Friday, July 31, 2009

Un Interlude Musical de Jeff Overturf, Troisieme Mouvement de Sept

Thanks for dropping by for the third movement in my seven day musical interlude and second part of my "Rusty" love song trilogy. For more on "Rusty" click here, and for part one click here.

"The Silver Dollar..." bar, saloon, tavern, what-have-you. There must be one in every part of the western U.S., and I'll bet every one has a "Rusty". This is a Shel Silverstein song about such a not-so-imaginary-place and a not-so-imaginary-woman and the other denizens there. Originally performed by "Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show" brought to you now with my stink on it.

We've all been having fun pointing at "Rusty", but it's important to remember, "Rusty"'s aren't born...they're made. So who's to bless and who's to blame?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ein Musikalisches Intermezzo von Jeff Overturf, Tag Zwie von Sieben

Thank you for visiting day 2 of my 7 day musical interlude. My theme? "Love songs from different points of view".

I had no idea what a chord I would strike with my drawing of the character "Rusty" in last Sundays post. Both good and bad, it seems everyone I know has known a "Rusty". This one little drawing told everyone everything they needed to know and sparked their own memories. There must be lots of "Rusty"'s out there and as I thought of what love songs they have written for them, I actually came up with three. Here's the first.

This song is written by Chris Wall. A band called Confederate Railroad had a top ten hit with it in 1992, but I actually learned it from The Gonzo Maestro hisself, Jerry Jeff Walker on his "Live from Gruene Hall" album. Here goes.

Y'all can thank/blame Chad Palmer for the suggestion.

I'll see you tomorrow and Saturday for the other two love songs for this wonderfully universal woman.

Thanks "Rusty" for all you do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Intermezzo Musicale di Jeff Overturf, Primo Movimento di Sette

I know what you're all thinking out there: "Hey Jeff...why are you singing and playing guitar on here when you're as rhythmically and tonally challenged as you are?"

My answer?: "'Cause I like to!"

You may even be a person who likes to sing and everyone around you cringes at the sounds emanating from you.

My answer?: "To Hell with them!"

Music's a magic thing that makes people feel good. There was a time before mp3's, before CD's, before cassette tapes, vinyl records, 8-track tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, copper cylinders and magnetic wire, when people made their own music on their front porches and back yards.

And everyone had a good time. It was a form of communication.

This post is a love song for everyone who likes to bang on an instrument or sing in the shower. Written by Dan Reeder, it tells us that you should make the most out of the simplest of songs and no one should laugh at you. And what they can do if they do if they object.

"Hey Jeff, why'd you get hoity toity with the post title in Italian?"

My answer?: "Just makin' the most out of a simple song...and you know what you can do."

Now...everybody sing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DICK SPRANG!'s not the punchline to a dirty joke.

Richard W. "Dick" Sprang was born this day in 1915, he would have been 94 years old.

Dick was one of the unsung heroes of the golden age of comic books. He was hired by DC comics in 1941 to act as a ghost penciller for Bob Kane. Bob Kane had sold Batman to DC in 1939, fearing Bob would be drafted into WW II, DC wanted to cover their hinders and ensure someone was in place to keep the feature going in Bob's absence.

There were a slew of ghosts for Bob Kane. Ghost writers, pencillers and inkers, Dick Sprang, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, Joe Giella and on and on. Bob had sold the character to DC and signed the contract alone, so only Bob's name ever appeared on the feature.

But Dick stood out (so many dirty jokes here) and readers all could kind of tell that there were different artists involved, and Dick was probably the best of them all.

Dick Sprang's cartoony style really defined the character throughout the 1950's. He had redesigned the Batmobile in 1948 and no one drew The Penguin quite as bizarre as he did. He also did a great expressive job on Batman. Batman's head and face are 2/3's covered by his mask, but Dick made his chin so square, Batman's mouth could really show emotion, and by turning the blank slit of his eye holes into half-moons, his eyes let you know exactly what's going on.

