Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! Bet you didn’t know that Santa has a birthday today. If you were good, you didn’t have coal in your stocking (maybe candy in your shoe instead? Lucky you!). But wait: it’s still Hanukkah (already?? Yeah, it’s early this year).
We got so caught up in getting ready for the holidays that we’ve neglected our posts lately. So to make up for that, here’s our musical holiday card to you — a twofer! The Beach Boys give us a classic from the 1960s (which route-roadie hasn’t heard this one?), set to some lovely holiday lights. For our Jewish friends, jazzman Kenny Ellis and his crew give us a Swingin’ Dreidel from their album Hanukkah Swings! And for the perfect transition between the two, there’s a recitation to music of ‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah. Never heard that one? You will now! Here you go, folks:
It was born on November 11, 1926 when the U.S. Highway System officially came into being, and it was withdrawn from the route system on June 27, 1985 when the last bit of it had been replaced by interstates. Just eight years to the day before its creation, the armistice that ended the Great War with Germany had been signed, and the fighting ended at 11 a.m., the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (thus, the origin of Veterans Day, aka Armistice Day). Route 66 was birthed into the middle of the Roaring Twenties, the decade of prosperity and Prohibition, the Charleston and Jazz, permissiveness and people wanting to forget the after-effects of WW II, not knowing that the decade would end with even greater desperation and tragedy once the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday and the Great Depression began.
The road began in Chicago for a reason: it was the transportation hub of the center of the nation, connecting both coasts with railroads, the Great Lakes with the Gulf of Mexico through its waterways, and already smack in the center of a network of roads as well. The length of Illinois was already paved from Chicago to St. Louis, and that pavement would become the basis of Route 66 in Illinois. In fact, Illinois would be the first state to have its portion of Route 66 completely paved. On day one of the route’s existence. Today, it’s the state with the greatest portion of its section of the historic road still extant. In Illinois, Route 66 is still there to be driven, for most of its length.
The Route 66 roadie’s dream – cruising music, anyone?
In our last post, we mentioned the Cigars and Stripes BBQ Lounge in Berwyn, which has been known to feature some hot local blues bands. It seemed only appropriate that our Song Of The Week be a blues number. To wit: a true Chicago Blues version of our Bobby Troup favorite, featuring Chicago blues master Billy Branch, with assistance from fellow harp player Sugar Ray Norcia, who’s no slouch, either.
This track is from the 1999 Telarc album Superharps, featuring blues all stars James Cotton, Billy Branch, Charlie Musselwhite and Sugar Ray Norcia. The popular blues album was reissued in 2009 in MP3 format. Currently, it ranks #48 among Amazon’s top paid MP3 blues albums. The Route 66 track is a very danceable rendition that swings without dampening any of its blues influence. Very Chicago, that. Give a listen:
Yes, we know that Hallowmas is over (as of last Sunday morning), but it is the beginning of The Dead Season. No, that’s not the name of a new TV series on AMC or F/X, despite the numbers of dead and semi-dead running around on the boob tube on those cable networks. The fact is, almost-winter, winter and almost-spring are also the dead season up north for most car cruising and road trips. Which, to Route 66 roadies, means that either you go further south and west on the route or else you become a (temporary) armchair traveler. We don’t mind: we accommodate armchair travelers, too [grin!].
In that spirit, during the Dead Season we bring you stories of other spirit(s) on Route 66, this time over at Cigars and Stripes BBQ Lounge in Berwyn, IL. If you recall, we’ve already clued you in about owner Ronnie Lottz’s tasty smoked hot wings and his tent-and-music extravaganza during the annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show every September. We’ve even mentioned SweetPea, the resident mummy with its own namesake barbecue sauce; said mummy was out to a day-spa for the fake undead last time we visited Ronnie’s place (we trust that SweetPea’s tattered wraps are all rejuvenated and back in place now).
