Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds

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I really do love getting to know the people who walk into my studio. Just the other day I was privileged to meet a woman who had a VHS videotape of a amateur video interview she conducted of her friend Ken Carson.

Ken was a member of the internationally known and multiple award winning group Sons of the Pioneers. For my younger readers, you can think of them as an early version of a boy band (without the choreography and with a western twang). Roy Rogers, as Leonard Slye, was one of its founding members in 1933. Ken joined the group a little later and it is his voice that is featured on the songs Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds and Cool Water. He appeared with the Sons of the Pioneers in 22 of Roy Rogers films. The group exists and performs to this day, making it one of the longest surviving country western music groups.

The interview I transferred to a DVD was made in Ken’s home with his wife in 1994, shortly before he died. It was enjoyable to hear him, in his own words, reflect on his life and career. And, even at 80, his tenor voice had not lost any of the crystal clarity for which he was known as he was taped singing many of the songs he made famous, accompanying himself on his guitar.

What a treasure to have and pass on to the next generation of western music fans.

Little known fan note: My client shared with me some memorabilia she has collected through the years. One was a picture of Ken with an early girlfriend. It was none other than Dale Evans, back in the days before Ken introduced her to Roy Rogers.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Mr. Trumpet Man

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Passion can be both inspiring and contagious. It is also immediately recognizable. I saw it for myself recently as I was transferring some videotaped footage for a client.

The footage was of her father, renowned Grammy award winning jazz musician Doc Cheatham, who at 91 was still traveling the country, touring and playing to packed venues. He died while doing what he loved, playing the music he loved to play.

Doc’s career spanned over seven decades during which he played with such notable talents as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, and Benny Goodman. He continually worked at perfecting his technique and successfully managed the transition from lead trumpeter within various bands to having a career as a soloist – a feat he accomplished at the tender age of 60.

He didn’t begin singing, in addition to his playing, until he passed 70 but it was well received and he continued the practice until his death. His final performance was at the Blues Alley Club in Washington in 1997. He died two days later, eleven days short of his 92nd birthday.

That is an accomplishment we should all believe to achieve – to be able to work at what we love right up to the time we take our last breath. To continue to learn and grow, developing our passions and providing them with the fuel that keeps them burning strongly within our souls.

Thanks Doc, for the music and the memories.

PS. His passion was certainly contagious. His grandson, Theo Croker, is an accomplished trumpeter in his own right having just been named as one of the top jazz artists to watch in 2019 by Jazziz Magazine.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digital transfer of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Popeye the Guitar Man

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I was transferring some Christmas video footage today and noticed that one of the gifts opened by a child in the video was a toy guitar with a hand crank on the side of it.

I don’t know if they still are sold today, but they were certainly popular back in my day.  In fact, I got one as a Christmas present a long long time ago. As I recall, it was a Popeye guitar and when you turned the handle it would play the Popeye theme song in a tinny kind of way:

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m strong to the fin-ich

Cause I eats me spin-ach.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

Of course, I learned the elementary school potty mouth version:

I’m Popeye the sailor man

I live in a garbage can.

I eats all the worms

And spits out the germs.

I’m Popeye the sailor man.

I’m not really sure how much influence this particular Christmas gift had on my musical ability. Well, actually I am. It had zero influence. Because I never did learn to play the guitar. And I hated spinach as a child. I did like hamburgers. Still do. Maybe my folks should have gotten me the Wimpy guitar.

(For my younger readers, Wimpy was Popeye’s friend – a lazy moocher whose catchphrase was “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” It was a debt he never paid because he always managed to stay out of sight on Tuesdays.)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Not Ready For My Close Up

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I heard a great story today.  A client came in with some 16mm film to be transferred and after we conducted the transaction, we got to talking. Some of our stories seemed to share certain elements and before you know it I was showing her one of the video editing jobs I had done in the recent past. The soundtrack I used was taken from an Andrea Bocelli album and my client smiled as she recalled her memory.

It was in the 90s and Bocelli was giving a concert in Madison Square Garden. My client, who lived in NY at the time and was a big fan, was able to score two tickets… up in the nosebleed section. In fact, there was no seat situated further away from the stage which from her vantage point looked about the size of a postage stamp.

As they were settling in, a woman came up to her and asked if she would like to swap seats. In typical New York fashion, she retorted, “How much further away do you want me to go? Out in the parking lot?” The woman quickly put her mind at ease. “No,” she said, “I just have these two extra seats that I need filled.” My client figured they couldn’t be any worse than the ones she paid for so she took her up on the offer.  A few minutes later they found themselves in the orchestra, third row center sitting amidst A list celebrities. They had better seats than Donald Trump who sat two rows behind them. Turns out the woman who offered them worked for Bolla Wines who was the concert’s sponsor and they had some extra comp seats up close and she didn’t want them to go unused.

