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Friday, October 24, 2014

 Nashville studio musician Wayne Moss talks with TV STORE ONLINE about recording Blonde on Blonde with Bob Dylan..

TV STORE ONLINE:  Before we start talking about Bob Dylan and the recording of Blonde on Blonde....I have to tell you that recently picked up copies of Southern Comfort and the S/T album from your band Barefoot Jerry....I've been listening to Southern Comfort a lot in the last few days...

MOSS:  Thanks very much...  We had a jam session that went forty-six minutes when we recorded Southern Comfort and out that we had three different songs....

TV STORE ONLINE:    I know the recording of Blonde On Blonde was such a long time ago....But I was wondering if we could talk about the recording of 'Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35'....

  I can tell you that we all got inebriated on Dylan's request.  He didn't want to sing a song with the lyrics: "Everybody must get stoned...." with a bunch of straight people.   He sent out for some spirits...Our bass player [Henry Strzelecki] got so drunk that he couldn't play--so I played bass on the recording.   He was so drunk that he was rolling around on the floor playing the bass pedals of an organ with his hands.   We had a good time with it.  When we all left the studio that night none of us remembered to sign our time cards. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you know anything about Dylan before you met him?  Were you familiar with his music?

MOSS:  Well, at that time--I didn't know much about him.   I only knew that he was the guy who wrote 'Blowin' in the Wind'.  I had a saxophone player friend of mine that had known him a bit and he told me that Dylan was into motorcycles and that he was originally from Minnesota.  I once went through Dylan's home town in Minnesota and at the city limits there is a sign that reads "Home of the World's first Strip-Mine".  (Laughing)  You'll think that they'd have something up about Dylan there....(Laughing)    

Dylan was really a treat to play with in the studio though.   As a guitarist--there isn't much outstanding work on Blonde On Blonde--except, maybe on 'I Want You.'    I also played on 'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' and 'Stuck Inside A Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again' as well.  The recording of 'Sad-Eyed Lady' went from 2 o'clock in the afternoon until 8:30 a.m. the next morning... We only did two takes of it, and they ended up using the first on the album...

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about the recording of 'Stuck Inside a Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again'?

Wayne Moss today.
MOSS:  Not too much actually.  I really like the song though. It's a great bluesy song, and it was a pleasure to play on it.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I've read some things over the years about the recording of the album...In particular, how during the recording of 'Sad-Eyed Lady' there was a break and Dylan escaped off to write some aspects of the song in the middle of the recording session...Could you talk a bit about his process as you observed it?

MOSS:   His way of working wasn't what any of us studio guys were used to.   We were used to recording four sides in a single session.  That would be over three hours and then we'd leave the studio.  When Dylan came and recorded Blonde on Blonde--it opened the doors and things changed.  Artists would come in and they would take their time recording.    After Dylan came everyone started to come: Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, Charlie Daniels.....

TV STORE ONLINEHow did Dylan interact with you and the other studio musicians?

Dylan with manager Albert Grossman
MOSS:  We'd ask him: "What do you want me to play on this?"   He'd respond with, "I don't know. What do you think?"  It didn't take too long for us to realize that we could just do what we wanted.    He respected us and allowed us to shine.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How about your guitar playing on 'I Want You'....

MOSS:  Well, I was just playing some Chet Atkins licks there.   It seemed to go over well with everyone in the studio.  Al Kooper told me that he liked what I was doing so we went ahead and recorded it.   I was playing 16th notes and Al Kooper heard that and said, "You don't hear a lot of people playing 16th notes up in New York City...."

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did Dylan work with [Producer] Bob Johnston?

MOSS:  Bob was a lot of fun to work with. They got along really well.  I remember, he came out of the booth one day and tried to run a song down for us on the piano.  He started playing and it sounded like one of the early Elvis Presley songs.  It wasn't the way any of us were working so we just kind of looked at him as if he was crazy.   Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, didn't think much about Dylan coming to Nashville to record--and while we were recording you could find him sitting around and throwing quarters up at the ceiling tiles of the studio.   Once the record sales came in for Blonde on Blonde I think he changed his mind about Nashville though. 

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
Want more with Wayne Moss?  Please visit his official website here.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TV STORE ONLINE:   For those that have seen Jerry's The Jazz Singer...How did the project come to fruition for him?

LEWIS:  In 1959, NBC was starting the Startime Theater.  It was designed to combat against The Red Skelton Show on CBS.    NBC was the first network to broadcast in color, and so my dad saw this as a great opportunity to do something that he was always interested in.  He was a big fan and a good friend of Al Jolson, and this was his opportunity to do something with The Jazz Singer.
TV STORE ONLINE:   I love the incredible live and raw feeling that it has....There have been rumors going around for years that the show was actually done live on NBC...

LEWIS:  Right, most people thought that it was done live on the air, but it actually wasn't.   In fact, the guy who did the restoration for us, David Cross, at DC Video in Burbank, California told us that the tape that it had been stored on all of these years is probably one of the twenty or thirty oldest color video tapes in existence today.   We only found the tape back in the mid '80s.  There was a young man that worked for us back then that found it in a NBC warehouse.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Knowing the Jerry Lewis biography...Do you think there was some sort of kinship that your dad felt with Al Jolson or the Joey Robin / Joey Rabinowitz character?   Jerry Lewis was once Joseph Levitch...

LEWIS:  I would think so.   My dad's grandfather was a rabbi and he was a kind of straight-laced guy, and you couldn't get any less straight-laced than my dad when he was growing up.   I don't think his grandfather and he saw eye-to-eye.  I think the story of The Jazz Singer rang pretty loudly in his house.   My grandfather, Danny Lewis, was in vaudeville in the early '30s.  He sang Jolson songs.  

