Sunday, April 28, 2024

Orleans’ First Big Hit and How It’s Connected to “Dancing in the Moonlight”


The name “Orleans” might not sound familiar but their first big hit surely does.

From 1975, “Dance With Me” — again from the Midnight Special.

Orleans was formed in 1972 by John Hall, Larry Hoppen, and Wells Kelly in Woodstock, New York. Larry’s brother Lance joined a short time later.

The video above shows the three original members sharing vocals — Hall on guitar, Larry Hoppen on keys and lead vocal, Kelly on drums, and Lance Hoppen on bass.

Larry Hoppen and Wells Kelly, as it turns out, were members of King Harvest whose big hit “Dancing in the Moonlight” was written by Kelly’s brother Sherman (also a member of King Harvest for a short time).


Orleans used a lot of unusual instruments in their songs, and on this track, Larry Hoppen played a melodica in the break. Also called a "hooter," the instrument looks like a small keyboard with a mouthpiece attached. It is played by blowing through the reed and controlling the notes with the keyboard.

“Dance With Me” became a big hit which proved once again that record label suits are often clueless:

Orleans recorded this song for their second album, Orleans II, which was given limited international release in 1974 but withheld in the US by their label, ABC, which didn't hear a hit single on the album. The group left the label and joined Elektra-Asylum. Their first release on that label was Let There Be Music in 1975, which included a re-recorded "Dance With Me."

The ABC suits wouldn't even release the album in the U.S. because they didn’t hear a hit single on it! 

Friday, April 26, 2024

148 Years Ago This Week: The First National League Ballgame


April 22, 1876 … think about how long ago that was.

Well, 148 years ago, for starters. That’s about 6 generations of people. The American population at the time was about 39 million people, about 11% of today’s.

The telegraph was the only way to communicate quickly over a long distance. Yet to be invented: the electric lightbulb and telephone. Civil War Reconstruction, still ongoing. The Transcontinental Railroad had been completed just a few years before.

President Lincoln’s assassination was a recent memory. Henry Ford was 12 years old. Etc. It was a long, long time ago.

A man named William Hulbert, owner of the Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs), is widely credited as the founder of the National League.


Another major force in forming the National League was Albert Spalding, who joined Hulbert and the White Stockings in 1876 as manager and main pitcher, winning 47 games that year. 

He is still the all-time leader in career winning percentage at .796. He was one of the first players to wear a baseball glove and others adopted it soon after. 

Spalding of course is even more well-known for founding the A.G. Spalding sporting goods company — also in 1876, he had a good year — which supplied the official National League baseball for nearly 100 years from 1880 until 1976, developed the baseball bat from a cricket bat, and much more across many sports. The history of the company itself is a good read.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Only One Hit But It’s a Timeless Classic


A rare live version of “Dancing in the Moonlight” via the indispensable Midnight Special channel… 

The tune was written several years earlier by a guy named Sherman Kelly — and the story behind it is more than a little bit strange:

On a trip to St. Croix in 1969, I was the first victim of a vicious St. Croix gang who eventually murdered 8 American tourists. At that time, I suffered multiple facial fractures and wounds and was left for dead. While I was recovering, I wrote "Dancin in the Moonlight" in which I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life. The song became a huge hit and was recorded by many musicians worldwide. "Dancin In The Moonlight" continues to be popular to this day.

Well, now I’m going to have *that* picture in my head every time I hear it for the rest of my life.

It topped out at #13 in America during February-March of 1973, just before I turned 14.

As it turns out this big hit led indirectly to the formation of the band Orleans — more on that soon.

Monday, April 22, 2024

A Recipe for Improved Mental Health


Steven Kotler says that we are all capable of so much more than we know, by adopting simple habits that rewire our mindset and tame anxiety and depression by leveraging our natural ability to produce “feel good” chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.

Gratitude. Mindfulness. Walk, bike, or run, outside.

Between social media and “the news” we are bombarded every day with social anxiety and fear, which can be difficult to overcome and is bad for all of us. 

Of course you can reduce the role of those things in your life, which is always a good idea, but completely independent from that you have the ability to counteract those negatives by focusing on what you *can* control.

Gratitude. Mindfulness. Walk, bike, or run, outside.

Friday, April 19, 2024

In Memory of Dickey Betts


He passed away this week at 80 years old… he had a distinct and original sound, that’s for sure.

