Friday, February 29, 2008

Attilio Baggiore

Luisa Tetrazzini & Attilio Baggiore - PICCOLO AMORE (recorded 1922; released c. 1980 on Rococo Records LP 5361)

The oldest U.P. GROOVE of which I'm aware was recorded in September 1922 and featured Calumet-born operatic tenor Attilio Baggiore.

During the early 1920s, Baggiore was the protege (and probable lover) of the much-older Luisa Tetrazzini, one of the greatest divas of the early 20th century. In September 1922, Tetrazzini made 15 recordings in the studio of The Gramophone Company Ltd. in Middlesex, England (they would be her last studio recordings); two of these were duets with Baggiore. Some of these were made for The Gramophone Company to release; some were intended for (pre-RCA) Victor.

Unfortunately, neither The Gramophone Company nor Victor considered these sides worthy of release, and the metal masters were destroyed. Happily, Tetrazzini kept her own copies of all but one of these tracks, and they were finally released circa 1980 by Rococo Records, a small Canadian company.

Sadly (for us), the one track Tetrazzini couldn't save was one of her duets with Baggiore, a duet from Verdi's RIGOLETTO. But their performance of Lama's "Piccolo Amore" made it to our day. Since its release on Rococo, it's been put out on two multi-CD collections of Terazzini's complete recordings.As for Baggiore, he continued his career and became a highly-regarded tenor in both Italy and America; he toured the US as part of the "National Male Quartet," and sang several times on US radio in the 1930s - he may have even appeared on some early TV programs. But, incredibly, he never made another commercial recording after his time with Tetrazzini!

(Most of the above Baggiore info came from the book LUISA TETRAZZINI: THE FLORENTINE NIGHTINGALE by Charles Neilson Gattey [Amadeus Books, 1994].)

BRAVO, BAGGIORE!

Some Grooves I Don't Have

For much of the information in this post, I am indebted to several people and organizations, who are listed in the post "Loose Ends and Closing Credits."

***SINGLES***

Bad Axe - ROAD RUNNER b/w WAY BACK HOME (SSP Records SSP-202; c.1980s). Bad Axe was an Escanaba-area band led by Greg Brukardt and Jeffrey Krebs; both wrote Side A, while Krebs alone wrote Side B. (Krebs would later record solo.)

Dick Allen & the Fairlanes - DREAMIN' b/w NIGHT TWIST (Cuca 63114; 1963). After his time with the Night Owls (see below), Dick Allen (born in L'anse) recorded "Dreamin'" with members of the Originals, a Green Bay, WI band. However, Dick says he doesn't remember using the name "Fairlanes," nor does he recall the B-side, which may have been by a totally different band. Dick later led the Green Beans (see below).

Jimmy B & the Rockatones - EVERYTHING I DO b/w DREAM GIRL (Cuca 6481; 1964). Band was from Houghton / Hancock; leader "Jimmy B" Brogan was once a member of the Vigilantes (see post on that band).

Benders - CAN'T TAME ME b/w GOT ME DOWN (Big Sound 3006). The Benders were students from Michigan and Wisconsin, based in Menominee, MI; the label was based in Wausau, WI.

John Dee & the Shadows - I'M A ROLLING STONE b/w CAN'T YOU LOVE ME TOO (Raynard 10035; 1965). This short-lived band was based in the twin cities of Marinette, WI / Menominee, MI. They recorded their one single in Milwaukee, WI, where leader John D. Grignon eventually made his home.

Dodge Street Band - SOUTH DAKOTA b/w unknown (Key Wee 001). Label is based in Lake Linden, the credited writer of the song is Roger Laub, Jr. - other than that, I know nothing.

Dopes / Zoom - ESCANABA b/w THERE ARE WAYS (no label name, c.1978). In his book "Rock'n'Roll Graffiti," Steve Seymour tells how he bought this single at a Dopes concert in Madison, WI, in the early 1980s - then unknowingly bought another copy of the same single, with a different label and credited to Zoom, on eBay. He knows nothing else about this band or the record, and right now neither do I.

