Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cafe C'est What Closed Down Today

To all you fellow music lovers, we lost one of our own today-Tom Terrell- who finally had to move on after struggling with cancer. It's kind of funny that just the thought of Tom, which has always made me smile, is making me cry today. Long ago, driving home from the old 9:30, I'd turn on the radio, and if he was on, I'd just laugh. Sometimes I'd call him up when I got home, and he always sounded so happy to hear from me- never bothered by the interruption. When he was spinning tunes on WHFS, he was "Tom Tee", and his show was called "Cafe C'est What" which is just so Tom. I know that was a million years ago, but I still remember how fun it was- he just loved to share his love of music with everybody.

I went to Tom's site today. He writes about that love so well, I'm letting him take over. Here's an excerpt from a memoir he'd been working on:

I remember how music somehow always made things better. When I was lost in the music, I found hope, freedom, joy, magic; I found me. WNJR, WABC, WWRL were my flashlights that chased away the darkness, Sonny Taylor, Dan Ingram, Frankie Crocker, Murray The K were my Obi Wan Kanobies. James Brown, the Temptations, the Miracles, t
he Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Joe Bataan were my Guardian Angels.

And this after attending his Aunt Shirley Horn's funeral:

See, all my life, vocalists have given me faith, hope, and charity, caressed
me, comforted me, taught me, guided me, carried me, nurtured me, encouraged me, loved me, forgave me, sheltered me, touched me, influenced me, and reached me in the darkest hours far heavily than family, friends, and lovers ever have or could. When I was a baby, my Moms told me the only thing that would stop me bawling was Johnny Ace's "The Clock" and "Pledging My Love". David Ruffin proved to me that wearing thick black eyeglass frames was cool, not corny. Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and the Staple Singers taught me smart was the real hip, black was always beautiful, funk is spiritual, and to always love myself for myself.

Most importantly of all, Marvin Gaye showed me that a real man is not ashamed to cry, beg, repent, atone, and apologize. After he died, I was in so much pain that I couldn'
t listen to his music for months: if a song of his came on the radio, I turned it off; if they played him at a party, I ran outside. I grieved profoundly until I heard Paul Young sing "Wherever I Lay My Hat Is My Home" a year later at the Bayou. I cried and wailed my soul out of mourning that night. To Sir With Love: From then until right here right now, not a day's gone by that I don't play at least one of your records.

And finally from a posting last spring:
Anyways, today was my last radiation session. The numbness is mostly gone and I have to do some physical therapy 'cause my right leg muscles are a tad weak. I resume chemo at the end of the month. Good news: my PSA last week dropped to 42,
my hormone-pumped weight of 183 is now down to a svelte 168 and I STILL have a helluva appetite, no nausea, no pain, no lethargy. Oh yeah, my lust for life and laughter remains unstoppable.

Peace and Love Every Time,

lil tommy tee

(photo by Jeff The Purple)

He always signed his pieces that way- peace and love every time. I love that.
Thank you, Tom for all that love, and right back at you wherever you are.
Man, we'll miss you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

100 King-or Another Small Town Story from the Naked City

(Dave Chappell, Patty Reese And John Meadows @ 100 King)

John Meadows is trying to get music going at 100 King in old town Alexandria. It's a nice big space with huge windows on King street-just a couple of blocks from the River and excellent food to boot. I met John when he worked at the much missed Starland Cafe in my hood, but he also worked at the Birchmere for many moons. I went down there to see Patty Reese and Dave Chappell a few weeks ago. I was curious about Patty- from more than one party I knew her as one of those close degrees of separation from me. When she was a wee lass, she used to come to parties at my group house in College Park where I lived with her best friend's older brother, Rick. Since then Patty grew up to be a well established musician in these parts, but though we have mutual friends, I never saw her again until 100 King. She didn't remember me, of course, but she did recall the Great Dane that gave our hellatious home its Dog House moniker. I emailed my old house mate the story, and he promptly emailed this back:

(Shea-courtesy of Alan Kresse)

She was playing with Dave Chappell. I met Dave, consummate guitarist, when I went to see The Troubadours because my friend Mark from the old 9:30 Club days was in that band along with Jake Flack. Jake had bought a house from another college house mate, Pete. (Yes, I moved a lot back then.)
But I digress. Patty will be playing tomorrow night around 8 with Paul Bell of the Nighthawks and back again December 6 with Dave Chappell. Keep an eye on 100 King-it's another great place to see music around here...for free. And say hey to John. Tell him I sent you. (Isn't that what small towns are for?)

