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Archive for the ‘Harry S. Truman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FRANCES CARROLL & HER COQUETTES featuring VIOLA SMITH-“Snake Charmer” (1939).

Drummer Viola Smith died a couple of days ago at the age of 107.  ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN (a month shy of 108). That’s pretty fascinating in itself.  But even more fascinating is that she was an amazing drummer at a time when women didn’t play drums.  And not “amazing for a woman” or anything patronizing like that, check out the video of her playing “Snake Charmer.”

Check out her drum kit, check out the speed, check out the power.  Check out the arial toms and the way she hits them without it even seeming like she is. Wow, I wish I’d heard of her sooner.

Here’s some relevant quotes from an obituary in The Guardian

Smith took up drumming as a teenager in Wisconsin, when her father assembled the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra with his eight daughters. Her showcase was “The Snake Charmer,” a jazzy arabesque with explosive drum-fills.

Because she was the sixth daughter in the family, she said, her older sisters got the strings and brass.  “My dad said, ‘Now, we need a drummer!’ Thank God, I was it.”

In 1938, Smith formed another all-female orchestra, The Coquettes, with her bass playing sister Mildred. The band moved to New York in 1942, where Smith studied under the legendary snare-drum innovator Billy Gladstone.

In the same year, as men were being drafted to war and women taking their place in factories, Viola wrote a now-famous article for Down Beat magazine, arguing for the inclusion of women in the big bands of the day.

“Many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted,” she wrote, under the title Give Girl Musicians A Break! “Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their places?

“We girls have as much stamina as men. There are many girl trumpet players, girl saxophonists and girl drummers who can stand the grind of long tours and exacting one-night stands. The girls of today are not the helpless creatures of an earlier generations.

Smith found it difficult to lead the orchestra from behind the drums, so she turned over those duties to Frances Carroll.  But at the height of her success, Smith performed with Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb, as well as at the second inauguration for the 33rd president, Harry Truman, in 1949.

I haven’t even mentioned how good The Coquettes are.  They swing big time and this song is really fun.  The only thing worse than hearing about a great musician after they have died is realizing that there are almost no recordings of her playing.

Here’s another page from The Future Heart with lots of videos and interviews with Viola.

[READ: October 26, 2020] “Nettle”

I really enjoyed the way this story opened.  It is about Willie, who, as the story opens, is a young boy.  Willie’s teacher told the class that she would be guarding them and that “not one of them would be lost, except the one who was destined to be lost.”

When the boy told his mother what Miss Rita said, his mother replied,

That happens to be from the Bible… When people take words from the Bible and repeat them to young children, or to anyone, for that matter, they’re nuts.  Don’t pay any attention to her.”

She says that maybe when he’s older he can leave that school and go to the one his daddy went to.

He would visit his daddy often in his room. His daddy was always playing the same piece to music.  He told his daddy about a book he was reading in class. His daddy replied that he had read that same book when he was younger: rewrite the whole thing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-The Beat Goes On (1968).

I thought the first Vanilla Fudge album was odd–covers of contemporary songs done slowly and with little resemblance to the originals.

Well, this second album was downright bizarre.

It  doesn’t really have any “songs.”  Rather, it’s more of a collage–a history of recorded sound as interpreted by the Vanilla Fudge.  There’s a few snippets of classical pieces, some rocks songs, historical vocal recordings and final words from the guys in the band.  All sandwiched between snippets of them playing The Beat Goes On, the Sonny Bono song.

It’s a weird enough record on its own, but when you read just a little but about it, it gets even weirder.  According to the Wikipedia entry:

The group was at odds with producer George “Shadow” Morton during recording, as Morton made his own concept album without significant input from them. In the liner notes of Sundazed Records’ 1990 CD reissue, the band denounces it as a failed experiment on the producer’s part.     ….
In his autobiography Stick It!, Carmine Appice declares: “Even listening to it now – which, let me tell you, I rarely fucking do – The Beat Goes On sounds like an album that Spinal Tap would be wary of making.”

