Saturday, March 27, 2010

song choice

Adam Golka almost made us late for The Breakfast Club. The piano virtuoso was practically forced to play an encore by Maestro Lucas Richman. My wife and I attended last night's performance by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. The second half of the concert was Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. Guest artist Golka tore the roof off the place with his performance. He received an immediate standing ovation and while the applause was still loud and strong, Richman literally pushed the 22-year-old back to the piano bench. I've been to the symphony dozens of times and had not seen this happen before. Golka launched into an opus by Schubert as the orchestra members watched silently.

Between pieces in the first half of the show, the Maestro greeted the audience and thanked the sponsors as usual. He also got in a plug for his participation in Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars. I found it funny when he urged the symphony audience to go to the radio station's website, where they can find the link to donate in his name. I assumed that most of the crowd had no idea what he was talking about but I may have been wrong.

At intermission, web-connected cell phones were glowing and the Tennessee Theatre was buzzing with news of the Tennessee Vols. Their Sweet Sixteen game against Ohio State was nearing its conclusion. I heard one man say that he had smuggled in a radio with an earphone to listen to the game. Local PR executive Alan Carmichael let me look over his shoulder as he checked Twitter on his smartphone. That's how I learned that the Vols won just before intermission ended. The news spread to the audience as the musicians were tuning up for the Rachmaninoff concerto and a cheer erupted. I sent Carmichael and his wife, Cynthia Moxley, a message suggesting that the orchestra should launch into "Rocky Top."

Golka's encore meant that my wife and I didn't get to the Valarium until after 10:30. I thought we had missed the start of The Breakfast Club show but their opening act was still on its last song when we arrived. The popular '80s cover band hit the stage a short while later. My wife and I figured that they probably save all the best songs for last. Except for "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," I didn't hear any of my favorites during the first set, although the other fans seemed more than ready to Wang Chung last night.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

you're through

This year, 181 contestants on "American Idol" get reduced to 24 people in the lightning round known as Hollywood week. It's one of my favorite parts of America's favorite karaoke contest. I especially like the episode when the contestants are made to form groups and sing together.

I don't understand why they race through Hollywood week so quickly. Perhaps they are trying to minimize the amount of time that the identities of the 24 finalists must be kept secret. I would rather that they speed through the tedious audition episodes and spare us the frauds who know they can't sing.

On tonight's show, Andrew Garcia of Moreno Valley did a brilliant cover version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." His performance is already heating up the blogosphere with comments at, and

They had a camera on Vanessa Wolfe of Vonore as she headed toward the security checkpoint at McGhee Tyson Airport. Unfortunately she sounded nervous on stage in Hollywood and was eliminated. I hope she tries again next year.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

but wait, there's more

The goal I set for myself last night was to figure out how to get WINC and WVMP on my new WiFi clock radio. I located both their streams online and added them to "My Streams" at Just before climbing into bed this afternoon for my nap, I saw that a new menu item had been added to my radio but neither station connected. I will keep trying.

The good news is that the results of my other experiments did work. Included in the new menu item called "My Stuff" were "My Stations," "My Podcasts," and "My MP3tunes." Since the eight stations I put on my preset buttons aren't enough when the whole world wide web is available, I now have a menu with some stations I'm interested in occasionally sampling like KIIS, KFI, WMAL, WWVQ and WXMX.

Registering the radio gave me a free membership at a site called It offers a "music locker" where I can upload my own files from anywhere and then listen to them on my clock radio. I uploaded a bunch of Christmas songs and Frank Jr.'s version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." I'm not ready for the season to be over yet, which is good because I will be the narrator for the Christmas Cantata at All Saints Church this weekend.

So far my favorite feature has to be "My Podcasts." I was too excited to sleep, so until I drifted off, I listened to the latest podcasts from Kevin & Bean, Fr. Gary Braun and Coverville. The latter was a countdown of their top ten cover songs. A country version of "Gin & Juice" (NSFW) was outstanding.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

cold turkey

After playing holiday music for the last month, or in some cases two months, the all-Christmas radio stations across America will cut us off tonight. For one station in Knoxville, it's a good thing. For another, it's too soon for me. I even went so far as to suggest via Facebook that Love 89 keep Christmas hymns on the air for another twelve days, mixed in with their regular playlist. It might keep more seasonal listeners around for their "30 Day Challenge."

For Catholics like me, Advent, the season of anticipation, ended yesterday. The Christmas season started last night and runs until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. When the choir at All Saints Church wanted to repeat last year's Christmas Cantata during Advent, our pastor said no, it had to be during the Christmas season. You can come hear it for free on January 8 at 7:30 p.m. and January 10 at 2:30 p.m.