GHz Last Friday Night

GHz drew a good sized crowd the other night at The Outta the Way Cafe,
playing three sets and getting better with each one.
Chip Py caught these moments:

John Zidar on drums

Dan Hovey

and Scott Giambusso

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Monday Doesn't Have To Be Mundane

Lookee here. Ottley will be on around 8:30 making it the perfect excuse not to cook dinner- get a pizza and a baby sitter for the kids-grab your punk party clothes and go out. Have a bite at Iota and get home by 10...or not. Be adventurous. Go out on MONDAY.

By the by there are older postings about Ottley on this site. You can find them by hitting the Ottley link below.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Other Birds Seen Around Here Besides Turkeys

I told someone I was going to go see The Nighthawks at the Kensington Armory Thanksgiving "town dance" last Wednesday, and they said, "Are they still alive?"
Well, yeah.
And it was great.
And here are the pictures to prove it from my senior staff photographer, Chip Py:

The show sold out.

Johnny Castle

Keith Grimes

Paul Bell

Mark Wenner

and Dan Hovey sitting in.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

There's No Place Like DC

I don't know why there's so much good music in this government town, but there is. Is it because of the sixties? I remember when my long haired, lanky, fifth grade teacher, Miss Wenger taught my class to sing the Youngblood song Get Together. We were a hit- swaying with our arms around each other while she played the guitar. That did it. Everyone and I mean everyone asked for a guitar that Christmas. And a bunch of us got one and brought them to school and started playing. I was lucky to get a guitar at all, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. My parents got me somebody's folk reject which I had to carry in a pillow case. (I wanted to rock, but my songbook featured Home on the Range.)

The funny thing is you can't swing a cat around here without hitting a musician - yet relatively few people seem to know this. They're out there paying hundreds of dollars to see the big guns like Bruce and The Police, and a lot of times missing what's right here in our own back yard for $10 or under. Sometimes for NOTHING. This Friday night, for example, you can hear Jimi Hendrix and Cream at Outta the Way Cafe . (I didn't say you'd see 'em- but you can hear 'em.) Our own GHz can practically channel those guys.
So roust yourselves- get out and support our local music scene. Close your eyes and you might not know the difference...but your wallet sure will. And that guy playing on stage? You probably went to high school with him.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something Fishy in Silver Spring?

Silver Spring. For years it thrived - for years it died. When I was a kid, I used to spend Thanksgiving night with my oldest brother and his wife so I could go to the big Silver Spring Christmas parade which was always held the day after Thanksgiving. I don't know when they stopped having it, but most people I ask don't remember one. Silver Spring faltered- I guess sometime in the seventies. Then came years of speculation of how to revive the failing downtown. One idea was a Mall of America. At least THAT fell through, but in its place is a sort of faux Main Street- or Same Street- chain after chain store. It's so much a mall that my friend, Chip Py was told in no uncertain terms not to take pictures, as it is private property, thus spawning the Great Silver Spring Photographer's Anti Massacre Movement. (O.K. I borrowed that from Alice's Restaurant. Remember when WHFS used to play that EVERY Thanksgiving day ? But I digress) Anyway the new developpement seems to be a whopping success. So many people come there now you need a freight elevator to get them out of the parking lot. And that huge expanse of astro turf is often covered with frolicking patrons.
But not all of Silver Spring has turned over by any means.
The Silver Theater now houses the AFI, and little places are holding on like Dale Music, Crisfield's, Vincino's and The Quarry House. The Tastee Diner was saved and moved. The Acorn Gazebo (circa 1850!) which presides over the silver spring, is still there- though the park is tiny. And check out Jackie's Restaurant. She took over an old car parts shop and made it her own amazing spot.
Maybe all these big places are helping the little ones stay for now, or maybe it's the calm before another storm of mega chains which could include a totalitarian corporate music venue as The Birchmere deal fell through. Last weekend, however, I suddenly found myself marching down Georgia Avenue- not in a protest but in... a parade. I don't live in Silver Spring so I had no idea, but the Thanksgiving parade is back. It didn't look like anything I remembered, until I spotted a bunch of well worn plastic reindeer pulling a suspiciously familar float. Someone must have held onto that old stuff-stored it away just in case- just like someone held onto the theater and the diner and the acorn. Old Silver Spring still lives. Change can be good. Change is helping Silver Spring to thrive, but hold on, everybody - just in case.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Peace Time