Excels - LITTLE INNOCENT GIRL b/w SOME KIND OF FUN (Carla 1901); I WANNA BE FREE b/w TOO MUCH TOO SOON (Carla 2344); THE ARRIVAL OF MARY b/w CALIFORNIA ON MY MIND (Carla 2536). The Excels were from Marquette, and recorded for the Detroit-based Carla label.

The Executives - CARA MIA b/w MY SPECIAL ANGEL (Princeton P-112). This Marquette lounge act released a single on the Princeton label - see the French Church listing in "The Grooves I Have" post..

Fastells - TAKE YOU AWAY b/w SO MUCH (Night Owl 6781; 1967). From Negaunee; members Mark Pyykonen and Tom Kemp later joined the Rhythm Rockers (see below).

(Danny & the) Galaxies - IF YOU WANT TO BE MY BABY b/w AD LIB (Darbo 1595; 1960); MY TATTLE TALE b/w LOVE HAS ITS WAY (Guaranteed 216; 1961). Ths band was based in the twin cities of Hurley, WI / Ironwood, MI - drummer Bernie Michelli was from Bessemer. All their tracks were produced by Jimmy Bowen of "I'm Sticking With You" fame (and later head of Capitol Nashville).

Joey Gee & the Bluetones - DON'T YOU JUST KNOW IT b/w LITTLE SEARCHER (Sara 6541). This band, led by "Joey Gee" Giannuzio, was from Iron Mountain/Kingsford. Guitarist Bill Morrison later joined Lexington Project (see below).

Joey Gee & the Come-Ons - SHE'S MEAN b/w YOU KNOW - TILL THE END OF TIME (Sara 6599). After the Bluetones, Joey Gee moved to Milwaukee, WI, and became leader of this band.

The Green Beans - FRICTION b/w SUPERSTITION (Mercury 2504; 1965); WHO NEEDS YOU b/w KNOCK ON MY DOOR (Tower 237; 1966). This quartet assembled in Green Bay, WI, and did most of its recording in Los Angeles with Mike Curb producing, but lead guitarist Dick Allen was from L'anse (see above) and drummer John Truckey was from Sault Ste. Marie.

Heikki Lunta - HEIKKI LUNTA'S SNOW DANCE SONG (Heikki 326), This tribute to the (supposed) Finnish god of winter was issued by Hancock radio station WMPL in 1970; they sold the single at the station for years. However, according to legend, whenever WMPL plays the song on the air, it snows heavily right afterward - which is why some listeners don't want WMPL to play the song ever again.

Henchmen VI - ALL OF THE DAY b/w IS LOVE REAL (Cuca 6731). The Henchmen VI, including Joe Dehut and Scott Kienzle (or is it Heinske? My sources differ), were from Ontonagon. (They are not the Scarlet Henchmen who also recorded for Cuca.) The documentary "Lights! Camera! Action!", which WLUC-TV in Marquette made for its 50th anniversary in 2006, shows a brief clip of the Henchmen VI performing on the station's annual March of Dimes Telethon. ALERT! ALERT! "Is Love Real" appears on the CD "Garage Beat '66 Volume 4: I'm In Need!" (Sundazed SC11150); for further details, go to http://www.sundazed.com/.

Lloyd Hugo - STOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE b/w SLOWLY (Belt 103; 1969); IT WON'T TAKE LONG b/w RAIN AIN'T GONNA FALL (Belt 106; 1970); MOTHER TRUCKER b/w IF YOU WILL TAKE MY HAND (Globe 106; 1972). Lloyd was from L'anse, and an ex-Vigilante; he went on to build several Indian casinos.

Betsy Hyde - ? b/w EVERY DAY (Muscle label). While I was a student at Northern Michigan University in Marquette in 1979-80, Marquette singer Betsy Hyde released this single; I can't remember the A-side (it was a Hyde original), but the B-side was Buddy Holly's "Every Day."

Lance Hill - IN THE BACK OF MY MIND b/w RIDING IN A DUMP TRUCK (U.P. Records label). The company's logo consisted of the words "U.P. Records" in an outline map of the U.P., and the motto "Nashville of the North." Both sides were written by Elmer Aho, a Gwinn native who's been writing songs - and getting them on records from time to time - since the 1960s. However, I've been informed that the record may have been actually made in the REAL Nashville - the one in Tennessee - by a company that turned customers' "songpoems" into songs and records, for a fee, and that employed Mr. Hill as a singer*; and that "U.P. Records" may have only existed in Mr. Aho's imagination (certainly, this was the label's only release).

