Get Rhythm

Roy Orbison, who would have been 75 tomorrow, kicked off his musical career as a rockabilly from Vernon, Texas. His early material, even his best known early number "Ooby Dooby," issued on the iconic Memphis label Sun Records, had only modest success in 1956.  He fared no better during a brief stay at RCA Victor. but from 1960 to 1964 defined himself for all time with his groundbreaking records on Fred Foster's Nashville-based Monument Records.  The Orbison everyone remembers, "Only The Lonely," " Runnin' Scared," "Crying," "Blue Bayou" "In Dreams" and of course, "Oh, Pretty Woman"  remain recordings that half a century and many new technologies later, have lost none of their musical or dramatic power.  That's right. Dramatic.

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Charlie Louvin, surviving half of the revered close-harmony duo the Louvin Brothers, first heard Ben Hall when the Belmont University student, a fingerstyle guitarist in the Merle Travis-Chet Atkins mode, visited the Louvin Museum in Nashville one day. Louvin knew that style well since Atkins played it on Louvin Brothers records in the 50's, when he did Nashville studio sessions. Louvin (who died in January) realized Hall was the real deal.

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Record Store Day: Lawrenceville, May 1947

Thursday, 14 April 2011 12:42 AM Written by

Saturday, April 16 is National Record Store day, so let's look back nearly 64 years, to a time the Big Band Era was ending, the Cold War starting, the Baby Boom kicking into high gear. Back then, the idea of music downloads (or even CD's) sounded like something out of Buck Rogers sci-fi.  The above photo, taken in May, 1947, shows a window display at Music Manor, a record-music store located in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville section (the building looks much the same today). The display tells us much about record stores in the years when 78 rpm discs ruled, before vinyl 45s or LPs.  This photo reveals even more when it's examined section by section.  In celebrating America's indie record stores, it's worth remembering what they were like when Pittsburgh, like the rest of America, had them almost everywhere.

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Bebop at Warp Speed: Richie Cole, 1981

Wednesday, 13 April 2011 06:35 PM Written by

This video might be 30 years old, but it hasn't lost any of its power.  Richie Cole, still gigging today, is a hardcore bebopper in the mode of Charlie Parker or Phil Woods. He got his start with Buddy Rich's Orchestra and later worked with other big bands. Later he worked with vocalese innovator (and Pittsburgh native) Eddie Jefferson and in the 90's formed the Alto Madness Orchestra.

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'Producer's Medley' Songs and Artists

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 05:30 AM Written by

In the last post, I mentioned Steve Wariner's 2010 Grammy-winning "Producer's Medley," based on hit country and pop singles by other acts produced by his late friend and mentor, Chet Atkins. Wariner explains the song's origins but not the details of the songs themselves. Here are all nine, in order, noting the original artists, year and relevant info

"And I Love You So" Perry Como (1973)

"Welcome to My World" Jim Reeves (1964)

"The Three Bells" The Browns (1959)

"I Can't Stop Loving You" Don Gibson (1958) The hit that inspired Ray Charles' rendition.

"Java" Al Hirt, (1964) The Allan Toussaint composition

"Let It Be Me" Everly Brothers (1960) Atkins did not produce it, but he was the source. The Everlys first heard it as an instrumental on an Atkins LP and tracked down the lyrics.

"The End of the World" Skeeter Davis (1962)

"When You're Hot, You're Hot" Jerry Reed (1971)





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Grammy Changes: Adios, Country Instrumentals

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 03:30 AM Written by

In the interest of disclosure, let me say that for well over a decade, I was a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Nashville Chapter), creators of the Grammy Awards. That said, I've never taken the selection process all that seriously, feeling the process so fraught with politics, hype (especially the televised ceremonies) and nonsense that it lacks credibility. Sometimes worthy artists win; often it's the other way around.

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CD Review: The Roys 'Lonesome Whistle'

Sunday, 10 April 2011 08:38 AM Written by


Lee and Elaine Roy are a brother-sister bluegrass duo from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, raised in Canada, their sound leaning toward the "classic" acoustic bluegrass played by friend Ricky Skaggs and the late Keith Whitley. This. their first album for the revived Rural Rhythm label features accompanment from Skaggs' band Kentucky Thunder and was co-produced by the duo and Kentucky Thunder fiddler Andy Leftwich. Their solo vocals have personality and their harmonies are gorgeous, complimented by the band's solidly traditional sound, all well and good.  As of today, it's at No. 7 on Billboard's Bluegrass Album chart.

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Reissue Review: 'Ray Charles Live in Concert' (Concord)

Wednesday, 06 April 2011 06:35 PM Written by


Beatlemania ruled America when Ray Charles set up in LA's Shrine Civic Auditorium for a September 20, 1964 concert, three days before his 34th birthday. Artistically, it was a good period. A year earlier, he'd formed his Tangerine record label, and while he released the material through ABC Paramount Records, he was one of the early artists to own a major chunk of his recordings outright. Maintaining the momentum from his two Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums, his two most recent Top Tens had country tunes: the Hank Williams ballad "Take These Chains from My Heart" and Harlan Howard's "Busted," a Top Twenty hit for Johnny Cash.

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