Sunday, July 26, 2020

A Small Child and His Family, Ersatz Bob and Ray, A Hodgepodge Tape and Another Very Short Reel


First up, I want to share something based on a couple of specific requests. I have, from time to time, sold reel tapes on eBay, tapes that I did not want to keep (rarely if ever anything I've shared here, almost entirely tapes whose contents do not excite me). I have never promoted these sales before, but when I mentioned that I have a history of selling tapes, I had a few people post that they'd like to be alerted to these sales, the next time.

And so, with that in mind, I will let you know that I have three auctions of tapes at this time. 25 seven inch reels are here, another 27 seven inch reels are here, and 16 five inch reels are here. The auctions end on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, respectively.


I have been very slow to continue the "Scotch Tape Box History" series, having gone a few months without a further post, and that's because this is the entry that I've been dreading. Scotch used a series of creative tape boxes throughout the late '40's, all of the '50's and the early '60's, with the exception, I suppose, of the most commonly found box, the black design. But that one is so iconic to me, it still is something special. The rest, though, whether the busy Scotch plaid patterns, or the one with the clock, or the one with the studio rehearsal or the crazy art deco arrangement, are all so nice.

And then, just as the world was exploding in a symphony of color - and just as the art world was exploding with Pop Art and other wonderfully creative moves towards using color and images in new and startling, fun and exciting ways, the folks at Scotch went precisely in the other direction, and from perhaps 1964 or so through the end of the decade, THIS - with a few variations of product numbers and specifics as to each product - was your standard Scotch Tape Box:



Okay, first up today is a tape I find utterly charming, except for those few moments that are ear-piercing. The primary speaker is a child named Paul, heard first at age 5, then at age 7. Paul and his father are recording, and he is singing and babbling the way a five year old is likely to do. Early on, a toddler, also in the room, becomes upset and shrieks extremely loudly, but if you can get past those moments, I think this is a lot of fun.

For those of you in my age demographic, you will probably get a kick out of the song Paul sings after asking if he can sing the "Huckleberry Song". He also makes up a few songs, and makes mention in song and speaking that he wishes mommy would be home soon with the brand new baby.

Then there is a break, and we indeed hear mommy, announcing that we've been listening to 1960, and now it's 1962, and all three children will speak. They do, but just barely - Paul is the star of our show again. For any more details, I'd prefer that you experience this tape yourself, and I hope you enjoy it as I do.

Download: Paul and His Family - 1960 and 1962 Recordings by Paul (age 5 in 1960) and His Family


Next up, a rather peculiar and fascinating recording I found on a VERY old Scotch reel. Luckily, there was enough writing on the box for me to decipher what was going on, because otherwise, I would have thought this was a pair of guys pretending to be on the radio, and wishing that they were Bob and Ray.

But no, as the box made clear, this is a pair of would-be humorists by the names of Don Anderson and Leo McKay, working under the names of "Bunky and Dufoe", at station KWRO, Coquille, Oregon on 2/27/57, with either their entire show for that day, or an excerpt thereof. Your mileage may, of course, vary, but boy do I find this to be a big old dumpster fire of unfunny. And as someone who reveres the early, improvised work of Bob and Ray (from when they were on in Boston), this just grates on me.

On the other hand, it may well be the only known recording of this duo (I certainly couldn't find any mention of them online), so that certainly makes it worth hearing. And certainly, tastes in humor vary widely, so you may enjoy it not just as an obscure piece of radio history, but as comedy.

Download: Bunky and Dufoe (Don Anderson and Leo McKay) - KWRO, Coquille, Oregon, 2-27-57


The next tape I'm sharing as an example of something I come across from time to time - this one being more interesting than most others, and that is the type of tape I label a "Hodgepodge". These are typically tapes of anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, which, within their length, contain a fairly ridiculously varied number and group of recordings, often with no clear link between the segments. My own family's tapes would have a ton of this sort of thing, or at least if a stranger went through them, that person would think they were a hodgepodge. Having been there, I would know the relationship between the items of the tape and of the people heard.

And there's little doubt that's true of this tape, too. But I don't have that background information, so here's what I heard. Someone playing blues chords and licks, fairly badly (and very badly recorded), on an electric guitar, with some vocals here and there. Someone (who was probably trying to be funny) expressing himself with extremely crude language, most likely just for his own entertainment and for the entertainment of those in the room, while the guitar playing continues - THIS SECTION IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK - and is followed by more guitar, then a Brook Benton song recorded off the radio, and even more blues.

This is interrupted by someone singing standards, a capella and then with a record. Then there is a segment which seems to be capturing mostly the ambient noise around someone's home - a radio is on and there is a bit of conversation for around three minutes. Some VERY badly recorded radio follows (Warning, this is extremely shrill, and begins at 20:40), and that segues right back into the blues guitar and vocal, recorded just as loudly and badly.

Again, I include this mostly as an example of a type of tape I come across fairly often, and that I haven't shared before. Plus there are some curious things here. I may try to do this with other genres that I have categorized tapes into, in the future, or other "hodgepodge" tapes that seem interesting.

Download: A Hodgepodge - Bluesy Guitar, Rude Talk, Singing, Conversations at Home


Finally, this week's "Very Short Reel". And it's an "Extremely Short Reel", just 24 seconds (it says 21 plus 2 on the box....). This is one tape from a whole batch of tapes which I bought at least 15 years ago, all of which came from a station in Astoria, Oregon, which is, like Coquille, above, right on the Pacific Ocean, but at the other end of the state's coastline from Coquille.

Most of the tapes from this station were episodes of a half-hour story-telling program, with the stories read by the same female announcer heard here - I believe she was named "Aunt Polly" on the story program. The stories were mostly science fiction and horror, and nothing in the series was all that interesting to me, and I sold them all after listening, again, many years ago.

But here's one from the collection that stayed with me. As you'll hear, it's an ad for a dance, to be held at the Clatsop County Historical Society, which is still there (although the phone number for the the heritage center has since changed. It was in February of 1990. Maybe someone out there reading this was there!!!!

Download: Clatsop County Historical Society USO Dance Ad - 2-4-90

Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Week in Radio and Television History - Mid-August, 1962: WNBC's Anniversary, News From Here, Abroad, and Space, Bert Parks. and the Star of Our Show, Shelley Berman!

Before we get to today's offering, I want to share my deepest thanks and appreciation to those who read and listened to my birthday post, and particularly those who offered up some truly wonderful comments. Thank you, everyone.


I have a bunch of clips today, and all but the last offering come from the same reel, and I hope that I find that I own more tapes from this same collector (my unlistened-to tapes are a hodge-podge, and tapes bought together have gotten separated over the years).

The reason I hope that is because this person seems to have recorded like a fiend - I'm going to share with you almost the entire contents of this tape, well over two hours worth, and those contents appear to capture recordings made over the course of less than a week, in mid August, 1962. Imagine how many tapes this person may have had, and the contents thereof, if he or she filled a two hour tape in just four or five days!

Anyway, this tape is quite the variety reel, capturing part of one TV show, the entirety of another, parts of three different newscasts, and seven installments of a feature being aired that week by NBC flagship station WNBC, in honor of the 40th anniversary of their having gone on the air. The two dates I can actually nail down are August 14th and August 16th, but certain items here likely are from both before and after those dates.

