though she had only been famous for a year or two. The next hurdle was how I could gain admission to such a smokey-mirrored intime boite as the Crescendo due to being under age? But I donned some hipster shades, dangled an unlit cigarette from my lips  (I didn't even smoke yet), pasted on a false goatee and moustache, and tried to lower my voice to something resembling that of an adult male. ( I was but a few months beyond the stage of being but mere protoplasm in Buster Brown Shoes.) The disguise worked! I got in! I had never even had alcohol before and so I ordered something that sounded nice called a Pink Lady. Yum! (It's still my favorite drink to this day.) I sipped it while waiting for the show to begin. I also was able to fake an adult conversation with a much older guy sitting next to me by the name of Jeff. He was alone, too, and mumbled something about my coming back to his hotel room afterward for a drink. Quite a friendly fellow. 

After about ten minutes, the show began. There was a comedian whose name was Jackie Farrell. I'd never heard of him before and he really wasn't very funny. The audience just sort of sat on their hands and applauded politely when he finished, with only a yuk or two from them along the way. Then there was a band . . . Rene Somebody. They played for about twenty minutes. Cha-cha stuff. And then! Over the p.a. system I heard those magic words: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Crescendo is proud to present the Misty Miss June Christy." She came out to a lot of applause, then began her first song, and it turned out to be my very favorite of all of her numbers, "How High the Moon." But she had only sung a few bars when suddenly the nightclub began to shake like there'd been an an A-bomb drop or an earthquake (I'd been warned about quakes before our trip from West Virginia began.) And as quickly as it had started, the music stopped, and June and the band began making a hasty exit from the stage. Everyone else in the room (the waiters, everyone) commenced screaming, in a state of panic, and running for the doors. 

"That was quite a jolt, Jeff," I said to my neighbor and then I, too, joined in the panic. 

Hitting out-of-doors, I found myself surrounded by people from inside the club, now standing in the street looking up at the night sky. They were up there. Already some military, cops, and official-looking government guys had arrived and the upshot was that no one was allowed to leave until signing a deposition saying they would never reveal what they had just witnessed: Flying Saucers Over Hollywood. (Kind of ironic that June Christy was singing "How High the Moon" when it all happened.) 

Please know that I've never, ever written or said a world about any of this until now because . . . I've been muzzled by army brass. But now it can be told.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Happy Burke-day

Today is the birthday of Johnny Burke, writer of one of the most timeless set of lyrics. . .ever.

Tramping feet with traffic meet,
and fill the street with booming and zooming
In rhythm with the merry
Beat o' my heart.
Birds that sing and bells that ring,
Their voices bring, the rollicky frolicky
Tempo of the dancing beat o' my heart.
It all began the day you smiled at me
In such a charming way
Need I further say, because of you
The world is filled with music
Rumbling trains and roaring planes,
Their noise contains the clickity clackity drumming
From the humming beat o' my heart
Wireless tow'rs that flash their powers,
Or thunder show'rs that pitter and patter,
Are sounding to the pounding beat o' my heart.
And since you're mine, my love song needs
Another line with word divine,
That your name will rhyme with while I sing in time
With every thumping bumping beat o' my heart.

copyright 1934 by Johnny Burke and Harold Spina

Saturday, September 13, 2014


From "Early Plastic" by Bill Reed, i.e. me. Selling on ebay for $6.99 and on amazon for upwards of $151.00. Go figger. Probably worth somewhere in between.

Hollywood, summer 1968 and director Otto Preminger is shooting Skidoo, an alleged comedy about a retired gangster facing trouble from his mobster past---that is, until his daughter's hippie friends come to his rescue. Today a guilty pleasure for even the most hard-core of Preminger fans, Skidoo numbers among its many delights: Jackie Gleason on LSD, and Carol Channing singing a Harry Nilsson song about free love. Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch weren't ready for Skidoo back then. And they still aren't.

