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One Hundred and, one items in alphabetical order, by title.
“ Another Self Portrait 1969 – 1971 “ BOB DYLAN 4CD set w/hardcover book
When I was a young kid, growing up in Brantford, Ontario, we had a show on the local radio station ( AM 1380 CKPC Radio ) where a guy named Jim Steel presented “The Hot Hundred” . This is my own, current “Hot Hundred” + one ! There are 101 items my list. Stay tuned to my “Fun Page” for future lists. These lists will be 101 things that I am currently obsessed with.
Please seek out anything on my list that you think you might be interested in. Please support any of these incredible artists or, in the case of the deceased artists, their estates, and, also, please support the issuing companies by buying their actual products. Please don’t steal music or movies. Artists and, their issuing companies need the money to continue their quest to provide you with art that will enrich your life. You will see a “slash mark” here and, there in the above list and, this indicates that I myself often purchase items in more than one format and, I hope that you will, too… I buy the CD and, the LP etc. I listen to the LP at home and, the CD in my car.
The items on this list are presented in alphabetical order by title because, once you get up to the high level that these artists represent, no one should say that one particular artist is # 1 and, someone else is not. To me, the giving out of “awards” for anything in the arts is a misplaced concept. Any such competition belongs in sports, where it is obvious that competition is the object and, that it is “game on”. I love the clear delineation in sports, where we know that the guy who scored the most goals or, passed for the most yards or whatever, is the best. However, when it comes to art, the only goal should be a pure, personal expression. With regards to art, any and, all awards can only be completely misleading to the artist in particular and, secondarily, will also be completely misleading to the public. Artists should quite simply alwaysknow when they have made their own best attempt at excellence.
Every day that I pick up a paint brush and, every day that I sing, I always try to be better than I was yesterday and, I always feel rewarded by my own attempt.
JOHN MARS December 2016
George Puleo at Sportsmen’s Tavern, Buffalo, May 6, 2015 photo credit: johnmars.com
Who is your favourite guitar player ? Who is so cool that you actually get the chills whenever you hear them ?
There have been some really incredible guitar players in the history of Rock ’n’ Roll. Jeff Beck, Paul Kossoff, Jimi Hendirix, Eric Clapton, Jack deKeyzer, Danny Weis, KIm Simmonds, Eddie Cochran, Marc Bolan, Jorma Kaukonen, John Cipollina and, Alvin Lee always pop into my head first. Once the players get up to that high of a level of gifted musicianship, it’s just so mindblowing ! There are many other greats that you yourself might like ~ it’s all just subjective at some certain point.
Anywho, here’s another great guitar somebody that maybe you’ve not even heard of yet. Maybe, HE will become one of your own faves …
George Puleo is an extraordinary guitarist/composer currently fronting a very interesting group called Haiku. Besides George, the group includes ; Jim Wynne on electric bass, Hugh Arthur on drums and, Spencer Bolden on congas and, other incidental percussion instruments. The group all contributes to the composing and, arranging of their beautfiul instrumental tunes. The players all live in the Buffalo area and, they regularily play at the Sportsmen’s Tavern in the historic “Black Rock” neighbourhood there.
George Puleo of Haiku at Sportsmen’s Tavern, Buffalo, August 2, 2016 photo credit: johnmars.com
The thing that really gets me about the music of George and, Haiku is that it is very spiritually uplifting. You will hear the distinct influences of Jeff Beck, Jimi and, the Mahavishnu Orchestra but, you’ll also hear something truly original and, you will witness a group that is always listening to each other. That’s the ticket if you are a musician and, you want to create with spontaneous improvistations inside of your own tunes ~ you listen intently, you respond to each others musical statements and, all of the time you are trying to take the compostion you are working on with up to that next level. You hopefully have some little imaginary wires hooked up between your heads. You commune with each other. These lads have all of that schtuff goin’ on.
George Puleo / Haiku are both managed by Dan Doherty a.k.a. “Dan The Record Man” who runs a collectible vinyl record store called The Record Baron at 3048 Delaware Avenue in Kenmore, NY, which is straight up the street from downtown Buff. George and, Dan publish vinyl and, CD issues of George’s music ~ they issue solo albums by George Puleo, Haiku albums and, they re-ish albums of George’s former group, Gamalon. These issues are available at any gigs by George and his group and, also at all the usual Buffalo record outlets. For those who don’t already know, Buffalo is one of the best places on earth to shop for new, (‘sealed’) vinyl albums.
Dan Doherty is a good pal of mine and, he once told me an amazing annecdote about George ~ but, first, here’s a short preamble from The Martian …
As most of you already know, the great singer and, drummer Buddy Miles (Wilson Pickett / The Buddy Miles Express / The Electric Flag / Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles) had a long time friendship and, a professional relationship with Jimi Hendrix. Besides playing with Jimi in the early days of both of their careers when they were both with Wilson Pickett , Buddy drummed on “Rainy Day, Dream Away” on the famous Electric Ladyland album and, was, along with Hendrix, a founder/member of The Band Of Gypsys. In The Electric Flag, Buddy was a founder/member along with another incredible guitar virtuoso, Michael Bloomfield. So, Buddy knows it, when he hears a great guitarist er what ?
And now, here’s the story, according to Dan Doherty ~ ” When Buddy Miles would come to Buffalo he would always ask the promoter if he could get George to be his opening act. One time, before one of these shows we were sitting around in a club in Buffalo after the sound check and, Buddy, who was such a nice man, warmly asked me who I was. I replied that ‘such as this is a job, I’m Dan and, I’m George’s manager’ Right away said to me – OH, Dan you are so lucky to know him. You know what? When Jimi Hendrix died, some part of his spirit crawled right into George ”.
I get chills thinking about Buddy Miles making this extraordinary statement to Dan ! A high compliment er what ?! But, George really is THAT GOOD. So, go hear him ! You’ll get the chills from hearing him and, his cool compatriots in Haiku !
