Let’s EAT!


So this is ostensibly a blog about music, but this month I am going to deviate into my other passion – eating.  Man, it is sad that as you get older your love for food seems to increase at the same rate as your metabolism sloooowwws down thus allowing your once young trim body to become misshapen and lumpy in all the wrong places.  Hey, I have always liked to eat, however as you get older you know your taste buds better and (hopefully) can afford to eat better goodies thus appreciating it more.  It is also interesting that over time your loves/hates when it comes to certain foods can actually change pretty dramatically.   As  a kid I loved tuna fish salad sandwiches, for instance, but as an adult, fish and mayo are two items I dislike intensely while gravitating toward broccoli that was inedible to the younger me – go figure.  As a baby boomer, it is interesting to see how eating out of the house has evolved from something we only did on special occasions as a kid to a weekly event as an adult (we dine out at least every Saturday; weather permitting).  I thought I would fill this month’s posting with fave restaurants both past and present (that I no doubt knocked over at least one drink on the floor some time thus embarrassing myself and all involved).   My hope is that this will inspire readers to write in with their best places to eat past or present as well.  I think the first place I ever remember eating out was when mom would take me to the Horn & Hardart when we went to visit my grandparents in Philadelphia back in the ’50s.  That was a real adventure – we would ride the trolley cars up from their row house on South 55th St. and when we got there you selected what you wanted by looking through small glass windows.  If you wanted the chicken salad sandwich for instance, you would put your token in the slot next to that window and pull out your plate of food.  Man that was super (supper?) high tech for that era.

Having grown up mostly in Broomfield, Colorado with a distinctly working or middle class outlook on food, you will not see any expensive restaurants listed.  My Dentist buddy Ed Hansford and I have discussed over the years how we frankly don’t feel very comfortable spending a hundred bucks for a meal that usually doesn’t satisfy us as much as the old Country Buffet or that third plate of Chinese noodles and egg rolls at the Great Wall Super Buffet out on South Wadsworth in Lakewood for a fifth of that price.  Definitely working class children.

My assistant Meagan bought me a fun book a few years ago called Lost Restaurants Of Denver (American Palate) by Robert + Kristen Autobee and if you are intrigued by that subject of old Denver area places to eat I would recommend reading it.

As a boy, we mostly ate out at a restaurant with my grandparents in Fort Collins (Hansen’s Cafe or Luby’s) or once a year you could pick a place to take a friend on you birthday.  My dad, however, always loved the roast beef and live piano entertainment at Furr’s Cafeteria.


We went to the Furr’s in Northglenn often as a family.  The crispy fried chicken and the rich creamy slices of pie were a personal favorite.  Picture standing in a long line to grab a tray plus a roll of tableware inside a napkin then sliding it down a tubular metal shelf.  As you went you pointed out what you wanted to have placed over the sneezeguard in front of you by the no nonsense women wielding serving spoons looking like they had just gotten off the boat from the old country in their sack dresses and hairnets.  The early part of the line was all cottage cheese, salad and jello, but as you moved along it got more savory and desirable.  A buttery roll to dip in the brown gravy, corn swimming out their nutrients and any vestiges of flavor in vast pans and finally chopped steak (hamburger from a better neighborhood) and other assorted meat products.  At last rows of overly sweet desserts beckoned which ended the food but lead to a stern cashier that tallied the damages (you paid by the item, bunky).  Dad shelled out then you would set off with your 20 pound tray in search of the perfect table away from screaming infants but near the piano.  If you were still hungry, sorry but no going back was allowed without paying more.  Then a miracle happened – after years of austerity, the corporate gods of Furr’s decided that you could get free seconds at least once – another chicken breast with an inch of golden brown sodium laden crust.  Man that was eating 1960’s style.

  The original inspiration for this post was my wife Aimee and I talking about how much we LOVED the egg rolls and chicken chow mein at the old Lotus Room Chinese restaurant that was for so many years our family’s go-to place in the VFW post at Speer Blvd. and Ninth in Denver.  There was never a family birthday that wasn’t celebrated here in the rather noisy dining room.  People attuned to the fancy woodwork and murals of modern Asian restaurants with pages of exotic dishes would no doubt walk out on the linoleum and basic American-Chinese fare at the Lotus Room, but it tasted for all the world like heaven on a plate to a procession of boomer kids and their parents.  I am always taken with how many people my age that grew up here all have the same memory of eating at the Lotus Room.   I think it would be fun to go back and see how many people I would know today sitting around me that were just kids at the time who I didn’t know then – my buddy Ed ate here with his family for instance.  As you entered, the wall behind the cash register had pictures of Channel 9 news anchors as decoration since it was just up the road.  An ancient Asian lady (later her granddaughter) was always seated at a table shelling pea pods as you were seated.  You hoped to get George the waiter as he amazed you with his memory as he forgot nothing yet wrote nothing down as you ordered.  People have asked if the food would really taste as good to us today now that we have tried so many more Asian dishes – yes, the food was great and I can still taste it in my mind.

   Volcano Asian      Spice China

It seems that today if we want good Chinese, we either go to Volcano Asian Cuisine (in a hard-to-spot strip mall a block or two east of I-25 off of Arapahoe Rd. on the south side) or Spice China if I am up near Louisville (north of Hwy 36 on McCaslin Blvd).  I have to say that Spice China has some outstanding won ton soup, but nobody has the meaty egg rolls and such of the old Lotus Room.

On rare occasions, dad would decide to get a pizza.  In today’s cheap-pizza franchises on every corner world it probably comes as a shock that in the ’60s we would have to drive from Broomfield to the Pizza Oven just west of Hwy. 36 on Baseline to get what was a rarity back then.  Dad would have never paid the fifteen cents to take the toll road (a dime to Denver I think – or maybe the opposite charges).  As a result we zigged and zagged back roads the minute the order was placed arriving just in time to pick up the finished half sausage and half Canadian bacon cheesy sauce-covered wheel.

  What a big deal it was when they opened a Shakeys Pizza across Hwy. 287 on Midway when I was at  Broomfield High School.  You had pizza within minutes of the house, banjo entertainment in old-timey stripes and a place to take a date.  Indeed the young me took Kristi Kuehn here on a triple date with friends – my first real one.  The match didn’t work out, but the pizza was tasty.  Sadly these passed away as a relic of an era when people ate pizza in a restaurant and not at home as take-out for sporting events.  When my wife and I were first married and had zero money, we decided that our entertainment would be to try out a different pizza joint in the Denver area as we could afford to do it.  We grabbed the yellow pages and worked our way through all the classics like Edgewater, Bonnie Brae, Beau-Jo’s etc.  We settled on Grande Giovanni at 6th and St. Paul in Denver as the best.  Run by John Silchia in the late ’70s, they had the tastiest sauce I have ever had on a pie and to this day my wife and I moan about the loss of this savory food when the owner closed it to get into politics.  I don’t like pizza currently, but would make an exception to eat this pie if it were available again.

Since dad didn’t care for the wide noodle pasta of most Italian places (he only liked angel hair), we never went to those sorts of places.  He did, however, love the Three Coins at 525 Main in Louisville – not for their food, but for their music.  My dad Ted was a wonderfully talented organist who played in church from the time he was a teenager till late in his life.  For that reason he sought out restaurants that had an organist.  Dick Hull and later Ray Young played the Wurlitzer organ here from 1963 till 1975 (the organ is currently owned by Colo. State University).

 They were across the street from the Blue Parrot which sadly closed in 2017 after 98 years in business.  Luckily you can still get their tasty spaghetti sauce in the grocery store and eat it at home (I buy it at Costco as it’s cheaper).

 To go to a movie as a kid, you either had to go to Denver (mostly 16th St.) or the drive-in.  When they opened the huge movie theater just north of the old Northglenn shopping center where I worked, it became THE place to take dates or see campers with trout decals on the side in the parking lot during Grizzly Adams showings.  Since closing, the building has seen new life as the cut-above all-you-can-eat Italian buffet Cinzetti’s.  The place is massive and filled with various enticing cooking stations turning out pizza, red sauce creations, yummy desserts, etc.  Heck, it’s a 40 minute drive from our house and typing this makes me think we are going there tonight.

 One of our family fave places to eat is Mama Louise Italian in Centennial at the corner of Orchard and Parker Rds.   I’m always torn between the Chicken Franchaise (very lemony) or the classic spaghetti with meatballs, but they both come with salad, soup and tasty garlic knots.  The service here might be the best of any place we go to and that is a HUGE deal to me (I get pretty annoyed  when nobody even bothers to take your order and you have been sitting for 20 minutes at a restaurant).


   In this era when every 20-something eats sushi and wields chop sticks like somebody from Osaka, folks would likely find it hard to believe that there was a time that Japanese fare was pretty darn exotic and rare.  Heck, the connotation of ‘made-in-Japan’ was cheap and cheesy – not the high quality associated with that label today.  When we were dating in 1977, my wife-to-be introduced me to a place on the east side of Lincoln at 930 called Fuji-en.  While I still think John Wayne would not have used chop sticks (so I stick to a fork), I perked up to the joys of sukiyaki, tempura and chicken teriyaki pretty quickly – no raw fish, however.  Aimee recalls Fuji-en as having light non-greasy tempura.  When the batter hit the hot oil it would seemingly explode leaving arty brown tasty tendrils attached to the food (like snow flakes – no two look alike) that you dipped into a wonderful sauce.  If any cuisine is associated with an arty presentation, it is Japanese (though it isn’t cheap).  For years we ate at the Samurai which was hidden away back in the corner of a small strip center at Arapahoe and Dayton.  When they closed a few years back we were cast adrift to futilely try many spots (and there are way too many of these places) till locating Okinawa Sushi in a Safeway center on Yosemite and Lincoln in Lone Tree.  It’s a small utilitarian spot that turns out fantastic food if you can get a table.  If we are up north the only place to get great Japanese is just north of I-70 at Wadsworth in the same center as Sam’s Club – Namikos.  Outstanding food.

 When my wife and I were younger and needed a special occasion meal it seemed that we would go with my family to the southern outskirts of Denver to a Japanese steakhouse that had hibachi tables, clacking wooden shakers and clanging spatulas called Gasho.  It had a wonderful outdoor garden (my dad was a landscaper on the side and loved it doing a Japanese theme for the old health center building in Broomfield when he did their garden) and a unique look.  After you made that LONG drive south of Denver to what is now the Tech Center, you turned east on Belleview and then left.  Today that property is way too valuable for something so quaint plus it seems that all the Japanese steakhouses have lost their vitality.

