Tuesday, December 26, 2017

All That I Want - The Weepies

The Weepies
This little song showed up in a JC Penney's commercial some years ago and I looked up the fok singing it. I liked it so much I bought it for 99 cents on the Internet. The song is an odd little Christmasy song by an indie group from Seattle called "The Weepies". It was this song that showed me what a powerful tool the Internet was. These guys did a song they liked. They put it up online and sang it in little venues around Seattle without the permission of any big record companies. An advertiser stumbled on it and they made some money on it and found some new fans including me!

I love the Internet. It's technological capabilities are breaking down the stranglehold that big companies have on music, books, and even movies and television. The Internet provides a platform for creative people to publish their work without having to get the approval of some stodgy old gatekeeper. If you think you've written the next "Hunt for Red October" or "Harry Potter", then you can just write it up, publish it yourself on Amazon and with a little hard work and marketing you can have yourself a hit. You can sing your songs and sell them online. You can even record your music in your living room with a modicum of equipment and produce your own CDs with printed labels or sell your music online as Mp3s.

So without further ado, here's the little song that taught me why the Internet is actually a good thing for real people and conversely, why big digital, record companies, movie companies and book publishers would rather the government control it. It makes keeping small upstart competitors from messing with their markets because it's easier to bribe 10 or 20 FCC staffers than it is to make 10 million customers happy.

So, I give you, The Weepies performing "All That I Want" live.

This song reminds me of another Christmas tradition up here in Washington State. If you ever watched Sleepless in Seattle, you got a peek at the community of houseboat dwellers along Puget Sound. Every year a bunch of folk load guitars and singers into kayaks and canoes and paddle among the houseboats singing Christmas carols. I just think that's inordinately cool. This would be a good song for that. The words talk about "carols on the water". Maybe that's what they were talking about.

Here's the recorded version if you want the Mp3 for your I-pod.

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, December 24, 2017

I Like Life - Scrooge

Every Christmas Eve for many years we've watched "Scrooge", the Albert Finney musical version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  This 1860 story is credited with changing how Christmas is celebrated in England. Prior to Dickens' story of the redemption of a totally unlovable old miser by the spirits of Christmas, Christmas had become a season of debauchery with little of the spirit of the Christmas story in it. Some of the trappings of the old semi-pagan holiday remain, but remarkably transformed. In the United States, the story of old Ebenezer resonated with Americans too.

Charles Dickens was an amazing storyteller. He'd have made quite a living as a Hollywood screenwriter. The dialogue is snappy. The timing is perfection itself and the special effects in the story could have been designed for film. 

In the United States, the Christmas holiday was little more than an extra Sunday and a day off for Civil War soldiers. It was President Ulysses S. Grant who gave Christmas the nudge it needed to make it what it is today. It was Grant who pushed to make Christmas an official national holiday. The Clement Moore's poem and then the New York Times got into the act. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

With the New York Time's tacit endorsement of Santa Claus, the secularization of Christmas began to move forward. In reaction to what a lot of the churches felt was a bad trend, Christians began to press back by emphasizing the Nativity and the whole "peace on Earth good will toward men" spirit of Christmas. The result has been a national celebration that's one part fairy tale, one part religious observance and one part extended party.

This song expresses my own militant attitude toward Christmas. I like life and the Scrooges of the world may make of that whatever they wish. We have a time of year when people at least try to be nice to one another.  That said, here's "I Like Life" from 1970's "Scrooge".

This is Scrooge AFTER visiting with the three spirits.  Earlier he sings "I Hate Life". Before we go I'd like to included my other favorite song from this movie. Tom Jenkins the soup man leads a crowd singing "Thank You Very Much". Scrooge joins in not realizing that what they are thanking Scrooge for is dropping dead. It's a lovely song. Later after he recovers himself and is redeemed, he reprises this song in a more positive vein.

Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim so aptly put it, "God bless us every one."

Merry Christmas - Tom

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Riu Riu Chiu - The Monkees

I found this lovely little number by the Monkees last Christmas and put it on my Mp3.  It's a beautiful old Spanish Carol done acapella by the boys. They all have quite lovely voices and the harmonies in this carol are beautiful. I'd never heard this carol before. It was wonderful discovering a carol so beautiful that I'd never heard before.  Here's Riu Riu Chiu as done by the Monkees in what could be called an early music video. Actually, one of the Monkees, Michael Naismith was one of the first producers of modern music videos.

If anyone has any suggestions for little known carols, drop me a note. I'd like to discover a new carol this Christmas. The older the better....


Friday, December 15, 2017

In the Bleak Midwinter - Dan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg is one of my favorite singers. It's sad that his life was cut so short and he is truly missed. He did some wonderful renditions of Christmas songs and probably one of only two actual New Year's Eve songs in existence. He does a very reverent version of the classic carol In the Bleak Midwinter here. The melody is by Gustav Holst (best known for The Planet Suite) and the lyrics are by English poet Christina Rosetti.

He's got a lot more Christmas stuff on Youtube if you're interested.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

O' Come O' Come Emmanuel - Enya

Enya's carols are gorgeous.

