Sunday, June 08, 2008

Blog Buzz, Bart Bull, and Americana Music

All right! That's a little more like it! I'm happy to see new faces joining in and old friends returning. Building a community (online or otherwise) is tough, but maintaining one is even tougher. There's only one way to do it: let's keep talking with each other. If we can maintain some momentum through the summer, maybe we can have another party at the Alwyn House this fall. Keep the buzz going!

I hope you all enjoyed the Channel 8 show. Marty Manning made huge contributions to the program, both on and off-camera. We owe more to this this fine gentleman and his wife Wendy than we can every repay. My old friend Paul Lowes and I also spent many hours meeting with the producers, providing tapes and newspaper clippings and making a case for KCAC/KDKB as an important cultural force in 1970s Phoenix. I think this was reflected in the final cut of the show. It was a wonderful tribute, not just to the personalities involved but also to the freewheeling, anything-goes spirit of those days.

Incidentally, Paul has an amazing story about his first encounter with KCAC. I'm trying to get him to write it up and post it on the blog. If he doesn't, I'll paraphrase the story and post it myself - but he could do it better.

As for the Bart Bull controversy: I remember his brilliant, sometimes scathing writing for New Times, including a two-piece article about the descent of KDKB into corporate programming. If he wants to criticize our efforts or challenge our perceived notions, all the more reason for him to post it and us to read it! He might ask some tough questions; he might rip us to shreds. His comments might hurt or offend. But they would represent the viewpoint of someone who was there, and they would challenge us in ways we might never challenge ourselves or each other.

Besides which... Bart is called out with a "thanks to" in the notes to one of my favorite CDs of the last 20 years, David Halley's "Stray Dog Talk". I don't know what role Bart played in David Halley's career or in the production of that album, but if he played any role at all I'd happily take whatever tongue-lashing Bart might want to give me. (Bloggers, if you've never heard of David Halley, he is possibly the finest singer/songwriter to ever come out of the Austin scene. The CD I mentioned blows away the competition, not by doing anything radically different than the others, but by doing it so much better that they look like rank amateurs.)

Finally, continuing in a more music-based vein: regular readers know that I lean pretty heavily toward the Americana side of the dial - the rock/folk/country hybrid that John Stewart perfected so long ago, and that is still being practiced by folks like Andy Hersey, Dave Alvin, and Buddy Miller. One of the premiere Americana acts of the last several years was the Hacienda Brothers, which featured two superb singer/songwriters in Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzales. I saw them a couple of times at the Rhythm Room here in Phoenix, and they tore the roof off the proverbial dump. Chris Gaffney died of liver cancer earlier this year, but Dave Gonzales will be playing a special memorial show at the Rhythm Room this coming Tuesday, June 10th. Admission is free (let me repeat that: FREE!), but donations to offset the family's medical bills are encouraged. The band's last CD, "Arizona Motel" (recorded in Tucson) will also be available. I'll be there on Tuesday evening, and I hope I see some of you there too.

There's a nice article about the upcoming show in today's Arizona Republic (Sunday 6/8/08, Section E, page 8). The link below may or may not work (sometimes links seem to vanish into cyberspace when I try to include them here), but as an alternative you can do a Google search using the key words "Hacienda Brothers Arizona Republic".


Tom Wright said...

Wow... I posted the above without having first gone through the latest string of comments. Sniping at each other is the exact opposite of what this blog should be about. Please, folks, behave! I don't care who started it, or why.

I agree with Daniel: we should have an open-ended, open-minded, open-hearted approach, but one tempered with common sense and mutual respect. Not every post must be designed to please everybody else, but no posts should be designed to make personal attacks or unfounded accustaions. Who shall we emulate here: Bill Compton or Bill O'Reilly?

I may or may not be a useful model for other bloggers, but I've tried to do two basic things: (1) make my posts and comments relevant to people who share experiences and ideals revolving around KCAC and KDKB; and (2) keep one foot firmly in the present with regard to new music, current information, and things that members of this online community can do or accomplish together in the "real" world once the computers are turned off. In simpler terms, I try to stay reasonably on-topic and I try to use a series of guiding principles to link the past with the present.

I don't expect everyone who reads or contributes to this blog to agree on everything all the time, and it would be a pretty dull place if they did. But quite frankly I do expect people to think before they blog, and to treat each other with some decency and respect. Is that too much to ask?


vagabondvet said...

