All posts by mikeandpaulsmusicblog

The End of an Era or the Birth of a Supergroup?

By Senior Reporter Mike O’Connor

Exclusive to Rolling Stone

 

This intrepid reporter has braved any number of strange, dangerous and often unlawful escapades in a mostly undistinguished career of rock journalism. Naked parasailing with David Lee Roth, home chemistry experiments with Ozzy Osborne, Going to the mall with Miley Cyrus all seemed like quaint anecdotes to me as I got off the 12 seat, one and a half engine “airplane” at the Scruggsville County Airport in Scruggsville, Georgia.

I was in S’town, as the locals like to call it, for the self-described concert of the century. The car service hired by Rolling Stone to pick me up was a guy named Earl who was late because his shift at the pig rendering plant ended 20 minutes after my flight arrived. The wait was well worth it as the smell of the inside of his truck prepared me for the sensory delights I was to later experience.

The reason for my journalistic sojourn was a concert taking place at the venerable Cletus T. Judwell Auditorium and Chemical Storage Facility. The headlining act……… the much rumored and highly anticipated debut of the supergroup The Growling Beavers. For six years the public has been clamoring, albeit in a quiet and almost unnoticed way, for this union of the remnants of two of southwest Georgia’s most fabled iconic bands. The Zeke Stensland Band disbanded in 2001 when its lead guitarist, principle songwriter and guy who owned the van, Bo “Skeeter” Skidmore was tragically killed in an explosion of his still. The Tire Irons Disbanded in 2002 when their manager stole their instruments and three of the four members were arrested in an illegal turkey smuggling sting operation.

After four years of legal wrangling Redneck records announced the release of the Beavs debut album “Songs We Wrote on Parole”. It immediately rose to number 237 on the Southwest Georgia Country Rock /Hillbilly music charts.

The Band took the stage one hour late to the strains of The 1812 Overture, which played until catcalls of “Turn off that Commie Crap!” were heard from the audience. Lead singer/ bass player Zeke Stensland was joined onstage by lead guitarist Delbert Mealy, harmonica player Jebadiah “Stonewall” Jackson, and drummer Darnell Dankins. The band immediately launched into its barn burning soon to be classic “Bucket Full o’ Love.” A portion of the audience immediately left the venue, went across the street and burned down a barn. Though ragged at times the band hit its groove midway through the show when Zeke took center stage, lights dimmed and he performed the three-song acoustic suite “Truck Stop Angel/Tractor Romance/My Darlin’ Loves Venison.”

Though never known as politically active, the band joined the immigration debate with Delbert Mealy’s thought provoking “Go Back to Cuba You Stupid Mexicans”. This received a rousing response from a group of men wearing strange hats who apparently showed up after mistakenly assuming they were at the new lodge for the Loyal Order of Moose.

The main set ended on a high note with the fan favorite “Triple Whopper Thanksgiving” leaving the crowd screaming and gasping for more……or maybe it was a reaction to the chemical fumes. The encore left an indelible mark on this reviewer as the audience was brought to a state of bliss by “My Truck Smells Like Beer but My Heart Feels Like Poop,” only to be blown away by the finale “Whole Lotta Yard Waste.”

The crowd screamed for more, for exactly one minute and twelve seconds, until word reached the audience that a truck from the Oscar Meyer plant had overturned on Highway 12, dumping 7 tons of pork product onto the road and it was first come first served.

I tried to talk to the band for a post concert interview but found them to be occupied in a game of “chase the rat around the dumpster” and were unavailable for comment.

Epilogue: 12/2/2008

Red Neck Records has announced that The Growling Beavers have decided to cancel their scheduled tour of Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Florida Panhandle. The band regrets any inconvenience to their several fans and promises a tour in the summer of 2009, provided they can prove that a concert tour meets the definition of community service.

 

 

*Originally featured in my wife, Wendy O’Connor’s  annual publication  “The Girlfriend’s Cookbook  (and year in review) in 2008

 

 

Bad Band Names

Flea circus

Trail Mix and the Hedgehogs

Sodium Glutamate

Gomer Pyle

Doo Wop Gangsta

Meh

Employee Discount

Cleopatra and the Asps

Fred Flintstone

Lehigh County Medical Society

Trash Boy and the Dumpster Divers

The Music Players

The Textbooks

The Articles of Confederation

The Coupons

The Septic Tank Emergency

Cindi with a Y

The Snowplows

Ampersand and  the semicolons

The Furry Bunnies

 

 

 

 

 

Today in Music History July 15

1978, The Rolling Stones started a two-week run at No.1 on the US album chart with Some Girls the group’s seventh US No.1 album.  It was a commerical and critical success, with many saying it was their best since 1972’s classic Exile on Main Street. The cover was designed by Peter Corriston, and featured The Rolling Stones in garish drag alongside select female celebrities and lingerie ads. The cover immediately ran into legal trouble when Lucille Ball, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minnelli (representing her mother Judy Garland), Raquel Welch, and the estate of Marilyn Monroe all threatened legal action for the use of their images without permission. The album was then re-issued with a cover that removed all celebrity images. Below is the re-issued cover.

Image result for some girls

2007, Prince continues his unique independent streak (and thumbing his nose at the music industry and convention) by releasing his album Planet Earth as a ‘covermount’ in the UK Mail on Sunday newspaper, 10 days before it was to released to stores.  The music industry was not pleased.  Stephen Miron, the newspaper’s managing director, said: “No one has done this before. We have always given away CDs and DVDs, but this is just setting a new level.”

