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by Mike Breen 03.30.2012
Posted In: Music History at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: March 30

Artists gone too soon and the 30 greatest punching bags in Pop music

On this day in 2005, two young musicians died well before their time.

After reportedly battling a bipolar disorder and drug addiction, SoCal Punk drummer Derrick Plourde — who had played with bands like The Ataris, Lagwagon (the band that gave him his start), The Mad Caddies and others — killed himself with a gun. He was 33.

Lagwagon's seventh studio album, Resolve, released later in 2005, was inspired by and dedicated to Plourde. The album became Lagwagon's first to break the Billboard 200, notching a peak position of 172. Here's the single (used on a Tony Hawk video game soundtrack … as Plourde would have wanted?), "Heartbreaking Music."



Also today in 2005, Hideaki Sekiguchi of the Japanese Garage Punk trio Guitar Wolf (known simply as Billy or Bass Wolf) had a fatal heart attack in Tokyo, just after completing a successful tour of America. Sekiguchi was 38 and left behind a wife and two kids. Guitar Wolf — which has put out albums on indie labels like Matador and Narnack in the States — carried on with a new bassist and has released three albums since Sekiguchi's death.

Here's Guitar Wolf's "UFO Romantics" from the band's album of the same name (Sekiguchi's last with the group):


Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 30 birthday include legendary Blues singer/harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson (1914); drummer/poet/songwriter with The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge (1941); drummer for The Surfaris and Love, Ken Forssi (1943); revered Rock/Blues guitarist Eric Clapton (1945); singer/songwriter ("Fast Car") Tracy Chapman (1964); schmaltzy Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion (1968); singer/songwriter Norah Jones (1979) and onetime Rap star MC Hammer (1962).

While Hammer (born Stanley Burrell) did much to popularize Hip Hop, becoming one of its first superstars, he remains one of Pop music's greatest punching bags. Some might say it was his money issues; many had a hard time feeling sympathy as they saw or read about some of the gaudy "luxury items" Hammer had to give up. But, mostly, Hammer was a victim of his music (and videos) just not standing the test of time even slightly.

Spin magazine recently ran its list of The 30 Biggest Punching Bags in History and somehow, despite his running partner Vanilla Ice coming in at No. 6, Hammer was nowhere to be found (nor was, miraculously, fellow birthday celebrator Celine Dion). Click here to read Spin's rundown, here to read it without having to click to the next page 400 times or just look below for the straight-up list. I say take Duran Duran or Lawrence Welk (?!) off and put Hammer in. Justice for Hammer!

1 Milli Vanilli
2 Limp Bizkit
3 Kenny G
4 Creed
5 Insane Clown Posse
6 Vanilla Ice
7 Emerson, Lake & Palmer
8 Matchbox 20
9 Pat Boone
10 Yoko Ono
11 Nickelback
12 Michael Bolton
13 Journey
14 Billy Ray Cyrus
15 Puff Daddy
16 Winger
17 Barry Manilow
18 KC and the Sunshine Band
19 Lawrence Welk
20 The Osmonds
21 Duran Duran
22 Christopher Cross
23 Smash Mouth
24 Black Eyed Peas
25 Lana Del Rey
26 Candlebox
27 John Mayer
28 New Kids on the Block
29 Phil Collins
30 The Monkees

And here's the "full version" of one of Hammer's greatest hits (he had to drag down James Brown with him?). Happy 50th, Stanley! No gasface for you this year, you loveable ol' pants wrangler.


 
 
by Mike Breen 12.31.2012
Posted In: Local Music, Music History, Music Video at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Sacred Harp Sessions Spawn "Many Rivers"

Kelly Thomas and The Mudpies cover Jimmy Cliff classic for latest episode of Thomas' yearlong tribute to her favorite songs and people

This particular version of "Many Rivers to Cross," featuring Greater Cincinnati greats Kelly Thomas and The Mudpies, has been haunting me all week (in a great way). It was recorded as the third episode in a brilliantly conceived yearlong project by Thomas and several of her creative pals, The Sacred Harp Sessions, in which she documents her musical inspirations in monthly installments.

