Thursday, April 26, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 26th Playlist


Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.


R.L. Burnside – It’s Bad You Know
Duane Eddy – Rebel Rouser
Roger Miller – Chug-A-Lug
Roger Miller – Dang Me
The Barbarians – Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl
Mink Deville – Venus of Avenue D
The Clash – London Calling
Willie Nelson – Just Breathe
Monkees – Last Train to Clarksville
James Brown – This Is It (Live)
Samuel L. Jackson – Stack-o-lee
Johnny Cash – T for Texas (Blue Yodel, No. 1)
Johnny “Guitar” Watson – Gangster of Love
Ray Charles – I Got a Woman
Paul Burch & the Waco Brothers – Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Diddy Wah Diddy
Ray Wylie Hubbard – Coricidin Bottle
Tom Waits – Medley: Jack and Neal/California
Majestic Silver Strings – Cattle Call
Dr. John – You Lie
Peter Tosh – Why Must I Cry
Social Distortion – Bakersfield
Andre Williams – Bassology
Andre Williams – Soul Party A Go Go
Willie Nelson – Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
Waylon Jennings – Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way
MC5 – Kick Out the Jams
Bobby Womack – Please Forgive My Heart
Uncle Tupelo – Sin City
Louvin Brothers – Wreck On the Highway
Lightnin’ Hopkins – Once a Gambler
Slim Harpo – Baby, Scratch My Back

Background Music: Duane Eddy - Guitar Man

(Happy 74th birthday, Duane Eddy)

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"I don't know anything about music.  In my line you don't have to."  - Elvis Presley

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere (Interview with Author Don McLeese)


Growing up, I was generally familiar with the music of Dwight Yoakam.  Like most, I knew him as the really skinny country singer who wore super-tight jeans and a cowboy hat pulled low.  I liked whatever I’d heard by him.  When I started working at the local country radio station in high school I became more familiar with his hit songs, but didn’t dig any deeper.  His album “This Time” had been out for a while at that point and I wasn’t aware of any news of anything new on the horizon.

Then, during what must have been my freshman year of college, Dwight Yoakam released “Nothing”, the first single from his upcoming album, “Gone”.  I loved the song.  I was still mostly into whatever “mainstream” music was popular at the time.  This track didn’t really seem country to me.  It was bigger than that.  It seemed old somehow. 

When the album was released, I remember accidentally catching a long CMT special on Dwight and the album.  I remember rambling interviews with him on his tour bus.  I remember a segment where he was driving golf balls off the roof of a building in L.A., along with badass legend Dennis Hopper. 

(Side note: At the time, as still just a kid, I’d only seen Hopper in “Speed”…but knew there was more to him than that.  His involvement with this program prompted me to seek out “Easy Rider”.  The more I learned about Hopper, the cooler Dwight became by association…not that Dwight needed help enhancing the cool factor).

I remember the special program was on several times over the course of a weekend.  I recorded it.  I watched it over and over.  I was fascinated.  Dwight Yoakam was on weird dude!  I hate the celebrity worship culture, but when a celebrity is authentically way out there like that…I can get behind that.

Even though I worked in country radio, I couldn’t stand most country music.  But there was something different about this guy.  Something much deeper and cooler at play here.  “Gone” became one of my favorite records of all time, and Dwight Yoakam became a favorite artist.

He and Marty Stuart remain the only modern “mainstream” country artists that I feature on my Dirty Roots Radio Show.

Don McLeese has written a new book – the first of its kind – about Dwight Yoakam.  McLeese has spent most of his professional life as a music critic, for the Chicago Sun Times through the 80s and the Austin American Sun Times through much of the 90s.  He wrote a column called “Country & Western” for Rolling Stone magazine for a time and has written for most of the national music magazines.  He currently serves as a professor of journalism at the University of Iowa. 

We spoke about his new book, “Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.”


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RYAN MIFFLIN: Tell us a little about the book to start us off.

DON MCLEESE: I’ve always thought that Dwight is a unique artist in that I don’t think there’s anybody who’s been able to achieve such mainstream commercial success, while retaining such a rock edge and dynamic and credibility with rock fans.  Most of what we think of as alt.country or roots rock or whatever, those artists don’t get embraced by the country mainstream.  They sell records in the low thousands.  Dwight has sold 25 million albums.  Probably more than all of the artists considered alt.country combined.

But for some reason, he isn’t revered in the same way that a Gram Parsons has been, or someone like that.  I just think it’s an amazing achievement.  I also like Dwight’s music a lot and I find Dwight himself to be a fascinating character.

I totally agree.  I was aware of him growing up, but my first real exposure was a special CMT program where Dwight was playing golf off of a rooftop in LA with Dennis Hopper.  That in and of itself was pretty different from anything I’d ever seen from a “country star”. 

Yeah, most of them are packaged.  Most of them are polished.  And Dwight’s a character.  He’s been a character from the start. 

I was amazed the first time I interviewed him.  Here’s a guy who has built his reputation as a real honky tonk throwback, doing a lot of drinking songs and things like that.  And it turns out he’s never had a drink of alcohol.  He’s a vegetarian.  This just isn’t the image that you think of when you think of that hard core honky tonker.

What’s it like to interview him?

You don’t really interview Dwight.  You just ask a question and then an hour later you wait for him to stop for breath, basically.  His mind goes a mile a minute in about seven directions at once.

He really is an amazing…I’d say, an amazing “conversationalist”.  But really what he does is monologue, or stream-of-consciousness.  I tried to give some examples of that in the book, rather than chopping it down into bite-sized quotes.  I tried to give some of the flavor of what it’s like just being Dwight’s audience of one.  He was like that the first time I interviewed him ages ago.  He’s just always been like that.  It’s almost like he doesn’t have a regulator or a filter or whatever.  He thinks in really big, broad strokes, if you’re thinking in terms of painting.  He’s a muralist; he’s not a small miniaturist.  And he knows a lot about a lot of stuff.  I mean, he knows a LOT about popular music, not just country stuff.