Image result for prince planet earth

Sources: This Day in Music.com; Wikipedia

The Story of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land from NPR Music’s NPR 100

 

Woody Guthrie.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Some have called “This Land Is Your Land” an alternative national anthem. Others say it’s a Marxist response to “God Bless America.” It was written and first sung by Woody Guthrie. Over time, it’s been sung by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Folklorist Nick Spitzer has the story of an American classic.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in 1912 in Okemah, Okla. He recorded “This Land Is Your Land” during a marathon April 1944 session in New York for Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records. Guthrie was on shore leave from the Merchant Marines, one of his many occupations during the Depression and war years.

Growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Guthrie heard church hymns, outlaw ballads, blues, fiddle tunes and popular music. The Guthries had been fairly prosperous — Woody’s father was a small-time politician and businessman — but the family unraveled in the topsy-turvy oil economy of the ’20s and ’30s. The Guthrie family relocated to Pampa, Tex., after Woody’s mother was committed to a mental institution for a mysterious nervous condition. That’s when Woody took to the road.

As a boy, he’d already proven himself to be a gifted street entertainer — dancing, playing guitar and harmonica, making up songs as he went. Words and music became a growing passion for him.

Original Lyrics

“This Land Is Your Land” wasn’t released by Folkways until 1951, but the song was originally written in February 1940, when Woody Guthrie first arrived in New York City from Oklahoma. Guthrie had a keen ear for the recordings of Virginia’s Carter Family, and he was not afraid to borrow. A 1930 gospel recording, “When the World’s on Fire,” sung by the Carters, must have provided the tune for what would become “This Land Is Your Land.”

Musician, activist and Guthrie’s fellow traveler Pete Seeger has probably sung “This Land” more than anyone else. He says that Guthrie made good use of the popular melodies of the day.

“He tended to write words first, and later on picked out a tune,” Seeger says. “Woody once said, ‘When I’m writing a song and I get the words, I look around for some tune that has proved its popularity with the people.'”

Social Commentary

A man happier on the road than at home, he’d walked, hitched and ridden the rails all over the country. He went first to the Gulf Coast, then west to California, where he joined the half-million so-called Okies and Arkies — Dust Bowl refugees migrating in search of better lives. Although Guthrie purposefully threw himself into these travels partly to escape family troubles and his disintegrating first marriage, what he saw and experienced as he cris-crossed the country contributed to his emergence as a social commentator.

He was irritated by Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” sung by Kate Smith, which seemed to be endlessly playing on the radio in the late 1930s. So irritated, in fact, that he wrote this song as a retort, at first sarcastically calling it “God Blessed America for Me” before renaming it “This Land Is Your Land.” Guthrie’s original words to the song included this verse:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

This verse was recorded by Moses Asch in 1944, but not released. In fact, Guthrie’s recorded version was more or less lost until Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place heard the acetate master during a 1997 transfer of the recording to a digital format. Still, it was sung at rallies, around campfires and in progressive schools. It was these populist lyrics that had appealed to the political Left in America.

Radical Verses

Guthrie’s folk-singing son, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger have both made a point of singing the more radical verses to “This Land Is Your Land,” also reviving another verse that Guthrie wrote but never officially recorded. This verse was scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf paper now in the possession of daughter Nora’s Woody Guthrie Archives.

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,
by the relief office I saw my people.
As they stood hungry,
I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.

Nora Guthrie says she has an idea why these words may not have been recorded at the 1944 session — and why the ‘private property’ verse that was recorded was not issued. “This is the early ’50s, and [U.S. Sen. Joseph] McCarthy’s out there, and it was considered dangerous in many ways to record this kind of material,” she says.

“If my dad had done the recording, I don’t think it would have meant anything to him if he was imprisoned, actually,” she says. “He was quite used to living without and having nights in prison and things like that. Like most of the things, if we’re talking about my dad, it gets very complex here. So I think, you know, The Weavers originally just recorded the first three verses — which, in one way, was very, very helpful to my dad, because we had no money. So thank God that they recorded something, and our family was able to get some royalties from that.”

Later in his life, Guthrie lost his ability to play guitar and sing, but he continued to write and inspire a younger generation of performers. Bob Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg and the band Wilco — these are just some of the musicians who have followed in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie. When Guthrie recorded “This Land Is Your Land,” he ended with this verse:

When the sun comes shining, then I was strolling,
With the wheat fields waving, the dust clouds rolling,
The voice come a-chanting, and the fog was lifting.
This land was made for you and me.

 

 

 

Today in Music History July 14

1912, Born on this day, Woodrow Wilson ‘Woody’ Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma. Guthrie was a folk singer and songwriter in the 1930s and 1940s, famous for his ‘Dust Bowl Ballads’ and protest songs. One of his best known songs, This Land is Your Land, was written as a protest answer to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. His work was a major influence on a whole generation of folk and rock musicians, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.  He frequently performed with a guitar with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on it. Guthrie had the neurodegenerative disorder Huntingon’s Disease, which took his life on October 3rd 1967.

 

 

1958, The Quarrymen, featuring future Beatles John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, along with John “Duff” Lowe on piano and Colin Hanton on drums, recorded a vanity disc at a electronics shop studio owned by a man named Percy Phillips. The band recorded ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and ‘In Spite Of Danger’ in one take each.

 

1977, Elvis Costello and The Attractions made their live debut supporting Wayne County at The Garden, Penzance, Cornwall, England.

242px-1977-07-14_Penzance_ad

 

Roughly 5 months later, he performed on SNL and famously stopped the planned song Less than Zero, and launched into Radio Radio.  This got him banned from the show for more than 12 years.

 

Sources: This Day in Music.com; Wikipedia; YouTube