Thursday, February 19, 2015


With the wind chill making it seem like zero (and the night promising an actual record low of just 4 above), friends, relatives and loved ones gathered at a funeral home in Manhattan today. They were saying "Goodbye Lesley." And here, I add: "Goodbye Tony." It's a song you can download or listen to on line, via the link below.

This odd blog doesn't deal with ordinary hits (of which she had many). One of the more obscure items in the Gore collection is "Goodbye Tony." No other words in the song are in English. It's her rather sweetly sung German-language version of one of her most menacing anthems, "You Don't Own Me." Oddly enough while the original was performed with raging power, the German version is much softer and more sorrowful. This is a bit surprising since German is "a rather brutal language" (as Max Prendergast phrased it).

One of the more underrated singers in the rock world, Lesley Gore (Lesley Sue Goldstein, May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015) seemed like just another amateur, ala Little Eva, when she became a sensational star in 1963. She was only 16, hitting the Top 20 with a literal cry-baby novelty called "It's My Party." As unlikely is it might seem, the wizard behind the curtain was Quincy Jones. Somehow he knew just what white America wanted to hear, and with the help of Ellie Greenwich, the veteran songwriter-producer, he made this catchy-naggy pop squeal a hit. The unknown singer had been taking voice lessons and making experimental demos thanks to her affluent father, Leo Gore. Not long after Lesley's birth, Mr. Gore had the family name changed from Goldstein to reflect his Russian heritage. Or at least, the first syllable of it.

In this era of 45 rpm singles, the biggest demographic was now teenagers, and most especially teenage girls. They pushed Fabian into the Top 10, and Rydell, Anka, Avalon, and other pretty boys they wanted to swoon over. They also liked teen girls who could be role models and sob sisters, from Connie Francis to Donna Loren. Perhaps the queen of them, for a few years at least, was Lesley Gore. They related to her and this song about being dumped at her birthday party. They were glad to see, from the fan mag photos, that Lesley was sort of pretty, but not the hated prom queen type. She was believable as a victim.

Also in 1963, Gore followed up with her "answer" song, the triumphant "Judy's Turn to Cry." In 1964 she offered the surprising "You Don't Own Me," as dark and menacing as any Shangri-Las number. It proved she had the pipes for a dramatic vocal. As the years passed, that song became a feminist anthem (just as the Shangri-Las became remembered as "liberated" ladies.)

Teen agony remained Lesley's specialty with 1964's "I Don't Wanna be a Loser" and the better, haunting "Maybe I Know." To get ridiculously analytical about it, the zeitgest heped her existential enigma over a frustrating romantic purgatory, with listeners internalizing her threnody.

The song had simple lyrics: "Maybe I know that he's been a'cheatin', maybe I know that he's been untrue. But what could I do?"

This kind of song had the co-eds nodding and buying, but there was enough vulnerability to make most any boy take notice, too. As in, "Maybe I could get her on the rebound," or "Gee, girls don't have it so easy after all." Her pain was everyone's pleasure.

Lesley continued to vacillate between teen anguish and utterly stupid pop tripe and had another Top 20 with "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" in 1965. That one was penned by the nephew of Quincy Jones' dentist, one precocious kid named Marvin Hamlisch. A number of songs in 1966 "failed to chart," as the pinhead never-was losers like to say. At least she kept trying and didn't just go buy somebody else's music at a boot sale, smugly self-congratulating on being a mediocre nobody.

In 1967, Lesley became "Pussycat," hench-girl to Catwoman on the old "Batman" show. 1967 was also the year of her last Top 20 hit, the Marvin Hamlisch variation on "California Dreaming" called "California Nights." The next year, 1968, she graduated college and wasn't so concerned with show biz. Which is a shame, because after all those years she no longer needed to be double-tracked. She had developed a great stage presence and could drive the crowd wild with an emotional, defiant ballad. Let's say she was so good that nobody ever remarked on her being Jewish.

In the 70's and 80's she put out a few solo albums, but so did Lou Christie and so many others. They, and Lesley, became locked in a time capsule and fans mostly wanted to see them at oldies shows, doing THE HITS.

Circa 2004, she hosted "In the Life," a PBS-TV series about lesbian issues. (OK, hackies, you've been waiting for it: Lesby Gore.) By then, one could quietly ease out of the closet and, if anything, develop new fans. Janis Ian, a two-hit wonder ("Society's Child" and "At Seventeen") found herself in demand at coffee shops and small venues, and Lesley also found the supportive lesbian cult backing her up, as well as some more affluent fans. She performed at upscale niteries such as (Michael) Feinstein's in Manhattan, where the cover charge and price for drinks and food could bankrupt the average person. The crowd would sit politely through the newer songs, many co-written by Lesley, then get juiced on the crowd-pleasing oldies, and absolutely cream over that now lesbian-feminist rallying cry: "You Don't Own Me."

When Lesley died, her last effort, the 2007 release "Ever Since," was on eBay and Amazon for about $4 and no takers. It had a rather haggard looking Ms. Gore on the cover, a fresh version of "You Don't Own Me" to try and get some sales, and was issued by one of the smaller indie companies.

I'm not sure what Lesley's legacy is, and if many people care about her few Top 40 hits (or her hundreds of songs on albums that fans love so much). Maybe you had to be East Coast to identify with her a lot, or you had to grow up with her. She might be, like Petula Clark and "Downtown" or even Nancy Sinatra and "Boots," just a footnote to rock critics who would rather write about Aretha and Janis. But here's something: you can always tell it's Lesley Gore when you hear her. If stardom involves being unique, Leslie was, and remains, a star.

For fans of irony, let's note that she supplied the music for a tune called "IMMORTALITY."


Some Ho' Sings the Lyrics to "Hawaii 5-0"

Here's no ordinary Ho. That's Don Ho, who died in 2007. Maybe he didn't live to see his last name used by whites (such as Jay Leno) who adopted the illiterate black slang term for whore. Look anything for a pun, punk.

Ho was the most famous singer from Hawaii, and as such, had the inside track on lousing up one of the best TV theme songs of all time. Why not try and put sappy words to a driving, exciting instrumental? And slow down the tempo? It might get somebody lei'd:

"If you're feeling lonely, you can come with me. Feel my arms around you. Lay beside the sea. We will think of something to do, do it till it's perfect for you and for me, too. You can come with me."

No, this was no Ho-down. A bit better known, and anthologized on those campy "celebrities sing" and "so bad it's good" CD's is Sammy Davis Jr's uptempo take, re-titled "You Can Count On Me." Did he know Ho? He did know ho's, and was prone to putting red polish on ONE nail, as a symbol of devil worship, and indulge in orgies. Go read "Why Me?" His autobiography reveals quite a bit of his traumatic and confused life, though he didn't explicitly detail doing down on Linda Lovelace's manager/Svengali while she coached him.

Davis's autobiography is a lot more lively than "My Music My Life" the Don Ho story. Don did have his triumphs and failures. His biggest triumph was "Tiny Bubbles," which was not about Michael Jackson's sexual attraction to a chimp. His biggest failure was heart failure. Don had a stroke at age 65, developed heart problems, and struggled with a lot of controversial therapies (including stem cell implants).

Don was Ho-spitalized several times, hoping he'd become well enough to perform again. Quoth Don" "Someone told me 'You're 75.' Everyone gets old. Why did I think I was exempt?"

Don had a pacemaker operation in 2006. He died the following year.

DON HO Hawaii Five-O Theme Song

Monday, February 09, 2015


Prosecutor: Chicolini, isn’t it true you sold Freedonia’s secret war code and plans?
Chicolini: Sure! I sold a code and two pairs o’ plans! Ay, that's-a some joke!

Oh. Wrong guy. We're talking about CICCOLINI.

Though not one of the all-time greats, the late Aldo Ciccolini (August 15, 1925-Februrary 1, 2015) sold a lot of albums for Angel/EMI. Maybe it was because Horowitz and Rubinstein didn't seem to know about composer Erik Satie. Or, care to record him. In the late 60's and early 70's, college grads and classical music enthusiasts suddenly doubled over, discovering the duo of Satie as recorded by Ciccolini.

The impudent avant-garde dadaist and now decomposed Satie had to sustain himself as a cabaret pianist. Likewise, Ciccolini (born in Naples but a Parisian since the 1950's) found himself playing for bar patrons in order to keep baguettes on the table. Yes, "don't quit your day job just yet" was always a good strategy for oddballs trying to defy all odds and bring something new to the world. Even after winning some awards and getting record deals, Aldo didn't quit his day job, which in the 70s involved teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris.

While Ciccolini did earn some good reviews with war-horse pieces (his 1950 United States debut was a Tchaikovsky piano concerto performed with the New York Philharmonic) he found that the best way to get attention in the very competitive world of classical piano, was to specialize in esoterica. This included the twin darlings of keyboard oddness, Alkan and Satie, as well as the even more obscure Déodat de Séverac and Alexis de Castillon. With the success of his Satie recordings, the French-Italian pianist even turned up at New York's Bottom Line in 1979. It was rare for that venue to feature a classical pianist, but Aldo Ciccolini was a name that progressive rock fans knew (along with Tomita, Walter/Wendy Carlos and Virgil Fox. Fox, many recall, played an organ concert at the Fillmore, highlighted by that Phantom of the Opera toccata by Bach, man. Bach, man, he could be booked one night and Turner Overdrive the next! And the same fans might show up! Wowie Zowie)

Mainstream music fans who could tolerate SOME classical music, were delighted with Chico's Satie material, which included gnossiennes (more narcotic than Pachelbel's "Canon") and Zappa-esque titles such as "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." Ciccolini's record label allowed him to branch out for Ravel, and some of the more mainstream composers, while he continued to teach and to perform dates both on hip college campuses and at the standard classical music venues that once hosted the now-deceased Rubinstein and Horowitz.

