Sunday, January 26, 2014

BIG AL's JOVIAL JUKEBOX #27: "Whatever Happened to Randoph Scott?" by THE STATLER BROTHERS, 1974

Albie's Note: Although I was born late [1964] to be a probable fan, I LOVE what are now called "B-westerns," the Matinee fare that dominated rural boys' and girls' cinematic viewing habits at hinterlands film theatres from the 1920s to the 1950s.   Say what you want about this whole celluloid mythology... at its core it was truly allegorical... by this I mean that these films were really fables about good vs. evil, and they consistently taught respect for fellow human beings as well as the "minding of one's own business." 

No wonder Hollywood got rid of westerns!!

Now... a lot of people have made loving tributes to these films, but the very greatest nod may well have been this Top 30 Country song from back in  1974.   Behold The Statler Brothers great single "Whatever Happened to Randoph Scott?":

Everybody knows when you go to the show
you can't take the kids along.
You've gotta read the paper and know the code of G, PG, and R, and X,
and you gotta know what the movie's about
before you even go.
Tex Ritter's gone, and Disney's dead,
and the screen is filled with sex.


Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
ridin' the trail alone?
Whatever happened to Gene and Tex,
and Roy, and Rex, the Durango Kid?
Oh, Whatever happened to Randolph Scott,
his horse plain as could be?
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
has happened to the best of me.
[ guitar ]

Everybody’s tryin' to make a comment
about our doubts and fears.
True Grit's the only movie
I've really understood in years.
You gotta take your analyst along
to see if it's fit to see.
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
has happened to the industry.


Whatever happened to Johnny Mack Brown,
and Alan "Rocky" Lane?
Whatever happened to Lash LaRue?
I'd love to see them again.
Whatever happened to Smiley Burnett,
Tim Holt, and Gene Autry?
Whatever happened to all of these
has happened to the best of me.

Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
has happened to the industry.



Albie's Note:  Quality Comics was a superior outfit most famous today for producing Jack Cole's legendary PLASTIC MAN, and Will Eisner's  BLACKHAWK and THE SPIRIT  in their  original runs.   Interestingly, they seem to have produced less Super-hero titles than they did War, Western and Adventure fare.   They had a comic book called CRACK COMICS which ran for 62 issues from 1940 to 1949, when suddenly-- probably to cash in on the Western craze caused by Hopalong Cassidy and early Television-- they changed the title to CRACK WESTERN with issue # 63.
That  first western issue feature a lead-off story starring Arizona Ames, a blatant use of a title character's name from a popular Zane Grey novel of 1932.   They couldn't have hoped to get away with this for long-- and they didn't... by issue #66 their character's name was conveniently changed to Arizone RAINES for the remainder of his run [Was this a sly nod to the great early western writer William Mcleod Raines?? I certainly like to think so!]

Oddly , I really liked their interpretation of ol' "AZ Ames."  When I found and read his tales on the marvelous Digital Comic Musuem, I felt they had  a colorful B-western flair that was kinda legit and cool in its own way!   See if you agree...








Just for fun, here is a cool Lionel Trains ad from the same issue:  



Saturday, January 25, 2014

GUEST ARTICLE: "Kerouac The Conservative" by Robert Dean Lurie [Great!]