Love 89 normally plays Christian light rock. During Advent, they mix in a lot of secular tunes by Christian artists, which is how I discovered that I loved "Sleigh Ride" by Relient K and "Jingle Bells" by Denver & the Mile High Orchestra. Starting tomorrow those secular songs will get a rest until next year. I wish Love 89 would continue playing their versions of some traditional carols like a new favorite I heard for the first time this year, "O Holy Night" by Point of Grace.

Nationwide, Christmas airplay is dominated by non-religious songs. It's been that way for years. The list that ASCAP releases annually changes very little from year to year. The only religious entry on list of the top holiday songs of the decade is "Little Drummer Boy."

My love of Christmas music is connected to my enjoyment of cover songs. It's fantastic to hear an artist improve upon a previous recording. Even "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" can be re-done brilliantly, as it was by Poe. The Brian Setzer Orchestra regularly updates Christmas classics. The one good cover song I "discovered" on our local commercial holiday station this year was "Feliz Navidad" by Jon Secada. Yes, Mr. Deejay, that was me calling on the request line to ask for the artist's name.

Unfortunately, cover songs can also go horribly wrong. One of my favorite songs, "Baby It's Cold Outside" was ruined by the clash of Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton's voices. Porky Pig's version of "Blue Christmas" might be funny once but it does not hold up to repeated airplay. Because of the atrocious lyrics, I doubt any artist could salvage "The Christmas Shoes." Only Patton Oswalt's hysterical but very R-rated deconstruction is worth a listen.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

once bitten and twice shy

Playing Christmas music on the radio is still a thrill for me. It might be different if I worked at one of those all-Christmas stations but I have only worked at places that mix in holiday tunes with the regular format.

I loaded three new Christmas songs into the system the other day, one at the request of my boss and two of my own picks. I had downloaded Lady Gaga's "Christmas Tree" while it was available for free on I got a copy of SpongeBob SquarePants' "Don't Be a Jerk (It's Christmas)" in the mail from a publicist. My boss added both to his holiday playlist.

The new song that came across his desk was "Last Christmas" by the cast of "Glee." The Wham tune has been covered by hundreds of artists in the past few years. I put the "Glee" version in the system and got a chance to play it on the air this weekend. As I talked over the intro, I realized it reminded me of an older, equally campy song. Listen to the beginning of "Last Christmas" and then compare it to an excerpt of "White Christmas" by the Partridge Family.

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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, August 14, 2009


The women vastly outnumbered the men at the David Cook concert tonight. Well, at least they did in the first 15 or so rows at the Tennessee Theatre. The "American Idol" winner inspired girls to bring signs and dress up in shirts with his name. It was the 100th show on this tour and we all got free commemorative t-shirts.

My co-worker Gretchen and I introduced the show. We thought it would be funny if she tried to apply guyliner to me while I was reading the safety announcements. Unfortunately she forgot to bring her eyeliner. We had to use my wife's mascara instead. As she put some of the goop on my lashes, I said "David Cook doesn't wear mascara. Adam Lambert wears mascara!" The crowd loved it. In fact the audience was very receptive to Gretchen and me. As we posed for photos with listeners at intermission, I felt more like we were at a station event (such as a StarJam show) than at a "normal" concert.

Earlier in the day, Gretchen had interviewed David. She challenged him to learn to play "Rocky Top." He suggested that she bring a CD of the song for his sound guy to play as the band's intro music. Back at the radio station, I burned a disc with the song on it. We gave it to the right people and it got played just as David and the band took the stage. The sound guy was a little angry that I had mixed a Star 102.1 Go Vols jingle onto the front of the song. It turns out that he's a Florida Gator fan.

The concert was fantastic. He played mostly songs from his album and at least one that didn't make the cut, called "Souvenir." I got to hear my favorite David Cook song, "Come Back to Me." He referenced the way he had reinterpreted songs on "American Idol" before launching into an unrecognizable cover version of Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight."

At the meet and greet after the show, David said he was surprised by the dance mix of Rocky Top. He expected it to sound like a John Denver song. I explained that I brought the version we play on our station, not the version they play on the old-school country station up the dial.

Several fans waited in the street outside David's tour bus after the show. I didn't notice the girl with the Gene Simmons tongue until after I got home and looked at the photos on my computer.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Going to the Starlight Bowl was one of my favorite things about living in Burbank. On summer Sunday nights, we would pack a picnic dinner and head up the hill to see a concert by a cover band such as Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries. Occasionally a nationally known act like Rockapella or an "oldies act" like Don McLean would appear.

I was impressed by the quality of this year's headliners, which include three artists whose success was more recent than the acts I remember seeing at the Starlight Bowl. Colin Hay from Men at Work performed last month. The season closes out when Gin Blossoms take the stage on August 16th. The concert I wish I could attend is booked for this coming Sunday. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will play the Starlight Bowl on August 9th.

