Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!

  https://mail.aol.com/38683-216/aol-6/en-us/mail/get-attachment.aspx?uid=30351903&folder=NewMail&partId=3

OVERCOMIN' CHILD OF GOD: Following a near fatal battle with cancer, veteran Gospel rocker Carman Licciardello has emerged victorious, and has returned to the concert stage in support of his just released CD, No Plan B. Licciardello is pictured above at right with Blitz's Michael and Audrey McDowell after his triumphant appearance in Monroe, Michigan on 30 July. Click on the Carman Licciardello Concert Review link at right under Previous Posts for the full story. (Photo C&P 2014 Blitz Magazine. All rights reserved).

THE INTERNET HOME FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.


Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

INTERVIEWS:

NOW ON BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE: First generation garage rock legend and Arrows co-founder Davie Allan discusses the highlights of his half century in the spotlight. Plus an interview with country music and punk rock visionary Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3).

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

Vocal group pioneers Apo Hiking Society have ended their four year sabbatical with a return to the concert stage, beginning with live dates in Singapore in mid-July. Eighty-four year old Perth, Western Australia native and immensely respected singer/songwriter Rolf Harris has been sentenced to five years and nine months in a U.K. prison, stemming from decades-old charges of sexual abuse. Legendary rocker Dinah Lee discusses the making of her new single, in a Blitz Magazine exclusive. Long time Guess Who front man and principal tunesmith, Burton Cummings has issued a statement warning against attending Guess Who shows performed a pick up band led by original Guess Who bassist, Jim Kale. Vocal legend Ronnie Dove has canceled his retirement plans after being miraculously healed from a debilitating disease. We pay tribute to beloved country rock visionary George Hamilton IV, plus legendary composer and producer Bob Crewe, guitar virtuosos Dick Wagner and Johnny Winter, original Ramones drummer Tommy Erdelyi, as well as the Cowsills' Richard Cowsill, and long time Columbia recording artist, Jerry Vale, plus Association guitarist Larry Ramos and Human Beings bassist Steve Fava of Because I Love Her fame. 

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

Beloved country music pioneer Stompin' Tom Connors is celebrated a year after his passing at age 77 with the first in a series of CDs featuring previously unreleased tracks and rarities. Legendary rocker Ral Donner is the subject of a new CD anthology on the Jasmine label, which chronicles his best work for the Scottie and Gone labels. Ash Wells' Sydney, New South Wales-based Teensville label has released the second volume of their acclaimed Bubbling Under series, featuring rare and obscure tracks by Neil Sedaka, the Tigers, Ed Rambeau, Tracey Dey, Gene Chandler, Baby Washington, Connie Francis, Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Rydell, the Chiffons, Freddy Cannon and others. Gear Fab Records spotlights rare first generation garage rock with the CD re-release of  rare LPs by the Firebirds and 31 Flavors.


IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

In the New Releases section of The Shape Of Things To Come column, we take a look at the farewell Appleseed label by CD by the late and beloved singer/songwriter, Jesse Winchester. Various members of established Doo Wop groups have joined forces to produce the all new Club Of Broken Hearts CD as the BrillianTears. Fifth generation garage rock aspirants the Cherry Drops make their debut with the ambitious Everything's Groovy. 

Tuesday

DAVIE ALLAN AND THE ARROWS INTERVIEW



BUZZ SAW EFFECT: First generation garage rock legend, guitar virtuoso and Arrows co-founder Davie Allan (pictured above) discusses with Blitz Magazine many of the highlights of his half century in the spotlight, including the release of his recent Retrophonic CD collections. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below (Click on above image to enlarge).

ENERGIZED:
AN INTERVIEW WITH
ARROWS GUITARIST DAVIE ALLAN

While not a prerequisite for long term aesthetic success, a substantial background as a musicologist and/or record collector has proven to be beneficial to the careers of many a veteran musician. To wit, Jive Five and Genies co-founder Eugene Sampson Pitt and long time Guess Who front man and keyboardsman, Burton Lorne Cummings are both highly respected for having excelled in both disciplines; an attribute that has served each of them more than well in their respective recording endeavors.

One such individual who has followed suit and to date has produced more than a half century’s worth of first rate material in both a featured and behind the scenes capacity is the Arrows’ lead guitarist and co-founder, Davie Allan. A graduate of Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys, California (whose roster of vaunted alumni includes Monkees drummer George Michael “Micky” Dolenz, Los Angeles Times veteran Barbara Harris and former Houston Astros pitcher, Thomas James Griffin), Allan appeased his passion for music while there as a member of the school choir.

In the Grant High School choir with Allan was Savannah, Georgia native and future Lieutenant Governor of California (from 1979 to 1983), Mike Curb. A fellow avid musicologist and record collector, Curb enlisted Allan’s services in 1962 for the purpose of recording demos.

By 1963, Curb (on keyboards) and Allan were performing with a drummer and three vocalists as the Jadetts, who made their recording debut shortly thereafter with Look To The Stars / Father Knows Best for guitar virtuoso Dick Dale’s Deltone label (Deltone 5022). Before long, Allan was enjoying an sizable amount of work as a guitarist, with sessions by such diverse artists as the Paris Sisters, Jerry Naylor, the Hondells, the Zanies (a studio band featuring Allan) and the late, great Terry Stafford (amongst others) to his credit.

In 1964, Curb founded the Sidewalk label. Sidewalk’s first release was the highly promising original, Blue Guitar, coupled with a remake of the Shadows/Jorgen Ingmann standard, Apache as Apache ’65.

That ambitious single marked the recording debut of the Arrows, the band by which Allan’s legacy would ultimately be defined. Curb leased the single to Capitol’s Tower subsidiary, who reissued it as Tower 116 and promptly followed suit in June 1965 with the band’s debut album, Apache ’65 (Tower DT-5002). 

Drawing from such diverse inspirations as Travis Wammack (Scratchy), Alvin Cash And The Crawlers (Twine Time) and both Bert Kaempfert and Vic Dana, by way of Vaughn Monroe (Red Roses For A Blue Lady), the Apache ’65 album (which included Curb on keyboards, Harlan Hatcher on rhythm guitar and Larry Brown as the drummer, and also included several promising Curb and Curb/Allan originals) by definition suggested that Allan was determined to bring diversity on a long term basis to a format with seemingly limited parameters.


"Steve Pugh was not on the Apache '65 album sessions", said Allan, in reference to the bassist that worked with the Arrows around that same time.

"He did play on Do The Freddie, the flip side of the Moondawg '65 single that I am re-recording with Larry Brown again on drums. (But I'm) not going to call it Moondawg '15!".


To that effect, although the Arrows’ line up (which throughout the decades included such notables as Russ Viot, Drew Bennett, Lee Joseph and David Winogrond) was from the onset in near continuous fluctuation with Allan as the lone constant, Allan wasted little time in establishing himself as one of rock and roll’s leading virtuosos and visionaries in that capacity. As Curb became increasingly involved with Sidewalk and Tower as producer of a series of acclaimed film soundtracks (including Doctor Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs, The Wild Angels, Thunder Alley and Wild In The Streets, whose most noteworthy track, Shape Of Things To Come by Max Frost And The Troopers inspired the title of the reviews column in Blitz Magazine), he called upon Allan and the Arrows to provide some of the more memorable moments.

By the early 1970s, Curb was focusing upon the Mike Curb Congregation, whose irresistible 1971 Burning Bridges single (MGM K-14151) was featured in the Clint Eastwood film, Kelly’s Heroes. Curb also briefly served as president of the vaunted Verve label before shifting his attention towards political office.

Meanwhile, Allan persevered in a variety of disciplines. He backed Jim Pewter on a pair of singles for MGM in 1972, and recorded prolifically for the label (both with the Arrows and in a solo capacity) throughout mid-decade. Rightfully embraced as a major influence by the burgeoning punk/new wave revolution and the related second generation garage rock movement that came to fruition in the mid-to-late 1970s, Allan was duly recruited by industry pioneer Chris Ashford, whose What Records? (the recording home of such genre focal points as the Germs, the Dils, the Controllers and the Eyes) released the Arrows’ Stoked On Surf (What? 12-601) in 1982. A first rate vocal country LP, An Arrow Escape followed the next year; an album that was the subject of a rave review in Blitz Magazine upon its original release, and was recently reissued online in commemoration of its thirtieth anniversary.

That most welcome new reissue is by far not the first example of Allan’s ongoing commitments to both vinyl and the physical format in general. In 1997, Cynics co-founder Gregg Kostelich signed the Arrows to his prolific Get Hip label, resulting in The Born Losers Theme / The Glory Stompers single (Get Hip GH-209). The following year, the late Greg Shaw (who had briefly served as Blitz Magazine’s Art Director in the 1980s) signed the Arrows to his Alive/Total Energy label, where the band further realized their own interpretation of Max Frost and the Troopers’ aforementioned Shape Of Things To Come, coupled with the intense Vanishing Breed (Alive/Total Energy 3020). Happily, throughout that transitional period, Bob Irwin’s beloved Sundazed label successfully leased (from Mike Curb) and reissued a wealth of the Arrows’ Tower and Sidewalk material in the CD format, along with Restless In L.A., a 2003 CD of all new Arrows recordings.

Throughout much of the twenty-first century to date, Allan has maintained an active live performance schedule. In the process, he has amassed continued accolades for his formidable guitar artistry, which in part prompted his perceptive self assessment of “melodic grunge”. For the past several years, Allan has also been a most welcome member of Blitz Magazine’s “inner circle”, a handpicked group of musical legends and industry veterans that serve in an informal advisory capacity and who also occasionally network with one another.

Allan also continues to direct much of his attention towards his own Arrow Dynamic Records. The label issued the first volume of its Retrophonic CD compilations in 2009; an ongoing series of odds and ends from his solo and Arrows archives. The newer material in that first installment featured contributions from such duly inspired artists as the Long Beach-based Nushu cofounder and Vandalay recording artist, Lisa Mychols and Cockeyed Ghost alumnus, composer and keyboardsman, Adam Marsland.

“Adam appears on five tracks on the 2009 Retrophonic CD and one on Retrophonic 4”, said Allan.

Released in 2013, Retrophonic 4 (Arrow Dynamic AD004) finds Allan’s enthusiasm for Arrows-themed instrumentals undiminished; containing as it does a number of them that handsomely showcase his guitar work. The cover material therein is also reflective of his commitment to musical diversity, from a mid-tempo take on the David Whitfield and Mantovani / Jay And The Americans high drama masterpiece, Cara Mia to Vaughn Monroe’s (Ghost) Riders In The Sky, Buddy Holly’s Think It Over and the Little Richard/Bill Haley And The Comets/Elvis Presley monster classic, Rip It Up.

However, on the nineteenth of February, Allan found himself briefly sidelined as the result of cataract surgery. Thankfully the recovery process is progressing quite well.

“I now have to do the right eye in April”, said Allan.

“The worst part was the anticipation, plus getting more wrinkles, hair turning whiter, etcetera! As soon as this heals, I can't wait to go to Disneyland and check out Star Tours. Bet I'll see things I've been missing! And to start working on the (Arrows’) fiftieth anniversary album.

During his recovery, Allan took the time to discuss with Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell the various Retrophonic projects, as well as various highlights from his career and his insights on the growing download versus physical release controversy.

