Hello Stranger from Issue #64
Apparently Dean Silverstone had sort of inherited the Seattle territory from his mentor, Harry Elliott, because that’s how we first met. His was a peculiar presence on Saturday afternoon TV, more middle school science teacher than carnival barker, an oddly restrained wrestling promoter sandwiched between the constantly feuding Lumberjack Luke and Paddy Ryan.
It seems like we saw a very young Rowdy Roddy Piper in his ring occasionally, and maybe Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Or perhaps memory has fused shows from the larger federations in Vancouver, B.C., and Portland, Oregon, where (respectively) Dean Kiniski and the marvelous Dutch Savage held court.
Mr. Silverstone wasn’t entirely happy that I recognized him ten years later when he came through the door of the University District typesetting shop where I worked. He wanted us to design and produce a tabloid for the other business he really cared about, a 45 rpm specialty shop called Golden Oldies (which continues to operate). Not, he made clear, to talk about the broken-down rasslers who sometimes stopped by looking for a handout.
Near as I can recall, we produced two or three editions for him before he gave it up as a bad business. I don’t know whether he meant to compete with Goldmine or simply moved on to other pleasures. But his first store was walking distance from where I worked, on my way home, even, and occasionally I took the trouble to bring proofs by and to talk about music.
He sold me some original Fire singles from Elmore James, and Ernie K-Doe’s “A Certain Girl”, which I knew only from the Yardbirds cover. And he told me that if I wished to understand American music I needed to start in New Orleans. That baffled me. Everything I read said American music — rock ‘n’ roll, that is — began in the Mississippi Delta, worked its way north to Memphis, to Chicago, to London, came back the second time (this was 1979, after all) as punk. Had I but troubled to look at a map…
I didn’t take his advice, nor did I forget it. It has haunted me, as have the depths of my ignorance, since Katrina struck last September. If that disaster has failed to unleash a torrent of innovative public policy initiatives, at least we have been forcibly reminded of our musical heritage, and treated to a sudden onslaught of spectacularly good music.
One Saturday night this March, Bill Friskics-Warren and I found ourselves standing on close-cut grass along Austin’s river, watching Allen Toussaint and an all-star band play hit after hit, all Toussaint’s work, all the songs of a man about whom I knew nearly nothing. For sport we began debating whether there might be a comparable living figure in American music, whether anybody had been so irreplaceable as a songwriter, arranger, producer, and performer.
We could name very few rivals, then or now.
And so it is that the music of New Orleans, and that of the current soul revival with which it is inextricably linked, has come to take its place among our pages — abundantly so in this issue.
Is it necessary to add a caution that our interest in and admiration of country music, or bluegrass, or rock ‘n’ roll, or blues, or gospel, or whatever it is, has not diminished? I should hope not, for they are still here as well. And here they will remain.
Missing from this issue, however, is the retail chart we began with ND #12, in the fall of 1997. As our coverage broadened, and as any number of good record stores closed, it has become less and less clear that the ND chart served a useful purpose. And so, with no little sadness, we shall turn that page back to the review section.
But not before offering one last word of thanks to all the retailers who took the time to contribute to our curious chart. Independent retail is having a tough go of it, but there are still some first-rate stores across the country — those are the stores which will survive — and the people who own and work behind those counters have some of the best ears in the music business. I shall miss my bimonthly glimpse into their world.
Also absent from this issue is Alex Rawls’ “Letter From New Orleans.” This is a temporary matter, an effort not to overbalance these pages with too much coverage from Louisiana; actually, Alex has a fresh and trenchant column posted to our website, so it’s just a temporary relocation. He’ll be back in print next issue.
Finally, an apology. One of the photos in last issue’s Buck Owens package, the one at the top of page 54, well, it’s not Buck. It’s Marty Robbins. I would never have thought the two men looked all that much alike, but the photo was misfiled (by me, of course) and, to my dim and tired eyes, looked enough like Buck…