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Category: Music

Honey Bee (Zee Avi Cover, Performed by Lauren Darrow)


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Lauren and her friend Kenny got together and recorded this little tune in his home studio. Simple and cute. Lauren did all the vocals and flutes, and Kenny did the guitar and body-rhythm sounds.

Please download your own copy, free, to play on your iPod or other MP3 player. (PCs right-click here and choose Save Target As… – Macs, Option-Click here)

‘We Are the World’ Music Video – For Haiti

Of course, I was around 25 years ago for the original version of this song. This is quite a nice, sonic version of it, updated with today’s artists, styles and sound, presented in crystal-clear multichannel sound, too. There are a great many wonderful vocal vignettes in this version, but listen for Celine Dion’s amazing vocal run after ‘3:50.’

Man, We Were a Hit

David Darrow & John Toth 1972In Junior High School (now called ‘middle school’) my best friend was John Toth. We just enjoyed getting into mild mischief, breaking a few meaningless rules, and laughing at almost anything. We just had fun everywhere we went.

I think we were both attracted to Carol Matthews whom I haven’t seen since I was 13 and she was 12… but she wasn’t interested.

I digress.

Today, kind of out-of-the-blue, John e-mailed this picture from our distant past (January 1972 — 35 years ago). That’s me apparently playing the bass. The legs and feet are actually me, while John stars as my ‘hands’ and ‘arms’, from behind — and of course I have no control over what ‘my hands decide to do.’ We were legends in our own minds with this act. We should have taken it on the road.

Cuppycake – by Amy Castle

Amy Castle, singing You're My HoneybunchI don’t think there could possibly be anything cuter on the face of the earth than Amy Castle singing [Watch it on YouTube] what’s come to be known as “The CuppyCake Song,” incorrectly attributed to Strawberry Shortcake.

Naturally Amy’s own parents have a stake in clearing up the rumor, since it was their cutest of kids that made it the hit it is.

Amy Castle has her own website and YouTube channel, now. She turned 24 on April 2, 2014.

Rachmaninoff and My Brother John

My brother John played the piano for Annie and Matt’s wedding last Saturday. John has been playing since he was 5 or 8 or maybe still in the womb or something. He’s 45 now, and I can tell you that I have never heard him play better in my whole life than I did on Saturday. And he has always impressed me.

He played the Rachmaninoff piece 18th Variation From Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini that became the theme song for Somewhere in Time, at Annie’s request. He’d never played it before getting the sheet music about 2 months ago, and he committed it to memory in that time. He didn’t just play it, he felt it. It was so awesome to watch my brother play this, that it made my eyes well up, I have never been prouder of him. I came this close to standing up and yelling “That’s my brother!” when he finished. He played about 30 minutes of waiting music before the wedding started, including two or three of his own compositions.

Hear John Play It
This is the actual performance of 18th Variation From Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini at the wedding of Matthew and Annaliese Beghtel, July 8, 2006.
Download the MP3 here. You may also want to Update your Quicktime Player.

That’s
my
brother!
Hearing him play the Rachmaninoff piece reminded me of the movie Shine and the famous “Rach. 3” that David Helfgott played for that memorable concert. I bought the CD of that movie’s soundtrack and I listen to it while I paint. The Rach. 3 is one of my favorite pieces, now. I never tire of it.

This past Wednesday, on our Road Trip home after attending my niece’s wedding, Teresa and I took a purposefully slow detour down California’s 101, and, among other sites, drove through the Avenue of the Giants on our trip back, and I put in the Shine soundtrack as a musical bed for what we were about to see as we turned off the 101 onto the Avenue of the Giants.

Watch this video of Vladimir Horowitz playing a bit of the Rach. 3. Give it at least 57 seconds of your time—see if it hooks you. I love watching a master, maybe you will, too.

O Holy Cow

I wish I would have known about this well-circulated Holiday Classic: O Holy Night [MP3] during the holidays.

It is reportedly a serious audition tape some poor sap sent in to someone.

