Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Ferrari GTO

All right, a Pontiac and a Ferrari are two different things, I know that.  Just go with it, because both the song and the ad are pretty damn great. I admit to being a little queasy about the tiger skin, but maybe it's the skin of a very old tiger that died peacefully of natural causes.  Or maybe not.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gary Usher Month - Ridin' Trails

The Kickstands  -  Ridin' Trails

In 1964, Gary Usher was a hired hand on The Kickstands' motorcycle-themed Capitol LP Black Boots And Bikes.  The record ended up featuring four tunes written by Usher and frequent co-hort Roger Christian, as well as another by Usher only.  The album featured the vocal talents of Gary Usher, as well as a couple of the guys in the photo above - Dennis McCarthy and Dick Burns, who handles lead vocals on this track.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hot Rod High (Alternate Version)

Thanks to Rob Santos for sending us this alternate version of the Hondells doing "Hot Rod High" from one of his Gary Usher acetates!

Hondells Pic Sleeve Comes To Life!

Here's a 1965 Hondells clip that serves as a companion piece to Johnny Bartlett's eloquent Gary Usher post from a bit earlier today.  Check out how the pic sleeve in Johnny's post comes to life in a frenzy of lip-synching insanity!  Scroll down a post or two to check out the sleeve in question.

Johnny "Big Hand" Bartlett For Gary Usher Month

Gary Usher Month???  Seems a rather insignificant amount of time to dedicate to a man that I've based my whole life on.  But maybe I'm a bit eccentric in this regard.  However, we agree that the man should be honored, and that's boss.

You're reading this so you're probably smarter than the average ho-dad and know all about the teen tycoon of traction.  But let me tell you my perspective.

When I started buyin' records at the tender age of ten--this was 1975--finding early Beach Boys records for a quarter at garage sales was a lead-pipe cinch.  And what I noticed is that the name Gary Usher appeared on the writing credits of all my favorite tunes.  Fast forward five years when I got into other surf and hot rod music and I kept noticing those magical words that appeared all over the place, thusly (G. Usher-R. Christian).  Whether it was the Hondells, The Kickstands, The Super Stocks, The Revells, etc., there was that uncommon denominator that makes all those records so special.  And when you throw the name Richie Podolor into the mix your motorcycle-jargoned brain starts doin' wheelies right outta your skull.

So clearly, Gary U. and Roger C. must have gotten together and said, hey, we can make some ginchy music for today's youth.  And they did.  And how.

But of all those aforementioned studio masterpieces, The Hondells are standouts.  And they almost appear to be a real band.  Matching sweaters?  Check.  Matching motorcycles?  Check.  Matching pompadours?  Check.  Sure, you could say that Gary Usher knew his audience and wrote accordingly.  But I think it's a bit deeper than that.  I think he was writing from experience (he met Brian Wilson at the drag strip cuz he was a bona fide motor head).  His undeniable talent for songwriting, storytelling and musical production (after all, he was like Phil Spector, but better) made for one great platter after another.  The Hondells were the perfect vehicle (pardon the pun) for him.

They released 2 perfect LPs and countless 45s (some of the later ones are well worth avoiding).  One 45 worth noting is their cover of Jody Reynold's Endless Sleep.  Wow, they took a depressing dirge about a teenage girl drowning and made it into an up-tempo toe tapper.  BRILLIANT!

Another great Hondells 45 is My Buddy b/w You're Gonna Ride With Me.  Sure, both those songs are on their eponymously titled second LP.  You see it was Ichiban's very own Debbie D that gave me my copy of the picture sleeve, replete with hole in the center of the sleeve courtesy of some thrift store peg, no doubt (see figure 1).  This gift ensured her a lifetime membership to the Hillsdale Records Free 45 Club (an elite subset of humanity in which, not coincidentally, Greg G is also a cardholder).

I could go on, but really the best thing for you to do is scour the record bins for anything that says (G. Usher-R. Christian).  Because all the waxing poetic in the world can't compare with 10 seconds of Honda Holiday. (mp3)

Figure 1

Editor's Note:  I also got Harvey Scales' Loveitis b/w Get Down in that same thrift score!
Johnny Bartlett and I have been pen pals since the early '90s, when I wrote to the Phantom Surfers Fan Club!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gary Usher Month

Fun City, U-S-A
The Surfaris - So Get Out (Produced and arranged by Gary Usher)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Debbie Does WFMU

I'll be playing all Gary Usher inspired songs on the radio today from 3-5 PM EDT.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Muscle Beach Party

Songs written by Gary Usher, Brian Wilson and Roger Christian, the holy trinity of Surf Music!

Gary Usher Month


Musical Director - Gary Usher

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gary Usher Month

Collab w/ Gary Usher

Murray Wilson was not a fan of Gary Usher.  In this 1964 letter to son, Brian, he says that Gary called him a square!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gary Usher & The Twisters

Killer acetate of "Blue Blue Dream" from Kicksville Vol. 3 (Norton)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Gary Usher/Beach Boys

Gary Usher was a producer/songwriter for surf bands in the 50's & 60's.  He co-wrote songs with Brian Wilson for the Beach Boys, including In My Room (mp3).


June is Gary Usher Month on WFMU's Rock 'n' Soul Ichiban.