I have grouped these items together by theme - what follows is not actually quite the order in which they appear on the tape. It is just much easier for me to do it this way, as I digitized these some time ago and am not sure where the tape is, so I don't recall the original order - hope that makes sense.

Let's start with the newscasts. The dominant news stories that week including the lengthy flight of two Russian cosmonauts, Eisenhower's visit to England, an assassination attempt on the President of Ghana, and a disagreement about whether the return to the US by an terminally ill American doctor who had been spying for Russia.

The first segment is from "London Calling", a news report from England but broadcast in the US. The second segment contains a brief excerpt from "Douglas Edwards News" then segues into another show, "The World Today", and the third segment is from Mutual News. It seems to me at least possible that this second clip flips again into another broadcast, as the end of that clip seems quite similar to the start of the Mutual clip. At least one of these items is from August 14th, based on the reference to it being one year and one day after the start of the Berlin Wall.

(Note: All three of these segments sound to me as if they are running slowly - the voices sound artificially low and slow. However, this makes no sense, as the rest of the tape (that these segments are interspersed within) does not sound slow. Why would only the newscasts be recorded on a machine not running correctly?)

Download: London Calling - News from England - Peter King Reporting - Mid-August, 1962

Download: Douglas Edwards News and The World Today

Download: Mutual News, August, 1962

Now, the first of the two Television recordings. While I suspect that this tape's entire contents may be made up of sounds which no longer (or barely) exist anywhere but on this tape, this strikes me as something special even within that world of rarity. Maybe it's just because I love game shows.

But anyway, what we have here is a few portions of a game show called "Yours For a Song", hosted by Bert Parks. The show aired on ABC during the daytime for about 15 months and in a nighttime edition for just under a year. And I'd certainly never heard of it. It's a goofy program, but sounds like something I'd have enjoyed. Rather than explain it here, I'll just let you listen, as all the explanation you need is in the recording. There is a break near the end, and I don't actually know if the part following the break is from the same episode or not, but I suspect it was, and that a portion of the show was later erased by one of the other items being shared here.

Download: Yours for a Song, Starring Bert Parks, August, 1962

Recorded rather haphazardly throughout the tape is a feature that was airing that week on WNBC, the flagship station of the NBC network, in New York (where, presumably, all of these recordings were made). The station was acknowledging their 40th anniversary. Please note that while Wikipedia (linked above) states that the station first went on the air on March 2, 1922, these segments, developed and provided by the station itself, are using August 16th, 1922 as the first date of operation. I don't know which is correct, but one of these clips definitely identifies that date. The clips all feature earlier recordings from the station, mostly from the 1940's or earlier. The first one is the only one for which I have a hard-and-fast date for - it's clear from the introduction what today's date was. And the two clips of announcer contests may well be two broadcasts of different parts of the same archival segment. ere are all of those clips, in succession as they appear on the tape:

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - 8-16-62 - The Silver Masked Tenor, Joe White

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - August, 1962 - Quick Reading Announcers' Contest

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - August, 1962 - Jack Norworth Sings

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - August, 1962 - Another Announcers' Contest (Segment)

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - August, 1962 - Snoring Demonstration

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - August, 1962 - Billy Hill Sings "The Last Round-Up"

Download: WNBC 40th Anniversary Highlights - August, 1962 - The Ed Wynn Show

And finally, the pièce de résistance! If you read my birthday post, you'd have seen a brief reference to my adoration for the comedy of Shelley Berman. Well, the saga of Mr. Berman usually includes a reference to an ill-fated show that was done about him in early 1963, following him for a day at a club, including parts of his performance, followed by a few things that happened afterwards. I will not recount the details here, but the legend is that this show ruined his career - although some recent research captured in a book called "The Comedians" indicates strongly that this was not the case.

What I didn't know until I listened to this tape - and this is not even documented on Shelley Berman's IMDB page - is that he did a show for ABC in 1962 - on August 14th - tied to his then-most-recent album, "Shelley Berman: A Personal Appearance", a show which carried the same title as the album, and which was almost entirely made up simply of his act, including much of that album, with slight differences, of course, since it is a different recording of the material. There is also other material here that I've never heard before.

Well.... Wow. My considered opinion is that "Shelley Berman: A Personal Appearance" is the greatest comedy album ever recorded. So I was knocked out to have found this tape, and to learn that it is virtually unknown. (There is a seller online who will sell you audio copies of any of hundreds or perhaps thousands of recordings he holds. He's got a copy.)

So here, unheard by virtually everyone in the world sing 8/14/62, is the ABC special, "Shelley Berman: A Personal Appearance".

Download: Shelley Berman - A Personal Appearance - ABC TV Special - 8-14-62


Today's very short reel is an ad which apparently ran on Chicago's WNIB, which was, for decades, the second place classical music station in town. It's an ad for the Sunday Chicago Tribune, probably from 1972 or 73 or so, and it's an interesting curio, containing as it does some references to what one expert thought would become collectible in the future (the expert doesn't seem to have been too accurate, based on the view from nearly 50 years later), and a reference to a story on Jane Byrne, who would have been virtually unknown at that time, but who, by the end of the decade, would be Mayor of Chicago.

Download: Sunday Chicago Tribune Ad, Circa Early 1970's

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My Lifetime in Music and Recording

Greetings, everyone!

Today is my 60th birthday. And I wanted to do something special for the day, as a present to myself, and hopefully, for you. I am admittedly going to indulge myself, as it's unlikely I'll ever take this sort of opportunity again. I understand if this not what you come to this site for, but I'd love it if you'd choose to read through and listen, and love it even more if you'd comment and let me know what you think of any or all of this material.

I thank you in advance if you choose to indulge me - and hopefully, be entertained - by reading and/or listening to any or all of this post.

As 90% or more of what I'm going to share was recorded on Reel to Reel tape, this post even makes sense for the site!

I'm going to start with a few excerpts from my family's tapes from when I was a small child, talk a little bit about what I was exposed to and listened to in terms of influence and inspiration, and then move on to the point at which I started writing my own serious and comic songs. If the sound of a small child singing fairly idiosyncratically is not your cup of tea, you can jump down to the point where I am an adult, writing songs, after the little squiggles that look like this: ~~

Probably the earliest tape of me singing a song is from shortly before my third birthday. My family borrowed a tape recorder in order to make a full tape of songs for my beloved Uncle Harry. The recording was dominated by my sister and two of her friends doing a full-on folk concert for the first thirty minutes or so, but I was allowed to sing a song I knew from a children's record. My brother Bill introduces me and then after I get lost, encourages me to give it a second try.

Please note that even at three years old, I was already familiar enough with records to imitate a record getting stuck.

Download: Bobby - Be Kind to Your Parents

You probably can't tell what I'm trying to sing, and if that's the case, you can hear the record I learned the song from, here.

At some point in the year that followed, my family recorded me singing three of my favorites, each of them, again, learned from records. These include "Tavern in the Town" as yodeled by Wally Cox on a 1953 hit single, "The Little Dutch Girl" from a kiddie record, and the nursery rhyme "I Love Little Pussy".

Download: Bobby - Tavern in the the Town, Little Dutch Girl, I Love Little Pussy

For anyone who is interested, last year I posted a different clip in which I sang two of those same songs, from roughly the same time period. That's here. And the record I was copying, in singing "The Little Dutch Girl", as well as an amazing reworking of the same song, can be heard here.

