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Posts Tagged ‘Willie Nelson

“This land is your land, this land is my land”*…

 

Willie Nelson

 

“City of New Orleans” isn’t a song about New Orleans. It’s a song about a train called the City of New Orleans. Willie Nelson didn’t write it. But he made it a Grammy Award-winning hit in 1984.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how Willie Nelson came to it. Over the course of his career—a five-decade ramblin’ run that spans recordings as far back as 1962 and as recent as last year—Willie has written endlessly about his affection for (and occasional vexation with) cities across the land…

No one map could track all the sites and cities Willie sings about. He’s recorded songs about rivers: the Rio Grande and the Pedernales, the Mississippi and the Ohio, the Rhine and the Jordan. He’s played songs about trains: the Midnight Special, the Wabash Cannonball, the Golden Rocket, the City of New Orleans. (And, of course, a song about rainbows.) Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, and Texas all loom large over his songbook…

Still,  the map above does contain a  great many of them… An appreciation: “On the Road Again: Mapping All the Cities in Willie Nelson’s Songs.”

* Woody Guthrie

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As we celebrate one red-head, we might also celebrate others: it was on this date in 1887 that the (fictional) action began in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Red-Headed League”– a piece that Conan Doyle ranked second on his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories.

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Sidney Paget‘s illustration of Watson reading the newspaper to Holmes and Wilson in “The Red-Headed League” in The Strand Magazine, where the story first appeared.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

A young Mother…

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The March 27, 1963 edition of The Steve Allen Show featured a 22-year-old musician playing the bicycle…  an inventive young man named Frank Zappa.

(Parts 2, 3, and 4 linked to the right on the YouTube page)

As we remark that the young Frank actually looks a little like today’s most famous singing cyclist, David Byrne, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” reached the top of Billboard‘s Hot 100.  Arguing that “there’s only two kinds of music as far as I’m concerned: good and bad,” Charles had overcome his label’s reservations (“you’ll alienate your fans”) and recorded Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music; “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was the first single from the album.  It held the #1 spot on the singles chart for five weeks (the biggest pop hit of Charles’s monumental career); Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music went on to become the best-selling album of the year.  Speaking just before Charles’ death in 2004, his friend and collaborator Willie Nelson said that “The Genius” “did more for country music than any other living human being.”

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From wailin’ to Waylon…

15 July 1972, Billerica, MA — Don Stover was a bluegrass banjo picker from White Oak, West Virginia. In 1952 he joined the Lilly Brothers from nearby Beckley, and headed for Boston, where they played together for over eighteen years at the (in)famous Hillbilly Ranch.  Stover had great influence on a generation of important young banjo pickers, from Bill Keith (who introduced chromatic scales to bluegrass as a member of Bill Monroe’s band) to Bela Fleck (the bluegrass and jazz-fusion star)

Courtesy of the always fascinating Selvedge Yard, a selection of photos from the archive of photographer Henry Horenstein, “Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981“– a time before CMT and “New Country,”  a time when country was…  well, country.

15 July 1974, Berryville, Virginia — Bluegrass music fans at the Berryville Bluegrass Festival

15 July, 1975, Cambridge, MA. Waylon Jennings began as his career as a Cricket (Buddy Holly’s bass player) and ended it as an Outlaw (a member of the group that also included Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Billy Joe Shaver). Along the way, he conspired with Johnny Cash in the addled 60s , then charted a series of hits that included the classic “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

See the rest of Horenstein’s arresting photos at The Selvedge Yard.

As we pine for a PBR, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that, in another corner of the music world, Chuck Berry’s first hit record, “Maybellene” entered the R&B chart. Piano player Johnnie Johnson recalls that he and Berry rewrote the song at the suggestion of Leonard Chess: “It was an old fiddle tune called ‘Ida Red'[recorded in 1938 by Bob Wills]. I changed the music and re-arranged it, Chuck re-wrote the words, and the rest, as they say, was history.  Leonard Chess asked me to come up to record it live. At that time, someone else already had a song out by the same name, so we had to change our version. We noticed a mascara box in the corner, so we changed the name to ‘Maybellene.'”

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