This haunting version of one of my favorite Christmas Carols is brilliant, as nearly perfect and reverently done as this song can be. The words are in Gaelic if I'm not mistaken, appropriate given the Brennan family are Irish. So without further eloquence on my part, here's Enya with O' Come O' Come Emmanuel.

An amazingly talented indie artist, Peter Hollens produces some incredible work based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and his style lends itself brilliantly to older carols like O' Come O' Come. This entirely acapella version is breath-taking.

Finally, the Piano Guys do their magic with cello and piano:

This song soothes my soul. It's a wonderful song for caroling too and all three versions have earned a place on my Christmas Mp3 list.

Text © 2017 by Tom King  Music © by the original artists

Sunday, December 3, 2017

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Lyrics by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, vocals by John Gorka. You can't beat that combination. I've heard a lot of variations on this song, but my favorite is Gorka's. It's just a simple acoustic guitar and voice version - a little bit bluesy, but not overly so. It actually comes off as reverent and respectful. You really have to hear it. He captures Longfellow's poem perfectly.

© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, December 1, 2017

Carol of the Bells

This isn't my favorite version of "Carol of the Bells". I include it because I was named after the Orchestra leader, Wayne King - at least so my mother tells me. My first name belongs to my grandfather and my great grandfather and 29 other Thomases whom I've discovered hanging from the branches of my family tree.  We've all got individual middle names. There are only a few Thomas Juniors and one "the 3rd" that I have found so far, and a couple with "Thomas" as middle name. If I ever get any say so with my grandkids, I'm hoping to at least get one grandson with Thomas for a middle name.  Here's Wayne's big band rendition of Carol of the Bells:

Here's another version of this song I like even better, but I do like to listen to Wayne and his orchestra run a few big band versions of Christmas songs through the old record player. Here are the Piano Guys doing a medley based around Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos).

Then there is this one which really does make me smile! Algonquin students do a flash mob version of Carol of the Bells with the help of Darth Vader and his electric guitar.

If you go to Youtube, there are dozens of versions of this song including some notable versions done as flashmobs.  There are versions with pianos, bells, voices as bells and even one version with kazoos.

One last version I'm adding to this is the incredible version done by Peter Hollens. This version uses 300 male voices including multiple versions of Peter himself. It's amazing.

Note that watching and subscribing to these indie artists on Youtube helps support them.

© 2017 by Tom King

PS:  One more. This one by Lindsey Stirling on violin combines dance and snow. This one surprised me. She gets focused on her fiddle as intensely as my friend Jaime Jorge. I need to find some carols of his if he's done any. I love musicians that get this deeply into the music.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Who Am I?

This song is one of those that makes me tear up when I sing it. It's one of those that was on Micah's playlist and we played it at his memorial services. The song is by one of Sheila's favorite groups - Casting Crowns.  The song made it's way into my songleader's songbook that is a collection of song-service music from camp and youth programs and stuff that I collected over the years. I eventually made a smaller print version that we printed up and bound with my old comb binder and made up our own songbooks for worship at the Tyler church.

Here's Casting Crowns' version of "Who Am I?"

It's an extraordinary song about God's extraordinary grace in doing what He did to save us.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Six of My Favorite Folkies

This morning we get a cornucopia of folk music goodness. This is a rare little medley/sing off by three folk powerhouses of the sixties. It starts out with the Peter, Paul & Mary, followed by the odd British minstrel, Donovan Leitch, capped by the inimitable Smothers Brothers. I stole songs from all these people when I did campfires at Lone Star Camp. I swiped some of these very songs, especially the Smothers Brothers blackouts.

So here for a quick blast from my hippie past are PP&M, Smothers Brothers and Donovan:

Well that was fun! Now I want to sit down and listen to my old folk music that I've collected over the years.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Morning Has Broken

This beautiful old hymn was a hit back in the 70s for Cat Stevens. Cat later left the music business and joined Islam for a strange and troubling journey for those who enjoyed his music. It always seemed odd that the gentle singer we knew would embrace a religion not known for it's peaceful ways. Cat changed his name to Yusuf Islam. He was born Steven Demetre Georgiou. Now he goes by just plain Yusuf. Over the years reporters used to seek him out to comment on some new official Muslim outrage like the fatwah against author Salman Rushdie. He made some comments that got him in trouble over the years. Eventually he returned to the music business and made some new music and engaged in peace activism. He has been given several humanitarian awards over the years.

Given that as an outspoken Muslim pacifist, Yusuf is a fairly rare bird, it's little wonder he gets a lot of attention from progressives in the entertainment industry and the political sector. I don't care if the man is a Muslim. At least he's a peaceful man and that is most important. And his rendition of Morning Has Broken is one of my favorite versions of this song.  Enjoy:

This song went into my songleader's handbook years ago. Cat Stevens/Yusuf is the reason I found it. I am grateful.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Shanghai Breezes

This poignant song foreshadowed the end of John Denver's marriage. The song is one of his better songs lyrically and the tune supports the words perfectly. Denver's tragic death in a plane crash shocked his fans, but as any artist hopes to, John left behind a brilliant body of work.

This song is a nice one to put on your playlist on a cold winter evening. You can almost feel the warm Shanghai breezes wafting through your living room. 

