Crossing The Border

Tijuana Border Traffic Sign
Heading To The Border (Wikipedia)

America: A Band and An Album

We have done a pretty good job of exploring Tijuana Mexico. Its time to head north, get on Highway 101 and start this trip in earnest. First, though, we have to cross the border. In my experience this can be a quick painless experience or a long drawn out grueling experience. You have the variables of traffic, the possibility of secondary examination, and did I mention traffic? As we begin jostling in line to cross back into the United States, America comes to mind.

When I search my music collection for America, the first thing to come up is a folk rock band from the 1970's.  Founding in 1972, America released a long string of hits during the 70's. Some of their hits included "A Horse with No Name", "Sister Golden Hair", "Ventura Highway", "Tin Man", and "Muskrat Love" which was successfully covered later in the decade by the Captain and Tenille. The group was a trio, Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek. The first three albums they issued were released to acclaim and commercial success, however the third album that they released was Hat Track and it did stumble a bit in sales, only producing one hit "Muskrat Love". For their fourth album they called in famed Beatles producer George Martin. It would be a partnership that would last their next four studio albums. He produced some of their biggest hits, "Tin Man", Sister Golden Hair", and "Lonely People". During this time he produced a greatest hits package. History: America's Greatest Hits is a classic and an essential in many people music collections. A solid release it has one great song after another. Look at this track listing:
Album: America's Greatest Hits - History    America
1.  A Horse With No Name 4:07
2.  I Need You 3:05
3.  Sandman 4:08
4.  Ventura Highway 3:22
5.  Don't Cross The River 2:31
6.  Only In Your Heart 3:12
7.  Muskrat Love 3:05
8.  Tin Man 3:28
9.  Lonely People 2:28
10.  Sister Golden Hair 3:20
11.  Daisy Jane 3:08
12.  Woman Tonight 2:22 

That is a solid album! It's in my collection and it is the next album to be added to our playlist.

In 1977, a founding member of America, Dan Peek, left the band. The 1970's rock star lifestyle of rampant drug used had left him weary and he decided to leave the band to lead a more spiritual Christian lifestyle. He would later be successful in contemporary Christian music. The remaining band members,  Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, decided to soldier on as a duo. At this point, they had lost a founding member and were at the end of a contract with Warner Bros., they decided to release an easy live album to complete their contract. The album was titled America Live. The album was a live concert from the duo. In fact, it was their first release without Peek. The show from the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in July of 1977 was full of the hits. Here is a track list:
Album: America Live    America
1.  Tin Man 3:44
2.  Ventura Highway 3:44
3.  I Need You 2:21
4.  California Dreaming 3:15
5.  Sandman 5:00
6.  Daisy Jane 2:51
7.  Never Be Lonely 3:40
8.  You Can Do Magic 3:37
9.  Sister Golden Hair 3:11
10.  Horse With No Name 3:44 

Hoping to get an idea of their live sound, I bought this CD. I didn't know the history of the band, but noted that the songs didn't sound as full as they did on History: America's Greatest Hits, I had blamed either a not so well produced live recording or a lackluster performance as to the cause. I would later find that it was the loss of the third member that leaves this album a little thin. It's not as bad as I am probably making it sound, in fact it's pretty good and is the next addition to our playlist.

America has continued to tour and release album, while never acheiving the success in album sales of their glory years in the 1970's they do continue to draw a crowd. Until recently they continued to perform over 100 live shows a year.  To round out your America experience, I found 2 videos. The first is a live performance from German television program Musikladen, It captures the band at their peak, while Peek was with them. Sorry, I am a sucker for bad puns. The second clip is a recent feature on them from Entertainment Tonight. Enjoy.

The next album to make it onto the playlist, from the British prog rock band Supertramp, has an obvious Amercia connection. I will let Wikipedia introduce:
Breakfast in America, released in March 1979, which reached number 3 in the UK[20] and number 1 in the United States and Canada and spawned four successful singles (more than their first five albums combined): "The Logical Song" (no. 6 U.S., no. 7 U.K.), "Goodbye Stranger" (no. 15 U.S., no. 57 U.K.), "Take the Long Way Home" (no. 10 U.S.), and "Breakfast in America" (no. 9 U.K.).
This album was a huge hit and really doesn't need a lot of backstory. However I did find a great clip from "Breakfast in America". Enjoy!

OK, so that isn't the Breakfast in America we were looking for. I didn't find any particularly interesting clips to go with this album, so that's what you end up with. As I have said before, I can't pass up a good pun or a bad one for that matter. I have to plead guilty to something else here. I have seen the cover to this album probably thousands of times in my life, and in the course of my research I realized I had been missing the obvious. The parody of the statue of liberty being portrayed by a waitress was always obvious enough, but what I didn't notice was that the skyline of New York City in the background of the shot was really a model structured out of various breakfast foods and dishes and cutlery. Sometimes the obvious escapes me.

Breakfast In America Supertramp
(Flickr user Joe Haupt/CC)
Album: Breakfast In America    Supertramp
1.  Gone Hollywood 5:19
2.  The Logical Song 4:10
3.  Goodbye Stranger 5:50
4.  Breakfast In America 2:39
5.  Oh Darling 4:02
6.  Take The Long Way Home 5:08
7.  Lord Is It Mine 4:09
8.  Just Another Nervous Wreck 4:25
9.  Casual Conversations 2:58
10.  Child Of Vision 7:28 

I fibbed a bit about finding clips. I did find the following audio program discussing the album, including an interview with band member Roger Hodgman. Here you go:

As suspected, there is a lot of traffic slowing us down as we try to cross the border. At least we are creeping forward a little bit.

