Vern Gosdin RIP

Another day, another death of an underappreciated performer.

Vern Gosdin, singer of one of the all-time great country songs, "Chiseled in Stone," died Tuesday in Nashville after reportedly suffering a stroke a few weeka ago.

Gosdin, known as "The Voice," is right up there with the much more celebrated George Jones when it comes to guys who can sing the hell out of a country songs. Aside from "Chiseled in Stone" (which he cowrote with Max D. Barnes), my other favorite Gosdin songs include "Set 'Em Up, Joe" and "That Just About Does It." I first heard of Mr. Gosdin when his name popped up on the schedule at Nashville's ridiculously awesome Station Inn when I was planning my first trip to Nashville. I'd seen the name before but wasn't familiar with any of his songs at the time. Still, it seemed like it would be cool to see him at the Station Inn. But when I got there, I found out he had to cancel, thus postponing my first taste of his music and severely bumming out some of the older Station Inn patrons in the crowd. But I eventually got around to hearing "Chiseled in Stone" (the song and the album), and, when I did, I grew as upset as the old folks at the Station Inn. Never did get to see him sing live.

RIP, Mr. Gosdin.


Frankie Manning RIP

My "celebrity interview" career in college was fairly short and largely unrewarding. Richie Havens gave me the runaround for two days (I even skipped class because he was supposed to call me) before his people told me he decided not to do the interview (apparently he doesn't have a telephone in his bosom after all). John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants got angry when I asked him what he thought of TMBG being labeled "geek rock" (he claimed he never heard them called that, even though I was looking at a press release for the show that had the phrase in the headline). Dick Schaap was gracious and cool, but, at the same event, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman refused to admit that the then-recently resolved lockout had resulted in a loss of popularity for hockey.

But, by far, my favorite celebrity interview was with Frankie Manning, an octogenarian at the time, who was responsible for making the Lindy Hop popular. He wasn't a household name by any means, but when I saw that he was coming to town to lead a swing dancing class around the same time I had a feature writing assignment for a class, I figured it'd be cool to do the article on him. I couldn't get hold of him beforehand, so I just went to the afternoon swing dance class, watched for a bit (a better journalist would've actually participated in the class, but, well, I'm writing a blog that four people read, so I think you know by now that I am not a better journalist), and asked if it would be possible to interview him later on that night at the dance downtown. I don't recall if I asked him directly or if I went through someone running the event, but I do know that later on that night I sat down with him for a bit and asked him some questions about his early days and what he thought about the swing dance revival that had brought him back into the public eye.

I don't have any great anecdotes about the interview, partially because it was about 13 years ago, but mainly because it was for one of the more worthless journalism classes I took, which was supposed to be one of the more difficult courses that would really propel you into the life of a journalist but instead culminated in a final that consisted of writing an article about an episode of "Twin Peaks." It was one of those classes where you didn't have to work that hard, so I didn't, and my article about Mr. Manning, though I'm pretty sure it received high marks, was not nearly as good as it could've been. But I remember how kind Mr. Manning was, talking to a student for an article that wasn't going to run in any newspaper, after a pretty strenuous day for an 81-year-old man. He was humble and gracious and, ultimately, one of the nicer people I interviewed in that time of my life when it seemed like journalism was going to be my career.

Frankie Manning passed away Monday at the age of 94 from pneumonia. He had a good, long ride, but it's still sad to hear that he's gone.

Thanks for your time, Mr. Manning.


Mr. Bocephus Goes to Washington

Just in case you were wondering what Hank Williams Jr. was thinking about the Obama administration, he has clarified his position in a new t-shirt (which you can buy along with the other 13,000 things in his merch store):

I don't mind if you agree with the sentiment, but, please, be at least a little bothered by the lack of punctuation.



On Saturday, I attended two concerts in which the average age of the performer was 82.3 years. Or, to put it another way, the combined age of the three performers I saw was 247 years old.

Plus, it was Record Store Day, during which I made two trips to J&R Music World, bought two seven-inch singles (Booker T and Tom Waits...no luck with the Dylan one) and three CDs (Thin Lizzy's "Still Dangerous," the Hindu Love Gods' self-titled CD, and a Chuck Berry greatest hits CD) and snagged four free CDs from the short-lived Free CD table in front of the store.

