Friday, July 17, 2009

Forever hep

I've had a really bad cold for a week now. I haven't been posting because I haven't been doing anything besides dragging myself into work, dragging myself back home to bed and lying awake all night coughing. I'm getting cranky. I have laryngitis. I sound like Andy Devine.

Yeah, plunk this ya motherfucker.

All this by way of working around to explaining that I am down with any number of hep cats and kitties. My hepness has it's roots in New Jersey, directly adjacent to the city that never sleeps. When I was a lad, my pals and I would listen to the Symphony Sid show. That was when radio was extremely cool. I never, ever listen to music on the radio anymore, but when I was a kid I would stay up all night pulling in exotic sounds from all over America.

I listened to Buddy Ray's all night trucker's show on WWVA from Wheeling, West Virginia. They played serious hillbilly music, none of that Countrypolitan crap.

I listened to the preachers on WLIB on Sunday mornings. They weren't like the dreary low church Episcopalians I grew up with. They brought real fire to the gospel. The rumor was that WLIB belonged to James Brown himself. It wasn't true, but it was a cool rumor. Sometimes I swear I pulled in a weak and static ridden signal from WVON, The Voice of the Negro, in Chicago. WVON really was started by Phil and Leonard Chess of Chess Records fame.

When my family vacationed in the Adirondack mountains I would listen to Quebecois rock and roll shows from Montreal. I never understood a word they said, but the DJ's liked to boom out the words, "LES SWINGING BLUE JEANS!!", every few minutes.

Getting back to Symphony Sid. I dug Sid because he opened his show with King Pleasure's magnificent "Moody's Mood". It wasn't until later that I learned Sid had an unimpeachable hepcat Nihil Obstat from no less than the king o' the beatniks himself, Jack Kerouac.

Besides King Pleasure, Sid would play other Be Bop vocalists, like Lambert Hendricks and Ross. I've recently rediscovered the pleasures of that school of jazz. Besides coughing, wheezing, going to work and feeling sorry for myself, I've been listening to this utterly groovy piece of vocal play.

Workshop (AKA Blues for a Debutante)- Eddie Jefferson (buy)

My all time favorite radio find was a 15 minute bluegrass gospel show from a tiny station somewhere in rural Indiana. It was a real, old fashioned live show, featuring old, old men playing and singing in the studio. They made tons of mistakes and occasionally they would just plain trail off when someone, or all of them, would forget the rest of the song. Between songs they would say things like, "Folks, don't be thinking we're tryin' to build ourselfs up into big stars cause we're on the radio. Ever song we sing is strictly for the glory of The Lord."

That was only thirty years ago. They don't have that kind of radio in America anymore and you can't hear it.

The Glory of The Lord.


@eloh said...

My sister still has her very first toy...THAT FROG.

The show out of Wheeling would have been what my dad had listened to, if he had a radio, I don't think they did.

ib said...

Hope that cold is finally receding, Jon.

This is one helluva meaty post, sir. Crammed full of almost too much juicy detail to digest in one sitting.

The only radio I find myself listening to these days is on the BBC World Service; in fact, I don't believe I've tuned in to a music show since John Peel died.

Some fine writing. And thanks for the Eddie Jefferson.

wv = trockske

ib said...

By the way, that Andy Devine bastard makes Krusty The Clown seem positively benign. Tell me his career did not end in tears and I would not believe it.

Jon said...

Thanks Ib. I thought the whole thing was incoherent, but I wanted to post something, so I went with what I had.

Andy Devine was a well liked cowboy character actor. So far as I know, there was no scandal attached to him. He was on two early morning weekend kid's show, Andy's Gang and Sky King. Sky King was a western crime fighter who flew around in his private plane stopping bad guys and helping the unfortunate. Andy Devine went chasing up canyons and over boulders in an old jeep. He played Sky's irascible old side kick.

I don't remember what I had for lunch, but I remember those shows.

Jon said...

There is too much information on the internet. Andy Devine was not on sky king. I remember a lot of weird shit. I'm pretty sure some of it actually happened.

Sarah in Mississippi said...

Loved this post! Clearly your infirmity has not impaired your ability to write ... nay, it is enhanced.

Hep, indeed.

You're spot on about the Jesus people singing in little radio stations. Back in the day, I used to play piano for groups like that - usually their 15 minutes of fame was on Sunday afternoon between morning church and evening services. They were always givin' God the glory and taking none for themselves. I, on the other hand, probably offended the good Lord's ears mightily because the piano was always out of tune. So much for my glorifying.

WLS in Chicago was my station ... not so much from choice, but simply because it was the only one I could pick up in Alabama at night. I still can remember how it felt when I'd wake up in the morning ... a battery-depleted transistor radio glued to my sweaty ear.

Thanks for the memories. Hope you're feeling much better by now.

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