Rick Nelson Pt. 2: "The Pop Years"

In 1960, Rick Nelson was signed to co-star in a World War II-era comedy adventure film called The Wackiest Ship in the Army with Jack Lemmon that was filmed in Hawaii. The plot involved Lemmon having to take a dilapidated sailing ship into enemy waters on a secret mission. Because he was already signed to do the film, Rick had to turn down John Wayne’s offer to appear in The Alamo. Rick’s part went to Frankie Avalon.

Rick played Ensign Tommy Hanson, the only member of the motley crew, besides Lemmon, who knows anything about working a ship with sails. Ozzie insisted that the script provide an opportunity for Rick to sing a 1940’s song in a scene at the Officer’s Club in Pearl Harbor. Rick performed “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”, a song that was first made popular by Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong in 1947. Watch Rick's performance of the song in a clip from the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZ1GvbjpV-s

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Rick Nelson Pt. 1: "Rockabilly Ricky"

When rock and roll critics and historians first began looking back at the history of the genre in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Rick Nelson’s talents as a rock and roller were greatly undervalued. Influential Village Voice critic Robert Christgau called him “An inspired fake” and the first edition of the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll relegated him to the Teen Idols chapter instead of the Rockabilly chapter where he rightly belonged.

Today, the early teen idol era is often thought of as consisting of shallow, deriviative songs with little or no lasting value. Nelson was stung by being lumped into that category more than all of the negative reviews he ever received put together. He was distressed when he saw his photo surrounded by singers who were recorded more because of their looks and hairstyles rather than talent. In a 1972 interview with the New York Times, Rick had this to say: "A lot of people try to equate me with guys like Frankie Avalon and Fabian, but in the old days I sold a lot of records over a period of time, and you can't sustain that by being just another pretty face."

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The Blue Light Turned-On Midland

The Blue Light was an important mid-Michigan teen dance center that featured major rock and roll acts, many of the state’s important regional bands, as well as a host of young garage bands formed in the wake of the British Invasion. The venue was the brainchild of Hersh Goodwald: a chemical engineer, businessman, part-time disc jockey, and avid record collector, who formed a partnership with some other investors to buy a building and transform it into Midland, Michigan’s first, and most important, nightclub for young people.

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Best Albums Of 2016: Two Views

Two music aficionados, with roughly 120 years of rock and roll fandom under our belts, select the past year's best albums/CDs for the 8th consecutive year. This is the first time we've included links to songs from the selected albums. We hope you enjoy them, and we encourage you to support your favorite artists by purchasing their recordings.

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Jimmy Hollywood's Greatest Hits

Jim Leach played an important part in Michigan rock and roll before he left for California and became a top Hollywood radio reporter, known around the country as ‘James St. James: The Real Jimmy Hollywood’. Because of his contributions to Michigan’s rock and roll legacy, Leach was chosen as an Honorary Inductee to the MRRL Hall of Fame in 2014. He has recently put out a CD titled “Jimmy Hollywood’s Greatest Hits” that features 14 recordings from Michigan bands that he worked with in the 60’s and 70’s and includes several songs that were released as singles on his own Chivalry label. MRRL contacted Leach in California by phone to talk about the artists and songs included in the collection.

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ARP 3 "Ghosts, Rumors, and Remains"

Cynthia awoke in the middle of the night with the record pressing plant on her mind. Had she been dreaming about the building that had once stood near her home? Although she hadn’t thought about the ruined plant in years, she suddenly felt compelled to learn more about it. Cynthia slipped out of bed to grab her laptop and googled ‘record company Owosso Mi’. The results of her online search would lead to not only a surprise but also some amazing discoveries that would inspire a quest to uncover the long lost story of the American Record Pressing company.

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ZZ Top and Bay City's Fake Zombies Scandal

by Daniel Ralston with Gary Johnson*

Chris White shakes his head and laughs when I show him the first photo. At 73, the bassist and songwriter for the reunited British psych-rock band the Zombies looks like a cool grandpa in black pants, blue dress shirt, and polar fleece vest — a sharp contrast from his septuagenarian bandmates who still sport leather jackets and tight pants. He adjusts his glasses and studies the image of the impostors, four flamboyantly dressed young men taken in 1969. We are backstage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills last October and after this brief intermission, White will join the rest of the band onstage to play the band’s cult classic 1967 album Odessey and Oracle in its entirety.

 

I pull up another grainy photo from 1969 on my laptop: a traditional black and white press photo for the Original “Zombies” (in conspicuous scare quotes), autographed. There are only four guys pictured despite the fact that the Zombies were a five-piece. I inform White that the two young men wearing cowboy hats are Dusty Hill and Frank Beard from the legendary Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top, although the names D. Cruz and Chris Page are scrawled over them. The real Zombies would have never worn cowboy hats. 

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