BLITZ: The Retrophonic series was intended to showcase the best of your heretofore unreleased material. But with the release of this fourth installment, it has become apparent that your archives were indeed vast. Was there any reason why much of this material did not see release at the time of its recording?

ALLAN: Actually, there aren’t that many previously unreleased tracks in the series. The first five tracks on Volume One were all new. Unfortunately, I don’t own anything from the ’60s. You know who does! He at least had the sense to allow Sundazed to release quite a few tracks on five CDs between 2004 and 2006.

BLITZ: Stick It Again is a rather animated, uptempo 4/4 rocker, which at various points suggests aesthetic solidarity with Joe Cocker's High Time We Went. You were one of the few artists to be embraced by the demographic that included the work of artists such as Cocker. Might your extensive involvement in the various film soundtracks have factored into that anomaly?

ALLAN: I wasn’t going for anything in particular, except as a follow up to my 2008 tune Stick It from the Moving Right Along CD. I occasionally do a new biker tune as a takeoff on the tunes in ’60s films. But I rarely copy anyone else’s work or their ideas. At least I don’t think I do!

BLITZ: Yet Don't Blame Duane is presumably a playful reference to fellow guitar virtuoso, Duane Eddy. It seems as though this particular piece was inspired more by his work for RCA Victor than his earlier sides for Jamie Records. True?

ALLAN: I was only going for a takeoff / tribute to Duane, but with my sound. In speaking of some of my low notes, a reviewer many years ago said it sounded like Duane with dirty fingernails.

I was disappointed in not hearing back from Duane after I sent him a copy twice. I had also sent my version of Rebel Rouser from Retrophonic 2009, and received no reply. I always answer all letters, emails, etcetera, and I basically told Dan Forte that I’m not a Duane fan anymore. Dan was so disgusted with me that he has given me the silent treatment ever since.

BLITZ: Los Cabos features guest vocals from Lisa Mychols, who has also recently been in the spotlight as the result of the physical versus digital controversy. You seemed to work well together in the studio. It also sounds as though this track may have in part inspired the recent release by the all-star band, the Bamboo Trading Company. Do any highlights from that particular session come to mind?

ALLAN: That version was another attempt to getting that tune noticed. The best version of the four I’ve done — one on each of the four Retrophonic albums — was by Linda Sarian, who should have been a country star! I had not heard of the band you mentioned. My contact at K-Tel said he likes my instrumental version the best, on Retrophonic 4. Huh?!

BLITZ: Rather than just serving as an answer song of sorts to your 1965 reinterpretation of the Shadows / Jorgen Ingmann classic, Apache, the track Apache Junction seems to equally reflect the inspiration of the Kinks. Your thoughts?

ALLAN: Maybe I unknowingly had All Day And All Of The Night in mind. But I never really meant to copy it. If they heard it, hopefully they took it as a tribute!

BLITZ: Retrophonic 4 includes both a tribute track to Buddy Holly and a cover of his Think It Over. Some have suggested that his Down The Line would have been a perfect cover for the Arrows. Yet you opted for one of his mid-tempo pieces. Why so?

ALLAN: I was picked as one of the recipients for a copy of his ’47 guitar by The Buddy Holly Guitar Foundation. I had picked It’s So Easy for the name of the guitar. That one was taken, so I picked Think It Over because I had recorded a pre-Arrows version that was lost by the way, and always loved the song. It was fun doing the harmonica solo. My first time ever doing that.

BLITZ: Shape Of Things To Come of course saw its biggest acclaim in the version by Max Frost And The Troopers on Tower Records, and in fact inspired the name of the new releases review column in Blitz Magazine. It is of course widely regarded today as one of first generation garage rock's definitive classics. Given the slight propensity towards period affinity extant in the lyrics, how does that particular track resonate with you today?

ALLAN: The song didn’t mean much to me until I did remakes on my Moving Right Along CD in 2008 and my Retrophonic 4 CD in 2013.

An interesting story is that I still see my name and the Arrows mentioned as being Max Frost and the Troopers. I wish I could say that we were Max Frost and the Troopers, but unfortunately, it's just not true. I DID play on the Wild In The Streets soundtrack along with studio musicians known as the Hollywood Wrecking Crew; Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye and Larry Knechtel. But none of us played on Shape Of Things To Come. A band was hired to do that one and it was kept a secret as to who the members were. Actually Mom's Boys, featuring Paul Wibier (who also recorded for Sidewalk Records as the 13th Power - Ed.).

The mix-up started when my instrumental version was released as the last Arrows single on the Tower label. All I did was play lead on that pre-recorded track, so everyone assumed that we and Max Frost were one and the same. On a sour note, that was my last single in the ’60s from the worst album of my career, the Arrows perform music from Wild In The Streets. I'm on some of the Max Frost tracks, including those that appeared on The Glory Stompers soundtrack.

BLITZ: Retrophonic 4 includes a straight ahead, rocking version of the David Whitfield / Jay And The Americans classic, Cara Mia. That is an interesting choice of covers for such an interpretation. What was the inspiration behind it?

ALLAN: I was in an oldies band in the late ’80s into the ’90s, and we recorded a vocal version of the song. (We had a) great lead singer named Gabriel Hernandez, but broke up before getting it released. I realized that I had the basic track and decided to try an instrumental version. It’s tough being your own major critic! But I am thrilled with the result.

BLITZ: Your own professed list of inspirations is quite diverse, from Andy Williams to Buddy Holly. Some of that has been reflected in your own repertoire throughout the decades. Yet you often return to the basic, guitar-driven first generation garage rock template, of which you were one of the pioneers. How comfortable are you with the balance between familiar territory and experimentation?

ALLAN: I have a great time with that. As an example, I feel my two Christmas albums, Fuzz For The Holidays One and Two work quite well.

My main inspirations are Elvis Presley and Henry Mancini. I got into music because of Elvis and then into the melodies of Mancini, which drove me to work on my songwriting. I have stayed with that objective, but still go for my grungy sound. Hence I call my music melodic grunge.

BLITZ:
You initially stated that Retrophonic Four will be your last physical release. In turn, Nancy Sinatra recently released a new album that is available only in the download format. There has since been a rather fervent reaction to developments such as those within the community of musicologists and record collectors, who overwhelmingly champion the physical format; be it the CD, the vinyl record or the cassette tape. As one with a half century's worth of vinyl and CD releases to your credit, what is your own reaction to the rise of the digital download? In light of these developments, might there be continued availability of your own material in the physical format?

ALLAN: The term “download only” is not one that I relish. I recently reworked and released the An Arrow Escape album for its thirtieth anniversary. It’s mainly a country album. In 1983, I had decided to take a break from my instrumental career and focus on my love of older country music. The takeoff on “a narrow escape” was my wife’s idea. I collaborated with several friends; most notably Rick Korenthal, my co-producer on the album.

I went back to the master tapes. I transferred them into Pro Tools and spent months repairing, remixing and remastering it. It’s only for downloads. It seems that only about a dozen “fans” have downloaded it. Since the only (label) releasing my material is my own, the money and PR is not there. But I would like to do the next one on vinyl and CD.

Also, Jerry Clayworth is starting a label. He booked me on some shows in Texas a few years ago. He picked two of the tunes, Brews' Theme and Just One Man as one of his first vinyl singles. 

BLITZ: The recent passing of former Standells drummer/vocalist and your former Tower Records labelmate, Dick Dodd from cancer is a sobering reminder of the urgency of stating your musical case while you are still able to do so. How has his passing affected your commitment to your own mission statement?

ALLAN: I was quite saddened by his passing. It did make me look at my future. I do have one album on paper that I want to do, but I really need a label for it. It should be with Curb’s company. But I mentioned it in a Christmas card to him and I received no reply.

By the way, that next album will be titled something like, Davie Allan And The Arrows - 50th Anniversary. I plan it for the fall of this year. That marks fifty years since Apache ’65 was released. Wow! Where did the years go?!

CARMAN LICCIARDELLO CONCERT REVIEW


https://mail.aol.com/38683-216/aol-6/en-us/mail/get-attachment.aspx?uid=30351901&folder=NewMail&partId=3

STAND UP: Following his victory over cancer, veteran Gospel rocker Carman Licciardello (pictured above after his landmark 30 July set at Monroe Street Church Of God in Monroe, Michigan) took to the road in support of his recently released CD, No Plan B. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a look at Licciardello's miraculous comeback below (Photo by Michael McDowell - C&P 2014 Blitz Magazine. All rights reserved).

I'VE BEEN DELIVERED:
CARMAN LICCIARDELLO
RETURNS TO THE CONCERT STAGE
AFTER CANCER BATTLE

What a difference a miracle makes.

Earlier this year, veteran Gospel rocker Carman Dominic Licciardello was involved in a life threatening battle with cancer. And for a time, it appeared as though the disease was winning.

"I wish I had better news, but for the first time though this whole journey. I'm worried, really worried", Licciardello in a statement that appeared on Blitz Magazine’s web site on the 26th of January.

"I don't mean to be fatalistic, but if for some reason I don't make it out of here, I want you all to know what great friends you've been to me and how much I've loved every minute of being on the stage ministering.

Yet a mere seven months later, in a manner not unlike that outlined in his classic 1991 track, Satan, Bite The Dust!, Licciardello is not only cancer-free, but he has taken to the road for a nationwide tour in support of his just completed album, No Plan B.

The 30 July stop of his No Plan B tour brought Licciardello to the North Monroe Street Church Of God in Monroe, Michigan. The capacity crowd there was blessed with a ninety-minute sermon and musical set that can truly be described as nothing short of miraculous.

Long a pillar of musical integrity in a genre that has somewhat disconcertingly relied more often than not on mainstream flavor of the month music for its inspiration, Licciardello remains the Gospel rocker of choice amongst musicologists, academics and record collectors alike for his original, no-nonsense and hard hitting original material, which has drawn from such diverse sources as Chuck Berry (the early album track, Bethlehem), Henry Mancini (Mission 3:16), Gary U.S. Bonds (Sunday School Rock) and Dick Dale and the Del-Tones (Surf Mission).

Welcomed by a standing ovation and a glowing introduction from Senior Pastor Rick Massingill, Licciardello opened his set with several of his best loved originals, including Radically Saved, I Feel Jesus, the aforementioned Sunday School Rock, the often copied This Is My Bible and the high drama narrative, The Witch’s Invitation. With each track enhanced by pertinent visual aides on the screen to his rear, Licciardello presented an ambitious and spirited balance between archival material and selections from No Plan B (including The Flag and the title track).

But perhaps the highlight of his set came slightly past the midpoint, with a sermon based on The Great Commission of Mark 16. Also citing John 5 and drawing from the 1953 Alan Ladd / Jack Palance motion picture, Shane for illustration, Licciardello delivered a riveting message in somewhat unnerving terms as he spoke with great candor not only of his health issues, but of the residual fallout that came from being a pillar of aesthetic integrity within a genre that has sadly often fallen short in that respect. Without giving away the core of his message to those who may not yet have heard it, suffice to say that his reality check expressed therein should serve as a wake up call of sorts for both musical devotee and believers at large.

