Posts Tagged ‘Mongo Santamaria’

Thanksgiving Tales

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 25, 2009

Well, tomorrow morning, like millions of others here in the U.S., the Texas Gal and I – joined by my mother – will head off for Thanksgiving. In our case, we’ll be going to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Our contribution will be a plate of deviled eggs, a dish that’s become a holiday tradition for us since the Texas Gal first brought them along in 2000.

We missed Thanksgiving at my sister’s last year due to some health issues. And the plan to return there got me thinking about the various places I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving over the years.

For years – until I was out of  college, I think – we gathered at my grandparents’ home, first on their farm outside the small town of Lamberton, Minnesota, and then at their home in Lamberton itself. Sometime in the mid-1970s, after Grandma passed on, the Thanksgiving celebration shifted to my parents’ home here in St. Cloud. And after about twenty years there, the annual feast shifted venues again, and my sister and brother-in-law have hosted Thanksgiving since then.

Besides last year’s celebration, I can recall two other Thanksgivings that have found me in different places. In 1980, I think it was, the woman who was then my wife had the idea of hosting Thanksgiving in a restored 1860s cabin owned by friends of hers. We prepared the food in our own home and then moved the entire feast about two miles to the cabin. The food was fine, but the cabin was uncomfortably cold despite the presence of a fireplace. It was an interesting experiment, but I’d rather flip it: I’d be interested in using Nineteenth Century recipes and work from a modern kitchen.

The other Thanksgiving that found me in another place was during the time I spent in Denmark. The Danes don’t celebrate the holiday, of course, but my ladyfriend – another American – and I decided to cook a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for my Danish family and a few other students, both American and Danish.

There was no turkey for sale in Fredericia, so we made do with a couple of chickens. Potatoes were easy enough, as was flour for the gravy. Green beans amandine went well enough after a tussle with the Danish language. Not knowing where the nutcracker was, I looked up the word in my Danish/English dictionary and called my Danish mother at her office. Danish uses some sounds that are, well, foreign to English, so it took some time before she understood that I was trying to say nøddeknækker.

Beyond the linguistic difficulties, the main challenge of the day was the pumpkin pie. We could find neither canned pumpkin nor a fresh pumpkin in Fredericia. Luckily, my ladyfriend had made pumpkin pie from scratch with her mother, and she assured me that an orange winter squash would meet our needs. We cleaned it, cut it up and cooked it with the appropriate seasonings and then baked it in a homemade shell. As dinner came to a close that evening, our Danish guests were a bit puzzled by the pie, but our American guests marveled at how close we’d come to the Thanksgiving dessert they’d all had for years.

That may have been my most memorable Thanksgiving ever. Does that mean it was the best? Well, no. As the fourth Thursday of November comes along year after year, each Thanksgiving somehow seems better than the one before it . . . as long as I share that table with my loved ones, especially the Texas Gal.

A Six-Pack of Thanks
“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP 6089 [1970]
“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II [1969]
“I Thank You” by Mongo Santamaria from All Strung Out [1969]
“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows [1982]
‘Thanks to You” by Jesse Winchester from Humour Me [1988]
“Be Thankful for What You Got (Pt. 1)” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury 0236 [1974]

Of these six, only the Fairport Convention tune really seems to fully address the sentiments of the holiday. The others generally work with only their titles; their content has at best only a glancing connection to the day. But that’s good enough for me.

The Texas Gal and I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving. May you all have many reasons to be thankful.

Bread In The Night

March 6, 2015

One of my regular stops here on the East Side is the Country Hearth bread store, where the nearby bakery sells second-day bread and goodies. Second-day? Well, sometimes third day, I suppose, but the bread is fresh enough. And it’s much cheaper than any of the grocery stores in town: I get my whole grain bread for $1.99, and the Texas Gal’s plain white bread runs – depending on sales – about $1.25. That saves us at least three bucks.

The bread store’s been there a long time, right next to the bakery building, which has also been there a long time, at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and East St. Germain. One of the most potent sensory memories I have comes from a moment just south of that intersection: It’s a Monday in autumn, probably around 1965, and the weekly meeting of Boy Scout Troop 112 has just ended at nearby Salem Lutheran.

I pilot my Schwinn bicycle east from the church and reach Wilson Avenue just a block from St. Germain, and the night air is filled with the tangy aroma of yeast and the hearty and somehow comforting smell of baking bread. I pause at the stop sign and draw in a breath, savoring the aroma of the night shift’s work.

