Bonnie Buckingham, better known as Bonnie Guitar, turns ninety on March 25, so I had to feature her. Born in 1923 in Seattle, she learned to play the guitar while a teenager and worked at a number of small labels as a session guitarist in the 1950’s. She worked with the likes of Jim Reeves, Dorsey Burnette and the DeCastro Sisters during that time, and wanted to record one for herself.
She heard the song “Dark Moon” in 1956, when Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley were starting to define the “New Nashville Sound,” and went so far as to agree to waive her session fee if she could record the song herself. Her recording (the first track here) was originally released on Fabor Records, and in 1957 Dot Records released it. It rose to #14 on the country charts and #6 on the pop charts, making her the only woman besides Patsy Cline to have a hit simultaneously on both. A followup song, “Mister Fire Eyes,” charted at #15 on the country chart and #71 on the pop chart later in 1957. “Candy Apple Red,” the second video, made it to #97 on the pop chart in 1958.
She continued recording and performing around the country until 1996, when she retired to Soap Lake, Washington. She still performs there occasionally.
Happy birthday, Bonnie Guitar, your two for Tuesday, March 5, 2013.
Another productive week. Let’s get right into it:
- Writing: Missed a day on Thursday. For some reason, I couldn’t or didn’t get into it. Bad John. I did twice as much on Friday to make up, but it wasn’t the same. I got close to an hour of butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keys time most days, about twice as much as I had promised, and got quite a few words written, and story ideas are coming more easily. And, based on the number of fragments I have, next quarter should be interesting.
- Reading: Went old-school and started reading The Odessa File by Fredrick Forsyth (you know guys, we’ll read anything with a badge or a swastika on the cover). Mary was going through some drawers and found it in paperback; I guess I had bought it some time ago with the intention of reading it and it magically disappeared.
In our house, paperbacks serve a dual purpose: not only do we read them, we threaten the cats with them. They’re excellent for breaking up skirmishes that break out; all we have to do is let them know that the book is coming and brandish it at them, and they fall into line. Can’t do that with a Kindle…
- Visiting: I have been particularly bad at this, for which I apologize to anyone who’s still reading. I’ve learned that the number of visitors you get is directly proportional to the number of visits you make, and lately I haven’t been. Mea maxima culpa. This is a situation that I need to rectify.
So, that’s it for this week. Hope your week is going swimmingly.
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It’s one month until my birthday (March 25), and thought it might be fun to feature artists who share my birthday for the next month.
Today’s artist is Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey. Jeff went blind when he was a year old, the result of retinoblastoma (a cancer of the eyes). His eyes were removed and he was fitted with artificial replacements. He took up the guitar and developed the method of resting the guitar on his lap and playing it like a lap steel. He formed his first band when he was seventeen, and with bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen formed The Jeff Healey Band in the Eighties. Signed to Arista Records, they released five albums in the late Eighties and Nineties. He also appeared in 1989’s Road House with Patrick Swayze.
Starting in 2000, Jeff took his playing in a different direction, jazz. He had been an active collector of 78 rpm records from the Twenties and Thirties, eventually ending up with over thirty thousand, and released three albums of traditional jazz as well as hosting a CBC radio program, My Kind Of Jazz. In 2005, cancer returned, this time in the form of sarcomas in his legs which had metastasized into his lungs. He died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 41.
You can see Jeff’s style of playing in these two videos. The first track here, “See The Light,” comes from his album of the same name, released in 1988. He’s accompanied here by Doctor John on piano, Marcus Miller on bass, and Omar Hakim on drums. The second track, “Lost In Your Eyes,” comes from the Jeff Healey Band’s second album, 1992’s Feel This. Released as a single in 1993, it charted at #15 in Canada and #91 in the US.
We’ll continue with other musicians born on March 25 next week.
This was a good week, in that we lost no cats. One of the little darlings came up lame last weekend, and was carrying one of her paws without letting it touch the ground. We decided that we would bring her to the vet if she kept doing it after the weekend, so we brought her in on Monday of last week. The vet x-rayed and said that nothing was broken, nor were there any signs of bone spurs or hairline fractures, and that she probably strained a muscle, and just keep an eye on her. By the next day, she was fine.
So, how was the week ROW-wise?
- Writing: I missed a day, Monday. Mary went out to a knitting gathering at a local fast food place and brought me, because I hadn’t been out and the place had wi-fi. I hadn’t done my writing for the day, so I brought my netbook, thinking that I’d get a chance to write, but I didn’t. One of her friends is temporarily disabled, and the woman’s husband, who’s a friend of mine, had to bring her, so I visited with him, and by the time I got home I was too tired to do anything. (Note to self: write earlier in the day.) I had done quite a bit of writing on Saturday and Sunday, twice as much as I normally do, so I figure it’s pretty much a wash.
- Reading: My reading time this week was dedicated to reading the manuscript of one of my writing group friends and critiquing it. It’s slow going, so I only managed to read about a seventh of it, which is about as much as anyone else did. So I’m keeping up. I’m determined to finish the whole thing with critique by the next time we meet, in two weeks.
- Visiting: Not much this week. I’m writing this on Tuesday night, which is what I did the week that I did a lot of visiting, so I’ll have more of a chance tomorrow. And thank you to everyone who stopped in last week.
Before I finish up, I wanted to mention that I bought two more books of prompts, because I felt like my interest level was waning, and have been working with the prompts in each. One is Story Starters by Clifford Fryman, and the other is 1,001 Writing Prompts to Ignite Your Creative Spark by Heather R. Wallace. If you’re having trouble coming up with writing ideas (like I am), books of prompts are a lifesaver. I’ve learned to modify the given prompts, and I’m finding ideas of my own are easier to come by.
Have a productive week!
Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt was born in 1910 to Manouche (French Roma) parents. He became an excellent guitar and banjo player at an early age. At eighteen, he was injured in a fire, crippling the ring and pinky fingers on his left (fret) hand. Thanks to his brother Joseph (also a great guitar player) bringing him a guitar while in the hospital, he was able to regain and even surpass his level of virtuosity, even though he was using just two fingers on his left hand to solo. (You can see how he did so in this video, which I had wanted to show as one of the videos for today, but alas, YouTube had a restriction on it. Django and the rest of the quintet can be seen in the second half.)
In 1934, Django formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with his brother Joseph and Joseph Chaput on rhythm guitars, violinist Stephane Grappelli, and bassist Louis Vola. They made a number of records (two of which can be heard here: 1937’s “Sheik of Araby” and 1936’s “Limehouse Blues”) now considered classics by jazz aficionados. The Quintet was on tour in England at the beginning of World War II, and Django returned to France, believing that he was better off there. He survived the Nazi persecution of the Roma, largely because a number of Nazi officers were jazz fans as well. He reformed the quintet using more traditional instruments, including Hubert Rostaing on clarinet, during the war, and reunited with Grappelli after the war. The quintet disbanded in 1948, after which he toured with Duke Ellington before retiring in 1951. He died in 1953 of a brain hemorrhage.
Django’s playing influenced many guitar players, including several featured here (notably Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins), B. B. King, Carlos Santana, Les Paul, and many others. Much of his catalog was unavailable for a time, but through the magic of compact disc technology, the music of Le Quintette du Hot Club de France and of Django Reinhardt is now once again generally available.
Django Reinhardt: your Two for Tuesday, February 19, 2013.