Saturday, May 31, 2014

Down On Stovall's Plantation/I Can't Be Satisfied/Muddy Waters: Part 1:

This is part of a multi-part post:  Muddy Waters

Part 4: Hard Again

Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes. We return this week to Route 66 and Chicago where up until now we have been looking into the blues music that was popular in Chicago before electric instruments entered the scene. Now we move forward to when Chicago's bluesmen redefined the sound of the city with a new raucous style of electric blues. So when did that change happen? Many people credit the 1947 release of "I Can't Be Satisfied"  by Muddy Water as the first record to feature the newly developing electric blues.
Muddy Waters (Wikimedia Commons)
Growing Up Muddy

Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in 1915 in to a sharecropping family in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. As a young boy he had a fondness for playing in the mud. His grandmother called him Muddy and the name stuck.Sadly Muddy's mother died when he was just three years old. His father would move to Stovall's Plantation where Muddy would grow up and like many sharecroppers children began share cropping himself for a dollar a day. As a youngster he was a big fan of Son House and at 17 he picked up the guitar and began to play. He quickly became good enough that his bottleneck delta blues guitar playing could get him jobs at juke joints and parties.

Muddy Waters Meets Alan Lomax

By 1941, Muddy had changed his last name to Waters, and had gained enough recognition that when a folklorist from the Smithsonian Institute named Alan Lomax went to Mississippi to record blues musicians for a series of recording of American folk music. Muddy Waters was suggested to be recorded. Wikipedia shares Muddy recollection of his first recording session from Rolling Stone:
 "He brought his stuff down and recorded me right in my house," Muddy recalled in Rolling Stone, "and when he played back the first song I sounded just like anybody's records. Man, you don't know how I felt that Saturday afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice. Later on he sent me two copies of the pressing and a check for twenty bucks, and I carried that record up to the corner and put it on the jukebox. Just played it and played it and said, 'I can do it, I can do it.'"[9]
Alan Lomax must have been impressed with Muddy Waters. In 1942 he returned to record more tracks. None would be released commercially at the time. The recordings were combined and released as Down On Stovall's Plantation on the Testament label years later featured Muddy playing a deep delta acoustic blues that touched to the core of the blues experience. The recordings, being acoustic, have a different sound than he would become known for in just a few years by using an electric guitar. But his moaning blues singing style was already in place. The album starts off this weeks playlist.

Album: Down On Stovall's Plantation  Muddy Waters

  • Country Blues #1 
  • I Be's Troubled 
  • Burr Clover Farm Blues 
  • Ramblin' Kid Blues [Partial]
  • Ramblin' Kid Blues 
  • Rosalie 
  • Joe Turner
  • Pearlie May Blues
  • Take a Walk With Me 
  • Burr Clover Blues 
  • I Be Bound to Write to You [First Version] 
  • I Be Bound to Write to You [Second Version]
  • You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone #1 
  • You Got to Take Sick and Die Some of These Days 
  • Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You? 
  • Country Blues #2 
  • You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone #2 
  • 32-20 Blues



    Muddy Waters In Chicago

    In 1943, Muddy Waters moved to Chicago to develop his career. At first he survived by getting a job as a truck driver and factory worker by day and performing as much as he could at night. Legendary Chicago bluesman Big Bill Broonzy gave Muddy some work by allowing Muddy to perform as an opening act for his shows. Then in 1945, Muddy Waters was given an electric guitar by his Uncle Joe Grant. This allowed him to be heard above the noisy Chicago crowds and provided him with a tool for developing a new sound.

    In 1946, Muddy again had the opportunity to record his music, being given a session to make recordings for Columbia, who did not end up releasing the work at the time. Later that year he would have another chance. He was hired at a new label starting in Chicago called Aristocrat. In 1947, he played background for Sunnlyand Slim on a pair of tracks that again, were not released at the time.Then in 1948, things clicked. He released a Willie Dixon song,  "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "I Feel Like Going Home" which sold out within a day.

