Sunday, August 12, 2012

I’ve been casually tuning in to the Olympics here and there, and since I write a lot about the psychobilly obsession with zombies, I kept thinking about how important some of these skills are for fending off the undead. So in case you’re worried about suffering a four-year withdrawal from the Summer Olympics, maybe it’s time to start a separate competition: The Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Olympics (The SZAOs).

Just look at this athletic couple poised atop the wedding cake. I can imagine these fit individuals in the fencing and shooting trials. And I would have liked to see them trotting around as an example of the “Industrial Age” in Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremonies. After all, Boyle directed 28 Days Later, provoking the “are those things zombies or rabid humans” debate, so he knows a little bit about the subject. I have no idea why he didn’t incorporate some scenes from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The Queen might have been amused by watching Elizabethan ladies running around the field gouging their fencing swords into rotting corpse dummies.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys: a summer tour from CA to TX and back again

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys will be taking Texas by storm this weekend, with gigs lined up in Houston (Friday, July 20th at the Continental Club Houston), Austin (Saturday, July 21st at the Continental Club), and San Antonio (Sunday, July 22nd at Sam's Burger Joint), before they head back home to California.
Back in '90s, before I knew that I would wind up as an ethnomusicologist, I loved seeing Big Sandy play with his band at Linda's Doll Hut in Anaheim... and I was always fascinated. At the time, I didn't really know much about the retro scene, the vintage lifestyle, or roots rockabilly music, but I totally dug what Big Sandy and his amazing band were doing. Flash forward ten years, and I've earned a doctorate by researching and writing about this scene, so I have to thank Big Sandy for sparking that interest in me in the first place. I got a chance to catch up with him for an interview before the group played a vintage car show festival in Monterey awhile back...

The dirty-mouthed mistress of the classic blues era: Lucille Bogan

Suddenly my friends and I are sharing inside jokes like "Hey, isn’t yours as big as a baseball bat?" or "Will it make a dead man come?" or "You’ll get fat as a pig from suckin’." It’s all the result of one hot Texas night sitting on the porch listening to Lucille Bogan’s blues songs. The recordings date back to 1920s-1930s and boy did Lucy have a dirty mouth that could compete with even the raunchiest lyricists today.
Ernest Borneman lists Lucille Bogan as one of the best three female blues singers of all time, in the company of two I’m sure you already can guess: Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. But how have I not heard of Lucy until now? Speaking of that, I hadn’t heard of Borneman before either, but I hope my obituary lists half the cool stuff he did. He was an ethnomusicologist, anthropologist, and jazz musician, as well as a crime fiction writer, filmmaker, and sexologist, among other things. His academic work basically revolved around music and sex. How awesome is that? As a Communist, he had to flee Germany when the Nazis rose to power, so he escaped by posing as a member of the Hitler Youth leaving the country as an exchange student. He committed suicide when he was 80, heartbroken over a love affair gone awry.

Back to Lucy, and music about sex. When she recorded "Pawn Shop Blues" in Atlanta, GA in 1923, she became the first black blues singers to be recorded outside of New York or Chicago. Listening to her lyrics, it's pretty clear that she spent a lot of time in juke joints and red light districts, and she wrote songs that described the risqué activities practiced therein, with most of her lyrics overtly oriented towards drinking or sex, or both. We're not talking about thinly veiled sexual entendres. These are clear as day.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article and enjoy Lucy's dirty lyrics here on my Examiner site.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Austin has been known for years as the “live music capital.” But only recently has it started to take precedence as one of THE places to be if you’re interested in 1950s vintage culture. This is partly due to the efforts of the Rockabilly Revival Fest, which has been catering to the rockabilly crowd, and introducing newcomers to its midst, for five years now.
One sign that the crowd and demand is growing was the addition of another stage this year. A stage sponsored by Gretsch featured homegrown Texas bands and also ensured that music was going practically non-stop from 3 pm to past midnight. On the main stage, top acts were billed, from Reverend Horton Heat, to Nekromantix, to Lee Rocker of The Stray Cats fame. In short, Revival Fest offers a heck of a lot of big-name acts for a slim fee, and is opening up Austin even more to be a top contender in the rockabilly/psychobilly scene.
There were just too many acts this year to describe every one, but here are some highlights of this year's festival:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spend Memorial Weekend in rockabilly heaven: the 5th annual Revival Fest

The 5th Annual Revival Fest (featuring several California rockabilly and psychobilly favorites) will take place this Saturday, May 26th, in downtown Austin at 7th and Trinity. I’ve been a fan of this festival for years, which at its inception was associated with Orlando Rios’ Rockabilly Magazine. It’s grown into a highly-anticipated annual event that attracts fans and bands from all over the world, garners support from major sponsors such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Gretsch Guitar, and Sailor Jerry Rum, and has even prompted the mayor of Austin to designate an official “Rockabilly Revival Day.”

Deke Dickerson chats about Chuck Berry, the rockabilly scene, & 1980s metal

How apropos that, as I sit down to describe my interview with Deke Dickerson, "Go, Johnny Go" would come on TCM. First of all, one of Deke's favorite guitars from his legendary personal collection is a TNM doubleneck made the year this flick came out: "That guitar was actually given to me, so it has a great emotional value to it. The guy that built it back in 1959 had it up in his attic, and it was all thrashed. I found this guy, and I saw the guitar and I freaked out about it and he just gave it to me. It was in bad shape, so I had it restored. It’s an amazing guitar." (Actually, as a result of Deke restoring this custom doubleneck and touring with it, the maker was encouraged to once again start producing these beautiful guitars that remind us of the works of art produced by Semie Mosely, played once upon a time by Joe Maphis and Larry Collins).
Secondly, Deke Dickerson credits Chuck Berry, obviously a featured star in "Go, Johnny Go," as one of his reasons for picking up the guitar in the first place: "I remember seeing Chuck Berry on TV. I think it might have been the Sha Na Na show. I remember seeing him play the big Gibson guitar and doing the duck walk and thinking, man, how soon can I get a guitar? Can I get one tomorrow?" And we're glad he soon did. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Guitar Geek Showcase at Viva Las Vegas 2012

So, I know it’s been forever since I’ve written. Pesky little things like writing a dissertation and starting a new job at Texas A&M University got in the way for a bit. But what better way to pick up again than to write about two of the biggest highlights of every year for any rockabilly fan: Viva Las Vegas and the Lonestar Hot Rod and Kustom Round Up in Austin.

Sorry, burlesque fans, I hate to disagree with you, but my favorite part of Viva Las Vegas every year is Deke Dickerson’s Guitar Geek Show, the shortened 90-minute version of the weekend-long festival he puts on every year in Anaheim during NAMM. I’m always impressed by the showcase of legendary musicians from decades past as well as up-and-coming new talent. The musicians who support the surprise guests aren’t anything to scoff at either. One of the most humble guys I’ve ever met, Deke seems to have no idea what a badass he is. An avid collector and multi-instrumentalist, he can jump right into any song or style on guitar, bass, or drums. Filling in on drums for most of the set was Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague who has a huge Viva fanbase, and it’s not just because it’s dorkily fun to cheer him on by yelling “Sugarballs” at the top of your lungs. At one point, two members of the audience held him upside-down by his feet while he wowed us with this guitar virtuosity even while the blood flowed to head.
Continue reading on to find out about the surprise guests: Guitar Geek Showcase at Viva Las Vegas 2012 - Los Angeles Rockabilly/Psychobilly |