Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random Facts

Henry Mancini is the composer of the theme to 70's sitcom What's Happening!!. That's right, the record holder for most Grammy nominations (72); the man behind Moon River, Days of Wine and Roses, the Pink Panther Theme, Peter Gunn etc. etc.; the winner of four Academy Awards and twenty Grammys also scored the adventures of Raj, Rerun and Dwayne.

Mr. Mike Fun Fact: I attended high school with Hawyood Nelson, who played Dwayne. He graduated a year ahead of me, but it was an early brush with greatness nonetheless.

Mr Mike Recommendation: Check out the Peter Gunn Soundtrack; it's chock full of cool West Coast jazzy goodness.

Chef Boyardee was a real person. Ettore Boiardi was the italian-born owner of Il Giardino d'Italia, an Italian restaurant in Cleveland Ohio. Demand for his food was so great he started selling take-out in old milk bottles. Eventually he needed a factory to keep up with demand and in 1929 he started selling his products nationally under the Chef Boyardee brand. Boiardi's culinary accomplishments included serving as the head chef of the Plaza Hotel in New York and overseeing the catering of President Woodrow Wilson's second wedding.

Little Debbie Snacks are named after a real person. In 1960, the owner of Mckee's Foods, O.D. McKee, was looking for a brand name for his new line of snack products when he came upon a photo of his then 4 year old grand-daughter Debbie. The rest is junk food history. That's a blurry photo of Little Debbie giving out snacks during the 1960's. Am I the only person who finds the company's slogan "Little Debbie has a snack for you" slightly salacious?

Tom Sawyer was the first novel written on a typewriter (1876).

Samuel Clemens got his pen name, Mark Twain, from his days as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. The term "mark twain" was used when sounding the river; it designated a depth of two fathoms.

Fred and Wilma Flintstone were the first married television couple to be shown in the same bed during prime time. Which brings us to the immortal conundrum...Betty or Wilma?

Friday, February 6, 2009

"Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk"

Hey Moe, Hey Moe!

In 1984, an unknown pop group from Chicago named Jump N' the Saddle Band had a novelty hit with The Curly Shuffle, a tribute to every one's favorite Stooge. How big a hit was it? The song actually reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. I even recall watching a video of the song set to a collection of Three Stooges clips (hey - it was the 1980's every song had to have a video to go with it). Jump N' the Saddle Band faded back into obscurity as quickly as they had risen from it and the song is on no one's list of favorite 80's hits (except mine). It is an axiom of the 21st Century that everything eventually turns up on YouTube, and The Curly Shuffle is no exception.

Violent and sophomoric though they were, The Three Stooges displayed flashes of true creative genius and I honestly feel that their humor is more sophisticated then people realize. What am I? A wise guy? Why cointenly!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Think I Love You

Songs I hate myself for liking, Part 1

This past Sunday, my wife and I had the following conversation:

Kim (from the living room): Something something Partridge Family something music.

Me (from the den): What?

Kim: I said The Partridge Family made good music.

Me: What?

Kim: I love The Partridge Family.

Me: You love David Cassidy.

Kim: I like his voice.

Me: You're hot for him.

Kim: There's that too. You like Susan Dey.

Me: I like Shirley Jones; she was a 30 something MILF!

Later, during dinner, Kim turned to me and said "I'd see The Partridge Family in concert; I really like their music"

I'm not as big a Partridge fan as my wife; as early 70's sitcom families go, I prefer the Bradys (even though Shirley Partridge is way hotter than Carol Brady). This is not to say I didn't watch The Patridge Family, just not as frequently as The Brady Bunch. I've seen every episode of the Brady Bunch many times over; I can only recall a handful of Partridge episodes.

Still, whenever I hear the introduction to I Think I Love You (Baah, Baah Baah Baah...) my ears perk up and I find myself singing out loud "I'm sleeping, and right in the middle of a good dream..." I'm not a fan of 70's Bubblegum Pop, but there's something just so damn infectious about this song that I can't help myself. I love every note of it - from the opening Bahs to the harpsichord/synthesizer interlude. to the final "I think I love you" fade out. The Partridge Family had a few other hits but fortunately none effect me in to same way. As an excuse to hear the song, here's a clip from a first season episode of the show. The only cast members to actually perform on the songs were David Cassidy and his real life step-mom (and, as previously noted, MILF) Shirley Jones.