*If you're not sure what I'm talking about, click here: http://www.songpoemmusic.com/what_is.htm

The Infinite Blue - BLACK TRAIN b/w LIES (Tevar 10376; 1971). This band was from Menominee, as was the label, owned by two brothers named Ravet (spell it backwards). Two years earlier, this group played backup on another single, farther down this page.

The Innocence - SUDDENLY JUST LIKE THAT b/w I WALK THE WAVES (Spoke 1000). This was the first of two releases for Spoke Records, which had a Manistique P.O. box. I know nothing about the group, except that they're not the same Innocence who had a Top 40 hit with "There's Got To Be A Word!" Both sides were written by Irene L. Davis, who ran a publishing company called Five State Music.

Ken Kaiser - ME AND THE D.N.R. (The American Heart label, c.1978). This single protested some recent actions by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.

Paul Kay - COPPER COUNTRY POLKA b/w SHORTY'S POLKA (Bootjack 100; 1971). Paul Kruczynski and his wife Janice still lead a polka band in the western U.P.

Kinetics - I'M BLUE b/w FEELING FROM MY HEART (Studio City). Band was from Houghton; label was in Minneapolis, MN.

Rob Kirk & the Word - GIRLS TALK b/w SUMMER WINDS (Cuca 6761; 1967) Rob Kirk (real name: Gary Alan Kerkes) was from Sault Ste. Marie, and always "dreamed of being a rock and roll star." Unfortunately, he would gain his greatest fame, not as a singer, but as the victim of a murder-for-hire in 1983; Gary E. Myers tells the whole ugly story on pages 44-45 of his new book On That Wisconsin Beat. ALERT! ALERT! Like the Henchmen VI track above, "Girls Talk" appears on the compilation Garage Beat '66 Volume 4: I'm In Need! on the Sundazed label (http://www.sundazed.com/). Hey, Rob, you got a national release! Maybe you're finally on your way!

Mike Koda - LET'S HEAR A WORD (FROM THE FOLKS IN THE CEMETERY) b/w MORE THAN ME (Princeton). Mike Koda, then an NMU student, would later become Cub Koda, leader of Brownsville Station ("Smokin' In the Boys' Room") and writer of the book "Blues For Dummies," the "Vinyl Junkie" column in the record-collector's magazine GOLDMINE, and numerous reviews for the website http://www.allmusic.com/. Cub died in 2000, but his widow "Lady J" still maintains his website at http://www.cubkoda.com/.

Lee Malone & the Nite-Riders - ISABELLA b/w unknown (U.P. Records UP 004). Produced by one J. Barribeau; the label says "Home Grown in Iron Mountain, MI."

Rhea Marquita - MEET ME TONIGHT BENEATH THE MOON b/w WITHOUT YOUR LOVE (Cuca 1087; 1962). Rhea M. Saarinen was from Mass City; only seven weeks after recording her single, she died of cancer at age 37.

The New Breed - SO WAS THE SUMMER b/w HIGHWAY BLUES (unknown label; c. 1975) The New Breed were from Aurora, WI, but member John Richtig, previously of the Ravelles (see below), was from Iron Mountain.

The Ramblers - MICHIGAN WALTZ b/w RAINDROP POLKA (Rambler GB-720; 1957), I SHOULD BE THE FIRST TO KNOW b/w I BETCHA - Polka (Rambler GB-914; 1958). The Ramblers, led by Ray Adamini, was a polka band that played in the Marquette area during the 1950s-60s, and even had a weekly TV show on WDMJ-TV (now WLUC-TV) in Marquette. The "Lights! Camera! Action!" program (see above) had an interview with Ray Adamini and rare footage of the Ramblers performing.

Ravelles - PSYCHEDELIC MOVEMENT b/w SHE'S FOREVER ON MY MIND (Mobie 340; 1968); SMILE AT THE FLOWERS b/w WHY CAN'T I BE THE ONE (Daizy 15A8; 1969). Founded as Sainte Jon's Academy, this Iron Mountain band once beat both the Prophets of Doom and the Riot Squad in a Battle of the Bands around 1967-68. The Mobie label was based in Chicago, IL.