The Al Jolson The Jazz Singer came out in 1928 and my grandfather idolized Jolson.  My dad grew up hearing Jolson songs and he idolized him as well.   My dad met Jolson in either 1947 or 1948 and he couldn't do enough to be around him.  Any opportunity my dad had to be around Jolson he took.  Jolson liked my dad so much that he gave him his original music charts that he used on stage.  My dad still has them.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Jerry's Jazz Singer was directed by Ralph Nelson, but considering what we have here visually, the way the camera moves, the juxtaposition in the cutting--it seems like something more that the director Jerry Lewis would have put together....  Did Jerry have a lot of control over the project?

LEWIS:  Absolutely.  Ralph Nelson was a very well-respected director, but it was my dad's project from start to finish.  My dad liked working directly with the director, the writers and everyone else that was part of the project.   He hand-picked Molly Picon to play the mother.  He loved her.   Anna Maria [Alberghetti]--he was shooting CINDERFELLA (1960) with her at the time, so that was a no-brainer.   It just turned out well.   Anna Maria's agent in The Jazz Singer, who was played by Del Moore,  was one of my dad's closest friends. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Speaking of CINDERFELLA....There's the famous story of how Jerry suffered a heart attack after he had to run that big staircase in CINDERFELLA...Did the shooting of The Jazz Singer come before or after that incident?

LEWIS:   You know...It wasn't a heart attack.   That's been exaggerated.   He did collapse because he had run those stairs too many times.   There was a gentleman who helped raise us, Fritz Hawks, who was the lieutenant of the guards at Paramount.   He had a satchel that contained $50,000 dollars in jewelry on the set, and when dad collapsed, he threw it down, and ran up the stairs with oxygen for him.  He just passed out is what it was.   I believe, that CINDERFELLA didn't actually start shooting until after my dad had finished with The Jazz Singer though.

TV STORE ONLINE: The critics weren't kind to Jerry and The Jazz Singer...

LEWIS:  No, they weren't.  I think that was because my dad was the comic.  He was the biggest box office star in the world and people didn't want to see him be dramatic.   Plus, it is a shortened version of the story.  It's pretty difficult to tell that story in 52 minutes.  I think that the audience perceived it, not as a homage to Jolson, but a short cut to get something on NBC. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   This performance--Jerry, the comic turned dramatist seems like it could've been very ahead of the times considering when this aired on NBC...

LEWIS:  Yes and it's clear that this really meant something to my dad.   You can see that when you watch it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of the most overlooked facets of Jerry's talent is his singing voice and his dancing...

LEWIS:  Yes, he really was a great singer and a dancer.    In '56, he sold a million records when he released "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody"...

TV STORE ONLINE:   I love that song.   I love your dad's album Jerry Lewis Sings... In particular, the opening cut "Come Rain Or Come Shine".  Those arrangements on that record just explode!

LEWIS:  Right, if you want to hear really full arrangements that's the album to get.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Yes!  And I feel that the songs he does in The Jazz Singer work in that same way...Why weren't those songs released on record?

LEWIS:   Back in the day, people didn't think about that.  We've been getting requests for years now about releasing the songs that he and Dean Martin did in the Martin & Lewis films.   Also, I think that if they would've released those songs--it would in some way cheapen them.  He wasn't singing those songs for monetary reasons--he was singing them from the heart and they were important to him.   Which is why it really hurt him when The Jazz Singer didn't get great reviews.  

TV STORE ONLINE:   You mention in a interview on the DVD for The Jazz Singer about how if this DVD is a success other rare gems from The Jerry Lewis archive will be released...Would that include something like the '70s Jerry Lewis cartoon series Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down [1970-72]?

LEWIS:  You know, I don't even know what library has those now.  Archives and libraries get sold or used as collateral on a loan and things disappear and no-one knows where things actually are.    We have some color elements from some of his other television specials from 1957-62.  There were 13 Jerry Lewis specials in that time.  We have some kinescopes for those that we're planning on getting transferred.  We have his January 1960 Timex show.   We're looking at releasing that one next.   

Order the DVD of The Jazz Singer here.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

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Thursday, October 16, 2014
Creator and voice of ALF, Paul Fusco, talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his early '80s Showtime special Santa's Magic Toy Bag, Alf, and the state of children's television...

TV STORE ONLINE:   I had never seen Santa's Magic Toy Bag (1983) prior to yesterday....

FUSCO:  Yeah, that's probably because it aired on Showtime back in the early '80s.  After that--it ran for a brief time on some syndicated stations across the United States before it went back into the vault--which is where it was been ever since then.   It's come to DVD because of Legend Films.   A girl that I've been working with there grew up with Santa's Magic Toy Bag and she's been pushing for it to be released.  I really didn't think there was any market for it--but it turns out that there is a fan base for it because of the people that remember seeing it first on Showtime back in 1983.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Santa's Magic Toy Bag was really your third major work....You had done The Crown Of Bogg (1981) and The Valentine's Day that Almost Wasn't (1982) prior.  How did Santa come to fruition?

FUSCO:   Well, The Crown Of Bogg was a Halloween show.  I made it with my own money, which was kind of stupid--because no-one should ever do that.   But we made it on spec and Showtime saw it and they became interested in working with our company that my partners and I had started for The Crown Of Bogg.   Back then, Showtime had a fledgling children's television division.  They were showing children's programming in the morning and in the afternoons in the early '80s.  They saw The Crown Of Bogg and asked us to produce six shows for them with different puppets and on different holidays.   We didn't have much money to work with but once we figured out where and how the spend the money that they had given us for the specials we were off and running.  Santa's Magic Toy Bag was the last of the six that we produced for Showtime.   I think that Santa's Magic Toy Bag is the best of the six as well.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where were you creatively at the time that you created this special and the lead character "Sherman"?  He's a Christmas toy maker but no-one at the North Pole appreciates his outside-the-box toy designs or thinking, and maybe I'm reading a bit too much into Santa's Magic Toy Bag here, but this whole special, for me, is an allegory for the frustrated artist who is trying to create in a uncompromising commercial setting...

