Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Batman!

Merry Christmas from Batman, Robin and Alfred!

Batman #27 (February-March, 1945). Cover pencilled and inked by Jack Burnley.
Batman Sunday comic strip #112 (December 23, 1945). Writer: Al Schwartz, Penciller: Jack Burnley, Inker: Charles Paris, Lettering: Ira Schnapp.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sundia - "Stand Up and Be a Man"

The Fabulous Sundia: "Too hot to stop!"

Try finding out anything about Sundia (the performing name of Audrey Garvin, aka "Sundia Garvin") and you'll find little beyond the liner notes to this outstanding 2008 Jazzman/Now-Again compilation CD of Carolina funk musicians that I only recently discovered in the Enoch Pratt Central Library's awesome R&B Compilation CDs collection:

Carolina Funk: First in Funk 1968-1977
(Jazzman/Now-Again, 2008)

And that's a shame because, despite a limited output, Sundia was a Soul Sistah Superstar whose 1975 "Stand Up and Be a Man" single on Columbia, SC's United Records (U-0278) is at once not only a specific ethnocentric slap to the face of urban Soul Brother machismo but also one of the all-time great feminist anthems. Like most of the tracks on this compilation, it's a song dying to be heard by audiences larger than its limited edition pressing of 1,000 copies. (Carolina's dearth of major urban centers has resulted in its musical output being limited to single towns, with bands and their records seldom venturing further than the state line - until now thanks to archivists like Jazzman/Now-Again.)

 Full of catchy lines that would go on to become common catchphrases in the African-American community (like the future Tyler Perry film title embedded in  "I don't need you to help me do bad - I can do bad all by myself") - with my personal faves being "You can practice your kung-fu fighting in the welfare line" and "There's no romance without finance" - and sassy funk-soul backing music by her band, this 1975 single stands as an all-time great platter of urban cool. The song's official title is "Stand Up and Be a Man (Part 1)," which is significant because the flip side's "Stand Up and Be a Man (Part 2)" isn't merely an instrumental version of the song (a common practice from the days when bands with one song struggled to put out 45's), but a longer, different version with more backup singing. (A YouTube clip of this version is included later in this post.)

Sundia not only sang, but played guitar on it as well; the other musicians in her "Sunshine Band" (not to be confused with K.C.'s disco band!): Carol and Elaine Jackson - backing vocals; "Hump" - horns/reeds, male spoken parts; "Big John" - horn/reeds; Rex Garvin - keyboards; Austin Jones - guitar; "Lil" Earl Warp - bass; Robert Brown - drums. The Jackson Sisters hailed from Baxley, GA, while the rest of the band was made up of former members of the Soul Brothers and Savannah, GA's Chico & The Magnificents.

Sundia was a Black Seminole Indian born in Ocala, Floria, who grew up listening to doo-wop music before moving to New York and marrying bandleader Rex Garvin in 1962. She spent the next decade in Harlem before settling in suburban Mount Vernon and recording R&B-styled sides with the Hearts, Mighty Cravers and others at at New York's A-1 sound studio. By 1971, according to the Carolina Funk liner notes, Sundia was ready to move on to new sounds.

Sundia claimed she was "tired of the the old doo-wop and boring girl groups," and "wanted to hit hard and do the rock scene, and go to England." 

So she formed a not-boring girl group called Full Speed with Gayle Austin, Kay Miller and Ursula Anderson. Full Speed actually recorded an early version of "Stand Up and be a Man," but it was never released.  Full Speed did release a Sundia song called "It Must Be Love" b/w "Put 'Em on the Right Track"  (Real Thing, RT-101), produced by Buddy Scott, which you can hear below.

Listen to "It Must be Love."

Listen to "Put 'Em on the Right Track."

Full Speed A-side: "It Must Be Love"


Full Speed B-side: "Put 'Em on the Right Track"

If you can't find this rare single, look for it on compilation CDs like Doo Wop Shoo Bop's Girls It Ain't Easy - Female Group Soul, Vol. 1.

The ladies later sang backup on "Sugar Mama," a single by Allentown, South Carolina-based Benny Gordon.

Benny Gordon - "Sugar Mama Part 1"

Listen to "Sugar Mama."

The record's success justified Full Speed's subsequent move to Allentown, SC where they backed him regularly at his Soul City club. Their Northern Soul style was now infiltrating Southern Soul.

Ursula, Kay & Sundia of Full Speed. Branmor Hotel, Old Lyme, CT, 1971

Nancy, Richie, Grant & Carmen of Full Speed


Nancy, Ursula & Kay of Full Speed

But financial issues (Gordon allegedly underpaid his backing singers) caused Sundia to jump to Savannah, Georgia, where James Jenkins - owner of Jay's Paradise nightclub - offered her work with his new Sun-Jay Productions (yes, Sundia was the Sun part of the collaboration!). Jenkins booked time at United Music World's studios in West Columbia, SC, hoping that a promo record would lead to higher-paying gigs.

The result was a rerecording of "Stand Up and Be a Man" with her new Sunshine Band, as included below.

Listen to "Stand Up and Be a Man." 

