Archive for the ‘2000’ Category

An Evening With The Boss

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 12, 2009

Well, as I expected, I can cross “Born To Run” off my wish list of live performances. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band used the long-time classic to close the main portion of last night’s concert in St. Paul, with the house lights up and the audience of about 20,000 singing along.

I sang along, too, from our perch in the upper levels, tears in my eyes.

I’m not entirely sure when seeing The Boss in concert went on my wish list of things to do. But I think it happened during my late-1980s stay on the North Dakota prairie, when, for the first time, I began to dig into Springsteen’s music and legacy. So ever since then, I’ve been hoping for a time when means and opportunity would coincide. And they did so last evening.

Like some other acts I’ve seen – Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan come to mind – Springsteen has such a vast catalog of songs, accumulated over a recording career that’s not all that short of forty years, that one could go to one of Springsteen’s legendary three-hour shows and still assemble a top-notch concert from songs left out. And with such an absurdity of riches in his catalog, Springsteen must find it difficult to leave some beloved songs in the dressing room night after night.

There were a few whose absence surprised me last evening: “Thunder Road,” “Hungry Heart” and “Glory Days.” Missing the latter didn’t disappoint me, but the other two would’ve been nice. Still, Springsteen and his mates performed twenty-seven songs in a show that lasted nearly three hours, and there were plenty of songs nearly as treasured and just as fun. With two new faces in the line-up – Charlie Giordano now sits at the organ where the late Denny Federici held court for years, and eighteen-year-old Jay Weinberg played the first third of the show on drums before giving way to his father, Max – the show started, as has been customary on this tour, with “Badlands.”

From there, the concert was a tour through most of Springsteen’s catalog, with the scheduled songs ranging from “Born To Run” (1975) and “Promised Land” (1978) through three numbers – the epic “Outlaw Pete,” “Kingdom of Days” and the title track – from this year’s Working On A Dream. Perhaps the most moving part of the show was the trio of “Seeds” (released only in a 1985 performance on the 1986 live package), the fiery “Johnny 99” and the haunting “Ghost of Tom Joad.”

There was, of course, fun, too, and plenty of it. I think one of those having the most fun last evening was Springsteen himself, singing, testifying and moving along the lip of the stage and along the rail at the back of the stage. I got the sense, though, that one of the most fun things he did all night was to collect posters with song requests written on them. He spent about three minutes at one point in the show grabbing about fifteen of them. (He also collected a Wisconsin cheesehead and seemed to have no idea what to do with it.) Then he and the band did three of those requested songs: A rousing cover of the Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’,” which Springsteen said the group had never played, and old friends “Prove It All Night” and “The E Street Shuffle.”

And even as the band left the stage after “Born To Run” and then came back on stage for an encore set, there were surprises to come. The encore set began with the Stephen Foster tune, “Hard Times Come Again No More,” and moved on to “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Land of Hope and Dreams” (found in the 2000 performance released as Live In New York City), “American Land” and “Bobbie Jean.”

Then, as the crowd roared and the band seemed about to take its last bows, Springsteen saw a green sign in the crowd about twenty feet beyond the stage. He dashed to the lip of the stage and beckoned with his hand, asking the crowd to pass the sign forward. Once he had it in his hand, he showed the sign to the band and then to the camera for the big screens to the side of the stage. The crowd roared louder.

“C’mon, Steve!” Springsteen called, and standing side-by-side, he and guitarist Steve Van Zandt led the band into a kick-ass rendition of 1973’s “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).”

Then the lights came on for good, and we made our way up the steep stairs, the first steps on our way home. My hands hurt from clapping, and my voice was gone from cheering and singing. My ears were ringing.

And my eyes were still damp.

Here’s last night set list and a couple of treats:

Badlands
Radio Nowhere
Outlaw Pete
No Surrender
Out in the Street
Working on a Dream
Seeds
Johnny 99
Ghost of Tom Joad
Raise Your Hand (Eddie Floyd)
Good Lovin’ (Young Rascals)
Prove It All Night
E Street Shuffle
Waiting on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
I’m On Fire
Kingdom of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born To Run
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land
Bobbie Jean
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

“Seeds” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
From Live/1975-85 [1986]

“Land of Hope and Dreams” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
From Live In New York City [2000]

Edited slightly since original posting.

