Posts Tagged ‘Cate Brothers’

A Long Overdue Thank You

February 15, 2012

Originally posted February 27, 2009

I don’t really remember much about the day I graduated from St. Cloud State, thirty-three years ago tomorrow. There are pictures in boxes somewhere, showing me in my cap and gown, some taken with my folks and some taken with my girlfriend of the time, but I don’t recall walking across the stage to get my diploma.

I know we went to lunch at a restaurant called The Griffin Room in the Germain Hotel. The building still stands, but it’s condos or apartments now, and the restaurant closed long ago. Beyond that, the day is a blank spot. I imagine I was just relieved to be done with college and done with my internship at a Twin Cities television station. I was ready to get started on my career in television sports.

And a funny thing happened on the way to that career. I never got there. Oh, I tried: I sat at the table in the basement rec room three or four evenings a week, typing letters to television stations in smaller markets in the Upper Midwest, expressing my interest in working for them, should they have any openings in their sports or news departments. (This was, of course, in the days before computers, when every letter had to be typed individually; the letters also had to be error-free and without many erasures and corrections, in order to make the best impression. It was slow work.)

I got a few courteous letters back from news and sports directors. But there was a little something called a recession going on: In the late winter and spring that year, the economy was stalled and advertising revenues at television stations were flat. So hiring an inexperienced kid right out of college wasn’t an attractive way for a news or sports director to use his resources. I did get four interviews that spring: I drove to television stations in Fargo, Duluth, Rochester and the Twin Cities suburbs. I got no offers, but in Fargo, Rochester and Duluth, the news directors told me that I needed to go back to school and learn how to operate a sixteen-millimeter camera.

These were the days before portable video cameras were widespread; the technology was becoming available, and in a few years, it would become affordable for even stations in small markets. But for the time being, stations used film, and in those small markets, reporters were expected to shoot their own film. I’d focused so much on my writing during college that I’d missed that.

The last of the four interviews was at the Twin Cities station that at the time was an ABC affiliate. I drove into the Minneapolis suburb of Edina very early one day. The sports director was a fellow named George McKenzie (it could have been “Mackenzie,” but I don’t think so). He interviewed me briefly and then handed me a pile of wire stories. He told me to sit down at the typewriter and put together a five-minute sportscast and then go down the hall to the studio, where the cameraman and director were waiting to tape me. I did all that, and then sat in a small room with a cup of coffee, waiting.

George McKenzie came in and sat. “You,” he said, “are a terrific writer, and you have a good memory. You hardly ever looked at your script. Your eyes were on the camera, and that’s good.” He paused, looked at the table and nodded, and then he looked at me. Then he changed my life.

“This is going to be hard for you to hear,” he said “but you’re not going to make it in television. Some people have the ability to come through the camera and be alive on the screen, and some people don’t. You are one of those who don’t. I’d suggest you focus on your writing. You’ll do fine with that. You have a bright future, but I’m afraid it’s not going to be in television.”

I went back to St. Cloud, sad and uncertain. I took a few graduate courses and a year later – after some thinking and some scuffling – I began taking the courses that would add a minor in print journalism to my degree. In time, I realized that George McKenzie had been right. I may have been too stunned at the moment to thank him. I do so now.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, February 28, 1976)
“Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees, RSO 519 (No. 18)
“Love Is The Drug” by Roxy Music, Atco 7042 (No. 35)
“In France They Kiss On Main Street” by Joni Mitchell, Asylum 45298 (No. 66)
“Union Man” by the Cate Brothers, Asylum 45294 (No. 74)
“New Orleans” by the Staple Singers, Curtom 0113 (No. 88)
“Train Called Freedom” by the South Shore Commission, Wand 11294 (No. 98)

I was surprised to learn that I’d not posted “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love),” as it’s one of my favorite singles from the winter of 1975-76. In the years just before, the Bee Gees had re-emerged: With “Fanny” and the rest of the Main Course album, they were heading toward the falsetto plus disco sound that they used to rule a good portion of the world in 1977-78 with “Stayin’ Alive” and the other tunes from Saturday Night Fever. That said, “Fanny” – which peaked at No. 12 – is nowhere near disco; it’s just a sweet slice of pop that still brings a smile to my face.

