Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 14, 2021

Summer 2021 Writing Vacation in Mississippi/Louisiana

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I’ll be heading out soon for a two-week poetry writing vacation, split between two beautiful and historic areas with atmosphere a-plenty. The first week will be spent in downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi, just a block and a half from the Yazoo River

Where the Yazoo River feeds into the Mississippi River in Vicksburg

and the second half will be spent in Opelousas, Louisiana, at Evangeline Downs racetrack.

I’m working on a new book-length poetic project, using Robert Lowell’s NOTEBOOK poems and the minimalist poems of Frank Samperi as my starting points, but also with the influence of long-form music constructions from Jurg Frey and John Cage.

Of course, how the end product winds up is anyone’s guess….new avenues and forms will open up, new connections will be made, and I hope to have the finished product ready by early 2022. The tentative title is NEUTRAL.

Until then, you can get a copy of my most recent poetry book, TWO SELF PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO),  for only $7.95 here: http://bit.ly/TWOSELF

There will continue to be regular new content here at the KSE blog every few days (which was loaded in the Spring) throughout July and into Summer/Fall, so keep checking back for interesting film and music offerings. Otherwise, see you back in-person in August…when I return to San Antonio, and it’s back to the salt mine…

And there’s also this collection of 2005-2017 poems coming out in Germany later this year:

June 23, 2021

new Bill Shute poetry book now available: TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (After Murillo), KSE #418

available for order (only $7.95) here: http://bit.ly/TWOSELF

This has been available for sale online for a while, and I’ve gotten some e-mails from readers who’ve already received and read their copies, so I needed to kick myself to get a release announcement up…and here it is.

My newest long-form poem TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO), which is in a similar diptych format to my previous book COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES…this time a 42-page work, in two 21-page sections.

Only two self-portraits survive (see pic below) from the great Spanish Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682), although he may well have painted others that do not survive. One of these dates from his 30s, the other from his 50s. I have used these two self-portraits, done in those two distinct periods in his life, as the inspiration for two fictionalized “self-portraits” set in the life of my present-day viewpoint character, in his 30s and then in his 50s, in the two halves of the diptych. As a teenager back in the 1970s, I read many times John Ashbery’s long poem SELF-PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR, inspired by the painting of the same name from the Italian painter Parmigianino (1503-1540), and in a way I feel that I’m using the Murillo works as a prompt/catalyst for poetic creation in a manner similar to what Ashbery did, though of course completely different in result, with mine being in the idiosyncratic Bill Shute style, and Ashbery being both a genius and a poet with a very different idiosyncratic style. Why not aim high!

It’s time to put the diptych form behind me, so I’ve moved on to a very different kind of poetic form for my next project, which I will continue work on during my Summer 2021 writing vacation in Mississippi and Louisiana. I’ve been a reader of Robert Lowell’s various “Notebook” collections (I prefer the more assemblage-based NOTEBOOK and NOTEBOOK 1967-68 to the more tamed and traditionally organized versions of that raw material found in HISTORY and FOR LIZZIE AND HARRIET) for many years/decades (and I have also been studying closely the recently published expanded version of Lowell’s THE DOLPHIN, with two complete and different versions, a work in a similar from to the NOTEBOOK works) , and I’m working on a longer-form piece that incorporates those influences along with the sublime minimalist poetry of the late Frank Samperi, which I’ve been a reader of since the 1970s. I should not say anymore about at this ongoing work (being superstitious). I should add that this present poetic wave I have been riding ever since RIVERSIDE FUGUE (2019), and it grew out of AMONG THE NEWLY FALLEN (2018). The form and method of composition of every piece since AMONG THE NEWLY FALLEN is rooted in the previous one but goes beyond it, and new hurdles are set for me to jump during the composing and editing, leading me to (IMHO) stretch myself and extend my reach. I hope you’ll agree.

If you’d like to read some of the older pieces from 5-10-15 years ago, my German selected poems collection JUNK SCULPTURE FROM THE NEW GILDED AGE will be appearing in mid-to-late 2021 from Moloko Print in Germany, and as that comes closer, I’ll let you know the details. This book was commissioned in 2018 and I sent the manuscript to the publisher in 2018, so at this point it seems like EARLY SELECTED POEMS, but it is a handy sampling of a number of pieces (90+ pages) from 2005-2017 which have only appeared in small-distribution chapbooks which are long out-of-print, none of which have ever appeared in a book-length collection, and it includes such popular pieces as LAMENT FOR THE LIVING, my poem about the final days of Chet Baker, which opens the new collection. I still get e-mails from people wanting copies of that, which was originally published in March 2010 (11 years ago!).

You can read about and order my recent poetry books published through KSE at the Bill Shute author page at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XRNgjl

Please note that the new book, TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (After Murillo) is for sale at only $7.95, a dollar less than the previous book, which I hope will encourage more readers to take the plunge.

Murillo: The Self-Portraits October 30, 2017 though February 4, 2018

Those interested in learning more about the two surviving Murillo self-portraits are encouraged to find a copy of MURILLO: THE SELF PORTRAITS by Xavier F. Salomon and Letizia Treves, published in 2017 by the Frick Collection.

This thin and trim (just like Mr. Ashbery in that period!) edition of SELF-PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR is the one I used to carry around with me as a teenager (I actually spent more time overall back then with Ashbery’s THE TENNIS COURT OATH, but that would not fit in my back pocket).

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my various offerings, and I hope you find them interesting and worthwhile….and entertaining.

October 15, 2020

Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens in GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND (Italy, 1965)

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American actor Peter Lupus, after his comic performance as muscleman “Rock Stevens” in the 1964 film MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, wound up making four films in Italy billed as Rock Stevens! The first three were traditional sword and sandal films, though all are first-rate and Lupus/Stevens was a much better actor than some of the bodybuilders who went to Europe to star in historical epics; the fourth, however, was NOT a muscle-rippling epic in the Hercules tradition: it was a historical swashbuckling adventure, GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND.

Il mistero dell’isola maledetta (aka Giant of the Evil Island)

Italy 1965, directed by Piero Pierotti

starring Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens as Capt. Pedro Valverde (voiced by Frank Latimore)

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I saw and enjoyed the film several times on UHF television back in the 70’s and 80’s, and it has always been the hardest to find of the four Italian films Lupus made before rocketing to international stardom on the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE tv show. Thankfully, Larry Anderson taped it off TV back in the day, and was kind enough to post it online, so now we all can enjoy it exactly as it would have looked on some low-wattage UHF station out of Tulsa in 1987. Re-watching the film this week, I consider it a classic of a sort, and having Lupus voiced by the great FRANK LATIMORE makes it even more impressive, as Latimore’s rich, sonorous stage-actor voice is always a pleasure to hear and gives the character a good amount of gravitas. Latimore always took these dubbing jobs seriously, and as with Edmund Purdom’s dubbing work, it’s an interesting and initially surreal experience to hear the voice of a recognizable movie star (as Latimore and Purdom were) dubbing someone else.

Here’s a review of the film I published online in 2003:

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exciting Italian 60s swashbuckler w/ Peter Lupus (Rock Stevens)
17 August 2003 | by django-1
After achieving fame in the film MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, actor-bodybuilder Peter Lupus, then using the stage name of Rock Stevens, made four sword-and-sandal/adventure films in Italy during 1964-65, all of which are worthwhile. I’ve always felt Lupus, during this period at least, resembled the young Sylvester Stallone, and he is very comfortable on-screen and a convincing actor, which no doubt landed him the role soon after this on TV’s classic MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND, as the English-dubbed AIP-TV version of this film is called (which is panned-and-scanned), is NOT a sword-and-sandal film, but a costume swashbuckler where Lupus/Stevens plays Pedro, who becomes Captain of a ship when its older Captain retires and who is devoted to breaking up a lair of criminals led by one Maloch on a place called Evil Island. Pedro has TWO lovely ladies with whom he becomes intertwined: the shifty and scheming Alma and the good and true Bianca. The battles between ships are very well done for what must have been a moderate-budgeted film, and the sets and visuals are rich and colorful throughout. There’s a lot of exciting swordplay (which Lupus handles convincingly!), and overall it’s an exciting film and wonderful escapist entertainment. Director Piero Pierotti wrote and/or directed a few dozen films in the post WWII era, including such genre classics with American stars as PIRATE AND THE SLAVE GIRL and KNIGHT OF 100 FACES (both with Lex Barker), MARCO POLO (Rory Calhoun), the western HEADS OR TAILS (John Ericson–I’ll need to dig out my copy of that and review it) the amazing NIGHTSTAR: GODDESS OF ELECTRA/WAR OF THE ZOMBIES (great performance by John Drew Barrymore), and THE AVENGER OF VENICE (Brett Halsey). I noticed in the credits that this was shot in totalscope, so perhaps some future DVD release will be in widescreen as such a visually striking film as this should be appreciated in its original form. Still, the pan-and-scan VHS/DVD version floating around is worth watching, and all four of Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens’ Italian films are worth finding. The other three films are GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS, CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR, and HERCULES AGAINST THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON
.

The film is missing its opening credits and is presented in three parts below. Best to NOT watch this on anything larger than a computer screen:

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September 25, 2020

Joseph McBride on the new HOPPER/WELLES film

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If you are not a regular reader of the WELLESNET website, the go-to resource for all things Orson Welles, you might not have seen the fascinating write-up on the new HOPPER/WELLES film by longtime Welles authority Joseph McBride (who has a role in Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND). It’s well worth your reading time, whether or not you plan to seek out the HOPPER/WELLES film (which, I believe, will be available for streaming-for-a-fee soon, where you need to watch it within 24 hours). Reading McBride-on-Welles has always been a pleasure, even when you may disagree with his assessments (his characterization of Henry Jaglom had me laughing out loud–and clearly, he does not rate Hopper or THE LAST MOVIE as highly as I do). Here is a link to that article–take the time to read it….

