Video Related Material

On the Lighter Side….

This is actually an old post of mine from an earlier blog published in March of 2009. It features two of my favorite videos and I wanted to re-share them. In the first video Conan O’Brien does a little bird-watching and in the second video Christopher Walken gives us a gardening tip.

If you are a die-hard “bird-watcher” with a sense of humor or even, for that matter, just a backyard bird watcher then you need to click on the link below and watch the excerpt video from the Conan O’Brien Show….

And if you are into ‘horticulture’; a plant grower; the green-thumb type, then you certainly don’t want to miss this excerpt from Saturday Night Live. Especially if you like Cactus and you’ll get a great gardening tip! That video link is just below….

Nuisance Dog Barking….

I have an aversion of some magnitude when it comes to barking dogs in my neighborhood.  Although there are numerous dogs in my neighborhood, there are three homes quite near me who have what I have come to define as nuisance dogs.

Yesterday morning at around 7:30 AM one of those dogs which has quite the reputation from my perspective as being one of those three identified irritants, started his barking routine. After about an hour and a half of listening to that crap I got my camera and set it up on my front porch and video taped about 5 minutes of his barking routine….

As is quite evident from the video the dog is barking at absolutely nothing. It is so obvious that the poor dog is bored to death and apparently for this dog, barking gives him some measure of entertainment. He tries to get some enjoyment out of the laundry basket but that just doesn’t do it for him. The rub of course is that it’s not entertainment for me. And where are the dog’s owners who live in the house? Probably at work and the dog will be left out all day to wreak his barking havoc on the neighborhood.

In this particular case, the dog continued his incessant barking for another hour or so before it finally stopped, fortunately for the rest of the day on this particular day…. 🙂

A Personal Tribute to the Accordion….

I was reminded recently of my short-lived career as an accordionist when I ran across a blog where the photo of a quite unique grave headstone had been posted. A woman living in the Washington, D.C. area who was obviously a lover of accordions extraordinaire had a quite detailed replica of an accordion etched into a rather large headstone.

I have no intentions whatsoever in transforming my blog into one solely directed at music but at least for a period of time I am going to probably do just that. My recent post, “The Three Songs” has undoubtedly gotten my musical juices flowing full bore so I intend to take full advantage of that since it provides such personal enjoyment for me.

The accordion, an instrument thought to have been invented in Germany in 1822, over the past generation or so certainly seems to have gotten on the bad side of a segment of American society. It has become the brunt of many a joke. And being someone who was teethed on the accordion and who also loves humor, I have to say that most accordion jokes crack me up. I mean really, who is going to take all this in a serious vain anyway. Well….not me and I love a good joke! Besides, accordions can’t think, hear or otherwise express opinions so one has to assume they aren’t bothered by all the negative press.

In fact, one of my favorite cartoonist is Gary Larson, also known as Farside, and he published one of my all-time favorite accordion cartoons where in one scene it shows St. Peter handing out ‘harps’ to people entering Heaven while the other scene shows Satan handing out ‘accordions’ to those entering Hell. That pretty much sums up the respect an accordion gets anymore. 🙂

My mother suggested I take up accordion when I was around fifteen or so, sounded good to me at the time so she signed me up for some lessons. You can read about all those gory details “here” if you care to do so. And so it was that I began my own personal relationship with the accordion.

In those days it was a well received instrument with Dick Contino and Myron Floren probably being the most well known accordionists of the day. And of course one cannot fail to mention the fact that the song “Lady of Spain” was considered the accordion ‘anthem’. If a time ever came that you could master the famous arrangement of that piece of music on the accordion, then and only then could you honestly say you had made it to the top of your craft! Of course there was a bit of back-lash from that association between Lady of Spain and the accordion. These days does not only the accordion get a bad rap but so does the song due to that association.

Putting all that aside however, let’s liven up this little party and get one of the masters up here to give us a rip-roaring rendition of that accordion anthem right now. How ‘bout it Mr. Welk? Can you get Myron up here to play us a tune?

Wonurful, wonurful, wonurful!

By the way, at a little over the one-minute mark of that video did you notice Dick Dale? He looks like he might be in about the tenth grade! lol

The other major influence of the day for me took the form of “The Three Suns”, a primarily instrumental group consisting of Al Nevins on guitar, Morty Nevins on accordion and Artie Dunn on organ. One of their most well known songs was “Twilight Time” which became the group’s theme song. It was originally released on record in 1944. This song, along with one or two other Three Sun selections, were just a couple more records in mother’s 78-record collection.