Following is a longer version (over 4 minutes compared to the CD's 3:32 running time) different from the Carolina Funk mix. It is either the single's B-side "Stand Up and Be a Man (Part 2)" or (this being the digital age when every obscurity is eventually found and uploaded to the 'Net!) possibly even the earlier, unreleased Full Speed version.

And here's another YouTube version of "Stand Up and be a Man" with amusing pictures added.

According to Carolina Funk 's liner notes, engineer Jim Stanton had faith in the song, suggesting a pressing of 1,000 copies, and offering to help with the promotion."

But it was Sundia's live act ("Too hot to stop!") that ultimately proved more lucrative than her records, with Sundia getting steady work in the Savannah and Miami markets before eventually curtailing her full-time touring career. At least part of Sundia's live appeal may have been her physical appearance, which came off as exotic in some Bible Belt pockets of the Deep South.
"When I came South, I had to reinvent the wheel. I looked like someone from out of space to them, and they would show up just to see what I looked like and if that was my hair, which most of the time it was, since I am Black Indian Seminole, the first of my clan to do this. Most people are not aware of the history so I have to remember my ancestors in all I do and leave something for them."

Sundia left us "Stand Up and Be a Man," a signature slice of sassy feminist self-affirmation that's more than enough to remember her by, thanks to the archivists who've unearthed this soulful rarity.

By the way, the Jazzman label is to be commended for making an art form of the regional compilation CD. Their geographically organized rare funk series follows on the heels of their similarly outstanding Midwest Funk, Texas Funk, and Florida Funk collections that document regional rarities from the late 1960s to the early-to-mid-70s with the extensively informative liners notes fans of the series have come to expect.

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

2012 Mayor's Christmas Parade in Hampden, edit

40th Annual Mayor's Christmas Parade
December 2, 2012

Feet Accompli: the Mayor's Christmas Parade is an event where Baltimorons let it all hang out

It’s that time of year again, time for one of Baltimore’s great holiday traditions, the 40th annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade in Hampden. This year’s parade – the last organized by Tom Kerr – was Grand Marshaled by Baltimore celebrity and best-selling mystery writer Laura Lippman (aka Mrs. David Simon) and featured the usual holiday season suspects parading down 36th Street:  over 150 marching units; colorful and unusual floats; local TV and Radio personalities; Fez-toting Boumi Temple Shriners riding miniature flying carpets, trucks and all-terrain vehicles; over 100 Harley Davidson motorcycles; hydraulic suspension-bouncing lowriders; a steam calliope; the Mummers of Philadelphia; Miss Yuletide and Jr. Miss Yuletide; Café Hon glutton-for-punishment Denise Whiting (who elicited yawns instead of scorn as her convertible sped by); and even Santa Claus himself (called by some purists the “unseen but omnipresent behavior monitor” of naive children and the grotesquely commercial “false god” of Christmas).

The Boumi Temple Shriners are always highlight of the parade, especially their bizarre Crippled Children Float.

The Shriners pledge "You'll Never Walk Alone"

Below is a video clip featuring the Shriners - and many other bizarre floats - from a previous Mayor's Christmas Parade.

And it was also good to see The Lone Ranger (aka Garry Cherricks, of Salisbury, Md.) once more back in the saddle for his fourth trip down The Avenue, though not atop his “best friend and partner” Silver.

The Lone Ranger says "Hi-Yo Silver II!"

According to the Baltimore Messenger, Cherrick's trusty white steed was put down May 19 following a tragic fall. Instead, the Lone Ranger debuted Silver II, an 11-year-old gelding that Cherricks found near Nashville, Tenn., in August. (Alas, no Tonto in sight; he was probably negotiating with the Governor about opening an Indian Casino at National Harbor.)

I must note that Silver II was very well toilet-trained, because of all the horses riding down the street this day (and there were a lot!), Silver No. 2 was the only one I didn't see plop out some No. 2's! (For an account of 2010's defecating "Animals On Parade," see the video clip below.)

This year's parade marked the debut of a pair of Sock Monkeys (or were they Yetis? Missing Links? I get my footwear/fuzzy mammals confused) who amused the crowd with their furry tomfoolery and monkeying around.

The Sock Monkeys wait for a bus to take them back home to the sock drawer

It was also a treat to see followers of the Chinese spiritual discipline Falun Dafa (aka Falun Gong) in the parade. (Was this their first appearance?)

Falun Dafa asks "What's so funny about Truth, Compassion and Tolerance?"

This group, founded in the early 1990s by Li Hongzhi, practices a form of meditation and slow-moving qigong exercises that was later banned by fast-moving, slow-thinking Communist Chinese authorities. Falun Dafa literally means "Dharma Wheel Practice" and their motto is "Truth, Compassion and Tolerance" - no wonder they're banned in China! Founder Li has lived in the United States since 1996 and hundreds of thousands are believed to practice the discipline across some 70 countries worldwide.

It's interesting that their symbol (shown above right) is the very swatzika that Adolf Hitler "re-purposed" for his Nazi Party back in the 1930s, ironically an icon not completely unwelcome in pre-gentrified Hampden back in the day (don't forget, the Ku Klux Klan marched through here as late as the 1970s!) .