September 6, 2020

introductory essay to the forthcoming collection of Edward D. Wood, Jr., non-fiction magazine pieces, WHEN THE TOPIC IS SEX (Bear Manor, 2021)

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Just completed a project I’ve been working on for the last few months that’s very important to me: the introductory essay for a forthcoming book of non-fiction adult-magazine pieces by EDWARD D. WOOD, JR., called WHEN THE TOPIC IS SEX, to be published in 2021 by Bear Manor. Great to work with Bob Blackburn, who did such a fine job with the previous EW collections, BLOOD SPATTERS QUICKLY and ANGORA FEVER. Very proud to be a part of this book!

Look for the book (and its excellent introductory essay!) in 2021….

September 2, 2020

check out ‘Scotty’s Elvis Presley Vinyl Reviews’

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There are a lot of Elvis Presley podcasts and You Tube videos out there, and some of them are not that great, even to the Elvis fan. They are fannish in the bad sense, not that well-informed, dealing with gossip not the music, etc. There are some fine ones, though, and I’d like to introduce you to one that I treasure: Scotty’s Elvis Presley Vinyl Reviews, on You Tube. This  gentleman (and sometimes his brother) has a fine Elvis collection, is very knowledgeable about original pressings/RCA-BMG re-releases/FTD releases, etc., as well as the nuts and bolts of Elvis Presley’s body of work. He is respectful, passionate, and accurate. That’s what we need in the Elvis community!

So let me share the link for this video series. There are 45 episodes:

Rudolph Valentino in “The Married Virgin” (1918)

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valentino married 1

Rodolfo Di Valentino, aka RUDOLPH VALENTINO, certainly paid his dues as an actor before stardom beckoned. In the late 1910’s and through early 1920, he appeared in supporting roles in nearly two dozen films, and by the late teens, he was recognizable as a character actor, often stereotyped as a seductive European or Latin American playboys or gigolos or operators of one kind or another taking advantage of women with money and/or position. As the roles got bigger, he truly smoldered on the screen and surely when he was cast in his star-making role in FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, released in 1921, these seductive supporting roles and their evidence of unique power he possessed as a film actor were what led to him getting that gig. The contemporary trade reviews of his supporting roles commented on how persuasive he was as a jaded European rake, on the make.

valentino married 2

In 2017 I wrote about another early Valentino film, STOLEN MOMENTS, and you can read that piece here:  https://kendrasteinereditions.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/stolen-moments-1920-starring-rudolph-valentino/

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Like Stolen Moments, THE MARRIED VIRGIN was a film re-issued once Valentino became a star, highlighting his supporting role….although in the case of THE MARRIED VIRGIN, the film may not have even had a proper release when it was made in 1918. You can Google the film and read more about this, but it seems the original version was 7 reels and was exhibited to reviewers/exhibitors in 1918, but not released. It was re-edited in 1920, cut to 6 reels, and released under the names THE MARRIED VIRGIN and FRIVOLOUS WIVES. The latter had a great tagline, “a drama of a body and heart divided.”

valentino married 5

Valentino plays Count Roberto di San Fraccini, a character one perceptive IMDB Valentino fan describes as a “cabaret parasite,” which pretty much says it all. Although he eventually got tired of these stereotypical roles, he always gave the producers their money’s worth, and he certainly does here. Savor the master, RUDOLPH VALENTINO, working his magic in a low-budget potboiler prior to his superstar period. The film is a typical melodrama of the day, but it moves quickly and is relatively entertaining overall, but add Valentino to the formula, and it’s suddenly something worth your time….and only 70 minutes long.

Settle back, pretend you are seeing this at your neighborhood theater in 1920 after a long work week, ready for some romantic fantasy entertainment….

valentino married 4

THE MARRIED VIRGIN

made in 1918, reissued in 1920

directed by Joseph Maxwell

with

Vera Sisson …. Mary McMillan
Rudolph Valentino …. Count Roberto di San Fraccini (as Rodolfo di Valentini)
Frank Newburg …. Douglas McKee
Kathleen Kirkham …. Mrs. McMillan
Edward Jobson …. John McMillan
Lillian Leighton …. Anne Mullins, the Maid

NOTE: This film will look better seen on a laptop as opposed to a TV screen.

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August 30, 2020

two episodes of COMEDY CAPERS

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comedy capers

Silent films are timeless. They are NOT sound films without sound. They are a different medium, perfectly complete within themselves. When I was working with young composers in their 20’s with the KSE label, I met a number of people in the experimental music community who were scoring silent films, people who viewed the medium as new and exciting terrain for them.

As for people in my age group (I was born in 1958), many of us got into silent films in two ways: 1) via packages of re-edited and re-contextualized silent comedies shown as filler on local TV stations and aimed at children (and children at heart….and people who remembered silent films), with new soundtracks and over-stated sound effects, with lots of slide whistles and cymbal crashes; and 2) via public TV showings of “classic” silent features in the 1960’s and 1970’s, focusing on the major stars of the era such as Valentino and Fairbanks and Pickford and Chaplin and Bow, but also on the great film classics of the silent era, such as INTOLERANCE or SPARROWS or THE BIG PARADE.

One well-known example of the former is the early 60’s series COMEDY CAPERS, an off-shoot of an earlier and similar series called MISCHIEF MAKERS, which contained footage from silent OUR GANG comedies, re-edited and with new sound effects. COMEDY CAPERS was another series from the same producing company, National Telepix. CC contained shorts from the libraries of Hal Roach and Mack Sennett and featured a wide variety of quality material, including Billy Bevan, Harry Langdon, Ben Turpin, The Keystone Kops, Charley Chase, Billy West, Mabel Normand, etc.

There were, of course, many other similar series, some of the local produced at the station level, showing cheap public-domain silent material from 16mm and using canned music. COMEDY CAPERS was in reruns for a number of years after its initial early 60’s run, continuing into the 70’s in some markets and into the 80’s overseas. It seems to have been a big hit in Brazil, as a number of the excerpts on You Tube have Portuguese subtitles. Also, any silent film fan knows that there is a devoted following for silent films today in Latin America as a whole, and many obscure silent films from the world over can be found online with Spanish and Portuguese inter-titles. Silent films truly are the universal film language–all you need is titles translated and there are no language barriers.

I’ve included links to two episodes of COMEDY CAPERS for your enjoyment, both chock-full of silent comedy gems. Yes, the music and sound effects are a bit over the top, but only a purist could object to that, and it certainly made these films more approachable to the 6 year olds and 9 year olds out there in TV land circa 1964 (or if in Brazil, 1980!).

Maybe they can still work as an entryway for silent films today!   Enjoy!

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August 25, 2020

Bobby Vee and the Strangers,”Look At Me Girl” (Liberty LP, 1966)

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bobby vee look 1

In a recent post on The Gants,  I mentioned producer Dallas Smith at Liberty Records, and about a half hour after finishing that post, I put on an album to listen to while doing my job from home, and to my surprise….it was another album produced by Dallas Smith on Liberty Records! It had been at the top of my “next to play” pile for a day or two. I own a mono LP of this somewhere, but I listened to a CDR of a stereo album I downloaded from an MP3 blog maybe ten or fifteen years ago….and I listened on headphones.

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BOBBY VEE AND THE STRANGERS

“LOOK AT ME GIRL”   Liberty Records LP, 1966
A1 Look At Me Girl
A2 Sunny
A3 Growing Pains
A4 Like You’ve Never Known Before
A5 Summer In The City
A6 Turn Down Day
B1 Fly Away
B2 Sweet Pea
B3 That’s All In The Past
B4 He’s Not Your Friend
B5 Back In Town
B6 Lil’ Red Riding Hood

Liberty Records liked to have their artists record cover versions of other people’s hits, a practice I have no problem with because, after all, if I love a particular artist, wouldn’t I be very excited about hearing them cover a hit that I enjoy? On some occasions, a song I do not like in its original form, I DO like when it’s covered by an artist I admire. I’m one of those rare individuals whose favorite Standells albums are THE HOT ONES and IN PERSON AT PJ’s! And the latter was, of course, on the Liberty label!

When Del Shannon came to Liberty Records in 1966, Shannon–an amazing songwriter who’d written the majority of his hits and his b-sides and album tracks–was a bit taken aback when Liberty had him record two albums primarily of covers, but he did them SO well, and on some occasions he completely reinvented them and made them his own, such as his version of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.”

With Bobby Vee, Liberty felt that they had an artist who could do it all—-they could pair him with other artists on the label, such as the Crickets or the Ventures, for recording projects, they could have him record “theme” albums, they could pair him with producers with a particular vision and a stable of songwriters, and they knew he would create a quality and commercial product. At the same time, he could use the label to promote his own compositions and his own pet projects (they released A LOT of Vee records in the 1960’s)–it was a win-win situation for both Vee and for the label.

The album under discussion here is built around a recent single, a cover of the Playboys of Edinburg’s jangly classic “Look At Me Girl,” which is tailor-made for Vee, along with a collection of Vee’s own tunes, recent hits by other artists, some lesser-known songs by songwriters on the make who were happy to have the mechanical royalties from an album by an artist like Vee whose releases would sell at minimum ten thousand copies, and of course copyrights held by Liberty’s music publishing arm. For me, it’s a winning combination. This is album screams 1966, which in hindsight is a wonderful thing, though as the 60’s progressed, Vee’s albums focused more on his own songwriting and on singer-songwriter-esque albums that were more studied and weighty.

bobby poster

I’ve included two sample tracks here: first is the title track, a perfect westcoast 1966 jangle-rock single, and then Vee’s fine cover of the Cyrkle’s “Turn Down Day,” which in some ways I prefer to the original…..all in that distinctive Liberty Records almost-duophonic stereo and played by the cream of Los Angeles’ session musicians.

bobby poster 2

You should have no problem finding the rest of this album online somewhere….Liberty’s present owners, Universal Music (who purchased EMI), tend to have a lot of their back catalog on streaming services and even on You Tube (I’ll be posting a certain Tower Records LP soon, which UM has posted on You Tube for free, though with commercials), in an attempt to monetize those sleeping assets in the vault. Let’s face it–there will never be a physical reissue of an album like LOOK AT ME GIRL by Bobby Vee, unless some specialist reissue label does it, and I don’t think this is high on Ace or Grapefruit’s to-do list, and UM is not likely to reissue it on CD, at least in the present environment (maybe if/when CD’s become “collectible” in future years the way that LP’s, or as they say now “vinyl,” are now it could happen, but I would not sit around waiting for that to happen.