SweetPea, it seems, has spooky company in the way of a resident ghost or three – or at least there are three possibilities for such spiritual visitations. Ghost stories about the tavern include tales of glasses falling off shelves, bottles falling over or down to the ground, martini shakers flipping in the air by themselves, keys disappearing then reappearing in front of customers, a phone lifting off the hook by itself, a shadowy figure crossing the lounge area or appearing in a doorway, and unexplained noises. And now we have people willing to talk about their experiences in the lounge on YouTube.
Happy Hallowmas! (That’s the three-day holiday that covers Halloween/All Hallows Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day/the Day of the Dead). You didn’t know there was a long weekend for Halloween, did you? Well, since nearly everyone dresses up for trick or treating, we thought we’d use that as a guide for choosing our latest musical offering.
Little girls love to dress up, right? The Cheetah Girls aren’t that little anymore, but boy, do they love to dress. And they got dolled up, all right, for this music video. They even hit the desert to film it. But these are Disney gals, of course, so they never made it out of California, far as we can tell. Heaven forbid that they should make it as far as Chicago! I’ll say this much for them, however: their version is certainly spirited enough. they belt it out and put a lot of those guys tackling the same tune to shame (you GO, girls — work it. And you boys know who you are). Have a listen, folks:
Now, did we lie? Of course not! Hot stuff, that. Hope you like yours with ghost peppers. In case you weren’t aware, The Cheetah Girls are a band created by Disney to make some TV shows, films and recordings for young teen and tween kids. Several of their albums have gone platinum, and they’ve sold a total of 3.61 million copies of their recordings worldwide (total for all of their albums). It’s kiddie pop, but it sells. At least they did one grown-up song.
Enjoy the rest your spooky weekend, y’all! And don’t overeat on all that leftover candy.
Until next time,
your own DJ SweetMarie
In less than a week, it’ll be All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. The weather here in Chicago has been cooperating in creating the appropriately spooky mood: bright, cold sunlight interspersed with periods of dank cloudiness and cooler-than-seasonable temperatures. When it is sunny, the air has that sharp, clear quality you get after a good thunderstorm with lightning has cleaned up the lower atmosphere, and the sunlight that follows the break-up gives you visual resolution seemingly into infinity. Dusk approaches already by 5:30pm, sooner when it’s cloudy, and what clouds there are are the big, rolling three-dimensional ombre-dark ones that promise rain at night.
Not exactly cruising weather for roadies. More like armchair cruising with a hot drink and a good travel book (or at least a laptop). So how can we reconcile our desire for a Route 66 roadtrip with the approach of The Dead Season? Ah! Our Route 66 Song Of The Week choice can help with that. This week’s rendition (funny how that word has come to mean quite something else during these post-9/11 days) is by Depeche Mode, a popular UK band in the noir-romantic electronica genre. Their take on “Route 66″ is definitely in a minor key, and yet compelling; it’s a mash-up that blends “66″ with their own song “Behind The Wheel” and a kind of ZZ Top sensibility to the guitars, and the mix works. Listen for yourselves.
Hey, we’re not that late this week, only a day or two. Couldn’t find a good version of any of the Rat Pack singing the Troupe number; I thought we’d try that in honor of the new McCook welcome sign, which, frankly, cribs shamelessly from the famous Vegas sign. So instead, we found a version of the tune that has the snap, crackle and pop that the McCook sign lacks: a rousing guitar trio rendition by John Pizzarelli and friends.
Pizzarelli, son of jazz great Bucky Pizzarelli, is pretty hep himself, having recorded albums in honor of both Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. This cut is from his 1995 RCA Novus album Dear Mr. Cole, on which he’s backed up by some tasteful piano and acoustic (stand-up) bass work.
Pizzarelli also has a wonderful weekly 2-hour program on public radio called Radio Deluxe, which he hosts together with his wife, the effervescent vocalist Jessica Molaskey. It’s like an intimate, laid-back get-together in their ‘deluxe’ living room “high above Lexington Avenue in New York City.” There’s as much conversation as music, but none of it’s boring. In fact, they’re pretty damned charming together. In the Chicago area, they’re on WDCB 90.9 FM at 10pm Wednesday nights, but the show is also available online for your listening pleasure. And it’s definitely a pleasure to listen to this track. Enjoy!
Your own Route 66 mixmaster,