American Flag
(Wikimedia Commons)

America: An Anthem

We wait in traffic, listening to the honking horns and trying to dodge the street peddlers who wander between the lanes of traffic. More thoughts of the USA come to mind. And when you look up at the imposing building that is the US Border complex you see above it a flag. That flag has a song and this blog is about music. So lets get patriotic.

The Jones Brothers kick off the set with their version of the World War II country hit "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere".

  • There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere     200 Years Of American Heritage In Song    Jones Brothers     3:20

  • There are a lot of Star Spangled Banners waving in my music collection. The first is a folk version from former Byrd, Roger McGuinn. He is a cyber citizen and has a great website, The Folk Den, that is chock full of downloadable folk songs. This is one of his offerings, I quite like it.

  • Star Spangled Banner     Folk Den     Roger McGuinn  3:52

  • My next addition is pretty much a mystery. My wife found this CD in the dollar bin at Target. It has no marking other than a track listing and a clip art American Flag on it the with the words "Music CD". It is mostly synth versions of various patriotic songs likely scoured from the open source Internet sites. The versions are good, if generic. Needless to say, I can't offer any link to this gem but it does make it onto the list.

  • Star Spangled Banner     Music CD     Artist Unknown     1:28

  • Spreckles Outdoor Organ, San Diego CA
    Spreckles Organ-Look how small the keyboardist is!
    After that plain instrumental version of our nations song, I thought it would be appropriate and perhaps even respectful to offer a version that is a bit more impressive. Sadly this version will also be hard to share with you as you have to get it from the source. Soon we will have crossed the border and will be exploring San Diego. One of the cities crown jewels is Balboa Park, which offers everything from zoos to museums to lawn bowling and hiking trails. The park also houses the Spreckles Organ. A gift from the founder of Spreckles sugar to the city of San Diego it is the worlds largest outdoor pipe organ. We got to see one of it s Sunday performances a few years ago and picked up this souvenir CD, I would offer a link to purchase online but you have to buy it on site. While the recording of the CD is fantastic, there is no way to replicate the awesome sound of hearing it in person. Definitely recommended if you are in the area, it's a one of a kind experience. I could not find a link to the album I did find a YouTube video of a performance of the anthem that also shows off the organ.

  • The Star Spangled Banner     For The Fun Of It-Spreckles Outdoor Organ     Robert Plimpton     1:38

  • While the anthem can be so majestic, it also packs a lot of meaning. Jimi Hendrix took that power and that meaning and changed the way the anthem could be presented. His feedback drenched rendition leads to an explosion of sounds to cause us to examine the tension between the romantic notions of revolution  and the horrors of modern war. The dynamic reworking of the song also embodies a celebration of the freedom of America, which I believe he was trying to emphasize over the militarism so controversial during the Vietnam Era. I have two versions in my collection that vary just a bit, so they are both being added to our playlist.

  • The Star Spangled Banner     Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock     Jimi Hendrix     3:43
  • The Star Spangled Banner    Live At Berkeley     The Jimi Hendrix Experience     2:46

  • Mannheim Steamroller follws with their version that offers much in the way of flourishes, fanfares, and synthesized magic.The video is of a 4th of July light display in Wheeling WV.

  • Star Spangled Banner     American Spirit     Mannheim Steamroller     2:41

  • We have barely creeped forward in our trip back across the border.

    American Flag

    A Tale Of Two Alternative Anthems

    Lets face it, the Star Spangled Banner is a difficult song to sing and many renditions end up sounding more like the Star Mangled Banner.  There are several songs that have been written since then that are more easily sung. These serve as sort of unofficial national anthems. A great example of this is "God Bless America".

    America the Beautiful was written by Irving Berlin, composer of such other songs as Alexander's Ragtime Band, Easter Parade, White Christmas, and There's No Business Like Show Business. He originally composed the song in 1918 while serving the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York. At the time he didn't find it suitable for use and he shelved it. In 1938, with the rise of Hitler and European fascism occurring, he went back to fine tune the "peace song" for an Armistice Day radio program to be sung by Kate Smith. It would become her signature number.

    In 1943 the song was used with other of Berlin's patriotic songs in the film This Is The Army. In a gesture of patriotism, Berlin donated all proceeds from the song to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. An easy to sing song, with a religious connection  that allowed it to be sung as church hymn has kept the song in the American songbook as a very popular alternative to the Star Spangled Banner.  I have a copy of the song from a CD collection called The Great Entertainers. It is the first track we are adding to the playlist today. The CD my version is from is not being sold any more but Kate Smiths Greatest Hits offers the download

  • God Bless America     The Great Entertainers     Kate Smith, and Jack Miller Orchestra     2:43