Fraser Loveman (vocalist) and, Joe Colonna (bassist) of the classic 60’s Canadian Rock ‘n’ Roll band, The British Modbeats have reformed the group, shortening the name to The Modbeats. Their “Mod Is…The British Modbeats” LP is a highly sought after collectible and, it has never been issued on CD. The Modbeats did some reunion shows in 1989 and, 1990 and, Fraser has not performed in public since.
I had the pleasure of seeing the new group twice recently in their old hometown of St. Catharine’s, Ontario and, was absolutely thrilled to hear Fraser back in action. As a youngster, I was greatly influenced by his vocal talent and, originality.
At age 15, my band, John Mars And The Martians was rehearsing in the parental basement one day. I was singing and, playing the drums. At the end of a rehearsal “take”, the door at the top of the stairs opened and, my dad, the late Jack Mars called down the stairs at me – “Stop trying to sound like that guy from The Byrds – just sound like yourself”. Stan Baka (guitar) and, Kevin Cosman each gave me a silent look and, a smile that said “you know he’s right”. Next, my friend Mick MacDonald got me to go and, see Fraser Loveman fronting The Village S.T.O.P. at the Ottawa Street YMCA in Hamilton.As is still my habit when I really want to hear someone, we got there early and, were right at the front/centre. Despite my young years, I had already seen a number of major stars up close but, I was so impressed that someone from my area could sing so well. No matter what song he sang (I remember a great version of “Piece Of My Heart” for example), Fraser Loveman sounded like himself ! My father words were ringing in my ears. Later on, as student council president of my high school, I booked Ann Arbor, Michigan Rock ‘n’ Rollers SRC for a “dance”. Vocalist Scott Richardson became up-close singing lesson # 2. That guy squeezed every note. No messing around there ! That was the night that I thought seriously about getting out from behind those drums.
My mentor, Ken Marco (Motherlode – “When I Die” / E.G. Smith And The Power “Keep On Running”) was complimenting me on my singing a couple of years ago. That of course thrilled me and, then Kenny said – “Wait a minute…Why would we be getting any worse? Until we are in our rocking chairs at 95 or whatever, shouldn’t we just be getting better, every single day? As we get older we get smarter, more practiced and, hopefully, each day, we are better than the day before”. Thanks Ken – just one more thing that you made me realize.
Fraser Loveman is currently singing better than he ever did.
Upcoming dates for The Modbeats :
July 1, 2010 Optimist’s Park, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Sept. 9, 2010 Fonthill Bandshell, Fonthill, Ontario
submitted by John Mars May 2010
RHINOCEROS in concert KITCHENER BLUES FEST | August 7, 2009
A Fan’s Appreciation by John Mars
the Rhinoceros reunion line-up :
John Finley – vocals
Alan Gerber – vocals / piano / percussion
Danny Weis – guitar + piano on “I’ve Been There”
Michael Fonfara – organ
Peter Hodgson – bass John’s cousin, who replaced Jerry Penrod after the 1st LP
Bernie LaBarge – second guitar filling in wonderfully for Doug Hastings / Larry Leishman
Mike Sloski – drums filling in wonderfully for Billy Mundi / Duke Edwards
the set list:
Monkee Man (by John Finley and Danny Weis)
When You Say You’re Sorry (by Alan Gerber)
I’ve Been There (by Alan Gerber and John Finley)
You’re My Girl ( I Don’t Want To Discuss It ) (by Dick Cooper, Beth Beatty and Ernie Shelby)
Belbuekus (by John Finley and Danny Weis)
Back Door (by Doug Hastings)
Along Comes Tomorrow (by Alan Gerber)
Apricot Brandy (by Danny Weis and Michael Fonfara)
I Will Serenade You (by John Finley)
It’s The Same Thing (by Alan Gerber)
Just Me (by Guy Draper)
Top Of The Ladder (by John Finley and Danny Weis)
That Time Of The Year (by Alan Gerber)
I Need Love (by Larry Williams)
Better Times Are Comin’ (by Eddie “Duke” Edwards, Michael Fonfara and John Finley)
Here’s a stream of consciousness type list of astounding concerts that I have heard, in my time. I have heard many of the following artists in concert more than once or twice, some of them I have seen five, ten or, even twenty times or more > Thelonious Monk, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Burdon And The Animals, Jack deKeyzer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, SRC, Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers, Iggy Pop, Solomon Burke, Charles Mingus, James Brown, Sam & Dave, Aimee Mann, Ornette Coleman, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Fraser Loveman, T.Rex, Donovan, Miles Davis, The Mothers Of Invention, Roscoe Mitchell, Spirit, Marianne Faithfull, Savoy Brown, Audience, Barry Altschul, Rory Gallagher, Teenage Head, The Ugly Ducklings, Anthony Braxton, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Cecil Taylor Unit, Sparks, and, so on. Oh … and, yes I have actually seen RHINOCEROS once before their reunion concert in August of this year as well ! More about that later. Anyway, all of the aforementioned artists are still extremely important concert memories to me and, their music continues to influence my own music to this day.
With the reunion appearance of RHINOCEROS on Friday, August 7, 2009 on the main stage of the Kitchener, Ontario summer blues fest, I have just recently experienced a completely astounding “new” concert event that will certainly live on in my soul as one of the best days of my entire life. Sometimes, at a concert or festival, I have been quite simply a ticket totin’ patron / fan . Sometimes, since from a very young age, I have had periods where, because I was a working, professional musician, that has meant that I got to see someone really important to me in the “Rock” or “Jazz” field, because I was working with them. I got to meet certain heroes and, I got to watch them from a very close range. And so, since I was a career musician as well as a fan, I’ve easily seen more than three thousand concerts in my life. Even still, this very recent RHINOCEROS show is easily in the “top ten” of all the shows that I have ever seen.