"Many Rivers" is such a great song, with its uplifting and optimistic Gospel vibe shining through the lyrical desperation. Thomas and The ’Pies version might just be the best I've heard outside of Jimmy Cliff's original version (sorry, UB40). And I thought it kind of fitting for New Year's Eve (or, perhaps more fittingly, New Year's Day morning) because, although there is a bittersweet aura, Cliff wrote and sang about overcoming his heartbreak and moving on to cross many more rivers in his future. Though he's devastated that his "woman left … and … didn't say why," he knows he'll live through it thanks to his strong will and pride. If you had a tough 2012, make this your theme song on your way to a better 2013.



The Sacred Harp Sessions (produced, on the video end, by Alex and Tiffany Luscht of Mind Igniton) is an engaging passion project, with Thomas choosing songs, area musicians and even local studios she admires and appreciates. Ultimately, it's a tribute to the things that have made Thomas who she is today as an artist (and person).

In the accompanying videos, Thomas talks about what the songs mean to her, but the short films are not purely autobiographical — they can also be educational. The first episode, for example, discussed Cincinnati's King Records and the city's Hank Williams connection; Kelly recorded Williams' "Lost Highway" with Arlo McKinley at the location of downtown's former Herzog recording studio, believed to be the last standing building in which Williams recorded.

Episode 2 of The Sacred Harp Sessions found Thomas teaming up with Cincinnati Blues piano legend Ricky Nye at downtown studio Sound Images for a great take on Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen."



Click here to subscribe to Thomas' YouTube channel so you know when the latest installments drop and can watch and re-watch your favorites. And keep an eye on Thomas' website for any updates and for limited-edition free downloads of the latest tracks recorded for the project ("Many Rivers" is currently available).

Thomas is currently singing in three bands — her longtime Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups crew, the classic Country outfit The Tammy WhyNots and The Lonesome Sound (which formed recently after the aforementioned Hank Williams sessions). She'll be starting off 2013 with free shows with all three acts — The Fabulous Pickups join Sassy Molasses at Northside Tavern Jan. 4, on Jan. 5 The Tammy WhyNots play with Tex Schramm and The Radio King Cowboys and Doctor Bombay and The Atomic Bachelor Pad at Over-the-Rhine's MOTR Pub and The Lonesome Sound has a gig on Jan. 12 at downtown's Taqueria Mercado.

 
 
by Mike Breen 10.15.2015
Posted In: Live Music, King Records, Music History at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Delmore Brothers Honored at Herzog

Local musicians gather at site of historic 1946 recording session to pay tribute to pioneering duo

In the fall of 1946, sibling Country (or “Hillbilly,” as it was dubbed) singing duo The Delmore Brothers came to downtown Cincinnati to record a session at E. T. Herzog’s studios (where famed sides by Hank Williams, Patti Page, Ernest Tubbs, Flatt and Scruggs and numerous other legends also recorded) on Race Street. Beginning their career in the ’30s, the Alabama-bred brothers had become well known for their stunning harmonies, incorporating Gospel, Blues and Folk traditions into their Country stylings. 


In the mid-to-late-’40s, Rabon and Alton Delmore’s sound began to shift towards something more innovative and modern. The duo was recording for King Records, the legendary Cincinnati institution that made (and, many say, changed) music history when it began releasing R&B records alongside its Country ones. The Delmores were a part of the bridge to this open blending of styles, something that ultimately helped lay the groundwork for the creation of Rock & Roll. 


Many consider The Delmore Brothers’ indispensable contributions to the genre dubbed “Hillbilly Boogie,” which blended bluesy rhythms and chord structures into the Country aesthetic, a crucial building block that helped pave the way for Rockabilly and Rock & Roll. 


