Tag Archives: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Blog 2014: The Fifth Year In Review.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 3.03.08 PMBanner2Banner3-b

2014 was the fifth year for this blog — and though I have to admit I was a relatively infrequent blogger this year — there were a handful of events I could not let pass without trying to say something. Most important was the loss of two iconic figures who granted me (and many others) the privilege of their invaluable friendship and mentorship. The passing of Sheldon Patinkin and Ray Shepardson made 2014 a year I will always remember.

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted 189,401 viewers since it began — 24,929 in 2014. The busiest day of the year was September 21st with 505 views. The most viewed post that day was O Captain! My Comedy Captain! — my post on the passing of Sheldon Patinkin.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I continue to be honored that 179 subscribers have now signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 59 more who follow this blog on Twitter.)

Are you a subscriber?

If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2014.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

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There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. It’s one of the posts that has generated the most comments. A lot of people feel I’ve left one of their favorites off the list. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

2. 
O Captain! My Comedy Captain!



Sheldon Banner

I don’t know where my life would have gone if the great Sheldon Patinkin had not walked into a small storefront theatre on Howard Street in Evanston — and took my silliness seriously. Sheldon didn’t just change my life. He changed generations of lives. I will miss him every damn day. But, in essential ways, he will always be with me — and with all of the thousands of creative people whose lives he touched. (Posted on September 21, 2014.)

3. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan. In 2013, I wrote another report on an excellent World War Two book, The Day of Battle, about the campaign to liberate Italy. A few weeks after I wrote that post, my family and I visited the American cemetery in Tuscany and paid our respects to the soldiers whose valor, sacrifice and victory are recounted in Rick Atkinson’s fine book.

4. 
Farewell to Ray Shepardson, the Visionary Who Saved the Theatres

Ray Banner

I honestly had no idea how to headline this tribute to the great Ray Shepardson, who died suddenly and shockingly in Aurora, Illinois in the spring of 2014. The man who saved dozens of great old theatres and movie palaces from the wrecking ball was a man of prodigious energy, drive, and “can do” creativity. He is greatly missed by many. This was posted on April 16, 2014 — my birthday.

5. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower.

6. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

Though we didn’t hear much about it in 2013,  the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011. This post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of foolish, immature anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response? Without Occupy Wall Street, would the concept of the 99% and 1% have ever entered the Zeitgeist? And can Occupy Wall Street — or something even more effective yet peaceful — please come back in 2o15?

7. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution and it’s become one of the most-read posts in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

8. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the coolest chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Classics all. Can I retire now?

9. Paul McCartney & The War of 18121812banner

This was originally posted on June 18, 2012. That day was not just Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday – it was also the 200th anniversary of The War of 1812. 130 years after the young upstart United States declared war on Great Britain, Paul McCartney was born. I thought that was a real fun fact.

10. LeBron: The King Moves Onlebron-banner-2

As a Cleveland native, I’ve often been asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers several years ago — and my friends and co-workers are usually shocked that I’m not upset or indignant or jilted, etc. And while the blogosphere hardly needed one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I wrote this post on July 9, 2010 to explain that LeBron James didn’t owe me anything. He’s a professional basketball player who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. The two NBA championships he’s won in Miami since I wrote this post have given LeBron all the scoreboard he needs. in 2014, The King came back to Cleveland, which is doubtless the reason for renewed interest in this post.

So, that’s the best of 2014. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please keep posting your comments!

Here’s to a worthy, adventurous voyage in 2015!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

5. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was the #3 post in 2010. 24 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

6. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day. Unlike the Pearl Harbor post, I haven’t re-posted this article every year — but readers still find it. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.” The shootings at Kent State should never be forgotten.

7. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

8. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

9. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”

10. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

 

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Filed under Adventure, Art, Comedy, History, Politics, Sports

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015

RR Banner 2RR BannerI know there’s a lot going on right now in Iraq and Syria and the Ukraine and Gaza and Ferguson, Missouri – but there’s not much I can do about those intractable geopolitical situations. I’ll let prudent, deliberative President Obama and his national security team sort out America’s proper role in all that madness.

But there is one source of national shame and outrage that I must address here and now…

Tommy+James++The+Shondells+732311_356x237Why aren’t Tommy James & The Shondells in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

I’m a Cleveland boy, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a shining jewel on our downtown lakefront — but that only makes such an injustice a more personal matter.

2014-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-ceremony-1024Tommy James & The Shondells have been waiting since 1991 to get that call from the Hall. For 23 years, they’ve had to endure the enshrinement of acts like Abba, Donna Summer and Madonna in an institution supposedly devoted to rock and roll – while the group that gave garage bands around the world rock classics like “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” is continually and criminally passed over.

Tommy James GERHow can it be that slick, overproduced purveyors of disco and pop take precedence over the guys who put “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crimson and Clover” down on vinyl?

At this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rage Against the Machine’s lead guitarist Tom Morello – a man whose shredding virtuosity and politics I admire – made a convincing case for why Kiss had a rightful place in the Rock Hall. But while Kiss may have blazed a trail for visual and musical bombast and pyro in arena rock – their sound and fury signify nothing like the string of hits that Tommy James and his band delivered in the late 1960s.

tommy-james-and-the-shondells-on-the-ed-sullivan-showBesides their two #1 hit single in the U.S. – “Hanky Panky” in ’66 and “Crimson and Clover” in ’69 — Tommy James & The Shondells charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the top ten. Remember a platter entitled “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?