  • Philadelphia Flyers
    Philadelphia Flyers Hockey
    As a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey club the song has its own special attraction to me. When I hear it being played before a game I know the game will be huge. And my team will likely win. I'll let Wikipedia tell the story...
    When the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team played Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" before their game on December 11, 1969, an unusual part of her career began.
    The team began to play the song before home games every once in a while; The perception was that the team was more successful on these occasions, so the tradition grew. 
    At the Flyers' home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 11, 1973, she made a surprise appearance to perform the song in person and received a tremendous reception. The Flyers won that game by a 2-0 score. She again performed the song at the Spectrum in front of a capacity crowd of 17,007 fans before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 19, 1974 against the Boston Bruins. Boston's forward, Phil Esposito, infamously tried to jinx the Flyers' "good luck charm" by presenting her with a bouquet of roses after her performance. The Flyers won their first of two back-to-back Stanley Cups, winning that playoff series against the Boston Bruins 4 games to 2, with Bernie Parent shutting the Bruins out 1-0 in that game. Smith also performed live at Flyers home games on May 13, 1975, when the Flyers beat the New York Islanders 4-1 to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semi-finals., and on May 16, 1976, before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when the Flyers lost to the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 and were swept in that series. 
    The Flyers' record when "God Bless America" is played or sung in person stands at a remarkable 94 wins, 26 losses, and 4 ties as of April 26, 2011.[4] Smith and her song remain a special part of Flyers' history. In 1987,the team erected a statue of Smith outside their arena at the time, the Spectrum, in her memory. The Flyers still show a video of her singing "God Bless America" in lieu of "The Star Spangled Banner" for good luck before important games. The video of her performance is now accompanied by Lauren Hart, daughter of the late Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gene Hart, longtime voice of the Flyers, and anthem singer for the Flyers. Before games whenever God Bless America is performed, Lou Nolan, the PA announcer for the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center would say: "Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, we ask that you please rise and remove your hats and salute to our flags and welcome the number 1 ranked anthemist in the NHL, Lauren Hart, as she sings (if the visiting team is from
    Canada, O Canada (or Canadian national anthem) followed by) God Bless America, accompanied by the great Kate Smith."[5]
    This CBC footage from the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs is typical of how it is performed before big Flyer games. 

    Of course, there are some fans who don't like the old clips of the song and mocking deride it saying, "it ain't started' til the fat lady sings. Yes, we have some classy members in the "Philly Faithful" fan base. There is another person who did not like the song when it came out. That person was named Woody Guthrie.

    Woody Guthrie is a legendary figure in American folk music. He was an admirable man in many ways, but he was flawed as well. Born in Okemeh, OK in 1912, his childhood started off in the prosperous boom of the early 20th century in Oklahoma, but things unraveled quickly. His sister was burned to death in coal fire in their home when he was 7. His father, who was also severely burned in another coal  fire, lost his wealth in failed land deals and his mother, who suffered from Huntington's Disease, was drifting into dementia. She would be institutionalized when Woody was 18. It is also speculated that she had a hand in the tragic fires that kept affecting the Guthrie family.
    Woody was naturally gifted as a folk artist. He could draw and paint well enough to sell his work commercially. He had learned to play the guitar and harmonica, having an ability to play play by ear tunes that he had heard. Woody also had a gift for writing new words for the old folk tunes he would strum. He did some busking and side jobs painting signs in Pamas Texas where his father was trying to work out some land deals to get back on his feet. Woody married at 19, and was soon to join the stream of refugees from Oklahoma on Route 66, leaving his wife and daughter in Texas to fend for themselves until he could start sending them money from California. He made a habit the rest of his life of leaving situations to try other avenues that is admirable in its ambition, but irresponsible to those left behind.

    In Los Angeles, he gained his initial fame working on the Lefty Lou radio program on progressive radio station KFVD in Southern California. It was during this time that many of his famous dust bowl ballads were written and fist performed such as "Oklahoma Hills", "Do-Re-Mi", "I Ain't Got No Home", and "Pretty Boy Floyd". It was also during this time that he became interested in the labor movement. The mistreatment of so many of the dust bowl refugees allowed international communist groups to gain traction with many of the refugees with its promise of fair treatment for the working man. Woody began to work writing articles for the Communist newspaper Peoples World.  His politics would make him loved as a sympathist to the lower class, and despised later in an era of rising anti-communism.

    Woody was a controversial figure. I have a lot of respect for him. His neglect of his family at a moments notice to pursue adventure and opportunity I find fairly deplorable, but I honor his ambition and loyalty to the cause he embraced. Was he right about those causes? History has proven that communism, while a lovely utopian ideal, just doesn't work with the inherent flaws of human nature. So he was wrong about that. But it hadn't proved to be a failure at the time Woody was embracing the ideology, so I am forgiving of his communism.

    Back to our story, when Irving Berlins' "God Bless America" came it out it immediately became popular and with the onset of World War II was all over the radio at the time. Woody that the the song was trite and sentimental and over simplified the problems facing the world, or ignored them altogether.  Woody's song took the Berlins style of listing out the varied features and geography that make up the US. Instead of calling for Gods blessing, Woody celebrates the blessing that we have. His original line "God blessed America for me" he would rewrite to become "This land was made for and me".
    Like the Berlin song had been put on shelf, Woody would shelve his song for four years before finally publishing it. Unlike "America The Beautiful" which had a sudden introduction and immediate success, "This Land Is Your Land" sort of simmered. Woody would play it live but at the time he was under increased criticism for his communist beliefs and he was performing generally at events and meetings in support of leftist causes. However, during the folk music revival of the early 1960's the song was discovered by the youthful folk scene and covered by many artists. In a lot of ways, "This Land Is Your Land" could be a great national anthem. However, like Woody himself, the song has its flaws. There were two verses that were included in the original writing of the song that Woody sometimes performed that are often left off of many renditions. In the 4th verse he criticizes private property, championing communist values.
         As I went walking I saw a sign there
        And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
        But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
        That side was made for you and me

    In the 6th verse he rebukes the US government, as well as the churches, ineffectiveness at providing a safety net against poverty.
        In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
        By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
        As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
        Is this land made for you and me? 

