Boop, Boop, Shakey Jake Woods Is on the Move

23 09 2007

If you’ve spent any time in Ann Arbor, MI in the past thirty years it’s likely you are familiar with the inimitable Shakey Jake Woods. He was a constant presence around town, playing his guitar and waving at people passing by while dressed in his signature suit, hat, dark sunglasses, and colorful scarf.

Many people have stories about their encounters with Shakey Jake.

For a short time I worked the sound system at Mr. Flood’s Party on Liberty Street. Jake occasionally hung at Flood’s during the late afternoon sets of free music. One day he called me over to his bar stool and said he had a suit at home he no longer needed that he thought was my size. 100% silk, he insisted, the only kind of clothing he ever wore. And to prove his point, he unbuttoned a few shirt buttons and said to check out his t-shirt. 100% percent silk indeed! Jake said if I wanted the suit I had to promise him a few things. His demands were that I ask my girlfriend out for Easter dinner and that I buy her flowers. I agreed to his demands and true to his word Jake gave me the suit. It was blue with thin pinstripes. The pants were a bit snug, but otherwise it was a decent fit.

The next time I saw Jake at Flood’s he asked me how the date went. This was followed by one of his raspy and highly infectious laughs. I told him that my girlfriend insisted I thank him on her behalf and that because of the suit I looked like a million bucks. Jake laughed again and with a satisfied and knowing look in his eyes said, “boop, boop, on the move” and then strutted out the front door.

Over the years I purchased several items from Jake. The most prized is a cassette of his songs and jokes. A musical daredevil Jake sometimes played his guitar with two or even just one string. His unique style opened my ears and the ears of many others to new sonic possibilities.


Shakey Jake passed away on September 16.
Boop, boop, on the move . . .

— Bryan

One of Six

21 09 2007

Canadian poet/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal on this day in 1934.

Cohen was an accomplished literary figure prior to beginning his now four-decade-long recording career for Columbia Records. Along with most of his Columbia Records catalog the ARChive’s holdings include the hard-to-find Folkways Records release Six Montreal Poets (FL 9805) which was issued in 1957. On this LP Cohen, A.J.M. Smith, Irving Layton, Louis Dudek, F.R. Scott, and A.M. Klein read their own poetry. Cohen’s poems, which appear in his Let Us Compare Mythologies, include “For Wilf and His House”, “Beside the Shepherd”, “Poem”, “Lovers”, “The Sparrows”, “Warning”, “Les Vieus”, and “Elegy”.

Six Montreal Poets

For more about Mr. Cohen go to

— Bryan

Sonny Rollins live at Carnegie Hall, Tuesday September 18, 2007

19 09 2007

On November 29, 1957, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins played at Carnegie Hall for the first time leading his own group–a trio consisting of ex-Duke Ellington bassist Wendall Marshall and drummer Kenny Dennis. Although he was only 27 at the time, Rollins had already played and/or recorded with such leading lights of modern jazz as Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Babs Gonzales, Fats Navarro and Miles Davis. In 1957, on the day after Thanksgiving, Rollins was the opening act on a bill that featured Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Chet Baker with Zoot Sims and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane.

On September 18, 2007, Rollins, now a legend, commemorated the 50th anniversary of that gig with a return to the Hall. He recreated his trio setting with current bass star Christian McBride and a guy who played drums with Rollins 50 years ago–Roy Haynes (who’s gotta be about 80 or so now, though he didn’t look it and certainly didn’t sound like it).

In 1957, Rollins’ performance was a short, three-song segment of a longer all-star jazz show and he only played three songs: the original “Sonnymoon for Two,” “Some Enchanted Evening” (from the Broadway musical South Pacific) and the Kurt Weill composition “Moritat” (which would become a pop hit as “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin two years later). At the show last night, Sonny stretched the songs out to about ten minutes each, with McBride and Haynes providing excellent accompaniment. It was truly sublime. Especially within the first two minutes of the first song when Rollins showed off his circular breathing technique. This was Rollins’ night and he wasn’t going to fool around.

Sonny Rollins

After a half hour break, Rollins came back to play with a sextet that included his bass player since 1962 Bob Cranshaw; guitarist Bobby Broom, conga and African percussionist Kimati Dinizulu; Steve Jordan, a drummer I initially had misgivings about as he is known for playing in mostly rock settings; and joining Rollins on the front line was trombone player Clifton Anderson–Rollin’s nephew.

This group performed three funkified grooves that hinted at Rollins’ Caribbean roots (his “St. Thomas” is a calypso-influenced classic that he’s been playing since 1956). Jordan’s drumming stood out, as it drove the band without becoming showy or in the way. Anderson may have got the job due to his family ties, but he kept it because he can play trombone quite well. Broom, the guitarist, seemed to mostly play solos. It surprised me that he rarely played rhythm parts, especially during the more funky passages.

For the most part, the whole thing was kept together by the bass player, Cranshaw, who most definitely knows a good groove when he plays one. Dinizulu’s percussion work was a lovely spice.