Mr Mike Fun Fact 1: The Partridge Family was based on The Cowsills, a real-life singing family from Newport Rhode Island who scored several top 10 hits in the mid-late 60's.

Mr. Mike Fun Fact 2: When The Partridge Family was in the development stage, The Cowsill children were approached to star in the show. The catch was that Shirley Jones had already been signed to play the mother, so real life mom Barbara Cowsill (nowhere near as hot as Shirley) would not be included. Family loyalty won out over potential TV stardom and the kids turned down the offer. So the legend goes...

Mr Mike Fun Fact 3: The Cowsills' first big hit was 1968's The Rain, the Park and Other Things. Fast forward a decade. I'm a high school sophomore. Sitting in front of me in Journalism Class is a cute hippie-chick named Mary. She was a senior and was way too cool for me to ever speak to beyond the perfunctory "hi". Still, for the past 30 years, whenever I hear this song I think of her (sigh). This is no surprise to my wife; I've lost track of the number of times I've told her the pathetic story of my decades-old infatuation. I think it's just so much background noise to her at this point. Anyway - here's a clip of The Cowsills performing The Rain, the Park and Other Things. Mary, if you're reading this, this one's for you...~

Post Script 1: I should point out that my wife actually has eclectic musical tastes (despite her preoccupation with the Grateful Dead) and is not as obsessed with the Partridge Family as I'm making her seem. Or is she? I seem to recall something about her trying to get a job as a nanny for David Cassidy's children when he had a summer home near here (long before we met, of course).

Post Script 2: I am now a decade older than Shirley was when she starred in The Partridge Family. I first noticed the hotness that was Shirley Jones when I was in my late 20's; I took it as a sign that I was growing up and maturing in my tastes. Now I just feel old.

"C'mon get happy..."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Day the Music Died - Fifty Years Later

Fifty years ago this morning, a three-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza crashed shortly after take-off near Clear Lake, Iowa; there were no survivors. Today I'd like to reprint a blog I wrote on the subject back in August:

If I Were a Famous Musician, I'd Stick With A Tour Bus

February 3, 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly (see photo at right). There have been celebrity air fatalities going all the way back to Icarus but it seems that musicians have especially bad luck when it comes to air travel. Off the top of my head I can name Glenn Miller, Patsy Cline, Otis Redding, Jim Croce, most of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rick Nelson, Kyu Sakamoto (Japanese singer famous for his 1963 hit Sukiyaki), John Denver, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Aaliyah.

This is an impressive list spanning a wide range of musical genres but "The Day The Music Died" as Don McLean so poetically put it, is the Trifecta of plane related musician deaths, claiming the lives of not one, but three famous performers. The crash has been immortalized in song (American Pie, Three Stars), film (The Buddy Holly Story and LaBamba) and on the stage (Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story appeared on both Broadway and the West End). The Big Bopper will get his due in the forthcoming film "The Day The Music Died" which according to the website ( is based on "the second hand memories" of his son and tells his "untold story". The movie is scheduled to open on February 3, 2009, but the website doesn't appear to have been updated in a while.

Whenever I fly, an evil, miniature Michael appears on my shoulder and starts whispering "LaBamba" in my ear. He usually shuts up after a few seconds (which is just long enough to remind me of my own mortality). I suppose it could be worse; he could sing Holly's "That'll Be The Day."

I'd like to close with a clip of Buddy Holly performing Peggy Sue (tragically there is not a lot of footage of Buddy performing live.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day

Will you see your shadow
From your little hill?
Will you see your shadow
Punxsutawney Phil?

Being married to a music teacher is a double-edged sword; on the one hand you have access to 1000's of obscure songs for every conceivable occasion. On the other, you sit through an awful lot of beginner concerts. Anyway, thanks to my Sweetie for the above little ditty.