Also, an album like this which is not in high demand can be gotten relatively cheap in its original form—-a stereo or mono copy can be gotten for $6.00 at Discogs.

I play my copy once or twice a year and would not think of selling it. Find it online and see what you think…..yes, it’s 1966 Liberty Records product capitalizing on Bobby Vee’s fame, but it’s from the heart of the magical L.A. music scene in a truly Golden Age….and Vee could have done anything (they could have had him do the Stephen Foster songbook!) and made it sound fresh and enjoyable. I’m going to listen to it AGAIN as soon as I finish typing this! Tracks from it would fit perfectly on an episode of Steve Stanley’s NOW SOUNDS radio show….in fact, I bet he’s played something from it!

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Bobby Vee was kind enough to sign a copy of the UK (where he was always popular) 3-CD set of his collected singles, A sides and B sides, for Mary Anne and me….

bobby vee

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bob and bobby

And of course, every Dylan fan knows that at one time, before Dylan went to NYC, he played keyboards in Vee’s band for a few months, under the name Elston Gunnn (sic). It was beautiful to see them reunited in 2013, when Dylan invited his former employer to a show in St. Paul, MN, and played Vee’s first breakout hit “Suzie Baby” in concert (I mention this period in Vee’s career in my discussion of Mickie Most, elsewhere on this blog). These two Minnesota boys… About Vee, Dylan wrote in Chronicles, “I’d always thought of him as a brother.”

That night in 2013, Dylan said from the stage, “I lived here awhile back, and since that time I’ve played all over the world, with all kinds of people. Everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna and everybody in between,” said Dylan, usually a man of few words in concert. “But the most meaningful person I’ve ever been on the stage with was a man who’s here tonight, who used to sing a song called ‘Suzie Baby.’ ”

Here is that performance….it’s a bit ramshackle, but it brings tears to my eyes….

August 23, 2020

GUNFIGHTERS #72 (Charlton Comics, April 1982)

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gunfighters 72

GUNFIGHERS #72 (Charlton Comics, April 1982)

There is something charming about the re-purposing/re-cycling of product in the low end of the popular culture marketplace. I recently saw a collection of late 70’s newspaper ads from the South and from Texas for drive-in theaters and was surprised to learn that the 1960’s and early 1970’s films of Herschell Gordon Lewis were playing regularly in various combinations up through 1980 or so–imagine going to your local passion pit on the outskirts of town circa 1980 and getting a double-bill of THE GORE GORE GIRLS and TWO THOUSAND MANIACS. At the same time, you could go to your local Sound Warehouse’s budget bin and purchase some dodgy budget label LP for $1.99 containing the grungy Ed Chalpin-produced R&B jams featuring the pre-fame Jimi Hendrix, fifteen years after they were recorded (and who knows if Hendrix was even aware that the tape was rolling!). In the comics world, Charlton Comics was putting out new product consisting of reprints of older Charlton content (comics looked down upon and ignored by the comics powers-that-were back then, whether they were new or reprints), some going back to the late 1950’s! Why, you could potentially have bought the Charlton GUNFIGHTERS comic under review here, picked up the budget-label Hendrix album, and gone to see the Lewis films THE SAME DAY. And for most people back in the pre-Internet age, it would all have been new to you. My, what a satisfying day that would have been! Also, all of those things would have been relatively “off the radar” in terms of the gate-keepers of popular culture, and you could have experienced all of these from your small-or-medium sized town in Western Kansas, or Central Pennsylvania, or the Texas Panhandle. All you needed on top of that for a perfect day was a ‘Big Plain’ from your local Burger King and an oversized can of Big Cat Malt Liquor to wash it down.

charlton more

Long before people attempted to document everything via the internet, daily life had a pleasurable randomness factor to it and a sense of the unknown. Things were thrown at you in the course of your everyday routine that could not be looked up on your smart-phone. When you found for a quarter a used copy of some odd paperback book from a publisher you’d never heard of, you could not look it up and get its backstory–you had to read it, and even then, you might not have a handle on where it came from and what was its context. You could stumble across an obscure film at 3 a.m. on the UHF station, something that did not appear in your local newspaper TV supplement or TV Guide, which just had LATE MOVIE listed, see it once, mention it to people afterwards and no one would have ever heard of it, even though it may have had a name star in it such as Rory Calhoun. After a while, you wondered if you were the only person anywhere who saw this….and did you REALLY see it, or was it all just a dream as you were dozing off (I have seen non-existent European movies starring Guy Madison in my dreams, and heard non-existent Kim Fowley albums in my dreams, undoubtedly constructed from known elements in my brain) and the station was in reality running an ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW re-run? It’s hard for people who were born into the internet age to understand that, the way it was difficult for me as a child to grasp the concept of life before electricity, which my grandmother who was born in 1896 lived through for her first few decades (women did not even have the vote when she turned 21!). The important thing to remember about these eras is that people got along just fine, and in some ways life was more pleasurable, or perhaps the proper term would be MORE INTENSELY AND DIRECTLY EXPERIENCED. That’s true whether we are talking about 1979, 1896, or any other random date you want to mention….1733, 1142, 212 B.C.

One thing that has always annoyed me is people who look at the past through the lens of the present and view themselves and the present age as being superior. Anyone with a sense of history, and a sense of modesty, and a sense of perspective, knows that many aspects of present-day life and society circa 2019 will make future generations cringe! I would hazard to guess that many  are already cringing today, as these things are happening! We’re no better than previous generations, and in many ways we’re probably worse. Oh, but you can watch a shitty sit-com on your phone rather than talk to the person sitting next to you, and you can find out in three seconds who led the American League in home runs in 1981….and you can take a picture of your meal and post it so people on another continent can see your tedious dinner. How advanced we are!

gunfighters 2

Fortunately, we can escape this world of people watching corporate infotainment on portable devices they are addicted to as much as (or even more than) any drug addict they’d look down upon….by picking up a cheap and unwanted late-period Charlton Comic, still available for a dollar or so in unread condition.

As with most Charlton product, I did not get this new at full price–I picked it up later (though not much later, maybe 8-12 months) in the secondary market. Many convenience stores had a used or remaindered magazine section back then (you still saw this in rural areas until a few years ago, particularly in non-chain Mom’n’Pop stores), where something like this 60-cent comic would have a 25-cent sticker on it. That section was often beside the full-price section or in a corner (or on a separate rack). I’d learned by 1982 that if a Charlton comic did not have the words ALL-NEW in big letters at the top, then it was recycled material from their archives. You could also tell that from the masthead, which did not hide the fact that the material was old. This magazine reads “all editorial material herein contained was originally published in and is reprinted from publications copyright 1960, 1961 by Charlton Publications Inc.” There was certainly no problem with that, as far as I was concerned. It was unlikely that I’d have had many 1960 comics in my collection, and if I did, I’d probably have vaguely remembered the stories. And if I didn’t, then I would not mind re-reading them. Considering that the late 50’s and early 60’s were a Golden period of westerns on TV and in comic books, I was actually happy to be getting vintage material. And Charlton had been pumping out so many series of western comics for so long that whatever this magazine contained, it would surely be worthwhile, and well worth a quarter. A broad title like GUNFIGHTERS could cover pretty much any western comic material–it would be hard to find a vintage story that did not have a gun drawn by someone somewhere in it.

What makes this issue so appealing is exactly the wide variety of material and the various “big names” of western lore who are represented: ANNIE OAKLEY, WILD BILL HICKOK, WYATT EARP, KID MONTANA….and checking out the Grand Comics Database on this issue, I see that even the cover was re-cycled from an old TEX RITTER magazine (and if you look at the cover pic we provided, you can see that yes, it does resemble the comic book version of Tex….as much as any Charlton comic “resembles” a real-life model!).

I can remember sitting on my front porch in Stillwater, Oklahoma, with the porch light on and a citronella candle burning to keep the mosquitoes away, at about 2:30 a.m. reading this.

The bar/club/restaurant I worked at closed at 1 on weeknights, we usually had it closed up and ready to go for the next morning’s day shift by 1:45-2:00 a.m. As I would walk home in the middle of the night, I would savor the silence….it provided a blank canvas on which whatever minor sounds were out there would stand out in contrast to the silence (when I met John Cage 6 or 7 years after this, I mentioned this image to him and brought up his citation of Thoreau’s line about sound being “bubbles on the surface of the silence”–Cage smiled like an uncle proud of his nephew graduating from high school, and said something along the lines of “that’s it”). After I got home, washed up, and took my copy of GUNFIGHTERS out on the porch (probably sipping one of those Big Cats), I would relax—-no more dishwashing, marinating and cooking cheap steaks, preparing plates full of nachos, and doing inventory of kitchen supplies until tomorrow….which was actually TODAY since it was after 2 a.m.!

Annie Oakley took on and defeated a sleazy and corrupt faux-Frenchman who was trying to control the entire valley, steal her ranch, AND force himself upon her. As I tuned into the middle-of-the-night silence, and looked out toward the dimly-glowing horizon west of town, I could imagine all this being played out just a few miles from where I sat.

I would come out on the main street from the frontier café where I worked as cook and bottle-washer, and I would wave at and applaud Annie Oakley as she rode down the street after gunning down the Frenchman and turning him over–wounded, bloodied, and defeated, with his head down in shame– to the Sheriff. I could then go back to my daily life–in the Old West or in Oklahoma circa 1982–and feel a sense of victory. Thank you, Annie Oakley….thank you, Charlton Comics….thank you, Big Cat Malt Liquor!