Upon resuming the musical portion of his set, Licciardello hit a home run with first rate renditions of the ballad I Surrender All (complete with altar call), the irresistibly bouncy Good To Me, the title track from his 2001 top ten motion picture, The Champion (in which Blitz Magazine’s Michael and Audrey McDowell had brief roles in the fight scene) and No Way, We Are Not Ashamed from his 1988 Radically Saved album. True to form, he ended the proceedings with his utterly stupendous signature track, Who’s In The House?, the song that concurrently rescued the much maligned rap, house and hip hop genres from themselves and served as an anthem of sorts for the faithful in the process.

While the realities of recovery meant keeping his post-show meet and greet to a minimum, Licciardello nonetheless and in no uncertain terms once again put both the mainstream and satan on notice that, through the grace of God, he is back with a vengeance. The No Plan B tour runs through mid-September and includes stops in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Arizona and Oklahoma.
 

Wednesday

HANK WILLIAMS III (HANK3) INTERVIEW


FULL ON: Since the release of  his 1999 solo debut with Risin' Outlaw, Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3) has firmly established himself as one of the most astute, unique, creative and ambitious visionaries in all of music. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell spoke with Hank3 on the eve of his fourteen-date tour in support of his forthcoming Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat albums. Story follows below.

OVERDRIVE:
A CONVERSATION WITH
HANK WILLIAMS III (A.K.A. HANK3)

By Michael McDowell

“Both the popular country music and the popular rock music of today leave much to be desired. It will get to the point that people will just get tired of its sameness and start demanding something a little bit better. I hope that’s where I come in. I’m very confident in my own abilities now. I hope everyone else will pick up on it.

So said country rock pioneer Hank Williams Junior in an interview with Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell in Blitz Magazine #32, which was published in September 1979. Although it would be nearly a decade before the so-called New Traditionalist movement would for one last time bring to fruition Williams’ vision for country music, the genre’s subsequent protracted aesthetic slump (combined with mainstream rock’s seeming inability to rectify its own situation) makes Williams’ observations all the more timely well into the twenty-first century.

In what is widely regarded as his signature track, the 1979 Family Tradition single (Elektra E-46046), Hank Williams Junior good naturedly celebrated what was generally perceived as the common thread between him and his legendary father, country music giant Hank Williams. But as is often the case, the difference between outside observers’ perceptions and reality can be substantial.

In the case of the Williams family, the common thread has actually been an extraordinary, God-given gift for artistic ability and creativity. Not so that each subsequent generation can dutifully follow in the footsteps of the earlier ones, but so that all concerned can assert their respective creative muse and produce unique and individual works of art that stand on their own merits.

To be certain, Hank Williams set the bar about as high as it can be set in that respect. In turn, Hank Williams Junior took into consideration his own inspirations, and for the past half century has established a most impressive legacy as one of the founding fathers of country rock with his various releases for MGM, Warner Brothers, Elektra and other labels.

Most recently, the current generation of the Williams family has grown exponentially in terms of breaking new ground. Beginning with the release of The Ones We Never Knew (Universal South 623392) in October 2004, Hank Williams Junior’s daughter, Holly Audrey Williams has since established herself as one of the premier singer/songwriters in all of music. Her third and most recent album, The Highway on her own Georgiana label is one of the most compelling new releases of 2013 to date.

All of which culminates in the work of a man who may well be the among the most qualified to not only rescue country music from the doldrums, but to inspire the world of music at large onto greater heights. Born Shelton Hank Williams in Nashville, Tennessee on 12 December 1972, Hank Williams III (also known as Hank3) has, since his 1999 debut as a solo artist with the release of Risin’ Outlaw for Curb Records, charted for himself a most unique and ambitious musical course.

As the son of Hank Williams Junior, Hank3 by definition was blessed with the creative capabilities that are indigenous to his bloodline. But as an avid musicologist, multi-instrumentalist and hardcore record collector, Hank3 also brings a wealth of experience and artistic acumen to the table. A firm believer in musical diversity, Hank3’s personal vinyl, cassette and CD archives include such inspirational visionaries as the late, great banjo virtuoso, David “Stringbean” Akeman and indie rock pioneers (and one-time Blitz Magazine cover story subjects), Black Flag.

In particular, Black Flag’s former front man, Henry Lawrence “Henry Rollins” Garfield has had a significant impact on Hank3, particularly in terms of his stringent work ethic. Likewise a relentless perfectionist, Hank3 has always made a concerted effort to persevere without compromise. While such noble aspirations may have temporarily cost him some momentum in terms of widespread notoriety, he nonetheless has amassed a most impressive recorded legacy along the way, with such triumphs as his 2002 Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album for Curb Records and the rather candid 2010 release, Rebel Within for Sidewalk Records to his credit.

In mid-2013, Hank3 once again took an ambitious step; this time in the form of two new albums that celebrate both of his primary musical interests. Recorded over a period of four months in his home studios (with Hank3 handling both drums and guitar, as well as production, mixing and mastering duties), the country-themed double album, Brothers Of The 4x4 also features Zach Shedd on stand up bass, David McElfresh and Billy Contreras on fiddle, Andy Gibson on steel guitar, Johnny Hiland on lead guitar, and Daniel Mason on banjo, with a special guest appearance by one-time National Old-Time Banjo champion, Leroy Troy.

In turn, the hardcore-flavored A Fiendish Threat affords Hank3 the opportunity to showcase his punk rock inclinations, which he does therein with resounding success. Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat are scheduled for 01 October 2013 release on his own Hank3 label in both the CD and vinyl configurations. Hank3 is celebrating these new releases with a fourteen-date tour that will conclude on 08 September, including stops in Indianapolis, Flint, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta.

In the following conversation (which transpired on 07 August 2013), Hank3 shares not only his unique perspective as a member of country music’s royal family, but also the many varied inspirations behind his ambitious and engaging original material. To be certain, his is an artistic vision that at long last should appease the musical appetites of those whom are (in his father’s words), “demanding something a little bit better”.  

BLITZ: It’s good to see that the so-called Family Tradition has continued in your case. Not necessarily in terms of one generation following in the direction of another, but in that each has maintained a high level of creativity in their own right.

HANK3:
It’s always a challenge, trying to stand on your own two feet. Even if you’re Dale Earnhardt Junior or Frank Zappa’s son. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to find my own niche and my own voice. That can be a hard task, going up against Hank Senior and Hank Junior!

But my fans have stuck with me throughout the years. There have been a lot of great shows and a lot of different sounds that have come out of me over that period!

BLITZ: You came into an appreciation of music at a relatively early age. As early as the late 1970s, you were already expressing an interest in music and starting to accumulate a record collection. You had an advantage in that respect because of whom your father was, and he no doubt brought a lot of music to your attention.

But by that same token, you came into it right at the height of the burgeoning new wave/punk movement. It seems as though all of that factored into creating a richly diverse musical background for you. Did that concurrently spark your interest as a collector and a musicologist at that time, as well?

HANK3: It’s a little bit of both. My mom and my aunt always had interesting music around. Since I had a drum set and all of these different sounds, I kept trying to play along with Elvis Presley or Queen. Or when I got a little older, Gary Numan and the Sex Pistols. That’s basically how I learned how to play a lot of my instruments. It was kind of a natural progression for me on the guitar and on the drums.

For Hank Junior, Southern Rock was his thing. For Hank Senior, it was a little bit of country, blues and rock and roll. For me, it was just natural to learn other styles of music.

BLITZ: In a sense, you also carried on that perspective. Your grandfather reportedly had an interest in rhythm and blues, which was just coming into its own at that time. In turn, when Blitz Magazine interviewed your father, he mentioned that one of his early inspirations was Chubby Checker.

By that same token, from the onset, you seem to have embraced the rock of major label bands like Deep Purple, as well as the relatively underground movement espoused by Black Flag, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones with equal passion. Interestingly enough, at that time, those two camps were somewhat at odds, as though one was out to overtake or replace the other. Since that time, it seems that both camps have reconciled, though. Yet it seems that you always embraced both camps without that mindset.

HANK3: I’ve seen what you’re talking about. Sometimes jealousy or all of that stuff can come against bands. For me, that was a bit of a tricky one. When I was growing up, I liked Motley Crue. But I also liked Black Flag! Like you were saying, the followers of both were running down the street, hating each other as much as possible.

But with me, I just tried to keep an open mind. Throughout the country part of my show, I try to respect things, as I always try to give people their money’s worth. In the first part of the show, I always say, “I appreciate your coming out. I’m going to be doing some of these other sounds, which some of you might not like.” I think that kind of work ethic has helped me out in the long run, whereas it might have caused some issues with other bands.

BLITZ: There have been cases where artists have tried to move off into different directions or different genres. Or artists have taken careers that were established in one field and tried to establish themselves in another. Yet in those cases, there almost always seems to be some sort of resistance there.

You have always maintained that perspective. Yet for some reason, it seemed to have taken a long time before you committed your musical vision to record. You were involved in the Three Hanks project in 1996, in which you sang with your father and your grandfather’s recordings. But you didn’t make your debut as a solo artist until 1999, with the release of your Risin’ Outlaw album. Why the delay in putting your ideas into fruition?

HANK3: First of all, I wasn’t that crazy about that record, Three Hanks. I thought it was going to look bad, as if, “We’re paving the way for Hank3”. I naturally said, “Why don’t you wait ten years and then put that kind of record out?”

It was an honor to sing with Hank Senior and Hank Junior. But I definitely didn’t like the way that was done, being my very first country record.

The reason for the delay of the release of Risin’ Outlaw was up to Curb Records. They were getting used to me, and I was getting used to them. As time has gone on, I have probably been on my sixth year now without a manager. In some ways, it has worked to my benefit, just having the distribution company out there and putting out what I do, then going out on the road and trying to do it that way. 

BLITZ: You did go with Curb Records for the release of the Risin’ Outlaw album. You may or may not be aware of it, but in the 1960s, Mike Curb was involved with the Sidewalk and Tower labels, which were subsidiaries of Capitol Records. In the mid to late 1960s, they released a lot of film soundtracks and worked with independent first generation garage bands like the Standells, the Chocolate Watch Band and the Arrows.

Since that time, some of the artists who were involved with him have shared your sentiments about their experiences. Presumably you never sought out any of them for advice in that respect, then.

HANK3: Not really. It’s definitely a tough business. If you’re an artist or a musician that knows what your sound is and you know what you want on your records, it can always be a challenge.

For an artist like me, they just didn’t understand or get what I was doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re as big as someone on a huge scale level like Tim McGraw, or someone on a smaller level like myself. It seems like some of those same problems come up in the conversations!

BLITZ: Despite the circumstances behind it, if you look at the Risin’ Outlaw album from the perspective of an impartial, third party observer, there are definitely some tracks of merit in there. For example, it is very easy to be taken with your cover of Bobby Edwards’ You’re The Reason, which of course was also covered in 1965 by Gerry and the Pacemakers. You did a great, great job on that track. What inspired you to cover it?

HANK3: Honestly, I would go through all of the tapes and listen to the songs. And if I was going to be doing someone else’s songs, I at least got to pick out the songs. At the time that album was cut, the original version stood out a lot to me.

BLITZ: You once indicated that on the Risin’ Outlaw album, there are only a couple of tracks that still met with your standards. Presumably one of them was If The Shoe Fits, which states your case as an emerging artist quite well. In other words, “This is where I stand. You might not like it, but I am standing behind who I am”. Is that a fair assessment?