As I think of that moment – most likely late September, for the leaves were turning, crackling softly on the trees in the breeze that brought me the bakery’s aromas – I also see the long-gone Dairy Bar just across Wilson Avenue from where I stood. That’s where we sometimes bought Cheerio ice cream bars – chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream on a stick – during the summer. During the school year, however, the Dairy Bar felt like foreign territory, for that’s where the kids from the nearby St. Augustine School – a parochial school – bought their candy.

(I suppose the kids from Lincoln School who lived nearby – north of the state highway that separated Lincoln from St. Augustine – went to the Dairy Bar. Most of Lincoln’s students lived south of Highway 23, and we did our candy shopping at three other locations: the Wilson Avenue Store just south of the highway; Tuey’s Grocery – once Wyvell’s and eventually Norb’s – on Fifth Avenue just half a block from our place on Kilian Boulevard; or the Hilltop Store, about eight blocks further south on Kilian.)

In memory, I turn from the Dairy Bar to the next block on the right, and I’m not certain if the current Church of St. Augustine is there or not. It was built sometime in mid- to late 1960s; until then, St. Augs’ parishioners – including Rick and Rob and their family – went to Mass in a basement church on the far right end of the block across Wilson Avenue from where I stood breathing in the night’s aroma.

And I look in memory to the left of the Dairy Bar, toward the bakery, which still stands today. It’s been expanded over the years and now fills the entire block, including the place where the Dairy Bar – and several homes behind it, I think – once stood. Large red letters on the western wall of the oldest portion of the bakery now proclaim “Country Hearth.” As I stood there in the autumn of what was likely 1965, however, that western wall was painted something like the picture below. (I can’t find the exact graphic, but this one’s pretty close.)

Sunbeam Bread

And if I did indeed glance at the bakery while savoring its aromas on that autumn evening, I likely thought about touring it a few years earlier as a Cub Scout, seeing the huge metal bowls with their robotic mixing arms, the immense ovens turning out ranks upon ranks of loaves, all of them winding their ways down the roller paths to be sliced and then wrapped in heat-sealed cellophane wrappers. (Plastic bags and twist-ties came along a few years later.)

And I also likely thought about the Saturday morning kids’ gathering a couple years earlier at the Paramount Theatre downtown. Several cartoons and a pitch for traffic safety (I think) were interspersed with on-stage appearances by Clarabelle the clown from the Howdy Doody show and Miss Sunbeam, her golden curls shining in the theater lights.

And all of that would have coursed through my mind in just a few moments, of course, with me straddling my Schwinn at the stop sign. After those moments, I would have turned right on Wilson Avenue toward Highway 23, leaving the fragrances of yeast and baking bread behind me and heading for Kilian Boulevard and home.

Here, unrelated except in title, is the slinky “Sometimes Bread” by Mongo Santamaria. It’s from his 1971 album Mongo’s Way.

‘Nine’

April 18, 2013

It’s time for “Nine” as the integers march on, and when we sort the 67,400 mp3s on the digital shelves, we come up with ninety-one mp3s, but only about ten of those tracks will suit our purposes this morning.

What do we leave behind? Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” and Muddy Waters’ “She’s Nineteen Years Old” won’t work for us, nor will “John Nineteen Forty-One,” the elegiac closing instrumental on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970 opus Jesus Christ Superstar. We’ll pass on “19 Somethin’,” a 2002 tribute to the 1970s and 1980s by country boy Mark Wills, and we’ll pass as well on Paul McCartney’s 1973 track “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.” Also unqualified are Julius Daniels’ 1927 recording of “Ninety-Nine Year Blues,” several versions of “Ninety-Nine And a Half (Won’t Do)” and the Sonics’ 1965 album track “Strychnine.”

Also going by the wayside are two versions of “Ninety Miles An Hour (Down A Dead End Street)” – one by Bob Dylan and one by country singer John Berry – along with most of the tracks on the Cloud Nine albums by the Temptations (1969) and George Harrison (1987). We’ll also ignore Steve Winwood’s 2008 album, Nine Lives, and the few tracks I have from Bonnie Raitt’s similarly titled album from 1986.

One Nine Seven Zero, a 1970 album by French singer Françoise Hardy also goes in the “no thanks” pile this morning as do single tracks by Nova’s Nine, James K. Nine and two similarly titled tracks: “Janine,” a 1971 plaint by Parrish & Gurvitz, and “Jeannine,” a decent 1969 single from Neil Sedaka.

