Archive for the History Category

A Guitarhead Is Born

Posted in History, Music with tags , , on September 10, 2011 by C54

Postcard © Chuckman's Collection Volume 10 on Blogspot


The SG in the window was hanging slightly askew. From my perspective, I could see there was something odd about this Gibson solid body. Something about the back of the guitar was a little off. It wasn’t reflecting the light from the window in the expected way. So I walked over to the guitar and asked the fellow at the counter if I could look at it. He eyeballed me for a few seconds and without a word, pulled it down and handed it over to me.

The back of that guitar still makes me smile over forty years later. It turned out, the guitar had strange reflective properties because there was a custom painting on its backside. A painting of a mushroom cloud with enough paint piled on to curtail any light reflection. It turned out, it was an SG formerly owned by a guitarist from Atomic Rooster.

And this was how I became a guitarhead. Sure I like lots of other gear. I am a recording engineer and cannot help myself. Microphones, preamps, tape recorders, instrument amps and other “stuff” appeals to my technical side. But guitar stuff is special. It speaks to me and reminds me of those times when, as a youngster, I hung with the big boys.

My neighbor across the alley from my Southwest-side Chicago house was a real renaissance man. Tommy was a chemist, photographer, lithographer, painter and played guitar and flute. Maybe 7 or 8 years older than me, Tom let me play his ’58 Fender Telecaster through his 2-12 Silvertone combo guitar amp, the same one you might see Jack White (White Stripes) play out of today, with no qualms or hesitations. After one of my many lessons, I routinely took that ’58 Tele home and practiced until my non-calloused fingers were ready to bleed. How cool is that? I’m in 7th grade hanging out with someone who drives and owns very cool guitar gear. And often drives into downtown Chicago to visit his buddy named Paul, who did custom guitar work in the back of a pawn shop on Chicago’s State Street.  A street at that time offering no glitz like the street of today’s downtown loop area which dazzles tourists, or even like a time when that “great street” was ol’ Blue Eyes’ kind of town. No, this was a rundown, shabby block, littered with pawn shops and peep show joints. And this particular pawn shop sported an incredible array of musical instruments, especially guitars.

Any guitar collector today would have a heart attack walking into that cluttered storefront. Gold top Les Pauls hung next to Flying Vees and Stratocasters. Most guitars in this shop were made in the 1950s before being pawned  for far less money than their real value. I still vividly remember the Les Paul Jr., owned by Steve Marriott, hanging on the wall waiting for Paul to overhaul it.

Paul was a guitar guru. An upper level black belt in karate that custom wound pickups and improved wiring for the axes of other professional guitar players. Guys like John Lennon and on this day, Jeff Beck. Yes, those guys. Paul called his pickup rewrapping a “screen job” as I remember it, and it must have been a beautiful sounding upgrade because if THE Jeff Beck sends his guits to Paul, Paul’s doing something special.

You have to consider that in the late sixties and early seventies, custom guitar accessorizing was not a mouse click away. Or even available mail order. No, you had to know someone. And because I knew Tommy, I now knew Paul. And that’s how I happened to find myself standing that day in 1970, in that dingy pawn shop, ogling a SG formerly owned by the guy from Atomic Rooster.

The “white top” Les Paul I was allowed to hold was apparently a BIG deal, not that I knew. I was thinking it was too heavy to ever enjoy playing. And it was not THAT SG with the mushroom cloud on it. Oh well, I wasn’t buying it and no one was feeling generous that day. But I don’t remember caring because I went to that pawn shop many times with my almost-adult buddies. And when you couple that with a room filled with guitars that I could ask to play without fear of the counter jockey thwacking my head, you had one very happy tweenager.

Nowadays that block on State Street is occupied by one building. A landmark building at that. The Harold Washington Library doesn’t leave the slightest hint or trace memory of the dwellings and buildings that once stood. Peeps shows and pawn shops replaced by a library and, on the next block north, a public space with a grass area to sit and enjoy the sculptures. Art installations– like the giant eyeball that is staring at me today as I walk along State Street reminiscing — are the new peep shows. Granted, this one exhibit stares back. State Street is probably a better place today for most folks. But if any of my fellow pedestrians are guitar enthusiasts, I bet they might disagree if they knew what stood before.