Renaissance Fair - IN WYRD b/w unknown (Princeton). A Marquette-area band that did this one single for Marquette's Princeton label.

Rhythm Rockers - UNCHAINED MELODY b/w COUNTDOWN (Copper 1090 / 1091). This band was from Alston; if you'd like to see the label of this single, go to http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/pics/d17/17708.htm

Rhythm Rockers - BAD NEWS b/w TWILIGHT (Copper C1006). The label for this single can be seen at http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/pics/d05/5337.htm. ALERT! ALERT! Britain's Ace Records has just released the CD "Rockin' In Wisconsin: The Cuca Records Story, Vol. 3," which includes the Rhythm Rockers' "Bad News"! Go to http://www.acerecords.co.uk/.

Riot Squad - TAKIN' IT EASY b/w BEFORE I LEAVE TONIGHT (Demian M45 d1 [or 208211]). A later single by Escanaba's Riot Squad (see "The Grooves I Have"); as far as I know, both sides are original compositions.

Hoot Roberts - THE KING HAS FALLEN b/w INVITATION TO THE BLUES (Choco label). This single's sides were both taken from his INVITATION TO THE BLUES album (see THE GROOVES I HAVE).

Society - NICOTINE FIT b/w unknown (Spoke label) This was the second release on Manistique's Spoke label, and it's become something of a mystery (at least to me). There was a Wisconsin band called Society, and I thought this record may have been by them; but Gary E. Myers says the band members he's talked to have no memory of this record. Now, it wouldn't surprise me if this disc was actually by The Innocence in disguise (see THE GROOVES I HAVE).

Patty Whipp and the Infinite Blue - WALKIN' b/w IT'S GONE (Tevar 1497; 1969).

***ALBUMS***

[NOTE: For those who've been here before, the high school / college band / choir albums listed here previously are now listed in the post "High School / College Bands & Choirs."]

Charles Hall - FAITHFULLY YOURS (Canzone Productions, number unknown, 1977). This keyboardist and the label were based in Houghton.

Joe Arkansas - YOOPANESE (label unknown; c.1984). Cassette-only release by an embryonic version of Da Yoopers.

Night Ranger - FIND ME A THRILL: THE LOST LIVE ALBUM (unknown Japanese label; c.1988). Yes, Night Ranger, the "Sister Christian" boys! This album, which may be a bootleg and was released only in Japan, includes several tracks recorded during the band's August 1984 appearance in Marquette. ALERT! ALERT! IN JANUARY 2011, THE MARQUETTE CONCERT WILL BE ISSUED LEGITIMATELY ON A CD CALLED "AUTHORIZED BOOTLEG: LIVE MARQUETTE MICHIGAN 8/8/84." IT CAN BE PRE-ORRDERED AT AMAZON.COM.

Kris Erik Stevens [as DJ] - CRUISIN' 1970 (Increase label). This installment of the album series featuring top rock & roll DJs from the rock era "in action" lets us hear Kris Erik recreating a typical WLS program in 1970, when I might have heard him.

Kris Erik Stevens [as performer] - FEELINGS (GRC label, 1972). Kris wrote the lyrics to all the songs on this album (no, as far as I know, it doesn't include the much-maligned Morris Albert tune); Jim Peterik wrote the music to most of them, and Peterik's band The Ides of March did most of the instrumental backing. The album was recorded in both Chicago and Atlanta, GA (GRC's locale), and includes "Training Wheels," the B-side of Kris's Sunlight single (see post "The Grooves I Have") and "Professional Man," which I saw Kris perform on the March of Dimes Telethon, apparently in '72.

Sonny Stitt - TORNADO (Jazz Masters label, 1974). This obscure album by the jazz saxman, released on the Grand Rapids-based Jazz Masters label, includes a track called "Escanaba Beat," composed by Eddie Russ, a Pittsburgh, PA musician who once lived and worked in Escanaba.

