Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

June 29, 2022

RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE, VOLUME 1 STARRING DICK POWELL (Radio Archives)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:10 am

For someone who started out as a band singer, then progressed into light comedies and musicals, and then reinvented himself as a hard-boiled (but still witty) detective actor, and then reinvented himself as a producer-director-studio head, DICK POWELL was an amazing talent…and he did it all equally well.

After his success in 1944 as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in MURDER, MY SWEET, Powell found a new career in crime films and film noir on the screen, and on radio as Richard Rogue in ROGUE’S GALLERY, which ran in 1945-46. In 1949, he became RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE on radio, a show which ran through 1953. Written by Blake Edwards (who went on to take some of the same qualities and use them in the PETER GUNN television series), the show used all of Powell’s strengths. An ex-cop turned detective, Diamond was tough, but tossing off one-liners and sarcastic remarks and even whistling during the show’s theme music. In fact, the theme music captures the contrast of the show—it starts off sounding like comedy music, but then morphs into hard-boiled crime music.

Diamond himself narrates the shows, making it a very character-oriented and character-driven show. The plots introduce a number of interesting elements and are sometimes surprisingly violent or grisly, but a few minutes later things are lightened with humor. You couldn’t get away with this kind of a tonal shift on TV as well as you can on radio, especially when you’ve got an actor like Powell who is associated with both tough guy roles and charming, witty comedies front and center in every scene of every show.

This collection contains 20 shows from 1949-51, 10 hours of Richard Diamond, the early shows sponsored by Rexall Pharmacies, the later shows sponsored by Camel cigarettes, and as a former Camel smoker myself, I can say that the ads make the product sound VERY attractive….and hey, Camels are recommended by doctors (in 1951, at least).

The shows manage to work in a lot of action, both depicted and referred to, and the supporting characters are colorful….the people who hire Diamond, the cops (both helpful ones and bumbling ones), the women (both seductive and deadly), the crooks, the informants, the minor characters like short-order cooks in diners, newsstand boys, garage attendants, etc. The sound effects are quite evocative, making you think you are on a boat off Key West or in a warehouse at night in New York’s Garment District or in the local police precinct office. Tonight, I am listening to a show recorded 70 years ago, and it’s as fresh and alive and engaging as if it were broadcast today. I love the way that at the end of each show, as Powell whistles the theme, the announcer tells you what movie Powell is presently starring in, playing at your local theater! It’s easy from Richard Diamond to see why audiences could not get enough of Dick Powell. I had the privilege of seeing a theatrical screening, from a 35mm print, of his superb 1951 film noir CRY DANGER (see poster), about five years ago in Houston. It’s an RKO film, so keep an eye out for it on TCM. As with most old radio shows, Richard Diamond episodes can be found easily online, although this CD set is attractive, has great sound quality, and can be found inexpensively.

In the late 50’s, Dick Powell produced a TV version of Diamond, starring the pre-Fugitive David Janssen. That’s also highly recommended, though the tone is a bit different, as Powell wisely tailored the show to Janssen’s strengths and didn’t just do a clone of the radio show.

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2020

June 24, 2022

Bill Shute discusses Ed Wood on two-part ‘Ephemeral’ podcast

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:32 am

Very happy to announce that the IHeartRadio podcast “Ephemeral” has released a two-show feature on filmmaker-writer Edward D. Wood, Jr., for which I did an interview last December.

The first show deals with Wood’s beginnings through about 1960, and my comments are probably 70% of the content. Kathy Wood’s (EW’s widow) friend Bob Blackburn is also interviewed, providing insight into Wood’s life (I avoided any speculation about his personal life, asking the producers to talk to Bob about that, since he had direct knowledge through Kathy Wood–I usually try focus on the work, not the personal lives of artists and celebrities). The show is very well-produced (production worthy of, say, This American Life), and it would be an excellent introduction to Wood’s life and work for someone who’d just heard his name and knew nothing about him. It should get a large audience over the years.

There is also a second show, the first half of which discusses his career from 1960 on (Bob B and I are included on that too), and then the final half, which is of less interest, has the three show producers chatting about Wood (that can be skipped, IMHO).

Besides giving a chronological survey of EW’s career and explaining that I considered his work up through THE SINISTER URGE as attempts to fit his unique vision into existing genre-film categories (that’s the way you get a film financed and made and released in the low-budget feature film world, then or now), I also wanted to champion Ed Wood’s work, explain why I totally reject the condescending “bad film” approach, and describe how Wood has been an empowering and inspirational figure to many creative artists. Above all, I wanted to present a narrative about Edward D. Wood, Jr. that his grandchildren, if he’d had any, would have been proud to listen to. I also discussed how Wood would no doubt have re-emerged into the SOV slasher/horror market of the 1980s and 1990s, had he lived.

EW’s marginal, z-grade productions are still charming, entertaining, and fascinating audiences today, 60-70 years after they were made. Since the VHS boom of the 1980s, I’ve re-watched a Wood film every month or two, and I still do today. If I’m feeling antsy or bored, not sure of what to watch, I can put on pretty much any Wood feature or short, pre-1962, and I will be entertained and kept glued to the screen.

Fortunately, the producer left in my mention of the recent collection of Wood’s 1970s adult magazine non-fiction pieces WHEN THE TOPIC IS SEX (Bear Manor Media), which Bob Blackburn edited/compiled and I wrote the introductory essay to, and gave it a few other mentions too. If you are looking for 545 pages of edgy, idiosyncratic, free-associational sex-oriented (mostly) writing to meet a deadline and a word count–a situation that curiously allows Wood’s unique themes and images and wording to be front-and-center–you’ve got an incredible bounty of riches here. However, as with rich food, be sure to sample this content sparingly, or you’ll get the mental and emotional equivalent of a tummy ache!

Here is the link to the first show:

https://omny.fm/shows/ephemeral/ed-wood-i

And the link to the second show:

/https://omny.fm/shows/ephemeral/ed-wood-ii

====================

Of course, if you REALLY want to take a deep dive into Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s prolific career as a writer and filmmaker, you need to start with what is the ultimate guide to all things Wood, Joe Blevins’ amazingly deep and amazingly documented ED WOOD WEDNESDAYS. When I try to describe this mind-blowing resource to people, as I often do, I use as an example how readers are provided with transcriptions of the captions Wood wrote for hardcore porn loops. That’s only the beginning, my friends…. Once you go down that rabbit hole, you’ll never come back and you’ll probably become a lifelong Ed Wood champion. You can find the index to ED WOOD WEDNESDAYS here:

/https://d2rights.blogspot.com/2013/09/you-know-what-this-weekend-would-be.html

June 22, 2022

CRAZY MAN CRAZY: THE BILL HALEY STORY by Bill Haley Jr. and Peter Benjaminson (Omnibus Press UK/Backbeat Books US; 2019; 299 pages).

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:43 am

In 1990, Bill Haley’s son John co-wrote a now-rare book, Sound And Glory, which many consider the go-to source for Haley’s work up through the early 60’s and the move to Mexico. Now, Haley’s son Bill Jr. has co-written a new biography, Crazy Man Crazy, which balances Haley’s music and his personal life. It has the benefit of the detailed insights from Haley’s first two wives, Dorothy (who was there for the years of struggle, when Bill was a regional artist and working on his fusion of country boogie/R&B in local bars and on local Philly labels), and Cuppy (who was there during Bill’s breakthrough in the founding days of rock and roll through his biggest fame until things crashed circa 1959 and he left the country), and Haley fans will thrill at the wealth of detail and specifics about the early tours and television appearances and band dynamics and business problems and the like. It’s as if you are there as “Crazy Man Crazy” flies up the charts in 1953, and audiences and radio programmers are trying to figure out what this curious musical hybrid Haley calls rock’n’roll is about…and as “Rock Around The Clock” is featured in the film Blackboard Jungle, months after its original release and modest reception (it wasn’t even the “A”-side of the single!), and Haley and his Comets become superstars, for a time at least.


Bill Haley had a passion to become a famous music personality and an equal passion to create a new form of music, combining the elements of the many American musical forms he loved, from gospel to polka (the early Comets had an accordion) to jazz to honky tonk (the Comets had a steel guitar), though especially country boogie and R&B. Haley tried various approaches, but hit the right combination in 1951 with his cover of “Rocket 88” and mastered the newly created form with his 1953 hit “Crazy Man Crazy.” This book puts you alongside Bill during those agonizing early days as things are coming together.
Unfortunately, you are also right beside Bill as things fall apart in the late 50’s, mostly due to mis-management and Bill’s loyalty to friends from the neighborhood who were in way over their heads in business affairs. Also, Bill was not a model father or model husband with his first two marriages, and the picture emerges of a solitary man with a pleasant and friendly public image who lived for music, but found life and family more difficult to master. Fortunately, his third marriage, to Martha, whom he met in Mexico, proved more successful, but by the late 60’s, when he’d moved to South Texas and began working in the US again (his tax problems resolved), his drinking problem had taken its toll.


Crazy Man Crazy is not a happy read (with Haley’s inconsiderate behavior toward family members and the man’s own sad run of bad luck), but it’s inspiring in a way to see Haley soldier on decade after decade, often in reduced form, excitedly representing pure 50’s rock and roll during periods where few cared. The book is a compelling read and will surely become the standard biography of one of the key architects of Rock and Roll.

Bill Shute, originally published in Ugly Things magazine in 2019

June 20, 2022

15+ hours of vintage 1956 ALAN FREED ‘CAMEL ROCK & ROLL DANCE PARTY’ radio shows

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:07 pm

Though not a musician himself, Alan Freed deserves the title KING OF ROCK & ROLL as much as anyone, in my humble opinion, and he’s called that in the introduction of some of the episodes of his CAMEL ROCK & ROLL DANCE PARTY show from 1956, and thanks to the folks at the Country Music Hall of Fame Digital Collections (who also have episodes of shows from artists you’d associate more with Country Music, such as Pat O’Daniel, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams, etc.), we can now listen to OVER FIFTEEN HOURS (!!!!) of prime Alan Freed, when he was still at the top of his game and the height of his national popularity.

Anyone who is a serious follower of Freed and who has heard the albums released under his name (two of which appeared on a wonderful Ace CD a few years back) knows that the man was rooted in the jump-blues/proto-R&B era, and thus it’s no mystery why he filled the bands who played his shows with middle-aged musicians, usually African-American, who’d started working during the swing era but who moved into R&B in the late 40s and early 50s. That music was the core of rock & roll to Freed. It also makes perfect sense that he would have Count Basie’s Orchestra as the house band on a number of these radio shows. The were a riff-oriented band going back to the 30s, and though they moved into more complex arrangements in the 1950s, they could still provide music that was essentially R&B, though with jazz-quality solos. The kind of rock & roll that appealed to Freed was the “jive” sound of Bill Haley or early Charlie Gracie or Jimmy Cavallo. And as many experts on New York-based session musicians and studio work have documented, these Black swing-era rooted, R&B based musicians were the backing band on many if not most of the “rock & roll” records of the mid-to-late 50s recorded in NYC. Freed certainly liked other kinds of music (he clearly loved the vocal group sound and championed that too), but I’ve always had the feeling that his heart was deeply rooted in the R&B side of things, and in his version of Heaven, Sam “The Man” Taylor would be taking tenor sax solos and Mickey Baker guitar solos for Eternity.