(“Twilight Time” – The Three Suns)

By the way, I think it interesting to note that this song’s music was written by the three members of The Three Suns and the words were written by Buck Ram, a talented song writer and the creative force behind such groups as The Platters who were so popular in the early rock and roll era.

The groups biggest hit was “Peg O’ My Heart” which is another favorite of mine peaked at Number 1 on the Pop Charts in June of 1947.

Here is a great little video of the original group playing “Beyond the Blue Horizon” with vocal by Artie Dunn……

I suppose I should not avoid mentioning one other individual who achieved some measure of fame for his accordion playing. And he did so within the generation which seemed to turn so vehemently against the renowned accordion. Many of my peers may also recognize this famed accordion player. I refer to none other than Steve Urkel of “Family Matters “fame who single-handedly resurrected the accordion. Of course I do jest! Here is a hilarious segment featuring Steve, Laura, Myra and the dueling accordions….

Family Matters – Episode: “Hot Stuff” – April 1993

And so it is that here we are in 2011 and there continues a palatable distain for my instrument of choice as a young boy. Life is full of decisions and some we make are good ones, others unfortunately not so good but as to the accordion? Well, I continue to think it was a good one!

By the way, who put the grunting in tennis?

sharapovaI seldom if ever write anything regarding the sports world but today is one of those special occasions. My little darling of tennis, Maria Sharapova, has apparently gotten herself into a bit of a pickle it would seem. She took a required drug test in late January and on March 2, was charged with using a banned substance. Sponsors are already bailing and this will definitely have a serious effect on her tennis career.

It is somewhat funny how we as fans react to such news. Had this been anyone else, say Serena Williams, I would have been calling for her head. But since its my pretty little Sharapova, not to mention the fact she’s a pretty good tennis player, I was been a bit taken back by the whole thing. In her case its best I think if we just forget about the whole thing.

There will be a lot of fans however who I’m sure will be quite gratified at this development. My pretty little Sharapova is somewhat disliked for her on court manners, to be specific her grunting during play. Holding that thought, it got me to thinking… how did all this grunting in tennis even get started?

Well, after a little brief research I found a video on YouTube that left me pretty much laughing right in the middle of my Sharapova doping miseries. To address the question posed in the title of this post, it would seem Monica Seles and Jimmy Conners are credited with starting the obnoxious phenomenon. And since then it has been incorporated into the game of many of the well known men and women players. I thought the accompanying video was both humorous and enlightening on the subject….

My favorite by the way is the very last one who the commentator equates as to what sounds like a little girl falling off a cliff. 😀

Lil’ sister’s Birthday Balloon is free…. free at last!

What was supposed to be another of my wonderful home videos turned into, as far as I’m concerned, pretty much a complete disaster this morning. It couldn’t have been much easier to accomplish the simplistic goal for the video, but the results were shameful.

It all started exactly two months and one day ago. It was my birthday and my little sister showed up at the house with a couple of birthday cards and something else that in my 74 years I’m not sure I had ever gotten, one of those gas-filled birthday balloons that everyone is surely familiar with….

Birthday Day Balloon - 2 Months Old(Click to Enlarge)

The balloon of course had a small weight on the end of the ribbon tied to it so I placed it on a large table I had there in my den. That was about the extent of the hoopla over the balloon at the time and we moved on to the reading of the birthday cards.

Now, after about a month had passed that little old happy birthday balloon was still flying high over the table I had put it on there in the den. I was somewhat amazed because I figured it would have been out of gas (no pun intended) and lying somewhere on the floor by then. I guess it was at that point that the balloon seemed to take on a life of its own.

A balloon who could hang in there and still be flying high after a month…. well, that was my kind of balloon. I guess you could say we became roommates of a sort after that with me checking on his well-being almost every morning. As my balloon mate began to approach the two-month water mark here recently, I decided that this little balloon deserved much better than to be shuttered in this old house with this old man for the rest of its life. It was time to set him free and let him live his life from that point on to the fullest. He had done his job where I was concerned and had surely fulfilled his monetary worth for little sis.