“Ciccolini avoids standard clichés, and his is one of the finest lyric talents of the piano today,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Joseph McLellan after a 1983 show at the University of Maryland. “He makes it easy to forget that the piano is essentially a mechanical contraption, capable of doing very complex things and splendid in its dynamic range, but limited in expressive possibilities. He makes the piano breathe like a human voice — like a variety of human voices.”

On Dec 9, 1999, Aldo commemorated the 50 years since he first won a major award (the Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition). In 2010 he celebrated his 85th birthday with concert appearances in conjunction with EMI putting out a massive (how about 56 CDs) set of his recorded works. By that time, an entire generation had grown up with almost no "star" classical pianist to follow, and only Alfred Brendel being ubiquitous for new releases. Artur who? Vladimir who? Van Cliburn what? And let's not bother with mono from Kempff or Schnabel.

Below? In under 3 minutes, you get Aldo's version of Satie's three short "Flabby Preludes for a Dog." In a different era, these works were as shocking to classical ears as Zappa's weirdly named instrumentals were to rock audiences. So give it a try. It showcases the melodic quirkiness that has continued to make Satie (and Aldo's recordings) such fun listening.

ALDO does Flabby Preludes for a Dog

As always, listen on line OR download...with no capcha codes, Zinfuck password, or promotions to get you buy a premium account for which the artists get nothing.


Donna Douglas, the beloved sitcom actress from "The Beverly Hillbillies," was the first celebrity to die in 2015 (January 1st). Mournful fans rushing to Google's copyright-stomping YouTube started watching old TV clips and listening to her sing "He's So Near" and...other songs she didn't sing. Those were from a different Donna Douglas, who is very much alive.

YouTube uploaders assumed there was only one Donna Douglas on the planet, and if a record had "Donna Douglas" on it, the TV star was the singer. But as this blog's done with two different performers named Johnny Carson and Jack Larson, it's time to be the prime and official source for another truth. Donna Douglas the actress is not Donna Douglas the singer, who was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland and now proudly lives in Perth, Australia, "still married to the same wonderful man for over 45 years." PS, her real name is Donna Douglas. The American actress was born Doris Smith.

When Doris was starting out in show biz, she was sexy (and usually brunette) in pin-up photos and small roles on TV. By the time she became "Donna Douglas" and got a major TV guest role (in an episode of "Twilight Zone," with no rural accent) the OTHER Donna Douglas already had four singles out in the U.K., and was signed for more.

Donna's singles "did not chart," but record companies saw enough potential in her to keep trying. Initially signed to Fontana, Donna Douglas recorded four singles for them: "The Shepherd" (1958), "Come Back to Loch Lomond" and "Six Boys and Seven Girls" (1959) and "Teddy" (1960).

Piccadilly felt she had the right look and chirpy voice for the times and debuted her with "Tammy, Tell Me True" in 1961. The following year came the big push. "The Message in a Bottle" was nominated for the "Song for Europe" contest (aka Eurovision) but lost to Ronnie Carroll's "Ring-a-Ding Girl" which, obviously, did not bring a winner home to Great Britain.

Donna's next singles were "Matelot" (1962) and "It's a Pity to Say Goodnight" and "He's So Near" (both released in 1963). A final single, "Java Jones" turned up via Pye in 1964.

By that time, the actress Donna Douglas was a superstar thanks to "The Beverly Hillbillies." And thanks to "He's So Near" being issued in America on an obscure indie label, some record collectors assumed that this and any imports had to be early rare recordings from the future Elly Mae Clampett.

Is there any vinyl from actress Donna Douglas? Yes, but mostly it's narrations of kiddie and/or religious material. She does talk-sing on a fairly lame "Beverly Hillbillies" cash-in album from Columbia. Book-ended by "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" and the familiar end theme as picked by Flatt and Scruggs, the filler is 11 weak novelty tunes penned by Zeke Manners. Based on familiar traits of the Clampett family (Jethro being naively stupid, Elly being virginal, Granny being ornery) the tracks offer some dialogue and little bits of singing. A few songs are about the hillbillies and sung by an anonymous chorus, and a few give a chance for ex-vaudevillian Buddy Ebsen to do some easy-listenin' vocals. Irene Ryan would issue some novelty singles but here, she's mostly talking in her "Granny" voice.

Now that you're wanting to compare Donna Douglas the singer and Donna Douglas the actress, you get "He's So Near" and "Birds An' Bees," in which Granny and Jed try to give some gentle advice to the blossoming beauty. Donna manages to be musical on a few line of this novelty, but it's pretty clear that a solo song of most any kind would've been one heck of a chore for her.

Donna Douglas the Singer He's so Near

Donna Douglas the Actress BIRDS 'AN BEES

Legendary LIZABETH SCOTT passes on at the age of 92

She was the Paramount screen star that the studio billed as "“beautiful, blonde, aloof and alluring.” Along with Lauren Bacall and Mary Astor, she was one of the most memorable ladies to appear opposite Humphrey Bogart (in "Dead Reckoning.").

Closer to a Joan Crawford than a Veronica Lake, Lizabeth was often called on to play complex women who could be tough and perhaps even untrustworthy…with a touch of potential evil enough to make even a Burt Lancaster or Dick Powell feel a little unsure. Lancaster's line in "I Walk Alone" was: "What a fall guy I am, thinking just because you're good to look at you'd be good all the way through." If the film was a tough noir, she was the woman to make it tougher. She could hold her ground against anyone, even tough guy Robert Mitchum. In "The Racket" she confronted him with: "Who said I was an honest citizen, and where would it get me if I was?"

Despite the typecasting, Scott (born Emma Matzo, September 29, 1922 in Scranton, PA) turned up in some light fare, from the wacky "Hellzapoppin" (in a touring stage production) to the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis hit "Scared Stiff," to Elvis Presley's "Loving You." Her last film was "Pulp" in 1972, an obscurity that co-starred Mickey Rooney and Michael Caine.

A strong woman who chose her name from two other strong women (Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots), she had the confidence to walk away from show business and devote herself to charity work and ways of improving herself by attending college courses and working out at a health club. She said, "I proceeded to explore all of life’s other facets. None of us is ever too young or too old or too smart to learn or to create.”

I found her to be a strong lady with good values and a resolute personality, and I'll miss her. She had so much talent, too. A lot of beautiful stars were tossed into musicals and had to have somebody else do the singing, and a lot of ladies needed an echo chamber when a studio insisted they cut a single or do an album to help promote a film. Lizabeth had a good, natural singing voice, and there are a lot of solid cuts on her lone album.

A wryly erotic little tease of a number is "A Deep Dark Secret."

This song about her secret doings does not name a particular gender. While she strenuously denied the lesbian claim in a 50's "Confidential" gossip mag, which could've ruined her career, it's safe to say that Lizabeth stirred longings on both sides of the sexual equator, and still does.

Lizabeth Scott, a friend to Ill Folks. Just why is…. A Deep Dark Secret

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"SHADOW" - A Forgotten Pedo-pusher

The only thing people object to on the Internet now is pedophilia. Anything else is easily justified. Lie, cheat, steal, kill even, but…touch not the innocent child. Hear that, Rolf Harris? They tied that singer down, sport. Yet, even with pedophilia, the boundaries have widened.

It's hardly even news when school teachers have sex with their teenage students. Judges dismiss cases of "statutory rape" because, "she didn't look underage," and today's tweens are just emulating pop idols like Miley Cyrus. Folks don't raise an eyebrow about the tween brides being abused by some of the fine, fine religions of the Middle East and Africa...and in parts of the South, a 14 year-old can marry Jerry Lee Lewis.

A song like "Only Sixteen" is almost laughable now. Brooke Shields wasn't even 14 when she starred in "Pretty Baby." Ebay sellers can actually post nude Polaroids and if the seller says "model is 18," then it's ok. They don't even ask that the seller supply proof, something that even Hustler's "Barely Legal" magazines do.

Now, nobody would have a problem with "Shadow," a song that got very little radio play when it came out. This probably surprised Mr. Taylor, who'd had a hit, after all, with "Love Child," covered by The Supremes. But that was only about a bastard birth, so big deal. He may have sent this to The Four Tops, expecting Levi Stubbs to shout:

"Hair dark, black as coal, eyes that look into your soul, touch that makes you lose control...

"Shadow you drag me down, but every day I love you more! Shadow you bring me down, and every day I need you more than the day before! Body of a woman mind of a child. Shadow you sure do drive me wild. You're only 14 years old."

You might recall the name R. Dean Taylor. He wrote one of the classics of rock-crime insanity, the brilliantly schlocky "Indiana Wants Me." It even had sound effects (though the police sirens were edited out of subsequent pressings). He sang it as a love letter to his wife: "I'll never see the morning sun shine on the land. I'll never see your smiling face or touch your hand. If just once more I could see you, our home, and OUR LITTLE BABY."