Born Henry John Deutchendorf, John was the son of a U.S. Air Force officer. At age eleven, his grandmother gave him her guitar. He took guitar lessons and joined a boys’ choir. At age twenty he changed his name to John Denver and began to pursue a career in music. Peter, Paul & Mary picked up and made a hit with his song "Leaving on a Jet Plane". The success of that song led to John catching a spot in the Chad Mitchell Trio. When they disbanded Denver took off on his own and he managed to catch the social, charitable and environmental sentiments of the 70s and 80s.

 Here's a live version of Shanghai Breezes from John's later career:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wisdom With a Simple Touch

My old friend Steve Borth has restarted his singing career with a new album or two and some new songs.  His latest album is called "Home as Soon as I Can." Steve was a year ahead of me at Valley Grande Academy and we bumped into each other in our summer youth work for a couple of years. We used to get mistaken for each other back when I was thinner than I am now.  We both play guitar, but that's pretty much where the musical similarity ends. He has talent. I hide in the back of the song service band and try not to mess up.

Steve left a trail of songs behind him during his days in Texas, including two, "Faith", "Peace" and "Nothing Soothes the Soul Like Jesus". His early songs went on to became standards for youth rallies all over the state. He also wrote a folk cantata called "The Great Controversy" that was quite good. A couple or three Adventist singing teams produced some really excellent versions of it. Another notable production was done by the Paul Johnson Singers. I always like the ones Steve did best, but then I liked his folksy sound better than the slicker versions with orchestration.

With his new music Steve returns to his country-folk roots - his "country side" as he calls it. This particular song piqued my interest. It's not your typical gospel song, but Steve doesn't do safe - he says what he has to say and doesn't worry too much about pleasing the folks down at Hal Leonard or at Review & Herald even.  

Steve's music is very personal and he has that unique deep bass voice of his that makes it special. All I know is that I like it. And Steve's a friend, which makes it even more fun. Some day, if not in this world, maybe the next, I'd like to get together and jam with Steve - just play some mellow old songs around a campfire. "I think I still know most of the words to "Toilet Man" even for the secular portion of the evening.  I expect the new Earth will be a great place for making music. I can think of a bunch of old friends I'd like to have around that campfire.

Good luck with the album, Steve and may God bless you in all you do.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

Steve Martin may have come up with the answer to what's wrong with modern atheists. Atheists seem to be a troubled lot. Avowedly atheist nations are responsible for probably half a billion deaths by war, extermination, genocide, starvation and execution. It could be that the trouble is that atheists don't have any atheist music. The best they can do is some angry rock n' roll, grunge rock or rap.

I love this song. According to Steve Martin it's the entirety of the atheist hymnal. The song is called, appropriately enough, "Atheists Don't Have No Songs"

You've got to admit it's a catchy tune. Any song that can use the word "Underpants" to rhyme with "Gregorian Chants", you have to admire that in a lyricist...


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lord I Need You - Matt Maher

This one comes from Sheila's favorites playlist. She's a big Matt Maher fan along with groups like Casting Crowns and Third Day. Here's the studio version of "Lord I Need You" with Matt Maher.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Think You're Gonna Miss Me....

I got really attached to Adrian Monk, the lead character in the TV series "Monk". The show was about an ex-cop turned detective when his obsessive compulsive disorder made it dangerous for him to continue as a uniformed officer. The show had a nice run and a lovely ongoing story. It ended really well. USA Network gave the show time to close the storyline. Randy Newman wrote the original theme song and he wrote this song to cap the series off.  It played one time during the last episode. I put it on my Mp3 player.

I thought it was nice that unlike so many TV shows these days, they actually gave us some closure. Because of that, I'll come back to Monk again and binge watch it. TV networks need to always give their shows a closing few episodes, especially nowadays when people binge-watch their favorite series'

Here's a little montage from the show with "When I'm Gone" sung by Randy Newman:

I shed serious tears during the final song. And I'm not ashamed.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

ANZAC veterans of WWI Battle of Gallipoli. 
Eric Bogle is a Scotsman who decided to continue his folk-singing career in Australia after he struggled in the British folk scene for a while. He assimilated into Aussie and writes a lot of songs about his adopted country, its history and people. One of the most poignant is this song about soldiers returning from Australia's WWI experience in Turkey at the vicious battle of Gallipoli. Bogle weaves the old Aussie tramp song "Waltzing Matilda" into this story about the tragedy of returning veterans of the carnage at Gallipoli. I first heard this song sung by Peter Paul and Mary. Then I head it by the author of the song. Here's the original version by Bogle.

He wrote another song about the Australian WWI experience in Turkey called "It's As If He Knows."  It's about the fate of some 136,000 cavalry and supply horses the Australian Army took to Gallipoli. It was heart-breaking and I can't listen to the song anymore. It's too disturbing. I have a very soft spot for horses. Bogle will break your heart.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Place Where I Worship

I learned this song at Lone Star Camp when Elder Burns was Youth Director at the Texas Conference of Seventh day Adventists. It's the perfect song to sing by a campfire with a guitar and a bunch of friends.  The place where I worship truly is the wide open spaces - whenever I can get to them. You are welcome there alone or with the one you love.

And who better to sing it than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with the Sons of the Pioneers. This version is a medley with another favorite end of campfire song, Happy Trails. It's the kind of song that you need in your repertoire if you play guitar and camp. You just need this song.

