Amoeblog

James Luther Dickinson 1941 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, August 19, 2009 05:02pm | Post a Comment

The legendary Memphis musician, producer, and raconteur James Luther Dickinson died this past Saturday in a Memphis hospital after complications following triple bypass heart surgery; he was 67. Dickinson played with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ry Cooder and The Rolling Stones and helped shape what would be called the Memphis Sound, a gritty blend of gospel, country and southern blues. Though never exactly a household name, Dickinson is one those great cult figures in musical history whose life and stories were bigger than the times themselves.
 
Jim Dickinson was born November 15, 1941 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1949. He signed his first recording contract right out of high school with Rubin Cherry's Home of the Blues. Later Dickinson recorded for Sam Phillips' Sun label; he sang lead vocals on the last record ever released on Sun, "Cadillac Man" by The Jesters. Starting in about 1965 he began working as a session player in the Memphis studios, joining Charley Freeman, Tommy McClure, and Sammy Creason in the rhythm section that would become know as the Dixie Flyers. They went on to be the house band at Atlantic Records' Criteria Recording Studio in Miami, Florida in the early '70s, backing artists like Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ronnie James Luther Dickinson, Dixie FriedMilsap, Kris Kristofferson, Carmen McCrae and Maria Muldaur.
 
He played piano on the Rolling Stones' classic "Wild Horses" and even appeared in the documentary film of the Stones, Gimme Shelter. Dickinson also played piano on The Flamin' Groovies masterpiece Teenage Head. He went on to be Ry Cooder's sidekick; touring, playing keyboards and co-producing some of Cooder’s soundtracks such as Paris, Texas, The Long Riders, and Crossroads. Dickinson's career as a producer got kick started working with Big Star, the pioneering Memphis power pop band, producing one of the most influential albums from the 1970s, Third/Sister Lovers (NME magazine ranked it #1 as the most heartbreaking album ever recorded). His production work with Big Star led to other gigs, sometimes under the moniker East Memphis Slim. In the 1970’s and 80’s Dickinson produced the likes of The Replacements (Dickinson always said he learned more from them than they learned from him), Jason & the Scorchers, Green on Red, The Radiators, Mojo Nixon, Chris Stamey, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Mudhoney, Alex Chilton, Toots Hibbert (of the Maytals), The Texas Tornados, Steve Forbert, G. Love & Special Sauce, Joe "King" Carrasco, Flat Duo Jets, Tav Falco, and many others. As a session musician, he's worked with Los Lobos, Primal Scream, Poi Dog Pondering, Arlo Guthrie, Willy DeVille, Esther Phillips, Delaney and Bonnie, Petula Clark, Rocket From the Crypt, and Bob Dylan (Dylan acknowledged him as a “brother” while accepting the Grammy award for 1997’s Time Out of Mind, and once said, "If you've got Dickinson, you don't need anybody else.").
 
One of my all-time favorite records is Dickinson's first solo album, released in 1972 on Atlantic and entitled Dixie Fried. This soulful yet wonderfully cockeyed, twisted and loopy album has become a cult classic. He dubbed the genre “world boogie.” Dixie Fried was one of those records that disappeared without a trace upon initial release, only to be rediscovered years later. Originally recorded in 1970, the out there in left-field amalgamation of country, R&B, soul, and rock finds Dickinson mostly covering other artist’s material, but everything he touches shimmers with that cool and greasy Memphis groove -- probably why Atlantic Records saw it unfit for public consumption for a couple of years. By the time it came out, Dickinson was off touring with Ry Cooder and had no time nor desire to promote the album. Dickinson said that by mid 70’s he was seriously hated over at Atlantic records. They tried pushing him out the door, giving him what was referred to as "the Jesse Ed Davis treatment," or to quote Jerry Wexler, "right down the old pipe, baby." For years Dixie Fried circulated around the underground, developing a extraordinary following. But as far as Atlantic was concerned, the album’s notoriety was surely due to some bizarre bayou voodoo; the label kept its distance. Finally in 2002 it was re-released on CD by Sepia Tone Records.
 