So I decided that I would turn him lose one morning in the next few days on a nice day with calm wind and I would also video the event. But over the next few mornings the weather never cooperated and then this morning the weather seemed to be perfect. But instead of letting my balloon mate go in the backyard I decided to do it up right and take the balloon to our nationally acclaimed city park, Burns Park, and set him free from there next to the grand old Arkansas River.

And so it was that the planned release was accomplished and my balloon mate soared to the heavens and hopefully is still aloft and doing well. Unfortunately, my attempts to capture the event on video went terribly amuck or should I truthfully say, the videographer was the one that went amuck. Shortly after the balloon was released I lost it in the camera’s viewfinder, just briefly at one point catching a glimpse of the balloon going around the back of a tree and then I could never locate the balloon again in the viewfinder. I could see the balloon rising away in the distance find but I couldn’t find him using the camera’s viewfinder. The very few seconds of the disappointing video that I did get are documented below….

Well, needless to say I was pissed but at least I got a shortened version of his release to a well-deserved freedom. Right at the end of the video it may have appeared the balloon was perhaps hung-up in the tree but no, it was just behind the tree and still rising. In the end, I actually remained totally amazed that the balloon remained inflated and fully functional for exactly one month and 23 days before receiving its owner declared emancipation proclamation and subsequent freedom…. 🙂

The Turntable Time Machine….

I stumbled across this video a few weeks ago and it became an instant favorite….

After a knock on her door a young lady goes to the door and finds someone has left a small package at her door. She opens it to find it is a 45-rpm record titled “A Single Life“. She places it on her small turntable and begins to play the record and shortly after realizes that dependent on where the needle is placed on the record, it has the effect of moving her life backwards and forward in time….

A perspective on war and death….

I ran across this video this morning and found it to be quite sobering in its presentation of the lives lost, both military and civilian, specifically with regard to World War II but also inclusive of all wars which have occurred on this earth. With D-Day remembrances perhaps fresh in many minds I thought it most appropriate subject matter….

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo

Who the heck is 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’ Bowers 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

Todd Batista’s Harmony Lane – In Search of Gene Mumford

 

Becoming an Astrophysicist…. one step closer!

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 that 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. 🙂

I thought it was stupid”! – Robert Redford’

I recently had an opportunity to re-watch a film which I had not seen in years. That film which was certainly quite well known was “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which was released way back in 1969. Gosh, it just doesn’t seem like it was some forty-five years ago when I first watched that movie. And of course who can mention this particular film and not in the same breath mention the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” which was sung and recorded by B.J. Thomas that same year. For most the film and the song are synonymous.

I was, however, to also learn during this particular airing of the film that all was not as it seemed back in the beginning with regard to the film and this particular song. There was much discussion as to whether the song fit the film in any regard. And as recently as April of 2012 during an interview at the London Film Festival one of the stars of the film, Robert Redford, noted that the music played a huge role in the film’s success but at the time they were filming he thought it was stupid to put that particular song in the film. Redford noted, “Suddenly there was a scene where the guy was singing “Raindrops Falling on My Head” and it wasn’t even raining. Well… how wrong was I?”

The song was released in October of 1969 to very mixed reviews. It wasn’t particularly a good fit with the hit songs on the charts at the time competing against number one songs at the time to the likes of “Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations; Sugar, Sugar by The Archies; Suspicious Minds by Elvis; Wedding Bell Blues by The Fifth Dimension; Leaving On A Jet Plane by Peter, Paul & Mary.

A separate version of the song was recorded specifically for the film which included a separate instrumental break when Paul Newman did a few bicycle stunts during the subject music sequence. The entire filmed sequence centered around two of the lead characters, Paul Newman and Katherine Ross, riding on a bicycle in one manner or another.

Despite the song’s initial slow rise in popularity, with the release of the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in December of 1969 “Raindrops Falling on My Head” shot up to Number One in January of 1970 and held that position for four weeks. It sold some 200,000 to 300,000 records a day and continued selling for about three years. Written by Hal David and Bert Bacharach, it won an Academy Award for both “Best Original Song” and for “Best Original Score”.

Below is a video clip of the scene in discussion….

As we now know of course, the song became almost iconic after it became a part of the film. And to this day I suspect it is hard for anyone who was old enough to remember the release of the film or the song to think of one without thinking of the other. And can’t you imagine just how bad Mr. Redford must feel about his prior misgivings! 🙂