Ed. note: I'm on deadline this week, so I'm handing the keys over to Jayne Kelley, a Chicago-based writer and editor who graduated last May with a master's degree in Design Criticism from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The piece below, written in 2009 and updated briefly after the passing of Adam Yauch, is the first essay she penned for the program. I think it's really funny and sharp.
"The Beastie Boys' first album should bear a prominent label, not to protect impressionable teens so much as their elders. Warning: certain scenes and references contained herein may seem offensive, even dangerous, until you realize that it's all a colossal joke.”
– Mark Coleman, Rolling Stone review
of Licensed to Ill
, Feb. 26, 1987
“I went inside the deli and my man’s like, ‘What?’
I write the songs that make the whole world suck.”
– Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), “Unite,” 1998
Beastie Boys lyrics occupy a not-insignificant portion of my memory’s real estate. Obviously, the fervor with which I acquired this knowledge does not remotely match the likelihood of my being able to use it. An obsessive impulse common in teenage girls offers some explanation, but considering the Beasties’ 15-year-old back catalog of rap (and hardcore punk) I memorized, Beatlemaniacs had it easy. Still, the Beastie Boys’ lyrical contributions haven’t gone totally unrecognized: the Oxford English Dictionary credits them with coining “mullet,” a term that has taken on a cultural life all its own.
In retrospect, as a kid who took herself much too seriously, it was the Beasties’ signature sense of humor that propelled my dive into their discography. "The group is well-known for its eclecticism, jocular and flippant attitude toward interviews and interviewers, obscure cultural references and kitschy lyrics, and for performing in outlandish matching suits,” according to Wikipedia
. And indeed, what’s not to like about outlandish matching suits? From red and black adidas track gear to multicolor workman’s one-piece uniforms to sober business attire, the Beastie Boys’ style has always conveyed a commitment to looking good that is somehow ironic and wholly genuine at once. That this 20-year commitment would repeatedly take the form of outlandish matching suits is no accident (and is actually quite impressive). In fact, I’d argue that outlandish matching suits are emblematic of a highly particular, appealing sensibility: what I’ll call the “half-serious.”
The half-serious aesthetic hinges on another career-long consistency that the Boys themselves might deny. 1986’s Licensed to Ill
is often considered one of the first gangster rap albums; alongside stupid, harmless lyrics of hedonistic anthems like “Fight for your Right (to Party)” are more overtly, and confusingly, violent lines, such as “You better keep your mouth shut because I’m fully strapped” (“The New Style”). By 1998’s Hello Nasty
, the group had entirely abandoned the trappings of their blend of punk gangsterism. On “Unite,” Adam Yauch (MCA) asserts, “I don’t like to fight, I don’t carry a piece / I wear a permanent press so I’m always creased.” The idea that it’s Yauch’s perfectly wrinkle-free clothes that give him street credibility comes off as partially self-deprecating but mostly just silly, even as listeners recognize he was nearing 40 and probably did take that kind of care to press his pants. In interviews, Mike Diamond (Mike D) has framed this shift as a progression, an eventual, conscious evolution toward maturity: “Obviously there are moments in the past that you look back at and cringe…but it’s actually a privilege to be able to change and to be making records that reflect that change,” he told SPIN
It makes sense that the Beastie Boys themselves would understand what they’ve done in this way, and I was certainly aware of that narrative when I became a fan. Still, my own growing up didn’t match this arc at all; because I heard everything at once—beginning with a copy of Paul’s Boutique
I had blindly ordered from BMG Music Service, moving in both directions quickly from there—Hello Nasty felt just as new to me as the puerile gangster posturing that came before. More importantly, all the output seemed equally absurd. To position the 1986 Beastie Boys as somehow incompatible with today’s group misses the point of their project—after all, they’ve kept the same alter egos. For me, it’s wrong to argue that a “mature” straight-faced pun like “You better think twice before you start flossin’ / I been in your bathroom often” (“Crawlspace,” 2004) is categorically different from a line like “My pistol is loaded / I shot Betty Crocker” (“Rhymin’ and Stealin’,” 1986). Both are idiotic, just not in the same way.