HANK3: Definitely! I would be down at Polygram or something, and see all of these people writing songs in offices. And I thought, “I’m not sure what the difference between y’all’s song is and one of my songs!” Songs like If The Shoe Fits, Mississippi Mud or Country Heroes, all of those in my eyes are decent songs.

Those are for my fans, and that was definitely one of the first to help get me on my way. It was before the heavy rhythm, high energy gallop was coming into play. But it was getting there!

BLITZ: You seem to have hit your stride in that respect with your next album, Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’.

HANK3: Yes! Working with (co-producer) Joe Funderburk on that record, and having (steel guitarist) Kayton Roberts there, working with musicians like that is always an awesome experience! It was a good learning curve. That was one of the last records that I got to do on tape to tape on the machines, pre-digital.

BLITZ: There is one song in particular on the Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album in which you and Blitz Magazine are definitely on the same page in that respect, the song Trashville. It seems to be an answer song of sorts within the country genre to Bob Seger’s Back In ’72, in which he talks about how the self indulgence in much of the music of the early 1970s crushed the music which had inspiration and took away the heart and the creative element. There were people who were trying to express themselves personally as individuals, but there was an undue obsession at the time with image and socio-political causes that took away from the heart of the music.

To take it a step further, Blitz Magazine has long maintained that country music’s last collective gasp of consequence was the so-called New Traditionalist movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s, where artists like Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Carlene Carter, the Desert Rose Band and Highway 101 came in; plus a lot of the long time greats were concurrently able to return to the spotlight, like Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and your father. Would you say that was the cut off point when Nashville became Trashville? Or what was the cut off point for you?

HANK3: It goes back to that independent streak that I’ve had. I’ve always known myself and I’ve always known my songs. I’ve never really understood why someone needed to tell me how to write a song. If you think like that and you play like that, it’s not going to get you very far in Nashville!

I love living in Tennessee, and I love being born and raised in Nashville. There are just two streets that I didn’t get along with that well, as far as business goes. Because if you are a super creative person like you are saying, it’s a tough gig. For someone like me, they just didn’t understand what I do. It’s a challenge when you’re involved in it. The managers, the lawyers, the producers and all of that stuff.

Even back when I first started in Branson, they said, “You know what you need to do, and you know how to do it”. And that’s what I have always basically done. I had to do some time with Curb for a little while, just to get out there. But the deal is still writing the majority of my songs and trying to get out there on the road, doing the best I can and trying to hang in there with it.

It depends on what you’re in it for. I was in it for my sound, my songs. That’s just natural when you’re coming with a bloodline that’s as creative as mine! Some people get into it just to record that song that’s going to become a hit and definitely be played on that radio station. I have been just a little more independent in my ways of thinking.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you have stuck with Nashville geographically. Consider the following scenario: In the early 1990s, an individual of our acquaintance was a successful radio producer in Southern California. But when the Northridge earthquake struck in January 1994, he panicked and relocated to Nashville, leaving behind his successful $100,000 a year career in Los Angeles.

His idea behind relocating to Nashville was to find success in that field in country music. But about a year after he relocated there, we spoke with the pastor of his church. The pastor told us, “Your friend came out here to die, and to die big time”. Instead of furthering his career in that respect, the former radio producer was now cleaning the house, taking out the trash and mowing the lawn for a successful Nashville producer and living close to the bone. Does such a scenario sound familiar from what you have observed? And if so, what did those involved do about it?

HANK3: For me, it’s not quite that bad. If you don’t set yourself up for that huge fall, then you’re never going to fall. Unfortunately, I have never been used to making that much money! I’ve just been out there trying to figure out how to break even. I had to file bankruptcy about ten years ago, just to keep it out on the road. But being born and raised here, I have gotten a lot of the respect of the old timers. That’s a tough one!

I’ve kept it inside of the bars. There’s something of beauty of not going outside of the bars. It’s been the perfect thing of not too big, not too small. I think that’s helped me a lot over the years.

BLITZ: To that effect, you have maintained your integrity, which means at least being able to sleep at night. We can return to the Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ album as an example. The opening song, 7 Months, 39 Days is a masterpiece of the traditional country template. You took that sound and put your own personal, distinctive stamp on it. It sounds as though you are in solidarity with that genre of music yourself, yet you want to keep it within your own framework.

HANK3: I’m always open to working with other people. But when it comes to my records, I’m writing the songs! I am at least in a position now that’s great, when another musician calls me up and says, “Hey, man. You wanna sing on this record?” I say, “Sure!” I get to do it, and I have no problems.

I don’t have to miss out on a lot of great opportunities nowadays. I got to record with David Allan Coe. I’ve had Junior Brown here at the house. He likes the way I record and the vibe of the house. There are a lot of things I’m involved with. I’m not totally opposed to working with other people. I did a project for Alamo Jones, just for the sake of doing it. We did like a five song EP. I’m always trying to be creative. I’m just not trying to be creative with other people as much, but the door is still open.

BLITZ: You seem to have made peace with your so-called Family Tradition a lot earlier on than perhaps your father did. Early on in his own situation, the obvious reference point for his concerns in that respect was his 1966 Standing In The Shadows single for MGM. He took a stand for himself, and he did so quite well.

On the other hand, you have also taken quite an impressive stand for yourself. You have done what you do very well for roughly the past fifteen years. Yet you don’t hesitate to give credit where credit is due, and that’s great.

If nothing else, you have demonstrated that the Family Tradition means that the spark of creativity is found in each successive generation, but in an individual way. For example, a couple of years ago, you made a guest appearance on Marty Stuart’s television program, in which you sang an absolutely spot on, bone chilling version of your grandfather’s My Sweet Love Ain’t Around. Then you turned around and did it your own way, underscoring that the common theme of the bloodline is that each generation is creative, but in their own right. Is that assessment on target?

HANK3: Definitely! Once in a while, I will do a tribute to Hank Senior, just because there will never be another one. No one will ever come that close to doing it as good. You won’t see me doing a whole Hank Williams show. You will only see me doing a few. Maybe a couple of songs every now and then, but it’s usually for friends, or just for paying respect.

When I think of Hank Junior and Hank Senior and all of the things that they’ve done, I am strictly mesmerized as a musician, and as a songwriter, about all of the different phases that they have been through in life. So that is something with me. When I’m listening to music, I am always thinking about the process that they had to go through to write the songs. How they might have had to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go down to the radio station. How did they have a voice that early in the morning? I’m amazed by the talent and how they got it done.

BLITZ: Do you think it is possibly a matter of perception? For example, you are presumably familiar with the 2012 reissue CD on the Time Life label, Lost Concerts, which features two complete and previously unreleased 1952 concerts by Hank Senior. The traditional accounts of his life often suggest that things were not going well for him in 1952, with one challenge after another. Yet if you listen to the Lost Concerts CD, what is more than evident on there is an artist who is very much on top of his game. He was doing stand up comedy, his delivery was brilliant, he radiated joy and he was in absolute command of the proceedings. If indeed there were issues extant in his circumstances, you couldn’t make a convincing case of it with that record!

By that same token, certain things were expected of you. Curb Records and the Nashville elite wanted this and that out of you. But you defied their expectations and did things quite well. Is that then a case of the bloodline maintaining its independence and its creative spark?

HANK3: I think it just kind of shows itself naturally. If you look at my whole music career, I’m not trying to be that negative punk. I’m just trying to do what feels natural to me. Some have said that I have held myself back for a lot of years. But it just goes back to that not being too big and not being too small. It’s just being in my niche! Being a drummer and a rhythm guitar player, throughout most of my young life has brought me into a situation like, when Johnny Hiland takes a solo on my record, he says, “Man, your rhythms just really stick out to me. I play on a lot of records around town, and no one has these kind of rhythms!”

So when I hear a compliment like that from someone who is looking at me in the now and not even at the past hardly at all, it’s good to hear that kind of a comment from such a high end musician. Theory and songwriting has always been tough for me with my learning disabilities over the years. It’s always a challenge to pump that stuff out.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you alluded to exploring the dark themes. That interim period after the release of Rebel Proud, amidst those later Curb reissues, like Hillbilly Joker, Ghost To A Ghost/Gutter Town, 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ and Attention Deficit Domination, those albums seem to explore a lot of dark themes. Is it more of a situation of sharing first hand experiences, or perhaps doubling as a red flag of sorts to your audience, saying “Don’t go too far over the edge”? How do you view it?

HANK3: I would look at it more like when Johnny Cash would sing a sad lonesome song, or talking about taking his guns to town and killing somebody. You can only hear so much squeaky clean happy stuff on the radio, or whatnot. There has to be room for a lot of other stuff. I’ve just fallen into that “other stuff” category! I’m able to write about that other stuff a little more easily.

I definitely don’t try to push too much religion or too much politics. I do put it out there that yes, there is the light, and yes, there is the dark. And my granddad sang about the light, and he sang about the dark. I’m kind of doing it that same way. The genres are just a little more extreme nowadays. There is a whole genre called doom metal, which had that spooky, eerie, kind of ghostly feel to it.

Like on the new record, when I have songs like Deep Scars or Loners 4 Life, then I’ll turn around and put a good time feeling song in there, like Dreadful Drive, with the clawhammer banjo. Or Possum In A Tree, getting a little bit old school with Leroy Troy, just to brighten it up a little bit.

I’m always trying to keep some balance in mind. 3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin’ is kind of a lighthearted, fun record. It’s not getting real serious. I tell all the kids that! I’m always trying to have that come across.

BLITZ: You have two of the best new albums of 2013 to date with Brothers Of The 4x4 and A Fiendish Threat. On the track Possum In A Tree in your new Brothers Of The 4x4 album, there is some inventive steel guitar work. The delivery is, like you said, pure. Is there an attempt with that track to capture some of the novelty spirit of the genre, as perhaps your grandfather did with Kaw-Liga?

HANK3: I wrote that song for Leroy Troy. Leroy Troy is a purist, clawhammer banjo king. Yes, I wanted that song to sound more old school. I wrote it with him in mind.

That was my first attempt at trying to play steel guitar. I took my recorder over there. Me and him tracked it live in his shed out back. There’s a lot of reasons why that song is going to stand out. It sounds a little more low-fi than a lot of the record would. There is a reason for that. As Leroy Troy would say, “And to top it off, it’s a true story, too!”

That was definitely a good, lighthearted, fun recording session. I can’t wait to play it for Leroy. He gets to hear it when it’s officially done. I want to see his expression in person!

BLITZ: You mentioned the musicianship of the band. The title track on Brothers Of The 4x4 and Lookey Yonder Comin’ both feature strong instrumental workouts that celebrate the joy of the lyrics, but also showcase the strong musicianship of those who are playing on there with you.

You have always surrounded yourself with really strong musicians, who tend to soar when given the opportunity. Do you find that outside players gravitate to your work for that reason?

HANK3: I’m lucky enough to have a lot of the same players come back every time I make a record. Over both records, there is two and a half hours of music. Yet there is only about twenty minutes of editing. So almost all of these songs might have taken a hundred times to get that one take. But that’s how we did it. The players are definitely steppin’ up to the plate on those songs, like you were saying.

