I’m A Fan

I am a fan of recording devices, musical instruments, musicians, singers, songs, and new music. I became a fan of these things from the first time I saw or heard them. For example, my paternal grandfather was an attorney who practiced law from the 1930s until the 1970s. Early in his practice he used a wire recorder to record statements from clients and witnesses. Fortunately, for me, he left the recorder in the garage of our house. When I found it hidden under boxes of stuff, it was like finding gold. That was in 1968. I had just started playing the guitar. The recorder was a Webster Chicago Model 80. Here is a photo:


My grandfather’s wire recorder was my introduction to recording and I am still recording all these years later and still a fan.

The Americana Music Conference was here in Nashville recently and Jeni and I went to see Ry Cooder interviewed at the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum. http://countrymusichalloffame.org/newsandupdates/posts/interview-ry-cooder-with-barrymazor#.VCqeMmK9KSM

The thing that struck me was that he was still a fan, and still a fan of many of the musical genres he discovered early on in his career. Kudos to Barry Mazor for covering an amazing career in one hour. And we got to see some friends from out of town that were here for the conference. It’s always inspiring to see someone who has been doing something for a long time and who is still a fan of what they do.

In the nineties I lived in Baltimore and did a lot of producing and recording. Most of the work I did was on an eight track cassette recorder made by Tascam called the 238 Syncaset. Here’s a picture.


I still love to record on that machine because it’s analog and it’s cassette. International Cassette Store Day just happened on September 27 http://cassettestoreday.com and I recorded a new banjo tune called “Goldie’s Chase” on the 238 in honor of the celebration.

Goldie is a golden lab who lives up on Smith Ridge with MawMaw, Jeni’s Grandmother, and Mr. Kyle, and is the only dog I know that can give a weather forecast. She’s an outdoor dog who is usually found sleeping by the front door looking out onto the road. But if she is ever turned around facing into the house, you better get an umbrella out ’cause it’s gonna rain. I’m a big fan of Goldie who inspired that banjo tune and, though she’s older, she is still a fan of chasing things up on Smith Ridge.

Goldie’s Chase

Repetition and fandom go together. I remember I did a gig once with the Hula Monsters, a Hawaiian swing band from Maryland that I used to sub for occasionally. The gig was in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, at the Dogfish Head Pub. The drive from Baltimore was about three hours. I didn’t mind the drive because you got to go across the Bay Bridge and the Chesapeake, across the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I drove a Honda Civic, Little Red, and it had a cassette deck in the dash. This was sometime in the mid-nineties and I was listening to a lot of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. My sister, Jeanne, used to listen to their albums when I was a kid. I listened to “Don’t Worry Baby” on repeat the entire drive. It’s about a three minute song, the drive was three hours, so I must have heard the song around sixty times in a row. It was fantastic. I like to listen to music about place in the places from which it comes. I thought, since I was going to the beach, I would listen to the Beach Boys. I love Brian Wilson’s vocal, the words (it’s about a race car driver and his encouraging girlfriend), the gorgeous melody, the modulation up to the choruses and back down for the verses, the arrangement, and the sound of the recording – the latter is probably the most important thing for me. http://vimeo.com/61585748

This idea of writing about fandom and repetition started when I saw the Ry Cooder interview. One of my favorite guitar riffs that he recorded was on his “Get Rhythm” record. He does a version of “All Shook Up” and the intro features a solo guitar that just gives me chicken skin every time. Eight seconds in, he strikes a string and gets this fabulous harmonic overtone that is way distorted. http://youtu.be/q-e0XvZHYGA

Last weekend we went to Vintage King for a gear expo and saw John McBride give a demonstration on drum sounds he had recorded at his Blackbird Studio in Berry Hill, here in Nashville. http://blackbirdstudio.com He also was quite the fan. For the demonstration he had Steve Jordan on drums and Willie Weeks on bass. It was a real treat to see John McBride speak about the process of recording the drum sounds and to hear him mix the Jordan/Weeks rhythm section while adding various ambient treatments to the mix. It was hard not to get caught up in his passion and enthusiasm about microphones, musicians and sound.

One last note about repetition and fandom. When I was thirteen I saw the film Bonnie and Clyde at the Westway movie theater in West Baltimore. I went back and saw the film thirteen more times. I had a paper route serving the Baltimore Sun and, with the money I made from serving the newspapers, I was able to go see the film that many times. I think I went with my brother on the first showing, but on the subsequent visits, I was solo. I was struck by the sound of the banjo. To hear the Flatt and Scruggs soundtrack behind the moving images of the chase scenes was the greatest thing I’d ever heard or seen. And I just had to see and hear it again and again. Here are a couple of links: http://youtu.be/YNrSGutBOlE  and http://youtu.be/SxhUvgQajE4

I’m still a fan and I could listen to “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Get Rhythm,” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” another three hundred and sixty-four thousand times and still want to hear them again. Don’t worry baby, the mountain may be foggy, but when you break the rhythm down and listen closely, it’s easy to find your way back home. Keep on listening. I sure am!

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