Last month, Jim Dickinson was relocated to a rehabilitation facility; doctors had hoped for an eventual recovery. His death comes only a week after a benefit concert and tribute was held in Memphis at The Peabody Skyway to raise money for escalating medical bills. Performers at the benefit included John Hiatt, Jimmy Davis and the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars, whose members include Dickinson's sons Luther and Cody. Dickinson always understood the enduring power of music and that is mirrored in his epitaph he wrote himself: “I’m just dead, I’m not gone.”
 
James Luther Dickinson is survived by his wife Mary and his two sons.

Instructional Records

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, July 28, 2009 11:59pm | Post a Comment
improve your eyesight lp coverimprove your eyesight without glasses lp cover
The world of the instructional record is really quite fascinating. From sincere DIY teachings to crass bandwagoning & fad jumping, the instructional record was a force unto itself in the 60's & 70's. The endless barrage of salesman related "you can do it" LPs from that era rival the male enhancement ad fads of today and reveal a similar, sinister undercurrent of predatory schemes that feed on the insecurity of many a male ego. It's entertainment all the way around! You'd be hard pressed to find more timely LPs than Strategy At the Bridge Table or either of the dance related records below.
make your bird a star lp coversecrets of successful duck calling lp cover
strategy at the bridge table lp covertheory of flight lp cover
break dancin' lp covernothing happens until somebody sells something lp covermidnight moves lp box set
I always find it funny that the three most important classes I took in High School were one semester electives-- guitar, speech and typing. Guitar was the beginning of the dymistification process between music and I. It also gave me much needed entertainment as I watched the jock meatheads fumble through "Lovesong" by the Cure in preparation for a lame attempt at buttering up some ditz over at the girls school. Speech was SO important, as it gave me an opportunity to get over performance anxiety by forcing me to give contrarian speeches to the same hamfisted types I mentioned in the guitar bit, within the safety net of the classroom. The teacher always wore suits and had a small mustache, traits that may have settled into my subconcious. He was asked to leave by the end of the semester because his affair with a jr. over at the girls school had been discovered, a trait I don't think I've picked up. The third class prepared me for the internet age. Not that I 'm a great typist, but whenever I watch a two fingered wonder pecking away, I'm always glad I took the class. Anyhow, this rant was brought on by the plethora of typing related LPs that I've seen over the years, a few of which are featured below.  
touch typing made simple lp cover
converse-a-phone type-wrie lp coverdon't tell 'em...sell 'em lp cover


Remembering Lowell George

Posted by Whitmore, June 29, 2009 12:14pm | Post a Comment

Lowell George
was the Hollywood born son of a famous chinchilla-raising furrier for Tinseltown aristocracy. His dad’s friends included the likes of Wallace Beery and W.C. Fields; matinee idol Errol Flynn lived next door. No wonder George grew up with a somewhat skewed perspective of things, eventually becoming a truly absurd, slightly eccentric slide guitarist extraordinaire. His often surreal songs defined the sound of his band Little Feat, convincing more than a few fans that they came directly from New Orleans, bringing home that convoluted and slippery vibe. Bonnie Raitt once referred to Lowell as the "Thelonious Monk of Rock & Roll."
 
In his early twenties George played in a several Hollywood based bands like the Brotherhood of Man, and a late faltering version of the Standells. Eventually he wound up with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, where George was soon fired. He formed Little Feat soon afterwards with the original line-up consisting of Mothers bassist Roy Estrada alongside pianist Bill Payne, with whom George had briefly played with in the Brotherhood of Man and drummer Richie Hayward from George's previous band, The Factory. According to legend, the name of the band came from a remark made by Mothers' drummer Jimmy Carl Black about Lowell's "little feet." The spelling of "feat" was an homage to The Beatles.lowell george thanks i'll eat it here
 
Thirty years ago today, June 29, 1979, Lowell Gorge died of a massive heart attack.
 
Two weeks earlier in June, 1979, George began touring in support of his first, and only, solo album, Thanks, I'll Eat it Here. The night before he died, George played before a packed Lissner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington D.C. George's final encore was a solo acoustic version of "Twenty Million Things (to do)."
 
