Monday, February 27, 2012

More Of Your Recent Thoughts and Memories

Wow!  What a GREAT outpouring of comments on our recent topics revolving around The Wrecking Crew, Billy Strange, Glen Campbell, The Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, et al ... 

Lots on your minds ... so let's get right to it!  (And special thanks to some of the artists who took the time to write in!)

Hi Kent,
After reading about the Wrecking Crew and using those guys on most of the early Lettermen singles and albums, I can’t help but remember a few things that stand out in my mind. 
It was the mid 60’s at studio A at Capitol and Glen Campbell was playing on one of the many sessions he did for us back then, and just as we were about to start, somehow Glen bumped his mouth on the top of his guitar and chipped a tooth.  It was quite painful and he had to make an emergency visit to his dentist and have it capped.  Anyway,  we were fortunate in that they were able to get ahold Jerry Cole to come down and fill in.  Jerry was small in stature but sure had a big guitar.  Glen also recorded with us doing vocals when we needed a fourth part.  Not only was he a Beach Boy but he was also a Letterman (at Least in the studio!)
As “The Reunion”, not too long ago we were doing a show at the huge Sun Lakes Retirement Community near Palm Springs, CA, and after the show who should come back stage to see us but the great Earl Palmer, who also played on a  countless number of our albums.  He has since passed away but what a great gentleman and outstanding percussionist.
Keep up this great work, Kent, and my best. 
Lettermen / Reunion, 
Gary Pike

Even though I
speak highly of them (The Wrecking Crew), I was an outsider that they basically put up with. I never had a chance to talk to any of them. Billy Strange and Al Casey weren't in the same clique but just as great and super friendly to me.
Having said that, it's obvious how I'm feeling after hearing of Billy's passing.  
For some reason I can't seem to make a non-blurry copy of the attached LP cover (maybe I need to cut out the autograph so I can close the lid on the scanner ... but I'd rather not do that!)
Davie Allan

Still looks pretty good to me!  And quite an artifact, too! 
While not really a "member" of The Wrecking Crew, Davie did a number of sessions with these guys, especially on movie soundtrack work, back in the '60's.  Don'tcha just love it when some of these musicians are in awe of one another?!?!?  Proves that THEY were fans of this music just like we were!  (kk)

You mentioned today that Billy Strange's record of the Theme from James Bond peaked at number 11 in Chicago. Just the opposite was true here in OKC. The only record that Billy Strange made that made the local survey here was his 1967 recording of A FEW DOLLARS MORE with a flip of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. A FEW DOLLARS MORE being, of course, on the GNP Crescendo label.
Larry Neal
Interesting, too, that "You Only Live Twice" was recorded as a vocal hit by Nancy Sinatra!  Joel Whitburn's new book "Top Pop Singles" shows Strange's recording of "A Few Dollars More" as a "Break-Out Hit" in Oklahoma City.  His only official chart hits are 007-related ... "The James Bond Theme" went to #58 in 1964 ... and his version of "Goldfinger" peaked at #50 in 1965.  (kk)

I was probably 14 years old when I first met Billy Strange at a Dino, Desi & Billy recording session around 1965.  It was either at United or Western, I just don't remember exactly which studio it was since our Producer, Lee Hazlewood, used both with equal regularity.  The first thing that came to mind when I was introduced to him was that his name was so unusual and, well - strange, but I liked that we shared the same first name.  I thought that perhaps it was a professional or "stage name" because it was so odd to me but it was his real name.  Anyway, he was standing near a wall of the studio with some paperwork he was reviewing on top of a Leslie cabinet.  They were the musical arrangements or "charts" that he had written for the session players for the songs they were going to record that day.  I didn't know that he was also an amazing guitar player until I saw him credited on several of our subsequent albums.  For instance, he played a descending / ascending "fuzz guitar" line (that guitar sound was innovative at the time) on our "The Rebel Kind" single.  Though I can't say I knew him well, I remember him being very nice to me at that first session and I guess that's how I'll always remember him - a kind man who was nice to me when I was just a kid.  Rest in peace, Billy.
Billy Hinsche 

The morning of the Grammys CBS Sunday Morning show started the program with a segment for Whitney Houston and ended the show with a segment on Glen Campbell. They showed him on tour. On this show they said that his three youngest children were touring with him as part of the band. Two sons and a daughter that really keeps her Dad straight much of the time. Sometimes he forgets what they just sang and tries to sing it again. She is really awesome with him. I started the show in tears remembering Whitney and I ended the show in tears watching Glen. 
On the special I saw, they only showed his daughter and one son (so I wasn't aware that he had THREE children performing with him.)  His daughter is beautiful ... looks very much like her mother ... and is quite an accomplished musician, too.  They showed a clip of Daughter and Dad performing "Dueling Banjos" and she picked the heck out of that one! 