I don’t know where Tommy and Paul and Bob (the virtuoso of this “ax pack”) are today or even if they are alive. I lost track of my friend and his friends decades ago. But every once in a while, when I pick up my ’68 Telecaster to play, I think of those fellas and realize what a lucky little punk I was. I sure hope everyone’s ok. And, I hope I find that SG on eBay tonight. I may be old now, but I can still dream.

Sidebar: If the drumming sounds familiar, note that it’s Carl Palmer, who went on to play in an outfit calling themselves, Emerson Lake & Palmer.


Naked In Nature by Carpmen

Posted in band performance, Exclusives, History, Music with tags , , , on August 28, 2011 by C54

Naked In Nature recorded live in 1986 at Studio B Chicago.

Naked in nature

I come to her

my mind undressed

Recorded live in Studio B Chicago in 1986.

No real setup for sound check. Basically a plug & play situation while trying to capture the sparks as they flew. The 80s reverb was not an option. Its use mandated by the music convention of 1986. We also wore mullets and skinny ties.

If you take three, Indiana-bred, childhood friends and call them Peter Gunn (why not, they did!) and filter this through 2/3 of the post-punk trio, The Others, and finally, add another friend and flavor by incorporating the studio project that was King Of Sighs, you get the no-frills, improvised experiment that was Carpmen. Five guys show up. A notebook or five might see the light of day. Ideas, still in flux, congeal. This is the results.

I must give credit to Scotch/3M because that cassette was not too miserable to restore. No flakes either! Maybe we drove those waveforms into that ribbon with enough force to keep it all there for a long, long time. I love this project. We had fun with no strings attached. If I have a regret, it would be that I was in the control room and not in the live room. Perhaps the rest of this lot preferred it that way? Haha!! Well played, gents. Oh well, someone had to press record. KK

One day. One time. From the unknown…

Papa | Down | Pray | Naked In Nature | Mission Impossible

Mike Jones: vocals & notebook

JD Dragus: guitar no whammy & backing vocals

John Carpenter: guitar with whammy

Dan Massey: drums

Kerry Kelekovich: bass & recording engineer

Words by Mike Jones

All songs © 1986 Carpmen / © 2011 Lilypad Records All Rights Reserved

Thanks to everyone at Columbia for letting us do this without interference, especially Diego and security.

Restoration by KK at Couderay Music June 2011 for  Lilypad.

I’d like to tell you something about me

but I don’t know me half as well as you

to be released 11 November 2011

“Candy Store” by The Wildroots

Posted in band performance, Exclusives, History, Music with tags , , , on July 17, 2011 by C54

Living up to a name isn't that easy. (photo: L. D'Amico Photography)

“It Came From Jay’s Garage” is a 12-artist compilation released in 1987 on Moving Target Records and distributed by Celluloid Records NYC. Produced by Lee Popa and mixed by Jay O’Rourke. Executive producer was Dave Frey. Recorded at Jay’s Garage August – November 1987. This is the only vinyl with Wildroots music on it. Please enjoy the occasional click and pop.

The Wildroots:
JD Dragus: lead vocals & lead guitar
Tom Gerlach: vocals & guitar
Kerry Kelekovich: bass
Dan Massey: drums

“Candy Store” © 1984 Jody Conte, JD Dragus and Dan Massey.

Photographs from the archives taken by Lare D’Amico at Chicago Choice Picks / Metro Chicago and in the wilds of Lake County, Illinois.

Linda Samodral shot the “Human Music” images in downtown Chicago.

Ripped from vinyl by KK at Couderay Music.