But while it was being made, Otto's folly offered several week's steady employment for a number of hippies hired as "atmosphere players." Among the film's principals was John Phillip Law of Barbarella ("Decrucify the angel or I'll melt your face") fame. He was one of the hunkiest male starlets of the era, and owned the house whose basement I was living in at the time. As natural selection would have it, Law happened to be dating one of the most beautiful females of the cinematic species, Barbara Parkins, fresh from her role in the immortal Valley of the Dolls. On a good day one might catch a glimpse of this ubercouple as they strolled about the grounds , hand in hand, stripped to their skivvies.

John Law's brother, Tom, had been hired on as Skidoo's hippie wrangler. Because of some sort of mineral deficiency or glitch in my DNA, I simply couldn't get my hair to "grow good in the back"; thus, I looked far too conventional to qualify as Hollywood's idea of a hippie and didn't make the cut. Nor, with his leading man looks, did my Genet-ish friend, Lucky; he was far too, well, Tom of Finland to evoke counter culture. But hirsute dozens of others did.

Each morning these fortunate ones congregated at dawn in front of John Law's to be picked up by a bus and driven to the Skidoo set in Valencia. Among the film's other stars was the towering Donyale Luna, one of those wonderful, crazy sixties people who was the prototype for all the black fashion goddesses who followed in her wake, i.e. Iman, Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell. Born in Detroit, educated in Switzerland with, so she claimed , "an IQ higher than Einstein's," Donyale left college at fourteen (" because it was bullshit"), went to New York where Vogue and Richard Avedon put her under contract and the rest is high fashion history. While working on the film, Donyale was put up at the (in) famous Chateau Marmont just down the hill from where we were living. It was fun to go to the Chateau ---forevermore identified as where John Belushi bought the farm-and listen to this space creature wax (and wane) on her philosophy of life and the secrets of the human heart. She possessed a rhetorical style not unlike ice princess chanteuse Nico, who, although she wasn't in Skidoo, should have been. And could have been, inasmuch as, during this period, she was hanging out in Hollywood (for reasons I've yet to figure out) with a group of sideburned Mafia types in Sy Devore suits.

With Nico and Donyale, it was difficult to know exactly where ingenuousness left off and the put-on began. They had other things in common: both had come to the big city, got taken up by the smartest fags in existence, and made into the flavor of the minute; both began as models before graduating to appearances in Fellini filmsNico in La Dolce Vita; Luna in Satyricon; and they came from backgrounds which they did their best to obfuscate. Alas, both died before their time. During Skidoo, Donyale and Nico spent a lot of time hanging out together at the Chateau. Oh, to have been the proverbial fly on the wall trying to decipher those mittel-Martian accents! I loved being at the Chateau of an evening after Skiddo had closed down for the day and listening to just plain "Luna" (as she was billed by Preminger) holding court. One night six or seven of us were there, and heaped around us on the floor were the hugest piles of grass I had ever seen. Donyale was just getting revved up--- "I came to Hollywood not to make films, but to come down off my mountain which is an estate more than half the size of New York City . . .I'm not a woman, I'm a black baby goddess ," etc., when at the door there came a knock, our hostess opened it and in trooped several of L.A. 's finest. Proceeding to stomp about the premises, they paid no attention whatsoever to the obvious piles of hemp, while all six feet (plus change) of Donyale brazenly stalked after them and, in her unforgettable faux European accent, bellowed baritone indignation in a manner vaguely reminiscent of the great '30s comedienne Lyda Roberti: "Bodju kawnt arrest heeem, thawt ees Pompa." Gesturing to Lucky, she continued, "Yewww kawnt arrest heeem, thawt ees. . .?" She couldn't remember Lucky's name. "What's his name?," she said soto voce to Pompa. "Lucky," Pompa whispered back She began again: "Yewww kawnt arrest heeem , thawt ees Lucky." The logic of which escaped me. Completing their curious perambulations about the room, the cops departed as unceremoniously as they had arrived. Shrugging our shoulders, we all stared at each other- --after all, these visiting officials could have sent us up the river big time for "possession." Then, it was back to business as usual.

