Friday, June 30, 2006

"July 4th in Nevada" (from Harolds Club of Reno 1947)

Nevada Mining camps used to celebrate the Glorious Fourth with and enthusiasm and originality which always more than made up for any lack of professional smoothness. A glance back 40 to 80 years ago this week reveals a great deal of fun and hilarious good time had by all Independence Day.
July Fourth dawned with every mining camp and cow town in the State heavily draped in red, white, and blue bunting. Gasoline buggies and earlier carriages and wagons were all smothered with elaborate decorations. Kids paraded variously as “Uncle Sam” or “The Goddess of Liberty” and firecrackers popped in every direction. It was a great day.
Most mining camps, around the turn of the century, staged fights between ornery Jackasses. Many were held in the center of town, to the tune of heavy betting. Burro races were held for boys and girls of various age groups, with prizes from
$10.00 on up. Of course horse races were a fixture from the very earliest days and accompanied by feverish betting.
No July Fourth was complete without muckers contests and competing drill teams. Champion muckers and drillers came from miles around and competition was terrific. A few of these contests are still held today, but they are found largely in isolated mining camps where a lively local interest in mining skills persists.
Many mining camp celebrations featured a championship baseball game between local mill and mining teams, with special talent smuggled into town for the Big Day. And a high point on most programs for decades in Nevada was the July Fourth Squaw Race! These were usually held down the main street, with a sack of silver dollars waiting at the finish line for the winner. Jim Butler in Tonopah was seen to augment this race with showers of silver dollars tossed exclusively to Indian children, (to the great chagrin of their white playmates).
Boxing matches were regular events, and the July Fourth fight card and match-making would dominate mining camp conversation for months before “The Day”. And no Independence Day Program was complete without “The Orator of the Day” (usually a prominent attorney) followed by a huge dove of sage hen stew and barbeque. Volunteer Fire Departments usually held races with carts or pumpers, joining the rest of the town that night at the Grand Fourth of July Ball which inevitably climaxed every Independence Day Program. The biggest day of the year in Nevada ever since has continued to be the Glorious Fourth.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Elfego Baca & The Swamp Fox DVD (1959 - 1961)

The phenomenal success of Davy Crockett in the mid-50’s was a hard act to follow, but Walt Disney and his television staff rose to the occasion with more real American heroes to dramatize on their weekly anthology program (formerly Disneyland, by now under the title Walt Disney Presents); Elfego Baca & The Swamp Fox.

If these two characters are unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. Elfego and the Fox may not be as popularly revered as Davy was, but their exploits, seen rarely if at all in recent years, are no less entertaining.
The collection begins on disc one with the series based on Elfego Baca (1865-1945), a Mexican-American who lead the type of life most screenwriters could'nt dream up. A checkered past as an outlaw lead him to the job of sheriff which, in turn, spurred his interest in the law. He eventually became a lawyer who specialized in helping the “little people”, namely his fellow Mexican-Americans.
In bringing this story to television, Walt, knowingly or not, introduced what was likely the first Mexican-American hero into the homes of America. And although Italian-American actor Robert Loggia was cast as Baca - such inverse “color blind” casting was not uncommon in those days - his performance is nonetheless quite effective. Allowing an accent that is thin in spots, the very young Loggia is very charismatic in the role and, having grown up in New York City, obviously relished the opportunity to play the proverbial hero of the ol’ west; just watch him grin from ear to ear every time he mounts a horse. Ethnic characters of any type were uncommon in these early days of television, and the fact that Baca was not only non-stereotypical, but also very much a role model (sure, he smoked, but who didn’t on TV then? Besides, he was a good Catholic ...) is quite the testament to the (consciously or not) forward thinking of the creators of the program.
Ten episodes of Elfego Baca were produced between 1958 and 1960, but only three (first, second and fifth) are included here. Although originally aired in black and white, Walt had the foresight to film in color, so aside from the opening titles and previews, all episodes in this set (and for The Swamp Fox as well) are in full color, including Walt’s original introductions to each episode (in the Baca segments, he’s even garbed, appropriately, in natty western wear).
The first Baca show, titled enigmatically “The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca” (original airdate October 3, 1958), is the best; based directly on the incident that earned the real Baca such infamy, it sets the tone that carries throughout the remaining episodes. The plot is set in motion from the get-go when Baca is cornered in an adobe hut by an angry lynch mob; 33 hours, 4,000 bullets and some fire and dynamite later, Baca miraculously survives, therefore earning the reputation as the “man who could not be killed.” What is most compelling about this scenario are its racial overtones: one Mexican-American against 80 Caucasians. In other words, the white guys were the enemy … quite amazing, in retrospect, considering this was a 1958 family program.
More material ahead of its time can be found in episode 2 (“Four Down and Five Lives to Go”, original airdate October 17, 1958), which focuses on Baca’s unconventional approach to being a sheriff - such as throwing a live rattlesnake at his prey. The story has Baca tracking down a murderous fellow countryman, leading him to comment “men like him … give our people a bad name.”
We then skip forward to episode 5 (“Attorney at Law”, original airdate February 6, 1959) where we find that, although he is a lawyer now, Baca has not given up his sharp shootin’. I have a feeling that this episode was included not so much for the chance to see Baca do some lawyerin’, but because of guest star Annette Funicello, incongruously cast as a Mexican maiden name “Chiquita”, unlike Loggia, Annette doesn’t even attempt an accent.
Saddled at times with some clumsy dialogue, but blessed with impressive production values (a Disney mandate), Baca is a commendable western series just as exciting as its more “adult” contemporaries, such as The Big Valley and Bonanza.
From the Wild West to the Colonial South, disc two centers on Lt. Col. Francis Marion (1732-1795), the rebellious freedom fighter who was the “Robin Hood of the American Revolution.” Dubbed the “Swamp Fox” due to his crafty outfoxing of the British, the efforts of Marion and his militia, with their “hit and run” raids, were instrumental in keeping the fires of revolution burning during a crucial time during the war.
In the role of Marion, Walt cast Leslie Nielsen, best known at that time for the sci fi classic Forbidden Planet (and years before his comedic evolution in Airplane!, Police Squad!, et al!). As could be expected, Nielsen is more drab here, but his performance picks up as the story progresses. Unfortunately, like Elfego Baca, there are only three episodes in this set (a total of eight Swamp Foxes were produced between 1959 and 1961), and a juicy revenge plot arises just at the close of the third episode, leaving quite a cliffhanger for most viewers of this DVD. One can only hope that the remaining five Foxes (as well as the remaining seven Bacas) will be made available some day. If so, then maybe Nielsen will decide to participate; his absence from any bonus materials in this set is greatly noticeable.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sunset Magazine July 1942

