Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 2011

As real schoolers, we remember dress codes and prayer in schools. There was no such thing as time out, we respected our elders, understood the concept of role models and the acknowledgement of heroes…

Would we ever have believed that the world would change so much? Would we ever believe that the fire and police departments and EMTs who came to the aid of thousands in one of the most unspeakable events in United States history would not be allowed to attend the 10th anniversary of 9-11 due to a "space" issue?  So many of us are righteously appalled.  I say, find space.

It is my sincere hope that by the time the dedication of September 11th at the site of this most unforgettable tragedy  happens, there will be enough room for the first responders to attend and be given the respect and acknowledgement for their courage and bravery in emergency situations and not be  given the "afterthought" and honored on the 12th or 13th of September.

Actor, comedian Denis Leary, co-created the series, Rescue Me which began its run in 2004.

This series is an upbeat and over the top drama featuring Leary as veteran firefighter, Tommy Gavin, challenged by his personal demons as well as the ghosts of the people he couldn't save. Among these lost souls are a cousin who died on September 11. The spirits of those Gavin couldn't rescue systematically seem to challenge his psyche.  

The show reveals the lives of firefighters who are called to duty on 9-11. Through  their most eloquent monologues, one is able to connect with who they are and the intense shattering of their beings from the tragedy.

Rescue Me seamlessly blends reality with the surreal. It hits us with levity and a stark seriousness through the monologues of many of the characters.  I have certainly been enlightened and educated. There are frailties to such an incredibly intense profession and all respect goes to these real life super heroes.

The series is in its seventh and finale season. The last episode aired on the 7th of September  days before the 10th anniversary of  September 11. You can catch the series on Netflix streaming.



This Labor Day marked the first year without Jerry Lewis heading up the telethon to fight muscular dystrophy. Most of us remember when the telethon was an event with great entertainers performing for the telethon's cause.  I remember when I was a kid, trying to stay up all night  to watch the entire broadcast. The benefit ended with Jerry singing and always making his intended donation goal by the end of the event. And we were always glad when Jerry reached it.

Time marches on and we look at the legacies of those who have left a mark in our world. Innovators, who became iconic in what they believed in and pioneered wove an integral tapestry of creativity, courage and innovation into our lives.

There is so much that the younger generation can learn from real school songwriters. One is that back in the day there were no beats to steal from, no songs to use snippets from or “samples” from original songs to hump and claim it all as a new creativity. Truth is--- creativity back in the day came from the purity of the soul…Creativity was and will always be born from the true self.

August 22 brought the loss of two of the finest lyricists of our time, Jerry Lieber and Nick Ashford. Big thanks goes to Kevin Goins for giving us the real deal on Nick Ashford and Jerry Lieber this month.

Interestingly, both Jerry Stoller and Nick Ashford did an interview with Tavis Smiley with their writing partners in 2009.

Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.



Jerry Lieber was part of the songwriting team of Lieber and Stoller, the first to embrace black music and contributed much to creating a crossover market. For over 60 years, this duo who were also producers, would be the first to get an independent production deal, in 1955 with Atlantic records and alter the course of record history. 


Their work spanned several genres: R & B, Pop, Jazz, Cabaret, Rock and Roll and doo-wop. ..Names like Elvis Presley, The Coasters, The Drifters and Ben E. King recorded their work.

by Kevin Goins
It’s been over two weeks since the music world lost one it’s great songwriting titans, lyricist Jerry Lieber who with his partner, pianist/composer Mike Stoller helped create rock & roll’s first real book of songs. The resume would fill up many phone books but the one tune that brought the team probably the greatest success was HOUND DOG, written in 1953 & first recorded by blues legend WILLIE MAE “BIG MAMA” THORNTON for PEACOCK RECORDS. The story behind the creation of this classic has been well documented in the duo’s excellent memoirs entitled (what else!) HOUND DOG: THE LEIBER & STOLLER AUTOBIOGRAPHY so we’re just gonna summarize it for y’all.

Basically, the team’s goal was to write songs strictly for African-American artists. Both Jerry & Mike - who were raised in the Northeast before heading out to the West Coast in the early 1950s - identified best with the Black community because of the down-to-earth way of life several folks of color had led & in many ways still do (BTW, Mr. Leiber & Mr. Stoller - thank you!). Having said that, “Hound Dog” was basically a story of a gigolo who has been kicked to the curb by his girlfriend who’s hip to his ways (as opposed to Elvis Presley’s “re-write” where the subject is a bit of a free-loader - but that’s another story).

