More Cowbell

More Cowbell

More Cowbell (Photo credit: rzrxtion (pronounced resurrection))

At one time, it was a bell that hung around the neck of a free roaming cow. It’s ring would allow the farmer to keep track of his herd. The use of a cowbell as a musical instrument started in the 1920’s, in traditional American Hillbilly music. Then, in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the cowbell started showing up in popular music like the Chambers brothers song “time has come today” and Hugh masekala’s “grazin in the grass”. The more it was heard on hit songs, the more it grew in popularity. It started appearing in one song after another, “Low Rider” by War, Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen”, “I’m a man” by Chicago, the Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”, “hair of the dog” by Nazereth, Grand Funk’s “American Band”. The list continued to grow like wildfire. The cowbell gained such attention that it eventually became the subject of a Saturday night Live skit called ‘More Cowbell’ featuring comedian Will Farrell. It was a side splitting parody about the recording of the Blue Oyster Cult song “Don’t fear the Reaper”. The use of the cowbell as a musical instrument has way overshadowed its use hanging from a cow’s neck. So much so, that if future archeologists dig up the bones of a cow with a cowbell on it, they will think it was a member of a bovine rock band. click here to take a look at the SNL “More Cowbell” skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken.

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Lou Reed

Cover of "Transformer"

Cover of Transformer

In the late 60s, Lou Reed was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of artist Andy Warhol’s band Velvet Underground.  After quitting the Velvet Underground in August 1970, Lou took a job at his father’s tax accounting firm as a typist, earning $40 a week. Rather than spend the rest of his life swimming around in the secretarial pool, a year later, lou signed a recording contract with RCA.  Joined by some of the top session musicians of the time, including guitarist Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman keyboard player for the band, Yes, Lou recorded his first solo album in London.  The self-titled “Lou Reed” album contained several re-recorded, commercially produced versions of unreleased Velvet Underground songs. Rolling Stone Magazine called it “almost perfect”.  Then, with the help of David Bowie and
Mick Ronson, Lou Reed recorded and released the album, “Transformer”.  On it was a song about the exploits of the hustlers and transvestites that were frequent guests of Andy Warhol’s Factory. ‘Walk on the wild side’ became Lou Reed’s signature song. Lou Reed passed away Sunday, October 27, 2013.
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Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Classic Player 50's

Fender Stratocaster Classic Player 50’s (Photo credit: XoranSorvor)

The Fender Stratocaster was an electric guitar designed by Leo Fender, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares in 1954…and has since become an iconic symbol of rock music.  Buddy Holly was one of the first to use the Fender Stratocaster.  It was that bright, twangy iconic sound heard on most of his songs. Originally, the Strat was only available in a sunburst color, but with it’s growth in popularity, it was later offered in car-like colors that appealed to the surfer and hot-rod bands like the beach boys, and the Ventures. Dick Dale also played the Stratocaster and collaborated with Leo Fender in developing the Fender Showman amplifier. The Stratocaster became the standard blues-rock guitar when it became the guitar of choice for artists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy.  But none made it more popular than the left-handed Jimi Hendrix standing on the stage at Woodstock playing a right-handed strat upside down.

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The real beginning for the Eagles was an audition for Linda Ronstadt. It all happened in about a year…Linda Ronstadt needed a backup band, so she and her manager David Geffen recruited Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner.  They were short a drummer so, Glenn Frey called up a friend,Don Henley, who he had met at the Troubadour. The band backed Linda Ronstadt on her self-titled album and then joined her on a two-month tour.

Eagles in 1972 (l-r) Leadon, Meisner, Henley, ...

Eagles in 1972 (l-r) Leadon, Meisner, Henley, Frey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Afterwards, with her approval and encouragement, they formed their own band calling themselves, Eagles. It was a tip of the hat to the band that set the standard for country rock, the byrds. The Eagles were signed by David Geffen and his new Asylum records and a first album was quickly recorded.  It included the hits, Take it easy, witchy woman, and peaceful easy feeling.  There were many late nights, creative differences and potholes on their road to fame but the eagles went on to become one of the most successful musical acts of all time.  Whether you call them Eagles or ‘the’ Eagles, with music that powerful…names, labels and categories don’t really apply.

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Breakfast in America

Cover of "Breakfast in America"

Cover of Breakfast in America

According to keyboardist Rick Davies of Supertramp, the members of the band didn’t want to appear on the album covers because they didn’t want fans to watch them grow old.  After the band moved to the united states, artist Mike Doud drew several illustration for the next Supertramp Album Breakfast in America.  He tried combining breakfast and America in his sketches.  One of the drawings had a giant cheerio rolling down Arizona’s Monument Valley into a lake of Milk.  The Band, however, preferred the sketch of the Statue of Liberty Holding a glass of orange juice over Manhattan Island.  Wanting a real model to play the statue of liberty, they found a matronly woman and dressed her as a waitress.  Doud’s Assistant, Mick Haggerty, built an amazing miniature of Manhattan out of breakfast dishes and utensils.  Haggerty, an Englishman, called the album cover shot…”a west coast treatment of an East Coast icon.” In 1980, Supertramp’s breakfast in America won a Grammy for best recording package … You can find more stories like this and the music behind it at

Faces – Ooh La La

Album Designer Jim Ladwig, had run across a 1930s toothpaste ad featuring a photo of radio star Fred Allen with eyes and mouth that moved when a tab was pulled. Ladwig constructed an album sized model of the ad and showed it to Faces member Ron Wood who said ‘Ooh La La.’ Jim Ladwigs design eventually worked its way onto the cover of the Faces Album Ooh La la…replacing the face of Fred Allen with the face of a 1920’s italien Comedian…complete with moving eyes and Jaw. The album turned out to be the Last for the band Faces. Rod Stewart was distracted by his solo career and was showing less and less interest in being front man for any band. Although, he had recorded the voice for the title track…it was not used nor was the version recorded by Ronnie Lane. Instead, producer Glyn Johns suggested that Ron wood give it a try. That was the track used on the song. After the release, Rod Stewart had some very harsh words to say about Faces and the album Ooh La La. Ronnie lane quit a few months later and the band fell apart shortly afterwards.

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