Another scan from me to you... 48 Star version of Old Glory adorns the cover of Sunset Magazine ("The Magazine of Western Living") done in the midst of World War II.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Everybody's Toast Book (1851)

I have picked 50 toasts from the 1851 published "Every Body's Toast Book and Convival Compainon" as a kick-off for the 4th of July Independence Day Celebration which is one week from today. When you celebrate the 230th Birthday of the United States next Tuesday you could pick one of the following to say before you imbibe with fellow countymen. The book is filled with hundreds so if you own a copy you have the freedom to pick one not on my list or if you have the creative inspiration to do so you can make up your own toast to the health of the Nation.

1. May he who has neither a wife, home, nor estate in America, never have a share in the
government of it.

2. May reverence for the laws ever predominate in the hearts of the American people.

3. May the American Congress ever have wisdom to plan our institutions, and energy and firmness to support them.

4. May politics never corrupt American manners.

5. May our love for our country extend with its boundaries.

6. May the cry of war no more be heard upon our native shore.

7. May American valor shine when every other light is out.

8. May the hospitable hearts of the American people never be seduced from their attachment to the glorious and model Constitution of the United States.

9. May every American at honor's call, spring forth to meet his country's foes.

10. May liberty flourish forever.

11. A toast to America, the land of the brave, where freedom inhabits, and commerce still smiles.

12. A cobweb pair of breeches, a porcupine saddle, a hard trotting horse, and a long journey to the enemies of our country.

13. American virtue; may it always find a protector, but never need one.

14. A health to our American patriots.

15. The American navy,- the pride of the sea.

16. All the Charitable institutions of America.

17. An American's birth-right,—trial by jury.

18. An American's castle: his house, may it stand forever.

19. American produce:—may it never exceed its consumption.

20. America's toast: lovely woman and brave men.

21. America, and may the land of our nativity be ever the abode of freemen, and the birthplace
of heroes.

22. America's rights, and may they never be invaded by foreigners.

23. Success to the farmers of America, and may they always gather a golden harvest.

24. Health to our President, prosperity to the people, and may Congress direct their endeavors to the public good, rather than engage in party distinctions!

25. Here's a health to our nation, conversion to our enemies, and he that will not pledge her health, I wish him neither wit nor wealth, nor yet a rope to hang himself.

26. Long live the President that seeks the nation's love.

27. Liberty, may it never degenerate into licentiousness.

28. Labor’s true reward to every American; content and pleasure.

29. Manual Labor—the stepping stone to virtue, health, happiness, and independence.

30. May the rising generation imitate the virtues of our forefathers.

31. May our sons be honest and brave, and our daughters modest and fair.

32. May those who would revel in the ruin of America or her daughters, dance in a hempen neck cloth.

33. Short sessions to Congress, and unbiased legislation.

34. May our country always be the casket of science, commerce, learning and art.

35. May Americans ever be opposed to the union of church and state.

36. May Americans never suffer invasion, nor invade the rights of others.

37. May America, like a tennis ball rebound, the harder she is struck.

38. May none but native-born freemen ever help to rule, or help to make rulers.

39. May the enemies of America be destitute of beef and claret.

40. May the health of our President keep pace with the wishes of the people.

41. May every future President of the United States possess the virtues of Washington.

42. May all our States united forever, be one nation, one people, the brave and the free.

43. The American press,—the grand palladium of liberty,—may it ever be unshackled and

44. May the fruits of America's soil never be denied to her children.

45. May the army and navy of America always be successful in a good cause, and never be engaged in a bad one.

46. The American Volunteer—May he never rise in anger, nor lie down in fear.

47. Grog, grub, and glory to every tar that fights beneath the Star-Spangled Banner.

48. Office Hunters—May they find the doors closed, and the people thumbing their noses at their window.

49. The Bible, the Constitution, and the Ballot-Box—the political trinity of Freemen.

50. Disappointment to all who form expectations of office on the ruin of their country.

The American Flag as it was in 1851.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hank Thompson Scans for your Computer

I took a cue from the Data Junkie Blog and I recently got a fairly nice scanner. So part of thing that I'm doing here will now include some scans of things in my collection. You can copy these scans and use them as wallpaper on your computer or whatever you want. Click on them to make them real big.... These are some Hank Thompson sheet music covers....

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Cocaine Blues" by Roy Hogsed

Roy Hogsed (1919-1978) forged one of the most original sounds in postwar country music, a tight and exciting small group sound that often anticipated the energy and drive of rockabilly and rock 'n' roll. He is best remembered for his hit version of the notorious Cocaine Blues and most identified with the accordion and guitar lead and slapped-bass rhythm of his original Rainbow Riders Trio.

The Arkansas-born, San Diego-based Hogsed's recording career was relatively brief, spanning 1947-54, and his greater impact may have been limited by his largely local orientation, but he left an uncommonly enjoyable legacy. “Cocaine Blues” was recorded later by many artists including Johnny Cash, George Thorogood and Hank III. Some of Hogsed’s other songs are “Snake Dance Boogie”, “Babies and Bacon”, “Shuffleboard Shuffle”, “The Red We Want Is the Red We've Got (in the Old Red, White and Blue)” and “Put Some Sugar In Your Shoes”.


