A MUSICAL JOURNEY 1950-2018
I have been involved with music my whole life. From a first grade Christmas show, to taking up guitar at 13 wanting to be the next Elvis, to high school chorus, to playing folk music in college, to an old-time string band called “The Falls Road String Band”, to a country rock band called “Back East”, to my latest project “Your No Good Buddies”, I’ve been playing and singing music for decades.
In thinking about a program to entertain seniors at nursing care, assisted living facilities or senior centers, I thought that a musical overview of my life would be an interesting way to approach the subject. Starting with my first musical love, cowboy music (such as “Back I the Saddle Again”, and the very funny “Roly Poly”), going into early rock and roll (such as Elvis and Buddy Holly), then onto the folk music scene of the 60’s (Shenandoah, Blowin’ in the Wind). Then to the Beatles with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Let It Be”. Leading to a brief discussion of the Byrds folk rock sound (Mr. Tambourine Man) and what that meant to Bob Dylan and the Baby boomer generation.Then further to the country rock sound of the 70’s (Jonathan Edwards, Creedence Clearwater Revival) and the protest movements of the 60’s and the so-called generation gap.. My next musical direction was folk and old-time music (Take Me Home Country Roads,), followed by some newer country music from the 80’s and 90’s (Forever and Ever, Amen.), when I had my country band “Back East”. Finally I will play on of my original songs from my latest musical project “Dan Daniels and Your No Good Buddies”, a funny song entitled “(I’ve Been Eatin’) Onions”, a great sing along number.
Along with the songs will be a bit of narrative and humorous anecdotes about the times and what the music meant to me and to the world around us. It’s a trip down memory lane with some of their music and a lot of the music of their children’s generation as well. I will talk and sing about the world they lived in and their children grew up in, all in a one hour show. The Million Dollar Quartet – A Musical Performance by Dan Daniels
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET
On Dec. 4th, 1956 history was made in Memphis, TN. when a group of young performers got together in an impromptu recording session at Sam Phillips’ Sun Recording Studio. It was the dawning of the age of Rock and Roll as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all showed up at about the same time to begin their recording careers in Memphis.
Carl Perkins was doing a recording session with his brothers (The Perkins Brothers). They brought in a young piano player from Louisiana they had recently discovered to add some piano to the mix by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash was in town and decided to stop by to listen to the session. In walked Elvis Presley, recently signed by RCA records, but a former Sam Phillips protégé.
After the original recording session ended, these four young stars hung out for six hours just to jam around, singing their hearts out. The recording engineer, Cowboy Jack Clements, decided to roll some tape and caught this moment forever. This moment in time has come to be called “The Million Dollar Quartet” and my show delves into the music that they shared on this day, which was largely gospel and country music, the music they grew up on. I then go through a number of the songs made famous by each artist, starting with Elvis (Don’t Be Cruel, Love Me Tender, etc.), Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes, etc), Jerry Lee Lewis (Great Balls of Fire, etc.) and finally Johnny Cash (I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, etc.). I end the show with an original composition entitled “Rock-n-Roll, which pretty much sums up the performance.
This remarkable group of musicians, and their mentor Sam Phillips, have been commemorated in a Broadway musical production entitled “The Million Dollar Quartet” which has garnered numerous Tony Awards.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COUNTRY MUISC
Country music is a truly American form of music with a long and storied history. It is also known as Country and Western music because of it’s two main braches, Western or cowboy music and Southern and mountain folk music. Both these forms are based in the English and Scottish ballads which were brought here by our earliest settlers, but were adapted to the American scene through the use of guitars (a Spanish instrument), banjos (African) and fiddles (played in a different style than the violin).
So the show begins with a cowboy song (Back in the Saddle Again) to illustrate the Western part of the equation. The early country music that became a part of the American way came to us through the development of radio. Here was the very first immediate media, where people all over the country could actually listen to the same thing at the same time, and that lead to the development of our first Country Music stars, such as The Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers. In the 1020’s and 1930’s, The Carter Family (A.P., his wife, Sara and her cousin Maybelle, who married A.P’s brother) were stars of the Grand Old Opry which could be heard every Saturday night from Nashville and helped put Nashville on the map as the Mecca of Country music.
