Archive for November, 2007

Holiday Music Favorites

I’m really not sure why, but every year I still enjoy it when everyone starts playing the holiday music again. Not counting the traditional carols , there are hundreds of holiday songs – I have a fake book with 275. However, there are a relative few that seem to get the most attention year in and year out. So every year I start playing my arrangements of my favorites again. I never have written them down, so each year I need to remember and often reconstruct the arrangements. This actually works out well, as every year I seem to be able to add one or two enhancements to each.

Three of my consistent favorites are “The Christmas Song” (also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) with music written by Mel Torme, “Christmas Time is Here” with music written by Vince Guaraldi for the original “Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special from 1965, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie.

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November 30, 2007 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Teen Idols Addendum

This past weekend I arranged and recorded “Sealed with a Kiss”. Written by Gerry Geld and Peter Udell, it went to three on the charts in 1962 for Brian Hyland. Bryan Hyland was another of the teen idols. Born in 1943 in Queens, his first hit was the novelty number “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” which hit number one in 1960 – when Hyland was just seventeen.

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November 20, 2007 at 7:10 am 2 comments

Teen Idols and Plane Crashes

Trying to target young teen and preteen girls is not new for the music industry. In recent years this has been the goal of the boy bands like New Kids on the Block, Menudo, ‘NSync, and the Backstreet Boys. While there are certainly examples of bands from the 50’s and 60’s with this type of appeal (Herman’s Hermits comes to mind, and the Beatles certainly appealed to this demographic as well), there are more numerous examples of individuals who fit this mold. For the purposes of this discussion, we can think of a teen idol as someone specifically created and groomed by a record company to sell records to this particular market.

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November 16, 2007 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

50’s Instrumental Hits

The 1950’s saw the birth of Rock’n’Roll, evolving from Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and Country, while simultaneously influencing all those genres as well. It should be no surprise that there were a large number of instrumental hits from the 50’s that reflect all of those styles. This post will look at three of them: Sleepwalk, Honky Tonk, and Night Train.

Possibly the most familiar of all 50’s instrumentals, Sleepwalk was written and performed by Santo and Johnny (Santo and Johnny Farina were brothers born in Brooklyn). It was a number one hit in 1959. It features the melody performed on steel guitar. The singing, sliding sound is the result of the strings being stopped not by the fingers of the left hand but by a steel bar.

Sleepwalk is one of the most covered instrumentals of all time, with versions by Brian Setzer, The Shadows, The Ventures, Jake Shimabukuro, Larry Carlton, The Deftones, Chet Atkins, Danny Gatton, and Joe Satriani. Many of these are available on YouTube.

My version is quite traditional. I use the Bigsby vibrato bar to simulate some of the sliding, pitch bend effects of the original version.

Sleepwalk Stream Mp3

 

Honky Tonk was a hit for Bill Doggett in 1956. He also wrote it. The original version featured tenor sax and piano (Doggett was a pianist) but this did not prevent the song from becoming a staple for guitarists and guitar bands. It was covered by Duane Eddy, the Ventures, Lonnie Mack, and the Beach Boys.

According to the Wikipedia article, the song Night Train has a complex history. An R&B/Jazz standard, the first charted version of Night Train was Jimmy Forrest’s in 1952. Like Honky Tonk and Sleepwalk, it was covered by many artists, including a noteworthy version by James Brown and the Famous Flames in 1962.

Both Honky Tonk and Night Train are 12-bar blues forms typically performed with a shuffle feel, so I have combined the two in one arrangement I call Honky Tonk Night Train. What else would I call it?

Honky Tonk Night Train Stream Mp3

November 9, 2007 at 5:18 pm 1 comment


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