Hi, Tom,

Man, I wish I could have seen that show about the sixties and seventies, that would have been really interesting - I'm thinkin' about buying one of those DVDs, as a matter of fact. I'm just about burning up with curiosity! Anyway, I'm glad you were involved in it, that must have been really fun. Nice summary on blog etiquette there, too, by the way. Wishin' you a mighty fine day, Tom...


Mariah Fleming said...

Tom and Daniel make some great points, and let's remember that we are here because we love to communicate (o: and sometimes the communication is in error, so it needs to be corrected.

I am sure that no one has ill intent, well, at least on this blog, which is one of the wonderful things about our blog community. I have no doubt that Sherri had no ill intent when she posted that information, and she was quick to apologize. I would enjoy meeting her and finding out more about her and I hope she continues to contribute.

I considered not responding to the things that were said, but thought it best just to set the record straight. And it's so strange to hear stuff like that I would like to stop it at the source if I can. This is a close knit community (I mean the Valley...and the blog of course) in spite of how big our city has grown.

I had no idea such talk existed, and frankly am amused (in a masochistic way, one could imagine!) that what I say or don't say would rate such interest, let alone start a rumor. I don't imagine the 'rumor' has much fuel. Only in my dreams would I be a blip on NBC's radar! It's kind of a backhanded compliment in a weird way, but it just ain't so.

I don't care about creating controversy as much as creating communication. And yeah, Tom, another kCAC Lives gathering at Alwun House in the fall sounds terrific. Everyone's invited, and like last time, no doubt it'll be a blast.

Anonymous said...

2nd sending, the first one never showed up. If it does, my apologies.

Thanks for the heads-up on the Chris Gaffney memorial show tonight at the Rhythm Room, the Hacienda Brothers has long been one of my favorite acts also. Unfortunately I won't be able to make it (heading out of town again today), but in case any reader is interested there is a memorial site where donations are also accepted ( ).

But what's with all the above negative vibes? I go away for a weekend and when I get back I find the above post that sounds like a bad episode of Father Knows Best. This site is supposed to be a way for readers to freely express their opinions on relevant subjects, so I don't understand all the "Can't we all just get along?" inanity. Please, a little less criticizing of fellow bloggers.

And how come the dissing of the Rhythm Room with the 'proverbial dump' comment? The Rhythm Room is one the better concert venues in the Valley. It's won countless "Best of" awards over the years and is a place where you can see top names as well as local artists. There's not a bad seat in the place, it has an excellent sound system, a nice large patio; it's a Valley institution!


Mariah Fleming said...

HI Robert,
When you sent this the first time did you hit look at the top of the comment screen to be sure it said your comment had been published (or words to that effect?) If you "preview" your comment and click publish there, sometimes it doesn't work, To be sure, instead of clicking at the bottom of the 'preview' go back up to the actual comment and click 'publish' under that.

I didn't notice that the Rhythm Room was referred to that way, but I know Tom is a great supporter of the Rhythm Room and am certain didn't mean it negatively.

The Rhythm Room is indeed an institution, and since it started as the 'The Purple Turtle" has developed a tremendous following and reputation for bringing the best, most eclectic assortment of worldwide musicians to the Valley, in addition to local stars like Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns, Hans Olson and Sistah Blue, to name just a few.

With Bob Corritore at the helm (quite a legend himself, it would be fair to say) it has taken its place as one of the premiere, musically relevant nightspots in the country. The Rhythm Room gets press in magazines and blues websites all over the world. I've seen articles from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

In the tradition of venerated Arizona music venues, the Rhythm Room takes its place next to Mr. Lucky's. which many of you will remember for its 'before they were mega-stars" concerts with the likes of Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam.

And of course that's where Francine Reed and Lyle Lovett hooked up musically and Francine joined Lyle Lovett's Large Band.

The term 'juke joints' coined in the 1920's I think, to my mind comes closer to what Tom seemed to be getting at. I hope someone who knows the exact time that term was coined can write more about its history here on the blog.

Thank you for your comments, Robert, and we look forward to hearing more from you.

Welcome to the blog, hope to see you frequently.

Tom Wright said...