Having disposed of those and others, where do we start? With some tasty slide guitar, I think, found in “Cloud 9” from Harrison’s similarly titled 1987 album. The album, produced by Harrison with fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, was seen as one of Harrison’s best and went to No. 8 on the Billboard 200; the single “Got My Mind Set On You” went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart. I don’t know why Harrison used the numeral “9” in the title of the track and the word “nine” in the album’s title, but either way, the sweetly morose “Cloud 9” is a nice way to start our short journey this morning.

And we’ll stay with clouds for another track: A cover of the Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” by Cuban conga player Mongo Santamaria. There are four albums of Santamaria’s work from the late 1960s and the 1970s on the digital shelves here, all of them good for getting the feet tapping, the head bouncing and the fingers dancing on the keyboard. “Cloud Nine” comes from Santamaria’s 1969 album Stoned Soul, and a shorter version of the track went to No. 32 on the Bilboard Hot 100 as well as to No. 33 on the R&B chart and No. 30 on the AC chart. It was the second of two Top 40 hit for the Cuban percussionist; in 1963, “Watermelon Man” went to No. 10 on the pop chart, No. 8 on the R&B chart and No. 3 on the AC chart.

At the thoroughly enjoyable blog, Dr. Schluss’ Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities, the good doctor had this to say about Sitar & Strings, a 1968 album by the Nirvana Sitar & Strings Group: “I’m always up for a psychsploitation album early in the morning . . . and this one can certainly fill in for the cheese missing from my eggs. Just as the title sort of suggests, we’ve got a bunch of late 60’s hits with the melody lines played on a sitar while 101 Strings-style orchestrations lumber on in the background. You’re either in for this ride or you’re not.” Well, I’m in, and the NS&SG’s track “Nine O’Clock” twangs and twingles along nicely this morning. The group’s Sitar & Strings album, according to Leonard at red telephone 66, had eight covers and three originals, and as I don’t see any listing of a tune titled “Nine O’Clock” making the charts, the track must have been one of the originals. (If I’m wrong, someone please let me know.) It’s good, trippy Thursday morning music.

“Nine Pound Hammer” is a traditional English folk song, and the earliest recorded version of it, according to Second Hand Songs, came from Al Hopkins & The Buckle Busters in 1927. The earliest version in my stacks comes from the Monroe Brothers, who recorded it for Bluebird in 1936, and the best-known version of the tune is likely the 1947 cover by Merle Travis (who, having added a few lines to the traditional song, is frequently given writing credit). The version on the table this morning, however, comes from the Beau Brummels, better known for the 1965 hits “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just A Little.” In 1967, the San Francisco group recorded “Nine Pound Hammer” for their album Triangle, a collection of songs that All Music Guide called “a ruminative dream cycle.” The album barely edged into the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 197.

Janis Ian’s 1975 comeback might have seemed to come out of nowhere. That was when her album Between the Lines went to No. 1 and its single, “At Seventeen,” went to No. 3 in the Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the AC chart. But the foundation for that comeback seems to have been laid the year before when Ian’s album Stars went to No. 83 and a single from the album, “The Man You Are In Me,” went to No. 33 on the AC chart. (It bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 104.) Now, those aren’t great numbers, but keep in mind that Ian had been absent from the singles chart since 1967. “Page Nine” was one of the tracks on Stars, and like the album it comes from – and Between the Lines a year later – its sound is for me one of the defining sounds of the mid-1970s.

Over the course of something like 1,200 posts at this blog, I’ve mentioned the British progressive group Caravan twice: Once when cataloging the records I brought home in a certain November and once when I included a track from the group in a random mix. Today, we’ll make it three mentions with the inclusion in today’s offerings of the group’s side-long suite, “Nine Feet Underground” from the group’s 1971 album In the Land of Grey and Pink. In his assessment of the album, Bruce Eder of All Music Guide called the piece “musically daring,” noting that it “didn’t seem half as long as its 23 minutes” and adding that it was “a dazzling showcase for Pye Hastings’ searing lead guitar and Dave Sinclair’s soaring organ and piano work.”

Some Tunes From Forty Years Ago

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 4, 20009

It’s one of those days.

