Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 5, 2015

Austin Christmas Outing

Filed under: At home,Austin,Food,Music — Janice @ 11:26 pm

I just got in from a fun night feeling the holiday spirit.

Each year, KUT radio has a carol sing-a-long on the steps of the State capitol and they light the city’s downtown Christmas tree (as opposed to the Zilker Park “holiday tree” created from the moontower there). I have never been to this downtown event, although I have admired the downtown tree many times. In my early days in Austin, it was always a real tree and was brought in from somewhere. It wasn’t a giant tree like in Washington or Rockefeller Center, but big enough. A few years ago the city changed to an artificial tree. It’s a cone-shaped, quite obvious fake tree, but still pretty and festive. 2015-12-05 19.24.01

I heard the commercials this week for the singalong and asked my friend Deidre if she might want to go. She had plans for later in the evening, but we decided we could do it all. So tonight I met up with Deidre and two of her friends that have become my friends and we went downtown. The whole event was bigger than we expected. Finding parking wasn’t easy, but with the beautiful weather we didn’t mind the walk.

In front of the capitol were truly thousands of people in the dark, under the trees, singing Christmas carols along with a piano player and a songleader/disc jockey from the radio station. Programs with lyrics were passed out so everyone could sing all four verses of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Giant projectors were casting big stars in kaleidoscopes across the building front. We sang along with great gusto on Feliz Navidad and Jingle Bells and many more. Then there was a 10 down to 1 countdown the tree was lit.

Along with the tree lighting was a whole little festival down on Congress. Booths selling food and drinks and homemade products and crafts and artwork. We strolled a bit before we got to the singing to see what they had. And then there were bands playing on each end of the street after the singing ended, so there was lots to do and see. I didn’t know there would be so much.

2015-12-05 19.24.49After, we walked down Congress and enjoyed the lights and the people-watching. Deidre knows MANY people and she was greeting someone about every block. We found a semi-fancy Italian pizza place to have some food. From the street it seemed like a bar and a utilitarian Italian restaurant. Getting inside, though, it was easier to see it was a little more upscale than I usually frequent and full of many young urban dwellers. They did have great food and we had some awesome pizza.

We ended the night where Deidre had planned on going originally: a beer garden south of the river that had a reunion of a band she had loved in the past, Black Before Red. I had never heard of them before, but they did have interesting songs with really unique melodies and chords and great lyrics, too. I may never get to hear them again, but it was a really good experience and a good night. 11058118_10153756154829346_7686185045814933066_o

Deidre’s friend Rebecca has lived in Austin a year longer than I have and comes from the Panhandle just like me. She and I were discussing how we don’t DO these Austin-y things like we once did. When we moved to Austin we were exploring different parts of town and going to the festivals and trying new restaurants. Now we do the same things over and over and stick to the familiar. She said, “You know the nickname of Austin, right?” I said, “What? The Violet Crown?” She said, “No, the new nickname is the Velvet Rut.” That described it. It’s comfortable, beautiful, and yet too familiar. I was glad to get out of the rut tonight.

I’ll steal Deidre’s selfie to show you the girls celebrating on Congress.

September 24, 2014

Befuddled and bewildered

Filed under: At home,Music,Normal Life — Janice @ 10:16 pm

 

Mark and I saw a news story tonight about the transportation service “Uber” and how it is working in Austin. Mark said a friend he knew was participating and carrying passengers for Uber.

“Who’s doing that?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m having a senior moment and can’t think of his name. It’ll come to me. Piano player.”

“Mike Farrell?”

“No.”

“Hmmmmm… T. Jarrod Bonta?”

“No.”

“Earl Poole Ball? Nick Connally?”

“No, not them.”

“Uhhh… that old guy that looks like you?” (I was having my own senior moment.)

Mark just ignored that one.

“He lives just around the corner. Used to play with Jack Ingram.”

Oh, I think, I should know who was playing with Jack Ingram, but I can only think of Bukka Allen and I knew that wasn’t who he was talking about.

