Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Got My Kicks on Route 66

I’ve pretty much retired from this blog, as changes in my life over the years have prevented me from keeping up with it daily. With that said, I sporadically post something of interest as an extra post. Today, as it is my 66th birthday, I thought I would provide a listen to some later versions of Bobby Troup’s composition “Route 66.”

The well-known version was originally recorded by the King Cole Trio in 1946 and charted at 11 on Billboard’s singles chart. Part of the song’s inability to make it to the Top 10 was because there was another version by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, which charted at 14. Without the cover version that competed with Nat King Cole’s classic, the original release certainly would have made it to the Top 5. It remains, however, the best-known version of the song.

But today, we are going to veer off Route 66 to some versions that you’ve probably never heard before. Our first example was never a single and it was from an album that was not a big seller. Chuck Berry’s “Route 66” was released on his 1961 album “New Juke Box Hits.” While not a hit, Berry’s version of this classic influenced “The Rolling Stones” to record the song on their first album.

With The Rolling Stones, the UK version (a self-titled album) led with “Route 66,” while the American release, “England's Newest Hit Makers,” placed the song second after the single “Not Fade Away.” This is typically the difference between albums out of England and US, as the UK releases did not necessarily put single releases on albums.

American record companies, however, relied on the single to sell the album. In adding “Not Fade Away,” they removed Bo Diddley’s “Mona (I Need You Baby).” The song later appeared on the US only album release “The Rolling Stones, Now!”

Thanks for spending time with me on my own personal Route 66.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Harry Chapin: WOLD

Well it finally hit; I’m 65 today. In honor of that momentous occasion, I have decided to feature Harry Chapin’s WOLD.  As a former broadcaster, this song resonates; although, I’ve never suffered the grief experienced by the song’s protagonist. Broadcasting was fun and I did it for that and certainly not for the money. Honestly, I had many great experiences.

Beth Kinsley made this cake for me 30-years ago when I turned 35. At the time, I was the morning DJ at WWNR. Her husband Mike (AKA Mike Corsair) was one of the four news people who shared the morning space during my seven years at 62NR.

My love of radio began with me spending most of my youth listening to stations near and far. There would be very few evenings where I would not be huddled around a 1940 RCA-Victor 110K “Presidential Model” radio given to me by my future stepfather. While AM radio was my choice, I often drifted onto this radio’s three shortwave bands. At all times, I had a copy of White’s Radio Log to notate each new station.

In 1966, I had my first visit to an actual radio station atop of Radio Hill in Grayson, KY. I had accompanied my brothers and a few other college students who came to record a show that would be later broadcast on WGOH. Frances Nash, who was in high school at the time, was on the air – eight years later he became my teacher and my mentor.

My first broadcasting related experience occurred in 1972 and 1973, where I joined my companions in Explorer Post 283 in hosting a show on Valley Cable in North Versailles, PA. I got to work sound and the cameras at various times – I desired the more technical roles than that of the talent.  During fall 1973, I entered Kentucky Christian College. A new facility, WKCC, would go on the air in October. Not yet having a license, I worked as a station volunteer and occasionally helped with the talent show. 

At WEMM Huntington; October 1978

When it was time to schedule my sophomore year classes, my brother Chuck encouraged me to take a broadcasting course. He justified this recommendation in that I might need something to fall back on career wise. During October 1974, I passed the three-part FCC exam and earned my Third-Class Radiotelephone Permit with Broadcast Endorsement. Therefore, I began a 20-year career. My radio experiences took me to the following stations:

  • WKCC Grayson, KY 91.5 FM: October 1974-May 1978 – announcer, news, & program director.
  • WEMM Huntington, WV 107.9 FM: May 1977-February 1981 – announcer & program director.
  • WAMX Ashland, KY 93.7: December 1978-August 1981 – part-time announcer.
  • WMUL-FM Huntington, WV 88.1 FM: January 1979-December 1979 – swing announcer & news.
  • WCIR AM/FM Beckley, WV 103.7 FM/1070 AM: February 1981-August 1983 – announcer, music director, & assistant program director.
  • WOAY AM/FM Oak Hill, WV 94.1 FM/860 AM: August 1983-February 1987 – announcer, sales, & program director.
  • WWNR Beckley, WV 620 AM: February 1987-January 1994 – announcer, sales, program director, & operations manager.

Over the years, I used my real name at WKCC, WEMM, & WMUL, Jay Andrews at WAMX, and Jim Martin at WMUL, WCIR, WOAY, & WWNR. When filling in for another jock, I sometimes used an off-the-wall name for fun. Two of my favorites were E. Arhoolie Futz and P. Terry Dactyl. 

With Ron Hill at WCIR Beckley; May 1982

Although, I wasn’t working directly in radio after leaving WWNR, I had the opportunity to produce radio and television shows, do commercial and long form video voice overs, be a mobile DJ, serve on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Friend’s Board for 12 years, and teach mass communication classes at Alderson Broaddus University. Truly, I fell back on the skills I learned from Francis Nash in his classes at Kentucky Christian.

Like the protagonist, I was a morning DJ during the bulk of my career which spanned my time at WOAY and WWNR. When I retired from broadcasting, I was pleased with my career, but I was ready to do something new - higher education - where I've been since.

WWNR Beckley; June 1987

Although different from Chapin’s “morning DJ on WOLD,” I’m “feeling all of” 65 “going on 15.” WOLD peaked at #36 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1974 – the year I entered radio. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Beatles: When I'm Sixty-Four

It’s been over two years since I last made a post on Reading Between the Grooves. Since I turned 64 years of age today, I thought I might revisit this blog and discuss The Beatles’ classic album cut “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

Although this song comes from the very early period of The Beatles’ performance days, it was shelved until the right time with the recording of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album – their eight studio LP using the British album release system and 12th using American releases, not counting “The Beatles’ Story,” “The Early Beatles,” and several repackaging of “Introducing the Beatles” on VeeJay.

