Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Della Reese - The Troublemaker (1971)

When this 45 was released in 1971, singer Della Reese was in a period of transition, adding 'actress / TV personality' to her list of achievements.

A couple of years prior, she became the first black woman in America to host her own television variety series, and in 1970 she was the first black woman to guest-host
Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

Throughout the 1970s and well beyond,
Della Reese became a familiar sight on television, whether appearing as a panelist on game shows, in guest slots on dramas and sitcoms, parts in TV movies and several
co-starring roles in established series, all while still maintaining a touring schedule as a headlining nightclub singer.

Her ties with music began as a child, singing Gospel music in church.
At age thirteen she was 'discovered' by Mahalia Jackson and hired to be one of her backing singers.
After forming her own group, The Meditation Singers, she eventually moved into singing Jazz and Rhythm & Blues, and received a recording contract with Jubilee Records in 1953.
A move to the RCA label in 1959 yielded a great string of albums and some of her biggest hits.

Still active in her seventies, the actress / singer / minister now presides over her own church in Inglewood, California.

Listen to:
Della Reese - The Troublemaker
(Avco Embassy 45, 1971)
(click for audio)

'The Troublemaker' was later a hit for
Willie Nelson, when it became the title track to the gospel-themed LP he released in 1976 on the Columbia label (though it was recorded three years earlier for Atlantic).

Is the Della Reese version more successful in not telegraphing the 'surprise twist' ending of the song's lyrics? There could be an argument for that, but the difference in arrangement and the verve of her delivery make for an interesting change.

Perhaps you can help clear up the mystery of who was the first to record 'The Troublemaker' - -?

There were at least three versions of it released on 45, all in 1969.

- One by Chris Morgan (who he?), as 'Troublemaker' (one word) on a Bell label single produced by
Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers.

- One by Country singer Johnny Darrel, on United Artists, as 'Trouble Maker'.

- And one by Lee Hazlewood, on his own LHI label, as 'Trouble Maker'.

Who released their version first? And were there others?

Any information you can share is much appreciated, leave a comment or drop an e-mail. Thanks!

The song was written by Bruce Belland and Dave Somerville, former members of the pop vocal quartet The Four Preps.

Bruce Belland had been a founding member of the group, formed in the mid-1950s by four friends all enrolled at Hollywood High School. They enjoyed their greatest fame in the late '50s and early '60s. Their song '26 Miles (Santa Catalina)' reached #2 in the U.S. pop charts.

In the '50s, “Diamond” Dave Somerville had been the lead singer with Rock & Roll vocal group, The Diamonds (whose hits
included 'Little Darlin'' and 'The Stroll').

Somerville left The Diamonds in 1961 to pursue a solo career as a Folk artist (and sometime actor), changing his name to
David Troy. He joined The Four Preps in 1966, replacing one of the original members.

◀ At left: Belland & Somerville, sometime in the 1990s.

When The Four Preps disbanded in 1969, Belland & Somerville performed for a time as a duo.

According to Wikipedia, they appeared in concerts with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mathis, and were a regular act on the CBS-TV comedy series 'The Tim Conway Show'.

Judging by the song's lyrics, it seems likely that Belland & Somerville wrote 'The Troublemaker' sometime in this period, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence that they recorded it. Maybe it's something that they performed in concert or on TV? Again, feel free to chime in...

Belland & Somerville have each remained busy over the years, performing in various reunited configurations of their old groups, and in assorted solo projects, including successful ventures writing songs for TV and film.

- See also:
Another funky Della Reese 45 on Avco Embassy - - From 1970, a cover version of 'Compared To What' can be heard at Flea Market Funk. (follow link)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Search term: "Jughead's hat"

The other night, while attending a small dinner party, the conversation turned suddenly to the subject of Jughead's trademark; his goofy, crown-like hat.

I was surprised to discover that I hadn't brought it up, given my Archie obsession (that I wasn't aware I had until relatively recently).

"Well no, I don't think it's meant to be a crown..."

"Like one of those paper ones, that comes from inside an exploding party favor - - ?"

"Um, more like, uh, a kind of beanie - - ? You can see them in old movies, old comics and stuff, so surely people must have actually worn them. I guess they were popular with kids in the 1930s or '40s, during the depression. Homemade from, uh, felt or - - leather, maybe? Encrusted with buttons or bottle caps or other bling. Think of 'The Little Rascals'. Kids shining shoes on street corners, or - - y'know, teen-age delinquents riding around in jalopies."

It was quickly agreed that probably some answers could be found online, probably even pictures of people actually wearing the things, and thus it was easy for the topic of conversation to quickly move elsewhere.

As you know, searching the internet does bring answers, but often not quite definitive, wholly satisfying ones.
- - And don't hold your breath waiting for definitive answers to appear here, either.
Close, maybe, but not quite.

In the case of 'the Jughead hat', certainly there are good pop culture examples of the popularity that style of cap once held with America's youth...

At right: ▶ detail from a 1945 print ad drawn by cartoonist William Steig.
(Via Weird Universe)

Below: ▼ Panel from
All-Star Comics #40 (1948),
The Justice Society of America fights juvenile delinquency in 'The Plight of the Nation!'
(via Comics Make No Sense)

Below: ▼ Cover art to Harvey Comics'
Little Audrey and Melvin #40 (1969).
Melvin might make a good stand-in for Jughead's young cousin, 'Souphead'.
Please note that the decorations on Melvin's hat are fundamentally identical to Jughead's standard doodads.
(click on image to enlarge)

In looking around for the real-world origins of this hat style, some answers presented themselves at Wikipedia's
'Jughead Jones' entry, a few came from the threads of a spirited discussion at The Fedora Lounge, while a great many more came from a 'Comic Book Legends Revealed' entry at
CBR's Comics Should Be Good!
(follow link, and many thanks to Brian Cronin)

Some historic context:
The Comics Should Be Good article reminds us that hats were once more popular in the U.S. than they are today.
At the beginning of the 20th century and for several decades after, with few exceptions all adults wore hats.

This made available a great number of old, worn-out hats for creative re-use, or as hand-me-downs from parents to their children.

Concurrently, many factory workers and laborers of the era wore beanies or skullcaps on the job for safety.

It kept grease and other gunk out of their hair, and kept their hair out of their eyes and out of the way.
A brimless hat was safer too, and didn't obscure one's field of vision.

◀ (1925 factory photo detail via Shorpy. Follow link.)

The standard men's fedora is a soft, felt hat that rose to widespread popularity beginning in the 1920s.

◀ In addition to being soft enough to roll up when not in use, a feature of the felt fedora was that it could be shaped and creased according to the desires of its wearer.

This made the fedora a prime candidate for anyone seeking to repurpose an old hat.

It appears that the first people to wear the original 'Jughead'-styled caps were auto mechanics, welders and other workmen who found they could get the same 'safety' function of a factory worker's beanie by altering an old worn-out fedora.

The 'inversion' method was to turn a fedora upside-down, push the hat's crown inside-out, then turn up the brim and trim away its excess with a scalloped cut.

Form meets function elegantly, and
an iconic style is born.

- - And of course, style and elegance came naturally to Goober Pyle of TV's
'The Andy Griffith Show'... ▶

Kids began altering hand-me-down fedoras too, either to emulate their working class dads,
or to look cool (or both), and the fashion statement soon entered the pop-culture consciousness.

A symbol of youthful rebellion? Or worse ??
As far as popular media goes, it seems that before long the depiction of the 'Jughead' beanie could be used to symbolize (depending on the era and the age of the 'youth'), anything from a feisty kid to a badge of 'cool' or toughness, or even to a cliché signifying indolence or social deviancy.

◀ Towards the beginning of his long career of portraying
over-aged delinquents,
Leo Gorcey wore a similar beanie playing opposite James Cagney in the 1938 film, 'Angels with Dirty Faces'.

Moving along into his interminable string of East Side Kids & Bowery Boys movies, Gorcey would soon (literally) lose the beanie and replace it with a larger, more flamboyant hat that better marked him as a leader of men - - or at least, of men who sort of act like boys.

◀ Jumping ahead to 1974, in Charles Bronson's gritty action drama 'Death Wish', Jeff Goldblum wore the Jughead hat in his screen debut as the truly deviant 'Freak #1'.

(See more at He Shot Cyrus)

Our pal Jughead Jones first appeared (along with Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper) in the very first Archie comics story, in
Pep Comics #22, released in December of 1941.

In those early years (when all the characters looked a bit different), Juggy's hat usually was drawn to be a bit more recognizable as the modified fedora / beanie described above.

A cover image from 1946. ▶

As time went on and the model for the characters hit a stylized norm, artists drawing Jughead would increasingly use a sort of 'shorthand' in depicting his hat...

Above: ▲ 1955 and 1959.
At right: 1963. ▶
(click on images to enlarge)

It probably didn't help matters that the real-life model for the hat had fallen further and further out of vogue (or even general knowledge) over the years.

Certainly by now public recognition has declined steeply, as evidenced by dinnertable discussions everywhere;
"So what is up with that freaky hat that Jughead wears?"

Time marched on, the points on Jug's hat got higher, and it became less of what it started as, and more of its own,
unique whatever-the-heck it is.
The echoes of a court-jester's hat are there - - Jughead is the 'wise fool' character for the Riverdale crowd, after all...

Chatter around the web mentions that there have been times in recent history when the creators of Archie comics have tried to get rid of the hat, or 'update' it to today's ubiquitous baseball cap, but the fans still clamor for that 'crown-beanie thing'.

The comic books have at various times also tried to add special bits of trivia about the hat into the mythology, including it being a key to Jughead's 'powers' during the mid-1960s and the Archie gang's odd, bandwagon-jumping nod to the camp 'super-hero craze'.

Below: ▼ Transforming into 'Captain Hero' in 1966, via DIAL B for BLOG. (follow link)

Hmm, you don't see too many costumed heroes with hats. Masks, sure. Helmets, maybe...

Oh, so speaking of trivia - -
In wading through info on the web, I reserve the right to pick and choose what I believe
(and so should you).

- One bit of info about Jug's cap that I don't quite buy is the 'fact' that the dot and dash that became his standard decorations are meant to represent the morse code character for 'A', and the 'A' is for 'Archie'.
Yes, 'dot-dash' is 'A', and it may be another 'shorthand' instance as a handy insider guide to anyone hired to draw Archie comics, but I personally don't believe that a morse code 'A' was Jughead's intent, is all I'm saying.

- Another factoid that doesn't fly with me is from that original
Comics Should Be Good article. In summing up, it's mentioned that the term 'Jaghead' was once used for people who wore these "jagged beanies", and that may have been how Jughead first got his name when the character was created. It makes a pretty good story, but no, sorry, please show me I'm wrong, but it just doesn't sit right with me.

Further Confusions:
Complications over fully understanding the mysteries of the Jughead hat in our modern age come not only from the passage of time, but from the style of hat lacking a definitive name, and as a consequence of it being mass produced after its original handmade introduction to the world of style.

It was likely sometime in the 1930s when the original home-grown caps had caught on to the point that tailored versions for kids began to be manufactured and sold, billed as 'button beanies' or other such names.

◀ Whoopee hats (or Whoopee caps) shared the same basic configuration. They were part of a fad that appears to have peaked around 1929, mostly on college campuses.

They popped up in several popular songs of the day, including 'The Whoopee Hat Brigade', which was recorded by many different bands.

- You can hear a version from an old 78 by Harry Reser's Six Jumping Jacks and learn a bit more at Zorch's Inner Sanctum. (follow link)

Searching around today, you'll see variations on the basic shape being called palookaville caps,
devils caps, clubhouse hats, Kingpins, etc.
Like the Whoopee hat, many of them seem to share the characteristic of being garishly multi-colored, a quality they don't share with Jughead's hat - - which I'll venture was originally intended as the homemade fedora modification we've learned about, and not store-bought, because:

a) We know that Jughead seldom has any money, and
b) When he does, he's more likely to spend it on food than clothes.

The Jughead-styled cap is sometimes also identified as a dink or a rat cap, which are more typically identified as being related to the old tradition of the 'freshman beanie', a once-popular form of mild hazing on some college campuses that goes back at least as far as the beginning of the 20th century.

Running the search term "jughead's hat" (or other variations) and looking around online for some modern-day examples yields interesting results.

You'll see all manner of multi-colored, blinged-out versions, 'revivals' and lots of knitted caps that approximate the shape.

You'll also see a variety of custom jobs that range from high-quality couture that seems miles away from the 'Riverdale' look, to inspired home-craft projects from folks earnestly trying to bring themselves closer to their hero, Jughead.

Any insights you can share or pop media examples of the Jughead-styled hat down through the ages are most welcome. Leave a comment, drop a line...

UPDATE, 5.1.09: The sudden flurry of traffic this post has received has been fun to witness.
Check the comments here and the long discussion at MetaFilter for lots of interesting insights, observations and memories.
Great to read so many stories of people who wore these hats 'back in the day', either the hand-made versions or the store-bought variants.
Good to be reminded of Encyclopedia Brown's nemesis, Bugs Meany, who sported one - -
- - And cool to be shown the assorted Kellogg's Pep Pins that adorned many of the button beanies.

ADDENDUM, 6.9.09: Comments and e-mails continue to arrive, citing further instances of the hat in pop culture history.

Received a nice message from Alex Boese of
The Museum of Hoaxes.
He was kind enough to send along the image of a Sunday newspaper page from the Big Spring Daily Herald, dated October 9th, 1938. ▶

It contains an example of cartoonist H. T. Webster's cartoon series 'The Thrill That Comes Once In A Lifetime' (sometimes titled simply, 'The Thrill Of A Lifetime').

The panel shows a fedora conversion in action (though the result is a 'brim down' variant).

Thanks Alex!

A few more vintage H.T. Webster panels can be seen at
Yesterday's Papers.

6.23.09: Received a comment from Bob of Bob + Dusty's
that includes a link to his Flickr page featuring this old Russell Sambrook illustration.

Thanks Bob!

6.26.09: Meanwhile, following up on the comment he left,
Owen has sent along his photos of the real deal, the hat he wore as a kid in the early 1950s, still in his possession, with some of the original doodads still attached!

(click on images to ENLARGE and get a good look) ▶

Owen adds some context - - " I wrote in the comments: born in '47, and this baby was a big part of my early childhood. My mother taught me how to sew the gumball-machine charms on it. This would have been until I was about 10, but obviously it has remained an icon and treasured.

"It looks as though some of the things have fallen off, and it also looks to me, now, as if some of those charms I sewed onto it are REALLY weird. What's with the Sacajewia-with-baby one? Or the flaky-foont-esque guy in the bathtub?

"I think the wooden bowling balls and bronzed baby shoes came with it."

Thanks for sharing, Owen! You must be the coolest kid on your block!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Help keep those cherubs neat-looking (1947 print ad)

(Click on image to ENLARGE in a new window)

As it happens, the world in which we're living has made me so cynical and jaded that I can't look at this vintage, post WWII charitable plea without being amused.

I've become conditioned to read the term 'altar boy' as the set-up to a punch line.
How about you?

It doesn't help that my ignorant heathen curiosity is piqued by the mention of exotic cassocks and surplices - - to say nothing of trying to imagine really 'getting' the differences between dalmatics and chasubles and simars.

A rochet? The mozzetta??

Cinctures and tippets and albs! Oh my!!

Learn something new every day...
(ignorant heathen apologies available by request)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Changin' times in Riverdale: Funnybook life lessons from 1965 & 1972

Here's another peek back at the manner in which the various Archie Comics titles of the 1960s and 70s displayed their particular reflection of that era.

It should fit right in with most of the other Riverdale-related posts on this blog, and the accompanying (occasionally expanding) flickr set; 'Archie comics of the 1960's as a mirror to fads, fashion and trends'. (follow links)

Archie and his pals gain some valuable insights in each of the two 'timelessly timely' tales shown below.

First, from 1965, it's a lesson regarding gender roles.

Then, in 1972, another father-son battle leads to learning a little perspective.

A valuable insight the reader can gain from reading both of these stories might be that the streets of Riverdale can be a dangerous place...

