Dickran Gobalian Give a Dog a (Red)bone

This old man came rolling home last Spring:

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that early this morning, May 30th, 2019, Leon Redbone crossed the delta for that beautiful shore at the age of 127.”

In fact, he was not that old. Our trusty Wikipedia reports that Leon Redbone, born Dickran Gobalian, crossed that river at the still too young age of 69, notwithstanding the whimsical tall tale above that appeared on his website. The publicist who posted it is Jim Della Croce, who I regret to say is not (as far as I know) related to the singer-songwriter Jim Croce (“crow” like the bird and “chi” as in Tai Chi).

The notice about Leon being 127 is a fitting coda to the life of a performer who seemed to step out of another era. The exaggerated age corresponds to how old Leon Redbone would have been if he had been alive when the music he loved first appeared: Vaudeville, ragtime, early jazz, and Tin Pan Alley classics. Leon Redbone was a one man musical revival.

This 1977 cut “Diddy Wa Diddie” shows how Leon Redbone not only inhabited the past but anticipated the future, since he prophesied my blog nickname more than four decades in advance. Pretty neat, huh?

Anyways, folks around my age will remember Leon Redbone appearing out of nowhere in the mid 1970s when he showed up as a guest on the original SNL.

In spite Leon’s injunction to not talk about him when he is gone, we are talking about him when he is gone. Our bad.

Of Armenian origin, Leon’s past zig-zags from Cyprus, to London, to Canada, and then to Toronto and the musical stage, where he was discovered by Bob Dylan. From thence he went on to musical fame which flared up particularly in the seventies but kept up a steady simmer till the end, with his passing in the state of Pennsylvania.

That simmering musical career included a steady stream of albums: 13 studio albums, 2 compilation albums, and four live albums. Other musical contributions included movie soundtracks and many tv appearances, including SNL, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and Sesame Street, as well as numerous tv commercials.

Leon had no musical training and played everything by ear, adapting chords and arrangements as he went along. He never rehearsed with a band and did not followed a pre-set program of tunes in his performances. His life and art were captured in this short documentary:

The documentary was also titled “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” There we go again, talking about Leon when he’s gone.

No song seems to better encapsulate the Leon Redbone mystique than his rendition of “Shine on August Moon”:

Leon shines on through his music and through his surviving wife Beryl Handler, his two daughters, and three grandchildren. And long may he shine on some more. Requiēscat in pāce, Leon.

Meantime, don’t forget our man Dave. Please click on the link below:


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Oh No, I Don’t Believe it: Moon Unit and Dweezil

BoFN Rating: This post has been rated PG for weasel-ripped flesh and suggestive (if somewhat puzzling) lyrics.

It was only a matter of time before Frank Zappa’s progeny made their way to these hallowed pages, but Frank, undoubtedly stranger than us, has been no stranger to us. Neither has his occasional collaborator and teenage buddy Captain Beefheart. See here, and here, and here.

Using BoFN logic, we can surmise that Frank and Gail Zappa, deeply disappointed by the ordinariness of their own given names, firmly resolved that their own children should not suffer the same unsatisfactory fate.

Thus were born and christened (on whatever it is that eccentric, areligious people christen with out there) Moon Unit Zappa (1967) and Dweezil Zappa (1969). There are also younger Zappa siblings, Ahmet and Diva, who will not be subjects in this BoFN entry.

Moon Unit has had an active professional life in Los Angeles as an actor, voice actor, consultant, writer, and sometimes VJ for MTV. Her biggest claim to fame is the collaboration with her father at the age of 14, the song “Valley Girl.” Moon did a note perfect imitation of “Valley speak” that launched a whole trend around that patois. As her Wikipedia entry would have it:

The song featured Moon’s monologue in “valleyspeak“, slang terms popular with teenage girls in the San Fernando ValleyLos Angeles. “Valley Girl” was Frank Zappa’s biggest hit in the United States, and popularized phrases from the lyric such as “grody to the max” and “gag me with a spoon.” The song appeared on her father’s 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. “Valleyspeak” would spawn similar language growth and is today known as “High Rising Terminal” speach.

That album title, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, approaches BoFN standards of funniness and deserves honorable mention. The cover art represents the letters “Z” and “A” but can also be interpreted as . . . what the album title describes.