“He also played with Jimmy LaFave, but not Radoslav.” (Okay, he’s an accordion player to me, I don’t ever think of him on keyboards.)

I keep coming back to “played with Jack” but I can’t remember any keyboard players with Jack.

“Oh, it’ll come to me. Give it time.”

We watch Modern Family and another show. Then …

“Chip Dolan!”

“Okay. Sure. Chip Dolan!” I say. “Now what was it we were talking about?”

December 16, 2013

Ray Price, again

Filed under: Music — Janice @ 11:12 pm

Ray Price died today, officially. His son apparently jumped the gun yesterday and posted it and the news organizations of the world printed obituaries. All were retracted and then run today with the extra paragraph about the first errors in reporting his death. Mark has had some Ray Price playing around the house yesterday and today and has taught me more about the Ray Price shuffle, the sound all good drummers adore (and Mark is one of the best at playing it).

And the picture I was seeking finally appeared tonight:

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I don’t think I have any audio from that day at all. But good memories. I was wearing my hiking boots because the mud was bad. It had rained a lot that week (in July! unheard of!) and everything was muddy and hard to get to. We were set up in a tent in the backstage area, far away from the stage and the show. But from time to time when the station was going to play a couple or three songs, I would make my way through the mud and slip out into the crowd so I could get a little bit of feel of what was going on on the stage so I could talk about it on the radio. I mean, that’s why I was there, right? I did that a couple of times early in the day, but then, at one point, when I came back to the backstage gate I had been in and out of several times, they would NOT let me back in. Backstage pass or not, I was out of luck. I had to hoof it hard and heavy to another gate and get in that way. I know I barely made it back that time and was huffing and puffing on the microphone. Of course, it made for a good story that I could use on the air.

I’m glad I interviewed Ray Price that day. I don’t remember having any other phenomenal interviews. Since Willie’s show doesn’t happen until midnight at a picnic, I never had him on the air. Yes, he was around. I am sure he was playing with each act, like he does, but I didn’t have him on for some reason or another. I won’t name names, but I mostly interviewed minor players, except for Ray. Lots of acts were delayed because of the traffic trying to get to the picnic. I was fortunate that I had gone out early that morning. I think Toby Keith was one artist that had his bus stuck in the backup for hours and his set time had to change.

But, back to Ray Price. I hope more recognition comes to him now. Yes, it would have been nicer if he had had more of it during his lifetime. At least he had a full career that lasted his entire long life and so many others either didn’t have the long life (Hank) or their career dropped off dramatically before their long life ended (Faron Young). Lefty Frizzell seems to have gotten more respect after he died than before (or maybe that’s just me), but I hope there is even more love coming Ray Price’s way now.

Michael Corcoran, a terrific Austin music writer, wrote a piece about Ray Price this week called “For the Good Times…My Ass.” It is well worth reading to learn more about the man and to see a much better photo of Ray Price taken by my husband, Mark Hays.

I just got off on a tangent of watching YouTube videos of Ray Price and found his induction into the Hall of Fame. It gives you some of the reasons Ray Price was so important in country music. Interesting to see Lyle Lovett on the front row of the CMAs, too. I wish the Hall of Fame inductees still received this kind of recognition each year, but they do not, sadly. Bobby Bare barely got to stand and tip his hat last month. But that is another tangent. This other video of Ray Price is not a great one… just one from someone’s phone at Gruene Hall 7 months ago. But it shows how beautiful his voice was right up until the end. And how he was still putting on a great show.

 

Holidailies 2013 Badge

December 15, 2013

My Organization and Ray Price

Filed under: Austin,Music,My Job,Radio stuff — Janice @ 11:09 pm

Ray Price is dead. Or Ray Price is not dead. This is one of the weirder cases I’ve seen of someone jumping the gun on a death. Apparently an “official” kind of source (like his son) said, Yes, he is dead, and all the good magazines and news outlets (like Rolling Stone) went with it and printed obituaries. Then someone else came along and said, no, he’s not dead.

