Boneyard Media

Archive for the ‘Folk Music’ Category

The pronunciation of “Rio Grande”

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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I played Texocentric songs on last Sunday’s edition of Folkways for Texas Independence Day and I noticed that on the Cartwright Brothers’ 1929 “Texas Ranger” they pronounce “Rio Grande” as “RYE-oh Grand.”  I’d first noticed the Texas river pronounced that way on Stan Freberg’s 1955 “Yellow Rose of Texas,” which parodies Mitch Miller’s singalong hit version of the song and which also uses that pronunciation. (So does a version by Johnny Desmond released hot on Miller’s heels in the summer of ’55 – another big hit.) I figured Freberg’s usage was an oversight that was especially regrettable since he mimics a Texan and I’ve only ever heard it as “REE-oh Grand” here in the Lone Star State.

The Cartwright Brothers threw me, though, because they were from the town of Munday in the Texas panhandle and their record came out so much earlier than the other ones.  Additional poking around has informed me that the town of Rio Grande in Ohio happens to be pronounced “RYE-oh” and that the majority of the employees of the Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad, which ran in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, also pronounced it that way. Maybe the railroad connection is the most relevant one here, with Munday close enough to the Intermountain area to adopt that quirk.  (Gene Autry’s 1933 version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” has him singing “REE-oh Grand.” He’s originally from Tioga, pronounced “Tie-OH-ga” in Northeast Texas.) Keeping my ears open…

Mitch Miller – “Yellow Rose of Texas” (1955) (“Rio Grande” at 1:12)

Cartwright Brothers – “Texas Ranger” (1929) (“Rio Grande” at :43)

Neil Young, Shocking Blue & the Big 3

Friday, July 6th, 2012


One of my favorite “borrowed tunes” is Shocking Blue’s “Venus” (1969), which was lifted from the Big 3’s 1963 version of “Oh Susannah,” which they called “The Banjo Song.” I like how Neil Young’s new version of “Oh Susannah” is directly inspired by “The Banjo Song.” I like the fact that many people who listen to it will think that Neil’s lifting from Shocking Blue. I also like how Neil once had a group called the Shocking Pinks and he will now be accused of lifting from Shocking Blue, who were actually lifting from the Big 3. I also like how I lifted my “Borrowed Tunes” heading from a Neil Young song he lifted from the Rolling Stones.

The Big 3 – “The Banjo Song” (1963)

Shocking Blue – “Venus” (1969)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Oh Susannah” (2012)

Song ID: Incredible Bongo Band – “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, Your Tie’s Stuck in Your Zipper” (1974)

Monday, November 28th, 2011


The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” hit #1 over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1958.  I had a mini-Dooley fest on Folkways today, where I played the hit version, the Smothers Brothers version, Grayson and Whittier’s original 1929 version (Grayson was actually related to the Grayson in the song), and “Tom Dula” by the late Bill Morrissey with Greg Brown from 1993. I did not, however, play this 1974 Incredible Bongo Band version of the song, called “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, Your Tie’s Stuck in Your Zipper.”

The Incredible Bongo Band – “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, Your Tie’s Stuck in Your Zipper” (1974)

The Vertigo Show: Pastoral Version

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011


And here’s a playlist of some of my favorite pastoral tracks from the Vertigo label that I aired on my KOOP Radio International Folk Bazaar show this week. Above: Magna Carta.

Dr. Strangely Strange – “When Adam Delved
Magna Carta – “The Bridge at Knaresborough Town
Juicy Lucy – “That Woman’s Got Something
Thomas F. Browne – “Poor Man’s Smile”
Fairfield Parlour – “Monkey
Tudor Lodge – “It All Comes Back to Me
Rod Stewart – “Only a Hobo
Magna Carta – “Sponge
Jade Warrior – “Yellow Eyes
Black Sabbath – “Fluff
Ian Matthews – “Little Known
Jimmy Campbell – “In My Room
Hokus Poke – “Big World Small Girl

Song ID: Magnet – “Corn Rigs” (1972)

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


I got talking with Kendell Kardt about his pre-Rig days in New York City and he again made my head spin somewhat when he talked about a folk group he played in called “Forever Children” that included his friend Paul Giovanni (other members included Ronnie Gilbert, Joyce Aaron, and Mike Poznick). This is the same Paul he writes about in his private, online memoir – a guy he gave guitar lessons to and who performed, along with the aforementioned Ms. Aaron (Kendell’s girlfriend at the time), in an experimental troupe called the Open Theatre. Paul and his partner, the British playwright Peter Shaffer, eventually (and benevolently) flew Kendell out to London during an Open Theatre stint out there circa 1970 so he could reunite with Ms. Aaron.