That Thursday night, after returning to his hotel room at the Twin Bridges Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, George complained of chest pains. Around 10am the next morning George was having problems breathing; his wife, Elizabeth, called road manager Gene Bano, though once Bano arrived George felt better. They suggested George rest while Elizabeth and Bano went to breakfast. She returned with her two children later that morning to find George unconscious on the bed.
 
Arlington County Rescue Squad's No. 75 arrived and tried to administer cardiac respiration but to no avail. Later it was determined George had probably been dead for about 45 minutes, if not a couple of hours.
 
It’s often been presumed that George died of a drug overdose; the circumstances behind his death are riddled with inconsistencies. There’s no clear account of what George did after the show. One hotel official said that some members of the band were up all night partying. But a waiter who brought food up to George's room said nothing out of the ordinary took place. Reportedly no drinks were even ordered.
 
Although George was a long time drug user, no evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia were found at the scene, though they could have been removed before Police or Rescue Squad personnel arrived. A hotel employee who was supposedly the first person other than Mrs. George and Bano to enter the room said that he saw a large, mostly empty, phial of white powder. He also said that there were about four or five containers of prescription drugs out in the open but they were gone once the police arrived.
 
George was officially pronounced dead on arrival at Arlington Park Hospital at 1:10 p.m. Friday afternoon. A post mortem report showed that he died of heart failure.
 
When he died at the age of thirty-four George had already ballooned into Elvis-sized proportions, probably weighing in close to 300 lbs. George's fondness for junk food, hard liquor and an appetite for drugs, especially cocaine-and-heroin "speedballs," finally caught up with him.
 
Lowell George's body was cremated in Washington D.C. on August 2. His ashes were flown back to LA where they were scattered in the Pacific Ocean from his fishing boat.


The Argentinean Paramour and the Presidential Contender

Posted by Whitmore, June 26, 2009 07:38am | Post a Comment

File this under “there isn’t much of anything new under the sun.”
 
Hearing that the South Carolina Governor and possible Republican 2012 presidential candidate, 49 year old Mark Sanford, was having an affair wasn’t all that surprising. I’m beginning to believe most everyone in politics is diddling somebody on the side. But an Argentinean paramour and a southern Presidential contender reminded me of another career unraveling misadventure a few decades back.
 
In 1974, Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills from Arkansas, the powerful overseer of federal revenue legislation as chairman to the House Ways and Means Committee and briefly a candidate for President in 1972, was caught in a year long affair with an exotic dancer from Argentina, Fanne Foxe, who worked at Washington D.C.’s not quite legendary Silver Slipper on 13th Street NW. It was reported at the time that Mills would spend as much as $1,700 a night at the club.
 
The melodrama unfolded in the wee hours of October 9, 1974. Mills’ car containing five passengers and driven by a former Richard Nixon staffer (... set up? ... conspiracy? ... you never know ...) was pulled over by D.C. Park Police for driving without headlights. Congressman Mills was intoxicated in the back seat sporting a bloody nose and a few facial scratches from an altercation he had with his companion, Fanne Foxe, born Annabelle Battistella, better known in the burlesque world as the “Argentine Firecracker.” But when police approached the car, Foxe leapt from the car and tried escaping by jumping into the nearby Tidal Basin, a man-made inlet next to the Potomac River. That didn’t work out so well; she was rescued by a policeman and taken to nearby St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for treatment.
 
Despite the scandalous headlines, Mills was re-elected to Congress in November 1974, winning 60% of the vote in a big year for Democrats following Nixon’s resignation and Watergate scandal. But a few weeks later, on November 30, 1974 at Boston's Pilgrim Theater, a Burlesque house where Fanne Foxe was performing, an intoxicated Mills was in the audience. Mills, accompanied by Foxe’s husband, was called to the stage by the exotic dancer. After exchanging a few one-liners with the audience, the Congressman received a kiss on the cheek from Foxe and then exited. According to some accounts he then held an impromptu press conference in Foxe's dressing room. The whole trip to Boston, Mills drunkenly explained, was to quell rumors he had ever had an affair with Fanne Foxe. Well, I guess some people are just a bit thick in the head. Needless to say, after this second round of embarrassing press Mills was forced to step down from his chairmanship on the Ways and Means Committee. Mills' distinguished 36 year legislative career didn’t just end, it crashed and burned. Mills checked himself into the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD for a much needed respite; eventually he acknowledged his alcoholism and entered the West Palm Beach Institute saying he was a “sick man.” He did not seek re-election in 1976 and retired. In 1992 Mills died at the age of 82.
 