These radio shows are a superb document of the excitement that Freed was able to corral and then package and label as Rock & Roll. We’re fortunate that so many were preserved so well, literally jumping out of your computer speakers!

Link to the Alan Freed radio shows (bookmark it!):

https://digi.countrymusichalloffame.org/digital/collection/musicaudio/search/searchterm/Camel+rock+’n+roll+dance+party+(Radio+program)/field/subjec/mode/exact/conn/and/order/title/page/1

June 16, 2022

newest from Jandek, TILBURG SATURDAY (Corwood 0860)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 9:39 am

The latest Jandek release came out last month (while I was out of town), TILBURG SATURDAY (Corwood 0860), solo piano and vocal from a 19 Sept 2008 performance at the Incubate Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. As Jandek performances feature new spontaneous pieces accompanying the Representative’s prewritten texts (his notebook on the music stand), every performance is unique and precious. I just ordered my copy. Jandek keeps issuing multiple first-rate albums each year. The man will be 77 this Fall–let’s continue to support him and his work while he is still around to appreciate the support.

You can order a copy directly from Corwood Industries in Houston:

Depending on how you count them, we’re now at approximately 120 releases from the Representative From Corwood. It’s now 10 years since the Jandek performance in Austin in 2012, which I co-produced and assembled the band for. It was an amazing show with an amazing band….

June 15, 2022

THE CHANCES—Baby, Listen To Me! (Nor-Va-Jak), CD

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:33 am

Baby, Listen To Me
I Can’t Live Without It
Girl As Perfect As You
Get Out Of My Life
To Love Her
It’ll Be Better For You
Goldfinger
Goldfinger 
(alternate)
From Russia With Love
Thunderball
Lookin’ For Love
Things I Feel
Always On The Run
So Much Love
That Girl (Isn’t Coming Today)
The Next Time Around
Your Kind Of Love
Why Shouldn’t I
Baby, Listen To Me 
(original mono mix)
Girl As Perfect As You 
(original mono mix)bonus track: Act III / Travel Agency – Made For You

THE CHANCES—Baby, Listen To Me! (Nor-Va-Jak), CD


It’s exciting that at this late date we can still discover 22 previously unknown sparkling, well-recorded, (mostly) original compositions (1965-67) by an excellent beat-pop quartet, but that’s what you get here, buried deep in the vaults of Clovis, New Mexico, producer Norman Petty.


Consisting of Sandy Salisbury (later of The Millennium), Gary Lee Swofford (a Texas drummer who’d worked with Petty on a number of earlier projects and recorded a 1962 single with George Tomsco and Stan Lark of the Fireballs), Tom Beal, and Steve Haehl (later of The Travel Agency and Shanti), the band got their start in Southern California circa 1965, though they also worked in Arizona and resorts such as Mammoth Lake. Through the Swofford connection, Norman Petty took an interest in the group, and as they travelled back to Texas to visit Swofford’s family, the group stopped in Clovis, New Mexico, for the first of three sessions between June 1965 and March 1967.


The recordings, being all originals (except for four stunning instrumental covers of James Bond movie themes, done in the Fireballs/Virtues manner), are a total surprise to the listener—beautiful harmonies, interesting chord changes, fresh melodies, and recorded with the sharpness and sparkle one associates with Petty’s productions for The Crickets or The Fireballs. The core quartet have an uncluttered, open sound, and had they released an album, it would be considered a classic today for fans of American 60’s beat groups. I’m reminded of a more mannered Phil And The Frantics or perhaps the early Cryan Shames if they’d never heard The Byrds.


Unfortunately, some of the band members received draft notices, and the group folded…so Petty did not attempt to market the single (“Baby, Listen To Me”/”Girl As Perfect As You”) he’d already mastered and had ready to send out to potential licensees (there’d be no group to promote it), and the album’s worth of songs sat in the vaults. As Petty had the publishing on the compositions, and knew strong material when he heard it, he had The Fireballs do versions of both sides of The Chances’ unreleased single on their first Atco LP, but otherwise this fine material has been unheard for 50+ years…until this CD.
All the qualities associated with Sandy Salisbury’s later work can be heard here, in an earlier form, in the smaller and more concentrated quartet form. A wonderful find from the Petty vaults.

Bill Shute, originally published in 2019 in Ugly Things magazine

June 8, 2022

POPPIES: Assorted Finery From The First Psychedelic Age (Craft Recordings), LP/CD

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:26 am

V.A.—POPPIES: Assorted Finery From The First Psychedelic Age (Craft Recordings), LP/CD

  1. Buffy Sainte-Marie – Poppies
  2. Southwest F.O.B. – Smell of Incense
  3. Jefferson Lee – Sorcerella
  4. The Gospel – Redeemer
  5. The Frost – Stand In The Shadows
  6. The Sot Weed Factor – Say It Isn’t So
  7. IThe Honey Jug – In 1582 We
  8. The Paternak Progress – Flower Eyes
  9. Circus Maximus – Bright Light Lover
  10. The Serpent Power – Open House
  11. The Human Jungle – When Will You Happen To Me*
  12. Chapter VI – Oracle
  13. Erik – Why Come Another Day


Label-based compilations of lesser-known 60’s garage and/or psych singles and album tracks are always welcome, from the old Mindrocker LP’s of the early 80’s through Steve Stanley’s masterful expeditions through the vaults of White Whale and B. T. Puppy (and more recently Capitol, on the Book A Trip cd’s). This first-rate collection, assembled and annotated by Alec Palao, focuses on the back catalogues of Vanguard, Original Sound, and Stax’s “Hip” subsidiary.


Except for Southwest F.O.B.’s lovely, swirling cover of “Smell of Incense,” little here can be called pop-sike. The droning mind-fry “Poppies” from Buffy Saint-Marie’s electronically mutated psych masterwork Illuminations throws down the gauntlet at the album’s start, and then we’re taken on a tour through the Music Machine-like punch of Jefferson Lee’s “Sorcerella,” the raga-like “Redeemer” from John Townley & The Family of Apostolic (check out their fine Vanguard Apostolic LP) hiding under a pseudonym, Dick Wagner’s trippy guitar workout with The Frost on the majestic “Stand In The Shadows”, and a Jim Dickinson-produced single “In 1582 We” by The Honey Jug that starts off with warped sounds from an ancient cylinder recording and is totally uncommercial although Stax head honcho Al Bell thought that it sounded like a hit (probably seeing how much money songs like “I Am The Walrus” were making and thinking Stax wanted a piece of that). There are also well-chosen selections from Vanguard artists The Serpent Power (with poet David Meltzer) and Circus Maximus (with Bob Bruno and Jerry Jeff Walker). Brian Ross of Music Machine fame was involved with four of the tracks (those with an Original Sound connection), and even the listener who specializes in obscure psych will find a few surprises here. It’s expertly programmed by Palao to present a wide variety of psychedelic sub-genres, and this 13-track trip ends by “coming down” with folk-psych shaman Erik (Heller) doing the agonized raga-drone “Why Come Another Day.”


This is a masterful comp of first-rate psych from a wide variety of artists. Those looking for nothing but super-rare obscurities might be let down (there are only a few of those here), but otherwise, this is an album I doubt I’ll ever put back on the shelf, and I hope that further volumes are coming…soon!

Bill Shute, originally published in Ugly Things magazine in 2019

June 1, 2022

THE NEW ROY ROGERS SHOW, VOLUME THREE (Radio Archives)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:56 am

Roy Rogers began his career as a guitarist-singer with the original lineup of the Sons Of The Pioneers, under his real name, Len Slye. When Republic Pictures was looking for a new singing cowboy as a back-up to Gene Autry, to keep Gene in line in case he made any demands to re-negotiate his contract, Roy was chosen and given his own western films to star and sing in. These films turned out to be as popular with Western audiences as Gene’s ever were (and Roy had the same wholesome appeal as Gene, so he could be marketed to children as well as adults, and both men took their position as role model to the youth of America seriously), and Roy went on to become a huge phenomenon on his own, Hollywood’s KING OF THE COWBOYS, a man who was at the top of popularity in movies, on radio, on television, in comic books, in newspaper comics, in storybooks aimed at children, and in toy sales. Anyone who frequents junk stores, antique malls, and the like knows that there was a wide variety of Rogers items for sale in the 40’s and 50’s, and you still see them today, usually in poor condition and being sold at laughable prices. One wonders why sellers would assume anyone would be stupid enough to pay $20 for a water-stained used coloring book (for instance) with half the pages missing—you’d have to convince me to take it for free, and I’m a Rogers fan. I’m guessing most of these sellers saw a mint item similar to that sold for $20 on Ebay once—probably to some collector of Rogers who needed it to complete his collection—and figure that’s the going price. So much for the pre-Ebay days when sellers would price something so that they could move it in a month….and if it didn’t move it in a month, they’d drop it by a third. But I digress…

As someone who listens to old-time radio shows when I’m working (I unfortunately take a lot of work home from my job each night and need something to keep me going while I’m doing hours of tedious work—usually it’s music, but often it’s old-time radio….in the last month, I’ve probably listened to 75 episodes of the late 40’s Philo Vance show, starring Jackson Beck), I’ve had Roy Rogers in my rotation here and there over the years, though I paid little attention to what season I was listening to. On the whole, Rogers’ radio shows featured a lot of music and had a variety show feel, though later in the run, they tended to go more into a juvenile-oriented style, and were sponsored by breakfast cereals, and Roy would appeal directly to “boys and girls” when he spoke to the audience.

So imagine my surprise when I stumble across a set of 14 shows from 1954 (Roy’s last season on radio was 1955), and it’s quite different in format from what I’m used to. First of all, it’s called THE NEW ROY ROGERS SHOW. Then it’s announced at the beginning that it’s “for the entire family.” Usually that would mean that the show was family-friendly for children, with no “mature” content. This, however, means the opposite—that it’s not just a children’s show but is meant for adults too.

And that’s made crystal clear from the sponsor and the many commercial pitches. I don’t think many children are interested in buying an elegant 1954 Dodge or Plymouth sedan….or one of the work-horse Dodge trucks that Roy mentions he uses on his ranch and for pulling the horse trailer for Trigger. In fact, the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans theme song “Happy Trails” is re-written to include Dodge in every line after the first and is sung at least once on every show! There are so many ads for Dodge vehicles on the show, and the ads are full of such rich and enticing particulars, I found myself wanting to own one of those sleek, attractive, and affordable ’54 Dodges at the end of each show, the way I want to smoke a Lucky Strike at the end of each episode of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM

One gimmick used during this season (it might be used on other 50’s seasons too, but not in the 40’s shows I remember) is that each show is titled after a song, usually some Western standard such as “Strawberry Roan” or “Red River Valley,” which is performed during the show and echoes of which are worked into the orchestral backing during the dramatic scenes, and then some element from the title of the song is worked into the plot…in the most forced but tangential way. For instance, Strawberry Roan is worked into a horse-racing plot (Brad Kohler will have to hear that one), while Red River Valley is set in a town near the Red River!