I’VE BEEN THERE
At the Kitchener concert, from the first few bars of “Monkee Man”, the “Martian” was in heaven in ‘the same old way’ that he was way back when RHINOCEROS fired the opening salvo of their self-titled Elektra Records LP debut at him in 1968. This boy was hearing the same, steaming cauldron of magic that he heard from their 1968 get-go. One normal Friday night that year, an aspiring young, teen singist/drummist named John Mars peddled his bicycle from the Bluebird Records shop in downtown Brantford back up the very steep West Street hill to to his 13 Byrne Street home in the suburbs to try out a new LP. He bought it becuase he simply liked the weird cover collage artwork and, could not wait to hear whatever was in store for him. That’s what you used to do, back in the day ? You bought an LP and, could not peddle your bike fast enough – you had to hear it right away? Heck, Billy Mundi, that real footloose drummer from The Mothers Of Invention was in the band? These Rhinos must be good, eh ? I hadn’t seen the Rhino LP in any of the department stores – so, maybe that made it just a lil’ bit cooler? It was a chance investment of exactly $4.48 (I still have the price tag sticker) in an album has never been far from my reach. I still listen to that “Rhinoceros” LP, constantly. It’s a definite “desert island” type choice to this day. Shit, I’m listening to it right now, as I write this appreciation !!!
At the 2009 concert at Kitchener’s City Hall, after just a few bars into the first song – “Monkee Man”, Danny Weis turned right, to face his old colleague Michael Fonfara and, they exchanged beautific smiles. They knew it was happenin’ ! ? A short while later, when Alan Gerber got up from his piano and, saddled up beside John Finley for the first time on a stage since about 1970 and, they exchanged amazed and, happy looks. Then it was straight into what I regard as one of the top ten best songs ever written – “When You Say You’re Sorry”. Right off the bat, I remembered that that basket weave that I always keep trying to work on with whatever singer I am currently working with, was something that I initially learned from these two soulsters.
I saw RHINOCEROS back in the summer of 1972 at the old Port Dover Summer Garden on a show with Chuck Berry, who surprisingly had his very first # 1 record that same summer with “My Ding-A-Ling”. Also, on the Dover show were two very heavy, young bands – Black Sheep (led by an acquaintance of mine, the very talented Toronto keyboard man Dave Dobko) and, Powerhouse, from Woodstock, Ontario. Alan Gerber had left the group before ‘that time of the year’ – actually Alan left before the third Rhino album, Better Times Are Coming was recorded, in 1970. The band continued along, in excellent fashion until some time in 1972 > whenever spots came open in the line-up, Michael and, John called upon some alumni from The Checkmates. And so, Peter Hodgson (who joined Rhino in time for the 2nd LP, Satin Chickens), Larry Leishman and, Eddie “Duke” Edwards came in, replacing Jerry Penrod, Doug Hastings and, Billy Mundi, respectively. Duke had originally been The Checkmates manager and, it has been told that he was the man who got The Checkmates in step way back in 1963 with his ideas for a slick, soul presentation. Duke got them doing uptown dance steps and, wearing uptown suits.
That Port Dover Summer Garden dance hall on Lake Erie, which was lost in a mid-1970’s fire, was the same place that my dad, Jack Mars, had, as a youth, driven a well used Durant to. Before he met my mom, it was at the Summer Garden that he danced to the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and, all the other big bands with a Brantford girl who later became Phil Hartman’s mom. According to my dad, in his young days, a trip to the dance floor at the Summer Garden cost you 5 cents a dance. The boy got to pay this hefty toll.
I think I had to pay 2 or 3 clam$ to get in to the Rhino gig on the day of the Port Dover dance/concert in 1970 and, I met Chuck Berry briefly, in the sun outside the hall that day. With a bleached blonde on each arm, Chuck was nice enough to stop briefly to say hi to three very overwhelmed young men who were seated on a bench on the sidewalk outside the Summer Garden – that would be me and, my two high school, Rock ‘n’ Roll bandmates in John Mars And The Martians – namely Stan Baka and, Kevin Cosman. Chuck Berry gave us three instantly stunned, “Beatle lookin’ kids” a few seconds of “Hi there boys!”. We then stood around gawking at Chucko, who ended up leaning against a black Cadi with the blondes behind the ol’ dance hall for a while – we were just speechless. Chuck fuckin’ Berry. I didn’t really talk to him, I just kinda soaked up the moment. I did not have the good luck to meet any of my RHINOCEROS heroes of the day on that day – those moments would have to wait until many years later. At any rate, Stan and, I yelled “I Need Love” at RHINOCEROS right towards the end of their set that day and, they played it. I have seldom yelled out anything, in my entire life – for any reason. I guess I had a reason to shout that song title out loud ? What a day. They hadn’t played it yet and, we really needed to hear “I Need Love”. Was I excited or what ? When they played it, us kids just about had a fit.
IN A LITTLE ROOM
Prior to the first RHINOCEROS gig that I saw on that wonderful, summer Port Dover day, I had sat in my bedroom at my parents house in Brantford, Ontario for about two years, amazed by their songs/singing and, that Michael guy on the Hammond B-3 organ. To me, Michael Fonfara had and, still has the coolest organ sound – and, I still hear a real ton o’ soul shooting off at me, out of a Leslie speaker and, a ton o’ soul comin’ out of the lungs of Finley and, Gerber. In the 60’s, it was their type of soul that convinced me that I did not have to be as black as Otis Redding or Howlin’ Wolf to have my own kinda soul. And, then, there was that positively gifted Danny Weis, pulling away at his Fender Telecaster. Dan’s style of chicken pickin’ guit fiddle playin’ is always just what you need to get your feet shufflin’ about. And, that enormously funky, pounding drumming from Billy Mundi, who, because he had come up through The Mothers Of Invention, knew that you did not have to stick to any kind of a ridgid structure. Do listen to the endings of the Rhino songs – Billy and, Mike did some scarey good shit on those endings that still thrill me to this day. As a young teen, I was a constantly listening to Zappa’s group from it’s first “Freak Out” days and, so was amazed when I heard Billy with Rhino. Bless him. And, so, Danny and, Billy made me dance around my little room. When I went to my high school’s sock hops, I don’t remember any records by either Rhino or, The Mothers Of Invention being played but, I now knew how to dance? I had a new sense of freedom in my bones.