In the 1940’s along came a young man named Hank Williams to set country music on it’s ear as he brought a new vitality and popularity to this genre. Hank was a great songwriter and performer but he came up against an ingrained Nashville system which tried to limit it’s artists and control all their artistic endeavors. Hank was blackballed from the Opry for his rebelliousness and also due to his unfortunate tendency to drink too much alcohol, he died at 29 years old in an alcoholic stupor in the back seat of his Cadillac, but not before he left us many great songs. He could write some of the happiest songs such as “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Jambalaya” as well as some true heart breakers such as “Cold, Cold Heart”.
Then in the 1950’s along came Johnny Cash. Johnny was part of the Sun Records stable of stars (known as the Million Dollar Quartet with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins) and he was the most truly country of that group. Johnny was a great songwriter as well and he gave us such classics as “I Still Miss Someone” and his signature song “I Walk the Line”. Another country star who emerged in this eras was Patysy Cline, the queen of heartbreak”. The 1950’s and early sixties gave us many great country stars such as Porter Waggoner with “Green, Green Grass of Home” and Don Gibson with “Sea of Heartbreak” to name just a few.
The late sixties saw the emergence of new country stars such as Waylon Jennings, Kris Kistofferson and Willie Nelson. Waylon had been around the music scene from the mid 50’s when he’d been part of Buddy Holly’s new band, but had become a force in country music in the 60’s. He, Willie, Kris and a few others were chaffing under the limitations of the “Nashville System” and so Waylon hired a lawyer from New York and sued the record companies in Nashville and broke up the nearly feudal system which did not allow them artistic freedom. The “Outlaws of Country’ took on the establishment and won, creating a whole new era of artistic expression in country music. Waylon wrote many great country songs in this era, and with the help of his friend Willie Nelson, wrote “Good Hearted Woman” for his wife, the country singer Jessie Colter. Now working out of Lubbock and Austin Texas, the Outlaws recorded many great songs including Willie Nelson’s “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” and “The Red- headed Stranger”.
In the 1970’s many rock groups started to play a rock version of country. Starting with “The Byrds”, then “The Eagles”, “Pure Prairie League”, “New Riders of the Purple Sage” and others, this marked a turning point in rock music and became a part of the “Back to the land” movement of the 70’s. Even “The Beatles” got on board when they recorded Buck Owens song “Act Naturally” with Ringo singing lead.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Kenny Rogers became a force on the country scene with his songs “Lucille” and his country-pop hit “The Gambler” Along with Dolly Parton, who had gotten her start singing in Porter Waggoner’s band, they became the dominant forces in country cross-over in this era. Dolly is one of the all time great country songwriters and it is said she has written over 10,000 songs. Wow! But this period also saw a move toward a much over-produced, watered-down country music which eventually lead to a resurgence of a more traditional sound with stripped down arrangements and acoustic instruments. This “New Traditionalist” movement really came to the fore with the “Class of 1989” which saw new stars such as Ricky Skaggs, from bluegrass, Emmy Lou Harris, George Strait, Randy Travis, Mary Chapin Carpenter and many more.
Having listened to country music on and off since the 1950’s, having been into Cowboy music as a little kid and then later listening to a lot of the 70’s country rock and finally the “New Traditionalists” of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I have been writing many songs in a country vein from the up-tempo “Willie’s Dream”, to the Bluegrass gospel “What Would Jesus Drive”, to the hard charging “Nashville Dream” and the tender love song “On My Knees”, and I will share one or two of those songs with the audience to close out the show.
One hour can hardly do justice to the world of country music, but I hope this show acts as an introduction to this wonderful world of a truly American musical art form.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FOLK MUSIC
What do we mean by Folk Music? It is sometimes hard to define but we often know it when we hear it. Usually, but not always it means a solo, or two or three piece group playing a softer, more acoustic type of music and often about social or political issues, but not always. Many folk songs are love songs as well. And just as often, songs which were once the popular songs of their day come down to us today as Folk Music.
So, I start the show with an old English ballad, which when it was written long ago was a popular love ballad, the venerable “Greensleeves”, a song of a broken hearted jilted lover who cannot accept that his loved one does not return his feelings. This song is also the melody of the Christmas classic “What Child Is This” and is a good example of what is called the folk process where over time songs are reused for other purposes.
