Friday, August 21, 2009
Tonight, at 12:47am, my concrete floors conspired with Grant's Scotch whiskey to claim the life of my trusty whisky glass.
I reclaimed that glass from a falling-down barn behind the Washington Hotel during my first summer there. I found it holding rusty and fouled spark plugs, clearly the organizational method of someone like myself. Later that evening, around a communal table in the house I shared with the Eastern European workers of the hotel, I poured a tall slug of Jim Beam rye into that jar, to the mixed delight and horror of those around me. One, they didn't understand the drinking of straight whisky, and two, it reminded them of a Metallica song called, appropriately, 'Whiskey In The Jar.' The reference escaped me until they brought it up.
Of course, most any vessel will do the job when it comes to the task of conveying whisky into my head. But that jar was special. It had tradition. History. Meaning.
To me, that jar was a I-IV-V chord structure: solid. Dependable. I knew the form of the song I was listening to, but the content was always different. And even though a jar is a jar is a jar, it had its particular nuances that I learned over the years with it.
I'm going to miss it.
But I'll find another one. It won't be the same, but it will be good.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
But, other people will cover this portion of his life better than myself. I have a tenuous connection to Mr. Paul that I had only begun to explore a couple weeks before. Clyde Stanley, the man who hand built a guitar he later gave to my grandfather, and which I inherited, is said to have hosted Les Paul in his home for informal jam sessions. Clyde's daughter, Muriel, has told me that she remembers Les visiting the house to play guitar with Clyde on more than one occasion, and being joined by Mary Ford at least once. Having just heard about this possible connection, I had been planning a trip to New York to meet Les at one of his weekly gigs at the Iridium, to ask him if he could shed any light on story, and if he had any direct knowledge of the guitar I have. With his death, it looks like another part of the legacy of the infamous Clyde Stanley will fade into legend.
The solidbody, handbuilt Stanley guitar that I have was clearly influenced by Les Paul's eponymous Gibson guitar. Most obviously, the Stanley's body shape recalls the Gibson's - which is itself an echo of archtop acoustic guitars - with a twist found in the Stanley's small cutaway on the bass side of the body at the neck. The Stanley also differs from the Gibson in that the Stanley has a flat top, as opposed to the Gibson's carved, arched top. (Gibson later offered a flat top Les Paul in the Junior model beginning in 1954. I have been unable to establish a build date for the Stanley.) Other similarities include the solid mahogany construction (although the Stanley eschews the Gibson's maple cap for a one piece slab of mahogany for the entire body), set neck joint, and trapeze tailpiece similar to the original Gold Top Les Paul.
I had the pleasure of recording with the Stanley on Trigger 5's record Heartbreak and Regret. The two solos on 'The Sangria Isn't Strong Enough' were played on the Stanley, though a Smokey Amp - an amplifier self-contained in a pack of cigarettes. Marlboro reds, in this case. The Stanley's thick hunk of a neck takes a little getting used to, but the tone from the single neck-mounted DeArmond pickup is pure hot, vintage tone that's unattainable with anything newer than 40 years old.
It's a joy to play and an honor to own - made even more special knowing that none other than Les Paul may have had a direct and personal influence on its construction.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Well, it's done.
After months of work on rewrites, rehearsals, recording, mixing, mastering, duplication, design, printing, cutting, folding and stuffing, I have a box of finished copies of Heartbreak and Regret on my shelf, ready to go out to press, to radio stations, and ultimately, into the hands of country music lovers.
We've worked our collective butts off on this project, but we weren't alone. In the interest of giving credit where it's due...
Thanks foremost to Peter Dycus of Shine Studio, who put in a lot of long nights getting these songs recorded and mixed - and putting up with us and our seven different opinions. I think it was a pretty different experience within the walls of Shine, recording a country band - mainly live - but he adapted to our needs and requests seamlessly. The man does fine work, and we're all over the moon with the way it sounds. Thanks a lot, Peter.
Charlie Smith is the man behind Trim Industries, and the overall print image of Trigger 5. He's been doing posters for us for a long time - actually longer than I've been with the band - and they never cease to impress. His design for the CD sleeve and insert is no different. He captured our classic simplicity just perfectly with this design. Good work, man.
Last but certainly not least, big thanks to my good friend Kirsten O'Loughlin of Sensura Studio. She got us first thinking about the sleeve design (and pointed us in the direction of these fantastic Arigato Packs from Stumptown Printers), and made Charlie's design a working reality. She kept Mike and me in line - and our fingers thankfully unsquished, - during the letterpress process. That's right, these things are printed the old fashioned way, and we've had our grimy paws on every one of them, so bring your hand sanitizer. We couldn't be happier with the way they turned out. Thanks Kirsten (and Jason)! You're awesome.
Folks, if you need design, branding, printing, sound recording or unique artwork done, you'd do well to look up these fine (young, handsome, charming, well-mannered, well-dressed) folks. They've done right by us, and their dedication to their craft pushed them all to go above and beyond on more than one occasion. I hold this beautiful piece of work in my hand thanks to their efforts.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't personally extend my thanks to my lovely girlfriend and my unflaggingly supportive family (Trigger 5's biggest fans?). You guys helped me do this in more ways than you realize. Thanks. I love you.
And the band! I didn't realize when Greg brought me to that first rehearsal (thanks, Greg!) that I'd be working with such a talented group of people. We've really made something to be proud of here, 5ers. I can't thank you enough for letting me be a part of it. Yeah, on August 21st the world will officially get to hear the fruits of our labor. But even if nobody heard this but us, I'd still feel like we accomplished something with this record. Thanks, guys.
