Friday, December 30, 2011

Chadd Thomas' Death Ruled Not a Homicide

According to the Austin American Statesman and KVUE, the death of Austin rockabilly musician Chadd Thomas was reclassified by the Travis County Medical Examiner as "undetermined."

Thomas' body was discovered on July 11th, 2011 off South Congress Avenue and was originally ruled a homicide through blunt forced trauma. But already three days after his death, local TV station KXAN reported that the charismatic singer has been involved in at least three separate incidents on the day of his death. 

The Medical Examiner was, according to several sources "unable to determine which of these incidents would've cause Thomas' death." The incidents include being accidentally hit by a car, driven by someone Chadd knew, a second altercation at a party, and probably a third one where his body was later found. 

"The investigation continues", and "the change in classification does not exclude the possibility of other criminal charges (like aggravated assault) being filed." 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wynonna Judd and Cactus Moser engaged

Wynonna Judd and Cactus Moser got engaged on December, 24th (2011), according to Nashville PR Agency "Webster & Associates." Wynonna, daughter of the famous mother-daughter duos, The Judds and Highway 101 drummer Scott "Cactus" Moser are presently touring together as Wynonna and The Big Noise.

I don't know how, Wynonna told mother Naomi, that she is engaged again. Maybe she used the lyrics of the Kenny O'Dell ("Behind Closed Doors") penned and first Judds' number one hit "Mama He's Crazy."

Kix Brooks (of Brooks & Dunn) and Don Cook are the writers of "Who's Lonely Now," the last number-one hit (12/30/89 - yep this week 22 years ago) for the quartet Highway 101 before lead singer Paulette Carlson quit the band and was replaced by Nikki Nelson. Cactus is pounding the felts in this video.

Big Noise, the new band behind Wynonna had its debut on November, 27 of this year at Lindsley Bar & Grill in Nashville. Some amateur clips of this rockin' show can be found on youtube.

Cactus' son Wyatt also could celebrate a debut when he was allowed to sit in with the band.

Restored the video links 11/2020

Wynonna Judd and Cactus Moser from Highway 101 engaged

Wynonna Judd and Cactus Moser got engaged on December, 24th (2011), according to Nashville PR Agency "Webster & Associates." Wynonna, daughter of the famous mother-daughter duos, The Judds and Highway 101 drummer Scott "Cactus" Moser are presently touring together as Wynonna and The Big Noise.

I don't know how, Wynonna told mother Naomi, that she is engaged again. Maybe she used the lyrics of the Kenny O'Dell ("Behind Closed Doors") penned and first Judds' number one hit "Mama He's Crazy."

Kix Brooks (of Brooks & Dunn) and Don Cook are the writers of "Who's Lonely Now," the last number-one hit (12/30/89 - yep this week 22 years ago) for the quartet Highway 101 before lead singer Paulette Carlson quit the band and was replaced by Nikki Nelson. Cactus is pounding the felts in this video.

Big Noise, the new band behind Wynonna had its debut on November, 27 of this year at Lindsley Bar & Grill in Nashville. Some amateur clips of this rockin' show can be found on youtube.
Cactus' son Wyatt also could celebrate a debut when he was allowed to sit in with the band.

Restored the video links 11/2020 - originally published at - moved 8/25/21

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Country Singer Billie Jo Spears has died

 Country singer Billie Jo Spears passed away at her home in Vidor,  northeast of Houston at the age of 74, yesterday morning (12/14/11). The cause of her death was cancer.

Billie Jo's career can pretty much be summed up into three phases, a first one where she was typecast as a Honky Tonk singer, a second one where she sang behind "Countrypolitan" arrangements and had her biggest and only number-one-hit "Blanket On The Ground." The third one was mostly abroad and in Branson as a nostalgic pop-country act, mostly singing her hits and other famous cover songs, like "I Will Survive" a hit for Gloria Gaynor.