Jerry & Mike brought the tune to the attention of legendary bandleader Johnny Otis, who then offered it to Big Mama Thornton. A session was booked at Radio Recorders Studios where Jerry had the nerve-wracking honors of telling Thornton how the song should be cut (in other words, he sang the tune for her & she then took it to another level - hope Leiber had an extra pair of drawers just in case!). Song was recorded & released on the Peacock label, one of two record companies owned by Houston, TX -based Don Robey.

The single was an immediate hit on the R&B charts, going all the way to #1. However, Jerry & Mike weren’t happy when they saw that Johnny Otis had affixed his name along side theirs in the songwriting credits. This practice was not unusual (and sadly, still isn’t) - bandleaders, label execs, & producers have done this to the works of several songwriters because these folks know that music publishing is where the REAL money is made in the record biz. Didn’t matter to Leiber & Stoller - they wrote it, not Otis. A lawsuit was filed & in 1957, Otis’ name was removed from the credits - but not after the bandleader (as well as Jerry & Mike) earned a heap of cash when a Mississippi boy named Elvis Aaron Presley cut the tune in ‘56.

There’s also been some confusion via a posting on You Tube where Big Mama Thornton & Peacock owner Don Robey (under the alias “Deadric Malone”) had a tune called “Hound Dog” credited to their names. After further investigating, it looks as if that was a copyright that wasn’t renewed but it also brings to light another record man who committed the act of affixing his name to works he didn’t write. If one were to have been signed to Robey’s Duke/Peacock outfit as a writer, chances are that he would either put his name along side the real author’s or just pay off the composer & put the Malone name on the tune by itself. This happened to composer/singer Alfred Braggs (a/k/a Al “TNT” Braggs). He wrote “Share Your Love With Me” for Bobby “Blue” Bland (Duke/Peacock’s top artist for several years) & had to share the songwriting credits with Robey (who did NOT help write the track in any way, shape or form). In 1981, Kenny Rogers cut “Share Your Love With Me” & even named his Lionel Richie-produced album after the song. Rogers got a platinum record while Braggs may have been paid royalties but would have received MUCH more if Robey’s fake name wasn’t there. Getting back to “Hound Dog”, in my search no copies of Big Mama’s record carry her or Robey/Malone’s name in the credits. So, any attempts to try to “pull a slick one” must have been (wisely) aborted.

(Additional note - there are only a handful of composers in my memory & research who weren’t subjected to Robey’s act of name-affixing. They were New Orleans piano legend James Booker, Funk Brother Joe Hunter, composer Pearl Woods & Detroit/Chicago soul master Andre Williams).

Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller went on to work with great acts such as the Coasters (who started off as the West Coast-based Robins), Drifters, Ben E. King, Elvis Presley, Phil Spector (who co-wrote the classic “Spanish Harlem” with Mike Stoller when Jerry Leiber called in late to work one morning) & Peggy Lee. If you want to know more about them, go to your local library or bookstore & pick up their autobiography (which was co-written with music journalist David Ritz) or if your town’s playhouse is staging their musical revue “Smokey Joe’s Café”, check it out. Or better yet, next time you visit New York City, stop by The Stage Deli in midtown Manhattan & ask for “The Leiber & Stoller Special” (Wanna know what kind of sandwiches you’ll be ordering? Get the book!).



by Kevin Goins

As many of you are probably aware, the one thing that really bugs me as a music journalist & researcher is when I read things in the mainstream media about a beloved artist that are either inaccurate, smacks of sloppy (or bad) research or just plain ol' laziness.  The recent obit on NICKOLAS ASHFORD in the Washington Post is a sad example of this - and it didn't have to be that way.  The CORRECT information is out there - all they had to do is FIND IT.

Now, let's get down to business...

Joshie Armstead
According to the prestigious Washington Post, LET'S GO GET STONED was written with a "third party".  That "third party"was Nick & Val's songwriting partner JOSEPHINE "JOSHIE" ARMSTEAD, who worked with them on several songs while the threesome were employed at many publishing companies in NYC, including Flomar Music - which was owned by Scepter/Wand Records.  In case The Post wants to know who the hell is Ms. Armstead, I've got one phrase - The Ike & Tina Turner Review.  Joshie was a member of The Ikettes, who cut the classic hit "I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)".  When Nick & Val went to Motown, Joshie went to Chicago where she blossomed as a hitmaker in her own right (thank you Ruby Andrews, who cut Joshie's tune "Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over)" and Garland Green, whose "Jealous Kind Of Fella" was supervised by Joshie & has her backing vocals all over the hit). Joshie had a solid solo career & still performs to this day.