“Valley Girl” was kind of a throwaway song for Frank. Ironically it became his only ever Top 40 hit in the USA. We should credit Moon’s brilliant vocal impressions for that. Valley Girl also became a highly forgettable 80s movie with the young Nicholas Cage.

Moon Unit also earned a reference in Austen Powers:

Dweezil Zappa, who Wikipedia tells me was actually born Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa in 1969, has also had a very active career, sometimes as an actor but mostly as a guitarist, musician and producer. He released his first single at the age of 12 (produced by Eddie Van Halen).

As a lifelong Zappa fanatic, I know Dweezil’s work mainly for the legacy band that he leads: Zappa Plays Zappa. It performs Frank’s music, often with some of the original musicians, including Napolean Murphy Brock, Steve Vai, and Terry Bozzio. Napolean plays and sings here on “Inca Roads” (probably my favorite Zappa cut, originally on the studio masterpiece One Size Fits All). Dweezil also does a monster guitar solo:

Salute to Moon and Dweezil, and a Happy New Year to all!

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A Grinch Christmas Potpourri (Seasonal Reblog)

In the good land of BoFN when Christmas drew near
Folk were having . . . not quite universal good cheer.
For in fact, there was one . . . er, his name we can’t say . . .
Whud Id Fah? Whud Yuhd Fee? Or, Why Diddy Fay?
But in all BoFN towns and in each BoFN city
The BoFNites chose to just call him . . .



Now in Diddy’s hard, cold, little bristly brain
There bounced back and forth only one tired refrain.
“This name waste must stop! Stop wasting those names!
No, no, no! Don’t you waste! No more name wasting games!
Funny names are a rare, irreplaceable treasure!
Don’t waste them, I say! They are rare beyond measure!”

And so it went on, and then on, and on more
Until BoFNites marched to bang on the king’s door.
“Tell this Diddy to cease! Tell this Diddy to hush!
But don’t you stop there: tell this Diddy ‘Shush! Shush!'”

So King Dave rolled his eyes and paid Diddy a visit.
And he said, “Look here, Diddy! This isn’t keen, is it?
This pouting and shouting and spouting–not good!
The real estate’s tanking in each neighborhood.”

“Look around you! These names are not really so rare!
They are here! They are there! There are names everywhere!
You see, Diddy, funny names DO grow on trees
And on bushes and twigs and from pods of green peas.”

Now, according to custom, a Scrooge-ish conversion
Takes many long scenes in a good movie version,
And many a page in a fine children’s book,
And that is indeed how long Diddy’s took,
But we’ve got strict word limits so we’ll jump on ahead
And show, not old Diddy, but the new one instead.

“King Dave, you are right!!! How could I be so wrong?!?”
Diddy said (and we promise this change did take long).

“There are funny names here, and funny names there!
Why, there’s one on the porch, and on the third stair!
Yes, finding these names is not hard! It’s a cinch!
Look, here’s Cindy Lou Who, Mayor Maywho, and Grinch!
Cindy Lou lives in Whoville and Grinch on Mt. Crumpit,
And he tore down its slopes blaring blasts from a trumpet!”

Thus Diddy expounded, his arms stretched aloft.
“Oh, and Grinch had a song sung by Thurl Ravenscroft!”

“Now you doubters who gasp, to your total surprise’ll
hear Theo LeSieg, Theodor Seuss Geisel
A.k.a. Theophrastus, our own Dr. Seuss!
(Who drew the green eggs with a car and caboose)!
And our Seuss had a publisher named Bennett Cerf,
And though it’s off topic, this thing’s called a Smurf!

Well, the BoFNites marched to King Dave’s house once more.
“Stop this Diddy!” they cried. NOW HE’S WORSE THAN BEFORE!!!

So, we hope that our tale gave you some small delight,
We’ll end here and wish you a good Christmas night!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

But our story’s not really quite over at all,
For we’ve got to get out and give King Dave a call,
Not to pound on his door but to lend him a hand!
Click the icon below and you’ll understand.

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How to mix a Pink Martini: China Forbes, Storm Large, and Meow Meow

“Happiness is a dry martini and a good woman…or a bad woman.”–George Burns.