The notion that the Beastie Boys are fundamentally idiots originates with the (perhaps apocryphal) title of Rolling Stone’s Licensed to Ill
review. “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece” suggests these goofy Jewish kids somehow weren’t aware they were making what would become the decade’s best-selling rap album. In truth, it’s hard to know how self-conscious the Boys were. While I don’t believe their success was an accident, the album doesn’t qualify as total parody. The group was thoroughly faithful to hip-hop’s tropes (and thus mostly respected in the rap community); it’s the fact that they’re white boys from Manhattan and Brooklyn that makes the committed engagement of these conceits ridiculous. The Beastie Boys’ early success is evidence that they understood how to exploit their inherent incongruity for maximum aesthetic effect. This embrace of complexity—intentionally taking on two seemingly opposite qualities at once, those of “real” rappers and “fake” rappers—is key to the half-serious approach.
By the time I started to listen to them, the Beastie Boys had largely apologized for their obnoxious behavior and devoted themselves to less foolish pursuits, notably activism for a Free Tibet. The five albums after Licensed to Ill
had enjoyed near-unanimous acclaim; time legitimized the group’s status as hip-hop pioneers. In this context, a half-serious attitude generates another type of idiocy: because their personas are no longer ridiculous, the Beastie Boys must engage rap’s conventions in a facetious way. What was once a threat of murder is now a warning that MCA “will steal your keys and then…check your mail” (“Oh Word?”, 2004). On the same track, Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) politely disses an ugly adversary: “Talk about your face, now don’t get pissed / but I suggest you see a dermatologist.” It’s clear that the Beastie Boys are no longer idiots, but their nonsensical plays on typical forms of hip-hop posturing seem just as effortless as their early “accidental” success. Right at the moment when we realize they really are skilled rappers, the Beasties begin to undermine their image by haplessly failing at self-aggrandizement.
As an overachieving, self-doubting teenager, part of what I really loved about the Beastie Boys is how the half-serious approach seemed to obviate a lot of criticism. For me, this sort of calculated remove was a very desirable model to emulate; even though they’re experts, no one would ever accuse the Beastie Boys of trying too hard, which to me was (and in many ways still is) the telltale mark of the uncool. The music video for “Sabotage,” for example, works so well because it’s clear the Boys’ appropriation of the look is ironic while their excitement over and dedication to the appropriation is total. I’m obviously not the first to point out how the technique of sampling is analogous to the construction of a persona, the intentional amalgamation of different aspects of personality or culture a rapper adopts. But there’s something so great about the way the Beastie Boys have pulled off this balancing act—something inviting rather than alienating, flexible (always fresh), and above all, good-natured, with a knowing, and self-knowing, sense of humor.
As a model for working, the half-serious doesn’t preclude actual effort in order to make it look easy, but it provides mechanisms for absorbing and reconciling contradictory influences (and even realities) without a fuss. The result is genuine, but not earnest—sophisticated enough to know when sophistication is overrated; familiar, but always a shade unexpected. It’s a little bit like the story of the term “mullet”: the Boys called wide attention to a ridiculous hairdo in what was essentially a very public in-joke (with the song “Mullet Head”), but doing so had a real impact, solidifying the mullet’s cultural import. Anyway, especially now, I’m still listening, memorizing lyrics and taking notes.
 “Heroes and Antiheroes: Beastie Boys,” SPIN
, April 2000, 66.
For a brief moment on Saturday night, Charles Bradley channeled his inner-James Brown. It was subtle, yet unmistakable; with his band’s horn section blasting in the background and the capacity crowd at Chicago’s Metro Theater grooving, Bradley stepped away from the mic, shimmied three steps to his right, and dropped into the familiar half-splits
. It was an authentic imitation, full of enthusiasm and reverence, completed by a man who has spent more time on stage impersonating the Godfather of Soul than he’d care to remember.