Also, many of the episodes involve murder mysteries! The earlier shows aimed at 10 year olds were certainly not. Of course, Agatha Christie or Erle Stanley Gardner would not have had to worry about any competition, as the quality of the murder plotting is rudimentary, to put it mildly, and one can only introduce so many suspects in a 30-minute show….especially when a chunk of it is given over to music, to Dodge commercials, to sidekick Pat Brady’s comedy antics, and to the Queen of the West DALE EVANS (originally from right down the road in Uvalde, Texas!) getting a song and interacting with the female characters on the show. I guess the murder mysteries were a way of making the show more “adult.” However, the eight-year-olds are not forgotten, as any child who’d listen to one or two previous episodes could figure out the guilty party as quickly as the adult listeners could.

I also like Roy’s being a celebrity in the dramatic parts of the show, someone recognized as being famous by the other characters they encounter as the plot plays out. This technique was used in the later seasons of the YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR radio show (which ran until 1962), where Johnny would appear in some town on a case, go into the local diner and get a cup of coffee and ask a few questions about the locals, and the guy serving the coffee would say, “why I know you, Mr. Dollar—I listen to your show every week.” Here, Roy will be about to question someone who was a witness to a crime or whatever, and the person is at first not wanting to cooperate, but then after Roy says his name, the person is impressed, admits he’s a fan, and says “of course I can help Roy Rogers—what can I do for you, Mr. Rogers.” Boy, it must be nice to have your name open doors like that!

Any fan of old-time radio will recognize many of the voices of Los Angeles-based character actors in the supporting roles, and the music is the kind of vaguely Western orchestral sound I associate with Spade Cooley at his most uptown. The Mello-Men vocal group appear too and do a novelty quartet vocal about Dodge products, the same way the Sportsmen Quartet used to do a novelty song about Lucky Strike on THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM. The instantly recognizable deep-bass voice of Thurl Ravenscroft (voice of Tony The Tiger, of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Fame) is heard on these tracks, and here and there he gets 8 or 12 bars of solo singing, which is always a treat.

Anyone who remembers the Rogers 50’s TV show will enjoy the antics of comedy sidekick Pat Brady (in his other life, a member of the Sons Of The Pioneers), though since much of his routine on the TV show was visual humor and exaggerated mugging a la Leo Gorcey or Shemp Howard, he’s toned down a bit on radio. Also, his famous Jeep “Nellybelle” does not appear on the ten or twelve episodes of the show I listened to in this review….though the show DOES mention that Pat was on occasion taking Trigger somewhere in the horse trailer which was pulled by Roy’s tough 1954 Dodge truck! Evidently, Jeep not being an advertiser (Jeep was not part of Chrysler back then—it joined Chrysler when they purchased American Motors decades later) kept Nellybelle out of a Dodge-sponsored show!

Overall, this is an entertaining show for the Rogers fan. He’s in virtually every scene, he gets a song in every show, he interacts with his charming wife Dale, he plays the straight man to Pat Brady’s comic buffoonery, he solves a murder in most episodes, and he’s excited about the 1954 Dodge line of cars and trucks, and anxious to tell YOU about them. Listen to a few of these shows in a row, and you’ll be wanting a stylish and economical 1954 Dodge too!

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2020

May 25, 2022

THE GOLDEN GOOSE (East Germany, 1964), presented by K. Gordon Murray

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:07 am

The Saturday/Sunday “kiddie matinee” with special programming aimed at the under-12 set still hangs on here and there in various forms, but not in the same way it did in the 1960’s (and into the early 1970’s), when the scene was dominated by Florida-based “master showman” K. GORDON MURRAY. Murray got his start as a distributor with imported exploitation films (such as WASTED LIVES) which he dubbed into English. He then moved into horror films, importing dozens of fine atmospheric horror films from Mexico, and having his professional, Spanish-speaking crew (many Cuban expatriates) translate the dialogue and create English scripts. He was able to corner the market in the USA with these Mexican horror films in English (his only competition, on a minor level, being Jerry Warren, who used a very different technique in creating English-language versions of the Mexican source films), showing them at drive-ins (with outrageously attention-getting ad campaigns dripping with over-the-top ballyhoo) and eventually creating packages for television, where the films were widely seen in horror packages.

Murray’s keen sense of what an audience will buy also led him to dub and distribute in the US imported children’s films, originating in Mexico and in Germany. The first and most successful of these was the legendary Mexican SANTA CLAUS film, which played weekend matinees for at least 10 years around the nation. That film’s success led Murray to create many more English language “family” films, often based on classic fairy tales, whenever possible in “storybook color.” With eye-catching posters and special TV and radio ad campaigns, the films had great appeal for parents looking to have a few hours freedom from Junior, able to drop the child off at the local theater for two hours for a measly 25 or 50 cents and the cost of a box of popcorn.

This worked well for about 7 or 8 years, but Murray’s well eventually ran dry, and by the late 60’s, he was reduced to distributing 15-year old black-and-white German films which by then would have had little broad appeal, and with reduced box-office receipts, he did not even bother dubbing the songs into English. I can review one of those films at a later date, as I love them myself, and I had my children watch them when they were youngsters. Such films as TABLE, DONKEY, AND STICK are still beloved classics in the Shute family home!

However, at the time of THE GOLDEN GOOSE—an eye-popping color feature from East Germany (!!!!), made there in 1964 and released here in 1965, Murray had a recent film that truly played like a storybook come to life. It’s no surprise that the film did very well for him and was re-released for a few years after that. I actually reviewed this film on the IMDB many years ago, and just rewatched it yesterday, and it still works its magic, as only the products of “THE WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY” can!

Of all the many children’s films exported to the US by Murray in the 1960’s, THE GOLDEN GOOSE is one of the three of four best in terms of entertainment value. It’s fill of color, slapstick comedy, comforting broadly-played characters, and a sense of fun that even a four-year-old could understand and be part of. Also, it lacks the Gothic touches and overall weirdness found in some of Murray’s Mexican imports (although those have a lot of appeal for adults watching them today). The young women in the film are dubbed by adults trying to sound like children, which gives the whole film a non-realistic quality, almost like story time at a daycare! I don’t know what frame of reference today’s children would have to help them with something like this (I should show it to my grandsons, who are 4 and 7)–perhaps the skits performed at theme parks or when the high school musical comedy players go to elementary schools to perform–but THE GOLDEN GOOSE holds up well as timeless, simple family entertainment for the under 10 crowd. And the visuals are interesting enough that adults would not be bored. Unfortunately, the days when films such as this played in actual theaters were dead by the early 1970’s–your best bet today for finding old children’s films might be in the DVD/VHS pile at your local dollar store. Some of the children’s films imported by Murray in the later 60’s were more strange than entertaining, but THE GOLDEN GOOSE still contains a lot of entertainment value for those with old-fashioned tastes, or those parents who want to broaden their children’s horizons.

It would be interesting to see a subtitled version of the original German film with the original soundtrack, to see if the tone differs at all from what Murray grafted onto it, but honestly, I consider these Murray adaptations of Mexican and German films to be separate and unique creations. I’ve seen a number of the Mexican originals of the horror films, and there’s no comparison. Murray’s are not inferior (to me); they are just different VERY different. Maybe it’s similar to when Andy Warhol appropriates the paintings of Edvard Munch or junk-store print of The Last Supper and creates new and fresh works from them—maybe not.

K. Gordon Murray’s THE GOLDEN GOOSE will take you to another world, a world full of bold colors, happy people straight from the pages of a sanitized fairy tale, and narration that sounds like Miss Matilda’s Story Time for six year olds at the local public library. If you wanted to make a case that Murray actually DID create a “wonder world” for a period in the mid-60’s, this would be the film that could make your point for you.

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2019

May 18, 2022

WALKING BACK (1928), starring Sue Carol

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:57 am

This late-silent youth-rampage melodrama was released by Pathe in 1928, the last year when silent films dominated the cinematic marketplace. Seeing it today, you can realize how many of the 1930’s exploitation films which followed in its footsteps basically added a little flesh and perhaps some dope, and perhaps a tragic ending, but were cut from the same cloth, except on a z-grade level.

The film starts off with a bang, with an odd montage that goes on for a few minutes, starting off with the “cosmic jazz” (paging Sun Ra!) of the universe, then flowing into all kinds of 1920’s images of hedonism and excess, mixed with some World War I footage! After this dizzying montage (kind of like a 20’s version of the montage at the beginning of the 1936 Frankie Darro/Kane Richmond film ANYTHING FOR A THRILL, which is also highly recommended), we then cut to two cars full of wild and crazy teens (probably actors in their mid to late 20’s) careening down some rural road, passing around bottles of hooch while swerving, the characters necking and howling, and one of them strumming a ukulele. One of the cars is wrecked, plunging off the road into a ravine. This does not faze this crew, as they see a farmer’s truck, full of hay and farm implements, and then steal it, gradually throwing all of his supplies out of the back and onto the road. Gee, you’d think you were watching Herschell Gordon Lewis’s JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT or the scene in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE where the delinquent students break the math teacher’s Bix Beiderbecke 78’s! This anarchic action is punctuated by title cards that ask questions like “Godless—or just graceless?” They then all pull into a roadhouse called “Ptomaine Charlie’s—Leap In, Limp Out!” where they drink more and dance the Charleston. A motorcycle cop on the trail of the stolen farm truck, pulls into the roadhouse, the manager calls out for all the customers to beat it, the cops are here, and the young revelers basically trample down the cop as they are exiting, and he is trying to enter. Next thing we see is the middle-class home of lead hooligan “Smoke Thatcher,” and the “plot” begins. And we’re only six minutes into the film!

The parents are what you’d expect from any exploitation melodrama or DRAGNET episode, the Dad out of touch and somewhat pompous with his waxed moustache, the Mom much closer to the boy, but naive and easy to take advantage of and spoiling him (Smoke barely keeps his half-pint flask hidden as he hugs and dances with Mom).

His girlfriend, Patsy Schuyler, is played by the film’s above-the-title star, Sue Carol, who had a good career in the late silent era, but moved into talent management and became one of Hollywood’s top agents, and eventually Alan Ladd’s wife, living into the 1980’s. She plays a flapper in the Clara Bow or silent-era Joan Crawford vein, and she’s really a charismatic dynamo. In real life, Carol was wise enough to realize that the real security in show business was in management—then you’re never between acting gigs yourself and you get a 10% cut of all your clients who are working.

In her brief starring career as an actress, Sue Carol was a protégé of Cecil B. DeMille, who produced this film and also allegedly directed the climactic street-race scene. We tend to think of DeMille today in terms of Biblical epics and spectacles….and of course, Gloria Swanson’s famous line in SUNSET BLVD, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” However, in the 1920’s, DeMille’s bread-and-butter product as producer and/or director was sensationalized melodramas such as DON’T CHANGE YOUR HUSBAND, WHY CHANGE YOUR WIFE, FORBIDDEN FRUIT, THE GODLESS GIRL, and VANITY. These paid the bills in between the Biblical epics!