FH Reader Tom Diehl has had the pleasure of catching Glen Campbell's Farewell Tour a couple of times now ... and also mentions the fact that he has THREE children sharing the stage with him.  Here is Tom's review ... 
Three of his children are on the stage with him.  I have seen him twice on his farewell tour and he still sounds very good.
The most recent time I saw Glen was in Kent, Ohio, on January 29th. I'm attaching a copy of one of the songs from the show, Any Trouble, for you to hear. They had signs posted everywhere saying no photography, no video, no audio recording ... when someone tells me not to do something, that won't stop me ... sitting directly in front of one of the speakers gave me a perfect opportunity.  He performed a different lineup in Akron than he did when I saw him in Philadelphia in September. 
Tom Diehl 
Thanks to "Bootlegger Tom", we're all able to enjoy just how good Glen sounds in concert these days!  (kk)

Back around the early 80's, when I did most of my Champs research, I got a reply from Glen Campbell in which he checked off the Champs' songs that he recalled playing on. Unfortunately I don't think I still have that info, but it's probably true that he isn't on any of their chart singles. I think he joined and left in the period between "Too Much Tequila" and "Limbo Rock".  However, Seals & Crofts are probably on Chariot Rock and the subsequent four charted titles.
Gary E. Myers / MusicGem
It's been awhile since our piece on The Champs, ran, too ... and I haven't had time to search the archives for it ... but I seem to recall all of these "name" players coming onboard AFTER the hits had stopped.  Will have to dig a little deeper I guess! (kk)   

>>>Was "Eve of Destruction" really "one of the most important songs in popular music history"?  (Ken Emerson)   
P.F. Sloan's song is not a just a "protest song".  It's a cosmic happening! It came upon the right time to say the right thing.  It still demands the listener. YES, that song is quite an important harbinger and it's not just history ... it is still being fulfilled prophetically.  
So is Larry Norman's Great American Novel.  Dylan had brothers!

Our friend and Beach Boy collaborator Fred Vail wrote:  
>>>What has been the defining difference in The Beach Boys survival is the undeniable loyalty of their fan base. I am certain that a lot of those same fans -- some of which literally go back to the beginnings of the group -- are being snubbed directly, or indirectly -- with these VIP packages.  
These prices are not for the weak of heart ... I think that the upscale ticket costs for this tour will deter even some of the most loyal fans.  Even "Meet and Greets" appear to have a price tag. I have never paid for a Beach Boys concert and don't intend to begin now  :)   
I am also saddened that there has been little to no references to Denny and Carl Wilson during all the pre-tour hoopla. If it has been there, I've missed it. I hope at some point they honor them with a visible tribute or dedication of the tour to their fallen band mates -- even include them in the official tour logo.   
Also, I am still hoping that someone (either Brian, or the families) include Dennis Wilson's son, Carl, and Carl Wilson's son, Justyn, in the major shows -- a Wilson on drums and a Wilson on guitar -- along with their Uncle Brian -- would be the greatest tribute to their fathers I could imagine. And the real fans -- the ones who have stayed so faithful over all these years -- would finally be repaid for their loyalty. 
Fred Vail  
Fred: I couldn't agree with you more, I'm one of those "original" fans that listened to the "Boys" and Jan & Dean on my transistor radio while riding my Schwinn heavy duty paper boy bike delivering the Rocky Mountain News to subscribers up and down my Denver neighborhood, and spent countless dollars on batteries for that radio, until I got my first car, a '61 Corvair Lakewood Station Wagon with an AM radio and one speaker. I would drive home from work, digging graves at Crown Hill Cemetery in Denver (making a stellar $1.00 an hour), listening to KIMN 950 radio out of Denver, pull into my parents driveway, turn the key off and listen until my battery ran out. When 8 tracks came out, my very first purchases were Beach Boys, Byrds, Mamas & Papas and Herb Albert.
My first concert EVER was 1963 at Denver's Paramount Theatre, where I had to take a local Denver bus downtown, meet up with my old friend David Lopez, who bought a ticket, (I couldn't afford one) and opened the door in the back of the theatre to let me in. That was then, this is now, I'm still a HUGE "Boys" fan. and financially (unfortunately due to health problems, in the same shape I was as a paperboy), I'm gonna be on the outside looking in for this 50th Anniversery Reunion, unless they do a humongous show mentioned before at Central Park or ?, sell it corporately and televise it. I could afford an HBO $35.00 special more than I could afford $1200+ a ticket! And backstage? Hey, I bar-b-qued at Mike Love's Lake Tahoe house during the "Kokomo" days and Carl was still alive and kicking. I spent an entire afternoon with the guys (minus Brian), took pics and enjoyed being with "regular" people who really were music superstars. Enough of my jibberish.
Bottom line, who, especially with this Obama Administration can afford anything close to what the "Boys" want to charge, except maybe Mitt Romney!
"Wild" Bill Cody