Among my family's many, many reels of tape, there are literally hours of little Bobby (and later, grade school Bob) blathering, making jokes, recording records and TV, playing with friends, and doing almost anything you can name. Most of these are tedious to anyone outside of my family and a few friends, and even most of them probably couldn't take it. I am not excerpting those, with one very brief exception, one that makes me crack up. This is a short, short excerpt from a nearly 30 minute tape of me simply babbling into the microphone. I am about five years old here, and have a bad cold. I love the improvised song, the nonsense words, and the joy with which I provide the title at the end - perhaps the happiest way that word has ever been said.

Download: Bobby - Poisoned 

Also from age five, here is a tape my mother loved. In it, my sister Marcia is playing the title song from "The Sound of Music", and I sing the song as only a five year old could, complete with a vocalization of .the dramatic bass notes near the end.

Download: Bobby and Marcia - The Sound of Music

One other ridiculous musical thing that I did that's worth mentioning. I wrote a suite of songs based on the TV version of "Batman", telling a brief, complete story about the relationship of Batman and Robin and their greatest case. I even went to far as to time myself singing each of the songs and put the lengths they should be in the spiral notebook where I wrote the lyrics. On multiple family tapes where I am around 9, 10 and 11, I can be heard singing bits and pieces of these songs, so to this day, I still know how they go. Sheesh.

And that's where I'm going to leave the early recordings, while pointing out that I have previously shared a recording of my brother Bill and me singing together here, and a tape of us chatting, here, both of which are from the 1965-66 era.

Photos of me (left) and Bill (right), both taken in 1966, shortly after the acquisition 
of our first stereo reel to reel player, which is in both photos. On the far left behind 
Bill is the Concertone behemoth reel machine that our dad had bought in 1952. 

I'm about to skip forward by about a decade.

But first, a few words about musical instruments.

When I was six, I was dutifully enrolled with the same piano teacher who had been instructing my brother and sister. I was decidedly not the star pupil both of my siblings had been, and when I began showing signs of reluctance to practice, at age ten, the lessons stopped. By that time (fourth grade) was also taking trombone lessons and playing in the school band. I did practice the trombone, and got relatively good for my age, but nothing special.

By age fourteen, I was plunking on the piano so much that my mom again encouraged me to take piano lessons, which I did with much more enthusiasm, through age 19, getting good enough to be considered (but not chosen) for the senior concert at my high school. I also stopped taking trombone lessons at age 18. By then, my dad had taught my to play the ukulele (age 15 or so),. I was soon annoying everyone, everywhere, by playing and singing the few songs I had taught myself (mostly ancient standards). I even carried it around at school a few times and sang for what I'm sure was no one else's enjoyment!

Within a year, I had picked up the guitar - we had a gorgeous 1950's Gibson electric/acoustic model. I quickly figured out how those ukulele chords transferred onto the guitar, simply adding fingerings for the lowest two strings, and leaving me with an idiosyncratic, self-taught way of fingering chords, which I still use to this day.

And second, a bunch of words about the music and comedy in my home.

Music was all around our house and my life. My mother was a classically trained coloratura soprano, who worked professionally - very much part time, but professionally - from the early 1940's until the early 2000's. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, she won, or was a finalist in, multiple Chicago area vocal competitions, including one for which she won the right to perform in a recital in a downtown Chicago auditorium.

Here is my absolute favorite piece from her repertoire, a composition about which I've read, that some well known sopranos refused to attempt it, given it's challenges. It's called "Air and Variations", by Heinrich Proch, and it was the "big number" of her recital. This is from a session with her vocal coach around 1964, when she was 41. If you're not interested in the full five minute piece, I encourage you to listen to at least the last two minutes or so.

Download: Mary Fran Purse - Air and Variations

Meanwhile, my sister, who is ten years older than me, had developed into an excellent pianist, and also a devotee of the folk music that was all the rage during her early teens. She had learned to play the guitar quite well, and had a wonderful voice. Here, she is heard in 1966, at around age 15 or 16, playing that 1950's Gibson acoustic/electric guitar, singing a song learned from a Kingsron Trio album, Señora. I think this is one of the loveliest things I've ever heard.

Download: Marcia - Señora

Meanwhile still, my brother Bill, who is six years older than me, was developing significant skills on both piano and trumpet. He quickly developed a great facility in ragtime, classical and jazz, among others. Indeed, he would pursue a career as a musician, not only on those two instruments, but also as a composer and producer.

In 1973, when he was 19, my family borrowed a friend's reel to reel machine, with the purpose of copying some of what was recorded on our oldest tapes (on 10" reels) onto 7" reels, which were the largest we could then play. Bill was very excited to see that the borrowed machine had a sound-on-sound feature, which meant that we could make overdubbed recordings.

While the following example of three short piano pieces (all three in less than a minute), done with sound-on-sound that summer, are certainly not the most indicative of Bill's abilities or musical tendencies, they are among my favorite things ever recorded, and their whimsical style and arrangement had a huge effect on my own musical development. The sped-up solo in the first of the three is probably had more influence on the feel I try to capture in my own piano solos as any other recording.

Download: Bill - Three Sound-On-Sound Piano Solos

But a better representation of what Bill was (and is) capable of is this recording of our High School's Jazz Band, playing a jazz chart Bill wrote as a 17 year old, titled Montreux Shout, a Downbeat award winner, I will add. It's heard here as recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1972, where the band was invited to perform. This is the second half of the tune - when it goes into the upbeat section about 20 seconds in, that's Bill on trumpet.

Download: The New Trier West Jazz Ensemble - Montreux Shout

I was also getting exposed to a plethora of musical styles - nearly all styles of classical music, the folk music my sister loved and which my parents collected in recordings made off broadcasts of the legendary Chicago radio show, "The Midnight Special", top 40 music my brother played on the radio at night in the room we shared, literally hundreds of children's records, and the more adventurous pop and rock music that both of my siblings started listening to in the late 1960's. And that's just a start.

We also had a abundance of comedy albums, and in particular, the musical stand up (or sit down) of the day - Victor Borge, Tom Lehrer, Anna Russell, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, Spike Jones, Stan Freberg, the Smothers Brothers, as well as a goodly selection of spoken word comedy, my favorite of which, then and now, was Shelley Berman. The humor and the music tended towards the intellectual direction, let us say. All of these influences combined into a fairly unusual gumbo of interests, styles and preferences in both music and comedy, as well as comedic music.

(I actually just this week came across an astonishing tape, in which I, at age about 11, sing Tom Lehrer's song "Smut" from start to finish, complete with his tone and little asides, clearly knowing the song by heart, backwards and forwards. There is absolutely no way I had any real understanding of what the song was about, the innuendo in almost every line, or the meaning of the word "slut", which is in the lyrics. The tape is badly recorded and not worth sharing here, but I thought I'd mention it, because of what it says about my musical and comedic upbringing, as well as perhaps a few other things. Let's jump forward now.)

While all of my peers were listening to Top 40 radio during those peak Top 40 years for kids, ages 12-17, I was listening to it almost not-at-all, instead tuned in almost entirely to oldies radio, classical music (particularly Wagner), and my family's dozens of home recorded tapes. I've since heard most of what was big during those years - 1972-1977, and I truly didn't miss much - what a fallow period for top 40.

