Monday, December 26, 2011


As 2011 draws to a close, like many other people I like to sit back and reflect. Unlike many other people, I'm sitting back reflecting on the 1990s, not 2011.

Ah, yes, the 90s. A time when grunge music ruled the airwaves. Eh.

I was in my 20s, working for my father at his service station, pumping gas, changing oil, tuning cars up. It was dirty work, but it was OK - I always had money in my pocket (which I usually drank away at night at some bar), had a good boss (though, at the time, I thought my dad was the WORST guy to work for. Little did I know how great he was) and got to listen to a LOT of radio during the day. Almost always non-commercial radio, natch.

During the week, work was....well, work. People constantly coming in with complaints about their cars, other folks having their cars towed in, me constantly running out from the bays to the island to pump gas or to give directions, etc. The winters were tough - there is nothing colder than the repair bays in a gas station in the middle of January. I'm sure the concrete I spent most of my day standing and kneeling on will someday give me crippling arthritis. I can't even begin to tell you how many scars I have on my hands and arms from being cut so many times while working on someone's old junker.

Saturday, however, was a different story. We never scheduled anything but oil changes and tire rotations on that day, mainly because my father wanted to go home early that day, and my main Saturday job was cleaning the floors in the repair bays - after I was done with everyone's oil changes, of course. But I didn't mind, because Saturday was always a party at the gas station. The regular customers would always come by to shoot the breeze with my dad and I (and, of course, they always brought coffee and doughnuts), the people who wanted gas were never rude (because it was the weekend, so there was no big hurry about anything), and there was great music coming out of the non-commercial radio stations in the NY/NJ area.

I remember the schedule like it was yesterday: I would arrive at the gas station not-so-promptly around 8AM (after being out until 6AM Friday night - those were the days), unlock the door, stumble to the radio, and turn it on to Felix Hernandez on 88.3 FM. About 10 minutes later Schnauzer Eddie would walk in. Eddie was an old friend of my dad's - I called him Schnauzer Eddie because he raised miniature Schnauzers, plus he looked like one. Anyway, Eddie would walk in the door, take one look at me, laugh, and give me a cup of coffee from the deli down the street. That coffee would wake me up enough so that I could make coffee (sort of the ultimate catch-22). By 10AM, I was fully conscious, Felix was in full swing with obscure soul 45s, and life was good. Felix would go off at 1PM, and the dial would be turned to 89.9, WKCR, who would have a blues/soul program called "Mystery Train". Only problem there was that WKCR's schedule was bizarre, to say the least, and "Mystery Train" would get pre-empted a lot. Those weeks I would switch the station to CBS-FM for two hours and listen to the always brilliant Dan Ingram.

But then, at 3PM, I would jerk the dial to the left until it stopped at 91.1, WFMU. That's when I'd listen to The Hound, James Marshall (this was back in the days BEFORE the station became one large commercial for Norton Records). You'd hear that dog growl and then the segue into Esquerita's "Esquerita And The Voola", and you knew you were in for 3 hours of great music! You can still hear The Hound's old shows at his website,

One of the best parts of Hound's show was the end. I'm not being snarky here. After The Hound went off, another DJ known as Wildgirl would take the air chair. She would ALWAYS start her show with the same two records - "Highway To Hell" by AC/DC, and, before that played, a great rockabilly song called "Wild Girl" by Orville Couch.

Well, one listen to "Wild Girl" and I just HAD to have the record! Problem was, that was easier said than done. Orville Couch (1935-2002) was sort of a country one-hit wonder. A country/rockabilly singer from Texas, he got his first big break on the "Big D Jamboree" on KRLD radio in Dallas. The show was notable for mixing up country and rockabilly artists, and Orville became personally acquainted with the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. He soon signed on with the Starday label, cutting records like "Five Cent Candy". He also recorded for Dixie and Mercury. Then in 1962 Orville signed on with Vee Jay Records out of Chicago - strange, since Vee Jay (at least up to that point) was primarily an R&B/doo-wop label. By early 1963, Orville had a top five C&W hit with "Hello Trouble", and also released what was possibly the ONLY country LP in Vee Jay's history, also called "Hello Trouble" (complete with a front cover featuring a sexy peroxided blonde - and Orville nowhere to be found). Unfortunately for Orville, Vee Jay's other recent signing - Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons - became a chart phenomenon, and almost immediately afterward Vee Jay began to ignore its foothold in the C&W market. Orville's other 45s for Vee Jay went nowhere, but he was under contract, and dutifully recorded for them until 1965. After leaving Vee Jay he would make records for Monument, Stonegate, and other labels, but the momentum was all gone.