It reminds me of something Bob Bennett once said when he was doing a concert at our church. He was telling about the origin of a song he wrote, and how he never says “‘God gave me this song’ because so many really bad musicians say that inexplicably before they sing a horribly bad song with drivel lyrics and three-chord, predictable melodies—probably to deflect criticism. I mean how can you tell them it’s a bad song if God gave it to them? Maybe God gave them the song because He didn’t want it.”

The guy singing O Holy Night was probably sincere.

Sincerely bad.

Can It Have Been 30 Years?

I find that there is a common thread running through the blogs I like best. Art is the most common theme. I have run into the works of some very fine sketchers and artists by just following the links that Commenters leave.

Somewhere along the way I started reading RobotJohnny‘s blog. John is a whimsical artist with a great eye for simplicity and humor.

My 30th high school reunion is coming up just three weeks from now. I went to Westchester High School [Satellite] in Los Angeles . The area was simply called Westchester. [Info] I graduated in 1975.

Anyway John posted this blog entry that got me thinking about the music that Radio People made us believe were the top songs. [I still cannot believe the Captain and Tennille had the number one hit in 1975. Geez. And have you ever seen that guy’s eyes?]

The scary thing about a 30th reunion is I am sure the Reunion Committee has hired a DJ for the night that is 25 years younger and thinks he will be making our evening wonderful by playing all these songs. And loudly.

Personally, I do not wish to listen to 30 year old music at my high school reunion. I am going to the WHS 1975 reunion to talk to people I haven’t seen in 30 years, not to dance. It’s not a party. It is a re-uniting.

Anyway, borrowing the idea from John, who got it from someone else—and then manipulating the rules a bit: you get a list of the top 100 songs from a particular year [found here, near the bottom] and copy the whole list into your blog.

  • Boldface your favorites
  • Italicize the ones you generally enjoyed
  • Strike Out the ones you hated
  • Leave alone the ones you were indifferent to.
  • Append [???] to ones you don’t have any recollection of ever hearing in your known lifetime.
  • I have added hover-comments to some. Hover your cursor over dotted underlines.

My list from 30 years ago:

1. Love Will Keep Us Together, The Captain and Tennille
2. Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell
3. Philadelphia Freedom, Elton John
4. Before The Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender
5. My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli
6. Shining Star, Earth, Wind and Fire
7. Fame, David Bowie
8. Laughter In The Rain, Neil Sedaka
9. One Of These Nights, Eagles
10. Thank God I’m A Country Boy, John Denver
Continue reading

DW Fix

David Wilcox and MeTeresa and I got to see and hear the extraordinary David Wilcox again, last night. We took our friend Karen who has never seen him before, but whom we got interested in his music.

She goes to sleep with David Wilcox every night, now, she tells us. She has an iPod

Due to the surprise nature of his availability for a concert—last minute notice—there were only about 150 people there. The upside for us was that it made the venue that much more intimate.

All the stories he tells are engaging. He’s a storyteller in monologue and in the poetry of his lyrics. He told a story I had never heard before about when he was in college…

He had a friend who played guitar. He used to watch his friend practically breaking his fingers trying to figure out the chords and fingering for a Bob Dylan song he was trying to learn called Buckets of Rain [iTunes Music Store]. His friend grunted in agony and frustration in not being able to play the song.

When David went away to college, one night he heard a girl with a guitar playing Buckets of Rain in the stairwell. [A Magazine Interview found on David’s website tells it a little differently, so I don’t know who to believe, David or David?] She was playing it perfectly, and it sounded beautiful in the reverberating stairwell. He went up to her and told her he had a friend who had been trying to learn that song for the longest time, so he was wondering if she could write down the chords or something for him to give to his friend.

She told him that, no, she couldn’t because really the guitar was in what’s called an Open-D tuning, and she had no idea what the chords were… “But I can show you how to play it,” she offered.

“Well, I don’t even play guitar—my friend does,” David said.

