Sunday, January 15, 2023

Attack of the Antique Earworm

It seemed to come out of nowhere. Unexpected. Unbidden. A tune, a musical phrase, a hook. But not from nowhere, of course. Rather from the distant past, those days when the brain was young and spongy, impressionable, formative, when a song, or just enough of one, could get stuck in the tissues and lie in wait (for decades!), waiting to bubble up and pop open in a moment of blissful empty-headedness. 

An earworm.

So it was recently with Far Away Places. An innocuous melody. A dreamy, drifty, waltzy kind of thing. One day I’m walking along and there it was, singing itself plaintively inside my head in a voice much like my own, filled with a simple longing. All I could remember of its origins were that they went way back. Far away places, are calling to me... I hardly knew the words at all, but the melody and sentiment were alive in my head. I “knew” it by feeling.

Not so very long ago I would have started asking around, browsing used record racks, trying to track down the source of this thing. Now, like the rest of the world, I go to Wikipedia or YouTube. There I learn that it was written in 1948 and soon became nearly simultaneous hits for Margaret Whiting and then Bing Crosby, followed soon after by Perry Como and Dinah Shore (pictured). All were released before I was born, but because I remember The Dinah Shore Show playing on the family TV set, I suspect it was her version that planted the worm.

I found a Willy Nelson version on YouTube (a duet with Sheryl Crow), and nothing wrong with it (we love Willy), but also a Sam Cooke version, more proof of his voice’s Midas touch (we idolize Sam).

But what’s with earworms, anyway? The surprise appearance of Far Away Places hit a sweet spot for me, but don’t we think of earworms as annoyances? Songs that you once wished you would never hear again, yet keep coming back to vex you like an old injury? You know. The Pina Colada Song or Afternoon Delight or Muskrat Love?

I have a vague sense of the term taking hold in popular usage some years back and wondered if it would even turn up in any of my dictionaries. It didn’t. But the Merriam/Webster online dictionary had it: “a song or melody that keeps repeating in one's mind.” Okay, very succinct. But what about an OED-style reference to the date of a first-published use of the word.

My oldest dictionary (The Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principles, copyright 1955) refers me to “corn” for clarity on “earworm” but the entry preceding it, "earwig," catches attention. Yes, we're talking about those nasty insects with the rear-end pincers, suspected by our ancestors of crawling into ears and taking up residence in brains (“wicga” means insect in Old English). OED tells us that “earwig” as a transitive verb means “to pester by private importunities; to bias by secret communications; to insinuate into the confidence of,” and as a noun means “a whisperer, flatterer, parasite.”

So, while earworms may pester us, or somehow insinuate themselves into the fiber of our consciousness, they are unlikely to ever feel as negative or threatening as earwigs. Like worm holes, those possible interstellar portals to the past, future, or who-knows-what kind of far away places, ear worms, mysterious little burrowers in our brains, may turn out to be good things, at least occasionally.

McMuscial Calendar

Saturday, January 28
Come on out to The Pfharmacy in Lake Mills to hear The Birdddog Blues Band. It's the new beer-and-music venue  to the nearby Tyranena Brewing. 7 to 10 pm

More stuff in the works. Check back.


Friday, December 2, 2022

Now It Can Be Told


We didn't know then (last post) the where or the when, but now we do so we'll let you in on it, too.











Mel Ford & the Fairlane will plunk and sing and ring in the New Year in the Tasting Room at Tyranena Brewing (Lake Mills, Wisconsin). 

That's right! Good news for anyone who likes them some good Blues and legendary Brews. Music from 7 to 10 pm. See you there.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Now What?

Everybody knows that you can't fool Mother Nature, but people being people, we forget. For a quick refresher course on the proximity of Winter, step outside. It's brisk, Baby. But lovely.

And that's the thing about Winter. We bitch about it, but where would we BE without it? Out in the middle of some desolate Mad Max-type dystopia, that's where.

Where I come from, 'tis the season to hunker down, to bank the fires and settle in on catching up with those projects we just didn't have time for during all the warm weather hubbub.







For instance: Mel Ford & the Fairlane. This little (semi-)acoustic duo has been an outlet for tunes that don't always fit the head-on harp-powered musical momentum of The Birddog Blues Band.

Guitarist and singer Mel Ford knows his Blues from having been a mainstay of "the scene" since the 70s, from touring with Chicago legend Sunnyland Smith, to jam-packing the Club de Wash and other iconic clubs with Paul Black & the Flip Kings, to the road trips and residencies of the mighty Mel Ford & Westside Andy band.

There was also Mel's very own group, Mel Ford & the Fairlanes. It's been more than a little while since that band has been out for a spin. So much so that bassist and singer Tom McCarty is the last standing of the four Fairlanes.

Mel and McCarty get back together to wrangle a repertoire of 20-Century Blues mixed with the unexpected ballad, country standard, and show tune or two, all corralled into just the right mix for clubs and private parties.

Where can I hear these guys? you ask. And when? Soon, and somewhere, we say. Your party, if you're planning one. Make contact.

Meanwhile, sing along: "What the world/needs now/is snow/sweet snow..."

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Desperate Times


It's been more than a little while since we've talked about BIG WES Turner's Trio. Why?

In a word, COVID. Some might say the Trio was already ready to be put out to pasture, but I have it from the source's mouth that they were all willing and able to keep rockin' and rolling along, as long as they were relatively healthy and there were venues and occasions in need of their brand of Rockin' Rhythm & Swingin' Blues.

Well, COVID shuffled the deck for bars and clubs, and most parties were postponed or canceled. Then, as this and that ache and pain starting taking a toll, the continuation of the BWT combo became conditional. They're still alive, but not kicking quite as hard nor as often.

When the BWT Trio saddles up to ride again, we’ll let you know. Meanwhile, we are urgently concerned with more important matters.

On Tuesday, November 8, Wisconsin votes. This election is incredibly important. Everyone who can vote, should vote. Must vote! No excuses.

Pardon the understatement, but there is a lot at stake. The rights of women to get the health care they need. The survival of Social Security system. The avoidance of taxation by the very wealthy, and more. But for my money there is nothing more important than taking action on the climate crisis. Our forests are burning, our rivers are flooding, and our oceans are rising. 

What about the inflation? What about the economy? Dude! Without air to breath, water to drink, and crops to eat, there is no economy. Without a healthy, livable world, we have nothing.

We need to fix this, and we can, but not if we elect leaders who refuse to believe scientists or even their own eyes.

Both Ron Johnson and Tim Michels are climate deniers. They don’t want to fix anything because they can’t (or won’t) admit that anything is broken. Instead, they are fine with throwing more fuel on the fire.

So please, if you care about anyone besides yourself, if you feel any responsibility to future generations, you must VOTE for Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes.

You don’t have to consider them perfect candidates. You don’t even have to like them. But you can't expect anything to improve without leaders who are willing to accept the reality of the climate crisis and willing to work toward solutions.

Please! Do not be fooled by the flood of TV and online advertisements that want to make you afraid. Electing climate deniers is what we really should fear. If you want to live in a world worth passing on, vote for Evers and Barnes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Shhh! It Happens

Thanks to Forrest Gump for that enduring meme and its persistent evocation of the tension between the seemingly random activity of all the bits in our universe and the persistent insistence on the part of some semi-sentient fellow creatures that everything happens for a reason (talkin’ predestination).


For instance, just when we were expecting the post-summer slowdown in musical activities, whadaya know? Not only did The Birddog Blues Band luck into a fun car show/fundraiser for UW Children’s Hospital event in picturesque Argyle last week, Mel and Tom got a late call to sit in with the acclaimed Cashbox Kings this weekend, not to mention a last-minute Labor Day afternoon booking for the above-mentioned Birddog Blues Band. See below, then pack up and go.


The McMusical Calendar


Friday, September 2
Birddog Blues Band boogies at Wisconsin Brewing, 1079 American Parkway, Verona WI. Spacious indoor and outdoor spaces for roaming around or imbibing brews. 6 to 9 pm

Sunday September 4
The Cashbox Kings plays a special Sunday afternoon (4 to 7 pm) gig at Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, WI. Chicago-style Blues and Wisconsin-style beer.

Monday, September 5
The Birddog Blues Band plays Labor Day afternoon (2 to 5 pm at Club LaMark (on Hwy 51 just half a block north of E. Washington Ave. in Madison.

Saturday, September 17
Mel Ford & the Fairlane, PRIVATE PARTY*, Madison, WI.
*(WAIT! Why are we telling you about a party if you’re not invited? Just to remind you that Mr. McMusic and associates are happy to bring live music to your neighborhood hall or your very own home, at surprisingly reasonable rates.)

Saturday, October 8
Birddog Blues Band at Full Mile Brewing in Sun Prairie, WI.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Because It’s True

Let’s get serious for a minute. About elections.

I know people who work the polls at election time. In fact, I am one of them. And I have always been impressed with how seriously the people around me take their tasks, how careful and conscientious they are about getting it right, and how the system is set up so that even if someone makes a mistake, or if someone tries to cheat or game the system, there is a paper trail that is clear and will always lead to the simple, numerical truth of who got more votes and who got fewer.