That’s pretty much the end of Kendell’s own story with Paul, but the memory drive in my head kept clicking over the familiar-sounding name, and I remembered it was the same name listed as composer on the opening credits of the the 1973 Wicker Man cult film (performed by a group called “Magnet”). So I dug up an album cover by the group Side Show, that I since found out Giovanni had also belonged to, and Kendell said, “yes, this is Paul, second from the left.” I then told Kendell about The Wicker Man and have now replaced the long standing encyclopedia listing in my head that read “Paul Giovanni: Forgotten British folkie who composed a one-off soundtrack to a singular movie” to “Paul Giovanni: New York actor, composer, and old friend of Kendell’s who also happened to write the music for a singular movie.” Giovanni passed away in 1990, but although this New York Times obituary makes no mention of it, that enchanting soundtrack alone will keep his memory alive and well.

(Another friend of Kendell’s, by the way, recently sent along this piece from the Guardian about a Rocky Horror-style Wicker Man singalong that just took place in London…)

Magnet – “Corn Rigs” (1972)

TV commercial product tie-in ideas for all the songs on Nick Drake’s Pink Moon

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

In the spirit of AT&T’s recent utilization of Nick Drake:


Sunday Service: Ode to Quetzalcoatl redux

Monday, January 18th, 2010


Dave Bixby’s moody and fascinating Jesus folk album, Ode to Quetzalcoatl, which I wrote about here, is now available on CD via the Guerssen label in Spain. The record continues to generate a good bit of online chatter, and I’ve since gathered a few more tidbits about it along with the cult group that spawned it thanks to the reissue itself, an email conversation with a former movement member named Dave Henrickson (who commented on that earlier post), and a reading of Al Perrin’s Many False Prophets Shall Rise:

— The cult Bixby belonged to originated in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was simply called “The Movement” or “The Group,” led by an extraordinarily charismatic and manipulative guy named Don DeGraaf. Any Don or Donald DeGraafs you dig up on Google are probably not him. Henrickson had heard that the real one died in a helicopter accident.

— The movement arose out of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, a Mormon offshoot, and Bixby’s title reference has to do with Mormon beliefs that Quetzalcoatl is a manifestation, through legend, of Jesus Christ’s Book of Mormon visit to the Americas.

— Bixby is still making music, and currently stages war reenactments in Arizona. This makes sense after reading Perrin’s book, which depicts Bixby not as the docile and depressed introvert we hear in Ode to Quetzalcoatl, but a lively, war game dynamo dressed in Army fatigues who served as one of the group’s higher-ups. The group’s most ardent members, it turns out, engaged in militaristic “campouts” as part of the brainwashing process.

— The group, which believed DeGraaf to be an onmiscient, modern incarnation of the Biblical prophet Elijah, initially raised money by selling combs for a dollar a pop for the sake of their “youth group fighting drugs.”

— Probably because group maintenance became too much of a chore for DeGraaf, the group devolved, circa the mid-seventies, into an Amway-selling army that traded in Jesus for est (Erhard Seminars Training). This likely jibed more cozily with DeGraaf’s private-airplane lifestyle, and it’s also the point where Bixby, to his credit, finally bailed.

— As Dave Henrickson said in his comment from the previous post, the album was definitely out by May 1970, when he remembers trying to sell copies at a Grand Valley State University flea market. He also remembers hearing Bixby sing those songs at meetings as far back as early summer ’69. His memory is that while none sold at the fleamarket, he was able to sell one to his uncle, an elder in the RLDS church.

— I like Al Perrin’s assessment regarding the positive appeal Bixby and his music had on the group: he sounded “like Burl Ives.”


Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli (2008)

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009


Labels like Numero Group are a good example of why CDs will likely be with us for a while, and that’s because when they’re done right, they’re hard to resist. Numero Group’s recent Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli compilation, which gathers up fourteen tracks by guitarists unknown to virtually everyone but fingerstyle junkies is a case in point. The liner notes are smart and respectful, the booklet makes room for 2 generous pages for each artist (including a full page shot of each track’s original album), and the texture and design are inviting, clean and elegant. It’s the five senses at work here.


Sunday Service/Song ID: Good News – “I’m a-Losin’ My Mind” (1969)

Sunday, November 16th, 2008


So you have this charming Jesus thrift store find floating around forever, then you come to find out the duo that recorded it is actually Kevin Bacon’s brother Michael and Larry Gold, a man responsible for some of the entire Philly soul genre’s crucial string arrangements.

Good News – “I’m a-Losin’ My Mind” (1969)

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“It was the 5th day of November, I have reason to remember”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Here’s John Martyn circa ‘77 doing his version of “Spencer the Rover,” about the return on Guy Fawkes Night (Nov. 5) of something thought to be lost. As for me, I’ll never forget the 4th.