Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't Want No Short Songs 'Round Here (Apologies to Randy Newman)

I've been a bit distracted as of late!  Much of my time has been spent finding new work to feed the technology geek in me and, of course, make money to pay for all my vices, such as shelter, food and other such minutiae for myself and my family.  Yet, I have been finding time for music (you can do that on long flights to the opposite coast);  thank goodness for my MP3 player and my Rhapsody subscription.  Nevertheless, I have had a number of topics stuck in my head and it's time to flesh them out!  Bear with me as I ramble on...

You may ask, "what's with the title, Buff?"  (Go ahead.  Ask.)   I was reliving my days as a youthful deejay at my final real radio job (real, as opposed to subbing at my alma mater's radio station) at a radio station in beautiful uptown, downtown, Johnstown, New York.  I was the all-night person (11PM-6AM six days a week) at WIZR-FM (they had an AM also, which simulcast but not when I was on, so our larger audience never got to learn about my musical knowledge), a station that played mostly oldies and current Top 40 music.  The job was fun, except for the Program Director, who grew up on country music and didn't know squat about he stuff we played.  Whenever we had a '50s weekend, I was called upon to help figure out what to play!   And when a deejay left the station, instead of promoting me to that spot, he would hire another deejay for it!  Nice way to treat one of your "best" deejays!

Now you may ask, "What has this to do with short songs. Buff?"  Well, the end of the previous story is that I walked out before my show one day, after  I was denied an opportunity to replace the mid-day deejay.  But one of the other straws that broke the Buffalo's back, was the day I was finishing off my shift, while he was preparing to start his, and he noticed I queued up Shirley Ellis' 1965 hit, "The Clapping Song", which clocked at 3:15, and woud have taken me to right into the Station ID and National News feed.  He noticed that it was the flip of a two-sided hit (the flip was Shirley's 1964 hit, "The Nitty Gritty" which, like its flip, peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts nationally).  He said to me, "you can't play that side.  It wasn't a hit!"  I countered with my vast knowledge (better than my fist) and the comment, "you're wrong!  And I have it timed perfectly!"  Regardless, I had no time to search for a new oldie and I played the "hit", which clocked at 2:20, leaving me with 55 seconds of air to fill.   I just segued into an instrumental, got up and walked out the door.  I did come back to work that night, but left about a week or so later, never to brighten the airwaves again.

Yes, I know!  I didn't answer the question.  One of the most challenging jobs for a deejay is the timing, making sure we hit the news feeds and not leaving any dead air (except when one of my former cohorts unplugged my mic while my back was turned).  This can happen when you put on a short song and haven't found the next one, or you were pulling the news feed off the wire and editing your newscast, etc.  Short songs really can be the bane of a deejays existence, especially when they are two minutes or less!  Of course, I'm talking about an era when we spun vinyl, and you queued up a song on the turntable by using queue mode (a little speaker that broadcast in the studio from the mixing board) and finding the start of the song, then rotating the turntable about a quarter turn counter-clockwise.  This allowed the turntable to get up to speed and the song would start at the appropriate speed (I didn't mentioned that the volume control needed to go up at the same time - these volume control potentiometers were called "pots"), thus preventing the 'wow' of a record startup.

Okay, about those short songs!  Too many deejays (and their engineers if they are lucky enough to have one) have been burned by short songs.  Here is one that has gotten me!

"Stay", Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs,  (#1 for one week, November, 1960)  1:36

Try changing records, cueing up a commercial and so on in that short of a time!   Songs less than two minutes long are a killer!

However, the fun would have been to play the following song on the radio via a turntable:  Shel Silverstein's "26 Second Song".  I have a 45rpm copy, and yes, it lasts for 26 seconds!  Give a listen!

As far as I know, Shel's song never charted, and that probably gave most deejays a sigh of relief (since the record was about as long as a sigh!)

Then, there are the long songs.  Back then songs lasted between two minutes and three-and-a-half minutes.  The longer the song, the more the deejay could get done!  As progressive rock moved into the Top 40 arena, we'd get longer songs.  For example, the late actor Richard Harris' 1968 version of Jimmy Webb's opus "MacArthur Park", clocked at 7:30.  Plenty of time to use the restroom, grab food from the fridge, pull from the AP or UPI wire, cue up the next record, select more from the wall and file the ones already played!