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August 22, 2020

New Century Edition of Swedenborg’s SHORTER WORKS OF 1763 now available

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swedenborg

The Swedenborg Foundation’s long-term NEW CENTURY EDITION series of new translations/editions of Emanuel Swedenborg’s voluminous spiritual works has been doing an amazing job, with scholarly rigor, in making Swedenborg’s work current and relevant to the present generations of readers. I’m not sure that Swedenborg will ever be widely read (and I certainly do not want to see him dragged into the dreaded New Age arena—-something that some of the persons who mention his name in recent years have been doing, alas—-which is the spiritual equivalent of an actor doubling in hardcore porn). His writing is too dry for most, and the classification/categorizing aspect of his work would be off-putting to some. Personally, I have always considered Swedenborg as a comrade of Dante, in terms of giving a detailed and methodical study of the afterlife and the nature of divinity. Perhaps Swedenborg’s not presenting his insights as literary work or speculative writing, but as matter-of-fact cataloging of the spiritual world  based on his own personal visits there , has put up a barrier for some readers. It should not. The cosmology presented in Swedenborg’s work is something we can look at with awe. Who really cares if it’s “true.” No one will know any “truth” in that area until it’s too late to report back to the living.

Swedenborg (1)

EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

If Swedenborg is just a name for you, do a little reading about him and his work….even the Wikipedia entry would be fine….and you’ll know if you would find his “world” (and there’s no other word for it than that) is one you’d like to enter and spend some time in.

I’m not a card carrying Swedenborgian or a member of a Swedenborgian church, but he does present a fascinating and quite large piece of the puzzle, and he shines a light on the unexplainable elephant in the room from a unique angle. The more illumination from different angles we expose ourselves to, the more sets of metaphors for the inexpressible we step into, the more likely we are (perhaps….) to catch a flashing glimpse of the indescribable….

Below you’ll find an audio introduction (running 3+ hours) to the new NCE Edition of  Swedenborg’s THE SHORTER WORKS OF 1763, from Rev. Dr. Jonathan S. Rose, if you are so inclined….

You can order THE SHORTER WORKS OF 1763 by Emanuel Swedenborg direct from the publisher here:

https://swedenborg.com/product/shorter-works-of-1763-nce/

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NEW JERUSALEM….my poetic attempt to deal with some Swedenborgian concepts in the setting of Natchez, Mississippi, originally published in 2017 as a KSE chapbook. This piece has since been republished in my poetry book SATORI IN NATCHEZ, which you can get at Amazon here in the US, or pretty much anywhere else, as a local purchase with local postage.

new-jerusalem

 

August 21, 2020

Tom Conway as The Saint on radio (3 episodes, 1951)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:36 am
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conway saint

It all makes perfect sense somehow: Tom Conway’s brother, George Sanders, played the Saint in a number of popular feature films at RKO; later, when RKO started another series with a similar suave and witty detective character, The Falcon, they brought back Sanders, but he left the series to be replaced by his brother Tom Conway, and Conway became most associated with The Falcon, with his own unique style and flair for comedy. That series made Conway a star in his own right, and after the Falcon series concluded, he played a number of other suave but witty detective roles based on his Falcon fame.

Thus, when the star of the radio version of THE SAINT, Vincent Price, needed some time off the series for some other commitments in the more prestigious and better-paying world of feature films, who better to take over the role for a while than Tom Conway, who’d never played The Saint, but who was known and loved by millions as the very similar character, The Falcon. And yes, Conway was tailor-made for The Saint. Many people today know The Saint via the successful 60’s TV series starring Roger Moore—-and Moore certainly made the role his own, the same way he did ten years later with James Bond—-but the character goes back a long way, to 1928, from author Leslie Charteris.

While Vincent Price was a magnificent Saint on radio (and you can easily find many of the Price shows online….and you should), I’ve always had a soft spot for the short run with Tom Conway in the role of Simon Templar, aka The Saint.

Below are links to three episodes of the Conway Saint, each running approximately 29 minutes. Enjoy!

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THREE SAINT RADIO EPISODES WITH TOM CONWAY:

–THE GIRL WITH THE LOWER BERTH (June 3, 1951)

https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/crime/saint-the/saint-the-51-06-03-173the-girl-with-the-lower-berth

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–PETER THE GREAT (June 24, 1951)

https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/crime/saint-the/saint-the-51-06-24-176peter-the-great

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–MY DARLING DAUGHTER (July 15, 1951)

https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/crime/saint-the/saint-the-51-07-15-179no-my-darling-daughter

 

By the way, it’s comforting to know, as we’re informed at the closing of each show, that “The Saint comic book is available at all newsstands.” I have a number of issues myself, and I can do a post about the various comic book incarnations of the character at some future date.

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August 16, 2020

Wednesday Happy Hour with ROSIE FLORES…every week!

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rosie 1

San Antonio native ROSIE FLORES is a Texas treasure—-though she did live in California for a while, she’s been Austin-based for a number of years now, and Texas is better off for it. Mary Anne and I went to a Rosie Flores concert on our first date, decades ago (we were both fans already, before we met), and we’ve tried to catch her each year ever since….in some years we’d see her monthly. In the recent pre-COVID era, she had a number of residencies at different Austin clubs….most recently, her Wednesday night jazz sets at the upstairs Continental Club Annex, and Friday rockin’ shows at C-Boys Heart and Soul (also on S. Congress in Austin). Her eclectic taste and warm, personal style with an audience make every show a unique event.

Now, during the COVID lockdown, Rosie is doing a weekly three-song set (usually running 20-25 minutes) Wednesday nights at 630 US Central Time, live from her home, via Facebook Live. Many of the shows have been themed, focusing on a singer or songwriter important to her, or a genre, or something like songs from her first album from the 80’s on Reprise (which is where I discovered her—- a great album, still sounding fresh and exciting today), songs from her recent blues album, etc. I’ve included the posters from some of the recent shows. Her show next Wednesday will be devoted to songs by Chuck Berry.

Besides the exciting music–and you never know exactly what you’ll get or how she will perform it–Rosie’s wit and personal charm come through really well via these internet concerts. Mary Anne and I never miss these Wednesday Happy Hour shows and it’s almost like she’s a member of our extended family, someone whose visit we always welcome.

It’s easy to tune in on Wednesday night.

Go to the Mule Kick Productions Facebook page around 630 pm (CT) on Wednesday, and a few minutes after 630 refresh the screen if the show doesn’t appear….and you’ll get an entertaining and refreshing dose of the Rockabilly Filly herself, MS. ROSIE FLORES.

Here’s the direct link:    https://www.facebook.com/mulekickproductions/

And don’t forget the tip jar….https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/RosieFl

Every year at our home, Rosie is a regular musical guest because the day after Thanksgiving, we take out her wonderful Christmas album CHRISTMASVILLE (see pic below), full of fun originals (the San Antonio-based ‘Christmas on West Mistletoe’ we all sing along with, and whenever I cross Mistletoe here in San Antonio, I think of the song) and classic covers, some unexpected. That and the Booker T. and the MG’s Christmas album are always in regular rotation at Casa Shute-Bernal!

I’ve included a link to Rosie’s video for Christmas on West Mistletoe below….enjoy, even though it’s another 5 months to Christmas.

Don’t forget, Happy Hour with Rosie, Wednesdays at 630 central time at the Mule Kick Productions Facebook page….see you there!

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August 13, 2020

behind the scenes with Tom Conway on the set of THE LAST MAN TO HANG (UK, 1956)

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last man to hang 2

Mary Anne and I are planning to watch the 1956 UK courtroom thriller THE LAST MAN TO HANG, starring TOM CONWAY, tonight (directed by the great Terence Fisher) and in doing a little online sleuthing about the film in advance, I see that there is footage online from a 1956 Pathe Newsreel (Film Fanfare) of some lady and a friend getting a tour of Nettlefold Studios, where the film was being shot, and meeting its stars, Tom Conway and Eunice Gayson, as well as director Fisher and other unnamed persons employed at the studio. Director Conway is the shortish man with glasses on the set wearing a rumpled coat.

This kind of footage, even though it is just silent with a canned music track, is a priceless window into a working 1950’s UK low-budget film studio, something we probably would not have been able to see in person even if we’d been in Britain in 1956.

Conway appears again near the closing when the lady and her friend are finished at the studio and waving goodbye, in a quick but charming bit of physical comedy, starting at 4:08. Unlike Conway’s many detective films, THE LAST MAN TO HANG is not a film that offers him comic situations, so it’s nice to see that side of him represented here.

Below you’ll find a brief (and recent) trailer for the film and then the Pathe newsreel footage. I have a blog post on Tom Conway’s radio work as Sherlock Holmes (replacing Basil Rathbone for the 46-47 season) coming up soon….stay tuned!

last man to hang

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trailer for a 2018 TV showing of THE LAST MAN TO HANG

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1956 British Pathe newsreel footage, backstage during the filming of THE LAST MAN TO HANG, runs approximately 4:40

Film Fanfare #5, 1956 (British Pathe newsreel footage)

There are hundreds of hours of fascinating vintage newsreel footage available for free viewing at the British Pathe website. I remember that it was considered quite an event when this material went online a number of years ago. Footage spans from 1910-1984! Check it our here:    https://www.britishpathe.com/

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postscript: after watching THE LAST MAN TO HANG tonight, I must say that it was excellent, intelligent, thoughtfully written, and well-acted by all….until the last 3 minutes. I’m not going to give a spoiler, but let’s just say that it has to be among the top 10 most absurd and illogical tacked-on endings I’ve ever seen to a film…in 50 years of watching crime/mystery/legal-thriller features. No wonder the film has never been reissued on DVD and is not discussed much, even though it was released in the US by a major studio, Columbia. Still, Tom Conway was his usual masterful self, and the young Anthony Newley (as one of the jurors) possessed magnetism even in 1956. Also, the film’s structure (let’s forget the last three minutes) is quite novel, as before we really get to know Conway’s character at all, we see the home-lives of all the jury members (who will sit in judgment on him), and to call their home lives unpleasant would be an understatement. While THE LAST MAN TO HANG is nothing like the 2003 film THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE, viewers will have the same WTF reaction at the end of LAST MAN as they did with the DAVID GALE film, and probably get angry at the film’s writers. However, in 1956, this was just a throwaway programmer, in circulation for a few months and then mothballed. And the first 68 minutes of it are excellent, so 95.7% of THE LAST MAN TO HANG is excellent–that’s not a bad percentage, and most people coming out of the theater in 1956 could remember that “on the whole, it’s pretty good” and move on. The film is based on a novel, and if that has the same trick ending, it must surely be set up better than it is in the film, where a few small details in a very early scene (that most viewers will not pay attention to) vaguely suggest a possibility that is never developed or explained at any point in the film, and the odd and illogical conclusion takes for granted without explanation. In fact, I’d guess half of a typical audience of above-average intelligence viewers would not even make the connection, if it indeed IS a connection. I didn’t intend to discuss this at such length, but to say the last few minutes were bizarre and unsatisfying would be putting it mildly….

