That Old Wheel
This might be the most convoluted entry yet, on the old Spooner Web Glob, but that's why it's a Glob and not just a blog ...
There are a whole lot of pics on this page, so for those of you with steam powered modems, there may be a world wide wait .....
The old saying What Goes Around .... really rolled full tilt into my life for a week that was .....
And what a week it was ! For me it was so big, it took on the persona of the Beatles "8 Days A Week ". It started on Friday August 28th and continued rolling right on through to Saturday afternoon Sept 5th . Take A Gander Into It ..... (and when your done gandering at this page, be sure to roll on and gander at the underlined links in the text too)
It started late Friday afternoon, when an e mail came in from Doug Greene president of Crippen & Landru mystery book publishers, with an attached rough version of the book jacket design they are going to use on their newest title "Murder In The Stork Club" Doug had contacted me awhile back regarding using some of my photos of celebrities taken at the world famous Stork Club in NYC during the 1930's -'50s, when my Grandfather Jack Spooner was the Matrie' d of their exclusive Cub Room.
As it turns out the book designer decided to use something much closer to home .... a painting of Gramps at The Stork during the classic cafe society era, that now hangs in my dining room.
The painting was a personal gift to Grandpa in the 1930's, from renowned magazine illustrator Arthur William Brown (Colliers, Saturday Eve Post, Mcalls etc ) that depicts a photo perfect Jack Spooner about to put an end to trouble brewing in a room, he controlled for decades.
I think it works with the books title perfectly ...don't you?
and more about Jack on the back !
ME THINKS SOME HEADS ARE GONNA GET KNOCKED TOGETHER HERE
It continued rolling early Friday eve, when Anne and I went to a Benedetto Guitar Clinic - Exhibition held here in town. Those who know a little of our history, know that Anne and I go way back ( 3 Decades ) with Bob Benedetto and what I like to think of are his practical & perpetual art works. Musical instruments, so beautifully hand crafted, that they create more art, when in the hands of artists like jazz greats Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Johnny Smith, Frank Vignola, Pat Martino and more ...
And allthough Bob's guitars are primarily used by Jazz artists there are exceptions, like Leo Kottke who is really unclassifiable, but they put either "New Age" or "American Finger Style" labels on him, which I know he rejects. Leo has two Benedetto's, I sold him his first one in 1981.
And even if you don't play pure jazz per se, or whatever you want to call what guys like Leo do ( I call it guitar music ) you will still find yourself creating stuff with a Benedetto in your lap. This old self taught clunker- plunker, wrote a couple of good tunes on his... Behind The 8 Ball Again, The Sheik Of Sh-Boom and my rent payer .... "If The Devil Danced In Empty Pockets, He'd Have A Ball In Mine.
A B C ? no, A B K !
A entire decade has rolled by since we last saw each other.
I snapped a few pics shown here of some of the Benedetto Beauties on display, but they are just that , quick snapshots hastily taken while salivating hands of the players in the audience were eagerly grabbing for Bob's creations to try them out after the presentation. I too wanted to play a few rather than take just their picture. To fully appreciate their visual beauty visit the Benedetto Guitars website and see them properly photgraphed, with some amazing close up details. It's almost as good as hearing them played.
BLONDES HAVE MORE FUN ! & THIS OVAL HOLE GYPSY MODEL WAS ONE OF MY FAVES
AND THE LITTLE "ANDY" MODEL NEXT TO IT, WHEN PLUGGED IN HAS A SOUND AS BIG
AS ANY FULL SIZED GUITAR. HOW DOES BOB DO IT? NOT WITH MIRRORS.
THOUGH HE IS KNOWN TO USE A MIRROR TO CHECK YOUR BRACES FROM TIME TO TIME
I got to play the Gypsy one for a wee bit while a bunch of guys lined up in front of me and waited their turn .... No telling what Django could of done with one of these blondes in his hands ?
That Headstock Pic Is From Bob's Website Where
You'll See More Beautiful Colors Than You Can Imagine
But Also Keep In Mind These Next Wise Words From Ol' J. P. and I don't mean Knapp!
