Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Real McCoy (02/27)

I learned (thanks to public radio) about another lesser known talent in the music business…

Rose McCoy

Rose McCoy

May I introduce, Rose Marie McCoy, one of the most prolific songwriters you’ve never heard of.

Rose McCoy grew up on a farm in Arkansas. But at the age of 19, she left home and moved to New York City to try to become a singer.

While she was waiting for her break as a singer, McCoy started to write songs, discovering that it came naturally to her. In the pop music world of the time, most performers relied on professional songwriters for their hits, and the entire songwriting industry was centered on one square block in New York City: 1619 Broadway. Better known as the Brill Building, the block housed a 10-story hit factory stuffed with songwriters, producers and music publishers.

After work, the Brill Building employees would hang out at Beefsteak Charlie’s. Many songwriters pitched there songs there and that is exactly the spot where Rose McCoy and her songwriting partner Charlie Singleton, set up their office (or should I say booth).

In 1954, McCoy and Singleton wrote a song called “Trying to Get to You,” which was first recorded by a black vocal group called The Eagles. Elvis Presley heard their version in a record store in Memphis, and he decided to record the song on his debut album for RCA Records in 1955.

Presley’s album spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts.

Eventually she had a house, agreen Cadillac and her own office in the Brill Building, but she still worked for herself. She liked her independence and wanted to keep control of her music.

“I mean, she realized at some point in time that her power was in the pen,” Al Bell says. “And she was just one of those rare persons that wanted to be free to write her own songs and do what she wanted to do.”

Now 86 years, although retired, she is still writing songs.

Read full story: Lady Writes the Blues

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Willow Trees (02/26)

The Weeping Willow tree has always been one of my favorite trees. I loved standing under them when I was little, it always felt like a secret magical world.

Weeping Willow

Weeping Willow

As it turns out, there is something magical about the Willow tree…

It has medicinal properties and its leaves and bark been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the 5th century BC. Native Americans across the American continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. This is because they contain salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.

(I thank Paul Harvey and Wikipedia for this information.)

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The Bible and the The Byrds (02/25)

I can’t believe that after 12 years of Catholic school, that I didn’t already know this…

The song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (a favorite of mine as a kid) is adapted entirely from the the Book of Ecclesiastes. (specifically Ecclesiastes 3:1.)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Who knew? I didn’t.

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The Funk Brothers (02/24)

Have you ever heard of these fellows:

The Funk Brothers

The Funk Brothers

Chances are you haven’t heard their name, but you definitely have heard them play.

They are Motown’s unsung heroes. Known as The Funk Brothers, the studio band put the backbeat into hits for Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, etc. They played on more #1 records than The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined, but no one knew their names.
Here are some notable members’ names:

bandleader Joe Hunter

and Earl Van Dyke (piano);

James Jamerson (bass guitar);

Benny “Papa Zita” Benjamin and Richard “Pistol” Allen (drums);

Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar);

Jack Ashford (tambourine, percussion, vibraphone, marimba);

Jack Brokensha (vibraphone, marimba);

Eddie “Bongo” Brown (percussion).

Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.

In 1967, guitarists Dennis Coffey and Melvin “Wah-Wah Watson” Ragin, who introduced the wah-wah pedal that defined Motown’s psychedelic soul records, joined the band. Benny Benjamin died the next year, and Bob Babbitt began to replace James Jamerson on many recordings.

To learn more check out his documentary: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Or read more here, here and here.

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Slumdog Millionaire (02/23)

A bit of trivia for you:

Slumdog Millionaire is the first movie since Lord of Rings: The Return of the King (2003) to win Best Picture without any of the actors being nominated.

Before that it was The Last Emperor (1987)

Before that it was The Last Emperor (1987)

Does that mean that these Best Pictures had the Worst Actors? Of course not, just not the best I suppose.

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TASER (02/22)

I have always known what a TASER stun gun was, but never really considered what TASER stood for.

I was browsing through the latest edition of Time Magazine and found out where Jack Cover, the aerospace scientist who invented the Taser stun gun got the name. Are you ready?

Victor Appleton's Tom Swift series.

Victor Appleton's Tom Swift series.

Originally the invention went by the acronym T.S.E.R (Thomas Swift Electric Rifle).

“Adding the “A,” he explained to The Washington Post in 1976, “because we got tired of answering the phone ‘T.S.E.R.’ ”

Jack Cover Came up with the idea for a nonlethal weapon for use in law enforcement in the 1960s as a response to the emergencies in the news, including airplane highjackings.

The scientific inspiration, Ms. Cover said, was a newspaper article about a man who had inadvertently walked into an electrified fence and survived, though he was temporarily immobilized.

“When he read that had happened, he knew an electric current could be used without danger,” Ms. Cover said.

Sadly, Jack Cover passed away on February 7 at the age of 88.

Time Magazine

New York Times

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Rube Goldberg Contraption (02/21)

(noun) a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.

(noun) a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite scenes in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is when he gets breakfast ready by turning on a fan and lighting a candle (thus beginning his Rube Goldberg machine). As a kid, I always thought that machines of that nature were a movie trick. I never knew that there was a name for them and that they can actually be made.

But who was Rube Goldberg?

Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author.

Best known for his INVENTIONS, Rube’s early years as an engineer informed his most acclaimed works. A Rube Goldberg contraption – an elaborate set of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups, and rods, put in motion by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles, and live animals – takes a simple task and makes it extraordinarily complicated. He had solutions for How To Get The Cotton Out Of An Aspirin Bottle, imagined a Self-Operating Napkin, and created a Simple Alarm Clock – to name just a few of his hilariously depicted drawings.

from the official Rube Goldberg website

See the top 10 movies with Rube Goldberg Machines

and a cool little Honda commericial:

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