August 9, 2020

Duke Ellington: four live performances, 1958-1969

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:57 am
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duke

Duke Ellington’s body of recorded work runs from 1924-1974. Ellington music, of all eras, has always been a part of my life, as long as I have been able to choose my listening environment. As I’ve been sharing links to music and film during this Covid lockdown, it seems inevitable that I should offer some Duke Ellington live performances, since so many were recorded and previously uncirculated recordings continue to appear.

Below are four live recordings, dating from 1958 through 1969, to give you hours of Ellington, and there is no better musical friend to have alongside you. I’ve also included likely personnel for each performance.

You can access a very thorough Ellington discography (including known-to-be-recorded but unreleased live recordings) at    http://www.ellingtonia.com/

Enjoy!

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APRIL 29, 1969, THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C.

from You Tube: “April 29, 1969:: President Richard Nixon threw a 70th birthday party for Duke Ellington at the White House, where he awarded the maestro the Medal of Freedom. The Voice of America’s Willis Conover organized the band and performers for the occasion, which included Bill Berry, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Urbie Green, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Hall, Billy Taylor, Hank Jones, Dave Brubeck, Earl Hines, Milt Hinton, Louie Bellson, Joe Williams and Mary Mayo. Ellington himself performed an original called “Pat,” in honor of the President’s wife. Narrated by Willis Conover.”

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20 APRIL 1964, MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA

Cat Anderson, Cootie Williams, Rolf Ericson, Herbie Jones (tp) Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors (tb) Jimmy Hamilton (cl,ts) Russell Procope (as,cl) Johnny Hodges (as) Paul Gonsalves (ts) Harry Carney (bar,cl,b-cl) Duke Ellington (p,talking) Major Holley (b) Sam Woodyard (d)

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November 3, 1969. Bergen, Norway

Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Harold “Money” Johnson (t); Lawrence Brown (tb); Chuck Connors (btb); Russell Procope (cl,as); Norris Turney (fl,cl,as,ts); Johnny Hodges (as); Harold Ashby (ts,cl); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Harry Carney (cl,bcl,as,bar); Duke Ellington (p); Wild Bill Davis (o); Victor Gaskin (sb); Rufus Jones (d); Tony Watkins (v)

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February 4, 1958 Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Johnny Hodges – Alto Sax…. Russell Procope – Alto Sax, Clarinet…. Paul Gonsalves – Tenor Sax…. Jimmy Hamilton – Tenor Sax, Clarinet…. Harry Carney – Baritone Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet…. Cat Anderson – Trumpet…. Harold “Shorty” Baker – Trumpet…. Ray Nance – Trumpet, Violin, Vocal…. Clark Terry – Trumpet…. Quentin Jackson – Trombone…. John Sanders – Valve Trombone…. Britt Woodman – Trombone…. Duke Ellington – Piano…. Jimmy Woode – Bass…. Sam Woodyard – Drums…. Ozzie Bailey – Vocal….

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August 6, 2020

MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), starring Tom Conway

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MURDER ON APPROVAL (UK, 1955), released in Britain as BARBADOS QUEST

starring Tom Conway as Tom “Duke” Martin, a role he played after this in the 1956 feature BREAKAWAY

directed by Bernard Knowles, produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman

murder on approval

Though Tom Conway played a variety of roles in his career, he is probably best known as THE FALCON at RKO in the 1940’s, and the various detective roles he played after that which traded on his Falcon fame and persona. He also played detective Mark Saber on television and was a superb Sherlock Holmes on radio, taking over for Basil Rathbone for the 1946-47 season, paired with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Conway is the equal of Rathbone, which is high praise indeed coming from someone who considers the Rathbone/Bruce team as one of the all-time great screen detective/sidekick pairings.

The two films Conway made in the UK in 1955 as detective Tom “Duke” Martin were the actor’s final go-round as an above-the-title star turn riding on the wave of his work as The Falcon. Interestingly, the Baker-Berman production team here later were behind THE SAINT television series, starring Roger Moore. Perhaps if Tom Conway had been 15-20 years earlier, he could have landed that part. Clearly, the choice of Conway was Saint-related…. he was the brother of the best-known Saint film actor, George Sanders;  he played the Falcon, who was not unlike The Saint, in many popular and well-loved films; he played The Saint on radio, replacing Vincent Price in a number of episodes. He still radiates that same Saint/Falcon class and wit, though in more mature form here.

MURDER ON APPROVAL is a tight (67 minutes) and entertaining British crime programmer, which moves quickly, has a unique plot situation involving rare stamps and stamp counterfeiting….it’s not a murder mystery really, though there are people killed in the final third. Most of all, it benefits from the seemingly effortless wit and charm and elegance of star TOM CONWAY, who is teamed with a comedic ex-con sidekick Barney, played wonderfully by Michael Balfour, who fortunately returned in the second film in this series.

If you enjoyed any of Conway’s post-Falcon detective films or television work and you enjoy classic B&W British crime programmers, then you are sure to enjoy MURDER ON APPROVAL.

The good news is that it’s available in a beautiful print (under its UK title); the bad news is that it is divided into five parts, though that is not much of a hurdle to overcome.

Enjoy!

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If you are a Tom Conway fan (and who isn’t!), there is a review of his NORMAN CONQUEST (1953) UK detective film elsewhere on this blog. Just use the search box to find it.

Also, the serious Beatles fan will know that the director of MURDER ON APPROVAL, Bernard Knowles, was involved with the making of MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Perhaps he was the “professional” kept on the set to somehow bring the surreal stoner ideas of the boys to fruition on film. I’ll have to research that more….I do have a book on the making on MMT in the garage somewhere, which I have not looked at for 20 years. I’ll have to refresh my memory.

 

August 3, 2020

64 Volumes of LOST JUKEBOX (approx. 1728 songs from 60’s vinyl 45’s!)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:33 am
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Longtime fans of MP3 blogs devoted to obscure 60’s music know and love the LOST JUKEBOX series of albums, compiled by the late Jeffrey Glenn, a series that eventually ran to 225 volumes, each with approximately 27 tracks. I downloaded 20 or so volumes and burned them to CDR maybe 10 years ago.

lost jukebox

This series documented a mind-blowingly diverse collection of non-hit 1960’s music on 45 RPM records, all pop music of one kind or another, with some garage bands, some sunshine pop, some lounge-y instrumentals, but mostly studio pop/beat of one kind or another. It’s not unlike the kind of thing collected on the UNCHARTED WATERS series, but with the net cast even wider. Nothing else I’ve ever encountered captures the joy of record hunting in the 1970’s and 1980’s, grabbing unknown things from the dime or quarter racks before there was an internet, when all you had to go on was song titles, producers, songwriters, and the general “look” of a record. Since the rise of the internet and Ebay, everything is “collectible” in one way or another and one cannot go out with a $10 dollar bill and come back with a stack of unknown 60’s 45’s that were not collectible or “in demand”  in any way. I would sometimes make mix cassettes of that kind of thing, but I was just a dabbler compared with Jeff Glenn and his LOST JUKEBOX series.

There are various places online where one can download many of the 200+ volumes from dodgy file sharing services, but I’m happy to say that the first 64 volumes are available for listening, with no need to download, now on You Tube.

The following link presents the music in the order found on the original Lost Jukebox collections, starting with Volume 64 and working backwards–that’s approximately 1728 songs!!! With so many of us working at home, and then the rest of us trying to stay home as much as possible, this kind of random but tastefully assembled collection of (and there’s no crap whatsoever, something that wouldn’t be true after a day of junkstore buying!) 45’s is just what one needs to fire the imagination while the toes are tapping. Enjoy! And thanks for Jeff Glenn for assembling these collections in the first place, from his massive archive….

https://www.youtube.com/c/LostJukebox/playlists

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August 1, 2020

Won By A Sweet (1929, silent)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:17 am
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won by a sweet

Recently, Mary Anne and I watched an interesting and entertaining 1929 silent short as part of a Zoom presentation from Washington University of St. Louis. Washington U was responsible for restoring the short from a 16mm print (though clearly, it was shot in 35mm) and the academic presentation included a screening of the film along with comments from the scholars involved in the restoration and research and also a person involved with the excellent new music score.

The film was commissioned by the National Confectioners Association to extol the benefits on candy, yet it was not a documentary, but a light comic action-adventure film, running about 23 minutes. Made in California by R. P. Young Productions, of Burbank (a name unknown to me), it very much resembles the low-budget productions of indies such as Rayart or Weiss Bros—-a competently made Hollywood product, with a professional cast, good editing, and competent direction. Alas, the film has no cast or crew credits, though some of the actors look vaguely familiar (the stocky man eating the meal, especially, I’m sure I’ve seen in comedy shorts). It’s very much in the style of the “collegiate” light comedies of the 1920’s, with the plot centering around two college track teams and how one of them learns the many beneficial qualities of CANDY and it helps them win. Only about 4-5 minutes of the film deal specifically with candy, and frankly, if you edited those out and the filmmakers shot a few scenes twice, once without the inclusion of candy, they’d have a superb 2-reel light action comedy.

As it was, the film was distributed in 16mm form free to schools, church groups, civic organizations, Boy Scouts, YMCA’s, etc. through the early 1930’s, and I’m sure it went over well. The two of us really enjoyed it….although we watch multiple silent films and shorts per week, so perhaps we aren’t representative of the general audience!

Washington University has made the film available online, so I hope I’m not violating anyone’s rights by making it available for you all here at the KSE blog. Acknowledgement should also be given to the National Film Preservation Foundation, who provided funding for the restoration.