I next sing an old American folk song called “The Erie Canal Song”, which brings up a discussion of the canal building era in our history and a further look at the end of that era around 1840 when the railroads took over as the prevalent form of commercial transportation, leading to a bust cycle when all the money poured into canals was quickly lost. This brings us to the “Panic of 1837” and the subsequent Recession of 1840 with its large scale human suffering and Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More”.
I move from there to looking at the music of Leadbelly (ne.Huddy Ledbetter), the great Africa-American singer-songwriter and his songs “The Midnight Special” and it’s look at prison life in Southern America and then his best known song “Goodnight Irene”, which was popularized by the Weavers folk group in the 1940’s. Then it’s on to Woody Guthrie and his protest songs and his best known work, “This Land Is Your Land”. Next comes a look at the Commie witch hunts which lead to The Weavers and Woody Guthrie being blackballed and banned from the radio leads us to the 1960’s Folk Revival which spawned the folk groups, such as Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio and many more, which brought that great music back into the public forum with greater popularity than ever before.
With the coming of the new young folk singers came a new appreciation of the role folk music can have in social change, exemplified by the song “Blowing in the Wind” written by Bob Dylan and made most popular by PP&M, a huge hit song they performed at the Civil Rights march capped by Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech. I follow that with the Pete Seeger penned “If I Had a Hammer”. Also in the 1960’s I look at the popular folk group Simon and Garfunkle and their song “Sounds of Silence” about the commercialization of life and the alienation in human connections it engenders. That is followed by a song by Donavan from the English folk movement “Catch the Wind” another poetic and beautiful love song. I sing the Brother’s Four love song “Greenfields” very similar to the first song I did “Greensleeves” to show the continuity in form and content between an old and new folk song.
Next up I do “If I Were a Carpenter” by Tim Hardin, followed by another Paul Simon song “The Boxer”as an illustration of the narrative nature of his songwriting. Then comes John Denver and his popular folk style music in songs such as “Back Home Again” and “Take Me Home Country Roads” If time allows I do songs such as “City of New Orleans” and “Mr. Bojangles’, finishing with a song I penned myself entitled “Blankenship’s Mine”, about a 2010 mine disaster in Coalton,VW., a long standing folk tradition of songs about such man-made disasters
OLD AND NEW AND IN BETWEEN
In this show I try to cover a wide variety of song styles from some very old favorites to some newer songs including my own compositions and a smattering of songs from eras in between. I like to start with the old favorite “Enjoy Yourself” as both an introduction to the show and a kind of “mission statement” of what we are about to do for the next hour. I next go into an Old-time Medley of “Bicycle Built for Two”, “Bill Bailey” and “Has Anybody Seen My Gal”. I next delve into the old traditional folk song “House of the Rising Sun” followed by the 70’s country rock of the Bellamy Brothers hit song “Let Your Love Flow”. I follow that with one of my own original tunes (the new) and then do songs like “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, “Mr. Bojangles”, “Mack the Knife”, and Bill Withers “Lean on Me”, a real favorite. I have another old-time medley made up of “In the Good-Old Summertime”, “I Want a Girl, Just Like the Girl” and “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover”. I now do anything from “City of New Orleans” , to “Changing Partners”, another one or two of my original songs, as well as the old Pat Boone favorite “Love Letters in the Sand”, Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’”, to another medley I call the” Moon Medley” (Shine on Harvest Moon, By the Light of the Silvery Moon and Blue Moon. I end the show with a funny little song entitled “Homegrown Tomatoes” and my own humorous song called (I Been Eatin’) Onions, both of which are easy to sing along with and offer a lot of laughs, a winning finale.