Albie's Note: If you know me at all, you probably know I love Jack Kerouac   [March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969], the Beatnik, poet, "docu-novelist," raging alcoholic, Catholic visionary from Lowell, Massachusetts. 
I was having a discussion in a bookstore once, in Bisbee, AZ, with a very "artsy" young female friend of mine  [about 2006, i think] and I happened to mention to her that one of my all-time favorite novels remains BIG SUR by Kerouac.
"Kerouac?"  She gasped. "You? Mr. Conservative?  What could you possibly like about Kerouac??"
"Well," I replied.  "Have you read much Kerouac?"
She admitted she had never actually read one of his works.
"You might try reading him." I said.  "He may not be exactly what you expect."
Let me add this: To this day I like the term "Beatnik," though-- as you may know-- Jack himself hated it.  He felt the media was turning his Pacifist/Catholic vision [he prefered the term "beatific"] into a joke, which they no doubt were. 
Me?  I actually like the crassness of it. It sort sort of rings true with my more Protestant/ Libertarian synthesis of many of the same ideas.  Recently I was asked by email:
"Do you really think you should call yourself a beatnik?" 
I replied-- in part-- that: "I actually consider myself a "Kerouac Beatnik," and the first word in that is a VERY important distinction."
The following excellent article, first published in the September 2012 issue of THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE magazine, does a much better job of explaining it than I ever could.
Good Reading!
Robert Dean Lurie
Beat novelist, Catholic, Republican—do you know Jack?
Someone’s gonna give you wings
You’ll think it’s what you need
You’ll fly, man, you’ll be so high
But your history acts as your gravity
—Joseph Arthur
For someone who documented just about every moment of his life in torrents of breathless, “spontaneous” prose, Jack Kerouac—the late author of On the Road, Big Sur, and other stream-of-consciousness, hyper-autobiographical novels—remains surprisingly up for grabs ideologically. The hippies claim him as an inspiration, as do many western Buddhists; a biography called Subterranean Kerouac attempts to out him as a homosexual; a new film adaptation of On The Road starring Kristen Stewart opens the door for the Twilight generation; and I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t more than a few Occupy Wall Street protestors hunkering down in their tents with battered copies of Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums stuffed in their jacket pockets
Each of these groups is absolutely sincere in its self-identification with Kerouac. Each sees its concerns and agendas reflected in his roiling ocean of language. Yet this bopping, scatting, mystical jazz poet who almost singlehandedly willed the 1960s counterculture into being was himself a political conservative and a Catholic.

How can this be?

The key to understanding Kerouac lies in a close examination of his roots, for it was in the small French Canadian community of Lowell, Massachusetts that the future author was inculcated with the values that would carry him through his life. He did indeed go on to lead a wild existence filled with alcohol, drugs, and perpetual shiftlessness; he fled from monogamy as from leprosy. Yet one cannot grasp the soul of Kerouac unless one understands his fundamentally traditional core. He never wished to foment a revolution. He did not desire to change America; he intended to document, celebrate, and, in the end, eulogize it.

Jean-Louis (“Jack”) Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922, the son of French Canadian immigrants. His father Leo, like so many immigrants, fiercely loved his adopted country. This belief in the land of opportunity remained with him even after his Catholicism lapsed in the wake of devastating business failures. Jack’s conservatism, like his father’s, was the conservatism of the old ways: of hard work and even harder drink, of big blue-collar families passing down oral traditions. Above all, it was a conservatism of the natural world: of the large, solid, protective trees, of the perpetually roaring Merrimack and Concord Rivers—all combining to cast that crucial illusion of unchangingness that, in the best of circumstances, cradles and fortifies a soul for its journey beyond childhood.

Late in life Kerouac would tell William F. Buckley Jr., “My father and my mother and my sister and I have always voted Republican, always.”

This had nothing to do with party planks and everything to do with family identity, with holding onto something, no matter how arbitrary, in an otherwise disorienting world. We’re Kerouacs and this is what we do.

Hand in hand with the politics was the Pre-Vatican II Catholicism that saturated Lowell’s tight-knit French Canadian community. Gabrielle Kerouac—Jack’s mother—matched Leo’s civic pride with a fervent religious faith, which if anything intensified after the death of Jack’s older brother Gerard, whom Jack would later eulogize as an unheralded saint in the novel Visions of Gerard. This was that majestic, fearsome Catholicism that now exists purely in the realm of imagination for most modern practitioners: the Catholicism of the Latin mass, of all-powerful priests, of God as the unknowable, awe-inspiring other. To New England’s mostly impoverished French Canadians, the Catholic Church served as de facto government, educator, extended family, and cultural arbitrator. Perhaps as a result of this spiritual immersion, both Gabrielle and Jack saw signs of God and angels everywhere.

“The Catholic Church is a weird church,” Jack later wrote to his friend and muse Neal Cassady.

“Much mysticism is sown broadspread from its ritual mysteries till it extends into the very lives of its constituents and parishoners.” It is impossible to overstate the influence of Catholicism on all of Kerouac’s work, save perhaps those books written during his Buddhist period in the mid-to-late 1950s. The influence is so obvious and so pervasive, in fact, that Kerouac became justifiably incensed when Ted Berrigan of the Paris Review asked during a 1968 interview,

“How come you never write about Jesus?”

