Wednesday, December 09, 2009

rocked k-town

The Brian Setzer Orchestra opened their show at the Tennessee Theatre last night with the theme from "Batman." I was in heaven as my favorite band played the music from my favorite TV show.

The musicians always do a great job. They might have been even more "on" than usual because the show was being filmed for BillboardLive. It will be streamed on Christmas Eve and repeated at some point in the future. At this point, the site has conflicting information about the time of the webcast. It will either start at 8:00 or 10:00 p.m. EST. After I thanked them profusely for the tickets, the guys from Surfdog Records told me that the concert could possibly be sold as a DVD too. I would buy one even though I already have a previous holiday disc of theirs.

State Street behind the theatre was closed to accommodate the TV truck. Fortunately my wife read about the closure on Twitter, which saved us some time and trouble on our way to the parking garage. Knoxville must be a great place to film a special. Ralphie May, among others, have used the Tennessee Theatre for the same purpose. Because of the proximity of Scripps Networks and the independent production companies that create programming for them, high-quality crew members are readily available. The cameraman focusing on Setzer from stage left was D.J. Corcoran, who was my classmate in the FBI Citizens Academy. He was part of the crew that once filmed an episode of "Ed the Plumber" at my house.

The set list mixed Setzer favorites with holiday classics. A costumed Grinch made an appearance as the band mashed "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" into the "Stray Cat Strut." I don't know if Brian really needs the sheet music for "The Nutcracker Suite" or if the roadies put it out there for a visual effect. I suspect he was actually reading the notes because he looked like a kid at his Christmas recital. The Orchestra's cover of "Angels We Have Heard On High" is one of my favorite versions of the hymn.

No Setzer show is complete without "Rock This Town." Even though I've seen their trick before, I love it every time. In the middle of the concert, Brian gives the horns a break and plays a set of tunes with just the drummer and stand-up bass player. It's obviously a nod to the Stray Cats. The last song the trio does is "Rock This Town." Before it ends, the scrim rises and the horn section kicks in to finish the tune big-band style. At the end of the show, real snow (or real shaved ice) fell on us as the band played "Jingle Bells."

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Friday, December 04, 2009

guitar & bass

It's as if Christmas is coming a little early for me this year. Next week I get to spend consecutive evenings watching two men I admire greatly, one for his science and one for his art.

The Bone Zones team that organizes Jefferson Bass events has invited me aboard the book signing cruise with Dr. Bill Bass on the Volunteer Princess Monday night. Last month they asked me to help publicize the boat trip, which will raise money for the Dr. William M. Bass Building Fund. Dr. Bass will show some of his famous Body Farm slides while dinner is served.

I plan to ask Dr. Bass about an email I received last week. The mother of a UT anthropology student wrote to suggest that I could volunteer to process skeletal remains on campus.

For four months I have been anticipating the arrival of the Brian Setzer Orchestra in Knoxville. On Tuesday they will rock the rafters of the historic Tennessee Theatre. My wife and I have been invited to attend by the management of Surfdog Records. The opening act will be Ross Bon & the Mighty Blue Kings. Based on the few songs I've heard online, they should be pretty good.

My blog post last August even surprised the Tennessee Theatre people, who had not yet made their own Setzer announcement. However they didn't notice last month when I inadvertently scooped the local paper with news of David Keith's upcoming musical performance.

Will you be attending either the forensics cruise or the Christmas concert? I am making arrangements to borrow a camera long term from a reader who works at If I can't get it in time, I may ask you to take a picture of me while you're there.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The great Knoxville-based website, had a link to an offer that was right up my alley. Before November 30, you can get a $3 credit toward the purchase of downloadable mp3s from Most songs cost only 99¢ each. I got three, which left me with 3¢.

Coupon Katie asked on Twitter which three songs I chose. A Twitter user named Dusty made a funny guess. I could have easily gotten bogged down trying to pick from among the probably millions of available tunes. Fortunately I came up with a plan. I went straight to the Amazon wish list that I have been maintaining for several years and chose one song each from three different CDs. One of the albums appears to be no longer available in its disc form.

Longtime readers may realize that I have been wanting these songs for some time. Two of the three catch my attention each year when I hear them on a local Christian station. A couple of years ago I even called the station to ask who was singing "Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Bells." The artists were Relient K and Denver & the Mile High Orchestra, respectively.