Next, I actually tried to sing RHINOCEROS songs such as “When You Say You’re Sorry”, “Top Of The Ladder”, “That Time Of The Year”, “I’ve Been There”, and, “In A Little Room”, in my own little room and, started dancin’ and, spinnin’ around in my mind. I was a singing drummer in my first bands but, I soon wanted to get out from behind that big, double bass, double tenor tom drum set. I could have tried some of the Rhino songs with my band of the day – John Mars And The Martians – but, at that time, I thought that I needed more practice, before attemping any Gerber or Finley songs. And so, I never dared to try one with my young band. I’ve never stopped listening to RHINOCEROS at any time in my life and, as a youngster, I never would have dreamt that, some day I would be friends with Michael, Danny, John, Alan and, Peter ! Holy crap ! I’m truly thrilled to have these friendships. I never would have dreamt that some day, I would have Michael Fonfara and, Danny Weis playing on my own records, or that I would record a version of “In A Little Room” with Danny on guitar. I know that my version does not hold a candle to John’s original (“Satin Chickens” LP) version because I am still quite simply a star struck fan. To this day – I laugh, I cry, you name it – when I hear a RHINOCEROS song. To me, their 3 album catalogue is an incredible legacy. Will the world catch up with it some day? If you were lucky enough to be in Kitchener on August 7, 2009 then you know that it is not too late for the rest of the world.
Prior to hearing John Finley and Alan Gerber, as a little kid, I was getting my “singing lessons” (and, some of my inspiration to write music) from Little Richard, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Mick Jagger, Gerry Marsden, Leslie Gore, Mike Smith (Dave Clark Five) and, the Beatles. A bit later, it became Joe Tex, James Brown, Don Covay, Solomon Burke, Chris Youlden. Sam And Dave had that basket weave going on and, that really interested me. Then, RHINOCEROS and FREE came along, and, I started taking most of my record player singing lessons from Finley/Gerber and, Paul Rodgers.
Around 1961, Finley and, cousin Hodgson sat in basements with their friend Fonfara took their own lessons by listening to 78s and, 45s that were sometimes borrowed from relatives > Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, The Falcons, The Valentinos, Phil Upchurch and Bill Doggett. Later, Leishman came along and, brought records by Jimmy Reed and, Muddy Waters. Larry Leishman thus earned his nickname “Blues” from his 3 pals. The Checkmates were born of these basement listening sessions and, the four colleagues remain close friends to this day.
When I was in my early teens, around 1967, my band (John Mars And The Martians) would be rehearsing in the basement of the suburban, parental home. At the end of a rehearsal take, sometimes, the door at the top of the stairs would open. My dad was a good singer in his own time and, I would have to accept a comment or two – “stop trying to sound like that guy from The Byrds – just sing like yourself” – and, sometimes, when I did a Muddy Waters number or, a song in a comical, unnatural voice that came from all the old rural blues cats like Lightnin’ Hopkins that I listened to constantly , that door would open once again – it just didn’t sound right to dad. And so, my guitarist, the late Stan Baka would hear the late Jack Mars give his 25 cents worth, and, Stan would look at me with some amount of understanding but, with a question mark on his face. Stanley knew that my dad was correct with any such opinions. Quickly, I corrected myself and, I became myself… circa 1968, I got better as a singer when I heard that first LP by RHINOCEROS. I realized that people like John Finley and, Alan Gerber quite simply were inspired by others – then, they set out to sound like themselves. They and, my father let me know that that is all you need to do. Just the other day, with sincere appreciation I told Alan Gerber the jist of this annecdote from my teenagerhood and, he added to my thoughts about a singist trying to be himself – “Obviously,that’s when you started to regard your own voice as a musical instrument”.
TOP OF THE LADDER
With a fluid beauty, the group’s concert for 14,000 plus persons jamming King St. (the stage being set up in front of Kitchener’s magnificent, city hall, built in about 1993) adhered to the same highly original Rock ‘n’ Soul sound that RHINOCEROS pulled outta their hats in their early days. It was a sound that proved to me way back in those fab 60’s that, sometimes, cliche musical adjectives like tight AND, loose can somehow, somtimes be simulataneously appropriate. With some certain incredible help from uberfan Bernie LaBarge on second guitar, they recently got their new act together in just a few rehearsals. For those 14,000 or so that were witness to the Kitchener event – if you did not know who RHINOCEROS were, previously to that really big shew, you certainly know who they are now.
Just like the marble bits in a big, juicy New York strip loin steak, there is fat and, lean, in the music of RHINOCEROS. Just like a solid rock piece of fine marble rock, there are whispering, fine lines of white and, black that streak through many other gorgeous layers of colour and, all of those colours are allowed to criss-cross over top of each other. Back in the day, Finley’s cousin Peter Hodgson (who replaced Jerry Penrod by the time of the 2nd LP, “Satin Chickens”) never repeated himself. In 2009 there is no reason for him to not continue to wander inside of his own groove and, prove that along with Andy Fraser and, Jack Bruce, he has always been amongst the most inventive of all the bass players in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. There is never a repetitive pattern coming from Peter Hodgson. Peter always knows each song that he tackles inside and, out. As a result, he always knows that he has every right to give his own soul just that little bit more room to move. And, his bass guitar sound is that “phat” type of soul that never fails to move us. He makes us want to dance and, his is also quite likely the most unobtrusive of bass guitar men for all times. His playing helps to take every song to the top of that ladder. Once in a while, he skips over a couple of rungs and, he never steps on the toes of the two singers. He is part of that basket weave.
Still very much the Rock star guitar god that I have always known him as, Danny Weis often stepped forward and, took the spot light at centre stage at the recent Kitchener concert. For my money, of all the guitarists of the “Rock” age that are still alive, only Jeff Beck, Jack deKeyzer and, Eric Clapton are up on Danny’s level of playing. Once you start talking about players that are up on that level, you simply can’t say that one guy is better than another? It is a guitar on fire. It smokes. It smoulders. Who among us Rock ‘n’ Roll fans does not love a brilliant guitar god ?