A Landmark In Peril

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 23, 2009

Twice during trips to visit the Texas Gal’s family in the Dallas area, she and I have driven into the heart of downtown Dallas, to a portion of the city whose good days are long gone. There, we’ve visited Park Avenue and the building at 508, where Robert Johnson recorded thirteen tracks over a two-day period in 1937. As well as taking pictures, I’ve stood on the front step, sharing the same space once occupied by both Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton.

The other week, the Texas Gal’s mom and sister sent me a clipping of a story from the Dallas Morning News, detailing the uncertain future of the building at 508 Park Avenue.

(It seems that the links to the images that ran with the story are no longer working. [Nor, for that matter, is the link to the story.] Here’s a photo of the front door of the building that I took on one of our two visits to Park Avenue.)

It would be nice to have the building saved, of course, both for its exterior architecture and for its place in music history. But I’m guessing that won’t happen. In the meantime, here are cover versions of some of the songs Robert Johnson recorded during his two days in Dallas in July of 1937.*

A Six-Pack of 508 Park Avenue
“Stop Breakin’ Down” by the Jeff Healey Band from Cover To Cover [1995]
“Malted Milk” by Eric Clapton from Unplugged [1992]
“Traveling Riverside Blues” by John Hammond from Country Blues [1964]
“Love In Vain” by the Rolling Stones from ‘Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!’ [1970]
“Stones In My Passway” by Chris Thomas King from Me, My Guitar and the Blues [1992]
“I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man” by Robert Lockwood, Jr. & Carey Bell from Hellhound on My Trail: Songs of Robert Johnson [2000]

*I was too pessimistic, it seems: According to this piece in the January 26, 2012, edition of the Dallas Observer, the building at 508 Park Avenue will be restored and become the site of the Museum of Street Culture. That will include a recording studio on the floor of the building where Robert Johnson and others played, and – according to the January 26, 2012 piece – a memorial of some sort in the corner of that floor where Johnson and other musicians actually sat or stood to record. Note added February 1, 2012

Delaney Bramlett: The Keystone

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 30, 2008

Picture a stone wall with an arch in it. The stones that make up wall are smaller – and less important – than those that are actually part of the arch; without the arch stones, the wall would not exist. And in the arch, there’s the stone at the top, the keystone, the piece that holds the arch together. Without the keystone, the other stones in the arch fall and the wall falls.

The man who was the keystone for a huge swath of American music in the 1960s and 1970s died over the weekend. Delaney Bramlett, 69, died Saturday (December 27) in Los Angeles following gall bladder surgery. His wife, Susan Lanier-Bramlett, said he’d had “seven hard months” of ill health, according to Reuters.

Why do I call Delaney Bramlett the keystone for any portion of American music, much less a large one? Well, start with the fact that Bramlett, along with his then-wife, Bonnie, formed in the late 1960s Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, an amalgamation of musicians that blended rock, soul, blues and gospel into a potent brew.

The 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Album Guide said of the group: “In its toughest, 1969 incarnation – an 11-piece revue – this was southern soul-rock of a scorching expertise. Honing her R&B chops as history’s only white Ikette, powerhouse vocalist Bonnie Bramlett and husband Delaney, an ace picker and country-tinged singer, had the talent and charisma to attract breath-taking sidemen: Leon Russell, Bobby Keys, Carl Radle, Rita Coolidge, Jim Keltner – and, at various times, Eric Clapton and Duane Allman.”

(I’d add to that list Bobby Whitlock and Jim Gordon.)

The records that Delaney & Bonnie – with or without their Friends – released in the late 1960s and early 1970s are vibrant, joyous, sometimes raucous celebrations of the music that Delaney Bramlett grew up listening to in Mississippi. From Home (released on Stax, with Booker T and the MG’s numbered among the Friends) and Accept No Substitute in 1969 through 1972’s D&B Together Delaney and Bonnie’s albums were dependably good and generally well-respected, though the albums were never top sellers. (The duo had one album hit the charts: 1970’s Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton, which went to No. 29.)

But it was beyond those records where Delaney Bramlett’s influence lies: It was he, according to the tales, who persuaded Eric Clapton that he could sing well enough to lead a group. Bramlett produced Clapton’s first, self-titled, solo album, released in 1970, with some of the Friends backing Clapton. I’ve read criticisms of the record that say that Clapton sometimes appears overwhelmed by the band. I don’t get that; I think that from the funk of the opening track, “Slunky,” to the extraordinary closer, “Let It Rain,” Eric Clapton is one of the great albums.