Friday, September 05, 2014



1987: "David got in touch with a seemingly reliable source, someone from Dorothy's [Dorothy Dean] old Warhol days, now a successful movie publicist [Rafe Blasi] who told him the following story: an extraordinary tale, but one not so far out, considering its subject was Dorothy, that it couldn't conceivably have happened. It seems that she had attended a cocktail party at the penthouse of a well-known Broadway composer [Tom O'Horgan], the gathering composed of the usual witty, brittle people who congregate at such affairs; the kind of event to which Dorothy had probably been to hundreds of times. At one point in the evening, her usual two sheets to the wind, she found herself in the middle of a particularly bothersome conversation with a musician friend of the host. Finally when Dorothy could take no more, she allegedly leveled at the offending party just the sort of attack that she'd launched on hundreds of such boors in the past: "You are a boring, insensitive lout who has misused and mangled the English language exactly 20 times in the last five minutes while in my presence," she said, "and if you had any feelings of regard toward the human race, you would march over to the edge of this terrace and throw yourself off.”

Which, according to David's informant, is exactly what the man did, killing himself and in the process causing Dorothy to have a total nervous collapse, resulting in weeks spent in a mental hospital. Afterwards, she had gone to Boulder, Colorado, to stay in a commune run by Off-Broadway playwright, Jean-Claud Van Itallie.

In truth, I was to soon learn , there was not much veracity to the story (the part about Colorado, though, was accurate). Apparently an individual who happened to have been at a party with Dorothy a few days earlier, had killed himself; then somehow the two unrelated incidents had become conflated. An apparently apocryphal tale, but Dorothy would have loved the idea of someone killing themselves over bad grammar. All the years of drinking had finally caught up with Dorothy both physically and mentally. Thrown out of her longtime Morton Street apartment, she was rescued by sympathetic friends [including playwright Van Itallie] who began the process of trying to help Dorothy put her life back in order.

After obtaining Dorothy's address in Boulder, I wrote her a simple chatty letter, making no reference to the recent unpleasantness. I received no reply from her. Then in February 1987, the same week that Andy Warhol died, I opened up the paper to the Death Notices to learn that Dorothy had succumbed to cancer."

She was the last person David and I saw before we moved from NYC to L.A.

early plastic by bill reed available at ebay

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


. . . Gladys BENTley (clicksville)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Maybe I Shoulda Called it Landfill Records

The inability of my Kickstarter VocalJazz project to catch fire after nearly its thirty-day run finds me becoming increasingly and realistically resigned to its failure. I'm profoundly perplexed. How to account for such Apathy (?), Disregard (?) Resignation (?) on the part of those hundreds upon hundreds (thousands, actually) of seeming devotees of non-brain-rot musique to whom I've pitched the project. The official Kickstarter page advises that even a dollar contribution will sufficeth, so the numerous private "begging off" emails I've received mewling and whining over "hard times" don't quite parse. (Sincere thanks to the handful of backers who HAVE chipped in.) Maybe Tony Bennett is wrong; maybe the Great American Songbook ISN'T the classical music of the 21st Century. And Max Roach was RIGHT (!) when he said that: "Those who voted for defunding of music education in public schools are getting what they paid for," i.e. alleged music totally devoid of the three necessary concomitants of the art form: harmony, melody and rhythm. Oh well. . .as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux once so wisely observed, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


One wise person---was it Lillian Hellman?, Gertrude Stein?, Spike Jones?---once observed that the aesthetic opinions that one held while a child were probably correct and would still hold true in adulthood. I'm not entirely certain that necessarily holds true of my over-abiding love, whilst I was still but mere protoplasm in Buster Brown Shoes, for Abbott and Costello. (Way back then, every year I kept waiting for them to win an Academy Award.) But every time I return to Chas, WV I make my routine homage to the city's Municipal Auditorium to see if a.) it's still there (it still is and, most likely, forever will be!) and b.) if this 1939 art deco creation truly is the Mt. Olympian jewel that I recall from my childhood.   