Video © 2011 Lilypad Records All Rights Reserved

Record Store Day 2011 For The Rest Of Us

Posted in band performance, Exclusives, History, Music, Padcasts, Random Life, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2011 by C54

As an indie label, Lilypad Records never tried to sell ANYTHING for this occasion. Whatever sold, it was for sale all the other days of the year as well. And when it was clear that SOME Mom & Pops were not interested in having the brick & mortar indie community include internet operations, I was a tad disheartened. After all, there’s more vinyl here than a lot of the elitist stores glomming on to a music-centric day equal to Black Friday in a Wal-Mart. (Well, maybe more in spirit than financially?) Never mind the cassettes, dats, 45s and compact discs piled high in the archives. A private collection lent to interested parties when I’m asked. More like an indie music library, perhaps? OK.

So for the third year running, Lilypad is poised to crash the RSD’11 party with another podcasting day of music from our label’s family and friends. Please join the streaming goodness when I present a live interview and acoustic performance début on The Pad from Texas upstarts, Sayonara.

I’ll also be streaming a mix tape collection from acts such as Sarah Records’ only American artist — Aberdeen (Los Angeles), purveyors of midwestern rawk — Nomad Planets (Indiana), ambient-experimentalists — Young Jackies (Chicago), electronica newbie — Bisoux Bisoux (Beirut) and many more.

I hope you’ll join me at The Pad for another celebration of all things music with my friends that make it, with or without the blessing of Ozzy Osbourne & company…

“It’s Just The First Step” [audio] by Jonnie Warmer

Posted in History, Music with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by C54

From the album, A Month Of Tuesdays — “It’s Just The First Step” by Jonnie Warmer, my collaboration with John Carpenter (Nomad Planets). This song was part of a ten song collection recorded over a consecutive string of Tuesdays in October – November 1993 at Thunderclap Recording in Hammond, Indiana. Tape lives on…

Song © 1993 Jonnie Warmer / © 2010 Lilypad Records All Rights Reserved

JC – Vocals, acoustic guitar & added programming
KK – Electric & acoustic guitars. bass, brushes, percussion, treatments, samples & programming.

Recorded by JC & KK and mixed by KK at Thunderclap.

Pravda Records 25th Anniversary Concert

Posted in band performance, History, Music with tags , , , on January 22, 2010 by C54

Congratulations to Pravda Records for getting to a milestone few indie labels manage to achieve.

To celebrate, a concert guaranteed to rattle a few brain-cells loose is lined up TONITE at the Abbey Pub in Chicago. Everyone in the Chicago media seems to be plugging this one and we’re more than happy to oblige. Many of our friends, old & new, will share a bill (and a few other things) and rock the Abbey like it’s 1990. The Service, The Slugs and Boom Hank perform. Greg Kot’s blog included details:

Pravda Records 25th Anniversary

The Chicago indie label celebrates its first quarter-century with three of its most notable bands: the Service, the Slugs and Boom Hank. The label, which has released music by everyone from Tiny Tim to the Young Fresh Fellows, was forged during the indie-rock ‘80s as a musical outlet for the Service, DeKalb’s answer to the Replacements. A quarter-century later, it’s still going strong,

Friday at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, $10 and $12;

(A Better Late Than Never) List, Not A List: Nine For ’09

Posted in History, Music, Random Life, Real-Time, Uncategorized with tags , on January 6, 2010 by C54

Does anyone ever succeed with these Best Of endeavors? Without further delay… 2007 2008 2009


Best Album I Haven’t Listened To (Yet): Embryonic by The Flaming Lips

If Embryonic is half as difficult as the three tracks I have heard seem to suggest, 21st Century Lips fans will not be too happy. Yoshimi and Soft Bulletin are still a couple of my go-to shelters in 2009. But, At War With The Mystics sucked. Sorry. Glad to see they aren’t playing to the Kraft Foods’ music supervisor for this one. And, Wayne makes me feel like it’s OK to be an indie rock lifer, too. Although I’d never step on anyone whilst traveling in my plastic bubble.

Best Social Network: Twitter

140 characters keeps the spam short and the blowhards obvious. If I want breaking news, NOTHING beats it. Add Tweet Deck and filter everything to your preference. While MySpace marches like a Woolly Mammoth down a canyon of its own making and Facebook is a leaner, less music-driven MySpace, albeit an even more successful version, Twitter seems downright practical. And un-following someone is so easy you’ll feel free to explore way more than you do on clunkier networks. Not everyone is fronting for their crap and some tweets are genuinely witty while providing functionality.