    My old tennis playing buddy Chuck Davis turned me on to Vietnamese food – he’s gone now, but (if he can see this somehow) thanks Chuck.  When we reconnected as young Dentists, he and Marsha took my wife and I to a totally hidden non-descript place on Broadway a bit north of Arapahoe called the Vietnam Inn.  Wow, have I been hooked ever since.  Sort of an amalgam of the best of Chinese and Japanese styles, it has flavors all it’s own due to the French influence.  We became addicts of the tasty delights that are cha gio rau song – egg rolls you wrap in a lettuce leaf with various other goodies (rice noodles, sprouts, mint, etc.) and dip in the most disgusting smelling (but great tasting) sauce you have ever had – and don’t ask how the sauce is made as you won’t ever eat it again.  You could have stopped there, but they had so many other great tasting dishes – and all different.  We were just today lamenting that we will likely never again find the beef and fried potato dish they used to have (Bo Khoai Tay- sp?) since we have never found it on any menu since they closed.  The best Vietnamese place we have found of late is Kim Ba which is tucked away in the Pacific Ocean Marketplace on E. Mississippi out in Aurora.  We always have to find several people to go with us as they have so many dishes that we like, we can’t NOT get one of them (mi xao don, ga ngu vi huong, thit heo xao bau hoa lan, etc.).


When Chuck Davis and I were in college up at CU, we became addicts to the chili rellenos on Walnut in Boulder at Ticos (if we could afford them).  The non-traditional crispy egg roll skin fried version of the chili relleno is just about the only way that I will eat cheese, not being a fan of sour dairy products.   When they closed and I moved on in life, I totally forgot about them till we found out that Piccolo Italian/Mexican Restaurant had those old Ticos goodies on their menu.  When I was in Dental school, it seemed like just about every weekend Chuck and I would go toss around a football in a lighted field on Evans near DU then go a bit west and across the street and nosh on the great food at Piccolo’s.  They always have brought out a basket of taco chips with salsa and rolls (I will not go to a place that charges for taco chips – put it in the meal cost!) so we loaded up on several baskets of those before having the combo plate with 2 chili rellenos plus a beef taco with rice and beans.  After that, it was on to the sonitas with honey for dessert.  Man could we eat back in the ’70s.  I got my mom and dad hooked on their food right away and when I got married it wasn’t a long stretch to take Aimee here – only she really doesn’t like Mexican food.  Well, that is the joy of this place as they have excellent Italian food as well so she gets the linguine with clam sauce plus a salad with no garbanzo beans and everybody’s happy.  Then when we moved south of Denver, we found a location of Piccolo on University and Dry Creek – till it closed along with the one on Evans (they also once had a location in Arvada).  Luckily the flagship restaurant run by all-around great guy Vince Canino just east of I-25 on Hampden and Monaco in a King Soopers shopping center is still going strong.  It has been our #1 family restaurant ever since save a short period after my dad died when we had a horrible experience with a waiter (amazing how a bad waitperson can make you forget what you like about a place).  Thank heavens for Mike Shearrer who has been a good friend and waiter for so many years there – when he leaves it will be a sad day.  With so many restaurants not even lasting a year, it is so comforting to still have someone serving food we love over four decades after we found it (PLEASE don’t get old and close it, Vince!).

This leaves out the Old Heidelberg up in Golden where I took my wife on our first date, the 94th Aero Squadron where one could sit at old Stapleton and watch the planes take off while eating a steak, the Denver Drumstick and later the Wishbone for fried chicken, the Golden Ox where Art Wiener would show us his ‘pride & joy’ then serve an outstanding piece of beef on Colfax, the White Fence Farm for family enjoyment, Baby Doe’s Matchless Mine just off of I-25 on 23rd, the Appletree Shanty, the China Palace in Fort Collins (on College – mom made the tablecloths for that place for owner Amy), Casa Bonita (?!) – on and on.  Till later, good eatin’ folks.


Covered In (Chuck) Berrys

We lost some pretty significant rock and rollers in 2017.  How can we lose Tom Petty so soon – what a tragedy (plus he was only a couple of years older than me – yikes)?!  Luckily I got to meet him backstage at Fiddler’s Green and talk a bit back in the day – a good guy.  Fats Domino was a gentleman I regret I never saw in concert and really deserves to get more respect as a father of rock and roll music.  Just go back and listen to his first hit “The Fat Man” and realize it was recorded in December 1949!!!  Oh, and I was sorry to see Pat DiNizio the lead singer of the Smithereens passed at only 62 years old.  Having seen that band at the Soiled Dove Underground back in June, it was a shock what bad shape Pat’s nerve damage had left him in though he still put on a fine show without being able to use his arms.  “Top Of The Pops” is an example of some of the great music that his band created – he will be missed.  We also lost one of the greatest early rock and rollers in Chuck Berry who actually came out with a credible posthumous album in 2017 (Chuck) at age 90 – showing age doesn’t mean you can’t still rock.

If it wasn’t for Chuck Berry I honestly don’t know what all us wannabe rockers of the ’60s and ’70s would have warmed up to.  His songs have become such standards that you forget they haven’t always existed – someone actually wrote them once.  My drumming buddy Dan Campbell and I would always start off jamming to some old Berry tune like “Johnny B Goode” which makes me wonder what today’s kids in bands warm up with (if they still even play guitars and drums – but that’s another topic).  Reading about his life unfortunately proves that you don’t have to be a good person to be a good music star – he was in jail three different times and barely escaped a fourth trip later in life for some rather unsavory allegations.  Admittedly this was an era, however, where being a black man mixing with whites was seen as reason enough to be put in jail.  He may well have had a reason to be angry at the world, but he seemed to be pretty hard to work with it you hear the stories told by musicians like Keith Richards who idolized him.  His recording career started late for your usual rocker as he was nearly 29 when he had his first hit in “Maybellene” back in 1955 but he made up for lost time quickly and became a rarity for early rock in writing his own hits while playing the classic guitar licks that made the music move.  His songs always had two things going for them – the riff and the story.  It always seemed that if his songs were about love, that love was usually a car and it was generally a Cadillac.

I was a kid who discovered rock and roll during the ’60s British Invasion which meant early American rock fed back to us from across the Atlantic, it seemed fitting to do tribute via a list of my favorite Chuck Berry covers.  Note that Dave Edmunds’ “Run Run Rudolph” would have come in at #1 if I included Berry songs he didn’t write but merely performed, but since it was written by Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie I chose to omit it.

1.No Money Down – Dave Edmunds

I am shocked that this track doesn’t exist on youtube or else I would supply a link.  This was a live performance that ended side one of Dave’s second solo album Subtle as a Flying Mallet (1975).  He was backed here by the band Brinsley Schwarz who featured bass player Nick Lowe who would later partner with Edmunds on some of their best music under their own names and as Rockpile.  The song was originally released in 1956 and is classic Berry in that it tells a story about a dude who trades from a beat up Ford to a Cadillac with no money down.

2.Rock & Roll Music – The Beatles

Once again there is no link to the studio version due to the legal power of the Fabs so go out and buy the record if you don’t already have it.  John Lennon’s vocal is one of his best owing to his having performed this stompin’ rocker hundreds of times in sweaty clubs.  The song appears on my fave Fabs U.S. LP Beatles ’65.  Berry’s original went to #8 in 1957 and was an ode to how much he loved the music.

3. School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell) – Gary Glitter

For someone already 30, Chuck managed to sum up what the kids were feeling at the time – surviving the day in class so they could go out and rock and roll with their friends.  His version titled simply “School Day” hit #5 in 1957.  Americans mostly know Gary Glitter from the ‘HEY’ song that many football teams have played after scoring a touchdown (“Rock & Roll, Part 2”). His debut 1972 album (Glitter) that featured that song also had this great Berry cover.  Glitter’s legal problems with pedophilia gives this a bit of an unsavory aspect, but there is no denying that producer Mike Leander’s rockin’ music is the real deal.

4.Reelin’ & Rockin’ – The Dave Clark Five

It wasn’t the Beatles, but rather the DC5 that won me over to the joys of rock and roll music back in 1965.  The pounding drums, the booming bass, the wailing sax and Mike Smith (who had the greatest rock voice of all the Brit invaders) turned this into a stompin’ #23 US hit in ’65.  Berry’s original was recorded in December 1957 and was the b-side to “Sweet Little Sixteen”.  A live version became his last chart single at #27 in 1972 four months after his surprise #1 with “My Ding-A-Ling”.  The song was about the unabashed joy of hour after hour of rockin’.

5.Carol – The Rolling Stones

Keith Richard is an unabashed Berry-phile even going so far as to organize a 60th birthday all-star concert in 1986 that was the centerpiece of the excellent ’87 movie Hail! Hail! Rock & Roll.  The first Rolling Stones album was known as England’s Newest Hit Makers and it finds a Stones group very different from the confident Glimmer Twins led outfit of just a few years later.  This band played mostly straight oldies and R&B covers.  I always say handclaps can make a good song great and the proof is here.  Berry’s single version went to #18 in 1958 and had a guy begging a girl named Carol to give him a chance to prove he could learn to dance.  Strong stuff, kids.

6.You Can’t Catch Me – Love Sculpture

Dave Edmunds first came to prominence in England with this trio playing a mix of blues, oldies and electrified classical music.  This crazed cover comes from their second album Forms & Feelings (1970) leading off side two.  While Chuck’s original single didn’t chart in 1956, it was recorded at the same session as “Maybellene” and “Wee Wee Hours” which are both name-checked in the lyrics.  The songs content is about cruising out on the New Jersey Turnpike and was used in the 1956 movie Rock, Rock, Rock with Berry lip-syncing to it.  It was John Lennon referencing the line “here come a flat-top, he was groovin’ up with me” in “Come Together” that got him into legal hot-water which is a pity as he was simply paying tribute to the man who wrote so many songs he loved.

7.Johnny B Goode – The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys first #1 album came in 1964 and was recorded live at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, California.  The final song on that album was a ripping version of what may be the quintessential Chuck Berry song (and shows those So-Cal guys could really play).  Chuck’s single hit #8 on the charts in 1958 and may be one of the most ubiquitous songs every young band tried to play back in the day.  Berry pretty much took the intro from an old R&B song by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five – “Aint That Just Like A Woman”.  The lyrics are about a young man from Louisiana who plays a mean guitar and dreams of seeing his name in lights as a star.  Johnny Winter did a pretty hot version as well on his 1970 live album.

8.Maybellene – Foghat

After the great Savoy Brown album Looking In, three of the members went off and formed Foghat which became a big success known primarily for their boogie stylings.  This version of Chuck Berry’s first hit rocks like a mother and comes from the ‘hat’s debut in 1972 (produced by Dave Edmunds).  The original was a #5 hit in 1955 and helped establish rock and roll as the music of the  youth of the era.  Berry adapted an old Western swing tune “Ida Red” and made it into a song about romance and cars – universal themes for the kids.  Recorded May 21, 1955 for Chess records in Chicago, the lineup was Chuck Berry – vocals, guitar, Johnnie Johnson – piano, Willie Dixon – bass, Jerome Green – maracas and Ebby Hardy – drums.