Before Bradley released his critically-acclaimed debut album last year, the 63-year-old Brooklynite performed exclusively as Black Velvet, a James Brown tribute act. He got his start in the mid-1960s while employed as a chef with the federal vocational training program Job Corps. In Maine, where he was dispatched, a coworker mentioned to Bradley that he resembled Brown and wondered if the teenager ever sang. It took some goading, but the sheepish kid eventually jumped on stage and found he could hit the notes in Brown’s lofty register. Within days, he built a stage show mimicking the soul legend, backed by a “bad band’ and chock full of costume changes. It was an act he would reprise for decades in little California clubs and Brooklyn bars, always happy to have work yet frustrated by the creative limitations his imitative performance inevitably created. After scuffling by for years, Daptone Records
founder Gabriel Roth caught one of Bradley’s sets and suggested they collaborate on some original music. Finally given the chance to perform his own stuff, Bradley put out a messy
, emotional, and joyful LP, sung in a voice
that “sounds as if it’s breaking free of a straitjacket.” He hasn’t hit it rich yet, but he’s comfortable and making excellent records. “Bradley has been an entertainer since the '60s,” Bethlehem Shoals wrote
in a recent profile. “But now, just in the past few years, he has been transformed into an artist.”
While most celebrity impersonators would prefer to see their own name up in lights, the irony of the thankless job is that it takes a boatload of skill to do well. Sociologist Kerry Ferris, who studies fame at Northern Illinois University, just published an article
in The Journal of Popular Culture
in which she interviewed over a dozen successful impersonators. In describing how they prepare for their roles, all used the language and ideas of Method acting
; one Neil Diamond impersonator explained that “you need to understand your tribute from the inside out and find subtleties, layers, and textures to keep it real and spontaneous.” Background research is also critical. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s a highly-specialized craft, even its own art form if ones wants to be generous. And in this celebrity-obsessed country, there have been ample opportunities for those masters of transformation to cash in modestly on their unique talents.
A man named Ron Smith made sure of it. A Los Angeles native “with more than a hint of hustle in his demeanor” (Chicago Tribune
, June 1981), Smith owned and operated “Ron Smith’s Celebrity Look-Alikes” (RSCL), the most influential agency in the idiosyncratic impersonation industry. He got his start in 1976 when, as an agent with International Famous Management, he was asked to promote a Halloween extravaganza at the Hollywood Palladium
. It was days before the presidential election, so he figured the crowd would enjoy a look-alike contest pitting fake Jimmy Carters against fake Gerald Fords. “We chose the winners and I thought that was the end of that,” he later remembered. “Then the phone started ringing.”
Over the next few days, Smith fielded dozens of calls from local entrepreneurs who wanted to book the political pair for appearances. Area entertainers cold-called him too, alleging they resembled other famous faces: Woody Allen, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds. Unintentionally, Smith had tapped into a unorganized market in need of an ambitious middle-man. He opened up RSCL almost immediately, hoping to fill the void.
Building a roster of talent took plenty of effort. Throughout the late 1970s, Smith held twice-weekly auditions in Los Angeles and toured the country in search of actors with the right appearance. He followed a simple, albeit dubious mantra: “I am a true believer in the fact that everyone on this earth has a double.” By the mid-1980s, Smith had signed 10,000 different look-alikes to contracts, and he booked the dead ringers to appear or perform at parties, in advertisements, on television, or in movies. No escorting and nudity were allowed, only good-natured fun. “Look-alikes have been around since before I was born,'' the image entrepreneur told the Washington Post
in September 1986. “I've just taken something and organized it, made a business of it, and put some order to it.''