With affection, close pals call Danny Weis “Mr. Poultry”, because of his trademarked chicken pickin’ . That schtuff is only one tiny aspect of Danny’s astounding talent. Dan is the son of the well known guitarist Johnny Weis, who played with Spade Cooley and, Johnny Cash. Danny once told me that sometimes his dad and, Barney Kessel would sit in the Weis family living room (California) and, they would exchange licks and, chords. A rapt Danny sat and, listened in amazement. As a result, Danny Weis can play any style of music ? I could not believe all of the tiny lil’ things that he contributed to my recent “Detroit Or Buffalo” album – I always try for a whole bunch of different styles on each album and, so Dan’s contributions were always perfect. He can just play in whatever style you need him to do. It’s not like I had to give him any directions? He even wrote a piano arrangement for me.
Danny’s dad Johnny died when Dan was about 15. This was right around the time that Danny was a founder/member pre-In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida line-up of the Iron Butterfly. Danny Weis plays on the first LP, entitled “Heavy” and, he calls it his “psychedelic underwater” period. Danny’s guitar genius not only helped to establish the sound of the heavy rock style of the late 1960’s, but, because he was such a huge fan of Memphis type soul music, he quickly moved on to being an innovator in helping to establish yet another new style of music – funk. Little Steven and, Bruce Springsteen are huge fans of the RHINOCEROS albums. Quite obviously, the highly original guitar sound that Danny had, while he was helping to establish the funky sound of RHINOCEROS during the late 1960’s is an enduring force to this day, in the world of soul music.
Danny Weis further expanded upon the funky sound that Steve Cropper was laying down with Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin etc. But, in RHINOCEROS, with second guitarist, Doug Hastings, Danny also invented a brand new, contrapuntal sound for Rock ‘n’ Roll guitars. Perhaps, this twinning/twining was the result of Dan listening in to those jam sessions in the Weis family living room with Barney Kessel and, dad, Johnny Weis ? Whatever the inspiration for the new sound, Weis’ inventions have had a huge impact. Following the release of the first RHINOCEROS LP, this exact sound started to crop up everywhere, including on such huge hits such as “Layla” (Eric Clapton with Duane Allman) and, “Can’t Get Enough” (Bad Company, featuring Mick Ralphs and, Paul Rodgers simple guitar twining). I never liked The Allman Brothers Band too much because I don’t like Gregg’s voice, but, that famous, popular group quite obviously based a major part of their sound on Danny’s innovations involving twin lead guitar bits.
ALONG COMES TOMORROW
A few years ago, a mentor of mine, Ken Marco (Motherlode), imparted this comment to me – “Until we all get to our 90’s or something, why would we be getting worse at what we do ? Shouldn’t we just keep getting better?”.
And, to Kenny Marco, his long term admirer John Mars replied – “And, hopefully, we all just keep learning each day, don’t we Kenny?”.
Between yesterday and, today , all of the members of RHINOCEROS have quite simply only gotten better, over the years and, if you don’t know the pedigree of the gentlemen in the astounding band that I have been rambling on and, on about here, just consult the LINKS page of my web site. Do some enjoyable homework. Learn about all of these incredibly talented gentlemen and, you will not be disappointed.
Rhinoceros are available on CD
Be sure to tell ’em that johnmars.com sentcha…
the first album, “Rhinoceros” is on it’s own disc and, the “Satin Chickens” and, “Better Times Are Coming” LPs come as a ‘twofer’
videos from the Kitchener show can be found on “youtube” – use Danny Weis as the keyword, for the best result
congratulations to Claude from the Kitchener Blues Festival for truly understanding how important this band is and, giving them a headlining concert spot on the festival
Alan Gerber, who lives in Montreal will be appearing solo in Ontario twice in November, 2009 :
Nov. 5 – Groove Kitchen, Cambridge call 519 – 650 – 4452
Nov. 7 – Earthsong, Toronto call 416 – 264 – 2235
Be sure to tell ’em that I sentcha !
Tri-City Roller Girls
for more info, click here…
Since he first heard his playing with Rhinoceros as a kid, John Mars has always felt that Danny is one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues. “It was a real treat to have Danny play on my new album – and, I will never forget the enthusiasm, insight and, laughter that he added to the sessions – not to mention his genius playing” says John.
Danny Weis’ dad Johnny was a Country Swing and Jazz guitarist who played with Spade Cooley. Danny began his own career as a founder member of Iron Butterfly and, he played on their first album “Heavy”. He left the group before “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” but, next helped to start an even greater group called Rhinoceros along with Michael Fonfara and, John Finley in 1968. After Rhinoceros, Danny played with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Melissa Manchester and Bette Midler, to mention just a few.
Danny was Bette Midler’s band leader and, he appeared as the guitar player in her 1979 motion picture, “The Rose”, which was loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. For more on Danny Weis, go to the LINKS page and, click on his name, plus the Rhinoceros links. Also, information on Danny can be found on our NEWS page.
article submitted by Zipporah Stephenson / photograph of Danny Weis by Huggy Bundle / July 2006
Michael Fonfara / Checkmates by John Mars
First of all, I should say that I am thrilled to know Mike as a colleague and, a collaborator, and, that he is also a hero and, a mentor to me. Have I said this before? Can I say it enough? This guy is quite simply the greatest rockin’ soul keyboard man that Canada has. At present, I am really excited for my friend. I can see that he is absolutely in his glory, because …
In recent years, Michael Fonfara has been quite diligent in “Puttin’ the ol’ band back together”. On Sunday, September 11, 2005, The Checkmates played “The South Side Shuffle” festival in Port Credit, Ontario (10 miles west of Toronto). The afternoon show was wildly received by a crowd that was also there to see 60’s soulster extraordinaire George Olliver (The Mandala) , plus 60’s Canadian pop stars such as Bobby Curtola and, Little Caesar And The Consuls. The Sunday afternoon show was sponsored by Oldies 1050 Chum Radio (Toronto). I was not there for the whole weekend, but, one young at heart lady, who saw the group regularily in the 60’s, claimed to me that The Checkmates got the biggest response of the entire festival ! I certainly had a nice afternoon. As Lou Reed, might say, it was a perfect day. By the way, Michael led Lou Reed’s band for 8 years (circa 1974 – 1980). Did I ever mention that before?