FUSCO: (Laughing)...Right.  Well, when I first started out I was working in television production on a local children's television show.   I always felt that there was nothing on television that was made for kids.  Even growing up with Rocky & Bullwinkle...as a kid you laughed at it, but you didn't always get the jokes because they were designed for adults.   Going back to Bugs Bunny and the Warner Brothers cartoons...While I grew up watching those on local television--those were originally made to play in theaters for adults.  They were short films that played before you saw CASABLANCA (1942).   

When the '80s hit and we entered the era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Kung-Fu and that violence that started to creep into Saturday morning television--I saw that there was nothing on television for kids to laugh at.   I took the same approach with Alf.  I never wanted to write down to the audience or the kids that would be watching the show.    We always did story lines that we thought were funny, or intriguing, or topical for the time.     Knowing that it was intelligently written and knowing that we weren't playing down to anyone--we knew that it would successful.  That's what I tried to do with Santa's Magic Toy Bag and the previous Showtime holiday specials that came before it.   I wanted it to be funny, edgy, timeless, and I wanted them to be totally original stories.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Where does your interest in puppetry come from?  You were born in the early '50s--so you must have seen something like Stan Freberg's '50s television puppet show Beany and Cecil?

FUSCO:  I think that was part of it.   As a teenager--I did magic, ventriloquism, and stand-up comedy.   So it comes from a combination of all of those.   Then I hooked up with a guy who used to work with Jim Henson on The Muppets and he showed me something that Jim Henson had discovered back in the '60s--that the television screen, the lower edge of it, was the stage for these characters.  With my background in television production--that really intrigued me. I became fascinated very quickly with the possibilities of the production with the puppets.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Were you already unconsciously considering the character of 'Alf' in your head by this time?  I'm reaching here....we have Alf, the character, and here in Santa's Magic Toy Bag we have 'Sherman' who only wants to be an Elf....

FUSCO: (Laughing)...You're reading too much into that...That's coincidence.

TV STORE ONLINE:  You can't blame me for trying!

FUSCO: (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  I really love the music in Santa's Magic Toy Bag...Can you talk a bit about it?

FUSCO:  It was done by my wife, Linda Fusco, and another person named Richard Schellbach--who was part of my production team.   By the third special--we were scampering around to find people to do the music and we weren't really getting anything that we liked.  Linda and Richard said, "We can do better than that."   So they did!  They did the music for the last two holiday specials.

TV STORE ONLINE:  At the end of Santa's Magic Toy Bag...Santa Claus reads a letter he has received from a little boy named "Paul" who wants an electronic kite.  Is "Paul" you?

FUSCO:   Yes!  And there are other members of my production team mentioned in the end as well.   We just filled the end of with inside jokes for us.

TV STORE ONLINE:   This is a set of loaded questions....Even though I didn't see Santa's Magic Toy Bag when it first aired...I'm struck as a adult--watching it for first time--just how much of that timeless quality it has. Like you mentioned earlier was your goal with it....   It really makes me feel like a eight-year-old kid again. There's an innocent to it that is really missing from things produced today in the modern milieu of children's programming.    Why do you think that is?

FUSCO:  I just think that the times have changed.   Look at how many television stations there are today.  People can access anything online that they want now.  One thing--the innocence of a child is something that will never change.  If you took a child who was completely void of the violence of the video games today--and you set them down in front of something like this--I think that they're going to love this.  They will enjoy it because their innocence is still intact.  Take Seasame Street for example.   That's a show that has been on for over thirty years now.  They've had to tailor the show for the new generation of kids that are watching it. The old shows don't move fast enough. Everyone's attention span has shortened.  We want our information and our news in thirty-second bites.   No-one reads newspapers anymore.  The media has changed. The way we get information has changed.  Society has changed. Back in the '80s--it was a kinder and simpler day. But I still think that if you have something good and funny--people will find it.  That's why all of these new television stations are popping up now and airing only shows from the '60s and '70s.  There is a escapism there.   The fact that a show like Bewitched is still on television on some of these new stations...My God, that show is...

TV STORE ONLINE:  Wonderfully surreal...

FUSCO:  Exactly...and talk about a suspension of reality!  Even something like Gilligan's Island...What a horrible show, but people watched it because it was funny.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think that the way people are parenting today has anything to do with it now?  On this new DVD for Santa's Magic Toy Bag...there is a blooper reel of the puppet characters swearing with bleeps throughout...When I was a kid--I would have loved to have seen this stuff, and my parents probably wouldn't have cared if I watched it actually.  But with parents today--it seems a point of worry and contention...  

FUSCO:  Possibly.  I  was not a big fan of actually putting the bloopers on the DVD.  I wasn't a fan of it--not because I thought that there was anything objectionable there--I just thought that it took away from the magical and innocent qualities of it all.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right, it breaks the fourth wall...

FUSCO:  Exactly, and you see the puppets making mistakes.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Last question...  What are you working now?

FUSCO:  We're trying to get a Alf movie off the ground.  So watch for that.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Canadian actor Paul Hubbard on his role as "Flash Gordon" in the now lost cut scene from Bob Clark's classic film A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983).

Lost Forever?  The cut Flash Gordon sequence
TV STORE ONLINE:   Last year we spoke with actor Scott Schwartz, who played 'Flick' in A CHRISTMAS STORY and he had mentioned how the Flash Gordon scene that featured you was cut from the film, and that it is now lost....Do you know if it's out there anywhere?

HUBBARD:  I've heard the same thing actually.  I would really love to see that scene again.    I only saw it when Bob Clark screened the film for us before it was released.    I was shocked later on when I heard that it was cut out.   I'm hoping its not going to be one of those things where it resurfaces long after I'm gone.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Can you take me through the scene?