As you can see this show covers a lot of musical territory, form songs the people know well and can sing along with, to new and interesting songs they can enjoy just with listening. I believe this combination of the new and familiar is a winning combination, as it offers a lot of familiarity as well as something new and interesting. As I go along through the performance I offer a little bit of dialogue and introductions to the music for those with greater cognitive skills who enjoy those elements of the show. But mostly it’s just a lot of great music spanning over 100 years and taking them on another of my “Musical Journeys”
THE 1960’S FOLK REVIVAL
The early 1960’s saw a revival of folk music in United States of America. This movement centered around, but was not exclusive to, New York City’s Greenwich Village. A varied group of young musicians who had been introduced to folk music of the 1930’s and 40’s folk musicians, who themselves made up the first wave of folk music generated by economic displacement, social unrest and a sympathy for socialist movements. The roots of this group can be traced back to the folk-song collecting of Francis James Childs (The Child’s Ballads), and Alan and John Lomax, who traveled the country in search of authentic “folk music” One of their discoveries was Lead Belly, who along with Woody Guthrie and a young Pete Seeger formed the backbone of this movement.
…..Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” which became a number 1 hit for the Weavers in 1950 represents some of his work. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your land” represents an alternative Patriotism, with its less known but highly subversive verses. Pete Seeger represents the bridge from the pioneers to the revivalists of the 1960’s and the optimism which keeps the struggle alive with “If I Had a Hammer”.
But within two years of reaching #1, “The Weavers”, made up of Seeger, his “Almanac Singers” buddy Lee Hayes, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert, were banned from radio and not allowed to perform in public auditoriums because of their left-wing politics in the “Commie Scare” era of the early 1950’s. Perhaps Folk Music would have disappeared anyway as “Rock and Roll” came to the forefront in the mid-50’s, but the shameful treatment of these folk musicians was deplorable.
But in the late 1950’s “Rock and Roll’ also succumbed to forces beyond its control and saw a severe drop in its cutting edge music. In 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis was pushed out after his marriage to his 13 year old second cousin; Elvis got drafted in 1958, and with the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper in Feb., 1959, Rock and Roll suffered a huge loss. Around this time a new group of young musicians surfaced in New York City centered around Greenwich Village.
An early, and very commercially oriented but not particularly authentic folk group, was the very Collegiate “Kingston Trio” who had a string of hits starting with 1959’s “Tom Dooley” and adaptation of an old ballad called “Tom Dula”, about a man who kills his beloved because of another man she had been seeing.
… If there was one person who was considered the starting point for this revival it would have to be Dave Van Ronk, the so-called “Mayor of McDougal St.” With his arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun”, copied by everyone since but especially Bob Dylan and “The Animals”, and his renditions of Blues classics such as “Cocaine Blues” he was in the forefront of this movement. Also early Pioneers were the husband and wife team of Mimi (Baez – Joan’s older sister) and Richard Farina of “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me” fame. Their song “Pack Up Your Sorrows” is a folk standard.
Tom Paxton was one of the first folk performers of this era to begin to focus on writing and singing his own folk songs such as “Last Thing on My Mind”, “Ramblin’ Boy” and ”Bottle of Wine”. But perhaps the most important and enduring figure to emerge from this movement has to be Bob Dylan, who penned the generational manifesto “The Times They Are a’Changing” and the anthem of the Civil Rights and Anti-war movements, “Blowing in the Wind”, which was sung by Peter, Paul and Mary in August 1963 on the same day as Martin Luther King’s: “I Have a Dream” speech.
Another of the powerful topical song writers of the day was Phil Ochs, whose song “Draft Dodger Rag” was instrumental in getting the Smothers Brothers show removed from the CBS network lineup while the #1 show on television.
A couple of young Jewish lads from New York with the unusual name of “Simon and Garfunkle” were instrumental in developing a pop-rock type of folk music with their very first hit “Sounds of Silence”
We should not forget the wonderful songs of Tim Hardin who’s “If I Were a Carpenter” has been recorded by so many including Bobby Darin and Johnny Cash, and his “Reason to Believe” was a smash for Rod Stewart.
And then there was a young Englishman, named Donavan, who came from a folk music loving family and gave us such beautiful songs as “Catch the Wind, “Colors” and “Sunshine Superman”.
With the British Invasion starting in 1964 with “The Beatles” and the renewal of Rock music that followed, folk music took a back seat to Rock as a dominant form of popular music. Still it continues to this day as a viable alternative musical universe as can be exemplified by song such as Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” (a 1972 hit for Arlo Guthrie) and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles”( a continually recorded classic of the genre).
I have written a number of “folk” songs myself, as I was influenced by these great performers and would like to share my song entitled “The Gravedigger’s Waltz” a reflection on the passing of time encapsulated in a year’s passing.