Johnny Hiland was the first guy to lay down some outside stuff on it. Then Daniel Mason on the banjo, Andy Gibson on the steel guitar, and Zach Shedd on the stand up bass. It’s always a challenge, doing the engineering and the recording process of it. Sometimes the players look at me, wanting me to tell them what to play. Then other guys just already know what they’re going to play and lay it down.

BLITZ: It works very well in that respect, too. It seems like with the Brothers Of The 4x4 album, you are shifting the focus a bit more towards instrumental dexterity, rather than lyrical content. Would that be a fair assessment?

HANK3: I’ve always loved the great musicians. It just goes back to writing vocals being a challenge for me. Yeah, I like turning the band up! If you listen to my mixes, you’re going to hear kick drum and snare pretty loud. I’m a fan of the band.

When I was growing up, I never could understand why a lot of the live band members weren’t playing on the records. That always baffled me. So I am lucky enough nowadays that the majority of my live band plays on the record. I get to see some friends that I’ve made over the years come in and do some of the super pickin’, just layin’ it down like it was nothing. Johnny Hiland and Billy Contreras.

BLITZ: You mentioned the clawhammer style of banjo picking. In the past, you seem to have professed an interest in the real pioneers of that work, such as David “Stringbean” Akeman. He was a forerunner of that style when he recorded for Starday. You even covered one of his songs. Would you say that Outdoor Plan from your new album is an attempt to carry on his mission statement? Or at least that of Elton Britt, Uncle Dave Macon or Hank Snow? There is a little bit of all of them in that song.

HANK3: What you are basically picking up on is the man who has been like my grandfather growing up, and that’s Eddie Pleasant. He writes probably two to three songs per day. That song is a co-write, and a lot of those influences are coming across on that song. That’s probably what you’re feeling. Even though he loved it when it was just me and my acoustic guitar. I put a little more of a current kind of bounce under it.

There is a lot more Stringbean that I probably need to get close to. I have some of his records that I want to get to in the future. It brings me peace. When I’m not feeling good, I can just pick up the banjo, go outside and sit down under the tree. There’s something about it that soothes my soul! I know I’ll be doing a little more recording of that one day.

BLITZ: You have stated in recent years that you get that same gratification from sitting down and listening to your record collection. Does that still resonate with you?

HANK3: Absolutely! I go through my highs and lows. If I’m not super busy with the crew, and the trailer is loaded, the gear is in place and the merch is counted, I have some times! Hasil Adkins is one of the guys that can make me hurt if I need to hurt. I can put on some of his songs and definitely get past some emotions. If I feel like working strong through the day, I’ll have Jimmy Martin blasting in the background and getting some stuff done. Music is still definitely tapping into my emotions very strongly, when I’m just listening to it.

BLITZ: Have you added to your collection lately?

HANK3: Right now, I’m kind of stuck. I’ve been into a lot of ’70s rock and roll, and getting into a lot of Roy Duke. I’ve been fascinated with Dock Boggs over the years. Something about Dock Boggs has just grown more and more on me. There is something about the banjo and the singers.

I save a lot of it for when I’m on the road. That’s when I do a lot of my vinyl shopping. I haven’t been on the road in almost a year. So I’m a little out of touch!

BLITZ: You at least maintained enough of that inspiration to be creative enough in the studio to produce an album like A Fiendish Threat. If you were looking to perhaps capture the spirit of Black Flag, the Sex Pistols or, to a lesser extent, the Ramones, you nailed it!

HANK3: Whatever music style it is, whether we are calling it punk rock or not, I think it has a unique sound for it all being played and sang at the same time on the acoustic guitar. The acoustic and the stand up bass has made it its own little whatever people call it.

My friends that I have known my whole life are saying, “What are you calling this?” I just know that it was a record that was a lot of fun for me to record. It made me feel like I was a younger man on some of those vocal takes. A lot of high energy! Imagine a skateboarder that had a really bad wreck, and he’s got to piece himself back together. I’m putting a lot of the “rebuild yourself” kind of hope into that record. There are some positive messages in that one.

BLITZ: That brings to mind another tangent of your Family Tradition situation. You are of course a father. You have a son and a daughter. If either of them approaches you and seeks your advice on music, how would you guide them? What would you suggest to them?

HANK3: With my son, while he’s still in college, I am backing him, no matter what! I always tell him to learn a trade. He’s kind of going through spurts of playing the guitar for a while. Then he will play the banjo for a little bit. Then he will be all about capturing sound with tape decks! Either way, I’m always telling him to try to learn a trade, and play your guitar as much as possible. It’s going to take you a little while to figure out what your calling is.

But I am glad to have the open relationship and to be supportive. It’s always interesting to see him go through the changes, trying to figure out what he wants to do. My main thing is, “You’re young. Enjoy being young while you can. You know I’m here to help you out whenever you need it.

BLITZ: During the times that you were both endeavoring to get started in your own respective careers, did you ever exchange feedback with your sister, Holly for ideas?

HANK3: Me and Holly have never talked all that much on a musical level, probably because we may both be a little bit afraid that we don’t want to offend each other! We just keep it as a family relationship. She knows that I respect her as a musician, and I think that she does the same. I think for right now that’s the best thing for us. We don’t want any of the business messing us up!

BLITZ: A couple of the more interesting tracks on A Fiendish Threat are Watchin’ U Suffer, Fight My Way and Full On. What is the background on those?

HANK3: Watchin’ You Suffer is in a deeper tuning. That’s one reason why it might sound a little different. It’s got a little bit of that melody kind of drive to it. That’s where a little bit of the sci-fi stuff might be coming in to it. If you’re thinking about some 1950s kind of alien movie, where they’re up in the sky watching you suffer, it’s that kind of thing.

Fight My Way is definitely inspired one hundred percent by 7 Seconds, to the point where I was calling them up and telling them, “This comes from y’all one hundred percent, and I need y’all’s permission before I can go through with this!” They gave me their blessings. That was a song that just spoke to me a lot when I was growing up.

Full On is just one of those creative, kind of going for it full on songs of energy, all at once.

BLITZ: When these two albums are released, you may confound expectations, but you should also meet them. Those who have known you and your music, and know that you have pursued multiple directions will be pleased to see how much your work has grown.

That of course leads to the issue of how these new releases will come to the attention of your audience. For example, of course for much of your father’s career, the goal was to get on a major label, make a record, get it on the radio, get it played, get the disc jockeys behind you, and then you will be a success.

But as you are no doubt aware, in the ensuing years, the game has changed radically in that the independent artist and label has largely taken over. Radio has lost a lot of its impact. Commercial music is no longer universally held up as the standard for all to attain. The major labels have pretty much begun to focus on reissues and catalog items, because they cannot do justice to artists as they once could, while a lot of the artists are doing that sort of thing for themselves now. Fan support, technology and social websites have further enabled the independent artist to do that. To what extent do you envision those developments furthering your own career?

HANK3: There is something that my dad had that I’ve never had. He had a great relationship with his managers. That is huge! I’ve never had that. I’ve had a couple that I had been close to for a little bit. But when you’re talking about Merle Kilgore and Hank Williams Junior, I’ve never had anything that powerful in my corner.

BLITZ: It was Merle Kilgore who set up the interviews that Blitz Magazine conducted with your father years ago. He couldn’t have been nicer. A world class gentleman.

HANK3: No doubt. But you need to understand that if you are talking about the music business, what Merle did for Hank Junior was pretty huge. It’s hard to say with an artist like me, but when I see some of my heroes in a tough situation when they get to an older age, it’s either going to work for me, or it’s not. It’s really hard to say.

I had taken advice from Henry Rollins a long time ago. He said, “You work hard. You tour hard. You know your sound. All you need is good distribution, and that’s it.” I’ve stuck by those words, and it’s helped me out a lot.

I’m not saying for certain, but one day I might have a manger again. Someone I feel comfortable with. But most of the time, I’ve found that there are some artists that management just doesn’t work for. I think I’m one of those, just because I’m creative in a lot of ways.

BLITZ: Henry Rollins has maintained a level of success over the decades by constantly reinventing himself. After he left Black Flag, he did spoken word recordings. Then he became an author and a newspaper columnist. Most recently, he has been dabbling in acting. He has been all over the map, but he has nonetheless had success in every one of those ventures. Like you said, he worked hard and asserted himself. Presumably that is also what you are trying to do right now.

HANK3: Absolutely! He is definitely one of my heroes. A lot of my heroes usually have a high work ethic. Sometimes I wish that I could hang in there as much as Henry does. He’s so smart, and he takes on everything. I am hoping to get more and more stronger as I go. People like him, who kind of understand my history a little bit, have helped me conquer a lot of my challenges.

After I’m fifty, I really don’t know what’s going to happen musically for me. It’s going to be hard for me to look past that. Having someone like Henry Rollins to look up to, shows me that there might be other things in life that will ring true for me some day.

BLITZ: So you aren’t thinking creative muse long term as much as you are a survival strategy.

HANK3: I’m more concerned about not being able to pull off the show that I want to pull off! Can I still put on the country and the heavy metal? Every tour is a challenge. I am definitely living more in the now than I am in the future, because if you look at my financial past and all of that, it’s always ups and downs. Every night when you play, sometimes there are a thousand people, some nights there are a hundred people. But they still get the same show! And I’m still there if I’m sick or if I’m well. I’m gonna be up on that stage, doing the best I can, and letting someone forget about their problems for a little while.

BLITZ: It’s interesting that you are concerned about being able to maintain and execute your musical vision once you pass a certain chronological point. In recent years, we have seen a lot of first generation garage rock and related bands such as the Yellow Payges, the Monkees, the Young Rascals, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys all take to the road again to considerable acclaim, in spite of such concerns. Would taking it from the standpoint of heightened self-confidence help in that respect?

HANK3: Absolutely! I’m always astounded by some of the older guys that can keep bringin’ it to the table. Two nights ago, I went and saw Adam Ant. The first time I saw him was in 1984. He still has the voice. He still sounds like the guy that I looked up to way back then. I am always amazed by the Iggy Pops and the Willie Nelsons. These guys are still out there singin’ and playin’ and takin’ it to the next level!

I am always fascinated with the voice. For me, the voice is something that is hard to hold on to. On the road, you lose it and it gets weak. It gets gravelly. And sometimes, when you get older, just listening to Hank Junior records, you can hear how much his voice dropped, aside from the mountain fall and all of that.

Or Robert Plant. He is another perfect example of how things change when you get older. It’s always a challenge, that’s for sure! It keeps you on your toes. Who knows what will be waiting around the corner?

BLITZ: Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, who has a wide and commanding vocal range, keeps his voice up by doing vocal exercises. Many artists also work out in the gym to prepare themselves for the rigors of the road.

HANK3: I have also been psyching myself up mentally in getting ready for the tours. I do nothing but stretch and breathe steam. I’m not the kind of guy who can just walk out on stage and have my voice. After a week and a half into it, I have to work at it two to four hours every day just to get it there. I do warm ups, stretching and exercises to get it to where I want it. Singing three and a half hours a night is always a hard thing.

BLITZ: Is that part of the reason why your upcoming tour is relatively brief, so that you don’t over extend yourself? Some artists have toured up to two years consecutively at a time. But your upcoming tour is scheduled to be completed in roughly a month.

