What 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!
‘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.
Tubular 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.
Creedence 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
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 Australia, Blues, Byron Bay, country, Dinah Washington, music, Nick Cave, R&B, radio, Roy Orbison, Theme music. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.