Fanne Foxe continued working as a stripper for a while longer, re-dubbing her stage show from "The Argentine Firecracker" to "The Tidal Basin Bombshell." She also authored a book about the affair, The Stripper and the Congressman. In it Foxe claims she became pregnant by Congressman Mills and had an abortion. A couple of years later it was reported she attempted suicide. After that she just faded away, eventually returning to Argentina.

Hugh Hopper 1945 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, June 10, 2009 07:09pm | Post a Comment
 
When I was about 13 years old I became a regular customer at Platypus Records on Hollywood Blvd about a half a block east of Vermont in Hollywood. It was all about their inexpensive used records. I still spent a small fortune from money I earned the old fashioned way; recycling cans and bottles, mowing lawns and stealing money from my mom’s purse. I found great records for pennies. And one that left an indelible mark on my rookie ears was the Soft Machine album, Volume Two, released in 1969 and featuring Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, Mike Ratledge on piano and Hammond organ, Brian Hopper on saxophone and Hugh Hopper on bass and guitars. I think I paid 99 cents for the album.
 
When I bought that record all I knew about Soft Machine was that they were part of some mysterious and legendary English Canterbury music scene, they hung out with Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and once toured the US as an opening act for Jimi Hendrix. Volume Two is still one of my all time favorite records. Over the years I’ve worn out more than a few copies.
 
This past Monday, idiosyncratic composer, art-rock bassist extraordinaire, veteran of some two dozen diverse solo albums and Soft Machine member, Hugh Hopper, succumbed to his year long battle with leukemia. He was 64.
 
In his years before Soft Machine, Hugh Colin Hopper, born April 29, 1945 in Canterbury, Kent, found himself immersed in the burgeoning Canterbury scene and emerging bands like Gong, Hatfield and the North and Henry Cow. In the mid sixties he was working with Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt in the Daevid Allen Trio. That band evolved into the Wilde Flowers, an almost mythic pop and soul band consisting of his brother Brian, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Richard Sinclair that spun off into two influential progressive rock groups, Caravan and Soft Machine.
 
Hopper joined Soft Machine in 1968 after their tour with Hendrix, contributed two compositions to their first self titled album, recorded in New York. Their sophomore release saw Hopper not only adding his virtuoso bass work to the mix but also composing half the tracks. He would remain with Soft Machine through 1973 and the album entitled 6. About the time Soft Machine was moving from a psychedelic, progressive rock sound into more of a jazz/fusion outfit, Hopper departed, recording his classic solo record 1984 at about the same time. His first effort was a decidedly non-commercial adventure filled with avant-garde soundscapes, tape loops, and free improvisation.
 
After his stint with Soft Machine, and in between his own solo projects, Hopper worked with some of the most original musicians of the last thirty years; Carla Bley, Keith Tippett, Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Pip Pyle, Stomu Yamashta, Phil Miller, Lol Coxhill, Allan Holdsworth, Chris Cutler, Yumi Hara Cawkwell and bands like Gilgamesh, Isotope and Soft Heap. In 2002 Hopper began a new association with several former Soft Machine members. Originally named Soft Works, they later renamed the reunion Soft Machine Legacy; besides touring extensively throughout Europe and Asia, they’ve also released four CD’s, two studio and two live recordings.
 
After his diagnoses last summer with leukemia, a benefit concert was held for him at London's 100 Club in December, featuring friends and many of his legendary musical collaborators from all phases of his career.
 
Just two days before his death he married his longtime companion Christine.




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