Nautical Ear Worms

I’m in the process of going through various video sources to augment the notes I’ll give students over WWII. Let’s say the quality of what is available . . . varies widely. And some things can’t get through various filters.

So, I was hunting for newsreel footage of some things, and started hearing music playing in my head. And grinned, because I hear that music every single time I start talking about WWII in the Pacific. [Waits for OldNFO to flee] Continue reading

Something Lighter For a Moment

Kenny Rogers passed away at age 81. This is one of my favorite songs of his. Yes, I’m Odd. The last moment of the video always makes me grin. (Apologies for the poor quality.)

More Celtic than an Irishman?

I’m referring to The Highwaymen, the country—quartet? quadrelateral? collision?—of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Chris Kristofferson. Fund raising season is upon the regional PBS station, and so since this is March, they had the Obligatory Irish Tenor on TV before running The Highwaymen – Live in Concert. Dad didn’t mute the Irish crooner fast enough. The guy had a six note range, and focused on what I’d call Irish lounge music. I could easily imagine Frank Sinatra or Perry Como singing this stuff in a nightclub, and based on the age of the audience, the folks at the concert probably had heard Sinatra live, when Sinatra was young!

Continue reading

The Highwayman

Thanks to Waylon, Willie, and the boys, this got stuck in my head this weekend.

It’s not exactly country music (more on that Wednesday), and the version I first heard was Irish.

The Makem and Clancy version brings memories of driving through the San Juan Mountains one a chilly, cloudy June day. It’s the version I imprinted on. Jimmy Webb wrote and recorded it in 1977 after a dream, and it was picked up by a lot of other musicians, but only 8-10 years later.

I’m recovering from a grading/computer irritation/editing marathon, so I’ll come back to this and some other Highwaymen (Waylon, Cash, Kristofferson, and Willie) songs on Wednesday. Continue reading

He Never Returned, and He Never Returned

If you are of a certain age and musical inclination, you know the rest of the chorus, and the story of Charlie on the MTA.

Bob Shane, one of the founders of the original Kingston Trio, passed away late last month. He was 85. I grew up listening to their LPs, of which Mom and Dad Red had many, along with music by Odetta, the New Christie Minstrels, Ian and Sylvia, the Limelighters, and other “folk” groups from the 50s and 60s. I didn’t get all of the asides and jokes, and Mom had to explain a few of them, or just said, “Later, dear.”

I really liked their live recordings, because of the banter and joking, and the wit. They were not really folk musicians like Alan Lomax, Jean Ritchie, and others, because they wrote a number of their songs, but they became the folk music of the time, and they captured the sense of the old ballads and bawdy songs. “Charlie on the M.T.A.”, “Scarlet Ribbons*,”Zombie Jamboree,” “John Birch Society,” and others still play in my head from time to time. Some were social commentary (“Which Hat Shall I Wear,” “John Birch,”) but they were also humorous.

Here’s a slightly bawdy number, with a verse that could never make it on radio today:

And of course, poor Charlie, forever trapped beneath Boston’s streets:


And one of my favorites:

*Just who composed “Scarlet Ribbons” was settled by a lawsuit between Jean Ritchie and David Guard of the Trio.


The Day of the Clipper

I grew up with sea stories. Dad sailed as a child and teen, and was in the Navy. I memorized sea chanteys as a child, and literally cut my teeth on a model of the Bismark (Dad wasn’t pleased.) One of my favorite books growing up was H. C. Holling’s Sea Bird, about the seas, sailing, and advances in nautical technology. Some time ago, Dad mused that perhaps if we’d lived closer to the sea, I’d have become a master mariner instead of a pilot. Who’s to say? Continue reading