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July 2012 Archives

Tommy Bartlett, Reflections in the Water

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Donna & Cliff Conley---a team (Courtesy of Tommy Bartlett Show)


WISCONSIN DELLS, WIs.--Love floats in the rarefied air of the Tommy Bartlett Show.

The Americana water ski show celebrates its 60th anniversary this summer in the Wisconsin Dells. Over the Fourth of July weekend a dozen Bartlett alumni from the 1950s and 60s gathered at the outdoor venue along the shores of Lake Delton.
They reminisced, tried some new tricks and gave a few tips to young whippersnappers from today's show.

I was so focused on gathering oral histories, I didn't consider the fact that the Bartlett show was a likely precursor to "Dirty Dancing" in terms of hot summertime romance--until my videographer Jon Sall pointed this out, along with my cameraman friend Tom Vlodek, who was on assignment at the Bartlett show for NBC-TV. Those camera guys have a lot of time on their hands.
"Listen, when you have beautiful women....," chortled Lance Renfrow, who skied at the Dells between 1959-61. "....I mean we loved it. We had Miss America's. Miss Floridas.........."

Curtis Mayfield: Here But I'm Gone

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The songwriting linchpins of the 1960s and '70s soul train were Smokey Robinson in Detroit, Allen Toussaint in New Orleans, Issac Hayes and Dave Porter in Memphis.

And Curtis Mayfield in Chicago.
Yes, and Curtis Mayfield in Chicago.

Besides scoring 13 of his own Top 10 singles in the '60s and '70s, Mayfield also wrote "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" for Major Lance, "Let's Do It Again" for the Staple Singers and the resplendent ballad "Rainbow" for Gene Chandler.

These songs shared Mayfield's affinity for gospel harmonies, horn charts more luscious than gritty Memphis or New Orleans brass, percussive bottoms and poetic wordplay.

Mayfield will be celebrated July 20 in a "Here But I'm Gone" tribute concert at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City as part of the prestigious Lincoln Center Festival.
The show features Sinead O'Connor, The Roots, Memphis soul singer William Bell, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Kyp Malone and others. Chicago will be represented by my favorite Montana, Mavis Staples, and Mayfield's former singing group (1958-70) The Impressions. A 14-piece house band will be led by music director Binky Griptite of the Dap Kings.......

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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