On this date in 1949, American musical icon Hank Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 25. It was the beginning of a very difficult relationship.
Even though things soured, Williams' Opry debut was a career-defining moment. The singer/songwriter wowed the crowd so much, he was called back for six encores (the encores ultimately had to be halted so the rest of the show could go on).
Williams' reputation for heavy drinking put off the Opry initially, but as his star continued to rise — boosted by the success of "Lovesick Blues" (recorded at the Herzog studio here in CIncinnati) — the Country music institution finally relented and invited him to perform.
Williams continued to make Opry appearances over the next three years, but he was banished in 1952 for his alcohol-related issues. Hank died just a few months later, in January of 1953 at the age of 29.
Over the past eight or so years, Hank Williams' grandson, Hank III, and other supporters have participated in a campaign to have Williams posthumously reinstated to the Grand Ole Opry. CityBeat also lent a hand, promoting the "Reinstate Hank" campaign during a tribute presented by the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation in honor of Hank's historic recording sessions in Cincinnati (Herzog studios was located where CityBeat and the CMHF headquarters now reside). Check a clip below.
The reinstatement campaign has yet to work and seems to have lost some steam. But click here to learn more about the attempts to right such a ridiculous wrong.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 11 birthday include the least hirsute (ironically!) member of ZZ Top, drummer Frank Beard (1949); Soft Rock god with Air Supply, Graham Russell (1950); guitarist/singer of Southern Rock group .38 Special, Donnie Van Zandt (1952); Flaming Lips drummer-turned-guitarist Steven Drozd (1969); and Heartless Bastards singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom (1977).
Though she and her band are currently based in Austin, Tex., Wennerstrom grew up in Dayton before relocating to Cincinnati. As Wennerstrom has grown, matured, changed and become more confident, so has her band's music. After releasing her first two albums, Wennerstrom headed to Texas and retooled the band, adding two different musicians also from our area — Jesse Ebaugh and Dave Colvin — who joined Wennerstrom in Austin. Since then, the Bastards' albums The Mountain (a more earthy, less balls-out effort) and this year's Arrow (a great combination of everything the band does well) have continued the trend of each successive HB album drawing the group higher praise and more fans.
A happy 35th b-day to Erika. We miss you here in Cincy. Below, check out an interview and acoustic session recorded for American Songwriter.
Lollapalooza Day 2 dawned bright and early — I woke up a tad late, having burned the midnight oil too long the night before.
Rule No. 2 of Lollapalooza: Get enough sleep. Always. Especially if you’ll be walking every-the-heck-where.
I had been invited to an after-party Friday night, sponsored by Belvedere Vodka, at the W Chicago City Center downtown. I went in my sweaty Lolla regalia, and was rewarded with performances by Two Door Cinema Club and Fitz and the Tantrums.
When the phrase “guitar hero” gets tossed around, it’s naturally in reference to some of the greatest six string figures in Rock history. But if there is a subset of that hallowed group — guitar heroes in waiting, as it were — then Natalie Wells surely deserves to be included on that hopefully short waitlist.
The Independence, Ky., native is quickly becoming one of the Greater Cincinnati area’s most powerful live forces with a guitar presence that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the giants of Rock. A teenage student of the Blues, Wells felt an affinity for first generation masters like Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt and next gen ’60s acolytes like Johnny Winter, Big Brother’s Sam Andrews and James Gurley, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and a host of others. Wells’ brilliance in her own guitar pursuits has been in her supernatural ability to absorb a rainbow of Blues and Rock influences and translate them through her own unique interpretive gifts. As she showed on her largely original debut, Mind the Gap, she may have learned from the greats but she’s much more interested in running the guitar flag a little farther up Rock & Roll Hill.
On her new mini-album, Live from Earth, Wells and her chugging rhythm section (bassist Curt Hall and drummer/vocalist Michael Hodges) offer up an all-cover set that simultaneously proves how much she loves her influences and demonstrates her translational power.
Live From Earth’s seven tracks represent just four factions of Wells’ estimable influences and they’re more than tangentially connected; Buddy Guy is one of the primary links between the old acoustic and new electric school of Blues, while Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower represent those who most effectively reimagined the Blues in a Rock context. Wells injects swinging new life into Led Zep chestnuts “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” while distilling Hendrix’s complex chemistry to a simpler but still impressive formula with her takes on “Stone Free/Third Stone From the Sun” and his avowed classic “Voodoo Chile.”
