Segment 34

If you’ve been listening to our little show long enough, you’ve probably heard me talk about a guy named Francis Grasso. He was club deejay in New York from the late sixties to the early eighties and he invented what we call the slip-cue, the method of holding a record still on a moving turntable with the help of a felt pad between the two, and letting it go at the right moment so it hits on the beat of the song that’s currently playing so there’s no jarring change in the tempo. Slip cuing is also useful when you’re trying to beat match from song to song. And today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl features a perfect example of exactly that. I was listening to Harry Nilsson’s album, Son of Schmilsson and the track “Ambush” came on.

In the middle of the song, most of the band stops playing but the drummer keeps the beat while Nilsson talks over the top saying, “Now this time through, we want everybody to listen to the punch line.” And as the drummer keeps playing, all I can think of is the beat to Steely Dan’s “Chain Lightening.” So we do a nice little slip cue and, that’s exactly where we end up. That’s later in the set, but first, something completely different, something that reminded me of a conversation I had recently with my friend Jim Fusilli, who covers music for the Wall Street Journal. He’d just seen Lucinda Williams in concert and he asked me how I defined the type of music that’s referred to as Americana or Alt Country. I said it’s music played with the standard instruments and traditions of country, that country radio won’t play: everybody from Lyle Lovett and Buddy Miller to Guy Clark and Lucinda Williams. Well, long before those guys showed up, we were listening to Americana in the songs of Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, Willis Alan Ramsey, and Jesse Winchester. So, from the Way Back Studios, here’s some “Dangerous Fun.”

Jesse Winchester Dangerous Fun
Willis Alan Ramsey Ballad of Spider John
Bob Dylan Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Simon and Garfunkle Kathy’s Song
Jim Croce Walkin’ Back to Georgia
J.J. Cale Cherry
Harry Nilsson Ambush (part 1)
Steely Dan Chain Lightening
Harry Nilsson Ambush (part 2)

At a press conference in 1968 John Lennon and Paul McCartney were asked to name their favorite American artist and they both said the same thing: Harry Nilsson. The guy released around twenty albums covering a wild range of material. He did an album of Randy Newman covers. The soundtrack for an animated film that spawned the hit “Me and My Arrow.” And in 1972, he released Son of Schmillson which gave us the track we just heard, “Ambush.” Among the many great songs on that album is a lively sing-along with the residents of a nursing home on a ditty called “I’d Rather Be Dead Than Wet My Bed.” It’s an astounding album that’s worth tracking down. Anyway, in the middle of “Ambush” we did a nifty little beat match to segue right into Steely Dan’s “Chain Lightening.” Before the Nilsson, we heard J.J. Cale doing a song called “Cherry” from his album Trubadour, which also happens to be the name of a famous club in Hollywood out of which Harry Nilsson and John Lennon were thrown after they got drunk and heckled the Smothers Brothers.

At the top of the set, some early Americana, starting with “Dangerous Fun” from Jesse Winchester’s album, 3rd Down, 110 to Go. After that, we heard the “Ballad of Spider John” by Willis Alan Ramsey from the only album he’s ever released. It came out in 1972 on the Shelter label and is legendary among songwriters. Among the artists who have covered him over the years are Jimmy Buffet, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, and Shawn Colvin. Rumor has it Mr. Ramsey is working on that long-awaited follow-up album. All I can say is, take your time. It’s only been thirty-seven years. Elsewhere in the set, Jim Croce, Simon & Garfunkle, and Bob Dylan, knock, knock, knockin’ on the door to the Way Back Studios which means our time is up. By the way, if you want to see the set lists or send us an email or find out what else we’re up to around here, you can drop by my website or the Facebook page or track me down on Amazon. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll have a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl next time, right here in the Deep Tracks.

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