The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Teaching The Weeping Willow How To Cry

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: A month or so ago, I bought a new Johnny Cash album, American III: Solitary Man. As often happens when an artist I haven't listened to in a while releases something new, I got to digging up all my old Johnny Cash CDs, including Up Through the Years, 1955-1957, a really cool collection on Bear Family Records of Cash's original recordings for Sun Records. Those were some years for rock 'n' roll and for Johnny Cash. Right off you're into the bedrock — "Cry Cry Cry," "Hey Porter," "Get Rhythm" and "Big River," which starts off: "Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry/ And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky/ And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you, big river/ And I'm gonna sit right here until I die." The first time I heard "Get Rhythm" and "Big River," I wasn't listening to Johnny Cash — I was in the downstairs practice room of this big ol' house in Mill Valley, Calif., shared by a long-lost band called Stoneground. The other day, after listening to Cash's original recordings, I searched through my records until I found Stoneground's Family Album, the one with "Get Rhythm" and "Big River." Stoneground meant a lot to me when I was a teenager. Their leader was the great Sal Valentino, the voice of '60s hit-makers the Beau Brummels ("Laugh, Laugh"). Also in the band were the honky-tonk singer Lynne Hughes, who had sung on occasion with another San Francisco legend, the Charlatans; the femme fatale Deirdre La Porte (on whom I had a serious crush); the soulful Annie Sampson and Sal's girlfriend Lydia Moreno. Add tasteful lead guitarist John Blakeley and a powerhouse rhythm section, and you had a rather amazing post-hippie rock 'n' roll combo that actually had seven great lead singers! Valentino being in his Dylan period at the time, his versions of both "Get Rhythm" and "Big River" were slowed down and delivered the way Dylan might have done 'em — if Dylan had been backed by an eight-member band with four female harmony vocalists who sounded like they'd just come down from Virginia City, circa 1920. Standing less than 10 feet from Sal, wearing a black beret over his long dark hair, as he sang that opening verse of "Big River" was one of those life-changing experiences. I already knew from the records I'd listened to how emotionally powerful music could be, and I would later learn firsthand about the pain Cash and Sal sang about. But being in the same room as the music was being created was a whole other thing. Stoneground was one of the first bands I was a fan of that I actually got to know, and they let me hang out at their rehearsals. When they headed to L.A. to do some overdubs on their second album, the two-record set Family Album, I hitchhiked the 500 or so miles from Mill Valley to L.A. so I could watch them work in the recording studio. Being in the studio for the first time was like being let behind the Wizard of Oz's curtain! To actually watch as a record was being made -- it couldn't get much cooler than that.

Datastream: Piano man Johnnie Johnson, who recently filed a lawsuit in which he claims to have co-written over 50 classic rock 'n' roll songs with Chuck Berry, including "Maybellene," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock & Roll Music," will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the "Sideman" category on March 19 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Johnnie Johnson hired Chuck Berry in 1953 to play guitar and sing in his Sir John's Trio. Ultimately, the band became Berry's, and Johnson continued to back Berry for years. It is believed that Berry's distinctive approach to rock 'n' roll rhythm guitar, which influenced generation upon generation of musicians, was based on Johnson's piano style. In his lawsuit, filed in St. Louis Federal District Court, Johnson is seeking both writing credits and royalties.... Radiohead will release Amnesiac, the follow-up to Kid A, next spring, members of the band told a Radio 1 DJ. The songs were recorded during the Kid A sessions, according to SonicNet.... Spoon's long-awaited third album, Girls Can Tell, will be released in March, as will Creeper Lagoon's second album. Spoon's second album, A Series of Sneaks, is a masterpiece of power pop-rock, easily equal to the first two Big Star albums...

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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