Rather than dilute this man's visual ability down to words, Dick Sprang's work can actually be done greater justice by experiencing it. One of his other achievements was, he was the first artist to draw the Riddler. Below is that very first appearance from Detective Comics #140, 1948.

Dick Sprang's identity was eventually rooted out by the growing comic book fan-dom on the 1960's. He had retired from comics by 1963m but by the end of the decade he was a hot property suddenly again.

He never got to sign a single Batman story he worked on during his heyday, but we knew who he was. He spent his retirement years attending comics gatherings and conventions being fawned over by fans and even drawing recreations of his golden age works. All signed...Dick Sprang.

Sprang passed away in 2000.

Like it says above, "Dick Sprang remembers"...and so do we.

Thanks Dick.

Monday, July 27, 2009

50th post; More Steve Goodman and the swift hand of the internet! never know who's reading this thing. The solitude of working in cyberspace makes you forget sometimes that you really are connecting with people.

I got a very nice e-mail yesterday from the author of a recent biography on Steve Goodman, thanking me for the post I did on Steve's birthday.

The authors name is Clay Eals and the book is called "Facing the Music". It looks like a very good read and seems very lovingly put together. I'm definitely going to grab myself a copy.

The book is going into it's second printing and was the winner of the 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Award) Silver for biography.

Thanks for the kind e-mail Clay. I look forward to reading your book.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unsuccessful Television Holiday Specials

From the sketchbook of Jeff Overturf...ideas for poorly received television holiday specials.

Not a very good idea...

Worse idea...

Reaaaaaally bad idea.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Good Morning America...How Are You?

Born this day in 1948, today would have been Steve Goodman's 61st birthday.

Steve was a singer songwriter from Chicago who's most famous song was "The City of New Orleans", a huge hit for Arlo Guthrie. His own stage style was an exuberant ball of energy, who's spontaneity and flare with a guitar (almost an extension of his own body) could electrify an audience to a fever pitch and leave them happy, exhausted and with a satisfied grin...a refractory state very close to post-orgasmic. In the 1970's he would be the opening act for people like Kris Kristofferson in his rock & roll/country/folk/sex symbol heyday and Steve Martin in his monster "wild & crazy" height doing stadium shows. Kristofferson playfully says he eventually stopped hiring Steve because he got tired of reading reviews like, "Kristofferson's show was OK...but MAN, that Steve Goodman is GREAT!".

I'm no idiot, so I'm giving you me singing a Steve Goodman song before I show you Steve himself. I ain't gonna follow him. A smart man wouldn't even put himself in the same post as Steve. OK...maybe I AM an idiot...but, hell, it's my blog.

Here's Steve showing us what a guitar is for. An old song made famous by Al Jolson.

Steve wrote all kinds of songs. Funny songs, sad songs, poignant songs, tragic songs, happy songs. Folk, Country, Blues, Jazz songs. Songs about himself and songs about all of us.

There was always something lacking for me in his studio albums. Too '70's singer-songwriter-overproduced-treacly-sugary-sweet sounding for my ear...but his live stuff...Wow. Always great.

Awwwww's another...after all, it's his birthday.

Steve was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 11 years old and battled it all his life. He nicknamed himself "Cool Hand Leuk". Another life-long battle was that he was a Chicago Cubs fan. He even wrote the song, "Go, Cubs, Go" which they still play at the end of winning games and that the entire town of Chicago loves to sing along with.

The Cubs were last in the World Series in 1945, three years before Steve was born and in 1984 they made it into the pennant race. They played their first post-season game in 39 years.

Steve was supposed to sing the National Anthem at that game, but he died 8 days before it happened.

He gave them a better song though.

Steve's ashes were sprinkled over Wrigley Field.

Steve was 36 years old when he died. But he packed so much energy, enthusiasm for life and music and smiles on other peoples faces into that short span, you'd need the "jaws of life" to pry it all back out.

We should all try and be this excited and happy about something for just one day.

Let's try it. It would be a good tribute to Steve.

Worst case is, you had a good time for a bit.

