Elwood H. Smith
GRUMPY LOU & HIS KAZOO
JULY 11, 2006
Grumpy Lou directs the Vocal Range Rabbits
Due to popular demand for some Polecat tunes (1 demand: Zimm) I've decided to start a E.S. Music category.
I don't have any digitized versions of music by The Polecats and we never got around to creating an album, but I'll try to transfer some of our rehearsals from tape to my computer. If they are worth a damn, I'll post a couple of songs. Happily, I CAN post a tune sung by the core of the Polecats.
The song comes from a musical Maggie and I created some years back, "Grumpy Lou & His Kazoo". I wrote the songs and, later on, Maggie created the "book" for the live production that we did locally at the Rhinebeck Center For Performing Arts. It was not a common garden variety musical. Partly because I don't have the skills to create one, but it was also an opportunity to try something different. We projected about 600 slides from 4 carousels (it'd all be done digitally today) cropped from some 200 drawings I'd created, during which, the marvelous J.T. Carlisle read the story with gusto. The band wove the songs in and out of J.T.s reading following cues given by our esteemed musical director & keyboardist, Mark Vian. Our dear friend (master carpenter, actor & writer), Mike West, directed "Grumpy Lou" and showed up nearly every Sunday for months before our show date to help us put the complex slide show together. He also enlisted his talented wife, Deborah, as our female singer in the live production. It was true community theater and for all involved, it was a labor of love. Neither Maggie nor I had ever done anything like this and it was an amazing, creative, scary, joyous, sharing experience. The show ran for a three-day weekend and with sold-out performances. We were asked to do it again a month later. How could we not?
About the recording: The studio band featured Polecats Steve Bartles on lead & harmony vocal & bass; Russ Bonk on lead & that nice, deep bass harmony vocal; Charles Prosser, harmony vocal & drums, Tim Hoolihan, harmony vocals & guitar and guest vocalist, Cathy Curtis. John Platania played lead electric guitar, rhythm acoustic guitar and acted as musical director. I played rhythm guitar and mandolin.
The story, written by Maggie Pickard, tells the tale of Grumpy Lou (real name, Ludwig McTiffle), a cantankerous feller who rides the range with his trusty horse, Buster, and tends his herd of talented Vocal Range Rabbits. Two ornery rascals, Peadog and Jellybone, finally manage to rustle the Range Rabbits and head for the hills to brainwash their hostages. Lou enlists Captain Condor, who has a fear of flying, to help him in his search. Here's some dialog when Lou first meets the Captain.
"Captain Condor at the ready! May I inquire, Sir, which of my many stunning military stratagems you require?"
"Raptor's peepers is supposed ta do a bang-up job a' spottin stuff. How's about flyin' over yonder ta see what ya kin see?"
"Flying?!!! No one said a word about flying!"
They encounter the Numbskulls, a "Slime bellied tricycle gang" with "rapacious murder in their flinty hearts" but manage, through the magic of music, to change the gang into a bunch of softies. Later on, Captain Condor meets and falls madly in love with Sylvia Snake. I may post their Bluegrassy love song later on. I may also share the song "Bad, Bad, Bunny Blues", sung by Peadog & Jellybone while brainwashing the helpless Range Rabbits.
I wrote "Doggone It, Now You Did It" to show the Numbskulls' miraculous change of heart. The song is in Western Swing style and John plays delicious breaks on his vintage Stratocaster. The Polecats handle the Western Swing style of singing admirably. Hope you enjoy.
Songs & Art Copyright 2006 Elwood H. Smith
Click here for the song, "Doggone It, Now You Did It"
Okay, here's the Bad, Bad Bunny Blues as promised. Thing is, I'd forgotten that I sing on it and that's never a pretty picture. Steve Bartles plays bass and sings the part of Jellybone and, for reasons lost to the decades (and the beer, chips & spicy bean dip being devoured in the recording studio), I took over the roll of the dastardly Peadog. Seems to me, upon a current listening, that I'm overacting--trying to make the character mean and, in the process, becoming nearly unintelligible at times. Should have gotten John to sing the part, but what's done is done.
Peadog & Jellybone
Click Here For "Bad, Bad Bunny Blues"
Of course, that's John Platania playing those sweet & low-down bad dog blues licks.
Captain Condor & Sylvia Snake
Some more art from Grumpy Lou & His Kazoo
The savage Numbskulls attack!
Peadog, Jellybone, Grumpy, Captain Condor & Sylvia
Mad Dog & Buster