Monday, May 28, 2007

Swan Silvertones - Oh Mary Don't You Weep

Things come around again in different forms. When I was growing up there was a DJ named Georgie Woods. He wasn't by any means just a DJ or what passes for one now days. He was funny, opinionated, inspirational and all points in-between. Often his comedy routines would wind up with him singing a parody version of "Oh Mary Don't You Weep, Don't You Moan".

Some of the parody lyrics that I can remember were:

Round 'bout quarter to four,
Somebody sneaking out the back door,
Pharaoh's army got drowned
Oh, Mary don't you weep.

Oh, Mary don't you weep, don't you moan,
Oh Mary can't leave your love alone,
Pharaoh's army got drowned,
Oh Mary don't you weeeep!

The parody lyrics would be funny, or political or something about current events. So in the pile to go out the door is a CD from Oxford American. (I gotta get a subscription. That magazine is fabulous.)

Anyway I look down at the back and there are 24 tracks of southern music crossing style and all kinds of good stuff. There is no way this is getting tossed, Eartha Kitt, Andy Griffith and Richard Hell on the same CD? But to my astonishment a track by the Swan Silvertones of Oh Mary Don't You Weep.

So on this Memory Day, I mean Memorial Day Part Two I give you, for educational purposes only, The Swan Silvertones.

Form more information on them you gotta check out the following:
  • MSN Encarta has a captioned thirty second extract of "My Rock" This may or may not play in Firefox or Opera browsers.
  • has a nice write up of the group with a sidebar of musicians they influenced
  • The Vocal Group Hall of Fame has a fine page honoring their work.
  • ArchieB9876 snagged a time coded copy (used for editing, not for broadcast) copy of the group singing. You don't have to be a believer to recognize these gentleman are musical craftsmen of the highest order. It will have you fanning yourself.
And to wet your feet about Gospel Music:
  • NPR in 2004 had a segment about a books that tries to document the history of the African-American gospel experience
  • From Paris, France (?) is a collection of pages that goes into the history of the creation of African-American gospel music. It is not bad, they do have products for sale that relate to the topic but it is a fair overview.
  • Compare the above site with Phil Petrie's page on Gospel music. Simple but Mr. Petrie has experience in the genre and mentioned some of the past and contemporary performers in the field.

Conflict Resolution Checklist

It is Memorial Day. I am trying to toss many of my memories in the trash.

I am also trying to find good things to post and do laundry, write, fret about my future, edit video and wondering if I should take my $5 gift card and buy a pre-owned copy of Ghost Rider?

I got this card from the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. Maybe on this day if each of us could master it points we would have no need to be at war with ourselves or each other.
  1. What is the problem? Discuss and define the problem from each person's point of view.
  2. Come up with ideas for a solution together.
  3. Figure out which ideas can work.
  4. Choose the best idea for each of you - compromise!
  5. Do it!
  6. Did it work? Talk about what happened with each other at another time.
P.S. This is too good to throw in the trash. Maybe as a bookmark?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Father's Shadow - Dawn Williams on Ted Lewis

If you want your story told sometimes you have to do it yourself. Many of us have heard the song "Me and My Shadow" in cartoon parodies and old movies.

Dawn William wrote a book on her father, Ted Lewis. As I recall, she was frustrated that she couldn't get any publishers interested in the book so she decided to start a small publishing company.

There was a real life performer and person behind the song. It is hard to find a legal copy and I have been to the YouTube well once too often this month so these are the lyrics. If you are old enough, the music will pop into your head.

Me and my shadow,
Strolling down the avenue,
Me and my shadow,
Not a soul to tell our troubles to . . .

And when it's twelve o'clock,
We climb the stair,
We never knock,
For nobody's there . . .

Just me and my shadow,
All alone and feelin' blue . . .

(Musical Bridge)

And when it's twelve o'clock,
We climb the stair,
We never knock,
For nobody's there . . .

Just me and my shadow,
All alone and feelin' blue . . .

This is an interview I did with her at the L.A. Times Festival of Books 2006. I found it in my pile of I should get to this one of these days. Ah, it is good to be a pack rat. If you would like more information about Ted Williams you can purchase her book on

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ahead of Her Time – Betty Davis

Once upon a time there was this force of nature. Her name was Betty. Now you might be thinking of that other force of nature also named Bette but I’m not referring to actress Bette Davis. This memory is about muse/musician/performer Betty Davis.

I was in the bookstore looking for a magazine fix or balm to a hectic week. I turn and see this face on the cover. I say to myself, “Wait a minute. It couldn’t be, not after thirty years?

Wax Poetics had a great article on Ready Betty Davis. That is how the DJ’s referred to her. But in the middle 1970s no one was quite ready for her. I don’t want to repeat the article. (Great magazine) I just wanted to add my reflections into the memory pool.