HUBBARD:  Well, the producers threw a bunch of money at it.  They really spared no expensive.   The set was amazing. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  There's been a few pages of the script that have surfaced for the scene in recent years...

HUBBARD:   Right, Bob Clark really gave the scene with Flash Gordon an extra effort.   The costumes were incredible.  We actually did a couple different scenes for the film where I played Flash Gordon.  I don't know if it was a problem with the name "Flash Gordon" being unavailable for copyright reasons or if it was just for the sake of the movies duration, but, well...these things just happen.  Even though the scene was cut--my name was left in the end credits.   So the film has been good to me all of these years later even.  
Script page for cut scene with Hubbard as Flash Gordon

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you have to audition for Bob Clark to play Flash Gordon?

HUBBARD:  I did.  I read a few times for it.  I was in my early '30s then and I was in good physical shape for it.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was the scene shot in Canada like other parts of the film?

  We shot it on a stage in or around Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you recall anything about the type of direction Bob Clark offered you or the actor who played 'Ming' Colin Fox?   In the script is says, "When Flash Gordon sees Ralphie--tears come streaming down his face..."

HUBBARD:  You couldn't play it straight.  He was Flash Gordon, so he had to be heroic and bigger than life in his stature, but at the same time humble towards 'Ralphie'. Because he thanks Ralphie for saving the world!    I just walked that line when I was doing it.    I was really proud of the work actually and when I found out that the scene was cut--I was devastated by it.  It was a blow.

Photo from www.achristmasstoryhouse.com
TV STORE ONLINE:  Was Jean Shepard around for the shooting of the scene?

HUBBARD:  Oh yeah.    He was wonderful.  Same with Darrin McGavin and Melinda Dillion.

TV STORE ONLINE:   A great moment in the scene per the script page is where Ralphie shows up and Flash says, "Ralphie!  You've escaped the space crocodiles!"

HUBBARD: (Laughing):  That's right!  I remember that. You know I haven't seen those script pages since we shot that and I can still remember that dialogue... They had so many crazy things on that Flash Gordon set.  They had hand operated monsters.  It was fairly complicated actually.

Listen to the music from the scene:

TV STORE ONLINE:  You were tied up by tree branches that were in the shape of snake bodies...I believe in the script you're tied up to a Cobra tree...

HUBBARD:   (Laughing) That's right.   Yes.   That was really fun.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
For more with Paul Hubbard please visit his official website here.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

 Nashville Hall of Fame Musician Charlie McCoy talks to TV STORE ONLINE about recording Blonde On Blonde with Bob Dylan, playing with Charlie Rich, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash...

TV STORE ONLINE:   I was doing some research today on you and I stumbled across a clip on YouTube of a band called 'The Escorts'...

McCOY:   Oh, yeah.  We would just play together on the weekends for the hell of it.  We were pretty young and we all liked to play rock-n-roll back then and you couldn't always do that in the early '60s living in Nashville as studio musicians.

TV STORE ONLINE:    As a career musician working in and around Nashville what are your thoughts on the ABC television series Nashville [2011-current]?

McCOY:  Well, I love it.  I think it's very well done and they have some great music on that show.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Some people might not know about the fact that you've released quite a few solo albums under your own name....I'm quite a fan of the 'Harpin' the Blues', 'Good Time Charlie' and your Little Walter stuff on YouTube....

McCOY:  I've actually put out thirty-eight solo albums to date....

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are your favorite Little Walter cuts?  I'm only familiar with his work with Muddy Waters..

McCOY:   Little Walter had some great solo stuff.   I guess 'Juke'....if he would've had a hit song that would've been it.   As far as I'm concerned...he's the greatest blues player of all time.   Every time I listen to him I hear something new.

TV STORE ONLINE:   As a Muddy Waters fan....I once read in a book on Muddy that Little Walter was the first blues harp man to play on stage with his harp against a microphone...

McCOY:  That's possible, but don't quote me on that.   The earliest records you can find of Little Walter have him blowing electric like that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love how some of those early recordings are in the "red".

McCOY:  Absolutely...

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm a huge fan of Charlie Rich and I love his early '70s sound....In particular his version of 'Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues..."

McCOY:  Well, Charlie Rich was a amazing artist.  He had hits with three different record labels and over three different decades...

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love his Sun Records stuff....

McCOY:  Absolutely.   Stuff like 'Lonely Weekends' and 'Who Will The Next Fool Be'... are pretty incredible.  When Charlie came up here to Nashville and had a stint with Mercury Records I played with him on 'Mohair Sam' and some of his other Mercury cuts...

TV STORE ONLINE:  Right, how did that opportunity come to you to play with Rich?

McCOY:  Well, I was the go-to guy for [Producer] Jerry Kennedy.   Normally, Bob Moore played Bass on Charlie's records but with that he wanted it to be kind of R&B.  At the time, I was doing quite a bit of Bass work around town and Jerry called me to come in.

TV STORE ONLINE:  With Mohair Sam...What was the recording of that like?

McCOY:  We did it very quick.  In those days you'd work in three-hour sessions and in that time period you'd knock out at least three or four songs.   When you went in, the producer would tell you kind of what he was looking for and you'd just go after it.   Back then, we didn't have the technology to do things over-and-over and if you made a mistake in the studio as a musician...well, you didn't want to be that guy.  We recorded everything quick because we had to.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What was the first session you ever worked on?

McCOY:  Well, before I even played on a session I attended them.  The first session I ever attended was for Brenda Lee.  I watched her record and from that day on I knew that I wanted to be a studio musician.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Working with someone like Charlie Rich...What kind of artistic liberties or contributions are you allowed to make as a studio musician?

McCOY:  In the early days...no-one had charts to work with.  You heard the song and you memorized it.  I guess it depended on the producer.  Jerry Kennedy was a liberal guy so he'd allow you to just come up with what you could.  The job of a great producer is to hire great musicians, and then he should reign them in and have them go in a certain direction. Whereas, someone like [Producer] Billy Sherrill, he was more hands-on and he was in charge of every note that was played.   Both of those producers made records that are considered classics today. They are records that are still played on the radio.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So how did you come to get involved with Bob Dylan and play with him on Blonde On Blonde?