How about 14 Top 40 hits during the greatest period in rock and roll radio history? All while competing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone – and those Motown artists cranking out classics in Hitsville, USA.

All of those great rockers are in the Hall of Fame — so, why not Tommy James & The Shondells?

114774938And I don’t want to hear that Tommy James was “bubblegum”. Please. When was the last time you listened to “Mony Mony” or “Draggin the Line”? Guitars. Groove. Harmony. Drive. Horns. Hooks. Lots and lots of classic rock and roll hooks.

Tommy James & The Shondells should go into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fames very next class or the whole institution is a sham.

TommyJames2Honor Tommy James while the man is still alive and well and rocking.

I can wait no longer.

I’m just going to enshrine Tommy James & The Shondells here and now.

In fact…

I’m announcing The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015 (if there were any justice in this freaking world):

Tommy James & The Shondells — Eligible since 1991

Chicago — Eligible since 1994.

cover_3548181012011_rActually, the Chicago that most deserves to go into the Rock Hall is the first incarnation of Chicago. The first version of Chicago was the band that was politically progressive and rocked harder than the late 70s and 80’s version – before their bluesy lead guitarist, Terry Kath died in January 1978 from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Some say Russian roulette.)

That was the band that got me out to Blossom Music Center during my high school days to enjoy some of the first rock concerts I ever attended.

2013-1-30-terry_kath_3-533x402My favorite Chicago song during this period was “Dialogue (Part I & II) – a charged musical debate between a politically active guy (sung by Kath) and an apathetic college student (sung by Peter Cetera). Listening to that song now makes we weep for the current state of music on the radio. Remember that chorus? “We can make it happen…”

peter-cetera-64_smallAfter Kath died, Chicago lost currency with me because of the band’s over-reliance on Peter Cetera’s often-cheesy (but enormously popular) ballads.

The same thing happened to another Chicago band, Styx, when Dennis DeYoung’s ballads became hits – and smothered the rock in syrup. But the chicks dug it. And the arenas filled up.

Terry-Kath-ChicagoNo American band besides The Beach Boys had as many hit singles and albums on the Billboard charts as Chicago.

In fact, Chicago had more hit singles in the US during the 1970s than anyone else.

And they scored five #1 albums and 21 top-ten singles.

Put ‘dose Chicago boys in ‘da Hall.

The Doobie Brothers — Eligible since 1996:

the_doobie_brothersI remember with great humility the day in 1972 when my fellow Cleveland Central Catholic freshman (and soon to be band mate) Ed Dougan and I were discussing The Doobie Brother’s first big hit, “Listen to the Music”. I opined that The Doobie Brothers sounded like a one-hit-band to me.

For the next four years, The Doobie Brothers gave Eddie Dougan reason after reason to remind me how absolutely wrong I was – as songs like “Jesus is Just Alright”, “Long Train Running” and “China Grove” poured out of our radios and rocked up the charts, culminating in their inescapable, utterly sing-able #1 hit, “Black Water”.

22754_lgI graduated from high school in ’76. That same year, Michael McDonald became an official member of The Doobie Brothers – and led them to another string of soulful hits.

With McDonald singing lead, songs like “Takin’ It to the Streets” and “What a Fool Believes”, topped the charts in the US – and made Eddie Dougan smile once again, remembering what a fool I was.

Green Day — Eligible in 2014

Green Day should be first ballot Hall of Famers.greenday2_2319069b

If Green Day isn’t drummed into the Hall at its 2015 Induction Ceremony, then the whole building should just slink shamefully into Lake Erie.

e28880d04d9bbe6ae819a3f04dba1256-jpgLong before “American Idiot” exploded into the Zeitgeist, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool had already established themselves as the primary punks of the new millennium.

Green Day has sold more than 75 million albums and singles worldwide. There’s no reason to wait.

Put those punks in the Hall.

If these next two deserving honorees continue to be snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Southern Californians and fans of surf rock should get Eric Von Zipper to bust some heads.

Jan & Dean — Eligible since 1985

jan-deanWithout Jan and Dean there are no Beach Boys. It’s as simple as that. Beginning in the late 1950s, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence established much of what became the California surf rock sound, featuring big waves, hot rods, and girls, girls, girls.

Brian Wilson looked up to Jan – who was a studio production whiz kid – as a musical big brother. And that’s Dean’s falsetto on the Beach Boy’s party classic, “Barbara Ann”. (Carl Wilson says, “Thanks, Dean” at the end of the track.) Jan & Dean were cool. So cool they were chosen as the hosts of the legendary T.A.M.I. Show in 1964.

Jan BerrySadly, Jan & Dean’s hit-making ended in the spring of ’66 when Jan drove his Corvette into the back end of a parked gardener’s truck in Beverly Hills and sustained severe head injuries.

Shades of “Dead Man’s Curve”.

jan-and-dean-ride-the-wild-surf-1964-3From their first hit, “Jennie Lee” in ’58 to their last, “Popsicle” in ’66 – Jan & Dean charted 15 Top 40 hits, including 6 in the Top 10.

“Little Old Lady from Pasadena” went to #3 – and “Surf City” — the joyous anthem of surf rock — went all the way to #1 promising “two girls for every boy”.

Two girls for every boy? That’s reason enough to put Jan & Dean in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And do it while 74-year old Dean can still get onstage and sing.

