David Gans (tnf) Thu 6 Sep 07 00:16
That's MERCH table of course.
Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 6 Sep 07 11:56
One thing that I find particularly fascinating is the cluster of musicians like Goodman who came from what we would now regard as relatively sterile suburban environments who discovered the blues clubs in Chicago or elsewhere--people like Mike Bloomfield or Danny Kalb--and dove in deeply. Another thing that comes to mind is how much the story seems to center (so far, I'm only on about page 500) on cities like Chicago and Philly and New York, but much less on Boston, which also had/has a thriving blues scene. What made/makes those cities such fertile environments for both traditional and new music?
Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 6 Sep 07 12:09
It wasn't a caption--it was, in fact, the beginning of the description of the long Philly Folk Fest closer, on p. 450: "Organizers' radar kicked in near the end of Steve's set, just nine minutes before midnight, when he led a stimulating version of "Jessie's Jig." 31 Driven by a bouncy Bo Diddley beat from Latin conga drummer Ray Mantilla and bassist Dennis Gormley, it was accented with solos from David Amrams peppery French horn, Ken Bloom's klezmer clarinet and Winnie Winstons smooth steel guitar." I would argue that it would be most unlikely that Ken Bloom (even assuming that this is the same Ken Bloom who is currently a member of the klezmer band, Mappamundi) knew of or was playing klezmer in 1975 - but I sure am curious as to whether or not this is true or not. (Given Bloom's early interest in Eastern European folk music, and Philly's role in American klezmer, it's certainly =possible=. There was a small amount of pre-revival "Jewish folk dance" klezmer happening in LA and other cities by then.) Fascinating to find out more.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Thu 6 Sep 07 12:20
The Ken Bloom in question was an LA folky in the late 60s who would pull out a clarinet on blues numbers periodically and play goodmanesque stuff. He had just discovered the zither and was finding out about central European music in 1968, so I have no doubt that he would have been aware of and into klezmer by 1975.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 12:35
Ari, keep in mind that Goodman's true roots were not suburban but on the North Side of Chicago, in his grade-school years in the Albany Park neighborhood. The mixture of intensive temple singing and the rainbow of genres on the Chicago radio dial in the late 1950s and early 1960s were huge contributors to a musical fire that would have kept burning in Goodman whether or not his family had moved to suburban Niles in the middle of his freshman year in high school. Chicago's diverse musical fertility, of course, owes in part to massive post-slavery migration from the South. Goodman found a folk-based audience in Boston at least as strong as those in NYC and Philly. The book's relative emphasis on the latter cities stems from Goodman's visceral connections there. Sloan-Kettering was a frequent destination because of his cancer treatment, so New York became a sort of second home. And the detailed history of Steve's show-stopping role at the Philly festival was impossible to ignore. I did try to bring in Boston when I could, and the book's index indicates 10 such references. I can try to contact Ken Bloom to confirm or expand on the klezmer reference. Will get back to you when I reach him.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 12:42
Ari and Rik: I just got off the phone with Ken, who lives in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. Here's how he reflects on my reference to his "klezmer clarinet" in the 1976 Philly festival anecdote: "I started playing klezmer at the age of 14, and with Goodman I was always doing more of a Dixieland jazz style, but considering my background, what I was doing on clarinet couldn't help having that klezmer tone, so I think that was a perfectly reasonable reference." The affable and multi-instrumentalist Bloom says he's "building tons of instruments" and has a full slate of gigs slated all over the country from October through December. "I'm a busy little beaver," he says with a laugh.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Thu 6 Sep 07 12:54
Clay, I should have asked you to ask him it the zither was still "The Answer".
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 13:08
Rik: I'll e-mail Ken and ask him to reply directly to you at your WELL e-mail address.
Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 6 Sep 07 13:59
I sit corrected re:klezmer in 1975! I've emailed the/a band in which he plays klezmer (Mappamundi), so if Ken is up for additional conversation, he'll respond. I don't want to be a pest on the subject. I should have been more specific in my earlier post about folks like Goodman, Kalb, Bloomfield--as far as I know, they were all from the 'burbs and spent much of their high school (or later) years sneaking into the nearest city and soaking up all of the blues they could. These are periods when the urban, especially black populations seemed to be moving away from blues as fast as they could into soul, then rap and hip-hop. It's also clear from your book that whatever Goodman got from hanging out at his suburban temple, it wasn't religion (nor klezmer ;-)). So, I'm still wondering, where else were those combinations of new suburbs and suburban kids skipping school to hear blues and jazz--or was it a general urban phenomenon, such that, say, the SF Bay Area blues scenes (esp. perhaps Oakland) contributed, in their way, to the music ferment there. But that raises the question of why we don't see similar music scenes in places like Houston, also a blues center at the time.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 15:07
Ari, those are good questions that are outside my ken. (As Carl Reiner told me at the end of a 10-minute phoner, "If you ask me more, I'd have to start lying.") But your questions certainly are substantive enough for someone to research and turn into a separate book that would be fascinating!
Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 6 Sep 07 15:41
From Off-WeLL reader, Susan Peck, in an email: Thanks you both, author and interviewer, for this fascinating look inside the life of one of my all time favorite singer-songwriters. Having grown up in the Chicago area, I was lucky enough to see Goodman perform there (nobody checked ID in those days, thankfully!) and also one last time, near the end of his life, up here in Alaska in a very small, very intimate setting. I so look forward to reading the book and the rest of this interview. Many thanks!
Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 6 Sep 07 15:44
To any other Non-Well Readers, if you'd like to ask a question or make a comment of your own, please send your comments to <email@example.com> We look forward to hearing from you. And now back to the interview...
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 16:06
Off-Well, Non-Well -- Goodman would have a lyrical heyday with such lingo, and with the computer age in general. It is, however, rather astounding the extent to which he (with Prine) captured the entire 20th century in a tune written with nearly a quarter of the century to go in 1977. Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio would love that song.
"The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:05
I was loving this conversation to begin with, but it now has the added benefit of having reconnected me with Ken Bloom after 39 years. Thanks, Clay.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:08
You're welcome, Rik. Imagine my own delight at being able to interview more than 1,000 people connected in some way to Goodman. It deepens the meaning of the process-product cliche, that the product is no good if the process is no good. Put another way, the journey was as rich, if not richer, than the destination. And hey, I'm not sure I'm at the final destination yet.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:17
What was the most surprising connection you made in following all these interviews fmr one to the next?
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:36
Not exactly sure what you mean by "most surprising connection," David, but I'll take a stab and say that one of the things that surprised me was the extent to which Goodman was a near-miss in becoming a household name. Two little-known examples, both from 1979: First, Steve had recorded a beautiful duet with Nicolette Larson in the fall of 1978 at a time when duets were all the rage (Diamond/Streisand, Loggins/Nicks), but by early 1979 when Asylum was ready to release it as a single from Steve's latest LP, Nicolette had soared to prominence with her own hit single (Neil Young's "Lotta Love"), and Warner Brothers, which was Larson's label and the parent company to Asylum, wouldn't let Asylum release the Goodman-Larson single for fear that it would diminish the rising star of Larson. It was a classic industry in-fight, played out in the pages of the L.A. Times, and Goodman was the loser. The name of the Goodman-Larson duet? "The One That Got Away." It became the song that got away. Later in 1979, PBS wanted to mount its own version of a sketch-comedy show to compete with NBC's four-year-old "Saturday Night Live" and hired the National Lampoon to create the pilot, which was filmed live at Yale University. Goodman was the musical relief between sketches, and his songs were jabs at the news of the day. The Yale students attending the pilot thought the humor stunk, and the next-day reviews confirmed it was a bomb. The only part of the pilot that anyone liked was Goodman and his songs. Imagine where Goodman might have been in the societal firmament if the pilot had sported sharper human and PBS had aired the series. By the way, the name and musical theme of the PBS series was to be "Good Grief, America," sung to the tune of the best-known part of the chorus of Goodman's best-known song: "Good morning, America..." Fascinating stuff, at least to me. And I wouldn't have learned a lot of it had I not interviewed so many people.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 17:38
Sorry -- a typo back there. "Sported sharper humor" should have been "sported sharper humor."
