Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Remembering Ted Lightnin' Kratter


Ted Lightnin' Kratter, a force on the local bluegrass scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, walking encyclopedia of American roots music and much beloved friend to many, passed away of cancer on Sunday.

Those who knew Ted's driving guitar and mandolin music marveled at his unique synthesis of protean elements from Jerry Garcia, Clarence White, John Fahey, Bill Monroe, Leo Kottke, David Grisman, Robbie Robertson and Duane Allman, as well as his ability to recall all the verses from "Smoke On The Water". Those who knew Ted as a friend, colleague and bandmate enjoyed his original blast of positive energy, good humor, generosity and insightful knowledge on diverse topics.

Adieu and good night, Ted, and we'll talk some more when it's my time. Peace out.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And This Blog Loves The Boswell Sisters

When reflecting on the many splendid musical talents from New Orleans – and the mere thought of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Henry "Red" Allen, Irma Thomas, Fats Domino, Guitar Slim, Dr. John, James Black, James Booker, Professor Longhair, all variations on The Meters, Radiators and The Wild Tchoupitoulas, Allen Toussaint, Ed Blackwell, The Marsalises, The Batistes, The Nevilles, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton and swingin’ Harry Connick Jr. brings a big, fat, deep-in-the soul smile to my face – don't forget the fabulous Boswell Sisters: Martha (1905 - 1958), Connee (1907 - 1976) and Vet (1911 - 1988).



With Glenn Miller arrangements and the skilled backing of New York's finest session musicians - Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Carl Kress, Eddie Lang, Joe Venuti, etc. - The Boswell Sisters recorded numerous sprightly tunes for Okeh and Brunswick.



Like their contemporaries - Satchmo, Fats, Cab, Basie, Billie, Django, Duke, Earl "Fatha" Hines, etc. - they made recordings that swing like mad and still sound great 80 years later!





Here are The Boswells at the top of their game, in The Big Broadcast Of 1932, a wonderful Paramount Pictures musical that also features the original Swooner Crooner himself, Mr. Bing Crosby. Swing it, Boswell Sisters!





Three cheers for The Boswell Sisters, three gals linked in sweet harmony.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Latest Treasure Trove For Classic Comedy Geeks by Paul F. Etcheverry



Firing up that Beatles classic Revolver album for the annual ceremonial listening of George Harrison's Taxman and pondering when I will attend The Stanford Theatre's Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, this blogger must call attention to some recent additions to the category of now available cinematic rarities: these DVD releases, combined with last fall's epic Chaplin At Keystone box set, present nothing less than a classic comedy bonanza.



First and foremost, there's The Ernie Kovacs Collection. Arguably, Ernie Kovacs, who first hit the airwaves almost 20 years before Monty Python and a quarter century before Saturday Night Live and SCTV, is still the most brilliant, forward-thinking comedy auteur to have ever worked in television.



On the heels of Tuesday night's Kovacs tribute at Manhattan's Paley Center For Media, the 6-DVD box set will be officially released by Shout Factory on April 19.


We can think the wonderful singer-comedienne (and Ernie's wife) Edie Adams, who bought all the Kovacs footage she could, for the very existence of this DVD. Edie's son, Josh Mills, elaborates:



Ken Tucker, prolific writer on 20th century pop culture over the years, has penned a glowing review of the new Ernie retrospective in Entertainment Weekly. David Bianculli followed suit on NPR's Fresh Air from WHYY.


This 6-DVD box set, curated by film historian and silent film accompanist Ben Model, concentrates on Ernie's NBC shows of the 1950's, which (with the exception of a brief run on Comedy Central in the early 1990's) have rarely been seen since their original broadcast and never were issued on VHS or laserdisc. Those who pre-order the set will get a 7th DVD in the bargain.

Not to be outdone, Warner Archive released a 4-DVD set of the historic and often quite funny Vitaphone Varieties one-reelers on April 12.