The album opens with an instrumental “sketch.”  It is primarily the Vanilla Fudge keyboard sound with some occasional piano and guitar sounds washing in and out.

After a recording of Thomas Edison reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb, a ponderous voice says PHASE ONE and they start with the first iteration of “The Beat Goes On.”

Then comes what is now probably the fourth surprise already.  The track is titles “Eighteenth Century: Variations on a Theme by Mozart: “Divertimento No. 13 In F Major”” and it’s 45 seconds of Mozart on harpsichord!  It’s followed by a 45 second version of “Old Black Joe” by Stephen Forster, this time sung quietly with acoustic guitar and bass.

That was meant to represent the nineteenth century.  The twentieth century has a bit more diversity with Cole Porter, Glenn Miller and Elvis.  There’s rags on piano with a trap drum.  “In the Mood” sounds like it’s in a roller rink and “Hound Dog” sounds really tinny and awful.  The music is played perfectly, but the quality of the recording is deliberately (I assume) poor.

The next section is called The Beatles, because they clearly didn’t record enough Beatles on their first album.  But this time they do it more like the originals, not like the Vanilla Fudge.  In less than two minutes, they run through excerpts from “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “I Feel Fine,” “Day Tripper,” “She Loves You,” and “Hello Goodbye.”   Except that for the final track they sing “You say hello and I say goodbye…”  And they laugh into…

PHASE TWO.  This has another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by six minutes of Beethoven (if you;re keeping track, Beethoven was before the 20th century).  They play “Fur Elise” & “Moonlight Sonata” on keys with bass.  But it builds up with rocking drums and   build rocking with drums and keys and guitar.  It gets crazy fast and loud.

Then another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by another version of it (the original would have switched sides at this point.

PHASE THREE is called “Voices in Time” and it is literally 8 minutes of historical recordings by: Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy.

Then on to PHASE FOUR which after one version of “The Beat Goes On” is talking sections with the band members.  They are labelled “Merchant/The Game is Over”

Vinnie on guitar says a few things concluding with “As life goes on, the beat goes on.”  Tim on bass does an “interview” in which he (or someone) asks him questions which he answers–about sex, politics and ice cream among other things.  He sounds pretty much  like an ass.

Carmine says “I play drums.  Listen to my drums if you wanna hear me talk.”  And finally after some Indian style music comes Mark the lead vocalist.  He uses his time to read a bit of the Bible, a passage about Moab.

The whole business ends with the longest yet version of “The Beat Goes On.”

The CD comes with a Bonus Phase.  There’s a cover of The Beatles’ “You Can;t Do That” and an original  These two songs are certainly the highlight, especially their original song “Come By Day, Come By Night.”  I love the bassline and choral voices.  This really points out what a waste it was not to record their own songs.

The sixties were a weird time.

[READ: July 22, 2017] Some Recollections of a Busy Life

The beginning of this book includes Dave Eggers’ essay that was in the New Yorker, July 20, 2015 issue.

Read about it here.

T.S. Hawkins was Dave Eggers’ great-great grandfather.  In 1913 Hawkins wrote Some Recollections of a Busy Life and printed 300 copies.  Now 102 years later, Eggers was able to use his press to get it reprinted,

What’s even more disconcerting is that we’re prepared for the book to be 102 years old, but it starts with Hawkins talking about what it was like seventy years ago.  So the beginning of this book is actually set in the 1840s and 50s.  He was born March 6, 1836 in Missouri about 12 miles from the Mississippi River. His grandfather had been from Virginia and then moved to Kentucky and then on to Missouri.

He is writing his recollection not believing that the general public would care about them but he hopes his children and grandchildren might be interested in the changes which have taken places over the years of their grandfather’s life.

He grew up West of the Mississippi with no railroads and no telegraphic or telephonic communication with the rest of the world.  News in the East took weeks to reach them.  Electrical lighting was a thing undreamed of.  They made their own soap with the ashes from their fires.  Their clothes were homemade. (more…)

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