The third song I chose combined two of my favorite things: the "1812 Overture" and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Their "1812 Overdrive" is a rockin' version of a classical masterpiece on the "Wolfgang's Big Night Out" album. Did you know that the BSO will be at the historic Tennessee Theatre two weeks from tonight?

While finding the links for the previous paragraphs, I stumbled across another free deal on Amazon. You can download a Christmas album called Sampler Claus free of charge! The seven tracks are from my father's era including a preeminent communion song performed by the late, great Robert Goulet.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

o brother, where art thou?

Flat Stanley had a busy day in East Tennessee. My sister emailed him to me in a PDF file and asked me to take some photos of him for my niece's second grade class. Any Tennessean worth his or her salt should be able to identify all the locations Flat Stanley and I visited on Saturday. I will send a prize to the first person to do so. All guesses must be entered in the comments section on my blog. The more specific, the better. I have posted my contest rules there. Don't delay, the second grade needs to know where these pictures were taken.

What's the prize, you ask? Actually you get to choose one of three. "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" gives away Carl Kasell's voice for your answering machine. I can do that too. Or you could choose to have my lovely wife sing the National Anthem at your Knoxville-area event. Or I will mail you a bag of bacon-flavored sunflower seeds that I got for free.

PS: It appears that Flat Stanley is as big a fan of the Brian Setzer Orchestra as I am.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

y'all come back now y'hear?

The Brian Setzer Orchestra is coming to Knoxville! This is a huge deal for me. I so badly wanted to see their show in Nashville a few years ago but couldn't make it. Sixteen weeks from now they will bring the Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza to the Tennessee Theatre. I must somehow get tickets to be there on December 8th.

The BSO released two new songs on iTunes today. Two more will come out next week in advance of the new album, "Songs from Lonely Avenue," due October 13th. Megan from Surfdog Records was kind enough to send along copies of the first two tracks for me to hear.

"Trouble Train" is an uptempo song that warns "if you hear the devil call your name, don't get on that trouble train." The powerful horns on the album were arranged by 87-year-old Frank Comstock. He wrote music for many big stars of the past and also wrote the "Rocky & Bullwinkle" theme.

"Lonely Avenue" is a slow number that captures the film-noir feeling that Setzer is going for. The new album is the first entirely written by Brian himself. The disc will include ten vocal tracks and three instrumentals.

My wife and I saw several Brian Setzer Orchestra shows when we lived in California. I have great memories of the concerts at the Greek Theatre, the Universal Amphitheatre and the House of Blues one New Year's Eve. Obviously, it's been a long time since then. I have been hoping they would come to East Tennessee for years.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

sing in exultation

The piece of music that makes it feel like Christmas for me is the "Christmas Festival Overture" by Leroy Anderson. The composer took several popular Christmas carols and songs and arranged them in a medley. The best parts of it were clearly influenced by Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." My favorite segment is a mashup of "Jingle Bells" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." There's a new BBC recording of Anderson's holiday works that includes the overture. I literally got goosebumps when I heard the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra perform the opus on Saturday night.

The SLSO's home is the beautiful Powell Symphony Hall, a former vaudeville and movie house. Prior to the concert, they projected messages on a screen reminding the audience that photography was prohibited and that ushers would provide cough drops before the show started. Coughing must be prohibited too. I was impressed that at one of the refreshment stands they sold slices of cake and pie, egg nog (spiked and regular) and hot cocoa. Meanwhile on stage, soloist Doug LaBrecque put the broad in Broadway as he sang to the rafters. He thanked his arranger Wayne Barker for working up some nice orchestrations to include the excellent St. Louis Children’s Choirs on "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

All the songs we heard at the concert and the songs we heard on the weekend's long car trip got me thinking about the good, the bad and the ugly of Christmas music. Relient K's version of "Sleigh Ride" is a favorite this year. I also still enjoy The Blenders singing "The First Noel" and the Brian Setzer Orchestra doing "Angels We Have Heard On High," which is downloadable for free for a limited time on Look up pop perfection and you should get "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey. It is flawless both as a song and as a record. Ask the Grammys if you don’t know the difference between the two.