McCOY:   That came about because of Bob Johnston.  Bob had first come to Nashville as a songwriter.  He was writing songs for Elvis Presley's songwriting company.     When Elvis would get ready to shoot a new movie--his team would send out the script to the various songwriting companies and writers would compete to see what songs they could get into his movies.     I came to work with Bob, because he had called me to ask if I could help run his sessions for some demos for Elvis.   

Bob ended up getting six or seven songs into a couple different Elvis movies and I worked as a musician on those recordings with him.     We had a bunch of songs that didn't make it into the movies and so Bob took those to New York to pitch them around.  They ended up in the hands of a Columbia Records A&R man.  He said, "These demos are great.  Did you produce these?" 

Bob was smart enough to tell the man that he had and the A&R guy said, "Would you consider producing records here for Columbia?"    Bob ended up producing a session after that here in Nashville with Patti Page for Columbia.   It was the theme song for the movie HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964).   I played on that as well.   It was a hit for Patti Page, and because of that...Columbia decided that he needed to do something else for them.  They put him with Bob Dylan.   Bob moved to New York City and we stayed in touch.  He said, "If you're ever in New York City--get a hold of me--and I'll give you a couple of a tickets to a Broadway show..."    Not longer after that--I found myself in New York City. I called him up and said, "Can I get those Broadway tickets?"  He said, " Sure, come over to the studio this afternoon.  I'm recording Bob Dylan and I'd like for you to meet him."

I went over to the Columbia studio and Bob introduced me to Dylan.  He said, "Hey, I'm getting ready to record a song.  Why don't you pick up that guitar over there and play along?"

The song that we played was 'Desolation Row'. 

I think Bob Johnston had a plan from the start to lure Dylan to Nashville to record the album.

Johnston told me later than after I had left the studio he went to Dylan and said, "See! That was easy, wasn't it?  If we go to Nashville the recording of the new album will be much easier than it will be here in New York."   So Bob Johnston talked Dylan into recording his next album in Nashville, and Dylan recorded three of his best albums there.

TV STORE ONLINE:  When you met Dylan in New York City at the studio, had you been familiar with his past work?

McCOY:   Of course.  'The Times They Are A-Changin' had made a huge impression on me.   So when he asked me to play along with him that day I was a little bit taken by surprise because while I played guitar I didn't really consider myself to be a great guitar player.   Dylan hit me with this eleven minute song and tasked me to play all of the fills in it.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  With Bob Dylan deciding to record in Nashville...Do you think that it did anything for the music scene after he had left?

McCOY: Oh Yeah.  With Dylan coming here to record...Well, it was like he had put his stamp of approval on us.  The flood gates just opened up.   It got me really busy...(Laughing).    I was running all around.  I was working all hours of the day. There were some very tired weeks in there.  By that time, I was also starting to record a lot of with Elvis Presley and between Elvis and Bob Dylan I was running out of steam because those guys were all-night type of guys.

TV STORE ONLINE:   And not skipping over Elvis...You played not just on those early '60s demos for Bob Johnston but also some of Elvis's early '70s work like 'The Next Step Is Love'...

McCOY:  That's right.  I played organ on that.  When it was all said and done--I played on five movie tracks for Elvis and on seven of his albums.  I played on 'Big Boss Man', 'High-Heeled Sneakers'.  I played on his gospel album and two of his Christmas albums.   Elvis loved recording in Nashville and he loved the studio because it was his safe place. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Blonde On Blonde--I'm dying to hear these stories....

McCOY:  Well, I can remember the first day of recording... We didn't do much that day.... We were booked into the studio for  2 p.m and Dylan's flight came in late from wherever he was coming in from and he didn't make it into the studio until well past 6 p.m. that day.   He and Bob Johnston walked in and Bob said, "he's not done writing the first song yet.  So just hang loose..."    It was us, the usual Nashville rhythm section and also Al Kooper and Robbie Robertson there.    We waited.  Then we waited some more.  

Finally at 4 a.m., the next morning he was ready to start.   We started with 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands'.   A fourteen-minute ballad.  Everyone was in that studio saying, "God!  Please don't allow me to make a mistake."   It was tough because we had been waiting for so long and had been up all night waiting.    Taking this approach to recording was unheard of in Nashville. It just didn't happen in this way.   None of us had encountered anything like it before.  I figured it took us thirty-nine-and-a-half hours to record Blonde On Blonde with Dylan and it took us nine-and-a-half hours to record John Wesley Harding with him here.

TV STORE ONLINE:    Why do you think it took Dylan so long to record Blonde On Blonde?  It seems to me as if it was the zenith of his creativity as a musician and songwriter....

  You know, I think he was unsure of himself and he was unsure of us.  He was also writing as he went along.    When he came to Nashville again to do John Wesley Harding--he had the whole album already written and that went together very quickly.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I've wondered from my reading about Dylan if he wasn't feeling the pressures around him?  His audience had wanted him to be the voice of their generation....It seemed like he had been going too hard and too long.  As if he needed a break?

McCOY:  I felt that was just normal for him.   I felt that John Wesley Harding was something brand new for him.  To do Blonde On Blonde....To record that in such a long and drawn out fashion just seemed (to me) that it was something that he was used to doing.

TV STORE ONLINE:  And you played guitar on 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands'?

McCOY:  I did.  I ended up playing several different instruments on Blonde On Blonde.  I played Harmonica on 'Obviously Five Believers' and I played the Trumpet on 'Rainy Day Women #12 & 35'.  Then on John Wesley Harding I played the Bass.   I also played Bass for him on the recording of Nashville Skyline as well.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Playing Bass on Nashville Skyline must have been incredible especially playing on 'Lay Lady Lay' and on 'The Girl From The North Country' with Dylan and Johnny Cash?