“Sgt. Pepper’s” was the perfect venue for “When I’m Sixty-Four,” as its music hall style fits within this eclectic album. The beginnings of this tune were written by Paul McCartney when he was 16. Lennon later helped with the second bridge when they performed at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

The basic tracks were recorded in December 6, 1966 with McCartney playing bass and piano, Harrison on rhythm guitar, Lennon providing lead guitar, and Starr is on drums and tubular bells. The vocal tracks were laid down on December 20 with Paul singing lead and Paul, John, and George providing background vocals.

Two standard Bb clarinets and a Bb bass clarinet were scored by George Martin and were overdubbed on December 21. While originally considered to be a flip side of one of the other Beatles recordings at the time, its only appearance as a 45-rpm release was on the Spanish “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” EP.

To make Paul’s vocals sound a bit younger, the engineers at Abbey Road sped up the song and changed the key from C to C#. It addition to its pitch, this changed the song’s tempo as well.

We’ll since I’ve now turned 64, do I mirror the song? Well, I’ve lost some hair. I’m never out until a quarter to three. I only have one grandchild, and his name is neither Chuck nor Dave. I’m glad to make it this far and should I make another year, I’ll have a song for then as well. Cheers.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Who's That? Behind Blue Eyes

As we close out our second week special, “Who’s That?,” we leave you with a cover of one of my favorite songs by The Who: “Behind Blue Eyes.” Who am I kidding? I like most of The Who’s songs. Pete Townshend began writing the song after being tempted by a groupie. Having the strength to resist, he began by writing the song’s bridge:

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool;
When I smile, tell me some bad news,
Before I laugh and act like a fool.
And If I swallow anything evil,
Put your finger down my throat;
And If I shiver, please give me a blanket.
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat.

“Behind Blue Eyes” was the second single “Who’s Next” and peaked in the US at #34.

Today’s cover comes from a Dutch symphonic metal band, “Within Temptation,” and features Sharon den Adel on lead vocals. The lyrics were changed to match a female protagonist. To celebrate their 15th anniversary in 2012, Within Temptation recorded 15 cover songs for Belgian radio station Q-Music.

During the following year, the band released 11 of these songs from the session on a CD, as “The Q-Music Sessions.” “Behind Blue Eyes” made the cut for one of the inclusions. It was not, however, released as a single. In my opinion, Within Temptation’s rendition is one of the better covers of this Who classic.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Who's That? Squeeze Box

In 1975, The Who issued their seventh studio LP, “The Who by Numbers.” Two singles were subsequently released in the US: “Squeeze Box” and “Slip Kid.” While “Slip Kid” failed to chart in any country except with a dismal showing at #72 in France, “Squeeze Box” did much better with a showing at #16 in the US, #10 in the UK, and at number one in Canada. Pete Townshend really shows his talents on guitar, piano, banjo, and squeeze box. Specifically, I love his guitar and banjo work on this number.

Fast forward to London in 1997 and Sheryl Crow pays homage to The Who by performing “Squeeze Box” live. Now Crow is very talented and can play every instrument that Townshend plays (but not as bombastic); however, she chose the accordion as her weapon of choice to attack this Who classic. The band is tight as well with the lead guitar and mandolin being standout instrumentalists.

It is a pity that Crow hasn’t released a studio version of this song.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who's That? Love, Reign o'er Me

From the 1973 rock opera “Quadrophenia,” The Who’s “Love, Reign o’er Me” remains one of the band’s better-known selections even though the original single peaked at #76 on the Hot 100. The title is a play on words, as Pete Townshend took the inspiration from Meher Baba who believed that rain was a blessing from God. Even the original version opens with the sound of rain and the lyrics reference rain over reign. Perhaps the title indicates that Jimmy, the protagonist of “Quadrophenia,” isn’t beckoning for love to rain on him, but rather he is wanting love to reign over him.

Music critic Mark Deming believed that Roger Daltrey was at the peak of his singing career with the “Quadrophenia” album in general and “Love, Reign o’er Me” in particular. It would be difficult for any vocalist to duplicate Daltry’s performance. Eddie Vedder, however, tried and succeeded with Pearl Jam’s 2007 rendition. While Vedder’s voice is lower than Daltry’s and he often strains to hit the high notes, he reaches his intended goal. His lower timbre gives “Love, Reign o’er Me” a distinctive character.

While the original Who version is referenced in the movie, “Reign over Me,” Pearl Jam’s version plays over the credits. When I saw this movie about post traumatic stress disorder, I automatically realized that it wasn’t The Who, so I waited for and waded through the credits to see who had recreated this classic. Pearl Jam’s version peaked at #32 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Good stuff.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who's That? Won't Get Fooled Again

Day four of our “Who’s That?” feature with another cover a classic Who song. The original version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” charted in the US at #15, and it was the fourth highest charting Who single in the US, as it was outpaced by “I Can See for Miles,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “Who Are You.” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was the final cut on my favorite Who LP, “Who’s Next.”

Today’s cover is by the late Richie Havens from his last album “Nobody Left to Crown.” The album was released in 2008, five years before Havens passed away. It is a slightly slower acoustic version of this classic Who rocker. Stephanie Winters emulates the synthesize on the original during parts of the recording. The song also features Keith Christopher on bass and Shawn Pelton on drums. Richie Havens and Walter Parks are both featured on guitar, Parks also plays some of the original synthesizer parts on his guitar as well. 

Not your typical Who cover, but I think you’ll like Havens’ take on Townshend’s composition. Enjoy.