I'm Talkin' About
Bucky Is Just One Of The Absolute All Time Greats
On Both Blonde & Sunburst Benedettos
I FOR ONE TOOK BUCKY'S ADVICE ON COLOR CHOICE WHEN I
ORDERED MY BENEDETTO 7 STRING IN SEPTEMBER OF 1980, ALMOST 30 YEARS AGO
GOING IN STYLE
Though I'm sure if Bucky saw this pic of my guitar taken in 1998, he'd be the first to say something along the lines of "For Chris' Sakes Kid, It's An Instrument, Not A Continental !" and to which I might of replied " I know it's not a Continental Bucky, it's a '41 Fleetwood and it belongs to my artist pal John Baeder .... you wouldn't believe the prep work with the hidden padding protection between the bumper and the Benedetto, just to get this shot, not to mention the anxiety I suffered. I had my trusty son Erik standing right there with his arms outstretched to grab the guitar in case a slight breeze might come out of the clear blue sky. But It's A Great Shot & Me Thinks John's Tennessee Tag Says It All So Well ...Don't You ? "
ROLLING RIGHT ALONG ....
While we were over at Bob's show, an auction on E Bay was closing that I had a bid in on, I would not learn until we returned home that I was the successful bidder on two Knapp Info Wheels from the 1930's to add to my Knapp collection of printed matter. But then again, is there a better home for Knapp stuff ? The seller was over near Memphis and to my delight the wheels rolled up at my door just a few days later !
They are about a 1/3 larger than my Kellogg's Cereal Premium One I have Had For Several Years Now
I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO QUITE FIGURE OUT THE WHOLE STORY OF THESE ITEMS THAT THE KNAPPS PRINTED. THE ADDRESS ON MANY OF THEM AT 245 FIFTH AVE IS ACTUALLY IN THE SAME BUILDING "THE KNICKERBOCKER" OR JUST NEXT DOOR TO 247 FIFTH AV THAT THE KNAPP'S LIVED IN FROM 1906 - 1920's,
NONE HAVE THE ADDRESS OF THEIR PRINTING OFFICES IN THEIR AMERICAN LITHOGRAPHIC CO BUILDING THOUGH MOST OF THESE TURN UP AFTER J. P. KNAPP HAD SOLD AMERICAN LITHOGRAPHIC IN 1929, JUST DAYS BEFORE WALL STREET CAVED IN.
THIS IS THE FIRST ONE I'VE SEEN WITH KNAPP & CO. PRINTED ON IT. WHICH WAS A NAME THEY USED IN THE LATE 1880's AND AGAIN AROUND 1910. MOST HAVE THE NAME A. KNAPP ON THEM, WHICH I BELIEVE FOR SOME REASON, IS THAT OF ANTOINETTE, J. P.'s SISTER, WHO BY 1930 WAS IN REALITY, ANTOINETTE KNAPP WALLACE MILLIKEN BROWN, (With Wallace & Milliken Long Removed Via Divorces) AND WHO AS FAR AS I KNOW, NEVER HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE KNAPP PRINTING EMPIRE, OTHER THAN TO ENJOY THE REWARDS OF ALL THE GREEN INK THAT FLOWED FROM IT.... $$$$$$$$$$
FOR SOME REASON, I HAVE A HUNCH HER NEPHEW, JOSEPH F, "Dodi: KNAPP, MIGHT HAVE HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THESE WHEELS & WHY THE NAME A. KNAPP IS ON THERE ( which could also be that of his sisters middle initial? ) OR IT MAY JUST BE SOMETHING J. P. HAD PRINTED ON THEM FOR TAX REASONS ? ???
BUT THEN WHO KNOWS OR WHO CARES ? ........ONLY THE KNAPPS & THEY AIN'T TALKIN'
THAT SAID, THESE WHEELS ARE NEAT TO LOOK AT & INFORMATIVE TOO
THIS ONE HERE FROM 1931 IS AT 96 FIFTH AVE WHICH IS DOWN BY 14th STREET
FOR TWO BOX TOPS FROM ANY KELLOGG's CEREAL YOU WOULD GET THIS ONE IN THE MAIL
And So Rolling Right Along .....