A SONGWRITER’S STORY – THE SONGS OF DAN DANIELS
I wrote his first song at 25 years of age. Of course like most young songwriters it was about the last lost love [“A Lover’s Goodbye”]. Buti brought a unique perspective of his my to this obvious situation. Many years later i “re-wrote” the song from a more mature perspective on love and loss [“In My Arms Again”]. As the years went by, as a husband and father to two children, and then a husband again and father to one more son, there wasn’t much time for song writing, but a few slipped through the cracks of time and made an occasional appearance, such as “Do It While We Can” and some that have been lost in space and time.
In 2002, at the age of 57, something clicked on as a torrent of songs burst forth, when along with the forming of a new band “Your No Good Buddies”, I received the gift of time. My dear wife Julie was called on to help take care of her aging mother and moved there to temporarily oversee her care, taking along our 9 year old son. With time on my hands and a new band as inspiration, I began writing songs as never before. This lead to the recording of my first ever CD, released in 2004, Guts and Gravel, with the title track and featuring songs like my most locally popular “What Would Jesus Drive ”, the two Cajun-flavored songs, ”Pierre, Bobby and Marie” and the politically charged “You Gotta Face the Music”, the Willie inspired “Willie’s Dream”, my tribute to the music of my lifetime “Rock-n-Roll”, and the international hit and song of love to “my favorite root vegetable”, “(I Been Eatin’) Onions”. Packed full of good songs with real stories behind them, this was a good start for my recording career.
But, that deluge of songs left quite a few still not recorded and along with some new songs, I was ready in 2006, to start a new recording project. By trading a car for studio time I was able to finance CD #2, originally to be entitled Nobody’s Fool, after a country song I had written years ago in my previous country band “Back East” and had specially arranged with his lead guitarist Dan Margolis, who came along with me from that band to the now retitled band “Dan Daniels & Your No Good Buddies”.
In 2005, as I listened to the radio one day I heard a young DJ lamenting the fact that so many old rock and roll groups were touring the USA, ( “The Rolling Stones”) that it was like “geezer rock out there”. Well, having just turned 60 I felt that I was well on his way to “Geerzerhood” and sure enough I still liked to rock, and the song “Geezer Rock” was born and took over from the previous song and title. Featuring the title song, an anthem to the Baby Boom Generation, the very personal and painful “Phantom Woman”, the folky, old-time sound of “The Flood of ‘55”, the rocking” “Flapper and the Devil”, and the story of a night of drinking and debauchery at ”The Rendezvous” and many others, it garnered hme a coveted “LiveWire Award from Springfield Republican Music critic Donnie Morehouse, as among the best local Cd’s for 2007.
In between albums, I put out a few singles, starting with the previously mentioned, “:Flood of ‘55” in 2005 to commemorate the 50 years since that great flood, and then in 2006, the very angry political song “Get Back Home” to protest the bad direction the Bush administration had taken the country.
In 2010, with his new producer, Jayce DisSantis of Northampton , he put out my final “No Good Buddies” CD, now using that previous title (Nobody’s Fool) and song, and received my second LiveWire Award. It was a more acoustic, country, with shades of Bluegrass, album, with his tribute to my “Sister” Ellen, the powerful and all too true “Nashville Dreams;, the loving “On My Knees”, to a song for two friends “Long, Long Time”, to the end of having to play “That Song” anymore if I so choose not to, and to the sardonic “Coming Due”.
Since then I has continued to write songs, albeit at a slower pace. No longer having a steady band to work with, my writing is more in a folky vein, with the notable exception of 2011’s “We Are the 99”, a rocking blues song and a strong statement about the very rich and the rest of us. My latest project, is a folk and bluegrass album entitled “The Gravedigger’s Waltz”, which I released in Dec, 2017 These songs are inspired by the many changes I has gone through in this life and what is left for us to be and do. One of my strongest political songs of all time is “American Nightmare” though “Nowhere to Hide” and “Orlando” are strong statements themselves. I explore love good and bad, happy and sad, and reflections on the passage of time (“The Gravedigger’s Waltz” and “Pain” and “In Your Mind”). But I guess I’m not not “Ready to Go”