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Co-founder of Manhattan Transfer dies October 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, People.
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Tim Hauser, a co-founder of the Manhattan Transfer jazz vocal quartet in 1969 and the only original member still with the group, died at age 72 this week, reported JazzTimes and other media outlets.

The cause of death was not disclosed, but a post through the group’s Facebook page confirmed his passing.

We spent more than 40 years together singing and making music, traveling the world, and sharing so many special moments throughout our lives… It’s incomprehensible to think of this world without him.
We join his loving wife, Barb, his beautiful children, his family, and the rest of the world in mourning the loss of our dear friend and partner in song.
Love,
Janis, Cheryl and Alan

For those of you with tickets to our upcoming shows, we will continue to tour as scheduled and continue to share Tim’s incredible legacy…

The group — influenced by doo-wop, swing, New Orleans R&B and 1960s girl-group harmonies — was signed to Atlantic Records in 1975. Their biggest hit was “Boy from New York City,” which reached the Top 10 of the pop charts in 1981.

The Manhattan Transfer won 10 Grammy Awards, including one for  Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group in 1982 for its version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66.” The song remained a mainstay in their performances for decades. Here’s a performance of it from 2008:

The Manhattan Transfer was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.

JazzTimes included this background on Hauser:

Born in Troy, N.Y., Dec. 12, 1941, Hauser grew up in towns on the New Jersey shore, and began his singing career in Asbury Park at age 15 with a doo-wop group called the Criterions that once performed for the legendary disc jockey Alan Freed. In college Hauser sang with other vocal outfits, including one folk aggregation that included future hitmaker Jim Croce. Hauser served in the Air Force beginning in 1964 and took jobs in advertising upon his discharge, before starting the Manhattan Transfer in 1969.

The Asbury Park Press passed along the tale of the moment that changed Hauser’s life — a Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers show in Asbury Park in 1956. Lymon had asked for him directions to the dressing room; Hauser was able to oblige because he went to Boy Scout Jamborees at the venue. That led to this moment:

Hauser accompanied Lymon and the Teenagers to the dressing room where they rehearsed.

“They sang ‘I Promise to Remember’ a cappella and I was maybe 18 inches from them if not less sitting there — I could literally reach out and touch them,” Hauser said. “I swear that was my turning point. That was God’s way of saying, ‘Here’s your gig, son and if you don’t get it, it’s not my fault.’ “

(Image of Tim Hauser in 2012 by Federico Ugolini via Flickr)

Lou Whitney, R.I.P. October 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, People.
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Lou Whitney, 72, a music producer based in Springfield, Missouri, whose mentoring and influence on other musicians far exceeded his fame as a bassist with The Morells and The Skeletons, died of cancer Tuesday, reported the Springfield News-Leader.

Before delving into an amazing career, here’s Whitney with his band, The Morells, immortalizing long-gone Route 66 landmark Red’s Giant Hamburg in a song and video, circa 1982:

KCUR in Kansas City provided some details on Whitney’s impressive producing resume at his Springfield studio:

Whitney also engineered records by national artists such as Dave Alvin, Jonathan Richman, Exene Cervenka, the Bel Airs, and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

“Lou made you feel right at home in the studio,” Cervenka tells KCUR. “He brought so much positive energy to recording. He was extremely witty, very wise, and a great musician to boot. I will always appreciate how much he cared and how encouraging he was. Lou was one of a kind.”

But while Whitney’s technical skills were clearly in demand, it was his behind-the-soundboard philosophizing that drew generations of area musicians to his Springfield studio.

“Anybody who was playing roots-based music, it was a rite of passage to go spend some time in Springfield with Lou,” Wickham says. “He really cares about the recording and works very hard, but the whole experience of being in Springfield with him is what drew people to keep going back there.” [...]

Ladesich’s favorite Whitney story: During the monotonous down time when Pendergast was recording its first album, Ladesich was hanging out in the front room reading rock magazines. He picked up an issue of Q Magazine dedicated to the 100 greatest rock photos of all time. The number-one greatest photo, according to Q, was the iconic cover of The Clash’s London Calling.

“Lou says, ‘Funny story about that: (The Morells guitarist) Donny Thompson got pushed out of the way so the photographer could get that shot.’ The Morells were in New York and had been at that Clash show. There was always something like that with Lou. He had his fingerprints on a lot of things you didn’t know he had his fingerprints on.”