You talk a lot in the book about his singular vision and I like how you worded it there, “broad strokes”.  You really get a sense of that in his music.

Yeah, there’s a real cinematic quality to his music.  So it isn’t surprising that he moved into music and into acting.  When you get songs like “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”, there’s a real majestic soundtrack quality to that sort of thing.  It’s like he’s playing a role even within his three-minute songs.  And he combines really divergent influences in ways that seem totally natural.  It would have been very easy for Dwight just to keep making the same record over and over again and keep presenting himself as some Johnny Horton throwback, or later a Buck Owens throwback.

But you listen to how each album…I mean, you talked about “Gone”, and “Gone” is a totally different album from “This Time”.  They push the envelope in all sorts of different directions.  I just think it’s brilliant.  Dwight isn’t afraid to challenge his audience and he isn’t afraid to surprise his audience.

This is the first book on Dwight Yoakam, right?

That amazed me!  You figure a guy who has done as much as he has, for as long as he has, and has such a loyal fan base...you’d think someone would try to capitalize on that with at least a quickie bio.  You know, a fan bio.  But there was nothing.

That isn’t the reason why I wrote the book.  I signed to do to the book because the University of Texas Press was really interested in an in-depth piece of music criticism.  I was fully intending to find all sorts of other books and long profiles and things and it just struck me that Dwight had been really underserved by journalism.

Dwight has always seemed to be a kind of paradox to me.  As you said, he’s sold 25 million albums, he’s released several albums since the early 80’s, and he’s had a ton of hit songs.  Yet, when people think of modern country stars, no one mentions Dwight Yoakam.  If you ask someone if they like him, they’ll usually say, “Oh yeah, I like his stuff”, but I've never heard a single person who, when asked about their favorite artist, ever said "Dwight Yoakam".  People obviously like him, but he just doesn’t seem to have that top-of-mind awareness.

I think there’s always been kind of an underdog aspect to him. He was never THE guy.  In the book you see that when Garth Brooks came along, it really changed everything.  Garth was THE guy.  And people followed Garth’s lead.  Dwight doesn’t follow ANYONE’s lead. 

There’s a whole movement called neo-traditionalism.  Randy Travis was kind of the standard bearer for that.  He was given credit for being a great vocalist.  Vince Gill is obviously a great vocalist.  Dwight Yoakam is also a great vocalist.  Dwight is not only a great vocalist; he’s a great songwriter, which the others really aren’t. 

Dwight does so many different things so well.  Maybe people take him for granted, maybe he’s just overlooked.  I‘m not sure.

Dwight’s last few albums haven’t fared as well, commercially.  He left Warner Brothers Records and he split with his longtime partner, producer Pete Anderson.  He’s spent a few years focusing on movies and a few years working with small, independent record labels.  But now he’s back with Warner Brothers and working on new music.  What do you think we can expect from Dwight Yoakam going forward?

I think that being back at Warner Bros. is going to do him a whole lot of good commercially.  Even though he got to make the records he wanted to make with New West, they just weren’t a national company.  They couldn’t service him to country radio.

I think that Dwight still has some sort of commercial future at country radio.  People who have heard the new album – and I haven’t heard it yet, they’re not done mixing – but people who’ve heard the new stuff tell me it’s amazing.  And some of the demos that Dwight played me, just things that he’d been putting together, really sounded strong.  Very upbeat.  He’s still a real creative powerhouse.   

I’ve never been able to really predict how something is going to fare commercially, because that’s never been what I’ve cared about.  I just care whether the music is good or not.  And the music I heard him make was really good and from what people have told me about the recordings, I can’t wait to hear it.

“Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” by Don McLeese is published by the University of Texas Press and is available wherever books are sold.  

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big Muddy Records: Keeping Rock & Roll Alive

A couple of years ago, John Mellencamp said, "Rock and roll is dead...and it ain't comin' back."

For a long time, I agreed with him. My friends and I pondered the possibility, and it's implications. Is rock and roll a sound, or an attitude? If it's an attitude, who's exhibiting it? Is it in the mainstream? Only off the radar? And is it really rock and roll, or has it simply become too watered down and compartmentalized/fragmented?

Then I caught onto a music scene happening in my own backyard; South St. Louis City. Much of it was coming from Big Muddy Records, a small label based in STL.

I chatted with label head Chris Baricevic recently...


RYAN MIFFLIN: Tell us a little about yourself.

CHRIS BARICEVIC: My name is Chris - I am a producer and a musician, and I run Big Muddy Records.

What is Big Muddy Records all about?

Big Muddy is a group of tight-knit musicians based in the South Side of St. Louis City. We share a love of American music and work to keep that tapestry growing with our own contributions.


Who are some of the artists you have on the label?

Our big artists right now are Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost, the Hooten Hallers, and the Rum Drum Ramblers. There's a bunch a bunch of fringe artists who are part of the family – acts like Jack Grelle, Brice & the Cookers, the Hobosexuals, Little Rachel, Irene Allen – we’ve got some new friends as of late, too, who I'm sure will be folded in the gang with the rest of 'em.

We're friends and family on the South Side. The list is always changing but the core group of us stays more or less the same.

I read Bob Reuter's interview with the Riverfront Times the other day and loved how much he specifically talked about real rock and roll. That's a conversation I have with my friends a lot; is rock and roll dead? By listening to the free albums on your website, it encourages me that real rock and roll is NOT dead. Did you set out to feature a specific sound, or attitude, or did the culture build itself as things grew?

A little bit of both – we know what we like, but a lot of life is just letting things happen. You can't change reality to fit your vision, but you can't change your vision to fit reality either. It's a combination. As for rock & roll, it's not dead. It's changed, and it's not what's necessarily "in" right now, but rock & roll is a past-time. It's as American as anything else. As long as there are derelict teenagers with too much glue on their hands, rock & roll's nose will come around to sniff it.