Just after Sly and the Family Stone but just before the first incarnation of Parliament/Funkadelic, Betty set up the transition zone. A section of black music was lifting up from the rhythm blues and soul foundations into the funkesphere. She was the first wave.

On the bus there are guys with 9-volt transistor radios cranking up the sound, listening for the secret code to unlock the mystery.

Going to the corner store there are guys sitting on the porch fiddling with the knobs on the radio trying to tune in to get the message. They spent time conferring in conferences on the meaning of the song.

Player magazine had yet to emerge as an information source for young black men to get their sexual skivvy. They only had the bikini pages of Jet, as far as I knew.

I make pilgrimage to the record shop and take a look at the album cover. She is everything that I have not big afro, rail thin and really long legs. Just like Tamara Dobson and Pam Grier. I was short and constantly being told I was too fat but at fourteen/fifteen I wasn’t ready to concede that I couldn’t be that tall.

I flip on WDAS-FM and I hear this voice growl out “He was a big freak, I used to beat him with a turquoise chain.”

I didn’t have a clue as to what she was singing about, that didn’t matter. It was that she seemed to be her own person. Betty owned herself and her sexuality. That is not something I could articulate at the time but she planted seeds of action and a different kind of control. One that caused the other person to beg.

There is my mythology of who I think she was as a performer and the truth. I'll never know the complete truth. I've never seen her perform and I doubt there is video. But for a moment there was a woman who acted on her belief that she was important and you need to listen to her. She made it possible for unapologetic sexual expression by music and images.

The Pussycat Dolls? Heck, they walk down her street that she paved.

Tribute video with her music: Nasty Girl -

Sunday, May 06, 2007

May Day in MacArthur Park - Reflection 3

There is a much better video of what happened after I left the area. Game Jew (that's his moniker folks) over on Revver has 10 minute video of just what happened from a ground level point of view.

You can also go to

May Day in MacArthur Park - Reflection 2

It takes a while to get to the park. I had to take the Metrolink then transfer to the Red Line and then walk 5 blocks because I missed my exit. It was a good thing that I did. I came in at the back of the park. There were news crews and police command stations. It was around quarter to five.

As I walk down the steps I see families. I see hot dog vendors with the hot dogs wrapped in bacon with onions and hot peppers grilling. There were moms with babies in strollers. Pops with their babies in their arms.

I see banners in English and Spanish. Posters. People with cell phone snapping images. The vibe was extremely mellow. No one was agitated, I didn't see any teenagers looking for mischief. Video cameras all over the place mainly from the participants who wanted to document their day.

No one was stirred up. In fact, many people were heading home. These were the folks that were stopping by after work like I did. Or just hanging out in the park.

Special shout out to the roasted corn contingency. I took some photos and I tried to understand what was happening, what was being asked of the United States. What these people wanted. How they saw the situation.

This is a short video that of what I saw before the police action.

May Day in MacArthur Park - Reflection 1

I had just gotten off work. I was ambivalent about going to the protest. I'm not Latino. I have conflicting feelings about the whole situation. It is not just legal or illegal . Undocumented workers are real people who are doing the best that they can often in the worse of employment places.

However there is a cause and effect for each person in this country. It has and will continue to change this country. Each wave of immigration has done so. It has already begun.

I also know that if given a choice many businesses will hire an undocumented worker over an African-American or any Americans for that matter.

They run out that lie that Americans won't do certain jobs. But you can't tell me that every single undocumented worker is employed because we refuse to do grunt level work. By law American workers have to be paid the minimum wage. There has to be workers compensation insurance purchased. You can't work someone 12 to 15 hours without a break.

But you can make an undocumented worker do just that.

There are whole groups of black men who want and need to take care of their families. They will not be hired no matter they bring to the employment table or what they are allowed or willing to do on the legal employment side of the fence.

Immigration and employment reform is complicated by many factors of complicity, law breaking by local and national companies and a whole lot of people seeing a new group of workers to exploit for the least amount of money.

The "company" may not have undocumented workers but the "contractor" that provides the employees to the business is up to his profit margin in available workers who don't speak a lick of English. Not just Latino but Chinese, Polish and Russian undocumented workers. Let's not leave out folks from Canada, the islands, the UK and Australia.

I can't tell you the anger the Bank of America undocumented worker credit card program generated in folks. I can't walk into a bank or store without being prepared to show identification or give my SSN as identification (which I no longer will do, nor should you.) The bank would laugh me out the branch for trying to request the no-identification or verification needed credit card.

Let not even bring into the equation that the borders are not secured from outside criminals and troublemakers.

But something said to me go on over, check it out and see what you can learn to answer your questions. So I did.