Amoeblog

George Putnam 1914 – 2008

Posted by Whitmore, September 16, 2008 02:54pm | Post a Comment

If I haven’t mentioned it before at least a dozen times or so, I’m a third generation native Angelino, and obviously a product of the television generation whose earliest childhood memories inevitably revolve around three primary sounds: Earl Shreib commercials - "I'll paint any car, any color, for only twenty-nine ninety-five! Riiiiiiight!”, the legendary voice of Dodger baseball sportscaster Vin Scully and the booming, theatrically stentorian voice of George Putnam, the pioneering  television news anchorman and right wing commentator who was a mainstay of Los Angeles news broadcasting for many a decade. Putnam died last Friday morning at Chino Valley Medical Center. He was 94.

When I was kid my grandfather had his television on constantly and his nightly vigil was Putnam’s newscast. My grandfather ate it all up, every right wing paranoid dramatic declaration; he absolutely trusted everything Putnam said. And of course, Putnam was one of the most influential commentators of the era.
 
In pop-cultural history he is most fondly remembered as the inspiration for fictional newscaster Ted Baxter, Ted Knight's windbag of a character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Putnam was also famous for his annual Rose Parade ride on his silver-saddled palomino for almost 50 years. In fact I believe it never rained when he rode in the parade … talk about a man with connections!

Putnam began his broadcast career on a Minneapolis radio station in 1934, moved to New York in the 1940’s. In late 1951 he was hired at KTTV, the independent station then owned by Times-Mirror Co., which also owned the Los Angeles Times.  Putnam quickly became a dominant force in Los Angeles TV news. The winner of three Emmy Awards, six California Associated Press Television and Radio Assn. awards and more than 300 other honors, at one point he was reportedly the highest-rated and highest-paid TV news anchor on the Los Angeles’ airwaves. In the mid 1960s, Putnam moved to KTLA Channel 5. Also, Putnam was briefly a co-host on the political news talk show Both Sides Now with comedian Mort Sahl.

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Don Helms 1927 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, August 14, 2008 08:47am | Post a Comment


Don Helms
, steel guitarist and the last surviving member of Hank Williams' band, the Drifting Cowboys, died Monday in Nashville of a heart attack. He was 81. Helms played with Williams on and off for about decade, from 1943 until 1953 when Hank Williams died from just living too fast at the age of 29 on New Year's Day, in Canton, Ohio. Helms is featured on over a hundred Hank Williams recordings -- actually 104 to be exact. His steel guitar sound added a heart breaking mournfulness to many of Williams' ballads, songs like “Your Cheatin' Heart,” “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “Cold, Cold Heart,” but Helms could also add a touch of playfulness on up-tempo tracks such as “Jambalaya” and "Hey, Good Lookin'."

Donald Hugh Helms was born Feb. 28, 1927, in New Brockton, Ala. He got his first steel guitar when he was 15, and by 18 he was playing with Williams in juke joints around the south. After serving in the army during World War II, Helms re-joined the Drifting Cowboys when Williams became a star on the Grand Ole Opry in 1949.

After Williams' death, Helms stayed in demand as a session player and went onto play on dozens of classic recordings such as Patsy Cline's “Walkin' After Midnight,” Lefty Frizzell's “Long Black Veil,” Ernest Tubb's “Letters Have No Arms,” and Stonewall Jackson's "Waterloo." Helms recorded with most every great Country-Western star of the day, including Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Webb Pierce, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Cal Smith, the Wilburn Brothers, and Jim Reeves. According to legend, Helms wrote Brenda Lee's first number one hit “Fool Number One” in exchange for getting Loretta Lynn a recording contract with Decca Records.

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The Kingsmen

Posted by Whitmore, August 8, 2008 10:00pm | Post a Comment


45 years ago today, on August 8, 1963, a band from Portland, Oregon, The Kingsmen, initially released their classic version of "Louie Louie" on Jerden Records. Written by Richard Berry in 1955, it has since been recorded by hundreds of artists, becoming a rock standard, especially for garage bands cranking their amps to 10 in beer soaked clubs and basements everywhere. Richard Berry recorded his version in 1957, and it was released on the Los Angeles based label Flip Records. The original version is sung in a more of a bluesy-calypso style and tells the story of a Jamaican sailor bragging to his pal Louie about his "fine little girl" back on his island home.