Cocaine Blues
(Roy Hogsed)

Early one morning while making the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
I shot her down and then I went to bed
I stuck that loving Forty-Four beneath my head

Got up next morning and I grabbed that gun
I took a shot of cocaine and away I run
Made a good run but I ran too slow
They overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico

Laid in the hop joint, taking the pill,
In walked the sheriff from Jericho Hill
Said Willy Lee your name is not Jack Brown
You're the dirty hop that shot your woman down

Said yes, oh yes my name is Willy Lee
If you've got the warrant just a-read it to me
Shot her down because she made me sore
I thought I was her daddy but she had five more

When I was arrested I was dressed in black
They put me on a train and they hauled me back
I had no friends for to go my bail
They slapped my dried up carcass in that county jail

Early next morning bout a half past nine
I spied the sheriff coming down the line
Smiled and coughed as he cleared his throat
He said come on you dirty hop into that district court

Into the courtroom my trial began
Where I was tried by twelve honest men
Just before the jury started out
I saw the little judge commence to look about

In about five minutes in walked the man
Holding the verdict in his right hand
It read murder in the first degree
I hollered Lord or Lordy, have a mercy on me

The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen
99 years in the Folsom pen
99 years underneath that ground
I can't forget the day I shot that Woman down

Come on you hopheads and listen to me
Lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum" San Antonio, Texas

The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum has been in continuous operation since 1881. The history of this world famous establishment is an important part of the story of San Antonio.

1881 - Albert Friedrich opens his own business, Albert's Buckhorn Saloon, on Dolorosa Street. The Buckhorn opens with a standing offer to all patrons - "Bring in your deer antlers and you can trade them for a shot of whiskey or a beer." Albert's father, Wenzel Friedrich, provides handmade horn furniture for the saloon - the world's most unique collection of horns and antlers begins.

1880's - The Buckhorn Saloon collection of horns and trophy mounts grows as cowboys and hunters bring in animals of all kinds.

1891 - Albert marries Emilie Derr. Emilie expands Albert's offer to include rattlesnake rattlers and the tradition continues as thousands of rattlesnake rattlers are brought in as barter. Emilie fashions signs and artwork from the rattlers for display in the saloon.

1896 - The saloon prospers and moves to even larger quarters at Houston and Soledad Streets.

1898 - Teddy Roosevelt frequents the saloon and recruits Roughriders at the bar. Will Rogers visits the saloon as a cowboy and returns often, as does O. Henry.

1899 - The world's record whitetail "78 Point Buck" is acquired for $100 and put on display at the Buckhorn.

1914 - With the outbreak of World War I, many recruits visit San Antonio for training and take the story of the Buckhorn with them all over the world.

1920 - Prohibition becomes law and the Buckhorn Saloon becomes the Buckhorn Curio Museum.

1921 - The Buckhorn's primary competitor, Billy Keilman's Horn Palace, closes and Friedrich acquires the collection of the Horn Palace including "Old Tex", a world record longhorn steer. The Buckhorn becomes the undisputed largest display of horns and antlers.

1922 - The Buckhorn moves to a larger space at the southwest corner of Houston Street and South Flores Street. Friedrich acquires a full size gorilla, which he places in the front window for all to see. The gorilla is known as "The Guard" of the Buckhorn and the front window becomes a favorite meeting place in downtown San Antonio.

1932 - Prohibition is repealed and the Buckhorn Saloon is back in business. Many vaudeville entertainers frequent the Buckhorn since the State Theater rear entrance is across Flores Street.

1941 - World War II breaks out and once again San Antonio becomes the training ground for many soldiers, most of whom visit the Buckhorn and spread the story.

1956 - Lone Star Brewing Company purchases the world-famous Buckhorn Collection and opens the Lone Star Buckhorn Hall of Horns.

1964 - The Hall of Fins is added to the Lone Star Buckhorn Hall of Horns.

1968 - The World's Fair, Hemisfair, is held in San Antonio. At the close of the fair, Lone Star relocates the Hall of Texas History Wax Museum to the grounds of the Buckhorn Hall of Horns.

1973 - Hall of Feathers, exhibits of birds from all over the world, added to the Hall of Horns and Hall of Fins collections. Annual attendance reaches 400,000 as Lone Star's popularity reaches new highs.

1998 - The Lone Star Brewery in San Antonio closes and the new owner, Stroh's Beer, moves brewing of Lone Star to the Stroh's Brewery in Longview, Texas. In order to keep The Buckhorn collection in San Antonio, the granddaughter of Albert Friedrich, Mary Friedrich Rogers and her husband, Wallace Rogers, acquire the collection. On December 22, 1998, the new Buckhorn Saloon & Museum opens on Houston Street - a few blocks from the original 1881 location.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Whip Wilson (1911 - 1964)

Whip Wilson was born Roland Charles Meyers on June 16, 1911, in Granite, Illinois. He was one of eight children. He had a resemblance to Buck Jones and was given a terrific Hollywood publicity buildup, but this was not enough to make Whip a major cowboy star. However, Wilson did gain some measure of success by starring in 22 B western features, and he made more pictures than Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson, Monte Hale, Rex Allen or Eddie Dean.

Hollywood created a highly fictional biography for Whip and made the following claims: he was born in 1911 on a fabulous ranch in Pecos, Texas; he was a rodeo champion; he had an engineering degree; he was a World War II Marine hero; he was a direct descendant of General Custer; and that he did all of his movie stunts. Alas, none of the claims were true.

Whip was a moderately successful singer before going to Hollywood, and although he sang in a few pictures, he is not considered a "singing cowboy". Scott R. Dunlap, a Monogram Studio executive and a friend of Buck Jones, had been looking for someone like Jones since Buck perished in the Boston Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in 1942. Apparently he saw in Wilson something that reminded him of the great Jones and signed him to star in a Western series.

Also at the same time Lash LaRue was gaining some fame cracking a bull whip in a series at PRC, so Dunlap decided to give Wilson a whip and make him a combination of Lash LaRue and Buck Jones all rolled into one.
To give Wilson experience, Dunlap put him in the 1948 Jimmy Wakely film SILVER TRAILS. The next year Whip got his own series and made his first starring film called CRASHING THRU.

