Friday, September 30, 2011

The Marshmellow Tugboat

I'm departing from my regular posting regimen of art to post about something that I think is pretty neat. Click on the photographs to enlarge.

On a recent Saturday my wife Julie and I were hitting garage and rummage sales and as usual I was digging for records. I came across a 45 by The Marshmellow Tugboat - Michelle, Be My Girl b/w Please Don't Go, on the Blue Coral Productions label. This looked like it could be a real nice find.

After we got home I hit the omnipotent internet to find out about The Marshmellow Tugboat and the record. I couldn't find anything, not one thing. This was pretty rare. I typically have no trouble finding scads of information about almost any record that I look into. Julie had the idea to try to find the songwriter, Eddie Sandas. After some googling she found a lead. So I sent an email to an Eddie Sandas and sure enough he was the songwriter from The Marshmellow Tugboat! He is still in the entertainment business representing artists and various venues.

Being a record/music freak and not a music writer it is difficult to put into words what I think, but I'll give it a try.

Recorded in The Summer of Love, 1967 this record, to me, is a 100% classic. This record and band epitomizes what was happening in that incredible era, the golden era of Rock and Roll. Rock bands were popping up in garages and recording in studios all over the USA. There was so much great music happening that there was no way that every worthy band was ever going to get discovered and make it big. But that in no way takes away from the talent and ability that so many of these amazing regional and local bands had. The Marshmellow Tugboat is the perfect example of this historical phenomenon. Michelle, Be My Girl has all the great elements of a hit record. I like this record so much that I will be contacting Sundazed about this blog post and I hope that they give the record a listen. They've reissued some incredible "unknown" bands' records, so who knows…

Michelle, Be My Girl is an upbeat, straight-ahead rocking pop love song. The horns set the stage and the vocals kick right in with a Wall of Sound thing happening, but the mix is detailed enough to hear the separate instruments. The piano detail adds a cool little flourish and the drumming is dead on, always keeping a solid beat and adding in runs where they fit. The bass holds everything together with a sturdy melodic beat.  The lead vocal fits into the mix and the surrounding harmonies are sophisticated yet simple and somewhat Beatlesque. I love the high "oooooooooohhhh" that finishes off the two breaks and the ad lib scatting right before the trumpet solo. The trumpet somehow reminds me of Penny Lane.  I'm not saying that Michelle (another Beatles reference?), Be My Girl is a Beatles derivative. That is definitely not the case. The lyrics, music and way cool production are their own thing and the song has it's own unique character.

Please Don't Go kicks off with a drum and horn intro and then gets right to the point. This is a classic slow-dance love song melody where the guy is pleading for his girl to stay with him. The drumming is rock solid; the transitions into and out of the piano and horn(s) solos are quite nice. The bass again holds down the beat in a bit of a counter point to the drumming. Again the production on this song is way cool.  All of the instruments meld together to make the perfect accompaniment to the lead vocal. I love the piano and horn(s) solos and how the horns lead back to the lead vocal. And the guitar arpeggios, again way cool. For a group of young men, The Marshmellow Tugboat really had it going on.

Via email Eddie Sandas sent along some great information about the band and the record, including a scan of a poster! (He is the young man on the right in the striped shirt.) I thought it would be best to post his words rather than do a rewrite so you could hear directly from the group's songwriter. Here is the email:

1) The band was formed in 1966 and based out of Merrill Wis. 4 guys (originally lead, rhythm, bass and drums) with 3 lead singers. Guitar player doubled on trumpet and the bass player and myself doubled on Tenor and Alto sax. The first member change was in 1967 when one of the guitar players was drafting for Vietnam. At that time I switched from drums to keys and we got a new drummer. Over the next 4 years several other member changes were made until the group broke up around 1969-70.

2) The session that you have was recorded in 1967 at the Kennedy studios in Milwaukee. At the time the group was called the Poor Boys but by the time the record was released the band's name was changed to Marshmellow Tugboat. We did one more session in 1969 at a studio in Valparaiso Fla. which was owed by Shelby Singleton of Harper Valley PTA fame.

3) I always thought this was pretty cool for a 16 year old, I wrote the horn parts in the van on the way to the session which were all performed by the guys in the band. The horns parts were never played or rehearsed until we got to the studio that day.

4) Blue Coral Production was just a name that I made up for the label. We only cut 500 records which were mainly sold in a 50 mile radius of Merrill. I find it very interesting that you found a copy in Indy. Someone from Merrill must have moved!

Wausau, Wis bringing together numerous old bands from the 60's over a 2 day period. We performed with all but one of the original members and it was a hoot! We actually ended up sounding pretty darn good.

