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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

Around 1927, my mother thinks she remembers walking with her Dad from Mozart Place to the Ambassador Theater on 18Th and Columbia Road to see something new-"a talkie" featuring Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer. Now flash forward forty years, and what Mom doesn't remember is that in 1967, the shuttered theater became the home to something new again-possibly the most amazing place ever to see a rock show in the history of this small town. I, unfortunately, was only about eight at the time, but over the weekend, yet another forty years forward, I went to a reunion of those who made it happen. Jeff Krulik our local film maker (and hero) helped bring these guys together from all over the country for this event.

In 1967 Tony Finestra, Court Rodgers and Joel Mednick were three young guys selling fire extinguishers of all things when they heard about the Summer of Love out in San Francisco. Out they went, and back they came to D.C. with ideas to make it happen here- the musical side of things anyway. They rented the Ambassador and booked The Grateful Dead. The Dead's equipment arrived, but unfortunately the city pulled their permit at the last minute and fought the project every step of the way. But our boys fought back and finally opened on July 28, 1967 with local band Natty Bumpo and headliner The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

The Ambassador was an enormous space. All 1500 seats had been removed. The Psychedelic Power and Light Company took over the balcony and used multiple projectors and black lights to fill the room and cover the walls with colors and images that was a stand alone show of its own. Tickets were $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. What a scene it must have been. Not only was it a concert hall, but they tried to make a community center as well. Neighborhood kids were invited for special matinees- one involved a jazz band and a light show. It was also used as a staging area for the march on the Pentagon. Norman Mailer was there.

Jimi Hendrix needed work that summer. He'd been touring with The Monkees, but his style didn't quite fit that double bill. He ended up booked at The Ambassador for 5 nights that August-and Pete Townsend came to see him. (I'm not making this stuff up- ask Nils Lofgren.) This all happened here.

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 made this hoe-down poster.

The sad thing is it couldn't last. It was partly a matter of bad publicity and partly the atmosphere of the times. (Even I remember how threatened people were by the hippie thing.) At the reunion, stories were told about police who gave parking tickets to legally parked theater goers. They also waited outside to arrest kids who had violated the D.C. curfew and scared them back to the suburbs. Plus it was a huge project to take on. The experiment ended about six months later. Sadder still the theater was torn down not too long after, and a vapid non descript plaza took it's place. Just last month a Jimi Hendrix tribute show came through town and played at Constitution Hall. Perhaps a better place to have it would have been there on that soul less plaza. It needs some life again.

The next time you are in Adam's Morgan, you might want to walk by there-and remember Jimi plus all the others that once played and worked there in that now gone place.
Remember the ghosts that once were dreams.

P.S. Speaking of ghosts: The Ambassador once stood on the site of The Knickerbocker Theater, but in 1922 the roof collapsed under the weight of snow. Ninety eight people were killed.

More From Nils Lofgren:
"The room was humming, not only with the expectation of seeing the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but that Pete Townshend was in the audience, and it was just an extraordinary pivotal night for me. Hendrix came out and said he was going to dedicate the first song to Pete Townshend and he was going to do a rendition of 'Sgt. Pepper.' Now being naive, and being a huge Beatles lover, a lot of us thought 'well, you're only a three piece band, how can you play 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' there's all these other guitars and strings.' We just didn't have a clue of what Hendrix was really about. He counted off the song and I remember he kind of disappeared, he just did one of those things where he fell to the floor, sitting on the floor rocking with the guitar between his legs kind of doing a 'Purple Haze/ Sgt. Peppers' riff, then he sort of bounces back up and does an insane version of 'Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.' And when he dropped to the floor everyone just jumped up to try to see him, and from that moment on everyone was standing and mesmerized by obviously the greatest rock and roll guitar player that ever lived... There were just a lot of inspired moments like that at the Ambassador; it was this dark, beautiful, haunted, inspired room that you could go to and get lost in the light show and friends and the camradarie and the excitement of being in the audience discovering all this great new music; it was this real pivotal place in Washington, DC for all of the music scene, young and old."

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