HANK3: I’m just trying to see what a few weeks is going to do to me right now. I’m doing a small run. The longest I can go is a month and a half. Doing three and a half hour shows and four different genres per night? Now if I was just a country act, I could maybe pull off five to six months straight. But doing all of the other hard singing is a lot more tricky for me, mentally and physically.

BLITZ: How much of the set list in your upcoming tour will feature material from the two new albums?

HANK3: The country show will just be here and there, because of the fans. I’ve got my songs that a lot of the people want to hear. Foundation songs.

In October, there will be a lot more. I call this next tour the Nothin’ In It tour! I'm just gearing myself up for a harder run and a lot more work. I’m saving the energy just to get really personally excited for the next two years out there.

BLITZ: With regards to your two new releases, what is your perspective on the current developments in the industry? As you are aware, there has been a lot of interest in bringing back vinyl. Conversely, there has been a push from other camps in the industry towards eliminating physical product and making everything available only as a download. In the middle of it all is the compact disc. All three camps seem to be at odds with one another, each saying that their respective formats have a place, and they don’t want to concede it. What is your take on format availability?

HANK3: I seriously hope that people always have a chance to hold the product in their hands. Both the CD and the vinyl album. I know that vinyl will probably outlast the CDs. But as long as there is something there for them to hold on to, read and flip through, well, you just can’t replace that! Digital downloads are great, but it’s just not the same.

Like you are saying, hopefully it will hang in there. It needs paper and ink!

Since we’re talking about vinyl, I don’t carry that much of it on the road. I always tell everyone that hank3.com is the place to get the vinyl. If anyone does come out to see me live, I usually don’t have an opening band. I always tell people that we usually play early. If the showtime is eight o’clock, then we are usually on stage at eight o’clock, as we often play about three and a half hours.

We cover a lot of different genres. I always do the country part of the show first, and the rock part as the night goes on. We’ve had a lot of great shows at the Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan over the years. There is always a lot of energy in the room on those nights!

Saturday

BITS AND PIECES - NEWS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS By Michael McDowell

Photo: We had our last rehearsal today.  Ready for you SG peeps. See you on july 12. Get your tickets
SHOW ME A SMILE: Pioneering vocal greats Apo Hiking Society have ended their four year sabbatical with planned live dates in mid-July in Singapore. Pictured above are group co-founders Jim Paredes (left) and Boboy Garovillo after rehearsals on 09 July. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below (Click on above image to enlarge).

 INTERNATIONAL AMBASSADOR:
GEORGE HAMILTON IV
SUCCUMBS TO CORONARY DISEASE

Over the years, there has been many an artist who has a vast and impressive catalog to their credit. But rare among them is an artist whose large catalog includes at least one track that qualifies as an example of absolute, utter perfection.

One artist who was indeed blessed with such a triumph was singer, songwriter and Winston-Salem, North Carolina native George Hege Hamilton IV. At the onset of his career, Hamilton focused upon rock and roll, with numerous worthwhile sides for ABC Paramount to his credit. He made great strides in that respect for the label with his outspoken and inspiring The Teen Commandments single, which he recorded with label mates Paul Anka and Johnny Nash. Legendary songwriter John D. Loudermilk also provided Hamilton with a career highlight via the 1956 single, A Rose And A Baby Ruth, which was initially issued by Colonial Records and eventually re-released by ABC Paramount.

Ultimately, it was Loudermilk and his remarkable gift for songwriting that gave Hamilton his career highlight. Hamilton had signed with RCA Victor in 1961, where he continued his impeccable run with such triumphs as Three Steps To The Phone and China Doll. 

However, in 1963, Loudermilk provided Hamilton with the flawless and utterly sublime Abilene. Hamilton in turn rendered Abilene with a mix of subtlety and intensity; a seemingly incongruous hybrid which had been developed to perfection at that time by such like minded visionaries as Michael Holliday and Matt Monro. Ultimately, Abilene became Hamilton's (and Loudermilk's) finest moment; in the process making as strong of an argument in favor of the so-called Nashville Sound that could be made. In 2001, Abilene was selected by Blitz Magazine as one of the Best Singles of the Twentieth Century.

Hamilton continued to record and tour prolifically in the ensuing years, with his 1980 Spin, Spin single among his later career highlights. An outspoken champion of country music and a long time devoted Christian, Hamilton for years also served as a worship leader in the Billy Graham crusades. However, on 13 September of this year, he suffered cardiac arrest, which finally claimed his life in Nashville, Tennessee's Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital on 17 September. Hamilton was 77 years old.


DADDY COOL:
REMEMBERING BOB CREWE
 
Many a musician has endeavored to succeed in a variety of disciplines. To wit, the late Jiles Perry "Big Bopper" Richardson made his mark in a relatively brief amount of time as a vocalist, composer, arranger, producer, video pioneer, session musician and radio announcer. In turn, Monkees lead guitarist and co-founder Robert Michael Nesmith has amassed an impeccable track record as a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, video pioneer and an extraordinarily gifted composer. Artists such as Hank Williams, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Burton Cummings, Otis Redding and John Coltrane also followed suit, with similar results.

One individual who amassed an astoundingly diverse and rich repertoire in a variety of disciplines was composer, producer, musician and Newark, New Jersey native Stanley Robert "Bob" Crewe. An early student of the work of such like minded visionaries as Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton and Tommy Dorsey, Crewe made his initial mark of consequence in rock and roll with the establishment of the short lived yet nonetheless highly impacting XYZ label. XYZ released the Crewe penned and produced 1957 monster classic, Daddy Cool by the Rays, which went on to provide a career highlight for the Diamonds with their impassioned rendition for Mercury.

Initial triumphs with XYZ notwithstanding, Crewe wasted little time in establishing himself as a recording artist. To that effect, his enigmatic 1957 Guessin' Games / Don't Call Me Chicken single for the Melba label was an early addition to Blitz Magazine's archives.

Nonetheless, it was his early work as a composer and producer that propelled Crewe into the upper echelons of rock and roll. While the recent success of the motion picture, Jersey Boys has returned his vast body of work with the Four Seasons as a composer and producer into the spotlight, it is in reality only the tip of the iceberg. Artists such as Lesley Gore, the Walker Brothers, the Toys, Bobby Darin, William "Oliver" Swofford, Diane Renay, Billie Ford and Lillie Bryant, and Question Mark and the Mysterians all benefited from his expertise, while the likes of Ed Rambeau, Norma Tanega, the Distant Cousins, the Chicago Loop and the Illusion added to their legacies during their respective tenures with Crewe's Bell-affiliated Dyno Voice label. Crewe himself further contributed to Dyno Voice's legacy as an artist in late 1966 with the release of the classic instrumental, Music To Watch Girls By, which led to an album of the same name by the Bob Crewe Generation, as well as a sublime vocal cover version by Andy Williams in the spring of 1967.

Successes notwithstanding, Crewe occasionally found himself at odds with those whom he collaborated. This was particularly true of rock and roll pioneers Freddy Cannon and William "Mitch Ryder" Levise; two remarkably gifted artists whose visions differed upon occasion from that of Crewe. Spirited discussions often ensued during their recording sessions, ending in the occasional impasse.

But in one remarkable case, Crewe brought out the best in an initially reluctant Ryder in mid-1967, with a high drama, lavishly produced rendition of the 1966 Sonny and Cher/Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass standard, What Now My Love. Culminating in a falsetto formata that clocks in at a remarkable twenty-two seconds, Ryder's Crewe-produced version of What Now My Love is regarded by many as one of the artist's finest moments.

Although Crewe's success continued into the 1970s with his work for Patti LaBelle, Joseph "Sir Monti Rock" Montanez and Four Seasons front man Frankie Valli, he eventually directed much of his attention to painting. And while Crewe spent many years in Southern California, he relocated to Scarborough, Maine in 2010, where he passed away in a nursing home on 11 September 2014. Crewe was 83.

 

JEWELS OF THOUGHT:
PHAROAH SANDERS, LOU DONALDSON,
FREDA PAYNE, OTHERS RIDE THE GRAVY TRAIN
AT ANNUAL JAZZ FESTIVAL

The classic line up of the John Coltrane Quartet (John Coltrane - saxophone, McCoy Tyner - keyboards, Jimmy Garrison - bass, Elvin Jones - drums) has been held up as the standard of excellence within the jazz idiom for so long that many an aspirant has sought an alternative template on which to base their mission statement. Some have even done so after resigning to the inevitability that attempting to redefine and/or supersede their example is ultimately an exercise in futility.

Yet almost uniquely, one veteran saxophonist can lay claim to at least having the authority to do so. Little Rock, Arkansas native Farrell “Pharoah” Sanders is (along with Tyner) one of a tiny handful of surviving musicians who served with Coltrane’s vaunted organization. Along with Coltrane, his wife Alice Coltrane on keyboards, drummer Rasheed Ali and bassist Garrison, Sanders (as saxophonist and percussionist) was a part of the entourage that recorded the landmark, massive four-disc Live In Japan album for Impulse in 1966, which concluded with the jaw-dropping, fifty-seven minute rendition of Coltrane’s Atlantic-era signature track, My Favorite Things.

Since Coltrane’s tragic passing in July 1967 from liver cancer, Sanders has appropriated his mission statement and made it his own with a highly creative and prolific repertoire that maintains Coltrane’s impeccable standards without succumbing to sycophantic patronizing. And with his own virtuoso quartet (which features William Henderson on piano, Nat Reeves on stand up bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums), Sanders proved to be the ideal headliner at the thirty-fifth annual Jazz Festival in downtown Detroit, Michigan, which was held over the Labor Day weekend.

A committed believer who endeavored to express his faith through his music, Coltrane did so with unparalleled results in his February 1965 A Love Supreme album (Impulse AS-77). Sanders not only followed suit during his 30 August set before an overwhelmingly appreciative capacity crowd at the Jazz Festival’s Carhartt Amphitheater Stage by incorporating excerpts from Coltrane’s 1959 Naima (from Giant Steps on Atlantic SD1311) and A Love Supreme itself into his extended workouts, but by taking it a step further through the inclusion of his own duly inclined signature track, The Creator Has A Master Plan from his February 1969 seemingly incongruously titled Karma album (Impulse AS-9181).

Like Coltrane, Sanders has also surrounded himself with the finest of virtuosos. Pianist Henderson, bassist Reeves and drummer Farnsworth were all afforded ample opportunity to solo at length, and each responded with an enthusiasm that belied the over familiarity of the material within their own circles. In turn, Sanders reaffirmed his status as an adventurous keeper of the flame with a reasonable amount of thinking outside the parameters. At age seventy-three, he remains as on top of his art as he was on his earliest work for E.S.P. and Impulse.

To be certain, if Sanders is a keeper of the flame, then fellow veteran saxophone virtuoso, World War II veteran, North Carolina Agricultural And Technical State University alumnus and Badin, North Carolina native Lou Donaldson is one of the genre’s most uncompromising purists. With an impeccable repertoire that began with the 1952 release of his Quartet/Quintet/Sextet album (Blue Note BLP-1537), the generally genial Donaldson (who will celebrate his eighty-eighth birthday on 01 November) nonetheless remains an outspoken advocate for his art.