What I did get into during that period was The Beatles (well, a rediscovery), Monty Python's Flying Circus and Dr. Demento. And I did what I've done throughout life when a new cool thing really got under my skin - devoted tons of my time to each of thsee three - collected everything I could, and became obsessive. A little bit later I became a huge fan of Queen, but to a slightly lesser degree. But those were my big four during and after high school.

Anyway, perhaps with all that mixed around in my head, in my mid-teens, I started to make up comic songs of my own. The first example of this was probably a truly ridiculous parody of all of the Bicentennial hoopla going on from mid 1975 through mid 1976. I wrote an entire satiric play about the phenomenon, complete with a number of Broadway-esque songs, including one called "Big Production Number". Having then recently learned to play the baritone ukulele from my dad, I imagined (and practiced) every song in the "show" being accompanied by that instrument. When we again borrowed that sound-on-sound capable machine in early 1976, I committed almost the entire play to tape, complete with multi-track recordings of the songs. It's sort of endearing, but not good at all, and I'm not featuring any highlights here.

But then the songs came pouring out. These were silly, usually made up almost entirely of non-sequiturs, and most were fairly similar, musically, fast and boisterous. My father had, by the next year, purchased a reel-to-reel machine capable of doing sound-on-sound overdubbing, so I was able to record multi-track performances of all of these non-masterworks, along with anything else I felt like committing to tape in a more complex arrangement than had previously been possible.

I reworked one of these early songs, "A Sailing Milk Moustache" in the mid 1990's, for my album "The Many Moods of Bob", which you can hear here. The words in the verses of that one are so aggressively stupid that when I sang them for that album, I deliberately slurred them beyond comprehension.


But in late 1979, at age 19, I found myself very suddenly compelled to write something serious. What the lyrical inspiration was, I have no idea - it was almost entirely fiction, especially since the protagonist seems to be "looking back from afar" on young adult friendships and a romance (the latter of which I hadn't even had, yet). Musically and particularly vocally, this shows me to have been very much in thrall of Freddie Mercury, particularly the ballads from the then-most recent Queen album, "Jazz".

This is a very adolescent lyric, and I'm not making any great or even average claims for it, although I will note that I submitted this lyric in response to a poetry assignment in a college course I was in, and the teacher said "we have a poet in our midst", which was a great boost to my confidence. But it was my first serious song, and seems like a natural to share it in a post of this sort. I never did find a decent title for it, so it has forever been identified as "Untitled".

Download: Bob Purse - Untitled

(Incidentally, unless otherwise noted, all instrumentation and vocals on my "produced" tracks are done by me.)

Very quickly after that, I was recruited by another student to join his Beatles sound-alike band, purchasing from him a John Lennon style Rickenbacker and assuming, naturally, the John Lennon role in the group. This did not last long (although we won a couple of talent shows during those months), and eventually, the bass player and I split off, began writing our own songs together, and started looking for drummer and a lead guitarist.

We went through the first drummer quickly and then found a second, better drummer, and, eventually, a guitarist. That band lasted longer than the first one, but not by all that much (the entire process from the first invite to the breakdown of the last lineup was perhaps 18 months).

But between the three of us (and a friend) we did write enough songs to produce an album's worth of material, which we recorded in the living room of my parents home during the winter of 1981. We had not yet secured a lead guitarist yet, so the bass player overdubbed lead guitar parts, and both the drummer and I played piano, where needed. Here's one of the earliest songs that the bass player, Scott, and I wrote. Typically, as in this case, he came up with the chord changes, and I wrote the words and melody. It's easy to imagine that this song came out of two guys whose initial connection was over the early songs of the Beatles.

Download: The Commonwealth - Where You Going?

We also recorded a song that wasn't technically in our "live" repertoire, a song I had written on my own nearly a year earlier and quite unlike anything else we included on the "album" or indeed, than anything I had written up to that point. At that moment, I certainly considered my best song yet, and like most of my serious songs to come, was based on my own experiences.

Download: The Commonwealth - Another Friend

Concurrently to all of this, I was also engaged quite often in recording completely improvised humorous songs, in two separate incarnations - with my then-oldest friend Andy, and with a then-relatively new friend, Paul (more on Paul, later). Andy had a remarkable facility for improvising very detailed and often almost visualize-able descriptions and stories off the top of his head (not surprisingly, he went into visual arts), all the while, managing to make everything rhyme AND be funny. I would play the piano, and offer up my own improvisations, often quite good, sometimes not, but rarely matching what Andy seemed to do effortlessly. We quickly grew into a formidable improvisational unit, if I do say so myself, each of us understanding the other, musically and improvisationally.

The following is not quite the best of our work - that "best" would almost by definition be something where Andy was the dominant vocalist - but it does feature some good stuff, some fun interactions, and even a bit of soulfulness. I also love the point at which Andy realizes he's said something about the sun shining at night, and the way we play off of that.

In sharing this, I understand that there's an element of "you hadda be there", or at least that it helps to have known one or both of us, or our work together. But enough people have heard and enjoyed this over the years for me to choose to share it. Plus, a post of this sort without a mention of my work with Andy would be incomplete. This is an edit of a longer piece, and it's from 1980. Andy's voice is heard first, and I'm the first one to sing (my stuff's okay, but when he starts to sing, it's amazing stuff):

Download: Andy and Bob - The Rain (edited version)

I also shared that particular choice because...... MAN did I love the chord progression I made up for the backing to that piece. I was set on using it again in something more serious. But after the band broke up, having gotten into the habit of writing with partners and for a band sound, I pretty much stopped writing songs for nearly a year.

But then life handed me a situation I felt compelled to write about, including a couple of different relationships that were painful in that moment. And rather than hurt feelings and expose other feelings in ways I didn't want to, I got extremely poetic and vague, attached the whole thing to the chord progression from "The Rain", and in pairing those chords and that lyric, I wrote what I still believe to be the best song I've ever written or ever will write.

The song dates to the spring of 1982, and this recording dates to the first time I was able to use professional equipment, which was the summer of 1996, in my brother's home studio. I shared this once in a previous post on my other blog. I've since changed the name of the song, and I can't see doing a post like this and not including what I think is my finest moment. Here is "Too Long Ago".

Download: Bob Purse - Too Long Ago

I continued to write songs for the next year or so, but as almost all of them were for a band that I didn't have, and that I was only hearing in my head, I made recordings of very few of them, at the time, not having the instrumentation I wanted.

One song that was appropriate for the instruments I could play at had on hand was a quiet little thing inspired by the three part harmony sound of Crosby, Stills and Nash", and specifically, the song "Wasted on the Way". My song bears no particular similarity to that song or, really, to their style, but I wanted to do something with delicate three part harmony. I was very happy with the song, and the vocal arrangement, which only moves into three part harmony in the last third. This is from late 1982.

Download: Bob Purse - In the Corner of a Room

Here I am, sometime around the time I wrote these songs, 1982 or 1983, 
photographed at the best piano I've ever played, which sat, mostly unused, 
in the auditorium of my college. 

As I mentioned earlier, I had two different musical duo partnerships. My tapes with Andy ended (with a break of 17 years, anyway) when he finished college, but my work with the aforementioned Paul, which began in 1978, continued, at varying frequency, but without any real breaks, right up into the early 2010's, when he essentially retired from our improvised work. If Andy was the master of visualized, descriptive improvisation, Paul was (and is), a master of the bizarre, of the non-sequitur, and of the off the wall. On this point, I come closer to matching him than I did matching Andy at his skill, although Paul has always remained better at it than me.