Well, I'm happy to report that the way it appears in the postcard depiction below is exactly what I recall from my callow youth and how I continue to perceive it "live" today. In other words, Hellman, Stein, and Jones (or whomever?) are spot on when it comes to my timeless adoration of this architectural wonderwork. And lest you who are reading this right now might be a member of that ill-informed lot that still clings to the image of West Virginia as some of sort low-normal IQ backwater, here are but a few of the artists, in addition to the print ad below, who I saw at the M.A. in various permutations of touring road companies in my childhood and early-to-mid teens: Carol Channing, Betty Carter, Anita O'Day, R&H's first national tour of Oklahoma, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Betty Grable, Al Hibbler, Gene Autry and---as a goof---Miss Billy the Graham. And that's all just for starters! 

Curiously, ironically, and wonderfully, at the all-black jazz shows that were presented there, in a reversal of social tradition whites had to sit in the buzzard roost (i.e. balcony) and blacks held the main floor rights! I seldom (honky that I am) paid this barrier any mind, though, and at the Ray Charles concert I sat on stage, close enough to touch his shoes! Can't recall whether I did or not. 

Another occasIon, when I triple-dated at a show featuring R&B singing great LaVern Baker, she was so raunchy (grabbed her vaginal area and rubbed it whenever she sang the word "sugar plum") that all three girls with us were mortified---"Eeeeekkkk!"--- and insisted on fleeing the place before we even got to see Duane Eddy . (Mind you, this was the mid-1950s.) And then. . .there was the time that Frankie Lymon explained to me, at the stage entrance, what "kitchen" was ("What's that on your head?," I dumbly asked.). I could go on and on about, oh, how Carol Channing offered to take me on the road with her (I'm pretty sure she was serious). But I'll save that for some other Municipally  reflective occasion.

Saturday, August 02, 2014


I learned only yesterday that my old friend Pompa ---that's what everyone called him, just Pompa---died in November 2012. The original sixties beatnik-to-hippie crossover, he was was a wonderful artist and photographer whose gifts went almost entirely unrecognized. (No self-promoter he; wayyyy too hip for that.) His circle of friends over the years included the diverse likes of Nico, Patrick Close, Karen Dalton, Viola Spolin, Dan Propper, Tim Hardin, Wavy Gravy, Eric Preminger, Danielle Luna, and John Phillip Law. I hope someone was around during his final days to help protect at least part of his extraordinary ouevre. He was a wonderful cartoonist, but to the best of my knowledge he published exactly ONE cartoon ever, in some sub-True men's mag back in the seventies. The one below, based on a concept I supplied him with, was never published.

He also designed the cover for Tim Hardin's final album but didn't even bother to sign his work. Never dawned on him to do so. The "oversight" was pluperfect Pompa!

Also a dixeur of the first order; oh, the stories he could and would tell! ("Cuddles" Sakall chucked him under the chin when Pompa was four.)

And, ohhhh, that scene up on Miller Drive off of "the Strip" during the filming of Skidoo.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


The Strand would eventually morph into the trashy and verboten Greenbrier Theatre

I was born in Kanawha Valley Hospital in 1941 and grew up in Charleston. I no longer dwell there, but get back occasionally to visit family. Wish I could do it even more often. Almost every photo I see of Charleston on the net triggers a petite madeleine or two. . .or more. I had a Charleston Daily Mail paper route downtown in my late adolescence. And I can recall every stop on that route as if it were yesterday. I had several subscribers in the Security Building on Capitol Street. On the ground floor there was a concession stand and the man who ran it was blind. He informed me one day that he could FEEL the difference between all paper currency denominations. Blew my mind! There was a barber shop in the basement but I always patronized the Lyric Barber Shop on Lee Street whose schtick was a very light-skinned troupe of barbers who snipped away at a strictly white clientele. A couple of doors down from the Security Bldg stood Frankenberger's, a men's clothing store. If you told me back then that the day would come when there would be no more Frankenberger's I'd have thought you were out of your mind. To a pre-adolescent such as I, it seemed timeless and eternal (I think it folded sometime in the eighties). The very nice woman who ran the boy's department was Mrs. Satterfield. When I was nine or ten I was in a filmed TV commercial for Frankenberger's that, for some peculiar reason, only ran one time. . .very late at night on WSAZ. Almost at the corner of Quarrier and Capitol Streets there was a Planters Peanut Shop with a mechanical be-derbyed Mr. Peanut in the window. He tapped on the display window glass with his cane every few seconds year in, year out. I can still recall with vivid sense memory the sound this made. Eventually he/it tapped a hole right through the window and so the operators of the place scotch-taped a quarter over the hole and he tapped THAT. Eventually I worked for my two big teen-year heroes, L.T. Anderson at the Charleston Gazette and Bob Turley at 'KAZ Radio. The records mezzanine at Galperin's, the first escalator in Charleston (at the "new" Stone and Thomas Department Store) , the "dirty" movies at the forbidden Lyric and Greenbrier, etc. I could go on and on. I guess I'll save some of it for some other long dark night around the campfire. Or another blog post.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Elaine Stritch R.I.P.