A poser’s pay was contingent on a variety of factors, including travel expenses and the skill of the individual performer. Most crucial was the real celebrity's popularity at the time; after the release of “Thriller,” for example, Smith endured a stretch in which three-fourths of the requests his office fielded were for the King of Pop (Los Angeles Times
, June 1984). If you could moonwalk 27 years ago, there was money to be made. The rest expected to bring home anywhere between $100 and $300 per appearance, depending on the job. The price increased for more elaborate stunts. In its heyday, RSCL clients appeared on the covers of Fortune
and New York
. One California real estate company hired Henry Kissinger to tout homes in a commercial for a new development it operated. (“When I say it’s the best value, it’s the best value … After all, I’ve been everywhere.”) Bob Hope once ordered a faux-Jimmy Carter for a special. Smith even staged a fake inaugural ball in Washington featuring Ronald and Nancy Reagan doppelgangers and an imitation wedding between "Princess Diana" and "Prince Charles." His company boomed. “When I started, I felt like I was Orville Wright trying to fly an airplane,'' he said, in one of many national profiles written at the time. “Now I feel like I'm on a ship to another planet.''
Occasionally, Smith encountered turbulence in the form of legal disputes. In 1984, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis won an injunction prohibiting Christian Dior from running a print advertisement without a disclosure that showcased a look-alike named Barbara Reynolds. (A New York State Supreme Court judge called Smith’s contractee a ''commercial hitchhiker seeking to travel on the fame of another.'') Woody Allen filed suit once, as well. But RSCL kept on retainer lawyers who knew their way around California’s right of publicity
laws, and the core business was never threatened. By 1991, 30,000
look-alikes were under his employ. “[The fad] won’t peak,” Smith predicted in a September 1985 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
. “As long as there are stars, there will be people who look like them.”
Yet the “King of the Clones” (Tribune
, 1981) has fallen off the map, as far as I can tell. A Canadian television station ran a brief feature on RSCL in 1994, noting the company earned “$10 million dollars in bookings worldwide” the year prior. Four years later, Smith made a few headlines
in the Beltway after hosting a casting call for “Zippergate," a parody movie of the Lewinsky scandal, which Netflix does not offer and I'm not sure was ever made. (Inundated with Monicas, Smith was hoping to lock down Kenneth Starr, Vernon Jordan, and Sam Donaldson look-alikes, specifically.) That’s about all I could dig up. I did get an automated message at the number listed on the company’s barren Yelp page
—they don’t have their own proper website—so it seems Smith is still nominally active. If any enterprising reader wants to sleuth, I'd be curious what I'm missing.
My best guest about Smith's current whereabouts? He’s taking in the sights at the 12th annual Celebrity Impersonators Convention
in Las Vegas, which concludes today
. If any of the performers there were half as entertaining as Charles Bradley, I’m sure it was a terrific show.
“It’s rats and roaches, blood, guts, and talent … It’s being young, creating, doing things with dignity.”
That’s Berry Gordy Jr., on November 6, 1966, describing to a reporter from the Los Angeles Times
what he considered the essence of the Motown Sound. As the owner of the most beloved independent (and black-owned) record label in American history, Gordy was in the business of selling records, so an unsympathetic critic could read the quote as mawkish myth-making. I’ll be generous and say the sentiment reflects with some accuracy the sensibility young audiences found appealing about the bevy of singers who belted out hits from the famed bungalow in 1960’s Detroit. Solid Motown tracks always felt simultaneously specific -- rooted in diverse, mid-century black neighborhoods -- and universal. It didn’t hurt that the pop-infused soul tunes were catchy as hell, either.