Of course, when you needed a real break, there was always the 1972 release of Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling", from the 'London Chuck Berry Sessions'.   Clocked at 11:33, there was always time to do your business and more!

Chuck Berry - My Ding-A-Ling by Red_Chuck

That was my last radio job.  I found a high tech position while listening to one of the public service announcements we played on the air.   Applied for it, got it, and the rest, as they say, is history!!!!

By the way, Randy Newman's "Short People" was not a short song at all!  It clocked at almost three minutes (2:57).  Plenty of time to do things!


Any ideas for the Buffalo?  Go ahead, comment!   As one of my favorite WMCA, New York, used to say at the close of his radio show, "Thanks a lot for listening!  If you were in your car, thanks for the ride!"



Thursday, April 26, 2012

If There's A Rock and Roll Heaven...

The Buffalo is sad.  On April 19, musician Levon Helm passed away, after battling throat cancer, at the age of 71.  For those of you who don't know him, Levon Helm was the drummer and a vocalist in one of my (and so many others') all-time favorite groups, "The Band".  You would recognize Levon's singing easily; he had a distinctive Southern tenor voice that drew you in and kept you hanging on every word he sang!   And this sound of his is best represented by his performance of the song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".

Takes your breath away, doesn't it?  What a great performance, immortalized on the album, "The Last Waltz".

Levon Helm began as a drummer and backup singer in Ronnie Hawkins' Hawks.  That band also backed up Bob Dylan, when he decided to go electric in the mid-'60s.  Ultimate that band became "The Band" with its instantly recognizable sound.  Sadly, only Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson remain, as Rick Danko and Richard Manuel predeceased Helm.

When The Band broke up in the mid-'70s, Levon worked as a solo artist.  In 2007, he won his first Grammy - the Best Traditional Folk Album award for his album "Dirt Farmer", a mix of traditional songs and compositions from Steve Earle, Buddy and Julie Miller and others.  He was accompanied by his daughter Amy and Bob Dylan session guitarist Larry Campbell.  Helm's second Grammy was for "Electric Dirt", which won for Best Americana Album in 2009.  That album featured tunes from Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, "Pops" Staples, Happy Traum (remember Happy and his brother Artie?  No?  Hmmmm...), Muddy Waters and Carter Stanley (Stanley Brothers), as well as Levon himself.  The album cover is something out of the 1970's hippie/country-rock culture, but the music serves it well (and vice versa).  And Levon's voice regained its power, sounding just like in The Band's heyday.

His crowning achievement would be the 2011 Grammy for "Ramble at the Ryman", which won the award for Best Americana Album.  It's a live performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, with guests John Hiatt, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Miller and others joining in the festivities.  As always, mandolinist daughter Amy played as did Larry Campbell, helping Levon and friends perform some of The Band's songs, including Robbie Robertson's 'Ophelia', 'Rag Mama Rag', 'The Shape I'm In', 'The Weight' and 'Chest Fever' as well as oldies like 'Fannie Mae' and 'Baby, Scratch My Back'.  A fitting farewell to a great talent.

Let us not forget he also was an actor, appearing in movies and on television!  He played the father of Loretta Lynn (Sissy Spacek) in the hit movie "Coal Miner's Daughter".  Also, he could be seen in the movie "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (with Tommy Lee Jones).  Check out for more information.

Rest in peace, Levon.  Thanks for all the great memories, some of which I am enjoying right now!  A public memorial is being held at his Woodstock, NY home (at the moment of this writing) and the funeral is planned for the next day (Friday, April 27).  Levon Helm will be buried in the Woodstock Cemetery, next to his friend and compatriot, Rick Danko.

'Nuff said.



On April 27, 2012, Billboard Magazine reported that fans flocked to Levon's wake to pay tribute to the late musician.  Nearly 2,000 people visited his digs that day.  According to the article, family members were on hand to greet mourners and let them see Levon's memorabilia.  The complete story is available here:

At Levon Helm's Barn, Family and Friends Say Goodbye


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Musical Interlude

Having all this music available for free makes me crazy.  It turns out there aren't enough hours in my life to hear, download and blog about all the great sounds emanating from the web, if you know where to look.  So, let me help you find some of the goodies I found today and let you hear them for yourselves.