It was basically that same cast of musicians – recruited at short notice by Leon Russell – that provided the band for Joe Cocker on the tour documented on Mad Dogs & Englishmen, one of the great live albums. Many of those same players – with a few other Brits added – provided the backing later in 1970 for George Harrison and his sprawling solo album, All Things Must Pass. And the core of that group – Radle, Whitlock and Gordon – then became the Dominos to Clapton’s Derek for the recording of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, with Allman joining in.

The direct chain ends there. Bramlett released a series of solo albums in the 1970s and then again in the past eight years. From what I’ve read about the albums from the 1970s – I’ve heard only bits of them – there’s little to recommend them. But I’ve listened to two of the three recent albums, and they’re pretty good.

But for a listener – this listener – the chain of influences that Bramlett started with the Friends goes beyond the albums and musicians listed above. We all explore music in different ways. I wrote in one of the earlier posts on this blog about discovering in 1972 an anthology titled Clapton At His Best. The bulk of the two-record set was pulled from Eric Clapton and from Layla, and that music introduced me to the Friends of Delaney & Bonnie. From there, I connected the dots, finding Delaney & Bonnie, the Mad Dogs & Englishmen album, the Allman Brothers Band, the studio geniuses at Muscle Shoals and more, moving on and on along a path of music that continues to this day to entertain, comfort, awe and inspire me. And at the beginning of that path – at the apex of the arch, to get back to the original metaphor – one finds Delaney Bramlett.

And in that conclusion lies one of the fascinating things I’ve learned about myself through writing for nearly two years about the role of music in my life. Had someone asked me in early 2007 to name the most influential pop/rock musicians in my life, I would have answered with utter assurance: the Beatles and Bob Dylan. After all, it was through the Beatles that I discovered rock and pop, and listening to Dylan and his use of language over the years has influenced my writing, both my prose and my lyrics.

But I have to make room on the mountaintop, I think, for Delaney Bramlett. The news of his death – I read it first at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – has touched me more deeply than I would have expected. It’s not entirely surprising when any of the men and women who made the music of my youth pass on. They are entering that age when tasks are finished and learning, for this time around, is accomplished. But losing Delaney Bramlett has affected me as much as did losing George Harrison in 2001. At first, that startled me.

Thinking about it overnight, I’ve come to realize that Delaney Bramlett – through his direct and indirect connections – led me during his life to as much good music as has anyone else. That’s a gift for which I’m very grateful.

A Six-Pack of Delaney Bramlett
“Soul Shake” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from To Bonnie From Delaney, 1970

“Sing My Way Home” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from Motel Shot, 1971

“You Got To Believe” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from the Vanishing Point soundtrack, 1971

“Comin’ Home” by Delaney & Bonnie from D&B Together, 1972

“Brown Paper Bag” by Delaney Bramlett from Sounds From Home, 2000

“Mighty, Mighty Mississippi” by Delaney Bramlett from A New Kind of Blues, 2007

Some Voices Suggested By Readers

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 20, 2008

I thought that this morning, I’d head to YouTube and find some clips from a few of the many names readers suggested yesterday that might belong in the top ten list of the best singers of the rock era.

The first one I came across was one of my favorites, Maria McKee, in a 1990 live performance of “Show Me Heaven” – from the film Days of Thunder – on Top of the Pops. (The ending is a little truncated.)

Video deleted.

Then, here’s a powerful live performance of “Why” by Annie Lennox during the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Arista Records. The celebration took place April 10, 2000, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

Here’s an intriguing clip: Elvis Costello, accompanying himself on a ukulele, performing “The Scarlet Tide,” which he and T-Bone Burnett wrote for the soundtrack of Cold Mountain. The performance took place on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson but I’m not sure of the date. Maybe 2003?

Here’s Christina Aguilera covering Etta James’ “At Last” live in London in November 2003:

And we’ll close with Mavis Staples – with Dr. John on the piano – performing “I’ll Take You There” as the closer on a 1988 episode of Sunday Night.

An interesting mix, I think. Enjoy!

A Baker’s Dozen Of Isaac Hayes

July 27, 2011

Originally posted August 11, 2008

The over-riding image I have of Isaac Hayes is from the Academy Awards telecast in 1972, his shaved head and gold chains gleaming as he performed the “Theme from Shaft.” I’d never seen anything like it.

But then, neither had the rest of the world.

