Before lip-synch was even invented…

Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it was Leon, even if someone had pointed at the screen and said, “Hey! There’s Leon Russell!”

Nope. Wouldn’t have believed it. Behind the piano, all right, but no beard, no white hair. In fact, he’s got a cruiser-hair-do straight out of an S.E. Hinton novel.

Then, partway through the song – in between the lines of the verse – he stretches out a word the way only he could do it, and it is unmistakable. Can’t forget a voice that was already one-of-a-kind, even back in 1964.

shindigBeatles2

Some of you may remember the show: Shindig! (That’s not my exclamation point… it’s the way the show was titled.) It was pretty early rock and roll, and unlike New Year’s TV music broadcasts these days, there was no lip-synching. Real guitar licks. Real vocals.

There was a house band that played each week. The Shin-diggers – who were later known as the Shindogs. Some musicians who later became big names, including Tulsa’s Leon Russell on piano. There was Glen Campbell, Billy Preston, Delaney Bramlett (half of Delaney & Bonnie, and the guy who taught George Harrison to play slide guitar), and other notables who were later known as the Wrecking Crew (Phil Spector’s studio band).

Shindig! was put together as a replacement show for Hootenanny, another musical variety show that featured folk and bluegrass music. (Even as I’m typing these show-titles they sound old-fashioned and antiquated. Did we really use words like that?)

leonShindig1

“Come on!” we yelled. “Let’s have ourselves a hootenanny!”

“Oh, you’re darn-tootin!” rang out the shouted reply. “We’ll have a regular shindig!”

Looking at these pirated episodes, I have to shake my head at the dancing (as familiar as some of the moves look…) and the hair styles, but the music isn’t embarrassing. The show was taped before a live audience and the musicians did themselves justice. Sure, they’re oldies. But they’re easier to dance to than a history book.

The show had a two year run – not quite 100 shows – that for a time aired twice a week in prime time.

ShindigTitle

And there were plenty of stars: the Beatles taped a performance in England for the show (Oct 7, 1964), Roy Orbison, Mannfred Mann, the Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner, Tulsa’s Roy Clark, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys – all performed in the early shows over the first few months, and there were plenty of others.

It’s almost a miracle that I’m able to view the episodes. Back in the early 1960’s, videotape was a new thing, and quite expensive. Since it was re-usable, it mostly was – and many programs were simply lost in the overwrite recording. Some years ago, a record label released some compilation tapes (VCR), picking and choosing songs to include according to a theme.

But in this case, some fan put a film camera in front of his TV screen (I’m guessing, in the way the old Kinescope recordings were done) and created an archive. Some shows are obviously copied from a studio master, as the inclusion of a running-time stamp would indicate.

One thing I’ve noticed about these shows I recall from back then: Everybody sure looks young.

Well, some of us no longer have our youth – but we’ve got technology, by gosh! I’m cranking up the computer and jumping up (slowly) to do the Mashed Potato!

(Chef Dustin makes his mash by hand every day for lunchtime, so Come Visit!)

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow, OK!

When You Share a Famous Name…

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be honest. In this case, the unpaid amount of my truthfulness was $6.95 – a reasonable figure for a 103-year-old first edition. Just before mentioning the sales total to the lady on the other side of the counter, I gave the book a second look.

“You weren’t buying this as a work of Winston Churchill,” I asked. “The English politician?”

She replied that she was, and in short order I was canceling the transaction.

insidethecup

We shouldn’t feel too bad – as a reading public – not knowing that there were two famous gentlemen named Winston Churchill. In fact, they knew each other. One was rich and famous; the other was prime minister of England. They were born within a few years of each other.

One in England.

The other in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

While the future English PM was resigning his commission with the British Army, the American Winston Churchill authored his second novel. The book – entitled Richard Carvel – was published in 1898 – and sold two million copies. At the time, there were only 70 million or so living in the US, which would equate to 10-11 million copies sold in this day and age.

Not Harry Potter numbers, to be sure, but not far from The Girl On the Train or The Fault in Our Stars – current books popular enough that they were recently produced as movies.

insidethecup2

There were plenty of similarities between our Winston and theirs. Brit-Winston began writing as a correspondent after leaving the army. US-Winston attended the Naval Academy and began writing after resigning from the Navy. Winston-UK wrote as a war reporter; Winston-US edited The Army and Navy Journal. While his counterpart across the water was being elected to Parliament, Winston US Churchill was serving in the New Hampshire state legislature.

In 1919, after authoring a dozen books, the American Winston decided to retire from the public eye, quit his writing, and took up painting and private life. And there is the place at which the future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill claimed the fame of the name.

Without appearances to promote his books or painting exhibitions, the American novelist Winston Churchill was gradually forgotten, and the increasing fame of his British counterpart sealed the fate of the US writer’s obscurity.

Just as it was at the sales counter and the century-old hardback book, the name has become attached to the WWII statesman rather than the American author of fiction.

It wasn’t the first time The Inside of the Cup has been returned to the shelf, the victim of mistaken identity and an honest bookseller.

One of these days… someone will come along and appreciate the nice old book for what it is and allow me bag it up for the $7 price. Until then, I’m doing my part to publicize our own (once) famous Winston Churchill.

The (literal) Inside of the Cup held coffee this chilly day, and we’ll be pouring it again tomorrow, serving up hot soup, stew, and sandwiches at lunchtime – come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main Street, Broken Arrow, OK!

Wired memories and music.

Six-and-a-half minutes. Give or take, given the long fade ending. Still, a long time to be in heaven.

I haven’t heard the song Hey Jude in – forever – and maybe that’s the reason the memories it stirred were among the originals. Ninth grade recollections, as a matter of fact. My high school introductory year: McAuley Regional in Joplin.

The first dance I ever attended. (I suppose my sisters and I danced enough around the house to know that I probably oughtn’t try it in public…)

slowdance

It took the greater part of the evening to work up my courage, and when I dared myself at last, I jumped up just as the first notes of the song rang out. She nodded a yes, then looked over at Joyce. (Wondered, but never figured out if she had lost a bet or was looking for sympathy…) We were both wearing those freshman-year shy grins when I recognized the song was that new one from the Beatles.

Hey Jude.

Immediately realized it was a slow song. As in Slow Dance. There may be mixed opinions about slow dancing versus leap-around-with-reckless-abandon dancing – but as a practiced non-dancer the relief washed over me in waves.

Relief and anxiety, as it was Becky who had agreed to the dance. The most beautiful girl in all of ninth grade, and one who might have taken pity on a shy kid asking for a dance. Perhaps not realizing she had committed to a slow dance to one of the longest popular songs ever.

Funny how the brain is wired. All these years later, the song rolls out of the speakers and I am taken back to that evening, even to the point of recalling the lighting in the room, my nervousness offset by a giddiness brought on by her close proximity.

Heaven, it was. Six-and-a-half minutes, give or take.

My hand on the small of her back, which must have been by instinct or observation because it was certainly not from experience. Mostly swaying, occasionally turning. An awkward song to dance to, with a tempo not really slow, but not fast enough.

The song ended at last, as did my freshman year at McAuley. Our family moved away from Joplin that summer and I completed my high school years at another McA-school, McAlester High.

But I don’t remember dancing there.

At least, not like the night in the ninth, The Beatles, Hey Jude…

And beautiful Miss Becky.