BLUESMAN STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN | TRIBUTE TO AUSTIN’S FAVORITE SON

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Life has now taken me to the great city of Austin, Texas.  You can usually find me walking next to Lady Bird Lake early Saturday morning,completely stuck in my own head, and with my son in tow.  He’s a bit of a freak for guitars, and on one of our walks he asked me, “Who is that statue of the man with the guitar?” As we walked closer a smile crossed my face…

It has been twenty years since we lost Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter crash– arguably one of the greatest blues guitarists ever, and one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Austin music scene. He was only 35 when he passed away, and was on a high from being clean and sober for four years. Stevie was making some of the best music of his life and then– gone in an instant.

Stevie Ray Vaughan played in my hometown of Chicago quite a bit while I was growing up.  Any serious blues player will tell you that all roads lead to the Windy City– and Stevie was no different.  He had a reverence for the blues and its history.  Stevie was heavily influenced by Chicago legend Buddy Guy (who along with Albert King, Otis Rush, Lonnie Mack, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Jimi Hendrix really sculpted his style) and would show up at Buddy’s club Legends to jam after hours when he was in town.  I was lucky enough to see him play there several times.   You could tell that Dallas-born Stevie had cut his teeth playing the small clubs around Austin– he really liked that environment and usually played some great stuff.  You had to be willing to stay well into the morning hours to catch Stevie jam with Buddy and any number of Chicago’s finest players, but it was well worth it.  Well before the days of cell phone cameras and YouTube, most of these sessions will only live in the memory of those of us that were there to witness two of the greatest guitar legends take turns on classics– like Born Under a Bad Sign, Red House, Not Fade Away, and Mannish Boy.

I often pass Stevie’s statue on my Saturday walks, and wonder if others still stop and reflect on his greatness.  Do they know how truly special this guy was?  Sadly, time has a way of dulling our memory, and we can forget.  Man, I hope not.  I feel blessed to have seen Stevie play guitar back then.  His incredible sound was pure Blues and pure Texas.

Eli M. Getson

 

The legendary Texas Bluesman and guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan, going behind the back.

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HOW TO CLASH ART, MUSIC & STYLE | TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME ROCKER PAUL SIMONON

“Clothes were where my aesthetic instincts came out then. They helped make the group accessible.”

–Paul Simonon

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Back in 1976, it was the wily manager, Bernie Rhodes, who instructed Mick Jones to recruit Paul Simonon into the group that would soon become The Clash, simply because he looked the part. “I was a bit Bowie, a bit suedehead back then,” says Simonon. “And, more importantly, I was at art college. Mick liked that. He was always big on pop history. He knew all about Stuart Sutcliffe, who was Lennon’s best mate in the early days of the Beatles, and a proper artist. I remember Mick introducing me to all his mates– ‘This is my new bass guitarist, Paul. He can’t play but he’s a painter.'”

The rest, as they say, is rock’n’roll history. Together, at Rhodes’s urging, they recruited Joe Strummer to the cause, and the Clash became the coolest punk group on the planet.  When the London punk scene began, Simonon was a fledgling painter, fresh from Byam Shaw art college which, back then, was just up the road in Notting Hill. In the spirit of the times, he  drip-painted his bass guitar in the style of Jackson Pollock and learned how to play by writing out the chords and sticking them on to the instrument’s neck. His reggae-influenced bass playing soon became integral to the group’s sound.

Simonon’s traditionalist approach to painting is surprising given that, within the often volatile creative dynamic of the Clash, he was the conceptualist, the one who paid most attention to the visuals, the image. He painted the backdrop to the Clash’s rehearsal studio, and designed some of the later stage sets, including the dive-bombing Stukas that echoed their often explosive performances. You could tell the Clash were art-school punks from the start, what with those shirts stencilled with slogans and that paint-splashed bass guitar.

“That was the art student in me trying to find a look that would make us stand apart from the Sex Pistols,” he says, laughing. “The Buzzcocks were very Mondrian, and we were Pollock. As a painter, though, I’m essentially old-fashioned. Conceptualism just doesn’t do it for me. I love Walter Sickert, Samuel Palmer, Rubens and Constable. That’s just the way I am. I love putting paint on canvas, getting lost in the process of painting.”