    "I Can't Be Satisfied" rose to number 11 on the US R & B charts and muddy Waters had achieved national fame Shortly after that, Aristocrat records became Chess records as Leonard Chess bought out his partner to attain sole ownership. The label would become a pillar in the history of Chicago blues as would Muddy's band. The band was jaw dropping in the legendary status of its members. From the website Bluescentric.Com:
    In the early 1950's, Muddy Waters and his band, arguably the best Blues supergroup to have ever existed, were on top, and so was Chess Records. Muddy befriended and signed in harmonica great Little Walter, brought in Otis Spann, still one of the unmistakably best Blues pianists in existence, and Jimmy Rogers on second guitar. Leonard Chess hired delta Blues bassist Willie Dixon, who quickly became a Chess star, penning hundreds of songs for the Chess artists. 
    Getting the Blues Their Dues

    In 1950, his signature tune, "Rolling Stone" had emerged as a smash hit, later a young blues rock band from England would adopt the name and go on to legendary status themselves. Muddy would continue to record singles for Chess through the 1950's, with many of them gaining chart position on the R & B charts. In fact, it wasn't until the end of the decade 1957 & 1959 that he failed to crack the top ten each year. Willie Dixon was cranking out the songs and Muddy Waters was cranking out the hits. 1958 saw Muddy Waters and Otis Spann touring Europe and inspiring a generation of young Brits who would go on to form such legendary rock acts as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and many more. Back in the United States, Muddy Waters appeared at the1960 Newport Jazz Festival in a band that featured Otis Spann and James Cotton. The performance caught the attention of the jazz fans in the crowd and opened the door to the acceptance of blues music among jazz purists. A major moment in music history and a powerful performance that still causes toes to tap over 50 years later, it is the next addition to our playlist.

    Live At Newport 1960 was considered to be one of the first live blues albums.(Wikipedia)

    Album: Muddy Waters Live At Newport 1960 Muddy Waters
    • I Got My Brand On You 4:52 
    • I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man 2:59 
    • Baby, Please Don't Go 3:06 
    • Soon Forgotten 4:22 
    • Tiger In Your Tank 4:30 
    • I Feel So Good 3:03 
    • I've Got My Mojo Working 4:28 
    • I've Got My Mojo Working, Part 2 2:57 
    • Goodbye Newport Blues 4:49

    At this point, Muddy Waters began a new phase in his career with a greater emphasis on album releases than singles. And that is where we will return to the story of Muddy Waters in just three short weeks of Old Highway Notes. Before then, join us next week as we return to old Highway 101 in San Diego County in Southern California. Then, in two weeks, we return to the coast of Florida where we will continue our trip up Interstate 95. Join us for that, won't you? Until meet again, keep your mojo workin'.


    Mileage Stats


    Route 66: 0 Miles/1 State/549 Tracks/98 Videos/24 Posts
    Highway 101: 13  Miles/1 State/459 Tracks/156 Videos/17 Posts
    Interstate 95: 77 Miles/1 State/11 Tracks/40 Videos/6 Posts

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    Saturday, May 24, 2014

    Hollywood to West Palm Beach

    Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes. Once again we return to Miami and the start of Interstate 95. This week we will make some miles. So far we have bopped around the Miami area a little bit to take in the sounds and history. We will be hitting the road from the northern most place we have been so far. We start off from Gulfstream Park where the Miami International Pop festivals were held. From there we will continue up Interstate 95 for about 65 miles leading us to West Palm Beach Gardens. Here is one last look at Downtown Miami from an old postcard we found along the way.

    Lummus Park in Downtown Miami (Flickr/Creative Commons)

    OK, now lets take a look at the map.



     A Day At The Races: Hollywood and Hallandale Beach

    Musically, I found this strip of highway pretty barren when I was doing research on the area. I mean, there are a lot of celebrities with Florida homes, but it seems there creativity was generally exercised elsewhere, with one exception we will get to later. So lets concentrate on the scenery. This vintage postcard shows Gulfstream Park, the start of our trip from sometime in the 1930's or 1940's before the Interstate was put in.

    Gulfstream Park, at Hallandale, near Hollywood, Florida, 'the track by the sea', One of the nation's most scenic race courses


    These days Gulfstream Park has returned to its natural gambling roots and the days of hippy communalism have given way to gambling and shopping. I guess that's always what a horse track should be about any way..Here is a play list of how things are at Gulfstream Park these days.



    Fort Lauderdale: Where The Boys Are

    We hit the highway and begin to drive North. This dash cam gives us a view as we head into Fort Lauderdale. You will note there are some nasty storm clouds on the horizon.



    Here are some old postcards from Fort Lauderdale.

    Air view, Bahia Mar Yacht Basin, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (flickr/CC)
    Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel and Trade Winds Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (flickr/CC)
    To show you Fort Lauderdale today I assembled a play list that has a short history of the city, a tribute slide show video, and a dash cam tour around town.



