My Mom used to collect Top Value Stamps which she got at stores and gasoline
emporiums. After dutifully glueing them into booklets, she'd march to
the local TV Stamp Redemption Center. She had a catalogue which described
the many fine products a smart (that is, a TV stamp-collecting) modern,
late-50's homemaker could acquire. One day she asked if I'd like to come
with her to redeem her cache of booklets and I agreed, perhaps sensing
a chance to spy other guys' moms. We got to the store and Mom bee-lined
to the tablecloths and I wandered the aisles until something caught my
eye that was so extraordinary that it could have been a page from National
Geographic -- a record jacket sporting a picture of a black guy with conked
hair and glasses straddling a red and white motor scooter holding a rectangular
(!) guitar and an outsized business card that read: "Have Guitar,
Will Travel. Bo Diddley."
I was a-fucking-gog. Who was this joker to toy with Paladin, the uni-named
hero of Have Gun, Will Travel starring booze-blossom-nosed Richard Boone
( RIP...he passed this year)? I was outraged and intrigued, and when my
mom asked if I wanted anything, I grabbed that record like it was a life-preserver
and held it tightly til we got home and I could put it on the turntable
in the top of the TV/radio/record player console, which until that day
had only spun classical music, Dean Martin, Jerry Vale and other hopelessly
"Mona" drove my crazy. To hear something as otherworldly as
Bo Diddley opened up my ears to not only new music, of course, but to
the IDEA that something else existed out there, something I think I was
looking for without knowing I was looking. It was the record that opened
up the Blues door to me.
Thank you, Mr.Diddley. Thank you, Mom. Thank you Top Value Stamps.
As far as first rocknroll show....I grew up in Rochester, New York and
don't remember big name rock shows coming to town, but then again, I was
kinduva shnook. The first live, raunchy music I remember seeing was when
a couple of pals and I, all aged about 17, got fake ID's and went to The
Bamboo Club, the burlesque joint. Though a shnook I was large and the
ticket-taker turned a blind eye to our youth. A comic was wrapping up
his act and bringing out one of the "girls" (jeez, old enough
to be a Top Value mom) when we sat down ringside. Behind the gyrating
chichi- boomboom was a combo of three old Jewish guys...drums, sax and
piano torturing versions of "Night Train," "St. Louis Blues"
and other tunes. These guys were just awful and absolutely wonderful at
the same time. When the dancer grabbed the glasses off of my head, pushed
them into her g-string, danced around and gave them back to me, I was
in heaven. Thank you, astigmatism, thank you.
Lou Beach (Lou Beach is a heavily-muscled Blonde California Adonis underwear
model AND the King of Collage, who has many record cover designs under
his belt or secreted elsewhere on his oh-so-sleek bod.)
Fein Mess November 03
My friend Ken Sasano died October 7th, age 56. A year younger than me,
he was falling apart: stroke, dialysis, and a broken back (!) from a fall.
I met him in 1965 at the University of Colorado where out of 17,000 students
I could find only four1
who cared about old records.
He was a fine fellow and great friend, to whom I owe a lot.
(See obit at end.)
1 The other three
were Coloradons Chuck E. Weiss, John That Acapulco Gold Carter
(who followed Ken at Capitol) and a geography instructor, Bostonian (Everettian)
Conrad Casarjian. I knew I was in a new arena of life when Casarjian,
lecturing about weather, said When high temperature stays static
you get a what? When no one answered, he said Martha &
The Vandellas! The class remained silent til I yelled out heat
wave. Naturally we became fast friends.
Slots close Xmas day for the January 8th2
Elviss birthday show at the House Of Blues. My phone starts
ringing this time of year.
2 Itd damn
well better be January 8th; The House of Blues does not cherish this date
like we do.
The PBS blues series was fine, what I saw of it. (Theres always
room to quibble.) Two things made me sad:
1. That Marshall Chess is allowed to walk freely. He is an embarassment
to many age and culture groups. Moral: Dont Do Drugs.