My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on New Year's Eve 1999 in Pasadena. They were the opening act for Chicago at a Disney gala for "Fantasia 2000." Because of fear of Y2K, a lot of people who bought tickets to the black-tie event decided to stay home. As a result, some friends of ours were offered tickets and were able to get another pair for us.

According to the Starlight Bowl website, Sunday's show is called "100 Years of Cab Calloway featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy." I've been a fan of Calloway ever since I saw him in "The Blues Brothers." One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a great video of Cab singing "Jumpin' Jive" with a dance performance by the incredible, gravity-defying Nicholas Brothers. I am tempted to spend some time looking for Cab Calloway videos and Nicholas Brothers videos on YouTube. To bring it all full circle, I met Fayard Nicholas twice, once at Burbank on Parade and once at the Starlight Bowl.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

ella ella ella

Every time I hear Rihanna's song "Umbrella," I'm reminded of an acoustic cover version I heard a couple of months ago when my wife and I were shopping at Kohl's. I actually liked the acoustic version better. No offense to Rihanna, who now has her own line of umbrellas from Totes. I meant to do a little Google research when I got home and kept forgetting. Until now.

My best guess is that the song we heard over the speakers at Kohl's was by Marié Digby. She has a YouTube channel and pages on Facebook and MySpace. I guess I'm a little late coming to the party, since Marié's cover of "Umbrella" has over 13 million views. My son and I also enjoyed her cover of Linkin Park's "What I've Done." Marié is described as another YouTube sensation, not unlike Julia Nunes, who my wife and I met last month.

In a recent video, Julia mentioned that her Knoxville audiences were "packed with the friendliest people who gave me cake and marshmallow guns and a zombie crocheted version of myself. It was insane!" Last year Julia was the opening act for four shows with Ben Folds. In the middle of those four shows, he went off to play at Bonnaroo. This year Julia will be performing at Bonnaroo and returning to The Square Room in Knoxville just before that. According to her latest video, she needs to choose a local opening act for her June 9th gig and is open to suggestions.

Ben Folds was mentioned in USA Today on Wednesday. The article was about the increase in popularity of a cappella groups on college campuses. He put out an album of his songs that were covered by 14 different student a cappella groups. It's called "Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!" The article also has me wanting to read a book titled "Perfect Pitch: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory" by Mickey Rapkin. I'll start by reading his blog.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009


The only cover song my wife and I heard during Julia Nunes' set on Friday afternoon was "Bye Bye Bye." She introduced it by saying that she could never write such angry lyrics. Although I would have liked to hear more covers, it made perfect sense that she would emphasize her original songs while on the radio. Julia was the lead-off performer at the WDVX Blue Plate Special. Her banter with the show's host was enjoyable and reminiscent of the monologues on her YouTube videos.

When Julia had finished her set, I started to tell her that Richard Cheese had emailed me about her. Before I could say anything else, she asked, "are you Frank?" Obviously Richard had told her that I might show up at The Square Room. To me, the picture that my wife took offers proof that I had been to Sun Tan City the night before as I continue to prepare for "Dancing with the Knoxville Stars."

One wall of The Square Room is actually a giant window. Diners at Café 4 can see and hear the concert from the other side of the glass. Months before either place opened, I got a coupon for a free cupcake from the café. The end of Lent presented the perfect opportunity to redeem it. The "Happy Happy Joy Joy" cupcakes looked good but I ruled those out because my wife can't eat coconut. Instead we took home a "Chocolate on Chocolate" to split later. The icing was great. However the cake itself was a tad too dry and crumbly for my taste.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

fungus tingly duck sheets

Richard Cheese knows that I enjoy cover songs. He usually sends me a copy of his CDs, like he did with "Viva La Vodka." RC took a moment after his sold-out show in DC to send me a message about the artist who will be opening for him on Saturday in New York because she'll be in Knoxville on Friday.

Julia Nunes (rhymes with tunes), plays ukulele and sings cover songs on YouTube. She does originals too but I haven't gotten to any of those yet. I've watched and re-watched her amusing videos for "Build Me Up Buttercup," "Baby Now That I've Found You" and "Baby It's Cold Outside." After the songs end, Julia often talks to the camera. Her comments are as much fun to watch as the singing.

If time allows, I will try to catch Julia's performance on the WDVX Blue Plate Special at noon. I assume that she will open for Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere rather than the other way around. Obviously I can listen on the radio, however I hope to get there in person. Besides, I have a coupon for a free cupcake at the adjoining Café 4.