My favorite joke of all time can be told in less than thirty seconds, preferably from the lips of Stritch from whence I first heard it at 3 a.m. on some talk show re-run in the long ago before time. To wit: A nonagenarian couple goes to a judge and say, "We want a divorce." "How long lave you been married?," he queries. "Seventy years," they say. "Why did you wait until now?," he asks. They reply, "We wanted to wait until the children were dead." Bud-a-bing! Strich was on Johnny Carson one night and left the panel and moved center stage and sang "My story is much too sad to be told" (First line of the verse to "I Get a Kick Out of You.") BLACKOUT Cut to commercial. Then back to Carson, and Stritch has returned to the panel. Doesn't get much hipper than that! Segment was recalled for me by my friend, singer Kurt Reichenbach.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A Ray of Hope

I often go to sleep at night wondering why the great Ray Jessel (this era's Abe Burrows), in addition to his wonderfulness, also seems to be AMERICA'S best-kept secret. Well. . .all that changed almost in an instant a few night's ago when he showed up on AMERICA'S Got Talent and blew the lid off the joint. He made the cut of this audition episode and will clearly hold a very special place in AMERICA'S heart by the time this latest AGT cycle is over. A standing ovation from the audience and the panel. Maybe there is still hope.

Friday, July 04, 2014

More (recycled) Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

(from my memoir Early Plastic)

In the 1940s my parents had leftover traces of the Roaring Twenties in their systems, and they continued to engage in weekend fun and games. Sometimes they dropped me off to be looked after by a nice, reliable black family that lived near my father's office. It was one thing to be taken care of by a black "mammy" in your own domicile, quite another to be cared for by the woman in her own home. The peculiar form of proselytization known as Separate-But-Equal was a concept next to impossible to grasp for any six-year-old, especially if they've spent time in the home of loving black people.

If you grew up during a certain period, especially in the south, you were aware of Dinah Shore's "tragic mulatto" status the same way you knew about polio. Poor Dinah could never open her mouth to sing on TV without someone in the room drowning her out with words to the effect they knew someone who knew someone else who had a friend in Tennessee, where the singer was from, who just knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that America's Singing Sweetheart was part black, but hadn't known it until she gave birth to a baby of a tell-tale color, and secretly had to give it up for adoption. More than realpolitik debates over school integration was this racial idee fixe that had hung in the air for as long as I could remember.

After my father died, my mother, sister and I moved out of the house my parents had built and, after staying with Mama Smith, my grandmother, for a while, moved into a [Charleston, WV] housing project: Washington Manor (universally pronounced by those who lived there, "May-nor"), a place I remember most especially for its racial lunacy. The apartment windows where whites lived faced out on the black section and, conversely, windows in the black section exclusively looked out on the outside white world . In the five years that my mother, sister and I lived there, I never saw a single black face except from my window. The idea was to reinforce racism. On me it had just the opposite effect. I became deeply wrapped up in the notion of the "other." Making matters stranger was the official management policy of immediate expulsion from the projects at the merest hint of racial fraternization. One night when I could countenance the madness no longer, I awoke at two in the morning, slipped out of my pajamas and into my jeans, climbed over the fence dividing the two halves and defiantly stood, quaking, in the black part of the projects for several minutes before scurrying back home. The next day I spent half-waiting for some sort of axe to fall over my furtive symbolic gesture, but nothing ever came of my somnambulist experiment in, quite literally, crossing the color line. Washington Manor was a utilitarian, bunker-style affair where even the floors and walls of the apartment interiors were made of concrete. I can still recall lying on the floor, my cheek pressed against the cold hard blood red enamel that covered the floors and chipping off little flecks of the disgusting looking stuff with my fingernails. I thought if I hacked and hewed away long enough I'd hit hardwood. Wall-to-wall carpeting was strictly forbidden but if you were well enough off, like we were, rolldown rugs were permissible.