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 19:15
Gad -- a typo in my own clarification. I'll try again: "Sported sharper human" should have been "sported sharper humor."
John Ross (johnross) Thu 6 Sep 07 20:07
Clay, can you say something about the relationship among the various music scenes in Chicago? I'm thinking about the south side blues clubs and musicians, and the people around the Old Town School of Folk Music and some of the uptown clubs like the Gate of Horn, the Earl of Old Town and Holstein's (among others). How much interaction was there between those two groups?
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 6 Sep 07 21:25
Nice interview, Clay. In many ways your take on someone so immersed in the 70's folk-roots music scene is more fascinating because he wasn't a star. This helps us see the musical movements he was attached to more clearly. I'm curious. Is the European Zither the same thing as a Cittern? Maybe Rik knows.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 21:55
Between the North Side folkie clubs (I'll lump the Old Town School in there) and the South Side blues clubs? Not much, I'm afraid. This was and is a reflection of a racially and culturally segregated metropolis. That said, there were and are exceptions, and Goodman fits in here, to some extent. The Old Town School historically has cast a wide net over what could be defined as "folk," and blues artists have always been part of the mix -- witness Big Bill Broonzy's early involvement. Also, for more than four decades the South Side's University of Chicago has hosted a yearly folk festival. But the emphasis there, it should be stated, has been on more traditional music of all stripes, as opposed to the genre of singer/songwriters that the North Side clubs embraced. Ubiquitous on the North Side, Goodman only rarely played the South Side. But he did mix with African American musicians who lived on the South Side such as bluesman Jim Brewer and the eclectic string band of Martin, Bogan and Armstrong. Sometimes he supplied transportation and other wherewithal to bolster the gigs that these South Siders secured on the North Side, and by covering their songs and touting their virtues, he certainly cemented their commercial viability and cultural legacy. Simply put, Goodman saw Brewer and MB&A as mentors. It's not going too far to say that without Goodman as a champion throughout the 1970s, MB&A may have been forced to confine their act to less prominent venues and audiences, if not give it up entirely. The folk scene on Chicago's North Side was something of a paradox. Kris Kristofferson labeled it the Greenwich Village of the 1970s, and with Goodman at the hub, it had an undeniable eminence and vitality. At the same time, however, it was not as central in the mainstream as rosy memories might have it. Earl Pionke, proprietor of the Earl of Old Town in that era, looked back for me decades later and cracked, "Have you ever heard of the expression 'a mosquito on an elephants ass'? Well, you know what folk music is? One of the fleas on the mosquito on the ass of an elephant." It's probably time to throw in a caveat. I did not live in Chicago through the era we are dissecting. In fact, the first time I set foot in the city (other than passing through O'Hare airport), was in November 1997. My knowledge and impressions come solely from interviews and other research, along with 10 one- to two-week book-related visits to Chicago over the past eight-plus years. Voluminous as my work has been, it cannot invalidate the experiences and conclusions of those native to the city. In other words, in no way am I the final word on such questions. I've merely done the best I could to document and place into context the life of a remarkable man and musician. In that vein, I truly hope that my Goodman biography prompts other writers -- particularly Chicagoans -- to dig further into the kind of question you raise, John, and to shed more printed light on what seems to me to be the woefully unsung (or under-sung) saga of music in Chicago.
Clay Eals (clay-eals) Thu 6 Sep 07 21:58
Scott, thanks for your kind words. You cogently express part of my motivation for undertaking the Goodman bio. On your zither/cittern question, I'm going to take a pass!
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 7 Sep 07 04:51
Interesting that Goodman knew Martin, Bogan, & Armstrong -- great group. Having only experienced them on record, I always wondered how they fit into the Chicago music scene. Given their repertoire I always imagined them playing at least a certain number of weddings.
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