Attending the Blue Plate Special means two trips downtown for me the same day. I already have tickets to see the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the historic Tennessee Theatre on Friday night. Since my wife will be on stage singing with the Knoxville Choral Society, I'll have an empty seat next to me. Know anybody who might want to go hear the Polovtzian Dances on short notice?

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Monday, March 02, 2009

absolut gouda-ness

Today's mail had something my wife knew I would appreciate. Mixed in among the bills and catalogs was a padded envelope from our friend Richard Cheese. He sent along a copy of his new CD, "Viva La Vodka: Richard Cheese Live." It goes on sale in April however fan club members can get it earlier.

Dick's shtick is incredibly useful to parents. He takes popular songs and sings them lounge style, often making the unintelligible intelligible. Perhaps, like me, you never knew or cared exactly how filthy the lyrics of "Me So Horny" actually were. I can't un-ring that bell, but at least I got a laugh out of it. One of the best tracks on the disc is the Pussycat Dolls' song "Don't Cha." During the performance, Richard slips into vocal impressions of Bob Dylan and George Takei. TV tunes fans will like hearing the themes from "Three's Company" and "WKRP in Cincinnati" and KROQ fans will get a kick out of hearing a cover of Weezer's "Hash Pipe," which was recorded live on the Kevin & Bean show. By the way, check out the great lineup for Kevin & Bean's April Foolishness comedy show.

Most of "Viva La Vodka" was recorded at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. I remember going there back in the days when the club was actually at 930 F Street. Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine return to the 8:15 Club 9:30 Club on April 15.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

it's a one-ring circus in there

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus returned to Knoxville tonight, less than eleven months after their last visit. The show was almost the same as the one I saw in March. They upped the number of elephants from two to three, which is good news for a pachyderm fan like me. As one of the animals did what comes naturally and the roustabouts cleaned up after it, the band was playing a cheesy cover version of "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."

The smaller version of the circus is called the Boom A Ring tour. The white tiger act and the dachshund act were unchanged. As the six big cats went through their paces, I wondered if the tigers took turns doing the last stunt atop a disco ball or if it's always the same one, night after night. I also wondered what kind of exercise the tigers get besides their performances. The crew set up the cage for the tigers during intermission, which is when I snapped this picture of a tiger waiting for showtime.

As the tiger cage was being dismantled, a magician did some tricks with doves and then with a lovely assistant. I don't recall ever seeing a magic act at the circus before. It made a good fit. I thought they could eventually do bigger Vegas-style illusions with animals, like Siegfried & Roy. Maybe not the best example.

I was given the opportunity to greet the crowd at the end of the All Access Pre-Show. Then as everyone was being sent to their seats, one family plopped their baby down in the middle of the ring for a photo.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

what exit?

A highlight of NBC's holiday schedule is their annual broadcast of "Christmas in Rockefeller Center." I thought that this year's telecast was considerably better than last year and the year before. There were still some things to nitpick though. Al Roker said the tree lighting was the "official start of the holiday season." I'm almost positive he said the exact same thing about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last week. C'mon Al, pick one.

The "miracle tree" came from 74-year-old twins Bill and Bob Varanyak of Hamilton, New Jersey. They explained that their late mother fertilized the tree with a mixture of manure and water for many years after planting it in 1931.

"America's Got Talent" winner Neal E. Boyd got to sing during the 7pm hour, which is shown only on WNBC in New York. His performance of "O Holy Night" had too much vibrato for my taste. For the nationwide broadcast, all they let him do was introduce "American Idol" winner David Cook, who did a good job on John Lennon's "Happy Xmas." I like David Cook's voice but his version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"on the pre-show wasn't that great, mostly because of his guitar playing and the way he "made it his own" by leaving out parts of the song. His guitar sounded like it was playing a different song than the one he was singing.

Faith Hill and Rascal Flatts made appearances on the telecast. I generally find country artists to be tolerable when they are singing Christmas standards. Faith did justice to "Little Drummer Boy" and "Joy to the World." Rascal Flatts was okay with "White Christmas." In fact, I preferred it over Harry Connick, Jr's jazz arrangement of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." My wife says I'm biased because it was too different from the way good old Andy Williams sings it.

I may be in the minority but I thought Miley Cyrus sounded good on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." It was the right song for her voice and was way better than the non-holiday song she did on the pre-show. It was fairly obvious that Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Beyonce pre-recorded their segments. Otherwise why would NBC stick them on a rooftop, away from the fans? Plus, the Jonas Brothers were on CBS minutes later in a live telecast from Los Angeles. I did like seeing St. Patrick's Cathedral in the background as Beyonce sang a song with a hint of "Ave Maria" in it. Co-host Jane Krakowski called it "her own personal version" of the hymn. As of last night, there were some comments on Beyonce's website complaining about her low-cut dress and the differences between her rendition and the actual "Ave Maria." After Jane Krakowski said that Beyonce's stage persona is "Sasha Fierce," Al Roker said that his was "Sir Gay Mild." Oh wait, maybe he meant "Sergei Mild."