Other bands he worked with were The Bottle Rockets, Wilco, Robbie Fulks, The Del-Lords, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, Jay Farrar, Syd Straw, Blue Mountain, Rex Hobart, Dallas Wayne, Domino Kings and many others.

Longtime Route 66 fan Dave Hoekstra met Whitney and posted some memories after the announcement of his death:

Lou was rugged Americana before Americana got gussied up. Next fall’s Americana awards in Nashville needs to find a way to honor Lou. Like thousands of others who encountered Lou, I never grew tired of hearing his stories. Even the same story several times. Lou was the only guy I know who liked to borrow from Lil’ Abner when he talked about his adopted home town: “Springfield is more like it was the last time you were here than it is now.” [...]

Lou did not want a funeral. “And NO band jam memorial,” his long time friend and drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks wrote in an Oct. 2 e-mail. Lou did request that his body be donated to science. Transportation costs for a Springfield funeral home to take Lou’s remains to Washington University in St. Louis were $1,200. A “Send Lou to Camp” GoFundMe campaign raised $2,525 in one day. The extra money goes to Lou’s wife and family.

For about 10 years, I had a regular part-time gig writing music for a newspaper in northern Illinois. I learned pretty quickly that a CD produced by Lou Whitney was probably going to be a good one.

I also learned he admired all types of music if it was good. He once recorded an album of old-fashioned hymns sung by a congregation at a rural Missouri church. He didn’t see those old hymns or the singing of them as quaint — he really loved that music, and was afraid it was disappearing from churches.

The Chicago Sun-Times passed along a good story about Whitney and his later band and why he stayed in southwest Missouri:

In 2004, the Skeletons were hired to back up rock pioneer Bo Diddley at FitzGerald’s, an evening packed with celebrities like John Cusack, with blues queen Koko Taylor sitting on the side of the stage. Diddley arrived only a few hours before the show and ran through a few songs with the band in a quick rehearsal. Proving their musical dexterity, the band ended up receiving as much raves as the legend himself. “I thought it would be perfect and it was,” says FitzGerald. “They just killed it.” [...]

In an interview with Tape Op magazine last year, Whitney explained why he never left Springfield and committed his life to local talent.

“Local bands are great. I’ve had a couple chances to move, as well as an offer to go up to New York and re-settle in the Brooklyn area with some people who did pretty well. But I passed and I stayed here. Most of the people who come in here realize that it’s very likely that this is the most important musical event they’ve ever done in their life. They’re going to record. If you take that cavalierly, you’re not doing anybody any justice. You can be confident in your skills, but my goal is to send everybody down the road, taking their first recording experience as the benchmark for the rest of the work they do,” he said.

“They’ll remember this bald-headed guy in Springfield.”

“Stranded” October 5, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Road trips.
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North of Nashville, which calls itself “America’s Two-Man Outlaw Country Band,” stopped on old Route 66 in Depew, Oklahoma, a few days ago and videotaped this performance of one of its songs.

North of Nashville decided to get off the interstate to take Route 66 from the Oklahoma City area to Tulsa, on the way to Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Here are a few tweets from the group during its mini-trip:

‘Singing Road’ developed near Albuquerque October 3, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Highways, Music.
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On a stretch of old Route 66 east of Albuquerque is a set of rumble strips that play “America the Beautiful” when you drive over them.

We’ll let KOAT-TV in Albuquerque explain:

The Associated Press reported that Tigress Productions created the road in Tijeras, New Mexico, for a new National Geographic Channel series, “Crowd Control,” that debuts next month. National Geographic paid for everything; no tax money was involved.

If you want to avoid the rumble strips entirely, they’re near the fog line and are easily avoided. But if you want to play that tune, you have to drive a steady 45 mph over the strips to create the effect.

A few other singing highways exist, as this YouTube search will show.

Here’s hoping someone will use the same idea and have the rumble strips play “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66″ instead. It seems a stretch of Mother Road near Seligman, Arizona, would be ideal. Of course, working out the royalties might be a bit tricky. “America the Beautiful” has long passed into the public domain.

(An image of Route 66 road surface by cm_hartman via Flickr)

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