Greg & Al’s Re-run for (the) Borders/Jimmie Rodgers at WWNC
Before the trail freezes over I have to tell you that Greg and I played Borders Mt. Kisco last Sat. nite and it seems it was quite a successful show. About 30 people were there for most of the two sets, and the applause during the second one (set list here is for first one) grew in strength til the last number, Full Moon Flashlight, which got a loud, sustained response and even a couple shouts of approval as you might be able to hear at the end of the second of the two set sequences we’ve linked to here.
Greg and I felt very good about it, and people came up afterward to tell us how much they like us. The guy who gets us their (Border’s) sound system (Mgr?) said we were welcome to come back anytime and we’re thinking about one more show, in mid-August (14th?), which Greg has dubbed his “swan song” of New York appearances since he’s going back to Atlanta at the end of August. Bummer. I’ll miss him.
I hope to have some pix and a link to the video soon. In the meantime, you can fixate on that set list for awhile, and maybe take a quick look at a scene, “WWNC,” from the Jimmie Rodgers screenplay.
[Asheville, April, 1927. Control booth of small radio station, prob. the only one for a hundred miles in any direction. There are three or four men in the control booth chatting amiably as a trio of dowdy women, accompanied by a piano player, harmonize a mawkish ballad into a microphone on the other side of the glass. Clearly, the men in the booth are not listening to the performance; they could be at a cocktail party or church mixer; in fact, they’d rather be. All, that is, except for the Announcer seated at a low counter with headphones on, fiddling with toggles, dials and other do-dads from the early days of radio. The girls hold the last note of their dirge, as Announcer motions to the other people in the booth for silence.]
Announcer (solemnly into mic): THE PEABO SISTERS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, FROM DEEP GAP, RIGHT HERE IN NORTH CAROLINA, NOT TWENTY MILES AWAY FROM RADIO STATION WWNC, “WONDERFUL WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA,” IN BEAUTIFUL, BUSY, DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE. [pause] “MOTHER’S NOT DEAD, SHE’S ONLY A-SLEEPING.” I…I CAN TELL YOU-ALL, THERE ISN’T A DRY EYE IN HERE, RIGHT BOYS?
[Motions to other guys, who solemnly murmur agreement in the direction of the mic]
Various: YOU SAID IT, MR. STENTZ, I WON’T FORGET THIS PERFORMANCE, REMINDS ME OF THE POOR LITTLE FLOWER GIRL USED TO…, ETC.
Ann’r: IN FACT, I AM SO SURE THAT MR. PEER, FROM VICTOR RECORDS, IS GOING TO GIVE THEM A RECORDING CONTRACT, THAT I THINK I’M JUST GOING TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY…
[One of the men in booth, well-groomed and patrician in white suit and bucks, steps to the right of the broadcaster’s desk, where the glass between the studio and the control both ends and there is only wall between him and the Peabo sisters and shakes his head vigorously to the announcer, at the same time pretending to hang himself, tongue thrust out, eyes crossed.]
Ann:…TO THANK YOU THREE LOVELY LADIES, AND YOUR PIANO-PLAYING FATHER, FOR COMING ALL THE WAY DOWN TO WWNC, HERE IN ASHEVILLE, TO ENTERTAIN OUR THOUSANDS OF LISTENERS. I KNOW WE’LL BE HEARING FROM YOU REAL SOON, SO DON’T GO TOO FAR AWAY, NOW. REMEMBER, “IF YOU CAN’T GET WWNC ON YOUR RADIO, YOU’RE TOO FAR FROM HOME. AND NOW, SPEAKING OF VICTOR RECORDS, HERE’S ONE THAT’S JUST ALL THE RAGE WITH EVERY AGE–GENE AUSTIN, WITH HIS VICTOR RECORDING HIT, “DAD GAVE MY DOG AWAY.”
[Cues up a record, hits a couple of switches, looks at a couple of meters, turns his mic off and turns to Ralph Peer]
Ann: WELL, I’LL TELL YOU, RALPH, YOU’RE A HARD ONE TO PLEASE. YOU’VE HEARD EVERYBODY’S BEEN ON THIS STATION SINCE WE OPENED. PLUS, WE HAD A REAL GOOD TURN-OUT FROM THOSE LEAFLETS WE PUT ALL AROUND TOWN. I THINK EVERYBODY IN BOONE COUNTY’D LIKE TO BE A VICTOR ARTIST. FRANKLY, I’M A LITTLE SURPRISED YOU DIDN’T LIKE THE PEABO SISTERS. THEY’RE REAL POPULAR ON OUR REGULAR THURSDAY AFTERNOON SHOW. AND THEY CAN SING IN FOUR DIFFERENT KEYS.
