MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

seasick-and-lynWhat a weekend! The annual Byron Bay Blues Festival took place and the rain turned it into a mudfest. Highlights for me were Seasick Steve, The Drive By Truckers, Ash Grunwald, The Saltwater Band, James Hunter, Tony Joe White and Watermelon Slim. Lots of inspiration there for my show this week, dedicated to musical instruments. That’s me on the left, looking suitably pleased to have met Seasick Steve at a signing.

One thing I love about the Blues Festival is that you get what seems to be missing at a lot of concerts these days, i.e. the tradition of band leaders introducing all the instruments one by one. It’s why I opened with King Curtis and his ‘Memphis Soul Stew’. There he is, in his musical kitchen, gathering up his ingredients: half a teacup of bass, a pound of fatback drums, a little pinch of organ. Yummy.

I have no discernable musical talent myself and you may joke that its a given, being a radio presenter and all. But I do have a great deal of respect for the bass guitar – that band member traditionally labeled ‘dependable’. So it felt right to get the show moving with a couple of country songs about geetars.

Jerry Reed scored his first hit with ‘Guitar Man’. The story goes that when Elvis quickly dived onto covering it, he had to call Jerry up for some pointers on a particular riff and that’s how Jerry found himself playing guitar on the Elvis version. It’s a spirited anthem for all those guitar-slinging hopefuls amongst us. Steve Earle, on the other hand, named a whole town after his instrument in ‘Guitar Town’. Now don’t tell me that guitarists don’t have ego problems! 

images1‘Guitar Blues’ is a nice piece of old blues from Lonnie Johnson, recognised as the first to play single string guitar solos and a pioneer of the jazz guitar. That’s him at the time he recorded ‘Guitar Blues’, (I think) in the late 1920s.

And then it was time for some brass and woodwind with Ray Montrell telling us all about that ‘Mellow Saxophone’;  Dinah Washington and Serge Gainsbourg, on the other hand, are loving the trombone.

Tom Waites blamed the piano on his drinking habit in ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’. Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ benefited greatly from the harmonica and accordian and then it was onto the hurdy-gurdy and the harmonium just to add some eccentricity. 

If, like me, you’re not sure what a hurdy gurdy is: it’s a stringed instrument with both a keyboard and a wheel that acts like a bow that is continuously drawn across the strings by the turning of a handle or crank. The name has also been applied, incorrectly, to the barrel organ. The hurdy-gurdy has filled many and various roled in the world of music. It’s been used by street musicians, beggars, in church music, weddings, parades, chamber music and operas.

And then, at last, it was time for some drumming! Sandy Nelson’s ‘Let There Be Drums’ is a classic as is ‘Different Drum’ by the Stoney Poneys, with Linda Ronstadt. This was written by Mike Nesmith of Monkees fame. Glam-rockers T-Rex suggested that we ‘Bang A Gong, Get It On’. And the Lemon Pipers gave us an ode to all those struggling street musicians with a little piece of psychedelic bubblegum called ‘Green Tambourine’. Check out this crazy clip from the 1968 television show ‘Upbeat’.

Love, love, love Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s ‘Intro and Outro’ introducing their fantasy band: Big John Wayne on Xylophone, Eric Clapton on ukelele, ‘looking very relaxed’ Adolf Hitler on vibes…. you get the idea. A great follow up to that was a whole lot of songs about fiddling: The Davis Sisters with ‘Fiddle Diddle Boogie’, the wonderful Adelaide band, The Audreys, with ‘Banjo and Violin’ and Bill Monroe with ‘Uncle Pen’, dedicated to his fiddle playing uncle. Monroe is best remembered for helping to develop bluegrass. He was also a great mandolin player. Check out this video clip from 1956.

But what’s a show about musical instruments without the saw? Mic Conway’s National Junk Band gave us the ‘Worn Saw Concerto’ with Azo Bell on the musical handsaw. Brilliant.

5695701Tubular bells, more guitars and then The Who belted out a risque little number called ‘Squeeze Box’. More drumming, and one of my favourites tracks of the day, ‘Shortnin’-Henduck’ by Othar Turner and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band.  You can find that track, and a whole lot of other fabulous Blues numbers, on the Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues Box Set (drawn from his fantastic documentary series). That’s Othar Turner in the pic on the right. BTW: the fife is a reed instrument, made from the sugar cane.

Next up it was some techno. Yep, the computer marries one of the oldest instruments on the planet. Aphex Twin, (or as his mum likes to call him, Richard David James), delivers a thrilling emulation of the didgeridoo’s sound, created entirely by electronic means.

images-1Creedence Clearwater Revival gave us ‘Down on the Corner’, where at last the kazoo player gets a mention. Had to finish with a song about my favourite instrument, the ukelele: Mic Conway’s National Junk Band with ‘Wicky Wacky Woo’ from their latest album Corporate Chook. Band member Philthy Dunnyseat plucks and strums the ukelele in this haunting Aussie-Hawaiian tropical love song. Crooner Conway reminds us that sons of the Hawaiian craze, in the early 20th centruy, were often sung by silly Western romantics who had never been to Polynesia. Excellent stuff.

Here’s the complete playlist:

Memphis Soul Stew  King Curtis

Guitar Man – Jerry Reed

Guitar Town – Steve Earl

Guitar Blues – Lonnie Johnson

(Every Time I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone – Roy Montrell

Big Long Slidin’ Thing – Dinah Washingon

Black Trombone – Serge Gainsbourg

The Piano Has Been Drinking – Tom Waits

Hurdy Gurdy Man – Donovan

Piano Man – Billy Joel

Music For A Found Harmonium – Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Different Drum – Stoney Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt

Let There Be Drums – Sandy Nelson

Green Tambourine – Lemon Pipers

Bang A Gong Get It On – T-Rex

Mr. Clarinet – Birthday Party

Intro And The Outro – Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band

Fiddle Diddle Boogie – Davis Sisters

Uncle Pen – Bill Monroe

Banjo & Violin – The Audreys

Worn Saw Concrete  Mic Conway’s National Junk Band

Tubular Bells (Intro Theme) – Mike Oldfield

Guitar Man – Bread 

As My Guitar Gently Weeps – George Harrison/Beatles

Squeeze Box –  The Who

Distant Drums – Roy Orbison 

Shortnin’-Henduck  Othar Turner & The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band

I Heard The Marchin’ Of The Drum – C.W. Stoneking

Didgeridoo – Aphex Twin 

Down on the Corner – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds 

Wicky Wacky Woo  Mic Conway’s National Junk Band

Tune in next week when all our songs will endeavour to give you some ‘Advice’.

Listen to Lyn at the Theme Park,  Tuesdays 2-4pm Sydney time, on BayFM 99.9. Also streaming at http://www.bayfm.org

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About Lyn McCarthy

Lyn presents a weekly radio show at BayFM 99.9 in beautiful Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia

Posted on April 15, 2009, in Broadcasting and media, community radio, music - nostalgia, music, blues, music, country, music, r&b, Radio Program, Roy Orbison, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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