Mark took some amazing pictures of Ray Price at a Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic in about 2008, I think. I wasn’t at it. I was driving home from celebrating in Denton listening to it on the radio, though, and it was interesting to hear it and then hear Mark’s version of the disorganized mess it really was.

But today it dawns on me that I interviewed Ray Price back in my radio heyday, too. He was part of Willie’s picnic when it was at Spicewood. I do not know the date on that one, but I’m guessing 2004? 2005? I have put the word out and hope to find out soon.

I hope finding the year will help me find my photos! I think we were a digital world by that time. I know I have many pictures of that day. It was a very muddy mess and I wore true hiking boots because the muck was so thick. I have pictures meeting the Keller Brothers (who later became friends and Mark’s bandmates). I have a picture of me with the South Austin Jug Band with Willie Pipkin, another bandmate of Mark’s. I have a picture of someone from the Grateful Dead being interviewed. And me interviewing Bill Mack, the legendary disc jockey, and a picture of us doing the “grip and grin.” And I know I have a picture of me interviewing Ray Price. No g-n-g of us, but me interviewing him. But I can’t find it.

I hate that my organization is ALWAYS like this. I never can seem to put my hands on THE picture that I want. I hope I can find it before he is really gone. A very nice man. I don’t think the interview was anything special. But I have seen him perform since then and he was still incredible. He was better than either Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard and he was older than both.

April 7, 2013

Playing a Record

Filed under: At home,Music — Janice @ 8:01 pm

I played a record yesterday. A real, vinyl record. It’s one of those things I think about doing often, usually while I’m at work or in the car. By the time I’m home and settling in, there are other things to do besides listening to a record.

I miss listening to records like I did as a teenager and it’s not something that I can do again. It’s a thing of the past. In those days, if I bought a new record, I had probably desired it for a while. Or maybe I knew one song from the radio and was intrigued by that one song enough to invest the $7 or $8 it cost for the album (later $13 to $15!). I would buy an album and then I would LIVE with that album for a long time before I invested in another. I would listen to it, sometimes on headphones, and look at the liner notes, the lyrics, the pictures, the cover… and absorb everything. Usually my mother got a good dose of an album when I bought it, too, because I would have it blasting through the house. I remember specifically that she did NOT like Billy Joel’s “Anthony’s Song” (was that on The Stranger or Glass Houses? Probably The Stranger since I know I listened to it a LOT). It has that chorus about “heart attack-ack-ack-ack…” and that got on Mom’s nerves. On the other hand, she did like Jerry Jeff Walker’s song “Will There Be Any?” from Walker’s Collectibles. The full lyric of the song, sung hymn-like, was “Will there be any, up in heaven? Will there be any, I’ve got to know. Will there be any, up in heaven? Lord, before I go I’ve got to know… I’ve got to know.”

I lived with Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player by Elton John, The Stranger by Billy Joel, Viva Terlingua by Jerry Jeff Walker, one of the Asleep at the Wheel albums, Best of Bread, Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, Chicago VII, and many more.

The album I put on yesterday was Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams. That was a HUGE album as I started college. There was a big poster from the album in our studio at the West Texas State radio station. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately after seeing the great documentary about the Eagles that is on Showtime right now. She was every girl’s ideal and every man’s dream. Gorgeous. Gorgeous voice. The song “Blue Bayou” was on that album along with “It’s So Easy,” though I had forgotten “It’s So Easy” was from that album.

We have an old record player that Mark had refurbished. It had belonged to his mother in college, so it is a true record player from the beginnings of LPs. Putting a record on it brought back so many memories. First, I realized how it isn’t easy to put a record onto a spindle! I don’t know how long it has been since I’ve done that. Even over the last 20 years when I’ve played records they are usually played on a turntable with just the short spindle and you play one record at a time. This was the kind of record player where you can stack them up and the arm holds them all steady and somehow manages to drop only one record at a time to keep the music going. But trying to make that little hole fit over that tall spindle was a challenge. I’m sure it was never a challenge in my young days.

