Archive | May 2012

Puff the Magic Dragon

May 31, 1938 Happy Birthday Peter Yarrow! (Peter, Paul & Mary)

Casey, me, Heather

I love music (no, really!) and especially in the car.  I always go to the car to check out how a song sounds. There’s driving to the beach, window down music.  There’s driving in the country, air conditioning blasting music. There’s sitting in the parked car, rain pouring down music.  There was driving the kids to school Z100 music, watching my boys bopping their heads and singing all the 90’s boy band songs in the rearview mirror music

I remember Casey and Dylan and my niece Heather and my nephew Chris in the back seats of my big van (the kids and their friends called it the SKIPMOBILE).  They were all real young and we would sing the kid songs – Row Row Row Your Boat and the ABC‘s song and Twinkle Twinkle (those last two are the same song – go figure!) and we would sing Puff the Magic Dragon.  Such happy memories even though the lyrics to Puff are so sad. The boy never comes back (did he grow up or die?) and the dragon sadly slips into his cave – he probably died, too.

Well,  I’m thrilled to have my beautiful niece Heather (all grown up) over the house today to sing Puff the Magic Dragon in honor of Peter Yarrow’s birthday.  Heather gave me a haircut. Then we ate watermelon. Then we had ices and then we had popcorn.

Some things never change.

Love Me Do

May 30, 1964, The Beatles went to No.1 on the US singles chart with Love Me Do, the group’s fourth US No.1 in five months. (via


The three B’s:




I’ve said it before –  all roads lead back to the Beatles.  Which lead back to their producer, George Martin.  Which lead back to Bach, because basically George Martin, as an arranger and orchestrator, gave the Beatles a classical mindset.  He knew the hell out of Barouqe music, of which Bach is the father.  The book on my music stand is Twilight of the Gods by Wilfrid Mellers, a musicologist who analyzes the Beatles’ songs as if they were classical compositions.

I’m sure John and Paul weren’t thinking about any of this stuff when they wrote the songs, but it’s interesting to see how they did everything right in musical language.  Probably George Martin helped quite a bit with that.

Which leads back to Brevis ( that’s me).

Manny Albam (arranger and my teacher)  said to me, “Brevis, if you learn Bach and the Beatles you’ll have learned it all.”

I concur.


Let’s Twist Again

May 29, 1962 Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again won a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording!

backyard rose

I think I’ve mentioned before that I played for Chubby Checker on the Phil Donahue show … There couldn’t have been a nicer guy then Chubby. I had my trio on that gig – Peter Brown on bass and Peter Grant on drums. The three of us played for so many artists in those days.  It was a pleasure.  Anyway we played Let’s Twist Again to close the show and the audience members all got up and danced. This song has such a happy vibe.  When I play it at parties with the Stingers, people of a certain age (that is, old people like me) get up and smile and dance immediately. It’s a song that defines a generation.

In our show Beehive we wanted that same energy to close the first act.  So Claudia wrote Beehive Dance (a great rockin song) where the cast relives all the dances from the 60’s.  Beehive Dance is still out there on the road with Beehive.  Dozens – hundreds –  of girls have sung it over the years. Hey you out there – if you were in the cast of Beehive and participated in Beehive Dance let us know.  Someone has contacted us to put that in a movie and we’d love to pull a Beehive Dance reunion!

Rock on!

Chicken Fried

May 28, 2012  – Happy Memorial Day

Fleet Week

When I was in my early 20’s I was flown down to Virginia Beach to play with my good buddies Clark and Bruce Eno. They had been gigging with a pianist down there who got sick suddenly and I they asked me to cover him in a day’s notice, so I went. Virginia Beach in the off-season was so much fun.  It was pretty much just the bar staff, musicians, and hotel employees partying and I think we had to play above the bar – like climb a ladder to get to the stage.

Anyway, we became friends with some of the country bands down there.  We were playing jazz to nobody and they were playing country music to a packed bar of locals. I remember one of those country dudes said to me, “I don’t know about that jazz stuff. Sumthin ’bout it just dont smell right.”

Although it’s not in my roots — I’m a New Yorker! — there is something relaxing and calm and real about country music and country artists.  The songs are about heart and family and country and life, and I always feel great singing along.

Last year I was musical director for the T.J. Martell Foundation Gala, which I’ve done for years, but last year the featured artists were Martina McBride and Darius Rucker, and Rascal Flatts made a surprise appearance.  They were all so easy to work with and they all sang their asses off. OMG Martina could rival some of the best R&B singers in a minute, but she wasn’t concerned with that.  She just told her stories in her song.  And there’s a key difference.  Some singers are riffing all over the place (hello- I’m guilty of that sometimes) but the great country artists just sing the story and sing it right.

This Zac Brown song, Chicken Fried is a perfect example of that and he gives a nice nod to our veterans and our country.

Happy memorial day y’all.

Moon River

May 27, 1962 –  Moon River (Andy Williams) from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, wins the Grammy for Record of the Year.  (turns out this isn’t exactly accurate – the 1962 Grammy’s were held on May 29th.  oops – well my heart was in the right place.)

melodica solo

I love songs in 3/4.

Moon River is in 3/4.  This time signature or feel evokes something in me that other feels don’t.  I can picture where I was or imagine some fantasy place or just smile at right now.

On a more philosophical note the 3/4 represents the Trinity.

In music and in life there are always 3 rules.  I can’t remember what they are but I remember there are 3 of them.

Some country songs in 3/4 stick with me like Kenny Rogers’  Lucille.  A story song fits so well in 3/4 – John Mayer’s Daughters and Hank Williams’ Tennessee Waltz to name a couple.  Some classical pieces, also.  The 2nd movement to Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A is so freakin moving I cry when I hear it. Okay, I might not cry but I do get a little teary eyed.

I know Moon River holds a warm place in my wife Claudia’s heart cause her dad used to sing it to her when she was young.

Let me know what your favorite songs in 3/4 are.  I’m always looking for new ones.