Former Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curator Jim Henke is quoted as saying, “‘Hillbilly Boogie’ by the Delmore Brothers directly anticipated the development of Rockabilly and, later, Rock & Roll. With their close-knit harmonies and their guitar playing, the Delmores influenced the Everly Brothers and countless other Country, Rockabilly and Rock & Roll artists.”


During the Cincinnati sessions at Herzog, the Delmores cut tracks like “Boogie Woogie Baby” and the seminal “Freight Train Boogie,” one of the most distinct precursors to Rockabilly (some even call it the first Rock & Roll record).



This Saturday at 7 p.m., several area musicians will gather at the site of those early recordings (811 Race St., second floor, now the downtown headquarters of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation) to celebrate their 69th anniversary and the Delmore’s huge contributions to music. The local musicians who will gather for "Delmore Day" to talk about and perform songs by The Delmore Brothers include Edwin P. Vardiman with Kelly Thomas, J. Dorsey, Big Bob Burns with Jeff Wilson, Margaret Darling, Joe Mitchell, Joe Prewitt and Don Miller, Elliott Ruther, Tim Combs, Mark Dunbar, Travis Frazier, David Rhodes Brown with Jared Schaedle and Ally Hurt. 


The event is open to the public (fans of all ages are welcome) and free. Here is the Facebook event page for more info.



 
 
by Mike Breen 04.26.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Video at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: April 26

Guided By Voices announce short-lived breakup and 10 songs about Godzilla!

On this day in 2004, Bob Pollard announced that his Dayton, Ohio-based Indie Rock group Guided By Voices would be calling it quits. The band would cease to be after the touring duties for the Half Smiles of the Decomposed were finished.

But he must have had his fingers-crossed behind his back when he announced it.

Pollard wrote online, ""I've always said that when I make a record that I'm totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it. I love the guys in the band, but I'm getting too old to be a gang leader."

Fans figured Pollard was Guided By Voices, anyway (or at least the songwriting engine and the only member to be a part of every GBV lineup), so, while their was some sadness that the name was being retired, GBV-esque material would no doubt continue to flood the market in the form of Pollard's prolific output.

In 2010, Pollard must have gotten his second wind. He became a gang leader again when it was announced that the "classic" GBV lineup (with the members who played on seminal ’90s albums like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand) would reunite. Sixteen shows turned into more shows, which turned into more shows and, early last year, a new album.

In 2007, Pollard told Magnet magazine, "If you're gonna get the band back together, it should be to support a new record, not just to play the hits. That's like doing the county-fair circuit. I don't see Guided by Voices reforming." GBV fans were mostly thrilled he changed his mind. But Lou Barlow of fellow Indie stalwarts Sebadoh was less enthused. In October of last year, Barlow told CityBeat he found it a bit tacky for GBV to reunite, but only because they had already embarked on a "farewell tour." (He's a stickler for semantics, apparently.)

The Guided By Voices post-farewell tour reunion slowed down a bit this year. Upon the release of the new album, Let's Go Eat the Factory, in January, several more tour dates were expected, but the group pulled back and cancelled most of them. GBV has only two shows on their schedule for 2012 — July 15 at Cincinnati's first Bunbury Music Festival along the riverfront (details here) and Sept. 21 at a fest in Florida. Maybe Lou's comments really hit home? Or maybe Pollard is just trying to pay tribute to his idols, The Who?



Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 26 birthday include the "Mother of the Blues," Gertrude Pridgett, better known as Ma Rainey (1886); twangy guitar legend ("Peter Gunn," "Rebel Rouser") Duane Eddy (1938); Italian songwriter/producer/film composer ("Love to Love You Baby," "Take My Breath Away") Giorgio Moroder (1940); Rock & Roll teen idol ("Wild One," "Volare") Bobby Rydell (1942); Soft Rock hitmaker ("Dream Weaver") Gary Wright (1943); the drumming Taylor of Duran Duran, Roger Taylor (1960); original drummer for Minneapolis rockers The Replacements, Chris Mars (1961); soap actor turned one hit wonder ("Rock On") Michael Damian (1962); singer for Pop trio TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (1970); drummer for masked Metal marauders Slipknot, Joey Jordison (1975); Hip Hop/R&B singer/rapper Ms. Dynamite (1981); and Japanese film producer and the creator of legendary movie monster Godzilla, ‪Tomoyuki Tanaka‬ (1910).