It was a good day.


The first show was at high noon, at the Russell Courtyard at Teachers College. I arrived just after the gates opened, fresh from the first run to J&R of the day. There were a few bands on the bill for the Rockin' Earth Day Festival (including one called Broken Wind), but the main attraction was the first performer of the day, 89-year-old Pete Seeger, who was apparently reluctant to shed his winter attire on the first day that it truly felt like spring. Of course, he was probably up at 6 in the morning chopping wood, so it might have been colder then.

Mr. Seeger started the show by looking toward the future, and reminding the crowd that it won't be one big thing that causes revolutionary change, but millions and millions of little things. He then started into "This Land Is Your Land" (a bold choice for a starter...where do you go from there?), which, as usual, turned into a group sing. Mr. Seeger's shows are more casual singalongs than anything else, so we all joined in when prompted, and, really, every human being should have the experience of having Pete Seeger lead you in singing "This Land Is Your Land." The same goes for "Turn, Turn, Turn," at the end of which I looked behind my friend Jon and saw a woman with tears flowing out of her eyes.

Mr. Seeger spent a lot of time talking about the causes close to his heart (including cleaning up the Hudson River) and my new favorite organization, Shore Walkers, whom I am seriously considering joining for their annual Great Saunter. To the best of my recollection, he sang five or six songs while on stage, but it still went by way too fast. Just to be able to hear Pete Seeger and sit a few feet away from him for a few hours was well worth the price of admission, which, by the way was $0. Score another one for New York City.

The true highlight of the show (narrowly edging out the set-closing "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain") was "Arrange and Rearrange," during which Pete Seeger said "shit" about a dozen times in front of a crowd largely populated by children. You can click on the link above for the lyrics for context, but what fun is that? Mr. Seeger followed up his first round of "shit"s by telling the kids that he knows a lot of their parents will tell them that that's not a word to use in the house, but, well, we're not in your house, "so let's sing it again." I don't know how the parents felt about that, but I thought it was hilarious.


After my second trip to J&R and a brief stop home (during which I was finally able to confirm that Ray Price was indeed opening the show, which seemed to be something the State Theatre wanted to keep a secret), I hopped on a train to New Brunswick to see the 75-year-old Willie Nelson and 83-year-old Ray Price from the cheap seats ($41, which aint really cheap, but they were the cheapest offered). I spent an hour or so before the show outside the parking lot trying in vain to get the attention of someone who could get something to Ray Price to sign (the door for his bus was well out of shouting range from where I was, though I realized later there was a better place to stand), so after that standing around, which was preceded by sitting on concrete at the Seeger show, I was ready for a cushy theater seat. And the seat, though only a few rows from the back wasn't bad at all, and sufficiently comfortable for listening to the still awesomely smooth voice of the Ray Price, who started the night off with "San Antonio Rose." My only complaint is that the people up in the Gallery didn't stand when Mr. Price came out, which I accept may be because they didn't know there was an opening act. I accept it, but I still don't like it. Still, a few stood at the end of the set, so there was partial redemption.

Some loud and I'm gonna go ahead and guess drunk middle-aged men clearly pining for the good old days settled into their seats across the aisle after missing Ray Price's set (sigh) and proceeded to sing fairly loudly and alarmingly off-key during relative youngster Willie Nelson's set. But you can't derail my good time from the second the Texas flag drops down at a Willie Nelson show. They tried though, and I think succeeded in impinging on a few people's good times, as the row in front of them cleared out by show's end. As for me, two of the big highlights for me at a Willie show are instrumentals ("Down Yonder" and "Under the Double Eagle"), so there was no off-key warbling from the Gallery on those ones, which helped.

Mr. Nelson rolled through the usual Willie set overflowing with hits, and I am always amazed that "On The Road Again" is never used as the set closer. I mean, to write a song that is tailor-made for getting off the stage and then play it anyplace other than last...that's what makes Willie Nelson one of the coolest people alive. Well, that and a few other things, including one of the greatest catalogs of songs in music.

After his Hank Williams medley ("Jambalaya," "Move It On Over," and "I Saw the Light"), Mr. Nelson proceeded to head to the lip of the stage to shake hands and sign autographs. I had some stuff but I wasn't really expecting to get it signed. Still, since people were clearing out, I headed downstairs and took a few shots before Mr. Nelson left the stage as the Family played "Beer Barrel Polka." One's in the Revku post, the other's this one of Bee Spears and Paul English (and Trigger). I was lucky enough to get Paul to sign my now complete "Willie Nelson for President/Paul English for Vice" poster after the show and now I can proceed with my plans to set up a "Me and Paul" Wall, since I also have signed albums from Kitty Wells and Charley Pride.

Then I got on the train headed home (or at least the train headed to the train that would take me home), another memorable musical day in the books.

Long live Pete Seeger, Ray Price, and Willie Nelson. And record stores while we're at it.


Ray started with Wills
Willie ended with Williams
Country music lives!

Willie Nelson and the Family/Ray Price, State Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ, 4/18/09


The first real spring day
Greeted with voice and banjo
Good to be alive

Pete Seeger, Russell Courtyard at Teachers College, NYC, 4/18/09


Revku XXVI

A narrow venue
Filled up with tight harmonies
Plus, a glockenspiel

Sometymes Why, Cornelia Street Café, NYC, 4/16/09

Of D-Bags and Tea Bags

If you want to waste a day of your child's precious youth at a ridiculous "Tea Party," that's on you. But I am going to have to insist you spell-check the signs before heading out the door.

Because "banrupt"? ... that's just embarrassing.


Bum-bum-ba-dum (wahhhhhhhhhh)

The lack of posts has been mainly due to general busy-ness, but, also, I realize almost a week later, because I am still getting over the fact that Borders decided to stop taking pictures of customers with Bob Barker four people before I got to the front of the line. "It's causing too many problems," the flustered Bluetoothed store employee said after I almost saw a grown man cry because his camera wasn't working. Sigh.

So you'll have to make do with this, and ponder what could have been the Holiday Greeting in your mailbox this December.

The skin-color contrast alone would've made it a classic.

And in further crushing Holiday Greeting news, I don't think I'm going to Chiller Theatre this weekend. There's no one whom I'd deem Greetingworthy (the closest is Jason Lively, a/k/a the bad Rusty Griswold, from "National Lampoon's European Vacation"), and, since Shavar "Dudley" Ross cancelled, the prospect of spending $50 to get there and pay admission is looking less appealing by the second. Maybe I'll rally, but it's looking bleak.

Tough times, people. Tough times.

Here's a picture of a puppy at the Bide-a-Wee table at the Bob Barker signing to make you feel better.


A Troubled Ran Fan

I sure do like me some Miranda Lambert, but this, well, I don't like so much (from the Ran Fans newsletter, which, yes, I do receive):

Miranda has joined an advertising campaign for Cotton Incorporated. She will appear in television commercials as part of the revived "The Fabric of My Life" campaign and added a country arrangement to the familiar jingle, which had been retired in 2001. A print ad campaign and Internet components will follow. "My style in three words is comfortable, funky, my own," Lambert said.

That seems like four words to me. Not doing much to combat the "country music is dumb" stereotype, are we?

OK, I forgive you.


Revku XXV

First show of the tour
A rainy Ithaca night
Could've been better

The Flatlanders/Joe Pug, State Theatre, Ithaca, NY, 4/3/09


What I Liked About March

*Citi Field Opening Day
*Watching the youngest member of Team Cagnazzi walk
*Crooked Still/Sweetback Sisters, Bell House, Brooklyn, NY
*Jack Shit/Terry Waldo, Banjo Jim's, NYC

*Hockey weekend, Brooklyn, NY, and Bridgeport, CT
*Chilling with the kids, Old Bridge, NJ
*"Bully Beatdown" on MTV
*Robbie Fulks and Jenny Scheinman, Barbés, Brooklyn, NY

*Los Lobos, Irving Plaza, NYC
*Getting a snow day
*Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, Pianos, NYC
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places

Revku XXIV

A rare New York gig
A Hall of Famer on drums
Ridiculous fun

Jack Shit/Terry Waldo, Banjo Jim's, NYC, 3/31/09