Dick Dale — Eligible since 1987

properleftyDick Dale is the The King of the Surf Guitar. He pioneered the surf music style, experimenting with reverb – and worked with Leo Fender to push the limits of electric amplification. (Riffmaster Van Wagner owes Dick Dale an unpayable debt for producing “thick, clearly defined tones” at “previously undreamed-of volumes.”

And it wasn’t just upping the volume in rock and roll that makes Dick Dale Hall-worthy – it’s also his style and technique. Just spin “Let’s Go Trippin’” – often called the first surf rock song – or “Jungle Fever” or “Misirlou”.

Dick DaleDick Dale’s records may not have been big on the national charts – but their influence was both immediate and far-reaching.

Like Chuck Berry before him, generations of guitar shredders copied Dick Dale’s licks.

Dick-DaleYou can put him in as a performer or an early influence – or for lifetime achievement – but The King of the Surf Guitar should be enthroned in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And it should be done while Dick Dale can still perform — thrilling us with his pioneering sound.

The Monkees — Eligible since 1991

The-Monkees-the-monkees-29786398-886-960Not even gonna argue about this.

The Monkees should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hell, The Beatles respected The Monkees – so why should anyone else deny their undeniable greatness?

Morons who I have little patience for say The Monkees were a fabricated band – “The Pre-Fab Four” — surrounded by studio musicians. I know for a fact that The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, and others in the Hall of Fame were backed by the very same group of studio cats: the Wrecking Crew. So, what?

Hold on. I said I wasn’t gonna argue.

websbest060113_fullsize_story1At their peak in ‘67, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and Rolling Stones combined. 12 Top-40 hits, three #1 hits — and a TV show that brought melodic, witty, well-written and beautifully sung rock and roll music (and surprisingly subversive comedy) into homes across America.

The-Monkees-the-monkees-2846004-603-546I won’t even mention the songs by name. You know them. You sing them. You’ll probably hear one on the radio today.

Okay…

“Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. That’s just five.

And now I’m really not gonna argue any more.

The Rock N Roll Trio — Eligible since 1981

115163945Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio were the best damn rockabilly band that ever thumped a standup bass, whacked out the backbeat on a snare, and sang like drunken wildcats.

“Rock Billy Boogie”, “Rock Therapy”, “Train Kept A-Rollin”, “Honey Hush”, “Tear It Up” – Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio served up fundamental, elemental, essential rock and roll.

20131210092007-burnette_jJohnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio featured no frills, no gimmicks, no costumes, and no pyrotechnics — other than the fire they produced by their passionate playing.

Sorry, Kiss, this is rock and roll with real heart and soul.

I don’t give a damn what hits they had or where they charted.

When I need rock therapy. They give it to me.

They should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

 

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ObamaCare & Italy & Everything Else — Blog 2013: The Fourth Year In Review.

New Year'sObamacareitaly-banner-1 S&GFor my family and me, 2013 ended on an upbeat note with “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” — a raucous, sold-out celebration of comedy and rock & roll at 27 Live in Evanston, Illinois. The weather was bitterly cold but there was a delightful, enveloping warmth in our comic camaraderie with longtime friends, bandmates, fellow Northwestern University alums and members of The Practical Theatre Company.

P&EvaI even got to sing duets with my college roommate and fellow Practical Theatre founder, Brad Hall (as Simon & Garfunkel, above) — and with my daughter, Eva.

We closed the evening with two spirited sets by Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, the band I’ve been playing with since the early 1980’s. There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than by rocking with your best buddies. All in all, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.

suess-graphic-cruz26nI’ll be candid. For some reason, 2013 was not a very prolific year for this blog. I don’t know whether it was the fact that the excitement of the 2012 Presidential election gave way to Congressional constipation courtesy of the recalcitrant, reactionary Tea Party bloc in the House of Reps — or that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act led to the dispiriting madness of the government shutdown. I managed to get off a few broadsides skewering the likes of Senator Ted Cruz (Tea Party, TX) — but the I should have written more in defense of President Obama and progressive politics. (Though my most commented-on post in 2013 was President Obama Goes to War.) Still, I resolve to do a better job of blogging on politics in 2014.

ItalyBThe highlight of 2013 was our family’s two-week trip to Italy and the provinces of Tuscany and Umbria in August. I tried to sum up the experience in an article entitled, Our Italian Adventure. I could easily have written a series of blog posts on each of the beautiful cities and towns we visited, the artwork we saw, the food we ate, and the people we met — but I stuffed the whole, glorious journey into one account. To make amends to my readers I promise that, before too long, I will post a link to the movie we shot on the grounds of Camporsevoli. Stay tuned…

2013 was the fourth year for this blog — and here are the year’s vital signs:

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted 164,472 views since it began four years ago. There were 34,572 visits in 2013. I’ve posted 299 articles since this blog began. This post is #3oo: certainly a notable milestone.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I am honored that 147 subscribers have now signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 43 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

The search terms that readers used most to find this blog were “Pearl Harbor”, “Occupy Wall Street”, “trial by jury”, “Bill of Rights” and “Pickett’s Charge”. And these are the posts that readers were most attracted to this year…

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2013.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower.

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution and it’s become one of the most-read posts in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day. Unlike the Pearl Harbor post, I haven’t re-posted this article every year — but readers still find it. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming.” The shootings at Kent State should never be forgotten.

4. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

singerbanner1

There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

5. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

Though we didn’t hear much about it in 2013,  the Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011. This post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of foolish, immature anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response? Without Occupy Wall Street, would the concept of the 99% and 1% have ever entered the Zeitgeist?