Tanaka — along with writer Shigeru Kayama, director ‪Ishirō Honda‬ and special-effects creator ‪Eiji Tsuburaya‬ — created Godzilla for the movies as something of a metaphor for the fear still looming over Japan after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The series of films based on the monster would go on to become huge cult classics in the U.S. and spawn not only the crappy 1998 blockbuster starring Matthew Broderick, but also a bunch of songs.

Without Tanaka, the world might not have tunes like Motorhead's "Godzilla Akimbo," Mr. Magic and Master P's "Ghetto Godzilla," The Flaming Lips' "Godzilla Flick," Siouxsie Sioux and The Creatures' "Godzilla!," jazzer Ben Allison's "Kramer Vs. Kramer Vs. Godzilla," Hardcore/Thrash band M.O.D.'s "Godzula," Metal ensemble Zebrahead's "Godzilla Vs. Tokyo," K Pop all-girl group Big Mama's "Godzilla Dub," P Diddy and Jimmy Page's "Come With Me" (the awful lead single from the ’98 Godzilla soundtrack) and, of course, Blue Oyster Cult's epic "Godzilla."

Here's the playlist:


 
 
by Mike Breen 10.28.2013
 
 
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Music Tonight: The Toasters at MOTR

New York City Ska legends The Toasters were the bridge from the late ’70s 2 Tone Records-fueled Ska revival in the U.K. to the one that brought Ska into the American mainstream in the ’90s. Easily one of the most influential Ska acts of all time, The Toasters were formed in 1981 by Robert “Bucket” Hingley, a U.K. native (and the group’s lone constant member) who had just moved to The States, taking inspiration from the 2 Tone Ska being created in his homeland (The Beat, The Specials, The Selecter, etc.). 

The Toasters, in turn, helped inspire multitudes of Ska bands to form, something that ultimately led to the development of so-called Ska Punk. Having a hard time finding a label, Hingley formed his own, Moon Ska Records, which grew to become the major American Ska indie imprint, releasing music (via albums or the label’s popular compilations) by The Slackers, Dance Hall Crashers, Mustard Plug, Less Than Jake and No Doubt, among many others. The Moon label was a road-map to quality American Ska when the music was more underground; the imprint, which was artist- and consumer-friendly (like Punk label Dischord, Moon always kept prices low), experienced its greatest success during the ’90s Ska boom, but when the music fell out of mainstream favor, the label faded away. Hingley moved to Spain, where he formed another label, Megalith, to continue releasing Toasters albums.

The Toasters were the cool elder statesmen of the Ska scene and they’ve survived the fickleness of musical trends and an ever-changing music industry for over 30 years now by doing things on their own terms and keeping true to their vision. 

The Toasters play a free show tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Northern Kentucky’s great Ska/Reggae/Punk ensemble Newport Secret Six opens the show around 9 p.m. 

Click here for more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight. 


 
 
by Mike Breen 06.01.2012
Posted In: Music History at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: June 1

Belle & Sebastian almost gets arrested and Alanis Morissette, attachment parent

On this day in 2000, Scottish Indie Pop giants Belle and Sebastian made their first appearance on the British show Top of the Pops. With a gorilla (see video below).

Some of the band members also almost made their first appearance in jail after reportedly breaking onto the set of hugely popular BBC soap opera Eastenders following a few too many drinks at the "BBC bar," according to the NME.

According to reports, a security guard saw them and called police. Luckily for the musicians, the show's host and producer happened by as they were being busted and convinced the guard they were guests of the BBC.

A B&S spokesperson told NME.com, "I think they were quite lucky. It's not the sort of thing they'd usually do and they almost got into real trouble over it. They'd just been celebrating a bit too much as they'd had such a wonderful time on the show."



Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 1 birthday include legendary Big Band leader Nelson Riddle (1921); Gospel singer Marie Knight (1925); white-bread Pop singer Pat Boone (1934); Bluegrass great Hazel Dickens (1935); Faces/Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood (1947); half of Country duo Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Dunn (1953); Depeche Mode's Alan Wilder (1959); The Cure bassist Simon Gallup (1960); drummer for The Smiths, Mike Joyce (1963); Pop singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile (1981); and Canadian singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette (1974).

Though Morissette never recaptured the superstardom of her ’90s, Jagged Little Pill days, she has remained consistently active professionally. Overall, she's managed one of the more interesting careers in contemporary music, going from child actress (as a cast member of Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That On Television) and young Pop star (she toured with Vanilla Ice in 1991!) to angst-ridden Grunge-era idol, occasional actress and fascinating dater (she was linked to Full House actor Dave Coulier and hunky future ScarJo beau Ryan Reynolds and is currently married to an obscure rapper named MC Souleye).

Yesterday, Morissette (unwittingly or not) became a spokesperson for the "attachment parenting" movement, which came to wider public attention recently when Time magazine ran its infamous "grown woman with apparent pre-teen attached to her boob via his mouth" cover. On The Billy Bush Show and Good Morning America, she spoke about her dedication to breastfeeding until her 16-month-old son says "When."

"I'll stop (breastfeeding) whenever he wants. I know some children who have weaned naturally at two, some kids wean naturally a couple of years later. I mean, it's up to every child," she said on Good Morning America.

She also said, "I think it affords the child, when he grows up, to have a lot less therapy to go to."

Because breastfeeding your second grader isn't going to cause any emotional issues, right?

Alanis is clearly not worried about the damage a 7-year-old could inflict on her humps, her humps, her lovely lady lumps.



 
 
by Charlie Harmon 10.01.2014
Posted In: Music History at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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These Walls Have Heard it All: 20th Century Theater

Oakley’s 20th Century Theater has only been the venue it is today for about the last 20 years. When it originally opened in August 1941, the now-vintage glowing sign that lit up the era-glorifying name represented a simple one-screen movie theater. Its history and how it changed from that to what it is today fits into the citywide and national history of cinemas like a plastic rodent fits a Whac-A-Mole machine.

Willis Vance, a local businessman that ended up owning a string of theaters and other establishments around town, was the original owner of the theater. At the time of its inception, no theater that housed more than one screen even existed. In fact, as silly as it may sound now, that concept wouldn’t seriously surface in the industry for a few more decades.

Cinemas would have a single film they would play every night, generally whatever was very popular at the time. When a new piece of black-and-white gold would come out of Hollywood, they would swap it in, making it the new nightly showing.

Vance opened the theater with the 20th Century Fox (see what he did there) production Blood and Sand. This may have been a thoughtful tribute to the movie’s star Tyrone Power, an American box-office sellout actor that was born in Cincinnati. While he didn’t grow up here, he did return to the Queen City in his early teenage years, during which time he learned and honed his skills in drama. He went on to become extremely well known and sought-after in the industry, appearing in famous films such as The Mark of Zorro, The Black Swan and dozens of others.

The theater thrived for some time, having hit the ground running with notable qualities like air conditioning and valet parking. To people of my generation, that is a “What?” factor, but it was actually the first theater in the city to keep your ass cold during a movie. It also boasted being one of the first fire-proof buildings in the city, taking that extra step in keeping the heat out.

But almost a decade after it first lit its tower and opened its doors, the cinema industry began to slowly change.

A Canadian inventor named Nat Taylor erected a second screen right next door to his theater in Ontario. He showed the same movie on both for several years at first, simply upping his audience capacity. However, he eventually got tired of swapping out movies for new releases when the old movies were still making money, so he started selling tickets to two movies.

I call the change slow because although this idea was birthed mid-century, it didn’t begin to significantly affect the industry until the ‘60s and ‘70s.

