Remembering Jonathan Livingston Seagull….

Jonathan wondered if there wasn’t more to his life than squabbling all day long with his fellow seagulls and fighting for bits of food. Jonathan thought surely there was more to life. He wanted to fly; he wanted to explore; he wanted to be free….

He spoke of very simple things – that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.

“Set aside,” came a voice from the multitude, “even if it be the Law of the Flock? The only true law is that which leads to freedom,” Jonathan said. “There is no other.”
                                                                                                ― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

A Spring storm’s littlest victim….

P1010989a(Click for Enlarged View of Photo)

On this more or less dreary and dark morning with the threat of storms and rain I decided to have my morning coffee on the patio regardless. Noticed some movement along my nearby fence line and was quite surprised to find a young fledgling Robin. We have had several rounds of weather roll through the last couple of days so obviously the young one had been unwillingly routed from the nest. I immediately retrieved my camera for a quick photo or two. :)

But I was even more surprised to see a baby Robin at all quite honestly. I know it is early May but that seems too early to be seeing fledgling birds, whether in distress or otherwise. And the Robin wasn’t all that small to boot. Probably hatched in early April or so.

However, is as usually the case in these situations mom and pop were nearby offering encouragement and of course their food catering services. Being in my yard, he was safe from any other larger critter getting him such as a dog or cat so one can only hope he stays safe until finally on the wing.

Who the heck is Eugene (Gene) Mumford?

Billy Ward & His Dominoes - 03

Having always given myself the utmost credit with regard to being a music lover, even boasting at times at the self-endowed fact that I was a true connoisseur of the music attributed to the 1950’s and early 1960’s, I have recently discovered that I have failed miserably by all accounts regarding my most recent enlightenment. And to add insult to injury from my perspective, I found this post quite difficult to write due to the fact that there are just so many moving parts that it is hard to decide what to include and what to omit. And this is especially true when it comes to the many vocal groups who were emerging during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s with the growth of popularity of R&B music coupled with the birth of the rock and roll genre.

If you spent your teenage years growing up in the 1950’s as I did then you may recall that in 1957 two songs in particular that hit the Billboard Charts that year struck a real musical chord with a lot of folks. Even our parents who were not quite yet caught up the new budding rock and roll music genre took somewhat of a liking to the new releases. And why not, who could not be caught up in those classic pop standards which were “Stardust” and “Deep Purple”.

A vocal group, “Billy Ward & His Dominoes”, released the two songs in 1957 which were covers of a couple of classic contemporary pop standards, “Stardust” which topped the Billboard Charts at #12 in July of 1957 and was followed by the release, “Deep Purple” which went to #20 on those same charts in October of that same year. Aside from being great classic songs, these new versions were steeped in the flavor of the “Doo-Wop” sound which seem to elevate them to an even higher level with the younger generation.

And without any further guidance and/or information from local radio DJ’s or other sources and given the fact that the record label itself was devoid of any clarifying information regarding the lead singer, the majority of us just assumed given the name of the group that it was Billy Ward. And if your memory has failed you to any degree up to this point regarding those two music selections, let me offer up a subtle reminder….

Liberty Record Labels Combo - 1957

(“Stardust” – Billy Ward & His Dominoes)

(“Deep Purple” – Billy Ward & His Dominoes)

Imagine now, if you will, waking up one morning some 58 years later and finding out that all these years you have been doling out ‘kudos’ to Billy Ward for his amazing voice featured in those two recordings and finding out the singer was not Billy Ward at all. It actually wasn’t until well after the advent of the Internet that I happened across information that would enlighten me greatly with regard to the subject matter of this post.

Eugene MumfordWell… let me get to the heart of the matter at this point. No, that is not Billy Ward singing the lead on those two songs and I found myself a bit shell-shocked when I discovered the true facts. It was a man named “Eugene (Gene) Mumford” who was quite well known among his musical peers for his golden tenor voice but to the admiring pubic where I was residing he was a total unknown. And unfortunately pretty much remains so to this day. And that, musically speaking, is tragic in my opinion.

The group was basically founded in 1950 and was originally called The Dominoes. Billy Ward along with his agent and partner, Rose Ann Marks, were co-founders of the group. Billy Ward was trained on the piano had been a child prodigy, even attending New York’s famed Julliard School of Music. As a group leader, he had a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian when it came to running and controlling the group and had a no-nonsense personality.