In their heyday (circa 1963-1966) , Jon And Lee And The Checkmates were one of the premier blue-eyed soul acts on the Toronto scene. They had some big moments, including a 1966 outdoor concert for over 60,000 people that celebrated the opening of Toronto’s distinctive, new city hall. They also opened a couple of shows for The Rolling Stones at Maple Leaf Gardens way back in the day, but, I won’t reiterate their entire history here…for all those details, just go to the link to the Rhinoceros web site on my LINKS page. You can read all about the history of Jon And Lee And The Checkmates there. They did make a big splash at their live shows way back when, but, surprisingly, despite some offers, they never did make an album.
At present, the Checkmates are working on THEIR FIRST ALBUM and, planning more live shows. Their first album? What?! Yes, it’s 42 years late, but, they are gettin’ it done at long last ! According to Michael, who is producing the CD…
“We are going to do this album ‘off the floor’ (that’s a musician’s term that means mainly live in the studio with very few overdubs) with just some backing vocals added. We want it to be mostly just what we do in a live show and, that means that it is mostly old, standard R&B tunes. This first one will just have a couple of originals on it. The next one will have more originals”.
Whatever you come up with, I can’t wait to hear this stuff, Michael ! Bless your cotton socks.
article and photographs (from the 2005 South Side Shuffle concert) submitted by John Mars. December 2005.
To make people cry – that’s music at its’ highest.” – Duke Ellington
Besides being a genius who painted incredible aural pictures with his music, Duke Ellington loved to eat. He had a voracious appetite and, as a famous, world traveller, you can just imagine all the culinary delights that he got to sample in some of the world’s finest restaurants. Still, one of the Duke’s fave meals was a simple “sandwich” that is the American “hot dog”. Sam Nanton (trombone) once watched him eat thirty-two such “sandwiches” backstage during an intermission at a dance in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. This has got to be some kind of record.
Said the Duke – “A Mrs. Wagner there makes a toasted bun that’s the best of it’s kind in America. She has a toasted bun, then a slice of onion, then a hamburger, then a slice of onion, then a tomato, then melted cheese, more tomato and then, the other side of the bun. Her hot dogs have two dogs to a bun. I ate thirty-two one night”.
My then gal-pal Wendy Mitchell and my mom and I saw Duke and his orchestra at the Brantford Civic Centre in 1973. He looked like a pretty big guy.
submitted by John Mars December 2003
SCROLL DOWN FOR TONS O’FUN !!
I am not a fan of awards for music or art. Canada’s foremost (and first) abstract painter, the late BERTRAM BROOKER once said :”Don’t look for recognition from the establishment. They grow callouses from sitting at their desks. The joy is in the doing and, that achievement is it’s own reward.”
The brilliant, Philadelphia-born multi-media, visual artist MAN RAY did not ever knowingly submit his work to juries or award programs and, so on. He found them to be ridiculous. I once heard an interview where he basically said that, if there were art prizes to be handed out, why not just have a draw? And, what if the person who made the worst piece wins? Well, he or she derserves to be commended for their miserable effort. I think that that is really true. Art should not be a contest. We have sports for that type of vibe and, that is where any intense competition belongs.
I’ve gotta agree with those two iconoclasts, Bertram Brooker and Man Ray. Each was each an artistic genius and, they both lived outside of any establishment order and, outside of any establishment games. We really could just put all the hats in the ring, so to speak, and, have a lucky draw for the art prize. All in the spirit of surrealism and, random chance. Or, we could just give any happy award to the person who already sold the most paintings or the most recordings – sort of like the guy who scored the most goals in the NHL or whatever. Maybe that makes them the best? Who is equipped to judge who is the best artist?
Even my favourite music magazine, MOJO, seems to be obsessed with all kinds of lists of the”Hundred Greatest” whatever. Their superfluous registers often drive me right up the wall and, over the years, this has made me really wonder why such a great publication is always sort of doing their own variation on those ridiculous Grammy/Academy awards etc. Yeech! All such goofy pagents are just personality parades. They are designed to increase commerce and, sell some ads and, add to the megalomania of certain personalities.
I am constantly being asked for my own favourite picks. People want to know what I am listening to. Fair enough. So, what I am about to do is tell you all about some up-to-date music that I am currently grooving on. These are all releases or reissues that have been made available in the last few years. So, this list is all recent stuff (four years old or less seems “current” to me). I am listing the records in alphabetical order (by first name) because, once you get up to the very high level that these artists and, their releases represent, we cannot really say that one person’s art is better than another person’s. So, you see, this is not an awards show. I don’t wanna say that “so and so” is number one and, someone else is number thirty-one. These are all really good things that are currently available. Check out the ones that you think might make your day / life. You’ll know what is right for you.
