With the announcement of country singer George Jones’ death Friday morning, the next several days are sure to be filled with tributes and stories of the country great. Yes, he’s cheated death on more than one occasion and yes he used to ride his lawn mower to get booze after one of his wives hid the car keys.
But the greatest tribute to Jones is undoubtedly the music he left behind. You’ll find no shortage of videos or albums online of Jones singing his songs, but the best lasting impression of his talent comes in the tributes of other artists.
Jones’ death reminded me of a record released just a few months ago — while Jones was still alive — by a country artist that died nearly 39 years ago. Don Rich was the best friend of country music legend Buck Owens and the leader of his band, The Buckaroos.
Rich was destined for stardom thanks to his talent and the connection to his pal, Owens. During a recording session at Owens’ home in 1970, Rich recorded an album’s-worth of George Jones classic tracks. Think about that. By 1970, Jones had already created a catalog of hits worthy of a cover album.
Rich died in a motorcycle crash in 1974 and this record sat in Owens’ vault until its release in January. Don Rich sings George Jones is a straightforward tribute to Jones’ music by Rich. Rich doesn’t alter Jones’ melody but his big, sort of “okie-doke” country voice adds a fantastic flavor to songs like “The Race is on,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” “A Girl I used to Know,” and “Your Heart Turned Left.” The album also contains four Jones’ cover songs by Owens from the same session.
Rich’s voice is such a contrast to the raw emotion of Jones’. In the coming days, there will be a lot of tributes to Jones’ music. The fact that this one was recorded nearly 40 years before the stars’ death says a lot about Jones’ legacy.
Whether you’re a fan of professional wrestling or just a fan of awesome Pittsburgh icons, you’ll want to tune in at 10 p.m. tonight to the USA Network (Comcast channel 823) to watch Bruno Sammartino’s induction into the WWE’s Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was actually held this past Saturday in front of a sell-out crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Tonight’s broadcast features highlights from that event along with Sammartino’s full induction.
Sammartino, who held the company’s championship longer than any other pro, has fought induction into the hall for years after falling out with the organization’s head, Vince McMahon over the adult-oriented, “vulgar” storylines and harsh language the company began using in the late-1990s, also known as the “Attitude Era.”
For years, Sammartino had rebuffed the WWE’s overtures to join the Hall Fame until he met a few months ago with McMahon’s son-in-law, a performer and company executive known as Triple H. He convinced Sammartino that the company had changed creatively and urged him to join the hall of fame.
Now, local fans shouldn’t get too excited and start planning pilgrimages to the WWE’s hall to visit Bruno’s tights and boots, because it only exists on paper, er, in cyberspace.
But if you actually want to visit a wrestling hall of fame, one does actually exist in the physical world. The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame is located in Amsterdam, NY. And Sammartino was inducted into that hall, which comes complete with a museum you can actually visit, in 2002. If you make the drive check out Sammartino’s pal and fellow Pittsburgher Dominic Denucci, who was inducted last year.
Fashion-sense isn't a strong suit here at City Paper, but if there is anything this correspondent knows — it's a good t-shirt.
Enter Adayak — a company that makes eco-friendly clothes from organic fabrics or recycled polyester and often donates parts of their proceeds to conservancy groups.
Their latest effort is Buy a Tee, Plant A Tree, which benefits The Nature Conservatory goal of planting 1 billion trees by 2015. This particular restoration effort is targeted for Brazil's Atlantic Forest region. For every t-shirt or sweatshirt sold on Adayak, the company will donate $1 to the effort.
So if you like to do stuff outdoors, or just like to be comfy, check out their selection of shirts and sweatshirts. It's one of those purchases you can feel good about.
In light of today's announcement that the Heinz company has been sold, I offer this book for your evening pleasure: "The Good Provider: H.J. Heinz and his 57 Varieties", a biography of the iconic Pittsburgh man, written by Robert C. Alberts.
