Thursday, May 08, 2008

Know YOUR History....

this is one of those posts that will either chap someone's hide, or enlighten them in a good way, so here goes...

a few days ago, I was reading through one of our major paper publications in town, and checking their version of "the 10 best new bands of the year" or something like this.

I took my time and read through the list of winners and their attributes, in regards to what they are trying to bring to the music/what they want to say.

I think the biggest thing that stood out from this group of people is that I have not come across ANY of these people in my music musings, and I do get around in this business. There seems to be a sub-culture of bands that inhabit the workings of the musical muse, but for the like of me, I have never run across any of them in my chase of the music business race.

As I said, I am sure that they have their place in the everyday workings of PDX music,and that some of them are probably very talented, but they are most certainly NOT the center of the universe. Deserving of a front cover of a major magazine while many vital people still play other musics/genres (Freak Mountain Ramblers, Rex Wilson (Rex & The Rockets), Billy Kennedy, Turtle Vandemarr, Steve Bradley, Jon Koonce, Janice Scroggins, Jim Mesi, Linda Hornbuckle, Darol Anger, Lloyd Jones, Tom Grant, Robert Brown, Fernando Viciconte... and do them well enough to merit continued recognition for such.

Those same vital veterans are the same people that, I guess, are not waiting around for an addition to a 10 best list of bands, because life and survival/performance is something that occupies their time... by the same token, they are not chopped liver.

They ARE the still the circle of some importance, and have been for a long time.

Still the listings of this particular magazine I was reading was FILLED to the brim with the unknowns, while the vital people are slowly,systematically being ignored more and more each year.

Maybe this is endemic of the way that our society treats the older people, in general. The children grow up in each generation, knowing just that much more than their elders...

Or so they think this is true.

As I continued to read the list of bands and what they are about, I then came to the thought that the portrayal to the public is that these are the people/bands that are supposed to save music and continue some sort of forward motion, in this big wide world.

This particular publication, week after week, fills their music pages with these people that are puzzling to me, because chances are that in my circadian rhythms of seeing music live/out and about,I probably will not see, or search them out.

I also know that I am not the center of the universe for everything music, but just seeing these bands trotted out as what I should be concerned with, and history being ignored, with the passing of some important people, is something that just seems not fair and just.
A performance atmosphere that make it possible for these modern bands to freely trot out their designations, for an audience that needs these descriptors to help them decide what is good.Some of the classiications of genre are a bit puzzling....emo-core, shoe-core, acoustic-core, get my drift.

It used to be that you could say...Rock and Roll, Soul, Classical, etc. and you would know where things are going with the music being presented.

These are the bands that warrant a front cover of a major publication in PDX, while others toil away and gain their laurels by plying their trade, day after day, year after year, and for some....decade after....???

Let's get back to the history end of things.

When we live in a time where the true OLD SCHOOL music people like rocker Earl Benson (Sleezy Pieces), creative artist Gary Ewing (light-show hero and Grateful Dead staffer), Vince Hozier and local Jazzers such as Art Cheney, my mentor Bob Brewer, Julian Dreyer, Eddie Wied, Herbie Hall, Marianne Mayfield, Ralph Black, Herman Jobelmann, Benny Wilson and Cleve Williams, and recently bluesman Paul DeLay pass from our earthly plain to another. These aforementioned people have done more music in one day that the said youngsters will attempt to lay their hands on in a half-year.
Plus these same scribes that have all the time in the world to write about bands I don't know, don't care about, and will probably outlive these band's shelf life, well please get on the stick and promote the history for the young to learn and get in order their place on the musical food chain.

With no recognition of their passing/and or their place in the big food chain of popular music in Portland, no less than in other circles, in other locales...
well that is just very poor, in my estimation.

Young people...
Get to know your history, before you're doomed to repeat something bad...
such as obsolescence.



Earl Benson , frontman of influential Portland band the Sleezy Pieces , died on Nov. 26 of last year at age 68.