I do not recall the Roxy Music single from the time. If I’d ever heard it, I think I would have shaken my head and passed the dish on down the table. It wasn’t until sometime in the 1980s, when I picked up Avalon more or less by accident, that I gave Roxy Music more than a glance. I still find the band’s music cold and fussy, but in small doses, it can be compelling. And “Love Is The Drug” is, come to think of it, the perfect song for the seeming lack of emotional commitment that the band brought to its music. It peaked at No. 30 and was the band’s only Top 40 hit.

“In France They Kiss On Main Street” is – if there is such a thing – a typical Joni Mitchell 1970s single: Light and airy, with a delicate melody and sometimes cryptic lyrics that meander a little bit before getting to the point. That might sound like I don’t care for it, but that’s not the case. I like both the single and the album it came from, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. But, as is the case with a lot of music, I like Mitchell’s stuff mixed in with other tunes rather than heard as an entire album on its own. The single spent four weeks in the Hot 100, three of them at No. 66, before falling out of the chart. Best word combination: “Rock ’n’ roll choirboys.”

I’ve posted a couple of albums by the Cate Brothers here, and I’ve posted “Union Man” separately, too, but that was almost two years ago, which is something like a couple thousand blogyears. The music business is littered with the hopes of those performers and groups that should have made it big; the Cate Brothers are pretty high on my list of shouldas. “Union Man” got up to No. 24 but was the brothers’ only Top 40 hit. They kept on playing, though, touring the American South through the 1980s, and in the 1990s, they released a couple of CDs, followed by 2004’s Play by the Rules, which the folks at All-Music Guide like pretty well.

The Staple Singers’ “New Orleans” is a nice piece of funky R&B that got only as high as No. 70. Its failure to do better is another one of those mysteries in life, because it surely deserved more attention. The single comes from Let’s Do It Again, a movie soundtrack written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. It’s an album that’s well worth finding, as is the case with most anything done by the Staples.

All I really know about the South Shore Commission is what I’ve found at AMG. The group’s self-titled 1976 album and the single edit of “Train Called Freedom” were produced by Philadelphia’s Bunny Sigler, and the group’s sound fits in well with what’s come to be called the Philly Sound. “Train Called Freedom” is a pretty good track, but its lyrics beg for comparison with the O’Jays’ 1972 hit, “Love Train,” a competition that the earlier single, unsurprisingly, wins. That said, the South Shore Commission record is still fun. It peaked at No. 86.

Combing Through The Autumn Of 1976

June 20, 2011

Originally posted March 26, 2008

It was, evidently, the autumn of 1976 when Asylum Records released In One Eye And Out The Other, the second album by the Cate Brothers, a pair of Arkansas-bred siblings whose music is a stew of southern music: soul, country and a little bit of blues. I’ve seen the duo’s music described as “blue-eyed soul,” but that doesn’t seem to work. I guess, as their fellow Arkansawn (what do you call someone who lives in the Diamond State, anyway?) Levon Helm noted, when you mix all those influences together, you get rock ’n’ roll.

I’m basing the autumn release date on the list of Asylum releases at BSN Publications, a handy site that provides detailed histories and discographies for an extraordinary number of record labels. The Cate Brothers’ record falls numerically between Jackson Browne’s The Pretender and Hoodoo, an unissued John Fogerty album. Moving a step further in each direction, we find that trio of records bracketed by Tom Waits’ Small Change and Harry Chapin’s On The Road To Kingdom Come. There are no release dates listed, but we still have a little more data to work with.

The discography notes that the Waits album peaked at No. 89 on the album charts in November of 1976. The Pretender peaked at No. 5 in that same month. The Cate Brothers’ album reached No. 182 in October 1976, and the Chapin record went to No. 87 in October of 1976. Sort through all of that, and it doesn’t take a huge leap to figure out that the Cate Brothers’ album was released – and sank out of sight rather quickly – in the autumn.

What were people listening to in that autumn? Let’s look at the first week of October.