In 1963 Stan Durwood, AMC owner, cinema pioneer and self-proclaimed inventor of the multi-plex, opened the Parkway Twin Theater. It was the first theater with two screens under the same roof, although not for long. The idea caught on and throughout the ‘60s other dual-screen theaters began to pop up. Durwood expanded his Twin Theater from two screens to four, then six.

Through the next two decades the multi-plex concept exploded, with competition for the most screens and best accommodations running rampant. Nat Taylor, who also laid claim as the original inventor of the multi-screen theater, cofounded an 18-screen Cineplex in 1979. He garnered a Guinness World Record, it being the largest theater in the world at the time.

These large cinemas wreaked havoc on the industry for the small-time, local theaters. The charm of a little art deco theater with free valet and air-conditioning no longer held up to the big dogs.

By 1974 20th Century was owned by Levin Services, a management company that also owned several additional theaters and drive-ins around the area. Union strikes that year brought mayhem to Levin. Angry union members broke into the Ambassador Theater, just a block away from 20th Century on Madison Road, to destroy the seats, slash the screen and split the speaker wires. They wrecked the projectors by ripping out their innards with a crowbar, and poured cement into the reels of The Sting, the movie being shown at the time.

Levin closed the Ambassador and several other theaters, including 20th Century. Most reopened after a few weeks, at least for some time. The Ambassador eventually closed for a while after became an Ace Hardware.

The 20th Century lasted just under another decade, succumbing to the cloud of the multi-plex and closing its doors as a movie theater for good in 1983.

But it wasn’t the only pebble to be crushed by a boulder. F&Y Construction, the company that built the Streamline Moderne style building for Willis Vance, built several other theaters in the region. They built the Madison in Covington, Ky.,  the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, and the Redmoor in Mount Lookout. Those are the ones that remain open and standing. Among others they built in the area were the Guild Theater, Hollywood Cinema North, Marianne Theater, Norwood Theater, Sunset Theater, Westwood Theater, Valley Theater and the Ridge Theater. All of these are now closed; two of them have even been demolished.

I can’t say for certain that the multi-plex led to the demise of each one, but its reasonable to assume the industry change had great range. And on top of that, those are only the theaters built by that single construction firm.

After 20th Century was closed in ’83, it was left to neglect for almost a decade. It rotted through water damage and vandals left their mark with graffiti and broken windows. To me, imagining this conjures up a similar image to the Imperial Theater, the decrepit building at Mohawk and McMicken that used to screen adult films and host burlesque shows in the ‘60s.

The early 1990s rolled around and found the community caught between demolishing the fallen cinema or pouring money into restoration. Mike Belmont stepped up and went for the latter approach. After extensive work, he reopened the doors of the building as Belmont’s Flooring Company.

His business only remained in the building he saved for a year, moving just down the street to the old Oakley Bank where Belmont’s still resides in modern business glory. Apparently Belmont had a thing for old buildings.

After he left the Cincinnati Church of Christ, then a group just over a decade old, occupied the building for 4 years before themselves moving on to some higher calling.

This brings us up through this old cinema’s rise and fall to 1997. It was then that the building was bought and 20th Century Productions rose like an entertainment-driven spirit out of the floorboards. Devoted to special events and concerts, they have turned the building into a beautiful venue that hosts almost anything from a raucous rock concert to a quaint wedding reception.

In 2010 they took a final step in the renovation of the building that had never been done. The 20th Century Tower that stands over its doorway was given back its glow to illuminate the night again, drawing in all who look to be entertained.

Here’s what’s coming up at the old one-screen (now one-stage):

Oct. 8: Cherub

Oct. 16: Ruthie Foster

Oct. 23: Paul Thorn Band

Oct. 29: Suicide Girls

 
 
by Charlie Harmon 11.24.2014
Posted In: Music History at 04:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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These Walls Have Heard It All: Taft Theatre

Stepping into the decorated light cast from the looming ceilings of the Taft Theatre, it’s immediately apparent the space holds memory far outreaching your own. That is, of course, unless you’re about 100 years old and happened to be around Cincinnati in your early teens.

