Tuesday, April 12, 2016


A little industrial rain. The sheen of this, the sheen of that. Expiring daylight ought to correspond with a reduction in clarity. The animal energy—imagine that!—reserves itself for evening.

To say “evening” as if the darkness settles scores. Don’t deny yourself mythology on account of city planners and their poverty of ideas. Don’t deny yourself mythology.

If there is disassembly then there might be calibration. If there is no calibration then our streets will be mobbed with clock parts: hands, numerals, gears, mechanisms, bejeweled recollections.

A resale shop that specializes in clock parts: call it Secondhand Second Hand. A used clock becomes your favorite timepiece. Secondhand time becomes your favorite kind of time.

Who would not condemn these vicissitudes if vicissitudes meant the coordinates of poor behavior? Ineffable, as in “Can’t be F’ed up.” How about ineffable?

Neutrality tends to speed downhill, whatever the slope. The chilly clouds draped like Spanish moss among the appalling textures of trees, the allocation of dehydrated trees.

Or the cloud patterns resemble the tectonic impatience of momentary continents. The rain cycles through periods of building and periods of idling. Thus the rain forever.

Shuffle your feet if you desire panorama. Every panorama differs, every shuffle varies. Desk lamps burning in dark offices, an entire corridor brightened in this dark way.

Boot sock boot sock, shoe sock shoe sock, slipper sock slipper sock, boot sock boot sock. Out of doors, nobody knows this little grief you bear. Nobody knows you.

Monday, March 28, 2016


25 word song review for “Royal Whirl” (New York, 1961, Goldisc)
Relentlessly optimistic / a regal climber that doesn’t lack for ensemble / bruising humility despite the illumination of its achievement / around us: embers & we? / jumping / yeah!

Information on The Royaltones, 1
Founded in Dearborn, Mich., circa 1957, the band would distinguish itself by appearing on American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark. Other notable appearances included the Howard Theatre (Washington, D.C.) and Royal Theatre (Baltimore, Md.) The host for the latter? One Redd Foxx.  

Information on The Royaltones, 2
To this blogger’s knowledge, the band exclusively played rock ‘n’ roll instrumental songs. The founder-saxophonist, George Katsakis, drew influences from early R&B saxophone players Sam “The Man” Taylor, Red Prysock, and Lee Allen, among others. It shows, in all the best ways.

Also listen to
“Poor Boy” (1958) (peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100).
“See Saw” (1959).
“Flamingo Express” (1961) (peaked at #82 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Some notable associations + Ace compilation
Legendary guitar player, Dennis Coffey, joined the Royaltones in 1962, along with Bob Babbitt on bass. The Royaltones would become the touring group for Del Shannon before disbanding circa 1965. In 2009, Ace Records released a 30-track compilation of the band’s output on CD.

Blogger’s response to criticism of the band
Allmusic dismisses the band’s sound as having grown passé, implying that saxophone-dominated records such as “Royal Whirl” don’t ultimately reflect the true spirit of (guitar-dominated) rock ‘n’ roll. Wrong. If anything, the band charges forward in pell-mell, uphill fashion not possible without horns. The record inherits plenty from bebop and jump blues, and from these formidable wellsprings, soars in texture and register alike. That a sound might grow “passé” (in the judgment of reviewers) says more about the flawed consumers of the sound than the producers.

How to categorize this here combo

The Royaltones contributed to a fertile, if now largely forgotten period of early rock ‘n’ roll, early R&B, instrumental rockabilly, surf, and early garage: we’ll call it The Shakers Era. Let’s not be afraid to admit this Shaking onto our modern-day queues. The blogger does not contend that “Royal Whirl” shakes the hardest of all Shakers. He knows several hundreds of “noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms”, but “Royal Whirl” reminds him that great rock reinvests itself in its own momentum, leaving propulsion and anticipation difficult to separate. Whirl on! 

Sources of information

45cat entry for “Royal Whirl”
Allmusic entry for The Royaltones
Dennis Coffey web site
Discogs entry for TheRoyaltones
Funeral home obituary for band member Michael Popoff
Rockabilly Europe entry for The Royaltones 
Wallace Stevens, quote from “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
Washington Post obituary for band member Bob Babbitt 

Likely personnel on “Royal Whirl”: George Katsakis (saxophone), Mike Popoff (keyboards), Greg Popoff (drums), either Bob Sanderson or Vern Parker (guitar), Ken Anderson (saxophone).

Sunday, February 28, 2016


The grooving and growling “Rice Pudding”, a honker recorded by tenor saxophonist Willene Barton and Her Trio either in 1963 or 1964, should be required listening for anyone seeking an R&B instrumental that could topple the domicile. Barton and her bandmates accomplished this effect in a scant 2:37, and Barton, in the process, cemented her credentials on the tenor saxophone, long the province of male musicians. Her somewhat gentler walking toward the very end of this cooker confers a small window of mercy upon the proceedings, when the listener may exhale and fully indulge his or her admiration of Barton, by then a musician in her mid-thirties. “Rice Pudding” itself responded to “Green Onions”, the hit recorded by Booker T and the MG’s. It appeared on the Sky-Mac label bundled with “Bossa Nova Twist” on the B-side.

