Two Music Legends Lost This Weekend: RIP Dick Dale & Andre Williams

Two Music Legends Lost This Weekend: RIP Dick Dale & Andre Williams

This past weekend turned out to be a double whammy of grief for roots music lovers. We lost the Godfather of Surf Guitar Dick Dale on Saturday March 16th and R&B Legend Andre Williams on the 17th.

Dick Dale was born in Boston in 1937, his family moved to California when he was 17. He began playing musical instruments as a child; moving from piano to trumpet to ukulele and tarabaki before the guitar. His father was Lebonese & he cited the tarabaki and Arabic music as strong influences on his playing style. That style was a mixture of rhythm and lead played left-handed on a guitar strung for a right-handed musician. He tested equipment for Leo Fender. After blowing up several amps by playing too loud, a custom 15-inch loudspeaker was made. That amp is now the JBL-D130F model, more commonly known as the Fender Single Showman Amp.

Dale’s health and the British Invasion lead him into early retirement from music. He became an environmental activist after a pollution related infection nearly too his leg in the late 70s. He began recording and touring again in the 1980s, was nominated for a grammy in 1986. He appeared in 1987’s Back to the Beach playing Pipeline with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  And in 1994 was discovered by a new generation of fans thanks to his song Misrilou being featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Dale continued to have health issues which lead to his having to keep touring in order to stay on top of his medical bills. He had tour dates scheduled through November of this year at the time of his death. He was 81.


Andre Williams was born in Bessemer Alabama in 1936. He moved to Detroit at 16 where he befriended the owners of Fortune Records. He found success with singles like Bacon Fat and Jail Bait; with Bacon Fat hitting #9 on the R&B Chart in 1957.

He co-wrote Thank You For Loving Me for Stevie Wonder in 1963 as well as penning Shake a Tail Feather, a hit for The Five Duo-Tones. Shake a Tail Feather was also recorded by Ike & Tina Turner as well as James & Bobby Purify who went to #25 on the Hot 100 with it in 1967.

In 1968 he signed to Chicago’s Chess Records and hit #46 on the R&B chart with Cadillac Jack. The 1970s saw Williams write songs for Parliament and produce Ike Turner. The 1980s were particularly bleak for Williams, as his drug addiction took its toll, he eventually found himself homeless.

By 1995 Williams had returned to recording and touring, releasing an album of new renditions of his earliest releases, Mr. Rhythm in 1996. He continued to tour, a lot in Europe, and record through the 1990s and 2000s.

Andre Williams was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away after 2 weeks in hospice care in Chicago. He was 82.

On a personal note, I was able to see both Dick Dale and Andre Williams perform live on multiple occasions, they never failed to rock my face off.

Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week

Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week

Gen X’s having kind of a shit week. The death of our generation’s quintessential teen crush, Luke Perry, was just too much, too soon. And even though that alone was all it took to break my heart, on The Facebook and in conversations with my way-too-young-and-hip-to-be-in-their-forties friends, I realized the dawning of our mortality was closing in from other angles as well.

Somehow in an attempt to block out an Academy Awards I wasn’t invested in, I missed the whole Selma Blair chronic illness reveal in her gorgeous Ralph & Russo gown and custom monogrammed cane. Now that I’m caught up, I see she announced her MS diagnosis back in October and in doing so told a very familiar story of doctors explaining away her 2011 flair up as exhaustion and typical postpartum / mommy / women-y problems. I have been hearing tales such as these over the past couple-few years from friends and colleagues (all female, strangely enough, hmmmmm….) who have been lugging their undiagnosed and routinely belittled illnesses in and out of doctor’s offices. Treated as if their aches, pains, and debilitating fatigue was more emotional baggage than medical reality, they are slowly driven mad questioning their ability to effectively communicate what is happening to them. If they are lucky, the gaslighting stops once they get a diagnosis that makes their once vague symptoms finally seen for what they actually are.

But as members of Generation X, we’re a cynical lot, and so it’s not surprising that the actress who won an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss in 2000 (with Sarah Michelle Gellar for Cruel Intentions — I’ll wait while you rewatch that) had to air her medical woes on GMA to highlight this disturbing issue of middle-aged properly-insured women having to go into battle over their health care.

So, now America knows, but still we can’t help being pissy — and skeptical that things are going to change — but at least we’re starting to be heard.  Maybe.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #028: Gen X is Having a Shitty Week”

Working Title #015: And the award goes to. . .

Working Title #015: And the award goes to. . .

So, the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards have been announced and there were a few surprises. A super-hero film, Black Panther, became the first of its kind to be nominated and Netflix landed its first nomination for Best Picture as well and Meryl Streep got nominated as Best Actress. No, wait – Streep wasn’t nominated. That was the surprise. I thought there was some sort of rule she had to be nominated.