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan. In 2013, I write another book report on an excellent World War Two account, The Day of Battle, about the campaign to liberate Italy. A few weeks after I wrote that post, my family visited the American cemetery in Tuscany and paid our respects to the soldiers whose valor, sacrifice and victory are recounted in Rick Atkinson’s fine book.

7. LeBron: The King Moves Onlebron-banner-2

As a Cleveland native, I’ve often been asked my opinion of LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers several years ago — and my friends and co-workers are usually shocked that I’m not upset or indignant or jilted, etc. And while the blogosphere hardly needed one more commentary on LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat, I wrote this post on July 9, 2010 to explain that LeBron James didn’t owe me anything. He’s a professional basketball player who wants to win and be remembered as the best to play the game. The two NBA championships he’s won in Miami since I wrote this post have given LeBron all the scoreboard he needs.

8. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

9. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, do a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew”. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

10. The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins raceheader

This post recounted a sailboat race held on February 13, 2010.  It was a good thing that the race was being run the day before Valentine’s Day. Like golf, sailing is a sport that takes men out of the house for long stretches of time on the weekend. But sailboat racing is worse than golf because it’s never certain when you’ll be done. 18 holes of golf always take about the same amount of time to complete. The duration of a sailboat race depends upon the vagaries of the wind and conditions on the water. I don’t sail as much as I used to to — but I still love it. And I’ll continue to report on my sailing adventures in the new year.

So, that’s the best of 2013. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please keep posting your comments!

Here’s to another fine voyage in 2014!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was the #3 post in 2010. 24 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970

6. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

7. Growing Up in the Space Age

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

9. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Classics all. Can I retire now?

10. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and the Civil War Sesquicentennial is likely the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, first posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

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How I Spent My Summer Sabbatical: Part Two

In late June 2012, I had just completed the first of three stages in my two-month summer sabbatical from the television business. It was a dramatic step to jump off the TV treadmill after 22 years and reconnect with my improvisational comedy roots – but while our run of The Vic & Paul Show at The Beverly Arts Center on the South Side of Chicago started out well, it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster engagement.

We had some good shows, in particular a fine opening night and a rousing Father’s Day matinee where the audience got every joke. On those nights my wife Victoria, our musical partner Steve Rashid and I were greeted with the familiar sound of knowing laughter after every sketch. But there were too many shows where the laughs – and the ticket buyers — were scarce. We closed our run at The Beverly Arts Center with fond memories of our large, appreciative North Side audiences at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park six months earlier.

You live, you learn. I may have a bit of P.T. Barnum in me – but as Professor Harold Hill should have taught me, “Ya gotta know the territory.”

The highlight of our Beverly Arts Center experience were the visits from good friends who traveled many miles to see the show and share some laughs with us: the brilliant pianist and composer Larry Schanker and his wife Jenny, our great friend   Bubba George McClellan who made the long drive in from Fort Wayne, and my Rockme Foundation band mates Casey Fox and Rush Pearson, who brightened the BAC scene with their better halves.

The day after we closed at the BAC, Victoria and I headed north for some much-needed R & R in the upper reaches of Wisconsin. We’d been invited to spend a week with friends at their lakeside cottage in the tiny town of Three Lakes. (There are a lot more than three lakes up there, by golly!)

Our hosts, Steve Stroud and Carol Stogsdill were waiting for us at Steve’s charming family cottage with their characteristic hospitality, a fridge full of cold Leinenkugels, and another couple of our very best friends, Jim Newton and Karlene Goller, along with their teenage son Jack and a school pal, Chris Gates. In this delightful company, amid the natural beauty of Three Lakes, we settled in for a wonderful week at Camp Stroud.

Campers have got to be active at Camp Stroud. Not that there isn’t plenty of opportunity to sleep a bit late and pass some time sitting lazily on the dock sipping a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.

Indeed, such indulgences are required.

But camp counselor Stroud is an avid proponent of aquatic sports of all kinds, and it was made known that if Victoria and I wanted to earn our Camp Stroud merit badge, we would need to take advantage of the kayak, canoe, paddleboard, and sailboat that stood ready for our use.

Steve also had his family’s sleek, gorgeous, classic powerboat in the boathouse – and as the sun set on our first day at Three Lakes, we motored out across the lake to take in the sights and sounds of summer in northern Wisconsin.

A summer evening on the water in Three Lakes. (Photo by Steve Stroud.)

The Stroud family cottage. (Photo by Steve Stroud.)

That night, I was given the honor of fashioning a formal campfire service to retire the old, tattered U.S. flag that had long served as the ensign for Steve’s powerboat, waving proudly from its stern for many years. With Jack and Chris assisting me, we disposed of Old Glory in the regulation manner, consigning it to the flames with all appropriate honor and solemnity.

Among the highlights of our week at Camp Stroud was a pontoon boat trip that Captain Stroud piloted across several of the interconnected lakes in the Three Lakes area.

At one point, it was necessary to maneuver over a dam – which required putting our craft on a boatlift that carried it over the dam and lowered it back into the river below the dam. I’m a big fan of nautical evolutions, and this one was new to me.

The Camp Stroud crew in front of our pontoon boat on the boat lift. (Don’t blame Steve for this photo, taken by the lift operator.)

But the coolest moment on the pontoon boat trip was witnessing a white-headed sea eagle (commonly called a bald eagle) catch a fish.

As we made our way back to Steve’s dock, I was watching an eagle soaring above the lake not far from our boat, just as I’d watched dozens of eagles circling in the sky in the past three days.