This compendium of 60 short films from 1926-1930, restored from the last surviving film elements known to exist and never before released on DVD, is quite the "dawn of talkies" (A.K.A. the "boom microphone in the plant" era) time capsule - filled with musical novelty acts, nutjob comics, vaudevillians, opera singers and stage character actors picking up a little extra dough.

Alas, your correspondent is still catching up to last year's Warner Archive releases, especially the pre-Code "showgirls n' surrealism" packed Vitaphone Cavalcade Of Musical Comedy Shorts


As well as the Classic Musical Shorts From The Dream Factory box set.



And then's more. . .

Those ultra-geeky (in the best sense of the phrase) dyed-in-the-wool film buffs who have a multi-region DVD system which will play discs other than NTSC, specifically the the PAL broadcast standard, will love Edition Filmmuseum's riotously funny retrospective of Hal Roach Studio comedies starring Yiddish comedian-character actor Max Davidson.


The Max Davidson series was Leo McCarey's pet project at Roach in 1928, between his very successful stints writing and co-directing outrageous comedy shorts featuring Charley Chase and Laurel & Hardy.

All of the above present the entertainment equivalent of crack for incurable classic comedy and vintage movie geeks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11 Is International "Louie Louie" Day

I'm glad there's a day set aside to honor Richard Berry's iconic tune, Louie Louie, first recorded in 1957. Since our favorite radio station, KFJC, played it for 63 hours straight without repeating the same recording twice, the least we could do on the blog today is spotlight a handful of worthy renditions, starting with Richard Berry's.



Berry's magnum opus would be immortalized just a few years later by Pacific Northwest garage bands The Kingsmen and Paul Revere & The Raiders - and was soon covered by Southern California's pride, The Beach Boys and British invasion faves The Kinks.











There's even a reggae version of "Louie Louie".



The following version by The Doors has terrible sound quality and would appear to be an example of Jim Morrison's 1970-1971 downhill spiral - but here it is, nonetheless. This blogger can imagine "Light My Fire", "Touch Me" or "L.A. Woman" morphing deftly into "Louie Louie" in a Doors set.



Once The Lizard King himself had sung "Louie Louie", every punk and proto-metal band on and off the block would follow suit.













Even Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention got into the act, at the Royal Albert Hall no less!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday, Eddie Murphy



Eddie Murphy, most recently a mainstay of Dreamworks' Shrek franchise and an Academy Award nominee for his performance in Dreamgirls, celebrates his 50th birthday today - and man, does that make those of us who remember his rise to prominence as the up-and-coming teenage comic on Saturday Night Live feel old.

The urban legend goes that Eddie, showing the tenacity required for success in show business, got hired as a featured player for the 1980-1981 season by auditioning daily and unrelentingly for the show's staff. He joined a young cast in a no-win situation: succeed the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players (Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Akyroyd, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and Laraine Newman, joined by Bill Murray in season 2) in the first season of the late-night comedy show not produced by series founder Lorne Michaels - and with most of the ace sketch writers who cranked out material for the first five seasons of Saturday Night Live having abandoned ship.

Eddie soon became the cleanup hitter on the spotty but at times outrageously funny SNL of the early 1980's, with such over-the-top sketches as Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, The Velvet Jones School Of Technology and James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party.




It was no surprise when Eddie soon hit the big time in Hollywood movies and earned Brinks trucks full of do-re-me for Paramount Pictures.








On the one hand, this blogger salutes Eddie Murphy, who will be hosting the 2012 Oscars, for making him laugh loudly - very loudly - and often over an extended stretch of years.

On the other hand, it's disappointing to not see Eddie's formidable acting and comedy chops more often these days. A new chapter as a versatile actor in a wide variety of provocative indie films, or even in offbeat comedies produced and written by Judd Apatow, Christopher Guest, Robert Smigel or the Coen Brothers does not sound like his style, but sure would be an intriguing prospect.