Johnny Cash: A Night to Remember (CBS-Sony Entertainment, 1973)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last Saturday night, June 19, KPBS showed one of their usual pledge-break specials which turned out to be a lot more interesting than most of them: a recently discovered filmed live performance of Johnny Cash from the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on May 5, 1973. If the concert had one flaw (aside from the usual problems with PBS concert specials – the endless begging sessions American public television, lacking the guaranteed revenue stream from license fees for TV sets that funds the British Broadcasting Corporation, including the frustrating boasts that what we’re seeing on air is just a fraction of the full concert and to see and hear the rest we’ll have to make a substantial contribution to the station to get the DVD), it’s that the original director kept the cameras focused on Cash throughout. We heard his backup musicians but didn’t get to see them – a real pity because he not only used hi

32nd Annual Memorial Day Concert (PBS-TV, aired May 30, 2021)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night, after my husband Charles and I watched Rossini’s comic opera Le Comte Ory as part of a free trial offer from the Metropolitan Opera’s on-demand streaming service, he and I watched the repeat broadcast of the 32nd annual National Memorial Day Concert on PBS. A couple of caveats have to be stated in advance when discussing this “concert.” First, it has long since ceased to have any resemblance to what we usually think of as a “concert” – a program of one or more singers, accompanists or instrumentalists performing musical selections. Instead it’s become a quite elaborate program of war reminiscences saluting the various soldiers, sailors and others – including war nurses, who were the dominant honorees of the segment on Viet Nam – who have served in America’s wars, or at least the ones from World War II to the present since those are the ones where there are still surviving participants.

Guy Mitchell: Singing the Blues (1950’s Columbia recordings)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved This morning I played through a two-CD package by the early-1950’s singer Guy Mitchell (who actually lived until 1999 but I have no idea – and his Wikipedia page doesn’t say – what he did after he passed his commercial peak). Mitchell was born Al Cernik – his parents were immigrants from Croatia – and got the name “Guy Mitchell” from Mitch Miller, who signed him to Columbia Records in 1950 and decided to give him Miller’s own first name as a last name. He got a huge break when Mitch Miller booked a recording session for Frank Sinatra to record a couple of country- and folk-flavored pop songs called “My Heart Cries for You” and “The Roving Kind.” Sinatra showed up for the session, heard the songs he was supposed to record, decided they were shit and walked out. Stuck with a studio, an orchestra – whose members, under union rules, would have to be paid whether they recorded anything or not – and two s

Bubber Miley: Rare Recordings, 1924-1931 (Vintage Music Productions, 2005)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved This morning I was listening to yet another CD from – an obscure collection on something called Vintage Music Productions of rare recordings by trumpeter James “Bubber” Miley from 1924 through 1931. Miley was, not in terms of musical style but in terms of his brief lifespan and the alcoholism that did them both in well ahead of schedule, the Black Bix Beiderbecke: they were almost exact contemporaries (they were born within a month of each other, Bix on March 10, 1903 and Bubber on April 3, 1903) and they both died in their late 20’s, Bix on August 6, 1031 and Miley on May 20, 1932) – which brings added poignancy to the record date they both made with Hoagy Carmichael on May 21, 1930 on which they recorded “Rockin’ Chair” – at the time of the date Bix had drunk himself out of Paul Whiteman’s band and Miley had drunk himself out of Duke Ellington’s, and within two years of making that reco

Austin City Limits: Kacey Musgraves, Lukas Nelson (Terry Lickona Productions, KLRU, PBS, c. 2018)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved After midnight I watched a couple of music shows on KPBS that used to be perennial favorites of mine when I could still record them for later viewing onto physical media (now you can only do that digitally and it requires an extra charge on our already swollen cable bill). One was an Austin City Limits episode featuring Kacey Musgraves, who did a program of seven songs from her 2018 album Golden Hour (which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2019 – though I remember when I was watching that show thinking that if the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences wanted to give Album of the Year to a country artist, it should have been fellow nominee Brandi Carlile) and Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson with his band Promise of the Real. (Of course I couldn’t help remembering way back in 1975 when the very first episode of Austin City Limits debuted with Willie Nelson as the featured

Bluegrass Underground: Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Brothers Osborne (Todd2 Productions, PBS, 2020-2021)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved After Austin City Limits KPBS showed another country-themed music show, Bluegrass Underground , in one of the most fascinating (and preposterous) musical venues ever: an underground cavern through which both musical and TV equipment have to be pulled in on narrow-gauge railroad cars and the audience has to enter similarly. I’ve only seen a few previous Bluegrass Underground s and my recollection was that in those programs they mostly presented genuine bluegrass acts and avoided bands that needed electric amplification, taking advantage of the stunning acoustics of that underground space to create a live sound without electronics. This time, in a show celebrating the tenth season of this series, they went in the opposite direction and threw up three major stars of mainstream country: Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and the Brothers Osborne, who were only allotted one song on the show but did a nice job on

Live at the Belly Up: The White Buffalo (KPBS-TV, 2015)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night I watched a KPBS showing of the local music show Live at the Belly Up – an episode from 2015 featuring a band called The White Buffalo, a name that’s also the nom de musique of Jacob “Jake” Smith, who was born in Oregon in 1974 or 1975 (his Wikipedia page isn’t any more specific than that) and has been active in music since 2001. He says he didn’t get his first guitar until he was 20, though before that his parents had continually listened to country music almost exclusively and that became the formative influence of his career. He originally began as a singer-songwriter, performing solo and backing himself on acoustic guitar, but he took the name “The White Buffalo” because he thought “Jacob Smith” had no mystery or romance to it. So he started out as one of those people – like St. Vincent, The Weeknd, Fall-Out Boy and Bon Iver – who assumes a name that sounds like that of a band even