The early years

According to Doug Davis' ( email, "she was the daughter of a truck driver father. Her mother was a welder in the shipyards, as well as a guitarist in the Light Crust Doughboys western-swing band."
Born as Billie Jean Moore in Beaumont on January 14, 1937, she began singing professionally when she was only 13 years old as part of an all-star country concert at Houston's Keel Auditorium. With the help of famous songwriter and talent-scout Jack Rhodes ("Satisfied Mind"), she began performing at the Louisiana Hayride on KWKH in Shreveport and was able to secure a recording contract with Abbott Records (onetime home of Johnny Horton and Jim Reeves). A first single (penned by Rhodes) "Too Old For Toys Too Young For Boys" was released under the name Billie Jean Moore in 1953. According to Colin Larkin in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, that recording earned her $4,200.

 Rhodes and steel guitarist Pete Drake convinced her to move to Nashville, where she signed with United Artist Records in 1964, but none of her singles charted. After following her producer Kelso Herston to Capitol Records she started to have minor hits and finally cracked the top-10 (#4) of the country charts in 1969 with the Gene Crysler penned "Mr. Walker It's All Over."

 She followed her first top-ten-hit about an emancipated secretary with the Dallas Frazier composition "Stepchild" (#43), about an abuse victim. Other issue songs were "Pittsburg General" (again penned by Crysler), where she sings about working as a nurse, and the Walter Woodward composition "Marty Gray" about teenage pregnancy. 

 Even though several were novelty songs, like the Doris Hamilton and Ann C. Kiker penned ditty "Get Behind Me Satan And Push," the arrangements were still mostly traditional. According to Country Music: The Rough Guide, Billie Jo's sassy vocals evoke Loretta's singing style. Spears wouldn't be the only one, who was pigeonholed like that, listen to Jeannie C. Riley's hit "Harper Valley P.T.A.," or any other female country singer in the late 60's.

 In a 1976 interview with Jack Hurst for his syndicated column, Billie Jo Spears is quoted: "All those novelty songs scared me. I didn't want to be typecast."

 It was still difficult for a female artist to establish herself. "People were only used to Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette singing and selling ballads. A lot of the rest of us recorded them, and sometimes they were great records, but people weren't used to anybody singing them except Loretta and Tammy."

 Here's an example, of what could have been a hit, the Jack Rhodes composition "Home Loving Man" of her debut album.

 In 1970 she was part of the Capitol Country Caravan and toured for the first time in Europe,  though still charting minor hits, she started to fade away and then had to undergo vocal-cord surgery twice to remove nodules and polyps.

The Hit Years

 In 1975, Herston moved back to United Artist and resigned her after she fully recovered from her vocal problems. As he was quickly replaced by producer/label head Larry Butler, her sound started to change, as Butler started using a more "countrypolitan" approach with Spears. Butler used the same formula, with the same studio musicians also with the careers of Dottie West, Crystal Gayle, Jean Shepard, and Kenny Rogers.

 A first single, written by Bobby Goldsboro established her back in the charts. A year later, Billie Jo Spears could celebrate her only number-one hit in the country charts, with the Roger Bowling- written "Blanket On The Ground," even though she first refused to record it and had to be talked into it by Butler. The success of the song also crossed over the ocean and scored Spears a first top-ten  (#6) in the UK charts.
(Video: - Live - London's Wembley Arena in 1983)

 During the next eight years, she would reach the country top-forty 19 times being one of the most consistent female country singers of the late '70s. With both "What I've Got In Mind" (Kenny O'Dell) and "Misty Blue", a Bob Montgomery composition she reached the number-five spot. "Misty Blue" was originally written for Brenda Lee, who refused it, then made into a hit (#4/66) by Wilma Burgess.  "If You Want Me" (#8/77) was her last top-ten hit. Even though her arrangements were more pop-oriented, she kept her sulky, Texas twang and in 1976 won the Acadamy of Country Music (ACM), Most Promising Female Vocalist award.