The Electric Maid. Isn't that a great name? It used to be a funky little diner in Takoma Park, but now the sign has migrated around the corner, over the District line, and down the street to 268 Carroll Avenue NW. There it sits above a little building which is home to an art space of sorts. Tomorrow night- November 17, Peace Drum is having an acoustic party there with members of Dream Kitchen, Lump Dog, and more- "original music and crazy covers." The party starts at 9- donations accepted.
I'm all for anyone who wants to give this peace thing a chance. (Hey- Why does that sound so familiar?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Karl Rove lives in my neighborhood, but I'll bet he never thought of looking for WMD right here in DC. (Just think: peace, love and music coming out of this town instead of war and destruction, but maybe that's another issue.) I looked, and I found WMD practicing in a back yard right down the street from me. It was Michael Dolan. (a founding member of The Catholics for you DC music buffs. The Catholics played back in the day at places of yore like The Bayou and Columbia Station.) Now he and a whole bunch of other people are ganging up to create a wall o' sound with a "12 member rock and soul revue" at DC9 this Thursday night November 15 . WMD will be playing to support the D.C. chapter of One Brick - a charitable online community. “We’re very excited about helping One Brick. They’re a real asset to the city,” said show organizer and drummer Ian Martinez. He's the “M” in WMD. Guitarist Josh Wein, and bassist Michael Dolan make up the other letters.
Comedian Adam Ruben will emcee, and The Method will open. A sawbuck gets you in.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who Knew?

Yes, there was a big good-bye party, and yes, there was a Last This, That and the Other,
BUT, due to some quirk of settlement fate, Chick Hall's is still with us. With some places and people we don't get to say good-bye; other times we get more than one chance, and this is one of the latter. Such is life. So all of you procrastinators and ne'er do wells-here's your reprieve. Seize the day. There's a blues jam tonight, and the DC Blues Society will have a few shows going on. I highly recommend Heroes and Friends, the house band, featuring genuine Halls, this Friday, November 16. Dancing shoes are always a good idea. Cowboy hats are optional.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Farewell Childe

I don't know how many times I heard Rodney the bartender bellow last call at the Childe Harold, but it's more than I care to count. Another Washington Institution is gone, and this one at a relatively young age considering it opened in 1967.
(Man, what is it about 1967 this week?)

Everybody knows that Springsteen and Emmy Lou Harris played there long before they were big wigs; they even named sandwiches for them, but not everybody knows that The Ramones played there as well. And lots of local acts like The Insect Surfers, Razz, The Nurses, Catfish Hodge, and The Bad Brains. (Nobody named a sandwich for them.)

Marshall Keith of The Slickee Boys remembers this:
"Since it was a tiny club, it made it really exciting, because people were packed in and falling all over each other. I saw The Ramones there. There was no punk rock in DC then. They were inspiring. Their stage moves seemed choreographed to me, which at first was disconcerting, but it was so effective that they were great. They (and anything punk) was panned in the Washington Post. It took a few years and Joe Sasfy before favorable punk reviews made their way into the mainstream.

(Marshall Keith/photo by Jim Moon)

The Slickee Boys played there a lot. Our friend Ed Cox played theremin during "love in". He was plugged into Kim Kane's amp, and couldn't hear himself, so he kept unplugging Kim.
There was a turning point in our career at a benefit concert with several bands when we finally "went over" as well as the "rootsy" bands. Urban Verbs played there once, and I couldn't get in because it was packed."

Root Boy Slim and The Sex Change Band
was also a frequent performer. Slim would change clothes between sets wearing anything from zoot suits to hippie togs. Sometimes he had strippers with him just in case his show wasn't wild enough on its own which is hard to believe if you ever saw him.

(Root Boy)

The music ended long ago, unfortunately, and the guy who started it, Bill Heard Jr. is gone as well. So are Rodney and Root Boy Slim. Maybe they are off some place-all having a drink together where there is no last call.

(Rodney- last call circa 1986)

Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been --
A sound which makes us linger; -- yet -- farewell!