Whip was provided with a huge white horse named Silver Bullet. The name was later shortened to Bullet. And still later the name was changed to Rocket because Roy Rogers was using a dog named Bullet in his pictures.
Many claim the best thing the Wilson series had going for it was veteran comedian Andy Clyde. Clyde had made his mark as a cowboy comic playing "California Carlson" in the long running Hopalong Cassidy series.

But after a dozen pictures, Clyde left the series and was replaced by Fuzzy Knight and Jim Bannon (the last Red Ryder).
Whip Wilson's last starring feature was WYOMING ROUNDUP which was released in 1952. He did work in one more movie when he was hired to do the whip scenes in the Burt Lancaster film THE KENTUCKIAN.

Wilson and his third wife Monica operated an apartment complex after he left the movie industry. Whip died of a heart attack on October 22, 1964. He was only 53 years old. He left only his beloved wife Monica, as they had no children.
Whip Wilson was not a major player in the Western film field, but one still occasionally runs into a Whip Wilson fan. Many who worked with Whip did not necessarily appreciate his work but they praised his kindness and his character.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Crater Lake Monster

Explorer John Wesley Hillman first saw Crater Lake in 1853, but Indians had known of it long before recorded history. According to Hillman, the lake was sacred to the Indians, who refused to acknowledge its existence to outsiders. Gazing upon the waters was thought to be fatal. Klamath Indian legends touch on the supernatural
origins of Crater Lake, and the experiences of early visitors. One story tells of an
Indian who journeyed into the fearful depths of the crater when it was still dry. On the crater floor he was fissures, mounds, huge gnarled rocks, and a strange yellow substance that resembled gold.

Best known, perhaps, are the legends describing the war between Llao, chief spirit of Crater Lake, and Skell, a mighty spirit of the Klamath Marsh country to the south. These legendary characters are immoritalized at Llao Rock, the massive gray lava flow across the lake, and at Skell Head the headland you are standing on. War between Llao and Skell. Long, long ago two powerful spirits lived in the Crater Lake country. Llao
(pronounced "LAH-oh") and Skell. The spirit followers of Llao and Skell took the form
of animals such as Deer, Fox, and Dove who often played together on the top of Llao
Rock. But eventually, the groups began to quarrel, and war broke out.

The forces of Llao and Skell fought many battles. Skell was killed near the base of
the mountain, and Llao's followers carried his heart up to Llao Rock for a celebration. However, Skell's clever followers stole the heart and restored it to the body, bringing Skell back to life. During the last great battle, Llao was killed.
Skell ordered that the body be cut up and thrown into the lake to be devoured by Crawfish and other monsters. The water creatures were loyal to Llao, but Skell tricked them by shouting, "Here are Skell's arms," as he tossed Llao's arms into the water.
Immediately the creatures gobbled them up. In the same manner Llao's legs were
devoured. But when Skell flung Llao's head into the lake, the water creatures recognized their master's face and would not touch it. You can still see Llao's head, known today as "Wizard Island". And his sprit still lives within Llao Rock. Sometimes when all seems quiet, Llao's restless spirit enters the lake and stirs up an angry gale.

Llao, chief spirit of Crater Lake, controlled many lower spirits who appeared in the
shape of animals. One such monster was a giant crayfish who could pluck unwary
visitors from the crater rim and drag them down to the dark, chilling depths.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Scalps (1982)

From cult director Fred Olen Ray (BIOHAZARD, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS) comes this shockingly gruesome gore-fest in all its explicit glory. The plot follows a group of college students who have unwittingly unleashed an evil curse after digging in some ancient Indian burial ground.

In the Audio commentary, director Fred Olen Ray claims that the film was bought from him and recut. He seems ashamed of the recut and says that he finds it a mess. Ray's movies are more often intentionally silly and this one has a much more serious tone to it. For this reason, Scalps is my favorite Ray movie, which isn't saying much. Much of what I find enjoyable about Scalps are the things that Ray hates; the weird/cheap make-up effects, the primative synthisizer score, and the overall gloomy tone.

Friday, June 16, 2006

"The Suicide Table" Virgina City, Nevada

At the Delta Saloon was a 1875 Suicide Table. It was called this because three previous owners are reported to have committed suicide because of heavy losses over this table. The story written over the door tells this brutal tale:

"Originally, it was a Faro Bank Table brought to Virginia City in the early 1860s. The owner, supposed to be one Black Jake, lost $70,000 in one evening and shot himself. The second owner, whose name is lost in history, ran the table for one nights play. He was unable to pay off his losses. One report has it that he committed suicide and another report has it that he was saved the trouble. The table was then stored for some years because no one would deal on it. It was finally converted into a 21 Table sometime in the late 90s. Its black reputation seemed to have been forgotten, until one stormy night a miner, who had been cleaned out in some other gambling house, stumbled in half drunk. As the story goes, he gambled a gold ring against a five dollar gold piece, and won. He played all night long and by morning had won over $86,000 in cash, a team of horses, and an interest in a gold mine, everything the owner of table had in the world. That caused the third suicide.

Many famous men have gambled for high stakes, leaning on the green cloth, watching the turn of a card. Fortunes have been won and lost on it. The Suicide Table is truly a relic that is replete with memories of the old town, and who knows, perhaps the ghosts of the old timers are still leaning on their elbows, watching for the turn of a card."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Abraham Lincoln & The Supernatural (1809-1865)

Abraham Lincoln & The Supernatural

One of the most fascinating characters in American history was undoubtedly President Abraham Lincoln. In addition to his many contributions to our history, connections between Lincoln and the supernatural were maintained throughout his life, and some say beyond it. Much has been made of Lincoln’s prophetic dreams and of his belief in the spirit world and of course, of the hauntings which are said to be connected to his home in Springfield and his mysterious tomb.

Did séances really take place in the Lincoln White House? Did Lincoln really believe in Spiritualism? And if so, what event occurred that could have caused him to want to make contact with the dead?

Abraham Lincoln was always a melancholy person. The death of his mother when he was still a child, hard labor to make an existence for himself in the wilderness and his struggle for an education, all combined to make him a serious man. The Civil War caused him great sorrow and the heavy losses on both sides filled him with sadness. Lincoln paid obsessive detail to everything about the war and by 1864, portraits of him show a face etched with lines. He slept very little in those years and during the five years he lived in the White House, he spent less than one month away from work. His only escape was afforded him by the theater, a late night buggy ride or from his books.