note: the above noted dividing fence was next to the incinerator in the accompanying photo


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Meditations upon the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Something this immigre from the Planet of the Goyim seldom does is engage in discussions about racism with his African-American friends and associates. Whenever I do, Lenny Bruce's classic routine, How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties leaps to mind: "Hell of a guy. Hell of a... there'll never be another Joe Louis. Hey ya got a cigarette on ya?". I sense that my black buddies have had it quite up to "here" with such badinage so, instead, I'll usually engage in some alternate conversational gambit along the lines of, "Did you get any interesting mail today?"

The last time I did cast aside my moratorium on the topic, I found myself reminiscing to my "colored friend" Sharon about the confusion that befell me as an adolescent white growing up in U.S. racist territory in the 1940s.

The drilling of hate from my family was finally pointless, I told her; it fell on deaf ears. It all seemed so very at odds with the teachings of the Methodist religion to which we belonged, i.e. "love thy neighbor," "do unto others. . ."etc. Too, beyond the mere coral conundrum, it just didn't make sense to my adolescent mind that god would create a stripe of homo sapiens that was only three-fifths human as the law, in many states, still defined African-Americans back then. I WAS allowed to play with black kids from nearby segregated neighborhoods, but not permitted to "bring them into the house." How terribly liberal!

One time, in an act of total desperation Mom told me that she wasn't really my mother, nor was Dad my "real" father. Instead, it seems that one night my folks had been driving through my hometown's (Charleston, WV) segregated "Triangle District" when a black woman had run out into the street and thrust just-born me into the car while my folks were stopped at a traffic light. But instead of freaking me out ("I ain't no n-----r, I ain't no n----r"), I thought that this was just about the coolest---was there "cool" back then?---thing I'd ever heard. I was only seven or eight when this faux info was imparted to me, but I quickly got hip---was there "hip" back then?---that I was being had. Too bad it wasn't true. (This pathetic ploy, by the way, was from an attendee of one of the best women's colleges in the country. No mere redneck she. . .or so it would seem.)

I palavored on-and-on to my above-noted friend Sharon a bit more, then brought it to an end with the observation that there were probably many, many other young Caucasians in the south (and even north) who found themselves in a similar ethical quagmire growing up in those (more)  racist times. "Yes," Sharon shot back almost immediately, "but they could always climb down off the cross if they chose to do so."

I still haven't stopped laughing.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


In June 2002 I interviewed record producer Joel Dorn (now deceased) for Japan's Record Collectors magazine. Inasmuch as Dorn was responsible for recording Little Jimmy Scott's timeless The Source album, understandably much of our conversation centered on the making of that release. Here's what he told me.

"By the time he got a contract with Sire Records [in 1992 ] as a consequence of [Sire head] Seymour Stein hearing him sing at [songwriter] Doc Pomus’ funeral he was certainly still a genius and brilliant, but physically his voice was past what we tried to get on record in the late 60s and early 70s. But he still brings his wisdom and his pathos and his unique view of time and phrasing to what it is that he does. One of the reasons I fought so hard to record him back then [in 1971 and ‘72] is I wanted to record him while he still had his fast ball. He was at the height of his powers at that point and not being recorded. As a fan, I shared Doc Pomus' anger; why wouldn't Jimmy Scott be recorded by a major label. It was pocket change to record him back then. There's so little documentation. There are only three things that catch Jimmy at the height of his powers: the record with Ray Charles record, “Falling in Love is Wonderful,“ “The Source” and the one after, “Lost and Found, which I think is the best of “The Source” and the best of the [second] album that never came out. [note: the latter was also produced by Dorn]

RC: Why aren't the other tracks like ”The Long and Winding Road” and the other three (?) tracks from the second sessions on “Lost and Found“?

