Saturday, June 28, 2008

I heard the news

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The canyon in the sky

While I was in a used record shop called Opera House in South Pittsburgh a few months ago, the guy behind the counter asked me if I was interested in old records. That was a funny question to ask since I had spent the last several hours flipping through endless crates of dusty LPs but I played along and said that I was interested. He said that he would be right back a really rare album that he was saving for just the right person.

He reached under the front counter and pulled out a sealed copy of Evel Knievel's 1974 LP. My first thought was that I hadn't seen the LP in years and never one that was still sealed. It even had a K-Mart super-saver price sticker ($3.98). My second thought was that there was no way I was going to pay the price he was going to want for a record I knew I wouldn't play more than once. But to be polite, I asked anyway. He thought for a minute and said "I dunno, how about five dollars?" Sold!

The LP was recorded right before Knievel's Snake River Canyon jump. It's not something I'll listen to a whole lot but I do like "The Ballad Of Evel Knievel" and the poem Evel wrote is a hoot. There are 2 press conferences that go on for twenty minutes each. Unfortunately, you can't hear most of the questions, only Evel's answers. There's also a canyon-sized skip on "The Ballad Of Evel Knievel" I tried to make it slightly less noticeable but it's still there. Amherst Records did not have high quality control standards.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

There is

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Sunday, June 15, 2008

In the dark hour of midnight

when everything was still

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Medley in C

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bluebirds over the mountain

Ersel Hickey didn't have any hits. Instead he had an interesting life.

One of eight children, Hickey was born in Brighton, New York in 1934. He grew up in a series of foster homes. When he was 15, Hickey started travelling with his older sister, a stripper named Chicky Evans. He also worked as a carny for a while. In 1951 won $500 imitating Johnnie Ray in a Columbus, Ohio talent contest. In 1951, Chicky Evans was killed in a traffic accident so Hickey moved back to New York to live with an older brother. In 1954, Hickey was inspired by Elvis and decided to become a Rock & Roll singer. He asked Phil Everly what he needed to do become a singer. Everly replied "You got to have a song".

So Hickey went home and wrote one.

At 2:30 the next morning, Hickey woke his brother up and played him "Bluebirds Over The Mountain". Hickey's brother said "It's a hit!" and gave Ersel 20 bucks to start him on the road to stardom. Or to make him shut up so he could go back to sleep.

The first stop on the road to stardom was a photographer's studio. Gene LaVerne's Studio Of The Stars. LaVerne had also taken Chicky Evan's promo shots. LaVerne took one of the great Rock & Roll pictures that day. You've seen it before even if you didn't know who it was.

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LaVerne also introduced Ersel to a manager named Mike Corda. Corda suggested that Hickey record a demo of his song which Corda then sent to Epic Records. Then Corda sent Hickey back to Buffalo. Joe Sherman at Epic Records heard the demo and liked the recording so much that he released it. He didn't think the recording could be improved upon. Sherman was right but unfortunately the record only got to 75 in the charts.

There were more records on Epic, and then on Kapp, Laurie, Apollo and other small labels. In 1968, The Beach Boys cut a great version of "Bluebirds" in 1968. The Jet Black Berries, also from Rochester, did a version too.

Ersel Hickey died in July 2004.

UPDATE: From a suggestion in the comments, here's "Second Hand News". Thanks Jim! I hear the similarity.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

He brought me

from a long ways off

(If this song doesn't get you moving, go lie down. You're already dead.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stephanie said

Last Saturday night, My wife & I were at a party. Several people were talking about songs named after women and the hostess said that she didn't know of any songs with her name. I thought of one right away and a couple more on the way home after the party.

So here you go Stephanie! Now you've heard three songs with your name in the title. And all of 'em are good songs too.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Slips purposely

Monday, June 02, 2008


Sunday, June 01, 2008


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