Harry Everett Smith – Avant-Garde Museologist

We benefit from musicologists who have an adept skill of collecting, recording and documenting  American musical heritage. Three of the musicologists I respect in this vein are Alan Lomax, Samuel Charters and Harry Smith.

Harry Everett Smith is primarily known as the anthologist of the multi-volume Anthology of American Folk Music for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The Anthology was comprised entirely of recordings issued between 1927 (the year electronic recording made accurate reproduction possible) and 1932, the period between the realization by the major record companies of distinct regional markets and the Depression’s stifling of folk music sales. Released in three volumes of two discs each, the 84 tracks of the anthology are recognized as having been a seminal inspiration for the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960 (the 1997 reissue by the Smithsonian was embraced with critical acclaim and produced two Grammy awards).

Smith with headphones at Ginsberg’s apartment. 437 East 12th St. NYC, Winter 1987 [Photo by Brian Graham] Courtesy the photographer

Harry Smith’s Archives reside at The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, California. There are three major content resources available to help further your understanding of Harry Everett Smith’s prolific art collections.

Internet Resources

1. Harry Smith Symposium at the Getty

2. Harry Smith Archives

Published Resource

3. The Book In Print – Harry Smith, The Avant-Garde In The American Vernacular, Edited by Andrew Perchuk and Rani Singh

Constituting a first attempt to locate Smith and his diverse endeavors within the history of avant-garde art production in twentieth-century America, the essays in this volume reach across Smith’s artistic oeuvre.

Red Beans and Weiss – Bohemia Blues

Maybe you’re like me (or maybe you’re not, lucky you haha!). Perhaps you have searched around this weekend for some music that will stick to your ribs. My yen started yesterday at Barnes & Noble‘s magazine rack. I had picked out a pile of music and technical magazines to leaf through when I stumbled upon an article about Chuck E. Weiss. It turned out to be an Exclusive article for Mojo The World’s Best Music Magazine, “Johnny Depp Interviews His Hero”.

Watch Chuck E. Weiss’s reaction when he sees Johnny Depp step onstage to play with the G-d Liars on the Jimmy Kimmel Live Show.

Los Angeles-based bluesman Chuck E. Weiss left the production of Red Beans and Weiss, his first album since 2006, in very capable hands: Tom Waits and Johnny Depp teamed up to serve as  the album’s executive producers, and both say it’s Weiss’ best work yet.

 

Explain the album cover of “Red Beans and Weiss,” please, with all the faces. . .I could only name about seven, I guess.

Nate Merritt did it. The concept was mine. It took a couple of months to go over the whole thing with him. Wanted to do a mock Sgt. Pepper but with my own guys. There are almost sixty. Rimsky-Korsakov: cause I love everything he’s ever done. He’s one of my heroes, man. Scheherazade, It’s like Don Ray. Don Ray. He wrote “This is My Country,” but he also wrote “Down the Road Apiece” and “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar,” and the “Icabod Crane Song,” and the Jabberwock song for the Cheshire Cat. I loved all these songs as a kid, and then found out he wrote them all. Lord Buckley. Harry the Hipster Gibson. Lester Young. Jimmy Durante Sandy Koufax, Slim Gaillard, Slam Stewart, Lee Allen (lot of the solos in the Fats Domino and Little Richard songs and Dr. John—tenor sax.) Marshall McLuhan’s on there, of course. Just somebody that has been overlooked. Every time somebody says “fifteen minutes of fame,” they attribute to Andy Warhol, but that was McLuhan’s quote, and it was five minutes. Hank Williams, Anita O’ Day, Bessie Smith. – Copyright 20i4 American Songwriter Magazine http://www.americansongwriter.com/2014/04/stream-chuck-e-weisss-red-beans-weiss/

Zany, unrepentantly retro, and drenched in an era that revivalists can’t touch, Red Beans and Weiss is a greasy, gritty report from one of L.A.’s last original rock & roll street denizens. It has a grimy charm all its own.

Nate Merritt also hand drew this cartoon for the “Boston Blackie” track.

Here are the songs on the “Red Beans and Weiss” album that Johnny Depp plays and/or sings on:

Boston Blackie
Drums:  Johnny Depp, Bill “Beano” Hanti
Guitar: J. J. Holiday, Johnny Depp
Bass: Bruce Witkin
Background Vocals: Johnny Depp, Jack Depp, Bruce Witkin, Joey Malone, Bill “Beano” Hanti, Starling Jenkins

Bomb the Tracks
Background Vocals: Johnny Depp, Bruce Witkin

Kokomo (Boy Bruce)
Guitar: Tony Gilkyson, J. J. Holiday, Johnny Depp

The Hink-A-Dink
Drums: Johnny Depp
Percussion: Don Heffington
Guitar: Tony Gilkyson
Bass:  Johnny Depp, Will MacGregor

Willy’s in the Pee Pee House
Background Vocals:  Johnny Depp, Don Heffington, Nathan Holmes, Rachel Hathaway, Boo, Bruce Witkin

 

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Five 2013 Blogging Projects

I love the time I get to spend between Christmas and New Year reflecting upon and renewing commitments to an ongoing pursuit of the arts. Its treasured down time from a perpetual teaching schedule that runs day and night, all year round.  I try to spend the time productively, teaching myself new software, preparing for certification exams, etc. I also spend time listening to music that escaped my grasp during the year, reading through my significant music magazine and book pile, visiting Barnes & Noble to stay vibrant and aware.