“Blue Sky”


“Little Martha”


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Seurat, Van Gogh, Pointillism and Neo-Impressionism


Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

This famous painting from 1886 uses “pointillism” which started the Neo-Impressionism movement, known for revolutionary expressions of color and light to create greater apparent luminosity:

Seurat and his followers tried to give their painting a scientific basis, by painting tiny dabs of primary colors close to each other to intensify the viewer's perception of colors by a process of optical mixing. This created greater apparent luminosity because the optical mixing of colors tends towards white, unlike mixing of paints on the palette which tends towards black and reduces intensity. Neo-impressionists also used more precise and geometric shapes to simplify and reveal the relationships between forms.

Diving deeper into Pointillism:

The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the traditional methods of blending pigments on a palette. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses that place dots of cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). Televisions and computer monitors use a similar technique to represent image colors using Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) colors.

If red, blue, and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light. Painting is inherently subtractive, but Pointillist colors often seem brighter than typical mixed subtractive colors. This may be partly because subtractive mixing of the pigments is avoided, and because some of the white canvas may be showing between the applied dots.

Another example of both, the famous self-portrait by Van Gogh, my favorite painter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Amazing Rhythm Aces


Just about everyone has heard “Third Rate Romance” which was a solid Top 40 hit in 1975, but I like this one even better.

The End is Not in Sight (The Cowboy Tune) — Live

The studio version

The lead singer is Russell Smith who went on to become a successful songwriter for Randy Travis and others. He passed away at age 70 in 2019.

Here’s Third Rate Romance, an instant and timeless classic.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

History of Major Trade Routes


A useful addition to my recent Silk Road post… 

History of major trade routes, mapped out

Seeing all this on a giant map, and learning the scale of trade between far-away peoples, and how early it all started, was a real learning experience for me.

Friday, April 12, 2024

The !!!! Beat

In 1966 an amazing TV show called “The !!!! Beat” debuted featuring a wide array of live R&B music by black artists like Freddie King, Lou Rawls, Esther Phillips, Etta James, Otis Redding and so many more.

Hosted by legendary Nashville DJ “Hoss” Allen, who was immersed in black culture and music as a kid and played blues, R&B and gospel on his WLAC Nashville radio show in the 50s, “The !!!! Beat” featured an amazing list of guests:

Guests included: Otis Redding, who hosted the final episode, Little Milton, Esther Phillips, Joe Tex, Etta James, Lattimore Brown, Roscoe Shelton, Carla Thomas, Freddie King, Barbara Lynn, Johnny Taylor, The Radiants, Louis Jordan, The Mighty Hannibal, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, Robert Parker, Joe Simon, Mitty Collier, Jamo Thomas, Z. Z. Hill, Lou Rawls, Bobby Hebb, Willie Mitchell, Don Bryant, The Ovations, The Bar-Kays, Percy Sledge, Garnet Mimms, and Sam & Dave all appeared.

That is quite the list. This is just one season of the show!

Sadly it lasted just that one season, which is unsurprising considering the race climate at the time — but due to the magic of Youtube, DVDs, and devoted fans, nearly all the episodes are available to watch today. For now.

Recently I featured a Freddie King video from the show — here’s one more.

“I'm Torn Down”

Esther Phillips, “I Could Have Told You”

There’s so much more, and I encourage all to investigate this YouTube channel.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Watching DJs Spinning World Music


Really like this just-discovered channel My Analog Journal which features various DJs spinning a wide variety of music from around the world, one theme per video, which are about an hour or so.

Fantastic variety, from salsa to relaxing jazz to reggae to Japanese R&B from the 70s and 80s, and all kinds of other varieties, like this one, “Hawaiian Grooves”.

One of the most popular videos features a Brazilian Samba theme.

I’ve listened to parts of about 7-8 of these videos — the music is all new to me, but very high quality and I like it.

And while I actually like watching DJs doing their thing, these videos are ideally suited for background music while working, at a party, doing chores, relaxing with coffee in the morning, or whenever you want to hear good, fun, “new to you” music. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Britain Hands Over Oregon for Free, In Essence


The early and mid-1800s were such a wild time in North America… 

Sunday, April 07, 2024

No Man’s Land in Louisiana


This territory in today’s Louisiana was part of border disputes between France and Spain during the 1700s, and later informally recognized as a lawless “no man’s land” from 1806 until Louisiana became a state in 1821. 