The network did a good job of concealing Rosie O'Donnell's participation in the show. Britney Spears did less yet was promoted more. It was a surprise when Rosie showed up playing a bongo drum while her "Broadway Kids" lip-synced a song about Santa doing the mambo. Britney got a few seconds of screen time as she opened the show and teased the actual tree lighting prior to a commercial break.

Tony Bennett continues to make it sound easy when he sings. I can't believe he's 82 years old. I was also amazed to hear that "A Swingin' Christmas" is his first holiday album in 40 years.

I mentioned that the Jonas Brothers were in Los Angeles, not New York last night. They were present for "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live" on CBS. Mariah Carey opened that show with "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." That song is one of my all-time favorites, especially the cover version by U2 and the original by Darlene Love. I wonder if Mariah has got a cold or if the song was not quite in her range. She didn't sound as good as usual. I think I'll click over to YouTube to see Darlene Love do the song on David Letterman's show.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

goodness gracious

Here's a safe prediction: Derek and Julianne Hough could become the greatest brother and sister act since Donny & Marie. Their jive to "Great Balls of Fire" was the best performance in the history of "Dancing With the Stars." Even the music was better than normal. I loved all the horns in the arrangement. I've watched it several times and have not tired of it.

Julianne's triumphant return from surgery was made all the more impressive by the way she appeared from behind the lid of a grand piano. In fact the piano was a great prop, especially when Julianne danced on top of it and Derek slid under it. At least two people have posted the dance on YouTube (here and here) until ABC has it removed. The network does have the entire episode online in HD. I wish they would put up clips the way NBC does with "Saturday Night Live."

Julianne has become a celebrity in her own right. I think she's a bigger star than her dance partner this season, Cody Something. My guess is that Cody avoided elimination because viewers wanted to give Julianne another chance to dance. I felt similarly about her partnership with Adam Carolla.

I'm not a fan of country music but I will make an effort to swing by Target soon to pick up a copy of Julianne's Christmas CD. And yes, I am thinking about going downtown to the Christmas parade in which Julianne is scheduled to appear.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

it swings, it jives

The "canned food curse" almost struck again. For the past several years, Webb School of Knoxville collected more donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank but lost the annual football game to archrival Knoxville Catholic High School. At halftime of tonight's game, Lori Tucker and I announced that Catholic had finally won the High School Football Challenge. Moments earlier, Webb kicked a field goal as time ran out in the first half to take a 9-7 lead. They went up 16-7 in the third quarter. Several people in the stands worried aloud about Catholic's chances. However the Fighting Irish came back to win 20-16.

Lori and I were chatting about our respective kids as we waited for halftime. We each have a college freshman this year. While we were standing there, blogger Missybw of The House of Flying Monkeys came up and introduced herself to us. It was nice to finally meet her after all the nice comments she has posted on my site.

As riveting as our check presentation must have been, the true highlight of halftime was a performance by majorette Sarah Harris. Normally I don't care for baton twirling but Sarah won me over with her musical choice and excellent skills. She performed to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" as covered by Michael Bublé. I know purists will find it ridiculous that "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is my favorite Queen song, yet it is.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

björn again

A box office record was set this weekend by "Mamma Mia!" Huh? Oh sure, "The Dark Knight" broke all kinds of records but "Mamma Mia!" had the biggest opening for a musical. My wife was included in the 75% of the film's audience who are female, which makes me part of the other 25%. "Mamma Mia!" was okay. I only liked hearing the ABBA songs that I already knew, which was a little less than half of them. The unfamiliar tunes didn't do it for me. True ABBA fans would know all the songs.

I have seen enough clips on talk shows to know that Pierce Brosnan's singing voice is not in the same league as his co-stars. Meryl Streep's voice was believable as Donna, a former pop singer. Amanda Seyfried, the actress who played her daughter, sings well too. All through the movie, I kept trying to figure out how one of Donna's backup singers could possibly be Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter films too. Julie Walters disappears into both roles.

In the course of clicking around for "Mamma Mia!" information, I found a less than favorable movie review by Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News. I once did some work for her parents during Oscar week in Hollywood. Her dad is Stuart Weitzman, the famous shoe designer.

On Friday we met some friends at the Regal Knoxville Center 10. Our original plan to see "The Dark Knight" got modified when one of our friends suggested that we could see "Mamma Mia!" too. The show times allowed us to take a break for lunch in between. I got a salad at Chick-fil-A and somehow resisted the urge to get one of their delicious, hand-spun, 790-calorie milkshakes. In the end, we were all glad that ABBA was the opening act and that we made Batman the headliner. It wouldn't have been as enjoyable the other way around.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

what would Simon say?