    These controversial stances insure that "This Land Is Your Land" will likely never be the national anthem. I wish it would though. Really, what is worse, sympathy with idealism in communist propaganda or the militarism and celebration of war that is our current anthem?

    That is really more than enough about my personal philosophical and political viewpoints. We are here for music and I have several versions of "This Land is your Land" to add to our playlist. The first version is from Woody Guthrie and it was found in my collection as a track on the Ultimate Grammy Box. That set is not available for download, but I have this version from  The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1-4. The video is a collection of shots from the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemeh, OK:

    • This Land Is Your Land     Ultimate Grammy Box     Woody Guthrie     2:18

    One of Woody Guthrie's best friends and musical collaborators was Pete Seeger who partnered with Guthrie in the Almanac Singers and like Guthrie faced McCarthyist blacklisting. My copy was included as bonus track on the CD Pete Seeger's Greatest Hits. For some reason the track is not listed on
    the mp3 version of the album, so I offer a download link from Pete Seeger Sings Woody Guthrie.

    • This Land Is Your Land     Pete Seeger's Greatest Hits     Pete Seeger     3:01

    The next version of "This Land Is Your Land" is from Tennessee Ernie Ford. I got it as party of a 4th of July mix disc titled  Rudy presents... Let Freedom Ding. The disc is no longer being offered for download but I did find a version of Tennessee Ernie Ford doing the song that you can download.

    • This Land Is Your Land     Rudy presents... Let Freedom Ding     Tennessee Ernie Ford

    In spite of the controversy I mentioned, the song has become a beloved patriotic anthem. Especially when the controversial verses are left out. Even the conservative Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform the song. My version is from a collection from Readers Digest called A Celebration Of Great American Favorites. Naturally the CD is not available for mp3 download but I have found you an alternate version. The video is a performance with The Air Force reserve Band.

  • This Land Is Your Land     A Celebration Of Great American Favorites    Mormon Tabernacle Choir     3:06

  • During the folk music revival, one of the acts that did the most popularize Woody's song was Peter, Paul and Mary. My version is from an later greatest hits kind of release called Around The Campfire. The video from their 25th Anniversary concert is from the same era.

  • This Land Is Your Land     Around The Campfire     Peter, Paul & Mary

  • The next version of "This Land Is Your Land" is from the concert A Tribute To Woody Guthrie. I love this album! Shortly after Woody's death a memorial concert was held that attracted a who's who of folk artists that offered their heartfelt tribute in performing his songs. The close to the album is our song being peformed by Odetta, Woody Guthrie's son, and folk hero in  his own right, Arlo Guthrie, with narration and participation from the ensemble of gathered artists. You can get the song alone on mp3. You have to download the album. If you do, I suspect you will enjoy it.

  • This Land Is Your Land/Narration     A Tribute To Woody Guthrie     Odetta, Arlo Guthrie And Company    2:55

  • My next version of "This Land Is Your Land" is from a Smithsonian Folkways release by folk singer Oscar Brand. He performs the campaign song of every president in US history up until its release date in 1996. Interestingly, George H Bush used this song as his campaign song. Much like Reagan did not realize the lyrical implications of "Born In The USA", I suspect Bush must have somehow overlooked the communist associations  of the song, since he was such a famous Cold War figure.

  • This Land Is Your Land: George Bush     Presidential Campaign Songs  1789-1996  Oscar Brand 1:31
  • Neil Young brings us to nearly the present with his rendition from his 2012 album Americana with Crazy Horse.

  •  This Land Is Your Land     Americana     Neil Young & Crazy Horse     5:26

  • There is another version that I realized I need to upgrade in my collection. I have it on cassette and it is destined to be on the list. It is by Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper from their album "Root Hog or Die"

  •  This Land Is Your Land     Root Hog Or Die     Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper     5:46

    • Bobby Bare brings us full circle with his song "God Bless America Again". The video is a 9/11 Tribute backed by his song.

    •  God Bless America Again     The Essential Bobby Bare     Bobby Bare     2:49

    • That allowed us to kill some time as we sit in a virtual traffic jam on our virtual journey across the border from Tijuana, Mexico to the USA and old Highway 101. There is another alternative anthem worthy of mention as well and we will talk about that song next.

      America: Another Alternative Anthem and a Disneyland Attraction

        We are getting pretty close to crossing the border back into the USA from Tijuana, Mexico so that we can resume our musical virtual journey up Highway 101. We now and have gotten to the point where the cars in the other lanes can't cut us off because there are lane dividers this close to the checkpoint. Only a car or two ahead of us! We still have a little more on the subject of American anthems to consider to wrap up our wait in border traffic.