Hayes, who crossed over Sunday at his home in Memphis at the age of sixty-five, was one of those artists who pushes past boundaries. The most obvious boundary at the time was his winning an Oscar for Best Song for the “Theme from Shaft,” as Hayes was the first black composer to win the award.

But those who knew about Hayes before Shaft already knew that he pushed limits. His 1969 album, Hot Buttered Soul, had only four tracks on it. One of those tracks, a version of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” ran 18:42, with much of the track consisting of Hayes’ ruminations about the song’s meaning in a way that some critics have said anticipated rap. I don’t know if the comparison is valid, but I’ve seen it in more than one place over the years. I do think, however, that it’s valid to say that his work on Hot Buttered Soul, Shaft and his 1971 album, Black Moses, pointed the way to the funk of the later 1970s.

Hayes’ work as a recording artist was impressive on its own; a look at the discography available at All-Music Guide is testament to that. The list runs from 1967’s Presenting Isaac Hayes to Instrumental, a 2003 anthology of work from the early 1970s. His last album of all-new material was Branded, released in 1995 along with Raw & Refined, a collection of unreleased tracks from over the years.

But the more impressive list at All-Music Guide is the one headed “Songs Composed By.” From “(Holy Matrimony) Letter to the Firm,” recorded by Foxy Brown in 1996, through “Zeke the Freak,” which Hayes recorded during a stint at Polydor in the late 1970s, the list of tracks currently available on CD runs twenty-four pages.

Add Hayes’ albums to his extraordinary writing credits, and then throw in the work he did as studio musician and producer, and you have one remarkable career. Then consider that Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack forty miles north of Memphis, and you have a remarkable life as well.

Here’s a selection of tracks as a salute to that career and that life.

A Baker’s Dozen of Isaac Hayes
“Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise single 9038, 1971

“B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas, Stax single 195, 1966

“You Got Me Hummin’” by Cold Blood, San Francisco single 60, 1969

“Soulsville” by Isaac Hayes from the soundtrack to Shaft, 1971

“I’m A Big Girl Now” by Mable John, Stax single 225, 1967

“Hold On! I’m Comin’!” by B.B. King & Eric Clapton from Riding With the King, 2000

“You Don’t Know Like I Know” by Sam & Dave, Stax single 180, 1966

“Never Can Say Goodbye” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise single 9031, 1971

“I Thank You” by Bonnie Raitt from The Glow, 1979

“My Baby Specializes” by Delaney & Bonnie from Home, 1968

“Little Bluebird” by Little Milton from Waiting For Little Milton, 1973

“Do Your Thing” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise single 9042, 1971

“Lay Lady Lay” by Isaac Hayes from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

A few notes:
Most of these don’t need commentary, I would guess. All but two of them came from Hayes’ pen, with most of those being co-written with Dave Porter of Sam & Dave, his long-time writing partner at Stax.

The three selections from Shaft – the main theme, “Soulsville” and “Do Your Thing” – were Hayes’ solo compositions. The versions of the theme and “Do Your Thing” presented here are single edits; on the official soundtrack, the theme ran 4:39 and “Do Your Thing” ran an extraordinary 19:30.

The two songs here that didn’t come from Hayes’ pen are “Never Can Say Goodbye” and, of course, “Lay Lady Lay.” The former is a single edit of a track from Hayes’ 1971 album Black Moses. “Lay Lady Lay” comes from a Bob Dylan tribute album issued by House of Blues in 1999 that’s had its title changed several times. When I bought it, it was called Tangled Up In Blues.

Edited slightly on archival posting July 27, 2011.

‘In The Shadow Of The Evening Trees . . .’

July 18, 2011

Originally posted July 1, 2008

Despite the string of albums he’s released over the years, despite the folk-rock phase, the countryish phase and the Christian music phase, despite even “Abraham, Martin and John,” which went to No. 4 in 1968 – despite all that, Dion to me has always been an inhabitant of a mythical 1960. He’s on the corner and under the streetlight, standing hipshot and snapping his fingers, singing doo-wop to the night: “Teenager In Love.” “Where or When.” “The Wanderer.” “Ruby Baby.”

Not all of those, and maybe no more than half of Dion’s hits, were doo-wop, of course. His solo hits – “The Wanderer” and “Ruby Baby” among them – inhabited some odd place between pop and R&B and most were tougher than most anything else that showed up in the Top 40 during the first years of the 1960s. His softer songs, like “Ruby Baby,” were served atop a plate of stoicism, which made their tenderness all the more persuasive. But all of his hits, even those that were not doo-wop, carry in them an echo of neighborhood nights and street corner harmonies.