 Some other songs she recorded for UA and charted with were "Stay Away From The Apple Tree (#20/75)," "Silver Wings (#20/75)," "Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song" (which charted only in the UK),  "Too Much Is Not Enough (#18/77)," "Lonely Hearts Club (#18/77)," "'57 Chevrolet (#16/78)" and even a remake of Gloria Gaynor's hit "I Will Survive (#21/79)."

 In 1976 she also recorded a duet album with Del Reeves "By Request" with "On The Rebound" written by Larry Atwood/Charlie Craig, but that was the only single that charted (#29) from that album.

 Partly due to the spark and sass in her vocals and her feisty demeanor, Spears songs rarely included female "victim" material. She stood her ground as a strong "fightin'" woman with "Never Did Like Whiskey (#18/76)," "I'm Not Easy (#11/77)," "I've Got To Go (#17/78)," "Standing Tall (#15/79)" to a remake of the Glenn Sutton/Billy Sherrill penned Tammy Wynette hit "Your Good Girl Is Gonna Be Bad."

Later Years

 After "Your Good Girl's Gonna Be Bad" was Spears' last Top-Twenty in 1981, United Artist and Spears went separate ways. She occasionally recorded for independent labels, usually based in the UK or Ireland, and began to extensively tour overseas, appearing several times at the International Festivals of Country Music, promoted by "music-man" Mervyn Conn. He even expanded the festival and therefore Billie Jo's career into - at that point still communist - Poland, into the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Finland, as well as into Germany and Switzerland. The fact that she was easily approachable and would meet with her fans, to take pictures or sign autographs, made her a public favorite all over Europe.

 Some of the albums were even mass-marketed through TV and labels like Prism Leisure, EMI Gold, K-Tel, or Platinum. They were often compilations of her own hits and cover songs, the latter as diverse as re-recordings of hits by Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Taylor, Peggy Lee, Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton, and Lynn Anderson, just to name a few.

 As you may have seen, almost all of the live clips are from overseas, where Billie Jo was able to sustain an affectionate fan base. In the 1990's British magazine Country Music People even tagged her as the "Queen Mother of Country Music."

 The two following clips are two of her earlier hits from later TV shows in the UK and Ireland - "What I've Got In Mind" and "'57 Chevrolet." The latter one was recorded two years ago. 

 Touring earlier this year in the UK, with Irish country singer Philomena Begley, Spears was up for another multi-city visit overseas, billed as the "Ladies of Country"  with Jeannie C. Riley ("Harper Valley P.T.A."), in May of next year. Irish country singer Sandy Kelly and English steel guitar prodigy Sarah Jory were also part of that tour.

 Here's a link to Billie Joe Spears' US discography.

 Spears was married five times, funeral arrangements are pending.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Honky Tonkin'

This is a start of a regular unregular or in better words, unregular regular blog about all the aspects of Honky Tonks, it's music and it's patrons. In one of the future editions, I will try to explain what a Honky Tonk is or what it has become over the years.

Just to start the blog, let's use Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin'" which was Williams second big hit on MGM, reaching #14 in 1948. The reason why it didn't reach the Top-Ten could have been because there were two versions of the song available. A first version was recorded on 2/13/47 at WSM radio studios and included besides Williams, Zeke Turner on electric guitar, Dale "Smokey" Lohman on steel guitar, Louis Innis on bass and Tommy Jackson on fiddle. The first version was released as a B-Side to "Pan American" on Hank's last record for Sterling (Sterling 210) but failed to chart.

New manager Fred Rose was able to sign Williams to MGM on April 1st, 1947 and bought all copies of the earlier release for $ 2,000 and sold them to MGM and made Williams re-cut "Honky Tonkin'" on November 6, 1947. Zeke Turner was still on the electric guitar, but it was Jerry Byrd on steel guitar and Robert "Chubby" Wise on fiddle. Bassist could have been Louis Innis again, but that's not known for sure, it is also speculated who the piano player on this recording is, either Fred Rose or Owen Bradley.
This second version is more vibrant, maybe of better recording utilities at Castle studios, maybe also of a better relationship by now, between Williams and Rose.