After some initial efforts at trying to organize a cohesive vocal group, in late 1950 the vocal mix that the founders were looking for emerged. At that early point in of the group’s beginnings, The Dominoes, which was the group’s initial name, consisted of the following talents: Billy Ward at piano, Clyde McPhatter – lead singer, Charlie White – tenor, Joe Lamont – baritone, and Bill Brown as bass singer. And yes you read that right, the group’s first lead singer was the very famous Clyde McPhatter who at the time was a virtual unknown and had been recruited from a gospel group. Here’s a selection from the makeup of that group. (Please click on photo to enlarge)

Billy Ward & His Dominoes featuring Clyde McPhatter 1

 

“Harbor Lights”

Billy Ward & His Dominoes featuring Clyde McPhatter

 

McPhatter would remain the group’s lead singer until late 1953 when he would leave the group to pursue both a successful solo career and found the famed group, The Drifters. Amazingly enough, McPhatter’s replacement would end up being another virtual unknown, Jackie Wilson who like McPhatter, would go on to have a stellar career of his own. (Please click on photo to enlarge)

Billy Ward & His Dominoes featuring Jackie Wilson 2

 

 “Rags To Riches”

Billy Ward & His Dominoes featuring Jackie Wilson

 

And now to the man of the hour, Gene Mumford, who as previously mentioned was well known among his vocal group peers and virtually unknown to the general public. With Jackie Wilson having left the Dominoes and hearing Gene Mumford was available, Billy Ward immediately recruited Mumford for his next tenor and lead singer.

During his early singing years Mumford was a member of a southern gospel group, The Four Interns, and then in the mid-1940’s he had a couple of unfortunate run-ins with both military and civilian law enforcement, eventually spending two years on a prison chain gang until he was cleared of all charges and received a full pardon from the Governor of North Carolina.

After being pardoned and released from prison in 1949, Mumford was contacted by Therman Ruth who was a gospel singer, Dee-jay and concert promoter whom Mumford had come to know prior to his incarceration and had remained in contact with during that time. Therman was in the process of putting together a group he called the Jubilators and as soon as he learned Mumford had been released he immediately contacted him and Mumford joined the group as a tenor/lead.

Then on October 5, 1950 Therman took the group around New York City on a marathon recording fiasco where the group recorded at several different record companies under a sundry of group names and individual aliases. They finally ended up that day at Apollo Records where they had already recorded some tracks earlier in that same day. They were preparing to record new tracks under a different group name, “Southern Harmonaires”,  when one of the studios employees recognized them from their session earlier in the day. They called the studio owner, Bess Berman, who came to the studio and after actually hearing the group sing decided on the spot that she wanted them under contract so in the end she made a deal with all the other recording companies and secured sole rights to the group.

Bess wanted a secular R&B group and so it was that the Jubliators faded into obscurity and she renamed the new group the “5 Larks”. Within several weeks the “5” was dropped from the group’s name and they would be known from that point on simply as “The Larks”. And through it all Gene Mumford continued his tenure as tenor/lead.

In March of 1951 the group cut a record with a song on one side titled “My Reverie” and although the song garnished no particular acclaim nationwide it is considered one of the group’s classics and features our man of the hour, Gene Mumford, singing lead so here are those sweet sounds. (Please click on photo to enlarge)

The Larks - 1951

 

“My Reverie”

The Larks featuring Gene Mumford

 

The group’s members slowly began to migrate to other groups in mid-1952. Gene Mumford would join a gospel vocal group called the “Golden Gate Quartet” but in less than a year he left the group in an effort to further pursue a career in secular music. In 1953 Mumford then took it upon himself to try and reincarnate his formal vocal group, The Larks, so he simply began recruiting new members but maintaining the name ”The Larks”, although this was in reality a completely new group.

In 1954 the group was given the opportunity to perform and record some five songs at a local production company named Studio Films who was trying to produce a series of music videos. One of those five songs filmed was the very well-known classic, “Danny Boy”, which is featured below. David ‘Boots’ Bower’s who was the group’s bass singer sings on the first portion of the video but Gene Mumford, who is at the far right of the group, comes in at about the 1-minute mark to finish out the song….