Kerouac’s reply: “I’ve never written about Jesus? … You’re an insane phony … All I write about is Jesus.”

In truth, Berrigan ought to have known better. But casual readers can be forgiven for failing to grasp the religiosity in Kerouac’s writing. After all, his version of Christianity esteemed visions and personal experience over doctrine and dogma. He felt a special affinity for such offbeat souls as St. Francis of Assissi, St. Therese of Liseux (“The Little Flower”), and Thomas Merton, all of whom to some extent de-emphasized legalism in favor of a direct union with God. Beyond the confines of the Catholic Church, the influence of the painter and ecstatic poet William Blake loomed just as large and perhaps fueled Kerouac’s disregard for what he perceived to be restrictive sexual mores.


Of course, Kerouac is best known not for his lovely Lowell-centered books but for On the Road, a breathless jazz-inflected torrent of words initially typed out onto a “scroll”—actually hundreds of pages of tracing paper taped together and fed continuously through his typewriter—during one epic coffee-fuelled writing session in 1951 and ultimately published in 1957. The book, now considered an American Classic, documents the author’s real-life adventures traipsing around the country in his mid-20s with friends Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady who, together with Kerouac, would comprise the core of “The Beat Generation,” the last great American literary movement. Much drinking, drugging, and fornicating ensues over the course of Road’s 320 pages. Not surprisingly, these prurient elements did not endear Kerouac to the mainstream right of his time, which irked the young author, as he felt NO affinity for the left.

He never saw the impartial documenting of his own reckless youth as license for others to drop out of society. If anything, the downbeat ending of Road, in which Kerouac actuially predicts the frantic, kicks-obsessed “Dean Moriarty’s” (Neal Cassady’s) eventual slide into oblivion, as well as his unflinching depiction of his own nervous breakdown from alcoholic excess in the follow-up novel Big Sur, make quite clear the inevitable outcome of a “life on the road.” But Kerouac should not have been surprised by the right’s reaction; this was, after all, not conservative writing. The books did not follow the established standards of the novel and, in reality, were not novels at all but something else entirely: “confessional picaresque memoirs” (a phrase coined by Beat scholar Ann Charters), with the names of the participants changed to avoid accusations of libel. The conservative critics, missing the deeper themes of loneliness and the yearning for God, lambasted Kerouac for encouraging delinquency, while critics of all stripes complained about his sloppiness and occasional incoherece.

These commentators had a point: as novels, the books could be frustratingly uneven. Readers often found themselves bewildered by the sheer number of characters drifting in and out of the pages, unable to keep track of all the “mad ones” that Kerouac strained to include in his storylines. Why, the critics wondered, couldn’t Kerouac simply create a few composite characters embodying his friends’ most noteworthy traits? By any standard such an authorial modification would have vastly improved the readability of the books.

But that was not Kerouac’s aim. He wished to capture the truth, his truth, as best and as purely as he could. And he wanted to do this spontaneously, like a jazz musician wailing on his horn during an onstage improvisation. Revision, in Kerouac’s eyes, would only dilute the purity of the original performance. Furthermore, since he viewed his writing vocation as rooted in the Sacrament of Reconciliation: revision was tantamount to lying in the confessional. It might have have resulted in better novels, but they would no longer have been “spontaneous” and “true” novels. And it is the spontaneity and the emotional truth of these books, more than anything else, that continue to speak to readers.

It’s easy to approach On the Road with cynicism: an almost rapturous naïveté, or idiocy, permeates throughout. Yet this wide-eyed quality is actually one of the book’s great strengths; it evokes the exhilaration of being young, of leaving home for the first time and venturing out into the wider world with an open heart and credulous mind. Kerouac had the beguiling ability to find the admirable and holy in every soul he encountered on his travels, just as he had seen angels and the Holy Mother emerging from every corner in Lowell. And who has not experienced the sweet rush of moral transgression or the anguish of having to accept the consequences of such behavior? On the Road captures those emotions expertly.