2. That there will never be this same in-depth series on rockabilly. Its
equally potent, its pioneers are dying at a similar rate (and were screwed
ignored, abused likewise), but there is no lustre attached to it.
Run Run Run Runaway
I am no longer astonished when people remember nothing. Still, I laughed
out loud when I saw the headline in the Oct. 20 Us magazine next to the
picture of Halle Barry: How She Had The Courage To Leave.
Of course the courage she exhibited was leaving her boyfriend or husband,
not leaving a hit-and-run accident a couple of years ago. (Her explanation
then: Was I supposed to stop after it happened?)
Its impossible to be manly in California.
As a kid in Chicago in the late 50s I thought Californians were wimps.
That was because L.A.-based Dig magazine3,
my roadmap for forthcoming adolescence, switched in 1959 from a manual
for hep cats featuring cool threads (tan pleated pants, thin black-edged
silver belt, black sparkle-woven shirt) and haircuts (ducktails) and self-defense
(brass knuckles) to a girl-- not girlie -- magazine4
featuring blonde pretty boy Troy Donohue wearing a boat-neck striped shirt.
How pretty. How unhoodlumlike. How sexual nether-world.
But maybe Troy needed that slit-neck shirt. It gets warm here. Which is
why I have plenty of short sleeve shirts, light coats, and shorts.
The shorts, though, give me pause. Wearing them I am de-clawed. I look
at men over the age of 9 wearing shorts and think, That guy forgot
to put on his pants. If you wear white shoes and socks you look
like a 4 -year-old missing his sailor suit. If you wear black socks and
shoes you REALLY look like you forgot your pants.
Its all about youth here, but for how long? Im in the second
half of life and I look at the window reflection at my friend and me wearing
loose shirts and shorts and think Who are those big babies?
And I have proto-homosexual leanings. I have a couple dozen pair of shoes
and I like Broadway shows. Yet Im a macho man! The only rocker known
for his shoes is Elton John. Is it possible to be a shoe-hound5
and still be heavy in your loafers?
Oh, fiddle-dee-dee. Lately the seemingly absent Thom McAn line (alive
at K-Mart) has spawned some interesting things. I buy em by the
gross, because mens shoes fly out of fashion so fast....
3 I still have
most of my 1956-1959 Digs. (And I hope to interview one of the publishers
soon! And I understand the old editor founded Easy Rider magazine.) Looking
at the 1957 Elvis cover ish is like having a wonderful dream. The look
of everyone is sublime, the type face is magnificent, the priorities are
terrific. It was a wonderful - looking - time.
4Girls also infiltrated
the Top 40 with their numbers, and hoisted Frankie and Fabian to the top,
pushing real rockers aside. But I like girls now.
5 Five things
abound in my house: shoes, sunglasses, clocks, VCRs and flashlights.
On the tv show with Jim Dawson, Paul Body and Skip Heller, I said I had
seen Joe Jones, of You Talk Too Much, at Roy Browns
funeral. Body said Say, whatever happened to that goodlooking daughter
As the voices faded and the theme song started, Skip said Mr. Brown
Youve Got A Lovely Daughter?
Looking through the Walter Drake catalog (forwarded from my late mothers
address -- Im not THAT old), I saw that they are selling Olivetti
manual typewriters and Smith Corona electrics, $199 and $139 respectively.
For the old folks who dont want a computer.
Why I Wont Buy A New Computer6
Last year I went to the Mac store to see the new iMac with the little
goose neck. At the sad sack end of the display was a white
thing that looked like a winter-invasion-of-Russia version of the old
new iMacs from 1999. It was internally like the last model of the original
iMacs, priced low, but weighed a prohibitive (intentional?) 55 pounds.
The clerk sneered, But whod want THAT?
I shuddered. Three years ago I considered buying one of those, for $1700.
