“When Sunny Gets Blue” . . : Pat Martino 1944 – 2021

Pat Martino, jazz guitarist extraordinaire, passed away recently at the age of 77. Pat started out in the Philadelphia jazz scene, playing in the soul jazz organ combos of Charles Earland, Don Patterson and Jack McDuff. You can certainly hear these roots in his early records like his 1967 debut for Prestige, El Hombre. But Martino’s music always had an exploratory side as shown by his 1968 record Baiyina (The Clear Evidence) which incorporated elements of Indian classical music and by the mid-’70s, Martino had begun delving into jazz fusion with records such as Starbright and Joyous Lake.

I first became aware of Pat Martino when Guitar Player magazine did a feature review of his 1972 record Live! which featured his killer version of the pop tune Sunny. I was really getting into guitar at this time and this just blew my mind as it did to many other guitar geeks at the time. Martino’s playing displayed incredible technique but also had a an amazing clarity to it even at fast tempos. Here just check it out. I’ll wait . . . .

Pat Martino – Sunny

Pat Martino – Impressions

Pat Martino – Blue Bossa

Suddenly, in 1980, Pat Martino undergoes emergency neurosurgery for a brain aneurysm that saved his life but also damaged his memory. Martino then spent several years relearning the instrument by listening back to his own recordings while also dealing with issues of depression and struggling with the grueling process of recovering his motor skills. Despite all this he reemerged in 1987 with The Return, displaying miraculously undiminished chops. Martino continued to perform and record for the next three decades, often playing in hard bop or organ combo settings reminiscent of his early career,

Wow . . .
R.I.P. Pat Martino

Pat Martino – Oleo
d – January 1, 2002 – Teatro Mancinelli, Orvieto, Italy

Pat Martino – Hipsippy Blues

Pat Martino Quartet – Midnight Special (Live at Blues Alley)

Pat Martino Quartet – Lean Years (Live at Blues Alley)

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Posted in Improvisation, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Back Porch Blues” . . . : The Videos of Justin Johnson

There’s something about acoustic blues guitar that can sooth the soul (at least mine) in ways that no other music can. My upbringing was about as far from the Mississippi Delta as you can get yet I can get lost in listening to this music for hours. That brings us to the videos of guitarist Justin Johnson.

Justin Johnson has been putting great videos of instrumental acoustic blues guitar and fingerstyle guitar arrangements of classic rock tunes. His videos showcase not only his impressive fingerstyle chops but also his slide guitar playing He also has a collection of very cool looking guitars and a music making man cave to die for.

I’m just gonna let the music speak for itself so just do what I do. Play the music and go where it takes you. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the trip.

Over 10 Minutes of Laid-Back Acoustic Blues Guitar to Escape To

BLUES GUITAR • One Hour of Laid-Back Solo Blues Guitar

GEORGIA ON MY MIND | Relaxing Smoky Blues Guitar

“HURT” by Johnny Cash / NIN • Fingerstyle Guitar Version

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN • Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar

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Posted in Blues, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Lost In The Ozone Again” . . : George Frayne (aka Commander Cody) 1944 – 2021

Being a young Deadhead in the early Seventies, I was familiar with other bands that could be fitted into that very loose genre known as country rock. Actually, it didn’t matter very much if you were a deadhead or not, it was all over the rock radio in the early seventies. There were The Eagles, Allman Brothers (debate if they were country rock or not, Ramblin’ Man could definitely be considered country rock), Poco, The Marshall Tucker Band and others. Then there was Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Unlike other country rock bands who took their cues from folk rock and bluegrass, Commander Cody mixed their rock with Western swing, rockabilly, Bakersfield honky tonk and jump blues, all built on the boogie-woogie piano of George Frayne, aka Commander Cody, who sadly passed away last month at the age of 77.

Compared to the more commercially successful bands mentioned above, Commander Cody were much (for the lack of a better word) rawer and became something of a cult favorite during its ten year existence, with constant touring, usually playing bars and small venues. Their 1974 album Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas, recorded at Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, was once ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 albums of all-time.