Whoa!  And after I read this article in No, to be quite honest, I didn't know what to think! ... 

The Beach Boys ... Why?

The fanfare this past week in the music community has been moving along quickly from story to story. Saturday brought the news of Whitney Houston's death, which in turn led to hastily planned tributes and memorials that most of America witnessed Sunday evening at The Grammy Awards. Now, the narrative has moved on to the announcement of the performers at this year's upcoming Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. Once invoking hysterics only amongst the jam-band set of world travelers, Bonnaroo has morphed into the country's most recognizable festival, attracting fans worldwide and bands and artists from all musical genres and styles. Bonnaroo has also become the rare cultural event that unites the hipster-cred music snobs and the casual Grammy-watching, Top 40 listening crowds together in anticipation. And though there are hundreds of bands on the docket spread out over four days and a number of different stages, it is the headlining acts that draw the most press. This year, much ado is being made about the selection of The Beach Boys as one of the main draws. Social media is buzzing about their inclusion and scribes are coming back to offer their homage to Brian Wilson's genius. I'm here to tell you that anyone who is excited about seeing The Beach Boys live is as crazy as Wilson himself was back in his late 60's period of burnout and instability. 

There's no doubt that The Beach Boys have made some brilliant music that will stand the test of time. Their name and brand is recognizable, the way that Mozart, Beethoven, Dylan, The Beatles, and The Stones' legacies are. Pet Sounds is one of the greatest musical creations ever and still sounds as sharp as today as it did 46 years ago. But, as anyone who tuned in to The Grammys the other night can attest, their days as a live outfit have long passed. In fact, go back to 1987 and watch the shamelessly cheesy video for the Buffett-lite "Kokomo" and you can see the times had passed them by even then. Sunday night at The Grammys was painful. Mike Love pranced around the stage like the sprightly old man at the retirement home, pointing and smirking at the audience as if he's trying to impress ol' Glenda who just moved in the other day. Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks gamely tried to follow, but chances are they couldn't hear their parts over the cacophony of noise such surroundings bring. And the myriad background musicians lurking in the shadows just overemphasized the fact that the actual Beach Boys aren't doing much, save for showing up and smiling. And then there's Wilson. At The Grammys, he was centered in the middle, seated at his piano and singing his verses and background harmonies in what appeared to be great pain. As soon as their number mercifully ended, he leapt up and exited the stage as if he couldn't stand to be there another second. Not a good omen for an upcoming tour and headlining performance. 

Such performances beg the question of why. Why do it? Why subject your legacy to tarnish by going on national television and then headlining giant festivals? Surely, the individual members have enough money to go around for generations, although with the murky nature of the music business, I guess one never knows. Unlike Dylan, Neil Young, or unfortunately in the case of Paul McCartney's dreadful new album, there is no new music to celebrate and perform. That leaves enjoyment as a possible reason to tour, and from the looks of things, The Beach Boys, with the exception of the preening Love, would rather be anywhere but the stage. It's depressing in a way. This music should endure and inspire future generations. Instead, folks too young to know better are instead more inclined to simply laugh in the face of these icons and turn their attention elsewhere.