But this time, the eagle dove down toward the water – not more than ten yards off the port side of our boat.

There was just enough time to alert the rest of our party – and we all watched in awe as the eagle stretched out its talons, plunged them into the water, and snatched a large fish!

Steve, a professional photographer and photo editor at the LA Times, got his camera focused in time to record the event – and shot a series of photos as the eagle raced across the lake clutching its prey, and soared off into the trees beyond Steve’s cottage. If nothing else had happened the whole trip, that moment alone would have been worth the long drive to northern Wisconsin.

For the rest of the week, Victoria and I worked on earning our Camp Stroud merit badge, although it must be said that my darling wife proved far more proficient on the paddleboard than I did. In fact, I stunk at paddleboarding. I was much better in the canoe and kayak. But I was lucky to barely earn a qualifying grade in the small boat sailing portion of my requirements. Salty, capable Steve took me out in the smallest sailboat I’ve ever been aboard – and though I managed to help keep her afloat, I cannot say that I covered myself with anything resembling glory on that brief voyage. Still, it was great fun – as was our entire week at Camp Stroud.

The sun sets at Camp Stroud. (Photo by Steve Stroud.)

On the morning of our final day in Three Lakes, Steve gave Victoria and me our final Camp Stroud challenge: to join him in his annual swim back and forth across the lake.

That little white dot is Steve, halfway across the lake.

To my surprise, Victoria jumped at the chance to make what looked like a more than mile-long swim in chilly waters from Steve’s dock to the other side of the lake and back.

I’ve never claimed to be much of a swimmer, so I begged off – even though it my might cost me my merit badge.

Victoria was game – and she began her marathon swim with great determination. She got about a quarter of the way across the lake when common sense and self-preservation prevailed — and she gave up her attempt.

Steve, however, swam on and on and on like an English Channel swimmer – and made it back to his dock with a wide, victorious smile.

It was an amazing feat.

As we departed Camp Stroud, our camp mates surprised us by decorating our car with a Diet Coke can tail – and a soapy sign on the rear window celebrating the fact that it was our 22nd wedding anniversary.

In fact, we’d almost forgotten our anniversary.

Victoria and I had gotten entirely off the grid of our normal existence this summer, and with all the plans, travel, and performances that crowded our calendar, we were blissfully unaware that June 30th was anything more than the date on which we planned to drive back to Chicago.

That changed when Vic and I decided not to drive all the way back to Chicago in one day – but to break the trip up with a romantic one-night stay somewhere halfway between Three Lakes and Chicago. Steve and Carol recommended a resort in Kohler, Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee. When Victoria called to book a room the woman taking the reservation asked if we were celebrating any special event.

Thank goodness I was sitting right next to my darling wife when she made that call. I was looking right at her as her eyes widened and she came to the sudden realization that – yes, indeed – we were celebrating a special event. It was our wedding anniversary! We had BOTH forgotten it. I shudder to think of the calamity had I been the only one that forgot.

We got back to Evanston on July 1st, just in time for me to board a plane for a quick one-day trip to Cleveland to scout The 14th Street Theatre in advance of our upcoming run. I arrived in Cleveland late that night and slept at my mom’s house before heading downtown to Playhouse Square the next morning to check out the space where we were set to open “The Vic & Paul Show” in a dozen days.

The 14th Street Theatre was a joy to behold: the perfect cabaret space for a comedy revue like ours. I met with key members of the Playhouse Square staff to discuss publicity and technical concerns, and came away with a clearer idea of how to move into the space and adapt our staging to fit. I also thought, “Man, I’d like to have space like that of my own.”

The thought of having a cabaret of my own was not a random one. In fact, the other underlying reason for my sabbatical was to explore the notion of opening a comedy cabaret on the North Shore of Chicago, preferably in Evanston. So, when I returned from Cleveland, that exploration got underway in earnest.

Downstairs in the Marshall Fields building.

During the course of the next week, Victoria and I had a series of meetings with area restaurateurs and people from the Downtown Evanston development organization and city of Evanston.

Joined by the very funny Dana Olsen we took a tour of possible cabaret spaces with Carolyn Dellutri, Executive Director of Downtown Evanston.

It’s been 32 years since we opened our own comedy shop on Howard Street in Evanston – and the idea of having our own home to perform in again is a compelling one. I would spend a lot of time over the next month and a half in Chicago meeting with people whose opinions I respect, confessing my plans to them, and getting their feedback.

Will the Practical Theatre return to Evanston? Stay tuned…

On Sunday, July 8th, the day before we left for Cleveland, Vic and I drove to the Illinois-Wisconsin border to see The Sturdy Beggars perform The Mud Show at The Bristol Renaissance Faire. It’s been many, many years since Victoria and I cavorted in the mud as Sturdy Beggars, and we were delighted to be back at the mud pit to watch our good friends Rush Pearson, Herb Metzler and John Goodrich perform “The Greatest Show In Earth”.

This was another homecoming for me. Herb was with me (along with Jamie Baron) in the summer of ’78 when The Sturdy Beggars were born at King Richard’s Faire – now known as The Bristol Faire. Rush joined us the following rainy summer when the mud show was born of necessity and began its development into the popular and polished yet merrily mud-spattered act it is today.

Rush, Herb and John had a great crowd that Sunday – and put on a fine and funny show in the filth. Herb’s devil-may-care performance of the celebrated “Acapulco Cliff Dive” was a highlight, as were Rush’s antics as The Judge and John’s comic command of the crowd.

