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Take a cruise with Snookum September 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s an old jazz version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ you probably haven’t heard. It’s by pianist Isaac “Snookum” Russell and his All Reet Orchestra.

Russell’s band on the recording features Justin Adams on guitar, Artie “Weasel” Langston on bass, Frank Parker on drums, Wallace Davenport on trumpet and Hollis Carmouche on clarinet.

Details on Russell are sketchy, although it’s reported he and his band played in tobacco warehouses and dance halls throughout the South during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Snookum Russell died in 1981 at the age of 68.

A look at Route 66 in 1985 August 28, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Movies, Music.
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This 1-hour, 42-minute documentary film from 1985, “Route 66,” has been making the rounds on the Internet since it was uploaded it on YouTube a few days ago and Route 66 yahoogroup creator Greg Laxton posted it on Facebook.

Roadies praise it because it provides the Mother Road’s most comprehensive look just before U.S. 66 was federally decomissioned. You’ll see things that have long since disappeared, including the Will Rogers Court in Tulsa (pictured above). You also will find footage of the abandoned John’s Modern Cabins near Arlington, Missouri, before its deterioration became severe.

Route 66 was in a sorry state. Many of the small towns had long since been bypassed, and the renaissance that came with Michael Wallis’ bestselling “Route 66: The Mother Road” was years away.

I also like the film because it offers an unflinching and unsentimental look of the time. You’ll see a few things that some may find disturbing, including cattle being killed at a meat-processing factory in Amarillo and scenes of inebriated American Indians in Gallup, New Mexico, back when public drunkenness in that town was epidemic. You’ll encounter great folks, and you’ll encounter people you’d never want to see again.

A bit of Internet sleuthing reveals “Route 66″ — subtitled “A Nostalgic Ride Down America’s Mother Road from Chicago to L.A.” — was produced for the United Kingdom’s United Central Television, now known as ITV Central. The film was skillfully directed by Belfast native John T. Davis, whose credits include other documentaries and television work.

The film also proves notable for using snippets of A.M. radio of that time and a lot of original music, including Johnnie Lee Wills, Lone Justice and a very young George Strait.

Don’t look to easily buy this film on the Internet. It’s apparently long out of print, and an eBay search proved fruitless. At the risk of a product plug, I found the best way to view it is on my television using a Google Chromecast device. It beats watching it on the PC, for sure.

“Return to Route 66″ August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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A reader tipped me off about Kingman, Arizona, resident Chris Commisso, who wrote this song and shot the video on the Mother Road in Kingman.

It seems to be a mix of jazz, hip-hop and 1960s lounge. I like it a lot.

Commisso has his own YouTube channel here. His official website is here.

Los Angeles and Woody Guthrie August 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Music, Towns.
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Folk singer Woody Guthrie‘s many links to Route 66 have been long documented.

However, this excellent clip by filmmaker Aric Allen shows that Los Angeles played a crucial role in Guthrie’s road to fame in 1937.

Amazingly, many of the places where Guthrie hung around in L.A. still exist, as this film shows.

(Image of Woody Guthrie by James Ratcliffe via Flickr)

Cow Bop gets its kicks August 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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The western swing and jazz collective Cow Bop recently completed another edition of its Route 66 music tour, this one called the Linear Music Festival.

You can follow what they did here with blog posts, audio and a lot of other goodies. But here’s a performance of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66″ at Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas.

And, for good measure, here’s a performance of “Route 66″ spliced together of people they met along the Mother Road during the tour.

“The Mother Road” August 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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Country-music singer Jess McEntire, who’s spent the last few years using his music to promote Route 66, apparently has produced a new video for one of his songs, “The Mother Road.”

McEntire will be at the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona, on Aug. 14-16. Later this year, he’s also selling raffle tickets for a giveaway for  a custom Route 66 guitar autographed by Loretta Lynn.

Sales of his Route 66-themed double album, “Man on a Mission,” go to Project Route 66, which aims to promote the road by erecting billboards.

Strike up the Band-Box July 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Music, Preservation, Restaurants.
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Jo Ellis, a columnist for the Joplin Globe newspaper, reported about a sometimes-overlooked but cherished part of the history of Carthage, Missouri — the rare Chicago Coin’s Band-Box, also known as “Strike Up the Band,” in the Pancake Hut restaurant along Route 66.

The Band-Box is a coin-operated miniature, robotic big band that’s been in Carthage for about 60 years. It first was installed at Red’s Diner, Ray’s Cafe, and finally Wanda Baugh’s Pancake Hut. Even though it moved around a bit, it always has been on Route 66.

The Chicago Coin’s Band-Box was manufactured only from 1950 to 1952. It is in reality a remote wall-mounted speaker for a jukebox, and it was activated when a coin was inserted into the jukebox and a selection was made. The original miniature figures were made of sponge rubber. Dressed in stylish green jackets and suave bow ties, they sported the slicked-down hair style of the big-band era.

When the sponge rubber deteriorated, Baugh replaced the original musicians with similar sized figures. She found GI Joe dolls, discarded their camo and dressed them in Ken’s spiffy (Barbie doll) clothes. She also was able to replace the background drop, an ocean scene with waving palm trees, through Brad Frank Restorations in Chatsworth, California.

Here’s a video of the Band-Box in action, with the audio swapped out because of a television show blaring nearby:

Here’s another one in British Columbia:

Gene Autry and Clark Gable both saw the Carthage Band-Box when they dined at the restaurant after a night in the nearby Boots Motel, also a Route 66 icon.

A full restoration would cost about $5,500. Frank has offered to donate labor for the restoration if Baugh can raise the money for parts. Frank is supposed to return to Carthage in November to do more work on the machine; hope springs eternal that someone can come up with the cash for the full makeover.

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