Over the course of the years, Paul and I got to be extremely good at putting together imaginative, unexpected and at times just plain weird improvisations. And again, we learned to gauge, predict and read each other extremely well. That we are both multi-instrumentalists (his primary instrument is violin) also added to our diversity.

Our improvised work is so esoteric, that without a more proper introduction and multiple examples, I can't really share it here. However, just as with Andy, I simply cannot make a post of this type without including the work I did for 35 years with Paul. So here's what I have: on three occasions, in 1984, 1985 and 1990-91, we wrote and recorded album's worth of produced, multi-tracked, thought out recordings, under two different names, and distributed the results to friends. Here is the lead track from that 1985 collection. We had borrowed a tiny "Casiotone" keyboard from a friend, and using the "Samba" setting, put together the following track, wrote uncommonly odd lyrics for the resulting track ("forlorn nights with endless blimps", for example, which remains one of my favorite lines of lyrics by anyone, ever), and sang it with gusto.

Download: Room Temperature - Homecoming Samba

On my own, though, at this point I had stopped writing my own songs, at least for the moment. In mid-1983, I had rediscovered folk music, which fit in nicely with the progressive political education I was getting in my Human Services course of studies at college. As I had earlier with Monty Python and the Beatles, I swallowed up entire large segments of the folk genre, snapping up albums left and right, quickly obtained a 12-string guitar and learned tons of songs which I then directed into my nascent work with children.

My initial obsession was with The Limeliters, whose leader and spokesman, Lou Gottlieb, was a true Renaissance man, and probably the funniest person ever to perform onstage under the guise of a musician, rather than a comedian.

But I really fell head over heels for Pete Seeger - both his music and his activism - and stopped writing songs almost entirely. I did, however, study Pete's 12-string guitar style obsessively, picked up what I could by rote, and became a far better guitarist than ever before. While I had learned a lot of things when I was in the rock and roll band, and had never previously really wanted to play anything but rhythm, I remained fairly limited. But now I learned all sorts of things like walking bass-lines, rudimentary finger picking and lots of more complicated strums. I never came close to being a virtuoso, or even a virtuo-so-so, but I got pretty good.

When I did resume writing songs, it was with a vengeance, but it was also with a laugh - I wrote around two dozen songs from age 25-30, all but two of which, if I'm recalling correctly,were funny songs (or, songs meant to be funny, or strange or lighthearted, or whatever, as your mileage may vary...).

I wrote enough that I completed three entire album's-worth of songs, one a year, in 1986, 1987 and 1988. These "albums" only existed in my head and on the cassette tapes I compiled them on (from the original reel to reel multi-tracks), but I did distribute those copies to a few friends. And the following five tracks (all but one an original) are from those collections.

What helped is that, in 1986, my dad bought a new reel to reel machine, and handed down the old one to me, which moved to my bedroom, and which, again, could do sound-on-sound. This made it extremely easy for me to record songs, which in turn inspired more songwriting.

The very first song I recorded, after being given my very own reel to reel machine,  was pretty much a throwaway - a tune called "Fishing", which I'd improvised with Paul a few years earlier, over a neat chord progression I'd come up with. The song itself is just about nothing - just a two line nonsense rhyme, and then the same chords meant to accompany any improvised lyrics that those present would like to sing. But boy, did I LOVE the sound of the track I recorded. It had the feel of the Caribbean music I was soon to come to adore, a lilting beat and a catchy recorder solo, in addition to a vaudeville vocal delivery and a ridiculous and pointless lyrics (which even referenced Orson Bean), which are always a good thing in my book. Here's "Fishing":

Download: Bob Purse - Fishing

A few months later, using that Casiotone keyboard again, I put together a full story-song, with some truly odd twists and turns, but fully coherent within its own world. And if its own world seemed to be something out of a nightmare, well, that was the point, as the song was called "Dream Sequence". Again I gave it a Caribbean flavor (much more mechanized here, by default), and maybe for the first time, included a keyboard solo, which I think  is quite catchy, and which, right before the end, a musical quote from my favorite Beatles' single. I was particularly happy with the backing vocal arrangements, where they pop up. The long first line of the first bridge ("I left there....") is a wonderful example of a turn of phrase which uses seems to say far more than it does.

Download: Bob Purse - Dream Sequence

Over the years, I've written several songs which, like "Fishing" (above) were largely meant to be a frame on which to hang a chorus, which could then be amended with whatever verses one wanted to add, improvised or written, largely because I was regularly taking parts in parties where such songs would add to the merriment (more on that later).

The best job I ever did of this came after I dreamed that I was holding a 45 containing a song called "I Won't Sleep On Your Big Side of Beef", by a group called "Dog". The very next time I recorded with Paul, I suggested we improvise a song to that title, and eventually, as we moved through it, a chorus and melody came into being. There was a dog in the room when we recorded it, and the song was supposedly by "Dog", so I improvised a rather nasty verse about dogs.

Over the years, this quickly became a go-to song to perform where our friends were together, during which time anyone who wanted to could submit a four line verse. In 1988, I decided to record a produced version of the song, complete with my Louis Armstrong style vocal and a backing group of vocalists, as well as a revved up guitar solo. This was at the point that my middling 12-string guitar abilities were at their (relative) zenith, and it's nice to have a recording capturing what I could do in those days - strumming, walking bass-line and soloing. I left in some of the verses from the original improvised version, including the one about dogs.

Download: Bob Purse - I Won't Sleep On Your Big Side of Beef

Around this same time, I got a perfectly bizarre idea, one which will help indicate to you how my mind works: How would it sound if Walter Brennan, around the time of his hit "Old Rivers", did a rendition of "Helter Skelter"? Well, if you've always wondered the same thing, do I have a recording for you! I love the complex nature of this thing - I put in a lot of bells and whistles to make the structure of it align with the structure of the original, if (certainly) not the style. Where there are backing vocals by The Beatles, I put in backing vocals, and where there's a solo, I put in a solo. The only thing missing is the fade out and fade in. And again, as with "Dream Sequence", I made a musical reference to my favorite Beatles' single, and this time, also threw in a musical phrase from a favorite McCartney solo song.

When I grabbed the original reel for this recording, I was astonished to find - via the notes I always make when I record - that I recorded this song, complete, as well as "Side of Beef" in two days.

Download: Bob Purse - Helter Skelter

At some point when my friend Paul had been living outside of the Chicago area, I had written him a letter in which I pretended to reminisce about our old times at "The Pineapple Den" - this was the sort of nonsense that filled our correspondence. That led me to writing an entire poem about this "legendary" place, which I then turned into a song. I asked my two best pals (and they are my two best pals to this day), Paul and Stu, to sing and revel on multiple overdubs, so that we'd have what sounded like a bar full of vikings singing the chorus to my sea shanty styled song. I added a piano solo, played much in the way (if not the ability or complexity) of my brother's sped-up solo that I shared near the beginning of this post.

Download: Bob Purse with Stu and Paul - The Pineapple Den

And then the songs stopped again for a few years. What happened? Well, I got married in 1988, and the kids arrived in 1991 and 1993. Comic songs started up again in 1995, and virtually everything in that genre that I've recorded since can be found on my online albums, "The Many Moods of Bob", which I linked earlier, or on "A Few More Plans", which can be found here.