Kerouac’s self-destructive nature, which led to his premature death from alcohol-induced hemhorraging, is perhaps the most curious aspect of his life story. Why would a man who worked so relentlessly at his craft, who endured 15 years of obscurity and rejection before his triumphant breakthrough, and who seemed to derive blissed-out enjoyment from even the most mundane aspects of life methodically destroy everything he had worked so hard to attain?

The answer may lie in a combination of near-crippling shyness and the very emotional openness that gave his writing such warmth. A fundamentally quiet, sensitive soul, Kerouac was woefully ill-equipped for the spotlight and had very little tolerance for criticism. Alcohol bolstered his confidence to speak in public and partially anaesthetized the sting of the many bad reviews his books received. Yet it was not enough. His friends watched helplessly as he barrelled onward to his demise, spurred ever faster by the hostile media.

As the apolitical Beat Generation metastasized into the heavily politicized hippie movement, Kerouac’s despondency and sense of alienation deepened. “I made myself famous by writing ‘songs’ and lyrics about the beauty of the things I did and ugliness too,” he said in a heated exchange with political activist Ed Sanders on Buckley’s “Firing Line. “You made yourself famous by saying, ‘Down with this, down with that, throw eggs at this, throw eggs at that!’ Take it with you. I cannot use your refuse; you may have it back.”

He allowed political differences to play a part in the demise of one of his greatest friendships. “I don’t even particularly wanta see [Allen Ginsberg],” he wrote his friend John Clellon Holmes in 1963, “what with his pro-Castro bullshit and his long white robe Messiah shot. … He and all those bohemian "beatniks" round him have nothing NEW to tell me!”

This was a one-sided breakup. Ginsberg, by then a famous poet, remained intensely loyal to Kerouac even after Kerouac started publicly denouncing his old friend and hurling anti-Semitic insults in his direction. Ginsberg was wise enough, and big-hearted enough, to understand that Kerouac’s flailing out at him was a symptom of much larger issues.


Kerouac’s sad final years were spent in an increasingly frantic quest to find a true home for himself and his mother. On an almost yearly basis he oscillated between Florida and New England, always following the same cycle: purchase a home, move in, grow restless, sell it; purchase another one, move in, sell it; and so on. Tragically, even when he returned to Lowell for a brief time, he found that the nurturing community he had written about so fondly for so many years now existed only in his books. He yearned, as the fictional Odysseus had during his wanderings, for the familiar, for something real and stable in his life. His mistake lay in looking for these things outside of him. Nevertheless, that desire is a good, true, worthy desire, and it permeates all of Jack Kerouac’s writing.

It is the reason why that Beat Movement could not last.

Allen Ginsberg, the poet visionary, pined for utopia and spiritual revolution.

William S. Burroughs, the outlaw libertarian, pined for anarchy and gay liberation.

Neal Cassady, the exiled cowboy, pined for girls and cars.

Jack Kerouac, the mystic, pined for God and Home.

Robert Dean Lurie


BIG AL's JOVIAL JUKEBOX #26: "I Am A Town" by Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1992

Albie's Note:   If you've ever lived in the small-town south for any period of time, you'll probably understand this great song by the great MCC, who I actually had the priviledge of seeing in concert in Fayetteville AR back in the Year Of Our Lord 1989, when she was yet to hit the Country Music big-time.  She was one of the most amazing, captivating performers I ever saw in person, and I have seen a good bit of live music in my day.  Her music is full of great poetry and beautiful sound. From 1992, here is the truly great "I Am A Town:"

I'm a town in Carolina, I'm a detour on a ride
For a phone call and a soda, I'm a blur from the driver's side
I'm the last gas for an hour if you're going twenty-five
I am Texaco and tobacco, I am dust you leave behind

I am peaches in September, and corn from a roadside stall
I'm the language of the natives, I'm a cadence and a drawl
I'm the pines behind the graveyard, and the cool beneath their shade,

Where the boys have left their beer cans
I am weeds between the graves.

My porches sag and lean with old black men and children
Their sleep is filled with dreams, I never can fulfill them
I am a town.

I am a church beside the highway where the ditches never drain
I'm a Baptist like my daddy, and Jesus knows my name
I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age;

I am not your destination
I am clinging to my ways
I am a town.