This was the introduction blog (12/9/11) of my Honky Tonk series - the top picture was shot later, but was the blog header for about 4-5 years. Copied to amu-ricana on 8/25/21 - 174.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cold weather fronts but hot music blowing in from Canada

It is way too long since some "ink" covered these pages, well a long summer - 90 days of 100+ F degrees (38C) - finally succumbed to cold fronts (headin' down from Canada) and givin' us actually pleasant weather during the day time. But instead of frolickin' in the sunshine, some interesting music blew in from north of the border as well.

Thanks to a blogger on MOG, "In Hiding", I discovered underground indie/folk artist Jennifer Castle from Toronto. After releasing two albums "LIVE AT THE MUSIC GALLERY" and "YOU CAN'T TAKE ANYONE," she now released "CASTLEMUSIC" on the Indie imprint Flemish Eye.

Jennifer Castle - "Poor As Him"

Besides being a quiet fixture in Canada's folk underground, Jennifer Castle is also a prolific collaborator on other people's records, like The Constantines' "Kensington Heights", the hardcore punkers Fucked Up's "Year of the Pig" and "David Comes To Life". She also worked on albums for Ryan Driver, Eric Chenaux, Wooly Leaves and Doug Paisley, for instance on his song "No One But You"

For more info connect with her on facebook.

While on the website for CBC Radio3 I also discovered the band Yukon Blonde from Kelowna (BC). Originally known as Alphababy, they changed their name in 2008, moved to Vancouver and released an EP "EVERYTHING IS EVERYWHERE" two years ago. A full self-titled album on Nevado Records followed last year, and now they just released another EP "FIRE/WATER" and are touring extensively (60+ dates) through Canada and the USA. An Austin date for the indie-rock/Americana quartet is scheduled for 12/9 @ Emo's. Listen to their track "Fire" and watch the just released video for "Water".

"Wind Blows" from their 2010 release "Yukon Blonde". A new album around the main songwriter Jeff Innes (voc, gui) and his band mates Brandon Scott (gui, voc), Graham Jones (drs, voc) and John Jeffrey (bs) is supposed to be released in February of next year.

"I'm a crazy bird lady, storm chasin, red lipstick, red boot wearin, guitar slinging, singer songwriter gal", that's the self description of Toronto songstress Lindi Ortega on her Twitter profile. Thanks to the German journalist, Carolin Neumann, who posted Lindi's "Little Lie" on her google+ profile, I became familiar with the "crazy bird lady".

Lindi Ortega - Little Lie from Last Gang Records on Vimeo.

In my original share on google+ I stated "Nice little ditty - reminds me a bit of the collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on "Raising Sands" or on his recent revival of the "Band Of Joy". Lindi's music video for her song "Angels" - completedly shot and directed by Ortega herself, on an iPhone 4 (using the nexvio 8mm app) - just won Best Music Video in this year's "iPhone Film Festival".

Ortega released a four song EP in 2009 on Interscope/Cherrytree records called "The Drifter". It was met with critical acclaim, according to her biography, Toronto’s ‘Eye Weekly’ gave it a glowing four star review and called it “The perfect EP” and “A terrific teaser”, UR Chicago Magazine remarked that Lindi’s voice “undulates with absolute splendour”, and Feminist Review said of Ortega “If you heard her singing in a bar, you’d probably be forced to put down your beer." In June of this year, Lindi Ortega released a full length album "Little Red Boots" on Last Gang Records, which contains all three songs performed in the above videos.
Doing some research, I also stumbled upon a cover version of her country man's, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
8/25/21: Video-Links Update , Music Content Provider MOG doesn't exist anymore, after being sold and finally being integrated into Apple Music. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ruby - Ti Amo - Che Confusione

Several updates since 2011: The Italian Senate has decided to oust ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from the Senate. With this measure, the "Cavaliere" will lose his parliamentary immunity and will have to serve a year of community service. Berlusconi was originally sentenced to four years because of tax evasion, some amnesty rules waived three years of this sentence and hard time was commuted to either house arrest or community service because of his old age, The 77-year old right wing populist, called it a "coup d'état" and a "sad day of sorrow for the Italian democracy."