I've come to realize that "Baby It’s Cold Outside" is really a woman’s song. I don’t like versions in which the female part is a throwaway, for example when Dean Martin sings it with some anonymous chorus girls (sorry, Bean.) I loved the version on the Mark & Brian Christmas album, not because of Barry Manilow but because of the great voice of listener Pamela Holt. Even better is the cover of the song on the "Elf" soundtrack, sung by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone. When Zooey sings the line "my sister might get suspicious," how can you not think of Bones?

My daughter left a comment on Bean's Christmas Music Everyday blog. He posted a song called "Christmas Eve in Washington" that seems to be disliked by everyone I know. As far as I know, it only gets airplay in D.C. That reminds me. Let me air a gripe about all the radio stations that play only Christmas music for the month prior to the holiday. I've already written about the uneven ratio of sacred to secular songs. Now I want to know why you cut us off cold turkey at 11:59 p.m. on the 25th? When you go back to playing the best mix of yesterday's favorites and today's whatever, I'll be listening to Christmas music for a few more days. I think you should leave some Christmas songs on the playlist through New Year's Eve. Oh and one more thing, when you play an instrumental version of "Sleigh Ride," keep in mind that Leroy Anderson was the composer of the piece. You often make it sound like he played all the instruments on the recording by the Boston Pops or another symphony orchestra.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

weary world rejoices

In an effort to catch a five minute appearance by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, I recorded all four hours of the "Today" show yesterday. Ann Curry flubbed her line and said that Brian "Seltzer" would be on the show. She joked about it later by saying Setzer was bringing some seltzer to their morning. Although the set was decorated for Christmas, the band played "One More Night With You" from their "Wolfgang's Big Night Out" CD instead of a holiday tune. The BSO will return to "Today" on Christmas Day. Since the equipment was all set up, they must have recorded the Christmas segment before this morning's live performance. In fact, they might have shown part of it. As they came back from a local news break, I saw the Orchestra finishing up "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus." Ann Curry tried to explain that away by saying it was a rehearsal for the live segment that was still coming up.

Gifted tenor Carl Tanner was on the "Today" show a couple of years ago. A friend of mine knows Carl pretty well and has been doing what she can to help his career. She called me this afternoon to ask if I had any suggestions for getting Carl an appearance on WASH-FM, the all-Christmas station in his hometown. I think Carl could be a good guest on my friend Loo Katz's morning show. Meanwhile, I asked if I could get one of Carl's holiday CDs for myself and one for my friend Bean, who loves Christmas music even more than I do.

Mere weeks after launching his new blog, Bean has another new website called Christmas Music Everyday. Each day he will post a song from his extensive Christmas music collection. Bean's site promises to be even better than the enjoyable "Last Christmas" blog I heard about, uh, last Christmas.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

green hornet and the big apple band

The only Monday Night Football game I'll probably watch all year was played earlier this week. My family and I didn't mind staying up late to watch a well-played Redskins win. Thanks to the NFL Sunday ticket, we'll watch the Redskins in their throwback uniforms this weekend while our local Fox affiliate shows the Panthers at the Falcons.

One of my all-time favorite artists, Brian Setzer and his horn section made a noticeable improvement in the Monday Night Football opening song. I almost always like songs with lots of brass. The horns get a good workout on the clips I've heard from the new Brian Setzer Orchestra album. "Wolfgang's Big Night Out" comes out Tuesday. This time around they give the big band treatment to familiar classical melodies. Tonight I took advantage of the free download of "Take The 5th" available through the Setzer website. It's a twist on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The concept (but not the execution) reminds me of the disco hit "A Fifth of Beethoven."

The BSO MySpace page has more clips. I especially liked their interpretation of "Flight of the Bumblebee" called "Honey Man." Starting tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m., we can listen to the whole album online for 48 hours. You'll need to click here and then enter the passcode WOLFGANG

If money were no object, I would hop on a plane and go see one of the shows on the 6th Annual Christmas Extravaganza Tour. Listening to the classical variations and last year's speculation that he might retire the BSO made me wonder if someday Brian Setzer would play the local symphony circuit. He would have to bring the Gretsch and the Fender amp with him while the symphony in each city plays all the other parts. It might be the only way we get him to come to Knoxville.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

holiday happenings

Reader Pam Mc said she thought of my recent blog entry as she drove home and spotted an inflatable nativity scene. She emailed me a photo to share with you:

I already mentioned that I was disappointed by the remake of "The Year Without a Santa Claus." They released it on DVD the morning after it was broadcast. Another TV movie I watched was much better.
Jenny McCarthy's "Santa Baby" is on again Saturday afternoon.