Best Album: Yeah I know, it’s either Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion or Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest right?

Wrong! It’s Phoenix‘s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Yes it is! Why? Well, for starters, it dominated 2009 in a way Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective could only dream about. Abused by ad agencies and mainstream radio, many of these songs were flogged to death. So what? Is it bad that they succeeded in a world where there are more bands vying for your attention than ever before? Granted, it’s their fourth attempt but their morphing was the right move. And good hooks with an interesting backing is never poor form. Let’s give one to the French! And Sophia Coppola beats Michael McDonald in an industry-insider contest, with Mars’ wife being a more interesting influence than GB’s Doobie Brothers infatuation. Piss off hipster elitist, I’m right.

  • Runner up: Yo La Tengo’s Popular Songs. Ira, Georgia and James just keep on keepin’ on. I like that. And props to anyone that let me sleep on their couch, even if it was 1990.

Best Song: Stillness Is The Move by Dirty Projectors

Boy, did DP hit my prog-button. First indie band to bring a true progressive side to my ears without causing vomiting. The guitar even manages an occasional reminder of King Sunny Ade while visions of David Byrne struggling to play these riffs and sing this song at the same time dance through my head. Not for the timid but a must listen for fans of proggy pop. If only Derek Shulman had the internet to exploit instead of 70s FM radio.

Best Web Radio: [TIE] Dandelion Radio & WOXY

Dandelion Radio (UK) is a streamable loop changing monthly that has a strong Miaow supporter in Mark Whitby. OK, maybe I’m biased? But really, keeping John Peel’s passion for new music alive IS good. Very good.

WOXY (US) internet radio. Never listened to them before 2009. Glad I started. Good blend of mostly indie-rock. I’m enjoying this new listening destination. A lot.  And your feed sounds good, too. Keep it up guys.

  • Old mainstays 3WK and KCRW would round out the list but I’ve listened to them for years. (Nic Harcourt come back!) And in terrestrial radio, WNIJ 89.5FM from DeKalb (NIU radio) is a night-time fave, granting access to NPR and World Cafe goodies when I’m driving through the hills and cornfields.

Best Social Media News: Mashable

Pete Cashmore’s social media news site is almost always a fun visit while being useful and informative, too. A little tech mixed with social trends & topics provides readers with a daily dose of real-time. And their Twitter feed expands their useful posts, often being the first to report on topics I’m interested in reading about.

Best Blowhard: Steven Patrick Morrissey

When I’ve listened to Moz‘s solo work, I needed to shower it off immediately afterward. Every time. If his last three albums are really the pinnacle of his career (he said so), I’m simply stunned to discover this. Take away Johnny Marr and Stephen is a 50-year-old that never left his bedroom, whining about the injustice of a world that refuses to care about his inability to take his act to a more comfortable level. Labels aren’t calling because it’s boring to read the constant complaining. It’s NOT all about The Campaign, Mr. Morrissey. Or youth (but you were closer with that one). You drown us with your self-pity and entitlement. Precious doesn’t play well when you’re a half-century old. And that’s not ageist, I’m 52. Please, grow up or retire already.

Best New Music Business Blog: Hypebot

Lots of folks follow Bruce Houghton’s new music blog and I’m one of them. He’s a great aggregator of new music business news. He also runs Skyline which has booked bands for some time. If you like to start your day off keeping track of the majors and the indies, so does Bruce! Five or six articles usually start each weekday. Check him out.

Best Influencer: Pamplemoose

I loved the Gang Of Four. Dave Allen was the bassist when GOF was blazing a trail. Who knew he’d become one of the web’s best roadmaps? From Portland, Oregon no less, this Brit runs a music blog, strategizes new media marketing and propagates indie music from his virtual pulpit. And while his opinions do become a little self-serving at times, he backs them with the zeal of a true music fan. Isn’t that the point?

Well, that’s my Nine For ’09. Can’t find them, never heard of them or love/hate them? Please let me know how I got it wrong, right or somewhere in-between.

%d bloggers like this: