Photo by Jack GouldWhenever Robert Goulet appeared on the screen, Elvis Presley would shoot out his TV. But you already knew that, of course, because this bit of Elvis lore is right up there with the fried peanut-butter sammiches, his pals Dr. Nick and Dick Nixon, and croaking on the crapper.
And who could really blame Elvis vis--vis Goulet? First, Dingleberry's real name is Stanley Applebaum. Second, he's Canadian. Mostly, though, Stanley's pallid, self-satisfied croon represented everything unendurable about what adults termed "good music" during the 1960s. I'll never forget the indignation I felt when my favorite rock & roll radio station, WOLF-Syracuse, was turned over to such "good music" when I was a little boy-kid. The transition occurred amid relentless advertising designed to induce cultural/ generational wood in the Ward Cleavers of upstate New York. And I'll never forget the terror of turning on the tube to see Goulet smugly warbling "The Impossible Dream" or "What Kind of Fool Am I?" in a skintight sharkskin suit, performing awful little white-boy dance steps like a flyweight Rat Packer as Merv Griffin nodded approvingly on the sidelines. I had febrile nightmares riffing on this image for years. Dick Cheney has more soul than Robert Goulet. I was too young to own a gun at the time, or else TV screens would have been exploding in Syracuse as well as Memphis.
I hold grudges like a bitch, and it's payback time. The Ghoul appears Friday night at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, and I'm offering a bounty: $100 to the first person who sends in a photo of themselves onstage with Applebaum while dressed in Elvis drag. Find him, engage him, harangue him and Elvis him. Do not, however, hurt him, or everyone will get sued; do not carry so much as a water pistol. Goose his big ol' Applebum. Rub your fake Elvis sideburns all over his Applecheeks. Give him a wedgie. Say, "Woogie woogie, Stanley" to him in your best Elvis accent. Have a friend take a picture. Send it in. You get a picture of you accosting Robert Goulet in the paper, immortal glory, and 100 bones to boot. I—and Elvis—get retribution, and we thank you. C'mon, don't be a pussy!
I didn't approve of Hank Williams III until I actually spoke with him. I still don't really approve, but at least I can now relate. Grandson of Elvis-holy Hank Williams Sr. and son of appalling buffoon Hank Williams Jr., Hank III wisely elected to emulate grandpap rather than his Monday Night Football poppy. But he did it a little too well, ultimately coming off like a cash-in-on-them-genes exploiter of a sacred legacy instead of a viable musical voice in his own right. Then there was the matter of his unseemly "Tribute to Hank Williams" appearances in the hellish cesspool that is Branson, Missouri. Meanwhile, Hank III loudly protested to anyone who'd listen that he really wanted to play punk rock. Well, the "outlaw rising" stance and professed affection for punk didn't exactly jibe with the whole Branson thing, knowhutImean, Vern?
But I talked to the young'un, and he proffered a quite honest and plausible explanation for the blasphemy—a paternity suit. "I had to do it," Hank III sighed, clearly aghast at the memory. "The judge told me to get a real job. It was time, unfortunately, to get into the game and try for a little bit. Bars can be brutal, so I went up to Branson and started strumming the guitar and just told everyone this was a Hank Williams tribute show and it was only gonna be happening a couple of months, and then I was gonna do my own thing." Hank III also scored extra brownie points for dissing his semi-estranged dad. "It's just kind of funny to me that he can hang out and get drunk with Kid Rock more than he can hang out and get drunk with me," Hanky said. "That's kind of a weird thing."
Okay, so Hank III needs money, and he wants to get drunk with his dad. Is there anyone among us who can't sympathize? Fork over them greenbacks when Hank III plays Linda's Doll Hut on Tuesday night and the Coach House on Wednesday night. But be forewarned—the boy done made good on his threat and is playing punk rock these days. "My new album is gonna be called This Ain't Country," Hank III proudly crowed. "There's only one country song on it, and that's called 'I'm Here to Put the Dick Back Into Dixie.'" Dicks aside, one can only hope that he does punk with a lot more originality than he did country. One Wayne Hancock in the world is quite enough for me, thank you.
There's this guy named Doug MacLeod who plays Thursday-afternoon happy hours at the Blue Cafe, and he sings and picks country blues masterfully. I knew I loved his music, but I didn't realize how heavy MacLeod's creds were until I checked out his website (www.doug-macleod.com) and discovered the following:
•He has played with the likes of Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulson, Big Mama Thornton, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and Big Joe Turner, among others.
•He was also once bandleader for Mary "Torn Between Two Lovers" MacGregor, but we shall forgive him; let he without sin cast the first stone.
•His songs have been covered by Albert King, Albert Collins, Billy Lee Riley, Dave Alvin, Joe Louis Walker and Papa John Creach, among others.
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•He writes a column for the respected Blues Revue magazine. (Hey, that's a serious conflict of interest, fucker! What are you trying to pull off here?)
MacLeod also bears a passing but unfortunate resemblance to Elvin Bishop—which is enough to give anyone the blues—so we'll also forgive him for the fact that he's a country blues player who grew up in Noo Yawk City. Because the other fact is that MacLeod's guitar work and supersoulful singing sound as authentic as a Parchman Farm iron shackle. He kicks ass at both conventional and bottleneck guitar in any style, from deep Mississippi-mud stuff to frisky Piedmont rags. He also tells a lot of great stories between songs. Go see Doug. There's not even a cover charge, so you have no excuse to avoid your destiny.
Much to my delight, The Squirrel Nut Zippers' new album, Bedlam Ballroom, does not thoroughly suck. Wisely eschewing the dog-eared neo-swing trap for the most part, the Zippers—who have been revamped with a pianist and expanded horn section—tackle salsa, funk, New Orleans groove, Dixieland and calypso on Ballroom, with often fine results. Say what you will about the journeyman-at-best chops: brain trust Jim Mathus has written a very impressive batch of tunes, and the band plays them with undeniable, infectious joy. There remains, however, the sordid matter of Katherine Whalen's flatline "I'd sell my soul to be Billie Holiday's anus" vocals, which are grating at best and Elvis-just-shot-his-stereo dreadful at worst. And she sings most of the songs, too. But Mathus and Whalen are all matrimonied up, so you know how that shit goes—kinda like Yoko Ono with horns.
ROBERT GOULET AT THE CERRITOS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 12700 CENTER COURT DR., CERRITOS, (562) 916-8500. FRI., 8 P.M. $42-$52. all ages; HANK WILLIAMS III at linda's doll hut, 107 s. adams st., anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Tues., 9 p.m. $15. 21+; and AT THE COACH HOUSE, 33157 CAMINO CAPISTRANO, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, (949) 496-8930. WED., 8 P.M. $8-$15. 18+; DOUG MACLEOD AT THE BLUE CAFE, 210 THE PROMENADE, LONG BEACH, (562) 983-7111. EVERY THURS., 5:30 P.M. FREE. 21+.