Steve met John Prine way back about 1970 in "The Earl of Old Town" in Chicago and they became the tightest of friends from then on. They'd often write and perform together. John Prine describes Steve Goodman as "The guy who makes fun of my guitar playing to my face and brags about my songwriting behind my back.".

A song they'd often do together is John Prine's "Souvenirs" and John still does this to this day, dedicating it to Steve. He often says that "Steve had a way of playing this with me that made it sound like I was playing all the good parts.". The best way to close this is with...

Thanks Steve!

P.S. Check out an addendum to this post here!

Friday, July 24, 2009

One JO's Opinion: Every medium can be a large.

I watched "The Watchmen" movie the other night, and it made me think.

This is NOT a movie revue. Let me just start by saying I thought it was a fine piece of work.

It just made me think of something.

"The Watchmen" movie idea has been volleyed about for over 20 years, not since the comic book of the same name hit the stands, but ever since the 12 issues of same had been collected into a graphic novel and the sales results came in.

It was called "unfilmable" by many and I agreed. The book was so dense with nuance that made the story enjoyable, you could never get it all into an hour and 40 minute movie. But that isn't really the problem.

It was the perfect comic book. It told a story in a way that can only be told with the tools that can only be utilized in this specific art form. A film has different tools. They can replicate things, but they do not perform the same way.

Here in 2009 they did it successfully. Clocking in at over 3 hours and using technical innovations that weren't available or cost-effective 20+ years ago, they pulled it off. It was visually true to the comic and kept the story almost completely intact. If they were going to do a "Watchmen" movie, this was the way to do it. And I'm glad they did, it was fun to watch.

But, as I said, it made me think. Why is a creative work only considered truly successful if it eventually evolves into a film? Why is that the pinnacle of success?

Every creative medium has values intrinsic to only itself, that can't fully be translated into a version in another. A painting can be recreated as a sculpture...but they have different values about them that rise above or below each other.

"The Grapes of Wrath" is in the top 10 of my all-time favorite books. It tells a story in a way that you can only tell in the form John Steinbeck scribed it. It needs the novel's length, it needs the breakdown by chapter. In this case, every third chapter is a commentary, a chapter which puts the reader's mind in the mood and the place it needs to be, as well as making parallels to the characters in the story. It could have been called "unfilmable".

"The Grapes of Wrath" is in my all-time favorite top 50 films. It's got differences from the book. It says a lot of the same things as the book. But John Ford understood that film and novel are two different mediums and have values that can only be translated by it's specific form.

"The Far Side" by Gary Larson is in my top 15 favorite comic strips of all time. And it may just be THE PERFECT comic strip. The gags Larson pulled off in this thing are things that could only be done in this medium.

With The Far Side you almost have to read the caption and view the cartoon simultaneously. Try and describe a Far Side to someone, by the time you describe the action and give the verbiage (or vice verse) it loses too much of it's effect.

The elaborateness of the image and the juxtaposition of the subjects would be too unwieldy (cost and production-wise) to do in film or television to make the brevity of the "quick punch" to seem right or to be as funny.

This is an honorable thing. This is the apex of this medium. It wouldn't be "better" just because it was made into a film. John Steinbeck's work didn't became "better" because it was made into a is a great novel.

Let's stop comparing different creative medium by the monetary gain they provide. Comic strips, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, television, etc. are all valuable on their own.

And made greater for those things which make them their own.

This has been "One JO's Opinion". Jeff Overturf or Jack-Off? You decide...but I'll probably keep having them anyway.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jeff Overturf who? part 7: "Missy"

"Missy" or "The Unquiting Girlfriend".

Another original song by me, the first posted here since "I Love Rachael Ray" and "Singin' Cowboy". Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This Idiot Slipped Under My Radar

He stepped in it on July 8th and then splashed it all over himself this week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"The Carter Fold" part 1 of 3

Today would be Sara Carter's 118th birthday, she was born in 1891. That's her on your left in the pic below with Maybelle Carter and A.P. Carter, The Carter Family.