Rock & Roll is also, to me, more about an attitude than a sound. And in that respect, rock & roll is alive and well.

How, and why, did you start Big Muddy Records?

Big Muddy began in November of 2005 with the Vultures self-titled EP. Why? Why not?

What's it like to run a small, independent record label in St. Louis.

It's stressful, it's fun, it's hard work, it makes you go crazy, it puts strain on your relationships, it deepens your relationships, it's a horrible idea, there's no money anywhere, get a job, don't do it, do it, it's a great idea, it makes you go crazy, it's fun, it's stressful, it has its own intrinsic rewards, it's hard work, it's fun...

How can folks find out more about you and your artists?

Head over to www.bigmuddyrecords.com to buy our records and check out the free downloads, and follow us on www.facebook.com/bigmuddyrecords. Keep an eye and an ear to the ground and come visit South St. Louis!

Anything else you'd like to share?

The more we as individuals make the choice to speak with our money for the arts and for independent music, the more we enrich the world around us. We control our environment with the choices we make and the money we spend. If you want to live in a world with a culture that is healthy, lively, challenging, inspiring, and real in any way, then go to shows, buy independent records, turn off corporate radio, give pop music a break, buy a painting, take a picture – get involved in your own reality.

Music and art has turned into an out of season tomato – it looks big but there's no flavor and it's full of shit. The only ones who can change that are us.

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 19th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

RIP, LEVON HELM

The Band - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The Band - The Weight
Willie Nelson - Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
The Premiers - Farmer John
Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Valley Boys - Comin' On Thru
Brian Setzer Orchestra - Go-Go Godzilla
Jessie Mae Hemphill - Shake It, Baby
The Head Cat - Fool's Paradise
Two Gospel Keys - You Got to Move (When the Lord Gets Ready)
Isaiah Owens - You Without Sin Cast the First Stone
The Clash - (In the) Pouring Rain
Charlie Louvin - Must You Throw Dirt In My Face
Alabama Shakes - You Ain't Alone
Link Wray - Raw-Hide
Willie Nelson - Night Life
Willie Nelson - Whiskey River
Willie Nelson - Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain
Willie Nelson - Me and Paul
Conor Oberst - I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)
Dr. Dog - Lonesome
Ezra Furman - American Soil
Willie Mitchell - Soul Finger
James Carr - At the Dark End of the Street
Muddy Waters - I Just Want to Make Love to You
The Runaways - Queens of Noise
Tom Waits & Keith Richards - Last Leaf
MC5 - It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World
Scott H. Biram - I Want My Mojo Back
The Phillips' Specials - I'm a Soldier
Bob Reuter - Dark Night of the Soul
Norah Jones - Happy Pills
Syl Johsnon - Is It Because I'm Black
The Band - It Makes No Difference

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"I don't fool with a lot of things that I can't have fun with. There's not much reward in that." - Levon Helm

"If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." - Levon Helm

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: Willie Nelson & the Family

I have what was originally thought to be a stress fracture in my left foot. Last week I couldn’t bear any weight on it at all. As I’ve been able to hold a little more weight on it, I walk with a severe limp, with my foot ridiculously angled out 45 degrees. Pain medicine hasn’t touched the soreness much. Prescribed anti-inflammatories have helped some.

But today, I awoke with no pain in my foot whatsoever. What changed, you ask?

I heeded the words of a wise, bearded, longhaired prophet; one who speaks a language of love and acceptance of all…

And I drowned my pain in the Whiskey River.

When I received confirmation of my tickets to the Willie Nelson show at the Pageant in St. Louis at the last minute, I worried about having to stand through an entire concert on my bum foot. And it did hurt. But I left my sorrows and worries at the foot of the old prophet and awakened today, miraculously pain free.

Sure, you could say that maybe the foot was just stiff or had an early bout of arthritis and simply needed to be exercised. Maybe that’s what fixed it. You believe what you want. I prefer to believe in a miracle.

WWWD? What Would Willie Do?

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I was excited to finally be able to see one of my music idols. I saw Willie a few years back at Farm Aid, but that was a short set.

What does one say about a Willie Nelson concert? Brotha’s used pretty much the exact same set list since the 70’s. You can always count on a good show. The other thing you can always count on is Willie’s behind-the-beat, never-in-the-pocket phrasing and exquisitely unique guitar work. He didn’t disappoint on either count last night.

At first, the phrasing was a bit confounding. It’s almost impossible to sing along, even to the most familiar songs. The band seemed out of synch during the first song, but I knew that couldn’t be. Willy’s Family is one of the longest running outfits in all of music and notorious for being tick-tight. After a couple of tunes, I realized they weren’t out of synch…it was my ears that were out of synch. We’re so used to the accepted formula of modern music that it took a little getting used to when listening to visionaries like Willie and the Family. I quickly adapted and now I fear that all other music will sound out of synch to these Willie-fied ears.

Every song was familiar. Willie played through his signature tunes (opening with Whiskey River, of course; Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain; Still Is Still Moving To Me; Me & Paul; City of New Orleans; Always On My Mind; On the Road Again; etc.), a set of Kris Kristofferson covers (Help Me Make It Through the Night; Me and Bobby McGee), a Hank Williams tribute set (Jambalaya/On the Bayou; Hey Good Lookin’; Move It On Over; and more), and a medley of classic gospel tunes (I’ll Fly Away, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, etc.). Willie encouraged us to clap along to the gospel numbers and asked the audience to sing along at all the appropriate times throughout the evening. The highlight of the night was a new-ish tune Willie had written called, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”, which was either accidentally – or completely brilliantly – placed right in the midst of the gospel song set.

Willie’s voice isn’t as strong as it once was, but the times he dispensed with the crazy phrasing and truly sang (nearly all of the ballads), he proved he does still have it.

