Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Yet Another Side of Bob Dylan

This just in: Bob Dylan is now a DJ on XM Satellite Radio! At least that's what the New York Times said this past Sunday and since I don't have satellite radio, I'll have to go by their word. Apparently, Lee Adams - XM's chief creative programmer - had been after Dylan for the last three years to do a show on XM, America's largest satellite radio service with more than 6.5 million subscribers and 170 digital channels. XM provided the ever-roaming troubadour with a digital recording kit so that he can assemble the program from home, studio or tour bus. Dylan sends his playlist to XM Satellite Radio's researchers, who then assemble the music around his narration. The result is the "Theme Time Radio Hour." And early reviews indicate it's quite the hit. The Times article, which includes the playlist for Dylan's Mother's Day-themed program, is reprinted below.

It's All Right, Ma: Bob Dylan Turns D.J.
New York Times (April 30, 2006)

WHO knew Bob Dylan was an LL Cool J fan?

Once famously reclusive, Mr. Dylan is now going very public with his eclectic musical tastes, on a show that makes its debut Wednesday on XM Satellite Radio.

Bob Dylan's Mother's Day playlist includes "Mother-in-Law" by Ernie K-Doe and "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean" by Ruth Brown.
Once famously reclusive, Mr. Dylan is now going very public with his eclectic musical tastes, on a show that makes its debut Wednesday on XM Satellite Radio.

"Theme Time Radio Hour" (XM Channel 40) features Mr. Dylan introducing his favorite records, organized each week around a different theme — like cars, drinking or, this week's theme, weather. (First tune: "Blow, Wind, Blow," by Muddy Waters.) He typically records from home or on tour, XM says, even though an announcer says the show is recorded in "Studio B of the Abernathy Building," to lend it a vintage aura. The hourly programs are sprinkled with recorded spoken cameos from the likes of Elvis Costello, Sarah Silverman and Penn Jillette.

As D.J., Mr. Dylan vamps on the lyrics of his chosen songs, and makes observations that often amount to something like what he does musically: he taps America's musical heritage with words that veer from the logically linear to the abstract, delivered in his wry, mumbly growl.

To illustrate, here are excerpts from the show to be broadcast next week, devoted to mothers for Mother's Day.

"Daddy Loves Mommyo"

His real name was Thomas Elmer Duncan, born on January 11, 1911, in Whitney, Texas — full of iodine and iron. He won an audition against 66 other singers to join Bob Wills's Light Crust Doughboys, who later became the Texas Playboys. Tommy Duncan left the band in 1948, recorded a number of songs including "Gambling Polka Dot Blues," "Sick, Sober and Sorry" and "There's Not a Cow in Texas" — lot of fuzzy logic there. But in honor of Mother's Day, here's a song. Tommy Duncan, "Daddy Loves Mommyo" — no fatty acid in there.

"I'll Go to Church With Mama"

Buck Owens. Come out of Sherman, Texas. Made his way to Bakersfield, California. In the 1960's, the Beatles recorded a song of Buck's called "Act Naturally." In those years Buck had 39 chart hits, 19 of 'em at No. 1. Hey, let's not forget "Hee Haw." Never missed it. I still remember some of them jokes from "Hee Haw": "My mother-in-law's very neat — puts paper under the cuckoo clock." Here's Buck singing about hymns that warm your heart in the sweet by-and-by, that chapel in the sky.

"Mama Get the Hammer"

Some songs you don't have to talk about; they just say it all: "Mama get the hammer, there's a fly on baby's head."

"Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean"

They called Atlantic Records the House That Ruth Built, and they weren't talking about Babe Ruth or garbanzo beans. ... Ruth Brown had more hits on Atlantic Records than anybody else in the beginning, and she was no gang-banger. But even with all those hits, Ruth's star began to fade. She eventually had to take a 9-to-5 job. But in recent years she's been rediscovered, appearing on Broadway in "Black and Blue," where she won a Tony.

"Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way"

Carl was married to June Carter before Johnny Cash was, and after he divorced June he married another singer named Goldie Hill. Carl Smith singing a song about Mother Nature, the goddess of the harvest. She wreaked revenge upon the earth by refusing to provide any crops, so that the entire human race would have perished of cruel, biting hunger if the great Zeus had not been concerned. I hope your mother's not that vengeful.


Today's e-mail comes from John Rudolph. ... He writes, "Dear Bob: I've got a hammerhead of a mother-in-law, an ugly, evil-lookin' old woman, so pitiful. She's careworn, drawn and pinched — gaunt and lank. I bought her a new chair, but she won't let me plug it in. She belittles me, depreciates me, disparages me. She downgrades me, berates me, censures me and condemns me, libels me and raps me, dismisses me and rejects me. Could you please play a song for her?" Well, thanks for the letter, John. Your wish is our command.

"Mother-in-Law Blues"

Here's a couple of mother-in-law jokes, couple of slow burners: "I just came back from a pleasure trip. Took my mother-in-law to the airport." "What do you do if you miss your mother-in-law? Reload. Try again." Here's one by Little Junior Parker: "Mother-in-Law Blues." I don't know if you need both Little and Junior. His real name was Herman Parker Jr. I guess I'd call myself Little Junior Parker too. He was a singer and a harmonica player. He got started on Sun Records with his group the Blue Flames. He recorded the original version of "Mystery Train" that Elvis Presley later did.

"Gonna Tell Your Mother"

On the Modern record label. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1921. His real name's James Walker, a professional boxer in the Midwest. He didn't get anywhere doing that, so he turned to music, playing piano and singing. His band was called Jimmy McCracklin and His Blues Blasters, featuring Lafayette Thomas on the guitar. This is from 1955 — a strange weed indeed.

"Mama Said Knock You Out"

Don't call it a comeback, he been here for years, rocking his peers, putting 'em in fear, making tears rain down like a monsoon, explosions overpowerin', over the competition LL Cool J is towering. LL Cool J — stands for Ladies Love Cool J.

Related Links:

It's All Right, Ma: Bob Dylan Turns D.J. (New York Times article)
Hey Mr. DJ... (David Smith's review of Dylan's first radio show in the Guardian Observer)
Mr. Dylan's Playlists (New York Times)


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