9.Sweet Little Sixteen – Ten Years After

Following their star turn in the movie about the Woodstock Festival, Ten Years After (and especially guitarist Alvin Lee) took the leap from cult status to stardom.  Their 1970 album Watt was an okay studio affair, but it was the final track recorded live at the Isle Of Wight Festival that leapt out of the speakers.  Lee tears through an amped up version of an oldie that really tore the place up.  The song was Berry’s a second biggest chart record climbing to #2 in 1958 and tells the story of a teenager obsessed with collecting autographs of her fave stars.

10.Come On – The Rolling Stones

Released June 7, 1963 in the UK, this was the first single by a new Decca Records band who were named after a Muddy Waters song.  The Stones’ version made it to #21 in the UK but never hit in the US.  The original recording by Berry in 1961 about how everything has gone to heck after losing his girl never charted in the US either as frankly music had changed from rock and roll to the greasy Frankies and Bobbys.

11.Dear Dad – Dave Edmunds

From my fave Edmunds LP D.E. 7  (1982) comes this spiffy rocker about a young man who wants to trade in his barely adequate Ford automobile and needs permission from daddy (who happens to be a Ford by birth).  Berry had a short resurgence after getting out of jail for the second time and this single came out at the tail end of that period – 1965.  The nearly 40-year-old Berry barely scraped the charts at #95 in the face of the British Invasion and folk-rock so kudos to Dave for digging up this lesser known gem.

12.Roll Over Beethoven – The Electric Light Orchestra

Jeff Lynne is no slouch when it comes to rock and roll with his group ELO’s music known by everybody of a certain age with over half of their 50 singles charting in the US (in the ’70s and ’80s mainly).  Roy Wood of the Move had the original idea to create a band akin to the “I Am The Walrus” Beatles with cellos alongside guitars.  When he brought Jeff Lynne on board they put out the first ELO album before Wood left to form Wizzard.  Edited from a lengthy rockin’ workout, this was their first chart single in the US (# 42 in 1973).  When Berry released the single in 1956 it went to # 29.  It is said that he wrote the lyrics as a swipe at his sister Lucy’s training classical music.

13.Bye Bye Johnny – Status Quo

Forever relegated to essentially one hit wonder status in the US (1968 – “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”), in the UK they have had more hits than any other rock band (something like 69).  Their style is no-nonsense boogie rock and roll and this cover of Berry’s non-charting 1960 single is classic Quo.  It comes as the last track on their eighth album On The Level (1975).  The lyrics update the saga of Johnny B Goode with him leaving Louisiana to head out west to stardom while making his mom sad.

14.Nadine – Juicy Lucy

This was an album track from the band’s self-titled 1969 debut which had more success in the UK than over here.  When Chuck came out of jail in 1963 his first release was “Nadine (Is That You)” in February of the following year.  Surprisingly it managed to chart at #23 in the face of maelstrom that was the initial frenzy of the British Invasion sweeping the US.  The lyrics are pretty clever in covering the saga of a man trying to catch his girl on foot and in a taxi.

15.30 Days – Shakin’ Stevens & The Sunsets

Talk about a huge star in the UK that nobody much knows in the US, Shaky tried for elusive stardom till he was 32 when his career suddenly skyrocketed tallying 33 top 40 singles over there in the process.  This cover of Chuck Berry’s “30 Days  (To Come Back Home)” via Ronnie Hawkins’ rework as “40 Days” was from his first album (the wishfully titled A Legend).  That this was produced by Mr. Dave Edmunds is no coincidence as it was straight out classic rock and roll – a style that Edmunds excels at.  Back in 1970, however, it was ten years before it’s time and the LP flopped.  Frankly the same could be said for Berry’s original single as inexplicably it too failed to chart coming as his followup single not long after the success of “Maybellene” which it sounds a lot like.  The lyrics talk about getting his woman back home in thirty days.

16.Memphis – Lonnie Mack

Johnny Rivers would take his vocal version to #2 the following year, but I prefer this instrumental attack on what was a fairly low-key Berry original.  Guitarist Lonnie McIntosh was born in Indiana to sharecroppers and dropped out of school at age thirteen.  He became a working musician scrambling for what he could get before landing as a session guitarist for Fraternity records.  His amped up instro went to #5 in 1963.  Berry’s song was released in 1959 as “Memphis, Tennessee” with no chart action (it did hit in 1963 in the UK at #6) and told the tale of a man trying to talk to his little girl Marie who he is no longer able to see due to a split with her mom.  Pretty adult stuff for the era.

17.Sweet Little Rock ‘N’ Roller – Rod Stewart

Berry tells the story of how rock and roll music has overtaken the little nine-year old daughter of a well-respected man becoming the only thing in life she cares about.  The single only managed a peak of #47 in late 1958.  It was the only real bright spot on Stewart’s 1974 album Smiler – his last for Mercury records.  It was straight ahead three chord rock and roll which Rod excelled at before he decided he was sexy, etc.

18.Tulane – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Straight ahead three chord rock and roll sounded mighty attractive coming out of this pint-sized leather demon (who was just as nice as could be to my friend G Brown and I backstage at Red Rocks years ago).  This was an album track from her sixth studio album after leaving the Runaways – Up Your Alley (1988).  The original non-charting 45 came from the Berry LP Back Home that referred to the fact that he was back on Chess records in 1970 after years on Mercury.  The subject matter was definitely a sign of the times as it seems to refer to Tulane and Johnny getting busted at their novelty shop for selling narcotics.

19.Talkin’ About You – The Redcaps

A totally unknown rarity in the US, this was a flat out stomper of a song and probably too raw for the British Invasion.  Singer Dave Walker later found success with the Street Corner Talkin’ era Savoy Brown while the guitarist on the track managed to do pretty well for himself too – Jimmy Page.  Berry was in some pretty tough legal straits when he released  “I’m Talking About You” as the b-side to his early 1961 single “Little Star” which didn’t even tickle the US charts.  The song is all about a girl he thinks is fine.

20.Promised Land – Elvis Presley

Quite a driving rock and roll song for the latter day Elvis, this single hit #14 late in 1974 and was for me the highlight of his ’70s career.  “Burning Love” from ’72 was good, but this track recalled classic rockin’ Elvis.  Chuck’s single in 1964 charted at #41 coming after his stint in jail for violating the Mann Act.  It was pretty much a rewrite of the old country classic “Wabash Cannonball” by Roy Acuff.  In his 1987 autobiography, Berry relates how he borrowed an atlas while in jail to write the lyrics about a young man traveling from Norfolk, VA to the promised land of Los Angeles.

Doc Krieger’s  2017 Top 20 Albums & Orphan Songs

Doc Krieger’s  2017 Top 20 Albums

Yearly disclaimer:  As a 60+ year old white male, I tend to like 60s type pop/rock music, 70s progressive and guitar blues/rock which isn’t the hot trend anymore – but there is still some good stuff out there if you look for it.  Most of these albums & songs can be found on youtube so I will try to supply a link if possible – so here goes (my top track is underlined unless it is the title track):

1.Alan Doyle – A Week At The Warehouse – well I guess it says something when my favorite album of the year is a Canadian import.  Doyle was in the fine band Great Big Sea who for many years did rocked up versions of sea shanties and Newfoundland folk songs.  Doyle still has a devoted following in the Celtic community as a solo artist (and author) doing energetic Americana music and ballads.  The fiddle and accordion intermix on “Come Out With Me” and “Summer Summer Night” is energetic fun. The stately “Fall” and the country rock of “Ready To Go” are also of note.

2.Liam Gallagher – As You Were – the Oasis lead singer’s first solo album sounds much the same as that group plus his last band Beady Eye – Lennonish vocals on guitar based mid-tempo rock (“Wall Of Glass”) or strummed acoustic ballads that tend to build to the finish (“Bold”).  Actually a much gentler album than you would expect and shows that he doesn’t need brother Noel to write a good song.

3.Lonely Robot – The Big Dream – this is the second album by the side project of prog guitarist John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena).  The title track is a classically bombastic prog rock instrumental.  “Awakenings” and many of the other tracks feel like Fish era Marillion.

4.Dan Baird & Homemade Sin – Rollercoaster – in an odd bit of marketing, Baird in just a short period of time put out this cool rock and roll album plus another fine solo album (both imports only).  The band includes his former drummer in the Georgia Satellites (Mauro Magellan) with the music sounding a bit similar to that band.  Baird’s voice sounds like it could open tincans  while the guitar is straight chunk-a chunk-a monkey beat classic rock and roll.  “Shake It Till It’s Sore” could be Tom Petty while “Roll On Chattahoochee” is a John Fogerty clone.  “Love Gone Wrong” 

5.J D McPherson – Undivided Heart & Soul – if his third album was an Elvis song it would be more “Good Luck Charm” than “Hound Dog” – good rock and roll but more tuneful than straight oldies rock.  Frankly the best way to enjoy him is live.  Bassist Jimmy Sutton is rock royalty adding a tough bottom to growlers like “Lucky Penny” and “Crying’s Just A Thing That You Do”.  On these sorts of albums I usually skip the ballads, but these guys always throw in a great slow song and “Hunting For Sugar” could be a Flamingos doowop – goosebump beautiful.  “Let’s Get Out Of Here While We’re Young” almost has a Paul Revere & the Raiders garagy feel with cheesy organ and a great riff.

6.Blackfield – V – Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson continue to put out fine progressive music that can be catchy and accessible while still being prog in feel.  Alan Parsons produced three songs on the record which lends some old-school cred.  The gauzy “Family Man” and especially “Lately” are favorites.

7.Nick Heyward – Woodland Echoes – pastoral pop that spans the gentle “Love Is The Key By The Sea” to the more guitar-driven and very catchy “Baby Blue Sky”.  This import has a southern downhome feeling song in “Mountaintop” and a rocker like “Perfect Sunday Sun” but is mostly more gently pop.

8.Kim Wilson – Blues & Boogie Vol. 1 – well this is more like what we want from Fabulous Thunderbirds harmonica player and singer Wilson.  His band’s last few albums have not been up to their legacy of hot jumpin’ blues and boogie, but this fine monaural solo record gets back to his roots.  “Searched All Over” is great Elmore James and “Ninety Nine” is a tail-shakin’ groove.  Fine instros too like “Bonus Boogie”.

9.Strawbs – The Ferryman’s Curse – it is amazing that something like 50 years into their career, Strawbs can still put out an album as good at this.  The packaging is great and while Dave Cousins’ voice has always been an acquired taste, it fits their version of prog rock well.  Newcomer Dave Bainbridge on keyboards wields a mighty mellotron which is always a fave of mine.  “When The Spirit Moves” is suitably bombastic while “We Have The Power” is a classic Strawbs tune that sounds like a great encore.