    As the video history mentioned, Fort Lauderdale has a reputation as a popular spring break destination, A lot of its fame can be traced back to The 1960 film "Where The Boys Are". From Wikipedia:
    Where the Boys Are (1960) is an Metrocolor and CinemaScope American coming-of-age comedy film, written by George Wells based on the novel of the same name by Glendon Swarthout, about four Midwestern college co-eds who spend spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The title song "Where the Boys Are" was sung by Connie Francis, who also co-starred in a supporting role. The film was aimed at the teen market, featuring sun, sand and romance. Released in the wintertime, it inspired thousands of additional American college students to head to Fort Lauderdale for their annual spring break.
    The theme song used in the movie was not the version that was preferred by Connie Francis and its writer, Neil Sedaka. They released a studio version of the song in January of 1961, that created a synergy in demand for the film and even more spread the fame of the Fort Lauderdale when classes were off for the week. It was a successful record. Again from Wikipedia:
    The different versions of the track would provide her with a #1 hit in some fifteen countries.[5] The Japanese version Atashi-no was even released in the US on MGM Records Single K 13005.[1]Where the Boys Are was comparatively less successful in the English speaking world: its US peak was #4 while the track peaked on both the UK and Australian charts at #5.[6] However, Where the Boys Are became Francis' signature tune and remains a fan favorite.
    My music collection has an box set called The Brill Building Sound that features many of the songs Connie Francis and Neil Sedaka released including this one, our lone play list addition this week. Its interesting that it would make a Florida play list since it was written in New York and recorded in Hollywood, but it is forever tied to Fort Lauderdale, so there you have it. The video play list includes the opening credit for the films followed by the studio record release.






    Life Is Good In Boca Raton

    Hitting the road once again we jump onto Interstate 95 and head North to Boca Raton, Florida. This dash Cam poster has a funny description under his video:
    The worst drivers in America are on this road.starting out in Broward County at I595 and driving North to Palm Beach County


    A quick look about at Boca Raton is affluent gated suburbs,  A hub for business it seems rather lackluster to me, quite frankly. Posh enough I suppose. Here are a couple of Boca Raton videos, one from a local realtor and one a helicopter tour of the city.



    Finishing the drive in West Palm Beach

    Heading back on the road we continue north leading us to the end of today's drive, West Palm Beach Florida.



    Now that we have arrived in West Palm Beach its about time to call it a day. On our video playlist lets take a spin through Lion Country Safari on the west side of town. After that we will make our way to the beach on the east side, steering clear of trouble along the way. A reminder that Interstate 95 is used my more than just tourists is our second video that talks about the cities Top 6 gang, From there, we take a tour of West Palm Beach in our third video. Our fourth and last video is of the beaches of West Palm Beach which is where we will retire for the day.



    Thank you for joining us for this weeks Old Highway Notes. Join us next week as we return to Route 66 in Chicago and continue our blues journey though that city. In two weeks we will be in San Diego County on old Highway 101. Then just three short weeks from now we return to Florida to continue our trip up Interstate 95. Until we meet again, drink plenty of water and use lots of sunscreen,

    A Nice View After a Long Drive, West Palm Beach, Florida (Flickr/CC)


    Mileage Stats

    Route 66: 0 Miles/1 State/523 Tracks/95 Videos/23 Posts
    Highway 101: 13  Miles/1 State/459 Tracks/156 Videos/17 Posts
    Interstate 95: 77 Miles/1 State/11 Tracks/40 Videos/6 Posts
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    Saturday, May 17, 2014

    Napoleones Pizza and Tom Waits Early Years

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/robertgriggsart/3328455487/sizes/l

    Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes. The last time we touched down on Highway 101 we visited National City, California. Between San Diego and the Mexican border it is the home of Mojo Nixon sidekick Skid Roper. But another legendary artist of Americana musician came from this same California town. His name? Tom Waits.

    One of America's most unique performers, Tom Waits. has been described as the musical equivalent of Jack Kerouac's prose or Charles Bukowski's poetry. I like that description. Lyrically, Tom Waits songs paint pictures of the seedy side of modern urban life. He tells hard luck stories of drunks, hobos and prostitutes. Musically he considers his voice to be his instrument and it is a unique one. Raw and worn, whiskey rasped and smoke damaged his voice can be a bit of a warbled uneven croak at times, but always with a certain after hours rat pack vibe that lets you know a tumbler of bourbon is likely nearby.