The Carter Family were the hottest ticket in rural music of the 1930's. They recorded for the RCA Victor label and during the depression, they and Jimmie Rodgers sold more records than anyone else in any kind of music. If it wasn't for the hard work and ramblings of A.P. and the appealing sounds they cut, we would have lost hundreds of years of Irish and English and American folk music. I'll get into more on A.P.'s birthday and Maybelle's too. You can read lots more about The Carter Family on your own. A book I'm particularly fond of is "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?" by Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg. Their music is still avaliable on CD, you can find them all over the internet too, and a blog I'm watching with bated breath is "Dont' Forget This Blog" a blog by a couple of guys writing and drawing a graphic novel all about our favorite first family of country music. It's definitely worth a read.

A.P. was the mind and researcher (song finder), arranger and writer of the group. He was also in love with his wife Sara.

His drive to do this music was all he had and Sara was his muse that kept him doing it, so when Sara divorced him and decided to retire from music, he stopped too.

Many years after their retirement in the early 40's, the 60's folk revival rediscovered their music. They were voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A.P. had already passed away, but Maybelle was still performing with her daughters (Helen, June and Anita) and Sara came out of retirement to accept the award and perform on The Johnny Cash Show (Johnny and June had by this time married).

There doesn't seem to be any film footage of the Carter's performing in their heyday or of A.P. at all. Here's a couple clips though from the 60's, I believe in Johnny Cash's back yard, of Sara and Maybelle. Sara's a bit long in the tooth, and her voice is wavering, but you can really hear the cohesiveness of the Carter harmonies and the way her harpsichord blends so well with Maybelle's guitar.

Here's me doing a Carter Family song too. One A.P. might have sung with Sara in mind...the key line for me being, "All I want is your love, darling...won't you take me back...AGAIN."

Thanks Sara.

Part Two of "The Carter Fold" can be found here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jeff Overturf who? part 6: Turf Log-"Moon Walk"

An all new "Turf Log" commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing.

As always, click the smaller thumbnails to view full size.

See the bread post in question here.

Thank you Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for risking your keisters to do it. And thank you to all the hundreds and hundreds of men who's hard work made it so.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Out of the Inkwell...Onto Shockwave Flash Player

Max Fliescher was born today in 1883, he would have been 126 years old.

There's a lot I could tell you about the personal life of Max Fleischer, but since today is Sunday and a good day to sit and watch cartoons, I thought I'd let his work speak for itself. A kind of celebration through appreciation.

The Fleischer's began their work in the early 1920's, making silent cartoons. Most of these were about the adventures of a clown named "Ko-Ko" and his creator, Max. These were surreal stories that seemed to offer a new technical innovation with every cartoon. They invented the "Rotoscope" which allowed them to kind of "trace over" live action. Dave Fleischer would dress in a clown suit, then they would trace a cartoon figure over him. This made for a realistic movement and it's a device still used today occasionally, but the Fleischers themselves soon abandoned strict use of this, as it limited the real magic, the ability of an animator to add personality to the character..and truthfully, allow the character to be a cartoon.

They also experimented with the combination of live action and animation together, and every cartoon seemed to find a new way to innovate, poke fun at the innovation, and comment on the unique art form they were making.

Another first for the Fleischers? They were the first to put sound on film. "The Jazz Singer" with Al Jolson and even "Steamboat Willie" with Mickey Mouse were films shown with recorded accompaniment with a record playing along with the movie. The Fleischers actually printed the sound track right on the film, the way we do it right up to today.

Once sound was here to stay, they made full advantage of it with their "Famous Bouncing Ball" series. Folks in the theater would sing along with a popular song of the day while watching cartoons dramatizing the action.

The music in Fleischer Brothers cartoons was great too. Disney and Warner cartoons had top 40 pop tunes and show-type tunes, which were great...but the Fleischer's were based in New York rather than Hollywood and had access to Broadway performers and the music acts around Harlem. Check this great Betty Boop cartoon featuring the first screen appearance ever by the great Louis Armstrong.

They brought us Popeye and Betty Boop of course, but they also did the first film version of Superman. Coming just 3 years after Superman's first appearance, these cartoons are amazing. Here's the first.