Wells finds the heart of Guy’s gentle “My Love is Real” and the soul of Trower’s blistering “Day of the Eagle,” all delivered with her fluidly original guitar stylings and a voice that is part husky Blues shouter, part Cher Pop powerhouse. Wells may still has a few minor vocal timing issues to fine tune, but Live on Earth is solid evidence that her guitar chops are cooked to perfection and ready to serve to a wider audience.
At this point, Natalie Wells’ guitar does not gently weep; it cries a bucket of tears, screams with passionate abandon, howls like a steroid-amped wolf and demands to be heard.
On this day in 1967, The Beatles continued work on arguably their best song, "A Day in the Life." After a debate over how to end the track following the huge orchestral build-up (sustained choral vocals were considered, but scrapped), the group decided to simultaneously strike a massive E chord on three pianos and sustain the notes for as long as possible. Adding overdubs (and a contribution from producer George Martin on harmonium), the final resonating notes hang in the air for over 40 seconds on the recording. As the held chords faded on the pianos in the studio, the engineer had to crank the recording level, which picked up some incidental sounds (like a creaking chair and, certainly, something about Paul being dead) from the studio.
That E-major chord that closes the song — and the whole Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, considered one of the best ever — is widely considered one of the most famous chords in Rock/Pop history. Which means that The Beatles are responsible for the most popular opening chord in modern music — the mysterious G7sus4-ish that kicks off "A Hard Day's Night" — and the most notable final chord with the "A Day in the Life" finale.
Below is audio of BTO guitarist Randy Bachman explaining the "Hard Day's" chord mystery (frustrated guitarists should feel better about their inability to figure it out), followed by today's biggest Pop superstar performing that famed final note from Sgt. Peppers.
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring live footage from one of the final Sublime concerts with Bradley Nowell.
Music Tonight: Eilen Jewell does her part in putting the "Alt" back in "AltCountry" when she and her band hit the Southgate House ballroom stage tonight at 8 p.m., supporting her fantastic latest album, Queen of the Minor Key. Superb area singer/songwriter Lauren Houston opens up the show. Check out CityBeat's recent interview with Jewell here. Tickets are $15 at the door and the show is open to those 18 and up. Enjoy the clip below of Jewell performing for NoKy radio station WNKU while out supporting her 2009 Sea of Tears album.
Joining Eminem, Coldplay and Foo Fighters at this past weekend’s huge Lollapalooza concert in Chicago was Cincinnati Indie Dance/Pop band Walk the Moon, whose early afternoon set on Saturday was enthusiastically received by the mass of people who showed up to hear them. It’s the latest triumph for Walk the Moon, whose whirlwind ride over the past year or so as one of the country’s best unsigned “buzz bands” (making stops at Bonnaroo and on network TV along the way) ended with a record contract with RCA Records. Check back for more from Lollapalooza (including a chat with the band), but below enjoy video of Walk the Moon closing out their Lollapalooza set (which included a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”) with their remarkably catchy “Anna Sun.”
Detroit producers/Electro musicians Ryan Spencer and Adam Pressley formed its new project Jamaican Queens last year, following the demise of their previous band, Prussia. The pair bonded over a mutual love for Hip Hop production, something that would find itself central to Jamaican Queens winding sound. Together less than a year, the twosome's single "Kids Get Away" introduced the newcomers with a sound that blends EDM, Hip Hop sounds and rhythms and a somewhat psychedelic brand of Indie Pop.
The band calls its music "Trap Pop," a reference to the Trap style of Hip Hop that is something of a successor to the old Southern Crunk style. Still, you won't mistake Jamaican Queens' music for T.I.'s — JQ's unpredictable, fluttering style recalls MGMT's last two albums had the Electronic aspects of their music been more prominent.
Jamaican Queens' first full-length, Wormfood, is due in February and was mixed by Christopher Lazlo Koltay, a former Cincinnati musician who has been enjoying a successful engineering/production career in Detroit the past several years, working with artists like The Dirtbombs and Akron/Family. Here's the song that has garnered the band the most attention so far, "Kids Get Away."
On this date in 1987, a Beastie Boys/Run DMC concert in Liverpool, England, turned into a riot and ended with the arrest of Adam "Ad Rock" Horovitz. The pumped-out crowd reportedly began throwing bottles and cans at the group, which the Boys playfully batted back at them. At first. After just a few minutes, things continued to get out of hand and the concert was cancelled for the safety of all involved. At the hotel later that night, Horovitz was arrested because police believed he was responsible for the beer can that struck and injured a female fan.