10.The Biters – The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be – this seems like a futile effort – trying to make great stoopid guitar rock and roll when the charts are nothing but hip-hop.  These guys channel 70s rock icons like T Rex (“Stone Cold Love”) and Sweet (“Let It Roll”).  My fave is the ACDC similar Vulture City”.

11.Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song – this is way poppier and more understated than his usual material in the Black Keys but I guess that is what a solo album is supposed to be – different.  It’s fun to see Duane Eddy playing guitar on songs like the title track while “Malibu Man” would be an Al Green soul work-out.  Mark Knopfler lends his guitar to the instantly familiar “Shine On Me”.

12.Dirty Thrills – Heavy Living – these guys are clones for the Rival Sons who have brought back Led Zep/Free heavy 70s rock.  There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the riffage of “The Brave” or “Law Man”.

13.Ayreon – The Source – talk about a classy package – hard cover like a book, great graphics in the booklet plus 2 CDs and a DVD.  That has been the norm for Arjen Lucassen’s long-running prog-metal project Ayreon which is up to album nine of sci-fi bombast.  Dutchman Lucassen plays great shredding guitar which can be a bit too heavy for me at times, but generally fits the albums well.  Each project features a bevy of well-known instrumentalists (i.e. Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big and Mark Kelly of Marillion) and singers (i.e. Floor Jansen of Nightwish and James LaBrie from Dream Theater).   The story of the Alphans and their journey to the waterplanet “Y” is the excuse for almost operatic guitar rock.  The story is basically in four long songs broken up into many tracks that run together.  “All That Was”.

14.Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie – a Fleetwood Mac album without Stevie Nicks (alright by me since I can’t stand her) so you know going in what it will sound like.  Buckingham’s quirky almost muted sound undercuts what would have been a great album with better production. They certainly still can write pop hooks, however.  “In My World”, “Feel About You”

15.Big Big Train – Grimspound – this quick follow-up to the excellent Folklore is tasteful progressive rock that is less electrical bombast than many groups of their ilk.  “Brave Captain” is 12 ½ minutes of classic prog while the 15 ½ minute “A Mead Hall In Winter” has an early Yes feel (if not vocally).  Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention) guests on “The Ivy Gate”.  “Meadowland” has an early acoustic Genesis feel.

16.Steven Wilson – To The Bone – not as good as his Blackfield project this year, but still a good progressive feel album.  He claims this is his attempt to sound more like the pop bands he liked such as ELO.  Well maybe “Permanating” and “Nowhere Now” are catchy but by no means pop.  It is perverse that by far the best song on the album (“A Door Marked Summer”) is only available on the horribly pricy boxset version along with several other more progressive tracks and demos.

17.Brother Firetribe – Sunbound – a Finnish band with a vocalist that sounds like Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) fronting a band that could be Survivor from the 80s.  “Give Tonight” is a hit if it’s the 80s.

18.New Politics – Lost In Translation – the 4th album of catchy  modern sounding music by this Dutch band.  Rivers Cuomo is featured on “Tell Your Dad” while “Lifeboat” has the thumpy dance sound the kids seem to like (“One Of Us” also catchy).  I prefer the keyboard pop of “Clouds”.

19.Dave Kerzner – Static – his last album New World deluxe edition was my fave album two years ago so this is a bit of a letdown but still decent Pink Floydian progressive rock.  I hope his band with Phil Collins’ son (Sound Of Contact) will release more music eventually but in the meantime this is pretty good.  The title track and “Chain Reaction” have all the usual prog moves. Steve Hackett guests on “Dirty Soap Box”.

20.5 Billion In Diamonds – a UK super-collective from Butch Vig (Garbage).  Ebbott Lundberg of Soundtrack Of Our Lives and David Schelzel of Ocean Blue sing.  “I’m Becoming You” is fine neo-psych.

Doc Krieger’s Best Orphan Songs 2017 – these are downloads, singles, EPs, isolated top tracks on LPs.

1.The Mavericks – Brand New Day – the album of the same title is decent if standard Mavericks Cubano/

Country music featuring the outstanding voice of Raul Malo, however this song (from the minute I played the CD) simply leapt out of the speakers.  The sound is very different for them with a 60s Phil Spector wall-of-sound production that demands you turn up the volume (weird video, though).

2.Train – You Better Believe – well I didn’t like their 10th album A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat much as it sounded like they were trying to have a modern hit so it was a real surprise to get to a wonderfully introspective ballad at the end.  The song is a piano song about the relationship of a father and a son.

3,Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Holy Mountain – ex-Oasis songwriter/guitarist Noel’s new album (Who Built The Moon?) is a bit of a sludgy mess with awful production.  On this seeming homage to pounding early 70s glitter rock it works however.

4.Chris Hillman – Here She Comes Again – former Byrd bassman Hillman revisits a lot of music from the old days on Bidin’ My Time.  Frankly, the new versions don’t hold a candle to the originals (do we need “Walk Right Back” when the Everly Brothers own the song?).  This previously unrecorded 70s Hillman and Roger McGuinn song  is so much better than the rest it makes you wish for more in that vein.  These ex-Byrds  get some help from Tom Petty and Herb Petersen (from Hillman’s Desert Rose Band).

5.Dan Baird –  Naughty Marie – as mentioned earlier, ex-Georgia Satellite Baird put out a band album plus this album titled SoLow.  It is a pretty decent album but not as good as the full band record.  This track was by far the best and is once again buttshakin’ monkey beat rock and roll with a fine riff.

6.The New Pornographers – High Ticket AttractionsWhiteout Conditions is decent if not up the their last album.  Good catchy guitar pop/rock that has a nice male/female vocal back and forth.

7.Cheap Trick – Blackberry Way – I think they should have waited a bit since this feels like a rush job LP (We’re All Alright!) after last year’s excellent Bang, Boom, Crazy…Hello.  This Roy Wood (The Move) composition is only on the deluxe version and is so much better than the rest of the record it makes you wish they would do a whole album of some of their favorite obscure oldies tracks.

8.Big Big Train – Haymaking – their third album in something like a year and a half (The Second Brightest Star) has some fine moments but violinist Rachel Hall’s instrumental contribution is by far the best thing on the record.

9.Fastball – Behind The Sun – Austin trio Fastball have never reached the commercial heights of “The Way” now six albums into their career, but they continue to make tuneful guitar based pop.  Their new album Step Into Light isn’t bad but this fingerpicked gentle McCartney-esque ballad is what grabbed me.

10.Los Straitjackets – Shake & PopWhat’s So Funny About Peace Love & Los Straitjackets isn’t one of their best, but you can always count on them to come up with at least one excellent Ventures-like guitar rocker.  This CD is a tribute to the music of Nick Lowe which isn’t bad, but it could be way better.

11.Greg Kihn Band – The Life I Got – this doesn’t sound very different than his early 80s new wave hits – catchy guitar rock and roll.  He continues to use his name in his album titles as well (ReKihndled).

12.The Church – Another Century – the Church are a long-running Aussie band that occupies the territory between prog and psych on this track from Man Woman Life Death Infinity.

13.Fairport Convention – Summer By The Cherwell – their 50:50@50 album is a mix of live and studio tracks celebrating their 50th year of creating fine British traditional music.  This song is a stately amble.

14.Humming House – Make It Through – they are a Nashville band that started as a folky string band.  This song from Companion recognizes the need to persevere. They sound like the Decemberists at times.

15.Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – The Punishment Of Luxury – this is the title track to their newest album which is a tribute to the sound of the  “Autobahn” synth pioneer band Kraftwerk.

16.Operus – La Catedral – a black metal band with a cello player from Toronto.  The prog metal riffage is decent though the theatrical singer can be annoying – probably why I prefer this nylon guitar instro.

17.Scarborough – Right About You –  weirdly, MSNBC host (Morning Joe) and political muckraker Joe Scarborough (who looks totally GQ) actually has some talent doing 80s sounding rock.  Apparently his plan is to put out an EP of new music each month for four years. This is from Freaks Love Freaks.

18.Walk The Moon – One Foot – well it’s not “Shut Up And Dance” but it grows on you (though I can do without the singer’s hairstyle in the video).

19.The Dark Element ft. Anette Alzon & Jani Liimatainen – Someone You Used To Know – a former Swedish Nightwish singer joins with a former Finnish Sonata Arctica guitarist to make an album of bombastic prog metal.  The music almost feels like ABBA fronting a metal band which is decent but I prefer this ballad to anything else on the record.

20.The Woggles – Luminol Test – Little Steven has done a great job of trying to keep garagy 60s music alive with his Sirius XM show and his Wicked Cool record label.  The album Tally Ho! came out on his label this year and features the usual cheesy organ and Kinks sneer.  This song stands out from the rest.

Best Reissue Album (Music)

The Yardbirds – Yardbirds ’68 – the Jimmy Page era of the Yardbirds tends to get forgotten when compared to the hits of the Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck years.  This fine (if overpriced) two CD set has one disc of unreleased tracks (“Avron Knows”) and another that finally presents their March 30, 1968 Anderson Theatre (NY) in excellent sound.  I bought the first version of this record in 1971 and was horrified to hear all the awful overdubbing of crowd noise Epic did to ruin a pretty fair live concert (Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page).  That record went out of print quickly due to a lawsuit so this is a welcome reissue.  Without the overdubs you can hear a band that very clearly was heading to the Led Zeppelin sound (“Dazed & Confused”) while still offering slashing versions of older songs (“Heart Full Of Soul”).

Best Reissue Album (Packaging)

The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Boxset – musically I will always go back to the original even if the sound isn’t as good as on the remix here.  The packaging is outstanding with six discs and a hardcover book worth the price of the set.  Here’s hoping we see more of these Beatles sets.


Sappy Christmas Movies – Top 20

This month’s blog was going to be a musical tribute to all the great fallen rockers this year, but after much debate your blogger decided it was time to come clean on a secret that is hard to admit to.  I must come out of the closet and admit that I love sappy Hallmark-type Christmas movies.  Oh, I hate Christmas, make no mistake of that.  Oh make no mistake, however, the spirit of this time of year plus the chance to visit with friends and family (or at least most of the family except you-know-who – probably me) is joyous and wonderful.  What I despise is the need to spend mounds of cash buying overpriced worthless junk for everyone you know in the name of holiday giving – ugh. Call me Mr. Scrooge.  Being generally frugal, this just tears my guts out – especially when January 16th rolls around and the credit card bill shows up (happy happy, joy joy).  In trying to analyze why I love cloying Christmas cinema (made for TV) I suspect it’s because at the end of the each show is that happily-ever-after moment.  The route to that throat-catching eye-wetting moment is almost always pretty predictable and often the stories are interchangeable, but the payoff is the knowing that everything in the hero and heroine’s lives will be perfect in the end.  We know that our lives have no chance of getting to that level, of course.  I mean, it’s amazing how much money most of the characters seem to have and how good looking they all are (the cuteness of the characters however is a factor in whether I like the show – especially the female lead, let’s be honest).  Frankly I do tend to like the shows where the people at least look somewhat normal and don’t have 6 figure incomes more than the movies about royalty or slumming celebs.  Oh, and right off the bat I won’t watch any show starring Candace Cameron Bure, a Barbie Doll of a lady who doesn’t look or act like anyone you have ever met in real life.  By the way, having an old recognizable star in a supporting role always helps even if you can’t place their name or what show they used to be on.  When you watch these movies, you are struck by how many beautiful/handsome single parents there apparently are in the world who have had some sort of Christmas catastrophe that has ruined their holiday spirit and only need to meet the right person to fulfill their lives with a little help from an angel/magic spirit/man in a red suit.