The Billboard Top 15 singles were:

“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry (in its third week at No. 1)
“I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” by England Dan & John Ford Coley
“A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band
“Disco Duck” by Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots
“Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs
“Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard
“Summer” by War
“If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago
“(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” by K.C and the Sunshine Band
“Still The One” by Orleans
“Say You Love Me” by Fleetwood Mac
“A Little Bit More/A Couple More Years” by Dr. Hook
“Getaway” by Earth, Wind and Fire
“She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates
“With Your Love” by Jefferson Starship

Boy, that’s not a very good list. The singles by Boz Scaggs, War, EWF and Hall & Oates are good (I know some folks find Hall & Oates and/or “She’s Gone” intolerable, but it’s a time-and-place song for me), and some of the rest are just okay. I think “Say You Love Me” is one of the Mac’s worst singles, the Starship single – and most of the Starship catalog – is dreck, and I never got the appeal of Cliff Richard. And there’s other stuff on there that’s just mystifying to this day. Given the taste of the public in the late months of 1976, the Cate boys never had a chance. Of course, I doubt if Asylum ever released a single from In One Eye And Out The Other anyway.

But the album was out there, and, as I noted above, it peaked at No. 182 sometime in October. Let’s see what was at the top end of the album chart in the first week of the month:

Frampton Comes Alive! By Peter Frampton
Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs
Hasten Down The Wind by Linda Ronstadt
Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac
Wild Cherry by Wild Cherry
Greatest Hits by War
Spirit by John Denver
Spitfire by Jefferson Starship
Fly Like An Eagle by the Steve Miller Band
Chicago X by Chicago

For what it matters, the Frampton album spent ten weeks at No. 1 and fifty-six weeks in the Top 40. If you had to choose one single sound to sum up the Bicentennial year of 1976, it might be Peter Frampton talking through his guitar and vocoder.

That’s not a bad list of albums. I have a few qualms: I don’t have any affinity for Wild Cherry, and John Denver had lost me long before Spirit. I assessed the Starship above (I do like the 1975 album Red Octopus). The Chicago album was pleasant if not the revolutionary music the group had promised us back in 1970. (Go read the notes to Chicago, the silver album, to see what I mean.)

I could moan about the injustice of the music business, but it would be pretty silly to do so. It’s an unfair business in an unfair world, and when someone’s rather good record didn’t sell, it’s just the way things went. Besides, I wasn’t listening to the Cate Brothers back then, either. I think if I’d heard them, I might have bought the album. It’s music I would have liked.

But I didn’t hear the Cates until sometime in the mid-1990s, when I began to read record guides closely and look at credits on the album sleeves and backs. The credits on In One Eye And Out The Other are pretty impressive.

Steve Cropper produced the album and added his guitar to six of the record’s ten tracks. Cropper’s fellow MG, Duck Dunn, plays bass on five tracks. David Foster – now one of the most successful producers in the business – plays several different keyboards on six tracks. And two of my favorite horn players show up: Jim Horn plays on “Can’t Stop” and he and Bobby Keys both play on “Travelin’ Man.”

Highlights? I like the first track, “Start All Over Again,” the funky title track, the sorrowful “Music Making Machine” and the record’s closer, “Where Can We Go,” on which Foster shines on organ. There’s really not a bad song on the record, although the synth string effects on a couple of songs sometimes soften things a little too much.

In One Eye And Out The Other isn’t a lost classic. It’s a good album that serves as one more reminder that there’s always a lot of good music out in the non-radio world that we might hear only if we dig a little.

Tracks:
Start All Over Again
In One Eye And Out The Other
Can’t Stop
Stuck In Chicago
Travelin’ Man
Give It All To You
Music Making Machine
Let’s Just Let It Be
I Don’t Want Nobody (Standing Over Me)
Where Can We Go

Cate Brothers – In One Eye And Out The Other [1976]

(Note: There are several spots where it seemed the record skipped as I ripped it. Working with the record doesn’t correct them, and I’m not sure if they’re skips or funky bits of meter on the part of the musicians. If they’re skips, I’m sorry.)