The label’s linchpin was undoubtedly The Supremes
, the all-female pioneers who ultimately registered 12 chart-topping singles and first signed a contract with Gordy 50 years ago
this year. As a creative person trying to catch a break myself, I find some inspiration in their famous (and quirky) origin story. The original ensemble -- Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Betty McGlown, and Mary Wilson -- grew up together in the Brewster-Douglass* housing projects and were initially brought together by Milton Jenkins, a small-time promoter for the local men’s quintet known as The Primes (later The Temptations). Jenkins thought a sister act might be good for his business, so he started booking the young ladies at block and basement parties under the moniker “The Primmettes.” "I used to get whipped every night for going to those parties," Ross told Time
in 1966, "but I always went. We sang because we loved to sing.” The gigs, while exhilarating, didn’t pay much, which forced Ross and her high school colleagues to try some creative tactics to grab Gordy’s attention and secure steadier work. More from Time
: In 1960 they made their first bid for a recording contract with Berry Gordy, the hiphazard impresario of Detroit's Motown Record Co. "They seemed like just three skinny teen-age girls," he remembers. "I told them to go back to school." Back they went, but in her junior-year Diana wangled work with Gordy as an assistant to his secretary. "I didn't know anything about being a secretary," says Diana, "and I used to sing every time he opened his inner door." She was fired within two weeks, but did manage to land the girls some recording jobs in a background chorus. One day after school, they dropped in to tell Gordy he owed them some back pay. The ensuing conversation led to the audition and the contract that was to make Berry the U.S.'s largest producer of 45-r.p.m. records last year.
Given the label’s enduring cultural impact, it’s easy to forget that Motown -- powered by The Supremes -- really had just one creatively significant decade. Gordy’s tight-fistedness and mechanized production model
eventually turned off popular musicians who rightfully deserved better contracts and more promotion for their work. Between 1967 and 1980, Motown lost control of the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Smoky Robinson, The Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas, and the famed songwriting team of Holland–Dozier–Holland
, not to mention Diana Ross herself.** That’s a murderer’s row of talent. And when Gordy felt the wanderlust for Hollywood and moved operations to California in 1972 to focus on films and television, he didn’t spend enough time developing new voices to replenish his cupboard. (Rick James and The Commodores sold some albums, but were not critical darlings.) Jheryl Busby, who took over Motown in 1988 amid lagging sales, explained the problem diplomatically in an 1989 interview
with the New York Times
: ''When Motown moved from Detroit to Hollywood and Berry diversified into movies, there may have been a failure to keep their ears on the street, where the creativity comes from.''
I guess it’s fitting that Hitsville U.S.A. was transformed into a popular museum
while the building that once housed the business side of the enterprise was left to decay
and was ultimately razed
to make way for a parking lot. The label’s music was iconic, and its management imperfect.
*My buddy Paul is finishing up a documentary
on the B-D homes, which I am excited to see.
**I especially like Tito Jackson’s blithe comment
announcing his group’s departure for Epic in 1975: “We left Motown because we look forward to selling a lot of albums.”
I’m just getting back into the swing of things this morning after a few days in the Wolverine State, and I have to run a few errands later this afternoon, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the passing of Amy Winehouse, news that really bummed me out this weekend. My old boss
passes along this moving eulogy/essay
by Russell Brand, Oliver Wang posted a few of his favorite cuts here
, and this little 2008 piece
by Sasha Frere-Jones does a nice job describing and contextualizing her appeal. Adele, as catchy as a few of her less boring tracks are, can’t hold a candle to these pipes:
Simply put, “Friday Night Lights” is the best network television drama of the past decade.* If you haven’t visited Dillon, Texas over the show’s (mostly excellent) five-season run, which sadly concluded Friday night, you’re in for a real treat.**
I won’t use this space to wax poetic about FNL’s various virtues; since its debut in 2006, television critics far more skilled than I have consistently praised the show’s creative team for the deft touch it displayed in depicting the “benefits and burdens
” of community and what Heather Havrilesky called
the “harsh continual sorting of winner from loser in American life.” But I will highlight one of my favorite features of FNL, one that gelled tonally with the intimate camera work and the emotionally honest writing and acting: its theme song.
It’s a common misconception that the opening sequence -- a lilting, operatic guitar riff (embedded above)-- was written by Explosions in the Sky
, the Texas-based indie outfit who scored the FNL movie and whose work subsequently appeared in the television series. In fact, it’s the handicraft of W.G. Snuffy Walden
, television’s pre-eminent composer. Walden is a Texas guitarist who relocated to Los Angeles in the early 1970s after dropping out of college and playing in a short-lived blues band. Once out west, he achieved moderate success, touring with Donna Summer and Chaka Khan and even receiving a credit on Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life
. But his career took a strange and fruitful turn in the mid-1980s, when a talent scout searching for musicians for the little screen caught a monthly set he played at a Santa Monica nightclub.