The Wayfarers - THE WAYFARERS...LIVE (label unknown, 1974). This trio of NMU students recorded this album, not in concert, but in an NMU bandroom. They continued to perform in the Marquette area well into the 1990s.

The Grooves I Have

These are the U.P.-connected records I have in my personal collection. (And I want to emphasize that, unless I state otherwise in an entry, I do NOT own any of the records I discuss in the other entries of this blog.)

***SINGLES***

The Coppertones - COQUETTE b/w WEDDING BELLS (DL&T Enterprises A-2001); SIX DAYS ON THE ROAD; IF YOU LEAVE ME TONIGHT b/w POLKA MEDLEY; WIPE OUT (Rapid Records OV-379; c.1980). The Coppertones were a Rapid River country band produced by pioneering Escanaba DJ "Wailin' Wayne" Nault. "Coquette," featuring Joe Micheau on steel guitar, became a local hit, thanks to relentless airplay on the local country station; the Rapid Records EP may have been all that "remained" from an aborted album.

Jeff Cowell, Scott Furlow, John Richtig, Jim Counter - IRON MOUNTAIN CENTENNIAL SONG b/w DAYS I'M BACK (Ski Jumping JC-500). This single was released to commemorate the city of Iron Mountain's centennial in 1979. Cowell wrote the A-side; Cowell and Furlow wrote the B-side. Richtig was a member of both the New Breed and Ravelles (see the post "Some Grooves I Don't Have").

Monte DeGrave - SHE STILL CARES b/w KISS IN THE PARK (Athon 109; c.1970). Now an Escanaba-area businessman, Monte was a teenager when he composed and recorded these two songs. Years later, Monte Lee (as he was now calling himself) did a country CD which included a remake of "She Still Cares."

Duke Ellington & his Orch. - ANATOMY OF A MURDER b/w FLIRTIBIRD (Columbia 4-41427; c.1959). Two tunes from the soundtrack of the classic film, which remains the U.P.'s proudest cinematic moment.

Jack Elliott - M.I.A. SOLDIER b/w TRUCKER JIM'S LAST RIDE (Jelly 8-11-79; c. 1979) Mr. Elliott (not Ramblin' Jack) was a Nashville singer / producer, and the B-side is his own composition; but the A-side was written by Elmer M. Aho, a U.P. GROOVES! pioneer (more about him later).

The French Church - SLAPNECK b/w WITHOUT CRYING (Princeton PR-102). This was one of at least four singles released during 1967-68 on Princeton Records, a Marquette label owned by one Fred Crook. The French Church was from Marquette, and included Warren MacDonald, later owner of MacDonald Music Store in Marquette.

Lorraine Irving - IF YOU WERE LOSING HIM TO ME b/w JUST MARRIED (Queensgate 8061Q27). Lorraine was an Escanaba homemaker; the two songs on her only single were first recorded by (respectively) Jean Shepard and Faron Young.

Omo the Hobo / Omo the Lobo / Smiley Joe Omohundro - The Fayette-born troubadour has a separate post on this blog.

The Prophets of Doom - I TOLD YOU b/w BABA-DO-WAH (Peninsula 001; c.1967). Peninsula Records was an unofficial "division" of Bands Unlimited, the Escanaba-based talent agency run by Gene Smiltneck, who produced and engineered Peninsula's two singles. (The label was actually owned by Gene's brother Leon; and there is no connection between this Peninsula label and an earlier Peninsula label based in Cadillac, MI). The Prophets of Doom were one of Bands Unlimited's top attractions in the late '60s; "I Told You" was written by the band's bassist, Dave Watchorn, while "Baba-Do-Wah" was written by one David Brooks.

The Riot Squad - COME ON, LET'S GO b/w FERRY 'CROSS THE MERSEY (Peninsula 002; c.1967). Peninsula's second release was by The Riot Squad (not the British band), who turned out to be the dominant force in the Escanaba music scene; for more than two decades after their breakup, Escanaba's most popular local bands tended to be "descendants" of the Squad. Side A is an eccentric version of the Ritchie Valens oldie, with odd chord and tempo changes and a scorching guitar solo; Side B is the Gerry & the Pacemakers hit with lyrics hopelessly mangled.