A fine summer day at the Renn Faire, a beer in hand, and the Sturdy Beggars in the mud pit make for an outstanding entertainment trifecta. Plus, we got to spend time backstage with Rush’s girlfriend, Theresa Miele.

On July 9th, we loaded up the rental SUV with our props, costumes and other baggage – and Victoria, daughter Emilia and I drove to Cleveland. Since my college days, I’ve driven the route from Chicago to Cleveland on the Indiana and Ohio Turnpikes many times, but this was the first time I’d made the drive with Vic and Emilia. It’s a long, straight drive across acres and acres of corn, interrupted by rest stop plazas that in my younger days the plazas were all Howard Johnson’s restaurants but they’re now a generic series of national fast food franchises like Burger King and Pizza Hut. My daughter Emilia did not understand my nostalgia for the lost Howard Johnson’s plazas. (She doesn’t know what she missed.)

We got to Cleveland in late afternoon and checked into our downtown hotel on Euclid Avenue in the heart of Playhouse Square – just a couple short blocks from the 14th Street Theatre. Downtown Cleveland gave an immediate impression of cleanliness and civic pride, which my wife and daughter picked up on immediately.

This was not the “mistake on the Lake” they had heard about – or the downtrodden town that my daughter had seen savaged in a couple of infamous YouTube videos. Cleveland was looking very good from Playhouse Square.

Dinner that night was at my childhood home on Cleveland’s Westside, near the Metropark Zoo. My beloved mom, Mary, had made her magical meatballs and pasta – and we all dined on the stuff that I was raised on: love, laughter and truly great tomato sauce. Then, of course, my mom kicked all our butts at Scrabble. Traditions prevail at home in Cleveland.

Later that evening, we picked up daughter Eva at Cleveland Hopkins Airport after her incredible two-week adventure in Europe. (She’ll have to write her own blog post on that amazing, life-changing trip to Switzerland, France and Italy.) Getting back to our hotel after dark we were delighted to see “The Vic & Paul Show” announced in lights on the marquees along Playhouse Square. It was a good omen.

On Tuesday morning I loaded the show’s equipment into the 14thStreet Theatre, enjoyed a late breakfast in the hotel with Vic and the girls, and then drove over to my childhood home on Cleveland’s west side, near the zoo. My daughters hadn’t been to Cleveland and Grandma’s house in way too many years, and my sabbatical provided us the chance to spend quality time in my hometown and visit my mom and family while putting on our show together. Several of my cousins joined us for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, some cutthroat Scrabble, and a great family photo on the front porch steps.

My mom’s the lady in the middle. The photo is by Jim Metrisin, my cousin Lynna Synder’s husband, who’s sitting next to Eva, Victoria and Emilia. That’s Lynna next to me and my sister Nancy is on the other side of my mom. My sister’ son Alan Crossman is the guy in the dark shirt sitting above her. Next to Alan is my cousin Diana Snyder, my brother-in-law Alan Crossman Sr., my cousin Jim Snyder and his wife Peggy — and just below Peggy is their son Bennett.

The next day, I picked up music man Steve at the airport and that afternoon we moved into the 14th Street Theatre and worked through our technical rehearsal. My daughter Emilia handled the lighting set up and her three-man union crew with competence and good humor. Daughter Eva helped out by running errands and assisting with the set-up backstage. We’re a bit like the Von Trapp Family of improvisational comedy – minus the lederhosen.

It was great to be working in a cabaret space again, designed and built a decade ago by Second City as its short-lived Cleveland outpost. Adjusting our staging to the 14th Street stage was easy, which was good because we had a few new things to rehearse. We’d made some tweaks for the Cleveland run, including a new line for Steve’s opening song in honor of the Cleveland Indians’ surprisingly competitive performance up to that point.

All the people are drinking their cocktails,

All the people are drinking their cocktails,

They’re happy, they’re hopeful, a smile on their face,

Tonight the Tribe’s just two games out of first place!

We opened the next night, Thursday, July 12th. We were fortunate to get some nice advance press, including an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer and another in Scene Magazine (at left), which was an important rock and roll rag back in my day and has since grown into a prime source for what’s hip and happening on the weekend in the Greater Cleveland area.

As Steve got behind the piano and kicked off the show that evening, Victoria and I waited offstage to make our entrance. I had not been on a Cleveland stage since 1976 (when I played George M. Cohan in a Bicentennial production of “George M!”) and there were a handful of cousins, former high school chums and teachers in the opening night crowd who hadn’t seen me perform since then.

Most of the audience were strangers, attracted by the press and Playhouse Square promotional effort. How would the show play in Cleveland, especially among folks who had no idea who we were? Vic and I were reassured within moments, when Steve got a warm, appreciative laugh singing, “Tonight the Tribe’s just two games out of first place.” From there, the laughter flowed.

From right: Elda Borroni (my social studies teacher,) Ellen Howard (my art teacher), her brother Jerry Fasko (my math teacher and football coach), Martha Benek (who played Marian the Librarian to my Prof. Harold Hill) and classmate Maryhelen Bednarchik and her friend John Schrader. We’re grateful they all came.

Our opening night show set a pattern for the Cleveland run: great crowds, including a delightful collection of family members, longtime friends, high school classmates, my favorite high school teachers, a large and receptive contingent of perfect strangers — and lots of boisterous, knowing laughter.