I'm not sure that I get this ... you advertise a website as "No Depression" ... and then write one of the most depressing pieces I've ever read about our '60's icons?!?!  I just don't get it!!! (kk)    

Hi Kent,
Sorry to be silent so long, but I never miss reading an edition of FH.  
Probably like a lot of individuals really invested and steeped in the history of the Beach Boys and all their internal dynamics, I await the upcoming 50th Anniversary tour with a wide range of emotions: anticipation, some trepidation, certainly a bit of joy for their deserved victory lap, and some small degree of resignation as well.  As America's greatest yet, historically, most dysfunctional band, what I take away from this tour will largely hinge on its emotional resonance for them.  
I concur with Fred Vail (as I always do) that if there's no significant acknowledgment of Carl and Dennis Wilson in the proceedings, the experience will fall flat for me.  If Brian is the heart of the Beach Boys, Dennis was the spirit and Carl, most definitely, was the soul.  Although the band soldiered on for 14 years between Dennis's and Carl's passings, Dennis's absence was always felt and, quite frankly, Carl's death certainly signaled the end of the band.  His leadership and voice were irreplaceable linchpins of the Beach Boys sound.
There are many things to celebrate about this reunion tour: 

1) Dave Marks (a truly nice guy) having the opportunity to reclaim his lost, childhood legacy.  A brilliant guitarist, Carl even acknowledged that Dave had become the most accomplished musician to emerge from the band. 
2) Al Jardine, the ever good-natured and forgiving soul, being welcomed back into the ranks from which he was so unceremoniously dumped.  Al's voice remains unburnished by time, and long after Brian stopped touring regularly in late '1964, it was Al and Carl's voices in the middle of the stack of harmonies that kept the BBs sound authentic and true to the recordings on-stage.  
And 3), If there's any joy in this at all for Brian, terrific.  If not (and it's hard to read Bri sometimes), then I wish it wasn't happening.
But I hope some real thought has gone in to the staging of this show.  If the band goes deep into their catalog as they did on the Box Set tour 20 years ago, that would be great.  If they had an unplugged segment of the show where they sat up front on stools and talked about early influences, stories behind the songs and did some a capella  highlights, that would be tremendous.  There should certainly be video appearances from Carl and Dennis, maybe even doing full performances of "God Only Knows" and "You Are So Beautiful," (though video of Dennis doing "In the Back of My Mind" from the Today! album may even exist!)  And yes, as Fred suggested, having Dennis and Carl's sons, Justyn and Carl B. Wilson, would be a wonderful touch.  I wish Al's son Matt and Billy Hinsche were in this line-up, too.  They earned the right to be there, and the shows would be better for their presence.
I have fond memories of time spent with Carl and Dennis so this "Reunion" is, at best, bittersweet.  But my love for Brian and respect for the other guys ensures that I will catch at least one of the shows somewhere. 
By the way, I picked up the Wrecking Crew book this week and breezed through it in a couple of hours.  I am always loathe to criticize others' creative works, especially when I know how much effort and time the author has invested in it.  I'd say that this is a nice primer for the casual music fan, but for those music historians among us, there's very little that's new here.  I literally have every single book but one listed in the bibliography and I can say that "The Wrecking Crew" is chiefly a pastiche of stories found in previous works.  For all the interviews the author did, why wasn't there more unique, revelatory material included.  And I will echo your comments, Kent, and those of the other FH readers regarding errors and the absence of direct quotes from the participants.  Why paraphrase things in flowery fashion when you've authentic testimony coming from these historic legends themselves?
As always, thanks Kent --and all your readers-- for making the week, especially Sunday mornings, more entertaining!
Scott Paton
I think the fact that The Beach Boys are reuniting for a 50th Anniversary Tour is amazing ... both for musical and historical reasons.  I hope they can make it through without incident for the sake of the fans.  (But images of Brian walking out midstream ... or Mike Love strangling Al Jardine on stage DO haunt me!!!)  They've got an awful lot of dates lined up ... playing to sold-out audiences everywhere ... so I can only beg the guys to PLEASE remember why you're doing this and put the fans first.  (And let's not forget the fact that each of you are going to make MILLIONS for your efforts this year.  Certainly that has to be SOME motivation to put forth the best show possible.)
Honestly, I doubt that they'll delve too deeply into their catalog for this ... let's face it, The Beach Boys could put on a three hour show and still leave out several of their classic hits in the process.  A tribute of some sort to Dennis and Carl would be nice ... and certainly worthy ... I'm anxious to see what they're going to do.
Of all the parties concerned, I've got to "SmiLe" most for David Marks ... talk about falling into it!!!  Marks is an unsung hero of the band's earliest days ... and he's NEVER had the opportunity to bask in the glory of an audience this large.  I'm hoping he's up for the challenge ... and believe that he has to thank the gods above on a daily basis for this incredible opportunity during his golden years.
I still haven't had a chance to pick up The Wrecking Crew book and, from all that I've heard from our readers, it seems to be playing to pretty "mixed" reviews.  I've still got to read it, though, just to see for myself.  Let's hope some of this additional attention moves Denny Tedesco's film a little closer to fruition ... speaking of which ...