Why was he on the run? Because, "If a man ever needed dying he did. No one has the right to say what he said about you." We're always told "verbal abuse is legal. Don't take the law into your own hands." But we're also told not to touch jail bait. And in this song, the criminal of "Indiana Wants Me" has a definite misdemeanor on his mind.

Who knows. In another year or two, when we have a pop singer even younger and lewder than Miley Cyrus, or some rapper even cruder than R. Kelly, somebody will dig up this song and take it to the Top Ten.

Actually the most regrettable failure in the R. Dean Taylor catalog is the milder but wilder "There's a Ghost In My House." Considering he was tight with Motown (he recorded on a subsidiary of it), it's a shame The Four Tops didn't grab "Ghost." Maybe they were sick of those "rooms of gloom" songs, and didn't want to deal with an entire house. Or maybe people would think the "ghost" in the house was a white guy.

"Shadow" is probably a black girl. But white or black, tweens knows all about sex now. They can see all the porn they want on the Internet. They laugh at gobs of semen stuck in Cameron Diaz's hair in a harmless film comedy their parents took 'em to see. The "age of innocence" in the 21st century isn't 18. 16. Or even 14. It's probably closer to 8, when a child can say something filthy and get a reply of "where did you learn THAT?" The answer: "I Googled it."


STATE OF SHOCK: The Moirs: Margot is No Moir

Before lesbians were out and romping on the tennis court (Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, etc.) or openly dishing as hosts of their own talk shows (Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O'Donnell, etc.) the weird Moirs sisters were singing a song of Sappho: "Who Needs a Man?" Not that anyone was paying attention. The death of Margot Moir hasn't gotten a lot of attention either

On January 27, Margot Moir died. While I wasn't in a "state of shock" (the title of their second and last album), I was surprised. Was it THAT long ago that I got a promo copy of the album? How…old…was she?

Only 55.

Next question, what do I say about The Moirs (last name pronounced the same as American TV personality Bill Moyers)? It's a bit of a left-handed compliment to say that I kept the album all these years just because it was so visually and musically weird. But it's true.

Back in the day, I was a young rock writer specializing in all the weird and edgy stuff that the rock editors didn't keep for themselves. They tossed me a dozen demo albums with a warning: "Pick one…ONE of these obscure debut albums to review for the next issue." I interviewed people nobody else on the staff cared about or wanted to talk to. So it was, that I scored a copy of "State of Shock," with a three page bio on light blue paper from Rocket Records' publicity department. Whatever drone was working for that label didn't know anything about writing an eye-grabbing opening line:

"Fifteen years ago the entire Moir family emigrated to Australia from their native forfar, in Scotland. On returning for a two-year sojourn some years later, a neighbor gave one of the girls a guitar, which helped to ease the tedium of their return to Australia. It began with Jean, but Margot soon joined with early dabblings in music and vocal techniques."

Zzz. I did know what a sojourn was, but not a "forfar." It turned out to be a typo and should've been the town of Forfar. So far, so uninteresting. But happily for the girls, they did have a top ten Aussie hit in 1974 with "Good Morning (How Are You?)" and the following year recorded the album "Lost Somewhere Beyond Harmony."

Three years later, Rocket Records thought America might want a spooky, pedo-goth trio of Kate Bushes. Or maybe a girl-group variation on The Chipmunks. So "State of Shock" became the first album by The Moirs to be released in America. How sad that when I wangled an invite to a Rocket Records party for new artists, I got to talk to President Elton John his own self, and Colin Blunstone, and Lorna Wright, but...nope. The Moirs weren't there. I never did get to see the three sirens in the flesh, assuming they had any. But I kept the 1978 record, which turned out to be their last. 18 years later, Margot issued a solo album that included a new version of "Who Needs a Man." What she did for the next 18 years, I have no idea. She's survived by her two sisters, the younger Jean (born in 1957) and older Lesley (born in 1962).

Who needs a download of "Who Needs a Man?" Why not you? The music's a cheesy brand of vaudeville rock, somewhere between "Winchester Cathedral" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." There's a doodle-ee-doo type bit of scatting as well, which might be a nod to the aggravating ""A Doodlin' Song" from the 50's, or just a variation on vodo-ee-odo. I guess "nyaa nyaah" was already done by McCartney and wife. The precocious number is the only one on the album with music by Margot. The lyrics are by Jean (who wrote the music for all the other songs). The sisters chide a girl for not hooking up with a willing lesbian:

"Met up with a girl who had a surprise. WOOO! You thought she was strange because she wanted to hold your hand. She said "Listen sugar, are you disappointed 'cause I ain't a man? Who needs a man?"

"Well your parents just wouldn't understand how a daughter could not love a man (too bad). Loving like this can bring a lot of pain. Some people don't think that you are the same. Who needs a man?"

Man, if you need something weird, here it is:


Friday, January 09, 2015


He stepped out of obscurity and...into "The Twilight Zone."

Meet one "Battista Locatelli," a cheerful, hardworking man from Italy. He toils at many jobs with little success. He dreams of a career in opera, and hopes to get a scholarship to study fine music. In a world where people are more concerned with stuffing their mouths rather than hearing him sing, he finds work as a waiter. His disposition: cheerful. His chance of an opera career: nil.

Witness the arrival of a brooding, chain-smoking writer. This is Rod Serling, a man hot-wired into observing every nuance and irony among what are called "human beings." As Battista Locatelli serves the food, singing gently to himself, Serling takes note. More than that, he takes it into his mind that he can magically change this waiter's life.

He sees Battista Locatelli in another dimension, and with Locatelli's sound in his mind, Serling does the most logical thing he can do. No, it isn't to star him in some episode of "The Twilight Zone," but rather, to bring him along for a guest spot on Groucho Marx's new TV series, "Tell It To Groucho." And so it is, that he tells Groucho about his discovery.

With many a wisecrack, Groucho listens to Battista's story. Groucho almost mocks the young vocalist by showing off his own vocal skills (Groucho did, after all, star in a TV production of "The Mikado). But finally, Groucho allows the young man to perform. Without a chance to rehearse (he's a contestant on a quiz show, after all), and with time at a premium, Battista is only allowed to sing a fragment from "Pagliacci." Following this, he and Serling team up to win $1500 in the quiz portion of the show.

Yes, Battista Locatelli found himself in "The Twilight Zone," and had a chance to sing for the great Groucho Marx. And the not history. Not what Serling or Locatelli expected. Despite the Marx show, and another similar variety appearance courtesy of Serling's influence, Battista Locatelli does not become an opera star.

In a plot twist that might've made for a middling episode of Serling's show, Battista Locatelli DOES release one record album. It's for a hole in the wall called..."Battista's Hole in the Wall." Mr. Locatelli, at least defying the odds that most waiters have, emerges to own his own restaurant in Las Vegas. He sings there, although an accordion player remains the main attraction. His lone album is a souvenir that patrons can buy.

For some thirty years, Battista enjoys his success in the restaurant business, and has a song in his heart. Unfortunately for him, he has something else in his heart. It's a problem that requires quadruple bypass surgery in 2002.

Did I say "unfortunately?" In another twist of fate, this near brush with death only makes Locatelli determined to live life to the fullest, and change the lifestyle that led to his condition. This is a stark contrast to the fate of Rod Serling, who died during heart surgery at the age of 51. Battista becomes an advocate of the Pritikin diet system. He starts a habit of walking six miles a day. At 71, he comes to New York for the November marathon race, and finishes in just five hours, less than a fourth of the time of the annual "Twilight Zone Marathon" that runs on TV stations over the Thanksgiving holiday. He also takes up mountain climbing.

The world of show biz has many hills and valleys, and most know when to live the dream and when to face reality. Battista Locatelli: a lucky man who rose from unemployed waiter to owner of a restaurant that still, though he retired from it in 2005, remains a tourist mecca. Perhaps he didn't become the opera star he thought he'd be, but his music has pleased thousands and thousands via his restaurant singing and souvenir. Into his 70's he changed his lifestyle so he could enjoy his 80's. The signpost up ahead: your download of Locatelli's moment of song on Groucho's show, preserved here, in the Ill Folks Zone.

Battista Locatelli Aria from PAGLIACCI


The blog's first obits of 2015 hark back to December 28th, 2014. On that date, two rather obscure singers died. One of them was Merrill Womach and the other, Frankie Randall.

For Randall fans, the question always was, "How come he never made it BIG?" I mean, BIG big. He did have a long career in live performances, a kind of junior Tony Bennett for fans of "good music," but somehow the handsome fellow didn't emerge as some kind of "Sinatra for the Kids" like Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka or Bobby Darin.

"If I'm being honest," as Piers Morgan loves to say, I only vaguely heard of Frankie Randall and oddly enough, don't even recall flipping through the bargain bin albums and seeing his stuff. Maybe it was prized by his adoring female fans, and they vowed to keep these treasures even as they parted with Richard Chamberlain singing, or the Sergie Franchi and Jerry Vale albums grandma gave them at Christmas.