I also discovered this fairly new book (2002) this week, Reinventing The Wheel by Jessica Helfand. It is a beautiful hardcover edition with well over 100 illustrations and is all about the history of Info Wheels
I had no idea until this book turned up on my doorstep that these things were around for as long as they were. There are illustrations dating back to 1581 in the book and Info Wheels are still rolling along into the future too. Not all are round either as they come in all shapes. There seems to be a wheel for almost any subject of popular interest .
In the book there are many that I know rolled off of a Knapp printing press in the first half of the 20th century, even though the Knapp name does not appear on them. For a 100 years nobody in the world printed more stuff than J. F. and J. P. Knapp ....
Here are but a few from the pages of this neat book
1930's FLYING SAUCER SPELLING GAME
FROM WORLD WAR II
ANTHRAX ANYONE ?
KNAPP & CO - DIAL A DISEASE !
This next one is post Knapp, but could of rolled off one of their ALCO GRAVURE Presses in 1967
This one started my wheels turning again about songs and such which of course is a large, large part of where my world revolves .... and seeing it got me thinking about one song in particular called "That Old Wheel" by Jennifer Pierce and the role it played in my early song writing daze here in Nashville..... When I took a closer look at it and saw the two main characters that recorded Jennifer's song, I said to myself I would be remiss not to include this little story here.
BOCEPHUS & MO CEPHUS
I had only been in Nashville about six months and was grateful to have the desk job I did at Gibson Guitars, while I made my early song writing connections and tried to get my foot in the door. One of the guys who I was very interested in meeting was Cowboy Jack Clement, a true music industry legend who goes way back to SUN Records in Memphis. One day I called him up out of the blue and got invited to come over to his Cowboy Arms Hotel & Recording Spa to play him some of my songs.
What a fun, fast lunch hour that was. Jack is a fascinating cat to say the least. And to my amazement I left there with Cowboy keeping three of my songs (all were written pre Nashville in Clearwater, Fla btw) for consideration for the next Johnny Cash album ! that he was about to produce soon. Jack told me it was to be an album of all duets and of course he wasn't promising anything, other than he would play them for Steve Popovich, who was the head of John's record label (Mercury) and of course the final say would be John's. To be honest with myself I didn't "hear" Johnny Cash as being the ideal artist to do anyone of those three songs, Jack said he "wanted to keep handy" but what did I know? I also didn't care, as it was my first touch of acceptance into the Nashville music industry as a song writer.
Well guess what wasn't on the Johnny Cash, Water From The Wells Of Home album when it came out in the winter of 1988 ... No songs by Spooner, no sir....Naturally I bought the record as I wanted to hear everything that did and not because I wrote them, but I honestly feel as songs, anyone of my three were better than half of what was on there. That said, I honestly really liked the first song they picked as a single off the album and it became anthem of sorts for me to keep on rolling.
I had a portable radio on my desk at Gibson. I used it to keep abreast of what was coming and going at the local Nashville stations. Naturally I had to keep it at a very low volume, but every time That Old Wheel came on, the volume inched up in my cubicle and my determination just got stronger.
The song itself (which is a STRONG one) almost made it into the top 20 and I think had Johnny sang the whole thing by himself, it would of been a much stronger record. Johnny's ex son in law Marty Stuart takes a nice guitar ride on it, but it sounded to me like Hank Jr. was not well prepared in knowing the song (no surprise there ) and in fact this photo of the two of them working in the studio could well be taken before the only take they did?
As a postscript to this story, I had lunch with Jennifer Pierce, after I had a # 1 song under my belt. I told her that story of what her song meant to me and we swapped some more music industry stories and spoke about the possibility of co writing sometime , but never got together to try. Last time I saw her was around the late 1990's at a book festival. She was promoting a how to book on songwriting,
AND ROLLING WRITE ALONG
It was mid afternoon, mid week and I had a yen for some ice cream. I took a short walk to the little store around the corner from my house, only to find their ice cream freezer was on the fritz. As I headed back home, I picked up a new copy of the Nashville Scene, an artsy weekly paper that had just hit the rack. I don't read the Scene every week like I used to, but when I saw this ad in there. I was glad I yearned for some Breyers Weds., as this was total news to me and it was coming up real fast !
