by Jamie Lee Rake
The sales generated at Bargains Galore Thrift Store, 810 W. Main St., Waupun, bargainsgalorethirftstore.com benefit Central Wisconsin Christian School, a K-12 educational facility tied to the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) denomination. Since that ecclesiastical body’s roots spring from Netherlander immigrants to the U.S. though waggish, that nickname given to Bargains by a pastor from the denom’ from another Holland-centric church body in the same town couldn’t be much more fitting.
Its actual handle fits awfully well as well. During the peak of its three-day business week, Bargains could almost charge to park in its sometime-insufficient lot, the place is so packed. And if you don’t recognize any of your fellow shoppers at such times, you must be from out of town. Yes, Waupun’s that small If you can play a game of “Dutch bingo” wherein you can converse with a stranger or acquaintance and figure out that you share extended relation in a few miles radius, you might it’s rather tight, too.
And since it’s both my home town and city of current residence, it could be surmised that I might possess an inkling of knowledge regarding the musical tastes of my fellow Waupunites (Waupunians? Waupones?). Growing up here, they seemed rather monochromatic and steeped in the conformity of certain stripes of hard rock and commercial radio country of a variety and quality I was likely too young and uneducated to comprehend when the sunrise-to-sunset AM station here would regularly host concerts by major acts in the genre. The enclave of Jesus hippies who gathered at ‘70s upstairs weekend hangout The Upper Room might have been listening to somewhat more subcultural, perhaps wholly counter-cultural, sounds probably leaning toward folk rock;a safe bet would be that many of them now comprised some of the grandparent demographic whose dials are set to “positive and encouraging” K-Love Many of the folkies who didn’t insist the Almighty inhabit their acoustic revelry, I’m guessing, may have moved to Madison to be closer to the proletariat
My own state of being a voluntary, schizophrenic musical pariah among my peer group, wherein yours truly would spend weekends soaking up the resolutely mainstream American Top 40, hoping to stay up late enough to catch Soul Train at the nigh ungodly hour it would air after Saturday Night Live and other comedy&music TV amalgams, and the less Casey Kasem-friendly acts I would read about in Trouser Press and Creem on the collegiate and community-sponsored politically lefty FM’s to which friendly hipster language arts teachers and Fond du Lac record shop employees would hep me, can be plumbed to greater depths at another time. Suffice it to say it’s heartening to see the same city in which I felt aesthetically stifled in recent years see such developments as a monthly bluegrass picking session, Cajun/zydeco music festival and high schoolers blasting Public Enemy on their car stereos.
But if there’s a hidden musical past among my municipality’s fellow citizens, Bargains seems like the ethnomusicological dig wherein to find clues of it. That’s part of the basis of this entire column: to unearth the discarded predilections of people who have no use for their old music collections (or moved them to a hard or thumb drive) and want to benefit a favorite non-profit with them instead of going through the various hassles of selling them online or to an antique dealer or used record shop, reaping the benefits of those benefactors’ largesse, fattening up my own collection and the bank accounts of the non-profits so bequeathed with redundant LP’s, CD’s et al. And if I weren’t visiting a friend in Neenah around the time of my first installment of ABIFC, the burg where the sensibilities of this under appreciated prophet are coming to at last feel at home might have inaugurated this ongoing experiment.
The first time my eyes spied The World: Original Cast starring Howdy Doody, it was in the used comedy section of one of a shop where I’ve snarfed up much much used comedy. This peculiar platter featuring excerpts of the late ‘40s-early ‘60s kiddie TV show named for the henna-headed marionette named in the above title is comedic, I reckon, in the same way many Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor bits are;but, lauded as those guys are by other stand-up’s, my sensibilities, morality and Christianity are such as to classify them as fine raconteurs and soliloquizing character actors making satirical socio-political points with I’m likelier to disagree as sympathize. but at their best those guys and others of a similar mindset at whom I can more easily laugh (maybe Bill Hicks, probably Dennis Leary) wield a deftness of observation that brings their points home.
This World spins at a more leaden orbit. Interstitially juxtaposing songs and skits of Howdy, Buffalo Bob Smith, Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring and their merry cohort are archival recordings from figures of contemporaneous and earlier 20th century history including General Douglas MacArthur, Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, Queen Elizabeth, movie magnate Louis B. Mayer and less easily-remembered personages. A careful gander at the front cover painting of Doody popping out from a telly reveals caricatures of Fidel Castro, Albert Einstein and other quotees in his facial features and bandana. And the Los Angeles Dodgers logo for one of his eyebrows?! Uh, yeah…
Since this curiosity is dedicated to The Peanut Gallery, Smith’s and Doody’s name for their in-studio audience of tykes, one could assume this to be a sincere, if misbegotten, endeavor. But to what end? The swings between prepubescent giddiness and very adult realities from the brink of annihilation ends up being a wash. since it’s billed as a cast album, if it captures some kind of stage production, the date of its stage debut looks to be as lost to history as is the time of this long-player’s release. At least whoever posted it on the usually reliable record collectors’ exchange Discogs.com has no idea. Going three pages into my favorite search engine ended as fruitlessly in gleaning more info, too. Considering the result, maybe that’s as well?