The Larks - 1954-2

The reincarnated Larks would finally dissolve for the last time in the latter part of 1955. Mumford pretty much remained out of the lime light until early 1957 when he surfaced once again as a member of a vocal group named the “Serenaders”. It was apparently only a short time later that Jackie Wilson had left Billy Ward and His Dominoes so it was at that time that Billy Ward recruited Mumford to replace Jackie in his group. Gene’s voice had fully matured by that time and he could vocally deliver one hell of a ballad.

And so it is that we have basically come full circle since I started this short little post with those two great songs that were released by Billy Ward & His Dominoes in 1957 and featured Gene in the lead. Certainly this historical look is not by any means but I did want to try and give a basic overview of this talent who may have been somewhat overlooked by the general music loving public. Sometimes when it comes to music, again historically speaking, we often miss some of the real historical treasures of that music and its true origins. In the case of Gene Mumford, after myself becoming enlightened on this man, do believe he has been for the most part a true musical treasure sadly overlooked.

Gene Mumford who was born June 25, 1928 passed away May 29, 1977 at the age of 51 having been diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Gene also suffered from diabetes and his friend, Therman Ruth, felt that his diabetes along with a serious drinking issue were primary contributors to his early death.

The Larks are now regarded as one of the most important R&B vocal groups of the 1950’s and even though they had less than a handful of songs that hit the Billboard Charts, their music and history certainly seems to bear that out beyond any shadow of a doubt. Billy Ward and His Dominoes enjoyed a bit more success when it came to charted songs but a part of it all was a talent of whose name I was totally unaware which would emerge from the shadows on occasion and surely catch the ear of all within listening distance.

In closing, if you are interested in a much more detailed accounting of the two vocal groups to include Gene Mumford I want to highly recommend reading the following biographical accounts.

Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebook – The Dominoes (Part 1)
Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebook – The Larks
Tod Batista’s Harmony Lane – In Search of Gene Mumford

Becoming an astrophysicist…. one step closer!

Space

While making my rounds yesterday morning visiting a few of my routine web-based news outlets I ran across a very interesting little educational video. I’m not sure Neil deGrasse Tyson should feel threatened by this encroachment in to the world of astrophysics by the young man featured in the video and a bunch of Peep’s Easter candy but who can say… stranger things have happened.

If you are like me then surely you have spent a number of sleepless nights trying to come to terms with the comprehension of things such as ‘light years’ and the ‘speed of light’. Things that you and I have to take as fact from people… well, perhaps somewhat smarter than us.

But there’s good news to report on that front, I ran across the a fore mentioned video on the National Public Radio website (NPR) which gives you and I, simply laymen, an opportunity to confirm that the speed of light is really 670,616,626 miles per hour and it’s not just some ploy by the Federal Government to once again mislead us.

Well, I just had to share this little video in the hopes that those of you who are like me and have always had some measure of a deep seeded desire within your soul to become an astrophysicist will receive a little measure of consolation that with a few bags of Peep’s candy and an operational microwave oven we can make some measure of progress toward our ultimate goal. :)

Movie Review – “Draft Day” (2014)

5-Star Post Master

Draft Day - 2014 - 01

Given the fact that I have already watched this film twice, perhaps it is time to express a thought or two regarding my unsolicited opinion of the film. Well… I have already watched it twice so there you go! What more of an endorsement could I levy? :)

It is definitely a sports film dealing with the sport of professional football and I found it to be exceptionally entertaining. The film encompasses a time frame of some 12 hours and it revolves around all that comes with that one day a year when all the National Football League teams select from the cream of the crop of the year’s top college players. Of course we all know it as “Draft Day”.

The subject film stars Kevin Costner as the fictional General Manager of the Cleveland Browns along with his co-star Jennifer Garner who is one of the front office staff along with being his inter-office love interest. The film presents us with the high stakes drama and inter-office politics that manifests itself within a team’s managers and coaches in an effort to select those players who are the best fits for their teams. That same drama plays out as the individual teams negotiate with each other for players and yearly draft choices using their draft choices for barter in their quest for the players of their choice.