Our release show is at the Fox Hole at the Atomic Cowboy in the Grove on 8.21. Doors at 7, show at 8. We'll be performing this album in its entirety, live, that night. The album will soon be available on iTunes and in our online store, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to check it out.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Top row: the Mongrel (For Sale), Alvarez RF30 (For Sale), Ibanez Artcore AG75 (For Sale); Middle row: '64 Harmony Rocket H59 (my #1), ca. '60-'64 Stanley banjo (made in Marquette Prison by inmate Clyde Stanley), turn-of-the-millennium Danelectro Hodad (For Sale); Bottom row: ca. '60-'64 Stanley solidbody (made in Marquette Prison my Clyde Stanley), Yamaha T100C (sold), Peavey Delta Blues 115, '48 Epiphone Blackstone
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
In lieu of progress on my A (which, if you'll recall from a few posts ago, was the point of this little blog), here's something else. I wrote this after the Moto Fest this past summer. Enjoy.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Last weekend was Moto Fest, the official grand opening festival for the new Moto Museum in Grand Center. Our shop was there as a vendor (along with our little group, LouVinMoto), selling t-shirts (available in girls' sizes, and in a wide variety of colors in guys' sizes), and handing out branded shop towels. A friend of ours, Michael Kiernan has a shop on Chouteau at Grand where he deals collector bikes, and the occasional car. Lately, he's been getting incredible stuff, like a Vincent Black Shadow, a Hailwood replica 900SS Ducati, a real Slater brothers Egli Vincent with 15 miles on it, and a certain '73 MV Agusta 750 S. Michael was threatening to make me bump start the MV one morning of the Fest, as its battery was almost dead, and after I ran it up and down the stunt area on the grounds once, he said, "Ah, hell. Just take it out on the street. Don't let the cops catch you, though."
Monday, November 19, 2007
When the songs were cut, most of the players on the weren't in prison for life, but for other, comparatively minor sentences. Most of the band members, in fact, were only in for a few years on a charge of Uttering and Publishing, which seems to relate to forgery or passing bad checks, with a couple notable exceptions.
Al Gliva, the songwriter, was in the joint on two occasions: he did 12 years for armed robbery, unlawful use of an automobile, and Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile. He served time in the clink again for second degree murder, but the records are sketchy here. It looks like he was released in 1967, either on parole or at the end of his sentence.
Clyde Stanley, the man who was employed by my grandfather at his HVAC repair business after WWII, and who built a banjo and guitar for my grandfather bearing the Stanley name while in prison, did worse. He was in the can for 11 years on charges of Uttering & Publishing and Kidnapping. He was released in 1964, and came to St. Louis and found a job with Pat. Four years later, he was convicted of firs degree murder and sentenced to life in Marquette. He died in prison in 1981, the year I was born.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
The story of The Lifer (quoted verbatim from the back of the record sleeve)
"The story of The Lifer began about four months ago, when Al Gliva wrote a letter to Dewey Groom of Longhorn Records in Dallas, Texas, and asked permission to send a tape recording of a tune he had written called 'The Lifer.' Dewey frankly didn't see much in the tune, as the first tape was very biblical and didn't have much commercial value. But Clay Allen, who works and records for Longhorn Records, and who is also a fine songwriter, thought the tune had possibilities. So, on the advice of Clay Allen, Al Gliva rewrote the tune as you hear it now. Of course, we ran into another problem, that of getting a tape cut there in the prison with enough quality to record. So, after two more attempts at making a tape of good quality, we decided that as it was impossible for them to come to Dallas, we would take our own recording equipment up there and record. So with the kind permission and cooperation of Warden Raymond Buchkoe, George McCoy, our recording technician, flew via jet, to the prison on Mon., Sept. 10th and made this record Tues., Sept. 11th, 1962. So Recording History has been made. The proceeds of the sale of this record will go to Al Gliva and his prison band. It is our sincere hope that my our efforts, this record of 'The Lifer' might keep some boy from turning to crime."
Alexander (Al) Gliva, inmate # 62055, was indeed serving life for murder. Roger Chase sings a bare chorus that bookends the recitative, spoken by Gliva, that's an attempt to convince someone - the parole board, the world, God, himself, who knows? - that he's now a different man than the young man who committed the murder years ago.
The song tends toward the preachy end of the spectrum, as you may expect, but knowing that it was recorded by inmates, inside the walls that were destined to confine most of these players for a very long time, and that the words being spoken are those of a man who's been sentenced to spend his remaining life there, is honestly chilling.
Most important about this record to me, though, is the guitar player, Clyde Stanley. My grandfather, Pat Moore, employed Clyde in his HVAC business here in St. Louis after the War. Clyde also made a guitar and banjo in the joint, which he later gave to my grandfather, and which I now have and play frequently. To the best of my knowledge, Clyde played the guitar he made on The Lifer. That guitar is now in my living room.
One of my main motivators in posting this, aside from just telling a fascinating story to which I'm connected indirectly, is in the hopes that somebody else is searching for the same information I am. God only knows how many of these 45s Longhorn even pressed, or if anybody else alive aside from other members of my family even knows of the existence of this record. I would think that family or friends of the other inmates on this record are the only remaining likely sources of information. Those other inmates, by the way, aside from the aforementioned Al Gliva, Roger Chase and Clyde Stanley, include Jess White, Carl Gilkerson, Howard Moore, and one man only identified on the record sleeve as #62054.
If you have any connection to or any more information about any aspect of the story surrounding The Lifer or the people who made it, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment to this post. Please include your email address in your comment, so I can reach you with further questions.