Saturday, November 05, 2005

This Land is Your Land -- The Kingston Trio and The Brothers Four

Yesterday evening Judy and I drove down to Galveston Island for a concert by the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four. The weather was great, and we got to the Island just about dark. The concert was at The Grand 1894 Opera House, and we were lucky enough to find a parking spot only a block and a half away. We had reservations at the Saltwater Grill, which is directly across the street from the theater, so we had a good meal before the concert. Judy had the shrimp scampi, and I (because I don't like seafood) had a nice steak fillet. After we ate, we walked across the street to the theater to discover that Doris Burbank was in charge of the ushers and the seating. Doris was the chair of the music department at Alvin Community College for many years, and I was her supervisor for about fifteen of them. It was good to visit with her for a while before we took our seats.

The Brothers Four opened the show. Some people have the opinion that the Brothers Four have a sort of "glee club" sound. Those people haven't heard this configuration. The only original member remaining in the group is Bob Flick, and when he came out on the stage, I got an immediate nostalgia rush. I saw the group about 45 years ago, maybe a little more, in Austin, but it was as if all those years melted away and I was a kid again. Bob Flick seemed to be enjoying himself as much now as he did then, and he looked as familiar to me as an old friend. The guys didn't make any effort to reproduce the sound of the original group, and they did only a couple of songs that are strongly identified with the Brothers Four. In fact, it was a little odd to hear them do "Sloop John B," which is a Kingston Trio song in my mind.

But I digress. The group's sound is great, probably better than the original's, and one of the current members (Mark Pearson) is a terrific instrumentalist. He can play things the original group couldn't touch, as he demonstrated on his banjo solo, a medley with "Because," "Tiger Rag," and a couple of songs I didn't recognize. The audience was wowed. I particularly liked the group's version of "Whiskey in the Jar," but my favorite of their set was the railroad medley that closed it out: "City of New Orleans," "Blue Water Line" (one of my favorites and better than the original), "Wabash Cannonball," "This Train," and "Rock Island Line." They brought down the house and got a standing O. I thought, Wow, it's going to be hard to the Kingston Trio to follow this.

But I was wrong. The Kingston Trio came out and from the first few notes of the first song ("Road to Freedom"), I knew they wouldn't have trouble following anybody. With Bob Shane's retirement a couple of years ago, there are no original members singing with the group now, though George Grove has been with them for thirty years or so. I thought I'd miss Bob Shane, and of course I did, but the current group is just flat terrific. If anybody has any doubts about how good they are, I say, just go and listen. Voyle Gilmore isn't working the sound board, but I think you'll be blown away by the fullness of the voices and the power of the instruments.

Bill Zorn has taken Shane's place in the middle, and he has an excellent stage presence, along with what I can only describe as a "big" voice. He was great on "They Call the Wind Maria," which is strongly identified in my mind with Bob Shane. The newest member is Rick Dougherty, who has a clear tenor that fit right in, and he harmonized flawlessly with the others. His solo on "M.T.A." was a real treat. So he's not Nick Reynolds. So what? He's Rick Dougherty, and he's damned good. The strumming by him and Zorn on this song was amazing to me. By the end, their hands were just a blur. George Grove did the solo work on "The Reverend Mr. Black," and this is one fine version of the song, much better to my ears than the hit record of long ago. The harmony on the chorus was killer. And speaking of killer harmony, the newest addition to the set list, "All the Hard Days are Gone," just knocked me out. Judy was bowled over, too, as she told me when we were leaving the concert. The Trio closed with "Worried Man," got a standing ovation, and came back for an encore with "Where Have all the Flowers Gone" that got another standing O.

People were still standing when the Trio and the Brothers Four came on stage to close the show with "This Land is Your Land," bringing the audience to its feet even before the song was over. People stood and cheered and begged for more. I'm convinced that the audience would have stayed for another hour, heck, maybe another week.
The show really was that good. I wish I had tickets to tonight's performance. I'd go back in a heartbeat.


A tip of the Hatlo hat to Art Scott, who let me in on this sad story.

Cheesy r
ap for Mouseketeer
'50s star gets busted on mail fraud

Darlene Gillespie, one of the original Mouseketeers, is acting more like a racketeer these days.

Gillespie, 61, and her husband, Jerry Fraschilla, 66, were arrested by the FBI at their home in Ventura County, Calif., on Thursday to face federal mail fraud charges in Long Island.

The couple, who have served time for stock fraud, are accused of pocketing over $317,000 in bogus claims they submitted in a class-action settlement, according to a complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

They are being held pending a bail hearing Tuesday in Los Angeles, law enforcement officials said yesterday.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On the Air -- John Dunning

On the Air is a massive (over 800 pages) encyclopedia of Old Time Radio. John Dunning discusses every show you've ever heard of, and a few you haven't. I was lucky to get this book at a huge discount, thanks to having seen a mention of the sale on Ivan Shreve's Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. Only 19 bucks, plus postage, which makes it the biggest bargain I've found this year.