There are other versions you can look up on Youtube, but I'll stick with Roy and Dale.


Friday, September 15, 2017

I'm All Shook Up. How About You?

I got hooked on this song when I worked for a while at a place I had all my life hoped never to have to work at - Brandom's Manufacturing, a maker of kitchen cabinets in Keene, Texas. I had worked my way through school at every other job that was to be had in Keene, including as a janitor at the nursing home and that one was a pretty grim job let me tell you.

But I found myself back home and between jobs, with a wife and kids and old enough to be sassy and not terribly subservient. I already had my Bachelor's degree, but I'd abandoned the Great Advent Movement that is school teaching in SDA church schools. I didn't leave the church, just teaching. After that, I'd done a brief and brutal run at nuclear power plant construction and had been laid off. Then, I found a good job as a recreation therapist....sort of. We were doing a startup treatment center for emotionally disturbed kids and the job was still a few months away. I was also between cars at the time, so I needed something I could walk to.

So I took a job at minimum wage in the framing department at Brandoms. I was putting together oak frames for cabinet boxes. It was boring to say the least and I couldn't get any speed up (we had a quota). My foreman was the mother of a kid who used to beat me up in elementary school and she had very little in the way of a sense of humor. We were banned from having radios and/or those new Walkman things. So the guy next to me and I decided we'd make our own music.

I dug around for some suitable lyrics that were singable. As it turned out "The King of Rock n' Roll" proved to be just the ticket. The right speed, easy to sing and easy to learn the lyrics. We learned a bunch of his songs my friend and I. I taped the lyrics to my framing table and sang as I worked, my buddy joining in from next door. Our favorite was "All Shook Up!"

Well it wasn't long before the foreman came stalking in to demand that we stop. We protested that there was no company rule against singing - just against radios. She sputtered a bit, then went off to talk to her supervisor. He told her there was no rule against singing so long as we didn't sing dirty words. She returned frustrated. You could see it in her eyes. So she tried another tactic.

This time she went around to everybody who could remotely have heard us singing over the screech of saws and drills and asked if our singing was "bothering" anyone. Everybody said it didn't. Many said, they liked it. Some sang along. Man she hated me, especially after she checked out our framing output to see if the singing of Elvis tunes was slowing down our production. Au contraire'. Our output had improved more than a little.

So here's one of our favorite "songs to frame cabinets by." I even worked in a little Elvis style leg jerk on the "Ooooh, I'm all shook up!" line. 

Like Elvis, we was very very awesomely cool! We also sang "Burnin' Love".  When we got to the "I'm a hunka hunka hunka burnin' love" part, Mrs. B. used to have to go down to the water fountain, it offended her sensibilities so.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Coloring Song

This Petra Classic was always a big hit with my Sabbath School kids. It's a pretty song and easy to play for my young guitarists-in-training. I used to encourage kids in our Sabbath School classes to come on up and play with us. We created our own songbooks with simple chord progressives in two or three simple keys and taught them how to use a capo to change keys so they could keep up.

Here's Petra with "The Coloring Song":

One of my favorite song service choices.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is a standard bluegrass tune from way back. And this is one of my favorite versions, not by a country boy from North Carolina, but from an irreverant Scottish comedian who also happens to play frailing or clawhammer banjo.

Earl Scruggs who was not a comedian who plays Scruggs Style bluegrass banjo does a definitive version with Lester Flatt that you can listen to to see the difference and I'll post a link to his version at the end, but for now, I'll post Billy's version because it looks like he's having so danged much fun playing it.

You'll recognize Billy from parts he's played in a bunch of movies of late, including "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" with Jim Carrey. Billy's a very funny guy, but it's better if you catch him where there are some censors available to tone him down just a bit. He was also one of the voice actors in Disney's Brave with his rich Scottish brogue and played a part in the third of Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies "The Battle of Five Armies."

He's actually Sir William Connolly CBE, knighted by the Queen and everything. He's an odd little man, but very talented.

Here's Billy Connolly with Cripple Creek:

And you can find Earl Scrugg's version at this link
I play a very bad version of Cripple Creek on my homemade banjo but I shall spare you that particular torture. Stringbean, a famous Grand Old Opry comedian does a clawhammer version similar to Billy's, but at much higher speed. In fact, if you play banjo, Cripple Creek is probably one of the first tunes they teach you.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Nothing Soothes the Soul Like Jesus

Steve Borth & small befuddled child

Tom with small befuddled child
 This song is by a guy I replaced at Valley Grande Academy. Steve Borth was a senior at Valley in 1971. I came along and was a senior in 1972.  Steve played guitar. I played guitar badly. Steve was the boy's dorm janitor. I was the boy's dorm janitor. Steve was in the choir. The choir director felt sorry for me and let me in the choir. In summer Steve wore a beard. I wore a beard in summer. Steve wore glasses. I wore glasses. We were often mistaken for each other around Adventist circles. He toured with the Texas Adventist Youth in Action Team. I worked at summer camp. At camp meeting, I used to get asked when I was going to sing next. At Lone Star Camp, Steve would get asked when canoeing class was going to start. Steve wrote some really great songs and sang them well. I wrote some really awful songs and sang them badly. In our old age, little kids are fascinated by our facial hair (see pictures above).