I’ll be back with some videos tomorrow, and Friday, we’ll see what the sunrise brings. There will be words and music, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s some tunes – some certainly familiar, some likely not – from this week in 1969.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, March 8, 1969)
“The Worst That Could Happen” by the Brooklyn Bridge, Buddah 75 (No. 22)
“Cloud Nine” by Mongo Santamaria, Columbia 44740 (No. 32)
“Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Smash 2191 (No. 45)
“These Are Not My People” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial 66360 (No. 64)
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 (No. 93)
“As The Years Go Passing By” by Albert King, Atlantic 2604 (No. 137)

The Brooklyn Bridge was an eleven-member group that I’ve seen called a “horn band.” There were saxophones and a trumpet in the group, but to me the sound isn’t quite what I’d call a horn band. Maybe I need to listen to the group’s entire first album again, see what I hear. Anyway, lead singer Johnny Maestro had found some earlier success with the Crests (seven Top 40 hits including “Sixteen Candles,” which went to No. 2) before fronting the Brooklyn Bridge. “The Worst That Could Happen” went to No. 3.

I’ve posted a couple of Mongo Santamaria tracks before; I find his combination of hit songs – in this case, from the Temptations – and Latin rhythms fascinating. “Cloud Nine” was his second and – as it turned out – last Top 40 hit; it peaked at No. 32. His earlier hit was a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which had gone to No. 10 in 1963.

“Mendocino” was the third and last Top 40 hit for the Sir Douglas Quintet. It peaked at No. 27, not as good as the group’s first hit, “She’s About A Mover,” which had gone to No. 13 in 1965, but better than second, “The Rains Came,” which stalled at No. 31 in 1966. The quintet’s moving force, Doug Sahm, went on to a long career as a guitarist, composer, arranger, performer and music historian before passing on in 1999.

As far as I can tell, the Johnny Rivers track never appeared on an album, but I could be wrong. Written by Joe South (and included on his great 1968 album, Introspect), the song sounds almost Dylan-esque in its lyric and arrangement. I keep hearing echoes of “Positively Fourth Street” and “Like A Rolling Stone” as I listen, and the arrangement owes a little bit, in spots at least, to Blonde on Blonde. Wherever the inspiration came from, it’s a great song and a great single. Few others heard it that way, and the record peaked at No. 55.

The Flirtations had a fairly long and active recording career in the 1960s and 1970s, according to All-Music Guide. A good deal of their success evidently came in England, where I think they were well-favored (or “well-favoured,” as it would have been) among devotees of the genre tagged Northern Soul and wound up on the Deram label. “Nothing But A Heartache” had some success on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at No. 34 in the U.S. and giving the Flirtations their only Top 40 hit.

“As The Years Go Passing By” is a classic blues song, and Albert King – about as good a bluesman as you could find, especially on guitar – does it well. The song is sometimes credited to King, but its listed composer is Deadric Malone. That turns out to be a pseudonym for blues and R&B producer and writer Don Robey, who founded the Peacock record label in Houston, Texas, and later merged it with Memphis-based Duke Records. King’s version of “As The Years Go Passing By” was pulled from his 1967 album Born Under A Bad Sign, which came from various sessions at Stax with Booker T & the MG’s and the Memphis Horns. The single stayed at No. 132 for two weeks, never even cracking the Hot 100.

The Wail Of The Who Mouse

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 29, 2008

As I sit in my study this morning, the wind is whipping around the northeast corner of the house, triggering a memory that’s not that old.

Before we moved last summer, we lived in an apartment on the southeast corner of the building. During the cold months, the northwest wind would come around the outside corner with a moaning sound, wailing into the night. One evening a few years ago, I made up a tall tale for the Texas Gal about a little mouse who sits on the roof on cold nights and calls out “Whoooo?” No one ever answers, I said, and he spends his winter nights calling out that one forlorn word.

Every couple has its tales, the small stories and inside jokes, the shared catch phrases and taglines, all of which are the common currency of any pairing. The Who Mouse and his plaint has become one of ours. On some chill mornings in other winters, the Texas Gal – who sleeps more lightly than I do – would tell me, “The Who Mouse was out last night.” She’d shake her head, shivering, and murmur, “I don’t like that sound.”

Neither do I. The wail of the wind makes a chilly evening seem colder, and it heightens the desolation that northern winter nights bring with them. But cold and desolation are relative things. Every once in a while during the winter, I think about the people who settled this land a century and a half ago: How did they survive the brutal cold? I shudder at the thought of a winter with no heat except that from a fireplace, and realize once more how fortunate we are.

The new place has a garage on the northwest corner, and the Who Mouse isn’t noticeable on the main floor. But the Texas Gal says he visits the loft, where she does her quilting and other crafts. “I heard him this morning,” she told me a few moments ago. “He was out there.”