To wit, during his equally acclaimed set at the festival’s Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage on 30 August, Donaldson introduced his interpretation of Miles Davis’ 1957 rendition of Gene Austin’s Bye Bye Blackbird (from ’Round About Midnight on Columbia CL949) thusly: “We’re now going to play a tune made famous by Miles Davis when he was still playing jazz.

Undaunted, Donaldson moved on to his own 2002 Fast And Freaky (from his Relaxing At Sea: Live On The QE2 album on Chiaroscuro CRD 366), of which he said, “This is the kind of music that fusion musicians hate, because you have to practice to be able to play it!”

To further underscore his commitment to his principles, Donaldson paid tribute to Ivory Joe Hunter with an inspired rendition of Hunter’s 1949 I Almost Lost My Mind (MGM 10578), along with a faithful reading of Louis Armstrong’s 1968 What A Wonderful World (ABC Paramount 45-10982). And to dispel the undercurrent of uneasiness amongst a small yet relatively vocal percentage of the observers with respect to his observations about Miles Davis and fusion, Donaldson introduced the Armstrong track as, “A tribute to the greatest musician that ever lived. Now why are you all looking at me??” He reiterated the point with a spot on reprise of the tongue in cheek Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman from Relaxing At Sea: Live On The QE2 and (not surprisingly) got the biggest ovation of his set for his no nonsense extended workout on his own 1967 signature track, Alligator Boogaloo (Blue Note 1934). To be certain, few have been able to match such bravado with sheer ability, yet Donaldson continues to deliver both in abundance.

All of which pretty much sums up what was the most welcome and pleasantly surprising set of that evening back at the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage, with Detroit-born vocalist and Broadway veteran Freda Charcilia Payne triumphantly reinventing herself in celebration of her just released Come Back To Me Love album for the ongoing Festival co-sponsoring Mack Avenue label.

Long a jazz aficionado and an alumnus of the Impulse Records artist roster, Payne began her recording career accordingly in 1962 with a cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Desafinado (Slightly Out Of Tune) on ABC Paramount 45-10366. Come Back To Me Love has brought her full circle, with Payne celebrating her not so latent enthusiasm for the genre via covers of the great Kenny Rankin’s November 1966 Haven’t We Met (Columbia 4-43885), bandleader Woodrow Wilson “Buddy” Johnson’s 1955 Floyd Ryland vocal, Save Your Love For Me (Mercury 70695X45), keyboardsman Eddie “Eddie Miller” Morgan’s I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water, and a show-stopping rendition of June Christy’s 1957 Thomas J. Wolfe and Frances Landesman-penned high drama masterpiece, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.

Come Back To Me Love also features several like minded Gretchen Carhartt Valade-penned originals, including the reflective Lately, the Billy Eckstine/Joe Williams-flavored You Don’t Know, the mid-tempo and sublimely charted I Should Have Told Him, the Barbra Streisand-friendly Whatever Happened To Me, and the Billie Holiday-inspired title track. As executive chair of both the Detroit Jazz Festival and the Mack Avenue label, Valade has brought to the proceedings a keen and refreshing sense of solidarity and attention to detail, commensurate with that found in such earlier multi-tasking visionaries as Johnny Mercer and Fred Rose. True to form, Payne rose to the occasion accordingly, bringing unwavering world class interpretation to both studio and stage.

However, Payne’s biggest mainstream success came in the early 1970s with a series of singles for Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland’s Invictus label, including Bring The Boys Home, Cherish What Is Dear To You, Deeper And Deeper and You Brought The Joy. With all due respect for that phase of her work, she astutely sidestepped it for the most part during her set, with the inevitable exception of a sympathetically rearranged rendition of her 1970 signature single, Band Of Gold (Invictus IS-9075) as the set closer. Even so, the various tracks from Come Back To Me Love proved that Payne is far more in her element with this latest endeavor and is most assuredly on the right track.

Rounding out the three-day festival were inspired sets by such beloved legends as keyboardsman Ramsey Lewis (as part of a Nat King Cole tribute band), Stanley Clarke, Joey DeFrancesco, Diane Schur and Doctor Lonnie Smith; once again reaffirming the Detroit Jazz Festival’s status as the premier event of its kind.



THANKS TO YOU:
REMEMBERING BOSSMEN
GUITARIST DICK WAGNER
 
Sorry to report the passing of guitar virtuoso and Oelwein, Iowa native Richard Allen "Dick" Wagner.

Wagner relocated to Saginaw, Michigan at an early age and soon after made his mark in music in a big way. In 1964, he became an integral figure in first generation garage rock as co-founder and front man of the Bossmen. Joined by keyboardsman Warren Keith, bassist Lanny Roenicke and drummer Pete Woodman, Wagner put the Bossmen on the map with a wealth of singles for the Dicto, M&L and Lucky Eleven labels, including Here's Congratulations, Take A Look, Tina Maria and Baby Boy. The Bossmen also recorded the original version of the first generation garage rock monster classic, I Cannot Stop You, which was subsequently covered to perfection by the Cherry Slush on the USA label.

Following the dissolution of the Bossmen, Wagner teamed up with guitarist Don Hartman, bassist Gordy Garris and drummer Bob Rigg to form the Frost. The Frost released a few promising sides for Columbia's subsidiary Date label and then signed with Vanguard Records, where in 1969-1970 their trio of acclaimed albums for the label produced such first rate singles as Mystery Man, Sweet Lady Love and Rock And Roll Music.

After the Frost had run its course, Wagner turned to session work, with albums by Kiss and Lou Reed benefiting from his expertise. An album with the power trio, Ursa Major also surfaced during that period. Wagner then began a productive collaboration with Vince "Alice Cooper" Furnier in 1974, contributing to Welcome To My Nightmare and several of the band's more notable releases. In the mid-1990s, Wagner also oversaw the release of a CD compilation of the Bossmen's various singles.

In 2005, Wagner relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. Two years later, he suffered a debilitating stroke and heart attack. Thankfully, he recovered to the point where he was able to resume recording and complete his autobiography, Not Only Women Bleed.

However, in mid-July 2014, Wagner underwent a cardiac procedure, from which he never fully recovered. On 30 July, he succumbed to respiratory failure in a Scottsdale, Arizona hospital. Wagner was 71.


TWO STEPS FROM THE BLUES:
REMEMBERING JOHNNY WINTER
(1944 - 2014)

Although it ran its course through most mainstream venues relatively unnoticed, one particular 1971 single was the subject of no small amount of contention in certain segments within the world of musicologists.

That single was a Columbia label cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash, the 1968 Rolling Stones hit for London Records. In that era of relatively myopic musical appreciation, the Rolling Stones' version of Jumpin' Jack Flash was a rare commodity in that it transcended the era's curious (and ultimately disconcerting) preoccupation with such periphery as chronology, and nonetheless remained highly regarded within the mainstream.

As such, the notion of any artist attempting a cover rendition seemed superfluous to many. And the the fact that the Columbia label cover was a most ambitiously executed live rendition did little to endear it amongst those factions, who saw it as an affront to the supremacy of the artists behind the original version.

The cover version in question came from the equally ambitious and engaging live album by Beaumont, Texas native and guitar virtuoso, John Dawson "Johnny" Winter III. Throughout a career that spanned more than a half century, Winter consistently championed creative autonomy by asserting a perspective that remained true to his vision in spite of prevailing trends (as was also the case with his equally prolific brother, Edgar Winter).

To that effect, Winter's early singles for Todd, MGM, Universal (an ambitious 1968 collaboration with Roy Head's band, the Traits) and Jin (backing Ben Terrell) are all highly distinctive, as was his debut album for Sonobeat in 1968. The following year, Winter signed with Columbia, where he irrefutably cemented his reputation as one of the world's premier guitarists.

Winter recently finished the sessions for his forthcoming Step Back album, which is scheduled for September release. He had been on tour in Europe throughout July, and gave his last performance at the Cahors Blues Festival in France on 14 July. Tragically, Winter passed away suddenly on 16 July in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. He had celebrated his seventieth birthday on 23 February.

 

 LEAVE HOME:
REMEMBERING RAMONES
CO-FOUNDER AND DRUMMER
TOMMY ERDELYI
 
It remains one of the most telling and enduring opening scenes in all of musical cinema. During the first few minutes of the landmark 1979 motion picture, Rock And Roll High School, co-star Pamela Jayne "P.J. Soles" Hardon as the musically obsessed Riff Randell is seen tinkering with a public address system outside of the fictional Vince Lombardi High School, where she is enrolled as a student. Within moments, the sounds of the monster classic 1977 Sire label single, Sheena Is A Punk Rocker can be heard across campus, as much to Randell's delight as it was to the chagrin of Principal Evelyn Togar (who was masterfully portrayed by Mary Woronov).

Sheena Is A Punk Rocker is of course the signature track of the band that arguably remains front and center in the much needed and enormously influential, so-called punk/new wave movement of the mid to late 1970s, the Ramones. The drummer on that classic single (as well as the band's first three albums) was Budapest, Hungary native Erdelyi "Tommy Erdelyi" Tamas, better known by his professional name, Tommy Ramone. Together with lead vocalist Jeff "Joey" Hyman, lead guitarist John "Johnny" Cummings and bassist Douglas "Dee Dee" Colvin, the Ramones cemented their reputation as the most impacting act in that crucial musical development via such original tracks as Beat On The Brat, Blitzkrieg Bop and We're A Happy Family.

Erdelyi (who had co-engineered Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsies album in 1970) left the band in 1977, and was replaced by Marc Steven "Marky" Bell, a veteran of a band of Sire labelmates, the Void-Oids. Erdelyi ultimately produced some of the Ramones' subsequent releases before the group's retirement in 1996.

Sadly, Erdelyi had been battling Bile Duct Cancer in recent months. He succumbed to the disease on 11 July at his Queens, New York home. With his passing, all of the original Ramones are now deceased. Erdelyi was 62.



FEET ON THE GROUND:
APO HIKING SOCIETY
TO REUNITE FOR LIVE DATES
 
It is a tremendous testament to the power of music when the work of certain artists has the power to implement substantial, impacting and enduring change within society, as well as within musical circles.

Such was the case with the veteran vocal trio, Apo Hiking Society, whose 1985 live album contained numerous thinly veiled calls to arms that played an integral part in the People Power movement that toppled President Ferdinand Marcos from power in the Philippines the following year.

But theirs was a career with far more than just societal changes as a part of their mission statement. Between 1969 and 2010, Apo Hiking Society released more than two dozen albums of mostly original material that featured some of the most well written, arranged and executed exercises in vocal harmony ever committed to record. To that effect, Blitz Magazine favorably compared their work at the time to that of Harpers Bizarre and the Four Preps. The group persevered for an impressive forty-one years with their original line up of Jim Parades, Danny Javier and Boboy Garovillo intact. They finally decided to embark upon a sabbatical in 2010 when, from their perspective, the group had run out of ideas.

Happily, four years after the fact, group co-founders Paredes and Garovillo have opted to give Apo Hiking Society another try, beginning with live dates in Singapore in mid-July.

"We had our last rehearsal today", said Paredes on 09 July.

"See you on July 12!"

Although participation in the reunion by group co-founder Danny Javier is uncertain at this point, any overtures towards enhancing the legend of Apo Hiking Society by Paredes and Garovillo in the interim will be more than welcome. Paredes concurred.