The strength of Willie’s voice isn’t what matters anyway. It matters that he showed up. It matters that he’s 78 and still doing what he loves. I truly believe the world is positively impacted by that and is a better place for it. It matters that I spent time in the same room as Willie Nelson. The experience wasn’t so much a concert as it was a joyful celebration. A celebration of doing what you love with people you love. Telling stories.

And he told those stories as much through his guitar playing as he did with his words. When the stage lights first came up, a few minutes before the band came out, Willie’s famous guitar, Trigger, was visible, alone on the stage. I had a feeling that if the rest of the show didn’t happen, it would have been worth the drive just to actually lay eyes on Trigger.

Willie’s playing is simply astounding. A blend of country, jazz, Mexican influences, blues, and who knows what else that is staggeringly unique. No effects pedals. Just an old acoustic guitar with nylon strings and holes worn in a top that’s been refurbished countless times over the years. It’s obvious that Willie loves music. If I hadn’t heard it before, it would still be completely obvious that he listens to and deeply studies a wide variety of music in his spare time. (He first turned me on to the legendary Django Reinhardt). Watching Willie play and improvise was like watching a master joyfully try new things, experiment, all the while building a new kind of American musical stew that is all his own recipe. His Spaghetti Western style lead-in to “I Never Cared for You” took my breath away.

There are certain unforgettable iconic images in music; Gene Simmons’ bloody tongue, Pete Townsend’s windmill, Chuck Berry’s duck walk. I’ve never had much use for Gene or his tongue. Pete didn’t die before he got old, if you know what I’m saying. And Chuck’s duck walking days are long behind him. But Willie Nelson taking off his black cowboy hat two songs into his set and strapping a red bandana across his braids is an iconic image I won’t forget. And I defy anyone not to feel a rush of pride as an honorary Texan, even for just a few hours, as the massive Texas flag unfurls behind Willie and the Family during the opening lines of “Whiskey River”.

Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson were the top entries on my “must see” bucket list of concerts. I missed Johnny, but I spent some time with our friend Willie last night.

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There was a chance that I was going to be able to interview Willie for my Dirty Roots Radio Show. It ended up not working out, but I’d always heard that Willie took time to meet his fans after the concert. So I drug my wife over to his tour bus, the Honeysuckle Rose, as we left the venue. Willie was whisked away as soon as he left the loading docks; no visiting with anyone. That, of course, was sad; but the hour we hung around the back doors of the Pageant was among my favorite time of the whole evening.

I got to meet Willie’s infamous drummer, the great Paul English. Paul, the inspiration for the classic – and one of my very favorite songs – “Me & Paul” only played drums for two songs last night. He wasn’t moving around very well, as he entered and left the stage. But it’s good to see him out there, still on the road with his crew, still giving it his all.


I also met Willie’s longtime harmonica player, Mickey Raphael.


I only noticed one (huge) puff of (ahem...) smoke during the concert; appropriately during the last verse of "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die". But outside, hanging around the buses, the smell of doobage was definitely in the air.

We visited with other fans of every stripe; a few old hippie burnouts, a whole bunch of authentic badass Hell’s Angels, young fans, one really drunk lady, other band members, a real cowboy or two, and old folks anxious to meet Willie once again. We met one of the bus drivers and were entertained by the antics of the road crew.

I can’t think of another artist whose backing band I’d be excited to meet, much less whose road crew and bus drivers I’d be excited to meet. But all are welcome at this party. We’re all part of this Family. The life we love is “makin’ music with our friends” and thank God Willie’s (still) on the road again…

Friday, April 13, 2012

Record Store Day 2012: Q & A with Event Organizer Carrie Colliton

For the past four years, the third Saturday in April has been designated Record Store Day. My personal favorite holiday of the year and one of only two official Dirty Roots Radio approved holidays (the other being The Day of the Dude).

Next Saturday, April 21st will mark the fifth year for the event, which has grown with each commemoration.



I recently hosted Carrie Colliton, one of the organizers of Record Store Day, on my Dirty Roots Radio Show…

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RYAN MIFFLIN: Carrie, tell us about yourself. I know Record Store Day (RSD) is totally volunteer-driven, so what do you do outside of that?


CARRIE COLLITON: Outside of this, I do quite a bit of the same thing that I do for Record Store Day. Record Store Day is volunteer, but everyone who organizes RSD has a real, full time job in the world of independent record stores. Some of our organizers own them and I have worked with independent record stores since I was in college…and I won’t say how long ago that was.

How did this whole thing get started?

For even longer than we’ve had RSD, there’s been an event called Free Comic Book Day, which celebrated the stores and customers of comic book shops. And the publishers of the comics would get together and have big parties at the stores.

Every year, we get independent record store owners across the country together for meetings to talk amongst themselves. And one of the employees of one of those stores said, “Why isn’t there a record store day? Why don’t we do the same thing?” And we kind of thought that was a good idea, mostly because, at the time all of the press you would see – and actually quite a bit of the press now – was about how record stores are gone, they’re dead, they are no more. And we kind of thought that was the journalists writing stories before they really knew the truth. Because we knew that there were independent record stores all over the country, surviving, and thriving, and growing.


So, what happens on Record Store Day? Why is it an important thing and why should folks get up out of bed early on a Saturday to be a part of it?

Well, RSD is in fact the day. It’s a day when stores across the country and, indeed, across the world, have their own parties. They celebrate themselves, their customers, and the artists and musicians who make up this world of record stores. Those are the three components; the stores and owners, the customers, and the music that is in those stores.

Every store plans their own events, does their own things. They’ve all gotten really creative. There are some fabulous things going on.

One of the elements is special releases that artists put out only for those record stores to sell on that day. Very limited, very special. You’ll never see them again, for the most part. And those do sell out early. So that’s the reason to get up early.