In the Bunga-Bunga trial Berlusconi was found guilty and convicted of paying 17-year-old Moroccan prostitute Karima El Mahroug, aka Ruby Rubacuori for sexual services between February and May 2010 when she was under the age of 18. But he was found not guilty on appeal and in March 2015, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte Suprema di Cassazione) upheld his acquittal. 

In 2019, a new trial was started against Berlusconi accusing him of bribing (more than 10 million Euros) and silencing witnesses in the original Bunga-Bunga trials. There are several bribing cases on-going, as they were filled in the cities where the silenced witnesses received their payments. Also, in March 2019, a Moroccan model and witness, Imane Fadil, died under mysterious circumstances, some believing she was poisoned. Her cause of death is still being investigated in 2021. 

Original: 1/15/2011

Twelve years ago, the US finally seemed to get over Monica-Gate; then president Bill Clinton got acquitted by the Senate and was able to finish his second term. Sexual scandals and politics always lead to "Monkey Business", just ask Gary Hart and Donna Rice.
Now the "scimmie" are running free in Italy. The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is investigated on suspicion of "extortion" and "child prostitution".
No, it was not an intern, but a Moroccan belly dancer,  Karima El Mahrough, who uses the stage name Ruby and has now become Ruby Rubacuori (Steal Hearts). To understand some of the Italian passion(e), let's visit with Umberto Tozzi. He ruled the airwaves in summer of '77, his song "Ti Amo" ("I Love You") was a chart topper for seven months.

When Umberto hails "ma tremo davanti al tuo seno", "but I tremble before your breast" then, oh yeah "that's amore". In the land of calcio (soccer) Ruby is at least a couple of goals ahead of  Monica. 

And while soccer headlines should be front material of "Il Corriere Della Sera" or "La Repubblica" the leading Italian newspapers, as Antonio Cassano just started playing for AC Milan (Berlusconi's club).
But no, it's Il Cavaliere or Cav (Knight) - he received this honor in 1977 - who dominates the Italian media. Only in the family owned papers "Il Giornale" (owned by his brother Paolo) and "Il Foglio" (owned by his soon to be ex-wife, Veronica Lario) does he get some slack. The first one talks of a "coup d'état" from the left and the other appeals that 
"L’uomo e l’amico lo conosciamo, non è Barbablù ma un padre di famiglia e un italiano giocoso e ardito". (The man is a friend we know, he is not a Bluebeard, but a family father and a playful and bold Italian).
Barbablù is actually based on the old French/Breton folktale "Les Contes de ma mère l'Oie" which were published in 1697. The "Stories of my mother, the Goose" tell about the fictional (maybe based on serial killer Gilles de Rais) character Bluebeard, who kills and then keeps the dead bodies of his former wives. In 1950 Italian director Carlo Bragaglia made a comedy out of this old tale, called "Le sei mogli di Barbablù". One of Italy's funniest comedians at that time, Totò Esposito tries to save his love and frees the six wives of Bluebeard.

In the pending divorce procedures, Veronica is asking for $ 5.6 millions alimony per month. Not just pocket change, even if you own almost $10 billions according to Forbes. This divorce is over another indiscretion, this one named, Noemi Letizia. "Papi", that's what she calls him, showed up for her 18th birthday and showered her with gifts.
But Ruby and earlier Noemi aren't the only problems for the septuagenarian, according to "La Stampa" there were eight (8) other beauties involved in the hot party nights in his private villa outside of Milan. 

