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George Theiss 1949-2018. Bandmate of Bruce Springsteen in his first band The Castiles

George Theiss passed away this past Friday, July 13.

From Backstreets.com:

GEORGE THEISS, 1949-2018

George Theiss died on Friday after a two-year battle with lung cancer. He was 68. Theiss was Bruce Springsteen’s bandmate in their teen-years band The Castiles; Springsteen is now the last surviving member of that band.

Theiss formed The Castiles — named after the shampoo that he used — in late 1964 and was the band’s lead singer. He had been dating Virginia Springsteen for a while before learning that her brother could play the guitar; George soon invited Bruce to join the band. In his Born to Run autobiography, Springsteen identified The Castiles as “my first real band”….  He also described George Theiss as “the best vocalist we had. He had a real voice and charisma and did the job well. I was considered toxic in front of a microphone…

The Castiles actually got as far as playing New York City’s famous Café Wha? and doing a bit of recording. Their two-track recording of “Baby I,” a song that Springsteen and Theiss wrote together, was featured on Chapter and Verse, the 2016 compilation released in conjunction with the Born to Run autobiography.  After The Castiles broke up, George Theiss remained a fixture on the Jersey Shore music scene through the 1970s and 1980s, later leading Cahoots and The George Theiss Band, and continuing to write and perform.

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.

 

 

 

Mike’s Top 10 for 2015

Ok here we go! The anxiously-awaited (by 1 or 2 of you) year round up of the top ten favorite, most interesting new albums.

Starting at #10 the interestingly named Father John Misty with the catchy little gem. Especially like the horns on this one

Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Houndmouth’s album sounded like something old and new at the same time and produced Sedona, 1 of me top 2 or three songs of the year
The # 9 album – Little neon Limelight

Houndmouth – Sedona (Live on KEXP)

Some got upset when Mumford and Songs got away from their jangly guitars and banjos. Not me. Loved this album Here’s Ditmas from #8 album, Wilder Mind

Mumford & Sons – Ditmas

I know this is kind of breaking my own rule but the River reissue has previously unreleased tracks like this great one. #7 The River (reissue)

Bruce Springsteen – Meet Me in the City (Live on SNL)

#6 This video looks like a rolling stones tour video from 1972 and the lead singer is channeling a bit of Freddy Mercury but this song remained on heavy rotation all summer in my running mix

The Struts – Could Have Been Me

#5 Born on Fire by Ike Reilly, a guy i stumbled onto on Tom Morello’s Instagram feed. GREAT stuff going back ten years crossing from rock to roots to punk.

Born On Fire

#4 gives us the only song I’ve ever heard about the DTs. Probably my favorite song of the year. Almost blew up my car stereo with this one

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – S.O.B. (Official)

#3 Courtney Barnett might be the best thing to come out of Australia i a long time. This album is great beginning to end. Had a hard time just choosing a song

Courtney Barnett – Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party

#2 This band becoming a mainstay in my top 10. I sat on the beach at OBX for a week and listened to this album about 20 times. Love the sentiment in this song

Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands (Official Video)

#1 Positive Songs for Negative People produced this excellent song and 2015 was the year of Getting Better . It also produced one of the highlights of my year. A club show in Philly with Paul Scott, Hanna OConnor, Cait OConnor, Erin Campbell and Eric Martin. What’s better than a concert with your kids?….. not much

Frank Turner – Get Better (Lyric Video)

Mike’s Top 10 for 2017

Here it comes folks! My 5th or 6th or possibly 7th ( I’m just guessing) annual top 10 list of my favorite albums of the year. Starting of at #10 Is The Nashville Sound from Jason Isbell and the 400 unit. Brilliant, talented songwriter and performer

#9 The National from the album Sleep Well Beast. Really like this band. last album good . this album great.

#8 Up all night from Becks album Colors. Another left turn for this musical chameleon. Great beats, fun, catchy and impossible to get out of your head.

#7 Concrete and Gold from one of my all-time favs the Foo Fighters. This is “The Line.”

#6 From Philly and Scranton making their first appearance in my top 10, the Menzingers with After the Party. “Lookers” really got me . How can you not like a song that name checks the wonder bar from Asbury park and references Jack Kerouac.

#5 Japandroids album Near to the Wild heart of Life an absolutely great listen top to bottom (played really loud). This song made every hard run a little easier.

#4 Saw Dave Hause when he opened for Frank Turner at a gritty little club in Reading. Fantastic live. This album got played more than any other by me this year. It doesn’t hurt that he’s from Philly The album is “Bury Me in Philly.”

# 3 The War On Drugs latest is amazing. Great music , fantastic guitar. . Listen with headphones, eyes closed, in the dark. (also from Philly!)

#2 Just when I thought U2 was winding down, they blew me away with some of the best music they’ve made in years. Songs of Experience is optimistic, and has all the best stuff I’ve always loved about the band. This song has all of it.

#1 Soulfire by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.  I saw him about 30 years ago when he toured behind a solo album and waited a LONG time for him to release another one. This was worth the wait. Of course , seeing him live for an amazing concert with my oldest , best friend pushed this right to number one on my list.

Mike’s Top 10 for 2013

Ok, its New Year’s Eve and time for my annual end of the year top ten albums! Disclaimer: These are my favorite new releases of 2013. They may not be yours and you may even hate some. Hopefully you’ll like a few. In a change from prior years this year much more mellow. (Maybe it’s an age thing).

#10 This group is like 80s pop mixed with Motown soul. This song stuck in my head for weeks

Fitz and the Tantrums performing “6AM” Live at KCRW’s Apogee Sessions

#9 I posted this song recently because i think it’s one of the best things i heard this year. Actually, pushed the album into my top 10.

Moby performing “The Perfect Life” Live at the Village on KCRW

#8 These guys just keep making great music. If you love that Southern Cal 70s feel, this is for you.

Dawes – From a Window Seat

#7 Great release from a Philly boy. Second time in my top ten. Hard to pick one song to highlight but this one is great.

[HD] Amos Lee – Chill In The Air – David Letterman 10-8-13

#6 Did I say mellow? This guy epitomizes the word. Consistently great.
(This one’s for you Kris McHugh!)

Jack Johnson – Shot Reverse Shot

#5 This was really tough because he technically had 2 US releases this year but i picked one. Rockabilly folk punk from a 19 year old prodigy who signs with maturity beyond his years and plays guitar like a monster. (check out the you tube video for Broken. It’ll make ya cry)

Jake Bugg – What Doesn’t Kill You (Live) (+playlist)

#4 And now for something completely different. Mike Doughty is unique, uses odd samples and redid songs from his old band from the 90s. LOVE this album. Had it on replay for weeks.

Mike Doughty – The Idiot Kings

#3 At the risk of getting a little hipsterish here…fantastic album.  Gream to listen to in the car by yourself late at night.  This acoustic version is even better than the album version.

The National – I Need My Girl (Live Acoustic)

 

#2 Magpie and Dandelion… Avett Brothers. Right on the heels of The Carpenter the put out another amazing mix of rock country pop and bluegrass. (can’t wait to see them at Musikfest in August)

Live On Letterman – The Avett Brothers: Open Ended Life

#1 Picking Recovery by Frank Turner was a foregone conclusion months ago. It is simply one of the best albums I’ve heard in years not made by someone named Springsteen. I have 10 favorite songs from this album. Also puts on one of the best shows you’ll ever see. Folk rock punk pop.

Frank Turner – Polaroid Picture