The sound that I really loved and would never have thought about it again was the sound of the needle when it first hits the vinyl. It hits on the vinyl, but not in a groove and there is this moment of hesitancy as you wait for it to hit the groove. Then, there it is, it “gets in the groove” and there is another second or split-second of riding that groove before the first notes hit. Big bass notes in the case of “Blue Bayou.”

I had also forgotten about the turntable rumble. This record player was not made to be turned up loud enough to be heard off in the kitchen. It was designed for listening in the same room, maybe rolling up the carpet and having a sock hop even. But trying to turn up the volume so I could hear it further than 10 feet away didn’t work. Rumble rumble. The mechanics at work underneath that record were coming through loud and clear. That was always a concern at a radio station. Program directors did not like it when the quiet part of a record played and you could hear the turntable running underneath.

I listened to Linda all the way through a few times. We’ve gotten accustomed to albums being about 55 or 60 minutes long now, but back then a side was usually about 20 to 22 minutes long. It goes by pretty fast before that needle picks up and starts that side again. Or in the case yesterday, the needle picks up and then sets back down at the 7-inch point where it would sit down if it were repeating a 45 instead of an LP. It wasn’t the fault of a setting, it was a fault of the mechanics that we need to look into.

Finally I turned the “reject” knob so that the tone arm picked itself up and set itself down on its dock and everything shut off. One album was enough for this experiment. There is a lot of talk about whether vinyl sounds better than a CD or an mp3. I agree it CAN sound better on the right stereo equipment. For me, yesterday, it wasn’t so much a matter of the sound I was seeking, it was a matter of the memory. I didn’t need to live in my old house again, I just needed to drive through the neighborhood.

February 10, 2013

The GRAMMYS are Tonight

Filed under: Music,My Job — Janice @ 10:37 am

Tonight I will watch the Grammy awards. I will probably watch just a LITTLE behind real time so that when a boring act is performing I can zip through without having to endure it. What will be the boring acts? I don’t know yet, but I usually can do without the rap artists and since Frank Ocean is one of the hot new artists he probably will perform and I can probably do without him. Who would I like to see perform on the Grammys? I don’t even know who is supposed to be on it, but I think I would like to see Fun. perform since I find myself singing their song Some Nights in my head a lot, and the new one Carry On, too. And I always look forward to the In Memoriam tribute. This year’s should include Dick Clark and Davy Jones and many others that have completely slipped my mind. Last year Whitney Houston died on the eve of the Grammys and it completely changed their program for the night. They have been lucky this year and haven’t had to rework the whole program to pay tribute to a superstar.

My good friend Jenni is AT the Grammys tonight. I will be looking for her, too. She is a record promoter to radio and the album she promoted that was a Tribute to Guy Clark is up for a Grammy and deserves it. I will be watching to see if it wins. I don’t know if she gets to accept if it wins, but I will be very happy for her if it does. And for Guy and for all my friends that were on that album (Jack Ingram, for one). I wonder if they all get Grammy statuettes if they win?

I wrote a blog for our company blog about the country nominees for this year, if you would like to read it. I realized I might want to put it here before the Grammys so you could know I made these predictions before the Grammys and not after. We know how good my Super Bowl predictions were (well, maybe we don’t… they sucked… I predicted no winner correctly until the Super Bowl itself, when I didn’t really care at all). My music predictions may not be any better. We will see tonight. The link to the company blog is here, but I’ll put the whole text here in case the company links change. The link is visually pretty, I will say, and has videos of the some of the artists I picked. It is worth reading there if you have the time.

By the way, my company has recently become Mood Media and that has been big news this week, too.

—–

Around the halls of our Austin office, I am the “country music expert.”  I know I’m not the only one that likes country music, but I am the one that comes from a long line of country music lovers (Dad was partial to Western swing and grew up dancing to Hoyle Nix and his West Texas Cowboys while Pappa was a truck driver so you know he liked Dave Dudley’s Six Days on the Road). Plus, I have played a lot of Willie Nelson and George Strait on the radio in my disc jockey days.

So with those impeachable credentials, I thought I would handicap the upcoming Grammy awards country categories for you. The 55thAnnual Grammy Awards will be presented and televised on CBS February 10th.