I'm a town in Carolina, I am billboards in the fields
I'm an old truck up on cinder blocks, missing all my wheels
I am Pabst Blue Ribbon, American, and "Southern Serves the South"
I am tucked behind the Jaycees sign, on the rural route
I am a town
I am a town
I am a town


RANGER AL's WESTERN COMIX THEATRE #2: POW WOW SMITH in "Treasure Trail to Tumbleweed Gap," 1961

Albie's Note:  As I child I only came across a few of these POW WOW SMITH,  INDIAN LAWMAN stories, usually reprints used as back-up features in various DC magazines.  I always like them, though, because they were a nice blend of the western, super-hero, and mystery genres.

As to our hero, I'l let Don Markstein of the great TOONOPEDIA website introduce you to the character:

"Pow Wow Smith" was a monicker laid on the character by the townspeople of Elkhorn, where he did his lawman work, first as deputy and later as full-fledged sheriff. His real name was Ohiyesa, which means "Winner" in the Sioux dialect he grew up with back in Red Deer Valley. When he started exploring white society, he tried to use his real name. Eventually, he gave in to the inevitable and became Pow Wow Smith in everyday life, reverting back only when visiting home. His main supporting character was his deputy, Hank Brown. He also picked up a fiancee, Fleetfoot, along the way. Racial issues usually didn't concern him — he was liked and accepted by the Elkhorn populace, with only mild grumbling from an occasional curmudgeon (who was usually converted by the end of the story).

Here, from 1961's Westen Comics #85, is a fine story: "Treasure Trail to Tumbleweed Gap." 

[Thanks to the great THE FABULOUS FIFTIES blog for the following page-scans!]




Western Comics #85


Sunday, January 19, 2014

BIG AL's JOVIAL JUKEBOX #25: "Wild Honey" by THE BEACH BOYS, 1967

Albie's Note:  If you're old enough to actually remember honey coming in a tin can you're at least as old as me! 

That's the first thing I thought when I read the following on Wikipedia about this great Beach Boys tune from back in 1967:

"In a 1992 issue of Goldmine Magazine, Mike Love explained the idea for the lyrics of the song:
'Brian [Wilson] was doing this track with a theremin and we were doing the song. I went into the kitchen and we were in this health food thing and wild honey was all natural. So there's this can of wild honey and we're making some tea. So I said, I'll write the lyrics about this girl who was a wild little honey. And I wrote it from the perspective that that album was Brian's R&B-influenced album, in his mind. It may not sound like it to a Motown executive but that was where he was coming from on that record. In that particular instance I wrote it from the perspective of Stevie Wonder singing it.'"
I always liked this unusual song by the Boys, which was a Top 40 hit for them, reaching a respectable #31 on the Billboard charts.  It was definitely unusual for them, and not exactly surf music, but it still sounds VERY west coast to me... and I do hear the Stevie Wonder influence in there.   Sort of a similar sound to Stevie's "I Was Made To Love Her" which the boys actually covered on the WILD HONEY album that same year.

In any case, it was a joyous and energetic Rock and Roll song, with a perfect lead vocal by the late, great Carl Wilson.   The wild theremin and organ lines are just great, and to this day it is one of my favorite summer cruising songs.

That SoCal gal musta been a "wild li'l honey," indeed!

Brian Wilson and Mike Love
Mama I'm tellin' you as sure as I'm standin' here
She's my girl and that's the way I'm keepin' it now mama dear
No good will it do you to stand there and frown at me
The girl's got my heart and my love's comin' down on me
My love's comin' down since I got a taste of wild honey
You know she's got the sweetness of a honey bee
Wild honey

She got it on and stung me good yes sirree
With all the other stud bees buzzin' all around her hive
She singled me out single handed took me alive
Well can you, can you gonna take my life eatin' up her wild honey?
Oh mama she's sweeter
Gettin' sweeter
Sweeter, sweeter
Wild honey

Let me tell you how she really got to my soul
It ain't funny
The way she make me wanna sing a little rock 'n' roll
There's nothing quite nice as a kiss of wild honey
I break my back workin' just to save me some money
So I can spend my life with her
Sock it to me wild honey
Honey wild honey she's mine
Honey wild honey she's mine
Honey bee