Peer: AND I APPRECIATE THAT, DALE, REALLY I DO. AND THEY’RE GOOD, DON’T GET ME WRONG. BUT WE HAVE A LOT OF SISTER ACTS RIGHTNOW, AND THE VICTOR PEOPLE, WELL, THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT, BUT THEY TELL ME THEY’LL KNOW IT WHEN THEY HEAR IT. LISTEN, WHY DON’T YOU LET HARRIS, HERE, RUN THE SHOW FOR AWHILE, AND YOU AND I GET A CUP OF COFFEE. YOU LOOK LIKE YOU NEED A BREAK.
Ann: (Looks at HARRIS, his engineer) HMMMM.
Harris: GO ‘HEAD ON, BOSS. I’LL BE FINE. AIN’T DOIN’ NOTHIN’ BUT WEARIN’ OUT THIS NEEDLE ON VERNON DAHLHART. NOTHIN’S GONNA HAPPEN WHILE YOU’RE GONE, BELIEVE ME.
[PEER and STENTZ leave the studio and the building, cross the street to a diner and go in.]
John, I just got an idea. And I mean just. We could add to the preceding scene intercuts of four guys in a beaten up old Dodge racing along country roads trying to get to the station before the talent search is over. Could be real Keystone Koppy, or Bonnie and Clyde. Lots o’ action. But with or without intercuts…
[Just as PEER and STENTZ go into the coffee shop a ratty old Dodge clanks and smokes its way up to the curb in front of the station, parks at an angle, and vomits out four dishevelled young men carrying instrument cases (guitars, uke, banjo) onto the sidewalk. They lurch to the station’s front door and start pounding on it. After a few seconds a middle-aged woman opens it, and they all disappear into the building fast enough for one of them to have to hold his hat on his head.
WE SEE ALL THIS FROM THE POV OF PEER AND STENTZ DRINKING COFFEE AT A WINDOW BOOTH IN THE DINER, BUT THEY’RE TALKING TO EACH OTHER AND THEY DON’T SEE IT. IT IS NOT UNTIL THEY START HEARING WEIRD SOUNDS FROM THE RADIO STATION–THE DINER IS PLAYING WWNC FOR PATRONS TO LISTEN TO–THAT THEIR CONVERSATION FINALLY GETS SIDETRACKED.
[STENTZ listens once more to the sounds of chaos in his studio before bolting up, throwing some coins on the table, and racing across the street to the station, with PEER right behind him. They burst into the studio door, the red “ON THE AIR” flashing hysterically over it, and are greeted by a loud argument between HARRIS and the four guys who’d just piled out of the car.]
Stentz: GODALMIGHTY! WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? HARRIS, WHY IS THE MICROPHONE OPEN!? TURN THE MICROPHONE OFF, FOR GOD’S SAKE.
Harris: I’M TRYING TO, SIR, BUT THEY KEEP TURNING IT BACK ON.
Stentz (to the guys): WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THESE ARE THE PUBLIC AIRWAYS! THIS IS A SACRED TRUST GIVEN TO ME TO BROADCAST ONLY WHAT THE FEDERAL COMM…
JR: I KNOW THAT, MR. STENTZ. AND I APOLOGIZE FOR ALL OF US. BUT THIS JAMOKE KEEPS SAYING THE TALENT SEARCH’S OVER, AND ME AND MY BOYS JUST DROVE 320 MILES JUST TO SEE IF WE COULD–
Stentz: LISTEN, MISTER! IT IS OVER. AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO COME INTO A STUDIO WHEN IT’S ON THE AIR AND DISRUPT A PROGRAM THAT’S ALREADY–
JR: I AM SORRY, MR. STENTZ…ALTHO’ IT WAS JUST A VERNON DAHLHART RECORD YOU WAS…
Stentz: WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “JUST A VERNON DAHLHART RECORD?” LISTEN, BUD, WHEN YOU’VE SOLD 20,000 RECORDS, THEN YOU’LL HAVE A RIGHT TO…[looking more closely at JR] HEY! I KNOW YOU, DON’T I?