Those who know me, know it wasn't the guy in photo that got me excited, not that Glenn's chopped liver by any means, no sir, he is fine guitarist blessed with great voice to boot. No.... what got my wheels burning rubber is Jimmy Webb, whom I consider one of the greatest American songwriters to ever come along in our history. To Glenn's credit, I must say it was his appearance on the old Joey Bishop TV show around 1968, where I first saw Jimmy, who was writing a whole lot of the hits then for Glenn. He was sitting on the couch with Glenn and Glenn had what seemed like a scared to death kid, sing the latest song he wrote that Glenn said he was going to record soon. That song was Wichita Lineman!
I have seen Jimmy perform solo just two times here in Nashville. Once in 1992 where he did most of "Suspending Disbelief", which is what I think is his greatest album as an artist. I found out too late about another appearance a few years later, but did get to see him host our annual Tin Pan South festival at the Ryman. He played a medley of his tunes and what I like to think is a large part of the foundation of the songbook of my generation that night. I have been singing his praises for years now and have sent many a friend to go hear him whenever he is appearing near them.
Yes Jimmy Webb has been in and out of my songwriting consciousness and sub conscious for over 40 years now, but probably the time it hit home the strongest for me was 15 years ago,after a doctors visit had laid out some very stark and sobering news for me. I went home and listened to a little cassette tape I had of Jimmy and Glenn, taken off my TV, when they performed on the Bobby Bare show. which was one of the best live music shows TNN ever had. The song was Jimmy's " The Highwayman", which if you don't know is about re incarnation. I must of listened to it twenty times in a row that day while I contemplated a very brief future for myself....That was back on May 31, 1994
But That Old Wheel Rolls On ....
and on Thursday morning September 3, 2009, I was at the doors of the Schermerhorn Concert Hall waiting for them to open. I walked out ten minutes later with two tickets for the closing performance Saturday night. Anne and I are seated directly over the stage right and hopefully perched right over the piano keyboard, where I will get to watch Jimmy work his magic on it. As for sound, the Schermerhorn is one of the worlds greatest concert halls period. Factor in that he will be performing with Glenn, who has probably recorded more of his material than any one solo artist and the first rate Nashville Symphony and I just hope I don't faint dead away ... like when Sean Penn did, playing a guitar player in the film Sweet & Low Down, when he meets Django Reinhart ......wouldn't that be ironic.
Like I Said Its Been Quite A Week
And Then This Little Tid Bit Came My Way On Friday Sept. 4th
It's from my old hometown weekly paper. They feature short items each week from events taken from their 100, 75, and 50 year ago files. Though this just scratches the surface of what was a pretty big deal in a day of my very young life. I knew it occurred in late August of 1959, but thanks to this piece, now I know exactly when. Several years ago I Posted The Whole Story About Our Big Day In The Big Apple Here.
And now to wrap this big circle up......
Visiting with Bob last week, got me thinking a whole lot again about my 7 String Guitar and when I first became aware of one. It was in February of 1958, I had only been playing a six string for about two months and was still struggling with the two extra strings that I now had, that my 4 string uke I spent the first year with didn't.
Well my father brings home this record album called Mellow Guitar, by a guy I never heard of named George Van Eps. If George's name rings a bell, perhaps you recall my stuff about him located here.
Even to my 10 year old untrained ear back then, I knew that George Van Eps was someone special. I also knew I couldn't play 1/10th of what he was doing yet, even if I had 3/4ths of his ability, because he was using a unique guitar that he designed in 1938 with seven strings on it. So if you will pardon the pun, I didn't fret it too much!