McCOY:  Well, I was good friends with Johnny.  I had played on several of his albums.    I was used to working with Johnny.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Going back to your playing on 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands'....  Was your part just something that you worked out with Dylan and Johnston?

McCOY:  I was just playing acoustic rhythm on that.  I was just following.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Does Dylan give any directions?

McCOY:  No, not really.  We just played along.  I was session leader and I was supposed to be the middle man between the artist, the producer and the band.   When you would ask Dylan for some feedback he really wouldn't give you anything.  You'd say something like, "Hey Bob, how about we try such and such...?"  He's only say, "I don't know, man.  What do you think?"  Finally I went to Bob Johnston and said, "You know, I'm asking him about such and such and I'm not getting any answers.  I don't know if he's happy with what we're doing or not."  I eventually just stopped asking him because I figured that if he wasn't happy with what we were doing he'd probably tell us.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Going back to your playing on Rainy Day Women #12 & 35...How did that come to fruition?

McCOY:  That afternoon that we were supposed to record--Bob Johnston said, "Tonight, Dylan wants to record a song with a Salvation Army Band sound.  Let's use a Trumpet and a Trombone.  Can you get a couple guys in here tonight?"   I said, "With the Trumpet...You want it to be good?"  He said, "No, man...It's supposed to be Salvation Army..."   So I played the trumpet and I called a friend of mine to come in and play the Trombone.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How many takes on the recording of something like Rainy Day Women?

  Just two or three takes.  He came in and ran the song down.  It was pretty obvious as to what we were supposed to do.  Bob Johnston said something like, "I want you guys to yell and holler like it's a real party during it."  When you listen to the record now...Those noises you hear in the background were done live while we were recording.  It wasn't overdubbed in later.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How about 'Obviously Five Believers'?

  Dylan couldn't have played that riff.  It was out of his style.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The harp riff goes all throughout the song.   And it's a Little Walter riff, isn't it?

McCOY: Absolutely.   Bob Johnston said, "You should probably play the harp on this one..." 

  For all the time that Dylan spent writing songs in the studio...It seems like he was efficient in the sense that he never wanted to stop when he was in the actual studio...  When he was in the studio he just wanted to keep going and going?

McCOY:  Absolutely.  The thing is...Dylan never made a mistake in the studio.  And you would think that he would've had at least had a little  trouble remembering the lyrics to these songs as we were recording them but he never had any problems in the studio with them.  He was always right-on with the lyrics and the melodies.

TV STORE ONLINE:  You played Trumpet also on "You'll Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine.."
I did.  The song that I most admire though of my playing with Dylan is 'Lay Lady Lay'.

TV STORE ONLINE:     Nashville Skyline, the album, clocks in at being an entire album that runs just twenty-seven minutes long.

McCOY:  I know! 

TV STORE ONLINE:  You also played with Dylan on his 1970 Self Portrait album?  

McCOY:  That was a weird one.  Dylan wasn't even there.   I think what happened there was that he and Bob Johnston were coming to the end of their collaboration.  I wasn't privy to the state of their relationship at that time so I'm not for certain on that though.  Bob had access to some piano and guitar demos that Dylan had made, and so he must have thought that he could squeeze one more album out.   I'm not too sure if Dylan is happy with that record...  Some of that stuff on Self Portrait was hard to play because Dylan was doing piano and guitar demos and also singing on them so the tempo wasn't always steady.  It was difficult to work on that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you think that Nashville had an influence on Dylan?  The music changes radically from Blonde On Blonde to Nashville Skyline in terms of sound...

McCOY:  I saw a huge Nashville influence there.   There is country and folk music in there. In particular on John Wesley Harding, whereas on Blonde on Blonde--it's a very bluesy album.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are your memories of recording 'The Boxer' with Simon & Garfunkel?

McCOY:  That was amazing.  About four or five months before they came to Nashville to record, I had bought a bass harmonica.    Bob Johnston called me from New York and said, "Paul Simon just called me.  He wants to know if I have a guy in Nashville that can play Bass Harmonica."    So they came to town and we recorded it.  Every note that I played on that was dictated to me by Paul Simon.  He is a genius. He had it all in his head and he really guided me on that. I only played what he wanted me to play.   I wish I could take credit for that but I can't.  It was all Paul Simon.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How about the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood cover of Johnny Cash and June Carter's 'Jackson'?

McCOY:  That came to be because a engineer here in Nashville was good friends with Lee Hazelwood.  Lee decided that he wanted to record a country album with Nancy and so they came to Nashville.     I was asked to play harmonica and vibes on the album.  They recorded eleven songs and I hadn't played harmonica on any of them.  When it came time to record 'Jackson' I said, "We haven't used the harmonica yet."   So Lee decided to work it in on that cover of 'Jackson'.  Of course we were all very familiar with 'Jackson', because like you said, it was recorded by Johnny and June...

TV STORE ONLINE:   And what about Cash?  You played on 'Orange Blossom Special', right?

McCOY:  I did. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  You've also covered the song in your solo career....How did that whole relationship with Johnny Cash get established?

McCOY:  Well I first got called in to record with Johnny when he recorded two Dylan songs oddly enough.  I was booked in to play on Johnny's versions of 'It Ain't Me Babe' and 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.'   I got a call from someone at Columbia Records and they said, "Johnny Cash wants to know if you can play harmonica like Bob Dylan?"    So we did those together and from time-to-time Johnny would call me up and have me come into the studio. I think it was around '65 when he called me up and told me that he wanted to record a vocal version of 'Orange Blossom Special'.  He said, "Why don't you play the solo?"    I had never played it before.  To me, it had always been a fiddle song.  But I remembered the chorus. I started to think that I could get that fiddle sound if I used two different harmonicas at the same time.   When I finished that for him he said, "Show me how you did that..."