The Frankie Who Would Be Frank died at the age of 76. Born Frankie Lisbona (January 11, 1938 – December 28, 2014) in Passaic, New Jersey, he wasn't a Jersey Boy original like Frankie Valli. Rather than a bizarre falsetto, Frankie sang smoothly, and if one of his songs was on the radio people might've asked, "Who is that? Jimmie Rodgers? Pat Boone? Steve Lawrence?" He was good, he was solid, but he wasn't quite the distinctive stylist with a signature voice. Maybe that's why the handsome fellow sort of got lost on the record shelves. He did have his shot, though. At the time Frankie Avalon was making beach pictures with Annette Funicello, Frankie Randall turned up in "Wild on the Beach" (1964) with Sonny and Cher. RCA Victor, already owning Eddie Fisher and Neil Sedaka, released "Frankie Randall Sings and Swings" (1965, note the reference to old-school music arranger Billy May) and "Going the Frankie Randall Way" (1966). The notorious "Mods and the Pops" (1968) included Frankie's pop version of "I Can See For Miles." He was star enough, or that cut campy enough, for it to be included on a "Golden Throats" CD nearly two decades later.

Randall aged into a reliable singer for a certain aging demographic, and did receive his star…it just wasn't on Hollywood Boulevard, it was via the "Palm Springs Walk of Stars." Always tan and good looking, Frankie was a favorite in those retirement areas loaded with tan and not-so-good looking men and women. They envied Frankie his looks and his voice, and certainly with good reason. He was a charmer, and never less than professional. He always gave a great show.

While this is an acerbic blog at times, there's no reason to disrespect a professional, and above all else, Mr. Randall was that. He was very good at what he did. And really, even if "I Can See For Miles" gets sniggers from some, it was kind of a pioneering effort back then. Thirty years later, survivors Paul Anka and Pat Boone offered "swinging the rock songs" albums, believing (as some fans do) that big band arrangements are not just a novelty, but can even bring out some nuances of lyric and melody. So give Frankie some cred for trying to bridge the generation gap way back when. Sure, he may have fallen off that bridge, but you can't say he didn't have a good smooth voice, or land with a splash.

Frankie Randall I Can See for Miles Listen on line, or download. No egocentric passwords, no capcha codes, no "buy a premium account" games.

MERRILL WOMACH, the Toast of the Christian Music World, 87

Among the tragically hip, Merrill Womach (February 7, 1927 – December 28, 2014) has a cult following for his "incredibly strange" belief in God and over a dozen albums that feature his burn-scarred face. "Ha ha, ho ho, hee hee," chortle the hipster/"lounge" music fans, here's a guy who THANKS GOD for disfiguring and nearly killing him on Thanksgiving Day, 1961.

Back in 1961, Womach was a handsome fellow with a wife and three kids. What Muzak was to elevators, his "National Music Service" was to funeral homes. He offered instrumentals, and his own vocals on hymns that could be heard on tape during wakes and services. His voice was heavenly, and as you'll hear on "Ten Thousand Angels," he was capable of registering sincere emotion, not just an impressively strong operatic tenor. With a hectic schedule of concerts, and a new business that he needed to promote by visiting funeral homes all over the Wes Coast, Womach flew his own small plane.

The man who brought comforting music to death scenes, was nearly burned alive in Beaver Marsh, Oregon. Cold weather caused engine trouble, and the plane conked out as he tried to find a safe place to land. He clipped a bunch of trees, and when he landed a gas explosion seared his face. He staggered from the wreckage with a head that, by his own admission, looked more like a giant toasted marshmallow. Most people in such condition die of shock, but to keep himself from sinking into a coma or possible death, Womach began to sing. What else did he know besides his hymns? It's no surprise that among the cynical, the thought of a crisply burnt man wheeled into surgery bellowing songs about God seems like very black humor.

Only a few weeks later, he faced his congregation at church, wearing a grafted mask of skin. He was lucky to be alive, and like so many in a situation like this, he chose to thank God rather than curse God. He somehow believed that the years of pain and reconstructive surgery were setting him up for greater things. His music would not only comfort those grieving; he felt his concerts now would show anyone in pain, that the pain and suffering could be overcome.

This isn't to say that being burnt up didn't mean hell for him, and even a loss of faith. To be literally grounded just when his concerts and his business were taking off, drove him to despair. The long recuperation, the constant skin grafts, and the pain both physical and emotional were a trial for him and his wife and family. "Scriptures," he admitted, "that before that time had buoyed our spirit and made us feel better, made me feel worse."

In 1964, Womach's business finally was making enough of a profit for him to incorporate. A dozen years later, and he was voted "Spokane's Outstanding Citizen of the Year." From a struggling singer who performed at local funerals of all denominations, he was now average over 100 concerts a year.

Among the "So bad it's good crowd," the main thing was that Womach was still an appalling sight. They sought out, and enjoyed an ironic laugh at albums titled "Happy Again" (1974) and "Feelin' Good" (1983).

Womach's albums became snickering collector items to hundreds of people beyond the Christian music market. The high prices reflected that these small label items weren't easy to find. It's doubtful even a Christian record store would put one in the window. Womach wasn't easy to find, either, since his scarred face didn't make him welcome on "The Lawrence Welk Show." I don't think he guested with Pat Robertson or on other evangelist TV talk shows. Not everyone was prepared to use Merrill Womach as an example of how the Lord works in wondrous ways. Still, he made many local concert dates despite (or because of) his unique appearance and story. During his prime recording years (post-accident, 1973 through 1983) he issued thirteen albums. One of them, "In Quartet," featured Womach over-dubbing his voice three extra times, and, yes, featuring FOUR shots of the burn victim on the cover.

"He Restoreth My Soul" a documentary about his ordeal (based on his paperback "Trial By Fire") was not competition for "A Charlie Brown Christmas," nor featured on the counter at Blockbuster video rental stores. At one time it was highly prized by geeks and nerds who bought bootlegs at record memorabilia conventions. Now it's free for all, courtesy of YouTube. It has interview footage with his wife (they would divorce in 1980) as well as graphic images of how he looked right after he withstood the force of the fuel explosion. Some secular viewers are more horrified by the scene where Womach comes to "cheer up" patients in a hospital. There's no question that a happy burn victim can inspire...a wide range of conflicting emotions in people.

In 1989 Merrill was leasing his funeral music to over 6,000 funeral homes around the country, and he was adding video, as well. Customers who provided photos, VHS or 8mm of the deceased, could have it custom-made in a short movie that could be shown during the services, complete, of course, with musical soundtrack. New ideas, hundreds of concerts, and new recordings  — Womach seemed to be busier than ever, losing himself in his work. "I'd rather burn out than rust out," he said, perhaps with a straight face. It was also in 1989 that a fire destroyed his home. "I'm alive," he said, "My possessions? So what, they can be replaced. Bodies cannot be and no one was hurt.”

In 1997 the New York Times interviewed Womach about the "funeral video" phenomenon, and he confirmed that his company was making about 50,000 tribute funeral videos a year for clients all over the country. The shuffle of photos and home movies seemed to include very predictable music. The Top Ten songs to be played with these video slide shows? They are:

1. Amazing Grace. 2. My Way. 3. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother 4. Anniversary Waltz. 5. How Great Thou Art. 6. In the Garden. 7. The Old Rugged Cross. 8. And I Love You So. 9. Hands of Time (Brian's Song). 10. I Believe.

Womach's "National Music Service" company is now run by one of his daughters, and called "Global Distribution Network." For the digital age, the firm offers downloads of the inspirational music as well as CDs.

Merrill Womach died in his sleep "surrounded by family and friends." Somehow the story didn't make it to the national news outlets. They were instead giving viewers a look at Justin Bieber showing off by skateboarding down four steps and falling, or Miley Cyrus's latest bare nipple pose. Only the local TV station KREM gave their beloved singer some air time or tribute. The January 10th memorial service for Womach at Fourth Memorial Church at Baldwin Avenue and Stanard Street in Spokane will be open to the public. The service begins at 2:00 p.m. Open casket, I assume.


Friday, December 19, 2014

VIRNA LISI - "How To Murder Your Wife" (MIKE CLIFFORD)

Maybe somebody will be offering a DVD of "How to Murder Your Wife" as a Christmas present this year…not knowing that its exotic female star just died. Look, as un-PC (and comedy challenged) as the film is, at least it's just a film. It's more likely that Christmas Day's newspapers will be loaded with real-life wife-murders, and worse.

For a while there, a few years in the mid-60's, Virna Lisi (November 8, 1936-December 18, 2014), was the blonde bombshell competition for Claudia Cardinale, Gina Lollobrigida and the older Italian sex symbols including Sophia Loren. That she never quite made it only puts her in the company of light-haired Carol Lynley, Barbara Bouchet, Joan Delaney, Sigrid Valdis, Elke Sommer, Joey Heatherton, various Bond girls and many others who had an exotic accent, a unique stare, or a curvy body.

Virna Pieralisi was already a star in Italy in the late 50's, that country's version of Marilyn Monroe, right down to the mole near her lip. Her hits included "Don't Tempt the Devil" in 1963 and "Casanova 70" in 1965. The question was when Virna would try, ala Sophia Loren or Brigitte Bardot, to crack the American market and start making films in Hollywood.