However I did listen and his unique music seeped into my subconscious over 50 years ago. Even though his style was not what I was primarily interested in at that time ( I was mainly listening to Buddy Holly, Scotty Moore, Carl Perkins, and other rock a billy guitarists ) I knew I was hearing an extraordinary talent. And as the old saying goes, when I met up with Bob Benedetto in 1979, and had Bucky Pizzarelli play a concert in our guitar shop, well the rest was more musical history.
Back in the early '80's, there was talk around our guitar shop, that the original landmark recording George did of Mellow Guitar, was possibly going to be re released soon by specialty label. My copy of the original album was long gone and it's used replacement was beyond worn out, the surface noise was louder than the music. I was hoping back then, the vinyl re release would soon appear, but as far as I knew, it never did.
In the past few years, I have heard duets and saw some videos of George, who was well into his late 70's and early 80's playing on YouTube and I was amazed at how good he was, right up till he wasn't around anymore. I heard that George was still playing out in public when he passed away in 1998, at the age of 85.
Then last week, fueled by the reunion with Bob, I Googled the title Mellow Guitar, hoping to find perhaps a better condition copy, only to find out that a CD of it was re mastered and put out ten years ago by Euphoria a small independant label in upstate New York.
On Saturday Sept 5th ( Eight Days after we visited with Bob ) the postman brought the Mellow Guitar CD to our door. Anne was out grocery shopping, I poured myself a glass of wine, put it on the good stereo in the living room and sat in my Lazy Boy and went Euphoric. Then called Doug Percoco, my oldest guitar buddy in NY and said guess what I got? Played him two seconds of it over the phone, only to hear him say VAN EPS! ..... When Anne came in the door she said, "AHH VAN EPS IS HERE "..... "YES HE IS", I said........
Like I said it was a great week ....
THE CD WITH IT'S PRISTINE SOUND, PROBABLY HAS MORE FREQUENCY IN BOTH HIGHS & LOWS THAN THE VINYL RECORD EVER COULD REPRODUCE. AND THE PACKAGE ITSELF, WITH IT'S 8 PAGE HISTORIC BOOK OF RARE PHOTOS & INFO ,COURTESY OF GEORGE'S DAUGHTER KAY. MAKES FOR A FANTASTIC TREASURE FOR ANY REAL GUITARIST OR SERIOUS MUSIC BUFF. BUT THE BEST THING OF ALL, IS THAT UNIQUE SOUND THAT GEORGE CREATED DURING THE MERRY MONTH OF AUGUST IN 1956, WHEN A GUITAR WAS PLUGGED DIRECTLY INTO A RECORDING CONSOLE FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME AND THE VAN EPS MAGIC WAS CAPTURED.
HERE IS A TASTE, OF ONE OF THE MOST UNSUNG & OBSCURE MASTERS OF CHORD MELODY PLAYING, ( EXCEPT TO JAZZ BUFFS ) THAT EVER WILL COME DOWN THE PIKE . WHAT YOU HAVE HERE ON TAKE # 5 RECORDED 8/1/1956, IS ONE GREAT GUITAR PLAYER AND NICK FATOOL WITH SOME DRUM BRUSHES ...... THAT'S IT! .......THIS IS GEORGE'S VERSION OF COLE PORTER'S LET' S DO IT, AND IT IS ONE OF THE VERY FIRST SONGS I TRIED MY HAND AT, WHEN BOB HANDED ME MY FINISHED 7 STRING IN AUGUST OF 1981. I CAN ONLY PLAY PART OF IT, AS GEORGE LEAVES ME BEHIND WITH HIS MODULATION SECTION, BUT THEN AGAIN, HE IS PERHAPS THE ONLY GUITARIST EVER, WHO CAN PLAY IN ALL 12 KEYS AT ONCE !!! .......... BUT SOMEDAY HOPEFULLY, I WILL BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY DO IT THE COMPLETE VAN EPS WAY.... IF NOT I CAN ALWAYS LET GEORGE DO IT ! .... BUT IT'S SOMETHING TO STRIVE FOR ...... DON'T YA KNOW .....
And How Was Your Week?