Rockarolla - ONE NIGHT STAND (FOR ROCK AND ROLL) b/w WANT YOU TONIGHT (no label name, but recorded at B. Fleetwood Sound; master # NR 16257-1/2). This short-lived Escanaba band, led by Phil Nadeau, wrote and recorded this single in 1985. Nadeau, who also made some earlier tracks with his previous band Tangent, now owns his own guitar-building and repairing business, at www.nadeauguitars.com. Tell him I sent you.

Rocking Chair - YOU CAUGHT ME LAUGHING b/w I.O.I.O. (Musc World 001); DISCO DANCING b/w LOVING & LIVING (Music World 002). Arguably the most successful "descendant" of the Riot Squad, this trio - Greg Curran, Robert Derouin and Brendan Williams, all former Squadders - released these two singles on their own Music World label, as well as an album described in the ALBUMS section below. The first single's songs were written by, respectively, John Hiatt & the Bee Gees; the second single's tunes are both Rocking Chair originals.

Kris Erik Stevens - TRAINING WHEELS b/w I KEPT ON LOVING YOU (Sunlight label). Ishpeming-born Kris Erik became a nationally-known DJ on Chicago's powerful WLS; this single was put out by Sunlight Records, a Chicago label. Side A was written by Jim Peterik, then of the Ides of March ("Vehicle"), later of Survivor ("Eye of the Tiger"); Side B is a Paul Williams / Roger Nichols composition.

***ALBUMS***

[NOTE: For those who've been here before, the high school / college band / choir albums that were listed here previously are now listed in the "High School / College Bands & Choirs" post.]

Come Alive Singers - HAPPY FEET (no label name, but "Recorded and Mastered by Sound 80" - S80 421-2671S); SOMEWHERE IN THE WIND ... I HEAR A SONG (Sound 80 S80 1191S). See separate post on Sacred Heart / Come Alive Singers.

The Gospel Heirs - I WILL SERVE HIM (Golden Echo Recording 808G5213; 1973). This Escanaba-based quartet, who toured and performed throughout the U.P., recorded this album in Appleton, WI.

Mark Mitchell - THE TREES FELL (White Pine 31003X); UNSUNG SONGS (White Pine 003). These albums by this "workingman & songwriter here in the back country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula" is filled with songs about U.P. history and the "unsung" people who made it. THE TREES FELL includes the theme from "Discovering," the long-running outdoors show on WLUC-TV6 in Marquette.

Hoot Roberts - INVITATION TO THE BLUES (Choco 1340-320). This was apparently the only LP release for Choco Records, which gives its address as "RR2, Marquette, Michigan". Wisconsin-based country singer Hoot Roberts also recorded for Wisconsin labels like Cuca and his own Owl label.

Rocking Chair - CHILDHOOD DREAMS (Fantasy World 2481). This direct "descendant" of the Riot Squad (see above) was one of the U.P.'s most popular local bands during the 1970's. Their one album (they'd previously released two singles - see SINGLES section above) included two original compositions.

Warney Ruhl & his Orchestra - MIRACLES IN MUSIC, VOLUME 1 (Gail & Rice Productions, no number). Houghton-born, Suomi College-educated Warney Ruhl led the orchestra on "Dinner Date," a weekday program on the old Mutual Broadcasting System. This album was recorded "live and in stereo" at the Calumet Theatre. (As far as I know, there were no other volumes.)

The Son-Life Singers - "ALIVE AND LIVING" (RPC label; master nos. Z 42441/2). This folk-chorus, from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church of Champion (Viola Turpeinen's hometown), made this album of "Sacred Folk Music" (so says the front cover), including the Youngbloods hit "Get Together."

Up With People - UP WITH PEOPLE (SING-OUT MUSICAL) (Pace 101). For the time being, I'm counting Mackinac Island as part of the U.P., which means bringing in this estimable organization, which began on Mackinac Island as a project of Moral Re-Armaments, Inc. (the former Oxford Group). This album was the soundtrack of a syndicated TV special filmed on Mackinac Island, showing the Colwells (UWP's creators and writers), various soloists (one of whom was a young Glenn Close) and the original UWP chorus going through their, ahem, paces.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan - On Record!