“When they asked me about scoring for film and television, I wasn't sure what it entailed," Snuffy later wrote
, "but I could see the handwriting on the wall for touring, and it wasn't pretty. I kept envisioning Holiday Inn at age 60." Like his contemporaries who set up standing gigs in Branson
, Walden’s desire for stability proved advantageous. From a short 2001 profile in the Dallas Morning News
:He met with the producers of “thirtysomething” and "talked them out of some footage" for the series, which hadn't yet premiered. "Then I just sat and played to what they gave me until something started to happen. The process is basically still the same now. In bands, I was the guy who played the color and brought atmosphere to the songs. That's kind of what I do here. A lot of the time you're talking about pretty ethereal stuff. I kind of have to go away and play my guitar until something works." [...]He's been scoring ever since, mostly for acclaimed series that enhanced his reputation whether they lived long and prospered (Roseanne, The Wonder Years, Sisters) or fought the good fight (My So-Called Life, I'll Fly Away, Cupid, Sports Night). It's enabled Mr. Walden to supplant prodigious Mike Post (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, The Rockford Files, Magnum, P.I.) as the Tiger Woods of TV music.
Walden won an Emmy for the stirring title theme he penned for “The West Wing,” and he continues to take an optimistic approach to his unorthodox craft, one that songwriters (not named Michael Giacchino
) might dismiss as hackish. "I finally realized I wasn't going to be Eric Clapton or a rock star," he told the Morning News
. "So this is really and truly a gift that most people aren't offered in their lives.”
for more on Walden's creative process. And next time you flip on FNL, tip your cowboy hat to Snuffy. Without his musical chops, who knows if the Taylors would have survived for as long as they did.
*Nice try, “Lost.” You too, “The West Wing.” The only other contender would be “Freaks and Geeks,” but it’s tough to compare the two teen shows. And since the Apatow/Feig project started its run in 1999, I won’t.
**The first four seasons are currently available on Netflix Streaming.
Boss Tweed (@jonathandoster
) is back with another mixtape
. Give it a listen on this royal Friday:
- Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart - The Supremes
- Somebody's Watching You - Rufus
- I Got a Feeling - Four Tops
- Gimme Little Sign - Brenton Wood
- I'm Glad You're Mine - Al Green
- Tell Mama - Etta James
- Suga Duga ft. DukeDaGod - Cam'ron
- Touch It ft. Kanye West - Pusha T
- Grindin' - Clipse
- The Thrill Is Gone - B.B. King
- Highway to Hell ft. Freddie Gibbs and Bun B - Mexicans with Guns
- There Will Be Tears - Frank Ocean
- Hope She'll Be Happier - Bill Withers
- Survival of the Fittest - Mobb Deep
- Want Ads - Honey Cone
The Illinois State Fair is an event with some history. The Springfield-based Crazy Dog Drive In helped popularize
the corn dog when its proprietors began serving the encased meat on a stick in 1946. Twenty-two years later, playing
with a "sound system that was totally inadequate," The Who opened for The Association at the fair ground grandstand, one year before the release of the band's first U.S. top-ten album.
These days, with conservatives moaning
about the cost of maintaining the agricultural showcase, thrift is the name of the game. That's made quite clear by the musical acts booked
for August 20: MC Hammer and (a shrunken) Boyz II Men. Oh how the mighty have fallen.For your weekend pleasure, go back and read the memorable 1994 Harper's essay (PDF) on the fair by Bloomington-native
David Foster Wallace. And see if you can spot a still-respected drummer in this video:
There’s an episode in the last season of The Larry Sanders Show
in which “Hey Now” Hank Kingsley, concerned that his days in show business are numbered, runs into singer Andy Williams in the makeup room. The legendary crooner gives Hank some advice: when Larry retires, move down to Branson, Missouri and open up your own theater. Kinglsey is incredulous. “Wow, it’s packed every night?” “Every night,” Williams intones.