Next...The Post called "Stoned' a "throw-away party tune"...jeez, talk about a back-handed compliment!! I don't think THE COASTERS thought it was a "throw-away" - they cut it first in 1965.  Then MANFRED MANN, THE CAPITOLS and Scepter/Wand artist RONNIE MILSAP (yes, THAT Ronnie Milsap who became a country music icon) recorded it before (BROTHER) RAY CHARLES got his hands on it in 1966.  Not bad for a "throw-away", eh??

Now, let's go to Detroit where The Post said that DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES had a hit with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" in 1968 before Lady Diana made it a solo classic.  Not so fast, gang - Diana & the Supremes cut it as an album track with THE TEMPTATIONS for the groups' collaboration DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES JOIN THE TEMPTATIONS, which Nick co-produced with Motown staffer Frank Wilson.  It was never released as a single.  If anything, it was Nick & Val who suggested that the two groups cut a song they knew from their days as session singers in NYC.  First recorded by the late DEE DEE WARWICK (with Nick, Val & MELBA MOORE on backing vocals), I'M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME was a stone-cold smash in late 1968, stuck at #2 on the pop charts as Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" sat at the top for seven consecutive weeks (oh, the agony!!).

While I do give the article props for the last paragraph explaining the inspiration behind "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (something I should have asked Nick when we met in the late 1990s - another story for another time), I do wish the writer had done his homework & been careful with his language. (Throw-away, indeed!!).

Now here are some things that folks probably didn't know about Nick & Val...

As I mentioned they worked as session singers for many years & that didn't stop when they were hired by Motown's Jobete Music Publishing.  Record producer Jerry Ross hired them for many sessions he supervised at Mercury Records

Here's the short list...

  • "Sunny" - Bobby Hebb
  • "Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie", "Keep The Ball Rolling", "Strawberry Shortcake" - Jay & the Techniques
  • "I Dig You Baby", "You Walked Into My Life" - Jerry Butler
  • "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (the original!), "When Love Slips Away" - Dee Dee Warwick
  • "Don't Let It Go To Your Head" - Jay & the Techiques (as well as the original by Lorraine Ellison, which was produced by Dennis Lambert; Nick & Val also sang on the first version of "I Dig You Baby", written & cut by Lorraine)

How did they do these sessions in NYC & write for Motown? Four words - "fly the friendly skies"!

Other stuff...they cut a few singles for Henry Glover's label under the name Val & Nick in the early 1960s. After their success with Motown, it was the late Ellis Hazlip - creator & host of PBS-TV'S "Soul" who encouraged the duo to pursue a performing career when they appeared on his program in 1972 (thank you, Melissa Hazlip, for the 411). 

I realize that to many of you this may sound like I'm being nit-picky or prickly and if that's the case, then all right.  Understand that a person like myself who makes a career out of being a music journalist, accurracy & proper research is an absolute must.  If this was a blog or something posted in a regional weekly, I wouldn't have been so harsh.  But this is the cotton-picking WASHINGTON POST for goodness sake (yes, I did say "cotton-picking", thank you!).  Hell, I just posted a similar correction on the New York Times' web site & don't want to spend time chasing down other publications. I do give USA TODAY major props for not only publishing an ACCURATE obit regarding Mr. Ashford, the same writer (Steve Jones) authored a wonderful appreciation for Nick.   link

Finally, many have asked about the profile pic on my FB page.  It is of a young Nick Ashford from back in the day, cropped from a larger photo seen below.  Left to right - Joshie Armstead, Nickolas Ashford, Artie Wayne (who wrote "Meet Me At Midnight, Mary" for Joey Powers) and Valerie Simpson.  Seated is music publsiher Ed Silvers (photo courtesy of Artie Wayne).

Farewell, NICKOLAS in peace, my friend.



A lot of people don’t really know how accomplished Louis CK really is…The talented comedian, actor, writer, editor and director whose show, Louie airs on FX, was nominated in 4 categories for the Emmy(airing Sept 18) this year. He garnered a nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for his series, where he plays himself as a dark character; a comedian struggling in his career, trying to make sense of the world around him…He does confusion well in this show. 

If video doesn't play click here.

I got into him when he had his show, Lucky Louie on HBO…a rather over the top modern day Honeymooners. 