Early Posts Without Much Comment

April 20, 2011

In the first month that Echoes In The Wind was online, I shared albums and a few singles from several performers without much commentary of my own, relying heavily on quotes from other sources. Here is a list of those performers and albums:

Mystics – “Pain” [1969]
Posted January 3, 2007

Bobby Whitlock – Bobby Whitlock [1972]
Posted January 3, 2007

Toni Childs – Union [1988]
Probably posted January 5, 2007

Levon Helm – American Son [1980]
Posted January 5, 2007

Levon Helm – Levon Helm [1978]
Posted January 11, 2007

Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars – Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars [1977]
Posted January 13, 2007

Levon Helm – Levon Helm [1982]
Posted January 16, 2007

Dion – “Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms)” [1968]
Posted January 16, 2007

Cate Brothers – Cate Bros [1975]
Posted January 19, 2007

A Baker’s Dozen From 1975

April 18, 2011

Orginally posted April 4, 2007

I came across the soundtrack to the movie Dazed and Confused the other day, and Texas Gal poked her head into the room as I was listening to the Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I heard that at the roller rink,” she said with a grin. “See, this is the stuff you should be posting!” And she stood there listening, as I previewed some of the rest of the soundtrack: “No More Mister Nice Guy,” by Alice Cooper, “Balinese” by ZZ Top and “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” by Black Oak Arkansas all got approving nods, but her largest smile came when she heard Head East and “Never Been Any Reason.”

I smiled, too. Not long after we met in early 2000, Texas Gal told me of her long-standing affection for the Head East anthem. Oddly enough, I’d never heard it, but then, I’d never spent much time listening to arena rock; for the most part, that was a genre of music that left me cold, although I did like Boston’s first album. But I let most arena rock pass me by, content in the middle of the 1970s with the Allman Brothers Band, Fleetwood Mac, Boz Scaggs and things a little less raucous than Head East and their brethren.

Texas Gal moved to Minnesota later in 2000, and not long after her move, I surprised her with a vinyl copy of Head East’s Flat As A Pancake, the home of “Never Been Any Reason.” It was a decent anthem, I acknowledged, if not to my exact taste. For her, she told me, it was a memory of some of the misspent moments of her younger days.

So when I played “Never Been Any Reason” for her last weekend as I sampled the Dazed and Confused soundtrack, she asked why I didn’t post it or use it as the start of a Baker’s Dozen. I told her I certainly could, as long as it didn’t come from 1976, as I recently posted a sampler from that year. I checked it out, and Flat As A Pancake was released in 1975.

So here is a Baker’s Dozen from that year, starting with a tune for my Texas Gal:

“Never Been Any Reason” by Head East from Flat As A Pancake

“A Day To Myself” by Clifford T. Ward from Escalator

“Marcy’s Song (She’s Just a Picture)” by Jackson Frank, unreleased session

“Reasons” by Earth, Wind & Fire from That’s The Way Of The World

“Nights Winters Years” by Justin Hayward & John Lodge from Bluejays

“Union Man” by the Cate Brothers from Cate Brothers

“You Don’t Know My Mind” by Tony Rice from California Autumn

“She’s The One” by Bruce Springsteen from Born To Run

“Somewhere In The Night” by Helen Reddy, Capitol single 4192

“Night Game” by Paul Simon from Still Crazy After All These Years

“Aviation Man” by Tim Moore from Tim Moore

“Pegasus” by the Allman Brothers Band from Enlightened Rogues*

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris, Atlantic single 3248

Some things of note: the late Clifford T. Ward was one of Britain’s finest and – on this side of the Atlantic, anyway – least known singer-songwriters. Quiet, tasteful and thoughtful, his music can entrance. The same can be said for American Tim Moore, whose self-titled album from this year of 1975 should have been a massive hit. That it wasn’t is more our loss than his.

More tragic is the tale of the late Jackson C. Frank, whose single album, Blues Run The Game, came out in 1965.

And then there’s Major Harris and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” with its background of some lovely lady cooing and moaning. It was quite the sensation in its time.

*Enlightened Rogues is, of course, from 1979. Somehow, “Pegasus” was mistagged. Stuff happens.