        America The Beautiful is another song that often gets serious consideration as a suggested improvement over "The Star Spangled Banner" as our national anthem. The history of the song fits in well with the greater theme of this blog because the song was inspired by a road trip. It was a railroad trip, but still I would say it counts. Here is the 1904 version of the lyrics from Wikipedia:
            O beautiful for spacious skies,
            For amber waves of grain,
            For purple mountain majesties
            Above the fruited plain!

            America! America!
            God shed His grace on thee,
            And crown thy good with brotherhood
            From sea to shining sea!

            O beautiful for pilgrim feet
            Whose stern impassioned stress
            A thoroughfare for freedom beat
            Across the wilderness.

            America! America!
            God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
            Confirm thy soul in self-control,
            Thy liberty in law.

            O beautiful for glorious tale
            Of liberating strife,
            When valiantly for man's avail
            Men lavish precious life.

            America! America!
            May God thy gold refine
            Till all success be nobleness,
            And ev'ry gain divine.

            O beautiful for patriot dream
            That sees beyond the years
            Thine alabaster cities gleam
            Undimmed by human tears.

            America! America!
            God shed His grace on thee,
            And crown thy good with brotherhood
            From sea to shining sea.

        The song began its life as a poem. In 1893, a 36 year old college instructor named Katherine Lee Bates took a train trip from Wellesley College in Massachusetts to Colorado Springs, Colorado where she was to teach a summer session. Along the way she saw the sights and the sites that would later figure into her poem. Among the sights she saw, were "the purple mountains majesty" as she took in the view from Pikes Peak in Colorado. She saw the "amber waves of grain" as her train rolled across the great plains. The " alabaster cities" mentioned towards the end of the lyrics were inspired by the famous "White City" of the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago, which she visited on her return trip to Massachusetts.

        In 1895, in celebration of The 4th of July, she had the poem published in The Congregationalist, a religious publication of the era. The poem would catch the public's fancy and would be republished with amended verses in 1904 and 1913.

        In 1882, before Katherine Lee Bates would see America and write her poem, Samuel A. Ward was inspired to write a church Hymn as he rode the ferry boat home from Coney Island to New York City. He composed the tune for the old hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem", retitling the work "Materna". Its melody seemed to fit well with the poem and by 1910 the lyrics and melody were popularly being used together.

        Numerous  attempts have been made to make "America The Beautiful" the National Anthem or at least the National Hymn. Its easier melody and it's flexibility to orchestrate for various arrangements, are often cited as reasons to adopt the song. There are also a lot of people who prefer its imagery to the more war-oriented imagery of the "Star Spangled Banner". So far these attempts have been unsuccessful.

        My music collection features an assortment of versions of the song that will now become part of our Old Highway Notes  Highway 101 playlist. As always download links are provided where available, and relevent videos are provided for comparison and entertainments sake.

        The first version is likely from China.  In my post about the "Star Spangled Banner", I told you about this album. As I said, my wife found this CD in the 
        dollar bin at Target. It has no marking other than a track listing and a
         clip art American Flag on it the with the words "Music CD".  Several of the albums from that first anthem post make the list again today.

      • America The Beautiful    Music CD    Music CD    3:04
      • This version, also from the first anthem post,is the song played on the Spreckles Outdoor Organ. It offers a certain magesty.  Unfortunately you need to visit the organ to get the CD. The You tube link should give you an idea though.

      • America The Beautiful    For The Fun Of It-Spreckles Outdoor Organ    Robert Plimpton    1:46

      • Moving on, next is a classic choral symphony version from a hard to find Readers Digest collection.

        This Mannnheim Steamroller version is another classic choral take on the song. The video also contains Home on the Range. America the Beautiful starts at the 4:15 mark.

        For my money, Ray Charles does one of the best versions. Its soulful and heartfelt and strong. Interestingly, the song is very visual, yet a blind man may perform it best. Unfortunately, Amazon does not offer the single for download. My version is from the 5CD box set Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles.

        The next rendition is from a Oregon folk music group called Misty River. They have received a fair amount of acclaim in the world of folk music. They pursue the song with almost barbershop quartet harmonies that remind me a bit of the Roches.

        The next version of the song in my collection is a particularly touching one. Following 9/11, everyone in America wanted to do something to help. The entertainment community stepped forward with a benefit concert called America: A Tribute To Heroes that featured a veritable who's who of film and music superstars. To close out the concert,Willie Nelson sang America The Beautiful and was joined by the other performers in the concert as his back ups. There is a lot of star power on this stage. Honestly, recalling it as I type this brings a bit of a tear to my eye. Sadly, I could not find an official release of this on mp3.

        From harsh reality, lets move to escapist fantasy. The architect of the fantasy I am talking about was Walt Disney. In July of 1955 he opened Disneyland. In 2005, the park celebrated it's 50th Anniversary. To commemorate the event, Disney released a 6 disc set, A Musical History of Disneyland. It is an outstanding collection of attraction soundtracks and ambient music from throughout the parks history. At the same, time a fan compiled 13 disc collection was being widely circulated on Disney message boards. Both are available, but I can only offer a link to the official release, but if you were to search, there seem to be several questionable download sites that offer the larger set. The fan who compiled the collection, Gary "Hitchhiking Ghost" Lesher, has since passed away, so his official link is no longer online. Anyway, it is from those collections that we get the final versions of "America The Beautiful" to make it onto our playlist.