I won’t give away the “plot” of this film, which is jaw-dropping in its distance from any “reality” on any planet I’m familiar with, and the outrageous ending would not satisfy anyone’s sense of “justice,” except for those who feel that connected, upper-class people in their 20’s should get off with a slap on their wrist whatever crimes they commit, while the rest of us should face the expected consequences. Probably no one in the Hollywood community would have found any problem in that! But hey, it’s only a movie!

And as a movie, it’s a wild ride, packing lots of action and drinking and necking and live-fast-die-young youth speeding toward oblivion (but being saved in the final moments with no consequences for their behavior) into under an hour. The editing is fast-paced and has a dizzying rhythm when it needs to, and director Rupert Julian (originally a New Zealander) knows how to create atmosphere and to force you to “see” a scene in an unexpected way. His best-known credit was the silent version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA with Lon Chaney Sr. His final directorial effort was the early-sound creepy old-dark-house thriller THE CAT CREEPS, which unfortunately is considered lost.

If you like Sue Carol in this, you can see another late-silent of hers, CAPTAIN SWAGGER with Rod LaRocque, on You Tube. Carol also made a number of early sound films and was still fairly active as an actress through 1933. She later appeared as herself in a 1950’s I LOVE LUCY episode.

If a silent 1920’s version of RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP set in some anonymous Midwest town is what you’re craving, you could do worse than to spend 56 minutes of your life watching this for free on You Tube. It’s also available on video, but the You Tube version has the advantage of an excellent soundtrack of 1920’s dance-band 78’s which really help to put the viewer in the same party-fueled world as the characters (all we need as a half-pint flask of bathtub gin!)—much more than the organ score on the DVD that’s available. You’ll feel like shouting “Doo Wacka Doo!”

“Vicious—or just wild?” YOU decide!

Bill Shute (originally published elsewhere online in 2019)

May 11, 2022

THE WHISTLER, VOLUME TEN (Radio Archives)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:48 am

THE WHISTLER radio series ran from 1942-1955 on West Coast CBS. The only recurring character was a mysterious narrator, The Whistler, who would set up the stories, provide transitions between the acted-out sequences, and on occasion directly address the characters with sarcastic put-downs or withering questions about the stupidity of their murderous plans (such as….”ahhhh, you didn’t know that the milkman would notice when Matilda was not waiting at the door for the bottle of cream for her precious cat Delilah, as she did every morning at 5:30 a.m. sharp, did you….when you MURDERED HER!”). There is a grim yet ironic tone to the show, and once you listen to a few of them, they become addictive, like Fritos or Coca-Cola. The show was so successful that it spawned a series of eight similarly-themed B-crime films at Columbia, seven of which starred the great Richard Dix (see pic), and four of those were directed by William Castle, long before his fame as a horror film auteur (we can discuss those Whistler films in a future review–they are all worthwhile, and the under-stated but intense Richard Dix is perfect for them–he plays a different role in each one!).

Hundreds of the Whistler radio shows are available free for online listening, but I recently acquired an attractive six-CD set of 12 straight episodes, running from 11/5/1945 through 2/25/1946, from Radio Archives, sourced directly from mint transcription discs, and it is certainly a treat. Listening to two straight months’ worth gives me a renewed appreciation for the show (I have listened to a few dozen random shows over the years, from many different seasons of the run), and certainly gives a clear taste of the 1945-1946 season. Many of the Signal Oil ads reference the recent end of World War II and the shortages that existed during the War, so you really get the feel that you are hearing these during that cold Post-WWII Winter. With the excellent sound quality on the Radio Archives discs, the shows have a presence and depth that makes them come alive.

The typical show in the series has someone who has committed a murder….or is contemplating a murder….or who has talked a weak-willed friend into committing a murder for him or her….or is thinking of murder as a convenient way to get rid of some problem he or she is facing. The main character is either a sleaze or a miserable coward or a brutal thug or a manipulative operator….or some combination of those. As the show proceeds, after the main characters seem to get what they want from the killing (insurance money, getting rid of spouse they can’t stand, getting rid of a witness to a crime, etc.), the walls start to close in on them….and not through any police work, but through accidents of fate, a fate that is dripping with irony….and after the pause at the climax, when the show returns for a brief closing sequence, the ironic twist ending tends to double-down on the earlier acid-tinged irony of the person’s fate, digging the knife of poetic justice even deeper. It’s as if they’ve taken the best qualities of Edgar Allan Poe stories such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Cask of Amontillado,” along with 40’s fatalistic murder films such as “Double Indemnity” and also the clever twist endings from the stories of O. Henry or Guy De Maupassant, and put them into a lean, hard-boiled fast-moving radio drama. Each episode satisfies, because not only is the killer defeated, but the killer is defeated by his or her own stupidity or vanity or blindness AND the lacerating irony of fate. You almost feel like cheering.

If you’ve never heard a Whistler radio show before, try one of them from the November 1945-February 1946 period documented on this set. You can easily find 100+ episodes of the show online. Yes, they had a formula on the show, but it’s a successful formula (they’d have been foolish to tamper with it), and it can really provide an infinite number of dramatic situations. Few radio shows or B-movie series drive home the CRIME DOES NOT PAY message as powerfully as this one does–especially because these murderers often fool the police, or manage to stay under the radar during the crime’s investigation, but cosmic justice finds them and breaks them, and does it in a salt-in-the-wound manner that these creeps truly deserve.

Bill Shute (originally published elsewhere online in 2019)

May 4, 2022

BLACKSTONE, THE MAGIC DETECTIVE (Mutual Broadcasting System, 1948-1950)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:41 am

Harry Blackstone (1885-1965) was for many years the most successful magician in North America, extending his stage magic success into movies, books, a comic book series, and this radio show, which is an adaptation of the comic book. It ran on Mutual for two seasons, and there are a number of shows (35+) floating around online, taken from surface-noise filled transcription discs.

As with western film star Tom Mix’s radio shows, we have a real person (Mix/Blackstone) played on radio by an actor. This Blackstone, like his comic book version, is not just a magician, but also a crime-solver, using his magic skills to trick and capture various con artists, thieves, phony spiritualists, and the like. He is teamed on the show with his assistant, Rhoda, who accompanies him on his detective cases on this show as well as in his magic act at theaters and nightclubs, as well as an announcer, Don, who feeds Blackstone questions and acts surprised and impressed at his brilliant tricks and deduction, while handling the traditional announcer chores.

Being a 15-minute show, things move quickly…in fact, the crime case featured in each show must only run about 11 minutes or so, since after a break when the case is closed, Blackstone offers to do a trick for his assistant and the announcer, and that takes up a few minutes until the show’s close.

Blackstone is played by Edwin Jerome, a florid old-school thespian in the vein of John Carradine or Les Tremayne, who does a great job in helping us to imagine a classy Blackstone in tophat and tails at some swanky nightclub doing his act.

On some level, doing magic on the radio is absurd, but so is doing ventriloquism on the radio, and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy made that work. The magic element of the show, as well as the magic trick done at the show’s end, is described in a lot of visual detail, so you can easily “see” it in your mind’s eye.

It also helps that most of the shows were written by Walter B. Gibson, an acclaimed magician himself, author of a number of books on magic and occult phenomena, as well as ghostwriter of Blackstone’s own books. He also, as Maxwell Grant, wrote 300+ novel-length Shadow stories, many of which have been republished two-to-a-book (and are highly recommended….I’ve read a few dozen). The combination of his magic expertise and his skill at quickly-paced atmospheric mysteries as the Shadow author makes this show quite exciting and each episode packs a lot into it.

BLACKSTONE, THE MAGIC DETECTIVE radio episodes are available online from a few different sources, and they are a great way to kill time when you are stuck somewhere working, making dinner, folding laundry, whatever. The comic books are also highly recommended, and scans of those can be found online at Comic Book Plus. Three issues were published circa 1946, and their Blackstone-as-detective format inspired the radio show.

Speaking of Les Tremayne (see pic), you can experience him playing a top hat and tuxedo-clad magician (Dr. Basso) in Larry Buchanan’s 1967 film CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION, shot at a lodge on the shore of Lake Texoma in North Texas. Tremayne undoubtedly based some aspects of his Basso performance on Blackstone. That film is in the public domain, and thus available online, and it too is not to be missed.

Bill Shute (originally published elsewhere online in 2020)

April 27, 2022

SHARP-SHOOTING TWIN SISTERS, (Spain, 1966), starring Pili y Mili and Sean Flynn

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:56 am

PILI Y MILI were twin blonde sisters (Pilar and Emilia Bayona) from Zaragoza, Spain, who appeared together in a number of film vehicles in their native Spain, and later Mexico, in the 1960’s. Pilar worked in film and TV until 2011 and is still alive as of this writing; Emilia (also still alive in early 2020) retired from the screen after the final duo film with her sister, a 1970 feature from Mexico, co-starring well-known Mexican actor and pop singer Enrique Guzman (I have one of his albums, featuring teen rock and roll!). These ladies could seemingly do it all….comedy, dance, singing, trick horse-riding, vaudeville-style routines. They also fake the sharp-shooting mentioned in the film’s title convincingly. They have a lot of charm and a dynamic physical presence, and this film is very much their vehicle.

Things start as they ride into a western town (probably used in other Spanish westerns too), hanging dangerously off the side of their horses in the manner of Bob Steele or Yakima Canutt. As they get the attention of the people on the street, they set up a kind of medicine show where they sell an “elixir” made by their grandfather, who’s also part of the act, from syrup and tea, and which claims to cure whatever ails you. In the first few minutes, the girls encounter two young men, the son of a local rancher (played by lanky and charismatic Sean Flynn, son of Errol) and a railroad engineer. The girls are initially put off and offended by the men, but you know as soon as the guys are shown to be basically honest people, they will eventually become the romantic interests for the ladies.

Don’t expect any extreme violence or bleak nihilism as you find so often in Euro-westerns. This one could get a “G” rating in that on the whole, it’s got an “Apple Dumpling Gang Goes West” kind of feel to it. The sheriff may be corrupt and there are cartoonish villains, but you’ll see no one shot ten times, no one spitting on a corpse, none of the usual things you’d expect from a Spanish western. However, it moves well, the sets (surely erected for some other Spanish western and given a modest re-dressing) are convincing, in convincing you that you’re in a European “movie western town” version of Corriganville with names painted on signs in front of businesses, etc., and the ladies get a lot of chances do show you their various vaudeville-style dance routines, card tricks, acrobatic skills, and comic set-pieces. After seeing the film, I’d love to have caught their act at some swank nightclub in Barcelona or Mazatlán, circa 1967.…if I could afford it and they’d let me in!

The feel of the film is a lot like a Spanish version of a Judy Canova comedy, and the soundtrack is the light-hearted “western” music you’d get in a Canova vehicle, except for when the girls are in the midst of their comic pratfalls and acrobatics, where the score offers a Spanish version of circus music, including slide whistles, cymbal crashes, and the like.