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809. His father, Thomas Lincoln, had married Nancy Hanks, a tall, pretty, uneducated girl, three years before and they had built a log cabin at a place called Sinking Springs Farm. Later, the Lincoln family pulled up stakes and moved across the Ohio River to Indiana, where they settled on Little Pigeon Creek. In 1818, Lincoln’s life changed abruptly when the family was struck by a terrible frontier disease dubbed "milk sickness". Tom and Betsy Sparrow, close friends of the Lincoln family, died first, while Nancy Lincoln faithfully nursed them to their last hours. Then, Nancy too was struck down with the disease and followed her friends to their graves. Abraham helped to fashion his mother’s coffin with his own hands and then placed her in the ground. It was later said that he held his head in his hands and wept for hours. At that point, his father and sister forgotten, Lincoln later said that he felt completely alone in the world.

In 1820. the Lincoln's moved to Illinois. Thomas had re-married and for a time, the family lived in a small cabin outside of Decatur. The younger Lincoln later moved to New Salem and Springfield after working on the riverboats and serving in the military during the Black Hawk War. He began working in a law practice and found that he had a gift for politics and oration. He was soon a popular young man about town. In 1839, Lincoln met a young woman named Mary Todd and after a rocky courtship, they were married in 1842.

Lincoln’s love for travel and the law caused his marriage to suffer badly in those early years. At that point in his career, he was active in court cases all over Illinois and was constantly away from home. Mary gave birth to a son, Robert, and their second son, Eddie, was born in 1846 but only lived to the age of four. Willie followed in 1850, not long after the death of his brother, and Thomas "Tad" Lincoln was born in 1853.

Lincoln served a term in Congress in the late 1840’s, but his law practice kept him too busy to consider much of a political career. He had always been opposed to the further spread of slavery in the country and was contented that the Missouri Compromise had outlawed slavery further west, where America’s future would be built. But in 1854, a congressional act provoked by Lincoln’s long-time personal and political rival, Stephen Douglas, threatened to allow slavery in the territories. Lincoln’s anger at this got the best of him and he made the decision to return to politics.

Lincoln’s Prophetic Vision
In the summer of 1854, Lincoln decided to campaign for a seat in the Illinois State Assembly. He easily won the position, but then quickly resigned. What he really wanted was a seat in the US Senate, where he believed he could really make a difference for his country. In February 1855, he sought but failed to get the coveted seat. Things started to change in early 1856 however, as a new political party was created called the Republican Party. In these years, passions were beginning to ignite in the nation and dire predictions began to be made about the possibilities of secession and Civil War. In Illinois, Republicans nominated Lincoln to run against Stephen Douglas for a seat in the Senate in 1858.

On July 24, Lincoln proposed that the two opponents meet in a series of debates before audiences all over the state. Douglas agreed and the two began a series of appearances that have become legend in Illinois for their volatile content. "The prairies are on fire," wrote one reporter, after witnessing a clash between Lincoln and Douglas. The debates were bitter and powerful between the two long-time rivals. Lincoln argued that slavery must be abolished, while Douglas insisted that it could be contained and allowed to flourish in the South, as long as the states there wished it. The final debate was held in Alton and the story was reported all over the country in newspapers.

Finally, in November, word reached Lincoln that he had lost the race for the Senate seat. Surprisingly, this loss was the best thing that could have happened to him. Wise political analysts, on both sides, had watched this race very closely and had seen the way the debates had captured the attention of the entire country. Soon, word among the Republicans began to favor Lincoln as their choice for President in 1860.

Lincoln began to travel all over the country, backed by the Illinois Republican contingent, making his name known and becoming a recognizable entity. On May 16, 1860, the Republican National Convention opened in Chicago and ended with a presidential nomination for Lincoln. The city of Springfield had a carnival-like atmosphere about it that summer, highlighted with a Republican rally at the fairgrounds. The parade took more than eight hours to pass the Lincoln home and ended with a picnic, where tubs of lemonade and whole cooked steers awaited the revelers.

Election Day in the city dawned with rousing blasts from a cannon, with music and contagious excitement. Lincoln spent the day and evening with friends at a telegraph office. By midnight, it was clear that he had been elected President of the United States. A late night dinner was held in his honor and then he returned to the office for more news. Guns fired in celebration throughout the night. Lincoln may have won the day, but he fared poorly in the popular vote. He had soundly defeated his closest opponent in the Electoral College, but had won just forty percent of the vote among the people. He had become a minority president with no support at all in the southern states.

Lincoln finally managed to return home in the early morning hours although news of victory and telegrams of congratulations were still being wired to his office. He went into his bedroom for some much-needed rest and collapsed onto a settee. Near the couch was a large bureau with a mirror on it and Lincoln started for a moment at his reflection in the glass. His face appeared angular, thin and tired. Several of his friends suggested that he grow a beard, which would hide the narrowness of his face and give him a more "presidential" appearance. Lincoln pondered this for a moment and then experienced what many would term a "vision"... and odd vision that Lincoln would later believe had prophetic meaning.

He saw that in the mirror, his face appeared to have two separate, yet distinct, images. The tip of one nose was about three inches away from the other one. The vision vanished but appeared again a few moments later. It was clearer this time and Lincoln realized that one of the faces was actually much paler than the other was, almost with the coloring of death. The vision disappeared again and Lincoln dismissed the whole thing to the excitement of the hour and his lack of sleep.

Later on that evening, he told Mary of the strange vision and attempted to conjure it up again in the days that followed. The faces always returned to him and while Mary never saw it, she believed her husband when he said he did. She also believed she knew the significance of the vision. The healthy face was her husband’s "real" face and indicated that he would serve his first term as president. The pale, ghostly image of the second face however was a sign that he would be elected to a second term -- but would not live to see its conclusion.