“Oh no, it’s really simple… I’ll show you where to put your fingers, and what strings to hit, and you can show him. He’ll know what to do.”

So she did.

And he learned it.

And he asked her if he could borrow her guitar and return it in the morning.

And then he stayed up all night in that stairwell, playing that song, and perfecting the riffs. He finally quit when one of his fingertips started bleeding.

He waited days for the finger to heal, then borrowed someone else’s guitar and practiced until he had it perfect, learning a Joni Mitchell song perfectly along the way, too.

It wasn’t long before he bought a guitar for himself, and he kept it in an Open-D tuning, hidden under his bed, until one night he got together with his friend who started struggling through Buckets of Rain again. David went and got his guitar, and said, “I can show you how to play that. I learned it!”

And he played it perfectly for his friend—who sat there stunned.

Great Service

Tonight, for Teresa’s uh… 39th birthday, which was in February, I am taking her to another David Wilcox concert in San Diego. Should be a great evening.

UpdateWithout going into sappy phrases about how incredibly David Wilcox plays, and how listening to him is a zenlike experience which apparently I have just accomplished in this very sentence, I will instead comment on a few of noteworthy items of the evening.

The venue was a rented United Methodist Church which hosts concerts put on by an all-volunteer group of people at Acoustic Music San Diego headed by Carey Driscoll, a retired fellow who just loves live acoustic music, and started this deal about two years ago so he could bring an otherwise unknowable series of talented acoustic instrumentalists to San Diego, where no such forum exists. What a blessing that is!

Tickets went on sale 45 days before the concert with the warning that a David Wilcox concert would likely sell out quickly, as it sold out last year, and this one in fact did. I was fortunate enough to have bought among the first tickets and landed front-row seats right on the center aisle of this single-aisle church sanctuary. The old building, upright oak pews and arched ceilings made it a unique, warm and spiritual experience.

The volunteers for the concerts wear Hawaiian-style shirts, but the print is all different acoustic guitars in the pattern. Each wears a name-tag bearing their first name. As Teresa and I were sitting awaiting the concert start, she nudged me and pointed to the right of us in the side isle, front. There was David Wilcox talking to the sound guy and wearing a same-style shirt and a name-tag that said “David” on it.

Carey introduced him a few minutes later, explaining that when booking David for the concert, David asked him about having one of those cool shirts he saw them wearing last year. Carey asked him, “You’re serious?” So he got him one.

“When I brought David his shirt,” Carey said as he introduced David, “he said, ‘all that’s missing now is the name-tag,’ which one of the volunteers named David gladly gave to him.” So David performed that night in the whole volunteer uniform. The audience applauded the whole idea as David moved to the microphone and added, “It seemed appropriate… I am here to serve.”

Then he began playing a riff pattern from “Start With the Ending,” a philosophy-in-a-song that suggests starting any new relationship with the stuff you would say quite comfortably when you have nothing to lose and the relationship is over. It’s a clever message about taking the risk of pure honesty in communication to start things out on the right foot. And he plays this fascinating little pattern as a music bed for the story he weaves over the top of it, leading into a song.

This particular evening we were treated to him “really starting to like this carbon-fiber Rainsong guitar,” as he kept exclaiming. He explained that his Olson is staying with a friend in the South for the next two years while David and his wife Nance get in their new Bio-diesel-burning Ford Excursion and tow an Airstream Travel Trailer around the United States with their twelve year old son Nathan and visit all the national parks.

[I want to go with them.]

Anyway, given the temperature changes and extremes of humidity and dryness, he didn’t want to subject his custom Olson to the harsh environment of the silver-can trailer, so he bought a Rainsong all-graphite guitar which is supposed to be totally unaffected by changes in temperature and humidity. He said when he called a high-end casemaker to build him a case for his brand new Rainsong, the guy asked, “Why?! Just bolt a handle onto it. It is a case!”