Sean Flynn does exactly what he needs to do, which is act as straight man to the ladies (it’s THEIR film, not his), show his derring-do every ten minutes or so to extricate the ladies from a dangerous situation, and provide a red herring for the cattle rustling and attacks on the ranch until we found out who is REALLY responsible. He looks great in jeans and a western shirt, he’s fit, his face and body communicate whatever emotion he’s supposed to be showing (I don’t think there is an English language version of this—I’ve never seen one offered in 35 years of collecting, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong on that point—mine is in Spanish) since he’ll be dubbed into various languages, and he radiates boyish charm. What more could you want from him?

There is an English title online for the film of A WOMAN FOR RINGO, but Flynn is not playing Ringo, he’s playing Jimmy Trevor, so that makes no sense, but certainly sounds great! Perhaps in another dub he’s named Ringo, but certainly not in the Spanish version.

I saw this film at the end of a long workday, and it was just what I needed. I could check my brain at the door and then let the magical PILI Y MILI do a western-themed nightclub act shot in a movie-western town in Almeria, Spain, with an authentic American who’d been in Western films, Sean Flynn, for a little authenticity (authenticity that would pass in Spain, that is). The version I saw did have English “fan-dub” subtitles that were more than adequate, but if you were told the plot, you probably wouldn’t even need subtitles because things are played so broadly. I did not take a bathroom break or go to the kitchen for a snack for the film’s 88 minute running time, so in terms of entertainment value, I must credit director Rafael Romero Marchent (a reliable director—this was the second of 32 films for him–I’ve seen 6 or 7 of his other films and enjoyed every one….DEAD MEN DON’T COUNT, with Anthony Steffen and Mark Damon, PREY OF VULTURES with Peter Lee Lawrence, HANDS OF A GUNFIGHTER withCraig Hill, etc.) with delivering the goods. And for a 56-year-old throwaway vehicle for a nightclub sister-act, that’s impressive. NO on the Netflix—SI  on the PILI Y MILI CON SEAN FLYNN!

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2020

April 20, 2022

DAMNED PISTOLS OF DALLAS (Spain 1964), starring Fred Beir

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:47 am

DAMNED PISTOLS OF DALLAS is one of those Euro-westerns that came rather early in the cycle (this was released only weeks after FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, so its makers had their film completed before they could even have seen DOLLARS) and had no discernible Sergio Leone influence. Thus, it was a Euro attempt at doing a 1950’s or early 60’s American B-western, without the elements one expects from the post-Leone, post-Sergio Corbucci Euro-westerns. There are no twanging echoed guitars, whistling, or trumpets blaring during the theme song—-it sounds more like a sing-along you’d find in a dancehall floorshow in 1890’s Central City, Colorado, but a bit “off,” the way a song-poem record is a bit “off”. Of course, even without the music, ten seconds into this, you know it’s not American-made, the same way that you know within 10 seconds of hearing some French or German 60’s rock and roll single that the band is not from Iowa. However, since the film is dubbed in English, there are not European accents to give its origins away. It’s more the sets, the pacing, the overall ramshackle feel, the staging of the fights, the dialogue, the costumes, the grungy look to pretty much everything, and the strange mixture of more violence and brutality than you’d find in an American B-western of the 50’s and cartoonish elements that seem rooted in a Hanna-Barbera Quick Draw McGraw episode. Judge this film by either the standards of some late 50’s Audie Murphy or Rory Calhoun formula western at Universal, or judge it by the standards of some Django or Sartana film, and you’d find it wanting….a lot….but take it on its own terms (like, say, a 60’s record by the German band “The Lords”), and it will take you into its own unique world, with a kind of western play-acting based on film and pulp-novel clichés, but in the second half jumping the tracks a few times into unexpected territory, with twists and turns and a satisfying climax.

Imported American star FRED BEIR (see pic from this film, with cowboy hat) has always been a favorite of mine. Though he’s known primarily for television roles (a number of TV stars other than Clint Eastwood were used as leading players in European genre films, some before Eastwood….such as Don Megowan and Lang Jeffries…others like Beir and Ty Hardin, around the same time), Beir starred in two European films in the mid-60’s that I consider classics: the Eurospy romp MMM 83, whose soundtrack I have memorized, and the surreal ASSASSINATION, with Henry Silva. He also made a second western in Spain the same year with the same director and the same female co-star as DAMNED PISTOLS, TRES DOLLARES DE PLOMO. The actor then returned to the US to star in a western from Fox’s B-unit, FORT COURAGEOUS. Beir could be compared with a Doug McClure or a James Franciscus, and at certain angles I’m reminded of a shorter Lex Barker (who was 6’ 3”) in his non-Winnetou westerns (such as WHO KILLED JOHNNY R). Beir’s got sandy hair with a slight wave, he’s got a charm and warmth and self-deprecating quality that’s appealing, and he must have been a quick study and a reliable worker with all the TV guest shots (100+) he had over the years.

Some readers may remember his colorful but brief (he’s the murder victim) appearance on the 70’s ELLERY QUEEN TV series with Jim Hutton, an episode called “The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster” where Beir played a workaholic tobacco company executive who mercilessly abuses his advertising agency people, playing them against each other, and making arbitrary decisions they are expected to click their heels and agree to. The supporting cast in that was amazing, with Carolyn Jones, Juliet Mills (whose character attempts suicide), Eddie Bracken, Herb Edelman as an ex-alcoholic “serious writer” who is on the wagon doing hack-work writing advertising copy, and Bob Crane at his funniest as a butt-kissing yes-man who does an about-face every 30 seconds, agreeing with whatever changes Beir dictates (see pic where Fred’s got a moustache). It’s the episode where the solution hinges on exactly when Beir’s character ate his lunch alone in his office.

The plot in DAMNED PISTOLS involves Beir, playing Clay Stone, son of a banker, returning to his home town, where his father was just murdered, having to pick up things after his father’s death and to find his father’s killer, but finding himself in the situation where he must free the killer who is about to be executed and return him to his criminal gang in order to free a hostage who will be murdered if the killer is hanged. Stone then has the law after him for breaking out a criminal, and when he returns the hostage to the town (something they are not at all appreciative of, being downright abusive to the lady who was just freed, laughing at her when she shows the welts from her torture!), he then must go back and re-capture the killer, taking on the entire gang. There is one shocking and unexpected scene about 2/3 through that will jolt even the most jaded viewer (no spoilers here!), even though the film has a “happy ending” to some extent. The version I saw ran about 90 minutes. It starts in high gear and works its way through a number of moods including humor (the shocking scene referred to above mirrors a humorous scene a few minutes before). Co-star Evi Mirandi will remind many of Brigitte Bardot, or more accurately, her sister Mijanou. It’s also interesting to see many Spanish western regulars, such as Angel Alvarez, in roles against their usual type. I also think that Fred Beir is dubbing his own voice, which is always a plus and not that common when the imported leading man is not really a “star” whose voice would be recognized.

The print of this I viewed would, in record grading terms, be described as VG+ for the most part, except for a 10 minute sequence in the final third taken from a damaged video tape with Greek subtitles, which I’d label Fair quality. I understand that the film is available on one of those Mill Creek multi-pack cheapo DVD sets, although from the screen shots I’ve seen online, it looks like a different and inferior print was used by Mill Creek (mine has French credits and that one has Spanish credits, for instance). Spanish-speakers can find a copy of the film on You Tube, “Las Malditas Pistolas de Dallas”—the color on that version is a bit more washed out, but it’s better than nothing. Films like DAMNED DOLLARS OF DALLAS remind us how much variety there was among Eurowesterns, and I found it a pleasant way to kill 90 minutes while stuck in the house in virus-lockdown mode. Now I’m on the hunt to find Fred Beir’s other 1964 Spanish western, TRES DOLLARES DE PLOMO.

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in June 2020

April 13, 2022

Stefan Grossman on Reverend Gary Davis

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:23 am

We should be very thankful to the great guitarist and guitar-teacher Stefan Grossman for keeping the music and the legend and the example of REVEREND GARY DAVIS (1896-1972) not just alive, but fresh and contemporary, though his many projects devoted to Davis. In fact, Grossman’s 50+ year career as a guitar teacher, rooted in the Davis aesthetic, no doubt grows out of his own tutelage at the feet of the master, as Davis himself was a powerful and unique teacher. I’ve been listening to a lot of Davis again recently (I had the Yazoo LP of his 30s sides and the one 1949 record when I was 14 or 15 and it made a huge impression on me–it’s no coincidence that my first poetry book was titled TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY), and stumbled across this fascinating video tribute to Rev. Davis from Stefan Grossman. As an overview of the music of Rev. Davis, and an introduction to the man from someone who spent much time with him in many different situations, it’s a precious document.

There is a lot of Davis to enjoy on You Tube and on the free version of Spotify, as long as you don’t mind being interrupted by ads. To some extent these ads puncture the balloon of transcendence created by a Davis performance, but on the other hand, the tacky and mundane ads just remind you by contrast what sacred ground one is treading while involved in listening to a Davis performance, and it’s hard to not get involved.

April 6, 2022

Rockin’ Country Style Volume 2 (Classics Records CD, Sweden)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 2:42 am

1 Clyde Arnold– Black Smoke And Blue Tears
2 Billy Nix – Susie And Earl
3 Ray Smith – You Heard About Texas
4 Cal Maddox– Hey Bill
5 Billy Clark – I Saw A Dream Walkin’
6 Kirby Ladner– Money, Money, Money
7 Rose Maddox, Cal Maddox– Gotta Travel On
8 Wally Black– I’m A Country Boy
9 Don Sessions– You’re A Cheater
10 Joe Castle (3)– My Baby’s Crazy About Me
11 Wally Black– Flying To The Moon
12 Danny Brockman– Big Big Man
13 Olen Bingham– Bayou Queen
14 Rem Wall– One Of These Days
15 Darnell Miller– Back To You
16 Jack Bradshaw– Joe-Joe
17 Don Sessions– Watchin’ TV
18 Carl Phillips – Salty Dog Blues
19 Joe E. May– Don’t You Fool With Me
20 Bobby Butler – A Short Romance
21 Colman O’Neal– Town With Neon Signs
22 Luke Gordon – You May Be Someone
23 Jack Tucker– Lonely Man
24 Fred Maddox– Who’s Gonna Chop
25 Bill Hall– Let Me Love You
26 Lefty King & His Rangers*– I’m Losing You
27 Del Reeves, Chester Smith – Love, Love, Love
28 Jericho Jones – Save Your Lovin’ For Sis
29 Jimmy Dawson– Let’s Take A Chance
30 Money Lewis And The Coasters– What Do I Care

V.A.–Rockin’ Country Style, Volume 2 (Classics, Sweden) CD

 The second entry in Classics’ series devoted to late 50’s and early 60’s small label

and custom pressing country 45’s is as fine as the first: 30 tracks from mint singles, mastered loud and not neutered by noise reduction systems, including a booklet with label shots, pictures, and whatever info exists about the records and artists, often only a listing in Billboard or Cashbox. It’s like finding a box of obscure country 45’s, with the ballads and the over-produced Country-politan sides pulled out in advance.
Despite the title, every track here would be filed in the “country” section of the record store, NOT the “rockabilly” section. The tracks are rockin’ in the sense that they have a boogie or shuffle or walking honky-tonk beat, with no string (as opposed to fiddle) players or Anita Kerr-style backing singers within a mile. It’s real country.
The big names on the album are Del Reeves and The Maddox Brothers & Rose although their tracks here are obscure. The rest are folks who were hoping for the success of a Johnny Cash or a Johnny Horton or a Wynn Stewart or a Ray Price. Some jumped from label to label looking for a hit; some recorded only the one single. With some of them, it’s clear why they were not hits. Timing issues, an out-of-sync splice, slightly-off novelty lyrics, and the like can be found (not that that would bother UT readers!), but such blemishes are what makes small label music so interesting and so real. Nothing here is scrubbed or sanitized.
The album is programmed well, with nice variation in tempo and style, and with 30 big tracks, it’s like the 1961 C&W radio station of your dreams. Thanks to artists such as Clyde Arnold, Don Sessions, Joe E. May, Luke Gordon, and Money Lewis for bringing us a solid collection of hardcore 1956-62 country. Another home run from the Classics label!