When the band released its first album, “Lost in the Ozone” in 1971, it spawned a surprise hit with “Hot Rod Lincoln,”, a cover of Charlie Ryan’s 1955 rockabilly song. But having what was essentially a novelty song as your first hit is also a death sentence. The success of “Hot Rod Lincoln” basically got them pigeonholed as a novelty band.

Having seen the band, I can attest to how good they were live with the Commander being one hell of a boogie-woogie piano player.

RIP George Frayne, aka Commander Cody.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Reacting To The Reactor’s Reactions” . . . : Professional Musicians React

If you’re a music nerd like yours truly and you spend a decent amount of time on YouTube in say, the last three years, then you have no doubt come across a music reaction video. Most of the time it basically boils down to someone who falls under the category Gen Z (and yes, I had to look up what differentiates a millennial from a Gen Z from a whatever, all I know is that I’m old) “reacting” to a classic rock song.

In the beginning of this trend I watched a bunch of these videos but I quickly tired of them. Boomers may want to feel the need to have their musical tastes (and therefore themselves) validated by non boomers. Personally I don’t need someone to tell me what I like is good. It’s what I like, that’s good enough. I also can’t help but feel their is an intrinsic dishonesty to the process. The people who put out these videos are aware of the all powerful You Tube algorithm. If you put out a video with an unfavorable reaction to a favorite band/song than you risk getting a dislike and hurting your video’s possibility to be recommended to other fans of said artist. That can have a direct economic impact on the You Tuber. The whole thing reeks of five day old click bait.

But besides these misgivings the biggest reason I stopped watching these videos is that for the most part, these reactors were, how do I put this delicately, oh I know, IDIOTS! Please note that I think there are some exceptions but for the majority of the videos I watched, I stand by my assessment.

Maybe it’s because of my interest as a musician but I would much rather watch something that will point out something new about a classic song, not just reaffirm my taste and tell me what I want to hear. That brings me to the videos below from a fairly new You Tube channel Professional Musicians React.

With a semi rotating panel of professional musicians, the videos dissect some classic songs (as well as songs from contemporary artists such as Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift), discussing aspects of the song like it’s harmony, composition, vocal performance, production and other cool things for music geeks to dig. Like the panel, you now notice little things about a song you heard so many times but now realize you never really listened to before. Another thing I like about these videos is how they will explain a technical term for the layman. When they refer to things like gate, sidechain or low pass filter, they make a point of explaining it.

Professional Musicians React – Stevie Wonder Superstition

Professional Musicians React – The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun

Professional Musicians React – NirvanaSmells Like Teen Spirit

If this whets your appetite for a deeper appreciation of great music by people who actually know what they’re talking about then go check out their channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/Professionalmusiciansreact/featured

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Charlie’s good tonight, ain’t he?” . . : Charlie Watts (1941 -2021)

There’s not much I can to say that really matters so I’ll leave it to these snapshots of a life well lived.

From the Keith Richard’s memoir “Life”

Shot by Martin Scorsese in 2006 at New York’s Beacon Theater.A Charlie Watt’s view of it all.

Charlie Watts / Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Charlie Watts / All Down the Line

Just one of the many examples of the genius of Charlie Watts. The isolated drums/percussion track of Gimmie Shelter (Jimmy Miller on güiro).

Charlie Watts – Gimmie Shelter Isolated Tracks

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Uncategorized

“She don’t remember the Queen of Soul”. : Aretha Franklin’s Rock Covers

It came up that earlier this week was the three year anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s death with numerous Internet music websites marking the occasion. One of them was UCR (Ultimate Classic Rock) who I want to thank for this one. . .

Aretha Franklin sang everything great. Her roots were in gospel. Her early Columbia records had her sings jazz and songs from the Great American Songbook (Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.). Her classic Atlantic recordings cemented her place as the Queen of Soul. She even once kicked ass singing opera as a last minute replacement for Pavorati on the Grammys. Aretha Franklin had broad musical tastes and throughout her long career recorded more than her share of rock songs, many of which are classic versions in and of themselves.