Considerably easier to examine is 1975’s self-explanatory, if grammatically irksome The Best of the Truck Driver’s Songs (Starday/Gusto). As citizens band radio (CB) skyrockets in popularity due to the federal imposition of a national 55 mile per hour speed limit, the semi drivers who had been relying on it become the object of pop culture adulation;since their lives been a staple of country decades before the fad, a scrappy indie label with copious back catalog in vogue-ish subject gather a slew of those songs and recitations, slaps a picture of a big-haired and pretty (and married;check her hand) gal leaning on a Tonka truck on the front over, oddly prints the words to another number on the back cover without including it on the vinyl, and instant, authentic truckersplotation ensues.
Late Spencer, WI native Dave Dudley provides Best’s biggest pop crossover with “Six Days on the Road.” Vying for a career preoccupation with big rigs and their operators was Red Sovine, who fills three of the second side’s, though he can’t quite match the swagger of Dudley’s original “Truck Drivin’ Son of a Gun.”Sovine was more on point when he spoke sentimentality and death instead of singing about being a baller on the highway, as on the the other tracks here, “Phantom 309” and “Giddy Up Go,” the latter acting as a premonition of or prequel to his ‘76 commercial acme of CB, death and youth, “Teddy Bear.” “Giddy,” however, inspired an equally tear-jerking reply in (usually) comedienne Minne Pearl’s “Giddy Up Answer.” At least as surprising as finding the lady with the loud “Howdyyy!” and tag on her hat are most of the bluegrassers here.
The Willis Brothers’ “Give Me 40 Acres,” a Top 10 country single in 1965, comes closest to novelty territory with its tale of a trucker who’d desert his trade if the cop who stops him for speeding can give him some farm land. equally grassy Hylo Brown, Lonnie IKrving, Moore & Napier and Coleman Wilson speak to other concerns of the Mack/Oshkosh./Peterbilt set, including cop car radar and wasting money on pinball machines at trick stops. The audio of Sovine’s “Trucker Driver’s Payer” would have better taken the space his Dudley remake did, but its textual inclusion adds a semblance of solemnity to this bandwagon jump. A double-CD including everything here and other big trucker-philic names of the same vintage or earlier (Red Simpson, Hank Snow) and those who followed (C.W. McCall, Cledus Maggard, Rod Hart, Jerry Reed’s Smokey & The Bandit theme and Glen Campbell’s probable kibosh on the trend, “I Love My Truck”) if only to school current country fans that “truck” is not synonymous with a drunkenly dirt road-bound portable fornication and partying station.
Far removed as any record would be from the above trucking collection in Bargains’s context is Gershon Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet (Audio Fidelity). Career arcs among the acts whose work can be found in the BG record racks probably don’t come much more compelling, either. Musically directing Broadway musicals, collaborating with notorious experimental classical composer John Cage, and composing everything from operas to advertising jingles to pieces reflecting his Judaism fit into the nonagenerian’s curriculum vitae, but it’s his pioneering work with synthesizers that’s most likely to take up the lion’s share of his obituary. His “Popcorn” became arguably the first pop hit example of electro-pop when English studio band Hot Butter remade it in ‘72.
Lastly, in what looks to be an ongoing feature of this column, I spring for a classical record. It seems no matter how old they are, people kept most of theirs in great shape, and a good many of seemingly even the most popular titles have never made the upgrade to CD, much less MP3, reissue. This month’s honoree is late Russian pianist Emil Gilels’s 1958 reading of Johannes Brahms’s Concerto No. 2 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by the also departed Hungarian wand twirler Fritz Reiner (RCA Victor Red Seal).
Hey, both of us are in this experiment of my buying art music and listening to attentively it for what may be the first time. That is, if you haven’t stopped reading yet. Anyway, the Brahms/Gilels/Reiner/C.S.O. combination caught my eye based on the recollection a good Facebook friend in Milwaukee, former intermittent hostess of a talk radio show there, of September 11, 20-1 East Coast terror attacks footage set to Brahms music. It might have been his second symphony, not concerto, that she heard, but this was still a worthwhile buy.
Gilels first U.S,. recording was of Tchaikovsky piece, and he had likewise assayed works by Rachmaninoff and other technically challenging composers from his homeland. He comes through like a champ in taking his 88’s to ol’ Jo’s Germamic emotional effusiveness and melodic breadth as well, though. Anyone wanting to gift me any of the CD box sets of Gilels work, the paper’s address should be close to the front page for your information and convenience.
Next month:where it all began for me!