They did more than I can fit into a single post. The first 2-reel cartoon, "Popeye Meets Sindbad the Sailor" a couple of feature length cartoons, "Gulliver's Travels" and "Mr. Bug Goes to Town".

The thing that really separated the Fleischers from other studios of the time is they were true cartoons. While Disney was striving for technical achievements in animation and smooth natural movement, Warner was just feeling it's way through and selling Warner's songs, Paul Terry, Walter Lantz and the rest were just churning out product...Max and Dave were making CARTOONS! Made for laughs, made for making you feel good.

Boop-Oop-A-Doop is all I can say.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"That Memphis Man"

Happy birthday Lonnie Mack who turns 68 today.

Lonnie Mack is a pioneer of the blues-rock guitar solo, laying down landmark tracks before and influencing the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mike Bloomfield, Duane Allman and the rest. He's from a magical place and time, the Memphis area of the 50's, the true crux of the country where and when all the American styles of music flowed together and met along the Mississippi and were fused by electricity.
In 1959 "the music died" and the first big "pop scare" swept the nation. Buddy Holly was dead, Elvis was in the army, Jerry Lee Lewis was scandalized by a marriage to his underage cousin, Chuck Berry was incarcerated for violating the Mann Act...sheesh. The airwaves were filled by the likes of Fabian, Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton...ugh. Lonnie Mack and folks like Duane Eddy were trying to be heard, but it wasn't until the British Invasion came along that music was resuscitated.
Lonnie was finally acknowledge in the late 80's by Stevie Ray Vaughan who pointed out just how cool his versions of "Memphis", "Strikes Like Lightning" and "Wham" were and how they laid important ground-work.
Hell, Lonnie may be the only person ever who made "The Flying V" guitar look cool.
Here's a seasoned and recognized 50 year old Lonnie, showing us all what happens when serious music has fun.

Let the music speak for itself. I want a cookie.

"That's the Way it Is"

Walter Cronkite died tonight at the age of 92.

It seemed strange to me that he could be dead.

It seemed strange to me that news this important...should be announced by someone other than Walter Cronkite himself.

I remember watching him as a kid. He wasn't as cold and hard or scolding sounding as Huntley, Brinkley and the rest. He seemed kind of an affable Uncle. And more so, when things went wrong in the world, he seemed like he would, if not be able to make it all better, he'd protect us from getting hurt.

I remember him in 1972 announcing that we would be calling our troupes home from Vietnam. I kind of knew there was a war on (I was 9) but I wasn't really sure where or with who or even if it was still World War II. I did know that it was wrong for us to be in though. That it was more wrong than war is wrong anyway. And I think I knew it because of the stern way Walter Cronkite announced it, and the relieved way he said our boys were coming home.

I remember in 1974 (I was 11 then) when the most powerful man in the free-world was accused of doing something he shouldn't have been. I think I was a little scared to be in a world where the man who was President would do something he wasn't supposed to be doing. And I felt good knowing people like Walter Cronkite were keeping an eye on guys like that.

I understood what "The Fourth Estate" meant on that day.

I can faintly remember in 1969 seeing him commentating on the live broadcast of man's first step on the moon. I remember being perturbed that it all didn't look as cool as "Star Trek" or "Lost in Space" and finding it annoying that most of what we could see was the guys at Houston Control and the news guys talking about it all. Then when it happened I saw Walter Cronkite cry. I saw a grown man who I knew was responsible and serious and someone in charge (I was 6) wipe tears from his eyes. That was the first time I had ever seen a grown man cry, and in the 40 years since then I think it was the only time I ever saw a man cry that didn't make me feel uncomfortable. But he didn't make me feel uncomfortable. I, even at 6, understood why he broke down. And it could only have been because he had made me understand why, with what he was saying.

I learned what "The Fourth Estate" could mean on that day.