Just a few years back, there were seven categories of awards for country. With the recent cuts the Grammys made, country only has four categories now:  Best Album, Best Song, Best Duo or Group Performance, and Best Solo Performance. No more instrumental category or male/female awards.

Before we dive in let me give myself an out, in case my predictions for the Grammys are as bad as my predictions were for the Superbowl (Go Cowboys!). The Grammys have traditionally not been a reflection of what is played on country radio or what is even classified as country in the record stores. In a world where some of us still categorize a whole bunch of songs as “disco” when that term isn’t even used, and what I label as “disco” would be filed under about a dozen different labels to a lover of the dance genre, country is not easy to label either. Since the Grammy Awards are nominated and voted on by people in the music industry that are very aware of music, but sometimes aren’t as aware of what is popular in the REAL world, fans of country music have gotten angry at some choices. In 1989, Lyle Lovett and k.d. lang were the male and female “Vocalists of the Year” in the country category. Both great vocalists with terrific followings and, arguably, their music is country, but since they had not had hits on country radio, country music fans were aghast. More recently, the Dixie Chicks continued to win country music Grammys after their fall from grace in country radio and their sound had taken a decidedly more pop turn. The Eagles, a rock band from the start, won a country Grammy in 2007. I’m  keeping that quirkiness of the Grammys in mind as I make my picks:

BEST COUNTRY SONG

Nominated:
“Blown Away” (Carrie Underwood sang it)
“Cost Of Livin’” (Ronnie Dunn sang it and wrote half of it)
“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (the Eli Young Band sang it)
“So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore” (Alan Jackson sang it)
“Springsteen” (Eric Church sang it and wrote some of it)

Ronnie Dunn and Alan Jackson are well-known names and have had a long string of hits, but these two songs were stiffs. The other songs were all Top 10 hits. Carrie Underwood is well established in Nashville now. The Eli Young Band and Eric Church are still gaining their footing on the scene. Personally, I think “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore” is the “best” song of the bunch, if I’m judging them on the basis of the writing, the meaning, and whether it is a country song. Since (I think) the Grammy judges don’t look at that, I say the Grammy goes to Springsteen by Eric Church. They’ve heard of Springsteen (the artist, not the song) and, therefore, it gets their vote.

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

Nominated:
Uncaged by the Zac Brown Band
Hunter Hayes by Hunter Hayes
Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran by Jamey Johnson
Four The Record by Miranda Lambert
The Time Jumpers by The Time Jumpers

My favorite, hands down, is The Time Jumpers. Full disclosure, I haven’t heard all of the others all of the way through. The Jamey Johnson album is very good and a great tribute to one of the great songwriters of country music (he wrote “I Fall to Pieces,” “He’s Got You” and “The Chair” among so many more). Sometimes those albums get the Grammy because of the subject matter. Not this year. This year the Zac Brown will get a well-deserved Grammy. They’ve only had one before (for their collaboration with Alan Jackson on “As She’s Walking Away”). They’ll get recognition this year to make up for lost time.

And I’ll throw this in here… Hunter Hayes is up for Best New Artist along with Fun., the Lumineers, Frank Ocean, and Alabama Shakes. He won’t win, but it is quite an honor for him to be in there. He does have quite a future. He became a YouTube sensation at four years old singing “Jambalaya.”

Now, at 21, he is touring with Carrie Underwood and really showing his talents. It is nice that the Grammys are noticing him.