Her USA debut was "How To Murder Your Wife" in 1965. One of many banal movie sitcoms of the day, the hook was that it was supposed to be a "black comedy" of sorts. Jack Lemmon (grandpa's version of Tom Hanks) went through the motions with nothing much to work with, and Terry-Thomas was wasted. That left it to Virna, who at least made a memorable entrance popping out of a birthday cake in a bikini. Unfortunately her Italian accent was more annoying than exotic, and some viewers remained viewers, because listening to her was too much of a chore.

Neil Hefti (yes, "The Odd Couple" composer) was not well-served by the dopey lyrics to his theme song, but (unlike "The Odd Couple") at least the lyrics were used for several attempts at a hit single. The unlikely Aretha Franklin covered it, as did British crooner Mike Clifford.

Another tepid and terrible movie sitcom, "Not With My Wife You Don't" was just as bad, if not worse, with Tony Curtis playing opposite Virna. The lady did a bit better with yet another comedy, "The Birds, the Bees and the Italians," but that was about it. 1965-1966 were busy years for Virna in and out of Hollywood (she also starred with Sinatra in "Assault on a Queen") but by 1968 she was leery of more sexpot roles, and even turned down "Barbarella," which made Jane Fonda a star.

Virna remained a big star in Europe through the years, and long after her bombshell days, she won critical acclaim and some awards for "Queen Margot" in 1994, as the un-sexy but ultra evil Catherine De Medici (with Isabelle Adjani playing her daughter). Unlike some of her screen characters, Virna was happily married (from 1960 until her husband's death in 2013). Legend has it her husband was only briefly unhappy. This was when reporters asked the "Do you sleep in the nude" question. Virna replied, "It depends on who I'm sleeping with."

Not fluent in English, and not wanting her husband to start raging, she explained further. If she was sleeping in a hotel with her secretary as companion, she wore a nightgown. If she was home with her young son, she would wear pajamas. And yes, if she was with her husband, she slept nude.

The lack of nude scenes in those silly 60's movies may have helped keep a certain fascination and mystery around Virna Lisa, and enhanced her cult status for some fans. As to how to murder a peculiar novelty song…your download is below.

Mike Clifford How to Murder Your Wife

I WANT TO BITE YOUR HAND - Gene Moss, not Christopher Lee

Is it nice that Christopher Lee just released yet another heavy metal howl? Actually, it's horrifying in every sense of the word, but at 92, it's nice to know the undead star is still alive and growling. "Jingle Hell" is exactly as expected...a terrible punk bunch of headbanger clods slam at the melody. Lee either shouts his karaoke over it, or did it beforehand and the band just tried to add backing. Either way, it's a one-joke novelty that'll cost you a buck to buy.

The concept of a horror voice used to try for a novelty hit ain't new. Oddball tracks from a previous generation of horror stars exist. Boris Karloff sang on the Broadway cast album for "Peter Pan," Vinnie Price is represented by a variety of tracks from Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" to a re-working of "Monster Mash." Lon Chaney Jr. covered "Monster Holiday," and Basil Rathbone, Peter Lorre, John Carradine and others recorded as well.

Impressionists have done their best Karloff and Lugosi and Lorre impressions for novelty 45's, and both Guy Marks and Paul Frees issued full length albums of celebrities singing. When The Beatles invaded America, it was inevitable that somebody would try a horror-novelty..."I Want to Bite Your Hand." It's the work of Gene Moss (Eugene Harold Moshontz).

In its sepulchral silliness, it's actually right up there with Chris Lee's gothic goofiness. The dead-serious Count offers his version of Beatle lyrics, with the added grunt of "Sure," here and there. Just where Moss picked up this as a Lugosi catch-phrase, I have no idea. He died back on July 15, 2002. He remains undead thanks to this novelty single on RCA, which became part of an entire ridiculous "Dracula's Greatest Hits" album.

Gene first made some bucks in the record biz by writing album notes for Capitol. Following his lone comedy album, he and his writing partner Jim Thurman wrote the "Roger Ramjet" cartoon show. Gene voiced Noodles Romanoff, while Roger was handled by Gary "Laugh In" Owens. Moss became a local TV kiddie host in Los Angeles via KHJ, His "Dr. Von Schtick" is fondly remembered by some California kids, though the nostalgia remains greater for musty sufferers like Zacherley, Ghoulardi and Vampira. Moss and Thurman were rewarded with a late night talk show but they kept their day job, running an ad agency.

Gene continued to do voice work through the 80's (notably as the latest Smokey the Bear). His son, Chuck Moshontz, became a newscaster at KLOS-FM in L.A. And every Halloween, or every time a guy like Christopher Lee tries for a horror-novelty, "Dracula's Greatest Hits" gets dragged out for an airing. Maybe when he turns 93 Chris, the Hammer "Dracula," might want to take a stab at "I Want to Bite Your Hand." His reputation wouldn't be at stake.

PS, in the case of Gene Moss, the original record IS actually valuable, if the album also includes the "monster trading card" page that RCA thoughtfully tucked in with the vinyl. (Don't hunt for a cover that has Gene Moss in the lower right corner...that's a Photoshop job done here at the blog).



I don't think you'll find a more moving photograph relating to aging, grief, and death, than this one posted on Facebook by the wife of the late Richard Crooks.

Nina Robinson Crooks: "My Angel, Richard, will live on forever in all our hearts. My pain is too much to bear, but, I know I am the luckiest woman on the planet because he chose to marry me and be my soulmate. Thank you, Richard for 23 years of sheer bliss…I have selfishly been hoping that he would some how win at least another January in his many painful battles with health issues that have slowed him for years. Gratefully his pain is over. In a sad way the beat does not go on. He will be missed. May you rest in peace my friend. You made the world a better place…. I will love you until the end of time and beyond."

For most of you, Richard's name is linked with Bob Dylan, although he worked for many years with Dr. John, and played with dozens and dozens of other legends. In September of 1974, Crooks joined Eric Weissberg, Charlie Brown, Tony Brown and Tom McFaul in backing Bob for the "Blood on the Tracks" sessions. Bob's comeback was hurried and bewildering. As Crooks recalled, "…you never knew what Dylan was going to do next... You couldn't rely on there being a predictable set of chord changes all the time; you had to be free-flowing enough to go with the flow.”

Crooks was a Californian who attended San Jose State where he earned his BA in music. He was one of the most dependable session drummers on either coast, and was dubbed "Father Time" for his ability to hit the beat for most any kind of music. This included the bayou rock of Dr. John, who said, "none of them New Orleans motherfuckers play as good as Richard Crooks." Dylan's back-up musicians always respected Richard, and when Soozie Tyrell assembled a band for her first album, Richard Crooks joined veteran Dylan bassist grinning Tony Garnier, and touring guitarist handsome Larry Campbell.

Richard had health setbacks in his later years, including a liver transplant. In 2008 he moved to Key West, Florida, but did not give up on music. He could be seen at the Green Parrot, Sloppy Joe's and BO's Fishwagon. He had lots of friends down there, and they were delighted when, on his 72nd birthday, he was able to get behind the drums for a set. It was one of his last.

Below is "Meet Me in the Morning" from one of the September 1974 sessions at Columbia A&R Studios.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Sometimes I check for news about old favorite singers. I found out recently that Turley Richards just published his autobiography. Great. I found that the neglected pop group Gunhill Road has put out their first new album in 40 years. Great.

I wondered what Priscilla Coolidge was up to (covered here June 9, 2010).

I learned that on the evening of October 3rd she was shot in the head by her husband, and he then turned the gun on himself.

It happened in their home, marked by the red dot, which is in a peaceful suburb of California called Thousand Oaks. You can see there's a golf course on one side. There are mountain views on the other.

While Illville is mostly populated by talented people who, for one reason or another, aren't as famous as they deserve to be, it's a bit surprising that Priscilla's death got almost no coverage in the news. She wasn't, as headlined here, merely "Priscilla Coolidge." Or Priscilla June Coolidge. She was the ex-wife of not one but two celebrities, Booker T. Jones (the 70's) and CBS "60 Minute" icon Ed Bradley (from 1981 to 1984). She was also the sister of Rita Coolidge, and together (with Priscilla's daughter) they formed Walela, singing an unusual mix of rock with some Native American-influenced rhythms and lyrics.

America is such an equal-opportunity for murder, isn't it? Look at that first album cover, "Gypsy Queen." With the blond hair, and carefully styled make-up, she was promoted in an almost Sharon Tate way. But no crazed hippies came after her. When she let her hair go back to natural brunette, and became (along with John and Yoko, I suppose) one of the few interracial couples issuing albums, she and Booker T. fortunately didn't take gunfire on stage. No enemy of Ed Bradley came after her. No psycho with a grudge against "Indians" fired a rifle at Walela when they took the stage. No. But retired, at 73, she was killed. Neighbors reported the sounds of an argument, and a few minutes later, this talented singer and lyricist, beloved sister, mother, grandmother...was gone.

It happened where it's clean and quiet; the modest three-bedroom homes go for the typical upper-Middle class price of about $600,000. Some folks rent their places out for $3,000 or so a month.

You'll find the basics of Priscilla's career in the entry for her elsewhere on the blog. Just type her name in the "search" feature in the upper left-hand corner. There's a "Priscilla June Coolidge" Facebook page that is adding, now and then, snapshots from happier times. It's apparently run by her daughter from the Booker T. marriage.