    He was not born in National City, but in Pomona, the  Los Angeles suburb that hosts the Los Angeles County Fair every summer. Perhaps that is where he the almost "evil carnival" sounds of some of his music took root. His family moved around a bit and his father was reported to be an unreliable alcoholic who could have later been a subject of one of his sons songs. At the age of ten, Tom's father left him and his mother and never returned. Moving to National City, his mother settled down to start a new life.

    Like many children of divorce, Tom Waits felt that he had to assume duties as the man of the house. He was young and it took him a while but at the age of 15 he got a job. He found work as a dishwasher at a pizza place called Napoleones Pizza House. That pizza place was located on National Blvd. That is old Highway 101 on the north end of town. It was close to the San Diego Naval base and sailors on shore leave would flood the strip of bars on National Blvd. stoking the jukebox and behaving with the notorious abandon of sailors on leave.

    The website Tom Waits Library gathered a nice collection of quotes made by Waits about Napoleones and his National City days from various song introductions, here are a few of my favorites:

    Tom Waits (1974) introducing The Ghosts Of Saturday Night: "It's about National City which is primarily a sailor town, a suburb of San Diego, where the infamous Mile Of Cars is on National Avenue and at the north end of National Ave is the Burge Roberts Mortuary and the Golden Barrel, Escalante's Liquor Store, sandwiched in between a Triumph Motorcycle shop and Burge Robert's is Napoleone's Pizza House, it's been there for a good 25 years and I worked there when I was real young. I've worked since I was 15 there and I guess not till I was away from it for a long time I could really sit down and write something constructive about it. This is called Ghosts Of Saturday Night or Looking Out From Napoleone's." 

    Tom Waits (1975) introducing The Ghosts Of Saturday Night: "After I quitted (I was working on a Mobil station) and I was fifteen, eh I started working as a dishwasher and a cook at a place called Napoleone's Pizza House. And eh, worked there for years, for Joe Sardo and Sal Crivello, and eh it was a gas. Ehm well, like every night about eh 4 o'clock in the morning, all the white vinyl booted gogo dancers and all the sailors would come over about a quarter o' four. And eh just about that time Joe would go out in front just to check out the traffic on the street. You know, he would like leave his paper hat and he'd fold his apron and he would go out and stand in front of Napoleone's. Across the street from The Golden Barrel and Escalani's Liquor and Mario's Pizza. There's a Shell station right on the corner, and a Westerner and a Club-29, and a Melody Club, Phil's Porno and Iwo Jima Eddie's tattoo-parlor. And there'd be a cab out there combing the snake..." 

    Tom Waits (1975): "National City is this naugahyde town in Southern California and it's a sailor town, lots of vinyl white booted go go dancers, I worked until 4 in the morning in a pizza house as a cook, started off as a dishwasher, worked for Sal Crivello and Joe Sardo, worked there for 5 years as a matter of fact. That's where the mile of cars is, that's where I got snookered in a deal for $125, I bought a 1955 Buick Roadmaster down there."

    Tom Waits (1999): "When I was fourteen I worked in an Italian restaurant in a sailor town. Across the street was a Chinese place, and we'd trade food. I'd take a pizza to Wong's, they'd give me Chinese food to bring back. Sometimes Wong would tell me to sit in the kitchen, where he's making all this food up. It was the strangest galley: the sounds, the steam, he's screaming at his co-workers. I felt like I'd been Shanghaied. I used to love going there."


    Tom Waits (1983) on Soldier's Things: "I worked in National City in a crummy restaurant for a long time, full of soldiers most every night, tattoo parlor next door, country-and-western diner-dance type of place down the street, Chinese restaurant, Chinese laundry, pool hall all real close, walking distance. So I called up some of my memories of that time. Sit out on the sidewalk, wearing the apron, paper hat, watching the traffic go by, you know?" 

    Napoleones on Google Street View

    Tom Waits featured scenes of San Diego life in many of his early albums, but Napoleones got its own song. From the 1974 album The Heart Of Saturday Night, Waits describes the early mornings when the party was over."Ghosts of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone's Pizza Parlor)".Lyrics cited from TWencyclopedia:

    A cab combs the snake, tryin' to rake in that last night's fare
    And a solitary sailor, who spends the facts of his life like small change on strangers
    Paws his inside pea coat pocket for a welcome twenty-five cents
    And the last bent butt from a package of Kents
    As he dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes
    And marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair
    Her rhinestone-studded moniker says "Irene"
    As she wipes the wisps of dishwater blond from her eyes

    And the Texaco beacon burns on
    The steel-belted attendant with a ring and valve special crying
    'Fill 'er up and check that oil
    You know it could be your distributor and it could be your coil'