BEST COUNTRY DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

Nominated:
“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” by the Eli Young Band
“Pontoon” by Little Big Town
“Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars
“On The Outskirts Of Town” by The Time Jumpers
“I Just Come Here For The Music” by Don Williams Featuring Alison Krauss

Taylor Swift won two Grammys last year (and four the year before that) but I think she’ll go home empty handed this time. This song with the Civil Wars was in The Hunger Games, but didn’t get any attention beyond that. Don Williams came out of his retirement to tour and record an album and that should have been huge news, but since Nashville is fickle and likes the shiny new artists, he won’t win either.  The Time Jumpers (have I mentioned I love the Time Jumpers?) includes multi-Grammy-winning artist Vince Gill, but his shine has gotten tarnished over the years, too, and he will likely be ignored. Between the other 2? I’m going to say the Eli Young Band will take this one home. I hope they do. Full disclosure:  I’ve known these guys since they were barely out of the University of North Texas. They played a great Texas Music Series I hosted years ago and even then I didn’t think they had the right sound for the Texas music we were promoting. They had the big-time Nashville sound and they have developed it and improved and are really a great band onstage and in the studio. I’m pulling for them. And if you don’t know, it’s Mike Eli and James Young (there is no “Eli Young”) along with Jon Jones and Chris Thompson. Nice guys who have worked hard to get where they are today.

BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE

Nominated:
“Home” by Dierks Bentley
“Springsteen” by Eric Church
“Cost Of Livin”‘ by Ronnie Dunn
“Wanted” by Hunter Hayes
“Over” by Blake Shelton
“Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood

Six artists made it into this category. I wonder if they decided they needed to include ONE female artist and opened it up bigger to get Carrie Underwood included? It doesn’t matter; she won’t take it home this year. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that Blake Shelton gets the Grammy. He’s never won one before and since The Voice came along, he’s known to everyone that knows Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. That will go far and now he’ll have a Grammy to balance out the one his wife Miranda Lambert got 2 years ago.

I will be curious to see how many of these awards get prime time coverage on the Grammy television broadcast. Maybe I should predict that, too. I say they will show the Best Solo Performance award because they will want to show Blake Shelton on TV (unless they don’t want to promote a competing network?) and there is a chance they will show the Best Album. Who knows? But I will be watching and we can dish about it afterward.

– Submitted by Janice Williams, Music Design

January 4, 2013

Musical Deaths in 2012

Filed under: Music,My Job,Radio stuff,Taphophilia — Janice @ 12:03 am

When I went through my diary for 2012 I made note of which celebrities made it into the diary. Sure, I made note of ALL of them in my Obit Club on Facebook and emailed about them with my friends. If I were still in radio I would have been spinning the songs from the people that were musical. But only a few were famous enough to be remembered ALL the way until I went to bed and thought about them that night. I  may have missed one, but the celebrities that were famous enough for my diary in 2012 were:  Whitney Houston, Davy Jones, Dick Clark, Kitty Wells, and Nora Ephron.  A disc jockey/TV personality, 3 musicians/singers, and a writer.

I saw a good video today from the New York Times that had the musical deaths of 2012 and short clips of their music. It’s here for you. Short commercial at the beginning. Etta James is the very first one. Mark worked with her a couple of times over the last few years. This week he was framing up some pictures he took of her and also a cool poster he took down from a telephone pole in Dallas from a concert. It looks like a poster from the 1950s, but it was a concert in the 1990s or so. When he worked with her at the Paramount Theater he had her autograph it for him. He is framing it up for display now. It’s a good one.

Mark’s been framing a lot of the pictures of artists he has worked with and had the opportunity to photograph. For Christmas he gave a photo of B.B. King to one nephew and a photo of Tony Bennett to the other. It’s nice to be able to tell them each good stories about how nice these legends are in person and what a joy it is to work with them, around them, for them. I suppose Mark has lots of pictures in his computer of artists that were jerks to him, but they never make it to print and certainly don’t get framed.

Post Script: When I think of musical deaths, I think of two more recent ones. I was in my current job as a contractor when Michael Jackson died. I was in a small office and my boss was working across the hall in her office. I had seen some new flashes about Michael Jackson being in the hospital, but certainly didn’t expect it to be The End. Suddenly, my boss shouts from her office, loud enough for us all, up and down the hall, to hear, “Holy Shit, Michael Jackson is dead.” There was still some speculation that it wasn’t true, but confirmation wasn’t long in coming on that one. The other memory was in the same job, but just this year when Whitney Houston died. She died on a weekend and I don’t remember how I heard, probably like everyone, from the computer (and my ever-ready Obit Club), and there were tributes on TV and news stories about her all weekend long. On Monday afternoon – afternoon—at work we were at our cubicles all working away (new building, new arrangement) and a co-worker that is still living in a technological void pipes up with “Whitney Houston is dead!” We all said, Yes, we knew. And added under our breath that we had the Internet, a TV, and friends.