This is definitely a sport’s film so it’s impossible to say that everyone will find it as entertaining as I did. I’m sure that if you have at least some measure of the love of sports and in particular the sport of professional football, you may find it entertaining and even somewhat educational although from that standpoint the film may be little over dramatized. 😕

Fill ‘er up!

Gasoline Icons - 007

Yep, “fill ‘er up” is sure not a term you hear anymore. And if you are anywhere near my age surely there was a time when you often bellowed it out to a service station attendant.

I had planned sometime back to do a post on the service stations of old that I and virtually all myGas Station Attendant - UK peers have visited on more than one occasion I’m sure. I was reminded of that this morning when reading the morning newspaper and the adjacent picture appeared in our local paper. Can you believe that in the UK they apparently still have service stations where attendants tend to your vehicle needs? I’ll bet they really don’t. This one service station is probably on some property belonging to the Buckingham Palace gang. :)

Admittedly I really miss the convenience of those days. Some may just call me lazy if I object to getting out of the car and pumping my own gas. No, I don’t think its laziness, it really did have to do with the service you received, especially if it was a good service station. Not to mention not having to deal with the weather conditions. And I would think in particularly that a lot of the ladies would sure like to have seen that service continue.

Gas station attendant cleaning windshield of a carYou got your tank filled, your oil checked, your windshield washed and could even request them to check the air in your tires if you were concerned about that. As far as I know, the only place to receive service like that now days here in America is in your dreams. Most service stations that I am aware of don’t even have air pumps any longer while others are like vending machines where you put in a quarter for 2 minutes of air. And then of course there is the air gauge we all have to have because if we do have to check our tire’s air pressure we have something to do it with.

Surely you remember paying the attendant and if you didn’t have the correct change they would have to go inside the station to get the change. They weren’t always happy about having to do that as I recall, especially if it was bad weather. At some point many stations began having theirService Station Graphics - 008 attendants wear coin dispensers on their belts and carrying a stash of bills so they could make change right at the car.

Now back in the forties and fifties when I was growing up dad would drive the car up to the local service station almost every Sunday to get it washed and serviced. Now the service stations hand washed cars in those days. Normally you would go to your local neighborhood station, they would drive you back home in your car then return to the station with your car and after the car was washed and greased, they would return to pick you up and you would then drive them back to the station and pay for your services. I don’t remember but I bet that was all for a lot less than five bucks! In those days cars needed more frequent oil changes and lubrication or grease jobs as we use to call them. Most service stations were extremely busy on Sundays with car washing, oil changes and grease jobs.

Found this photo of a service station attendant on the Internet. Wow… I never had a service station attendant that looked like that for sure. Must be one of those California girl attendants. If we had had lady attendants here in Arkansas they would have probably been able to beat the crap out of two men at the same time… know what I mean! :(

Service Station Graphics - 001

Well once again I find myself traveling down the old reminiscent trail of days gone by. I suppose if I face the reality of still having all those great drive-thru services the cost of gasoline would be even higher. And with all the cars on the road I doubt service stations need to provide such services to aid in increasing their bottom line. Well… at least we got to enjoy the good life for a while. :)

Sun Direction Calculator for Photographers….

Murial-of-Engine-819-Cotton-Belt-Railroad-Pine-Bluff-AR-2

“Engine 819″

I recently read in our local newspaper about a mural in the downtown area of a nearby town, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, that was going to be lost due to a fire that had gutted the building on which it was painted. The building had received severe fire damage from an apparent arsonist and was slated to be torn down in the very near future. The mural which the Union Pacific Railroad paid some $30,000 for in 1998 depicts a locomotive engine, “Engine 819″, which was built back in 1943. Union Pacific has operated a huge train repair and railway yard in Pine Bluff beginning in 1962. The recent article also published a photo of the mural which is what tweaked my interest… photographically speaking.

I was seriously considering getting my own photographs of this mural before it is destroyed but I was curious as to when it would be best to take a short trip to the town to get a photograph or two. I wanted to go when I knew the sun would be at the proper angle to illuminate the mural. Perhaps I could have made an educated guess but wanted to find out exactly, direction wise, where the mural was located and at what time would the sun be full on the mural so as not to have wasted a trip to the location since it was in another town. I needed a “sun direction calculator” for lack of a better term.