Below are a few tracks from Priscilla's first album. It was originally issued on Sussex. I have no idea what the label's strategy was, but the ambitious debut covered a lot of territory. Some cuts were soulful, some had a kind of funky bayou tang to them, and a few were more mainstream folk-rock. "Come On Sweet" could easily have been on the soundtrack to some "Easy Rider" type movie of the day, with its California dream of romance. Perhaps some reviewers shied away because Priscilla's lyrics (she wrote most of the album herself) were loaded up with some pretty erotic and obvious imagery:

"Catch me in the sunlight in the morning. Catch me in the morning when I'm new...
Flood me 'cause your rivers run so deep babe, and I will bear your seed before this noon...
Catch me when I'm blooming in the evening, and you can taste the honey from my tree..."
Soon we'll know the darkness coming home babe, just take my hand and lay down next to me."

OK, that stuff got my attention, and I played Priscilla's album on the radio, and that included the next track, "Salty Haze," which was loaded with the hippie-dippie heavy lyrics we disc jockeys were awed by, whether from a Dylan, a Keith Reid or a Gypsy Queen:

"Yesterday some people say, we change our ways and take the graves, but tomorrow, never came from yesterday.
Yesterday the wind would say, was only time and only play for people born into the world of no tomorrow.
But today the ocean waves a misty blue and salty haze over the eyes of people born of yesterday..."

Yes, the lyrics were on the back of the album, including the note that the album was produced by one Booker T. Jones.

Soon, "Booker T. and Priscilla" were on A&M, Priscilla's first album was re-issued on A&M, and there was some hope that perhaps the rising interest in A&M's Rita Coolidge might create some kind of dynasty. And let's not forget the "Kris and Rita" album. How about THIS picture, which includes Priscilla's daughter Laura from an earlier marriage (yes, the one who would later join Priscilla as part of Walela).

You know the rest, obviously. You've heard of Rita Coolidge. You know she was married to Kris. You might even have some of their albums. But it's only through this blog that you've ever heard of Priscilla. The third and last Booker-Priscilla album was issued to great apathy in 1973, and in 1979 she somehow managed one last shot at a solo career with "Flying," an album that you can find on eBay for a buck with no takers. A few years after that, she was the bride of newsman Ed Bradley, which does give you an idea that this very attractive and intelligent lady's range of interests went well beyond the world of rock.

Priscilla seemed to have no shortage of admirers. One of them was William D. Smith, a chunky-looking R&B singer and songwriter who made a few obscure (but not all that interesting, otherwise they'd be on this blog somewhere) albums in the 70's.

Smith: "Priscilla said hey come live with me…Even though I didn't want to move in with her, I did it anyway. The first month I moved in with her, we got along great. No fussing or fighting. She had a great sense of humor. I would walk in the room, and I could tell she had been there by the way it smelled. We hugged and kissed all the time…" Priscilla even wrote some lyrics for his songs, including "I Need You."

. The good times didn't last long: "Priscilla and I started to argue about all kinds of things. I was frustrated and she was frustrated. She had just gotten out of a bad marriage…both of us had come from bad marriages. She was seeing a therapist…Priscilla and I kept fussing…stomp-down arguments…Finally, we both agreed that if we could split up, we wouldn't have so many problems. You know, Priscilla and I could have had a beautiful friendship…"

It seemed that things were pretty nice in the house in Thousand Oaks, where a couple were growing older, and getting visits from loved ones, children, and grand-children just waiting to come into this lovely home in a sunny part of the world.

Priscilla, married at least four times, found a fatal match in Michael J. Seibert. I have limited time in researching material for this free blog, but I tried to get some background on him. He seems to have been previously married to a lady named Toshiko Kikuzaki, and worked for Catapult Entertainment, Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and WebTV. He's also used the alias Michael Seibertreata. There was a minor legal action filed against him on August 8, nearly two months before the murder/suicide. Seibert was asked to fork over about $7,000 in attorney fees involving a "confession judgment" against him going back to 2009. The judge "denied without prejudice" the claim, based on a technicality. The judge was leaving the case open for the plaintiff to file once again against Seibert. I don't know if this, or other financial woes weighed on Seibert over the two months he (and Priscilla) had left.

Priscilla had at least four children, including Paul and Laura Satterfield from her first marriage, and a son and daughter via Booker T. Jones: Booker T. Jones III and Lonnie, who has her own Facebook page, the one for Priscilla, and an Instagram account with lovely photos of herself, her husband and kids, and her beloved mom. Rita's only public statement is a simple one: "“Words cannot express the devastation our family is feeling with the loss of my sister, Priscilla. We are asking for privacy during this time of mourning.”

Two songs from Priscilla's first solo album: Come On Sweet/Salty Haze

MANGO! Italian singer suffers fatal heart attack on stage

No, not THAT "Mango."

THIS Mango:

Most Americans only know of "Mango" the strange cabaret dancer in the pink beret and gold hotpants (played by Chris Kattan on "Saturday Night Live.") "Mango" was overtly gay and creepily given to the kind of pouts and hip-thrusts even Carmen Miranda only used sparingly, but that was the gag. The horrible "Mango" somehow brought out the latent homosexuality in Garth Brooks and other guest hosts, and the heart-broken cry of "Mango!" had audiences roaring with laughter.

No doubt there was a heart-broken cry of "Mango!" when Giuseppe Mango collapsed while performing one of his biggest hits, "Oro."

The Italian pop star (November 6, 1954-December 7, 2014) suffered the "romantic" death many singers hoped: on stage in front of an audience. It's just that he probably didn't want it to happen when he was just 60. An Orbison-type (Roy's heart attack came even earlier, at age 52), Mango enthralled audiences with an unusual voice that could stretch into the higher registers. In the tasteless 80's, some of his pop videos were pretty remarkable for a certain garish, Fellini-esque quality of color and symbolism (like black smoke wafting over a cheesy day-glo dump filled with peculiar looking objects.

Mango's first album was released in 1976, and several of his songs were covered the better-known Italian singer Patty Pravo. The buzz for Mango continued through the next ten years, with "Oro" topping the chats in 1986. Like most Italian pop singers, he was more popular in his native country than in the U.K. or U.S.A., where it's always rare for a foreign language single to get any play at all. The enduring Mr. Mango stayed fresh through 1992 (when he released "Come L'Acqua") and he capped another ten years with "Disincanto" in 2002, and nearly ten years later, he released "La Terra Degli Acuiloni." This 2011 album turned out to be his last.


Addams Family's PUGSLEY dies: KEN WEATHERWAX (Mizzy Music)

KEN WEATHERWAX musical tribute below: "One Little Two Little Three Little Tombstones" by Vic Mizzy.

Once you get above 50, the obit page seems to have two subliminal words on it: YOU'RE NEXT. You're looking at people you grew up with, and people who aren't much older than you. Suddenly the macabre world of "The Addams Family," for example, is not quite so funny. It was amusing when pudgy, dumb-looking Pugsley and his family held a picnic in a cemetery. But…

…with the recent deaths of Jack Bruce, Bobby Keys and Ian McLaglen, it does make it more difficult to ignore mortality. Hell, Ken Weatherwax was a kid at a time many of us were also kids! This guy could've been an older brother. Or a younger brother. (In fact, he was the brother of the kid who played "Porky" a few years earlier on the "Lassie" TV series).

Bruce, Keys and McLaglen are frankly too well known to be on this blog of less renown. Their music has been happily stolen "in tribute" on many blogs. The usual parasitic worms have happily filled their wormholes with every "RIP" request to own all of Jack Bruce and Cream, all of Bobby Keys and the Rolling Stones, all of the Faces albums, etc. etc. Below? Oh, just one cut from the "Addams Family" soundtrack, in honor of a guy I did actually meet.

I met Weatherwax over 20 years ago, and he wasn't as Weather-beaten as he looks in the photo on the right. He had no beard, and he was still pretty chunky (your typical burly stagehand type). He told me that he had been typecast after playing Pugsley, and by the time he got out of the Army, he was just an ordinary guy who wasn't so balloon-y he could get comical fat guy roles. So he drifted behind the scenes and worked in set design and other union jobs. He made a decent living which, later, was augmented when he sat a desk doing the $20-per-photo bit at memorabilia conventions.

I met most of the "Addams Family" gang at one time or another, as interviewer or photographer. They were all very pleasant, down to Earth people. I'll admit that I was far more interested in Lisa Loring (who blossomed from pale, sullen Wednesday to an attractive 20-something) than Ken! John Astin was friendly and intellectual. Jackie Coogan was courteous and serious. Carolyn Jones was like royalty.

Ken, not a trained actor, had gotten the Pugsley job because he was part of a show biz family (Rudd Weatherwax trained Lassie the wonder dog) and there weren't all that many fat kids who looked, well, Pugsley-esque. He was down to Earth, not at all bitter, and seemed grateful to have a little fame and fortune for himself. Not many could parlay a few years on one sitcom into a "hobby" of Comic-Con shows and getting a steady amount of fan mail. One of the shows lesser characters, all he did was show enthusiasm over eating spiders and playing with guillotines and wrecking toy trains and whatever else was Pugsley-esque.