A week or so ago I overheard a TV newscast from the other room and the anchor had to stop in the midst of his/her top story (some important findings on the relevance of what color panties Paris Hilton and Lyndsay Lohan flash on any given day, and how it pertains to disturbances in the Van Allen Belt) to announce with a quavering and breaking voice that his/her childhood idol, a pedophile with scores of other mental disorders, had died of drug related causes. He/she commented that he/she wasn't sure how the world could go on without the "grand" contribution this freak brought to the world. What would we do without a septic-bubble-gum-Pop spewing child molester around? Luckily the anchor composed his/herself in time to throw the show over to the cupcake cooking demo and then come back, orange-spray-on-tan all aglow, to give out the results of the previous nights "Dancing with The Surviving America's Got Talent Idols" and sign off with a wink, a brilliant capped-bleached-toothed smile and a "shout out" to his/her Twitter followers.

I learned how fragile "The Fourth Estate" was.

And now it feels weaker, without a Walter Cronkite to suddenly jump out of retirement and make it all right again.

Rest well Mr. Cronkite. That's the way it is. Good night.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Children-Kids and their fine arts Daddy

Lyonel Feininger would have been 138 years old today, he was born in 1871.
It seems odd that after posting for a month and a half that this would be the first newspaper cartoonist's birthday to pop up. And in a way, it's both fitting and not.

Feininger is best known for being a "fine artist" (I take umbrage with this term's exclusive nature) and sculptor, but in 1906, for just about one year, he was a real artist in my book. He was a cartoonist.

The reason I hint at "not" fitting, is because he only did it for a year. His work is often not mentioned among the greats who began the medium and his work is not widely know, even among geeks like me. "Fitting" though because he is responsible for one of the greatest innovation in the medium.

The comic strip "Four-Color Big Bang" began just 10 years earlier when R.F. Outcault first established "Der Yeller Kid" as a regular Sunday supplement feature in Joseph Pulitzer's newspapers. The success of which, soon had many followers: The Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, Alphonse & Gaston, And Her Name Was Maude, etc. And no sooner did this new medium sweep the nation, than there were already detractors, preaching moral outrage. Conservative dowagers everywhere expressed complaints that the slapstick nature and low humor of these strips was going to corrupt our youth and demanded them expunged from their family-values newspapers. The Chicago Tribune syndicate tried to appease them.

There was a large contingency of German immigrants around Chicago, including many artists of children's books back in their homeland, so the Tribune contracted a number of them to design Sunday pages for their papers. Most of the artists turned out work that was really beautiful graphically, but were really just an extension of the children's book work that they were known for...with one exception.

Feininger mixed his very stylized and stunning graphic sensibilities to create really stunning full page art (in these days a Sunday comic took up the entire page, not like today's page which is crammed with 5 or 6 or 7 different strips and ads) with a new innovation. He told a serialized story with his continuing characters. This had only been dabbled in once by Outcault in "Hogan's Alley" over a two page story and once by Rudolph Dirks with "The Katzenjammers" over three pages. Feininger told a continuing adventure-humor story which ran the run of the strip. This laid the ground-work for the next 50 years of comics. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, Little Abner, Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, Gasoline Alley...all benefited from serializing their stories and making them bigger and grander than the newsprint they were printed on. Even today with Doonesbury and for Better or Worse we see examples of this, thought the newspapers have little space to let the artists do justice to it.

Enough's a few pages of "The Kinder-Kids" (literally translated means "The Children-Kids") as they embark on their journey all over the world in the family bath-tub, starting off with a strip announcing the characters.

See how his panel layouts lend a cohesiveness to the page even as the story moves along.
That's just a sampling. Fantagraphics Books put out a complete collection of ALL the strips in one thin volume (it was only a year remember), and you can see the full story there.
Another strip he did was called "Wee Willie Winkie's World" about a child and the was he saw the world around him. Not as buildings, trees and clouds, but all come to life in really amazing anthropomorphous forms. Enjoy!

We'll not often see graphic story-telling like this again. But Feininger's work is forever preserved.
The "Fine" art critics who praise his work usually pretend he was never a cartoonist and seldom (I mean VERY seldom) mention this stuff.

Don't worry. They'll all smoke a turd in Hell for being so narrow-minded and tunnel-visioned.
Thanks Lyonel!

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