The only frustration was that there was not enough time to spend with all of the special people who came.  A Northwestern classmate, Ellen Hyman Jones, drove all the way out from New York to see the show! There was barely enough time to dash out to the lobby and greet as many folks as possible before we had to clear the theatre, straighten backstage, and get our union crew off the clock.

Friday was a very busy day. We began at 1:00 PM by putting on a free show at the senior center where my mom volunteers — Senior Citizen Resources near Broadview and Pearl Road.

As we set up for the show we had our concerns that many in the audience might be too old or too hard of hearing to get all the jokes – but we needn’t have been concerned.

That roomful of seniors turned out to be one of the most engaged and appreciative audiences we’d ever entertained.

There was no joke too subtle (or too racy) for this crowd. My mom sat at the center table with her fellow Red Hat Ladies and my sister, Nancy.

A good time was had by all — especially us.

Then it was on to the West Side Market. I was eager to show off the market to Steve, Emilia and Eva. (Vic had seen it before.) It’s been a Cleveland landmark on West 25th Street since 1912. Unknown to me, the West Side Market was, of course, celebrating its centennial – and there was a festive buzz in the air. Here are Emilia and Eva enjoying the view from a balcony high above the crowded stalls filled with meats, cheeses, bakery, and other fabulous ethnic foodstuffs.

Next, we drove to the east side of Cleveland to meet with my high school art teacher and mentor, Ellen Howard (Ellen Fasko back in my day), for a quick tour of my high school. Or at least one of the campuses I attended.

We didn’t have a football field when I went to CCC.

In my day, Cleveland Central Catholic was a one-of-a-kind educational institution. In 1969, four struggling Catholic high schools – two on the west side (St. Michaels and St. John Cantius) and two on the east side (Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Stanislaus – joined together in a unique scholastic experiment. My brother Peter was in that first CCC class. Three years later I enrolled as a freshman.

Photo by Ellen Howard.

By my junior year I was driving crosstown to classes on both sides of the Cuyahoga River Valley, known in Cleveland as The Flats. Today, only one campus remains: St. Stan’s — the one we toured. Ellen showed Vic, Steve and the girls the building where my football locker room was (and still is), as well as the classrooms where I took art class and history. We also pored over the 1976 yearbook from my senior year that I’d worked on, writing copy and photo captions. Ellen was our yearbook advisor – and remains a Central Catholic treasure to this day.

During our stay in Cleveland we also squeezed in a visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, less than a mile’s walk from Playhouse Square. There was way too much to see at The Hall of Fame and we had far too little time to see it all, but it was a rewarding experience nonetheless. A particular highlight was sitting on the floor with my wife and daughters, all of us spellbound by a series of videos detailing the unique stories behind each of The Beatles’ wondrous albums. We could have sat there forever — but we had a show to do.

Closing night of “The Vic & Paul Show” at the 14th Street Theatre was a triumphant end to a great run. After the show (and a frantic load-out) we raced back across The Flats to the near west side for a closing night party at Sokolowski’s University Inn, a fine Polish restaurant run by former high school classmates of mine.

A typical view from The Flats.

Another view from The Flats.

Ellen Howard, my classmate Frank Nunez & me.

A special group of my favorite former high school teachers, coaches, classmates and family were waiting at Sokolowski’s to celebrate with us. It was a magical end to a wonderful Cleveland homecoming: a memorable party full of friendship, laughter, great old stories, good wine — and several plates piled high with pierogi!

Eva, Elda and Emilia.

Cleveland knows how to party.

This Cleveland stage of my summer sabbatical was particularly important. After two decades of making television shows that entertained a remote audience whose response to my work I could only imagine – taking “The Vic & Paul Show” to Cleveland was an opportunity to reconnect with live audiences in a town far away from Hollywood and many miles removed from Chicago, where The Practical Theatre Company made some history and earned a reputation that lingers today.

Making salt of the Earth Clevelanders laugh was a professional victory for us all — and a deeply personal honor for this author.

If I did nothing else during my summer sabbatical, our adventure in The Best Location in The Nation made it all worthwhile.

Next: Further cabaret explorations in Evanston and Chicago, a brief return to Cleveland, and “The Vic & Paul Show” summer tour ends on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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The Top 10 Rock & Roll Singers of All Time.

Ever since The Beatles turned me on to rock and roll at the age of 5, I’ve been singing along to the radio, trying to recreate the style and power of the great rock voices that inspired me.

Some signature performances, like Roy Orbison’s operatic masterpiece “It’s Over” and Freddie Mercury’s incredible “Bohemian Rhapsody”, challenged my limits as a singer. On my best day, I couldn’t reach those soaring heights of vocal power — but trying to sing along with Roy and Freddie made me a better singer.

I’ve been singing in rock and roll bands since high school, and there’s nothing like trying to cover a classic song to make you appreciate the artist who sang that song on the record. Just listen to teenage Stevie Winwood sing “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group — or Bob Seeger tearing through “Get Out Of Denver”. Those performances literally leave you breathless.

Over the years, I’ve become a connoisseur of fine rock and roll vocals. So, just to start one of my favorite arguments, I’ve come up with a list of the Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time. This is not a list of my favorite singers. Indeed, many of my favorite singers – Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Paul Rogers to name a few – did not make the list.

This is a list of the ten best rock and roll vocalists who ever picked up a microphone.