A couple of days after I had traded emails with Eddie I got this note from Bruce Kanitz (he is second from the left on the poster):

My name is Bruce Kanitz and I am(was) the drummer for the Marshmellow Tugboat and did the lead vocals on Please Don't Go and harmony on Michelle Be My Girl. I had a discussion with Eddie yesterday about your emails and what you are doing.  I think this is awesome and very interesting. Eddie did send me a copy of your emails and I opened an account with Soundcloud, clicked on your link and enjoyed every minute of our recording. I do have a copy of our 45 on my jukebox and selectively play it for family, friends, etc. Those were definitely some of the best times of my life playing with that group. After that group I continued playing with various groups for approximately 15 more years and still have my drums just in case.

It is excellent that Eddie and Bruce took the time to write up share this information. Big and huge thanks to them.  This has been great, great fun.

P.S. I'd love to hear the music from the session in Florida!

Click here to listen to Michelle, Be My Girl b/w Please Don't Go by The Marshmellow Tugboat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Photographs From Kewanna Visit

Kewanna, Indiana
(Click on the photographs to enlarge)

Monday, September 12, 2011

2 Photographers Works In Progress

Please head over to the 2 Photographers Works In Progress blog for a new post about my "Truth From Perceptions" project.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kewanna Visit August 31, 2011

Here is a short video by Satch from our recent visit to Kewanna as referenced in the post regarding the James Russell retrospective exhibition.  The video is made in Diane Tesler's studio.  (Of course Satch had to be a little different and make a vertical video; I like it.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Photographs That Changed Me" - #1

Ansel Adams, Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, 1927
It seems like every day we are inundated with the best of this, the best of that, vote for the best, photographs that changed the world, the list of the best whatever, etc., etc., etc., ...etc. (in my best Yul Brynner voice).

I've grown weary of this ranking thing.  Let's face it, it is nothing more than a crutch for many that are not interested in seeking out interesting material for themselves.  But it gave me an idea for a series of blog posts ("Photographs That Changed Me"), so I thought why not join the fray.

In no particular chronological order nor importance, I'm going to make a series of posts about a selection of photographs that influenced my perspective of photography, or simply inspired me. That being said, I am going to start at the very beginning.

Many of us that photograph were influenced by Ansel Adams.  I mean, how could we have not?  For years his images and books were everywhere and his persona was larger than life.  The first photograph of Adams' that moved me was, "Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, 1927."

This was Adams' first photograph where he utilized "visualization."  He was only 25 years old when this glass plate negative was exposed; the zone system was in the future.  In his mind's eye Adams saw this scene as a"brooding form, with deep shadows and a distant sharp white peak against a dark sky."  Utilizing a red filter he was able to put onto the negative, and subsequently onto the print, what he had visualized.

I first saw a print of"Monolith" in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986.  Studying the history of this photograph opened my mind to the possibilities of visualization and further down the road to the Zone System.  Having this knowledge, and subsequently learning and applying the associated craft, has been paramount to my ability to make photographs, even when using plastic cameras.

Links to other posts in this series:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Style, Elegance and Wit: The Artwork of James Spencer Russell

Updated September 5, 2011

The Indiana State Museum will be hosting a posthumous retrospective exhibition of the artist James Russell. Who, you might ask? Exactly.

The exhibition is entitled, "Style, Elegance and Wit:  The Artwork of James Spencer Russell" (January 26 - July 14, 2014).  To the left is a photograph of these words written in Russell's hand. He believed art had to contain those three elements.

Russell, an Indiana born contemporary artist, led an incredible life that is virtually unknown except to a few collectors. Satch is one of those collectors. Russell made art for himself and never sought the spotlight. Yet Russell was unbelievably prolific. He exhibited in the finest galleries in NYC from the late 1950's until late in his life.

Realizing that Russell's work was of importance this small group of collectors felt that a museum show of his work should happen.

Recently we had Steve Conant and Tom Kuebler, two collectors of Russell's work, along with Rachel Perry, Chief Curator, Arts and Culture and Susannah Koerber, V.P. Arts and Culture both of the Indiana State Museum, to our house to view Satch's collection of Russell. Shortly, after that afternoon we were informed that there indeed would be an exhibition!

Earlier this week Satch and I, along with Tom, Rachel and Susannah headed up to Kewanna, to meet with Russell's good friend Wade Bussert and to view a portion of Russell's personal archive - what an incredible experience.

It is so exciting to see a contemporary Hoosier artist get proper recognition.

There is so much to be told about Russell's life that I can only begin to scratch the surface in this note. I plan to blog about the exhibit adding information as more is revealed and learned. It will be exciting to see how all of this progresses. Now that we have an exhibition, the hard work has just begun.

On a purely personal note, it is great that I can finally share this information as we've needed to keep all of this process quiet for the past five years!

And on another purely personal note - I need to recognize Craig Smith, owner of Craig Smith Gallery, who represents Satch. Craig curated a fine exhibition, Text as Art at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan in the Fall of 2008. Craig recognized that Russell's work was exceptional and chose three pieces from Satch's collection to be included in the exhibition.