One other aspect of my musical and performing career that I want to include are the dozens of parties I've held, and that friends have held, bringing together my music and comedy loving friends. These have been evenings of prepared and improvised music, prepared and improvised comedy, and a mixture of the above. Some of them have been christened as being part of a series of "Evenings with the Illuminous Ras", a name which I will not explain here. (But if you've ever exchanged e-mail with me, that name might sound familiar.) These parties started in 1984, and aside from about a ten year gap while we were all in our 30's, and doing "other things", they've continued, at least occasionally, ever since.

The true nature of these parties will be difficult to truly explain here - they have included entire evenings where fake song titles (and the corresponding fake recording acts) are submitted by everyone, then pulled out of a hat and improvised by some of those present, game show parodies, live group performances of favorite old songs, a recurring bit called "The SMAR Hour" in which ridiculous coffee-house style poetry and stories are read, several telethon parodies to raise money for out of work and out of date actors, and that's just a start. Most of the most memorable moments would not make sense all that well here, but I am going to include four examples of the more "normal" side of things, normal being a relative word.

First, in 1990, my two best friends, Paul and Stu, and I, teamed up with my mother to rehearse and perform three songs as done by The Weavers, in arrangements as close to the originals as possible. Updating the group name, we jokingly called ourselves The Loom Operators. I (naturally) sang the Pete Seeger parts. Ronnie Gilbert's alto parts were far too low for my mom's soprano voice, however - she lost her voice by the end of the third song! Here's our rendition of "Poor Howard's Dead and Gone".

Download: The Loom Operators - Poor Howard's Dead and Gone

The Loom Operators, Summer, 1990: 
Stu, Paul, Mary Fran (mom), and Me
That's my beloved 12-string guitar

Nearly 20 years later, in 2008, I got the chance to have the entire audience sing along with one of my top 30 favorite records of all time, "Don't You Just Know It". We were getting together one last time in the house where I grew up, shortly before my mother died and the house was sold, giving the house (which was to be torn down) a proper send off. This features a full band made up of some of my oldest friends, my friend Paul and my daughter Wendy singing the verses, and me playing piano and leading the wordless choruses. This was proceeded by me teaching the song to the room. This is one of the happiest musical memories of my life.

Download: Illuminous Ras - Don't You Just Know It

From the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. For another party, in 2004, I prepared a backing track to be used in a live performance of one of my half-dozen song-poem related records, Norris the Troubadour's inexplicable "Mary Ann McCarthy", the original of which you can hear within this post. Playing an additional keyboard part over the track, with my great friends Stu and James on guitar and ukulele, I led the assembled group in a performance which - true to the half-assed nature of song-poems, got off the beat and away from the backing track a couple of times, leaving sounding more than a bit woozy.

Download: Bob Purse and the Ras Ensemble - Mary Ann McCarthy

Finally, that same 2008 party as "Don't You Just Know It", Stu, Paul and I resurrected the Loom Operators name, this time joined by my daughter Wendy in the Ronnie Gilbert role, and did two more Weavers' songs. From that party, here is "When the Saints Go Marching In".

Download: The Loom Operators - When the Saints Go Marching In

Speaking of my daughter, I really shouldn't have gone so far along in this post with barely a mention of my family. I'll rectify that.

In 1988, as mentioned earlier, I married Gina, and truly, none of the rest of all this would matter if I hadn't had her in my life for the last 35 years, the last 32 of them in marriage. She hasn't come up in this post, because I'm writing all about my musical life, and, well, she doesn't much share in my musical passions - in fact, it's probably true that we don't overlap much on our individual interests and passions. But we've been best friends since long before we were married, we make each other laugh, our individual strengths and flaws compliment each other in ways that make us stronger individually and together, and there's nowhere either of us would rather be than with the other. AND she puts up with my insane collecting and the hodgepodge it makes of some of our home.

In 1991, the aforementioned Wendy - now named Sage - came along,  and Molly appeared two years later. Gina, Molly and Wendy/Sage have brightened my life in ways they could scarcely imagine - I find true joy in each of them.

Both of my children have displayed musical talents, playing various instruments through high school, although neither one pursued it after that. They are now 29 and 26, and they are both bright, thoughtful, funny and loving adults. They have also participated actively and memorably on not only some of my recordings, but at every one of those parties that we've had, since they resumed in 2004.

As I wrote when I posted my album "A Few More Plans", it took me 19 years - from 2000 to 2018 - to record the 19 tracks on that album. I was living life, parenting, engaging in other passions, and occasionally finding time to write and record a song or two, mostly comic songs.

(As an aside: through all of the years reflected here, I was, of course, first, going to college, then graduate school, and then working. I've not involved my work life in this story, as I don't think is relevant here, but I will acknowledge, as I have a few times in posts through the years, that I have a degree in psychology and have worked in the mental health field for almost 30 years. The need to have a job (particularly one which is an hour's drive away) has also impacted the amount of songwriting and recording I've done.)

More recently - really, since about 2011, I have occasionally returned to more serious songwriting, and have a plan to put up an album (double album length!) of nearly all of the serious songs that I've ever written (at least all of those I consider worth recording), under a title I've wanted to use for 30 years, "Songs of an Emotional Socialist". I don't mean socialist in the political sense - although I'm all for that, too - but "emotional socialist" meaning I'm someone who uses my songs (and other venues) to express my feelings openly and widely, and equally among anyone who will listen.

With that in mind, I've recently been revisiting songs I wrote in my 20's: those I heard, back then, with a band song in my head, but no band to play them. Now that I have every instrument in the band in a Midi keyboard, I've finally started recording those songs.

Here's one I wrote around age 22 or 23 - the title is "What Does It Mean?". In a rarity for me, I don't think I was writing about anyone in particular, and certainly not my own life or acquaintances, which was what I did almost all the time at that point (hence, the whole "emotional socialist" thing). But this is an exception. I recorded this a couple of years ago, with not only the midi keyboard, but also my dad's old Gibson guitar, which is the instrument on which I wrote the song.

Download: Bob Purse - What Does It Mean?

And I'll finish with the song that my friend Stu tells me is his choice for the best thing I've written. In 2011, I finally bit the bullet and wrote a song about a difficult moment in my life, the occurred when I was 18 - an emotional scar of a moment, and one that I'd known I wanted to write about for 25-30 years. It came out in a song called Shadows, which I also recorded that year. And here it is.

Download: Bob Purse - Shadows

And that's where things are now. I think I have about five or six more old songs to record in order to have the collection of serious material ready to go. These songs are mostly from my twenties, including at least a couple no one else has ever heard, and also including one I wrote for my wife on our 30th anniversary, which no one outside of my immediate family has heard.

The most recent "musical" picture of me, taken for a couple of different purposes 
where someone wanted a photo last year. That's my Midi keyboard. The computer 
program I use to put together Midi tracks is on the right, and my current 
reel-to-reel  machine is behind my head. 

It's unlikely that I'll produce a post remotely like this again - this was self-indulgent enough! - and if you've made it this far, I truly and deeply thank you for indulging me. But if and when I do record more music, I will probably post it somewhere, and will undoubtedly point you in its direction.