The Falun Dafa go through the motions in the Mayor's Christmas Parade

The crowd also clearly enjoyed the Urban Legends Car Club's hydraulic suspension lowriders that defied gravity to bounce up and down The Avenue (though I'm glad they don't live in my neighborhood!). 

Urban Legends C.C. keep crowds in hydraulically suspended disbelief!

This is the way we roll bounce!

Wonder if these guys are eligible for Safe Driver Discounts?

Of course, one cannot mention lowriders without the obligatory shout out to War's classic anthem "Low Rider," so without further ado:

My favorite part of this motorcade was observing how fans flocked to pose with Malcolm Stoll of Kiss 'N' Makeup (who doubles as Baltimore's unofficial Chelsea FC Ambassador) in front of the souped-up cars, as shown below.

Malcolm Stoll rolls with it!

 That's the way Malcolm Stoll rolls!

But the real highlight of the parade for me was another holiday tradition – seeing dancer/choreographer Suzanne Muldowney (aka "Underdog," “Underdog Lady”) once again march down 36th Street. Though she’s achieved fame both locally (thanks to her frequent appearances on AtomicTV’s holiday specials) and nationally (thanks to Howard Stern’s TV and radio show and Boris Gavrilovic's 2006 documentary My Life as an Underdog) for her appearances as ‘60s canine superhero Underdog, this year she appeared as the "Fairy of the Golden Snow."

Goldfinger: Suzanne Muldowney is the "Fairy of the Golden Snow" whose magic wand turns golden snowflakes white as they touch the ground

Suzanne Muldowney: Solid Gold Dancer
Luckily, my fellow Atomic TV/Baltimore Or Less cohort Scott "Unpainted" Huffines and I were able to catch up with Suzanne after the parade. She brought us up to date on her busy career as parade-marching performance artist and interpretive dancer.

Flanked by flaky fans Tom "Man About Town" Warner and Scott "Unpainted" Huffines of Atomic TV, Suzanne Muldowney shows off her Fairy of the Golden Snow (note Suzanne and Scott adopting the non-smiling "Mona Lisa" pose while Tom merely grimaces) 

"Suzanne, you're not Underdog this year!" I blurted, with my patented flair for the obvious, as we met up on the end of Chestnut Avenue.

When she explained her "Fairy of the Golden Snow" character, Scott  asked, "Golden Snow, is that like yellow snow? Or frozen Golden Showers?"

We snickered, the thought of "yellow snow" and "golden showers" making our primitive, prurient minds think of Frank Zappa songs, sex fetishist-turned-sex feminist Annie Sprinkle, and Michelle the Atomic TV "Pee Girl" (whose talents were captured in our "Cones and Rods Party" episode).

Fairy Forecast: Golden showers turning to white snow

All that dribbles is not gold!

Nanook, no, no - don't you eat that yellow snow!

Where's the Golden Snow Fairy when you need her?

Street-smart Snoop Dog knows that shit ain't right!

Suzanne ignored our low-brow cracks and, when I mentioned that I recalled seeing her in a gold outfit before, confirmed that this year's ensemble was indeed a reprise of her 2006 costume - and one of the few non-Underdog characters (such as 2003's Ghost of Christmas Past - honoring the 160th anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol - which she will resurrect at next year's parade to celebrate the 170th anniversary of the Dickens classic) she has presented at the parade.

But there's no need to fear, Underdog will be here in two more years, Suzanne promises

There's no need to fear - Underdog will be here in two more years!

2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Underdog cartoon show, which debuted on the NBC television network on October 3, 1964. And though gold is the color associated with 50th anniversaries, Suzanne assures her fans that she will once again don her familiar, hand-made red costume and blue cape in honor of the historic occasion.

Can't wait for 2014 when once more it'll be hip-hip-hip and away she goes - time for Underdog to save the day!

If it's Yellow, Let It Mellow
Now, Scott and I both shot video footage of the parade, including our exclusive interview with Suzanne Muldowney as Fairy of the Golden Snow; unfortunately we have day jobs and are either too busy or (in my case) too lazy to edit and upload it just yet. But stay tuned, Atomic TV/Underdog fans - your orbs will soon be treated to this video field report.

In the meantime, here's a trip down Memory Lane, a remembrance of Fairies of Golden Snows Past, to tide Suzanne Muldowney fans over...

Hindsight Is Golden

Suzanne Muldowney last appeared here as the Fairy of the Golden Snow in 2006, when she sang English and Latin versions of "Silent Night" backed by The Awkward Sounds of Scott & Skizz (or A.S.S.S. - a duo made up of Scott Wallace Brown and Skizz Cyzyk, who characterizes themselves as "2 guys playing little music on little instruments")

Scott and Skizz provided awkward backing as Suzanne Muldowney sang "Silent Night" during her 2006 appearance as fairy of the Golden Snow

For your viewing pleasure, a repeat performance of Suzanne singing "Silent Night" is shown below.

Related Links:
Hampden Christmas Parade 2006  (Accelerated Decrepitude)

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