Thanks for your support.  You have no idea what it means to see the negative.
We lost Mike Melvoin yesterday.  Very sad.
I interviewed him and I'm sending out a new out take.
Also interviewed Gary Coleman and Mike Lang yesterday for the DVD.
Talk more.
My pleasure, Denny.  Let's hope the film finally reaches wide distribution before there aren't any Wrecking Crew members left around to see it!  (kk)

For more on the passing of Mike Melvoin, check out the link sent in by FH Reader Gary Myers.
Passing of a top studio musician / arranger (originally from WI, began playing in Milwaukee):  
Gary E. Myers / MusicGem

Dear Fans and Friends of only the Best in Musical Harmony,
Just in time for the Boys' 50th Anniversary, Gary Pig Gold's overview of that fantastic BRIAN WILSON: SONGWRITER dvd has appeared anew on the great Swedish site Torpedo Pop.  Here is the url:  

Click here: Brian Wilson: Songwriter, 1962-1969 | TorpedoPop 

And kudos to Nancy Sinatra, who has always given credit where credit was due.  She has nothing but the utmost respect for all of the musicians who made her records hits back in the '60's.  In fact, while working on another project, I happened to read this from Nancy in the liner notes to her Rhino CD "Nancy Sinatra: The Hit Years":
Nancy would like to credit all of the fine musicians who played on these sessions.  Among them were guitarists Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Donnie Owens, Louis Sheldon, Bud Coleman, Lee Ritenour, James Burton and Billy Strange; bassists Reinie Press, Chuck Berghofer and Carol Kaye; drummers Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer and Jimmy Gordon and percussionist Emit Rhichards; keyboardists Don Randi, Larry Knechtel, Leon Russell and Glen D. Hardin; horn players Dick Nash, Lew McCreary, Bud Brisbois, Dick "Slyde" Hyde, Roy Caton and Jim Horn; Sid Sharp's strings; and background vocalists The Blossoms and The Jack Halloran Singers.
WTG, Nancy!  These fine musicians RARELY got acknowledged for their contributions at the time ... nice to see that you went out of your way to thank them once again on your CD jacket!  (kk)

Lots of stories about the Wrecking Crew. They played on my first two albums. But that's for another day.
My comment is about Billy Strange. He wrote the arrangement for one of my favorite covers: "Long Time Woman" by Nancy Sinatra. When I wrote it, I never in a zillion years would have thought a woman would want to sing it But Mac brought the song to Billy and Nancy and they made it work in a wonderful, unexpected way.
At the time, just prior to release, Mac Davis and Billy called me into Billy's office and played the cut for me..
It was beautiful -- so sweet and simple and understated. But because of some stupid argument I was having with Mac (stupid on my part, not his), I deliberately dissed the cut to them. I shrugged and said something like "Yeah. Big deal."
Since coming to my senses, I tried many times to get hold of Nancy, Mac and Billy to make amends to them. But, understandably, they never got back to me. (I was a real prick that day and not a court in the land would convict them for wanting to avoid me.)
Anyway, now it can be told. Billy's arrangement is so chilling, laid back and perfect for that song and I treasure his sensitive work on it.
Bob Lind

Great story, Bob ... thanks SO much for sharing it with us.  (See, we really DO get older and wiser!!!  lol)  Not familiar with this particular track, I had to seek it out ... and share it with our readers today!  Thanks again!  (kk)