Thank you again. I hope you found something to enjoy here, and perhaps a whole lot to enjoy. Please comment if you have something to say about any of these tracks.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

A Nice Little Variety Tape from 1953

Good day, everyone,

Before I do anything else - I truly want to thank all of you who commented about my recent computer issue and near loss of a huge amount of sound files. Thanks for the thoughts, support, stories, etc. I really appreciate it.


And second - for those of you who don't peruse my other blog where I already posted this - I want to share with you a video that I made. Early in the shutdown, my church asked for happy videos - anything under two minutes - to send out to the congregation while we were alomst all spending lots of time at home.

My thought was to perform one of my favorite Ragtime pieces, a song I learned, by rote, off of an album when I was perhaps 16 or 17. As I say in the clip, I'm a sloppy pianist, but I make up for that in enthusiasm. And I've been forgetting to link to this client for two months now, so here it is. An added bonus (?) you get to see my charming visage and the rest of me, too. Click the link for the video!

A Ragtime Nightmare


Today, I have something interesting and a bit different. Early on in this blog, I tended to just include the contents of one tape, or maybe two, before branching out and trying to give a varied picture of my collection, especially as I was only posting every 2-3 weeks.

Today, I'm returning to the original format, in a sense, but still offering a variety of types of recordings. Because today, I have the entire contents of a five inch reel, all of which was recorded between March of 1953 and May of 1953, in total, well over two hours worth of material - about 68 minutes per side. And there is a significant amount of variety - a school presentation, two birthday recordings, three recordings of visits with friends, and portions of three different television programs.

Now, I initially was only going to share the second side of this tape, because, you see, I previously shared the first side over four years ago, on this same site. But in reading that post, I found that I made several mistakes (I must not have had the tape box at hand at that moment), particular in mis-identifying the year of the recordings, but my editing of it was suspect, too.

Plus, I thought it would be nice to share the entire tape as it plays off the reel. So I hope you don't mind a few reruns. If you've already heard the first side, in that earlier post, you can jump down to the little squiggle, which is where the second side starts.

I will share the segments in the order in which they appear on the tape, and be briefer than usual in my introductions.

First off, and the longest segment on the tape, is a presentation given at a school. I suspect the teacher's name was Miss Olson, or Miss Olsen, but the tape box (see bottom of post) says Miss Ohlson, so that's what I've named the track. This was a sixth grade presentation on China, in May of 1953, a very interesting time indeed to be studying and presenting on China, although much of this is about history, not current events. The woman introduced at the start of this segment is almost certainly part of the family which recorded this entire tape.

Download: Miss Ohlson's Sixth Graders' Presentation on China, March, 1953

Next, we segue into a recording of a birthday gathering. If you've ever wanted to know what 13 and 14 year olds talked about (at least, with an adult present) in 1953, here's your chance to find out. Because here is Wayne's 14th birthday luncheon, a spaghetti meal on March 21, 1953.

Download: Wayne's 14th Birthday Spaghetti Luncheon, March 21, 1953

It seems that Wayne had a younger brother, Peter, who also had a birthday in March, as the tape then moves directly to Peter's 12th birthday party. It seems extremely likely that, having been 11 and 12 that school year, he was part of Miss Ohlson's class, and likely the reason their presentation was recorded. Here's the relatively brief recording from Peter's birthday.

Download: Peter's 12th Birthday, March 1953

The first side ends with a recording of about ten minutes featuring a recording of a visit from what presumably were some friends, identified on the label as "The Pettit's and The Blair's". Here is that segment.

Download: Visit with the Pettit's and the Blair's - March, 1953


The second side starts with the second longest segment, labeled on the tape as "At the Epley's". This segment starts with a somewhat harder to make out conversation which I believe is about, and in response to, a slide show that everyone is watching. The tape box seems to also say "Talent Bridge" or "Jalent Bridge", so maybe they are viewing slides that tie into that writing, which I may be reading incorrectly.

This segues into some general conversation, and then there is some piano playing. Here is the segment:

Download: At the Epley's - Watching Slides, Chatting and Playing the Piano

Next up is something completely different and I'm guessing fairly rare. It's about 15 minutes of excerpts from an episode of Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" - a quick web search identified this as being from March 29, 1953. I will let you discover its contents and charms.

Download: Toast of the Town - March 29, 1953 - Excerpts

This is followed immediately by what I'm guessing is an even rarer segment (although much less interesting to me), ten minutes from "The Fred Waring Show" - according to the box, this is from April of 1953, meaning they erased some other material from March 29th, as that date pops back up at the end of the tape. Here is the Waring segment, which contains several songs - however, it's labeled as "The Palms" on the box:

Download: Short Excerpt from "The Fred Waring Show", April, 1953

As we near the end of the tape, there is this brief segment identified on the box as "The Aishton's", in May of 1953, and which the tape itself makes clear is a recording of a visit with the Arthur Aishton and his family. Much is made of the accent of a child present, which is repeatedly described as a "Chicago accent". I have lived in the immediate vicinity of Chicago my entire life, and worked in the city for the last 27 years, and have never heard anything remotely like the speech pattern identified here spoken by a native....

Download: A Visit with the Arthur Aishton Family

Finally, we have the remnants of what was originally after that Ed Sullivan recording - a nightly newscast, or at least just over seven minutes thereof. Several news stories here date this broadcast to 3/29/53, so this must have been recorded on that date, then erased with the 13 minutes of Fred Waring and the Aishton's.
Here's how the tape ends:

Download: Portion of a 3/29/53 Newscast


I hope you enjoyed this little trip through two months or so of 1953 in the life of one family, their friends, their classmates and their television set.

The very short reels and the Scotch Tape Box series will return next month. Before that, the third weekend in June marks something very special for me, so next weekend, I will be sharing a post unlike anything I've shared here before, the likes of which is unlikely to be repeated.

Oh, and here's the tape box for the reel that you just listened to:

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Jack Eigen, Volume Two, Some Short Advertising Tapes, and More Beautiful Music


Almost two years ago, I shared the first of what I expected to be many postings featuring a Chicago radio legend by the name of Jack Eigen. You can read about him (along with a few links) in that original post here.

I fully expected to hear from multiple people requesting more, given the nature and interest of those who frequent this blog, and was genuinely surprised when I received only two comments over the next couple of months, one from someone who was interested in hearing more, and one stating he'd rather not have me share any more. I left it alone.

In the last two months, though, for whatever reason, three different people have written in, requesting more, two of them sharing significant memories of the show, and one of those sharing pictures.

And so, in response to those requests, I give you a second helping of Jack Eigen. As with the other posting, I have not re-listened to this prior to posting, and probably last heard this tape all the way through 15 years or more ago. Doubtless there are excerpts from more than one episode here (the tape is over three hours long), and if you listen through, I'm sure more than one of you can fairly easily nail down a date. I do know that all of these tapes are from near the end of his reign - mid to late '60's and into 1970 or 1971. But that's it.