It was the Wild West before the Wild West became a thing, basically.

Obviously, the people who lived there had to be extrememly tough and fiercely independent, providing all of their own food and security against pirates, outlaws, predators, and the like. 

Louisiana has a very interesting cultural history and this is easy to understand when you consider that the major influences were a “gumbo” of Spanish, French, and Native American going back hundreds of years. 

Here’s a good short primer on the area and its history.

Apparently “Natchitoches” is pronounced NACK-i-tesh. The more you know… 

A longer but still very interesting PBS video.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Today in 1614, Pocahontas Marries Brit

When she was 11 in 1607 she is said to have saved the life of Jamestown settler John Smith:

He traded for corn (maize) with the local Indians and began a series of river voyages that later enabled him to draw a remarkably accurate map of Virginia. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, he and his party were ambushed by members of the Powhatan empire, which dominated the region. He was ultimately taken to their emperor, Chief Powhatan, also known as Wahunsenacah. According to Smith’s account, he was about to be put to death when he was saved by the chief’s young daughter of age 10 or 11, Pocahontas, who placed herself between him and his executioners.

A painting of said event.

For larger image, click here.

A few years later she learned English and converted to Christianity — while held in “friendly” captivity by the British — and took the name Rebecca. 

John Rolfe, a prominent tobacco farmer in the Jamestown area, asked for and received permission to marry her from both her father Chief Powhatan and the Virginia governor. 

This was a pretty radical move in 1614, a white Brit marrying an Indian princess — but it bought a few years of peace in the region, which is probably one of the primary reasons everyone was good with it.

She bore him a son the following year and in 1616 they traveled back to his home in England. Things went well until they didn’t:

In the spring of 1616 Pocahontas, her husband, their one-year-old son, Thomas, and a group of other Native Americans, men and women, sailed with Governor Dale to England. There she was entertained at royal festivities. The Virginia Company apparently saw her visit as a device to publicize the colony and to win support from King James I and investors. While preparing to return to America, Pocahontas fell ill, probably with an upper respiratory ailment (though some historians believe that she may have contracted smallpox or dysentery). Her illness took a turn for the worse and interrupted her return voyage before her ship left the River Thames. She died in the town of Gravesend at about age 21 and was buried there on March 21, 1617. Afterward her husband immediately returned to Virginia; her son remained in England until 1635, when he went to Virginia and became a successful tobacco planter.

She was just 21 when she died — but in all honesty, that sounds like one adventure-filled life.

By 1622 nearly everyone at Jamestown was dead, murdered in a surprise raid by the Powhatan tribe — her father had passed in 1618, this was not on him — in what came to be known as the Jamestown Massacre

Hmm, I wonder if they showed that in the Disney movie… 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Ella Fitzgerald, “Misty”, Plus the Original by Erroll Garner


One of the most beautiful songs ever recorded

My own preference by a very slight margin is the Sarah Vaughn version, but both are unbelievably great.

Written by pianist Erroll Garner in the early 50s, and originally recorded by him without vocals. Here he is on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961. 

Pure beauty. 

Imagine, if you can, being so good at singing, and voice control, that you can sing that melody.


Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Porsche Air-Cooled Engine: How it Works


The basics of how air-cooled engines work as oppposed to water-cooled are pretty simple: air-cooled must keep cool air flowing over the motor to keep it at normal operating temperature, since it has no radiator or coolant as water-cooled motors do.

But how, exactly, do they do that? And where does heat for the passenger compartment come from?

Here’s how.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Slavery Refresher, Barbary Pirates Edition

We’ve all heard about Barbary Pirates, but other than the U.S. Marines defeating them in the early 1800s, what do we really know about that era?

Well, it lasted over 300 years, from 1500-1815 more or less, and during that time the Barbary Pirates captured lots of loot but also lots of people and either enslaved them or sold them into slavery.

One historian estimates that 1.5 million Europeans were enslaved in this way. The slave trade was a thriving business.

Did you know that Barbary Pirates raided towns as far away as Ireland to capture slaves? Neither did I.

And if you’ve ever heard the term “galley slave” but were unsure exactly what that means, well … you won’t be unsure any more. Think about living that life next time you’re having a bad day. The phrase “hell on earth” seems pretty close.

Slavery was not just common throughout the world for thousands of years, it was a major source of revenue for many of the richest people.

It was not invented in America in 1619.