According to witnesses, gigolo Silvio called the steamy encounters, Bunga-Bunga-nights, a term he adopted from his friend, Libyan head-of-state, Muammar al-Gaddafi. It describes a sex rite, basically an anal mass or gang rape of tribal enemies. So no wonder an Italian opposition leader came up with posters, showing the evolution of Silvio into Muammar...

By now everything, in Italy, is "bunga bunga", even when the strikers from Juve shoot some goals. "Bunga Bunga" may become the most overused expression this year, it definitely entered the Italian lexicons, and may enter the global ones too.

The Italian comic and pop band Elio e le Storie Tese (often abbreviated as EelST) - a heavily Frank Zappa influenced combo - even changed the words to Shakira's soccer World Cup anthem "Waka Waka" and appeared on State Television Rai 3.
Cavaliere Silvio calls the whole scandal just "mud throwing and theories", with no proven facts, and that sounds familiar to Bill Clinton's statements 12 years ago...
So while he's tryin' to keep the mud of his Teflon coat, an Italian jury just revoked his immunity in some (not related) corruption cases, the whole of Italy is in awe with Ruby. Maybe the British rock band, The Kaiser Chiefs should re-release their #1 hit (GB, IRL, US #14) hit from 2007, "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tom Petty - Don't Pull Me Over

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, released their new album "MOJO" last summer. Five videos - out of the fairly bluesy album - were so far released on his youtube channel. Now "Don't Pull Me Over" saw the light of the day on the web (Huffington Post and Yahoo Music). And according to the HuffPost, it was Tom's daughter Adria Petty, who was at the helm of the little epic.

But first she had to twist her daddy's arm to make the video: "In his reclusive way my pop did not want to do any traditional promotion for Mojo. But with some nepotism and coaxing I was allowed to produce this strange and humble offering."

Director Adria Petty is leaving her mark, so far she has produced two shorts "Paris, Not France", about the hotel heiress, which premiered at the 2008 Toronto film festival and a really cool short "The Who: Mirror Door". Adria is also known as a director of several commercials (Converse, McDonald's, Target), but mostly as director of music videos for Regina Spektor, Beyoncé, and Duffy.

More intriguing to me were the videos she did for The Ditty Bops "Wishful Thinking" and Stacey Earle "Simple Girl".

After meandering into Adria Petty's work, let's "Don't Pull Me Over" make its own spin. I guess it is a bit strange, less for the visual part, but it's Reggae-tinged sound and message. Some voices insist he did promote Marijuana in his song "Mary Jane's Last Dance", while other sources claim, the song deals with the painful divorce from Jane Benyo, Adria's mom. Whatever -  the video for "Mary Jane's Last Dance" which stars Kim Basinger as the corpse, is a classic.

After hearing "Don't Pull Me Over", Willie Nelson came to mind first.

Not a big brainer, really, even though the 1960 picture was an arrest for speeding and having no license.

If the "Honeysuckle Rose" is passing you on the highway not only the smokestacks are puffing. Barbarossa is probably stoned in the back of his own bus. Big deal, nope, Willie admitted inhaling in CNN's green room, before meeting Larry King or smoking a fattie in the White House. I guess the cop that pulled him over, needs a life.  The joke now is, that Willie is on a diet and lost 6 ounces so far.

We all know Willie is just an "Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground". Which made my synopses go berserk, again. Simply, Blaze Foley, the much-missed Austin troubadour came to mind, his little ditty about an overeager policeman called "Officer Norris" 

You read us our rights, 
but you read them too fast, 
Officer Norris would you please kiss my ass

What a nice invitation. The second choice offers itself: Merle Haggard's live performance of probably Blaze's most famous song "If I Can Only Fly."

Blaze Foley - "Officer Norris."

Merle Haggard - "If I Could Only Fly"