        As you likely know, Disneyland was built as park composed of several themed "lands". One of those lands was Tomorrowland, which was intended to be a showcase of the future. One of the original attractions in Tomorrowland was a short film shown in a "circarama" theater. A circarama theater is a movie theater that is circular with screen that goes all the way around the wall of the circle while the viewer stands in the middle. A series of breaks in the screens allow for projectors to be placed to show an image on the opposing wall. When the projectors play a synchronized film, it provides a fairly unique viewing experience, Perhaps this picture could help explain. Thanks to Walt Dated World for posting it.

        The first circarama film to appear at Disneyland was titled a A Tour of the West and was sponsored by American Motors and it's appliance division, Kelvinator. While Disneyland was showing that film, Walt Disney was asked to provide a show for the American Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair. The film he created was patchwork of Americana entitled America The Beautiful. After a successful showing that gained rave reviews, the film was next re-dubbed into Russian and displayed at the 1959 American National Exposition in Moscow Russia,. Then , in 1960, the film began to be shown at Disneyland, presented by The Bell System phone company.

        • America the Beautiful - Circlevision    A Musical History of Disneyland   Disney    17:52

        • The problem with a land of Tomorrow, is that tomorrow never comes and the dreams of the future are always changing. In 1966, Tommorowland was redesigned and modernized so that it could reflect the newer views of the future. When the land was reopened, with it came a new film, America The Beautiful! Keeping the same name they produced a whole new movie, with a new script and an apparent disregard for the confusion it might cause future historians (ahem). The new theater was larger with better projection. It was sponsored by AT&T and had a pre-show area that I remember quite fondly from my youth. The area featured such features as phones that would let you "talk" to the characters. They also had free rooms where your whole family could sit and make one free phone call to anywhere in the US! And everyone in the family could be on the family could be on the "speaker-phone"! The film continued to be played with a few changes of sponsorship as well as a few revisions to stay current with the times. As sponsors went from AT&T to Pacific Southwest Airlines and then to Delta Airlines before being shuttered in 1997 to make way for another rework of Tomorrowland. The theater was re-used to house the ride queue for a short lived "Rocket Rods" ride that seemed to be cursed from its opening day. For a short time after September 11, 2001, Disney resumed showing the film in its old theater before once again shuttering the theater. Rumors abound that a new version of the film will be coming back, and other parks still have theaters that employ the same technique, but so far no dates have been announced for Disneyland.

          I have 2 tracks from this later incarnation of the attraction. The first is 
          the overture music that would play as people filed into the theater, 
          while the other is the soundtrack of the new film. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a good download link or film clip to share.

        • Circle-Vision - America The Beautiful Symphonic (ATT)    Disneyland : The First 50 Years - A Retrospective  Disneyland    1:32
        • Circle-Vision - America The Beautiful (1967) (ATT)    Disneyland : The First 50 Years - A Retrospective   Disneyland    18:51    

        • Flag at The American Border
          (Flickr user Emilio Labrador/CC)

          Show Me Some Identification

          Amazon Store

          We have finally reached the border so that we can leave Tijuana Mexico and return to the USA and old Highway 101 in San Diego County. As we pull up to the small shack a border patrol agent steps outside to greet us.

          With that, Lee Greenwood's ode to Americanism, "God Bless The USA" with its line "I'm proud to be an American/Where at least I know I'm free" becomes the first addition to this weeks playlist. (As always, click on the text for Amazon download links, the iTunes button before the text will take you to the iTunes store for the track.)

          "Hello," he says, "What is your citizenship?"

          "I'm proud to be an American." I reply.
          •  God Bless The U.S.A.     A Celebration of Great American Favorites  Lee Greenwood     3:14

          We follow up with Roger McGuinn's "America For Me" From The Folk Den. This is a free download from his site that features a whole lot of other free folk music downloads. He released this song onto his blog shortly after 9/11 as tribute although it didn't get the same amount of play as the "God Bless The USA". Etither way I hope this will speed us past the Border Patrol agent and down the road.

          • America For Me     The Folk Den     Roger McGuinn     4:19

          The man in the uniform doesn't look impressed. "What was the purpose of your visit to Mexico?" The Border Patrol agent  asks us.
          "Tourism. We came to explore Tijuana Mexico in a virtual journey of music and history."

          "Do you have any identification?" he asks.

          "Well, when this blog was started it went by the name of the Great Historical Bum, until I found a popular Bob Dylan Site was using the same name, but I still have my old ID."

          The next track to be added to our playlist is Woody Guthrie's "Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done" which starts with the line, "I'm just a lonesome traveler, the great historical bum/Highly educated out of history I come." My first version of the Guthrie classic was recorded less than a mile from where I now live in Portland Oregon.  Woody was working on narrating a documentary to promote the dams being built by the WPA on the Columbia River. The documentary was never completed but several of his well known songs were written during this period such as "Roll On Columbia", "Grand Coolie Dam" and this song. The song screams America and celebrates its victories, the INS will have to let me back home into the US when they hear this.

          Guy with ID card and liquor bottle
          Hey, at least I wasn't looking like this guy...
          • The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done     Columbia River Collection     Woody Guthrie     2:21

          We follow that up with Tom Paxton's live and faithful cover that he performed at "The Concert for Woody" that was held shortly after Woody Guthrie died in 1967 from Huntingtons Disease.
          •  Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done (Historical Bum)     A Tribute To Woody Guthrie  Tom Paxton     1:51

          "Uh-huh. Do you have any other form of identification?'