Despite the guitar looking decidedly not wood, it is truly an incredible sounding instrument, especially in the hands of a master such as David Wilcox. There’s an interesting, somewhat science-laden explanation of why carbon-fiber, or graphite guitars sound the way they do in this article at Rainsong’s website.

The couple across the isle from us had a 4 or 5 year old boy with them, who dozed off to sleep about 2 songs into the concert. In the darkness of the sanctuary as David was storytelling, leading into his next song, the mom tossed a couple of sweaters on the floor in the aisle next to her and got out and laid her son down on it. David saw this going on and stepped back from his microphone, still playing with his free hand, dipped behind the curtain and came back out with a choir pew seat cushion for the boy to lay his head on. Then David said over the mic, “I have a great bedtime song…” as he abandoned his former story for the song of the moment. It was a touching moment.

I think the biggest deal about David Wilcox is how he goes out of his way to make sure you understand what he understands: he’s no big deal.

I admire that.

From the casual introduction, to the volunteer’s shirt, to the name tag, to the pillow for the sleeping boy, to the message of pure music, to the warm, friendly volunteers that make the evening enjoyable, we got great service Friday night.

Discovery: Trace Bundy

Through my new obsession with David Wilcox’s music after attending his concert a couple of weekends ago [ref. entry],I have now discovered another phenomenon of a player. I can’t describe him any other way.

Trace Bundy

It’s one thing to hear a player and wonder how they do it, it’s wholly another thing to watch them in disbelief.

And—deal of the century—Trace’s release Adapt comes in a combo pack CD/DVD, with video of a live performance, with lots of close-ups on fingerings and other magic. From his website you can sample several clips from the DVD such as the one titled Hot Capo Stew [Windows media] where he uses 5 capoes of varying length and structure to allow him use of the fretboard in ways I could never have dreamed.

Anniversary Celebration

Teresa and I had our second anniversary on January 12th, and on Sunday the 16th we celebrated by going to a David Wilcox concert at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.

I have never seen David play before. My brother in law, Teresa’s brother, Patrick Mercer, turned me on to Wilcox on Mothers Day a year and a half ago. We were visiting my wife’s mother Anita, and Pat had come to visit, too. I brought my guitar along, hoping to get Pat to play, since he’s an absolutely incredible player. Pat was whining about how small the fretboard is on my guitar—a Yamaha FG-160 that I bought new for $170 at Westchester Music on Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA in 1973. I have since added a pretty decent internal pick-up, and happened to have some recording equipment along with me, and recorded several things Pat managed to scratch out with my narrow-necked guitar [sample Blues riff from that day]. Anyway, where was I? Oh, Pat was complaining about how he could barely make contact with some of the strings on my fretboard because it is narrower than his, and I am starting to think to myself, maybe it is the guitar’s fault! Maybe that’s why Pat plays better, maybe… yeah, right. So he goes on for about 45 minutes playing song after song, strings buzzing now and then as he hammers them badly, but, really, sounding as good as I could ever dream of playing, and then he launches into this cute little, bluesie number with catchy lyrics:

Now, when the paint jar tippedOff of the tableYou watched as it started to fallGlass popped, shattered and splatteredAnd paint spray hit the wall

Bright, blue, glossy enamelAcross the kitchen floorYou said, “Good God! Look at that patternI’ve never seen that before!”

Leave it like it isNever mind the turpentineLeave it like it isIt’s fine [more lyrics]

I really grew to like the song as I listened to that recording of it day after day after returning home. I had asked Pat what the name of the song is and all he could think of was “Kitchen Blue or something like that.” And he told me it was by a guy named David Wilcox.

Never heard of him.

After doing a bunch of Internet hunting, I finally got that the song was actually named Leave It Like It Is, and that David Wilcox has several CDs—most of which I now own. It was a bit of a challenge to hunt this down because there is another David Wilcox that is a hard-blues player and doesn’t sound at all like the David Wilcox I was hunting for, who is more like James Taylor or, better, Bob Bennett, my two favorite acoustic guitar players in the known universe; whose lyrical poetry astounds me to this day. David was soon to be added to this short list. My web hunting was also made somewhat more difficult by the simple fact that it never occurred to me to try typing into my browser: http://www.davidwilcox.com/ —and that’s where you can find everything about him. [duh!]