JR: UH, I DON’T THINK SO, MR. STENTZ. I DON’T BELIEVE WE’VE EVER–
Stentz: YES I DO! YOU WERE ON THE THURSDAY SHOW WHEN WE FIRST WENT ON THE AIR. SANG SOME…BLUISH SONG, OR SOMETHING, I HAD TO TURN YOUR MIC OFF AND GO TO A RECORD. IT’S ROBERTS OR SOMETHING?
JR: [Smiling broadly and extending his had]: RODGERS, SIR. JIMMIE RODGERS. THE BLUE YODELER. AND THIS HERE’S JACK GRANT AND HIS BRO–
Stentz: I DON’T CARE IF HE’S ULYSSES S. GRANT AND HIS BROTHER. GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE! ALL OF YOU. YOU CAN’T JUST COME INTO A FEDERALLY LICENSED RADIO STATION WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE IT AND PUT YOUR OWN SHOW ON. ESPECIALLY YOU, ROBERTS–
JR: RODGERS, SIR.
Stentz: WHATEVER. YOUR SMUTTY LITTLE DITTIES DON’T BELONG ON THE NATIONAL AIRWAVES WHERE THEY CAN GET INTO THE HOMES OF CLEAN, RELIGIOUS FAMILIES WHO LOOK TO US FOR MORAL GUIDANCE AND SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP. DON’T YOU THINK I’M RIGHT, MR. PEER? DON’T YOU THINK THIS KIND OF TRASH DOESN’T–
JR: (Looking back and forth from Stentz to Peer): UH, EX…EXCUSE ME, SIR, BUT ARE YOU RALPH PEER? FROM VICTOR RECORDS?
Peer (Looking sheepishly at Stentz): UH, GUILTY, I’M AFRAID.
JR: MR.PEER, WE JUST DROVE ACROSS TWO STATES TO MEET YOU. I MEAN, IF THE DARN DODGE HADN’T SPRUNG A RADIATOR LEAK–
Jack Grant: MORE LIKE A HEMMORHAGE–
Ernie Grant: AND TWO TIRES WOULDNA BLOWED OUT…
Joe Somebody: AND THE MAGNETO HADNA GOT WET–
Peer (Holds up the palms of both hands for silence and looks at Stentz. Actually, there’s lots of looking back and forth between everybody).
Stentz (after a pause): AW, RALPH, HOW CAN YOU ASK ME, AFTER THEY CAME IN HERE AND JUST ABOUT HIJACKED MY RADIO STATION? I MEAN, IT’S SO DISRESPECTFUL WHAT THEY–
Peer (taking out his wallet): HOW’S ‘BOUT A FIN FOR YOUR TROUBLE, DALE? AFTER ALL, THEY HAD THEIR NERVE TO–
Stentz: REHEARSAL ROOM, TWO DOORS DOWN ON YOUR RIGHT. BUT SHUT THE DOOR TIGHT. I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE FILTH THAT COMES OUT OF THEIR, ETC.
[PEER, JR and the rest of the band leave the studio thru the control booth and walk down the hall. There’s some unimportant mumbling between Peer and JR about the illegality of what they just did. They get to the rehearsal room, go in, and unpack their instruments. They look dumbly at Peer.
Peer: WELL? GO ON. SHOW ME WHAT YOU JUST DROVE THRU THREE HURRICANES AND A TORNADO TO SHOW ME.
JR: (unsure of himself, to the other boys): OKAY, BOYS, LET’S DO “I’VE RANGED AND ROAMED.” READY, EVERYBODY? ONE-TWO-THREE, TWO-TWO-THREE…
[It’s a waltzy/schmaltzy, moralizing tear-jerker, dull as dirt)
“I’VE RANGED, I’VE ROAMED AND I’VE TRAVELLED
I’VE BEEN A NO-GOOD THEY SAY
MANY YEARS OF MY LIFE I HAVE WASTED
BUT I’VE STOPPED LEADING THAT LIFE TODAY.
“I HAD A DEAR OLD MOTHER
A DAD AND A SISTER, TOO
BUT I WAS THE YOUNGEST AND SPOILED, SOME SAY
BY MOTHER, AS MOTHERS WILL–
Peer (interrupting): UH, EXCUSE ME GUYS, BUT THAT SONG CAN’T BE THE KIND OF FILTH STENTZ WAS TALKING ABOUT. (Starting to put on his jacket.) I WOULDN’T HAVE WASTED THAT FIVER IF I’D KNOWN YOU WERE PLANNING A CHURCH SOCIAL IN HERE. HECK, I CAN GET THAT SORT OF–
JR: WAIT! WAIT A SECOND, MR. PEER. WE, UH, WE GOT SOME OTHER STUFF. (turns to the other guys, has a brief conversation, nods his head, starts snapping his fingers.) A-ONE, A-TWO, A-ONE, TWO, THREE–
[It’s jazzy, upbeat kind of blues, you could dance to it. Infectious rhythm and melody. Jimmy carries the vocals.]