Saturday, January 18, 2014

BIG AL's JOVIAL JUKEBOX #24: "(My Baby Loves) Western Movies" by THE OLYMPICS, 1958

Albie's Note:  When I was a wee lad my older brother Steve had this 45 -- among dozens of others -- and my buddy Bonky and I used to play it and try to sing along.   Even in high school in the late seventies/early eighties [I graduated in '82] I would often test the acoustics of  a  given men's room I entered with this very song [or maybe "Runaround Sue"].
Originally a #8 pop hit in 1958-- and written by Demon Records arrangers Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith-- behold the amazing doo wop tribute to cowboy TV "Western Movies!"  
Now... the lyrics are legendarily hard to decipher, but I gave it my best shot, as I think most guesses I found on the 'net were lacking, probably because they were written by people who don't actually watch old westerns!  I don't know who "Jim Hardy" was, but it does seem like that's what he's saying.   Also, I do think I may be right about the "Tom Jeffords" line... that was the name of the white guy on BROKEN ARROW... but then again there WAS a 1958 western series called JEFFERSON DRUM, so I reckon it could be something like: "Comes Jefferson Drum with his great big gun" ...  and "McCullough"  was the "man's man" hero on WAGON TRAIN...  
But I could also be way off.  I wonder if there was ever sheet music?  Um... Doubtful... :) 
Anyway, one thought I get when listening to it today is:  I can't believe a guy would complain about a girl like that!  :)
To save my soul I can't get a date,
Baby's got it tuned on channel 8
Now Wyatt Earp and the big Cheyenne
They're comin' thru the T.V. shootin up the land.

Ah um my baby loves the Western movies.
My baby loves the Western movies,
Bam, bam, shoot 'em up Pow.
Ah um my babe loves the Western Movies.

I call my baby on the telephone
To tell her half of my head was gone
I just got hit by a great big brick
She says "Thanks for reminding me, it's time for Maverick!"
Ah um my baby loves the Western movies.

My baby loves the Western movies,
Bam, bam, shoot em up pow.
Ah um
My baby loves the Western movies.

Well Marshall Dillon is runnin' with Old Cochise
Jim Hardy , Jim Bowie and Sugarfoot.
They all "Have Gun... and Will Travel"
Give me back my boots and saddle uh huh.

Here's the story of the certain Wagon Train "McCullough"
And Broken Arrow has broken my heart.
Ol' Jeffords  shows up with his great big gun...
Unties my baby and the fight was won.

Ah um my baby loves the Western movies.
My baby loves the western movies.
Bam bam shoot em up pow.
Ah um, my baby loves the western movies.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

RANGER AL's WESTERN COMIX THEATRE #1: HOPALONG CASSIDY in "Secret Of The Buffalo Hat," June 1955

Albie's Note:  I love western comics... always have.   The first ones I ever read were in the early '70s [I was born in '64] and were the Marvel line-up of interchangeable "innocent outlaws" [Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Ringo Kid, etc.] and Gold Keys's Lone Ranger hold-outs.  I have loved the beautiful and spacious Four-color B-west ever since.  But before I was even reading comics-- before I was born actually-- there was the Fifties:   the absolute Golden Era of Western Comics. 

This tale-- well-drawn by the late great Gene Colan for DC's legendary and hard-to-collect run of Hopalong Cassidy-- is a good example of the quality, both in scripting and art, that went into the western comics feature during the hey-day of the American Television Western.  I love the Bill Boyd version of Hoppy, even though-- as people always note-- it was a ridiculously sanitized version of Mulford's original hard-drinkin' red-headed cowman.  I guess I come feel the same way critic Francis Nevins does; that both versions are really, truly great-- albeit in their own way. One great thing about the Boyd Hoppy is that there was such a high quality to everything associated with that product and name:  the Radio show, the Dan Spiegle comic strip, not to mention the 60 plus movie features... all have the same amazingly consistent level of quality.  

First in a new series, I present-- from HOPALONG CASSIDY #102--  the great "Secret Of The Buffalo Hat!"