The following list of my fave 20 sappy Christmas movies doesn’t include any of the real cinematic holiday gems such as my favorites It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th St (that cane hanging on the doorknob in the end always chokes me up).  I will try to include a link if one exists but I apologize for any technical issues (note that due to copyrights many are either not available or altered in some way plus may be removed at any time).  WARNING – get your hankies ready and I apologize if I give away the plot too much but frankly you know how they are going to end, now don’t you?

1.The Christmas Card – 2016

Any made-for-TV show with Ed Asner and Lois Nettleton as the parents has a leg-up on the competition.  The main characters are believable human beings – Alice Evans as a woman whose parents own a logging operation and John Newton as a soldier trying to find her based on a card she sent thanking the troops for their service at Christmastime.  The card shows an idyllic life that Newton’s character longs for after the pain of war.  When you see the sort of creepy smarmy guy she is supposedly in love with you know that she will fall for the handsome GI.

2.The 9 Lives Of Christmas – 2014

Kimberly Sustad plays a lady training to be a veterinarian who doesn’t have time for romance and seems awkward with her looks – oh and she loves cats.  Brandon Roush plays a hunky but down-to-earth firefighter mainly interested in work and rebuilding the house he lives in so he can sell it.  A stray cat seems to have designs on mixing these two together (and removing Roush’s worthless girlfriend from the picture).  Will they or won’t they?

3.The Mistletoe Promise – 2016

A newcomer from last season, this has one of the more original story lines for these sorts of shows and includes two very likable characters.  Luke MacFarlane plays a lawyer who hates Christmas and Jaime King a travel agent also disillusioned by how the holidays have let her down.  The story involves how they are thrown together and make a legal pact to help each other’s careers.  They have great chemistry, so…

4.Mrs. Miracle – 2009

The late Doris Roberts is a gem as the title character (Mrs. Merkle) who mysteriously shows up when a sweet but frazzled single dad (James Van Der Beek) is desperate to find a nanny for his out of control kids.  Merkle magically has a hand in bringing a cute-as-a-button travel agent (Erin Karpluk) into his life and makes sure that everyone cleans the dishes.  Of course she has family issues that need to be worked out as well.

5.Fallen Angel – 2003

Gary Sinise is what makes this movie believable and warm with perhaps the best acting in any of these movies.  He plays a big-city lawyer who returns to his old town to tie up his estranged father’s affairs after his death.  He gets sidetracked by a single mom (played by Joely Richardson) who he has a past with – unknown to her.  While her blind child (Jordy Benattar) seems a tad contrived as a plot addition, she ends up adding sweetness and wonder to the show.  The parts about her homeless dad are instructive as well and handled with dignity.

6.A Boyfriend For Christmas – 2004

The cast in this show is alot of its charm.  Veteran character actor Charles Durning plays Santa who spends a lot of his time trying to bring two do-gooders (played by Kelli Williams and Patrick Muldoon) together that are fated to love each other but can’t seem to make the proper connection without a little help.  They may also share a backstory unbeknownst to them.  Martin Mull plays her dad and his blessing feels genuine but man do these people look rich rich rich!!  The Salt Lake City establishing shots are a rare addition.

7.Call Me Mrs. Miracle – 2010

Sorry, but only the trailer is available on this sequel to the movie at number 4 on our list starring Doris Roberts again as the magical Mrs. Merkle.  This time she meddles with the lives of a department store heir played by Eric Johnson (whose dad hates what Christmas reminds him of) and a lady watching her nephew while her brother is in the Army.  Jewel Staite plays that woman and her interesting non-cookie cutter look sets this apart (plus the late Doris Roberts who was so good here and as the mom in Everybody Loves Raymond).  This is one of the few movies with a decent supporting part for a Latino (Patricia Mayen-Salazar).

8.The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – 2008

Since Henry Winkler played the Fonz in Happy Days it seems like he has never been cast in anything that worked like that character for me till this one.  Here he plays a no b.s. ex-cop from the east coast travelling to visit his niece who is a single mom living in Chicago.  The way he befriends and trusts implicitly the character played by Warren Christie would seem odd in today’s scary world if Winkler didn’t make is seem okay with his ex-cop mentality.  Brooke Burns is a tad more beautiful than any other suburban single mom I can imagine, but the story works again because of Winkler.  His Uncle Ralph character brings home a man who wants to be a chef and is on his way to Denver to try his luck but can’t make it due to weather.  The rest is chemistry.

9.Matchmaker Santa – 2012

Another trailer here as the full movie isn’t available for free online.  Lacey Chabert plays a lady who a large jolly man named Chris who may or may not be the real Santa is trying to be matchmaker for.  She is to wed a busy business-type but of course may or may not end up with his handsome assistant (Adam Mayfield).  A rarity for these shows is that the business-type played by Thad Luckinbill is not unlikable and good things end up happening for all involved thankfully.  Recognizable background players include John Ratzenberger of Cheers and Florence Henderson of The Brady Bunch.

10.The Christmas List – 1997

As these shows age, TV seems to drop them which is too bad as you hardly see this one anymore.  This two decade old charmer is much better then the Alicia Witt movie it shares a title with (though that one is at least watchable if not great).  Mimi Rogers plays a perfume expert in a store who on a whim makes a list of all the things she wants for Christmas.  When her friend playfully mails it to Santa her wishes amazingly start coming true but not always with the result she wants.  Old-guard actress Stella Stevens plays her mom.

11.The Christmas Shepherd – 2014

The star of this show is Ace the dog who plays Buddy, a German Shepherd who brings together a single dad (Martin Cummins) and a children’s book author (Teri Polo).  Ace has great acting skills and chemistry with the rest of the cast.  The scenes where the author helps the clueless dad get his daughter ready for a dance are especially believable.

12.Trading Christmas – 2011

The third Debbie Macomber story in our list is the first not about Mrs. Miracle.  Virtually all the cast have recognizable TV faces and are mostly Canadian.  Without giving away too much, small-town teacher (U.S. actress Faith Ford from Murphy Brown) goes to the big city to surprise her daughter who isn’t there and ends up meeting a business-type (Gil Bellows).  Her friend played by Gabrielle Miller goes to surprise her in her small-town and ends up instead surprising her house-swapping big-city author played by Tom Cavanagh.  Those stories are winning and fun as opposed to the daughter’s story which didn’t grab me as much.


13.Crazy For Christmas – 2005

Another trailer I fear.  The payoff for me is Howard Hesseman who seems truly believable as an eccentric rich dude who after years of being a ruthless businessman is now giving back in spades at Christmastime.  Andrea Roth plays a single-mom chauffeur he hires to drive him around while he does his good deeds.  That he has a backstory with her she isn’t aware of is what supplies the plot.  Yannick Bisson plays a reporter who is tailing them and may have some interest in doing more than report on the chauffeur.  It is fun to see former SCTV star Joe Flaherty in a small role.  While I can’t stand the part (or actor Jason Spevack?) who plays her whiny kid, this is the only movie here that has a surprisingly sweet gay story arc that works in the context of the main plot.

14.Christmas Every Day – 1996

This is the oldest show on our list and shares plot similarities with Groundhog Day with the main character played by Erik Von Detten replaying Christmas till he figures out how to get it right due to a wish by his sister.  The story is actually based on an 1892 story by William Dean Howells with the same title.  Robert Hays as the dad is one of those character actors you instantly recognize.  The teens in the show actually seem believable and you end up interested in the ancillary stories that feed the main plot.

15.Finding John Christmas – 2003

Peter Falk as Max the angel is the glue that holds together this sweet story about trying to find a lost soul and bring him home to his family after years of self-torture having formerly been a hero fireman.  Valerie Bertinelli plays his sister who is also trying to save the E.R. she works in.  Canadian actor David Cubitt (who plays the reporter Max is trying to steer toward the nurse) has a backstory with the fireman as well.

16.The Christmas Ornament – 2013

Once again if you wish to watch this you will need to fork over $9.99 or watch the myriad repeats on the Hallmark Channel.  Okay, parts of this story seem way hokey and contrived – trying to sell Hallmark ornaments methinks.  At the same time, the stars actually look and feel like real people with Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison being good enough looking but not knockouts.  Truth be told, I do find her friend played by Jewel Staite (see number 7 above) to be cute in an exotic way (the big glasses help).  She lost her husband and is trying to keep his bike shop afloat even though her heart isn’t in it as she bakes killer cookies (what could be in them?).  He had his heart broken by a rotten but hot babe and has a tree lot while he dreams of some sort of Christmas theme-park or something.  Will they get together?   Will she find her lost mittens?

17.Holiday In Handcuffs – 2007

This one is on DVD and occasionally on TV so once again you get a trailer.  This is a screwball comedy that only works because of the sweetness and charm of Melissa Joan Hart.  She plays a struggling artist who must bring some guy – any guy – home to her odd family for Christmas.  I suspect the only reason Mario Lopez is cast as the reluctant guy is so he can go without a shirt (his acting skills are okay but I would think the ladies like his pecs better).  Old-guard actors Timothy Bottoms, Markie Post and June Lockhart play the odd family perfectly.  Will they ever get Mario out of Hart’s handcuffs?  Well they must have found the key as I see there is a new pairing of the two listed on this years’ Hallmark movie calendar.

18.Christmas Angel – 2009

The title is similar to several other shows so make sure to look for veteran actor Bruce Davidson in the credits.  Since this doesn’t play as often as some of the less worthy shows it is too bad I could only include a trailer.  Davidson’s understated performance sells him as a real person who is dying and has enough money to bestow on someone of his choosing to carry on his Secret Santa mission.  Kari Hawker and K.C. Clyde play a cynical woman and a reporter looking into the Santa story.  The plot digs deeply in to what Christmas should be about.

19.Three Days – 2001

Holy cow, if this one doesn’t make you cry you have no heart.  A hard driven business type has been neglecting his marriage and comes to regret that when his wife dies.  An angel played by Tim Meadows gives him a chance to relive the three days before his wife dies and he tries to change everything, but things don’t always go perfectly in life.  The end feels like something that Rod Serling would have written for The Twilight Zone.  Kristin Davis and Reed Diamond play the couple.