(Bill Shute, originally published in 2016 in Ugly Things magazine….I was enjoying this album today and remembered that I’d reviewed it in the past, so here is that review)

March 30, 2022

MIKE TINGLEY, ‘The Abstract Prince’, Decca (Netherlands) LP, 1968

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MIKE TINGLEY, “The Abstract Prince” Decca Records (Netherlands), 1968

One curious phenomenon in the music world is the record not released in the artist’s
home country. Some are declined by the label’s domestic branch and then only released overseas (Ringo Starr’s OLD WAVE , Phil Ochs’s GUNFIGHT AT
CARNEGIE HALL), while some involve artists who record while working in
other countries (the Beatles in Hamburg , The Sorrows in Italy).

How California singer-songwriter Mike Tingley wound up in Holland we do not know.
How he convinced the Dutch branch of Decca to bankroll a well-produced album (including strings and horns and complex arrangements) of his original compositions
is not known. What is known is that singer-songwriter-guitarist Tingley recorded an amazing album called THE ABSTRACT PRINCE for the Dutch branch of Decca in 1968, an album that could have been released on A&M or Elektra in the US or Immediate or Harvest in the UK.

Tingley is a literary songwriter, the kind of person who’s probably read Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS but also spent much time with Dylan’s BLONDE ON BLONDE. The album’s title track begins with the lines

I’m the abstract prince of glass and satin
from the plastic dreams that can never happen

my timeless energy can never diminish
and yesterday’s dream you will never get to finish

and continues with a kaleidoscopic stream of language (and trippy yet
densely arranged musical support that is reminiscent of the album Andrew Loog Oldham produced for Del Shannon in 1967 London) until it hits the listener with
a sucker punch in the final line: the entire song has been in the voice of Death!

Tingley might have had his roots in folk music, but he totally understood the innovations of Love, The Byrds, and The Beach Boys, and while he’s more West Coast singer-songwriter than Pink Floyd wanna-be, there’s enough raga-rock and complex wordplay to satisfy the psych-head..

Beautifully produced, with a wide variety of instruments (tablas, lute, accordion) used in support of the songs (all originals), this would have been widely acclaimed as a classic and gotten significant underground FM airplay had it been released on, say, Elektra or Reprise or Epic. Alas, that did not happen, which is why I’m championing it now…better late than never.

Postscript: In 2008, Mr. Tingley made a comment attached to the listing of his album on
Rate Your Music. We should let him have the last word: Well, 40 years later it appears that a few people are still listening to my Lp. Hey, thanks! Pretty quaint stuff hey? What can I say…it was the sixties. I remained a professional musician for about 10 years and I still compose and record (with my son). I have been a winemaker in California for the past 28 years. It’s a good life! Anyway, thanks for listening.

——————————

Bill Shute (originally published in 2014 in the UK)

Note: the above tribute was published in the UK newspaper Tooting Free Press in 2014. I did an ongoing series there championing lesser-known LP’s from the 60s and 70s. TFP was an offshoot of Tangerine Press, well-known for their wonderful reprints of the work of American poet William Wantling. Since I wrote this review, there have been a few reissues of the album, including a gold vinyl LP which can be scored on Discogs for under $20. Of course, you can easily find the album online and it’s well worth hearing.

March 23, 2022

Western Racketeers (1934), starring Bill Cody, directed by Robert J. Horner

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Director (and con-man, read the fascinating story of Horner’s financial con-games at the Old Corral website) Robert J. Horner was responsible for a number of z-grade westerns during the late silent and early sound eras. I’ve seen two of his silent westerns, and like Black z-grade director Oscar Micheaux, Horner is a much worse sound director than a silent one. Every scene is one-take, which gives the film a certain life-like quality, since we occasionally stumble over our words in real-life just like the actors do here, and like them we just correct ourselves and move on. Many of the scenes seem randomly framed, and some of the close-ups do not match the medium shots very well. Horner did assemble an interesting cast of Gower Gulch regulars, including the great George Chesboro as the heavy (chewing the scenery), Wally Wales as the sheriff (who seems like he was handed the script five minutes before the particular scene–Wales is a real pro and fakes it OK, but he seems to be line-reading), the silent-film team of Ben Corbett and Pee Wee Holmes, Budd Buster, Richard Cramer (so good as the crooked gangster town boss in Richard Talmadge’s THE SPEED REPORTER), and even silent comedian Billy Franey. Leading lady Edna Aslin seems to have made mostly z-grade westerns in her brief career, but she seems as though she might be good as, say, a gangster’s moll or a gum-chewing, tough-talking waitress in non-Western films. I’ve seen a dozen Bill Cody westerns, I’m sure, but I’ve never seen him so loose and casual as the “hero.” For much of the film, he floats around with an odd grin on his face as if he’s not really part of the same world as the other characters. At first, I thought he might be hungover or up all night playing cards before the shoot, but that doesn’t seem so–it’s clearly intentional. I like the goofy aspect of his performance in this film. The plot, such as it is, involves a crook whose hired muscle are keeping the local ranchers from taking their cattle to market over a pass which is located on Government land and hence open to all. If you can imagine yourself living in some backwater small town in 1934, a place with really nothing to do, and there is a tiny, rundown theater that shows mostly independent, states rights westerns, and that’s all that’s available to you and what you are used to seeing, this film is not as bad as I remembered it being. With such professionals in the cast who had done this kind of thing dozens if not hundreds of times before and who could probably act out a passable scene at a moment’s notice ANYWHERE and with a four-year-old behind the camera, WESTERN RACKETEERS is passable z-grade entertainment of the lowest order, and nowhere near as bad as PHANTOM COWBOY or LIGHTING BILL or THE IRISH GRINGO. I’d also rather see something raw like this than, say, a Fred Scott western. Still, this film is only for the poverty-row-western completist.

Although I would not be as charitable had I been conned out of money by the man with the promise of a role in a film, the world is a more interesting place because Robert J. Horner was in it and left such a curious body of work, fascinating in the way an unfinished building left to decay is fascinating, or a home-recorded 1930s acetate found in a junk store under a box. A film like WESTERN RACKETEERS is “real” in the sense that it’s a kind of crude cinema verité documentation of making a film of western play-acting. I just watched it again for a third time here in 2022 and was entertained for 55 minutes and caught the whiff of the fun and spontaneity felt during the shoot.

(Bill Shute–originally published online, in a somewhat different version, in 2005)

March 16, 2022

The Nasty Rabbit, aka Spies A Go Go (1964)

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The Arch Hall version of It’s A Mad Mad Mad World

The films produced by Arch Hall Sr. and starring Arch Hall Jr. are overall an entertaining lot, considering the low budgets. They made a juvenile delinquent film (the Choppers), a horror comedy (Eegah), a rock and roll film in the Jailhouse Rock vein (Wild Guitar), a gritty crime film (the Sadist), and eventually a western (Deadwood ’76), so it’s not a surprise that they would make a slapstick comedy, and since this was made right after IT’S A MAD MAD MAD WORLD, I’m assuming the filmmakers saw this as in that vein, with a little rock and roll thrown in. Arch Jr. plays Britt Hunter, a rock and roll singing spy who is assigned to defeat a Russian agent who is carrying a rabbit that is carrying a vial of lethal bacteria…or something like that. A bunch of Keystone Cops-style international spies–played as broad ethnic stereotypes reminiscent of Jerry Lewis’s “japanese” characters–are also after the rabbit and the Russian. If I saw this at a rural drive-in with a few kids in the car and maybe a beer or two in my system, I think it would work quite well as a film. I remember seeing this on TV as a kid and thinking it was as funny as, say, a typical Beverly Hillbillies episode. Arch Hall, a bit nervous on-screen in The Choppers, his first film, was relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera by this time, and he does a good job, looking good and acting cool. I don’t know why this film is bashed so much– I’d put it on the same shelf with the 1966 rock and roll spy parody OUT OF SIGHT, except that that film had a much bigger budget and was made by a big studio, Universal. The Nasty Rabbit is MEANT to be a ridiculous, exaggerated slapstick comedy played on such a broad level that children would enjoy it. The color photography is nice (and the Rhino VHS video is letter-boxed!), and considering the small budget that the Halls surely had to work with, they made an entertaining product. Where else can you see Arch Hall Sr. in a dual role–in fact, near the end of the film, he is playing in the same scene with himself!

(Bill Shute, originally published online in 2005)

March 13, 2022

coming in May 2022…’LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES’ from BILL SHUTE (KSE #419)

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Tags: , , , ,

LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES

by Bill Shute

contains the book-length poems TOMORROW WON’T BRING THE RAIN, COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES, and TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO), all written and originally published during the Covid lockdown (2020-2021).

154 pages, hardcover, 6″ x 9″

KSE #419

expected publication date: late Spring/early Summer 2022

$16.00 ISBN: 9798757742496

cover art by Wyatt Doyle (see image above)

Although the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t exactly over, the most dangerous periods in 2020 and 2021 have passed, the periods when businesses and schools were closed and/or gravitated to operating online, when hospitals were full of the dying, when people were kept apart from their loved ones.

I did continue to work remotely, so I had no time off, but with nowhere to go during my free time and with not having to commute to the workplace downtown, I had more time to dedicate to poetry writing, and I composed three long-form works in the 40-50 page range which further extended the poetic form I developed in RIVERSIDE FUGUE while capturing life during a pandemic and lockdown.

These three works were published independently in 2020 and 2021 and have been well-received, though I myself never thought of them as any kind of trilogy or any unified series of works. However, a number of readers (I’ve gotten at least a dozen e-mails and texts on this subject) have suggested to me that I should consider combining the three pieces into one book, presented as a document of the pandemic/lockdown, and they argued that there is a consistency within the images/content and form/structure which is perhaps clearer to the reader-consumer than it was to the writer-creator. They also suggested that readers looking for literary responses to the pandemic, now that it is more in the rearview mirror with each passing day, would locate these works more easily in the literary marketplace if they were marketed as “pandemic poems” in a more obvious manner.