But we’ve also heard from stores that RSD is kind of two days in one. Yes, there’s the big rush and the frenzy and the excitement of getting the special releases. But then when that dies down a little bit, the second part of the day is really what our initial goal was; it’s a party. It’s a celebration of this special place in the community. Because they’re really is nothing like a record store. If you’re a fan of a record store, you know what that feeling is when you go in and you either discover new music that you didn’t know before, or you make a friend because they are looking at the same band or same section as you are. You just feel good when you walk in and the employees know your name and know what you’re looking for.

You know, so many of my Facebook friends are people who I met through record stores. If you would, touch on how unique record stores are and how actually important they are to their respective communities.

They really are. There’s probably a case to be made that independent book stores have a similar feel, but record stores are my home, so I feel pretty strongly that a record store has a really unique spot in the culture. That’s actually our tagline: celebrating the culture of the independent record store. Because there is a culture around it.

Let’s be honest…You could live without records. You could live without music. It might not be pleasant, but you could do it. It’s not food, it’s not water. But there’s a need for it. People feel this really strong desire for it and I think they will also always feel a desire to get it from a human, in a place where you can interact with other humans and get a physical artifact of this thing that makes you so happy or so sad, or whatever emotion you’re feeling. There’s going to be music that goes along with it and for a lot of people, the record store is the place to connect with that.

I probably shouldn’t disparage any place here, but if you go to one of those giant stores that sell everything under the sun, and you’re looking to buy a specific album, that’s one thing. But, those stores don’t have that personal touch. I remember when I first started getting into the blues. My friend Tony who works at Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis rang me out and said, “Looks like you’re going to spin some blues on your radio show. Do you have any J.B. Hutto?” And I’d never heard J.B. Hutto. But because Tony knew me and knew what I was into, and I trusted his music taste, I turned around and bought a couple of J.B. Hutto albums. You don’t get that at the mall.

Right. Or online! I’m impressed with the people who created that “Buy if you like…” algorithm or whatever it is that suggests things online. But there are humans who’ve been doing that for years in a record store. And I just feel like there are people who feel that music is a sidebar in their lives and if they’re buying things at one of those stores that sells everything…Well, maybe RSD and the attention that we’re bringing to these stores will get them to walk in and try it. I really believe that if people go into a record store on RSD – if it’s their first time ever – they’re going to come back.


Being at Record Store Day the first time was such a cool vibe. It was a beautiful spring day, there were bands playing live, DJs spinning inside, people dancing, families everywhere. I remember a friend saying that it felt like your city’s baseball team winning the World Series, the last day of school, and Christmas all rolled into one. There was just such a great feeling in the air.

Absolutely. Most of our stores have a really strong community link. Most of them have this sort of vibe and work with other community businesses down the year. We’re quiet about it, but underneath that whole RSD goal to get people to the shops and to draw attention to the shops, I think it’s equally important that you’re supporting any local business. That’s our very first criteria; it must be a locally owned, independent business in order to be a RSD store. I don’t think you can overstate how important that is to support those locally-owned businesses. And if you’re going to be buying music, why not take that extra step and buy it from someone whose kid is probably on your kid’s baseball team, or who is making your pizza down the street when he gets off work from the record store. That’s equally important.

Tell me your thoughts on the importance of having something physical when listening to music. You know, when I was very little, we still had records, then it was CDs, and now it’s downloads. No one under the age of 15 or so has ever held a physical copy of someone’s music. They just get to buy little bits of air. Don’t you think being able to look at the art, read the liner notes, is important?

Absolutely. It’s a physical artifact. There’s no denying that vinyl is making a resurgence and we’re thrilled with that. And I’m not going to be humble about it…I think we’ve played a small part in that vinyl resurgence. We’re certainly not the only reason it’s coming back. One of the big reasons is, of course, music sounds good on vinyl.

I feel pretty strongly that people really like the idea of having this physical artifact. Again, music isn’t something that’s going to keep you alive. But it’s going to help you feel more strongly an emotion you’re feeling, or have stronger memories. That sort of thing is really powerful.

I think there are going to be kids, now, who have never owned CDs or records, there’s going to come a time when they realize that it’s nice to have this physical artifact, whether it’s a CD or vinyl or some format we’ve never thought of. It’s nice to have a physical representation of the art, where I’m connecting to this other person who made this music and it’s nice to have this physical bridge to it.

Not to mention, I think it’s a really Zen experience, if you’re a vinyl lover. The idea of taking it out of the sleeve and cleaning it and putting it on the turntable and sitting and listening and concentrating and then interacting with it again to turn it over. I just think it can be a really Zen experience for people. Kind of calming.

I'm glad you mentioned that. I’ve collected music in some form my whole life. I’ve recently gotten back into vinyl and it’s been such a cool experience for me. As much as I love music, I’m too ADD to just sit and listen to it. When I play music off my computer, or even a CD, I have to also do something else to occupy my attention. But when I got my record player a while back, and got into the vinyl thing, I realized I didn’t have to have something else occupying my attention. I could just sit and listen and enjoy the experience. And my four-year old daughter loves it, too! She knows how to put the record on and move the needle now. And we sit together all the time, and just listen to full records. It’s some of my favorite time I spend with her.

Right. And that’s a universal experience. I have to say, we’ve had the greatest response from all kinds of musicians who just love RSD and want to support it in various ways. We had a video from a documentary called “Last Shop Standing” and in the video, Johnny Marr, guitarist from the Smiths and a few other bands, talks about the vinyl experience. You can listen to a record and 24 hours later you may actually remember the physical sensation of sitting, listening to 20 minutes of Roxy Music or whatever you were listening to. If you’re listening to it online or it’s just background, you’re going to remember, “Oh yeah, there was music playing,” but you’re not going to remember, “Oh that line that he sang! It’s really resonating with me now.”