Steve has, after years of personal mission work, restarted his musical career, re-releasing an old album and working on some new music. This song is one of my favorites of his. It's very mellow, but I have to pitch it up a key or so to keep from bottoming out. My choir teacher, Bob LeBard called me a baritone with the lilt of a second bass. He stood me between two strong basses in order to keep me in tune.  It's funny that our lives ran so parallel. Steve worked in little mission efforts with homeless guys and veterans and such. I worked for 40 years in the nonprofit sector with abused and mentally ill kids, disabled folk, and was VP for the Tyler Homeless coalition. Steve's like my brother from another mother. It's probably good that God spread us out a bit. You get more good done that way.

But in heaven, I hope to get a chance to jam with Steve sometime. It's something I regret never having gotten to do.  Here is "Nothing Soothes the Soul Like Jesus":

Sabbath afternoon nap music if I ever heard it.  Thanks for the music Steve.

Tom King

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Yuppies in the Skies

Tom Paxton among the early Yuppies
This is another great Tom Paxton song from the 80s. Paxton takes off on "Ghost Riders in the Sky" in a parody of the Yuppie culture. A lot of Paxton's songs are topical and have a fairly short shelf life. If you remember the big Yuppie culture though, this one's still funny.

Tom wrote another one about the coming plague of lawyers called "One Million Lawyers". His prediction has since come true. He wrote one about the planet Pluto's demotion to dwarf planet. The song is funny. Some of his stuff is poignant like "Hobo's Lullaby". And he does do some kids song like "Daddy's Takin' Us to the Zoo Tomorrow."

Here's Tom Paxton with "Yuppies in the Skies".

Tom Paxton has a website at http://www.tompaxton.com/

Check it out.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Last Thing on My Mind

First time I heard this song, it was Peter, Paul and Mary who sang it. I didn't find out till I bought the music that someone named Tom Paxton wrote the song. Later on I took the kids to a folk concert in Fort Worth, Texas where both PP&M and Tom Paxton performed the same night. One of the songs Tom sang was "Last Thing on My Mind," a lament about lost love - the kind that's your fault. Tom writes a lot of protest songs. Some I agree with and some I don't. I'm funny like that about folk music.

Here's Tom singing "Last Thing on My Mind," with another favorite of mine, Liam Clancy of the Clancy brothers. There are much better sounding versions of this song, but I couldn't resist a live version with Liam.

Kind of a sad song, but the guitar part is very nice. I learned to play it on the guitar and used to sing it when girlfriend's broke up with me. That actually happened a lot. This song got me through some bad days.

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Very Last Day

One of my early folk gospel favorites was Very Last Day by the inimitable Peter, Paul & Mary. Paul was actually a Christian and was responsible for the trio's inclusion of Christian folk music selections on many of their albums.  I actually performed this once for Sabbath School when I had the music crew stand me up. It's kind of a militant sort of Christian song - rather like Oh, Sinner Man, so I let 'em all have it with my rather aggressive version of Very Last Day.

PP&M do a terrific job of capturing the intensity of the song. Remember this was back when SDA pastors were preaching hard about the time of trouble and the return of Christ. This song seems to catch the determination of people holding on while waiting for the coming of the Lord.  Here's Very Last Day.


Love the way these guys work the harmony. Nobody does it better. They make it sound effortless, but they really worked hard to achieve that perfect sound. I still play this song when I feel militant about the Second Coming.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

Ever once in a while you stumble across a weird little song and it just sticks in your head. This little ditty by Louden Wainright III celebrates an experience we've all had driving down a country road late at night. this is one of those songs you sing at the top of you lungs when you're driving along alone and feeling just a bit unhappy with the state of affairs in the world and you just want to express your frustration with the things.

Here's Louden Wainright III with "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road".

Now wasn't that just as uplifting as all git-out?


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Polly Wolly Doodle

My Grandpa used to play this song on his harmonica when we were kids. He had a verse about a peanut on the railroad track, his heart was all aflutter, and along came a train with a clickety-clack and it was toot toot peanut butter. He could always get a laugh out of anyone ten years old and younger. 

"Polly Wolly Doodle" was my favorite one of his harmonica tunes. He could do this triple tonguing deal that I have never been able to pull off. My #2 favorite song of his was a somewhat risque ballad called "I Never Loved Her Like I Loved Her Last Night in the Back of My Cadillac 8".  I think there may have been a story behind that, because my grandmother tended to get flustered when he played it. As I learned later, Grandpa and Honeymama (my grandmother's grandkid name) went out on a date one night and drove to Itasca, found a preacher and got married. Then Grandpa took her home and they didn't tell her father, my great grand papaw, about if for two weeks cause they were both afraid of him. I rather suspect my Honeymama and Grandpa did NOT drive straight home from Itasca that momentous date night. I've driven on those back roads and there are plenty of places to park I can tell you. Grandpa always had a little grin on his face when he played "Cadillac 8". Honeymom just rolled her eyes and left the room.