If that were the case, you’d probably remember the other awe-inspiring theaters that entertained the Queen City in those days: the Albee, Shubert and Capitol, to name a few — all astounding architectural representations of the heyday of local theaters. Sadly, the Taft is the only of those grand structures that still remains today, likely because it stands just far enough away from the heart of downtown, just missing out on the urban redevelopment that has defined the city for the past half-century or so.

Taft Theatre was opened in January 1928, inaugurated by lines of suited men and flower-hatted women who were willing to brace the 40-degree weather of the new year for the warm spectacle of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a shining new entertainment venue.

The theater is part of the Cincinnati Masonic Center, then called a temple rather than center, and is currently owned by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. In its early days it would host Broadway shows, ballets and traveling performers and artists, among other entertainment.

The name, contrary to what some might think, is not a nod to the former United States president William Howard Taft, although many likely know of the street we have to honor him. Rather, the theater was a tip of the hat to William’s older brother, Charles Phelps Taft, a major figure in the Cincinnati newspaper business and a high-ranking Mason who lived just down the street from where the theater now stands.

While it was very popular during its early days and became popular again in the new millennium, the theatre went through a largely dormant period in the second half of the 20th century. In fact, the Scottish Rite applied for demolition rights twice in the 1960s — although they were rejected both times — because they thought the theater would be too expensive to renovate and wanted to replace it with a parking garage.

Luckily, it hung on and didn’t fall into serious disrepair long enough for Music and Event Management, a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, to take over in 2010. The company headlined a $3.2 million renovation, less than a third of the value the Masons had been quoted for renovations decades earlier.

The revamp, finished in 2011, increased the size of the seats, lowering the original capacity of 2,500 to about 2,300, as well as the size of the bathrooms — fewer venue seats, but more toilet seats (does this say something about the needs of folks in the new millennium?). They also took great consideration of modern concerns, spending a heavy load on hooking the building up with eco-friendly air conditioning.

Thanks to the restoration and rejuvenation of the old theater, it now holds about 140 shows a year compared to roughly 90 before renovations, and the annual attendance has also almost doubled. The theater is again one of Cincinnati’s hot spots for entertainment, hosting all kinds of musical concerts as well as theatre, being home to the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. With the upsurge in activity at the beautiful old Masonic Amphitheatre, the tall walls can keep holding and building memories of entertainment that life would be oh-so boring without.

 
 
by Mike Breen 09.17.2014
Posted In: Local Music, Music History at 03:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnati in Song

Blog compiles impressive list of songs featuring “Cincinnati” in their titles

This morning we received a message from former CIncinnatian/current Silver Spring, Md., resident Chris Richardson about some Cincinnati music-centric posts on his cool music blog, Zero to 180


Richardson has a rich knowledge of music in general — his blog “celebrates studio songcraft and some of the lesser-known stories behind the songwriters, musicians, producers, engineers, arrangers, label owners and the like” —  and he has good taste because he appears to be a big fan of pioneering local label King Records. (Here’s a great post about an interesting connection between King and Jamaican Ska.)


Yesterday, the blog featured a fun post with a run down of songs from the past to the present that feature Cincinnati in the title. Tracks range from earlier cuts by Duke Ellington (“Cincinnati Daddy”) and Johnny Burnette (“Cincinnati Fireball”) through more recent material, like “Cincinnati Harmony” by The Dopamines, “Oh, Cincinnati” by The Seedy Seeds and “All Roads Lead to Cincinnati” by Jake Speed and the Freddies. Check the full list here.




There are several great tunes on the list, but this one is pretty terrifying:



Anything he missed? 

 
 
by Charlie Harmon 11.07.2014
Posted In: Music History at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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These Walls Have Heard It All: Woodward Theater

It’s 1791, and as William Woodward’s many siblings head out into the world — some to sea, some to South Carolina — he decides to head into the vast Northwest Territory to a little town that looks like hardly anything more than an outpost. Little did he know that a little more than a decade later he would be living in the Union state of Ohio, and that by a century later those woods and fields would be covered with busy roads and pounding industry.