–Sean O’Hagan

The Clash, 1982– Joe Strummer, Terry Chimes, Mick Jones & Paul Simonon.  –photo by Bob Gruen

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The Clash, 1982– Joe Strummer, Terry Chimes, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.  –photo by Bob Gruen

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DOES ELVIS PRESLEY + WANDA JACKSON x HASIL ADKINS = THE CRAMPS? MAYBE.

Not to beat this whole Cramps thang to death…During an interesting conversation (mostly one-sided, and highly enjoyable via the internets with a new found friend), the following rock equation was confirmed.  You take the schmaltz, swagger, sex, and glitter of Elvis + the thundering gal on guitar and belting vocals of Wanda Jackson + the frantic, hollerin’ and hillbilly hunchin’ of Hasil Adkins + stir it up, add some hardcore NY snips and whips, pour it generously into a raging ’70s garage band, bake at 1,000 degrees = you might just have yourself The Cramps.

Wanda Jackson briefly dated Elvis, who encouraged her to go Rockabilly with her sound and show.

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Check that pickguard made of old 45’s on Hasil Adkin’s guitar on the right…. Holy hot tracks, Batman!

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The Cramps famously covered Hasil Adkins’ “She Said” which led to a new found interest in his music.

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POISON IVY OF THE CRAMPS | PSYCHOBILLY GUITAR GODDESS

Now, you don’t seriously expect that I can post on Elvis and not followup with The Cramps, right? There’s something about a gal playing a sexy Gretsch guitar that makes a many a little weak in the knees. ‘Least that’s what I’ve been told…

Poison Ivy “Rorschach” and Lux Interior, R.I.P. (her husband and co-founding member of The Cramps) gave us a genre of music gleefully known and loved known as– Psychobilly.  Starting out as the ultimate garage band back in ’76, with their raw performance intensity and simple, throbbing tunes– they influenced an entire generation of rock/punk/goth bands who followed behind in their giant footsteps, and are still thrilling kids who “discover” their musical legacy to this day.  Lux is the man, and Poison Ivy is no doubt the woman. Just get a load of these epic pics, and try not to bite through your lip…

1992– Poison Ivy of the Cramps, Tamaris Rock Festival  via

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1995– Pois0n Ivy of The Cramps at the University of Utah Olpin Union Ballroom. via

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THE INCOMPARABLE MARVIN GAYE | THE TROUBLE MAN PREACHES

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

I’ve been thinking a lot about Marvin Gaye recently.  He is, for me a least, the yardstick that all R&B singers (hell, all singers) are measured by.   His life was also something of a contradiction.  He could be religious, profane, introspective, romantic, highly political, debauched and raunchy in his music– and his personal life.  Like all of us, Marvin Gaye had a lot of layers.  His battles with his personal demons and his tragic murder at the hand of his own father are something out of a Greek tragedy.  He’s been gone for some time now, yet his music (like all great music) sounds like it could have been made today.

By the end of the ’60s Marvin was tired of the music he was making– and fed up with the state of the world.  Having built his career on the highly produced, highly stylized singles produced out of Berry Gordy’s Motown, he fought for the artistic right to do an about face and write, produce, and record “What’s Going On” in 1971.  It is without question one of the finest albums of that decade, and perhaps in all of popular music.

“What’s Going On” changed everything for Marvin– he was now perceived as a serious and complex artist.  It also veered R&B off into completely new territory.  Heavily influenced by the politics of the day, the hippie culture, and the Black Power movement– the record is a high water mark for records of that time.  It’s equal parts concept album, political album, and religious preaching.  It’s also the only album I have ever listened to that combines all these elements and puts you squarely into the black, urban neighborhoods of the early 1970s.  The joy, pain, longing, uncertainly, and ultimately wanting to escape that experience are powerful themes explored over the course of the nine songs.

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“If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else”

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Marvin Gaye (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

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EPIC BIKER ART LEGEND | LONG LIVE EASYRIDERS’ HAROLD R. ROBINSON, JR.

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Easyriders was a great biker mag– back in the day. In fact, it was the official reading resource of our household growing up.  Yeah, I read the articles, snuck peeks at pics of ol’ ladies (pre-silicone days, and looking like their upper half had been subjected to major G4-force wind, if you catch my drift…), but mostly I drooled over the mesmerizing artwork of legendary illustrators Dave Mann and Hal Robinson. Hal will always be remembered  for his “Red Rider” and the epic “Miraculous Mutha” cartoons.  What an amazing artist who influenced a generation of illustrators that followed.  Sadly he passed on to the other side back in ’84, but his art will live forever.