"The Addams Family" soundtrack featured songs for Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Thing and Lurch, but no signature tune for either of the kids. However in tribute to Ken, I've selected the playful "One Little Two Little Three Little Tombstones" to honor him. It's a variation on the finger-snapping title track, with a certain nursery-tune element to it.

If you prefer, the three little tombstones could be for Jack Bruce, Ian McLaglen and Bobby Keys.

One little Two Little Three Little Tombstones

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Consumer Reports is singing out that rice could be bad for you. Like, it's full of ARSENIC.

This news today had me instantly flash to that peculiarly-titled solo album by Ron Nagle: BAD RICE.

A legendary cult record from the leader of San Francisco's Mystery Trend, the album sported the mysterious cover photo of, well, bad rice.

The back cover had a photo of a creepy guy with a missing tooth...which some thought was Mr. Nagle. Actually it was just a kind of warped mascot (sort of like "Old Velvet Nose" the skull that always adorned Warren Zevon discs).

Who was going to buy this weird "Bad Rice" album by this unknown "Ron Nagle" guy? Years later, Nagle went on to form The Durocs, co-write for The Tubes ("Don't Touch Me There") and Streisand and the movies...while maintaining a day job as a ceramics professor and artist.

But let's not get too far from the story of the day. BAD RICE!

According to Consumer Reports, if everything gives you cancer (uh, Joe Jackson song reference!) then don't be surprised that RICE is high on the list: "white basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan, as well as U.S. sushi rice, has about half the inorganic arsenic amount of many other rice types...(rice with) a label from Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas or just the U.S. had the highest levels of inorganic arsenic."

Think you can get away from this by eating brown rice, which is actually harder to digest and for some, much more of a health hazard? "It has 80% more inorganic arsenic than white rice...Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan...has about a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices."

Jack La Lanne, the original television exercise guru who nearly lived to be 100, gave sage advice: "If man makes it, don't eat it."

Of course even if you have a diet of raw vegetables and fruits, and maybe some cooked fish (or chicken if you can stand killing one) you're still dealing with the huge amount of chemicals and pollution in the air and soil these days.

What problems are associated with bad rice? Bladder, lung and skin cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes."

Consumer Reports is not telling people to avoid rice, but they aren't happy with the stats, or the food industry's lax and apathetic view of this and every other problem with heavily processed foods.

Since there's no actual track called "Bad Rice," your sample for the great Ron Nagle is the rockin' "Marijuana Hell," with Ry Cooder sliding around on guitar. Like Zevon, Randy Newman and a few others, Nagle has the ability to stick his tongue out, or in his cheek. Is he laughing at the anti-marijuana bunch, or does he see the dangers? Or both?

America has lately been wobbling closer toward legalized marijuana in every state. So far, there hasn't been much of a problem with legalized pot in Colorado, for example. But are we setting ourselves up for a marijuana hell where people are willing to rob to pay the high price? Will they get lazy and addicted because there are powerful varieties? Will we see more synthetic versions and wiseguys sticking it in food WITHOUT letting a friend know? Oh, it's hell, folks!

Any good news? Well, yes. Ron Nagle is promising a CD release of his album, with bonus tracks. He's also put out a few new solo albums that have been under the radar (sold only on his own website). Ron's DUROCS Capitol album from 1980 was re-issued with bonus tracks. Good news? Listen to Ron Nagle! Bad news? Don't eat too much rice!

RON NAGLE Marijuana Hell w/ Ry Cooder


When "Bajour" was revived for a limited (five performances) engagement in New York, songwriter Walter Marks was there. I asked him if Ernest Kinoy who wrote the book, was going to show up. He said that unfortunately Ernest wasn't well enough to make the long trip from his suburban home. This was back in 2007. I wish I'd written to the guy, because he made The Big Trip Home last week, dead of pneumonia.

You don't know who he is. That's common for most writers. The plus side is that writers don't have the pressure of doing interviews and being under constant scrutiny. The negative is that they (or the wife, or children or friends) have to explain who they are, and when they die, almost nobody even reads the obit, if there even is an obit.

Kinoy probably would list his Broadway work as among his lesser credits. He wrote the script for several musicals, including "Chaplin," and two shows that had scores by Walter Marks: "Golden Rainbow" (hit song: "I've Got To Be Me") and "Bajour" (no hit songs). Naturally, "Bajour" is not only my favorite from Marks, but in the Top 5 of my favorite musicals.

Kinoy contributed a joke-flecked sitcom story, and Walter Marks the songs. Walter's melodies are catchy and his lyrics are very, very clever. Like Cole Porter and later, Tom Lehrer, Marks was a fan of wordplay and inner rhyme. In a story about an anthropologist (Nancy Dussault) fascinated with a bunch of gypsy con-artists in New York, she sings about a "diatribe on why a tribe" is worth writing about. She notes that an anthropologist must discover an ethnic people, the same way "you're not an etymologist until you get the word, you're not an ornithologist until you get the bird."

In the insane Marks world, the villainess (Chita Rivera) brags to her tribeswomen, that she's "a pungent limburg cheese to you insipid camemberts."

It was a musical where a shout of "Virtue" was met with "Gezundheit," love advice was sung by Betty Boop (Mae Questel, who recorded the cartoon voice decades earlier) and two gypsy leaders (Herschel Bernardi and Herb Edelman) engage in insults about their offspring: "I hear you got a daughter so ugly, nobody would look if she was barefoot up to the neck!" "I hear you got a boy so stupid, even if he did look, he wouldn't know the difference!"

Their duet, "Honest Man" is below. The subplot of the show was the combining of the two tribes, thanks to a convenient marriage. Still, the gypsy leaders eye each other warily, and catch-phrases like "that's what you think" and "big deal" and "wise guy" take on both friendly and insulting meanings.

It might be the first time "Up Yours" was heard on Broadway.

Most Broadway shows have one obligatory comic song. This one had several. Maybe that's part of why it didn't last more than one season. The designated love songs and pop singles ("Why Must It Be Love" "Love is a Chance") were pretty good.

What did Ernest Kinoy do before and after his Broadway shows with Walter Marks? Everything. The man was a genius. But first he had to get through World War 2, which wasn't easy. Captured, he was taken to a Stalag (yes, just like Hogan and his heroes) but when the Nazis discovered Kinoy was a Jew, they hauled him to a tough, slave labor camp instead.

After the war, Kinoy wrote for sci-fi radio shows ("Dimension X" and "X Minus One"), Frank Sinatra's short-lived "Rocky Fortune," and then TV ("Studio One," "The Defenders," "Naked City," Dr. Kildare" and others). He won Emmy awards, and moved on to made-for-TV movies and theatrical films. Being a good Jewish liberal writer, he tended to write not about his people, but the other minority group, blacks. He wrote movies for Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte (including "Buck and the Preacher") and "Roots The Next Generations" and "Victory at Entebbe" about Idi Amin.

One of his last major works was "Chernobyl," a 1991 TV movie starring Jon Voight. Ernest's wife Barbara died in 2007. The next of Kin-oy are two children from the marriage. A fine writer, was Ernest Kinoy (April 1, 1925 – November 10, 2014), a versatile man, a heroic man, and an honest man. I wish I could've said or written "thanks, Ernest" to him personally.

Herschel Bernardi and Herb Edelman "Honest Man"

JIMMIE RODGERS - TROUBLED TIMES "Do they Know He has a Christmas Album?"

Yeah, the TV commercials are blasting away and stores are full of seasonal goodies. It's THAT time of year. For the older musicians, it's a time when the year end royalty check either doesn't come, or it's chump change. Joining the rest of their albums on the "music should be free" Internet, are any Christmas they made. What would Jesus do? Set up a Christmas blog and give away every seasonal album from Dean Martin to Bob Dylan? Some people must think so!

Jesus could also turn water into wine while mere mortal singers and songwriters can't magically fill the kitchen with loaves and fish sticks. They need payment.

Millionaire Bob Geldof isn't concerned with pioneering figures of the 50's and 60's who aren't getting decent royalties and can't tour 100 dates a year in their old age. Charity begins at home, Bob. Do you know how most in the music industry spend Christmas? Clue: the problem is people NOT spending money on music.

Jimmie Rodgers has a Christmas album and you can order it at He'll even autograph it. The tracks include: O Holy Night, The First Noel, Silent Night, We Three Kings, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Come All Ye Faithful, White Christmas and more. They're sung in what is actually a pretty unique style. Rodgers, a folksinger originally, with country leanings (we all remember "Honeycomb") did have a gentle Como-type of voice. It was well suited to the gentle protest song "Child of Clay," which was a big hit before he got "the big hit" from an insane cop who pulled him over on the freeway and nearly killed him.

At the time, Rodgers was enjoying a well-deserved "second act" in his career. Signed to the same label as Phil Ochs, he was balancing social conscience songs with the moody pop hits of the day ("Windmills of Your Mind," Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," Joni's "Both Sides Now") as well as genial up-tempo numbers. He had grown up from the simple days of "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," without alienating the old fans. He was finding new ones. But after the attack, the handsome singer lost vital months to rehab, and his momentum was lost. The affects of his near-fatal beating haunted him and hindered him.

"Troubled Times" was the appropriate name of the "lost" A&M album that came out after "Child of Clay." While Collector Choice put his first two A&M albums on a CD, this one, no. Other cuts include "Woman Crying" and "The Good Times Are Gone."

