I just discovered that "Li'l John" Buttera, legendary street rod and funny car master builder died on March 2nd due to complications from brain cancer at age 68. His death came just four days after that of his fellow hotrod builder Boyd Coddington.
John Buttera was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1939 and began building dragsters there as a kid. A chance meeting with another racing legend, Mickey Thompson, led to his moving to Southern California in the late 1960s, where he worked on, among other things, Thompson's World Land Speed Record streamliner.
The trend setting Buttera went on to build and design almost every type of racing vehicle in the motor world, from street rods to dragsters, funny cars and Pro Stock machines, even customized motorcycles. After he opened his own chassis shop in Cerritos, Buttera’s skills led to working with many of the greats in those halcyon days of drag racing in the 1960s and 70s, including Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen, Shirley Muldowney and Don Schumacher. His Funny Cars were lightening fast pieces of art, with their sleekly elegant and simple lines, suspended low in a beautifully wicked stance. And they also won championships.
Buttera’s stellar reputation as a builder of street rods began in about 1974 when he redesigned a 1926 Tall T Ford, it would be the first in a long series of influential cars. His subtle craftsmanship and superior engineering skills were unmatched. Buttera’s rods like his white ’29 roadster, John Corno’s ’32 roadster (that won the 1980 Oakland America’s Most Beautiful Roadster award), and his ’33 Willy’s model 77, were in a class by themselves, constantly thrilling hot rod enthusiasts. He is credited as being the first to carve customized parts for street rods, race cars and motorcycles from solid chunks of billet aluminum.
"Look Marge - I soaked in it!"
My right hand hurts. I keep bending my fingers back, trying to stretch it, but I’m “double-jointed” – the fingers go all the way back to my wrist – so it takes a lot of muscle-power to stretch the hand, causing me to worry that, in my effort to stretch my right hand, I’m going to injure the left.
I’m pretty sure there’s an ancient, Chinese proverb about this exact situation. If only I’d have paid attention in third grade, when they teach Chinese mysticism and philosophy – then I could quote it. Alas.
My 3rd grade class. Can you find me?
I suppose I should explain why my right hand hurts. God knows I don’t trust you to come up with a reason yourself. I know you, dear reader, and know that your twisted imagination has already concocted an offensive reason for why my right paw aches; something like:
“I’ll bet he was trying to knit a scarf with thick, Rowan ‘Big Wool’ yarn using only a 10 inch, single-point needle!”
You’re sick, y’know. You need help.
The reason my right hand hurts is because I have been addressing envelopes for wedding invitations, using large, calligraphy pens and ornate lettering. It’s my wedding gift to Carrye and Jared, who’s wedding it will be.
Every once in while you realize certain names are always appearing in the credits of old albums, and it’s a constant surprise. I was always astounded by how often I’d find Mort Garson's name, and on some of the most unlikely records. From Doris Day to Mel Torme to Glen Campbell, and all those albums of nice soft-pop vocals from the likes of The Letterman or the Sandpipers or the Glenn Yarborough record of Rod McKuen covers. And you would usually find Mort Garson conducting or arranging those safe but somewhat innocuous collections of ‘pop hits of the day’ by the Hollyridge Strings or the Sunset Strings. And if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’d see Mort Garson provided background music to Laurence Harvey reading poetry on Atlantic. And why do I think it’s so odd? Because whenever I think of Mort Garson I think of the legendary pioneer in electronic music, and not the multi-faceted, in demand arranger and conductor.Mort Garson, who also co-wrote the classic "Our Day Will Come," died this past January 4th of renal failure in San Francisco. He was 83. Born July 20, 1924, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Garson attended the Juilliard School of Music. He was a pianist and arranger with dance orchestras before serving in Special Services during World War II and before moving onto Los Angeles and the pop music world. But it was his work as a composer using the then novel Moog synthesizer on a series of albums in the late 1960s and '70s that is his lasting claim to fame, especially to record collectors and electronica enthusiasts. These albums, especially the 1967 exotica classic, and influential, The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds, established his cult following. The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds is one of the first electronic and psychedelic albums put out by Elektra Records.