It’s sometimes hard, then, to reconcile that mythical figure with the performer who has never stopped working, never stopped singing, never stopped recording and releasing albums. Some of those albums stood out: His 1968 album, Dion, which included “Abraham, Martin and John,” was, if not a masterpiece, at least a fascinating and sometimes very good exploration of folk rock. Suite for Late Summer, which came out in 1972, has Dion in singer-songwriter mode, and that album, too, is interesting if not a classic. In 1978, Dion released Return of the Wanderer, maybe the best thing he’d ever done, highlighted by the great song, “I Used To Be A Brooklyn Dodger.” And though critics disagreed, I thought 1989’s Yo Frankie was pretty good.

The releases continued. In the past few years, Dion’s found his way to blues, releasing Bronx in Blue in 2005 and Son of Skip James in 2007, two credible CDs of blues with a few originals added to material pulled from the catalogs of Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams and more. As All-Music Guide notes, very few people heard those two albums, as has been pretty much true for Dion since 1968, whether the albums were those I’ve mentioned here or any of the roughly fifteen other albums he’s released since then.

That includes the album from which today’s track comes, one that I skipped over in this brief chronology: Déjà Nu, which came out in 2000. Among the batch of songs Dion wrote for the record nestle three covers, one of them a song by Scott Kempner, with whom Dion collaborated on a couple of other songs on the album. The other two covers were pulled from Bruce Springsteen’s 1992 album, Lucky Town: “Book of Dreams” and “If I Should Fall Behind.”

The second of those is the more interesting, as Dion takes the song and pulls it back to that mythical 1960, standing under the streetlight with his pals. As AMG notes, the song “seems like it was written with this arrangement in mind.”

Others have covered the song, including Cindy Bullens, Flying Mule, Linda Ronstadt, Robin & Linda Williams, Rootbound and country star Faith Hill. I don’t know many of those versions, but it’s doubtful that any of them get to the heart of the song the way Dion does. (As the song – like the Lucky Town album from which it comes – is among the less prominent items in the Springsteen catalog, I’m posting his original version here, too).

Bruce Springsteen – “If I Should Fall Behind” [1992]

Dion – “If I Should Fall Behind” [2000]

A Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal

May 17, 2011

Originally posted October 26, 2007

Sometimes the Texas Gal and I look at each other and marvel that we ever met, that our lives took the turns they did to bring us together, first in a small corner of the Internet and then – in a leap that took courage and faith for both of us – in a small corner of Minnesota.

Other times, we smile and acknowledge that, well, where else could we have ended up? As I’ve written before, we find the places and the people we are meant to find, no matter how crooked our paths might have been. And she and I are where we belong.

We’re not young, but there were reasons – ones we’ll never know – that our meeting was delayed until midlife. We find solace in knowing that the lives we led before we met are what made us each who we are. Those lives – we hope – have provided us with some level of wisdom that has guided us during the seven years we’ve known each other and will continue to guide us.

If this sounds solemn, it is. This afternoon, we’re going to go down to the courthouse, where we’ll formalize the marriage that took place long ago in our hearts. It’s something we’ve been planning to do for a while, and it’s time.

So here are some of the songs that have been important to us during the past seven years (with one ringer that I threw in). This is a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal, who from today on will be my wife.

“Loving Arms” by Darden Smith from Little Victories, 1993

“Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer from Sixpence None the Richer, 1998

“Rest of My Days” by Indigenous from Circle, 2000

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, Capitol single 5614, 1988

“I Knew I Loved You” by Savage Garden from Affirmation, 1999

“If I Should Fall Behind” by Bruce Springsteen from Lucky Town, 1992

“Precious and Few” by Climax, Carousel single 30055, 1971

“Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden from Savage Garden, 1997

“This Kiss” by Faith Hill from Faith, 1998

“Levee Song” by Darden Smith from Little Victories, 1993

“Two of Us” by the Beatles from Let It Be…Naked (recorded 1969)

“Wedding Song” by Tracy Chapman from Telling Stories, 2000

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison from Moondance, 1970

Every Sunday Evening: ‘Bonanza’

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 12, 2007

I didn’t watch a lot of television when I was a kid. I was – once I got to the age of six – more interested in reading or in creating my own adventures, quite often with Rick, in the playhouse of my imagination.