I’m certainly happy to oblige, and thus LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES was created…and will be published in HARDCOVER by KSE in late Spring/early Summer of 2022 (so as not to compete with the original softcover separate volumes, which are still available).

In terms of “new” poetry, I continue to work (when I have time) on a piece tentatively titled NEUTRAL, which is both more expansive than the recent poems but also more minimal (I learned a lot from my close study of Frank Samperi’s poetry as a teenager back in the 1970s and I often find myself returning to his work), or more accurately ‘pointillistic’ (I’ve been listening to a lot of Jürg Frey in the last year or two, often for entire days while composing/editing/formatting NEUTRAL, along with Webern at his most astringent and of course my regular companion the John Cage ‘Number Pieces’). I began work on NEUTRAL in March 2021, focused on it during my Summer 2021 writing vacation in Vicksburg, Mississippi (and what a wonderful time that was!), and Opelousas, Louisiana, and will return to it during this coming Summer’s writing vacation in Central Louisiana (never too far from Evangeline Downs). NEUTRAL is providing me with the largest canvas I’ve ever worked on in poetry, so it will continue to take time, and I would not expect a draft to be ready for publication before late 2022 or early 2023.

Until then, LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES will be ready in a month or two, and I’ll let you know when it’s live and ready to order.

Oh, and if anyone asks, I’m using the term CORRESPONDENCES in the Swedenborgian manner….

March 12, 2022

Jack Kerouac, March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969

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JACK KEROUAC, born 100 years ago today….

March 9, 2022

GUNFIGHTERS #82 (Charlton Comics, January 1984)

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Charlton Comics was running on fumes by the mid-1980’s. They still had a distribution network, but their non-comic publications such as HIT PARADER were not what they once were (HIT PARADER in the mid-to-late 80’s was a metal-oriented magazine! More often than not, Ozzy was on the cover. I also remember they would champion the 1980’s Kinks, for which I thank them). I cannot quote chapter and verse on this, but from the Charltons I bought back in the 80’s and the ones from that era which I’ve found cheaply and purchased in the years since then, it seems they relied a lot on reprinting older material (they were so starved for cheap content, they even encouraged fans to submit comics for consideration). Many of Steve Ditko’s earlier Charlton comics were reissued in this period, although at the time, I did not know if they were new or old. Ditko liked the creative freedom he’d been given at Charlton (kind of like director Edgar G. Ulmer at PRC Pictures….if you would work cheap and were a professional who could deliver a product on time, you could do what you want creatively–the boss was concerned only about having product), so whenever I stumbled across a Ditko piece in HAUNTED or GHOST MANOR or some other Charlton title back then, I did not know if he was back at Charlton again or if it was older work being re-used (and with the exhaustive comic histories now available on the internet, I’ve learned that some of his work re-published by Charlton in the 80’s was more than 25 years old!!!). After all, there is a timeless quality to a horror comic.

The same was true for western comics. It’s not like those would date, and Charlton was never a publisher to go for contemporary or edgy/artsy comic art. It’s kind of surprising that there was still an audience for western comics in 1984. I would still buy them here and there, but based on my observations at the time, I’d say that they tended to be most popular in the small and moderate-sized towns of the Midwest, South, and Southwest. Charlton had had a number of successful western comic series over the years, some based on figures such as Billy The Kid, others based on western film stars such as Lash LaRue or Tex Ritter. When I was growing up in Colorado, there were still many “ghost towns” and also small towns that still looked like they belonged in some 1930’s independent western shot on real locations and not constructed sets. As a teenager I worked at the County Fairgrounds (right down the hill from where I lived), which featured rodeos, and there were always horses there (and shoveling horse manure and digging post-holes there was my first “real” job at age 14, not counting earlier lawn-mowing and the like), so when you add all that up, it’s no surprise that I chewed tobacco as a teenager and wore cowboy boots for a few years (I had to re-learn how to walk properly after I finally got rid of the boots) and read western comic books….and was still buying them in my 20’s (heck, I STILL buy them today, when I stumble across them at junk stores and antique malls and they are cheap).

GUNFIGHTERS is a series Charlton ran in the 60’s and then revived from 1979-1984 (this particular issue is the second-to-last). Of course, that’s such a broad concept that you can throw almost any western comic property into it. Western comics tended to have more gunfights and bank robberies than the cattle rustling or water-rights plots you’d see in B-western films. I suppose cattle rustling would not look too exciting on the comic page. This later run of GUNFIGHTERS consisted of a lot of old western material from the 50’s and 60’s, reused here in a new package. Much of the content in this 1984 comic is reprinted from a 1966 issue of OUTLAWS OF THE WEST. In fact, the cover of the 1984 GUNFIGHTERS comic is just a re-tooling of the old OUTLAWS cover (see pictures of both).

At the core of this issue we have three stories dealing with outlaw Cole Younger, of the Younger Brothers fame, and colleague of Frank and Jesse James. The stories depict various bank robberies, his time with Quantrill’s Raiders, and his time in the Confederate army….the “Blazing Fast, Six-Gun Action” ballyhooed on the cover is certainly delivered, but Younger is not really depicted in an interesting way. Even in a minor Billy The Kid product–movie or comic book or pulp story or whatever–Billy is usually either wacko or charming or misunderstood or whatever, but there’s some motivation for him to do what he does. The same is true for Jesse James. The stories here tell of how Younger worked his way up to his famous outlaw status….and we do get a story devoted to the legendary botched Northfield, Minnesota robbery that ended his criminal career, as well as explaining his final years in prison after that. The problem is that he’s basically a cipher, a place-holder. There’s nothing really distinctive about him in any of the three lengthy stories, no backstory that provides motivation (and that could have been provided in one or two panels, as most kids reading this might know his name but not his “legend,” whatever THAT was), not even any character quirks or distinctive habits.

However, I cannot imagine some 12 year old living on a ranch outside Goodland, Kansas, would be complaining much. There’s action, gunfights, scheming outlaws, colorful western settings, the expected clichéd western dialogue, etc., and Cole Younger is one of those famous “outlaw names,” so what else could the juvenile or adolescent reader want? Charlton, cynical though it may have been, certainly knew its audience.

And speaking of audience, it’s often said that if you want to know a publication’s audience, look at the advertisements. Clearly, most of the ads are aimed at adolescent and even adult (in their 20’s or 30’s, maybe) readers, NOT children. There are the expected Charles Atlas-style “be a he-man” ads, but there are THREE different FULL PAGE ads that deal with wanting to use mind-control over another person, and it’s strongly suggested that that’s a woman. One is selling a plastic “Venus Love Goddess” statue, which you are supposed to use “thought power” on and then MAKE SOMEONE LOVE YOU FOR ONLY $3! There’s another one promising AUTOMATIC MIND COMMAND and then another selling some booklet on HOW TO READ ANYONE’S MIND, with a picture of a woman in a bra having her mind read (presumably by the sweaty-palmed reader). It does not take Dr. Freud to figure out what audience these ads are aimed at and what deficiency (or perceived deficiency) in the readers’ lives is being manipulated here. The ads for weight-loss products (do 12 year olds need those?) and hair-loss products further confirm the older members of the audience for this mag.

For me, the glory days of lowest-common-denominator, mass-market comic books died out with Charlton’s going under in the late 1980’s. When you pick up a late-period Charlton comic such as this one, you are taking a walk into a pre-Internet world where comic books were not some specialized, fetishized cult product around which a nerd-underground would form. No, they were a taken-for-granted, low-end part of popular culture. They were considered throwaway, of no lasting value. And that, of course, is why they are of value, why they are a pure creation, why they are a window into a world that will never return, a world that is little understood by those who did not live through it in the belly of the whale, a world that revisionist historians and cultural critics don’t even bother to get wrong as they don’t care about it. We remember, however. And we’ll never forget, until we reach that Dodge City in the sky, where there’s no internet, where people are not chained to portable devices feeding them corporate content and manufactured info-tainment masquerading as news, where there are still UHF stations that fill their broadcast days with dubbed historical Italian adventure films starring Lex Barker and Guy Madison and public domain 1950s TV shows, where Charles Starrett and Tim Holt and Gene Autry come to mind when the word “hero” is spoken (and where we know the names of their horses), where Mickey Spillane is still writing new books and doing beer commercials, where Mamie van Doren is entertaining the troops overseas, and where Elvis is still around and appearing next week in Wichita or Tulsa. If you wanted to, you could drive for five hours and catch The King live….and if you are a lady, he might throw you a scarf. Unfortunately, the King is dead…and I’m not what I once was either….but I refuse to get a smart-phone and I don’t drink lite beer….I’m not interested in whatever “app” they want me to download, and I will not pay Starbucks $4 for a bitter yuppie cup of coffee.

March 3, 2022

Massimo Magee on Improvisation (March 2022 interview)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:31 am

When Kendra Steiner Editions stopped issuing music CDR’s in December 2018, one of my biggest regrets was not being able to continue releasing newly created works from artists such as saxophonist Massimo Magee and guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante and percussionist Lisa Cameron, pioneering musicians and thinkers who were issuing a new album each year on KSE. Listeners around the world looked forward to the next chapters in these vital artists’ creative journeys, and I was proud to have provided an outlet for their work, presented in its purest form. Fortunately, Magee, Diaz-Infante, and Cameron are still issuing new work regularly on any number of labels/platforms–just Google their names or check Discogs.

Although any of Magee’s works embody important aesthetic questions and/or set out to explore particular areas of potential expression, he is also an articulate theorist, and I’m happy to share this new interview with him, found on the 15 Questions.Net website. It is a wonderful window into his thinking and into this work, including a discussion of his seminal 2011 release, Collected Solos, a 26-cd and book project which I’m honored to own a physical copy of and which I turn to often when I need to turn to music/art which is pure and distilled to the essence, while also being mysterious and ever-becoming.

You can read the interview here:

https://15questions.net/interview/massimo-magee-about-improvisation/page-1/

Many releases are available on MM’s Bandcamp page, with funds going directly to the artist:

https://massimomagee.bandcamp.com/

Be sure to keep up with Massimo Magee’s exciting artistic journey….and speaking of Discogs, you can always go there to see if any of his KSE releases are still available on the secondary market–the last time I checked, two or three were….

March 2, 2022

TOP DETECTIVE #9 (I. W. Comics, 1958)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:10 am

As with the music business and the film business, I’ve always been fascinated by the products of the murky underbelly of the comics industry. They’re edgy, they’re unpredictable, and they don’t play by the established rules.

I. W. COMICS (1958-1964) was one of those companies. Comics.org explains the company’s origins, which really tell you all you need to know about the outfit: “I.W. Publications (1958-1964) was part of I. W. Enterprises, and named for the company’s owner, Israel Waldman. Reportedly, Waldman came into possession of a printing company and among the assets were the production materials for several hundred comic books previously published by various publishers as well as a limited amount of previously unpublished material. Waldman equated possession of production materials as the right to reprint and I.W. became notable for publishing unauthorized reprints of other company’s comics, often with new covers as Waldman’s windfall did not often include the production materials for covers. The later half of the company’s existence, it published comics under the Super Comics name. Usually these companies were out of business, but not always.”