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MICKEY ROURKE | I THOUGHT TALENT WOULD TRANSCEND MY OUTSPOKENESS

1983 — Mickey Rourke, Motorcycle Boy, Coppola’s “Rumble Fish”  — Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

 

Mickey Rourke – the most raw, intense, riveting actor of the 1980s, who slowly self-destructed before our eyes. He gained a reputation for having a chip on his shoulder, and through his pride and bravado burned a lot of bridges in the biz. Rourke brashly looked down his nose at his peers, insisting that he wouldn’t sell-out – he was pure and uncompromising. Back when Rourke was coming up on the heels of of heroes- De Niro, Pacino, Keitel, Walken – he was too young, too full of himself, and too foolish to know that at the end of the day, it’s a business before anything else – and politics reigns supreme.

Rourke then made few questionable film choices with 9 1/2 Weeks and Wild Orchid and suddenly he was no longer Hollywood’s prized young lion – he was branded sleazy Euro-trash. Disillusioned with it all, Rourke walked away – choosing to fight the inner demons that had dogged him all his life in the boxing ring.  Ironically, it was in the ring again, that Rourke fought like hell for his esteem and redemption as “Randy the Ram”, a disfigured down-and-out wrestler – and came out on top. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better comeback – in a seemingly hopeless situation, hope and hard work can get you through.

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1983 — Mickey Rourke, Motorcycle Boy in “Rumble Fish” — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

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1983 — Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Rumble Fish”

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PHOTOGRAPHY OF HENRY HORENSTEIN AN AMERICAN ARCHIVE — HONKY TONK

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Jesus, take the wheel– Country music has done run itself off into a ditch.

The hollow Country/Pop crossover stars of today are more L.A. than Nashville.  They make Garth Brooks look like Hank Williams.  Video killed the AM radio star.  Henry Horenstein’s Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981 is a hugely inspiring photographic archive that perfectly captures the days when Country was C-O-U-N-T-R-Y.  The artists talked the talk, and walked the walk.  They had personality, talent, were characters, and yes– could be a bit corny as well.  But in retrospect, that too is part of the charm and allure. So take a spin.  Each brilliant Horenstein capture is better than the last, and makes me pine for simpler times– not to mention an icy cold can of Schlitz.

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15 July 1972, Billerica, MA — Don Stover was a bluegrass banjo picker from White Oak, West Virginia. He came to Boston in 1952 with the Lilly Brothers from nearby Beckley and they played together for over eighteen years at Boston’s Hillbilly Ranch. Stover had great influence on a generation of important young banjo pickers. He influenced Bill Keith who introduced chromatic scales to bluegrass as a member of Bill Monroe’s band and Bela Fleck, a bluegrass and jazz-fusion star. — Image by © Henry Horenstein/Corbis

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1972, Boston, MA — Porter Wagoner Sitting on a Piano Playing Guitar (nice Nudie suit Porter) — Image by © Henry Horenstein /Corbis

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15 July 1978, Boston, MA — Lilly Brothers reunion show at the Hillbilly Ranch. The term “Honky Tonk” strictly refers to the type of bar that became popular after prohibition ended in the mid 1930’s. These bars were a little seedy and usually located on the outskirts of town. Honky tonks were a haven where a band could learn and hone its skills. — Image by © Henry Horenstein/Corbis

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TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME | TOM WOLFE THE ORIGINAL THIN, WHITE DUKE

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“There are just two classes of men in the world, men with suits whose buttons are just sewn onto the sleeve, just some kind of cheapie decoration, or—yes!—men who can unbutton the sleeve at the wrist because they have real buttonholes and the sleeve really buttons up.”

The Secret Vice, by Tom Wolfe

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In 1952, a promising young pitching prospect out of Washington and Lee University showed up for a tryout with the New York Giants (the baseball Giants, that is– they hadn’t yet decamped for San Francisco).  The prospect made a decent showing: three innings, three men on base, no runs scored.  Good screwball, nice sinker, not much heat.  “If somebody had offered me a Class D professional contract,” says the prospect– whose name was Tom Wolfe– many decades later, “I would have gladly put off writing for a couple of decades.”  But the Giants cut Wolfe after two days, and he became a giant of another kind. (Via)

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Recently, in the wake of the recession, Wall Street greed, and the wreckage of Lehman Brother, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns et al, the term “Master of The Universe” keeps getting thrown around to describe these fallen titans of Lower Manhattan.  Whenever I hear this term I always think of the man who penned it, my nominee for the TSY Style Hall of Fame, Tom Wolfe.