Lincoln apparently dismissed the whole thing as a hallucination, or an imperfection in the glass, or so he said publicly. Later, that strange vision would come back to haunt him during the turbulent days of the war. It was not Lincoln’s only brush with prophecy either. One day, shortly before the election, he spoke to some friends as they were discussing the possibilities of Civil War. "Gentlemen," he said to them, "you may be surprised and think it strange, but when the doctor here was describing a war, I distinctly saw myself, in second sight, bearing an important part in that strife."

Lincoln was soon sworn in as President and began one of the most troubled periods of American history. The great loss of life and the bitter turmoil of the war took their toll on him. His personality changed and he became more bitter and dark. He became a sad, gloomy leader who was prone to severe depression. It was as if the weight of the entire nation had fallen on his shoulders.

Documents of the Union War Department contain one occasion when Lincoln burst into the telegraph office of the department late one night. He had visited earlier, looking for the latest news, but when he came back, he was in a panic. He ordered the operator to get a line through to the Union commanders. He was convinced that Confederate soldiers were just about to cut through the Federal lines. The telegraph operator asked where he had obtained such information and Lincoln reportedly answered, "My god, man! I saw it".

The war took a terrible toll on President Lincoln but there is no doubt that the most crippling blow he suffered in the White House was the death of his son, Willie, in 1862. The boy had been born in Springfield in 1850, shortly after the funeral of the Lincoln’s second son, Eddie. Willie was much like his father and probably because of this, was the special favorite among his much-loved sons. William Wallace Lincoln, named for a family doctor in Springfield, was a quiet, thoughtful boy who excelled at reading and education. His brother Tad was just the opposite and could not read or write by age 12, while Willie was beyond the basics by 8. He had a wonderful memory and could recite long passages from the Bible with ease. He often told his parents that he was going to be a minister when he grew up.

Lincoln and Mary grieved deeply over Willie’s death. Lincoln was sick at heart over Willie’s death and it was probably the most intense personal crisis in his life. Some historians have even called it the greatest blow he ever suffered. Even Confederate President Jefferson Davis expressed condolences over the boy’s death.

Lincoln did not fare well in the days that followed the boy's death. Willie had been embalmed to make the trip back to Springfield and be buried beside his brother, but Lincoln changed his mind about that at the last minute. He accepted an offer made to him by a friend, William Thomas Carroll, to place the body of Willie in one of the crypts in the Carroll family tomb. This would be until Lincoln retired from the presidency and returned to live in Springfield himself. He could not bear the idea of having Willie so far away from him just yet. In fact, Lincoln returned to the cemetery the next day to watch the body as it was moved from the cemetery chapel to the crypt itself. Word got out that Lincoln returned to the tomb on two occasions and had Willie’s coffin opened. The doctor had embalmed Willie so perfectly that he everyone said he just seemed to be sleeping. The President claimed that he was forced to look upon his boy’s face just one last time.

After the funeral, Lincoln tried to go on about his work, but his spirit had been crushed by Willie’s death. One week after the funeral, he closed himself up in his office all day and wept. It has often been said that Lincoln was on the verge of suicide at this point, but none can say for sure. He did withdraw even further into himself though and he began to look more closely at the spiritual matters that had interested him for so long.

Although many Lincoln scholars say otherwise, it is more than possible that Abraham Lincoln didn’t just believe in the supernatural, but that he actually participated in it. Many have scoffed and said that Lincoln had no time for ghosts and spirits, but there are others who say that he actually attended séances that were held in the White House. Whether he accepted the movement or not, it is a fact that many Spiritualists were often guests there. Several of them were even said to have given him warnings about the dark shadows that hung over his life.

Of course, Lincoln himself was convinced that he was doomed and adopted a very fatalistic attitude during his presidency, especially after Willie’s death. His friends stated that Lincoln would often watch the door while he worked, as if expecting the boy to run through it and give his father a hug, as he often did in life. Lincoln also began to speak of how Willie’s spirit remained with him and how his presence was often felt in his home and office. Some mediums theorized that Lincoln’s obsession with the boy’s death may have caused Willie’s spirit to linger behind, refusing, for his father’s sake, to pass on to the other side.

Regardless of how he felt about Willie’s spirit, Lincoln publicly avoided connections to the Washington spiritualists, so much of what is written about his contact with them comes through accounts and diaries written by friends and acquaintances.

While Lincoln avoided the spiritualists in public, Mary embraced them openly. She had been quick to turn to contact with the other side for comfort after Willie’s death. Once he was gone, Mary never again entered the White House guest room where he died or the room in which the funeral viewing was held. Some historians claim that this was the beginning of Mary’s mental instability, but not because of the mediums, because of her fervent grief instead. The obsession over Spiritualism was just one of the symptoms, but none could ignore the fact that her headaches, mood swings and bursts of irrational temper were growing worse.

Mary began meeting with a number of different Spiritualists and invited many to the White House, as each claimed to be able to "lift the thin veil" and allow Mary to communicate with Willie. Mary’s closest spiritualist companion, and one of whom there is some record that Lincoln also met with, was Nettie Colburn Maynard. Many are familiar with a tale told about a séance held by Nettie Maynard in 1863 where a grand piano levitated. The medium was playing the instrument when it began to rise off the floor. Lincoln and Colonel Simon Kase were both present and it is said that both men climbed onto the piano, only to have it jump and shake so hard that they climbed down. It is recorded that Lincoln would later refer to the levitation as proof of an "invisible power."

Rumors spread that Lincoln had an interest in the spirit world. In England, a piece of sheet music was published which portrayed him holding a candle while violins and tambourines flew about his head. The piece of music was called The Dark Séance Polka and the caption below the illustration of the president read "Abraham Lincoln and the Spiritualists".

It was also rumored that Lincoln consulted with these mediums and clairvoyants to obtain information about future events in the war. He found that sometimes they gave him information about matters as mundane as Confederate troop movements -- information that sometimes matched his own precognitive visions.