It's a well-written, well-researched piece by Alberts, who was living in Pittsburgh at the time of his death in 1996.
And it's a good read for anyone interested not just in the man Heinz himself, but also for those dreaming of running their own companies some day and anyone interested in the local food industry. Alberts, with access to Heinz' diaries, tells a detailed tale of the work and will behind the successful entrepreneur — who started out poor and went bankrupt after his first try at starting a company.
Alberts also paints a vivid picture of Pittsburgh's early and developing food industry. Describing a typical grocery store in the late 1870s, he writes that the store:
Last year while searching Youtube for a video of the great Clyde McPhatter singing his classic "Lover Please" (although I’m not sure why), I came across a cover version of the song performed by David Macmichael, the lead singer of a Canadian Indie pop-rock group called The Danger Bees.
Macmichael did a nice rendition of the classic, so I started looking for more info on the Toronto-based band. They had just released a new album— Wyatt — I gave it a listen and really dug the record from beginning to end. Here’s the official video from the album’s first single, “Good Year.”
Macmichael also writes a majority of the lyrics and is pretty deft at turning a phrase. On my favorite cut off the album "Heartless Jane," for example: “I'm not a leader unless I'm dragging people down, which is what I do when I decide that I do not want you around.”
Wyatt is a fun record full of well-written lyrics and catchy melodies. Don’t fall too in love though. While the popularity of the Danger Bees is climbing up in the provinces, I haven’t noticed any U.S. dates. But hey, Toronto’s not that far away, right?
I’ve spent years trying to figure out what I like so much about listening to Dale Watson’s brand of traditional country music. I think I’ve finally figured it out with his new — and 20th — record, El Rancho Azul, which was released last week on Red House Records.
His songs are a great slice of traditional, time-honored country music with just the right mix of “go fuck yourself” mixed right in. A recent ode to “new country” star Blake Shelton (who referred to traditional country music performers and fans as “old farts and jackasses”) illustrates the point perfectly.
El Rancho Azul is the first of two new albums expected from Watson in the coming months. Later in February the Dalevis: Sun Sessions 2 will be released or if you can’t wait you can download it now at his website.
El Rancho, recorded with Watson’s longtime band The Lonestars, is a pure Honky Tonk record, maybe one of the best that Watson has done. Made of primarily drinking songs — four cuts actually have the word drink in the title — the album is a nice mix of songs that even includes two tunes suitable for play at your country wedding. And although he’s been performing the tune live for years, El Rancho is the first time that Watson recorded the song “Where Do You Want It?” which chronicles the night that country music legend Billy Joe Shaver allegedly shot a man outside a bar near Waco, Texas.
These songs are meant to be listened to, memorized and sung loudly with a shot and a beer close at hand.
Believe it or not, there is a Beer Institute, and just under the wire for the weekend, it's issued this press release: "The Beer Institute Celebrates the 78th Birthday of the Beer Can."
The statement notes:
“'Innovation and ingenuity are the bedrock of American brewing and beer importing. Cans were found to be easy to stack, extremely durable and took less time to chill,' said Beer Institute President Joe McClain."
“'There are numerous reasons to celebrate canned beer,' said Robert Budway, President of the Can Manufacturers Institute. "
Perfect ruminating for a snowed-in kind of evening.
Somewhere between “art graffiti” and mindless tagging, there’s a certain class of graffiti that causes you to goggle, chuckle or ponder. It may be a piece of text with inscrutable meaning. An egregious misspelling. A clumsily worded threat or boast. A badly drawn cobra.
Detroit artist Scott Hocking has an eye for such pieces of the urban landscape and has photographed them in his travels around town. Now, the photos are compiled for your amusement in Bad Graffiti (Black Dog Publishing).
In the short introduction, Hocking writes of his fascination with such graffiti: “Deciding your tag name is going to be ‘Salad,’ and writing it in cursive is mystifyingly bad.”
The book features more than 150 photos, with no commentary. Goggle, chuckle and ponder.
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