Throughout this segment of the show, Rollins, who was dressed in a satin-like, over-sized white long-sleeve shirt that matched his hair and beard, played in the hard, rhythmic manner for which he is known. Although purists may have enjoyed the first set better, the second set most definitely had its moments–every time Sonny Rollins played his tenor saxophone. He was clearly enjoying himself, swinging the saxophone around his neck as he played and moving up, down and around the stage, employing a cordless microphone attached to his horn.

Rollins and his group ended the show with a jazzed-up version of the soca standard “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” which allowed for each member of the group to solo.

A contemporary of John Coltrane, Rollins is truly a legend. For the first twenty years of his career he was considered Coltrane’s chief rival of post-bop, hard-driving tenor saxophone playing–some say Rollins was better. When Trane died in 1967, Rollins was the undisputed boss. Lucky for us, Rollins is still alive and playing fabulous music.

–Freddie Patterson


19 09 2007

By now you’ve all seen our collection of French pulp paperbacks at,
but did you know we also have pulled together a few of our favorite paperbacks pertaining to music?

Oh sure we have 25,000 old fashioned popular music books here at ARC, but these are ‘special’ – not histories, biographies or discographies, but odds’n’ends featuring musical themes, authored by musicians or the basis for a band name.



Pop and Lock

18 09 2007

The ARChive is a deep and wonderful place. As I was sorting through the children’s section for the records I wrote about yesterday, I came across these two gems, both from 1984 and I just had to share. First, we have Break Dancin’ For Fun and Fitness (Atlantic 80187-1)

Break Dancing 1Break Dancing 2Break Dancing 3Break Dancing 4

It’s a gatefold talk-over instructional album that “teaches” people how to break dance, and it has photos of all the moves to back it up. There’s even a primer about learning how to speak the lingo. It features members of the Big Apple Breakers, the Furious Rockers and there to “explain it all” is Rodanne “Rosey Rose” Hoare, “Superstar Choreographer of New York’s famed Roxy Disco.” It’s not exactly the most thrilling record I’ve ever heard – maybe best described as “of its time.” I can only imagine what one of Rosey’s classes in 1984 might have looked like. (Headbands and leg warmers, anyone?)

Second, we have Breakdance (K-Tel NU3360) which promised the “Best Music for Breakdancing,” and invited any and all to “Learn to Moonwalk, Electric Boogie, Footwork, Headspin & Top-Rock.” It is a far hipper album. Side one has some great music on it (incl. “Rockit,” and “Wheels of Steel”) while the B-side – the one with all the instruction – is artfully done and listenable on its own. There’s even a warning to parents and the physically infirm, as well as contact information for the New York City Breakers Fan Club (send c/o Hip Hop International, Inc).

Breakdancing 1Breakdancing 2

1984 was when kids like me growing up outside of New York City would have first become more aware of break dancing, and records like these were part of that early promotional wave. It’s kind of great to come across them again.

BTW, click on the images and you’ll get bigger, better versions. Ones you can actually read!


ps. if you like the records that teach you how to dance, click here for an instructional LP from K-Tel on how to do the Hot Chocolate!

Hey You Guy-ys!

17 09 2007

Sure, we all watched the Electric Company at one point or another. Chock full of famous actors (Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman were regulars while folks like Gene Wilder, Victor Borge, Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers all popped in now and then). But what do we know about the people who provided the music? As I was poking around today, I came across the site of 150 Music, a small, independent record label. One of the people who established 150 Music is Gary William Friedman, whose claims to fame include a long list of film, theater and TV credits that includes having been the Electric Company ‘s musical director for a season. He wrote about 40 songs for the show’s fourth season, among them the awesome Spider Man theme. Check it out in Spidey Meets the Yeti, in which Spidey must save the day Mighty Mouse style from a serial food-sitting yeti menacing the community:

Friedman was just one of the shows great musical directors. The Electric Company’s first – and probably most important – was Joe Raposo. He had the job for the show’s first three seasons. Raposo was a student of Nadia Boulanger, he wrote music for Dr. Seuss, he wrote for Sesame Street (Many credit Raposo for making Sesame Street a more musically diverse place; if you’re under 40, you probably have him to thank for your musical taste. Remember ” ‘Being Green?” That was him too.), he scored Three’s Company (yes, that Three’s Company) and his song “Sing” – originally recorded by the Carpenters – was reprised on the 2005 episode of South Park called “Wing.” He also was awarded Grammys and Emmys, and was nominated once for an Oscar for his song “The First Time it Happens” in the Great Muppet Caper. Raposo, a Harvard graduate, was probably the one who recruited fellow alum Tom Lehrer for the Electric Company. Lehrer wrote about 10 songs for the show, including “Menu Song,” “Silent E” and my favorite, the “L-Y Song”:

Raposo produced and wrote or co-wrote most of the music for the Electric Company’s Original Cast album (Warner Brothers BS 2636, 1972; below left):

Electric Company 1Electric Company 2

The record – this copy from the ARChive’s collection – is a lavish affair. A gatefold sleeve with a comic book insert, a “crypto-spectometer” volvelle (à la Led Zeppelin III) and art by Jack Davis, I can’t imagine how anyone in their right mind would have given this to a child. It was reissued in 1974 (Sesame Street Records CTW 22052), but the later version was not as cool. CTW cut costs with less interesting packaging and art, and all of Cosby’s songs were removed.