It’s a fine way to kill 23 minutes, and any fan of low-budget silent cinema should enjoy it.

Wait until you learn about the “dental benefits” of candy. It certainly looks at that question from a perspective that no one other than a candy company or the most mercenary dentist would ever consider!

WON BY A SWEET (silent short, 1929, 23 minutes, two reels)

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If you’ve got some more time on your hands, you might want to watch another entertaining film financed by a sweets company, Coca-Cola: ALWAYS TOMORROW, from 1941.

I was engaged by a video company (thankfully, no longer in business!) to write a description of this back in 2005 for their catalog/website and (presumably) for the video box, which they did use but never paid me for, so I published the write-up online in 2006. Here is that write-up:

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strange in-house Coca-Cola dramatized documentary, plays like a Monogram or PRC feature
7 March 2006
ALWAYS TOMORROW, made in 1941 for the Coca-Cola company and presumably aimed at bottlers and potential investors in bottling plants and distributor-ships, belongs to that curious genre of film, the Corporate Feature. This is not a documentary or a training film, but a Hollywood-made narrative drama featuring a cast full of familiar B-movie faces (led by comedian Johnny Arthur as a fussy, worrywart accountant for a local Coca-Cola bottling plant), and it plays like a typical Monogram or PRC feature, except for the lectures to the audience (in the style of an exploitation film) about business philosophy. The film’s structure is strange in that it begins in 1941 with the story of Coca-Cola distributor Jim Westlake, and then works backward step-by-step until we reach the beginning of his career! You’ve probably never seen a film like this before, and you’ll learn a lot about the history of the soda business while being entertained.

 


And here is the film, which runs 51 minutes, MAYBE TOMORROW from 1941.

Enjoy….stay safe, at home watching films financed by candy and soft-drink companies!

July 28, 2020

Floyd Cramer, “Night Train,” RCA-Camden LP, released 1967

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:43 am
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FLOYD CRAMER, “Night Train,” 1967 RCA-Camden LP

A1   Night Train 3:00
A2   Half As Much 2:47
A3   Theme From A Dream 2:30
A4   Long Walk Home 2:21
A5   Secrets 2:35
B1   Woodchopper’s Ball 2:48
B2   Town Square 1:58
B3   On A Fling Ding 2:00
B4   Shaggy Bop 1:54
B5   Want Me 2:15

 

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Good old-style thrift stores/junk stores have gone the way of real rock’n’roll—-they’re still out there, but harder to find….and when you do find them, they are often corrupted by the commercialism and pretentiousness of the present day and the evil influence of Ebay. If anyone is a thrift store musical artist, it’s pianist Floyd Cramer (although based on my excursions in the last two years, Billy Vaughn wears the crown of most-common thrift store LP artist!).When I was in Central Louisiana a few years ago, catching the horse races at Evangeline Downs, I explored the small towns in the area and stumbled across a junk store that did not have much worthwhile, especially the record section, which was mostly trashed copies of things like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER or Neil Diamond. The sole good thing I saw was about 20-25 Floyd Cramer albums, all in what could charitably be called VG condition and all for two dollars each! As I was traveling and as I am gradually selling off most non-essential items in my record collection, I decided to pass on them….except for one, an album that I owned back in the 80’s (and got for 99 cents) and had clear memories of, NIGHT TRAIN.

If you are not familiar with country pianist Floyd Cramer, he was one of the two most popular piano instrumentalists (as opposed to pianists who also sang, like Moon Mullican or Charlie Rich or Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin Mickey Gilley) in country music, the other being Del Wood, a lady who played in a kind of honky-tonk/ragtime style. Cramer, on the other hand, had an instantly identifiable “slip note” style, which had him playing the melody of a song (and it was all about melody on a Cramer record!) in a relatively straight-forward manner, but with many of the notes he played, particularly at climactic moments, he’d “slip in” a second note a few steps away from the main note maybe a half second after the first note. If you can’t imagine that, just go to You Tube and search for his song “Last Date.” By the end of the first thirty seconds, you’ll know whether you like that style or not. Like many musical artists with a gimmick, Cramer brought that gimmick to MANY albums. If you liked his style, then obviously, you’d LOVE to hear it applied to your favorite country and pop hits. I would guess that during his heyday, from the late 50’s through the late 70’s, he probably recorded 3-4 albums a year, and that’s not counting re-packaged items and budget-label product, such as the album under review today. Much of Cramer’s output would be put in the “easy listening” category, if no one told you that it was considered “country.” Cramer was actually a fine player, a crack session musician (he’d been house pianist at the Louisiana Hayride!), and he appeared on many of Elvis Presley’s best Nashville sessions, but the “slip note” gimmick was what made him famous, and he continued to deliver the goods album after album after album…and many of those albums, at least for the first decade or so, were produced by Chet Atkins, who was doing a similar thing on his guitar instrumental albums.

Camden was RCA’s budget label, and to save on mechanical royalties, their albums usually offered only 10 songs as opposed to 12. Camden was used by RCA to reissue older material that might not sell at full price anymore, but would sell at department stores for 99 cents (mono) or $1.99 (stereo) to the kind of people who did not frequent record stores but enjoyed a new album now and then by a familiar name. It was also used to create albums of material by popular artists who had tracks that fell between the cracks–many of Elvis’ soundtrack songs from movies that did not have enough songs to create a soundtrack album would wind up on Camden LP’s for their initial release (if an EP was not issued), though Camden also issued new material among the re-treads. In perhaps the most outrageous example of that, Elvis’ smash hit Burning Love was first issued on a BUDGET album after its success as a single. It could have become the core of a successful full-price album, but Colonel Parker got a lump sum for each Camden album and was not a man who thought about long-term strategy.

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NIGHT TRAIN would seem to be an album full of tracks that fell between those cracks. Many of the Cramer albums I’ve heard had a theme to them, or at least a consistent sound throughout the album. This one does not. If Discogs is to be trusted (sorry, but I don’t know the Cramer discography intimately, although I’ve probably owned a dozen of his albums over the years and maybe 6 or 7 singles), the majority of the tracks were first released here, with a few tracks coming from a 1965 album and another track being a non-LP b-side, the album closer, WANT ME (see pic).

The album is an odd mixture of various styles. It opens promisingly with a cover of the R&B classic “Night Train”, which is performed in a crime-jazz style, and you could imagine Craig Stevens strutting down a dark alley at 2 a.m. in a PETER GUNN episode while it played. The second track is in the classic Cramer style, its first notes echoing “Last Date,” and it’s a cover of the country classic “Half As Much,” associated with Hank Williams. It’s got the light frosting of strings and ohh-ing and ahh-ing backing vocals that one expects in the “country-politan” style of the day, a sound very much associated with Cramer’s producer and good friend Chet Atkins. The next song, “Theme From A Dream,” sounds like a direct carbon-copy of the Duane Eddy style, but with the plonk of Cramer’s piano substituting for Eddy’s guitar twang. The military drumming and vaguely “western panorama” feel of the piece certainly evoke Eddy, and in case the listener is too pre-occupied with cooking dinner to make the connection, there are a few guitar “twangs” tucked into the mix. The next song, “Long Walk Home,” sounds like it could be the theme song from some TV-movie mystery, circa 1971, starring Gene Barry and Yvette Mimieux–I can see some stylish mansion, with a dead body draped over an ornate writing desk in the plush study, stumbled across by Mimieux at 3 a.m. She pauses, her jaw drops, the film’s title appears on the screen, and the Cramer musical theme starts playing. Etc. Etc.

Every song on the album is atmospheric in one way or another. It’s the perfect piece of thrift store vinyl, (and speaking of Discogs, I see you can STILL get a copy for 99 cents), kind of the music equivalent of the cheapo comic books I often review here. Someone probably enjoyed this dollar album for 20 years, playing it hundreds of times while frying up pork chops, dusting the living room furniture, or balancing the checkbook right before payday. Now YOU can get that copy yourself, and you can let it be the soundtrack to YOUR life activities. I can’t really call this a “lounge” album, but it certainly qualifies as easy listening, and it’s got everything that’s great about thrift-store LP’s. Cramer was born in Shreveport, a great music town, and passed away in 1997. He explained his slip-note style this way: “”The style I use mainly is a whole-tone slur which gives more of a lonesome cowboy sound. You hit a note and slide almost simultaneously to another.” His last chart hit was in 1980, a cover of the theme from the TV show DALLAS, which somehow seems fitting. Getting a thrift-store LP is like seeing a film at the dollar theater….your expectations change and you’re open to a wider variety of expression, finding the valuable in what others look down their noses at. Ahhhh, but it’s their loss. Floyd Cramer’s NIGHT TRAIN LP will be the best 99 cents you’ll ever spend….and if you’re lucky, you might even score the 8-track tape version of it (see pic).

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July 26, 2020

rest in peace PETER GREEN (1946-2020)

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PETER GREEN, 29 October 1946 – 25 July 2020

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Let’s hear from Mr. Peter Green himself before proceeding any further….

Tears are definitely being shed in our home on the passing of blues guitar master PETER GREEN. I consider his recordings with John Mayall and with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac as among the greatest ever made, and I’ve been listening to them for nearly 50 years now.

I do not exaggerate when I say that Peter Green’s music has kept me going for half a century. I can remember times in my life when I had next to nothing and was unsure of what I had to look forward to, but if I had a record player or a cassette player, and Green’s work with Mayall and/or the Mac (pre-1971 Mac, of course) on LP or cassette, I was never alone and life was rich once again.

Even in recent years, once 10-12 years ago, I spent a week in a Louisiana swamp and listened to nothing but the 6-CD Blue Horizon box of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac the entire time….it was sublime.

And just yesterday, I was listening to Green’s UK Decca album in support of the great American bluesman EDDIE BOYD….

Countless times since the 1970’s, I have patiently explained to people that Fleetwood Mac actually WERE a great band for a brief period in the late 1960’s and that they were solely a blues band—-in fact, they were at first basically John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers minus John Mayall (with blues stalwart Bob Brunning in there for a while too, another man who should be celebrated and remembered). They should forget about the horrible later incarnations of the Fleetwood Mac name and go back to the Peter Green period, the REAL Mac, a band I will always champion.