As a result I have accumulated some meaty writing topics for the coming year. They represent more substantive research into genres/artists I want to explore more in-depth, hopefully across multiple blog posts. This is my revised approach to professional blogging in 2013, which I hope my readers will like and seek to learn along with me (or teach me something new they know in these areas).

The five 2013 art blogging projects are:

  • Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan – I just heard Billy Corgan‘s interview with Howard Stern on Sirius XM. Oceania is a recording I did not do justice to in 2012. I have discovered more about the Smashing Pumpkin/Corgan direction as well as the various side projects by past/current members. The Teargarden by Kaleidyscope initiative interests me greatly. Time to do some justice about the art of Smashing Pumpkins in the music of our heart.

Oceania

  • I was leaving through the current newsstand issue of Uncut Magazine last week at Barnes & Noble when I discovered a review of Joni Mitchell‘s box set, Studio Albums 1968-1979. The box set is a UK import via Rhino that is presently stocked out on Amazon. Once I can get my order fulfilled and I have given these 10 CDs a thorough listening I will write a blog series about that experience.

Studio Albums 1968 - 1979

  • I was browsing the music book section when I discovered the On The Road: The Official Movie Companion trade paperback. This stirred my sentiment about The Beats. I realized very quickly I had not really delved effectively into the writings of Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen GinsbergPatti Smith has galvanized the poetic pentameter in the music of our heart for this halcyon period of art. I resolve to see the movie On The Road in New York City  before the wider theater release. I also make a commitment to read more of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs books (and of course Patti Smith’s poetry books until her new book(s) come out!). I also plan to get some of the books by the “authoritative” researchers/biographers of The Beat, most notably Ann Charters. I must follow through on this as my core initiative for the arts in 2013. The movie has become the impetus for renewing my kinship with The Beats.

On the Road: The Official Movie Companion

  • I picked up another of The Ultimate Music Guide’s from the publishers of Uncut Magazine. This one is about The Kinks. The 146 page special collector’s edition covers each album in the Kinks discography, the solo albums from Ray and Dave Davies, rarities and singles. It is just the compendium I had looked for about The Kinks. I plan to summarize this satisfying publication in a later blog post article.

Uncut presents The Kinks: The Ultimate Music Guide

  • I am continually impressed by the quality and substance of the British magazine publications. I need to get that iPad 4 with Retina so I can electronically subscribe to Uncut and NME. The magazine I’ve had in my hands twice now at Barnes & Noble is the The Story of Joy Division and New Order. I readily admit I don’t know enough about this band. Realizing I should correct that problem makes this my fifth blogging project for 2013.

NME - Joy Division - Collectors Magazine

The Rum Diary + Soundtrack

I caught Johnny Depp‘s appearance on The David Letterman Show last night to promote his production company (Infinitum Nihl) film The Rum Diary. I am glad I stayed awake for Johnny’s interview with Dave as this has re-ignited my passion for Hunter S. Thompson‘s gonzo journalism.

I was happily surprised to discover that the movie The Rum Diary is based upon the “first” novel by the Hunter S. Thompson. Johnny Depp as a close friend of Hunter S. Thompson(to learn more about Johnny Depp’s explosive pal read the Newsweek column Depp wrote) was the first to discover the original pieces of the book while going through a box at Hunter’s home. It was then the pact was struck between the two of them that a film could be made from these writings. Johnny Depp quipped to Hunter S. Thompson that first a book should be published. The Rum Diary was written in the early 1960s but was not published until 1998.

The Rum Diary.jpg

The movie, The Rum Diary was filmed in 2009. The Web site for The Rum Diary is smartly designed, with rich, interactive content that provides an engaging browsing experience. You owe to yourself if you remotely consider this film to peruse the site.

Take a minute to watch the trailer, I found it to be both humorous and strikingly original. We are eagerly looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend.

It’s noteworthy that Johnny Depp plays as a musician on four tracks on the The Rum Diary Soundtrack. He plays some instrumental rockers with his band, the Johnny Depp Band. There is a stark contrast of his musicianship on “The Mermaid Song” which he performs as a solo pianist. The same song is then sung by Johnny Depp’s bohemian kin Patti Smith. “The Mermaid Song” is performed a capella featuring Patti’s unique tonality. Her phrasing coupled with the timbre in her voice is haunting and poignant.