So it’s not just you who feels that way. I’m glad you do and I think that your daughter will one day hopefully cherish your record collection, along with hers. And I think that’s great. And I will say that, yes, there are kids who don’t know anything about record stores. But, the average age of our Facebook fan and our Twitter followers is young enough that I’m pretty encouraged that younger people will be coming into record stores for a while.

RSD started out as such a small effort and it’s grown so much from year to year. The list of special releases is HUGE this year!

The list is big. And that’s good and bad. There are detractors to a big list. But something I really like about the list, and the musicians who’ve come to support us, is the diversity. I was doing another interview where I was kind of reading off just the first page of the list and just the first page, I think it just went down to the C’s alphabetically, it covered jazz, and blues, and classic rock, and dance and indie rock and it was just all over the place. I think that’s great, because our stores are all over the place, as well. There’s not one typical indie record store. There are stores that are all urban, there are stores that are very jazz oriented, blues oriented, country oriented, they’re all over the place.

And I just feel like there’s no record that’s released that someone who likes it shouldn’t have the choice to buy it at a record store. And our list reflects that.

To find out more about Record Store Day, including a downloadable listing of all special releases, and participating stores, visit www.RecordStoreDay.com.

Click HERE to visit Record Store Day on Facebook.


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Ryan Mifflin is the host of Dirty Roots Radio, a "Quentin Tarantino-ization of a spaghetti western style old-school record show" featuring renegade country, vintage gospel, raw blues, greasy soul, punk, and funk. Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

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The DeMoulin Museum - The Story of Three Brothers & A Goat

Anything that I do, whether it’s my Dirty Roots Radio Show, or this blog, tends to be a little left-of-center. I try to bring exposure to unique things that fit that bill, too. It is with this in mind that I visited with my old friend (as in “long time” not “he’s in advanced age” – though he is that, too) John Goldsmith, Executive Director of the DeMoulin Museum.

The museum is located in Greenville, IL, the same town its namesake – now a band uniform manufacturer – is based. DeMoulin’s creates band uniforms for schools and other organizations literally around the world. If you caught the Super Bowl last February, and took in Madonna’s half-time show, you saw some of their handiwork. DeMoulin’s made 100 of the band uniforms used in the show, and created a special uniform worn in the performance by Cee Lo Green.


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RYAN MIFFLIN:
With this blog, I try to highlight unique things that are a little more “out there” or have a little more edge than “normal” things. For instance, you have western movies…then you have spaghetti westerns. The spaghetti westerns are just a little different…a little cooler.

The DeMoulin Museum is like that to me. We know about companies…and we know about museums dedicated to company history…but this one’s a little more “out there”.

JOHN GOLDSMITH: Yeah, I think we embrace our quirkiness and most of the folks that live her in Greenville or live locally…they expect to walk in and see a museum that’s 100 band uniforms. Because that’s all that they’ve known. That’s really what the company has focused on, for the most part, for the last 50 years. So most of them are not aware of these other things that DeMoulin’s made. So it’s an eye opening experience for them, because they learn more about their own history.

But then we also appeal to those who do know about the lodge initiation devices and their quirkiness. That’s an even more eclectic target audience that we have out there. And they are out there. They follow us on Facebook and some of them have come to the museum, specifically to see a bucking goat or a trick chair or a lifting and spanking machine. They know what they are, they know that they’re rare, they know what they were used for. They also know that this is one of the few places in the United States that you can actually see some of these devices.


OK, let’s go back to square one here. If someone doesn’t know anything about the DeMoulin Museum or the factory or their history, they’re probably wondering what we mean when we talk about “bucking goats” and “spanking chairs”.

Well, the titles themselves can strike fear into the misinformed or the uneducated.

At the turn of the century, specifically from about 1890 to 1930, in that forty year period, fraternal lodges were huge in the United States. You say “fraternal lodge” now and almost everybody thinks Masonic, because that’s about the only one that’s really going strong. There are others; there are still Oddfellows Chapters and some Woodmen of the World and Modern Woodmen of America. But at one point, especially in that 40-year time span, there were literally hundreds of different kinds of fraternal lodges that men, and eventually women, could belong to.

They existed for different reasons. Some of them, like Modern Woodmen of America or the Woodmen of the World, were in business to sell insurance. So, if a man wanted to buy a life insurance policy, he had to belong to that organization. So you belonged to a local chapter. It was very competitive for that business. That’s how the DeMoulin’s actually got their start.

A local man named William Northcott, who at the time – 1892 – was the Bond County State’s Attorney and was also the head counsel of the Modern Woodmen of America, which essentially meant he was the national president of that fraternal lodge. It was a pretty good sized fraternal order at that time, but knowing how competitive it was for that business, he was looking for ways to encourage people to join Modern Woodmen over Woodmen of the World and some of the competitors.

So he approached Ed DeMoulin one day with this dilemma and asked for ideas to encourage people to want to belong to Modern Woodmen chapters. Ed was a photographer in Greenville. He was a gadget guy and Northcott knew that. Earlier that year, Ed had received his first patent, for an attachment to cameras that allowed what they called “trick” or “freak photography”, which was essentially a very primitive form of double exposure trick photography.

Ed got together with his two brothers, U.S. and Erastus, and the three of them began to dream up these crazy contraptions for lodge initiation. So the first couple of years the company existed, they made things specifically for Modern Woodmen of America chapters. But within a few years, they realized they could make things for all the fraternal lodges.

By 1900 – a span of about eight years – the company’s business went through the roof and they were making things for all of the fraternal lodges. They made bright, detailed regalia that they would wear during initiation or at ceremonies or official wear that they would have at a convention or a parade.

Then they did the trick devices. The goat was their signature piece. The goat was a mechanism that looked like the body of a goat and was set up on a mechanism that would have two to five wheels. Depending on how it was built, it did something different, but the end result was always that the guy who was riding it would get thrown off. In the early days of the factory, they were known locally as the “Goat Factory”; that was their nickname.