I have different levels of interest in the Academy Awards depending on the category but a particular favorite of mine is soundtrack, a.k.a. Original Score. And the nominees this year are:

Black Panther — Ludwig Goransson

BlacKkKlansman — Terence Blanchard

If Beale Street Could Talk — Nicholas Britell

Isle of Dogs — Alexandre Desplat

Mary Poppins Returns — Marc Shaiman

I haven’t seen as many movies this past year as I usually do and only saw one film that was nominated for best score (Black Panther, natch) but I was very impressed at the time with the music. I don’t know Goransson’s work very well, aside from Creed (which was also first rate) but his score for Black Panther both stood out and, at the same time, fully supported the film.  Continue reading “Working Title #015: And the award goes to. . .”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #021: 2018 Music Rewind

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #021: 2018 Music Rewind

Funny thing (to me at least) is as much as I consider myself a pop-culture connoisseur, the one tent of it I tend never to wax poetic on is music. Where I find that in review of print media, film, and TV all lend itself easily to good or bad — with plenty of grey area between the two — music has long felt an area safe from my I’m right and if you disagree you’re wrong mentality. Why? Because from an early age I found it easy to understand the notion of music taste. That certain songs, genres, and formats could be loved by one person, tolerated by another, and loathed by a third.

As an example, sitting in the family room of my Grandma Mickey and Papa Bernie as they listened to the symphony… I could visibly see their enjoyment of the melancholy cacophony my ears where whispering to me was boring. And then, on the ride home, my mother blares You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Jimmy Sommerville — rewinding the cassingle after each play to enjoy it again long before “repeat” was a button on our stereos. My father, to date, owns only a handful of music — he is more apt to listen to literal silence or news radio if he is in control of the speaker-box. Yet amidst what anyone might assert as having no foothold to the larger musical world, my love of music is as much as part of my identity as my love of literally all other mediums combined.

I can go years without needing to read a comic. My Netflix and Hulu queues are choked with shows I know I’ll love that will remain unwatched as I make my way through my 813th viewing of the entirety of Scrubs. To date, I’ve still not seen dozens of mandatory films I should have absorbed years ago. But rest assured: whenever it is time to truly work on anything in my life — be it a comic book I’m drawing, design I’m completing for a client, or even just visiting the gym — music is on and affixed to my head so-as to ensure no other sound makes its way into my sphere.

With that preamble in place, I wanted to call out some music that I stumbled over in 2018 — be it new, or just new-to-me — and share some thoughts about why it wriggled its way into my head and didn’t leave.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #021: 2018 Music Rewind”

Beat JENeration #015: The Jen 500

Beat JENeration #015: The Jen 500

I don’t know what you did during Thanksgiving break, but I wasted most of mine trying to order an impossible list. 

I also ate pie. (Though not nearly as much as I wanted).

Ok, first things first, I went into Thanksgiving vacation with plans to do jack shit. There would be intentionally bad Netflix choices and lots of sitting around in my PJs, of course, but not much else.  After the a few traumatic years— three with a cancer-stricken mom worrying/enjoying through what would potentially be the “last one” and then last year trying to rally through the traditions as an orphan who never even liked “The Holidays” in the first place —this was the year of togetherness with my emotionally exhausted nuclear family expending as little effort as possible.

The thing about having no schedule and no place to report to is that it frees up a lot of time and headspace. And I’m sure if you’ve been reading my column, I’ve told you already that being alone with thoughts is not my favorite.

So there had to be some kind of task to occupy my mind while remaining as physically idle as possible.

Somehow I decided refining one of my playlists in iTunes would be an amusing time suck. Jen’s Top 500 seemed the obvious choice.

I know, just the title sounds daunting, but honestly when I threw 500 songs into a playlist over the summer I didn’t think much about it. I captioned it, “The playlist to be played at my funeral or really any event where you are celebrating me.”  But it wasn’t really in any order.

Because who would be daft enough to rank 500 of their favorite songs?

Well, me, last weekend. And when I say last weekend, it took all four days and then I spent a more than a couple hours messing with it this week too.

The list is public on Apple Music and you are free to giggle and gawk at it. I’m not claiming its the 500 best songs, but they are my ordered favorites. Though crafting this list gave me very little pleasure.  It was hella stressful. (And I remind you that pot is legal in California).  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #015: The Jen 500”

Beat JENeration #014: The Greatest Showman Reimagined

Beat JENeration #014: The Greatest Showman Reimagined

The world would be a better place if we would all move our lives’ plot points along by spontaneously breaking out into song and dance. And I think the swelling popularity of musicals in the last five or so years is pushing us in the right direction.