What if I had? Id be the laughing stock of the store!
Three years was a long time ago to the 21-year-old clerk, but not to me.
6 Written before
I bought a new iMac with a little goose neck.
Why I Wont Put My Shows on DVD7
I got all the 3/4-inch tape free8
for my tv show from Warner Bros.9
Records pile of stuff destined for recycling10.
In 1996 I started seeing a new tape, D2. It was digital, in a slim large
case. I took a bunch of them to my tape-duplicator friend, who said he
was getting a D2 machine bec it was the coming thing. Then he put 30 of
my best shows on D2, to be preserved forever in digital format.
In 2001 I went in to his new office and asked one of his new employees
where the D2 machine was. D2? he said, Whats that?
Written before I got access to a DVD burner.
The 18-year free ride is over. I must start purchasing them.
Brothers is never spelt out in the WB name. Never.
My taking them was no loss to anyone. The format, still used by public
access stations, is so outdated that charity shops refuse it.
More tv highlights
Chris Spedding on the AFPP show: I hate playing live. I wish people
would come to my shows, pay me, and go home and listen to my records.
Theyre much better than me playing live.
From Our Nashvegas Correspondent
Here's a funny story for you: The reassembled X with Billy Zoom, played
in Nashville this last summer. This was my favorite band - I probably
saw every L.A. show they did from '80 to '84. I think they got used to
seeing me standing right in front of the stage on the B.Z. side.
So I did my best to worm my way into my old field position at the big
outdoor concert here last July. There were a couple of folks in front
of me, but I was still visible from the stage, holding out some faint
hope they'd remember me.
You should have seen the double-take Billy did! He said later that it
seemed so natural seeing me there, that it took him a few songs to realize
it had been 20 years. I saw that light come on. Between songs, he leaned
forward to ask me, "How've you been?"
Talked to John Doe backstage afterwards, too. "What are you doing
here?" he asked. "You don't live here!" As if no time had
gone by... I guess I haven't aged much. All this clean living.
(from Suzanne Sherwin, Nashville)
Man, I hear voices...
I never see this written about because its difficult to describe.
Apparently nobody but me sees it -- or hears it.
A female journalist friend finds female news-readers unbearable. They
emote too much on cue: peppy on up stories, dour on downers, each performance
calculated to feign sincerity. Words are stressed willy-nilly, leaving
the listener numb: every number is hit, so all become meaningless.
As if listeners need to be led by the hand.
MY auditory suffering is not restricted to females. Male announcers on
documentaries follow Bill Kurtiss $ucess$$ful lead speaking like
thick syrup pouring on hot fudge. They all come from radio or from advertising
voice-overs. My friend in this racket uses the phrase caress the
words for the lugubriousness they dish out. Arthur Kent, an escapee
from CNN, bookends perfectly satisfactory (non-Kent) narrated stories
on the History Channel. Why? They exist intact, why have this oily caresser
stamp his nothingness on others work? He turns his hands out in
supplication as his rising and falling theatricality unnecesarily wraps
up the otherwise intelligent and non-grating content.
Kent, and others, are Johnny Two-Voice guys, whose bass resonance leaks
at the end of words and phrases. The voice raises a bit, then plummets.
it gonna drop again? the listener fears. The hi/lo word- and phrase-drops
occur so often that they have no effect other than to display the speakers
It drives me nuts. It would a sane person.
A young whippersnapper (not 40!) said that I was wrong suggesting that
Rod Stewart singing The Way You Look Tonight on a car ad was
an insult to his fans and to his art.
I still think so. Hes pandering to the decrepitation of his fans,
rather than rockin to the end like, oh, Jerry Lee Lewis.
In the glorious past, doing old songs was not a sell-out, it was a breakthrough.
Some of the best rock & roll records were standards -- I Only
Have Eyes For You by the Flamingoes, Blueberry Hill
by Fats, Red Sails In The Sunset by the 5 Keys11.