The best-known version is of course by The Kingsmen and has always been thought of as being outrageously obscene, describing lascivious acts of extreme perversion in such detail as to warrant an investigation by the FBI-- an investigation that ended without prosecution. Here are the legendary lyrics:

Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

Fine little girl waits for me
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that ship about, all alone
Never know if I make it home

Three nights and days I sail the sea
Think of girl, constantly
On that ship, I dream she's there
I smell the rose in her hair.

Okay, let's give it to 'em, right now!
 
See Jamaica, the moon above
It won't be long, me see me love
Take her in my arms again
Tell her I'll never leave again

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(In which we consider the mystical & tragic Judee Sill.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 29, 2008 12:25pm | Post a Comment
robber

Last night I was mugged at gunpoint. The perpetrator not only made off with the $560.00 in cash that I was carrying (which I had intended to deposit today) but he knocked me down to the ground and kicked me hard enough that he left a nasty bruise in my ribs before he made his getaway on a magic, chocolate-colored Pegasus.

None of which is true, but it is a rather exciting way to begin this week’s blog entry, isn’t it? Except that, by lying to you, I have now risked alienating you emotionally, because you will now think twice about trusting what I tell you, even if it’s about how much I like that top you’re wearing and how to sets off the flecks of color in your shimmering eyes.

Speaking of violence and the romantic visage of your enduring beauty, I know some of you haven’t yet heeded my advice and investigated one of my most favorite balladeers of all time: Judee Sill.
 
Judee Sill
Judee Sill conducts herself well.

Judee’s story is one of tragic darkness, from which sprung gorgeous and sage songwriting. She was the Billie Holiday of the “Laurel Canyon sound.”

Influenced more by Johann Sebastian Bach than her 1970’s rock ‘n’ blow contemporaries, methodical composition such as fugue-structure, and over-dubbing of her own voice into chorale-style, inform her heart-wrenched post-hymns.

Her father and brother both died when she was a child, and her mother re-married to Kenneth Muse, an animator for one of my least favorite cartoons of all time, Tom & Jerry. (I mean really, the way that mouse antagonizes that poor cat, who very naturally fights back – both by his nature as a felis catus and in defense of Jerry’s cruelty – only to be downtrodden every time. What kind of message does that send to children? BE A BULLY. That’s what it tells ‘em. And then poor, sensitive, fat kids like me get the brunt of it. And all I ever wanted was to love and be loved. Is that so wrong?!)

[Insert sound of Job sobbing here]
Judee Sill

Judee left her dysfunctional home (I imagine her stepfather probably lured her head into a mouse-hole and bopped her face with a mallet) and hit the road for a life of free-wheeling druggery and armed robbery. She developed an addiction to that precocious li’l drug we call heroin. In order to pay for the habit, she prostituted herself (which almost certainly prepared her for a life as a professional musician).

Privilege

Posted by Whitmore, July 28, 2008 11:06pm | Post a Comment


I’ve often said coincidence does not exist, but I'll save that diatribe for another time. However, a couple of days ago, and for the first time, not one but two Paul Jones 45’s -- he’s the former lead singer for the 1960’s British invasion band Manfred Mann -- wandered into Amoeba from separate collections. Both of these singles are from the same soundtrack, Privilege, a film released in 1967 starring Paul Jones, who was making his big screen acting debut. Now, two days later, I find out that for the first time ever, Privilege will be released on DVD today. Coincidence or plot? I just don't know. Well, anyway...

The film was directed by Peter Watkins, whose highly controversial anti-nuclear drama The War Game won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (and was soon to be banned in Great Britain). Watkins once again doesn’t stray far from controversy in Privilege. Taking place in a totalitarian English State of the near future, specifically 1970, the dark comic vision of Privilege criticizes the media and its media manipulation, corporate culture and its corporate manipulation. It portrays a time where most everything seems to bounce off the absurd and neurotic teen pop-dom dominating the age and the happily tranquilized population is content with fluffy distractions. The main character, Steven Shorter, played by Paul Jones, is a rock god. His popularity and career have been meticulously engineered by a vast music corporation, reaching dizzying Beatlesque heights. But all this begins to crack when an artist, played by the original supermodel Jean Shrimpton, is hired to paint Steven Shorter’s portrait, and finds an unstable, empty shell of a man, lost in a lonely world, a puppet trapped by the demands of a music business out of control, and a simple singer victimized by all the excess, process, and success. Of course, the artist tries to rescue and prop up Steven Shorter before he becomes yet another statistic in the eternally doomed scenario of recyclable pop stars. But as can only happen in real life and/or rock melodramas, fortunes take a Machiavellian twist when rebellion is only a pop song away. Now that’s entertainment!

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