“PUT OUT YOUR CAN,
HERE COME DE GARBAGE MAN.
PUT OUT YOUR CAN,
HERE COME DE GARBAGE MAN.
I’M NOT THE PLUMBER
OR THE PLUMBER’S SON
BUT I’LL PLUG THAT HOLE,
‘FORE HE COMES
PUT OUT YOUR CAN,
HERE COME DE GARBAGE MAN.
PUT OUT YOUR CAN,
HERE COME DE GARBAGE MAN.
I’M NOT THE BUTCHER
OR THE BUTCHER’S SON,
BUT I’LL HOLD THAT MEAT,
‘TIL HE COMES
PUT OUT YOUR CAN–
Peer: (interrupting again, but laughing, and maybe even grooving a little bit to beat): OKAY, OKAY, OKAY. YOU MADE YOUR POINT. DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SHOW ME SOMETHING IN-BETWEEN? MAYBE THE WCTU WOULDN’T LIKE IT, BUT I WOULDN’T GET ARRESTED IN MY OWN HOUSE? LET ME ASK YOU SOMETHING: YOU EVER WRITE ANY SONGS YOURSELVES? YOU KNOW, JUST KIND MAKE SOMETHING UP TO A MELODY YOU MIGHT ALREADY KNOW, OR…WHATEVER? I’M JUST ASKING.
Boys in the band: HMMMM. GEEE. MUMBLE MUMBLE.
Jack Grant: HEY, JIMMIE. WHAT ABOUT THAT “T-FOR-TEXAS?” YOU MADE THAT UP, DIDN’T YOU? I MEAN, I NEVER HEARD IT ON NO RECORD OR ANYTHING, I DON’T THINK.
Boys in the band: YEAH. GO ON, JIMMIE. THAT’S A GOOD PIECE OF MUSIC. YEAH, AND NO ONES EVER HEARD IT BEFORE, ETC.
Jr: JEEZ, I DON’T–
Jack Grant (starts singing without accomp):
“T FOR TEXAS,
T FOR TENNESSEE…”
JR: [Strums a few notes, picks up the melody himself]
“T FOR TEXAS
T FOR TENNESSEE…”
[Rest of the band starts playing with him. A wry, won’t-I-ever-learn kind of country blues]
“AN’ IT’S T FOR THELMA,
THE GIRL WHO MADE A FOOL OUT OF ME.
EE-OO-LAY-HEEE, LAY-HEEE, O-LAY-HEEE.”
[Finishes the song, and lets his guitar hang loose around his neck, resting his picking hand in the hollow of the guitar’s body. He looks a little wistful, but says nothing. The room is silent a long beat. Finally, Peer breaks the silence.]
Peer: UH, WAIT HERE JUST A SECOND, WOULD YOU BOYS? I NEED TO ASK SOMEONE A QUESTION. I’LL BE RIGHT BACK.
[He goes out the rehearsal room door, walks the short distance to the broadcast studio, steps in. Stentz and Harris are at the controls, talking to each other. A record is spinning on the turntable and on the air.]
Stentz: HEY, RALPH. YOU SEND ‘EM HOME, YET?
Peer: JUST ABOUT TO DO THAT, DALE. RIGHT NOW. LET ME ASK YOU SOMETHING. THIS JIMMIE RODGERS, HE COULD NEVER BE ON YOUR STATION, RIGHT? I MEAN, THERE’S NO WAY YOU’D EVER–
Stentz: NOT WHILE THE LORD SEES FIT TO LET ME RESIDE IN HIS GLORIOUS ABODE.
Peer: OKAY. JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE. SEE YOU LATER.
[Peer leaves the studio and goes back to the rehearsal room, where Jimmie and the boys wait breathlessly. He takes a small card out of an inside pocket in his jacket, pulls a pen out of another pocket and writes something on the card. He hands it to Jimmie]
Peer: MEET ME AT THIS ADDRESS, TOMORROW MORNING, TEN A.M. SHARP. BRING YOUR INSTRUMENTS. SEE YOU THEN.
[He turns and leaves the room.]