July 22, 2019
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Well, lo and behold, it really IS Week Number 407 in our continuing series ‘What Passes For Knowledge,’ brought to you in part this week by a generous grant from the Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Nothin’ at All Foundation. (Thanks to the late great Sam Cooke for that line from his hit ‘What a Wonderful World.’
It’s always interesting to find out who influenced a popular singer’s style. Nearly every HONEST singer will admit, hey, they’re just doing their version of someone who came before.
I always thought Rod Stewart’s phrasing was familiar. There was just something there that I thought I had heard before. The way he would draw out a note or slip-slide down a phrase here and there. Then I bought a Sam Cooke Greatest Hits CD at a second-hand store and listened to some great stuff I hadn’t heard for a while. I thought, hmmm, he’s doing a lot of the same things Rod Stewart does. Or was it vice versa?
Then I read the excellent liner notes. (Remember liner notes? They would sometimes nearly fill the entire backside of an album and they were usually interesting.) The notes had quotes from Rod Stewart and other major hitmakers about how much Sam had influenced their style. Ahah, so there it was. Rod was channeling Sam. And doing a neat job of it. Unfortunately, Sam did not live to see the number of singers who loved him and wanted to sound just like him, as he died in a tragic motel altercation at the age of 32.
The legendary Chuck Berry was another artist who imitated his heroes and was lucky enough to be around when the Beatles and many others (Beach Boys, just to name one) started imitating him and even recording his songs. Chuck’s main influence was Louie Jordan, who was very big in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, although Chuck was a much superior songwriter.
The Beach Boys had other ‘influencers’: the Four Freshmen, The Four Preps and, most notably, the Lettermen. You can hear those amazing harmonies transfer seamlessly from one group to another.
Buddy Holly had a whole slew of artists who ‘borrowed’ from him: The Stones, Tommy Roe, Tommy James and even Elton John, who said he got the idea for his crazy glasses from Buddy’s big horn rims. And that “buh, buh, buh” bit from ‘Bennie and The Jets’ is straight out of the Holly playbook.
The great jazz/pop vocalist Billie Holiday influenced Sarah Vaughn, Stevie Nicks, Norah Jones and probably dozens more.
Willie Nelson credits Lefty Frizzell as a big influence, and you can hear that careful phrasing in a lot of Willie’s songs. And Willie, of course, along with Waylon Jennings and a few others started the big ‘outlaw country’ movement in the ‘70s. Waylon’s hit ‘Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?’ says it all.
And the world continues to turn. Sounds pretty good, too.
On we go to the weekly trivia slam…
Well, we settled one question. Terry, and later, Randall, identified the relative of the sloth and anteater: the armadillo, which we’re seeing increasing numbers of in Kansas.
I was wondering about the upstairs occupants of the old Blake’s/Wagaman’s building on the SW corner of Main and Lakin. Josie said Dr. Kutina may have been up there for a time. Entirely possible. Lots of Docs had upstairs offices in those days.
Roger had good memories of Wagaman’s, the predecessor of Blake’s. He said a Mr. Murphy ran the store and that they would wrap your purchases in paper and secure them with string.
Okay, four questions remain, including the one about the upstairs occupants of the above-mentioned building. Any other ideas?
Also: what Presidential candidate of the ‘50s had a grandfather who had been VP under a late ‘19th century President? Hint: The ’50’s candidate was a Democrat.
Who was the musician who was almost considered one of the Beatles in the late ‘60s? He went on to a pretty good career of his own.
And, see if you can name this guy: he’s a not-so-famous brother of a famous female star, and he was in a hit ‘counterculture’ movie which came out 50 years ago this month.
One new one: In 1973 three new players arrived on the Royals who would be key to division and league championships down the road. The first two were George Brett and Frank White. Who was the third?
Okay, one more: Dusty Springfield’s brother wrote a couple of BIG hits for an Australian pop-folk group. What group?
Send along your answers, comments, memories etc to email@example.com. We’ll mention them all next week.
Have a good week and enjoy the (somewhat) cooler weather.