I don’t blame Hank for his skepticism; the transformation of this little isolated Missouri town
-- population 10,000 -- from a modest homesteading community
into one of America’s premiere tourist destinations is an unlikely phenomenon that befuddles most non-Ozarkians. In 2009, 7.8 million visitors
swung through Branson and 85 percent of them took in at least one stage show while there, generating $3 billion in tourism-related spending. The region now boasts 50 theaters and a larger nightly seating capacity than Broadway. Not bad for a city many Americans could not identify on a map.
Branson’s entertainment infrastructure developed relatively rapidly, beginning in 1959 with the establishment of the Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Show
, a variety show combining country music and “hillbilly humor.” Over the next decade, several theaters catering to visiting fishermen opened up shop along Hwy. 76., now known as The Strip, hosting live shows similar to WLS’ famous National Barn Dance
. As Aaron Ketchell describes it
, “entertainment was built on … innocent country and gospel music, the promotion of antimodern nostalgia, civil religious patriotism, and a distinct construction of domestic appropriateness expressed though the rhetoric of ‘family values.’” Their business was steady, if a bit narrow in appeal.
It was in the early 1980s, after celebrity country music star Roy Clark
came to town, when the game changed. Around that time, Nashville record companies hoping to attract a younger, hipper audience started dropping established artists from their labels. Clark and his dissed compatriots moved 450 miles west, and their audience came with. From the journal Organization Science: The process accelerated when “people from Nashville started coming,” beginning in 1983 when Roy Clark opened his own theater. By booking stars for limited engagements and continually rotating them, Clark’s theater acted as an “incubator” that introduced them to Branson’s possibilities, encouraging many to set up local theaters and driving a “Country Music Explosion” Celebrities who founded theaters in Branson attracted other celebrities, some of whom also founded theaters after seeing the available opportunities, and these in turn attracted others. Among the “big name country music stars” who settled in Branson were Boxcar Willie, Mickey Gilley, and Mel Tillis. According to informants and documentary sources, Branson offered these older stars a place to be “classics” instead of “has-beens”; a ready market of loyal and adoring fans; a respite from the tedium and rootlessness of years of touring; a vehicle for unfettered artistic expression; and a chance to reconnect with family, community, and friends with whom they had grown up in the business.
Seeking the same accepting atmosphere as their country contemporaries, aging mainstream stars like Williams and Wayne Newton followed suit, drawing more fans (and national media attention
) to southern Missouri and establishing it as the self-proclaimed
"Live Entertainment Capital of the World.” If the likes of Yakov Smirnoff
can consistently sell out 2,000 seat amphitheaters, the title may actually be apt.
What a country! And what a weird town.
Spent the night at my folks' place last night, so I'm playing a little bit of catch-up this morning. In tribute to them, I'll leave you with their "song," "Then Came You" by The Spinners and Dionne Warwick. I only learned about my parents' affinity for this soul track a few years ago, after a childhood spent enduring Barry Manilow and the Bee Gees. They should have just played Michael Jackson on a loop -- that would have pleased everyone.
Back tomorrow with something more substantial.
An Election Day mixtape
, courtesy of Boss Tweed (aka, @jonathandoster
- Politican (Reprise) - Aloe Blacc
- Are You Ready? - Sly & the Family Stone
- You Must Believe Me - The Impressions
- I'm the Shit (Benzi and Willy Joy Remix) - Gucci Mane
- Represent - Nas
- Tough Guy ft. UGK - Outkast
- Large on the Streets - Vado
- Give Me Just a Little More Time - Chairmen of the Board
- Make Me Yours - Bettye Swann
- I Choose You - Willie Hutch
- The Champ - Ghostface Killah
- I Don't Love You No More - Kings Go Forth