He has already shared an Emmy as a writer on The Chris Rock Show. The 43 year old(44 on September 12) CK whose Hungarian last name, is spelled Szekely  is pronounced SEK-kay, shortened it to CK was born in D.C. and raised in Massachusetts, His first name is pronounced Lou-ee. CK and he's of Irish, Mexican and Hungarian descent.  His first language is Spanish.You really can’t judge a book by its cover can you? 

CK is deep and oddly methodical in his creativity. He‘s over the top and finds the humor from a whole different angle.   So who would have thought that Louis CK wrote and directed the cult classic Pootie Tang

CK’s reach is everywhere and he's  got that classic east coast groove about him. He’s written for Letterman, Conan O’Brian, Dana Carvey, MTV movie awards and the screenplays for two films starring Chris Rock: I Think I Love My Wife and Down To Earth.

I look forward to more of what Louis is giving which is real talent. And as Pootie would say: “Sa da tay!”


Last issue, I talked about the film Rise Of The Planet Of the Apes and something called "performance capture",  a type of film-making that records an actor’s body and facial movements, which are then transferred to a digital model and rendered on computer.  

Actor Alan Serkis wore a tight-fitting suit  covered with markers over his body and face when  playing Caesar from baby to adulthood.  The markers highlight the nuances of his movement as they are recorded by a special camera.
Here's the video on how performance capture gave the  computer born ape Caesar his life.



Wow. Looks like the networks are getting a taste for the real school. Now I know they are trying to tune us in… 

The Playboy Club

I don’t know too many 20 or 30 somethings who would give a hoot about The Playboy Club back in the 60s and the bunnies and the men who adored them. Maybe I’m wrong, but  it certainly is making television look interesting…Maybe the Playboy club is the new Happy Days. The show premieres on NBC and will run on Monday nights. Angela Bassett reprises her role as Tina Turner once again.


Pan Am

When was the last time you said Pan Am? So, of course ABC couldn’t let NBC be real with The Playboy Club without its offering of Pan Am which is all too real school.

This series is based on the now defunct airline Pan American World Airways, founded in 1927, a principle US international carrier until it crumbled in 1991. To its credit Pan Am shaped the airline industry through its many innovations: one being the computerized reservation system. The blue logo, which looks awesome onscreen was a cultural icon of the 20th century.

Apparently this series is seen through the eyes of its stewardesses. I love the uniforms.

It’s nice to know that there are at least a couple of shows where I won’t hear hip-hop. Pan Am will air on Sunday Nights but I will hear the word "girdle".

Once Upon A Time

ABC is pretty good at the fantasy/drama thing and this tale seems to get it's inspiration from classic fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm on prime time? Evidently the fairy tale characters who look like normal people in present day, don't seem to remember anything about their lives as fairy tale characters. Interesting storyline...Not to mention there are a couple of writers from the series LOST on board. I can't get too excited because ABC has a real knack for getting you engaged and then pulling the plug on a show.  I have high hopes for Once Upon A Time. 


Charlie’s Angels 

Nothing personal, but there is only one Charlie’s Angels series, like there was only one Luther Vandross…Again, my disappointment at Hollywood’s obsession with remakes.. Enough already. I'm sick of the Charlie's Angel's franchise. Memo to Hollyood: Get original…

What makes this is bad is the theme song sounds the same as the one that ran on the original series with a winey hip hop vocal...How do you yawn in print? And how many times can you beat a dead horse?

The original Charlie's Angels.



September 5 1946 – 24 November  24 1991


I can’t believe that it’s been 20 years since he’s been gone. Freddie Mercury would have been 65 on September 5th. He left a unique mark on music. 

Mercury had a 4 octave range an explosive stage presence and was an incredible writer and musician. It was his talent that had the group Queen soaring in the 70s. 

He created a unique blend of rock, opera and classical music in his mix and gave rock a new genre. The legacy of his work is timeless…

Queen Website


My favorite performance:


Thanks for sharing the journey

Real School People, P.O.Box 756, San Gabriel,CA 91778-0756


  1. What would we all do without your writing creativity not to mention the new look & color you've added in! I LOVE this and always look forward to this read! I hope you feel as rewarded as we all do!

    Thanks Teira - awesome job!

  2. Great issue as usual! Much love.

  3. You are Really good at what you do. The best of luck always.

  4. Wow...Thanks guys...Four years (In November) and counting.

  5. This was delightful.
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  6. This was delightful.
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  7. This was delightful.
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