Well as it turns out, despite my best intentions, I was never able to get to Pine Bluff in ample time to secure my own photographs of the art work but I was fortunate in discovering a really great sun direction calculator. If you are a serious photographer, depending on the subjects you like to photograph, the sun can be a very important part of the photograph’s equation. Especially for those who enjoy photographing landscapes and architecture. The only ‘serious’ photography I do outdoors that is critical to sun is architectural in nature. But unlike many, I prefer to do my architectural photographing not on bright, sunny days but cloudy days so as to eliminate those harsh shadows that can often be created by the bright sun. But, this post is not about photography techniques but rather about a photography tool.

As to the discovered sun calculator mentioned earlier, as it turns out, and wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Google already had the exact tool available for use. Mr. Google made the calculator an add-on of sorts to its “Google Maps” program which of course made all the sense in the world. You just had to know how to access the calculator it and how it worked and you could easily project sun direction on any location you so desired.

Google’s sun calculator program is called “SunCalc” and can be accessed by clicking on the following link… Google Sun Calculator.

If you are familiar with Google Maps in general you will note when opening the SunCalc webpage that it looks identical to the google maps layout except for the geometric drawing appearing over the map which is in fact the “sun calculator indicator”. The map application itself works just the same as always except you now have the movable calculator appearing over the maps which you can move around as necessary to meet and/or determine your specific criteria. You also still have available the “Map” view as well as the “Satellite” view.

So for the purposes of this little ‘show & tell’ I have assumed that we are going to visit New York City and we want to go to Liberty Island and take a great photo of the Statue of Liberty. Hopefully the screen shots that follow along with my brief tutorial will be of some use in learning how to use the sun direction calculator.

We have decided that we want to take a photograph of the Statue of Liberty with a full frontal view. And we want full sun on the front so that no dark shadows are present to hide any portion of the statue. So we will need to know at around what time is the sun in a position to fully illuminate the front of the statue. We then open the “SunCalc” and type in the location we are looking for and in our case that would be Liberty Island in New York. We would then see on the Google’s Map page a graphic similar to the one below. Please note that you will need to click on the images I will be presenting and enlarge them so as the see the details we will be discussing….

Map - 01(Click To Enlarge)

The circle shown in the middle of the map is the geometric part of the calculator. Also note that Liberty Island which is our subject matter is located near the center of the calculator circle. Now let’s look at a marked-up version of the graphic….

Map - 02(Click To Enlarge)

 On this graphic I have added a few notes. Note that the calculator can be moved around the map so that you can locate the center of the calculator at the specific point you desire. Now of most importance is to note the timeline bar and setting at the top of the graphic. The orange dot on the timeline indicator is currently sitting on about 4:30 AM. If you put your mouse cursor on that orange dot you can slide the dot along the timeline indicator. As you do that, the straight orange line on the inside of the calculator circle which goes from the center of the circle to the outer edge will begin to move around the outside edge of the circle. This orange line is the sun direction indicator and is how we will determine at what time we need to be at the Statue of Liberty to get our fully lit frontal photograph of the statue.

Now, using the ‘ZOOM” function of Google Maps we will zoom in on Liberty Island for a good close up view. We will also set Google Maps from the ‘map’ function to the ‘satellite’ function so we can determine the exact location and position of our subject, the Statue of Liberty. You should see that function setting in the upper right-had corner of the map. After doing that hopefully you will see a representation similar to the one below….

Map - 03(Click To Enlarge)

Now we can clearly see Liberty Island and the precise location of the Statue of Liberty. As we note the direction that the statue is facing which is towards the bottom right-hand side of our graphic we will then want to move the ‘orange dot’ on the timeline bar at the top of the graphic. Again as previously noted, as you move the ‘orange dot’ along the timeline you will see the straight orange line rotate around the center of our sun calculator circle. The straight orange line is indicating the current sun direction based on where our orange dot is located on the timeline bar. As can be noted from my graphic, the current time setting is around 10:00 AM and the orange straight line is pointed directly at the front of the statue. Therefore, to get the photograph of the statue that we desire fully lit from the front we should be standing in front of the statue at around 10:00 AM in the morning.