As she told the story, I couldn’t help but notice that it was as if she was experiencing it all over again. That’s the power of the past remembered. What a great memory.

Unfortunately, the only story I had that was similar was back when Orlando was home to the Solar Bears, an ice hockey franchise.  I got seats in the balcony and was prepared to root the home team on from a birds eye view when we got randomly selected for a seat upgrade. Instead of being perched and viewing the game from above where we could watch the entire ice and see the plays and patterns develop before our eyes, we were escorted to the ground floor behind the glass where we sat in wingback chairs and given champagne glasses but, to be honest, the view was terrible. The only part of the game we could see was when a player crosschecked an opponent into the glass right in front of us. And we really didn’t need or particularly want to see that up close.

It turns out that not every upgrade is a good one. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The Queen is dead. Long live the queen.

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Aretha Franklin impacted so many people with her music… my wife included. Her gospel leanings infused with an energetic pop style led many people to appreciate and applaud her vocals. And with so many iconic songs, Aretha’s sound absolutely electrified a gender; a generation… indeed, an entire world.

As a tribute to this remarkable artist, here are a few memories to hold onto –  a collection of some of her most iconic hits:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Aretha’s reinvention of this Otis Redding song became an anthem of empowerment and basic human rights.

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Her performance during songwriter/performer Carole King’s Kennedy Center honors brought the house down and brought a president to tears.

Chain of Fools – Another song intended for Otis Redding, it appears on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Think – written by Aretha Franklin, it was showcased in the movie Blues Brothers.

I Say A Little Prayer – This was already a Dionne Warwick hit when a record producer heard Franklin and studio musicians playing around with it during a break in the studio. He had them record it and in just one take, they captured what was to become one of Aretha’s most popular songs.

Freeway of Love – Another Grammy award winning hit from Aretha featuring a killer saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – This duet with George Michael was to be Aretha’s biggest hit in the UK.

Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) – Originally written by Stevie Wonder in 1967, he sat on it for ten years. Aretha turned it into a hit in 1973. Stevie released his own version four years later.

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul. R.I.P.

Tap Tap Tap… Tap Tap Tap

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You just never know who is going to walk into the studio on any given day.  Yesterday it was a delightful young lady of 84 who just wanted a DVD of one of her tap dancing performances to be copied.  But this was not just any transfer of an old performance of years gone by. This was a recording of a recent show. As a matter of fact, at 84, she is still teaching tap to anyone who would like to learn.

I had to ask, since I’ve been an admirer of tap dancers for some time, who her favorite all time tap dancer was.  I was expecting the usual suspects.  Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, etc… Her reply was instant and a bit of a surprise. Without missing a beat she blurted out, Dan Dailey.

In my age group, Dailey was not all that well known as a tap dancer… to be frank, he probably wasn’t all that well known at all.  I remember seeing him in a 60s sitcom called The Governor and JJ in which he starred with Julie Sommars. It only lasted a few seasons. But, as it turns out, he was quite a hoofer in his younger days.

After bouncing about MGM in a few modest parts, his big break came after he returned from WWII and was allowed to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. They paired him with their biggest female star, Betty Grable, in the musical Mother Wore Tights. He would eventually co-star with her in two other films. He had another big hit with Give My Regards to Broadway which boasted an all-star lineup. He then had a string of semi-successful films but the film I remember him in most was a sports biopic where he played Dizzy Dean in The Pride of St Louis.

If you still can’t quite place him, here’s a snippet of a musical number from It’s Always Fair Weather with Dailey, Gene Kelly and Michael Kidd as soldiers returning home from the war.  (Dailey is the tall lanky fellow.)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Gone Too Soon

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Our clients will often compliment us on our customer service and the friendly atmosphere that infuses our studio. What they don’t seem to understand is that whatever “vibe” they are getting from our studio most often originates from them.  We genuinely love hearing the stories of our customers… both the experiences they’ve had and the memories they’ve accumulated. The more open and animated they are in telling them, the more excited we get in hearing them. Our “customer service” mindset is firmly based in a curiosity and interest in the lives of the people who cross our threshold. We are honored that they have selected us to help preserve the memories they have made.