November 19, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

Filed under: Music — Janice @ 9:13 pm

There used to be things that nice people didn’t talk about in public. I am quite happy that many of those things went away with the 1950s.

But I think the time has come to bring back the idea of discretion for a bunch of them again. This was just brought on as I read down my Facebook newsfeed and I started reading a post – I kid you not – about ovaries and cycles and that was as far as I got. The person writing is a woman I barely know. I have met her 2 or 3 or 4 times over the last 10 years. We have been associated because we were bloggers before the rest of the world knew what bloggers were. She is an interesting, funny person, and I fully support her right to talk about her ovaries and her cycle and her attempt to get pregnant and any other deeply personal thing she want to share with the world in her blog. But on Facebook? Come on now!

September 3, 2012

Labor Day/Labor Free

Filed under: Music — Janice @ 9:41 pm

What a nice relaxing Labor Day weekend. It all went by too quickly, but it was a good one.

The highlight of it all was a very special concert in San Marcos for my friend Lucky Tomblin. Lucky and his wife Becky are friends of mine because of my friends Marsha and Denise. I remember when Marsha booked Lucky’s band at our music series many years ago and I had never heard of them at all. They were not in the same Texas music scene that most of our artists were in (there are SO many Texas music scenes!), but I quickly learned how deep Lucky’s commitment to Texas music was and how hard he had worked over the years to promote Texas music and, better yet, to encourage art.

This concert was a big thank you to Lucky and his family for all they’ve done for musicians, for their community, for the organization CASA, for the public schools in San Marcos, for Texas State University, and on and on. Everyone had a story about Lucky’s generosity. I’ve seen it myself in many ways and heard stories of it. Of course the stories are always from the one who received the benefits or someone they told about it. Lucky and his family do it quietly and behind the scenes and without a second thought or expectation of return. 

The music was provided by so many musicians, including the Lucky Tomblin Band with many guest musicians including my sweet husband Mark, and Teri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines and Ponty Bone, Delbert McClinton, Shawn Sahm, Lisa Mills, and an all-star blues band with Denny Freeman and Derek O’Brien and Frosty on the drums. And there were many more. Oh, and I forgot Pianorama and that was my favorite part! Five pianos going at the same time with some of my favorite piano players: Floyd Domino, Earl Poole Ball, Emily Gimble, and Nick Connolley.  And it was in a beautiful venue, too, the Texas Music Theater on the square in downtown San Marcos. A great night from start to finish.

May 1, 2012

My Job, Part I

Filed under: Music,My Job,Normal Life — Janice @ 10:28 am

I have never written about my job in detail here, so I want to give you a taste of what I do.

I have had several jobs in my life that people say “Oh how cool!” Being a DJ, obviously, was one of those that people thought would be super fun. It was. Now I have a job with the title “Music Designer,” just like someone might be an Interior Designer, I design the music for a business. Again, people say “How cool!” Lots of co-workers in the building think it is the coolest job in the company and are envious. They are right. It is.

So what does a Music Designer do? Truly, there are a lot of boring parts in most days, just like any job. I usually start my day (late) and read the emails that have come in and deal with anything urgent there. Urgent might mean that a program I have running has run out of songs and needs to be updated. That is rare since we get warnings if that email is going to be coming. Urgent might be questions from my boss or co-workers. The worst urgent is an email telling me that one of my programs has profanity or some other unacceptable song in it and it needs to be re-issued (we call it “republished”) immediately. This can be bad news for the company because the cost involved can be very high. If, for instance, you do the music for a store with 1000 stores in the chain, we might have to re-print 1000 discs (they aren’t CDs, but similar) and send them by a speedy method to 1000 locations. A $10 mailing charge times 1000 locations? You can see why we do NOT want to get an email like that.