 Hey Marseilles - True Love Will Find You in the End

You'll find their website at   This seven-piece band from Washington (the State) is categorized as Indie-Pop, Indie-Folk and Jazz.  For me, they are a tasty stew of music with unique instrumentation - well, have you played a drumbourine before? - which means that mandolin, trumpet, accordion, cello and viola play a big role in their sound!  Their first album, "To Travels and Trunks", was highly acclaimed when released in 2008 and again in a remastered form in 2010.   Enjoy this tune , written by Daniel Johnston, from their recently released "Valentines".

Lemolo - In Black and White

More from the great state of Washington!  I seem to like my music stripped down and raw on occasions, and it's even more enjoyable when the band consists of a guitarist and a drummer!   Well, here we have Meagan Grandall - on guitar, keyboards and vocals - and Kendra Cox - on drums and keyboards - playing some spare, dreamy, ringing, terse, rock and roll music!  Don't expect the White Stripes nor the Black Keys (hey, Black and White, get it?  It was unintentional, I think) because they haven't reached that level of musical maturity!  But these women play solidly and the music jumps from other-worldly and ethereal to in-your-face with ease, and you'll be happy you listened. 

There is a link to a KEXP Radio Performance of their song "On Again, Off Again" --> HERE!

Go to for music and other information.

Be not afraid to speak up, my friends.  Let me know what you like or don't like about this blog!  I can take it!  As The Pursuit of Happiness sang way back in 1988, "I'm an Adult Now!"

Cheers for now!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Someone's Done My Work for Me!! - Another way to find new music

That's right!  I didn't need to move that many muscles to create today's entry!   It seems that someone on the blog ALL MY FAVES has decided to list their Top 10 free music streaming and music discovery sites!  Now, I wish this information could have come from me, but obviously there are people with more time on their hands than I have (do I sound jealous?  Yeah?  Good!!!)

Actually, this is great, so props to Annat Katz, who posted this information about a year ago (so it's not current info, but all of the sites still exist).  I particularly liked The Sixty One site, which allows you to scroll through full page pictures of the bands whose music will start playing.  Apparently each page represents a specific genre (yes, the Buffalo knows some French!).

Below is the link to the Blog:

Top 10 Free Music Streaming and Music Discovery Sites « All My Faves | Blog

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...


This site is a favorite of mine; it reminded me of my days of spinning discs on the Electric Radio and at Sneaky Pete's disco in New York's Capital District.  Sometimes it's fun to "share your musical thoughts" with others, and that's what is all about.   Basically, you sign up, then look for deejays and listen to their playlists and/or deejay yourself!  You choose music that's already available to the site through the search bar.  Check out the Buff One's playlists, last built in early 2K11!

Methinks it's time to start deejaying again!!!  I need the fix!


I love Bonnie.  I have her first album on vinyl, and I still spin it!  Who knew this lady would become such a success?  Well, I did!  Her latest album, 'Slipstream', dropped this past Tuesday (April 10, 2012).  It features Joe Henry (we'll talk about him another time) and other fine musicians.  I've been grooving to the album while I write this, so forgive the "fan boy" mode.  Great work, Bonnie!

One of the most surprising songs on the album is an interpretation of the late Gerry Rafferty's tune, "Right Down The Line".  You may know that Gerry, who was in Stealers Wheel and the Humblebums (comedian/actor Billy Connolly was in that group too), passed early last year at the age of 63.  Bonnie took the tune and made it her own, but her work stands out as a tribute to Mr. Rafferty.   You may judge for yourself!

Your thoughts? 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gotta Get My Music Fix! (Legally)

I'm mainlining MP3s!  Music from bands I know/don't know is being put on the Internet in large quantities!  My job (as I currently see it, since I'm looking for real employment as a techno-geek for the first time in x years and x is greater than twenty) is to find what I consider to be great listening and share my findings with you, the reader (or I could be selfish and keep it all to myself, but then you wouldn't read my blog, would you!  Which would have a disastrous effect on the economy! Note: it's up to you to calculate the effect.  Special credit if you use Venn Diagrams!)