This was one of a number of 50’s crime comics I recently purchased from Golden Age Reprints.com. Crime/detective/mystery comic books have always been among my favorites, so I intentionally chose some comics I’d never heard of, figuring I might stumble across something interesting, and even if I did not, I’d have some enjoyable crime-comic reading, the equivalent of watching a B-crime film or reading a paperback original 50’s crime novel.

The main story, and the one on the cover, features a character named “Young King Cole,” a detective with reddish hair, glasses, and a bow tie. The plot involves a woman who has been kidnapped and is being held on a seedy cargo ship. Twelve pages of action allows for a bit of backstory and plot development (Cole’s assistant gets a job on the ship to infiltrate), and I could see this being re-tooled as a Charlie Chan or Boston Blackie film.

Then comes a two-page short story called “End of the Line,” featuring one of the most common plots in crime fiction and films, the newly released prisoner who seeks revenge on someone he blames for his situation. What can one say about filler stories in comics? I enjoy them because they are quick and can be read when one is too tired or burned-out-from-work to even read a comic book or watch a 30-minute episode of a crime TV show such as HIGHWAY PATROL or HARBOR COMMAND. They also provide a change-of-pace from the comic content–similar to the role of a yeast roll or a slice of cornbread with a downhome meal!

Next we’re introduced to detective Homer K. Beagle in “The Missing Worms.” Beagle is a bumbling yet interesting character (yes, he’s a human, not a dog detective like McGruff), sort of like if Eb from GREEN ACRES decided to take his mailorder detective degree and put it to use. It seems someone has stolen the worms from the zoo because it’s fishing season and worms are very much in demand and the price is so high they are worth stealing, the way people steal copper from old buildings today. Putting a comedic detective story in the middle of the comic is a good idea in terms of changing the mood. Think of it as functioning the way a five-minute Smiley Burnette comedy sequence in a Charles Starrett “Durango Kid” western does to lighten the mood (and pad the length of the feature) and get you ready for the serious action coming up next….or so we hope!

The comic finishes with an eight-page story featuring “Dr. Drew, The Zoo Man,” another light-haired (reddish blond–does someone not like dark-haired detectives at this publisher?) Shamus. One odd feature of this one is that Drew has a South Asian (I’m guessing a comic like this does not make distinctions between cultures and nationalities outside of the USA) assistant named Gray who wears a loincloth and has a monkey to aid him. He also refers to himself in third person the way Senator Bob Dole used to. Everyone Drew encounters in the typical city in which the comic takes place just accepts the man in the loincloth and the monkey, so they must have an established history of crime-fighting in the area….or the people there are like New Yorkers, so jaded and having seen it all that nothing fazes them. This plot involves a snake farm and a crooked banker who convinces the local rural folk to take their money out of traditional savings accounts and put it in cash into a safe deposit box at his bank….and then he kills them and takes the money out of the deposit boxes with his duplicate key. After all, who would know what they put in the box, right? The plot aspects of this story are easy to follow even if you are tired or hungover while reading….the crooked snake farm and the thieving and murderous banker’s schemes are all explained thoroughly in a series of cram-packed dialogue balloons. Drew seems like he could be an interesting character, but with all the odd happenings here, the plot exposition, and his sidekick and his monkey, he’s almost like a guest star in his own comic.

With the usual ads for trade schools (I worked at a trade school once, and we found that our targeted TV ads brought in the most response when we advertised on local professional wrestling programs, so I can see why comic books feature ads from these places), novelty products, and rip-off books (like “Learn Ju-Jitsu At Home”), TOP DETECTIVE COMICS #9 was an enjoyable time-killer of a read.

When I finished reading it for the second time (I want to get my money’s worth!), I was even more convinced of an initial impression: although the book had a 1958 date, it seemed very dated, at least eight to ten years out of date. Then, in the tradition of the private detectives in the comic, I did a little sleuthing of my own and found out that most if not all of the pieces here were lifted from earlier comics (see the explanation of Israel Waldman at the top of this review). On this low rung of the comics ladder, the publications these were ripped-off from were probably too under the radar to ring any bells of recognition…and this kind of thing was far easier to get away with in the pre-internet age. It’s like the comics equivalent of an exploitation film being shopped around in the hinterlands for decades under different titles. In this case, the book’s content is lifted from a 1948 comic called Criminals On The Run, and one of the stories from that had already been re-printed once in another 1951-52 Avon comic (thanks to comics.org for the information on this).

Also noteworthy is that I. W. Comics lists this as #9 in the series of TOP DETECTIVE COMICS, when it’s actually the one and only issue in the series. No doubt people would be more likely to buy something that seemed like an ongoing series (which must be successful to be ongoing) than a one-off, particularly when they could open the comic and find something that looked and sounded like 1948…but it’s 1958!

I once worked for a supermarket chain back in Virginia (which will remain nameless) which instructed us to cut the rotten sections off fruit and vegetables and meat (hey, I had a family to support!), re-date them, re-color them, etc. They were “refurbishing the product,” we were told, and “offering budget-minded consumers access to premium products at an affordable price.” (My only other employment opportunity in that semi-rural area was the competing grocery chain, which routinely locked employees in to work an hour or two off the clock each night.) Hats off to I. W. Comics (Read I. W. Comics–They Are Top Quality Comics….we are told in a crudely inserted box at the bottom of page one, no doubt where the publishing info on the original 1948 comic was) and Israel Waldman for working in that time-honored American tradition of re-selling dated and third-rate content in a new package to unsuspecting consumers like me. A lot about life and contemporary society sucks, but a beer and a crime comic book at the end of a long workday (even if the content is recycled) make it a slight bit more tolerable. I can live in my imagination in a world where the detectives wear glasses and a bow tie and where people can wander around in a loincloth with a monkey sidekick without calling attention to themselves. A place where I can buy a 10-cent comic like TOP DETECTIVE from a poorly-lit rack in the back of a seedy neighborhood grocery or drug store to keep my feeble mind occupied until my girlfriend Mabel gets off work at the diner at 2 a.m. And nice guy that I am, I also bought Mabel a copy of the Charlton comic SOAP OPERA ROMANCES at that same store. She appreciates good reading too. No wonder we get along!

February 23, 2022

SMILIN’ ED’S BUSTER BROWN COMICS #13 (Fall 1948)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:01 am

When you consider that there are still children’s clothes and shoes being sold under the BUSTER BROWN brand-name, that gives the character a life of 115 years so far, and for the first 60 or so of that, he was a major figure in popular culture.

BUSTER BROWN first appeared in a newspaper comic strip in 1902, created by Richard F. Outcault, best known for THE YELLOW KID, and was adopted as advertising mascot by the Brown Shoe Company in 1904. Whatever vague memories most people have of the character today can be attributed to the Buster Brown Shoes.

The Buster Brown character was an urban boy whose parents dressed him in somewhat foppish clothes (not unlike Little Lord Fauntleroy), which caused him to get into scraps with other boys of the neighborhood. He was a savvy boy, a kind of trickster, able to outsmart adults, and the moral lesson sometimes presented at the end of an adventure had an ironic ring to it, as if everyone was in on the joke that the “lesson” was tacked-on and not really relevant. Buster was accompanied by his friend Mary Jane and his dog Tige (short for Tiger….pronounced like Tide, but with a hard-G instead of a D). There were two versions of the Brown comic strip, which ran in newspapers for about 15-20 years. In the late 1920’s, the character had his own silent comedy shorts at Universal–and on You Tube, I found a few primitive Edison-produced Brown shorts from 1904! However, he was still best known as spokesperson for Buster Brown Shoes.

In the 1940’s, the Brown Shoe Company spun the character off into a comic book, which was given away at shoe stores. In 1943, a Buster Brown radio show began broadcast, hosted by SMILIN’ ED MCCONNELL, a man who’d paid his dues in radio since 1922 (!!!) and had the ability to adapt his persona to his audience, finding success with heartland audiences in shows with a religious or an agricultural theme. His warm, neighborly persona was perfectly suited for children’s programming, and in 1944 he began the show SMILIN’ ED’S BUSTER BROWN GANG, sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes, and featuring such McConnell character creations as Froggy the Gremlin. You can listen to a number of episodes of the show in the old time radio collection at Archive.org.

The show was a huge success, and the comic book under review today was a tie-in to the show. It was a giveaway comic, available at stores which sold Buster Brown Shoes and/or sponsored the radio program. The left bottom of the comic was left blank so that the name and address of the local sponsor could be printed. This copy came from the Fort Worth area and also highlights the radio stations on which the show could be heard. Smilin’ Ed’s jovial presence is seen at the right bottom of the cover.

Smilin’ Ed’s success on radio was such that he moved into TV in 1950, where he was also a success. He passed away in 1954, when he was replaced on the show by Andy Devine, fresh off the fame of being comic sidekick to GUY MADISON in the WILD BILL HICKOK TV show. The show then became ANDY’S GANG, which ran from 1955-1960. Andy Devine was a larger-than-life character, who had worked a lot in radio (he was on a number of Jack Benny programs), television, and films, and once you hear his uniquely screechy voice, it is not soon forgotten. ANDY’S GANG is considered a classic, and various episodes are in circulation. However I’d bet that many fans of that show were unaware of its roots in Smilin’ Ed.

While the 1948 comic book reviewed here features full-page Buster Brown shoe ads with Buster and his related characters, and Smilin’ Ed gets a full-page to promote shoe sales, the actual comic book stories here—-written and drawn by Hobart Donovan—-are, alas, not that interesting and do not feature any of Buster or Smilin’ Ed’s “gang.” SEAN AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, THE BIGGEST SNAKE IN THE WORLD, and SHARK DRUM are all competently done children’s comics with an “adventure” theme and setting–at best, they resemble an earlier version of JONNY QUEST; at worst, they seem like something which could be used as filler in a religious children’s show.

I owned one pair of Buster Brown shoes as a boy. I generally was given cheap shoes, as most kids were, but when I was assessed as having fallen arches, it was suggested I get a better-made pair of shoes with better arch support, so my parents took me to the Buster Brown shoe store and bought me a pair. I don’t remember if comic books were still given out at that time. I never did get another pair of Buster Brown shoes after that–it was back to whatever K-Mart was selling.

Although this comic book is nothing special, it does reflect a special phenomenon, one which lasted for decades. If you have time to kill, take a listen to one of Smilin’ Ed’s broadcasts and return to a world that was a fantasy even while it was being produced…..the world of Ma and Pa Kettle and of Andy Hardy….of county fairs and caramel apples and grandmothers who baked pies and wore flour-stained aprons, while slipping you a quarter and a cookie behind your mother’s back….a world where, just like today, children’s programming is full of ads for products which the average working family cannot afford!

(Bill Shute, originally published online in 2017)

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