The company held about thirty different patents on devices. They had the trick chairs that if you sat on them, the chairs collapsed and it fired a blank cartridge. They did something called the “lifting and spraying” machine, which was supposedly a strength tester. You would lift up on the handles and it would shoot water in your face and fire a blank cartridge. Almost all of these things fired blank cartridges.



So they did a lot of these crazy different devices, but by 1930 or so those sort of things fell out of favor for a variety of reasons, and they didn’t make many of those things after that. In 1955 they completely closed down that wing of the company.

We have people like [illusionist] David Copperfield and other magicians who are drawn to these devices that know what they are. And we have people who know fraternal history that are attracted to them.

That’s sort of our niche. We have band uniforms at the museum, we have some of the regalia, and we have some wonderful furniture that the company made. They had a fantastic furniture division that made furniture for churches and lodges, and we have some of those things. But it’s the initiation devices – the goats and the chairs and spanking machines and the lung testers and that sort stuff – that sets us apart from other museums. It makes us quirky and unique.


Didn’t they get into costumes for circuses? I also heard a story from one of the DeMoulin family members about meeting Tom Mix as a young boy. What was that about?

Right. In the 1930’s the company stumbled into the circus business and for about ten years they made costumes for all of the major circuses. They made the clown costumes. And in those days, all of the circuses had live bands, so they made the band uniforms. They also made something called elephant blankets, which were ornate, beautiful, big blankets that the elephants wore when they were brought into the big top. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find any of those. We hope that someday we’ll be able to find some of those things for the museum.

Tom Mix was probably the first big, famous customer that they had. Tom Mix was at one point, probably outside of Valentino or Jolsen or a couple of those guys, was one of the biggest stars in the United States. He was the first big cowboy/ western star, and by the 1930’s had his own circus that he traveled around the country in. DeMoulin’s made many of the outfits for the Tom Mix Circus. In our collection at the museum, we have a letter from Tom Mix to the factory about one of the orders that they had filled for him.

We know that Tom Mix visited Greenville once. He did not go to the factory. He was on his way somewhere and stopped in Greenville briefly and the [local newspaper] Greenville Advocate interviewed him and he talked about DeMoulin’s doing work for him.

Tell me about the connection to David Copperfield. I remember he came through town a while back and I was working for the local news station then. I interviewed him and he toured the factory. And I know you’ve met with him since then, too.

As I mentioned earlier, magicians are really drawn to the lodge initiation devices. They look at some of these things as a form or an offshoot of magic. If you know how the devices work, you can kind of see where they’re coming from, because there’s trickery to them.

David is the world’s foremost illusionist and he’s also the world’s foremost collector of DeMoulin’s stuff. He has the largest collection of these devices in the world. His collection is even better than what we have at the museum. He’s been collecting for about 20 years. We do have one device that he doesn’t have, which is the DeMoulin electric branding iron, so we’re sort of proud of the fact that we have something David doesn’t have.

He did visit Greenville about ten years ago, while he was in St. Louis, performing at the Fox Theatre. The folks associated with DeMoulin’s in company ownership have had a chance to get to know him, as I have over the last year. That was strictly through the DeMoulin Museum. He became aware of it through a mutual friend that he and I have. That led to me being able to fly out to Vegas and meet him and see his collection first hand. It was a lot of fun to look at what he has in his collection and share our mutual hobby and talk about the stuff that was there.

Every small town bills itself as a “historical” place. And every small town does have its own unique history…but I think it’s sometimes a stretch to use that word. In most cases, people outside of that town don’t know or care about its history. However, here, you’ve got a really unique thing that appeals to people both in and outside of the small town of Greenville.

Let me first point out that beyond the DeMoulin family’s involvement in the community – which goes back to Ed DeMoulin who was the mayor of Greenville for several terms to U.S. DeMoulin, who donated the land where the local hospital sits now – locally, I think the most important thing that DeMoulin’s offered was employment to a lot of people over the years. But, even more importantly the factory – almost from the very beginning – has employed women and given them opportunities for financial freedom and independence. When you talk about a factory that was employing more women than men as early as the late 1890’s, I think there’s some significance to that locally and even on a larger scale.

If you look at the history outside the community, the company has made some very unique things. Even band uniforms. There are only a handful of band uniform manufacturers left in the United States. So, the diversity of the company is worth studying. But the products that they’ve made, and the quality of the products that they’ve made ties in with that history.

With the museum, we’re marketing a product that has two layers:

1) It has value to the local community, where they can learn more about themselves. Nearly everyone who walks through that door, who is a local resident, either worked there or was related to someone who worked there or had a neighbor who worked there. So, that’s a large net that we cast locally.

2) And we try to market to those outside of the community who have an interest in what we have, and appreciation for the quirky things that are there.

Here's a vintage advertisement for the DeMoulin's Guillotine:


And a group of junior high students on a recent class trip giving the piece a try...


Additional Examples of some early DeMoulin Brothers catalog pages follow...

The DeMoulin Museum is located at 110 W. Main in Greenville, IL

Admission is free and their hours are:

Fri: 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sat: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Sun: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Click HERE to visit them on Facebook

For more information, call 618.664.4115







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Ryan Mifflin is the host of Dirty Roots Radio, a "Quentin Tarantino-ization of a spaghetti western style old-school record show" featuring renegade country, vintage gospel, raw blues, greasy soul, punk, and funk. Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 12th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

Rolling Stones - Fool to Cry
Rancid - Ruby Soho
Neil Diamond - Thank the Lord for the Night Time
Tom Waits - Step Right Up
Reverend Horton Heat - Psycho-Billy Freakout
Dr. John - Big Shot
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros - All In a Day
Iggy Pop & Kate Pierson - Candy
Steve Earle - Tennessee Blues
Willie Nelson - It Always Will Be
Willie Nelson & Ray Price - Faded Love
Jimmy Martin - You Don't Know My Mind
Rolling Stones - Can't You Hear Me Knocking
Social Distortion - Through These Eyes
Hasil Adkins - Your Memories
Charles Bradley - Why Is It So Hard?
The Detroit Cobras - As Long As I Have You
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - Bits and Pieces
Andre Williams - Swamp Dogg's Hot Spot
Smith - Baby It's You
Jimi Hendrix - If 6 Was 9
Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows
R.L. Burnside - Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down
Flying Burrito Brothers - To Love Somebody
Merle Haggard - Silver Wings
The Two Things In One - Snag Nasty

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“If I had five million pounds I'd start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn't make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat." - Joe Strummer

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

EASY RIDER: Freedom

George Hanson: You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it.