Robert, I'm in total agreement that the Rhythm Room is a GREAT venue, and I'm seen some fantastic shows there, by acts that would probably not be booked by any other place in town (Richard Thompson, Dave Alvin, James McMurty, and of course the Hacienda Brothers). Two weeks ago I was there to see Blue Rodeo, tonight it's Dave Gonzales, and on Friday I'll be there again for Janiva Magness. "Blowing the roof off the dump" is just a phrase that I'd use to describe any high-energy show, whether it occurred at the Rhythm Room or Carngie Hall. No offense meant, and I hope none was taken!


The Cheese Man said...

Speaking of the Rhythm Room, I see the Suicide Kings have cancelled their show this month, they are moving to Nashville. Great news for Nashville, bad news for the Phoenix Valley area.

Bruce Connole is definitely one of the better talents to come out of this area. I hate to see him go, I had planned on coming into Phoenix to see them this month.

What is it with Nashville, Austin, and other cities that keep drawing some of our better talent? Both of those cities are much smaller in population than Phoenix. Do the people in those cities just like music more than we do here? If so, why? Genetics? Something in their DNA? Something in their water?

No response necessary, just wondering to myself.

Randy Cheeseman

Elaine B. said...

I'm sure there are many scholarly studies on why some cities are more supportive of local music than others; if anyone knows of any such study-perhaps they would post a link at this site? That would be greatly appreciated.


Tom Wright said...

I don't have a study to cite, but it seems to me like mid-size college towns often have stronger music scenes than ones that don't. Examples: Tucson; Austin; Lubbock; Seattle; Minneapolis; and Athens, Georgia. Smaller cities lacking dense pockets of college-age students don't offer as many opportunities for struggling musicians. Big, spawling cities like L.A., New York, and Chicago (and yes, Phoenix) have their own demographic, artistic, and business advantages, but the "hipness" factor seems to favor the smaller, more regional population centers.

In the case of Nashville, it is located right in the heart of an area with a long, rich musical tradition (Appalachian mountain music, bluegrass, and country). It was also home to the Grand Old Opry, which broadcast its shows live on AM radio starting way back in the 1920s, thus spreading its influence even further. Nashville was pre-disposed to become a center of the music business, regardless of what other circumstances were in play.

And don't forget that the Austin scene was created largely by Nashville refugees like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings - Texans who struck out in Nashville and found a more receptive audience at home. Austin provides a great model for succeeding on your own terms, and it offers a supportive environment for musicians and songwriters.

This is not to say that Phoenix and other large cities are lacking in fine musicians. It's just that the infrastructure (loyal audiences, artist-friendly venues, recording studios, and supportive local media) needed to attain career "critical mass" may be lacking or much harder to come by.

Obviously, this is all just my opinion. Please comment below!

Little Red said...

Interesting comments from Randy, Elaine, and Tom.

Tom Wright, thanks for you insight; I'm sure all what you say is true, especially the part about being a college town, colleges and universities do have a certain energy to them. I don't disagree with anything you say, But the examples seem to be mostly anecdotal (I think that's the correct word).

I'll take your word that Tucson, Austin, Lubbock, Seattle, Minneapolis and Athens are all mid-size college towns with stronger than average music scenes. But perhaps there are an equal number of mid-size college towns with a weaker than average music scenes? I'm not sure what you mean by big cities like LA, New York, Chicago and Phoenix don't have a hipness factor? Are you still talking about a strong music factor? If so, I think that might be debatable. Example, what about the time when Don Henley, Glen Frey, Neil Young, Jackson Bowne, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and Jim Morrison were so active in LA?

And why did Austin (and not Phoenix) provide such a breeding ground for an artist like Waylon Jennings.

I'm sure there must be a study somewhere that rates cities as being music towns with data like "venues per populace," "active weekly musical events per populace," etc. With the studying explaining the scoring method. For example, maybe the study gives a city 100 points for being a college town, 100 points for each of the infrastructures you mentioned, like recording studios, etc.

And is it even true that the Phoenix Valley area does not have a strong music scene? How can such a statement be quantified?

Steven "Little Red" Lowe

The Cheese Man said...