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

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by: TV Store Online 1 Comments

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

 Son of cult filmmaker Larry Buchanan, Jeff Buchanan, talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Larry Buchanan's late period films about Marilyn Monroe...

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where did the idea come from for Larry to do a remake of his own GOODBYE NORMA JEAN (1976) as GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN (1989)?

JEFF BUCHANAN:  Well, he had a bunch of outtakes in his possession from NORMA JEAN.  My dad was a big conspiracy theorist.  He was always reading about conspiracy theories associated with Marilyn Monroe to Jimi Hendrix to John F. Kennedy.   That's how DOWN ON US (1989) came about more or less as well...  Someone actually wrote an article about the possibility of Marilyn Monroe being killed via a suppository and how it couldn't be picked up via an autopsy.  This was after GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN.  I thought that it was just one of my Dad's wild ideas at the time that we were making the film....  My dad had a loose connection with a guy named Mark Felt at one time.  Mark Felt was very high up in the F.B.I...  My dad came to me once and said, "I have a funny feeling that Mark Felt was Deep Throat...."   Yet again, I thought that it was just another one of my dad's funny ideas, but then my dad passed away and not long after that--Mark Felt went public and told everyone that he was in fact "Deep Throat" during the Watergate scandal.  

When my dad made DOWN ON US aka BEYOND THE DOORS (1989), he theorized that it was Richard Nixon who had Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin silenced.   Nixon called them "The Pied-Pipers Of Rock-N-Roll"...  My dad theorized that Nixon had them silenced out of fear that Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin could have influenced the vote because they had just lowered the voting age to eighteen-years-old.   

Again, I thought that this was just one of my dad's wild ideas.  Then they released the Nixon files to the public and inside his papers were something like eighteen-thousand pages dedicated to Hendrix alone.    

My dad had always been fascinated with Marilyn Monroe; her stardom, her celebrity,  and her death-- years prior when he was in Texas he had met a guy who he referred to as "Mesquite".  I don't know what the gentleman's real name was, but it's my understanding--and it's the way that it happens in dad's film--the death of Marilyn was a mercy killing.  Marilyn was afraid of going nuts as her mother had.  My dad--in typical Larry Buchanan fashion--thought, "Okay, I have these outtakes..Let's do a wrap-around."  Basically he scripted out the contemporary scenes and we shot for a few weeks with Paula Lane, and then he went to work and edited in his outtakes from GOODBYE NORMA JEAN.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you think that Larry considered the "Mesquite" character in GOODBYE NORMA JEAN as a metaphor for death itself?   It's interesting...During  the final season of the NBC television series Quantum Leap--they did a very similar story line with their take on the Marilyn Monroe/Mesquite relationship....Suggesting a relationship that Marilyn had with her supposed bodyguard/close confident in the final days of her life....

BUCHANAN:   Well dad had actually met this "Mesquite" guy in person.  My dad was always really great about not revealing his sources.  He didn't even tell me who the guy was.   But he had gotten enough information from this guy--where he went and started doing a lot of his own research on Monroe's death.  He looked at the autopsy results.  He read everything that he could get his hands on.   My dad was never up front with me regarding whether he actually believed the possibilities of the story for the film.  The same thing goes with my dad about his research and ideas into the Kennedy assassination.   I'm not sure that he saw the "Mesquite" character as a metaphor--as a sort of grim reaper, but again, he's not here-- but if he was--maybe he'd confer with you.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to the Misty Rowe footage from GOODBYE NORMA JEAN (1976)...There's that line where Misty Rowe as Marilyn says, "Is it possible for a girl to want something so much that she'll die for it?"  Do you think that Larry supported that notion?  That Marilyn had this sort of unconscious desire for immortality?

BUCHANAN:  That's a tough question.   I think that my dad felt for Marilyn Monroe.  I think he understood her.   The ironic thing about Marilyn Monroe is that she struggled for so long with the notion that she wanted to be taken seriously as an actress in Hollywood.  Then, THE MISFITS (1960) comes along for her and after that---she was considered a serious actress.   It doesn't seem like she knew what to do with that once she had obtained it.     My dad was always fascinated with the last few photo shoots that Marilyn Monroe did as well.  He used to say that he thought that by looking at those photos of yourself -- she understood that she was getting older.  My dad was so obsessed with making films, but at the same time he did it with such a light air.   He took a very Don Quixote approach to filmmaking.  He took the film medium very seriously, but when things didn't work out he'd just sort of laugh it off.    I think that he had an empathy for Marilyn.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did you find Paula Lane for the film?

BUCHANAN:  Well, we were in Monterey at the time prepping the film, and someone told him about her.  He had been looking for look-a-likes.  He flew out to Las Vegas to see a show with her at a casino, because she did have a background as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator.  He came back and said, "We've found her!  We've found our Marilyn."   We brought her here and we shot with her for two weeks.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I've seen the photos that have been published over the years...The macabre photos of her bedroom where her body was found...The bedroom is impressively re-created in the film....

BUCHANAN:  The Art Director definitely studied those photos.   Her name was C. Cracko.   She took it all very seriously.  She found all the right curtains and that lamp.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love the opening sequence in the film...Of Paula Lane singing into the camera wearing that white SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1952) Marilyn Monroe dress...The film has a dream like quality...Did Larry ever talk with you about visual approach to cinema?

BUCHANAN:   Not really.  On the films that I worked with him on I would try to push him to get more from his Director Of Photography or Art Director.   My dad knew about every aspect of film production.   It never ceased to amaze me.  Because my dad worked so fast.  He would take a Director Of Photography aside and said,"Look, I'm not trying to step on any toes..But we don't need this, or this, or this.  We just need to shoot at this f/stop from this angle."   And it always turned out exactly the way he had planned it.   