          "I want to go back into the USA so I can keep  traveling. Someday I hope to say 'I've been every where.' will that song be valid identification?"

          And by now I am sure you can see where this little exchange is taking us. I break out what I thought to be the original version of  the song. "I've Been Everywhere" from Hank Snow in 1962. I follow it up with a variation by Chip Dockery that was apparently popular with soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. I have a nice version from Asleep At The Wheel's first album, 1975's Texas Gold. Then the coup de grace, the version everyone I know seems to think of when this song is mentioned, Johnny Cash.

          This is where it gets interesting, Cash's version seems to be the iconic one, yet all my research shows that he did not release his version until 1996. So it must have been the Hank Snow version we remember prior to that. Cash did perform the song on his 1969 TV series  as a duet with Lynn Anderson, who was having some success with the song at the time, perhaps there is some lingering memory involved. I don't have the duet in my collection, so it won't make the list, but I did find the YouTube video so I am embedding that for you. Now back to our story...
          • I've Been Everywhere    RCA Country Legends: Hank Snow    Hank Snow    2:48
          • I've Been Everywhere    Next Stop Is Vietnam    Chip Dockery & Dick Jonas    1:58
          • I've Been Everywhere   Texas Gold/Comin' Right At Ya    Asleep at the Wheel    2:47
          • I've Been Everywhere (Album Version)    The Legend Of Johnny Cash    Johnny Cash    3:16

          At this point the Border patrol agent sneers at me just a little and says, "Sir, I would like you do move your vehicle into the lot to your right for a secondary inspection." Now, I really don't have anything to worry about. I mean sure, we partied at some rock clubs, and saw some Banditos and political musicians, but nothing illegal.  And we are good Americans, but I still get nervous in situations like these.
          As we pull into the inspection parking lot, another agent approaches us. "Do you know why you were detained?" he asks.

          "I have no idea" , we reply. "Well, smart guy, for someone who uses Wikipedia so much, you should have known that Identification, "I've Been Everywhere" was worthless. Citing the article on Wikipedia:  Well, I guess that reminds me I should always do my research!
          The officer continues,  "There are versions of that song in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, India, Scotland, the Faroe Islands and everywhere else in the world. Not to mention states and provinces like Alaska, Alberta, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Really all you nead is a list and you can probably adapt it to this song. Heck, they have even done Worlds of Warcraft, USAF Security service stations, and beers! Just listen to this portfolio...
          "I've Been Everywhere" is a song which was written by Australian country singer Geoff Mack in 1959, and made popular by Lucky Starr in 1962. 
          The song (as originally written) listed Australian towns. It was later adapted by Hank Snow for North American (predominantly United States) toponyms and by John Hore (later known as John Grenell) with New Zealand toponyms (1966). 
          The song was a number 1 hit in Country Music in November 1962 in the United States for the recording artist Hank Snow.[1] The song was also recorded by Lynn Anderson (USA 1970), Asleep at the Wheel (USA 1973), Johnny Cash (USA 1996), Chip Dockery, Ted Egan, Little Jan Buckner of Wendy Bagwell & The Sunliters (USA 1972), the "Farrelly Brothers" from the television series The Aunty Jack Show (Australia 1974, a parody version), John Grenell (NZ 1966), Mike Ford (Canada, 2005), Rolf Harris(UK 1963), Clifton Jansky, The Sunny Cowgirls and the Statler Brothers. 

          "As you can tell, that identification has been around a bit. You are going to have to provide us with something else."

          I can accommodate that request."Here are some other forms of identification. A few of them relate to Vietnam. Now I wasn't there, I was just a kid when the war was going on, but I do support and am grateful to all the folks who fought and died in the jungles of Southeast Asia. That is why those songs have meaning to me."

          US Passport
          (Flickr user Damian613/CC)

          By way of an apology, we begin with Paul Simon's "American Tune". Then as proof of citizenship, we offer "Born in The USA" from Bruce Springsteen and another view of Vietnam service from Jerry Reed, "Fighting For the U.S.A". Then to prove my residency I offer up Steve Miller's "Living In The USA" as well as a version by Wilmer and the Dukes. Then to close out my plea, and appeal to blue state patriotism, Charlie Daniels, with "In America".
          • American Tune    There Goes Rhymin' Simon    Paul Simon    3:47
          • Born in the U.S.A. (Album Version) [Clean]    The Essential Bruce Springsteen    Bruce Springsteen    4:42
          • Fightin' For The U.S.A.    Next Stop Is Vietnam - The War On Record, 1961-2008 (13CD+Book)   Jerry Reed    2:14
          • Living in the U.S.A.-Steve Miller Band    4:06
          • Living In the USA-Wilmer & the Dukes    3:19
          • In America    In America    The Charlie Daniels Band    3:18

          "OK",  says the agent, "wait here and I will be right back. I am going to go run this identification see if it checks out. If it does you should be on your way." 

          Waiting in Secondary Inspection

          Border Patrol Truck
          Not an Easy Job
          We are left waiting for the US Border Patrol to review our identification so that we could re-enter the country, we were hoping there would be no further delays, While we waited, I fumed just a little that I couldn't just walk into my own country without being subject to inspection. In my frustration a little punk rock music ran through my mind to vent about the situation.