Download: Jack Eigen, Volume Two

Oh, and I mentioned pictures! Here are three of the pictures which were sent to me, courtesy of a long time Eigen and WMAQ fan from those days, named Allen. Here's Jack Eigen himself, in October, 1967:

Here's a slightly blurry picture of Steve Allen (left) and Tony Bennett, who were on the air with Eigen, at the time of this photo:

And finally, this is Jim Hill, who took over every night after Eigen's program. He and Allen were lifelong friends, after getting to know each other when Allen went to the station, many times, to be in the audience of Eigen's shows:


Speaking of reader/listener feedback, I've continued to receive further requests for posts of Beautiful Music Radio, and by chance, I came across one just this week.This tape is of the cleverly named KABL, which identified itself as being in San Francisco (get it? KABL), until the FCC told them they had to be upfront and honest and identify that they were licensed and were broadcasting from Oakland (and if you don't know why a station might misrepresent that fact in the bay area, well, there are plenty of websites which could explain it - and it's a very unpleasant reason, indeed, one with ramifications that persist - literally - to this day). 

Anyway, this is clearly two different, short segments. The first one has a newscast which places it firmly right after the Republican convention that year, so likely July or early August of that year (the brief mention of Lucky Lager will no doubt let you know that this comes from yet another tape in the same collection that I have delved into for the last two posts). There was then a gap in the tape (which I've eliminated) and a second segment of the same tape, with a reference at the end to Thanksgiving being on the way, so that is no doubt from November of the same year. I'm guessing that for some who wished to hear more Beautiful Music, there is too much talking and news here for your taste, but that's what I found (and honestly, it's what makes it interesting to me). 



And here's something quite a bit shorter - and it's from the first part of the KABL tape, above. These ads were likely recorded for use on KABL, as the announcer involved worked at the station, according to a few web sites I just perused. 

Here's announcer John K. Chapel, recording three ads for The Rose Exterminator Company, and one for Leisure Town in Vacaville - about 45 minutes from Oakland, by the way. This retirement community is still a going concern

These is a raw tape for the commercials - there are brief comments in between the third and fourth ads. 



And finally, as you've all been waiting for, it's another in the series of very short reels. By chance, the small reel I selected at random actually has more material on it than the ads I excerpted from a full size reel, just above. 

This is a demo reel for a commercial pitchman named Al Gates. Based on a quick web search, he seems to have a very well known guy in the radio commercial voice talent and voice over biz, although his is a common enough name that I could well have been looking at more than one Al Gates. 

This is an interesting set of commercials in that one of them contains a self-referential moment - Al Gates narrating a commercial about... Al Gates. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Honolulu Top 40 Radio, 1963, A Paper Reel, and Vintage BBC Shows

A little story first - if you're not interested, feel free to move on down to the newly shared files, below the break.

Earlier this month, I experienced a personal crisis related to this site. I don't want to overstate this, because there are true crises and tragedies happening throughout the country and world right now, but this is something that would have made me quite sad, and would have impacted this site.

All of my sound files are housed on an external hard drive, one which is not very old. At the beginning of the month, it began failing. I started copying things to a cloud site (which I should have done before) while looking for a potential solution, and while I saved my song-poem files, it died before I moved anything I'd saved for this site (as well as many other files I only had in MP3 form, on that drive).

You see, I have a backlog of stuff for this site, and every time I post, it's a mixture of stuff I've just discovered and things I've been sitting on for months or years.

Happily, my neighbor - one with whom we are on excellent terms - owns a company within which transferring data to a new drive would be right up their alley. But.... he told me right off the bat that it was 50/50 that they'd be able to do anything, depending on what was broken about the drive.

I spent a restless week worrying about this, but just got the word that everything was saved. YAY!

In the meantime, I am working from home 80% of the time, which has given me the opportunity to digitize a stack of stuff that's been sitting, waiting for me to do so. I sit at my laptop at one end of the room, and the reel machine (near) silently sends the tape into the recording software, only giving me a sign to get up and change it when the tape runs out.

So it is that I have a bunch of stuff to share with you today, anyway, all of it newly digitized, while I wait for the return of my other material, on the brand new-and-improved hard drive that I just bought.


So last time around, I was already in this "stay-at-home-and-digitize-at-the-same-time" mode, and the one item from that project which made the post was the Lucky Lager sales promotion. The next tape in that particular stacks (and oh, do I have stacks...) also had a Lucky Lager tie-in, and it is about as wonderful as it can get.

For what we have here is "Lucky Lager Dance Time", just under an hour of Top 40 radio programming from Honolulu, Hawaii, back on April 16th, 1963 (coincidentally, my mother's 40th birthday!). I'm guessing that tapes of early 1960's Top 40 radio from Hawaii are extremely rare (although I really don't know). Whether or not that's the case, this tape is wonderful.

Among all the standard hits of the day one would expect to hear from any American Top 40 station in April of 1963, there are a few tracks which seem to have been local hits, two "triple plays" for prizes, and a number one record "Sukiyaki", which wouldn't be number one nationally for another two months - it's not surprising that Hawaii would be at the forefront of this song's popularity in the US, given the large percentage of Hawaiian residents - then and now - who were/are of Japanese descent.

I also get a kick out of how many times, while talking at some length, the Deejay mentions that this is the station to listen to for less talking and more music.

The name of the station - KPOI, referencing the mainstay of the local cuisine - cracks me up, too.

Great stuff!

Download: Lucky Lager Dance Time - KPOI, 1380, Honolulu, April 16, 1963


Next up, and very simply explained, is a set of two episodes of a show from the BBC, a show which could hardly be more British - full of explanations, assistance and other helpful information, all in response to listener queries.

I don't have a specific date on this, but the other material on the tape - which I will share another time - appears to be from 1961.

Download: BBC - Can I Help You - One Episode

Download: BBC - Can I Help You - Another Episode


And speaking of two episodes of a show on one tape, here's something really old. What you're about to hear is the complete contents of a paper reel - one of those Scotch Brand reels which sports the very first design available from the Scotch company, which I shared here. That's a box that most likely was phased out by 1950. This particular one sports its original price tag of $3.50, meaning that a single reel of tape in that era cost the equivalent of between $35 and $40 dollars in today's cash.

And what did this person choose to record? Well, at some point (it would appear), he recorded a broadcast of a Boston Pops concert, as the end of the reel features a couple of minutes of that show, complete with a commercial and barely any music.

But at two points in 1953, he recorded episodes of an NBC network show - as broadcast on a Minnesota station - titled "Critic at Large", and featuring Leon Pearson and his erudite, very sedate yet often cutting commentary on any number of things one can be a critic about and for. The first segment is undated, but multiple references put it squarely in April of 1953. For the second one, the owner of the machine helpfully dates it for us. When that one is over - that's when we hear what was being erased - the Boston Pops.

As far as I know, there is nothing remotely like this on radio or TV now, although I certainly remember such things within my lifetime, mostly prior to my adulthood, though (late 1970's). It's interested to think what the response to this sort of program of criticism and comment would be today. Blank stares, mostly, I'm guessing.

So let's travel back to a certain  very different point in time, for a very different kind of broadcasting:

Download: Leon Pearson, 'Critic At Large' - Spring, 1953 (KSTP, Minneapolis)

Download: Leon Pearson, 'Critic At Large' - July 12, 1953 (KSTP, Minneapolis) (And a Bit of The Boston Pops)


And if you want a sort of aural whiplash, from the sedate BBC of the early '60's and the suave and educated criticism of NBC in the early '50's, here's my very short reel of the day, an undated (I'm guessing 1980's) hard selling 30 second ad for a grocery store in northern Arkansas.

Download: Harps, Mountain Home, Arkansas, 30 Second Ad