Rodgers' "Troubled Times" album isn't really that gloomy. It reflected a kind, optimistic personality. Now about 80 years old, he still likes to get out there from time to time, and appear at a "celebrity show" if he can. He and his manager run the website and a Facebook page, and he has music and even an autobiography for sale. Geldof was proud to say he raised a million dollars in less than a day with his latest starfest Christmas song, the money disappearing into some black hole (as has happened since George Harrison and "Bangla Desh"). Too bad Geldof and the others aren't concerned with the pioneer singers and songwriters who came before them and built up the pop industry they plunder.

Jimmie Rodgers has a Christmas album for sale (and not on Spotify; something Taylor Swift understands, but Geldof and his pals do not). Blessings to those who know it's out there, and want to buy it.

Jimmie Rodgers "Troubled Times"

Sunday, November 09, 2014

RICHARD TURLEY - The Rockabilly Who Got Blindsighted

Here's Part One (the early years) in my salute to Turley Richards, who has just published his memoir "Blindsighted."

His early singles on the indie Fraternity label, were issued under his real name: Richard Turley. The teenager's very first recording, "Makin' Love with My Baby" fit right in with what Elvis, Jerry Lee and Bill Haley were doing, and remains a rockabilly "Hall of Fame" classic. From the start, Turley was not only a great singer, but he could write a solid song, too. This was already an achievement for a kid who could've been written off when he was just four.

At four, the kid from West Virginia was playing with some friends. The game was for the oldest kid (twelve) to show off with a bow and arrow. The giggling kids would bend over and use a pillow as the "target." Wham! Ha ha!

You guessed it. All went well till it was Richard's turn. He waited. He waited. He turned around to see what was delaying the arrow…and it lanced his eye.

This was the start of a literally scarred childhood. An infection in the damaged eye spread to the other. It was almost a race against time for Richard Turley to become a superstar while he still could see the faces on the pretty girls who flocked around him. He endured bizarre treatments (the doctor would pop his good eye out, clear scar tissue, put it back in). Because he grew to be a 6'4" 200 pounder, had to literally fight off a variety of clowns who wanted to take down a big man, not realizing this was a man blind in one eye. As page after page of his book shows, this guy had to fight almost all of his life.

The most difficult opponent was luck. Every time he seemed to have won, and defeated an obstacle, a new one would appear. He'd sign with a new record label for more money and more prestige, only to lose out because of the whims of radio stations or an error in management or confusion over musical direction (C&W, rockabilly, rock, folk, gospel, R&B…he could do them all).

The colorful stories in his book could make for one hell of a movie. He learned the hard way. How about singing "black" to the point where he got bookings in the South…only to be shot at by racists? How about getting a chance to tour, only to discover how easily club owners could screw an artist? One owner offered no money up front, but a percentage of the door? When Richard and his band received no money, the gang unscrewed the front door from its hinges. The club owner shouted, "What the hell are you doing?" Turley: "You said that we could play for the door. Well, we played, so now I'm taking what we earned!"

People outside the business thinks it's easy to get a demo into the right hands, and anyone who makes a record has gotten a huge advance and is doing well from brilliant management and an agent who arranges well-paying tours. Uh, no. This book will tell you the truth. In fact, the early days almost ended the career of Richard Turley.

After frustration with touring, and a deal with Dot Records that fell through, he sold his guitar in California and came back home. "Everybody says that you're the best singer they've ever heard," his mother told him. "God gave you a gift, and you've got to use it. I taught you to never give up and defeat is no option…You might be totally blind someday, and music is how you're going to earn your living."

And so he continued. Deals came and went. In one bizarre chapter, he talks of becoming a "Midnight Cowboy." In the film, Joe Buck comes to New York with the intent of becoming a rent boy. He failed. Turley succeeded. While he did have to sleep in Central Park before he made it as a stud, eventually two girls sharing an apartment decided to share him, too. He drifted among the rich girls, but kept moving any time things got serious. The guy was always very stubborn and independent…at one point becoming the lead singer for The Kingsmen on tour, only to part ways, figuring he could do better.

The book is loaded with stories about his wild times in the big city, and sharing the stage with up-and-coming talent including Richard Pryor (Turley actually ad-libbed stuff that had Pryor on the floor) and Jimi Hendrix. He got signed to Columbia and a single came roaring up the chart…until someone got the bright idea of putting a photo of him in Billboard. It turned out black radio stations were playing Turley's R&B song, and when they discovered he wasn't really black, they stopped. That's show biz…and rotten. And it got worse. The same thing was going on with his health. His eyesight was improving but the medication was destroying him with side effects. Eventually the meds stopped working and the light failed…just as he was getting his biggest break…a deal with Warners.

Below, the "rockabilly" Richard Turley…before he became the rocking Turley Richards.

Richard Turley Makin' Love With My Baby

Richard Turley "I Wanna Dance"

TURLEY RICHARDS: "Love Minus Zero" Plus Hard Luck

It always seemed Richard Turley would turn his luck around…especially when he literally turned his name around, into Turley Richards. In November 1969, 45 years ago this month…he signed with Warners and covered Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)." It hit the Billboard Top 100. What could go wrong?


Turley Richards, with a five octave range and the ability to sing any type of music, was now being sold as a singer/songwriter. Warners in 1969 positioned him as part of their folk-rock stable, which included James Taylor, acid folkies Pearls Before Swine and Greenwich Village legend Hamilton Camp. Warners was happy that Turley's single was charting. But instead of grinning, they should've been manufacturing the album.

"It was virtually unheard of for a record label not to release an album right after the single charted," Richards writes in his new book "Blindsighted." Even so, there was reason for optimism. A track on the album, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus," was a critical sensation. It not only showed off his five octave range, but his ability to do everything from deep, righteously brotherly crooning to anguished, gravel-voiced gospel-shouts. It fulfilled the promise he showed when he turned up on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" with a full-ranged version of "Summertime."

Richard was also touring, winning praise from others on the bill, including Laura Nyro and Miriam Makeba. While "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" was too long for a single (there was a 4 minute promo made), Warners figured another album of light rock tunes would continue the success he had with the rather mild "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)." Unfortunately there was no shortage of "mellow" at the time, especially from James Taylor. Despite a Vanilla Fudge-styled slow-mo version of the soul classic "My World is Empty Without You Babe," the album didn't do too well and the "West Virginia Superstar" had to find a new record label.

What he found was more frustration, whether it was Epic or Atlantic, whether the promises came from Ahmet Ertegun or Mick Fleetwood. He had a manager who turned down an amazing offer from Merv Griffin, who wanted Turley as a regular. Turley invested money in himself to try and push a song called "You Might Need Somebody" (Atlantic) to the top, something that Kapp, Columbia and Epic couldn't do with their chosen singles.

The song zoomed up the Billboard charts, but the rocket disintegrated in mid-flight. The album seemed to disappear off the chart without a trace. "I had paid $15,000 out of my own pocket to an independent radio promotion man…now I called him to ask what the hell just happened. He told me he had never seen anything like it in his entire career of promoting records…I smelled a rat…."

Turley has a good sense of humor (his album "Therfu" borrows from the middle portion of "motherfucker") but after all these years, the ups and downs were no longer funny. Eventually there came the big decision; accept yet another record deal, take another tour on the road…or stay home and work some kind of day job. He chose to stay home. "Not only would I have missed my kids growing up, I would have been shirking my responsibilities as their dad. Today, there is no father out there who knows that his kids love him with the depth that I do. We have a very special bond and I wouldn't trade that for all the record deals in the world." He learned how to get along despite his blindness. He was able to learn how to use a computer, how to get around without a guide dog, and how to set up his chosen business (teaching singing and songwriting).

Over the past 20 years, Turley's performed in local clubs in the Kentucky area, as well as "corporate" gigs. He's tried to sell his music through downloads on his website, and at one point I recall he even tried a "buy it if you like it" deal, offering a new album free, with a link to Paypal. In the book Turley notes that indie labels have "no artist development money. These types of labels rely on the artist playing at least one hundred dates a year." The last time he signed with a label like that, all he got was boxes of CDs taking up space in his garage.

Now he may have a box or two of books in there as well, but hopefully these will start to move as word-of-mouth builds. This is a great memoir. He opted to self-print his book, and while that usually means an amateurish product, that's not the case here. His book is well-edited, thoroughly professional, printed on quality paper, and the bonus is that it comes with a 6 song CD including a remastered "I Heard the Voice of Jesus." Go to his website to order it:

I was glad to get this book because I always wanted to know more about this mysterious guy who created one of the most awesome tracks of all time with "I Heard the Voice of Jesus." Not many ever achieve something like this. The most recent person I can think of, is Siobhan Magnus, who stunned "American Idol" with "freakish notes" in her cover of "Think," and then "Paint it Black." But she didn't win the show and hasn't solved the problem if how to make a living touring and selling albums. She, like Turley, couldn't simply do "the gimmick" over and over, and turn every song into a showcase for octave range and varied stylings.

If you don't know Turley's music, I'm sure the downloads on the blog will be an inspiration to collect his albums and singles. I hope it also inspires you to buy the book. It's Turley's tale but it's also the story behind most any unique artist you like; one who made a few albums on different labels and earned your love and respect, even if it didn't translate into fame and fortune.

Love Minus Zero No Limit