I realized I had so many MP3s downloaded, my work computer was running out of room for work stuff!  So, for my birthday I asked for a drive to contain all my MP3 downloads;   I could have purchased one for myself, but my son-in-law is so tech savvy that I knew I would get something nice if he researched it.  And I did!  An iomega eGo drive!  But this is not about the drive, it's about all the music LEGALLY available on the web!

As you can guess, the eGo drive is filling up, but it's going to take a bit of time and music to max it out!  You also can guess I do not like to take music to which I am not entitled.  <soapbox-mode on>  We could argue the pros and cons, but I won't participate.  Unless a musician or band offers the music for download I won't look for ways to acquire it.  Rather than take money away from the musicians, I look for the hotspots where old and new music can be previewed, shared and downloaded for free (and maybe just for an email address).  I'll be happy to stream music, too.  If I like it, I'll buy it! <soapbox-mode off

Meanwhile, back to the LEGAL downloads, one site at a time!  Two of my favorites are RCRD LBL and Noise Trade.


RCRD LBL describes itself as follows: "RCRD LBL is the premier online destination for the latest new music and free downloads from the hottest marquee and emergent artists. RCRD LBL delivers curated music directly to readers"  (the italics are mine).  Well, you know, I agree with them!  It seems that every time I look at my email, my Twitter account or my Facebook page, there are one or two notes about well-known or upcoming artists, and a link to the songs that may be streamed and/or downloaded.  In addition, they will personalize emails to your taste in music, sending out notes on RCRD of the Day, RCRD Selections, RCRD LBL Rock, RCRD LBL Dance, RCRD LBL Hip Hop and RCRD Deals.

Let's say you see that a song is being offered as a free download.  When you get to the RCRD LBL page for that song, you'll be able to stream and save the song to disk.  There may also be another player widget to allow you to stream and download other songs!  Also, there may be more songs offered from the same artist!  How can you go wrong!!!!  You get to listen to it, decide whether or not to keep it and find other songs in the process.  As they say, it's a "win win" situation!

Recently I was directed to a song by Fletcher C. Johnson.  I gave it a listen.  I liked it!  I downloaded it!  I shared it (on my Facebook page and via Twitter)!  And now I can blog about it!  As a matter of fact, I can even embed the widget on my page, like so:

So join the fun.  Login to RCRD LBL and reap the rewards of a massive free music source at your fingertips!


Musicians love to share their music, right?  Well, actually many do.  Those that can't seem to get airplay need a vehicle to express their musical thoughts.  Well, that's what NoiseTrade is all about!  Well-known and up-and-coming artists can upload their music and offer it free to the public.  You, the consumer, need to create a NoiseTrade account, after which you will receive email notification of new music available to download.  How hard is that to do.

Here's the catch;  there is none.  When you decide to download an artist's music, you will be asked if you want to tweet about it, share on Facebook, send email to others and/or leave a tip!  None of which you are required to do!  Then you get another email with your download code and, as they say in French, "Voila!", you're on you way to grabbing your free music!  
As NoiseTrade says on their site:

Fans get free music.
Artists connect with new fans.
Everybody wins.


How true!  A partial list of what I have downloaded and enjoyed:

Amy Ray (one-half of the Indigo Girls)
Andrew Bird
Blitzen Trapper & Dawes
Delta Spirit
Josh Rouse
Josh Ritter
Great Lake Swimmers
The Low Anthem

I recommend this site, highly.  As a matter of fact, I give it two snaps up and a circle (with props to Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier of "In Living Color").

More sites to be covered in the future!

Tell me your faves!

As I used to say on the air, "see you on the flip side"...


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Pursuit of Trivia - Fab Four Style (and avoiding copyright infringement)

The Beatles Occupy the Entire Top 5 on Billboard Hot 100: 48 Years Ago Today |

Yes, that's right folks!  It was 48 years ago today, the pre-Sgt.Pepper's Band held sway.  Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 chart showed that the Beatles owned the Top 5 spots on the Chart!