Going to the sun calculator application, opening it and playing with it for a few minutes I think will show that this whole process is a lot less complicated than I may have made it look. But if precise sun direction is ever of any concern for any particular reason, hopefully this application will be of some use. I know with regards to some of my photography projects such as the one mentioned at the beginning of this post, it certainly can be of great help. :)

Movie Review – “Jersey Boys” (2014)

3-Star Post Master

Jersey Boys - 2014 - 04

I have been waiting for some time now to finally see “Jersey Boys”, the true story about the rise and decline of The Four Seasons. I had, like many other folks, became familiar with the Broadway production which premiered in late 2005 to rave reviews. The musical stage production went on to win 4 major ‘Tony Awards’ to include Best Musical, Best Performance by A Lead Actor, Best Performance by A Featured Actor and Best Lighting Design along with a ‘Grammy Award’ for Best Musical Show Album.

On a couple of my past blogs I had featured excerpts of the music from the Broadway Musical so let me in fact do that yet one more time for posterity sake. To listen to several excerpts of the musical production click “Jersey Boys – The Music” to view a small player. Click on the play button near the top of the player or on anyone of the songs and you will no doubt hear some music very familiar to your ears.

I was quite surprised to hear that the musical would be turned into a movie and even more surprised that it would be directed by Clint Eastwood. Ever since I have been looking forward with anticipation to seeing the film. And let me say right up front, although it truly hurts me to do so, that I don’t consider it some of Clint Eastwood’s best work. For me the film was entertaining throughout but primarily due to the fact that I knew very little about the back story of Franke Valli or The Four Seasons so learning about the rise and decline of the group is what really kept my interest throughout the film. Had the movie not been about a very famous group but rather just some film made about some fictional group, I doubt seriously I would have watched the entire film.

John Lloyd Young, who played and sang in the part of Franke Valli in the Broadway production, also starred in the role of Franke Valli in the film version. Two other members of the original Broadway production were also in the film along with a couple of actors who appeared in the touring version of the musical. The only really familiar movie actor in the film was Christopher Walken who of course shined as a mob boss who was a close acquaintance of the group.

If you are a Franke Valli/Four Seasons fan then I have to assume that surely you will enjoy the film. As for me personally, that is the only reason I found the film somewhat entertaining. Having their heyday in the 1960’s they did indeed crank out some memorable music and I for one pretty much have it all in my collection. If you’re a fan I hope you enjoy the movie…. :)

The New Like/Dislike Buttons…

like-dislikeRegarding the “Like/Dislike Buttons” you will find at the end of each post here on the site, I am going to see if they can be incorporated in some measure here in my journal/blog. As most already know, the like/dislike button can often be applicable to a particular post and then at other times, given the subject matter of a post, have no applicability whatsoever.

This entry is simply a “heads-up” to make anyone who may find themselves growing attached to such buttons that they could at any moment disappear if I begin to question their functionality  or purpose.

Oh… and one other thing should there be any question in your mind about the buttons. If you click on a button no information whatsoever is gathered with regard to who clicked the button or where they came from. It is a totally anonymous action on your part and I will have no idea at all as to who is spreading all the hate and discontent with those dislike buttons.

And one more thing, if you click on either a like or dislike button and then later feel an onrush of guilt for your hasty judgement then here’s a bit of good news, just click on the button again and it will remove your initial click, etc, etc.

Super Bowl XLV PowerPoint Backgrounds….

After the successful conclusion of Super Bowl XLV and the Green Bay victory back in 2010, which is by the way a favorite team of mine, I decided to personally commemorate the victory by creating a series of PowerPoint backgrounds that could be used in PowerPoint presentations. I have a bit of a passion for working with graphics so at the very least the endeavor was an enjoyable undertaking.

For the record, I would say that 99.9% of all my graphics work as well as my photographic work is accomplished with Paint Shop Pro. The following eight (8) backgrounds created specifically for PowerPoint constitute the entire “Green Bay” series. To view the full-size graphic be sure to click on the graphic….

Green Bay Packers Background - 01
Green Bay Packers Background - 02
Green Bay Packers Background - 03

Green Bay Packers Background - 04
Green Bay Packers Background - 05
Green Bay Packers Background - 06

Green Bay Packers Background - 07
Green Bay Packers Background - 08