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1970s, New York City — Author Tom Wolfe — Image by © Bob Adelman/Corbis

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Cultural Chronicler is another term that also gets thrown around a lot– I mean one well reviewed novel and Bret Easton Ellis was the voice of his generation (I remember I lived through it), but few American wordsmiths can actually lay claim to writing about the people and events that shaped a lot of the last 50 years of the 20th Century as a largely inside observer, and in the process coining some phrases that became part of the popular lexicon.

Tom Wolfe always managed to get underneath the surface of events and reveal the most primal of human emotions-greed, arrogance, courage, humor, longing-and come up with phrases like “Radical Chic”, “The Me Generation”, “Social X-Ray”, “The Right Stuff”, and one of his favorites “Good Ol Boy” which he used to describe the racecar driver Junior Johnson.

Other than being an avid reader of Wolfe’s work I have a somewhat personal connection.  For a few years we lived in the same NYC neighborhood and while I can never say I spoke to him, he was impossible to miss.  A tall man, with an aquiline nose Wolfe was always decked in an immaculate white suit, high collar Jermyn Street custom dress shirt, splendid tie, pocket square that screamed dandy, white shoes, and occasionally white hat.  His style was very much like his writing, elegant but with a sense of humor and irony.  I mean who dresses like that anymore!  Yet Tom Wolfe looked crisp on the hottest of days.

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Tom Wolfe — the American journalist, pop critic and novelist, 1980. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

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THE WILD LIFE AND UNTIMELY DEATH OF THE REGGAE LEGEND PETER TOSH

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From the desk of Contributing Editor Eli M. Getson-

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Growing up in Chicago during the 1970’s and 80’s I had the opportunity to see some truly epic musicians. Luckily, I looked older than my years, and also had the advantage of a stellar fake ID– so Dr. James Fortier, OBGYN could get into any number of late night haunts, concert halls, and after hours clubs.  I saw a lot of great acts in those days.  However, I contend that no artist I have ever seen, before or since, could hold a candle to Winston Hubert McIntosh, aka Peter Tosh.  Peter, usually arriving to the stage late, would literally stalk the floor with intensity.  He filled up a hall like no other musician I have ever seen– it was like he sucked the oxygen out of the place.  A Peter Tosh concert was a roller coaster ride.  He could appear stoned out of his mind, ranting about legalizing ganja use between songs– and then be completely lucid and take on the role of machete wielding revolutionary giving a political speech on the oppression in the Third World and the evils of apartheid.  Whenever I saw Peter I could not take my eyes off him– he literally scared/fascinated the hell out of me.  And hearing him do a solo version of “Get Up, Stand Up” was a religious experience that hit me like a ton of bricks.

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1983 ~ Peter Tosh Holding a Microphone and Guitar ~ Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

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In a lot of ways I think Peter was ahead of his time, and probably is more of a spiritual father to the hip-hop movement than he gets credit for.  To say he grew up hard is an understatement.  Born to parents who were too young to raise him, Peter was raised by his aunt in the Trenchtown ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica.  He taught himself guitar early on by listening to American AM stations from Miami and New Orleans who played the likes of Chuck Berry.  Peter became quite a local celebrity in Kingston in the 1960s singing ska, and was introduced by his musical mentor Joe Higgs to Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer.

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1972, Jamaica ~ L-R: Earl Lindo, Bob Marley, Carlton Barrett, Peter Tosh, Aston “Family Man” Barrett. ~ Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

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It was through this fateful hook-up that Peter and Bob became friends and the Wailers were formed.   Through Joe’s teaching, the group learned to harmonize and often sang on the street corners of Trenchtown and at various local sets as they got bigger.  Through their will, guile and talent, the Wailers became Jamaican superstars and caught the attention of a young, British music exec named Chris Blackwell, who signed them and released their first two albums Catch a Fire and Burnin’ in 1973.  I am not sure if Blackwell signed the Wailers solely with the intent of making Bob Marley a star– but after a rather nasty spat over Blackwell’s refusal to record a Tosh solo effort, Peter left the group and began several years of twists and turns.  While Marley became the major Reggae star from Jamaica with his “One Love” message, Peter constantly berated a system he felt was unfair and would be beaten and harassed many times by the Jamaican police, even after he’d attained stardom.

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