I don't write much about OTR here, but I grew up listening to radio as a kid, and sometimes I'm amazed at how many shows I must have heard at one time or another. Browsing through Dunning's book brings back a lot of memories.

The favorite show of one of my grandfathers, as I may have mentioned before, was Lum & Abner. But he was also a big fan of The Great Gildersleeve. His favorite character on the show, aside from Gildy, was Mr. Peavey, the druggist, and naturally Mr. Peavey became one of my favorites as well. This was all a long time ago. My grandfather died when I was six, which means that we're talking about things that occurred in 1947. Obviously I started listening to and enjoying radio when I was pretty young.

Don't worry. I'm not going to start listing all the shows I remember. What I will mention is that over on broadcastellan there's a on-going discussion of "The Thing that Cries in the Night," a serial presentation on I Love a Mystery. I'm listening to a chapter a day and following the discussion. You can listen for free right here if you're so inclined. There are some other shows archived, too. It's been a long time since I heard this serial, and I'm enjoying it a lot. We're up to Chapter Five now. Great stuff.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite

Our daughter suggested that Judy and I might like this movie, and, sure enough, we did. It's a strange one, a little slow and virtually plotless. Mostly it's just an observation of the lives of some geeky guys and a gal. Napoleon is a high school student who lives with his grandmother and his brother Kip (in his 30s and addicted to computer chat rooms). When the grandmother has a dirtbike accident, Uncle Rico moves in. Rico believes that his life was ruined in 1982 when the coach didn't put him into the big game as the quarterback. He buys a time machine on eBay so he can return to the '80s and change history (and his life). Napoleon finds a friend in Pedro, who runs for class president, his main qualification being that he's the only kid in the school with a moustache.

I don't want to say more about what happens to the various characters because that would spoil the surprises and the fun. Mostly the movie's a series of vignettes, some of them very funny, but be warned: some people really, really hate it. Roger Ebert, for one. Maybe you have to be a little weird to appreciate it. If you do watch, though, be sure to sit through the end credits. There's a five-minute scene tacked on, and it's very funny, too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fall Comes to Texas

There are a couple of new pictures posted on my photoblog. Check 'em out.

One Ride Too Many -- Frank Bonham

This is a collection of stores (and one essay) by a prolific pulpster. Bonham also wrote for the slicks and later for the paperback market. He wrote mostly westerns, but for Gold Medal he did some crime novels, and in 1965 he had a YA bestseller.

The opening essay, "Tarzana Nights," is worth the price of the book (which you'll probably have to find used). It was originally published in Mystery Scene in 1987, and I can't believe it's been nearly 20 years since I first read it. It's the great story of how Bonham learned to write through his association with the earl of the pulps, a guy he prefers to call "Ed Oliver Ratt." You pulp fans know who he means.

The only story I've read so far is the one that gives the book its title. It happens to be a rodeo story, set most likely around the time it was written (1950) rather than in the Old West. It features an ageing rodeo rider who comes up against the new kid who appears likely to take his place as the champ, but it's a slightly different take on an old story, very well done. I'm looking forward to reading more of these stories, and maybe I'll even have a look at one of Bonham's crime novels.

Hard Case Crime in the News - Girls, guns and money - Nov 2, 2005: "Girls, guns and money
A revival of the pulp fiction paperback genre"

Nice article, well worth a look. Thanks to Sarah Weinman's blog for the tip.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Maybe It's Just Me

Ever since this post way back on August 6, I've been looking forward to reading Fan Tan, supposedly written by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammel. So the other day I picked up the book at the local library and brought it home. What a great cover! Too bad I started reading it, because I was very disappointed. It got a starred review in PW, but I thought the writing bit the moose. I couldn't get past about the first fifteen pages. I skipped to the Afterword, which pretty much says that Cammel did all the actual writing, though Brando came up with much of the story. Doesn't matter. I couldn't get through it. Maybe some other time.

I also tried Chris Elliott's The Shroud of the Thwacker. I figured a book that sends up Dan Brown, historical mysteries, and amateur sleuths, all in the vein of Mad magazine, would be just what I needed. It wasn't. I got through about forty pages of it and gave up. The stuff that was supposed to be hilarious just didn't work for me. Obviously I'm turning into the typical grumpy old man. That must be it.

UPDATE: Lee Goldberg has an interesting post related to The Shroud of the Thwacker on his blog.

Happy Halloween, Part 2

LONDON - Here's one to ponder on Halloween. A new survey says more people in Britain believe in ghosts than believe in God.

A poll of more than 2,000 says 68 percent believe in ghosts and spirits, while 55 percent say they believe in the existence of God.

Of the ghost believers, 12 percent claim to have seen an apparition. Seventy-six percent say reality television shows and films about the supernatural are part of the reason they're convinced ghosts are real.

Ed's Back!

Yes, after the good news yesterday, Ed Gorman's back to regular blogging. That's more good news for all of us.