During a séance that was supposed to have been held at the home of a Mrs. Laurie in February 1863, a spirit come through Nettie Maynard who identified himself as Dr. Bamford. Lincoln was allegedly in attendance at this séance and listened as the spirit described the critical conditions of the Federal Army at the front lines. Lincoln replied that the spirit seemed to understand the situation and asked what he would do to remedy it. The spirit answered that he did -- but only if Lincoln had the courage to go through with it. Lincoln said that he did and asked for assistance.

The spirit told Lincoln that he should make an informal visit to the battle front, accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln, and that he should mingle with the men and hear their grievances and stories. This, said the spirit, would unite the men behind him. Lincoln followed his advice and managed to rally the troops behind the cause. By July of that year, the Union was dominating on both the western and eastern fronts with victories in Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The following of the spirit's advice was credited by many for beginning the turning point of the war.

Despite these somewhat apocryphal stories, there is little doubt that Lincoln believed a dark cloud hung over his head. The constant threats of death and violence that he received kept he and his bodyguards on edge at all times. It is also believed that some of his spiritualist friends felt the end was near. During a session that he was said to have had with Nettie Maynard, she allegedly told him that "the shadows others have told of still hang over you." Lincoln told her that he received letters from spiritualists all over the country that warned him of impending doom. When she got ready to depart, the president insisted that she come and visit he and Mary the following autumn. "I shall come, of course," Nettie answered, "that is... if you are still among us."

One of Lincoln’s old friends from Illinois was a lawyer with whom he had ridden the legal circuit named Ward Hill Lamon. Lincoln had appointed him to a security position in the White House and he worried constantly over Lincoln’s seeming indifference to threats and warnings of death. Lamon often resigned his position because his friend did not take the danger seriously. Lincoln always convinced him to stay on, promising to be more careful.... as he vanished out of the White House at night, or attended the theater without protection.

Lamon became obsessed with watching over Lincoln and many believe that the president would not have been killed at Ford’s Theater had Lamon been on duty that night. As it turned out, the security chief happened to be in Richmond, Virginia, on an errand for the president, when disaster struck. He would never forgive himself for what happened -- especially since he believed that he had a forewarning of the event, from Lincoln himself.

Years later, Lamon would remember that Lincoln had always been haunted by the strange vision that he experienced in the mirror in 1860. Several years after that, it was to Lamon and Mary Lincoln to whom the president would recount an eerie dream of death, just shortly before his assassination.

"About ten days ago, I retired late. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along.

"It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me, but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully.

" ‘Who is dead in the White House?’, I demanded of one of the soldiers.

" ‘The President’, was his answer, ‘He was killed by an assassin.’

"Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since."

Lincoln was murdered just a few days later and his body was displayed in the East Room of the White House. Mary would recall this dream of her husband’s quite vividly in the days that followed. It was said that her first coherent word after the assassination was a muttered statement about his dream being prophetic.

On April 14, 1865, a few days after the horrifying dream and on the night he was to attend Ford’s Theater, Lincoln called a meeting of his cabinet. Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, arrived twenty minutes late and the meeting began without him. As Stanton and Attorney General James Speed were leaving the meeting, Stanton commented to him that he was pleased about how much work was accomplished.

"But you were not here at the beginning", Speed said. "When we entered the council chamber, we found the president seated at the top of the table, with his face buried in his hands. Presently, he raised it and we saw that he looked grave and worn".

" Gentlemen, before long, you will have important news", the President told them. The Cabinet members were anxious to hear what news Lincoln spoke of, but he refused to tell them anything further.

"I have heard nothing, but you will hear tomorrow, " he said, and then continued, "I have had a dream. I have dreamed three times before; once before the Battle of Bull Run; once on another occasion; and again last night. I am in a boat, alone on a boundless ocean. I have no oars, no rudder, I am helpless. I drift!"

That evening, while attending a performance of a play called Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater, Lincoln was killed by an assassin named John Wilkes Booth. He died the next morning, April 15, the anniversary of the southern assault on Fort Sumter, the event which officially started the Civil War.

Lincoln spoke of death and prophecies to other members of his staff also, like Colonel William H. Crook, a member of the White House security team and one of Lincoln’s personal bodyguards. Crook took his task seriously, often staying awake at night and sitting outside Lincoln’s bedroom while the president slept. Crook even refused to read a newspaper while on duty so that he would be ready should an emergency arise.

Crook was on duty the evening of April 14 and that same afternoon, Lincoln spoke to him about the strange dreams that he had been having. Crook pleaded with the president not to go to the theater that night, but Lincoln dismissed his concerns, explaining that he had promised Mary they would go and that he needed a night away from the problems of the country. Crook then asked to accompany the president, but Lincoln again refused, insisting that Crook could not work around the clock.

Lincoln had a habit of bidding Crook a "good night" each evening as he left the office and went to his bedroom. On that fateful day, according to Crook, Lincoln paused as he left for the theater and turned to the bodyguard. "Good-bye, Crook," he said significantly.

"It was the first time that he neglected to say ‘Good Night’ to me", Crook would later recall. "And it was the only time that he ever said ‘Good-bye’. I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Merle Travis - "Petticoat Fever" & "Too Much Sugar for a Dime" (1951)

Soundies are short films, usually lasting about three minutes. They were produced in the 1940s for visual jukeboxes where customers paid a fee to view as well as hear popular songs of the day.

Snader Telescriptions are similarly short performances produced in 1951-1952 for local television stations needing "filler" programming.

Scopitones are short musical films made for visual jukeboxes in Europe and the U.S. in 1966. Unlike Soundies and Snaders, Scopitones are in color.

Merle Travis (November 29, 1917 – October 20, 1983) was an American country and western singer, songwriter, and musician. Born Merle Robert Travis in Rosewood, Kentucky, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977. Some of the songs he wrote or performed include: "Sixteen Tons", "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed", and "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette"; however, it is his masterful guitar playing that he is best known for today. "Travis picking", a style of guitar picking, is named after him.

As far as I know, there were 6 Merle Travis Snader Telescriptions produced in the early 1950's:

Merle Travis, "Mus'rat"

Merle Travis, "Dark As a Dungeon"

Merle Travis, "Sweet Temptation"

Merle Travis, "Too Much Sugar for a Dime"

Merle Travis, "Petticoat Fever"

Merle Travis, "Lost John"

I got these two from Dave Stuckey's Youtube page...