The 1974 album was far more exciting than the album of Electric Company songs Disney put out (Songs From the Electric Company TV Show, Disneyland Records STER 1350, 1973; above right). It puts the television right on the cover, sending a great message to kids that it’s all about the TV. They sapped all the soul out of Raposo’s songs as well. Good going Disney!


If Artists Ran the Country . . .

14 09 2007

I acquired this poem in Tompkins Square Park, which is located in the East Village section of New York City, during the recent HOWL Festival.


No mention is made of what musicians would do if artists ran the country, but I imagine every street corner would resonate with the sweet and sour sounds of the Optivideotone, Clackamore, Moodswinger . . .

Shimmy and shake at Odd Music.

*     *     *

The sonic explorers and diggers of the very deep at the ARChive have gathered the following odd instrument recordings for the ARChive’s holdings:

Glass Orchestra

The Glass Orchestra The Glass Orchestra (Music Gallery Editions 10, clear vinyl). Toronto ensemble that works exclusively in the medium of glass, employing custom or hand-made instruments (glass harmonica, flute, xylophone) and found objects (bowls, wine glasses, bottles, tubes, etc).

Silver Apples 1

Silver Apples 2


Silver Apples Silver Apples (Kapp KS-3562). This 1968 LP was recorded by the New York duo who performed on percussion and “the Simeon” which consisted of audio oscillators and manual controls played with the hands, elbows, knees, and feet.

— Bryan


13 09 2007

The world’s first post-modern film is I Wake Up Screaming from 1941. The culture-quotes are relentless, beginning with the Gershwin-esque music intro, a quick take on Pygmalion/Galatea, a restaging of a Hopper diner scene, a protagonist named for a early Renaissance Florentine painter, endless “Over the Rainbow” variations and enough Citizen Kane-like angles to make you plain dizzy. The uncommitted tone is on the soundtrack too, as the swirl of happy time Broadway alternates with noir-dour every few minutes or so. But it’s the actual literary quotes that most caught my ear.


Outside the police station, suspect Victor Mature says to approaching detective Laird Cregar, “Look who’s here, Operator 13.” Here the reference is to the 1934 Marion Davis’ film of that name, 13 a Civil War spy who goes to incredible lengths to uncover vital secrets. Cregar, by the way, is the best actor, ever, when he’s in shadow – and one of the worst in the light of day, with a Raymond Burr-like laziness to his voice and similar girth/looks. One length Cregar goes to is to say to the DA, “Have you ever read ‘The Sex Life of the Butterfly,’ by Faber.” I mean, have you?

Later, when Mature makes a gallant offer to help a lady, Cregar says, “You’re a regular Lochinvar.” This is a long forgotten reference to what was once one of the most memorized poems in the English speaking world, obviously, in the 40s, still common enough to make it onto film. The poem is a section of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion, a tale of a knight gallant.

Of course any Deadhead would say, “sure, I knew that, cuz “Lochinvar” is on the New Riders of the Purple Sage LP, 08 27 72. Other music references – our job by the way – include Lochinvar’s Canterbury Caledonian, a bagpipe based band in Christchurch, New Zealand, Scotland’s Lochinver Ceilidh Band, and rockin’ Lochinvar out of Dallas.

Lochinvar New Riders

By the way, heavy metalers, Virgin Steele, have a cut on their The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Part Two, titled “I Wake Up Screaming.”


11 09 2007

So this week K. and I are wading through decades of accumulated crapola in preparation for the big yard sale (11th Street near First Ave. this Saturday, if you’re around) and we uncovered this vintage Beatles scrapbook. This was given to K. long, long ago by a girl she worked with when she lived in San Francisco. It’s mostly SF newspaper clippings arranged in a delightfully quintessential preteen-girl aesthetic. Nifty as it is, we have to make some sacrifices for our new streamlined lifestyle, so the scrapbook is now a part of the ARChive of Contemporary Music. If you got to say goodbye to some boss old junk you want it should go to a good home.


– Jonny

Elvis was the male Janis Martin

6 09 2007

Janis Martin, rockabilly immortal, passed away this week. Sadly, she will forever be known, courtesy of the boys in publicity at RCA, as “The Female Elvis”. That moniker would be plenty for a novelty flash-in-the-pan mediocrity trying to cash in on the rock ‘n’ roll fad before it was swept aside by the impending tide of Calypso mania. But that was not Janis Martin. She was a teenager who had spent nearly a decade in the show business working toward her white rhythm and blues style, long before she was saddled with the she-Elvis tag. She didn’t need Mr. Presley to turn her on to Ruth Brown – she was covering her at country shows when she was thirteen. That’s hip. Her tone, power, and understated blues phrasing are truly remarkable when you remember she was cutting many of these sides at sixteen.


Now go buy that Bear Family anthology.

– Jonny

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