-Lord Byron from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Local Heros

Here's part of the crew that got The Ambassador going Again in 1967:
Michael Papers, Joel Mednick, Court Rodgers and George Sumerjan
holding a Grateful Dead Poster. (Photo from Jeff Krulik)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Ambassador Theater and How It Rocked DC

The southeast corner of 18th and Columbia in the heart of Adams Morgan may well be haunted. The doomed Knickerbocker Theater stood here until 1922,  the roof collapsed under the weight of snows from a two day blizzard.  Ninety eight people who were watching a silent movie were killed-and many more badly injured. In 1923, the theater was rebuilt and opened as the Ambassador. In 1927, when my mother was about nine years old, she remembers walking with her Dad from their home on Mozart Place to see "a talkie" there featuring Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

Flash forward forty years to the summer of 1967. The Ambassador stands shuttered and seemingly abandoned, but one more transformation is about to take place- this time as a home to the exploding scene of rock and roll. I, unfortunately, was only about eight years old at the time, but this past weekend, yet another forty years forward, I was invited to attend a very cool Ambassador Theater reunion engineered by local film maker Jeff Krulik- a stalwart keeper of D.C.' s rock history flame.

At the reunion, we met the people responsible for the scene: Tony Finestra, Court Rodgers and Joel Mednick. Back in 1967, they were young hippie types selling fire extinguishers of all things when they heard about the Summer of Love in San Francisco. Like so many kids that year, they answered that siren song and went to see for themselves what was happening out West. But unlike other kids, these guys returned to D.C. inspired and determined to make the music happen here. In a very short time, they rented the down trodden Ambassador and removed the 1500 seats to create their own psychedelic dance hall.  Their new pals, The Grateful Dead, were booked and ready to play. Unfortunately, our city government, not thrilled with hippies and the like, fought the project every step of the way.  The Dead's equipment arrived, but the city pulled their permit at the last minute, and the show was cancelled. Not to be deterred, our heroes fought city hall and finally did open on July 28, 1967 with local band Natty Bumpo and headliner The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

The Ambassador, which was a huge space, became the new haven for freaks and happening people. The Psychedelic Power and Light Company took over the balcony and used multiple projectors and black lights to splash the walls with colors and images. This became a stand alone show of its own with tickets priced at $1.50 on week nights, $2.50 on weekends.

 The mezzanine level boasted a head shop selling lava lamps, posters and well, you know, hippie stuff.  The concert hall sometimes functioned as a community center reaching out to neighborhood kids for special matinees and later became a staging area for the anti war march on the Pentagon with Norman Mailer.

Loads of headliners came through as well as local bands. Canned Heat, Moby Grape, John Lee Hooker, Vanilla Fudge, The Fugs, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and more all appeared at the Ambassador. Our own Joe Dolan of The Beatnik Flies mopped the floors there. His cousin, Patty Ferry made this very cool hoe-down poster.

Jimi Hendrix, only 24 at the time, had been touring with The Monkees that summer, but his style somehow didn't mesh with the kids who came to see those goofy lads. Jimi's manager called our heroes at the Ambassador, and they booked this relatively unknown guitar player for five nights. John Entwistle and Pete Townsend came to the finale show when Hendrix set his guitar on fire. (I'm not making this stuff up- ask Nils Lofgren.)  For reverse sticker shock- please note the ticket price on the poster below.

Sadly this amazing effort only lasted about six months- partly due to bad publicity and partly because of the atmosphere of those anti-long hair times when civil unrest was rumbling through the land. The neighborhood didn't want "commies" and hippies hanging around. At the reunion, stories were told about police who gave out tickets to legally parked theater goers. The cops also waited outside to arrest kids who had violated the D.C. curfew and to scare others back to the suburbs.

Sadder still the theater was torn down not too long after the closing. A bank surrounded by a vapid and non descript plaza stands there now where, once upon a time, dreams (and snowy nightmares) came true.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Troubadours Rocked/ Swingin' Johnsons with No Room to Swing A Cat

The Troubadours got off to a slightly rough start last night as they hadn't all played together since August, I think, but once in the groove, they nailed IT. (And whatever IT is- let there be no mistake- they've got IT.) People were clapping all through the first set and dancing through the second.
Not to mention Derek Huston, now free of Iguana-land just knocked my socks off.
As they say in New Orleans "It takes a cool cat to blow a horn" and boy, he's one of 'em. You can still catch him tonight with The Swingin' Johnsons down at The Sunset Grille in ole Virginnny.
If you don't know The Grille, capacity is around 40, and the 7 piece band is what percent of that? You can do the math or not, but get there EARLY. The band supposed to go on @ 9ish.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Post Halloween

The Fall Out:
Washed my hair for over an hour and still can't get the black out.
Forgot to put away the lime jello skull.
Burned the candles at both ends.
Served candy corn for breakfast.

The Cure:
Drink heavily, preferably at The Quarry House tonight
with The Troubadours and Derek Huston.

Or stay home and wash my hair