The Phoenix valley area does have a few good things going for it. Like the Phoenix Blues Society, they promote some fine musical events. And Bob Corritore, a local entrepreneur, his Rhythm Room provides a lot of excellent music. Each one of these should count for 100 points in the "Little Red" rating system. The Arizona Blues Hall of Fame (ABHOF) was a great idea, but that organization seems all but dead now, which is a shame. The Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (AMEHOF), another great idea; but questionable whether it will survive or go the way of the ABHOF. The AMEHOF doesn't currently appear to have any real community support, either local or state.

Randy Cheeseman

Anonymous said...

Lil Red said : "And why did Austin (and not Phoenix) provide such a breeding ground for an artist like Waylon Jennings"

Your points are well taken, but I'm not sure that Waylon Jennings would be the best example, considering his extensive Phoenix history :
Way back when, he worked (as a DJ) for a man named Ray Odom at KHAT radio. A local AM country music daytimer radio station.
Also worked concurrently at a local niteclub (then located in Tempe riverbottom) known as "JD's" . This was where he was discovered by Chet Atkins, and signed to a record contract with RCA.
Years later, the name of the club was changed to "Waylon Jennings' JD'S"
Rumor has it that Waylon lived in the big Pink House at the end of south central (now a mexican restaraunt)
Perhaps others are 'old enough' to remember then and when ?

Tom Wright said...

Hello again -

Yes, you're all quite right - my comments simplified a very complex system of recent and historical factors that make some places more attractive than others for musicians looking to make artistic or commercial breakthroughs. My "college town" theory does nothing to account for Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Bakersfield, Detroit, Macon, New Orleans, or the Mississippi delta region, all of which have produced extraordinary talent and unique musical styles. (And, across the pond, there's a port town called Liverpool.) I could talk about working-class towns, migrant populations, multicultural cities, and any number of other things, but the fact is that you just never know. Phoenix produced Marty Robbins, the Meat Puppets, Duane Eddy, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Alice Cooper, Tanya Tucker, the Gin Blossoms and the Tubes. Tucson (and outlying towns like Nogales and Sonita) have given us Calexico, the Sidewinders, Linda Ronstadt, Giant Sand, Travis Edmonson, and Andy Hersey. There's no real consistency in this list other than excellence, and no reliable way of predicting what will come next, or from where. And that's exactly the way it should be, even if my overly-analytical brain insists otherwise.


vagabondvet said...

Hahahaha! Tom, you are one articulate hoot. Thanks for the chuckle, I can definitely relate to the over-analytical brain remark, and laugh at myself right along with you. Ain't we just the cat's meow?


The Cheese Man said...

Good comments Tom, and I think you should listen to your overly-analytical brain in this case. I agree also with Little Red, there must be a way to quantify which cities have strong music scenes and which cities don't, and that such a study (at least one) has probably already been done, I think it's just a matter of googling it out. I've often seen many articles on the "100 Best Cities to Live In," and these article go into great detail explaining the rating process. They consider things like crime rate, average income, cost-of-living data, housing affordability, school quality, arts and leisure opportunities, etc., etc. etc. I don't know how accurate these studies might be, but it's probably better than a subjective guess.

Subjectively speaking, as you mentioned it seems to me also that this area has lots of talent as far as local musicians, and there appear to be a lot of good venus; but yet not that many people get out to support the local music. I may be wrong on that observation, maybe it's just the venues I go to, or the type of music I listen to; anyway it's just my opinion. And I'm guilty also, not getting out as much as I could (but New River is not exactly down town Phoenix), so I'm not pointing fingers. As Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us"

On a completely different but related subject, I've almost completely quit going to places like the Celebrity Theatre, the Dodge Theatre, the Suns Arena (whatever they call it now); ticket prices are too high. The associated fees (facility fee, convenience charge, processing fee, print-your-ticket fee, we'll-hold -your-ticket-for-you-at-the-box-office fee, etc.) that go along with the ticket face value price just make it even worse. My family and I had to back out of going to the 2007 AMEHOF Induction Ceremony because five advertised "$10-tickets" would have cost over $125 buying them online through Live Nation. I know, I could have driven into Phoenix from New River and purchased the tickets early at the box office and saved some money, or just taken a chance and bought them the night of the event, but none of those were appealing. Plus I've since heard that there were no "$10-tickets" at the box office that night, the cheapest tickets were $18. I guess I still like the old math where if a ticket is advertised for $10, then that's what it will cost, ...$10.

Randy Cheeseman