Over 40 years I've seen plenty of bad movies dedicated to country, most of them low-budget dreck filmed in Nashville during the 50's and 60's with B-list stars or future A-listers like Waylon Jennings, who starred in the unwatchable 1967 Nashville Rebel.
Joe Negri met Johnny Smith in the 40's. A decade later, busy in Pittsburgh working at KDKA and doing local clubs, dances and society engagements, Joe pondered moving to New York to work in Manhattan's busy broadcasting and recording studios, as friends like Smith and Tony Mottola did. The above photo (courtesy of Joe, who owns it), was taken during Smith's 1999 visit to Duquesne University.
When he traveled there with wife Joni in 1958 to survey the landscape, he reacquainted himself with Smith. In the end, he opted to stay in Pittsburgh but has fond memories of his friend and shared some in an email.
"He treated me beautifully always ... even when I was thinking about going to New York City. He came to the Duquesne Guitar Camp a few years back, he had stopped playing then. Still the warm and friendly Johnny. A beautiful guitar player ... technique like I've never seen before or since. He wasn't a hard swinger or bebopper, but what a musician. There wasn't much that he couldn't do. He played Bach (with a pick) and good. Back in his New York studio days he was more an arranger .. also a hell of good trumpet player. Talk about versatile--that was his middle name."
"He was just a beautiful guy, guitarist and musician ..."
Negri never met Django Reinhardt during his sole trip to America in 1946 to perform with Duke Ellington's Orchestra, but Smith did. He even hung out with the Gypsy jazz guitar great. Here, Smith remembers one bit of that experience.
Johnny Smith was jazz guitar royalty, even though he hadn't recorded for many decades and performed only infrequently over the past 30 years or so. When he died in Colorado Springs at 90 on June 11, he's not only remembered as a jazz guitar fountainhead, but for composing a tune that became a rock guitar standard.
He recorded some of his greatest music in Nashville, LA and New York, but the magic of Elvis Presley and Memphis transcended the fact he lived there for most of his life. He made his groundbreaking rockabilly records at Sun Records at 706 Union in 1954-55.
Alan Jackson's 2006 traditional gospel album Precious Memories (Arista) was recorded strictly as a personal project for his mother, not as a commercial release. The decision to release the 15-hymn collection, without sweating how it sold, turned into a surprise.
Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled their special Johnny Cash commemorative stamp as part of their "Forever" series. The tenth anniversary of his death comes this September. The image underscores his reputation as The Man in Black.
Guitarist Joe Negri is resting at home after a mid-May setback tied to issues similar to those he suffered last summer around this time. As before, it requires antibiotics and slow recuperation, but he expects to be back performing before long.
The recent Michael Douglas-Matt Damon HBO movie Liberace: Behind the Candelabra, reminded me of the 50's when his filmed and nationally syndicated TV show, syndicated in the early 50's, captivated grandmas and spinsters across America.
Two interesting songs on one of the wilder episodes of last night's Mad Men, "A Tale of Two Cities" (and it certainly was!). Read on after the jump.
"This record is the sound of an old farmhouse. It is the sound of 7 band members creating, collaborating, fighting & high-fiving. It is a digital journal of the shattering of comfort zones and collateral magic…"
--Liner notes from Wheelhouse
That little remark holds the first hint of problems. Read on after the jump.