Barton taught herself the saxophone. As a teenager, she encountered The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-woman swing and jazz band that flourished throughout the 1940s. In particular, she admired Vi Burnside, the band’s featured soloist, who also played the tenor saxophone. While she never played in the Sweethearts, Barton toured the country with the band’s former leader, Anna Mae Winburn, as part of a variety act in the early 1950s. During a stop in Cleveland, Barton participated in “cutting contests”—musical confrontations—with her idol, Vi Burnside, duels that, one night, left her to enjoy “a [saxophone] bell full of money and a chicken dinner!” Later, in the 1950s, Barton played in New York clubs with the likes of Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, and Ben Webster. For a spell, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis managed her career. She recorded a noteworthy album—There She Blows—with the Dayton Selby Trio in 1956.

Willene Barton with unknown musicians. (Photo credit: Dan Kochakian)

Owing to the popularity of guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll, Willene Barton drifted out of music shortly after recording “Rice Pudding”. She would make a comeback—often part of all-women bands—starting in the 1970s. She passed away in 2005. Her achievements, including the powerful voice and phrasings she delivered through her horn, ought to be stacked alongside those of the leading male honkers, such as one of this blogger’s favorites, Plas Johnson. During the fertile eras of jazz, jump blues, and early R&B, some female musicians—Cleo Brown, Nellie Lutcher, and Nina Simone, for example—played piano, sang, and recorded as leaders, but very few women led groups as saxophone players. Willene Barton should be acknowledged for her pioneering activity but also for some rice pudding that roars. 

Sources of information:

Dan Kochakian, “The Willene Barton Story”, Rhythm & Blues 289
Crown Propeller’s Blog, Eddie Chamblee,Willene Barton, Dayton Selby
Linda Dahl, StormyWeather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen (Limelight Editions, 2004)
Columbus Library Digital Collection, Picture of Dayton SelbyTrio
Wikipedia entry for the International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Personnel on “Rice Pudding”: Willene Barton (tenor saxophone), Robert Banks (organ), guitar and drums unknown.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I didn’t know that Moses led the Israelites through an Alaskan island chain or maybe that’s just a biblical Aleutian.

Donald Trump questions every opponent’s national origins (do you know about this?) through his “birther” methodology, and in particular, his campaign slogan, “Eat Big Birther’s Mussels!”

If a religious group slobbers at the mouth, then it might be a delegation from the Salivation Army.

Their band features a drummer, a trombonist, and a sympathizer, but yeah, they struck up a hot version of “Dust Mites Broom”.

The theatre had to slash its budget—so it cut some farce.

If you have difficulty expressing yourself, the doctor might administer one or several enigmas.

Too, the doctor might try to take your Lubriderm count as part of treating your ethereal disease, or he might attempt to cure your estranged muscle.

Meanwhile, you should work out with dumbbells, because you could grow quite ambiguous.

A cat has asinine lives.

Everyone caught the new virus—a petulance spread throughout the land.

Many African diplomats don’t know how to receive the embassies from their colleagues in Dakar, because their colleagues are sending mixed Senegals.

Join me in a hug, an ecstatic cling, that won’t let go, or conversely, if you can’t experience love by asking, you could always hire a destitute.

They shanked a guy named Herb in the penitentiary. It was Herbicide.

Hey: if it can be placed in the freezer, it’s feasible!                                



How, after Obama’s weekly Saturday address, the Republican drifts into earshot a half-hour later, carping about some government wastrel, ministerial dealie. Maybe the junior senator from Alabama does this deed, the same way Kenny G. delivers the opposition response to the Super Bowl halftime show. The Super Bowl, of course, continues, so you’d have to bust out your AM radio, the one held together with slack rubber bands, the one leaking battery rust out of its rear compartment. Kenny G. jokes about playing the Chuck Mangione songbook, but in the pause between the quip and the first woozy weasel popping out of his saxophone, you involuntarily mime an evasive action, an incomplete destruction of documents, perhaps, to camouflage a significant (if imaginary) transgression. Quantum physics can best describe the influence that Kenny G wields with respect to the Universe, and it doesn’t recommend little-flower optimism. One Kenny G galaxy collides with another Kenny G galaxy, goes the science, but the distances—so vast—prevent the mutual destruction you might otherwise anticipate. Do you prefer Beyonce’s hair or Kenny G.’s hair? Do you prefer a Nat Geo hippopotamus fart or a Kenny G. hippopotamus fart? The opposition hasn’t devoted much bandwidth to this endeavor, and the spooky distortions between channels outperform Kenny G., the unfortunate rivulets of Kenny G. There, the radio conks, a splutter of overworked international vacuum tubes. “Surely the knell”, you think, “but for the Heaven of Wealthy Elevators.” You’ve always wanted to go for gelato, go for gelato, regard it as practice for when a trip to gelato will really matter in your life. Yes, pilgrim, a trip to gelato will—some day—matter in your life. Really.

this post is part of a double issue. also see: COPPIN’ A FEALTY.

Friday, January 8, 2016


On a night when the Number Of Casual Snake Stories rivaled the Number Of Fine Pints Held Up To The Light, it had come time to sock Rod Smith in the shoulder. I say sock, Dear Reader, but clearly you can judge for yourself the Swiftness & Stealth of this maneuver, as the camera could not capture any small smidgen of its express delivery. Let us note the various aspects of the No Nonsense Reply. The affixing of reading spectacles as if to declare: Thug Life. The Crane Technique aka Looming Machinery Of The Poetry Hammer honed on the Mean Streets of Gallipolis, Ohio. And the Shock Swoop (French: chaque swoop) of the Final Descent. By the final frame, Dear Reader, neither of us could remember what had prompted us to offer the Substantial Ruckus of our Essential Conflict and so, you know, we just took a Regulation Photo, there, as if to proclaim Great Ambivalence about All Things That Squander Our Hopes in the pursuit of what we might call Medium-Tight. Amen.