Archive for September, 2007

Cool Cats Medley

This entry is about the background of one of my arrangements, which I call “Cool Cats Medley”. I encourage you to listen to it before reading futher – to see if you can identify the “cool cat” behind each part of the medley:

Cool Cats Medley Stream Mp3

I think this medley is lots of fun for those who can remember the originals. They are all excellent, classic and memorable themes.


September 28, 2007 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

Foreign Language Hits

The popular music charts over the years have been very much dominated by vocal music. There is something that about the human voice that is arguably superior to any musical instrument. The addition of lyrics adds further to the listening experience. Lyrics allow the sharing of common experiences and emotions, and in the hands of a master lyricist blend seamlessly with the music into what can be a significant aesthetic event for the listener.

Much of my interest in instrumental music that was sufficiently popular to chart is rooted in the overwhemingly greater overall popularity of vocal material. What it is about these instrumental hits that allowed them to achieve popularity in spite of the handicap of being instrumental?


September 23, 2007 at 10:42 am 1 comment

Surf Rock/Guitar Instrumentals 2 – Hank Marvin and the Shadows

If you lived in Europe in the 1960’s, then the chances are you are far more familiar with Hank Marvin and the Shadows than with the Ventures. With the same instrumentation (Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass and Drums) Hank Marvin and the Shadows sold millions of records as an instrumental quartet in the UK and Europe.


September 21, 2007 at 1:27 pm 10 comments

Top-40 Jazz

While widely respected as a genre, Jazz has seen relatively few of its artists cross over into the mainstream without their also having largely abandoned the genre. Both Nat King Cole and George Benson – to note two examples – achieved major success as popular artists, but the material with which they did so was popular, not jazz. This is not to be critical of their decisions to seek more popularity or the musical results – their popular music is first rate. George Benson, of course, also remains active as a jazz artist as well.

Occasionally, however, a “real” jazz song recorded by a “real” jazz artist will crack the top-40. This happened a few times in the first half of the the 1960’s.


September 15, 2007 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Surf Rock/Guitar Instrumentals Part 1 – The Ventures

For most Americans, surf-rock guitar instrumental music is most associated with the Ventures. Along with Hank Marvin and the Shadows in England, they pretty much set the standard in this genre. By the way, Swedish surf-rock fans, I have not forgotten about the Spotnicks, who I will also cover in a future post. The Ventures certainly owe a great deal to Dick Dale, who probably deserves credit for introducing surf rock, and other instrumental guitar pioneers like Link Wray, whose release Rumble was one of the first instrumental guitar hits, and Duane Eddy.


September 14, 2007 at 1:50 pm 2 comments

British Invasion Songwriting

The “British Invasion”, which began in 1963 and which was led and dominated by the Beatles, coincided with my musical awakening at the age of eleven. While I had certainly listened to lots of music before that time (my father had been a successful pianist and teacher), the arrival of the Beatles and other bands like the Dave Clark Five, the Searchers, Hermans Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, etc., was an enormous event in my life. It is why I took up the guitar. The hits came fast and furious back then, with new singles and albums released at a dizzying pace. While much of what we listened to fell well short of the pinnacle of Western music, there were some remarkably well-written songs mixed in.


September 10, 2007 at 3:46 pm 2 comments

Ghost Riders in the Sky

The current musical project on which I am embarked has given me the opportunity to learn so much about some of the less-well-known popular music of the 1950’s and 60’s — especially the guitar-based instrumentals. I think both the music and insights to be worth sharing.

One of the side benefits of doing these arrangements has been what I’ve learned about the artists and music along the way. When I heard this song recently, it was an obvious candidate for one of my arrangements. It had been covered by the Ventures, The Shadows, the Spotnicks, and Duane Eddy. I subsequently learned that it was written in 1948 by a country artist named Stan Jones and covered by innumerable vocal and instrumental artists. There’s an incredible set of these versions at


September 9, 2007 at 10:23 pm 8 comments

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September 2007