A friend of mine hooked me on Leon Redbone years ago and I especially loved his bluesy mellow version of Polly Wolly Doodle. I learned to play the song on the harmonica by playing along with a Leon Redbone tape I recorded off the original vinyl album. It was a little scratchy, but that kind of goes with old Leon's style..............and Grandpa's.  Here's Leon Redbone with Polly Wolly Doodle:

Singin' polly wolly doodle all day...

Singin' polly wolly doodle all day...

Singin' polly wolly doodle all day...

That's the way I remember the ending.


Friday, August 18, 2017

I Can Only Imagine

This song has a special place in my heart. It was one of my son Micah's favorite song. We played it at his memorial service. As a parent there's probably nothing worse that can happen to you than for you to lose a child. This song was Micah's gift to us. I can't listen to it without weeping openly. After his death, I had to be strong for my wife who was devastated when Micah passed away. Mom's are not equipped to outlive their children.

I used to put the CD of this song and several others that were his favorites on the CD player in the car and drive around and have myself a good cry and sing this song at the top of my lungs. I still do it, though nowadays it's with my mp3 player while I'm out on a good long walk away from people. It has a cleansing effect - kind of like scrubbing your soul. 
Here's Mercyme's "I Can Only Imagine."

I've got another one of Micah's songs for next week.  Stay tuned.

Tom King

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


This little man did as much to end Apartheid as some activist groups. It's a little known fact that neither the government of South Africa, nor the African National Congress, the UN and half a dozen anti-apartheid groups wanted Paul Simon to do the Graceland Tour.  But the naysayers needn't have worried. Simon's incredible musical collaboration with some of Africa's finest musicians did probably more to discredit apartheid and helped unite Africans across the continent than anything done by any two liberal advocacy groups or government agencies.

I love this amazing music. Paul Simon introduced some marvelous musicians to the world, not the least of which included the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekala, and Miriam Makeba. He really took a beating from anti-apartheid people and from the South African government. They were all wrong as was the cultural boycott that Simon was accused of violating. He was even accused of "exploiting African musicians."  The truth was, he paid the musicians triple and didn't take any money for himself.  Here was a case of good guys versus a good guy. How is it that people who put on the mantle of saviors of the downtrodden are so often selfish, power hungry, narrow-minded twits?

Here is "Homeless", a piece that showcases the talents of the inimitable Ladysmith Black Mambazo (who by the way started out as a church choir).

This clip includes commentary on the genesis of this particular song and the close relationship that developed between Simon and the African musicians during the tour.

And there's a lot more where that came from.

Tom King

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This World is Not My Home

Del even made an album with the boys. She later said she
knew what if felt like to be a leper afterward.
Today's song has a bit of a back story. The music is by Del Delker, longtime singer for HMS Richards Jr.'s Voice of Prophecy radio program, and the Wedgwood Folk Trio, an Adventist gospel group from the 60's. Elder Richards loved the boys of Wedgwood and took them along on some evangelistic meetings with VOP and they sang with Del Delker. Elder Richards felt that Wedgwood reached young people in a special way and good old Elder Richards was all about bringing as many people young and old as possible into the church to meet Jesus. IAMAonline described it this way:

Del and Wedgwood gather for a
reunion photo years after Del's fall
from grace for singing with them.
  • In 1966, H.M.S. Richards, Jr., heard Wedgwood perform and approached them about singing at evangelistic meetings he was holding in Texas on behalf of the Voice of Prophecy. Richards had a special interest in trying to connect with the young people of the church and saw the trio, with its music and informal comments between numbers as a way to reach that group.
    Their success in Texas led to another invitation from Richards to work with him at a second VOP evangelistic series in Hinsdale, Illinois. Richards noted their effectiveness in reaching young people and asked them to join with him and Del Delker that summer during their tours to camp meetings on behalf of the VOP. By the end of August 1967, travel with the VOP, combined with other appointments, totaled eighty thousand miles. It had been an exhausting, yet exhilarating eight months.
  • When summer ended, The Wedgwood Trio was nationally known in Adventist circles and hugely popular with young people. The reception accorded the group by older Adventists, however, was somewhat mixed. Conservative church members and ministers were convinced the trio constituted an endorsement for current popular music that would lead the youth away from, not into, the church.
  • The reaction was visceral, surfacing more than any other time during their travels with Richards and Delker that summer. After one introductory performance in an evening meeting at a Mid-western camp meeting, Richards was angrily confronted by the conference official in charge of music for the meetings. At the end of a discussion that continued into the early morning hours, Richards was told the trio would not be allowed to perform at the youth meetings the next day. 
  • This action, the most extreme that summer, was a blow to the trio as well as Delker and Richards. All during those travels they had to deal with objections over the music, the group's attire (matching double-breasted blue blazers with ties and gray slacks), Vollmer's naturally blond hair (thought to be bleached), and the "girls" who accompanied them (Hoyle's wife and Richards' wife and daughter).
    In spite of the criticisms, both Richards and Delker later talked about how they had personally enjoyed working with the trio and the positive impact it had had on the young people that summer during their travels in thirteen states and two provinces in Canada.
Here's the one of the horrible songs that caused all the trouble.

