Monday, August 19, 2019

Beethoven's Boogie


Record digging near Fort Collins, several years ago, I spotted this Loveland-based LP, Beethoven's Boogie. Conceived by Bill Gleichmann and Pat Jones, the mostly-instrumental 1983 recording couples classical music with boogie - a genre I can't say I had ever heard, prior to this find.

I was about to be schooled on this ABBA-styled mashup.

 The album... is the culmination of research on the origin and development of boogie, or boogie-woogie, as it was first called. The title song adheres to an early boogie formula derived from an adopted classical melody, combined with a typical boogie rhythmic pattern. - Liner notes

Liner notes also indicate that Pat Jones, who provides vocals on the above clip, is a Colorado native who began studying piano at the age of six. There is little other information regarding her contribution to the recording.

Bill Gleichmann is noted as a University of California graduate, who worked in Hollywood for "radio/TV, and motion pictures." An Internet search finds that he lived in Loveland, and passed away in 1994.

The LP was produced by Bruce Brunson, who at one time was affiliated with the Charley Butler and Linda Rinaldo group, Colorado Sunshine Company.

The back of the LP shows a P.O. Box, located in Denver, which was pasted over with a sticker noting a Loveland address.

Monday, August 5, 2019

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live

Attended the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, last week, where I scored a substantial cache of Colorado-published sheet music. Some fantastic additions to the esoteric state-related music collection, but one particular piece made me mutter a silent "%&@#," when I saw it (it was a public place, after all - grin).

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live features a little girl, holding a doll, and I'm thinking, "Wait, why would she want to go to heaven. Who died? The little girl? Her doggie?"

Think again. The song is about her mother.

Fro, the yard 'cross the way, strayed a baby one day
To look for her mama, so dear.
Her doll in her arms, seemed to add to her charms
And check could be noticed a tear.
A police man passed by, saw this little one cry,
And asked her, with hand on her head.
Why from home she had strayed, then he kissed the wee maid
As wistfully to him she said...
I'm trying to find where the angels live
My mama is there you see
They called her away, on bright summer's day
And left daddy dear and me.

I'll give you a second to get a hankie...

Written by Harry J. Jones and Robert F. McGowan, the 1910 tearjerker was put out by the Denver Publishing Company, located at 218 Coronado Building, which was original located at the corner of 15th and Stout (it was demolished in 1953, and is now home to a parking garage).

I also located another copy of the sheet music, with an illustrated cover:

The story gets even better, when I tracked down the composers.

Robert F. McGowan was born in Denver, in 1882. He is listed, in the 1904 Denver City Directory as a musician, with a residence at 2428 Larimer. I found another reference that he served as a Denver firefighter.  In 1905, he and Jones penned "I'll Come Back Some Day," published by the prolific Tolbert R. Ingram company.

He left the city in 1910 (I found another story, which noted 1913), to move to Los Angeles. While there, he met up with a young producer named Hal Roach, who gave him a job as the director of a new series of silent films he conceived... Our Gang.

How. About. That. 

Robert McGowan, with the cast of Our Gang

Shortly after McGowan began directing the Our Gang series, he became ill, and turned the director's chair over to nephew, Robert A McGowan.  The senior McGowan recovered, and took the series back over, during what was considered the height of the silent film and the early talkie eras of the series, with the popular characters, Farina, Stymie, and a young Jackie Cooper (the character of Buckwheat didn't appear until 1934. The character of Alfalfa joined the cast in 1935). McGowan left the series in 1933 (when the character of Spanky was introduced), to direct several Paramount motion pictures.  He returned to Our Gang, one more time, to direct Divot Diggers (1936).

McGowan died in 1955. He is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA.

According to the 1904 Denver City Directory, Harry J. Jones was a clerk at the Colorado National Bank, who resided at 3826 Gilpin. I could find no other information on this lyricist.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Joe Bob Mundell and The Ballad of Highlands Ranch

Back in 1978, Denver was growing so big, there wasn't enough space to accommodate the influx of new residents enamored with Colorado (thanks, John Denver). The Mission Viejo Company, seizing the opportunity, purchased a large parcel of land, 12 miles south of Denver, in unincorporated Douglas County - home to nothing more than herds of cattle, and a handful of ranches. The suburban plan included thousands of new homes, a library, schools, parks, and shopping centers.

But not everyone was happy with the plan. Namely the ranchers who were put smack dab in the middle of an eminent domain fight, for their land.

Back then, Joe Mundell was a student teacher in Nederland. The former University of Colorado-Boulder physical education major, and football player, dabbled in songwriting, and the story about the ranchers versus the ranch homes caught his attention.

"I was reading about the story, in the Rocky Mountain News, and saw a picture of a dummy hanging with a sign on it," Mundell told me. "It had kind of a last cowboy standing vibe to it. The developers ended up winning, and I thought it would make a good song."

Mundell recollects that he wanted to record the ode to the expropriating of private property as a bucket list project. "It was something I always wanted to do, make my own record. I recorded that in Boulder, in somebody's basement. The studio had carpet on the walls, and an old 8-channel, half inch tape recorder."

He estimates 500 copies of "The Ballad of Highlands Ranch" and its flipside, "Talking to the Waterfall" were pressed. "I sent them off, but out of the 500, I think I still have about 200 left," he laughed.

Mundell took a chance in Nashville, but admitted, "I got smashed around there, and I needed to pursue a living, so I came back to Colorado. It really wasn't a crushing thing to not get a recording contract. It was just a realization."

He put his degree to use in Alamosa, coaching high school sports, before moving to his hometown of Walsh, located in far southeast Colorado. The bulk of his teaching career would be in nearby Lamar, where he taught math, and served as the track and cross country coach, and offensive coordinator for the school's football team, for 35 years. "I was also sponsor of the Knowledge Bowl team, which I was very proud of."

In between teaching, Mundell continued to pick up his guitar, and play in a few local and area bands, including the Black Water Band, Prairie Fire, and a duo known as Stereo.

He and his wife Darla are the parents of two grown children, a daughter Mandi, and a son Blake, who has followed in his father's musical footsteps. "My son lives in Nashville, and performs under the pseudonym, Courier," Mundell said.  In 2017, he released his 13-song LP The Present Tense.

Joe Mundell retired from the Lamar school district, in 2016, to move back to Walsh. He is currently the high school math teacher, there.