But these guys added something to the past. Rod Stewart is groveling.
11 This is the
most cosmic, ethereal stirring vocal group record I know. Way better than
Rod - Part two
Through the years Ive slyly admired his rock & roll lifestyle
and self-mockery. When he did Do Ya Think Im Sexy I
laughed, like he did.
But this new stuff is shameful*. When the tv ad shows him launching into
Smile he looks like hes afraid and ashamed. When he
waves his arm to signal the TRUMPET solo, I put my head down and weep,
like he should.
* And opportunistic. Like Streisand following Ronstadts retreat
to standards, Rod follows Bryan Ferry, who used the same title, As
Time Goes By, for his standards album five years ago.
In the movie American Splendor, Harvey Pekar cracks on his
fourth Letterman appearance. He is disgusted that he has let himself be
objectified as a character, and acts out his anger by embarassing
Letterman. Its powerful and enlightening.
But that movie historically portrays, briefly, another American
Splendor, a play produced in 1991 by Vince Waldron here in Los Angeles,
as a sitcomlike embarassment. Who ever thought THAT? I saw the play three
times and was thrilled by the ensembles respectful and playful interpretation
of Harveys life-strips.
I had Waldron on the tv show in October, and he too was puzzled at this
portrayal, and also that a producer who had turned down his idea for a
Pekar movie had a hand in THIS one and is now taking credit for recognizing
Pekars unique value. Thats show biz!
Waldron, from Chicago, co-wrote Be My Baby, Ronnie Spectors
book, and some other books on tv sitcoms. He is currently producing a
monthly show, Totally Looped at the Second City Studio on
Melrose next to the Improv. TL, which often includes Waldron
friend and Homer Simpson guy Dan Castalanetta, is improvisors supplying
dialogue for movie footage selected by Waldron. Though the shows have
been thus far at 8 p,m. the first Thursday of the month, Novembers
will be Friday the 21st, with veteran improv guy Paul Dooley and a capable
AF, Rod: Before the fall, 1976: Gene Sculatti,
Vince Waldron, AF, 2003: Sally Stevens, Gary Stewart, AF, 1977.
I was recently listening to a cassette I made in 1975 of Gary Stewart
at the Palomino in North Hollywood. Damn, those were good times; and bad.
It was the mid-70s, most all music was bad, and to find this fireball
was quite a joy. The tape reveals me and my gf Theresa giggling in ecstasy.
Gary Stewart was the savior of country music for a while. He was a cross
between Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis; still is, far as I know. I
first saw him play a song in a show in Anaheim, said spot
supplied by his boss Charley Pride, for whom he played piano. He sang
Drinkin Thing (coulda been Out Of Hand)
and man it was like lightning struck the stage. I became a Stewart fan,
and so did a lot of country record buyers in the mid-1970s; but
he dropped from sight in the 1980s. I saw him at SXSW around 1993, and
my arm is still sore from the stranger next to me punching my arm hollering
Isnt this GREAT!?
To hear him, on tape, toast the audience with Curs beer is
really a memory-rattler. Does anyone under 50 know that Coors beer was
exotic back then? That because it was brewed in Golden Colorado
it was touted as a magic elixir for folks east of the Missisippi who couldnt
get it? There was a whole movie that makes no sense today, Cannonball
Run, about Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed (another pretty hot rockabilly
country singer) smuggling of a truckload of Coors to Florida.
A current ad for some No-Smoke pill has a guy testifying that since using
the product Now I can live to see my grandchildren.
Apparently it guarantees you wont die tomorrow, so Im getting
a box of those pills, even though I dont smoke.
12 This was the
title of a Bob Seger album. It is a midwest term for guys who mooch cigarettes:
they smoke Other Peoples.
- 57 -
Obit For Ken Sasano
I first met Ken at the University of Colorado. I had transferred there
from a junior college in Chicago.