Appropriately enough one of the songs they performed was "This World is Not My Home". I would imagine that song came to mean something to Del and the boys.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Hukilau Song

Haoles at a Hukilau

Okay, I'm going to admit a secret here. I really dig Don Ho! I don't care if he's a Hawaiian lounge lizard or whatever his detractors may call him. I like his music. My daughter and I once sang a medley of Pearly Shells and Happy Trails (the Roy Rogers theme song) for a church banquet. Don's music is imminently singable and all you need in the way of an instrument is a ukelele. Don and Iz Kamakawiwo╩╗ole are two of my favorite island music singers. Ho sings a bit like Elvis did in his movie, Blue Hawaii. Or perhaps Elvis sang like Don Ho. It's kind of a chicken or the egg thing. 

For some reason I like the Hukilau song. Maybe I'm an island party animal at heart. Who knows? Here's Don with the Hukilau song.

 How many times can you sing "Huki!"  Don got in ten of them on that last line....


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Being a Pirate (is all fun and games)

I am here to tell you that being a pirate is a dangerous business. I know. When I was 10, I was a swashbuckling buccaneer - fearless, dangerous with a sword and ruthless. My brother and I tied our flag to the top of the swingset and strung an old sheet from the crossbar so that it would belly out when the winds came. Texas has a lot of wind, so of course we were often taking in sail, shortening sail and setting sail. As a pirate in a North Central Texas backyard, we didn't have a lot of plundering opportunities, though we somehow found ourselves in a lot of sword fights. I'm here to tell you that wooden swords hurt when your kid brother lands a lucky shot to your knuckles and if he refuses to fall down dead when you shoot him with your trusty pirate pistol, well, there's not a lot else you can do but climb up the mast and set sail again.

It was a grand life it was (except for all the X-rays, the Mercurochrome, which stung like the blazes and which the ship's doctor (my Mom) insisted upon. The bandages were kind of cool, though. They contributed to your piratical look I must say.

This little song is popular in Irish pubs and Renaissance fairs and often badly sung by people with eye patches and fake peg legs who'd never get away with singing in public if the song wasn't funny. But it is a funny song and so I put it on my mP3 player to remind me of my sea-faring youth.....

Here's one of the better sounding versions of this song on Youtube with a cobbled together video featuring shots from Pirates of the Caribbean.

See what I mean about piracy? Not a great career choice my young friends. Take it from one who knows!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ballin' the Jack

The first time I heard this song was in a Danny Kaye movie musical, "On the Riviera", but I think the definitive version is in the little known and highly under-appreciated Gene Wilder/Gilda Radner movie, "Haunted Honeymoon". It's a little dance number called "Ballin' the Jack". I don't know what that means, but Gilda Radner and Dom Deluise (in drag) demonstrate it if you want to see how it's done. Deluise was hilarious in this clip and Gilda kept up with him every step of the way.

If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. It's hilarious. Sheila and I watch it every Halloween. It's one of our favorites and it's become a holiday tradition. We also watch John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man every Saint Patrick's Day, Christopher Reeve and Roseanna Arquette in The Aviator every Thanksgiving and Albert Finney's fantastic musical version of Scrooge at Christmas. There are other holiday movies for other holidays that we watch, but I digress.

Here's Gilda and Dom with Ballin' the Jack.

Now didn't that look like all kinds of fun?


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Where I'm Bound

Take Three was an Adventist singing group with a folksy kind of sound. I heard a Christian radio guy compare them to Peter, Paul & Mary and they do have that kind of soft harmony, guitar and vocals sound. This is obviously taken from an old recording. You can still find their music if you do a little searching.  Bonnie Casey, the group's lead singer, still has the original recordings and sell CD versions of the original vinyl LPs.  You can buy the CDs here at this link.

Like The Wedgwood Trio, Bonnie and the gang took some heat from the traditional-hymns-only wing of the church and sadly disbanded and went their own way. The music is still lovely. Where I'm Bound is one of my favorites. Someone made this video with the music behind some lovely nature pictures. I wish the group had gone on to produce more music. They were certainly headed in a direction that I liked.


It's a pity they didn't produce more music than they did. 


Friday, July 21, 2017

Right Field

I heard this song and realized it was my baseball theme song. I was the nerdy skinny kid with glasses who always got picked last.  Like the guy in the song, I made it my practice to ask to play right field. That way it was my choice to go out there and pick dandelions. I even had one of those "ball dropped right in my glove" moments once. It was my personal equivalent of Willy Mays' famous over-the-shoulder catch.

Here's Peter, Paul & Mary with "Right Field".

It's an eerily accurate depiction of the plight of guys like me in elementary school. I love Paul Stookey's sense of humor. He's a really lovely guy.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Center Field

Willy Mays' over-the-shoulder catch - the man could play center field.

Truth be known I always played right field and I have a song for that one too, but this one is probably my favorite baseball song of all time. The inimitable John Fogerty's classic "Center Field" has some wonderful baseball lines like this one....

A roundin' third and headin' for home,
It's a brown-eyed handsome man.
Even someone with relatively sad baseball playing skills like me can dream. I did improve somewhat with age, but then my knees started going and I gained weight, so I never really achieved baseball glory, but I do like the sport. It's very American in that it's a series of personal contests between pitcher and batter with a break between. American football is like that too. There's a reason we never warmed to "football" the way everyone else in the world did. We need to see the little individual victories - the pass caught, the home run hit, the slam dunk. In soccer, you get a bunch of guys running around kicking a ball for two hours and the final score might wind up being 2 to 0. That's just downright unAmerican.