"Boboy and I had a great time rehearsing and adding new stuff", said Paredes.

"We want to surprise and delight and be surprised and delighted as well."



STUCK TO THE ICE:
VETERAN SINGER / SONGWRITER
ROLF HARRIS
SENTENCED ON ABUSE CHARGES
 
Veteran singer / songwriter, Perth, Western Australia native and long time Bray, Berkshire resident, Rolf Harris was found guilty in a London court on 30 June of twelve charges of sexual abuse against four women and girls, dating back to 1970.

The eighty-four year old Harris, who was said to have shown no emotion during his sentencing, was one of several individuals charged under Operation Yewtree, an ongoing series of investigations of various public figures. Operation Yewtree was previously successful in posthumously bringing down the legacy of the late BBC presenter, James Wilson Vincent “Jimmy” Savile a year after his October 2011 passing.

A champion swimmer in his native Western Australia during his teenage years, Harris relocated to England in 1952. Over the next several decades, Harris (who has been married to artist and Wales native Alwen Harris since 1958) made considerable inroads as a painter, a television presenter, author, humorist and musician.

It is the latter category that has shaped Harris’ legacy more so than any other. With a penchant for levity that drew from such cerebral inspirations as Merle “Lord” Buckley and musical duo Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, Harris made his recording debut in 1959 with his Rolf Harris Sings At The Down Under Club album for the Queensway label. He subsequently recorded prolifically for 20th Century Fox, Epic, Columbia, MGM, Interfusion, Wizard and EMI, with such triumphs as Hair Oil In My Ears, The Big Black Hat, Tree And A Bird In It, In The Wet, Sun Arise, Lost Little Boy, Jumbuck, So Earlye In The Evenin’, Johnny Day, Two Little Boys and The Court Of King Caractacus to his credit.


However, there are many within the entertainment industry who believe that there is more to Harris' circumstances than that which has been depicted to date.

"It's not just Rolf Harris", said Frank Renshaw, co-founder of the Toggery Five and former rhythm guitarist for Herman's Hermits. 

"There's been a witch hunt of many DJs, comedians, singers and other celebs from the 1960s, accused of historical sex abuse. Girls have been coming out of the woodwork with stories of how so and so touched their backside, etcetera. If they investigated most of the bands from the '60s, the jails would be full. Of course we know that ninety-nine percent of these girls were 'groupies' who threw themselves at their idols. I don't think many of them carried their birth certificates with them."  

During the sentencing at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Nigel Sweeney said that there were several mitigating factors in his decision; primarily the considerable age gap between Harris and that of his accusers. Harris was sentenced to five years and nine months in HM Prison Wandsworth, although it is likely that he will serve less than half of that sentence and be released on probation. Harris, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, is expected to appeal.


THE COWSILLS' RICHARD COWSILL
SUCCUMBS TO LUNG CANCER


Sorry to report the passing in the early morning hours of 08 July of Richard Cowsill, twin brother of Cowsills co-founder Bob Cowsill and the lone member of the Cowsill family that did not generally participate in the legendary first generation garage rock band that bears its name.

For much of the Cowsills' career, Richard Cowsill opted for a background role, serving as the band's stage manager. Although he shared his siblings' remarkable musical acumen, Richad Cowsill often found himself at odds with suggestions of musical direction offered by their manager/father, the late Bud Cowsill, and found solace in a non-musioal role.

Both Richard and Bob were the second oldest of the Cowsill siblings (after their late brother and future Blue Northern and Blue Shadows co-founder, band leader Bill Cowsill). As the band continued its success, Richard opted for military service. He ultimately did three tours of Vietnam.

Several weeks ago, Richard Cowsill was diagnosed with Stage Three Lung Cancer. He underwent chemo therapy, but ultimately succumbed to the disease at age 64. Richard Cowsill is survived by his wife, Susan, plus three adult children, Bryan, Nathan and Barbara.  


MY OWN WAY TO ROCK:
BURTON CUMMINGS ISSUES CAVEAT
AGAINST FAKE GUESS WHO BAND

As they did several years ago, the ersatz Guess Who band led by original bassist Jim Kale with a revolving cast of other players is scheduled to perform at the Riverfront Festival in downtown Detroit, Michigan.

During a protracted band hiatus, Kale trademarked the Guess Who name, which (despite the phenomenally successful reunion in the early 2000s of lead guitarist Randy Bachman, keyboardsman, vocalist and principal tunesmith Burton L. Cummings, drummer Garry Peterson and long time members Donnie McDougall and Bill Wallace) effectively enjoined the band's creative force from further participation in its legacy.

True to form, Cummings has soldiered on as both a solo artist and occasional collaborator with Bachman. On 08 July, he issued in a statement the following caveat for those who were planning to attend the forthcoming Detroit performance by the Kale-led group:

"Heads up, Detroit::In the last few days I've had numerous posts, messages, and e-mails regarding the upcoming show at Detroit's riverfront by the band that calls itself the Guess Who", said Cummings.

"Anyone planning to attend this event, be advised well in advance that it's NOT the band that made the records. These days, from all reports I've received, there's only Kale with that group, and I have no idea who the rest are. The players change like a hockey team, always trading and changing. Those guys can do whatever they want, EXCEPT use the real records which have Kurt Winter, Randy Bachman and myself on them.

"They've been contacted and warned numerous times, but they continue to use the real recordings to draw unknowing fans of the real band to these ersatz shows. This is just a heads up for the Detroit area about this weekend: The band calling itself the Guess Who that will be playing at Riverfront is NOT the band that made the records."

The Kale-led Guess Who (which for a season also included original Guess Who drummer Peterson) headlined at Detroit's Riverfront several years ago. Ironically, advance media notices announced the event accompanied by a photograph of Bachman and Cummings, although neither was a scheduled participant in the proceedings. To their considerable credit, the sizable crowd that turned out for their performance realized the deception in short order and responded accordingly.


I LIVE EACH DAY:
REMEMBERING JERRY VALE

As was the case with many of the major labels throughout the 1950s, 1960s and on into the 1970s, Columbia Records kept on their roster a wealth of first rate vocalists whose role was primarily as interpreters of outside material and as key components of the team approach that served the label well throughout those crucial years. The late, great Guy Mitchell was one such artist, as were Andy Williams, Robert Goulet and (on their U.K. affiliate) the beloved and charismatic Michael Holliday.

One of the most consistent, productive and endearing members of that facet of the Columbia team was Bronx, New York native Gennaro Luigi "Jerry Vale" Vitaliano. Having been discovered by the aforementioned Guy Mitchell's road manager, Paul Insetta, Vale signed with Columbia in 1953 and hit the ground running that same year with You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart.

Continued aesthetic success followed Vale with his subsequent Columbia releases, including Two Purple Shadows, Pretend You Don't See Her and Deep In Your Heart. In 1966, he also shared honors with the great Paul Vance (on Scepter Records) for releasing one of the most perfect singles ever made, in the form of the high drama masterpiece, Dommage, Dommage.

Sadly, Vale had been in declining health in recent years. He passed away at his Palm Desert, California home on Sunday 18 May. He is survived by his wife Rita, plus his son Robert and daughter Pamela. Vale was 83.


"We lost a great singer this morning", said fellow musical pioneer and former Kapp and RCA Victor recording artist, Jack Jones in a statement on 18 May. 


"A golden voice and a good friend".

Funeral arrangements for Vale are pending.

VETERAN ROCKER DINAH LEE
RELEASES NEW SINGLE

Legendary rock and roller and Waimate, South Island native, Diane Marie "Dinah Lee" Jacobs has returned to the studio in Sydney, New South Wales to put the finishing touches on her new single, Cathedral Square. The all new original track made its download debut on 15 May.

"Cathedral Square (was) especially written for me by Kiwi Jordan Luck, who has a few number ones under his belt", said Lee.

With the premiere of Cathedral Square, Lee also found herself contributing in multiple capacities towards its release.

"Cathedral Square was produced in Sydney by a company that I am part producer of, called TFM", said Lee.

"It was mastered at 301 Studios in Sydney".

A veteran of the vaunted Viking, EMI and HMV labels, Lee made her recording debut in 1964 with her upbeat and irresistible rendition of Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns' Don't You Know Yockomo. She enjoyed continued acclaim throughout the remainder of the decade with Do The Blue Beat, Who Stole The Sugar, Johnny, Hey Chickie Baby and her memorable interpretation of James Barry "Keith" Keefer's December 1966 monster classic, 98.6. Lee's 1964-1966 Introducing Dinah Lee, The Sound Of Dinah Lee and The Mod World Of Dinah Lee albums for Viking are widely regarded amongst musicologists as hallmarks of the genre.

Although Lee has devoted much of her attention towards live performance in recent years, she has continued to prioritize studio work. She is most highly optimistic about this latest endeavor.

"At the moment, (Cathedral Square is) just on iTunes", said Lee.

"But I will get some hard copies made shortly. Just waiting on the reaction. Hope you like it and download it!"


REMEMBERING THE HUMAN BEINGS'
BASSIST STEVE FAVA
 
Amongst aficionados of first generation garage rock, there are a number of tracks that are often held up as the standard of excellence within the genre. Some of the more obvious examples would include the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' You're Gonna Miss Me, the Seeds' Pushin' Too Hard, the La De Das' How Is The Air Up There, the Standells' Dirty Water, the Count Five's Psychotic Reaction and the Rationals' definitive rendition of Otis Redding's Respect.

However, for those of us at Blitz Magazine, the single that has represented absolute utter perfection more so than any other release within the idiom is the May 1965 Because I Love Her single by the Human Beings on the Warner Brothers label. From the Detroit, Michigan suburbs, the Human Beings (Ted Licavoli - lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Ronnie Blight - lead guitar, Steve Fava - bass, John Ruff - drums) created with that release a masterpiece of high drama. With its jangling guitar intro, Licavoli's pleading vocal and the great interplay between acoustic guitar and harmonica in the instrumental break, Because I Love Her peaked at number nineteen on the charts of Dearborn, Michigan's enormously influential WKNR Keener 13 in May 1965, in turn earning several television appearances for the band. It was also one of the tracks included in the acclaimed Michigan Brand Nuggets garage rock compilation album. Because I Love Her ultimately fared very well in the Best Singles category in the Blitz Awards For The Twentieth Century, which originally appeared on Blitz's web site in 2001.

Following that landmark release, the Human Beings then signed with the vaunted Impact label, which was also the recording home of such immensely respected artists as Mickey Denton, the Shades Of Blue, Sixto Rodriguez, the Sixpence, the Inner Circle and Jock Mitchell. The band cut three singles for Impact, beginning with the utterly stupendous An Inside Look/I Can Tell in November 1965, and followed with You're Bad News in March 1966 (which was coupled with a first rate cover of the Five Keys' Ling Ting Tong) and a unique, garage rocking take of Gene Austin's 1925 monster classic, Yes Sir, That's My Baby in March 1967.

Sadly, front man Ted Licavoli passed away in 2000 at age 59. Tragically, the world of music has now also lost bassist Steve Fava, who passed away on 23 February 2014 at age 67. Fava is survived by his three children, Stephanie Ludwig, Andrea Chambliss and Joe Fava, as well as two siblings and three grandchildren. Fava's family is planning a special celebration of his life for this coming spring. Details to be announced.