1. Elvis Presley

Elvis is King. Period. And I don’t want to hear from a bunch of folks who can’t get that bloated, drug addled Elvis out of their minds. Elvis put rock and roll on the map because his voice was magic. There is a quality to Elvis Presley’s voice that thrills the listener – in the same way the sound of Paul McCartney and John Lennon singing harmony gives you goose bumps. Every rock and roll singer after Elvis has been singing in his shadow. That’s why Elvis was the first inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. (The Hall of Fame website calls him “the undisputed King of Rock and Roll”.) Listen to Elvis sing “Trying To Get To You” – and bow down to The King.

2. Ray Charles

There’s nothing Ray Charles couldn’t sing. The blues, country, rock and roll, soul, and rhythm and blues – Ray knocked them all out of the park. But as versatile as he was, no matter what style of song he sang, he made that tune inimitably his own. If Ray Charles had put a rock and roll band together in the 1950’s, he would have owned the rock and roll top 10. And though he recorded everything from gospel to standards – Ray Charles rocked hard enough to be in the first class inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.  Check out Ray rocking “Baby, What’d I Say?”

3. James Brown

Another member of that first class of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, James Brown is one of those singers that you just don’t even try to cover. Not even in your most drunken moment in a karaoke bar. Even if James Brown didn’t have the most out-a-sight dance moves ever invented, even if he didn’t have the most fabulous pompadour that ever adorned a rocker’s head – he would still have the most dynamic voice in rock and roll history. Like Ray Charles, James Brown didn’t make a lot records that would be considered straight up rock and roll: he was far too funky to play it in 1-4-5. But all you have do is listen to James belt out “(I Got You) I Feel Good” to know why he’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

4. Little Richard

Along with Elvis, Little Richard wrote the other half of the rock and roll singer’s lexicon in the 1950’s. Without him, The Beatles don’t wag their heads and sing, “Oooooh!” I can’t imagine what rock and roll singing would be like without the example of Little Richard: the freedom, the abandon, the soaring screams and “wooohs” – the joyous, anarchic, frenetic, rhythm-pounding pulse of his performances have influenced every rock and roller who followed. That’s why, he’s another guy they put in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Imagine what conservative Middle American parents thought when they heard Little Richard sing “Long Tall Sally”. Dangerous, man. Wild and dangerous.

5. Paul McCartney

The best singer in the best rock and roll band of all time, Paul McCartney earns a spot on this list even if his only vocal performance in consideration was a song he released after The Beatles broke up. No singer dares to cover Paul’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” – one of the most spectacular rock vocals of all time. And Paul can still sing this song today at the age of 69. I heard him sing it at Staples Center in Los Angeles a few years back and it was still powerful. Paul McCartney is a force of nature. Here’s he is, decades before his Knighthood, singing “Maybe I’m Amazed” with his other band, Wings.

6. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin is not just one of the best female rock and roll singers ever – she’s one of the greatest rock and roll vocalists period. There’s never been another woman who fronted a rock band with such a fearless, soulful, and savage style. Like the great blues singers, Janis understood the sexual subtext of rock and roll – but she didn’t sell sex on the stage – she sold the power of the music. She was magnetic and magnificent. All I ask is that other, inevitably lesser singers stop trying to cover Janis’ classic, “Piece Of My Heart”. It just can’t be done.

7. Burton Cummings

Perhaps the least recognizable name on this list – and probably the only Canadian – Burton Cummings is hands-down one of the very best rock and roll singers that came out of the 1960’s. Lead singer for The Guess Who, Cummings sang classics like “No Sugar Tonight”, “American Woman” and “Share The Land”. But if you want to know why I think he’s one of the best rock vocalists of all time, all you need to do is listen to him sing “These Eyes.” Toward the end, when he does a soaring riff on, “These eyes are crying” – it’s one of those vocal moments that try as I might, I’ve never been able to replicate in the shower or in my car. Burton Cummings is a master class in rich, powerful, and exhilarating rock and roll singing.

8. Roger Daltrey

Roger Daltrey is the best rock and roll screamer of all time. I personally owe him a lot. (Back in college, Fat Dave Silberger compared me to Daltrey, and I still haven’t gotten over his undeserved but much appreciated flattery.) Fronting a magnificent trio – Daltrey’s voice was the fourth instrument in one of the most powerful live rock bands to ever take the stage. Pete Townshend is one of the great rock and roll songwriters of all time – and Roger’s incredible voice made Pete’s ambitious, operatic songs possible. Case in point: “Love, Reign O’er Me”

9. Robert Plant

I was never a huge Led Zeppelin fan back in the day, but in retrospect, maybe it was because I was afraid to cover their songs. Why? Because of freaking Robert Plant! Led Zeppelin was extremely popular inn the early 70’s when I was in my first high school band, but trying to belt my way through Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” or attempt “Stairway to Heaven” was to invite comparison with Robert Plant and, thus, failure. Still, trying to sing along with Plant made me a better singer. I saw him a few years ago at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles during his tour with Alison Krauss. Dude’s still got it.

10. John Fogerty

I love John Fogerty. My father was born in New Orleans, Louisiana – but Berkeley, California native Fogerty had even more bayou in his soul than my dad did. When I was an 11-year old kid, the songs of Creedence Clearwater Revival jumped off the radio and connected with me more than anything other than The Beatles. It was that crunchy, snarling guitar groove – and John Fogerty’s voice: a rolling, driving, inescapable growl – like an unrelenting, passionate Little Richard with more politics than sex on his mind. I devoted myself to screaming through Creedence songs like Fogerty, pushing myself to my vocal limits. But I’ve never approached the master’s performance on “Fortunate Son.” Listen – and, once again, bow down…

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Filed under History, Music