At this time, however, people lived in small townhouses with acres of land to farm, and Woodward came as a surveyor to work with that land. In the process, he began investing in real estate, got himself some land and settled on a good sized plot near Fifth Street Market — now known as Fountain Square.

Hammering down coarse boards gathered from the flat boats that were dismantled upon reaching Cincinnati, Woodward built a house in 1803. Years later, in 1816, he upgraded, building the Woodward Mansion, a beautiful house of brick and hand-carved woodwork. All around the northern side of that house he fixed the problem of Cincinnati having no good fruit by starting a huge apple orchard that would crank out around 500 barrels of cider a year (ever wonder where Orchard Street in Over-the-Rhine got its name?).

Through his investments and business endeavors, Woodward gained significant wealth, which he would then turn around and give back to the community out of his love for others and his era-appropriate fear of God.

One of the major ways he gave back to the community still stands today — in 1831 Woodward High School opened thanks to his efforts and donations. Woodward High School was not only the first in the city, but the first high school to exist west of the Allegheny Mountains.

When Woodward eventually grew old and passed away, his land and home was given to his wife, who also passed it on when she died. Eventually, by the time it was almost 100 years old in 1912, it was in the hands of a man named George C. Kolb.

Kolb razed the house with the intention of building a theater in honor of Woodward. Not simply a businessman without a care for the history of the house, Kolb had a committee choose certain items from the mansion to be preserved. The wooden mantel and the front door were given to Woodward High School and, according to a news article at the time, the committee also saved a cupboard, balustrade and a window Woodward had been known to look out from into the woods.

Once it was properly gutted of relics, the building was knocked to the ground and on top was built the beaux art-style building we see today (though the statues on either side of the door are replicas).

It was opened as a movie theater on June 18, 1913, in the days when film was still a fresh and developing art form. To say silent film at that time was redundant, because recorded — and especially synchronized — sound was a concept beyond reality. For example, in 1917 you could have seen the then-new but now lost film The Railroad Raiders.

The theater only lasted until 1933. While there are no records of why it closed, most speculate that the Great Depression kept people from having a nice night at the movies, causing the theater to go under.

By 1935 the building was again showing something, but this time it was used cars under the name Andy Schain Inc. A newspaper ad from 1937 shows that you could buy a ’36 Chevy Town Sedan for $525, a ’29 Chevy Coach for $60 and a ’31 Chevy Sports Roadster for the mindboggling price of $10. In other words, you could’ve purchased that Coach for the amount you might spend at today’s Woodward Theater in a night of heavy drinking with your spouse (or alone, if you’re that hardcore).

Around this point is where the trail runs dry except for a few sad drips. The used car shop closed sometime in the 1940s. While it’s hard to brush the dust off and find evidence, apparently there was a Kroger in the building in the 1950s. And jumping ahead to the ‘70s, it was a nightclub called Wanda Bear’s.

In 1990 Greg Starnes bought the building, using it as storage for his antique shop further down Main Street until 1995, when he opened it as the second location of Greg’s Antiques.

The end of Starnes’ tenure there is where Dan McCabe stepped in with his partners Chris Schadler and Chris Varias to begin work on this old building that has seen and heard it all.

It’s heard the silence of an early 20th century film; the passionate debate between two 1930s jocks over the price of a hot ride; the chatting of lovers shopping for lemons and mustached men cheering a band; the cooing of an old lady over a doll that reminds her of her younger days; and most recently, the buzzing of drills and booming of hammers.

Now once again the halls of this honorary building might listen to the rumbling and rattling of Rock music, the soft crying of a mother watching her daughter wed, or the perfectly timed joke of a comedian to the background of rollicking laughter. Whatever it is, as time rolls on these walls won’t stop listening.

The Woodward Theater opens to the public tonight. Read more about Main Street’s newest music and events space here.

 
 

 

 

 
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