20.A Town Without Christmas – 2001

The Grinches at Hallmark make you watch this in mirror image but at least they haven’t taken it down yet (but you can watch this in endless replay on the Hallmark channel anyway).  This was the first movie in which Peter Falk played Max the angel (there is a third not on our list – When Angels Come To Town).  The story is about a small-town Washington child who writes a letter to Santa about his divorcing parents and how he doesn’t wish to exist anymore.  Patricia Heaton plays a hard-bitten reporter who goes to the town to get the story and ends up bonding with a struggling writer (Rick Roberts) in search of the truth.  The story is great though there isn’t the same chemistry between Heaton and Roberts as she had with Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond.


London & The Rock Doc

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. and Mrs. Rock N. Roll Dentist returned from a 40th anniversary sojourn to London.  It has taken this long for your’s truly to recover from the crud gained from the 9 1/2 hour return flight on British Airways (thank you anonymous coughing teenager).   Not being a world traveler, I was lured to ‘Jolly Ole’ by the promise of seeing Beatles locales while the wife wanted to see castles and jewels .  Neither of us ended up disappointed with a splendid time had by all (including VISA which sent us a huge bill recently).

 Arriving at Heathrow (well west of London proper), after buying passes (called Oyster Cards) to ride their subway – The Tube, one grabs a London Underground Tube Map and jumps on for a ride via the Piccadilly line.  A simple transfer to the District line at Hammersmith station took us to our destination of Victoria station.  After riding on these fast, efficient and well-marked trains one has to wonder why it is so difficult for the city of Denver to install a much simpler light rail system (but I digress).  Not for the first time after emerging from the Underground, we became disoriented as to the direction we needed to go – without the Colorado mountains it is frankly hard to tell west from east.  We managed to stumble the few blocks to our pleasant hotel (Hanover) where our trip was headquartered.

 Spending extensive prep work at home with Frommer’s Easy Guide To London was extremely helpful in determining which museums we wanted to see and how to get to them.  Armed with the Tube map and Free Tourist map of London, we set out to see all the critical sites and frankly we did a pretty darn good job.  Many folks like the hop on/hop off bus, but we found the Tube to way far more user friendly and economical.  Of course we could have traveled in better comfort and style, but had to decline.

 The Thames is a ubiquitous presence through town and is surprisingly muddy proving correct the excellent cover version of “Dirty Water” by the Inmates.

Later on our trip we ventured north the the Camden Market and where rewarded with jams of people and hundreds of stalls selling clothing, crafts, records and alot of food.  I would recommend this to anyone going as it was alot of fun – it is also critical to walk up the road as the best stalls are farther north.  We had some outstanding Malaysian food for 7 pounds and I bought 20 45s for 15 pounds.  This is where you mostly need local money as few took credit cards here (which is what we mostly used on the trip).  For that reason I suggest taking about 200 pounds.


Most of our time was spent on the north side of the Thames which can be easily traversed by several bridges if you want to see the south side.  This bridge afforded a nice view back of St. Paul’s Cathedral which they say is where Hitler concentrated alot of his Blitzkrieg in an attempt to demoralize the Brits.

On the Southbank we discovered that you can save alot of money by eating at outdoor food markets which was not only cheaper but tastier than restaurant food generally since you pay extra if dining in.

 Mrs. R.N.R.D. managed to grab a lamb pita while your’s truly couldn’t finish the huge Korean burrito.  While at Greenwich I found a really nice used record store Music & Video Exchange at 23 Greenwich Church St. that had 25 pence 45s (about 34 cents!).  After seeing the locale of Greenwich Mean Time and the Cutty Sark  we found another food market for some tasty Asian fare.  

The most critical thing I wanted to do was to visit Waterloo at Sunset on Friday night in memory of the excellent Kinks song – mission accomplished. 

While we took a guided walking tour of some of the Beatles London sites, frankly the biggest help was the book The Beatles’ London-A Guide To 467 Beatles Sites generously given to me by L. Pergeau one of my patients (thanks!).  We managed to find where the Beatles performed their rooftop concert Jan. 3o, 1969 at Apple headquarters 3 Saville Row which is now an Abercrombie & Fitch Kids store.


Marylebone Station was the location for the intro scenes to the movie A Hard Day’s Night.  Where they are running at the camera and George falls is to the right of the entrance and then when they enter the front it is a turn to the left.


Recreating a couple of pictures was fun for me and using the book made it a snap.  John Lennon, for instance, appeared in a 1966 TV sketch in front of the entrance to a pay toilet.  Interestingly, it has changed a bit however it is still there on Broadwick at Hopkins St.


Another iconic Beatles picture was taken in July 1963 and used for their On Air – Live At The BBC Vol. 2 CD.  While the Guilford St. area has changed alot (at the northern tip of Russell Square), the shape of the upper level of the Hotel President has not and it gives away the location.


34 Montagu Square has had a colorful history beginning with Ringo leasing it in 1965.  Paul used it as a demo studio in 1966 then Jimi Hendrix shared it in 1967 with his manager Chas Chandler.  John and Yoko moved in the following year and filmed the Two Virgins naked cover inside.


Of course the most iconic site in London for any Beatlemaniac is Abbey Road Studios which is not open to the public as it is still a working recording studio.  It is a short walk from the St. John’s Wood tube station which also reminds you of the lyrics to the Rolling Stones song “Play With Fire”.   

Abbey Road is a very busy street and the constant stream of tourist recreating the Beatles famous album cover have to always look out for speeding cars coming from all directions.  The crosswalk is perhaps 20 feet to the left of the studio as you look from across the street.  Needless to say we took many pix of the studio exterior and each of us walking across.




Here are some other random Beatles related photos.  While he was with Jane Asher, Paul lived in the upper level of the Asher residence at 57 Wimpole St (late 1963 to 1966).  To escape fans he would climb up the roof, run down to the right and then leave via the alley behind the house.  Of course I had to recreate the escape.


Paul and Jane then moved to a place fairly close to Abbey Road studios on 7 Cavendish Ave.  He apparently still owns it but didn’t invite us in.


The Indica Gallery was a basement art gallery with an upstairs bookstore funded in part by Paul.  It was in the art gallery that John went to see Yoko Ono’s exhibit and became smitten.  6 Masons Yard was hard to find which might be why the Beatles went there.  If one looks to the right of the steps leading to the basement, you see the green 13 Masons Yard, the former nightclub Scotch Of St. James where the Beatles had their own table.


The Bag O’ Nails was a club frequented by the Beatles as well and known as the place Paul first met his future wife Linda Eastman.  Jimi Hendrix played there as did Georgie Fame and many others.  It is still at 9 Kingly St. in Soho.

Another iconic location still in operation is Trident studios (17 St. Anne’s Court) where the Beatles recorded “Hey Jude” and several other songs.  David Bowie also recorded the album Hunky Dory there.


Sadly the building that housed the Apple Shop boutique at 94 Baker St. in early 1968 (that the Beatles had the Fool paint in psychedelic colors) has been torn down with only the location marked by a plaque on a building with the same dimensions.


Not terribly far from the Marylebone Station is the location of where Ringo married Barbara Bach (1981), Paul married Linda Eastman (1969) and Paul married Nancy Shevell (2011).  Apparently Liam Gallagher wed here twice and David Gilmour once as well.  The Marylebone Registry Office is at 181 Marylebone Rd.


As my sister Cheryl’s friend Debbie G. says, this was like visiting the motherland for music fans like us.  Here are just a few other non-Beatles related music items from the trip to see where so much of the music I love came from.  1.We went to an outstanding Organ Gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 2.Billy Fury (UK pop star who died too young) lived across the street from Paul McCartney at 1 Cavendish Ave., 3.as a kid my fave band was the Dave Clark 5 and they were always talking about them as being the ‘Tottenham Sound’, 4.Hermans Hermits weren’t a London band, but their song “Leaning On A Lamp Post” inspired a photo or 2, 5.Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” also kept coming to mind. Oh and lest you think we have no culture, Strauss live just off Chinatown for a time as you can see.




Well thanks for reading my blog.  If you have made it this far you might as well look at a few  more random London pictures.  Till next time!






Song Memories Of Brenna

Last post I saluted my dad’s passing with music he might have enjoyed.   This month I will move to a happier topic – the marriage of my daughter.  Songs often will often become inextricably bound to a memory.  When I think of my daughter Brenna who will marry Jeff in a matter of days, I mostly remember silly things from her youth.  It is interesting how we have different personalities at different points of our lives often totally at odds to what we once were.  I recall thinking with Brenna that I hoped she would always stay that happy uncynical child that could always find fun in life.  I’m certain my parents always looked at me and wondered what happened to that kid who over time became  more sullen and ground down by doubts and fears especially in high school – a time we either look back with fondness or with dread (count me in the latter).  Life does that to us all to some degree – takes a child who has little to worry about other than what and who to play with today, then adds reality.  The secret is to find something in life that keeps that pilot light of happiness lit in your core so the darkness stays away.  For me that has always been music (and food to some degree – give me an egg roll!).  When the voices of doubt and anger start getting louder in the stillness, it has always been comforting that I can play a song and it walls out the unhappiness.  Perhaps we will explore that at a later date, but for now let me turn to the songs that bring some sort of memory of Brenna (some intertwined with youngest child Hilary as well).  There are so many other songs I used to play for my kids that they liked – I won’t include them all, but I will at least mention “Yellow Submarine” (Beatles), “Happy Together” (Turtles) and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” (Abba) as being faves.  I hope we were good parents, but how do you know.   I, like any caring parent, only want one thing for my children – a full and happy life.  Brenna and Jeff – congratulations!

Girl On A Swing – Gerry & The Pacemakers

This is a very early memory song and one that Brenna will likely not recall first hand as she was just a toddler when we pushed her on the swing and sang “girl on a swing swing high, girl on a swing swing low”, but it certainly takes me back to her childhood.  Every family needs to have moments that are special to them and this is one of ours.  The song itself dates back to 1966 and was Gerry’s last hit in the U.S. albeit a minor one.

La Bamba – Richie Valens

It would be interesting to know how many young people know songs not of their generation strictly from commercials.  Brenna always called “La Bamba” the popcorn song every time it came on the radio because of this commercial for Pop Secret Popcorn.  In 1958 Richie Valens adapted an old Mexican folk song and made it the b-side to his #2 hit “Donna”, hitting #22.  The Los Lobos remake from the Valens biopic made it to #1 in 1987 which no doubt inspired its use in the commercial.

