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This one's about the Blues, Pete Kelly's Blues

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 12, 2014 01:40pm | Post a Comment

Today Jack Webb is best remembered for his portrayal of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday on the radio and television series Dragnet. Friday – a stiff, slouching, robotic cop who chain smokes as he rails against drug abuse – embodies for many folks the definition of a hypocrite and a square. However, the real Webb was also quite the hepcat, an amateur jazz musician with a massive collection of records. In addition to playing hard-boiled detectives, he also used radio to attack social injustices (on One out of Seven) and, with Pete Kelly's Blues, indulge his lifelong love of jazz and Chandler-esque noir.
 

Pete Kelly's Blues lobby card
Pete Kelly's Blues lobby card

Pete Kelly's Blues began as an unsponsored replacement series for The Halls of Ivy after a 13 February audition. It debuted on NBC on 4 July, 1951 and aired on Wednesday nights in most markets (Saturdays in others). It was created by Richard L. Breen, who'd previously worked with Webb on the wonderful and not-at-all dissimilar radio noir series, Pat Novak, for Hire, which Webb had left in 1947. Throughout the series' short run, Webb continued to star on both the radio version of Dragnet, which ran from 1949 until 1957, and the television version, which began a few months after Pete Kelly's Blues and continued to air until in its first run until 1959).

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Show-Me Hollywood -- Missourians in Hollywood on Missouri Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 16, 2013 12:00pm | Post a Comment
Happy Missouri Day! I was not born in Missouri but I count myself fortunate to have grown up there, moving to the Show-Me State from Kentucky when I was four and staying until I was sixteen. Of course, I ended up moving west (St. Louis is the Gateway to the West after all) to the great state of California, following in the footsteps of many before me. For this blog entry, I'd like to honor Missouri natives who worked in Hollywood film.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Missouri
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Missouri

Also, there's some sporting event involving a cricket-derivative going on right now between Los Angeles and St. Louis -- arguably the greatest cities in their respective states (well, arguable in St. Louis's case). So forgo your animal-style friesCool Ranch tacosFrench Dipskogi tacos, and Mission burritos for one day and prepare a feast of BBQCherry Mashesgooey butter cakeOzark PuddingSt. Louis-style pizzaSt. Paul sandwiches, and toasted ravioli as we honor the Missouri-Hollywood connection.

Ferlin Husky, R.I.P. (December 3rd, 1925- March 17th, 2011)

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, March 19, 2011 01:36pm | Post a Comment
Country music legend Ferlin Husky passed away this Thursday. He was best known for his string of late 50's singles including the legendary track "Drunken Driver." The Missouri native got his start entertaining sailors in WWII. After moving to Bakersfield, CA for a DJ gig, he began performing in honky tonks under the name Terry Preston.  Reverting back to Ferlin Husky for his Capitol and King LPs, he soon found major success through marketing to the Rock and Roll crowd. Although already in his early 30's, ten years older than the King, Capitol pushed him as a hearthrob type aimed at the youth market through albums such as Teen-Age Rock, featuring his tracks alongside artists such as Tommy Sands and Gene Vincent. After his initial string of success Ferlin settled into a steady country music career with the occasional low budget film appearance. Hillbillys In A Haunted House, Las Vegas Hillbillys and Swamp Girl are his best know films. Although decidely B-level, he worked alongside Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Mamie Van Doren, Lon Chaney Jr., Zsa Zsa Gabor and Patty Duke. Unfortunately his later years were fraught with health problems but he went out on a high note with last year's induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Although the country section of my personal collection is amongst the smallest divisions, Husky's Boulevard of Broken Dreams from 1957 is tied with Miles Davis' Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud for my favorite LP of all time. Less a country record, more in an intimate pop crooner vein with country flavor around the edges, Boulevard's production is pure tube studio & echo chamber magic from an era that could never be recreated. Unfortunately I can't find any safe links to post a track so I'm including the appropriately titled "Gone."

Happy Missouri Day, Frankie & Johnny!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 10:47pm | Post a Comment
Frankie Baker
In recognition of Missouri Day, here's a brief breakdown on Missouri's second most famous couple (after the fictional Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher), a real-life couple usually referred to as Frankie and Johnny. After Frankie caught her man in flagrante delicto with another woman, Alice Pryor, and shot him dead, it was commemorated in numerous songs and films.

Frankie Baker was a 22-year-old St. Louisan dancer who was dating 17-year-old Allen "Al" Britt. Britt had another girlfriend on the side. Britt's friend Richard J. Clay warned Britt about dating two women at the same time but Britt carried on. Then, on October 15th, 1899, around 3:30 in the morning, Baker headed home to her apartment at 212 Targee Street in Chestnut Valley and caught Britt in bed with Pryor. An argument ensued with Baker's roommate, Pansy Marvin, testifying that Britt threw a lamp at Baker and cut her with a knife. In return, Frankie shot him once with her Harrington & Richardson .38. Britt died of his wounds two days later. Baker claimed in her trial that she'd acted in self-defense. She was acquitted but didn't escape notoriety.

Britt Allen's Grave
Al Britt's grave

Happy Missouri Day, Stagger Lee!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 05:35pm | Post a Comment
Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee
is one of Missouri's most celebrated characters in song. Loads of people have sung about the seemingly amoral anti-hero, but here are the facts, ma'am.

Chestnut Valley, St. Louis

Lee "Stag" Shelton
was born on March 16, 1865. As a young man he drove a carriage cab and pimped. He also operated a "sporting club," the Modern Horseshoe Club in St. Louis's "Bloody Third" Ward, in an area known as Chestnut Valley. Chestnut Valley and the sporting clubs located there were instrumental in the development of ragtime. Shelton was part of a pimp clique called The Macks. His trademarks included a high roller stetson, rings, an ebony cane, spats and St. Louis flats -- mirrored shoes with pointy, upturned toes. Oh yeah, and a .44 Smith & Wesson.


On St. Stephens Day, 1895, Shelton and Billy Lyons were at a the Bill Curtis Saloon (described by the paper as "the envy of all its competitors and the terror of the police") together, in the "Deep Morgan" neighborhood. Initially they were cordial, but after more drinks, began smacking each others' hats after the conversation turned to politics. First, Shelton grabbed Lyons' derby. Lyons then removed Shelton's stetson. According to witnesses, Shelton demanded either the hat be returned or Lyons pay with his life. Lyons pulled out a knife he'd borrowed in advance from his friend and companion at the bar, Henry Crump. Shelton then shot Billy Lyons.

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