-November 2003-

Other Fein Messes

First Record/First concert

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 dopey sounds.

"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.

Elvis Show

Slots close Xmas day for the January 8th2 Elvis’s birthday show at the House Of Blues. My phone starts ringing this time of year.

2 It’d damn well better be January 8th; The House of Blues does not cherish this date like we do.

Blues Series

The PBS blues series was fine, what I saw of it. (There’s 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: Don’t Do Drugs.

2. That there will never be this same in-depth series on rockabilly. It’s 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?”)


It’s 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.

It’s all about youth here, but for how long? I’m 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 I’m 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 men’s 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.

Quipsville U.S.A.

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 Brown’s funeral. Body said “Say, whatever happened to that goodlooking daughter Roy had?”

As the voices faded and the theme song started, Skip said “Mr. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter?”


Looking through the Walter Drake catalog (forwarded from my late mother’s address -- I’m 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 don’t want a computer.

Why I Won’t 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 who’d want THAT?”

I shuddered. Three years ago I considered buying one of those, for $1700. What if I had? I’d 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 Won’t Put My Shows on DVD

I got all the 3/4-inch tape free
8 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, “What’s that?”

7 Written before I got access to a DVD burner.

8 The 18-year free ride is over. I must start purchasing them.

9 “Brothers” is never spelt out in the WB name. Never.

10 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. They’re 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 it’s 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 Kurtis’s $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.

“When’s 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 speaker’s vocal athleticism.

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. He’s 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 Tab Hunter’s.

Rod - Part two

Through the years I’ve slyly admired his rock & roll lifestyle and self-mockery. When he did “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” I laughed, like he did.

But this new stuff is shameful*. When the tv ad shows him launching into “Smile” he looks like he’s 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 Ronstadt’s 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. It’s 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 ensemble’s respectful and playful interpretation of Harvey’s 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 Pekar’s unique value. That’s show biz!

Waldron, from Chicago, co-wrote “Be My Baby,” Ronnie Spector’s 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, November’s will be Friday the 21st, with veteran improv guy Paul Dooley and a capable troupe. www.totallylooped.com

AF, Rod: Before the fall, 1976: Gene Sculatti, Vince Waldron, AF, 2003: Sally Stevens, Gary Stewart, AF, 1977.

Palomino Days

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-1970’s; 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 “Isn’t 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 couldn’t 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.

Smoking O.P.’s12

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 won’t die tomorrow, so I’m getting a box of those pills, even though I don’t smoke.

12 This was the title of a Bob Seger album. It is a midwest term for guys who mooch cigarettes: they smoke Other People’s.

- 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 wasn’t going.

Tickets to Rod Stewart. And he wasn’t going. It took me a split second to digest this incredible information. “We’ll take them!” I said, and we raced down to the show. How I admired Ken’s 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 hadn’t 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 didn’t go on too many record-buying trips with Ken, or anyone, because they’re inherently troubled. You go fishing with someone, the fish are pretty much all the same. Someone catches more, or a bigger one, it’s 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, I’ll 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, there’s 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 Ken’s face it would have been meaningless.

Was this after or before Corey and Jeremy were born? I don’t 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.

Ken’s 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 haven’t 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 I’m seeing them, but one is missing.

Ken’s wife Clair Brush has had a full life in the music business too. And she narrated some 50 pages in Tom Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”

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