Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Andrew Alden (alden) Sat 24 Aug 02 17:21
You and John Sebastian, a la "Nashville Cats," got blasted sky-high by that clean country music.
Elizabeth Churchill (leroy) Sun 25 Aug 02 11:23
One of my favorite characters in the book is Richie, the Little Richard look-alike who is the costume designer and stylist for the local community theater, and who designs Sarah Jean's wardrobe once she becomes a star. I notice in the acknowledgments you say "Cynthia Robins provided fashion advice, including Cindi-Lu's wedding gown." Can you tell us a bit about how you and Cynthia (and is Richie modeled after your own real wardrobe consultant? if so, him too) came up with the various outfits in the book? I've always been intrigued with the evolution of the outfit in country music. From Mother Maybelle Carter, with her long dark high-necked dresses, to Patsy Montana with her demure little cowgirl image, to Kitty Wells with her yards of gingham. And then suddenly the Bad Girls burst onto the scene: brash, assertive Rose Maddox scandalizing the industry with her wonderfully garish Nudie Cohen suits ten years before they became the uniform de rigeur in Nashville; racy little Charline Arthur, who was the first woman to wear pants on stage; and of course Wanda Jackson, the first woman to introduce glamour to the genre with her fringy glittery strapless dresses, long earrings, and high heels. When Wanda appeared on the Grand Ol Opry in the early 50s, they insisted she cover up her bare shoulders with a jacket. She was so mad, she didn't go back on the show for 40 years. Charline Arthur was never even invited on the Opry because of her pants, her pre-Elvis hip gyrating, and the sexy way she prowled around the stage. Which brings up a second question: what was the role of women in honky-tonk? Has it always been pretty tough for them to break into it?
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 25 Aug 02 13:40
Wow, great questions! I love Richie too. He represents my imagination running wild after seeing a performance by the Ethel Merman Memorial Choir, 10 or somen dressed like Ethel Merman, singing Ethel Merman songs. One of them looked like Little Richard dressed up like Ethel Merman... Cynthia Robins (cynthiar) will tell you I am a total dunce when it comes to fashion, so I needed help with Richie's character. The great thing about Cyn is that I could call her and say, "What would a pretentious Hollywood video director wear to a shoot in 1993?" or, "If Calvin Klein designed a wedding gown and price was no object, what would it look like?" and she KNEW! Off the top of her head! I made up Sarah Jean's award show outfit myself though, and I really do have a leopard-covered stratocaster.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 25 Aug 02 13:52
I didn't know about racy little Charlene Arthur! I heard Wanda speak at SXSW in Austin last year, and she was wonderful. There is a documentary about four rockabilly women: Wanda, Brenda Lee, Janis Martin (who was called the "female Elvis", and Laurie Collins (of the Collins Kids)--I think it's called "Welcome to the Club" or something like that. It was screened there, and it's great! Anyway, Wanda Jackson talked a lot about her outfits. Her mother made them, and her father (who was also her manager) had to approve the neckline and skirt lengths. Then mom would sneak an extra inch or so off the top and the bottom. She also talked about being a reluctants song writer: apparently there just wasn't a lot of material out there that she liked, so she wrote songs out of desperation. What a performer! There are a bunch of very hot clips of her in the film. I think if a woman has amazing presence and a great voice, it's not that hard to break in as a "chick singer" fronting an all-male band. It's the instrumental musicians who have it tougher. Aside from Barbara Mandrell, how many female pedal steel players have you seen? Drummers? Not that many. Things are changing slowly...
Elizabeth Churchill (leroy) Sun 25 Aug 02 14:34
I saw Wanda Jackson at Bimbo's in San Francisco a few years ago when she was touring with Rosie Flores: man, were they hot. The place was packed to the gills with the rockabilly kids. I think Wanda Jackson falls more into the rockabilly camp than honky-tonk. What exactly is the difference, anyway? Who are some women who made it big in honky-tonk? I guess Rose Maddox qualifies, fronting for the Maddox Brothers--they played clubs. (Did you ever go to the It Club in El Cerrito? They used to play there all the time. I went there once in the mid-70s, right before it became a dentist's office.) And I think Charline Arthur. I don't think I ever saw any women at the 23 Club besides you, and folks like Kathleen Enright and Big Lou who were sitting in. By the way, I laways loved your guitar and was delighted that the leopard- skin pillbox Strat made it into the book, foot-long fringe and all.
Da Beauty Queen (cynthiar) Sun 25 Aug 02 14:45
"Shoes" is a delight. And Kath and I even wrote a song which ended up in it. (We really have to write a melody, kiddo). Obviously, Kathi was much more into upholstering her axes with leopard than playing with paper dolls. . . which is my only qualification for being a "designer" as such. But hammered satin and white mink are two favorites of mine (for other people, of course). You'd add sequins and wall-to-wall pave-d pearls for Vegas. . . Kath: Why aren't they sending you to VEgas? You could bunk here and we could go skinny dipping. . .