I must admit, I’ll take any one or all three of  the George Burns aforementioned above.  But when it comes to martinis, my favorite is a pink one. That is, Pink Martini, the Portland, Oregon based musical group founded in 1994 by Thomas Lauderdale.  Musical group is a bit of a tepid description though; pop/jazz/world orchestra is better.  To call them eclectic is an understatement.  Featuring, at times, a dozen or more instruments (almost always acoustic) and a half dozen or more vocalists, they have toured the world, won awards, performed and recorded songs in 25 different languages, and sold a lot records.

Pink Martini with China Forbes

And although Pink Martini might not be a particularly funny name for a band or orchestra, they like to mix their drink with funny-named singers.  To be precise, there are three of note, as described below with a YouTube sampling from each.

China ForbesThe lead singer of Pink Martini since 1995, Ms. Forbes is bit of an interesting drink mix herself, having a father of Scottish and French descent and an African-American mother.  I guess when you mix those three nationalities, you get Chinese.

China Forbes with Pink Martini, filmed in 1996 for a French documentary on the group

Storm LargeAn American singer/songwriter/actress, she tours with group and alternates with Forbes as lead singer.  Her early musical background was mostly as a rock singer, but as the video below illustrates, she can do much more.  And her performanes are, well, large.

Storm Large with Pink Martini

Meow MeowBorn Melissa Madden Gray, Meow Meow is an Australian actrees, dancer and caberet singer.  She ocassionally tours with Pink Martini as a featured guest singer.  The bit below–which she also performed recently when my wife and I saw the Pink ones in New Haven–is indicative of what you might expect from somebody going by Meow Meow.

The typical purring of Meow Meow

By the way, the one and only lead male singer is Timithy Nishimoto. That name is probably only funny in Japan.

As for me, I’ll take my martinis, dry and pink, with all three of these talented ladies.

Read my serious musings on Seeking Delphi™–and my riduculous and subline (and sometimes downright silly) pronouncements at The Millennium Conjectures.

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Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe aka Jelly Roll Morton

My pop introduced me to early jazz through his large collection of 78s. From those thick, heavy, swiftly spinning disks emerged the crackling sounds of such greats as Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller,

Bessie Smith, known in her day as Empress of the Blues,

and of course, Louis Daniel Armstrong, otherwise known as Pops, Satch, or Satchmo.

These giants of jazz and blues present a pretty normal array of names, especially if you take away the nicknames. But the jazzman that stacked up highest (literally) in my dad’s 78 collection was none other than Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe.

According to some, especially himself, Jelly Roll’s contribution was so fundamental to jazz that he invented it. That’s a big claim, but there seems to be some justification, and even if people in the know about jazz history don’t exactly endorse that line, they don’t really seem to dispute it. Jelly Roll developed some of the first, maybe the first, and definitely the most prolific early jazz arrangements.

I can’t verify this for myself, but Dad told me that when Jelly Roll made his famous Library of Congress recordings, he opened with the following words:

Jazz started in New Orleans, and I will no doubt show you how it was played.

That definitely sounds like Jelly Roll: arrogant, confident, whimsical, mock pedantic. The Library of Congress recordings are a real treat, anyway:

Jelly Roll was born of Creole parents and was a native of New Orleans. As a teenager, he started singing and playing piano in a house of ill repute, called a “sporting house.” (The house musician was called a “professor.”)

When my grandmother found out that I was playing jazz in one of the sporting houses in the District, she told me that I had disgraced the family and forbade me to live at the house. … She told me that devil music would surely bring about my downfall, but I just couldn’t put it behind me.

A lot of jazz emerged from such sporting houses, and the word jazz itself, like “rock and roll,” was at one point a slang term for . . . the . . . uh . . . act of . . . er . . . carnal . . . um . . . information acquisition. “Jelly roll” itself was a slang term that had certain . . . er . . . connotations of an . . . uh . . . anatomical nature. At any rate, Jelly Roll may have changed his last name to Morton in order not to bring further disgrace upon the family.

Jelly Roll was playing, writing and publishing before the emergence of the recording industry. He toured extensively, and stationed himself in various music hubs including Vancouver, Chicago, New York, and Washington. In Washington, he was the victim of a knife attack in the club he was managing. After being refused admittance by a segregated hospital nearby, he was treated very poorly at a black hospital further away. He never completely recovered from this attack and died from complications three years later in Los Angeles, in 1941.

Jelly Roll left behind a massive musical output, and eventually earned great honor and acclaim, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Long may the Jelly Roll legacy endure!

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