In the 2020 Presidential election, in Wisconsin, Biden got 20,682 more votes than Trump. Two piles of paper ballots and the Biden pile is higher by 20,682. Counted and recounted. Biden won. Trump lost.

Anyone who says there is voter fraud in my state is either ignorant or a liar. If you are ignorant, then you owe it to yourself and your fellow citizens to educate yourself. If you are a liar, you should be ashamed and you should knock that shit off.

Now, let’s make a little music.

The McMusical Calendar




































Friday, August 19
Birddog Blues Band warms up the stage for some band called The Jimmys (never heard of ‘em) at Mineral Point Blues and Roots Fest. Enjoy the surroundings at “Orchard Lawn” and the grounds of The Gundry House at Church and Pine in historic, picturesque Mineral Point.

Thursday, August 25
Birddog Blues Band at Lone Girl Brewing Company, Waunakee, WI. Blues that’s fresh and sweet, up on the roof (weather permitting). 6 to 9 pm

Saturday, August 27
The Birddog Blues Band entertains at Goodfellows in Argyle WI. Car show and fun fundraiser for a great cause. 3:30 to 7

Friday, September 2
The Birddog Blues Band plays the Blues (what else) at Wisconsin Brewing, 1079 American Parkway, Verona WI. Spacious indoor and outdoor spaces for roaming around or imbibing brews. 6 to 9 pm

Sunday, September 4
The Cashbox Kings play Chicago-style Blues at Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills WI. Special event.

Saturday, September 17
Mel Ford & the Fairlane, PRIVATE PARTY*, Madison, WI.
*(WAIT! Why are we telling you about a party if you’re not invited? Just to remind you that Mr. McMusic and associates are happy to bring live music to your neighborhood hall or your very own home, at surprisingly reasonable rates.)

Saturday, October 8
The Birddog Blues Band returns to Full Mile Brewing in Sun Prairie, WI.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Red Alert

RED ALERT! This coming Friday (August 12) is your last chance to hear Tom on bass with The Sparks Band. It’s also a great chance to enjoy a guest appearance by the incomparable Ena M? Will there be swinging and swaying and 60s music (including Motown) playing? Fer sure. 7 to 10pm

Good thing you checked in here, huh? (You can always check the Music Calendar at Isthmus.com. Isthmus is still the go-to source for arts and entertainment goings-on in the greater Madison area.)

It's summertime and, sure, there’s lots of stuff going on (see Calendar below) and, yeah, we all want to get going. But, there’s also lots of stuff still going around. Keep your mask handy for crowds and crowded rooms and keep up the good hygiene habits. Wash your hands frequently and stop diggin' around in your skivvies. Let’s help each other stay healthy. Being sick sucks.

The McMusical Calendar

Friday, August 12

The Sparks Band w/Ena M. plays the stuff out of 60s stuff at Chiefs Tavern, Cottage Grove Rd. Madison WI. 7 to 10

Saturday, August 13
Birddog Blues Band plays from 4 to 5:15 at the Waukesha Rotary BluesFest (held at Naga-Waukee Park in Delafield (half a mile north of I-94 on Hwy 83). The rest of the Saturday lineup includes The Spectaculars, Tonic Roots, Altered Five Blues Band, The Blues Disciples, and headliner Sue Foley. Get advance tickets at www.waukeshabluesfest.com.

Friday, August 19
Birddog Blues Band warms up the stage for some band called The Jimmys at the Mineral Point Blues and Roots Fest. Enjoy the surroundings at “Orchard Lawn” and the grounds of The Gundry House at Church and Pine in historic, picturesque Mineral Point.

Thursday, August 25
Birddog Blues Band gets down on the roof at Lone Girl Brewery, Waunakee, WI. 6 to 9 pm

Friday, September 2
Birddog Blues Band boogies at Wisconsin Brewing, 1079 American Parkway, Verona WI. Spacious indoor and outdoor spaces for roaming around or imbibing brews. 6 to 9 pm

Saturday August 27
Birddog Blues Band plays at Goodfellows in Argyle WI. Come for the car show, stay for the brews and blues. 4 to 8 pm (ish).

Saturday, September 17
Mel Ford & the Fairlane, PRIVATE PARTY*, Madison, WI.
*(WAIT! Why are we telling you about a party if you’re not invited? Just to remind you that Mr. McMusic and associates are happy to bring live music to your neighborhood hall or your very own home, at surprisingly reasonable rates.)

Saturday, October 8
Birddog Blues Band at Full Mile Brewing in Sun Prairie, WI.