Elizabeth Churchill (leroy) Sun 25 Aug 02 15:09
Hey, Cynthia! I see your name on "You're Not My Kind of Guy," performed by the flamboyant Monica Boom Boom. Any stories about what (or who) inspired the lyrics?
Da Beauty Queen (cynthiar) Sun 25 Aug 02 16:45
Kathi and I were sitting on the floor of my former S.F. apartment one afternoon, sort of rehearsing what we were going to sing for one of hte Book Week gigs. It had to be four-five years ago. We were noodling around on the guitar, singing old Baez/Judy Collins stuff harmonizing when we just sort of started writing a song which was originally called "The Drag Queen Lament," but it morphed into the Lounge Lizard Blues.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 25 Aug 02 19:03
Those lyrics were so much fun to write! "You're plyng me with liquor; you're licking me with plyers..." what does that mean, anyway? It's funny, I was going to have Monica sing a jazz standard, "I Wanna be Loved by You" or something, when I happened upon those lyrics stuffed in one of my gig bags. You're right Cyn, we MUST come up with a melody soon. Honky-Tonk vs. Rockabilly? Hmmmm, I'm not sure Honky-Tonk has that precise a meaning, really. Rockabilly can certainly be Honky-Tonk and vice versa, but Honky-Tonk can also be what I think of as country swing, country-rock, or even back-to-roots blue grass, blues or R&B. I think it has as much to do with the venue as the style of music, as someone (leroy) said earlier.
Elizabeth Churchill (leroy) Sun 25 Aug 02 19:29
I'm thinking also the theme: rockabilly is generally more upbeat and youth oriented, songs about a pretty carefree partypartyparty life. Whereas honktonk comes out of a bluecollar culture where people work hard all week, then go out and get drunk, spend all their money, fight, cheat, and maybe even dance a little...but they pay for it. There's an undercurrent of remorse in honky-tonk that isn't there in rockabilly. Kathi, even though your book hasn't hit the book stores yet, the reviews are starting to come in. I hear O Magazine gave you a rave. What are they others saying?
Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Sun 25 Aug 02 20:49
What did O magazine say?
Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 26 Aug 02 05:01
>> There's an undercurrent of remorse in honky-tonk that isn't there in rockabilly.<< Ooh, I like that... As for reviews, I got good ones in PW and Booklist (both publishing trade publications) and a so-so one on the Amazon.com web page. But the rave was written by Pam Houston ("Cowboys Are My Weakness") for 'O' Magazine: "If you are the kind of person who has a hidden passion for Top 40 country, if you find yourself watching I Love Lucy reruns more often than you'd like to admit, if your secret desire is to live in a world where bad men are punished and your girlfriends rule and the best cure for a broken heart is to throw back your head and belt out a few bars, then kkg's debut novel is perfect for your late summer trip to the beach...in Goldmark's universe, families are supportive, children are loved unequivocally, and even the men who won't marry you always come back around to be your friend. It's a place we could all stand to spend a little more time in." A thrill because Pam is an author I don't know, really, so she wasn't just being a pal.
Berliner (captward) Mon 26 Aug 02 05:24
Somehow those are the best reviews: in the consumer press from someone who doesn't know you at all. You know they're just reacting to what's there, not playing politics. I'd like to chime in and say that I've never heard a slow rockabilly song, which is one thing which differentiates that genre from honky-tonk. Nor have I ever heard a serious song about drinking in rockabilly. Or cheating. Maybe what I'm saying is one is more for adults. Like drinking and cheating.
Elizabeth Churchill (leroy) Mon 26 Aug 02 07:16
Yep, rockabilly's all about jitterbug and the irrepressible carefree youth that lives to jitterbug. Honky-tonk throws in an occasional swing tune, but more of the Ray Price shuffles, Texas two-step, and of course waltzes. But they both have a common ancestor in the old country swing and boogie beat. Bob Wills, The Delmore Brothers, the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies: these sounds paved the way for both honky-tonk and rockabilly. What the hell happened to country music? How did it become the bland souless boring industry that it is today? What happened to that raw edge of authenticity, whether it's the ragged pain of honky-tonk or the defiant exuberance of rockabilly?
Berliner (captward) Mon 26 Aug 02 07:19
I could bloviate on that subject for ages, and in fact once published a long piece on it. Wonder if Kathi has come to the same conclusions, though.
Nancy Montgomery (nan) Mon 26 Aug 02 07:27
Great review, kkg! I'm debating whether to wait until your Cody's book signing to pick up the book or get it and read it now! To me, rockabilly has always seemed like a particular piece of country music carved out by people who might not ordinarily profess to listen to country music. Honky tonk songs put those down home lyrics and gut-wrenching emotions and humor out there that stand solid amid the variable winds of public taste. They just is. "gotta hear old Hank a-moanin' a honky tonk song..."