JD: Because, well, the beginning of “The Long and Winding Road” works, the second half of it doesn't. It' simple. “Precious Lord” I didn't think held up to “Motherless Child” in the gospel or spiritual category. He sang the s**t [shit] out of the first half of “The Long and Winding Road,” and the second half he started to stumble.

RC: I heard “Long and Winding Road” on the radio not too long ago.

JD: I used the first half of it in a little syndicated half hour radio documentary when we put out “Lost and “Found.” I sent it out to radio stations. Up to the point where he starts to stumble on it. Whew! Nearly every disc jockey in America that we sent that to called back and said, “Why isn't “Long and Winding Road” on the album?,” they want to know. Wait’ll Jimmy’s collector fans find out that there’s even half a copy of it available on some obscure, limited radio promo recording! [he pauses then gently laughs] They’ll go nuts!

RC: One assumes the same holds true for the un-issued track “I’ll Never Be Free,” from the ‘72 date and “Yesterday” from the “Source” sessions.

JD: The only time that stuff by Jimmy didn't work was generally when I gave him a song when he agreed to do it as a favor to me. By the time I got to the second record I knew not to ask him for certain things. I think “The Source” is an uneven record . . ..

[I start to protest.]

JD: [continuing] I gave him “Exodus.” I thought he did a great job with that. I gave him “Unchained Melody.” I thought he did a great job with that. But I’m not happy with “On Broadway,” I’m not happy with “Our Day Will Come.” Which I thought would be perfect for him. I think he adapted to it only because of his brilliance. He did what he could do with those, but if I had stayed with the “Day by Day” and those things that Jimmy was doing in his club work for years, I think “The Source” would have been a better record. “Day by Day” [on “The Source] is the single greatest recording Jimmy Scott ever made. Not because I produced it, believe me. Other than making sure he had a recording contract and putting him with people I thought he should be with, Ididn't make any contribution to “Day to Day” in terms of his interpretation of it. If you ever wanted to define what it is that Jimmy Scott does that nobody living can even approach it’s in that particular song. That's to me. The Ray Charles record is not an uneven record. It's fluid all the way through.

Dorn wrote the following about the checkered history of this legendary suppressed recording in his liner notes for “Lost and Found.”

'Cut to the summer of 1963. I’m a jazz jockey on a jazz station in Philly [Philadelphia]. An album called “Falling in Love is Wonderful” is the premiere release on Ray Charles’ new label, Tangerine Records. Jimmy had been recording since the late ‘40s, first with Lionel Hampton and then on his own on Roost and Savoy. These records were great, and some were even classics, but they were not the Jimmy Scott I had [once] heard at the Apollo [Theater in New York’s Harlem]. That Jimmy had never been captured on record until the Tangerine album. . . In the seven years I was on the air [as a disc jockey], I can’t remember a more positive response to a record. Just as swift and unfortunately negative for Jimmy’s career was the response of his former label, Savoy. Savoy claimed that Jimmy was still legally under contract to them and the courts agreed. Their demand that Jimmy’s Tangerine album be taken off the market was upheld. The breakthrough he had been waiting for years went up in smoke. Jimmy went into a self-imposed exile. He ended up in Cleveland, running the shipping room of the Sheraton Hotel there.”

Nearly ten years later in 1971 when Dorn recorded Scott, Savoy once again successfully stepped in and suppressed the results of the sessions. And although Dorn's work with Scott is now available---at least that portion of it that Dorn approves of---to this day, “Falling in Love is Wonderful” with its arrangements by Gerald Wilson and Marty Paich and accompaniment by Ray Charles himself, still has not been released. It now fetches high amounts from collectors. This time the stumbling block is said to be the high price Charles wants for licensing the disc. This was told to me NOT by Dorn but by as associate of Charles. Dorn, himself, is now negotiating with Charles for release of the disc in the U.S. marketplace. Meanwhile, Jimmy Scott prevailed over all the legal wrangling and other vicissitudes of race, health, and vocal uniqueness to become, in the greatest comeback story ever told, an international music star, especially in this country. One might even go so far as to call him “Japan’s Own. . .'”