So in a year and a half’s time, Wilcox has gone from being unknown to me, to sitting on the same throne as Bob Bennett—either of whom would gladly defer the spot to the other.

My Review: You have just got to go to a David Wilcox concert. His guitar music is the most amazing and beautiful music you will hear from an acoustic guitar, but more than that, his intimate performance grabs you from the very first note. Oh, and he sings, too! He engages his entire audience in a split second, and breathes a hope-giving life philosophy into everything he says and sings. Our hearts were lifted as our jaws dropped. We laughed, hugged, and even teared up.

David says he and his family will be hitting the road on a long trip soon, and that may mean he won’t do concerts for a while. Check with his calendar to see if he’ll be near you soon. And go see him! You will thank me.If you don’t trust me, ask Bob Bennett. He was in the audience listening that night, too!

Jump!

A friend of mine signs off notes to many of the people he writes to: May you find grace in unusual places.

Unusual is a good word for what rock group Van Halen‘s former lead singer David Lee Roth is currently up to.

According to one article, it seems Roth is genuinely interested in doing good for people and wishes to remain anonymous. He’s so serious about it, he’s training to be a paramedic, and has already saved at least one life. [MSNBC]

I’m thinking that, if he hasn’t already, he may have to cut his hair to really remain anonymous.

Update: he has.

Paging Dr. Roth…

The Rubbah Schwan

Vaughn Meader was a part of my childhood, and I never knew his name.

All I remember was my parents laughing and laughing at the comedic JFK impersonator, so many nights in 1962—42 years ago.

I heard on MSNBC this evening that Meader died today. His recording First Family, is one my parents had a copy of, and it was a favorite to drag out and put on the reel-to-reel and play for friends, or just for us. He sold, I believe, 10 million copies of that vinyl record. Kennedy himself enjoyed the parody so much that he bought 100 copies to give away to friends.

One year later, JFK was dead, and Meader’s act was over. Or as he put it in 1999: November 22, 1963, the day I died.

A very tragic story.

I was 5 at the time, and didn’t get the jokes but have fond memories of my family enjoying the humor.

I pulled out the reel-to-reel tape this evening and digitized the whole thing for posterity. Here’s a sample: click here

Platinum Suffers Wear and Tear

At this very moment, Teresa and I and our good friend Karen should be seated in the elegant Copley Symphony Hall waiting eagerly for our long-awaited San Diego, One-Night-Only Josh Groban Concert to begin… but he’s had to “postpone” the concert. He’s really sick.

It’s amazing to me that anyone is left in the TV-watching work that has not yet heard of multiple-platinum recording boy wonder Josh Groban. Platinum is Record Industry jargon for “one-million recordings sold”—which smokes “gold” tenfold. By December of last year, Josh’s debut CD, self-titled, had gone triple-platinum world-wide. This is enormous for a debut CD.

I came to discover Josh while watching an old episode of Ally McBeal, in which he performed an incredible solo at the end of the show. I was so impressed, I had to find out more about him, and in the process painted a portrait (now 2) of him. My limited edition prints (still available) have helped raise money for Leukemia research. Having reserved edition 1/250 of my print “Shane’s Angel” for Josh himself led to one nice little perk: today at about 12:15pm I got a phone call from Josh’s dad (really!) to tell me that he was sorry but his son was having to cancel the San Diego performance this evening.

<gulp>

It seems the concert schedule plus his performance at yesterday’s Superbowl (see video: WMF – 11.7mb or RM – 10.5mb) wiped out his voice… and he is bed-ridden—doctor’s orders—for at least 2 days.

Yes, we’re disappointed, but it was pretty cool to tell Teresa I got a call from Josh’s dad today.