TV STORE ONLINE:   One of the more artistic choices in GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN is how the film is set across the 1950's and '60s, yet there is a use of '70s and '80s rock music throughout...

BUCHANAN:   He had funny instincts about his work.  I remember once there was a funeral scene that he was shooting in one of his earlier films and he put a rock-n-roll song in the background of the scene and a French critic saw it and said it was brilliant.   He never waxed philosophical about his films.  He went by instinct.  He did have very clear ideas on the nature of film editing.  He went into the editing of his films with very clear ideas.  He'd say, "Look, this isn't a film that we have to worry about box office receipts on..We can do whatever we want here..."  The music he used often times came out of his budget on his films.   The music that he used might not have been what he had really wanted to use per say, but he used certain music (s) because it was all he could afford on the budget.
My dad always had a list of ideas or films that he wanted to make--films that he could never get off the ground.   At the end of his life--his promise to me was that he was going to open up his shooting schedule and take some time to really work with the actors like he hadn't been able to prior.  I was asking him to take his time and set up a dolly shot that he had wanted to do but never really attempted before out of time restraints and budget.   I mean, almost all of his films were shot in two-three week periods.  Most of his films...They would shoot six pages a day on them!

TV STORE ONLINE:  The end sequence in GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN....There's that candid conversation and sex scene with Paula Lane as Marilyn and the masseuse....Lane as Marilyn says, "I'm the greatest sex symbol of all time...but no one has seen me on the screen in any of my films this intimately..."   Do you think that Larry approached his films with the understanding that there needed to be a mix of melodrama and exploitation?

BUCHANAN:  One thing that my dad was a fan of was the old movies from the '40s and the power of the screen kiss...He used to talk at times about some of the sex symbols of the '40s and '50s and how they had such an incredible sex appeal that it wasn't necessary for them to do any nude scenes. I think that he understood that the times that had changed but he approached it all with a certain class.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you think that Larry's first Marilyn film--GOODBYE NORMA JEAN--just came to fruition out of his fascination with her?

BUCHANAN:   Yes, I think so.  He talked about how he had met her a couple times during his early days in Hollywood.  He had met her when she wasn't yet the star that she became.   I got mad at my dad while he was shooting that film because I was in high school at the time and I was begging him to allow me to come and visit.  I  wanted to be a part of it and he wouldn't let me.  I don't have any stories about the production because I wasn't there for the shooting, but I remember that when it was finished my dad took the film to the Cannes Film Festival and screened it. It did very well there and Misty Rowe, who played Marilyn in the film, went with him and she walked up and down the Croisette dressed as Marilyn Monroe.   My mom went too that year, and she's told me since that the paparazzi was so enamored with Misty as Marilyn that they weren't paying attention to the big Hollywood stars that were there.

When GOODBYE NORMA JEAN came out...Playboy Magazine listed it as one of the worst films of 1976 and someone sent a copy of the issue to my dad.  He flipped to the mention and then threw it onto a coffee table.  I picked it up, read it and said, "Dad?  Doesn't this make you upset?"  He said, "Why would it make me upset?" I responded with, "Because they're saying that GOODBYE NORMA JEAN is one of the Ten Worst Films of the Year..."   He said, "Jeff, take a look at the other nine films in that list.  Each of those films were big Hollywood productions with major stars.  If they knew what we spent on our film--they would be embarrassed that they even looked at it..."    He always said that he made films for the budgets of the catering on any of those major Hollywood movies.   He thought that it was great that they were just talking about his film.
When Elton John released his song 'Goodbye Norma Jean'--it really helped the film.   But, interestingly, my dad had never picked the title for the film because of that song.   It was an interesting coincidence.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love that "Wammo Ammo" musical montage that we see in variations in both GOODBYE NORMA JEAN and GOODNIGHT, SWEET MARILYN...

BUCHANAN:  I know.  I believe that was shot by Nick von Sternberg, who was the son of Joseph von Sternberg...He shot a few films for me dad.

TV STORE ONLINE:    One of the things that I admire about both of Larry's Marilyn films...And maybe it's my sole observation...But when you watch either of the films--it seems like all of the actors with the exception of Misty Rowe as Marilyn look like one another.  It's as if Larry did that so the audience would get a unconscious message that Marilyn was so much of a beauty that she eclipsed all others around her...

BUCHANAN:  It's a interesting observation..If my dad was here--he'd tell you if he intended that or not.   He was so sly about those types of things...  You never knew if he was pulling your leg or not.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was Larry's approach to casting?   He seemed to have a stable of actors that he liked to work with...

BUCHANAN:  Certainly.  He liked to work with Stuart Lancaster and Garth Pillsbury of Russ Meyer infamy...He would go out to see actors in plays hoping to find new talent.   With GOODBYE NORMA JEAN--the hunt for Marilyn was long.  My dad agonized over it.  I think they even held a beauty pageant in a attempt to find someone to play Marilyn.  I can't remember exactly how Misty Rowe came to my dad's attention---but I do remember that he was at the same time--talking to another actress as well.    My dad used to joke that if you walked through the front door you were pretty much cast in one of his movies... He just had that sensibility about him.

I remember, I helped my dad edit STRAWBERRIES NEED RAIN (1970) together.   He came back from shooting the film in Texas and we blacked out all of the windows in the house and we put a Movieola in the living room and we started cutting the film together.   We always worked that way.  

Growing up, I thought that this was how you made movies.  I didn't know as a kid that there were editing facilities. I didn't know that there were places you could go to record Foley effects.  My dad and I would just go out into the garage with a list of sounds that we needed to re-produce and record.   They didn't always sound the best but they worked. Sometimes they worked better than any of the Foley effects you'd hear in big budget films.  Someone once said of my dad's films, "Larry Buchanan's films are so bad that a kind of grandeur seeps into them..."  It's kind of true.  People would be alarmed if they knew some of the budgets that my dad had to work with.   

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

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