    The early morning final edition is on the stands
    And the town crier is crying there with nickels in his hands
    Pigs in a blanket, sixty-nine cents
    Eggs, roll 'em over, and a package of Kents
    Adam and Eve on a log, you can sink 'em down straight
    Hash browns, hash browns, you know I can't be late

    And the early dawn cracks out a carpet of diamonds
    Across a cash crop car lot, filled with twilight Coupe Devilles
    Leaving the town in the keeping
    Of the one who is sweeping
    Up the ghosts of Saturday night 



    In 1970, Tom Waits began performing around San Diego. In November he would have his first paid gig at the Heritage Coffee House in San Diego. He would also begin taking the Greyhound bus up what was once Highway 101 to Los Angeles. From there he would take the local city bus to Hollywood where he would perform at the legendary Troubadour Theater open mic nights that attracted the cream of the LA country rock scene such as the Eagles, Jackson Brown, Linda Ronstadt, and James Taylor, who was living in Hollywood at the time. Talent scouts and studio owners would drink and hang out with the up and coming stars and the no name artist who showed up to get their 20 minutes of fame.

    In 1971 he got tired of the commute and moved to the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. And that is where we end the story of Tom Waits in National City. Shortly after moving to LA he was signed by Asylum records. He would produce seven records for them that we drunken boozy affairs and often painted noir images of the late nights he lived in National city when the fleet was in and the cabs would cruise the night. His success afforded him the opportunity to become as degenerate as the characters in his songs.Many of the songs of that era were reminiscent of his San Diego/National City days. To our play list we add...

    Album: The Heart Of Saturday Night Tom Waits
    • New Coat Of Paint 3:23
    • San Diego Serenade 3:30
    • Semi Suite 3:29
    • Shiver Me Timbers 4:26
    • Diamonds On My Windshield 3:12
    • (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night 3:53
    • Fumblin' With The Blues 3:02
    • Please Call Me, Baby 4:25
    • Depot Depot 3:46
    • Drunk On The Moon 5:06
    • The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone's Pizza Parlor) 3:16


    The 1980's would move Tom
    further from his San Diego days. In 1980 he married Kathleen Brennan, a screenwriter, whom he had met while working on the set of the Francis Ford Coppola movie One from the Heart. With his new wife's encouragement, he gave up drinking. Unimpressed by the small size and lack of variety other than jazz in his record she encouraged him to explore a wide variety of unusual recording from  her collection. It included such items as German film scores, Asian percussion, and Captain Beefheart. In 1983, he would release Swordfishtrombones on Polygram records. At her suggestion, the record was made and released without any consultation or approval of his agents, music label agents, or really anyone except himself. It signaled a new sound, leaving behind his sloppy drunk crooner persona and becoming more of a cinematic storyteller with a variety of musical influences. It would be very successful and signaled a new stage in his career that included a fair amount of film work both in soundtracks and on screen, several very successful albums for Polygram, the creation of many one-of-a-kind musical instruments and an evolution in the public eye from being a cult classic drunkard to the status of a mythical storyteller who defines a down and out side of America with as much authority as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, or Woody Guthrie. In 2011, he was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame and still continues to perform and record.



    His turning point album gets the playlist addition this week...

    Album: Swordfishtrombones Tom Waits

    • Underground 2:01
    • Shore Leave 4:18
    • Dave The Butcher 2:20
    • Johnsburg, Illinois 1:33
    • 16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six 4:33
    • Town With No Cheer 4:28
    • In The Neighborhood 3:07
    • Just Another Sucker On The Vine 1:46
    • Frank's Wild Years 1:54
    • Swordfishtrombone 3:08
    • Down, Down, Down 2:16
    • Soldier's Things 3:20
    • Gin Soaked Boy 2:24
    • Trouble's Braids 1:18
    • Rainbirds 3:13


    Thanks for joining us
    for this weeks Old Highway Notes. Next week we will be returning to Miami and Interstate 95. Two weeks out will take us back to Chicago on Route 66 where the blues just keep on coming. Then, in just 3 short week s we will return to San Diego County and the route the old Highway 101 took before the Interstate changed things. Until we meet again, keep looking for the heart of Saturday night.




    Mileage Stats



    Route 66: 0 Miles/1 State/523 Tracks/95 Videos/23 Posts
    Highway 101: 13  Miles/1 State/459 Tracks/156 Videos/17 Posts
    Interstate 95: 0 Miles/1 State/10 Tracks/23 Videos/5 Posts

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