Here's Fogerty singing about the great American sport and a nice video of vintage film from America's great baseball history.

Didn't that make you want to just dig up your old baseball glove and go throw a few with some kid you've got laying around the house playing video games?


Monday, July 17, 2017

Looking Out My Back Door

I've always been fond of porches. This Creedence Clearwater Revival song is kind of my "sittin' on the back porch" theme song.  Meanwhile, I "...got to sit down, take a rest on the porch." Now what happens next is somewhat ambiguous. It could be a straightforward reverie or something more chemically induced, but I prefer to think of the tambourines and elephants bit as a daydream. So here's CCR front man, John Fogarty, live with some back porch music for a Monday morning....

Now wasn't that fun?


Sunday, July 9, 2017

You Done Stomped on My Heart

Here's one from the inimitable Mason Williams of "Classical Gas" fame.  We used to sit around on the boat dock and sing this when some gal had stomped on our hearts. Only John Denver could deliver a line as great as "You know you just sorta, stomped on my aorta" with a straight face.

I thought this time out, I'd throw out one of those "she done you wrong" songs as a kind of throwback to my days of being dumped with stunning regularity by a stable of attractive women (including the one I married who also dumped me but felt so sorry for me she couldn't make it stick).

It was a tossup choosing between "Stomped" or "Homemade Dummy" the folk version of Louis Armstrong's "Dumb Dumb Dummy".  I need to make a video of that one because I can't find the campfire version anywhere.

Here's John singing Mason's monumentally pitiful "You Done Stomped on My Heart."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Down in the River to Pray

I first heard this song in the movie, "O Brother Where Art Thou."  I liked it so much, having seen my fair share of outdoor baptisms, I put it in our Youth Sabbath School Songbook. The kids liked this oldtime style gospel song too. Who said our young people only like rock n' roll?  This song has all sorts of room for harmony and some gentle percussion, it's a lovely song to sing at a baptism or a campfire worship.  

Here's Alison Krauss with "Down in the River to Pray".

Tom King - 2017

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In the Jailhouse Now

I got a real kick out of the movie "Brother Where Art Thou", especially the old time Appalachian country music. This one could have been my Daddy's theme song when he was young and stupid. I love the yodeling. Next time I'll post the song about how the Cowboy Yodel Was Born.

A whole bunch of folks in the country music and bluegrass singin' business contributed to the amazing batch of songs that made this weird little Cohen Brothers movie memorable. This was the rock n' roll music of the depression era South and it feels very familiar to me. This is the stuff my kinfolk used to sing on the back porch in the cool of a summer evening.

Here's the clip from the movie where they sing "He's in the Jailhouse Now.":

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ready for the Storm

I don't think Dougie Maclean meant for this to be a Christian song, but if you think of the lighthouse as Jesus, this song comes into sharp focus. I particularly like this live version done with a choir for backup. I love the rainstorm opening put together by the choir. It's lovely and kinda breath-taking. Then the choir joins him later in the song and makes it awesome.

In this day and age I am seeing things happening around me that the old preachers warned us about when I was a kid going to evangelistic meetings. Now it's all happening before my eyes. I have walked for 46 years with Jesus. I am ready for the storm and I am not afraid.

Here's Dougie and the Perthshire Amber choir in my favorite version of Ready for the Storm.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Man of the Hour is Taking His Final Bow

Someone once belittled this song as being from Pearl Jam's "Daddy Issues" period. Me thinks the critic doth protest too much. We all have to come to terms with who our Fathers are. Mine ran off on my Mom us when I was five, was an alcoholic, then a convict, then finally a recovering alcoholic. He was shot and killed in 1987 by my stepmother - ironically the one he left my Mom for. It tore our family apart. 

For all his flaws and failings, I loved my Dad, though. But for most of my life, I stayed at arm's length. Dad tried to close the gap one summer when I worked for him setting foundations and laying brick. Dad even tried to apologize to me for his colorful past in front of an AA meeting. The gesture meant a lot to me. A former rodeo cowboy and fisherman, Dad was something of a character. People liked him. And like a lot of colorful characters, Dad died too young.

I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan, but this song speaks to me. I heard it first during the credits to the film Big Fish which was a film about a son with father issues and how he resolved them by accepting his Dad as he was. I think I may have closed the gap with my own sons, though maybe not as well as I would have liked. It was just in time with the middle boy. He died at age 28 and I failed to revive him. Fathers should not outlive their sons. I hope we got everything said between us. For some reasons our last few weeks together were a series of heart-to-heart talks. I miss him. The eldest is also far away so that we have to communicate in writing.

Daughters are another matter for fathers. My own daughter is more comfortable around me to say the least. She is all prepared to take over bossing me around if my wife ever falls down on the job. She calls a couple of times a year to give me a lecture. I was actually hoping my grandkids would like me, but I fear my branch of the King genetic line is fixing to become extinct. And I was already ready for them too.

Here's Pearl Jam with "Man of the Hour".

Happy belated Father's Day to anyone I missed.  Hug your kids. They need you whether they know it or not.