Horovitz spent the night in jail and, in November, Ad Rock — 21 at the time — was found not guilty of the charges.
Here's an ancient MTV segment featuring the Boys at Spring Break (to give you a sense of the trio's pre-enlightenment personalities around the time of Horovitz's arrest).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 30 birthday include legendary Big Band bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman (1909); founding bassist for Punk giants Dead Kennedys, Geoffrey Lyall, better known as Klaus Flouride (1949); Jazz Fusion bassist Dann Glenn (1950); on-again/off-again drummer for The Clash, Topper Headon (1955); singer for Swedish Pop duo Roxette ("It Must Have Been Love," "The Look") Marie Fredriksson (1958); drummer and founding member of progressive Canadian Metal greats Voivod, Michel Langevin (1963); Country star Wynonna Judd (1964); Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello (1964); frontman for Indie Rock icons Pavement, Stephen Malkmus (1966); singer for Brit Pop crew The Charlatans, Tim Burgess (1967); Hip Hop-turned-Pop superstar Cee-Lo Green (1974); singer for Metal band Shadows Fall, Brian Fair (1975); "Freak Folk" poster child Devendra Banhart (1981) and Hip Hop MC Remy Ma (1981).
Remy was born Reminisce Smith and grew up in the Castle Hill Projects in the Bronx. Neighborhood MC Big Pun was an early mentor, putting Remy (then "Remi Martin") on a pair of tracks from his Yeeeah Baby album. It was a bittersweet debut, though; Pun died from a heart attack in 2000 and the album came out two months afterwards. (Big Pun was reportedly 698 pounds when he died.) Another big rapper, Fat Joe, took Remy under his wing and made her a member of Terror Squad. She was featured on the Terror Squad's huge 2004 single "Lean Back," which was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks that summer. It also earned Remy a Grammy nomination.
Remy's debut solo album, There's Something About Remy: Based on a True Story, dropped on Feb. 7, 2006, the sixth anniversary of Big Pun's death. The album was critically acclaimed but didn't sell very well (Fat Joe and Remy blamed poor promotion and choice of singles). She left Terror Squad in 2007.
As a free agent, Remy reportedly received numerous label offers and even a reported deal for a reality show. She had her second album in the works, as well as the debut of the super-trio 3Sum, featuring fellow MCs Jacki-O and Shawnna, when things went really bad for Remy. She turned herself into police after a shooting outside of a nightclub that wounded a woman who had allegedly tried to rob the rapper. The woman ID'ed Remy as the shooter. In 2008, Remy was convicted of assault, attempted coercion and weapons possession. She was sentenced to eight years in prison. In 2008, she married her fiancee, Hip Hop artist Papoose.
Remy — who also has a young son — lost her appeal last June. The earliest she can be released is Jan. 31, 2015. If she has to serve her whole sentence, she won't be out until March 23, 2016.
Despite her jail stint and the limited material released, Remy Ma remains a big influence on established and up-and-coming female Rap artists.
Here's part of an interview Remy did with StreetHeat about her life in prison.
Music Tonight: Guns N’ Roses finally makes its way back to Cincinnati, performing tonight at U.S. Bank Arena, the band's first appearance here in over 20 years. I believe Guns' last show in Cincy was when the Appetite for Destruction-era edition opened for Aerosmith at Riverbend in 1988. I remember because some friends and I meant to see them, but got stuck in traffic (I distinctly recall the cowbell of "Night Train" echoing across the Ohio River as we sat in standstill on the bridge leading to the venue).
Today in 1996, one of the greatest, most influential bassists ever, Bernard Edwards of Disco/Funk group Chic, passed away after contracting pneumonia while on tour in Japan.
My personal favorite bass line is Sly Stone's lick on "If You Want Me to Stay," but it's hard to deny the power of Chic's "Good Times," a Disco-era hit that helped lay the groundwork for Hip Hop. Edwards' bass line from the song is considered one of the most sampled pieces of music ever and it has been mimicked almost as often. Songs that wouldn't exist with Edwards' riff include Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Hip Hop trailblazers Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough "Rapper's Delight," Blondie's "Rapture," Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Wham!'s "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" (hey, they can't all be winners).
R.I.P Bernard Edwards. And thanks for the groove.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Bez, Skip Spence, Grandmaster Caz and Robert Christgau.