Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clarence Clemons to the Rescue

As a freshman at St. John's University, I had the opportunity to do my own radio show on the now defunct KSJU college radio station.  There's a good history of the station (that makes me feel incredibly old) that can be found here.  

 I did a two-hour blues-oriented show for two years, and actually gained an OK amount of listeners; most of them non-students from the surrounding areas.  With my show, I was given the latitude to play whatever I wanted, and while we touched on staples like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, I was also able to dive into more obscure artists like Eddie"Cleanhead" Vinson, "Big Mama" Thornton, and Clarence"Gatemouth" Brown.   

By the way, what the heck happened to blues artists with such great nicknames?  Those were the days, but I digress.   

Unfortunately, with my first show as a freshman I needed to prove out my broadcasting capabilities, and therefore was not awarded a "specialty" show right off of the bat.  I had to broadcast a programmed show, which meant that I had latitude to play about half of what I wanted, and the other half had to come from the "new music" bin.  For a guy that was trying to craft a blues show, doing so by tapping the "new bin" meant some pretty slim pickings.  While there were great albums there being released by new bands like The Suburbs, Depeche Mode, U2, and REM, the style of those songs didn't fit well into the format that I wanted.  Thankfully, I was able to pluck out enough out of the bin to keep me compliant, and one of my biggest aids was Clarence Clemons' album Rescue.   

Led by lead singer J.T. Bowen's gritty and soulful vocals, this "new" album was a soulful and bluesy mix that was just right for what I wanted for my show.  It had a number of really, really strong tracks.  And to keep compliant, I played the living hell out of it.   

So with the sad and untimely death of The Big Man, yesterday, I couldn't help but be reminded of that album, and how good it was.  While it is totally out of print, I was surprised to see that it looks like a combo can be purchased from Amazon that pairs Rescue with a very weak Hero.  I placed mine; unfortunately it is on backorder.    

 For a kid in the early '80's looking to stay true to the music, Rescue could not have been more aptly named.    

 Rest in peace, Big Man.  You were one of a kind, and you'll be greatly missed.  

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