          The first song is maybe not punk, but what to you call the Violent Femmes? Alternative? Alt-Folk? Pop? Post-Punk? Anyway, when I think about the phrase "The Land of The Free" and yet I have to submit to questioning (even though I understand WHY I have to) the song "America Is" comes to mind. Its main line "America is the home of the hypocrite" seems to apply to situations like these, Well, if I am going to wallow in the failure of the American Dream, which is what the Violent Femmes are talking about, then I may as well continue with "American Waste" by Black Flag. It's chorus "I see my place in American waste, faced with choices I can't take" raged against the machine, before Henry Rollins sang for them and then became a beefed up MTV star. Speaking of MTV stars, Green Day's "American Idiot" seems like a good way to wrap up this little burst of un-American thinking. Maybe what I should do is get my focus back on music and away from politics. So lets continue our despair fest for just a few moments longer. As I look over towards the glass office doors, I think I see the patrolman headed this way.

          • America Is     Add It Up (1981-1993)     Violent Femmes     2:10
          • American Waste  The First Four Years    Black Flag     1:33
          • American Idiot   American Idiot    Green Day     2:56

          As I take a deep breath, I see the badge gleaming in the sun and a smile on the face of the officer. "Your identification is quite complete. You are free to go. See the USA in your Chevrolet."  Happy to do so, I hop back into the car and  to cheer me up and to celebrate my freedom, we'll cap the mini-set up with the studio version of the Grateful Dead's U.S. Blues, from their album "From The Mars Hotel".
          • See The U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet  The Commercials Vol. 1     Dinah Shore     0:56
          •  U.S. Blues From The Mars Hotel Grateful Dead     4:42 

          We start to motor North, we are on the oldest most southerly part of old Highway 101. It began at the border in San Ysidro. These days San Ysidro is best known for its parking lots for people crossing the border on foot and for its Mexican Auto insurance dealers. They operate small store fronts to offer the protection of legal in Mexico auto insurance for those who are driving into the country. It is the end of the line for the San Diego Tijuana Trolley train.

          San Ysidro Massacre Memorial Site
          San Ysidro is perhaps best known in recent history for being the site of largest mass murder in United States history where the murderer did not commit suicide. In 1984, an unemployed former welder James Huberty entered the McDonalds in San Ysidro with 3 guns and he began shooting. Before the police snipers would kill him about an hour later, 21 people were killed in the McDonalds in San Ysidro. Nineteen more were seriously injured. In the wake of the tragedy McDonalds donated the land to the city for a memorial park and rebuilt at a new location. This video recounts the events of that day:

          Long before San Ysidro was in the news as the site of a horrific crime, it was a place of optimism. In the years 1907-1916 it was settled by a group of people known as the Little Landers. This was a group of people with a philosophy that would appeal to today's modern urban farmers. Their goal was for each family in the community to live a sustainable life on an acre of land. With the Tijuana River providing a reliable source of water, and the San Diego areas famously mild weather, productive farming seemed an easy proposition.

          They were a quasi-communal group opposed to hierarchy. Each man was given an equal vote and the city was run by a town council voted in by the citizens. Citizens agreed to particpate as a co-op with all profits being directed back into the community. Streetcar access meant that Little Landers were regular vendors at the San Diego farmers market. They enjoyed that they could take in cultural activities that the city of San Diego offered while still living a homestead rural existence. By 1912 the colony had attracted over a hundred families. Known as one of the first communes, there were attempts made in a few other spots in California to build Little Lander communities. None of them would prove to be successful.

          Due to a variety of factors. most notable flooding of the Tijuana river in 1916, but also farming skills that were inadequate to provide the yields necessary to be sustainable, and failure to meet tax obligations in 1917, left the community virtually dissolved by 1918. From the remnants of that community the modern city of San Ysidro evolved to serve the needs of border crossers.

          Speaking of border crossers, that would be us. We have been waiting to get across the border for what seems like months. At this point it would probably be a good idea to get some gas in the tank and some coffee into your humble narrator. After a quick stop at the gas station we pull into the Denny's parking lot. Its time for some Coffee and Cigarettes (old Highway 101 existed well before cigarettes were banned in diners), with versions by both by Otis Redding and by Buddy Miles Express. While we are here lets make that a sandwich with some American Pie. If you watch the video (sandwiched between versions of  Coffee and Cigarette, get it?) you will notice that the pie here is apparently served with cheese-as in one cheesy video.

          Cheers! It's good to be back in the States.
          • Cigarettes and Coffee     Thank You For Smoking     Otis Redding     3:53    
          • American Pie    American Pie: The Best Of Don McLean    Don McLean     8:36
          • Cigarettes &Coffee     Be A Buddy-A Buddy Miles Anthology     Buddy Miles Express 8:29


          If you like what you have read here I'd like to ask you a favor. If you purchase any item on Amazon after you link to them in the little Amazon search window below, I will get a little something from them. It doesn't cost you any extra and I cannot see what you have purchased.

          With your help, I can keep the show on the road for you.


          To read more Old Highway Notes, choose an off ramp and click on the highway sign:

           photo 750px-US_101mid_zps4ac85a99.png

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          Its not a highway without gift shops. Visit ours:

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