fairly recent releases:
Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2 (Super Ego Records)
Aimee Mann – Lost In Space (Super Ego Records)
Bob Dylan – Love And Theft (Columbia Records)
Chuck E. Weiss – Extremely Close (Rykodisc Records)
Chuck E. Weiss – Old Souls And Wolf Tickets (Rykodisc Records)
David Bowie – Heathen (Columbia Records)
Don Covay And Friends – Adlib (Cannonball Records)
Eleni Mandell – Wishbone (Mr. Charles Records)
Fiona Apple – When The Pawn… (Epic Records)
Firesign Theatre – Give Me Immortality Or, Give Me Death (Rhino)
Firesign Theatre – Boom Dot Bust (Rhino Records)
Jack de Keyzer – Six String Lover (Bluestar Records)
Jackson Browne – The Naked Ride Home (Elektra Records)
Jeff Beck – You Had It Coming (Columbia Records)
Kim Lenz And The Jaguars – The One And Only (Hightone Records)
Lucinda Williams – Essence (UMG/Universal Records)
Martina McBride – Emotion (RCA Records)
Mick Jagger – Goddess In The Doorway (Virgin Records)
Patty Loveless – Mountain Soul (Epic Records)
Patty Loveless – Strong Heart (Epic Records)
Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run (Capitol Records)
P.J. Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (Island)
Prairie Oyster – What Is This Country? (vik/BMG Records)
Ray Materick – Ashes And Dust (King Kong Records)
Ray Materick – Ragged Kingdom (King Kong Records)
Roger McGuinn – Treasures From The Folk Den (Appleseed Recordings)
Room 101 – Album (Lucas Stagg Recordings)
Ronnie Dawson – More Bad Habits (Yep Roc Records)
Scott B. Sympathy – Unfinished Sympathy (Bobby Dazzler Records)
Scott Merritt – The Detour Home (MCA Records)
Tom Waits – Mule Variations (Epitaph Records)
White Stripes – White Blood Cells (Third Man Records)
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – Blues From The Heart (Juke Joint Records)
Wilson Pickett – It’s Harder Now (Bullseye/Rounder Records)
Al Green – Love And Happiness (Hi Records – 3 CD box set)
Bob Dylan – Live 1975/Rolling Thunder Revue (Columbia – 2 CD)
Byrds – Live At The Fillmore, February 1969 (Columbia Records)
Byrds – The Byrds Play Dylan (Columbia Records)
Byrds – Untitled (Columbia Records – 2 CD)
Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band – The Mirror Man Sessions (Buddah)
Dave Rave Group – Valentino’s Pirates (Bullseye Records)
Free – Songs Of Yesterday (Island Records – 5 CD box set)
James Brown – Live At The Apollo Volume 2 (Polydor Records – 2 CD)
Jo Ann Kelly – Key To The Highway (Mooncrest Records) 1968 -1974
Jo Ann Kelly volume 2 – Talkin’ Low (Mooncrest Records) 1966 -1988
Jo Ann Kelly volume 3 – Tramp 1974 (Mooncrest Records)
Louis Prima/Keely Smith – Wild, Cool & Swingin’ (Capitol Records – 2 CD)
Miles Davis – Live At The Fillmore East, March 7, 1970 (Columbia – 2 CD)
Rhinoceros (Collector’s Choice Records)
Rolling Stones – Forty Licks (Virgin/Decca/Rolling Stones Records – 2 CD)
Rolling Stones – their entire London / Decca Records catalogue remastered
Savoy Brown – Looking From The Outside – Live ‘ 69/ ‘ 70 (Mooncrest Records)
Thelonious Monk – Live At The Jazz Workshop – Complete (Columbia – 2 CD)
Thelonious Monk – Monk (Columbia)
Thelonious Monk Quartet – Monk’s Dream (Columbia)
Thelonious Monk – The Columbia Years ‘ 62 – ‘ 68 (Columbia – 3 CD box set)
Traffic – Mr. Fantasy (Island Records)
Most of the above reissues contain previously unavailable cuts. That’s usually why we buy ’em. Otherwise, we might just as well listen to the old vinyl issues.
submitted by JOHN MARS April 2003
reproduction rights are available – send us an e-mail to ask about this image
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?
As a youngster, I worked for CBC Television as a production assistant on documentary films. It’s a junior job where you do research for the director, sort out the audio transcripts and, all the cans of film and, you pretty much do whatever little errands that the director and producer need you to do. It’s a real learning experience. While I didn’t necessarily want to learn all about how to make a film at the time, I did want to learn all about making art of any kind. I did get a good, basic art education from some of my seniors at the CBC, like executive producer Ross McLean and, research expert Shelley Gaffe. While working there under one very creative film director, Martin Lavut, I met an old buddy of his…
One of my jobs as a production assistant (a.k.a. “go-fer”) was to go and get the director and, get him safely to the film shoot. One spring morning in the 1970’s, I showed up at Martin Lavut’s apartment on Bathurst Street (near Vaughan Road) in Toronto to pick him up and drive him to the “location” in Orillia. While waiting for Marty to get up and brush his teeth and, get himself going, I explored some records in his living room and, ended up putting on the Charlie Parker/ Dizzy Gillespie/ Charles Mingus/ Bud Powell/ Max Roach 1953 concert album “Jazz At Massey Hall”. That one is always good for a Toronto type vibe. That much I knew even way back then, having been a Jazz music fan since my pre-teen years. In that way, I may have even been a tiny bit ahead of Martin, although he was many years my senior. Anyway, I was sitting around, with this whacky stuff blasting away at about 11 a.m. Suddenly, during “Salt Peanuts”, I heard the door close at the bottom of the “Marty Mouse” apartment stairs (Lavut collects Mickey Mouse stuff) and then, a rapid pounding on said stairs…bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bup. Then, I saw a curious, yet instantly recognizable (to me), long-haired figure flash by on the landing. He was headed for the guest room and carrying some shopping bags. I gulped. When I first started working at CBC with him, Martin had told me that he was pals with Zal Yanovsky and, that he had grown up in Montreal knowing Leonard Cohen as “one of the big guys in the neighbourhood”. Martin wasn’t trying to impress me, he just knew that I was a Rock ‘n’ Roller, and, he knew that I would be interested by certain little stories from pop history. I had heard all this incredible stuff, but, as I saw Zal go rocketing towards the guest room at Marty’s place, I was certainly thinking “whaaaaaaaaa?!”. I had never expected to actually meet Zal…
Seconds later the bags had been dropped off in the guest room and, Zally had come shooting right back quickly and, he was standing before me with paw extended, introducing his self, with me thinking to myself – “Yeah, I know”, but, saying “Hi, I’m Johnny”. I am sure that my mouth was hanging open…my eyes were most probably bugged out…
Anyway, I heard some funny Lovin’ Spoonful stories…at the time, Zal was a little bit cheesed with John Sebastian, but, he still showed a lot of love for him. He did impressions of John that were on the high level of a Rich Little or Eddie Murphy type impersonation effort. Zalman held his fingers up with his arms doubled over backwards and his fingers making little circular rings around his eyes in an attempt to approximate the style of the “Granny Glasses” that Sebastian/Lennon made popular. He also aped John Sebastian’s particular New York City dialect perfectly…”Hey meeeeean!” (man).