The Atlanta tree lighting that I told you about will be rebroadcast in Knoxville on December 23rd at noon. I also mentioned the Brian Setzer Orchestra's upcoming appearance on the "Rachael Ray Show." It is now scheduled for Tuesday, December 19th.

One more thing.
Don't forget to check back at ThaBombShelter and Last Christmas for some different versions of holiday favorites.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

holy digital technology Batman!

Endorsement commercials give an advertiser some extra bang for the buck. Listeners are more likely to respond to testimonials voiced by the radio personalities they know and trust. I will only endorse products or services that I use and believe in. Since moving to Knoxville, I have had the good fortune to do testimonials for the Campbell Cunningham Laser Center, Hosenfeld Chiropractic and LA Weight Loss. As a result, I lost my glasses, my back pain and 60 unwanted pounds.

This week I picked up a new client that suits me very well. Strickwood Communications sells and installs audio and video systems. The team from Strickwood has been to my house and transformed the living room, which we never used, into my favorite room in the house.

Strickwood started as a company that puts wires and cables in homes and businesses. As a result, their installations are top-notch. They mounted an NEC plasma screen on the wall and cut holes to install five Infinity speakers. All the wires and cables are inside the walls.

The satellite company is supposed to come on Monday to upgrade my dish and install an HDTV receiver. I'm also getting an over-the-air antenna to receive the digital local channels. Unfortunately the satellite company doesn't have any DVRs available right now. I'll have to wait until I can get one of theirs or until TiVo lowers the price of their Series 3 box.

The guys from Strickwood hooked up an Onkyo DVD changer, which I tried right away. What better way is there to test the limits of a 42 inch plasma screen than with a 1962 made for television cartoon? Yes, I popped in "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" for a little while. Before long, I wanted to really hear what the surround sound system could do, so I played my Brian Setzer Orchestra "Christmas Extravaganza" DVD. It sounded so good that it almost made up for missing their Nashville concert on Thursday.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

rush party

TiVo alert! This week's episode of a popular network TV series is set in Knoxville! And I'm not talking about a rerun of that famous episode of "The Simpsons." On Sunday night, the detectives of "Cold Case" head south to "delve into the country music world." (If you do actually set your TiVo, pad it with an extra hour in the Eastern and Central time zones to allow for the overrun of the Broncos/Chargers and/or the Bills/Jets games.) The TiVo listing says that the character of Scotty is reluctant to visit here. It doesn't say anything about Lilly being reluctant, so let's assume that she is eager to see all that K-town has to offer. At first, I thought there must be a mistake in the listings. It seemed unlikely that the detectives would investigate country music in Knoxville, unless the story took place back in days before the country music industry migrated west to Nashville. The TV Guide listing makes a little more sense. It says that the episode's murder happened in 2000 and that the detectives go to both Knoxville and Nashville. I don't recall hearing about "Cold Case" filming on location in Knoxville but I can hope that they at least use some stock footage of the Sunsphere, which is not a wig shop.

TiVo alert #2: "Hardball with Chris Matthews" will be recording a show from the campus of The Final Four's George Mason University on December 14. The program is not about basketball however. Instead Robert DeNiro will be there to discuss his new movie about the CIA, "The Good Shepherd."

TiVo alert #3: The Brian Setzer Orchestra will be on the "Rachael Ray Show" on December 18 or 19. Speaking of the BSO, did anybody make it to their concert in Nashville last night? I just watched a brief video of the Orchestra playing the "Peter Gunn Theme" with special guest Duane Eddy at the Ryman.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

peach tops apple

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit this past Wednesday. NBC broadcast the festivities again this year. The telecast was just okay. Hall & Oates served as the "house band" this year, playing as the show resumed after each commercial break. Last year and at least one other year before that, the Brian Setzer Orchestra filled that role. I preferred Setzer's uptempo arrangements to the slower Hall & Oates holiday songs. At least they closed the show with "Jingle Bell Rock." For the actual tree lighting, they showed some celebrities counting down and pushing a button.

