Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chuck Owston: Home Fried Blues

“Home fries and a cup of coffee” – part of the late night fare at Scotty’s Diner on Penn Avenue near the Pittsburgh/Wilkinsburg city/borough line. I didn’t get up to Pittsburgh very often during my undergraduate years of 1976-1978, but during the times I did, Scotty’s Diner was often visited after midnight to get my fix of fried potatoes and a cup of Joe. During that period of time, my brother Chuck wrote a piece for his band Fannin Street named “Blues for Scotty’s Diner.” Scotty's was a favorite hangout for musicians.

When his “Mysterious Ladies & Midnight Queens” album was released in 1978, the song was rechristened “Home Fried Blues.” The album has become somewhat of a collector’s item as it somehow has gotten categorized as psychedelic-folk, although that is somewhat of a misnomer for this song collection. I’ve have also seen the LP sell on eBay for $60, $90, and $100. To think I used to give it away to my friends – I wish I had a bunch of copies today.

“Home Fried Blues” was dedicated to Tom Waits because it was his influence that helped create this tune. The song was larger life than being a Fannin Street favorite and its inclusion on the “Mysterious Ladies & Midnight Queens” album.

 Photo stolen from The American Roadside

In 1993, Chuck was approached by Rick Sebak about using the song in his forthcoming PBS video about diners. “Pennsylvania Diners and Other Roadside Restaurants” aired originally in October 1993 and features “Home Fried Blues” over the closing credits of the show.

It is for this reason, that “Home Fried Blues” is today’s TV Thursday song. That and today is my brother Chuck’s birthday. Happy Birthday brother – your present is to be featured on this blog. Think of the promotional value and the much greater worth it has beyond mere gifts.  Besides music, our family is notorious for being “cheap” towards one another.

 Bassist Nick Brack 1951-2003

The song features Chuck on vocals, me on Wurlitzer electric piano, the late Nick Brack on bass, and Howard “HB” Bennett on drums. The album was recorded at Asterik Studios in Pittsburgh during the second half of 1977 and was subsequently released on Nite Owl Records. I also had the honor of taking the cover photo.

Well, my time is up today  - “The clock on the wall has chromium wings. I never saw time fly, though I’ve seen some pretty strange things.”

 Image stolen from The American Roadside

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