So that leads to a lot of what I do …  While many people picture me listening to music I like and just bopping along, enjoying the tune, a lot of my time is spent listening to music I expect to use in a program and checking it for profanity or other things we don’t want in a song (some people don’t want religious references, some don’t want drinking references, most don’t want references to morbid subjects, like suicide, etc.). Friday I was listening to 7 to 10 songs by the heavy metal band Avenge Sevenfold (I think that was their name) for these things. Surprisingly, they were mostly acceptable. No, this isn’t music that I would choose to put into anyone’s program, but I have a casino in Connecticut as a client and they like to have music in their program by the artists that are performing there that week. This band is playing there in June so I needed to get their music into the program. The week after this band, there was an 80s dance music show with about 10 performers on the bill. The only one I recognized was Vanilla Ice, so I included Ice, Ice, Baby, of course, and then I had to see if there were songs in our database by the other performers and then find out which ones (if any) were hits that people might recognize (since I didn’t) and then I had to listen to all of them and see what lyric problems they might have. Heavy metal, rap and dance, and who knows what. This casino has so many different styles of music it is rather weird to have them all in the same program. As a Music Designer, I would NOT recommend it, but they are the client. And when I am in a casino and I hear the noise levels of the machine and the people and barely hear the music, I realize that it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.

When I’ve finished with a little project like that, I might go to work on another client’s music, gathering appropriate songs and compiling them for their monthly update. Each client is different in what combination of types of music they want, so I have to remind myself of their current program and then go hunting. Right now I have 3 clients that use a LOT of Texas Country music. That is one of my specialties, so I have been working to get licensing for a lot of the artists from Texas so that we can use their music. I also try to put their music in other programs to make it worth their while to go through the hassle of being licensed with us (we do pay them, it is worth it). Some of my clients have lots of the current top 40 music in their programs. Some of these songs on the charts are songs I don’t use in any other programs, so, again, I have to listen to them and familiarize myself with them. Some I may choose NOT to use because even though the client THINKS they want all the hits, I can hear that some of these are too far out there for them or the themes are too dark or too sexy or something. I use my judgment on these things. But it requires me listening to a whole lot of music that I don’t like.

But I also take care of a lot of programs that are not specifically for one client, but many might use the program. Stuff like “hits from the 60s,” “hits from the 50s,” “country,” “traditional country,” “bluegrass,” etc. I enjoy most of these because there is a clear-cut delineation of what works and what doesn’t work on most of them. Was it a hit? Is it the right era or genre? This week I did a lot of work on the 60s program. It is ever-evolving because our technology upgrades and then I can use better versions of the same song, so I am always looking to see if I can find a better quality version of songs that are already in the program. Many times I do checks and realize that there are missing songs from an artist. Perhaps when someone else started this program we didn’t have that song, or maybe I missed it at some time, or we didn’t have it. But now, I am looking at, say, hits by the Supremes and I realize “Hey, I loved the song The Happening. Why isn’t it in here?” I’ll go and check and find that we do have it and I’ll add it. Or, if we don’t have it and I think it is important enough to have in the program, I’ll go searching for it in other databases where we can buy music and request it. I did that last week with Neil Sedaka’s slow 70s version of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. And that made me think of Tony Christie’s song “Amarillo,” which was written by Neil Sedaka and was a minor hit for Christie, but I still wanted it, so I requested it, too.

A LOT of my time is that “oh that reminds me” thing that leads me far afield from the program I am working on. Or I’ll be working on, say, the 70s program and realize that one of these hits would be perfect for a restaurant I have music in so I’ll save that song in their folder so I’ll come back to it when their time comes. Or I’ll go see the whole list of songs by that artist and pull several for that restaurant or other stores. I may throw them out later when I come back to it, but at least it give me a start on finding their music.

Well, that’s enough for this entry of “What I Do.” This stuff fills up most of my time in most of my days, but isn’t my full job. We’ll get to that another day.

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