Zal cracked me up.
submitted by John Mars JANUARY 2003
The Detroit Red Wings once again triumphed as Stanley Cup champions for 2002 and, this summer, Red Wings forward Kirk Maltby had the venerated goblet brought to his home town of Hespeler, Ontario for a couple of days. Here we see Room 101 bassist Chris Blacker placing his then two week old daughter Cassandra in the chalice. To the right of the cup, Kirk Maltby is seen with his cousin Melissa (Chris’ wife/Cassandra’s mom). By the way, the Detroit Red Wings have always been John Mars’ favourite hockey squad! Sometimes, life can bring us the perfect happy day!
1936 (defeated Toronto Maple Leafs),
1937 (defeated New York Rangers),
1943 (defeated Boston Bruins),
1950 (defeated New York Rangers),
1952 (defeated Montreal Canadiens),
1954 (defeated Montreal Canadiens),
1955 (defeated Montreal Canadiens),
1997 (defeated Philadelphia Flyers),
1998 (defeated Washington Capitals),
2002 (defeated Carolina Hurricanes).
submitted by Charles “Plank” Schiesmann, July 2002
John Mars’ photograph of singer Frankie Venom graces the cover of this elegant record by the Canada’s most legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll singing group. Another of John’s pics appears on the back of the CD.You don’t have to visit “The Hammer” (Hamilton, Ontario) to appreciate the mayhem that ensues whenever “The Head” takes the stage. Just go looking for any one of their incredible 8 albums. Teenage Head guitarist Gordie “Legs” Lewis is John’s good buddy and, he helped out on a couple of songs on John’s “Whasup?” CD.
..regarding THELONIOUS MONK
Wanna know where to get started with John’s all-time favourite musical artist? Start with the Monk’s Dream album (the current Sony CD issue is available as a “Low List Price” item). Having a bad day? You can’t go wrong with this musical iconoclast. Monk’s music is guaranteed to make you smile and, maybe even make you laugh out loud! Insturmental music can make one laugh, you say? You bet! This genius of the piano can save your mood after a rough day (try him in the car during a traffic jam) or, he can be a perfect couch potato moment or, he can rev you right up, if you have to do the dishes (the next best alternative for the dishes is the Dave Clark Five). If you can’t find this particular Monk album right away, don’t worry – you are going to be astonished by anything he ever recorded. If you don’t know the music of the late Thelononious Sphere Monk already – your life is about to improve. It’s time to go shopping.
Meanwhile, here’s a tiny lil’ hunk o’ wisdom from Monk that John passed on to me and, which I feel that any serious musician should take heed of…
‘You can make a better solo if you use the melody’.
Says John – “When I heard that quote of Monk’s, I just thought that it was just so simply wise and I thought about about all those hot-dogging soloists that don’t make any sense at all when they improvise. Rather, they just fire off all of their most smoking licks at your head, all at once. It’s that ‘hey look at me go !’ type mentality that always bugs me. So, all you guitarists and saxmen and keyboard aces… it don’t matter what style of music you love and play, just keep the ol’ Monkster’s succinct words of wisdom in mind when you solo! You’ve got to concentrate on and, express the THEME, when you do your solo. There’s a difference between jamming and expressing the message of a song”.
submitted by Huggy Bundle
As a youngster, my father took my to the Colonial Tavern on Yonge Street for my birthday, to see the Thelonious Monk Quartet. Dad was a theatrical booking agent part-time and, he found out ahead of time through a colleague that we would have to sit in the balcony restaurant of the club and, have an evening meal, since I was very much underage and, could not be admitted to the bar area on the main floor. What a charge I got when Monk went thumping by us on his way through the upstairs restaurant on his way to his dressing room at around 10 pm. The quartet featured Pat Patrick (Sun Ra Arkestra) on tenor sax, Beaver Harris (from Albert Ayler’s group) on drums and, Monk’s old bassist from the 50’s, Wilbur Ware. Wilbur was the only musician that Monk had ever fired. The firing in the 50’s was due to Wilbur’s drug use but, Monk re-hired the ebullient bass star in the 70’s, since he had cleaned up. Earlier in the day, my Dad had dropped me off at Sam The Record Man (also on Yonge Street), with enough dough to buy a couple of lps as a birthday gift, while he went to a meeting.
I was pouring over the Monk bin in Sam’s upstairs Jazz department when I heard a voice ask the department manager – ” I am looking for an album that I made called ‘ The Chicago Sound ‘ “. It was Wilbur Ware and, he was asking about the excellent record that he made for Riverside with Johnny Griffin on tenor sax. The record was out of print at the time. I looked over and, Wilburthen spied this ” little Beatle type kid ” looking at the Monk lps. He was such a personable guy and, he came right over to chat me up. He was amazed that I was into the music. So, he said “Well, you probably can’t get into the club tonight” – I explained that it was my birthday and, that although I obviously was not of drinking age, that Dad and I could sit up in the balcony, if weordered a couple of steaks or whatever and, that, I could stay all night, drinking Cokes (whichthe Colonial charged the then outrageous price of $1 for). So, Wilbur told me that he wouldlook for us up there.
True to his word, Wilbur came upstairs early in the evening and talked to us. He later took my copy of “Misterioso” into the dressing room and, had Monk sign it. Although, I am a huge collector of records (I have virtually everything Monk ever did, for instance) and, other art objects, I have collected very few autographs…Eric Burdon, Grace Slick, Abraham Lincoln, Lesley Gore, Charles Mingus and, a “Good Luck John Always, Thelonious Monk” are the only ones that come to mind. So, I didn’t actually meet Mr. Monk (or Mr. Lincoln), but, to this day, scarcely a week goes by that I don’t think about Thelonious Monk and, listen to his music.
As the group played, Wilbur Ware (who loudly hummed along with his work like Monk did) looked up into the balcony and, grunted quite a few “Yeah”s at my father and I. I felt pretty lucky that night and, I’ve felt pretty lucky ever since.