One of the marquee rock outfits of Portland’s ’70s bar scene (when the OLCC loosened regulations on music and bars), the Sleezy Pieces played a mix of folk rock and electric material.

Longtime Portland music critic SP Clarke writes: “[Benson’s] delivery was something to behold—a bearded boyscout in Bermuda shorts and a wrinkled sportscoat singing in a rich falsetto, while quoting St. Paul, fronting one of the best bands the city has ever seen.

In the annals of Portland weirdness, Earl Benson stood apart... Way apart. ”

The Pieces rocked Portland for more than a decade.

Friends and fans gathered at 7 pm on Monday, Feb. 18 at Duff’s Garage for a memorial. Surviving members of the Sleezy Pieces—Steve Bradley, Bill Wyatt, Jon Koonce and Bill Piland took the stage later in the evening and played again in honor of Benson.

The poster promoting a benefit to help Gary Ewing pay his medical bills in 2006.

Portland rock art icon Gary Ewing dead at 65
Posted by Joseph Rose, The Oregonian April 30, 2008 15:31PM

Gary Ewing, the psychedelic Portland light-show and poster artist who worked with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and a slew of other rock bands in the 1960's, was found dead today at his Southeast Portland home. He was 65.

Ewing's wife, Karen, called Portland police shortly after 5 a.m. today to report that she woke up and found that her husband had collapsed during the night.

The Multnomah County medical examiner's office listed Gary Ewing's death as "natural causes."

"He was big man with a big heart," Karen Ewing said. "He touched a lot of people with his art and what he did for the Portland music scene."

Of course, she said, that big heart had some serious problems in recent years. Gary Ewing had several heart attacks and eventually underwent quadruple by-pass surgery. He also suffered life-threatening health problems last year, she said.

Terry Currier, owner of Music Millennium in Portland and president of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, said Gary Ewing was "one of the legends" of the Portland music scene.

"To a lot of people, he was a living piece of history," Currier said. "He was the master of a dying art -- the concert light show. But for the people who experienced those shows back in the sixties and seventies, his art left a lasting impression."

Ewing was born and raised in Portland. After graduating from Cleveland High School, he headed to New York City to attend The School of Visual Arts before returning to Oregon to pursue an art career.

His artwork included window displays at the Meier & Frank department store, billboards, art prints, fabric prints, and glass and metal pieces. At one point in the 1960's, he packed up and moved to San Francisco to work in that city's booming music scene.

At classic concert venues such as The Avalon and The Fillmore, he saw his first light shows. "He said, 'That's the medium for me,'" said Karen Ewing.
"The size. The beauty. The impact on the crowd."

After returning to Portland, he became known for his gig posters and legendary light shows at local venues such as Beaver Hall andthe Crystal Ballroom.

Later, he lit the Mayor's Ball and sat on the board of the Portland Music Association.

Even as opportunities to create concert light shows faded, Currier said he tried to find venues and music festivals where Ewing could still work his magic, including last year's Fuzz Fest Northwest.

Like many musicians and artists, Ewing didn't have health insurance. A benefit ball at the Crystal Ballroom in 2006 helped raise money to defray Ewing's medical bills. But last year, new medical problems almost claimed his life and brought in more bills, Karen Ewing said.

But Gary had gone months without problems and she said they were making plans for summer. "He was probably living on borrowed time," she said. "He stayed up later than me" on Tuesday night. "It looks like he died as he made his way to bed."

Ewing is survived by Karen, his wife of 21 years; his son, Aaron; and his daughter, Crystal.

A memorial concert with the reunited sixties band Portland Zoo Electric Band is scheduled June 8 at the Crystal Ballroom. Currier said some of the digital light shows created by Ewing in recent years - "the stuff done on computers" -- likely will shine through the concert hall during the event.

But don't count on an old-school psychedelic light show, created with liquid gel and a projector, Currier said. No one, he said, could do that like Ewing.

-- Joseph Rose;