I’m glad that tribute concert that Mick Fleetwood put on a few months ago happened when Peter Green was still around to hear about it and appreciate the sentiment.

Thank you, Mr. Green….

I’ve included links to two classic Peter Green performances below….

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PETER GREEN with JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS, “The Supernatural” released Feb. 1967 (obviously Carlos Santana was a huge fan of this performance!)

 

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac ~ ”Have You Ever Loved A Woman” (Live 1968)

July 25, 2020

Elvis Presley, Las Vegas Residency 1, July-August 1969 (56 shows)

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ELVIS LIVE 1969

Elvis Presley, Las Vegas Residency 1,  31 July- 28 August 1969 (57 shows)

I’m hoping to eventually discuss here on the KSE blog each of Elvis Presley’s  15 residencies in Las Vegas between 1969 and 1976, adding up to 636 performances, every one sold out. Each residency has a unique identity and flavor, and each is worthy of separate investigation, with references to available recordings from each for those who wish to have your own audience with The King in your home. I have multiple shows from throughout each residency, and I keep them separated so it’s easy for me to listen to multiple shows from the same week, or back-to-back shows from the same evening (he did both a dinner show and a midnight show most of the time).

A good place to start is the review I did for Ugly Things magazine of the 11-CD ELVIS LIVE 1969 box set that RCA issued last year, 11 complete concerts, beautifully and respectfully presented, each show like lightning in a bottle. This review was written for a general audience (ie, not for the Elvis community) and is relatively brief. Future writeups will be in more detail and focus on particular shows within the run. Ladies and gentlemen, ELVIS in Las Vegas, Summer 1969.

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ELVIS PRESLEY—Live 1969 (RCA) 11-CD box

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Elvis’ 1969 return to Las Vegas (he’d played it with Scotty and Bill back in 1956, but the town wasn’t ready for him, and he wasn’t ready for it), RCA has assembled a box-set of every surviving soundboard recording of a complete show from the Summer 1969 season, 11 shows from the second half of this residency, often with both dinner and midnight shows from the same day. The setlists are 90% the same, and Elvis’ comments to the audience are similar for most shows. Is the box worth $100+? Well, back in the day, fans would save up all year and travel to Vegas, get a cheap room, and see every show for a week straight. This box is the closest thing to that experience today, 50 years later (all we need is a casino buffet and some watery cocktails!).

With hindsight, we can see that in many ways the 1969 Vegas shows were an extension of the exciting “live-in-the-studio” sequences of the 1968 comeback TV special. He wasn’t yet using the 2001 theme as his entrance music, J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet hadn’t yet joined the act (so there are none of the “dive-bomber” low vocal tricks that were a staple of Elvis’ 70’s live show), and Kathy Westmoreland had not yet joined the group with her operatic high-voice harmonies, so these 1969 shows don’t sound like the more familiar 70-76 Vegas shows. Elvis includes songs that were highlights of the TV special such as Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and the Sun blues classic “Tiger Man”, and he provides a comedic version of his career highlights in a monologue in most shows, functioning like the “story” sections of the 68 comeback special

The band blasts out of the box at the start of each show with a blistering version of “Blue Suede Shoes,” and throughout every concert, the guitar of James Burton is upfront and all over. There is a Vegas pit-band behind the core rock and roll group (Burton, John Wilkinson, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, and Charlie Hodge—Larry Mahoberac is on keyboards, as former Cricket Glen D. Hardin had not yet joined Elvis) and the Sweet Inspirations vocal group (who stayed with Elvis until the end), but the orchestra stays in the background (or maybe they were lessened in this modern remix), fortunately. Some may need only the 2-LP version, with just one concert, which RCA also released recently, but for those ready for that week-long trip to Vegas with two Elvis shows a day, this box will take you there.

(originally published in 2019 in Ugly Things magazine)

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I wasn’t able to find an official release video from RCA on this box, but I did find one of those record collector-oriented “unboxing” videos, so here that is for your enjoyment.

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If you don’t mind bootleg-quality sound, there is an excellent show from earlier in the run than what’s documented on the 11-cd box set, on the Straight Arrow label’s album STRIKE LIKE LIGHTNING, from the August 8, 1969 Midnight Show, which came out a year or two ago and can still be found from online dealers. However, you can listen to it free below:

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If you prefer soundboard-quality recordings, here is the Dinner Show from August 10:

 

These two shows do not appear on the 1969 LIVE box set.

Stay tuned for future discussions of various Elvis residencies in Las Vegas….will try to have another one up within the next two months.

July 23, 2020

selected 9.5 mm films online (1924-1936)

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Most fans of silent film hear about the 9.5 MM format whenever seemingly “lost” silents, particularly shorts, are sometimes “found” because they were made available in the UK on the 9.5 mm format for sale to those with home projectors. Obviously, it’s a better format than 8mm (8 and 16 were the favored formats in the USA), being a bit larger, and many shorts and cut-down features (and cut-down shorts!) were made available in the format for UK home-movie buffs.

With a little time to kill this afternoon, I was watching some 9.5 MM films made available by British collectors on You Tube, and I thought I’d share a few with you.

By the way, if you’ve got a LOT of time on your hands, Princeton University has made hundreds of  “Baby Pathe” shorts available online, in their Pathe Baby collection, many of them French. Over the last few years, I have watched hundreds of them (hey, I’d rather watch that than whatever’s on Netflix or Hulu), and it’s a rabbit hole that is easy to fall down into. Here’s that link:

https://library.princeton.edu/pathebaby/films

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Here’s a sampling of items including comedies, musicals, cartoons, and two interesting silent condensed features: a mystery, and a political drama. Enjoy! And many thanks to both those who bought the original 9.5 mm shorts for their family’s viewing, those who saved them, and those who collected and restored them….and put them online!

WILL ROGERS in “Don’t Park There” (1924)

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AMBROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring Evelyn Dall in “Soft Lights And Sweet Music” (1936)

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“STEVE” (from the UK Comic Strip ‘Come On, Steve’) in “Steve’s Treasure Hunt” (1936 cartoon)

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JIMMIE ADAMS in “An Accidental Champion” (1922)

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LILLIAN RICH and GASTON GLASS in “The Bickel Affair” aka Exclusive Rights (1926). This is a 30 minute condensed version of a six-reel (approx. 60 min.) feature film.

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BENITA HUME in “The Clue of the New Pin” (1929) Benita Hume is best-known to most Americans who know her as the wife of Ronald Colman, and she and Ronald appeared on many episodes of The Jack Benny Program on radio as Jack’s long-suffering neighbors, always trying to avoid him. Ms. Hume had a long background as a dramatic actress, but the Benny show displayed her gift for comedy. This is a 20 minute condensed version of an 80 minute feature film, based on a novel by Edgar Wallace.

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July 22, 2020

Rhythm ‘N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou · Bop Cat Stomp—By The Bayou, Volume 21

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Rhythm ‘N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou · Bop Cat Stomp—By The Bayou, Volume 21

Ace Records UK, released 2019

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Volume 21 of Ace’s “By The Bayou” series of compilations, dedicated to various genres of late 50’s/early 60’s small-label sounds from Southwest Louisiana and East Texas, returns to R&B, with a strong 28-track collection of obscure and raw material from the vaults of local record-men such as Jay Miller (from Crowley, LA, the producer most associated with swamp blues), Eddie Shuler (from Lake Charles), Sam Montel (Baton Rouge), Floyd Soileau (Ville Platte), and Huey Meaux (Port Arthur, TX). Only 12 of the 28 tracks were issued at the time (though some crept out on obscure LP’s later, sometimes hampered by crude overdubs, thankfully removed here), and it’s safe to say that even those will be new to most ears.

Many of the artists are trying for the appeal of such successful Louisiana recording artists such as Guitar Slim or Earl King, though often with a twist of zydeco influence and less of a New Orleans beat (Route 90, now known as I-10, separates the core area of the album’s music from N.O.). Also, these records were made during the rock and roll era, so while the artists may be rooted in R&B, most wanted to play music that would also appeal to fans of Little Richard…while not alienating older listeners who might prefer T-Bone Walker. That’s certainly a demanding tightrope to walk, and the artists here approach it from many different angles, so there is a lot of variety here, and the album is programmed to highlight the diversity of sounds.

More than half (15 of 28) of the tracks come from Goldband, certainly one of the most raw and downhome of labels in what they released, so you can imagine how primal their unreleased material would be. Musicians taking guitar or sax solos are off-mike, the horn voicings are a bit imprecise, and the chord changes are not always made by everyone at the same time—but that’s the joy of small-label local recordings. They capture living, breathing roots musicians in real-time and in one-take in a way that slicker R&B recordings do not.

The best-known artists here (all represented by rare tracks) are Rockin’ Sidney, Clifton Chenier, Cookie & The Cupcakes, and Big Walter Price, but the lesser-known Lester Robertson or Leroy James or the ‘unknown’ artists all rock the house equally well. Another essential entry in an amazingly deep series.

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Here’s Ace’s promo video for the album

 

July 21, 2020

The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 2: The Westerns (Classic Flix DVD)

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The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 2: The Westerns (Classic Flix DVD)

contains the following  three  5-reel feature films

DUDES ARE PRETTY PEOPLE (1942)

CALABOOSE (1943)

and PRAIRIE CHICKENS (1943)

starring JIMMY ROGERS (son of Will Rogers) and NOAH BEERY, JR.

supporting players in the films include Joe Sawyer, Marc Lawrence, Iris Adrian, and many other greats


 

I loved the first collection of Hal Roach Streamliners, the Joe Sawyer/William Tracy military comedies (just do a search for “Streamliners” here at the KSE blog to read that write-up), and this second set follows up in fine form! Here is a recent online review I did of the set elsewhere….may as well get some more mileage out of it here!