I did watch some, though. I do recall watching Ruff & Reddy, the first animated series developed by the team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the creators later on of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and countless other cartoon characters. I also recall watching Huckleberry Hound from the time of his first episode in 1958. The show aired weekly at 6:30 p.m. on, I think, KMSP, which would have been the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities at the time.

Early Saturday morning was television time, too, with much of the fare being classic Warner Bros. cartoons that had originally been shown in movie theaters. Other shows I recall were Annie Oakley, a western; Sky King, a series about a rancher with his own plane, Songbird, and his perky niece, Penny; The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, another western; and a show with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing songs and riding down bad guys on their horses Trigger and Buttermilk.

Then there was Andy’s Gang, a kids’ show featuring Andy Devine, a large man with a raspy voice who’d played Jingles, the sidekick on the Wild Bill Hickok show. Andy introduced cartoons for kids, and between cartoons, dealt with interruptions from a cast that included Midnight the Cat and Tige the Dog. The most frequent interruptions, though, came from Froggy the Gremlin, a rubber character with a foghorn voice who was always up to mischief. When Andy got flustered enough with Froggy, he’d send him away in a cloud of smoke by saying, “Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!”

One of the toys my sister and I discovered a few years ago when we helped Mom clean out the house where we grew up was a rubber Froggy the Gremlin, battered but still mostly whole. I remember playing with it, but it must have been my sister’s originally, from the time when Ed McConnell hosted the show featuring Froggy. Devine became the host in 1955 after McConnell’s death.

But for most of my childhood, the one time all four of us watched television together was Sunday evening, often with a large bowl of popcorn (actually popped in a frying pan as microwaves were only a dream and Jiffy Pop, per serving, was more expensive than buying a bag of popcorn and a bottle of oil). We’d gather in the living room at 6 on Sundays for the Walt Disney show, which went through numerous name changes over the years. The content was the same, though: nature documentaries, animated features, programming about Disneyland – the site of today’s Disney complex in Florida was still empty acreage at the time – and serialized movies.

(In 1961, which was about the time our Sunday family viewing nights started, Disney moved his show to NBC because of that network’s ability to broadcast in color. That made no difference to us. We watched on the mid-1950s Zenith until 1968, when one of my dad’s friends got a color television and gave us his old black and white set, which was still newer than our Zenith was. I’m not sure when the folks got a color television, but I know it was after I moved out in 1976.)

Anyway, we’d watch the Disney show together, and then there was an hour that NBC filled with various situation comedies, none of which ever seemed to last very long. I recall Hazel, starring the great actress Shirley Booth in what had to be one of the low points of her career. There was Car 54, Where Are You? about two bumbling New York City cops played by Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne, the latter of whom would go on to play Herman Munster in The Munsters. There was also Grindl, a comedy that starred 1950s television genius Imogene Coca. But the comedies between 7 and 8 were for the most part something to get through.

That’s because 8 o’clock meant Bonanza, starting with the map of the Ponderosa bursting into flame and burning away to reveal the four Cartwrights riding their horses into the opening credits. Bonanza was our favorite show, as was the case for many American families in those years. How many? Well, the show was the top-ranked show in television from 1964 through 1967 and was in the Top Ten for many more years during its run from 1959 into 1973.

These days, watching Bonanza on TV Land or other cable channels, the stories are hokey, the scripts stilted and the production values are primitive. But forty years ago, it was good television. And the guitar twang that marked the beginning of the show’s theme song was the signal that heralded another hour of adventure for the Cartwrights and, vicariously, for us.

That’s why I’m starting today’s Baker’s Dozen of random television themes with the theme from Bonanza.

“Bonanza” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, 1959

“Perry Mason” by Fred Steiner, 1957

“Branded” by Dominic Frontiere, 1965

“Winds of War” by Robert Cobert, 1983

“Ancient Voices” (Survivor) by Russ Landau, 2000

“Mission Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin, 1966

“The Contender” by Hans Zimmer, 2005

“Dallas” by Jerrold Immel, 1978

“Mannix” by Lalo Schifrin, 1967

“Streets of San Francisco” by Patrick Williams, 1972

“The Flintstones” by Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna & Joseph Barbera, 1960

“Hill Street Blues” by Mike Post, 1981

“The West Wing” by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, 2000

I think these are all original themes with the exception of “The Winds Of War,” which is a recording by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. I’ve never seen the score to The Winds Of War on LP or CD, and it’s too lovely a piece of music to pass up.