Billy: Man, everybody got chicken, that's what happened. Hey, we can't even get into like, a second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel, you dig? They think we're gonna cut their throat or somethin'. They're scared, man.

George Hanson: They're not scared of you. They're scared of what you represent to 'em.

Billy: Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.

George Hanson: Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.

Billy: What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about.

George Hanson: Oh, yeah, that's right. That's what's it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it, that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.

Billy: Well, it don't make 'em runnin' scared.

George Hanson: No, it makes 'em dangerous.

Voices

I had an exercise in which voice to listen to today.

I wish it were as simple as one of those trite motivational “Which voice in your head do you pay attention to?” speeches. Are you gonna listen to the nagging voices of self-doubt that plague your thoughts (and that I can be especially prone to)? Or are you gonna listen to the positive voice that you have to force into your own thoughts?

But no, this was a literal decision of which real, audible voice to listen to.

I read somewhere once that every man has several pivotal points in his development where an older man in his life overrules a cautious female and casts a vote of confidence for the younger man.

For example, a five-year old boy asks if he can take the training wheels off his bike. His mother, full of well-meaning concern, says absolutely not. His father says no…he’s ready. He can do this. Or a boy offers to use the string trimmer on his grandmother’s lawn in addition to mowing the grass. Grandma says he’s not big enough yet. But Grandpa says no…he can handle it.

These events serve as a transition for boys. A step toward manhood. A vote of confidence from a man of authority can mean the world to a boy or young man and can make all the difference in the world.

On Saturday, my family went for a ride in my dad’s brand-new three-quarter ton diesel pick-up. For city people without much need for a truck of any kind, much less a big ol’ beast like that, this machine was HUGE. I rode in the backseat with my wife and daughter while we went to look at my dad’s muscle car, which was kept a few miles away in storage.

After taking my daughter for a test drive in the muscle car (a restored and souped up Mustang – I don’t remember specifically which year), Dad motioned to me to get in the driver’s seat. I’ve never even driven a “full sized” pick-up before – only little S-10’s. I’ve never driven anything with a diesel engine. I’ve never driven anything that big, wide, long, or powerful before.

But I didn’t give it a second thought. I popped right into the driver’s seat. If my Dad thinks I can do it, I can do it.

My wife expressed concern. And I realized how right she was to do so. I drive a tiny little ’99 Hyundai Elantra. Before that I drove an Escort. Prior to that a Geo Metro. I’m used to personally outweighing the cars I drive. I’m not used to anything big or fancy in any way.

But my Dad knew that about me. My dad, who restores classic cars and drag races as often as he can, and lives to hear and feel the rumble of an engine he’s rebuilt, thought I could drive that big ol’ pickup truck. And if he thought I could…I wouldn’t argue. I’d just drive. So I did. Through the narrow streets of his tightly-packed-in subdivision.

I'll be the first to tell you I'm not a "manly" man. I'm not handy. I'm not mechanically inclined. I'm an artsy, intellectual guy.

But I did just fine driving that truck. And I stood tall that day. Because my dad told my wife, “No…he can do this.”

Then today came. With a different voice.

I won’t go into detail, but it was a situation where I’ve all but given up. Because things don’t matter. It doesn’t help to care. It’s not worth arguing. I’m not heard. And I just don’t have it in me to fight anymore.

So I do what I have to. I do what I’m told. I get by.

While it’s always this way, this particular project has been two days full of back-stabbing, back-biting, subtle insults, back-handed compliments, throwing under buses. And it won’t be right and won’t please a damn one of ‘em when it’s done.

I know I have talent, skills, and value. As in, I know it somewhere down inside. But I don't actually "believe it”. I question it continually. I question it when I know I shouldn't, I question it when I know people mean well, and I question it when I know the other people's issues and sickness are to blame.

I’m tired of it.

PINEAPPLES!!!! I wanna go home…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - April 5th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.

Cake - Mahna Mahna
Ben Harper - Like a King
Dr. John - Locked Down
Miss Toni Fisher - The Big Hurt
Leadbelly - Black Betty
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Shot the Sheriff
Alabama Shakes - Hold On
Dr. John - Revolution
The Clash - Wrong 'Em Boyo
The Clash - 4 Horsemen
T-Model Ford - T-Model Theme Song
Joe Simon - The Chokin' Kind
Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Muddy Waters - I Can't Be Satisfied
Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy
Scott H. Biram - Judgment Day
Muddy Waters - Crosseyed Cat
Scott H. Biram - I Se the Light/What's His Name
Rolling Stones - Cherry Oh Baby
Keith Richards - Yap Yap
Kris Kristofferson - Casey's Last Ride
Jack White - Lover Interruption
Jack White - Sixteen Saltines
Hank Ballard & the Midnighters - Auntie's Aunt Fannie
Bunker Hill - You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby
Bunker Hill - Red Ridin' Hood and the Wolf
Joan Jett - Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Porter Wagoner - The Cold Hard Facts of Life
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Tom Waits - Mr. Siegel

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JIM MARSHALL
RIP, Father of Loud


"It's fun, but the fun is where it always was. I mean, it's still fun to strap on my Les Paul in the basement and turn up the Marshall amp. I'm still 15. I still enjoy that as much as I ever did." - Paul Westerberg