"one of my all time favorite Travis 'Telescriptions'. I love it because it's the whole package -- you get Travis' sharp and funny songwriting, 2 crackin' good solos, another Bigsby, his then-wife Judy Hayden and the cream of the Capitol hillbilly swingers... Speedy West doesn't get his close-up (!), but you get a nice Eddie Kirk chord solo (he's in amazingly good spirits considering that's his ex-wife singing with Travis!), Harold Hensley gets off a good fiddle break... kinda looks like Cliffie Stone on bass, but don't think that's him... don't know the trumpet player, but it's all good! Run, don't walk to buy the Travis video collections that are out there - you won't be sorry! p.s. note the shout-outs to Capitol label mates..."
-Dave Stuckey-

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cheyenne Season 1 DVD (1955)

In 1955, Warner Bros. entered the TV production field with the weekly "Warner Bros. Presents". The program consisted of three rotating series, each based on a Warners feature film of the 1940s. While King's Row and Casablanca fell by the wayside, the third component, Cheyenne, had "legs", lasting until 1963. Clint Walker starred as Cheyenne Bodie, a wandering dogooder at large in the Old West. During a 1958 contract dispute, Walker was spelled by two new characters, "Sugarfoot" (Will Hutchins) and "Bronco" (Ty Hardin), both of whom were spun off into their own series when Walker returned to the Warners fold in 1959.

The first season of Cheyenne is now available on DVD, but it is not an accurate representation of what the groundbreaking series became. In fact, the first season was so maligned, that there almost wasn't a second.Cheyenne premiered in September of 1955, the same year as Gunsmoke first appeared. But Gunsmoke began as a half hour show, which meant that Cheyenne had the distinction of being the first hour long TV series in history.

Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry had all preceded Cheyenne, but it was Cheyenne that launched the era of Westerns on TV, which peaked in 1959 when the networks aired over thirty "oaters" in one season. Before Cheyenne became a success, however, some changes had to be made.

During Cheyenne's first season, the title character had a sidekick, and the storylines were more geared to kids than adults. Monsanto and other sponsors not only threatened to pull their ads, they threatened to sue Warner Brothers if changes weren't made to the new Western show. That's when Warner executive Bill Orr begged screen writer Roy Huggins to leave Columbia and take over Cheyenne. Huggins' first order of business was to drop the sidekick. Roy also turned Cheyenne Bodie into a no nonsense loner, and made the story lines more serious. After righting the Cheyenne ship, Huggins moved on to create Maverick, which was James Garner's first starring role. Huggins also created a number of other shows for Warners, including 77 Sunset Strip, before leaving to create The Fugitive. In the 1970's Roy reteamed with Garner, when he created The Rockford Files. Huggins other series included Baretta and Hunter.

But Roy Huggin's work on Cheyenne helped to redefine the TV Western, not only by proving that an hour series was viable, but by opening the door for other non traditional heroes such as those featured on Wanted Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, and Have Gun Will Travel. Huggins is also credited with not only saving Cheyenne, but Warner Brothers Television and ABC along with it.

Ironically, Huggins did such a good job on Cheyenne that Clint Walker's success created contract battles with the studio. Walker was constantly having to make personal appearance tours, and Warners was raking in all of the proceeds.

That arrangement, coupled with long work weeks, caused Walker to bolt the series in 1958, and stay out of work until he returned the next season. In his absence, Walker was replaced by Ty Hardin as Bronco, and after Clint's return, Bronco and Sugarfoot (starring Will Hutchins) alternated with Cheyenne for the weekly time slot.

Walker went on to appear in motion pictures such as The Dirty Dozen, Night of the Grizzly, and The White Buffalo, and he starred in the short-lived TV series Kodiak. But it will be his masterful characterization as Cheyenne Bodie for which Walker will best be remembered.

The 5 disc set includes all 15 episodes from the first season of Cheyenne.

Disc 1 (2:04:29)
Mountain Fortress (41:18)
Julesburg (41:09)
The Argonauts (42:02)

Disc 2 (2:04:57)
Border Showdown (40:27)
The Outlander (42:05)
The Travelers (42:25)

Disc 3 (2:06:46)
Decision (41:38)
The Storm Riders (42:54)
Rendezvous at Red Rock (42:14)

Disc 4 (2:10:47)
West of the River (42:49)
Quicksand (45:29)
Fury at Rio Hondo (42:29)

Disc 5 (2:07:25)
Star in the Dust (42:21)
Johnny Bravo (42:10)
The Last Train West (42:54)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Harry Oliver [1888-1973]

Harry Oliver [1888-1973] was a near-legendary Hollywood art director [twice Oscar-nominated, one of the first people ever nominated for an Academy Award]; Scrap Book a designer, showman, newspaper columnist, self-publisher, and desert character.

He lived part-time around Borrego Springs CA in the 1920s and '30s, then moved full-time to Thousand Palms CA around 1940. Here he built Old Fort Oliver and, for decades, sporadically published the DESERT RAT SCRAP BOOK archive, "The only 5-page newspaper in America, and the only one you can open in the wind."

Harry collected and promulgated some of the best lore and lies ever written about the West. His paper had a small but global following, and was cited in B.A.Botkins' classic TREASURY OF WESTERN FOLKLORE.

As an art director and set designer, Harry strongly influenced the Expressionism of F.W. Murnau [NOSFERATU, SUNRISE, TABU]. Harry's film credits include such classics as SPARROWS, 7th HEAVEN, STREET ANGEL, THE RIVER, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, SCARFACE, VIVA VILLA!, and THE GOOD EARTH. As a designer of commercial symbols [the Van De Camp Bakery windmill and the Willat Studios Witch House], his work is world-famous in Los Angeles.

As a designer of western scenes, [1936 World's Fair - Gold Gulch] and hoaxes [scattering weathered peglegs around the Salton Sea area], he was hilarious.

As a public figure, he at least has a street named after him, even though Old Fort Oliver was replaced by a mini-mart.