[NOTE TO NEWCOMERS: This was my first post to this blog; for historical purposes, I've left it the way I wrote it, even though certain things have changed along the way.]


Greetings, fellow earthlings. Welcome to U.P. GROOVES! - my attempt to chronicle every commercially-released record, released on or before December 1986, with a connection to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan. (Why the cut-off date? See below.) If a record involved at least one U.P. native and/or resident in its making, or was recorded in the U.P., or mentions the U.P. in its lyrics or title, it qualifies for mention in U.P. GROOVES!

This blog is actually a "back-up" for my U.P. GROOVES! website, which (at this writing) can still be accesssed at http://tinyurl.com/y8o5rn.

U.P. GROOVES! is an outgrowth of my being (a) a U.P. native and lifelong resident, and (b) a lifelong record collector. I first conceived the project in the mid-1980's, around the time Michigan was preparing to celebrate its sesquicentennial; it was originally going to be an album of records by U.P. rock bands - sort of a U.P. equivalent of "Nuggets" or "Pebbles." I soon discovered, however, that in order to even get started on the project, I'd have to do "primary research" - meaning, I'd have to go out there, track down all the people involved in making these records (at least the ones I could find), and interview them. I was willing, but I wasn't able - I had neither the funds nor the transportation to do all that, and the project went to sleep.

I still don't have the funds or the transportation to do all these interviews. But now I have somethng I never had back then - the internet. In 2000, I began using the 'net to track down some of the people I needed to talk to, and along the way discovered fellow collectors who knew even more about U.P. records than I did.

Now U.P. GROOVES! actually stands a chance of being more than just a "gleam in my eye." It has already expanded beyond its original rock-only focus, and now covers all genres of popular music. And its ultimate objective? First, once I've gotten enough info, I plan to write a series of articles for U.P. papers and magazines; if these go well, I'll expand the project into a book. But, of course, my ultimate goal is to see the info I gather used to create a legitimate CD (or CD series) re-releasing these tracks, or at least the very best of them.The U.P. has always taken great pride in its artistic, popular-culture creations, especially when the "outside world" appreciates them - "Anatomy of a Murder," Ernest Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River," etc. Yet it's let its "native-born" records go unchronicled and unheralded - in this project, I hope to rectify that, and give the U.P. something else in which to take pride.

Now, why the cut-off date of December 1986? Because that's when the musical-comedy group Da Yoopers, formed by Jim DeCaire and Joe Potila, released their first single, "Rusty Chevrolet." (For those who've never heard it, it's a Christmas song about a wild ride through a U.P. winter in a disintegrating Chevy.) When Da Yoopers came along, an era came to an end - the era I'm chronicling in U.P. GROOVES! In this era - the U.P. GROOVES! era, if you will - when a U.P. musical act released a commercial record, it was real news - a true rarity - a surprise - an event. When a U.P. act made and put out a commercial record, people really sat up and took notice - "Wow! Some of OUR people did that? Holy Wah!" It was an era of local singers and bands in isolated, far-flung areas, far distant from any recording-industry center, yet who still managed to make a record that they could actually sell to their friends and fans, maybe get played on the radio, perhaps get them some attention outside their own narrow base, and - definitely - show to the world and say, "Hey! That's me/us! I/We made this!"

In some indefinable way, after Da Yoopers began and established themselves, that era ended. Da Yoopers' label, You Guys Records, is the first U.P. record label to last more than a couple of years (at this writing, it's almost 20 years old); and Da Yoopers are the first U.P. musical act to get extensive airplay on national radio (mostly on the Dr. Demento show). Somehow, with Da Yoopers unwittingly leading the way, it became easier - less of a rarity - for U.P. musical acts to make records (and now CDs), and get some attention outside their local areas. Mind you, it's still an event when a U.P. act makes a commercial CD - just not as BIG an event. (I'm not criticizing it, nor am I putting down Da Yoopers - they've been supportive of U.P. GROOVES! up to now. I'm just telling it the way I see it - you may disagree.)

As I continue to transfer info from the site to this blog (reorganizing some of it along the way), I hope you'll continue to tune in, and if you have some relevant comments or info, don't hesitate to post them.