From Franklin’s second album for Atlantic Records with Muscle Shoals’ Swampers for backup and a horn section led by King Curtis.


The Young Rascals’ song has blue-eyed soul meet the Queen of Soul. Backed up once again by the Muscle Shoals studio musicians known as the Swampers with backup vocals from Cissy Houston and sister Carolyn Franklin.


Franklin takes the Beatles to church with gospel choir backup vocals and a sax solo. This was also the first version of the song to be released commercially, as the Beatles’ single did not come out until two months after Franklin’s.

Let It Be

Featuring Duane Allman on National Steel guitar and King Curtis leading the horn section. I find it interesting that Franklin’s version puts a more R&B spin on the Band classic rather than the more gospel tinged version The Band later did with The Staple Singers on The Last Waltz. In the end it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s still f**king amazing.

The Weight

From Franklin’s epic record Live At The Fillmore West, one of the greatest live records of all time. If you haven’t heard it, then do so ASAP. You’re welcome.

Love the One You’re With (Live at Fillmore West, San Francisco, February 5, 1971)

Aretha Franklin debuted her gospel hymn-like treatment of the Simon & Garfunkel tune at the 1971 Grammy Awards where the original Simon & Garfunkel version won Record and Song of the Year. Franklin’s single went gold and won its own Grammy in 1972, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Stuck Inside A Mobile” . . : The 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival

The video below, courtesy of blues label Fat Possum Records is of the fourth (and last) Memphis Country Blues Festival. Taking place from June 6 through 8, 1969 in what was then known as the Overton Park Shell, the film is a fascinating snapshot of a time, a place and it’s music. This is one year after Martin Luther King was assassinated, being held in a site that hosted at least one Ku Klux Klan rally. Yet it shows the area’s hippie culture coming out to support the music.

Gene Rosenthal, head of the indie blues label Adelphi, filmed roughly 17 hours of performances, but the cost of processing the film basically exhausted his budget so the raw footage sat in his basement for decades. Years later, Rosenthal mentioned the film in a casual conversation with Bruce Watson and Matthew Johnson, founders of the blues label Fat Possum, and with their help finished the project.

With it’s fly-on-the-wall cinema verite style, “Memphis ’69” evokes other classic concert documentaries like “Woodstock” and “Monterey Pop”, such as when there is a public call for donations to help bail out a musician whose “old lady” had been busted by the police for drinking “a quart of beer” in the park, outside the concert venue. Classic.

Time codes for specific performances are below. Enjoy.

Memphis ’69: The 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival

03:14 Rufus Thomas with The Bar-Kays
08:01 Bukka White
09:58 Nathan Beauregard
12:01 Sleepy John Estes & Yank Rachell
14:00 Jo Ann Kelly & “Backwards” Sam Firk
17:20 Son Thomas
20:20 Sleepy John Estes & Yank Rachell
22:07 Lum Guffin
23:21 Rev. Robert Wilkins & Family
26:09 John Fahey
28:56 Sid Selvidge with Moloch
30:53 John D. Loudermilk
35:43 Furry Lewis
42:35 Bukka White
43:53 Piano Red
47:05 Jefferson Street Jug Band with John Fahey and Robert Palmer
50:26 Insect Trust
52:25 Moloch
56:22 Johnny Winter
01:02:40 The Salem Harmonizers
01:05:34 Mississippi Fred McDowell

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Posted in Blues, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Play Dead”. . . : Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast Talk Dead Cover Bands