  • At #1 Can't Buy Me Love, which entered the chart on 3/28/64 and became the group's third number one single!
  • At #2 Twist and Shout, entering the chart on 3/14/64 and stayed at number two for four weeks!
  • At #3 She Loves You, their second released single and second #1, grabbing the top spot for two weeks.  It charted on 1/25/64!
  • At #4 I Want to Hold Your Hand, entering the charts on 1/18/64 and becoming the Beatles' first number one song, holding the top spot for seven weeks!
  • At #5 Please Please Me, which entered the chart on 2/02/64 and peaked at #3.
Trivia buffs, there's your fix for today!!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio (apologies to Joni Mitchell)

My lovely wife will look at me and ask, "So, what's the song you're hearing now?"  She knows that there is a radio station in my head, playing almost continuously.  It has been running from when I first started hearing music and deejays on the radio, which always was playing when I got up, when I came home from school, when I was doing homework and usually while I was in bed supposedly sleeping! It led me to believe that music was more important than anything except shelter and food. Oh, and the electricity or batteries to keep the music coming!

The music never stops and I always have a tune running through my head.  I find myself whistling, humming or even singing the tune, much to the chagrin of the people around me.  (Note to self: before puberty you could sing beautifully, but that was back in the time of the cavemen...)  On occasion someone will ask me what the song was ("sorry, did I butcher it?") that I was humming/singing/destroying and after my response they'd reply, "really?  I never heard it done that way before!"  So much for my improvisational skills...

Regardless, my musical education began with the pop music of the 1950s and early '60s, which was played on the radio and television.  I longed to be one of the WMCA (New York)"Good Guys"  (listen to "Fabulous 57" airchecks here ); not just so I could be (in)famous, but I wanted access to those 57+ songs they rotated regularly!  I decided, then and there, I needed to be in radio and own a lot of records.  Well, both dreams came true!

In college I joined the radio station on the first day of the semester.  I introduced myself and my 800+ 45 rpm records to the team!  There was a show called "Request Line Oldies";  my records and my knowledge of the songs helped me gain a footing.  I even got a spot on Sunday mornings on the AM station and did news and board work on the FM side.  With help from many, finally I was able to join the "big kids" on FM, doing a morning show once-a-week and learning more about the progressive rock music and jazz that the station played. This led me to getting a late night spot on the station and getting a chance to be one of the people who reviewed the music for the daytime announcers who weren't as familiar with the music.  I had arrived!   (More about my radio daze in the future).

Which brings me to the point of these ramblings - to me, it's all about the music.  I consider myself to be a vehicle for turning people on to music that catches my ears.  I pass it along to others (tweets, Facebook postings, emails and so on) and let them decide for themselves.  I won't say if it's good or bad, but if I like it, I'll gush about it (sorry about the mess...)!  So, read, listen, discuss with your family and friends.  No one is wrong here, and no one is right either.  It's just what I see and hear that I want to share!

What were your first records (cassettes, CDs, MP3s)?

When I was younger, so much younger (oops, possible copyright infringement), I used to see these advertisements in magazines for one of the record clubs, where you could buy four LPs for five dollars (for those not in the know, LPs are Long-Playing records a/k/a vinyl).  And you didn't have to send any money!!!  So, I filled out the card and mailed it in.  When Mr. Postman (oops, again) delivered the package, my mom was stunned as I yelled out "the records are here"!!!  One dirty look later, I still had the records but I was in the doghouse (figuratively speaking).  Now, my music tastes were a bit all over the place, so the selections were kind of eclectic.  I had purchased the following:

Soundtrack - "The Music Man" (Robert Preston and Barbara Cook).
Soundtrack - "Annie Get Your Gun" (I think it was the Mary Martin/John Raitt version).
The Four Freshmen - Four Freshmen and Five Guitars  (1959, Capitol).
The Kingston Trio - Here We Go Again!  (1959, Capitol).

Eclectic, eh?   Later, when I had my "own" money and wanted to buy records, I did so.  My first LP purchases were:

The Chambers Brothers - The Time Has Come
The Union Gap - Woman, Woman

Quite the start, don't you think?

Next time, the thousands of pieces of vinyl and CDs I have, waiting to be played!