Java – Al Hirt

Hearing this song always brings to mind the Muppets, but it was also a perfect song to make Brenna’s stuffed toys dance to.  I remember making her toy Blue Guy dance and rock to this jolly tune.  Of course at the end something crazy would have to happen like having it soar across the room – always the entertainer.  We discussed this song in the last post so please feel free to go back and read it.  It was an Allen Toussaint composition taken from his 1958 LP The Wild Side Of New Orleans.

Martian Hop – The Ran-Dells

Brenna, Hilary and often Elvis the cat (with me in hot pursuit) would chase around a coffee table to many songs.  This silly hit from 1963 was one of our favorites to race to.   Space was on everyone’s mind back in the ’60s with the Telstar satellite having been successfully launched the year before. This one-hit wonder group from New Jersey had the space aliens from Mars be friendly (the opposite of what most sci-fi movies painted them as) throwing a sock hop for us Earthlings.

Lollipop – The Chordettes

Here is another very early Brenna favorite.  Handclapping, dancing, mouth popping – what more could you ask for?  This is the perfect song for kids to sing along to as it is pretty simple.  This 1958 #2 hit was first done by Ronald & Ruby then covered by the female quartet the Chordettes from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Sarasponda – Barney

For those who don’t know, there was a TV show popular with kids featuring a purple dinosaur named Barney which aired starting in 1992.  It was a pretty tame show that was built around alot of singing and I would have to say is unfairly criticized for being too upbeat.  To that I say, why must a child be exposed to woe and misery – they’re children, so lighten up.   “Sarasponda” is an old campfire sing-along that supposedly traces back to Dutch spinners who sang it while at the spinning wheel.  My friend G Brown hosted the Fox 31 Kids Club back then and got us passes to go to a Kids Expo and see Barney live (along with the Power Rangers).  The picture of the girls with Blinky the Clown at the beginning of this post was taken at that event.

Haircut – Craig ‘N Co.

Craig Taubman’s 1992 CD Rock N Together had this muy muy spiffy song about dreading getting a haircut.  Reading about him online shows a performer who started putting out kids records in the early 90s  but has now moved into releases involved with his Jewish faith. Sort of an intro to rock music for kids – and pretty catchy at that.

Ren & Stimpy – Happy Happy Joy Joy

Oh my, I guess we were ‘progressive’ parents for letting the kids watch the rather edgy humor of chihuahua Ren and cat Stimpy – but it was funny.  John Kricfalusi put this show together to air on Nickelodeon in 1991.  If Bart Simpson’s “eat my shorts” got uptight folks hot and bothered, this one was guaranteed to push them over the top (but was pretty tame by current animated hijinks on South Park and the like).  We had to buy the CD after watching Powdered Toast Man, Mr. Horse, Muddy Mudskipper, etc.  This song is insanely inane.

Space Ghost & Brak – I Love You Baby

Just plain dopey is the only way to describe taking a kids sci-fi cartoon and making it into a weird outer space talk show with the dumbest host ever not to mention the even dumber sidekick Brak who gets the sing this song.  Would have also included to Brak discussion of dating and eating a pu pu pu platter but it’s not a song.  Of course we had to have this CD as well in our collection.  Yes, I must say that I believe watching weird shows like these helped make my kids just as crazy as I am – and I’m proud of it.

Cow & Chicken – Opening Theme

Brenna and Hilary always seemed to have the knack of winning contests – mostly coloring (proving the adage that you can’t win if you don’t enter).  I don’t recall exactly how Brenna won the chance for our family of 4 to go to the 1997 pool party that Cartoon Network threw to premier Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Cow & Chicken but this pretty rockin’ theme song reminds me of that.  The party was alot of fun and they gave us some nifty themed pool toys to keep.  Only in animation would a cow and a chicken be siblings.

Johnny Horton – The Battle Of New Orleans

We used to play this enough that Brenna and younger sis Hilary worked up a pantomime routine for me to videotape.  Needless to say they killed it with hand gestures and marching.  This song might well be the first country song that non-country music fans liked opening the door to exposure to other non-rock goodies – something that today’s youngsters don’t get due to the homogenizing of music tastes which is a true pity.  This song was written by Jimmy Driftwood and gave Johnny Horton a #1 in 1959.

Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff The Magic Dragon

This song speaks for itself.  What self-respecting kid doesn’t know the lyrics to this Peter Yarrow, Leonard Tipton song?  It hit #2 in 1962.  This song reminds me of one of the very first concerts we ever took our kids to (Peter, Paul & Mary at Fiddler’s Green).  I will never forget Brenna saying to me that she really liked that song (after they performed it) and that she hoped they would do it again.

Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl

Well this might not be an obvious choice for a kid favorite, but Brenna mistook the title for “Brenna Girl” and that was all it took to become a must have in the collection.  The other misheard lyric (or mondegreen as they are called) for her was “sha la la la la lucky duck”.  This was a #10 hit in 1967 for the former singer from the band Them (whose “Gloria” was the first 45 I every owned – and still have).

Toni Basil – Mickey

Even though this song was a #1 hit 5 years before she was born, it was so catchy that it had the legs to endure many years.  Basil’s cheerleader video was perfect for girls to dance to and had a great fairground organ riff to appeal to boys.  We had pom poms and a tambourine that we would use to recreate the video.

Ace Of Base – The Sign

In early 1994 the Berggren siblings and Ulf Ekberg had a U.S. #1 becoming the next big thing from Sweden to hit the charts after ABBA.  This was catch enough for mom and dad but sounded like modern music to the kids.

Spice Girls – Wannabe

A #1 in 1997’s U.S. charts after taking the world by storm the year before, this was a perfect girl-pop song by a British creation from management team Bob and Chris Herbert as the answer to the boy bands popular at that time.  1997 seems to be an important year musically for Brenna as she was discovering music not of her parents (but that honestly still appealed to older folks as well – not unlike the Beatles had done years before).

Aqua – Barbie Girl

This was a big worldwide hit for the Scandinavian group Aqua.  Like so many songs that become catchy to the younger set, it was rather suggestive (how about “Whip It”?). In 1997 it got to #7 in the U.S.  Brenna had to have the CD which had some other goodies like “Dr. Jones”.

Hanson – MmmBop

Another 1997 single, this one hit #1 for the every so cute brothers Hanson.  The fact that Isaac, Taylor and Zac actually have musical chops put them way ahead of most teen pop acts.

Larger Than Life – Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys were the pin-up boy band du jour in the late ’90s and even if you didn’t like them you had to admire how well crafted their records were.  This, I am told by daughter Hilary, was one of Brenna’s faves.  This Brian Littrell composition was from their third album (Millenium) and frankly sports a pretty cool video.


25 Fave Easy Listening Instrumentals

An interesting debate in my mind has boiled for some time – how much of what is ‘you’ comes from genetics and how much from environment.  My parents love of music certainly infected me too and likely my love comes from both sources.  As a kid mom played a lot of classical music and show tunes while dad had a thing for ragtime and easy instrumentals.  When you are growing up and in the throes of soaking up the culture of your generation the farthest thing you want to admit to liking is the music of your parents.  As an adult I still love the Beatles plus rock and roll, but darn if an awful lot of the things mom and dad liked sounds pretty good today – sort of like comfort food for your ears taking you back to a more innocent time.  So much music evokes feelings and memories personal to you – bygone mundane things that you would give a year of your life to revisit.  The first real softening of the musical divide between my dad and I was Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass who he and I both liked (though he didn’t like the more rocked up songs and I didn’t like the quieter songs as much).  With the recent passing of my dad, I decided that as a tribute to him I would make a listing of my favorite ‘elevator music’ songs (though today’s elevator music seems to be rock and roll from my past).  I know some of these would be too jumpy for him, but generally I know he would be pleased to know that I still love instrumentals.  As a crabby old white guy, I often feel that why I don’t like today’s hits is that it is based on dance-worthy beats as opposed to hum-able tunes which I miss.  Dad, I hope you enjoy these (and mom, we’ll do classics another time).

1.Miss Marple Theme – Ron Goodwin

Mr. Goodwin was a British composer mostly known for his film music (Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines).  He did the music for the four 1960s movies starring the great Margaret Rutherford as the Agatha Christie character Miss Marple – an elderly busybody with a knack for solving murders.  This may just be my favorite all-time piece of music that isn’t by the Beatles – it is just so darn jaunty and it never fails to make me grin.  Hard to believe that it was produced by George Martin – the Beatles producer.

2.The Magic Trumpet – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

From the sixth TJB album (a #1 in 1966), this is a cover of a tune by German orchestra leader Bert Kaempfert called “Happy Trumpeter”.  While the original version is more syncopated, this version is more like a march and no doubt stirs up my Teutonic blood (though the Lowe half of me keeps me firmly in check thankfully).  As with my #1 song, this just makes you happy and want to nod your head from side to side in time with the music.  Look at my last month’s post about fave American bands for a capsule about the history of the TJB.

3.A Swingin’ Safari – Billy Vaughn

Yet another cover of a Bert Kaempfert original (written as Bernd Bertie).  This song was used as the theme to Gene Rayburn’s game show – The Match Game (dumb Dora was soooo dumb that she didn’t know a … from a blank – you fill in the blank and try to match a celebrity panel).  Vaughn’s cover charted at #13 in 1962 and had more punch than the original.  Vaughn was a member of the 1950s vocal group the Hilltoppers, but left in 1955 to become the musical director of Dot records where he would chart 28 records of his own.

4.The Theme From “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith

One of the earliest Canadians to breech the U.S. market, Faith had a wonderful way with lush string-laden orchestrations with this 1960 #1 record (for nine weeks) being his apex.  While he did chart a few singles, it was his myriad albums for Columbia records that are most remembered – most vinyl collections of the era had at least the 1963 album Themes For Young Lovers.  Max Steiner wrote the tune (Mack Discan wrote the lyrics not heard here) for the 1959 Troy Donahue/Sandra Dee romantic drama.

5.Portuguese Washerwoman – Baja Marimba Band

If these guys sounded a lot like the Tijuana Brass (with less trumpet and more marimba) there is a good reason – they were both mostly the studio greats we now call The Wrecking Crew who also played on the TJB records (the touring bands generally didn’t play on the records).  Indeed leader Julius Wechter played on records by the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, etc.  After playing marimbas on the first TJB hit “The Lonely Bull”, Alpert encouraged Wechter to form his own hispanic theme band (though neither were Latino).  They became a hit on Alpert’s (and Jerry Moss’) A&M label.  This song charted #15 on the adult contemporary charts in 1966 and can be found on the fine Watch Out! LP that stood incongruously in my collection next to my Rolling Stones albums.  The composer credit on the record is Popp and Lucchesi.  It is a cover of a big 1950s hit for Lou Busch who recorded as Joe “Fingers” Carr for Capitol records as a ragtime pianist.