...But it's not all life lessons - - Dig those groovy fashions!

'The First Step', from Betty and Veronica #119 (1965)

⬅ (Click either on images or page numbers to open an ENLARGED page in a new window) ⬇

(page 1)
(page 2)
(page 3)
(page 4)
(page 5)
(page 6)

'My Fathers Eyes', from Life With Archie #118 (1972)

⬅ (Click either on images or page numbers to open an ENLARGED page in a new window) ⬇

(page 1)
(page 2)
(page 3)
(page 4)
(page 5)
(page 6)
(page 7)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marcia Ball - 'Circuit Queen' LP (1978)

Blues singer / pianist Marcia Ball has become something of an institution in Austin, Texas, and down in New Orleans, and at all the music festivals and venues she's played all over creation in the past thirty years or so, rocking audiences like a force of nature.

Born into a musical family, playing piano since childhood, she began playing professionally sometime during her college years in the late 1960s.
She went from playing in Gum, a psychedelic rock band in Louisiana to leading 'Freda and The Firedogs', a progressive country band in
Austin, Texas.

After that band's breakup, she began using her own name in her own band.

Her first solo LP was released in '78, and though a fine effort, it featured a country sound that (like Marcia herself, then ▼) bore little resemblance to the distinctive Gulf Coast R&B sound of the artist she'd become.

- Click here to see the full track listing, songwriter credits and session personnel for this album, featuring a fine array of musicians like Albert Lee,
Rodney Crowell, Buddy Emmons, Carlene Carter,
Janie Fricke, and Nicolette Larson.

From the Marcia Ball LP
'Circuit Queen' (Capitol Records LP, 1978),
Listen to:

Never Been Hurt
I'll Be Doggone
Circuit Queen
Big River
Good Times, Good Music, Good Friends

(click for audio)

- - OR download the full album (10 tracks) in one 68.4 Mb zipfile.

-See also: The Official Marcia Ball Web Site

Reasons To Be Cheerful: Isabel Samaras

It was in a previous 'Reasons To Be Cheerful' post, a little over a year ago, that I happily reported that I'd found a new website for artist Isabel Samaras.

- That post mentioned how the various mythologies at play in her paintings had been changing in recent years; It also displayed a few examples, provided links to more, and excitedly mentioned that a book collecting her work was being planned. (Follow link)

Now here we are, Spring of '09, and I'm excited to have received word of an Isabel Samaras double-whammy in the offing...

◀Her long-awaited monograph from Chronicle Books, 'On Tender Hooks: The Art of Isabel Samaras' is due to make its appearance any day now, and looks lovely.

Chronicle is also simultaneously releasing a fancy limited edition of the book that's packaged with a print, and a handy paperback book of 30 Samaras postcards, which will surely feature some of her earlier 'classical' riffs on pop-culture icons.

But wait! There's more - -

A new series of Isabel Samaras paintings will be unveiled in a few weeks in
San Francisco!

- Into The Woodz: New Works by Isabel Samaras will show at The Shooting Gallery, 839 Larkin Street in San Francisco, from 5/9/2009 - 6/4/2009.

◀ The new paintings take the childrens classic 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', and re-works it as a more contemporary romantic tale.

In a preview posting at her blog, i feel it too, Isabel gives some details:

"When I started working on the paintings for this show I was thinking about the Princess culture being sold to little girls – how your highest aspiration is to be rescued, married off and whisked away to a far off castle.

"But what happened to the girl who didn’t hook up with a Prince, who stayed in the woods?

"I wanted to explore that story, so for this show I picked Goldilocks, and as I so often do I created my own version of a happier ending — that the moment when she and Baby Bear lay eyes on each other it was love at first sight. (Goldy has definitely gone to the bears.)

"In my imagination the girl who stayed in the woods got to find herself after she got lost — she didn’t trade her identity in for a tiara, and she found true love (because love conquers all, even inter-species romance)."

- Read more of Isabel's thoughts about these paintings and sneak a few further peeks of them at her blog.

- Read more about the gallery show at Happenstand and at Juxtapoz.

Freshly-stirred links