"American Idol" finalist Ace Young got slammed on for performing in Pigeon Forge on the Fourth of July at StarJam 2008 while some of his castmates played nationally televised gigs. The fun would be spoiled for Harvey Levin and his crew if they knew that the crowd at StarJam numbered somewhere around 75,000. The fans were pressed in so tightly that the fire department had to hose them down. Oh yeah, Paris Hilton was there too.

As Terry Morrow mentioned in his blog, he and I talked with Ace in his tour bus. He had heard about the dig on TMZ but didn't mind because it meant that he was "on their radar."

During our conversation, the satellite TV in the bus was tuned to the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on NBC. We saw Katharine McPhee singing "Save the Last Dance for Me" under an umbrella in Brooklyn. The fireworks were visible behind her. Earlier in the telecast Jordin Sparks sang her next single, "One Step at a Time." It was fairly obvious that Jordin's performance at Times Square was recorded on a night without rain.

When we got home from Pigeon Forge, my wife and I watched "A Capitol Fourth" on our HD-DVR. Taylor Hicks looked more like one of the congressmen in the audience than one of the performers. We cringed when he mugged into the camera like a cheesy lounge singer during a song called "Soul Thing." When he wasn't looking at the camera, we caught him looking at himself on the jumbotron several times. It got worse when he messed up the lyrics to "Dancing in the Dark" and went into the audience to select a dance partner in a pale imitation of Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox.

Of the four performances by Idol contestants that I saw on the Fourth, Ace's was easily the best. He won over the crowed with his original songs like "Addicted" and with one or two covers including a great version of "Dream On." Ace stuck around to meet his fans and sign autographs long after the post-concert fireworks. He is doing it the hard way by financing his own CD. I hope this nice guy finishes first, especially after what they wrote on

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

use the Brannock Device

Knoxville has two all-Christmas music radio stations. The first one flips just after Halloween. The second station doesn't rate a button on my car radio until they make the switch to holiday music right after Thanksgiving. I hit the scan button to search for it on Friday around 10:40 a.m. Sure enough, they were playing the treacly song that I most associate with their station: "The Christmas Shoes." Ugh.

I have added three Christmas CDs to my collection so far this year. Publicist Alan Rommelfanger of Daybreak Entertainment once again sent out a promo disc with tracks from his various clients. Most of the tracks seem to be novelty songs rather than cover versions this year. It includes titles such as "Santa Has a Mullet" and "I'm Down to My Christmas Underwear."

Last Sunday night at West Town Mall's Evening of Giving, the Select Comfort store gave away free CDs to anyone willing to lay down and find out their sleep number. Naturally, I rushed right in. The music is a predictably sleep-inducing assortment of instrumental tunes.

Earlier that day, the Ladies of Charity had a mini rummage sale set up on a table in the parish hall. This was the same event as the parish bake sale I've told you about. I bought an unopened copy of last year's two-disc Bath & Body Works Christmas compilation for only $2.50. It was worth it just for the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy cover of "Mr. Heatmiser." Somebody took that version of the song, mashed it up with the animation from the original "The Year Without a Santa Claus" and put it on YouTube.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

music whiz

The new Richard Cheese CD comes out tomorrow. And by "comes out tomorrow," I mean that it gets released the old-fashioned way to most retail stores. It's already been available at Hot Topic and online through iTunes (with three bonus tracks). On past discs, Richard has tackled rock songs, hip hop songs and Christmas songs. This time around he takes on one of my all time favorite genres, TV theme songs. We got a foreshadowing of this back in May when Richard did the "Spider-Man" theme. Check out Richard's YouTube channel for some of the theme songs matched with video from the original shows. Richard mailed me a CD the other day. My wife laughed out loud at the slow hand clap during the "Friends" theme. I loved the "Imperial March," even though it's from a movie, not a TV show.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I used my cassette recorder to tape the opening themes of every TV show I could. I would bring the tapes to the summer pool club, where the other kids would try to identify each show by its theme. If only I was somehow smart enough to turn my hobby into the successful "Television's Greatest Hits" album collection.

While I was looking for one of the links in the first paragraph, I stumbled across something called The Covers Project. They are building a database of cover songs, cross referenced by title and artist.

I'm not usually a fan of the music on "Dancing With the Stars." I have to admit that tonight the band did a cover of the Depeche Mode song "Personal Jesus"
that wasn't bad at all. Later, while Marie Osmond was dancing to "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under," I imagined someone waking up from a coma and being shocked to find that the "Donny & Marie" show was still on the air 30 years later.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

popsical popera

Every time the television commercial for The Ten Tenors comes on, my wife jokes that ten is too many tenors. She says there should be a few baritones and at least one bass. A family friend (who is also a faithful reader of this blog) had one extra ticket for tonight's show, which is part of the Broadway in Knoxville theatre series at the Civic Auditorium. I was invited to tag along to hear the Australian singers who sometimes broke out their boy band moves.