6.Music Box Dancer – Frank Mills

Here is a classic example of a song finding its time.  Canadian pianist Frank Mills recorded this bright original in 1974 but it did nothing.  It finally became an accidental big hit in Canada in 1978 and then crossed the border to the U.S. where it charted at #3 in the spring of 1979.  He had two other small U.S. hits but has continued on as a performer while not charting.  Back when radio played a potpourri of styles side by side, you might segue from this to the Bee Gees to Dolly Parton, etc. – made you a more rounded music fan than today’s more narrow “if you like this then maybe you will like that” computer brainwashing.


7.A Walk In The Black Forest – Horst Jankowski

More of a jazz player, German pianist Jankowski wrote this million selling 1965 hit known as “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt” in his native tongue.  As with all our songs thus far in this list, it is a happy ‘up’ sort of tune that raises your spirits which I have always found a good way to break out of a funk.  Listen to music, it is cheaper than drugs and psychoanalysis.  Jankowski was essentially a U.S. one hit wonder but continued to release albums till his death in 1998 at age 62 of lung cancer.

8.Candy Girl – The Hollyridge Strings

This is the most wistfully dreamy record on our list.  The Hollyridge Strings existed as a studio creation of Capitol records that would mostly put out albums of orchestrated rock hits (Beatles, Elvis, etc.) to make them tamer for mom and dad.  While Mort Garson and Perry Botkin, Jr. did some of their work, for me it was the Stu Phillips led records that were the best.  This song comes from a tribute to the music of the Four Seasons with the eerie intro violins drenched in echo.  One Krieger family activity would be going to a large mall when such things sprang up in the latter part of the 1960s (Villa Italia or Cinderella City) and I clearly remember hearing this as background music while strolling with mom and dad and sister Cheryl (mom – please please please don’t make me sit in the ladies department holding your purse while you try on clothes – NOOOO!).

9.Route 66 Theme – Nelson Riddle

The picture in this video says mono, but wow that glorious 1962 wide stereo sounds amazing even today 55 years later.  When I look up these folk who did these records, I am struck by how many of these talents passed at my pre-66 age or even younger.  Riddle left the world at age 64 in 1985 (liver disease), but before that he had an wonderful career spanning everything from arranger for Capitol artists like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to later success working with Linda Ronstadt in the 1980s.  He also had a successful history arranging music for film and TV including this excellent theme to a 1960s show about two men travelling the country in their Chevy Corvette.  This #30 1962 hit was written by Riddle and featured an insistent descending bass line and a piano augmented by strings.

10.That Happy Feeling – Bert Kaempfert

Here is a man who only made it to age 56 (passing of a stroke in 1980), but German Kaempfert still had a long influential career including producing a session for a Brit named Tony Sheridan who brought along his backing band to help out on his 1961 single – “My Bonnie”.  In that session the unknown Beatles were also allowed to record an instrumental (“Cry For A Shadow”) and a John Lennon vocal version of “Ain’t She Sweet”.  Kaempfert was also an accomplished songwriter composing the tunes for “Strangers In The Night”, “Danke Schoen”, “Wooden Heart”, etc.   This jaunty record only managed to place at #67 in 1962 here in the U.S. where he had hit #1 previously with “Wonderland By Night”.

11.The Big Country Main Title – Jerome Moross

Few may know the title to this song and even fewer the composer, but there is no mistaking that agitato string intro that never fails to thrill.  This was the main title theme to the classic 1958 William Wyler western starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons and in his best supporting actor Oscar role as Rufus Hannassey – folk singer (and snowman in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer) Burl Ives.  Jerome Moross’ musical score was also nominated for an Academy Award.  Moross composed music for films from 1948 till 1969 with this his best known.

12.Music To Watch Girls By – The Bob Crewe Generation

Six months before the summer of love in 1967 your’s truly was buying this album by producer Bob Crewe fronting a group that sound suspiciously like the Tijuana Brass which in hindsight likely means that they were both using the Wrecking Crew studio musicians.  This song was a Sid Ramin/Tony Velona composition that hit #15 and was used in a diet Pepsi commercial.  Velona’s lyrics can be heard on the later Andy Williams vocal version.  Crewe was mostly known for producing and co-composing hits for the Four Seasons (“Walk Like A Man”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”) among others.

13.Cotton Candy – Al Hirt

Going head to head with the Beatles in 1964, this record was a #15 hit for New Orleans trumpeter Hirt.  The song was composed by Russ Damon and seems to evoke the feel of doing jumping jacks or something equally boppy.  Hirt charted 22 albums for RCA Victor in the 1950s and 60s and had his own club on Boubon St. in New Orleans.  He performed in several of the early Super Bowl half-time shows including at #XII in January of 1978 when the Broncos played the Cowboys.

14.Elizabethan Serenade – Mantovani

Ronald Binge was an arranger for conductor Mantovani who then composed this pastoral piece in 1951.  It won him the Ivor Novello award.  Annunzio Mantovani was hugely successful with his cascading strings sound.  He is reported to have had six albums in the U.S. top 30 simultaneously in 1959.  His London label records were often used in the pre-rock era to demonstrate sound equipment due to their dynamic stereo.  His biggest hits were “Charmaine” and “Around The World”.  This song was another mall music staple.

15.The Syncopated Clock – Leroy Anderson

There can’t be a kid of the 1950s who doesn’t know at least six songs by this genius whose music seemed to be on every black and white TV show of the era (and as intros to late night movies in the 1960s).  You many not know the names of the songs but we all know this, “The Typewriter”, “Blue Tango”, “Sleigh Ride”,”Fiddle-Faddle”, “Bugler’s Holiday”, etc.  Anderson studied at Harvard in the 1920s and 30s before hitting it big in the 1950s.  He died of cancer at age 66 in 1975.

16.Exodus – Ferrante & Teicher

Wow does this have a stirring intro before giving way to the dual pianos of Art Ferrante and Louis Teicher.  If this doesn’t give you chills then you aren’t reachable.  Released late in 1960, it hit #2 as the theme from the Otto Preminger movie about the founding of the modern state of Israel.  It was composed by Ernest Gold.  Ferrante & Teicher met while studying music at Juilliard in New York in 1930.  They continued to perform together till retirement in 1989.

17.Down Yonder – Del Wood

I very stupidly never asked my dad, but I would have to wonder if this wasn’t one of his favorite recordings.  It seemed to encapsulate everything I remember about my dad when he played the piano (though he was mostly an organist – and a darn fine one).  The ragtime piano featured a driving left hand bounce with a very catchy (and very fast) right hand melody lead.  This 1921 composition was by L. Wolfe Gilbert and did have words but is generally played as an instrumental.  Del Wood (Polly Adelaide Hendricks Hazelwood) is credited with being the first female instrumentalist to sell a million records (1951).  She is known as Queen of the Ragtime Pianists (with Jo Ann Castle of Lawrence Welk fame often sharing that title).  She passed in 1989 at age 69 having achieved her goal of joining the Grand Ole Opry.

18.Swedish Rhapsody – Percy Faith

This was a 1953 chart hit for Faith which comes from a 1903 composition by Hugo Alfven.  You can certainly visualize it being played while Swedish children might dance around the may-pole.

19.Java – Al Hirt

This song and the Muppets will always be locked in my mind having seen this with the crazy dancing fuzzy tubes (and the surprise ending, kids!) on Ed Sullivan and the Muppet Show episode 22 (look on youtube).  The song was written by New Orleans composer/performer Allen Toussaint and was Hirt’s biggest hit (and his first) hitting #4 while the Beatles owned the charts in early 1964.  It earned Hirt a Grammy that year.

20.Calcutta – Lawrence Welk

Oh my, the Lawrence Welk show might have been my Krieger grandparents’ favorite TV show.  Boy does it evoke an era with the old folks in the audience watching the polkas and bubbles – and who can forget Myron Floren on accordian?  This song had the same accordions and such, but was a bit more (dare I say) rockin’.  It managed to hit #1 in early 1961 giving Welk the distinction of being the oldest artist (at 57) to have a #1 chart record up till then.  Heino Gaze wrote the song as “Tivoli Melody”.  You can credit his music director George Cates for this hit, however, as Welk had to be talked into recording it.  His recording career amazingly started in the 1920s.

21.Baby Elephant Walk – Henry Mancini

If I had to pick one artist that my dad loved more than any other, I would assume it would have been Henry Mancini who was a genius at writing catchy tunes for movies.  This song from the 1962 John Wayne film Hatari earned Mancini a Grammy (one of his lifetime 20).  This was a much goofier song a la “The Pink Panther Theme” as opposed to his usual themes like “Moon River” and “Days Of Wine & Roses”.  During his recording career he put out over 90 albums.

22.Spanish Flea – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

While this song as the B-side to “What Now My Love” only charted at #27 in 1965, it always felt like a bigger hit as it was used extensively on The Dating Game TV show.  This delightfully bouncy tune was composed by Julius Wechter of The Baja Marimba Band.  It appeared on the TJB LP Going Places in 1965 which was one of their best records (along with Whipped Cream & Other Delights).  From  October 16, 1965 through April 29, 1967 the TJB had at least one album in the Top 10, making 81 consecutive weeks.  They sold over 13 million records in 1966 alone and in that year they had five albums at the same time in the top 20 on the Billboard  album chart which it is said has never been repeated.

23.The Poor People Of Paris – Les Baxter

With a title like that you would think it would be fairly somber, but it is quite the opposite being a light and frothy song making the listener think of a busy Parisienne gayly strutting down the sidewalks and through the bistros.  The song was written by Marguerite Monnot with added lyrics that are seldom heard.  Les Baxter’s 1956 release hit #1 for six weeks (chart fans may want to know that the next #1 was Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel”).  Baxter was mostly involved in movie music for many years.

24.Soul Coaxing (Ame Caline) – Raymond Lefevre

Well this is the one song on this list that I know would have been too rockin’ for dad, but it has all the elements of a great record – driving drums over a descending bass part with echoy strings playing the main melody.  A heavenly choir takes over at times to be supplanted by pounding piano going then back to the strings.  This record only managed a #37 placement in 1968 though it feels like it was more popular here in Colorado on KIMN.  This was the year of “Love Is Blue” so instrumentals were not totally out – just fading by then.   Michel Polnareff wrote the song as a vocal.  French orchestra leader Lefevre had a slightly bigger hit with “The Rains Came” ten years earlier.

25.March From The River Kwai & Colonel Bogey – Mitch Miller

Here is another song that seems like a much bigger hit than the national charts suggest.  I doubt there is a single child of the 1960s worth their salt who couldn’t whistle this stirring tune yet it only hit #20 in early 1958 for the bearded bandsman.  As an oboe player, I was always excited that such a famous man also played the oboe.  He was best known for his series of ‘sing-along’ records and TV show.  This song was a medley of two songs – “March From The River Kwai” written by Malcolm Arnold for the 1957 film about prisoners of war in WW II and “Colonel Bogey March” from 1914 by  F. J. Ricketts.