Once at college I was immediately sidetracked by old records. Thrift stores
in 1965 were horns of plenty. The sounds and the styles of the 50s --
and before -- were spilling onto sidewalks everywhere. Who could study
in an atmosphere like that? I bought all the old known and unknown records
I could find.
But why were you listening to old records when it was the second
year of Beatlemania? you ask. Because old rock & roll was better.
Ask Art Laboe: He started the Oldies But Goodies album series in 1959.
Huddling as we did, comparing records and trading them Native American
style -- we were native Americans, after all -- Ken and I joined in the
joy of discovery. When college ended, Ken split for L.A., which had long
been my life destination, and got a job in A&R at Capitol Records.
I moved to Santa Cruz, where I haunted thrift shops.
Before long, Ken met Clair*
and they married. Ken inherited her daughter De De, and so had an instant
family, which soon would increase.
I would visit the Sasanos frequently. One night that really impressed
me there was with my girlfriend Bonnie, when Ken said he had tickets for
Rod Stewart at the Forum, but he wasnt going.
Tickets to Rod Stewart. And he wasnt going. It took me a split second
to digest this incredible information. Well take them!
I said, and we raced down to the show. How I admired Kens life!
Then in late 1972, the Sasanos had a new arrival. Me. Ken invited me down
to L.A. to live with him and Clair at 12115 Valleyheart Drive in Studio
City. Ken invented a position for me at Capitol, college promotion director.
They accepted me too, for a while. Between living with the Sasanos and
working with them, I could honestly say Ich Bin Ein Sasano.
It was pretty great. I, too, inherited an instant family. I loved being
with them, and playing with De De. There was no problem, even though I
was there about 6 weeks - or was it 3 months? I would have asked them
to adopt me, if Ken hadnt been a year younger than me. I grew very
close to them, and to a visiting cousin.
Ken and I had great fun at home, arguing about music, going out and discovering
new records. But I didnt go on too many record-buying trips with
Ken, or anyone, because theyre inherently troubled. You go fishing
with someone, the fish are pretty much all the same. Someone catches more,
or a bigger one, its competitive but no big deal. But buying records?
If the guy next to you gets something good you want to kill him. On one
trip to the San Diego area, Ken was faster than me and scooped up dozens
of great rarities. He shared the doubles, Ill say that.
But on one solo record record-hunting trip to Santa Monica Blvd, I stopped
at a furniture store east of Western and asked if they had any records.
Just that box by the door the guy said, two bucks.
I looked at the 200 singles. The first handful were recent promos and
I thought, Who needs these? Then I dug further and came up with a handful
of older records from around 1955. Hmm, this, that, -- uh oh! Trembling,
I handed the guy two bucks and raced home to Valleyheart Drive. I
found some records I told Ken, barely concealing my glee as I plopped
down my treasure chest. Any good ones? he said. Oh, theres
a pretty good one in the middle.
He detected that I was ready to burst. You bastard, you found an
Elvis on Sun. He stuck his hand in and pulled out two. It was fun
finding those records, but without the look on Kens face it would
have been meaningless.
Was this after or before Corey and Jeremy were born? I dont remember.
I do remember that THEIR arrival was a time of great rejoicing, even more
than my arrival.
I held on at Capitol as long as I could, and Ken moved successfully to
UA, Columbia, Rhino and others. Ken worked with big stars, put compilations
together, and traveled all over the world. In the 1980s he got out of
the music business and into graphic arts and computers.
Kens friendship is something I never questioned. It was always something
I could count on. Which leads me to a little bit of advice: when the thought
of someone you love but havent seen lately starts nagging you,
DO something about it. During the past couple of months I have been thinking
a lot about Ken and Clair and the kids, and meant to make a phone call
and see them.
Well now Im seeing them, but one is missing.
* Kens wife Clair Brush has had a full life in
the music business too. And she narrated some 50 pages in Tom Wolfes
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.