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January 2008 Archives

The Sound of Joe Henry

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8:28 p.m. Jan. 31

A good record producer is like a good editor. He or she maintains originality of the voice. The producer becomes an advocate for the artist’s material. The producer has vision.
Joe Henry fits this bill.
A few years ago Henry told me how he investigated Sam Cooke’s “Night Beat” as a template for his “I Believe In My Soul” compilation with soul singers Ann Peebles, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Mavis Staples and Billy Preston (who played on 1963's "Night Beat"). Henry did not set out to imitate Cooke’s intimate, stripped down affair, but he wanted to study the prominent vocals..........

Davenport Hotel, Spokane

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4:10 p.m. Jan. 26

I'm down with the tradition at the Davenport Hotel and Tower in downtown Spokane, Wash.
Opened in 1914, the Davenport was America’s first hotel with air conditioning. It was also the first hotel with housekeeping carts---designed by owner Louis Davenport.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were guests at the Davenport. Der Bingle launched his career as a drummer across the street from the hotel at the newly restored neo-Classical Bing Crosby Theater. Steroid free slugger Babe Ruth was a guest. Authors Zane Grey and Dashiell Hammet wrote scenes while staying in “the house of comfort” as the Davenport was promoted. I always thought “The House of Comfort” was a Bourbon Street “spa.” Here's a hot photo gallery which is part of the hotel's website:
http://www.thedavenporthotel.com/index.php?act=/gallery.
Check it out. And enjoy these other tidbits......
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Ken Nelson & Bakersfield Sound

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7:00 p.m. Jan. 14
The Christmas card didn’t arrive this year.
Around every mid-December for the past 10 years I received a Christmas card from Ken Nelson, the legendary Capitol Records producer who recorded Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Gene Vincent, the Louvin Brothers, Tex Ritter and so many others.
Nelson died on Jan. 6, just 13 days shy of his 97th birthday. He passed over of natural causes according to his daughter Claudia. Nelson was one of my country music heroes.
In the fall of 1987 I rented a car in Los Angeles and drove to Nelson’s home in Somis, Calif. Nelson was a forgotten figure in popular music and I wanted to write a story lobbying for his inclusion in the Country Music Hall of Fame. (He was finally inducted in 2001). In 1961 he co-founded the Country Music Association for crissakes! A story like Nelson's is why I got into journalism.
He had fallen into the shadows..............

Piano Bar Playlist, One for My Baby

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12:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 2008----
After our last union meeting I ran into my friend Tony at the Matchbox. I had to go to the Matchbox. Tony told me about his drummer who was stuck for nine hours in last weekend's pile-up on I-90 near Madison, Wis. I'm traveling that same highway this weekend.
In life, you can never have too much music.

Here's my current lounge/piano bar playlist for my road trip.
"Frank Sinatra," Cake
"Baubles, Bangles and Beads," Frank Sinatra...............

Light My Firey Piano Bar

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3:10 p.m. Jan. 8, 2008
With apologies to the late--and underrated Dan Fogelberg---it isn't the "Same Old Lang Syne" at Sabatino's restaurant on the northwest side of Chicago.
The Northern Italian restaurant and piano bar was hit by a Jan. 3 fire.
The blaze was contained to the food prep area in the back of the restaurant and damaged the roof of the mid-1980s eatery. Last week I drove by Sabatino's and it looks in good enough shape for a comeback. Sabatino's wasn't my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago (think LaScarola), but it was my favorite piano bar.
The regulars nestled around the seven seats at the piano seemed to be from Portage Park or Brooklyn, N.Y. The muscular aura worked especially well in the dimly lit mystery of Sabatino's. The piano bar backdrop featured stained glass windows replete with pierced hearts.
I hope Sabatino's don't go changing.
This weekend I'm heading to Minneapolis to hang around Nye's Polanise, another legendary piano bar. What happened to the rest of America's piano bars? Any suggestions? Any "Feelings?"
I once tried to pay a compliment to Vic Damone suggesting he was one of America's last great saloon/piano bar singers.........

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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