But in July, 1964, the above record suddenly appeared out of the ether. Which is probably why it took so long for me to find a copy - the sound on this just SCREAMS "50s rockabilly", and I assumed that it was an obscure side on Dixie or Starday that I didn't know about. I do not know the story behind "Wild Girl", but my theory is this - Orville was still popular in Texas, and some enterprising local (or Orville's producer Jim Shell) decided to make a few dollars by putting out an unissued performance of Orville's. They pressed up a few hundred copies, and obscured Orville's name on the right side of the label just in case Vee Jay caught on. At least that's what I think, anyway.

I just think it's the weirdest thing that this record was released in the midst of Beatlemania! But that's what makes collecting records (and blogging about them) so much fun!

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous 2012. See you next year!

Orville Couch - Wild Girl (Action 108) - 1964

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Let me start this post by saying I DO NOT LIKE the term "Happy Holidays". I can understand using that phrase in a retail store situation - the person working the counter doesn't know you from Adam, and doesn't know HOW you celebrate, and doesn't HAVE to know. But for people to say "Happy Holidays" to people they are supposedly FRIENDS with, that tells me two things: 1) they've drunk the "political correctness" Kool-Aid, and 2) they REALLY haven't taken the time to get to know the other person well enough to find out WHAT to say to them - "Merry Christmas", or "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Kwanzaa" or whatever (I know a guy who's an atheist, so to him I just say, "have a nice day")!

HUMBUG to that kinda tripe!

Another thing that annoys me about the Christmas season is the radio play for certain records. Here in the NY/NJ area there's a radio station - WLTW, also known as "Lite FM" - that starts playing Christmas music (though they call it "holiday favorites" - I NEVER hear Hanukkah or Kwanzaa music on that wretched station) on FREAKIN' THANKSGIVING NIGHT and goes ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO CHRISTMAS!! I wouldn't even mind THAT so much if they played good Christmas records, but they play the same old ones you hear every year - "Jingle Bell Rock", "White Christmas", "Blue Christmas", "All I Want For Christmas Is You", and the new hip holiday favorite, George Michael's "Last Christmas". Even THEN, I could live with that (or treat it as background noise), but this station INSISTS on playing remade versions of these songs by the WORST "recording artists" on the scene today - Taylor Swift, Celine Dion, Lady Antebellum, and (cough, spew, HAACK) Michael Buble' (emphasis on HACK). If I ever meet the guy who runs that pitiful excuse for a radio station, I'll whack him over the head with a Yule Log and boil his ass in his own figgy pudding (apologies to Charles Dickens)!!!

Which brings us to the above 45. As an American of Italian descent, I have been bombarded by well-meaning people who ask me if I've ever heard Lou Monte's "Dominick The Donkey". What do YOU think?? Ever since Scott Shannon of Z-100 in New York "rediscovered" the record in the 1980s (it was originally released in 1960 on mob-owned Roulette Records), it's become almost as popular here as "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer"!

That's when I pull out this here slab o' wax. It's another "Christmas donkey" song, but instead of taking place in Italy, it takes place in Mexico, and instead of Lou Monte's slight (but natural) Italian accent, we get some guy doing an OUTRAGEOUSLY fake - but great - Mexican accent!!

I don't know anything about Don Lucas. Apparently he was some sort of West Coast comedian who may or may not have done some TV work in the late 1960s (most prominently on "To Catch A Thief", where he essayed the role of "Reporter #1"), but in 1962 he recorded this, one of my favorite Christmas records. Like "Dominick", the hook here is the musical braying of the donkey, except on "Burrito", Lucas gets SO into it that you think to yourself, "wow, this guy's throat must have hurt for a WEEK!"

One thing's for sure - Michael Buble' will NOT be doing a remake of this. That ALONE makes me enjoy Christmas just a little bit more.

Whatever YOU celebrate, here's hoping for peace, love, and happiness for you and your family at this festive time of year.

Don Lucas - Burrito (Challenge 9175) - 1962

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One door closes.....another opens!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - been busy, but there should be a LOT of time for blogging in the future. Here's why - after 16 years on the air at WFDU, I tendered my resignation this past Monday, due to a certain management creep who refused to give me a straight answer to a simple question. Now the same creep has decided that he can do my show better than I can. So he took my empty slot (never mind that he also had the slot BEFORE mine, and now does both shows). I'm not gonna name names here, but his initials are BS, and I just couldn't take the BS from BS anymore.....

Anyhoo, enough of that hooey. 'Tis the season to be jolly, right? So, no music post here, but there will be a greater frequency of posts from now on....or at least until I get another radio gig (though THAT won't be for a while....), but I'd rather post great music here than be on the air anyway!

Thanks to all you followers of this blog, and those who just check in every week. You really make this worth my time. Unlike WFDU.