I caught the last twenty minutes of another tree lighting ceremony while channel surfing this afternoon. One of our local stations replayed the lighting of the Great Tree at Macy's in Atlanta, which took place on Thanksgiving night. The tree was an understudy after the original snapped in two. The musical performances that I saw were very good, especially LeAnn Rimes. She was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar on "All I Want for Christmas." It's not the same song as Mariah Carey's pop classic "All I Want for Christmas Is You." LeAnn's song is more of a emotional ballad. The sentiment of the song was felt even stronger when the cameras from WSB-TV showed a woman in the audience who had just received a videotaped marriage proposal from her serviceman boyfriend in Iraq. At the end of the show, LeAnn did an excellent job on "O Holy Night," which, when done right, is one of my favorite carols. As LeAnn hit the high note on the words "o night divine," the tree lights came on and some fireworks shot up. It was so much better than the countdown and button push at Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately the genius who posted a video of the moment on YouTube did his own countdown into his camcorder's microphone.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

don't he look natural?

A CD that's in the running for my favorite Christmas disc of the year is one that can't be bought in any store. It's a sampler CD sent to morning deejays by publicist Alan Rommelfanger, whose company is called Daybreak Entertainment. It has tracks from Richard Cheese, Gary Hoey, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The von Trapp Children and several of his other clients. The first song on the disc is a novelty tune that I thought only I knew about. It's "Disco Santa" by Holiday Express, which I think I might have included on the mix disc I made for some friends a year ago.

Alan put a song from the Brian Setzer Orchestra on his sampler CD too. The BSO makes its annual appearance on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" tonight. I wonder if they'll be playing at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting again tomorrow night. There's no mention of it on the Setzer website but it does say that they'll be on "Fox & Friends" in the morning and that they taped an episode of the "Rachael Ray Show" to air in mid-December. By giving my email address, I was able to get a free download of a live version of "Jingle Bells." I'll have to settle for the free download because I don't think I'll be getting any free tickets to their Nashville concert.

I picked up two more Christmas CDs for my collection yesterday. One is a novelty disc called "A TV Christmas Dinner" and the other is "The Andy Williams Christmas Album," which had been on my wish list for a while. I haven't listened to the novelty disc yet but I popped the Andy CD into the player while we were still in the parking lot at McKay's. My son and I noticed that the first six songs were all secular and the next six were all religious. I guess that when the album was first released on vinyl, the secular songs were on side A and the religious songs were on side B.

Before becoming a famous radio deejay, my friend Bean worked in a record store in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC. It was around this time of year when a gentleman came into the store and asked Bean for help locating the Andy Williams Christmas albums. Bean immediately says "Andy Williams? Isn't he dead?" That's when Andy Williams said, "No. I'm not." It turns out that the musicians needed to hear some of the original arrangements for Andy's performance at the Kennedy Center.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

rock that town

How far would you drive to see one of your favorite bands in concert? An hour? Maybe two? How about three hours? My family and I drove that far when I was given some tickets to see Rockapella perform at Georgia Tech. Atlanta is about 3 hours south of Knoxville while Nashville is about three hours west of here. Concert tours are much more likely to be routed through one of those bigger markets than through KnoxVegas.

Check out the web version of an email sent to "radio professionals" today. It says that Brian Setzer has a new CD and it lets you hear the track "Everybody's Up To Somethin'." Best of all, it says that Brian is bringing the whole orchestra to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for a Christmas concert on December 7. I would love to get some tickets if I can figure out how to get enough sleep and still make it to work the next morning. I need to try because Brian told a Minneapolis newspaper that he will probably retire the BSO after this year's holiday tour.

Mr. Setzer is responsible for some of my favorite radio memories. One morning we packed the whole Brian Setzer Orchestra into the studio, offices and hallways at KROQ for a live performance. I still remember the thrill I got a couple of years later when I first heard the Orchestra's version of "Rock This Town" while they were in the KLOS studio.
I am reminded of the feeling every time I listen to that track on my mp3 player/phone. One year when the NAB convention was in Los Angeles, I went to some downtown hotel to hear Brian play in a suite on the top floor. The lobby was swarming with a hundred or so radio guys when Setzer arrived and headed for the elevator bank. He made me feel like a million bucks when he spotted me in the crowd and shouted, "hey Frank!"

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