Sunday, March 25, 2018

Toledo – The Fireworks Center of America

The "good old days," when a young man could stuff a sawback into an envelope and receive a haphazardly packaged box of potentially lethal pyrotechnics via the U.S. Mail Service no questions asked.

Oh Boy! THINK OF IT! World's Loudest.

FUN FACT: John Miller, of Toledo's MIller Fireworks Company, is largely credited with popularizing the M-80 as a civilian firework.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

02.07.73 Raw Power Released, Life Made Tolerable.

Released 45 years ago today.
Brutal, simple, and devoid of boogie, Raw Power forgoes melody instead relying on the visceral power of the guitar riff to drive the songs forward. Although hardly noticed when released in 1973, the album would serve as the "how to guide" for aspiring guitarists of the nascent punk scene. Without it, players such as Cheetah Chrome, Johnny Ramone, Steve Jones, and countless others would likely have never made it out of the basement. For that we are eternally grateful.

Produced by David Bowie, the original mix was polarizing. Several attempts have since been made to "improve" it, which at this point is a bit like trying to punch up the Ten Commandments for a more casual vibe. Crucially, before the masters were committed to vinyl, a few early mixes were leaked to WABX, Detroit's premier FM rock station at the time. Listen here as Mark Parenteau and Dennis Frawley discuss and play the tracks during a live broadcast.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Carpenters Had a Sweet Custom Van and I Want to Do Bong Hits in It.

"Powered by... Bear"

Who is this "BEAR," and why was he chosen to power Karen and Richard Carpenter's van? We can tell it's a Ford Eonoline and appears to be wearing AAR wheels, but so many questions remain: What was the extent of Bear's involvement? Did they own an actual live bear that could drive? If so, did his big paws make it difficult to handle the tricky one-two shift of the old three-on-the-tree column-mounted shifter?  Did Donny and Marie have a custom van? What about The Cowsills? Were Richard's business-casual elephant bell denims custom made? Do you think Karen would bogart a roach? Would people ignore pleas to, "Don't come a knockin'," if the van was, in fact, "A-rockin'?" Which is more depressing: Rainy days or Mondays? If you know the answers to any of these questions, please share in the comments.

Fun Fact: Before Richard found stardom with his sis, he was fired from Disneyland because his music was considered to be, "too radical."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

John Lee Hooker in Frogtown: The Secret Session at Toledo's Sweeney Sound Engineering

Dig below the surface of Toledo's rich and diverse music history and you'll inevitably uncover vague references to  John Lee Hooker recording at Toledo's Sweeney Sound Engineering. While the bluesman's affinity for the Toledo-adjacent Hines Farm blues club is well documented, the link between Hooker and Sweeney Sound is far more tenuous.

Hooker's notoriously cavalier attitude regarding the signing of and adhering to binding contracts makes verification difficult, but Sheldon Brown, son of Detroit Based Fortune Records founder Jack Brown, has long maintained that John Lee Hooker’s first recording session was actually conducted under his father’s supervision at Toledo’s Sweeney Sound Engineering. The session, which reportedly produced the tracks “Miss Sadie Mae: Curl my Baby's Hair” and “609 Boogie,” went unreleased at the time. Additionally, David A Carson confirms the session in his exhaustive Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll. This is significant as historians have for years generally credited Hooker's late 1948 recording of "Boogie Chillen" at United Sound Systems in Detroit as his first session. These claims instead indicate that Hooker's first session was, in fact, in Toledo.

Information detailing the history of Sweeney Sound Engineering is similarly hazy, a lazy google search turning up a 1950 recording of Fred Harris & his Uptown Band. Ripped from the 1980 release, Vintage Toledo Blues 1950-1980 ( - TRH Records #8001, Fred Harris-not to be confused with the legendary Canadian TV host of the same name-apparently went on to form Fred Harris' Red Tops who recorded this jam in the studio at Toledo's WTOD radio station in 1957.

Given the willingness of Fortune Records founder Brown to travel to Toledo for a session, what other gems may have been committed to tape or acetate inside the walls of Sweeney Sound Engineering? Those with even cursory knowledge of the studio and or the owners/employees are encouraged to chime in in the comments.

The Bull- Fred Harris' Red Tops Organ Trio- New Song
Remembering Hines Farm, a legendary African-American mecca for the blues
Hines Farm Movie