As you would expect, the Tenors did several operatic pieces including the famous aria from "Pagliacci" and that song Paul Potts did on "Britain's Got Talent." They sang a couple of otherwise unknown songs from their CD, which was available for sale in the lobby.

As a fan of cross-genre cover songs, I especially liked the Bee Gees medley that came right before intermission. They also did an effective cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer." The definite highlight of the night was "Bohemian Rhapsody," which they use in their TV commercial. You can download a free mp3 of it on their website. It was preceded by some other Queen song that I didn't know. One of the tenors announced that Queen was their all time favorite band.

The concert was very enjoyable but it's always a little more fun to make snarky comments, so let me get those out of my system. Their Australian folk song medley made me feel like I was back at Dollywood's Festival of Nations. Throughout the night, each tenor got a chance to stand front and center and sing a solo, except for the one who had the most, um, expressive facial expressions while singing. For his featured song, they made him stand in the back by the drum kit. It was a bit like that scene with Marla Hooch in "A League of Their Own." In addition to the drummer, there was a pianist and a bass player who alternated between a bass guitar and a bass violin. We were sure that we heard more music than those four instruments could provide. I suspect that either the grand piano was really a synthesizer or that there was a recorded backing track to fill out the sound.

The eldest of the Ten Tenors, David Kidd, was born in 1971. I had my picture made with him after the show amidst a throng of autograph seekers in the lobby.

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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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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

not bird nor plane nor even frog

Many great cartoons have been made into bad live-action films. You can probably think of three or more right off the top of your head. I want to hate the new "Underdog" movie, I really do. Jason Lee's voice is ideally suited for "My Name is Earl" but not for the nerdy Underdog and Shoeshine Boy. The cartoon version was perfect as it was. Since I was in the mood to hear Wally Cox again, I used my TiVo to search for some old episodes but couldn't find any.

My nose was turned up in haughty disapproval at the first trailer for the "Underdog" movie. Now my head is tilted like a curious dog when the newer trailer comes on. The reason for my increased interest is the rock cover version of the "Underdog" theme used in the trailer. I don't know if the song is by the B.H. Surfers or not (I think that's what the band was called on the old WHFS) but it is somewhat similar to their cover of the tune, which was on a 1995 CD called "Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits." A YouTuber has taken the Surfers' song and put it with clips of the classic cartoon. While I was on YouTube, I found several episodes of the old show to satisfy my "Underdog" jones. Or I suppose I could just pre-order the DVDs.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

cover ups and downs

The pop culture site retroCRUSH has followed up their list of 100 great cover songs with a list of 100 bad cover songs. Most of their choices are dead on. They include several of the usual suspects, some of which have been featured on Golden Throats discs. At least two of the more notorious "American Idol" rejects made the list. Plus they threw in a few conversation starters like Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You."

As I went through the list, I found some songs that I thought were too good to be called bad. I actually prefer "Boys of Summer" by the Ataris over the original. "Come On Eileen" by Save Ferris was okay. I especially liked "Gone Daddy Gone" by Gnarls Barkley and "I Melt With You" by Bowling for Soup. It may be that I'm partial to Bowling For Soup. I've written before that I very much enjoy their cover of "...Baby One More Time." However it must be said that their version of "London Bridge" is not all that. I would have taken "I Melt With You" off the worst list and replaced it with "London Bridge."

A friend emailed me a link to a cover song that is not on either of retroCRUSH's lists. Not yet anyway. It's an instrumental version of the Gnarls Barkley tune "Crazy" performed on a Theremin.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

putting the MT in CMT

"Have you seen the new Alison Kraus music video?" asked my friend Mary. Truthfully, I hadn't seen any Alison Kraus videos, new or old. Because I knew Mary to be a fan of the rock music when she and I worked together at KLOS and at the Comedy World Radio Network, she felt that she had to explain. Mary said it was her husband, not she, who was watching CMT when the video came on.

Tonight I flipped over to PBS hoping to catch one of my favorite bands, Buckwheat Zydeco on the tribute to Paul Simon. Several famous artists did cover versions of Paul Simon songs. As fate would have it, I missed Buckwheat but saw Alison Kraus. The show repeats tomorrow afternoon. I'll have more to say about cover songs tomorrow too.