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wonderful 45-minute western comedies with the team of Rogers and Beery
This second volume of Hal Roach Streamliners, 40-45 minute mini-features made in the early 1940’s for double-bills, collects three entertaining and funny western comedies featuring Jimmy Rogers (son of Will Rogers) and Noah Beery Jr. (known and loved by millions from playing James Garner’s father in The Rockford Files, a man whose career went back to the early days of the sound era). Rogers is a wonderful presence….lanky and with great slow-reaction comic timing. I could see Jim Varney at his most laid-back in this role. He’s essentially the straight man of the duo. Noah Beery Jr. is “Pidge” (Beery’s real-life nickname), and he has a weakness for “dude ladies,” and each film’s plot begins as the pair of cowpokes ride into a new situation and Beery gets smitten with some lady and tries to attract her, which sets the comic events into motion. I could watch Beery all day. His mugging and physical comedy is first-rate (he could have had his own series of silent-era comedy shorts, if he had been 10-15 years older), and his delivery of the lines is pitch-perfect. He had a great comic persona in films and he steals any scene he is in. Rogers and Beery are a great team, and I’m sorry they only made the three short features together, but each one is a gem….if you like western comedies, that is. Thanks to Classic Flix for releasing these Hal Roach Streamliners in excellent-quality transfers. Rogers and Beery are still able to work their magic on us today. Clearly, the Roach lot was still firing on all cylinders in the early 40’s, after Laurel and Hardy had moved on. “Streamliners” are the perfect length for viewing after a long day’s work. A highly recommended set!

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ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

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Here’s the trailer from Classic Flix:

July 20, 2020

RAWHIDE KID #100 (Marvel Comics, June 1972) and the stripped-cover comics phenomenon

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Long before anyone ever made a drug or sex overture to me, and years before I was taken into “the back room” at Independent Records on West Colfax and offered bootleg LP’s for sale, I was first taken “behind the veil” as a comic book-buying elementary school student. Although I bought comic books at a drug store and at other places in the neighborhood, my main comic source was Convenient Food Mart, which had one of those tall circular wire-racks where the comics were on display. The comic section was in the corner of the front of the store, on the opposite end from the entrance, behind an ice-cream freezer and a soda machine. At my present advanced age, I don’t remember now what day of the week the new comic shipment appeared, and I did not have enough money to buy a comic a week anyway, but whenever I did get a quarter from my grandmother or some change from someone else for doing a chore or whatever, I would take it down to Convenient and check out the comic section. You could not “read” the comics without buying them, but you could look them over pretty closely, and I did. It was kind of like looking at 20 coming attractions for different films before deciding which one you would pay to see. It also allowed me to keep up on comics I did not actively buy as you could skim them fairly quickly. I would also stop there on the way home from elementary school and check out comics I could not afford.

I must have been going there for a few years a few times a week to look at comics when the overture was made: “Hi, Son. You come in here a lot–you’re a good customer. I’ve got some special comics in the back room that are cheaper than these ones out front. Only thing is they are missing the cover, or part of the cover. Want to take a look. You will keep this to yourself, right? Also, there’s no sales tax on these.” I was a bit taken aback, but there was the sweet taste of something unknown in his invitation, so I was ready.

What the backroom held was a few boxes of comic books with the top halves of the front cover ripped off….and some with no front cover at all. They were about 1/3 the cost of a proper comic. I don’t remember the specifics of pricing, but let’s say that instead of getting two new comic books for thirty cents, I could get something like six or seven of these “stripped” ones (as they are called in the trade).

Needless to say, I was hooked. I would make a point of stopping by when this particular guy was working, and he’d take me back again and let me thumb through the new offerings. Eventually, he let me go back myself (if there were no customers in the store), put my comics in a bag, and leave the money on the table. When I did it this way, I had to write down which ones I took, and he would check later.

I suppose on some level this practice was similar to cut-out records or remaindered books, but the big difference is that those are legit practices, and comic book stripping is not. The covers were sent back to the distributor so the store would get a credit for unsold copies. It would cost too much to ship all the unsold books back. If you look at the official notarized publication statements in comics of the era with the print runs and the sales and the returns, you see that often 50% of the magazines and comic books were returned unsold. This stripping procedure saved a lot of money on returns, and magazine and comic publishers factored the throwaway copies into the cost of doing business. Sale of stripped copies was an under-the-table practice….although I know that employees at stores which sell such publications often get access to free stripped magazines and newspapers if they want them, before they are discarded. I also remember seeing them at flea markets and junk stores as a child. That’s why you often see some kind of statement on the masthead of a magazine or comic or on the copyright page of a mass-market paperback that “it is a crime to sell this book in a mutilated form” or something similar–letting retailers know this practice is illegal and constitutes theft.

Other than the sale of stripped comic books, Convenient Food Mart seemed like a relatively honest convenience store. Independent convenience stores sometimes are a bit shady in some ways….here in Texas, you have the ones which have “8-liner” gambling machines in the back room, but you also have the ones which sell drug paraphernalia, synthetic marijuana, the combination energy drinks-with-alcohol, etc. The sleazier ones are sometimes known to offer known customers so many cents on the dollar in cash for food stamps or other government benefits. Then in some rural areas you have the phenomenon of stores selling used magazines, home-made food items, and other things you would not find in a chain-affiliated convenience store. These kind of stores are an American institution and we rely on them in so many ways, but they are rarely commented on or analyzed, except sometimes on the business page in the newspaper when there is a merger or a change in affiliation. Having worked in a convenience store myself, I can tell you that the employees REALLY know the regular customers. Even the ones who don’t talk about themselves are known to the employees through what they buy and when they buy it–and since we employees have active minds we need to fill with something, we construct scenarios about the customers. Their sex lives, their spending habits, their religious habits, the relative success of their marriages, the family dynamic (who wears the pants, etc.), who’s an alcoholic or potsmoker, who’s a habitual spender even though broke, etc.–all of these can be inferred from their purchases….but that’s a story for another article.

Of what value is a 40+ year old western comic book with a stripped cover to anyone today? It’s not as if the western genre of comic book was ever the most popular. Super-hero fans always looked down their nose at it, and it kind of died out by the 1970’s, although lame attempts were made to revive it by creating the half-baked “weird western” sub-genre. However, those never really took off except among comic-nerds. I assume that the kind of people who read western comics as children graduated to western fiction as adults–although I am an exception to that rule. I grew up on B-Western films and also western comics, but western fiction never really appealed to me. However, it has always been a niche market and continues to be, as anyone who has ever worked at a bookstore (particularly a used bookstore) knows, particularly in the west, the Midwest, and the South.

Holding this 1972 coverless Marvel western comic in my hands, I wonder….who in the world actually cares about something like this. Since it’s coverless, comic collectors would not touch it with a ten-foot pole. Superhero fans and those into comic-nerd culture (the latter being a big market segment nowadays) would not want anything to do with this as it’s a western. Those who follow comic art and comic artists might find it interesting from that angle. Stan Lee had an active hand in Marvel’s western line (and continued to into the 70’s); however, I’m guessing he does not get many questions about that in his comic-con appearances, from the people who pay two-hundred dollars for a 60-second audience with Stan, if they can even get one. Marvel tried at least twice to revive the Rawhide Kid character–through time-travel, he worked with The Avengers, and then later he was revived and revealed to be gay–and I vaguely remember each of those when it happened, but each was to me a ridiculous failure. Checking an online Marvel database, I see that the Rawhide Kid has never been killed off, so Marvel no doubt sees at least the possibility of some future marketability in the character (hey, even killing him off would have no market value nowadays!).

However, Marvel is now a huge entertainment conglomerate. The human element–the days when Marvel readers thought of themselves as a family or when you could send a note to Stan Lee and possibly even get a short answer–that’s long gone. Marvel’s unique “bullpen” provided a sense of identity and camaraderie among readers, and any comics fan of the era remembers fondly the messages from Stan Lee and later Jim Shooter about the product line and the enthusiasm about upcoming projects and story arcs. The enthusiasm shown in the old Bullpens created an enthusiasm in the readers. However, I doubt that much of Marvel’s income today comes from comic books themselves. Merchandizing and movie development deals bring in the money. The comics themselves appeal to a small and insular group. Independent publishers, who come and go, have tried since the 1980’s to create the kind of “family” atmosphere one found in pre-1985 comics, but their publications have never caught fire outside of the hardcore comics community and usually cannot be found outside specialized comic shops, places that normal people would never set foot in.

It’s possible that a 10-year old today in a section of the country where rodeos and “western culture” are still part of what’s everyday and taken for granted could stumble across this and, if he already has a taste for comics, might find it interesting and sense a kinship with it…..the way a youngster today who vaguely associates him/herself with “punk” can have a revelatory experience upon finding a Link Wray 45 on Swan or a Little Richard 45 on Specialty. Frankly, though, even in this issue, it seems as though the series was starting to be running on fumes. The main outlaw in the main story, GUNFIGHT FURY FALLS!, seems more like an over-the-top mutant than a real outlaw, and the story EL SOMBRO–MEXICO’S GHOST OF CHAPEL HILL does actually feature an otherworldly gunfighter. These are signs that the comic’s creators realize that a standard-issue western story can no longer create much interest. Jonah Hex and the full-fledged “weird westerns” were waiting just down the road a-piece–in fact, Jonah Hex made his first appearance around the time this Rawhide Kid comic was originally issued.
I was still relatively young as I watched the western comics genre distort itself while in its death throes and then die off entirely. Different comics industry Dr. Frankensteins have tried to revive the corpse here and there over the years, and some self-conscious and ironic revisionist western comics may well exist now under my radar, but the genre should be allowed to die a natural death and be left undisturbed. Some kid in Wyoming or western Kansas who grows up around horses and the mystique of the Old West may stumble across a MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN in the basement of an old house or at a flea market, and he may get excited about western comics….otherwise, the fair has moved on, 40 years ago, and the Rawhide Kid is fated to spend his final days in a stack of old magazines, in a dusty rack below a broken table at a junk store on a state highway, miles away from the interstate, stuck between old high school yearbooks and old copies of People Magazine featuring cover photos of long-forgotten celebrities. The rare person who wanders into the back section of the junk store is far more likely to notice old empty cans of beer from brands no longer brewed. As for the Rawhide Kid….Nobody knows, nobody sees, nobody cares.

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