Daniel (dfowlkes) Mon 26 Aug 02 08:07
<scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
Da Beauty Queen (cynthiar) Mon 26 Aug 02 10:00
Kath: The Calvin Klein string is hilarious. . . wonder what his people have said to you. he is VERY protective of his name, dontcha know.
(fom) Mon 26 Aug 02 10:11
Yeah, it's fun, the way it keeps popping up in the background. The CK thing, I mean. I am about 3/4 through the book, and I'm especially enjoying the writing style (and tone and voice) -- it's so smooth, as if you've been writing novels for years. I'm curious as to whether the book is being promoted to country music fans.
Casey Ellis (caseyell) Mon 26 Aug 02 10:40
I just want to know WTF Amazon hasn't sent me my copy which I pre-ordered MONTHS ago.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 26 Aug 02 11:35
Oh dear--I guess I missed the boat on Montel. Faulty research on my part--the one day I turned on Rickie Lake they were doing paternity tests. But she also seemed like more of a natural venue for Calvin Klein...who has not said a word as yet, not a peep. No And why would he, since thanks to Cynthia, he designed a perfect wedding dress? No one at Chronicle seemed concerned from a legal POV about throwing in the occasional real-life name, though. That came from a joke Kath (Kathleen Enright, my bandmate in the Kath Sisters and the Ray Price Club) and I used to tell on the bandstand: "We're going to do a song by Calvin Klein's mother Patsy." Someone would ALWAYS believe it! I started thinking about how you can make a made-up thing true, and decided that if something is printed in the New York Times, it will be acknowledged the world over as the truth. So Sarah Jean's joke becoming the truth is meant to be kind of a send-up of the publicity machine--if you spin anything the right way, people will eventually believe it. The reason you haven't received your order from Amazon is that books shipped a little late. should be any time now. I personally only have ONE copy so far. And thanks for the riting compliment! I think the "smoothness" is really the result of the editorial process as much as anything. I am VERY lucky to have Jay Schaefer as my editor; he's the old-fashioned kind who rolls up his sleeves and digs in, but he's also responsive and everything is negotiable. I think the book is much better because of his input. As for promoting to C&W fans, I think they're trying to do that by sending some CDs along with the book, to Country Radio stations. We'll see what happens. I also think they're going for reviews in some of the country fan publications, and there was talk of setting up a workshop at SXSW music festival in Austin next spring. Speaking of radio, has anyone in the Bay Area listened to KTIM, the Marin station that recently changed format and is now the only country radio station in the Bay Area? What do you think?
David Gans (tnf) Mon 26 Aug 02 12:38
The Cline/Klein thing is a stroke of genius, an excellent feature of your novel. Like so many of the songs and other devices in this book, there's a natural, "Of course!" quality to your creations.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 26 Aug 02 12:57
Aw, shucks. Why, thanks. Do you ever wonder how many other things we've read and truly believe are true might have started as a practical joke?
Daniel (dfowlkes) Mon 26 Aug 02 18:39
<scribbled by dfowlkes Tue 3 Jul 12 10:14>
Elizabeth Churchill (leroy) Tue 27 Aug 02 07:13
I was thrilled to see guest appearances in the book by some of my favorite musicians from other genres. For instance, Billy Wilson from Motordude Zydeco shows up with his band. Woo-hoo! Small World story: last December I walked into Miss Wanda's cafe in downtown Opelousas Louisiana, the Zydeco Capital of the Universe, and immediately recognized that the CD she was playing in the cafe was Billy Wilson! But NOT Zydeco: it was his ukulele Christmas CD. I said, Wanda, where in the world did you get this? And she said some customer from California had given it to her. In fact, she had a whole stack of them for sale next to the cash register and she said they were going like hotcakes. I questioned her about this mysterious Californian and easily ascertained it wasn't big ol' 7' tall Billy Wilson. I never did find out who it was, but 35 people in Opelousas now own Billy Wilson playing Christmas songs on a tiny little ukulele. There are also a couple of references in the book, both direct and indirect, to Big Lou, the accordion-playing polka goddess. Her spectacular all-accordion wedding at DeMarco's 23 Club shows up, slightly altered, but I was there in real life. She really did put white veils on all the buffalo heads, and her dog Booger really was the ring bearer who got spooked and ran off with the rings and had fifty crazy accordion players in polka-dot outfits chasing him up Main Street on a Sunday morning screaming "Booger! Booger! Give back the rings!" It happens I'm heading over to Texas this weekend for a Tex-Czech polka fest where Carl Finch and Brave Combo will be the headliners. Carl Finch produced Big Lou's CD, Polka Casserole. So, more small world. How is it that there are all these wonderful connections, even though it's different types of music? Almost like there's some kind of mystical underground movement. What is the common denominator that draws them together? That they all play music that's authentic to its roots, or what?
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