Regardless of who is responsible, Mary and her husband noticed that Mark Thompson (of Mark & Brian fame) is in the Alison Kraus video playing the part of a sound engineer. The action takes place in a recording studio as Alison and John Waite sing a duet version of his 1984 hit "Missing You." Mark has been doing a lot of acting and screen writing lately. Mary will get to display some of her fancy flute playing on the soundtrack to Mark's next film, "Two: Thirteen."

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

world infamous

The listings for last night's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" promised a new show but ABC aired a rerun instead. Three years ago I took advantage of my friendship with Jimmy to get VIP tickets for a taping of his show. That episode got pulled over a joke about Detroit. I was worried that something similar happened last night but it was actually worse. Jimmy had to cancel the taping so he could have an emergency appendectomy. I sent an email wishing him well to which he replied that he's feeling good.

Another of my former KROQ co-workers now performs as lounge singer Richard Cheese. He sent an email today reminding me about his July 18th show in Atlanta. I wish I could go but it's on a weeknight. I hope I can persuade him to stop off in Knoxville for a visit while he's passing through the area. The last time I saw him was three years ago on the same night as the taping of Jimmy's show that I mentioned earlier.

Today's KROQ trifecta is completed by my friend Bean. The email he sent last night reached me first thing this morning. He wanted to get my reaction to a funny parody of "Hey There Delilah" that was deemed too dirty by the corporate lawyers. I wrote back and attempted to pinpoint the lyric that the lawyers might have found most objectionable. Kevin & Bean's show is so popular that they also have a listener who writes a daily blog about it. I read that they griped about the lawyers on the air this morning, which I was then able to hear via the audio archive that one of their listeners posts online. Later, it was a little weird to be skimming through and seeing an entry about the brouhaha.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

three things on Thursday

As a source of Body Farm information, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the article about it in the current Newsweek. The writer recaps the history of the facility at UT and briefly mentions the plans for new body farms in other climates.

Michael Cera played George Michael Bluth on the late great "Arrested Development." By coincidence, I watched an episode of it last night on HDNet. Cera and his friend Clark Duke now star in an online mockumentary about life in Hollywood. In the webisodes, Clark and Michael try to sell a script to a studio.

There was a press release in my email today for a cross-genre cover act. A classically trained harp duo decided to cover some Metallica songs and call themselves Harptallica. Perhaps if I was a fan of Metallica I would have enjoyed the cover songs more. I thought I heard had some dissonance in parts of "Enter Sandman" and other songs. I hope that's the right word for it. Maybe they can try again with some other bands. Any suggestions? The Harp Eyed Peas? Harpleback? Gnarls Harpley?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

listen bud, he's got radioactive blood

"Spider-Man 3" got two thumbs down from "Roeper & Guest." They said it was partly because the new sequel was more campy than the last film. My daughter went to a midnight screening on Thursday night. She knew I would like the movie even though she thought it was a bit "cheesy." She was right. I saw it last night and enjoyed the comical scenes that bothered some critics. In one such scene, Peter Parker swaggers down the street on his way to get some new clothes. In another, he interacts with the maître d' of a fancy French restaurant.

I had feared that the filmmakers or the marketers had radically changed the tone for the third installment when I saw store shelves stocked with Itsy-Bitsy Spider-Man dolls. Thankfully it wasn't a total kiddie movie. In a classic case of product placement, the Itsy-Bitsy dolls were shown during a crowd scene at a pro-Spider-Man rally.

Speaking of cheesy, my friend Richard Cheese has recorded a great lounge version of the Spider-Man theme. You can hear it at both his website and his MySpace page.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

note to self: buy extra newspapers

The News Sentinel article about my makeover will appear in the Style section of tomorrow's paper. However the link to the accompanying slideshow is active as of tonight. My segment on today's "Style" show went well. Michele Silva and writer Kevin Cowan asked me about my haircut, beard trim and weight loss. Kevin was kind enough to snap a photo of me with Michele and Moira Kaye. It's quite a change from the 2005 photo of fat me with ultra-tan Michele.

Jimmy Kimmel asked to see some of my makeover pictures. I emailed him yesterday when I saw something on "Access Hollywood" that would definitely qualify as the "unintentional joke of the day"
on his show. See if you can spot the comedy I found in the video clip of Aretha Franklin on the "Access Hollywood" site. When Jimmy wrote back to say he might use the clip tonight, he also asked for my makeover link. When I reply I'll have to mention a joke I delivered on the air this morning about "Tranjaya" who by the way did not get eliminated from "American Idol" tonight.

Speaking of "Idol," I liked the different arrangements that Chris Sligh and Blake Lewis used on their Diana Ross songs last night. I've written before about my interest in cross-genre cover songs and the Coverville podcast. USA Today's Whitney Matheson posted a list of her favorite cover songs this morning. Her list includes the Gary Jules song I've told you about but she likes a different Britney Spears cover than me.

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