31 March 2008

Home of Gulch Radio

Ric at Gulch Radio sent me this 1947 photo of the
same intersection in Jerome that is shown in my last post.

The corner building on the left in the colour photo is also seen here, but from another direction, behind the Liberty Cafe sign. Next to it, in both photos, you can see the taller building with urn-like decorations on its top corners.

1947: The guy with the newspaper could be reading about, say, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier... Or the Soviets blockading Berlin... Babe Ruth's obit... I can just about hear the jukebox next door playing Tex Williams, Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette...

26 March 2008

Gulch Radio (Ghost Town Radio)

The station I listen to most these days is Gulch Radio. It was the name that attracted me, but I quickly became hooked by their playlists, which often wander into the contemporary blues and country-rock neighbourhoods but are in fact truly eclectic: just about anything can turn up, and the mix is artfully put together.

Gulch Radio goes out on 1670AM from a transmitter up on Mingus Mountain, above Jerome, Arizona, an old mining town with a colourful past that had a population of 25 000 in the late 1920s but is now somewhere in the 300s or 400s, hence Gulch Radio's tag, Ghost Town Radio.

(You may hear a song called Ghost Town Radio on The Gulch, by Patrick Thomas: it fits in fine as an unofficial station theme song, but I believe it was just a nice coincidence.)

My radio over here on Australia's Great Dividing Range can't pull in the signal from Mingus Mountain. I listen on the Net through Winamp player where I first found The Gulch on the Shoutcast radio menu.

Gulch Radio seems to be run by two guys called Ric and Chaz. My head spins when I try to figure out the time differences and check the program schedule, but I think I'm often listening to Ric's breakfast slot, or their early early morning show The Night Train, or various mixes put together by Chaz. At other times I hear a couple of excellent syndicated programs: Gregg McVicar's Undercurrents and Tom Fallon's Motown Memories. I've also chanced on Gulch's own oldies show called The Geezer Rock Show.

It all sounds laid-back and friendly, small-town but tuned-in, just what you'd expect from Jerome if its Internet press is accurate: a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community... of artists, craft people, musicians, writers, hermits, bed and breakfast owners, museum caretakers, gift shop proprietors and fallen-down-
building landlords
. (DesertUSA.com); small ghost town/artist colony/hippie hang-out..; a funky tourist destination with unique characters, stories and happenings. (JeromeAZ.com)

Okay, I'm a sucker for that charming picture postcard, but it's the music I come back for. In fact, most of the music I've discovered in recent months I first heard on Gulch Radio. It's at GulchRadio.com.

Photo by Andrew Dunn, 1992.

24 March 2008

Ah, Barbara Lynn..!

The video of Barbara Lynn (below) speaks for itself: I can't say what 'cool' is or was, but there it is, all right, 42 years ago and it hasn't dated a minute. (It's Ray Charles's What'd I Say, by the way.)

See update June 2010.

Barbara Lynn Ozen's records had simply 'Barbara Lynn' on them. I guess her best known song is her hit, You'll Lose A Good Thing (1962, #8 USA), slow and soulful, written when she was 14, so they say. The song of hers I love the most is (Oh Baby) We Got A Good Thing Goin' (1964): I already loved it when The Stones covered it on Out Of Our Heads (1965), but it's one of those cases where I went back later and found the original was the best.

Barbara Lynn is from Texas, born in 1942, and I assume that back in the early 60s she was unusual in being a female singer-songwriter who played guitar on her own records. (She plays left-handed: not sure if that's significant, but it's always mentioned.) Her earliest records, on Jamie and Tribe, are the ones I like the most, but don't let me put you off the records she put out on Atlantic from the late 60s.

She mostly wrote her own material, but when I looked up You'll Lose A Good Thing and (Oh Baby) We Got A Good Thing Goin' at BMI I found them under the name of Huey Meaux, her longtime manager and producer, although the US Copyright Office shows words & music by Barbara Lynn Ozen.

If you want to read more, skip the Wikipedia article this time (take my word!), and read Mick Patrick's story of Barbara Lynn at Cha Cha Charming: you won't find a better account or appreciation of her career. There's also a nice news article from 2000 at the Austin Chronicle's website. There is a Barbara Lynn MySpace page, though it looks a bit inactive, and of course it's hard to say whether she's running it in person. Huey Meaux is a whole other story, but Red Kelly tells it well from that angle over at his blog The B Side, where you can grab a nice song from her Atlantic days, Why Can't You Love Me (1968).

Or you can forgo the research and just play that video again.

09 March 2008

Not even in Oz: Trini Lopez - Up To Now (1967)

Trini Lopez - Up To Now
(Bobby Susser - Marty Cooper - Terry Sue Pinter)
Single on Reprise #0574

I could take or leave most of Trini Lopez's hits. They were mainly pepped up versions of familiar songs, often showcased with nightclub audience noise: If I Had A Hammer, America, Lemon Tree, I'm Comin' Home Cindy... Okay, I could take the songs, but I could leave the party-time sound effects.

Then came Up To Now. This was a straight-ahead pop production with no hand clapping shenanigans. Up To Now didn't need any vicarious excitement: it screamed out excitement right from the opening bars, through a rhythmic drum, trumpet and strings arrangement. [Listen]

It's the type of song you can imagine the Northern Soul fans taking up. But (oddly, I've always thought) nobody much took it up at all. It's one of those first-rate songs that, in spite of everything, has ended up as an obscurity.

Up To Now had the same arranger and producer as the hits, Don Costa (1925-1983). Costa started out as a guitarist and continued to record in his own name (Never On Sunday, 1960, #19 USA), but he was renowned mainly as an arranger, producer and conductor, notably for Paul Anka, Sammy Davis Jr, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank Sinatra and, yes, Trini Lopez.

Space Age Pop sums up Costa this way: He liked very dense arrangements - Billy Byers [pianist] called him "the Puccini of pop," saying that his arrangements were "seething with melody." That sounds to me like the Don Costa of Up To Now.

As to the writers, Marty Cooper was Tico of high school vocal group Tico & The Triumphs (see their history at DestinationDoowop.com). They put out some singles 1961-62 that were produced by the yet-to-be-famous Paul Simon with his friend Bobby Susser.

After Paul Simon moved on to other projects, Marty Cooper and Bobby Susser teamed up to write and produce: one of their compositions, Kiss Me Now, was released on Phil Spector's Phi-Dan label by Florence De Vore (1965) and was on Diana Ross's self-titled album in 1976 . In 1972 Bobby Susser and Lou Stallman's group Think had a #23 USA hit with their controversial anti-drug composition, Once You Understand.

This is the same Bobby Susser who is nowadays a successful writer and performer of children's songs: he has a website at BobbySusser.com, but his Wikipedia entry gives more information and a good overview of his varied career.
⭐Update on co-writer Terry Sue Pinter: she was married to Marty Cooper. See my follow-up post.