While one must give credit to Hamilton for the recent cross-over popularity in musical theatre, it’s hard for me to gauge actually how much musicals have really has penetrated the general population. You see, in my world, musical theatre has always been a constant. My day job is in the performing arts, I have two high school triple-threats living in my home, and I was raised by two Broadway-loving New Yorkers. Though that really means nothing because in the grand scheme of things the Annie Original Broadway Cast album came out when I was at a very impressionable elementary school age and THAT alone sealed my fate.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #014: The Greatest Showman Reimagined”

Beat JENeration #010: Liz Phair

Beat JENeration #010: Liz Phair

I love Liz Phair. That has always been true, but last Monday, I was reminded, again, how much.

Currently, Liz Phair’s in the middle of her Amps on the Lawn tour and let me tell you, she looks great. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performer look so happy on stage ever. She sounded better than I remember too. Earlier shows — I’m thinking primarily her Whitechocolatespaceegg tour stop at SDSU’s Montezuma Hall (the internet tells me it was 1998) — was a little uncomfortable. Well, she seemed uncomfortable and I remember feeling bad about it.

But I still loved her. 

My favorite time seeing her was in 1994 or 95 in Chicago at Bub City (the old location on Weed St) while she was eating BBQ with her parents. Two tables over, I was too dumbfounded by breathing her same air to speak. I would later see her at Lounge Ax and Delilah’s just being a civilian and I never once even attempted to make eye contact. Aside from being raised near enough to LA to never bother celebrities, I’m also a firm believer that we mere mortals should never speak to deities. She’s a goddess.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #010: Liz Phair”

The New England Shake-Up Year 6 Is a Party Not to Miss

The New England Shake-Up Year 6 Is a Party Not to Miss

The last full weekend of September sees the idyllic New England town of Sturbridge invaded not by leaf peepers but vintage loving Rockers. The New England Shake-Up is a roots rock weekender held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center, put on by Beck Rustic of Retroactive Northeast.

For three days, four if you count the pre-party on Thursday night, folks gather from around the world to watch bands and dance to djs playing some of the best rockabilly, western swing and greasy rock and roll to be found! There’s also a classic carshow on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday they throw a pool party!

Continue reading “The New England Shake-Up Year 6 Is a Party Not to Miss”

Beat JENeration #007: So, there’s this thing called Australian Pink Floyd

Beat JENeration #007: So, there’s this thing called Australian Pink Floyd

Last night I ventured out to Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa. This is where all the Broadway tours stop in Orange County. I recently saw Liza Minelli here. Eddie Izzard. Misty Copeland dances on this stage for American Ballet Theatre often. Plush red velvety seats for almost 3000 asses, it’s civilized for sure — not that it stops men from attending in shorts and flip flops most nights. But last night was, um, special, different, odd. Last night perplexed me, quite frankly, and I think I need you all to help me figure it out.

There’s this thing called Australian Pink FloydI love pretty much all things Australian. I’ve been there and the place holds up to its hype. Not only do they have koalas, kangaroos, Olivia Newton-John, Hugh Jackman, and Paul Kelly (essentially their Bob Dylan, but he can actually sing well), but they are home to the best dessert ever, the Lambington,  So, I’m always cool with Aussies as a general rule. 

Pink Floyd, on the other hand, hmmm… I went to a typical American high school and then matriculated to a party university. The Wall was rented many a night from Tower’s cult movies section (a young Bob Geldof, eye brows or no, was intriguing) and I owned Dark Side of the Moon to cue up with Wizard of Oz. But, as I wasn’t a stoner myself, I think I missed a lot of the finer points of Pink Floyd aside from the entry level hits – “Comfortably Numb,” “Wish You Were Here,” and…well, actually, if I’m being totally honest I just know The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, “Wish You Were Here,” and I thought I knew “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” but only the radio cut, which I’ll get to later. Fake fan…I’ll accept that, though I would never use the word fan. I did, however, see Pink Floyd live once at Jack Murphy Stadium. This guy, Craig, who I knew from the BBS Board, Anarchy X gave me a ticket — probably because he felt bad for telling mutual friends he slept with me, when he most certainly did not — and well, he thought I was a fan, but he, as I already established, had a problem with the truth. Point? Pink Floyd’s okay by me.   Continue reading “Beat JENeration #007: So, there’s this thing called Australian Pink Floyd”

Rocket J Remembers Lorrie Collins

Rocket J Remembers Lorrie Collins

Lorrie (Lawrencine May) Collins passed away on August 4, 2018.  There have been plenty of obituaries written for her, including one in the venerable New York Times.  The facts about her life can be summarized in a few paragraphs, but I’ll give you the bullet points:

  • Born on May 7, 1942, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma
  • She won her first talent contest at the age of 8
  • Her brother, Larry, two years younger than she, was a Rockabilly guitar prodigy
  • Together they formed The Collins Kids, moved to Los Angeles and performed on Tex Ritter’s Town Hall Party

All that information is readily available on the internet.  Now let me tell you what Lorrie meant to me as a female Rockabilly singer.  Continue reading “Rocket J Remembers Lorrie Collins”