A Six-Pack of Who
“Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” by the Main Ingredient from Bitter Sweet, 1972

“Know Who You Are” by Supertramp from Famous Last Words, 1982

“Who’s Gonna Stop Me” by the Delilahs from Delilahs, 1994

“Who Can I Be Now” by David Bowie, unreleased from Young Americans sessions, ca. 1974

“Who’s Making Love” by Mongo Santamaria from Stone Soul, 1969

“Who Will Be The Fool Tonight” by the Larsen-Feiten Band, Warner Bros. 49282, 1980

A few notes:

The Main Ingredient’s Bitter Sweet album was the source for “Everybody Plays The Fool,” the great single that went to No. 3 in the autumn of 1972. The rest of the album, including “Who Can I Turn To,” is pretty good, if not quite as good as the hit. (The inverse was true two years later; Euphrates was a good album, much better to my ears than its hit, “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely.”)

The Delilahs came out of Minnesota at about the same time as the Jayhawks did, offering a similar mix of rock, country and folk. The group was named the Best New Band at the 1994 Minnesota Music Awards and released Delilahs shortly after that. Two more albums followed in 1995, and the group evidently called it a day.

The David Bowie track was included in 1991 on a CD reissue of his Young Americans album and evidently came from the same sessions. I think it’s better than almost anything that was included on the album.

Mongo Santamaria was a Cuban percussionist and bandleader who covered pop, rock and soul songs on a series of fairly popular albums in the late 1960s and on into the 1970s. Those albums were fun, but his earlier, less pop-based, work is maybe a little more challenging but not quite as much fun.

The Larsen-Feiten Band – formed by session musicians Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten – is a true one-hit wonder. “Who Will Be The Fool Tonight” went to No. 29 during the autumn of 1980 and was the group’s only chart entry. I don’t recall it from the time, but as it played out this morning, I heard echoes of Boz Scaggs’ late 1970s and early 1980s work. All-Music Guide has impressive lists of credits for both Larsen and Feiten as studio musicians. (Thanks to the Dude for this one.)

‘Gonna Buy Me A Ticket . . .’

June 20, 2011

Originally posted April 1, 2008

While wandering through the mp3s the other day, I came across Joe Cocker’s version of “Hitchcock Railway,” the track that closed the first side of his 1969 album, Joe Cocker! Cocker’s version of the song has been one of my favorites since I first heard the album early in the spring of 1972, an affection that was underlined by the powerful performance Cocker gave of the song when I saw him perform at the old Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, that April.

As I listened to the song the other day, though, I got to wondering about others who have performed the song. Who were they? How many were there? Where did the song come from? And all the other questions I consider when I’m thinking about cover versions.

The last question was easily answered. “Hitchcock Railway” came from the songwriting team of Don Dunn and Tony McCashen. This is not, however, the same Don Dunn known as Duck Dunn of Booker T & the MGs. This Don Dunn is a songwriter and performer from La Jolla, California, whose credits include numerous songs – at least some of them written, one assumes, with McCashen – that have been performed by artists ranging from Joe Cocker to Bobby Vee, Diana Ross, Linda Carter, Paul Williams, Bill Medley, Hoyt Axton, Frank Sinatra, Them, Sonny Charles and more.

Also listed as performing those songs is the duo of Dunn & McCashen. All-Music Guide has little information about the duo, but GEMM lists two albums for sale: A self-titled release listed without a date, and an album called Mobius from 1968 (the seller’s notes say that the album features Kenny Loggins), both on the Capitol label. Among the 45s listed at GEMM is one of “Hitchcock Railway/You Think You’ve Got Problems.”

I did Google searches for both men and for the duo, and those turned up lots of links but not many with solid information, except for Dunn’s site.* For this morning, it’s enough to know that the two wrote “Hitchcock Railway.” It’s a song that’s had only a few versions recorded, with Cocker’s being probably the most well known (based on the listing at AMG of CDs available that include the song.) Others listed as having recorded the song are an early Seventies duo called Anno Domini, Latin percussionist and bandleader Mongo Santamaria, José Feliciano, country/bluegrass singer Claire Lynch (as recently as 1997), and Dunn & McCashen themselves, on their Mobius album.

I did a little digging around, hoping to find the Feliciano version, but I had no luck. Nor could I find the Claire Lynch version or the original Dunn-McCashen version. But on Mongo Santamaria’s album Stone Soul, he and his band have some fun with “Hitchcock Railway.”

Mongo Santamaria – “Hitchcock Railway” [1969]

*Don Dunn’s site seems to have gone inactive. Note added June 20, 2011.