This is not the first time I’ve talked about the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast (see https://roymusicusa.com/2020/10/12/playing-to-the-tide-the-good-ol-grateful-deadcast-deep-dive-into-workingmans-dead/ and https://roymusicusa.com/2021/06/13/skull-roses-the-grateful-dead-as-we-know-them-today/) but the two recent episodes below hit a particularly special note with me (pun intended). They talk about the Grateful Dead as a genre unto itself and the bands that play it. Yes, we’re talking about the world of Dead cover bands, something I know personally. I went to college on Long Island in the Seventies and played in Dead bands and saw many other such bands during that time. One of those bands were The Zen Tricksters who are one of the bands discussed in the podcasts below. The Trickster’s Jerry clone was Jeff Mattson who now does the same for Dark Star Orchestra. Then he was playing the Right Track Inn in Freeport, L.I., now he’s playing Red Rocks Amphitheater (for what it’s worth, I was in a Dead band with Jeff’s brother Matt).

The podcasts cover a lot ground. From the global phenomenon of Dead bands in England, India, Japan and other lands to Dead tribute record Dedicated and other such recordings to a interesting discussion on the degree of faithfulness a given band approaches the Dead’s music.

The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast: Season 3 – Episode 7: Skull & Roses 50: Playing Dead, Part 1

The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast: Season 3 – Episode 7: Skull & Roses 50: Playing Dead, Part 2

As a side note, with the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics coming up, this article surfaced with a timely reminder of why my favorite band is so fucking cool.


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Posted in Grateful Dead, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“I Could Drink A Case Of You” . . : Joni Mitchell’s Blue At 50

Picking up on a thread from a previous post (https://roymusicusa.com/2021/05/26/no-regrets-coyote-joni-mitchells-hejira/), Joni Mitchell’s iconic masterpiece ‘Blue’ celebrated it’s 50th anniversary recently. As part of celebration, the Joni Mitchell Archives put out a five song EP of demos and outtakes called, appropriately enough, Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes).

The EP features the song “Hunter,” that previously was only released on the live album Amchitka, the 1970 Vancouver Greenpeace benefit where Mitchell performed with James Taylor. The EP also contains alternate takes of “River” and “Urge for Going,” as well as demos for “California” and “A Case of You,” the latter of which features slightly different lyrics.

Blue is an incredibly personal albums and fifty years later, it’s still one of the most open, and candid, albums ever made. Yet, anyone who’s ever loved someone can recognize and relate to these songs. Informed by Mitchell’s exit from a long relationship with Graham Nash as well as shorter but very intense affairs with James Taylor and Leonard Cohen, Blue is a song cycle dealing with themes of loss and transformation as well as the conflict between love and freedom. It marks the end of one era in Mitchell’s career and the beginning of the another. Blue‘s creative structures and lyrical vulnerability opened up her songwriting and an empowered artistic fearlessness that would go on to produce such future landmark album like Court and Spark and Hejira.

Joni Mitchell – Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes)

Track Listing –
1. A Case Of You (Demo) 0:00:00
2. California (Demo) 0:04:00
3. Hunter (Outtake) 0:07:30
4. River (Outtake with French Horns) 0:10:25
5. Urge For Going (Outtake with Strings) 0:14:27

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Seven Year Twitch” : A Long Strange Trip and The Debut Album of Wire Wood & Steel

I realized this month that I’ve been writing this blog for seven years with at least two post a month without a break. Why have I done this for that long? Because I’m a music nerd and one thing that I’ve noticed that music nerds love to do is turn people on to music that they think is cool. Yeah, I’m that annoying friend who made tapes (remember them?) for other people of bands they should check out or the one who wants to go see some weird band they read about.

But do you know what is really cool? Seeing that someone from another part of the world found something I wrote to be worth the time to read. Hopefully, something I put out there will lead some aspiring musician to listen to a someone who will inspire them the way my musical heroes inspired me.

With that said, I would like to announce the release of the debut album of my newest musical project, Wire Wood & Steel. It’s an acoustic music based instrumental project featuring myself on guitars, dobro and bass playing original music and featuring my cover of the classic Grateful Dead tune “Friend Of The Devil”.

The complete album is embedded below so please check it out. Hit the Like button, share it with others and do all that internet stuff you’re suppose to do.

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Uncategorized
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