This past week, we have been particularly touched in getting to know one of our clients – the wife and partner of a true country music star who has sadly departed this earth. We have been helping her prepare an edited compilation of his many television appearances to be used in a memorial service. While the situation that brought us together is a sad one, learning of her husband’s life and legacy has been joyful.

I don’t profess to know what mystical element propels performers into the rarified stratosphere of super-stardom. It can’t just be talent because, if it were, this gentleman would have topped any A-list. He certainly spent decades performing with many who were considered to be the best of the best.  His winning personality coupled with a remarkable musical talent allowed Ronnie Prophet to carve out a place in the country music ethos. He has left a legacy that will not be soon forgotten.

I did not have the pleasure of ever meeting the man. But after meeting his wife and hearing of the life he lived – both on and off the stage – I feel a genuine loss in having missed that opportunity. I look forward to rectifying that loss in the next life.

Rest in Peace, Ronnie Prophet.


Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

My Favorite Fathers’ Day Song

I came across this song when I was looking to pay tribute to my own dad. Here’s the short video I posted online last year.

The song, My Dad, was sung by Paul Peterson who played Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. It reached #6 on the Billboard charts.

The song was written by Barry Mann after the death of his own father. Mann and his wife, Cynthia Weil were among the most prolific songwriters of their day having penned such hits as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Somewhere Out There,” and my personal favorite “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp?)

A few years later, the song was covered by none other than Davy Jones of The Monkees. Now I’m a big Monkees fan but the only rendition of this particular song that I want to hear is Petersen’s. Maybe it is because when it was first broadcast on his TV sitcom, with his character singing this song to his TV dad played by Carl Betz, it was such an emotionally powerful and personal statement that the song just seems to belong to them.

If you’ve never seen it, I’ve posted it below.

To all the dads out there… thank you. You know why.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Music To My Ears

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Usually, when I am transferring a homemade audio tape of a musician or band, I don’t pay much attention to the sounds coming from the speakers. No offense intended but the quality of self-recorded performances from garage bands or shower singers typically leave more than a little something to be desired. It is usually better to listen from afar… like in another room. Such is not the case these days.  Because it’s not every day a world class pianist walks into the studio.

Tzimon Barto is something of a Renaissance man. He speaks seven languages, is a published novelist, reads ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin, studies philosophy, writes poetry, and, oh yes… he plays the beauty of Schubert and Chopin while possessing the physique of Schwarzenegger or Stallone.

Born Johnny Barto Smith Jr. in Eustis FL, he was given the name Tzimon by famed Julliard instructor Adele Marcus with whom he studied. She later claimed she was joking about the name change in response to his concern that Johnny Smith might be too plain a name for a classical pianist.  But the name stuck and is now known around the world.

He first started studying the piano at the age of 5 under the instruction of his grandmother. His studies continued at Rollins College, the Brevard Music Center and, as stated earlier, Julliard. Since then, he has performed with nearly every major international orchestra including the New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo.

If you’re unable to stop by the studio to hear some of this brilliant artist which will be our background music during the next few days while I transfer his tapes, here’s a video of him performing Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A major with the SWR Symphonieorchester.


Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The Music Machine

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If I have said it once, I’ve said it countless times… memories make the best gifts ever. I was reminded today that I have actually been gifting memories longer than I’ve been in the memory business.

Way back, when my son first got married and entered into the Coast Guard… while he was going through his initial training at Cape May NJ, our daughter-in-law, who was carrying our first granddaughter to be, stayed with us. While she was there, probably thinking about the things she wanted to share with her expected child, she mentioned that there was a children’s record that she listened to all the time when she was growing up but she didn’t know what had happened to it.

It was called The Music Machine. After a little online research, I was able to find the CD of it (both vol.1 and vol. 2) and purchased them for her. To be honest, I had never heard of it before but hearing her talk about it let me know what an important part of her childhood it was to her.  Seeing her reaction as she opened the package made me a solid believer that gifting a memory, when you can pull it off, is the best gift you can ever give.

Those CDs became staples in her audio collection and she played them repeatedly on road trips she spent with her daughters. 

Here’s a little about Music Machine:

Recorded and released in 1977, Music Machine (AKA The Music Machine: The Fruit of the Spirit or Music Machine: A Musical Adventure Teaching the Fruit of the Spirit to All Ages) (1977) is a Christian children’s album by Candle. It is set in Agapeland, and teaches children about the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It features the characters Stevie and Nancy. It spawned a series of spin-off Music Machine albums, books, a video game and Music Machine movies too.

If you, like me, had never heard of it before, here’s a sample of the kind of songs that were featured on the album:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.