It's about hay, but at the same time, it was strictly corn.
Almost all of the tillable acreage that surrounds the farmhouse music studio is planted to hay grasses, and we try to grow the highest quality hay possible ~ without using any herbicide chemicals or GMO seed varieties. Besides benefitting the human equation, growing large expanses of grass has healing properties for the living planet, (and we think makes Mother Earth happy), as well as maintaining important ecosystems such as butterfly habitat. So the backstory for the hay song is this: Bob W. pulled in to my green building on one of his John Deeres for a springtime chat to talk about re-seeding. At one point, Bob asked, “Did ya ever write a song about us doing the hay?” “Not yet”, I replied without hesitating, but the seed was planted , and over the next two days, it germinated. I wrote a bluegrass tune about Kentucky bluegrass – and ryegrass, and alfalfa and clover and all of the haygrass plants growing in my fields now or in the past. By chance (or not?), studio production started the day Bob was using the seed drill. Most of the recording took place while they were cutting, raking or conditioning, and mixdowns began just as they were baling that first cut. The cover photo was taken right at the end. Nothing like the sweet smell of new mown hay wafting through an old no-A/C farmhouse! This goes out to the ag community in general, to the farmers and growers who feed the world, and especially to Bob, Casey and Brian.
PERSONNEL: Floren de Kichen wrote the dual fiddle parts, performed ably with his talented granddaughter Joyenne de Kichen; Chubbie Pickens on banjo; Sings Two Bears on drums; I sang the main lead and did the bass and acoustic rhythm guitar; chorus singers include Serena Ann Green Eagle, Floral Clustah, Ernie Silverback and Lurch Hooper. I worked closely with our recording engineer Morey Polfuss on the mixdown. [It's pronounced Mor-RAY.] She came up with a neat idea: put extra EQ on the high-end frequencies so the vocals can be heard better in the tractor cab with rotating machinery. I tried it in mine. It was an interesting experiment, and I think it worked. (?)
goodtimes JUKEBOX rock
Assigned the challenging (if not impossible) task of Public Relations for SE, our advisor, Yawanda Ring, speculated that whatever new fans and followers we might have picked up with bowling ball rock we probably lost with the John Lennon pieces. That's most likely true, but that didn't stop us. Her advice: 'enough with the sad, sappy songs! ' [of late 2020] – and we agreed. Gotsome Body is a goodtimes jukebox rocker that should be played loud for your next in-house party night with friends and/or that special someone when the mood is elevating.
The Eclectric Players recorded it by referring to an old demo. Long ago I got the song idea while driving the Comstock Band's 4 x6 Dodge B300 RV camper rig westbound over the George Washington bridge – leaving the Big Apple and heading back upstate. We had been in the city for 2+ weeks recording some foolish music at the Record Plant for Don Kirschner, and capped that ordeal with an enjoyable gig: a Friday night oldies concert backing Chuck Berry (and many others) at Madison Square Garden. Everyone in the band needed some time to catch our breath, so we purposely did NOT book the coming Saturday - and I was very much looking forward to some quality time with my sweets. 'Nuf said, right?
Probably because I'd just come off a show with 'ol CB, [we called him the grandfather of rock - but not to his face, of course!], I purposely wanted to write the piece using just 3 chords - something Chuck made a million $ doing. The challenge: keep it from getting boring. It's up to the lissner to judge this as success or failure. We salvaged much of Billy Kelley's original piano part from the demo, and it was augmented by Musicians' Consortium irregular Fingers Arachnid. Then we rounded up the usual suspects for the rest of it. Lotsa fun.
In one review just after release, a lissner claimed "this track is on fireee !!! ". What higher praise for such a cool track ? It deserves good speakers (or cans or buds) and large volume. Just don't hurt yourself...
40 years to finish ONE SONG?
INTERVIEW [excerpt] with acclaimed Music & Art Critic Crow ‘Birdland’ McCaw: I understand that after the tragic events in NYC on Dec. 8, 1980, you wrote a song that evening, then recorded it – and gave it the deep six shortly thereafter. Only now has it been published, so your new STEWARDS ECLECTRIC single isn’t really new, is it? It’s 40 years old! Why didn’t you release the blessed thing back when that news item was current?
The Steward: Why? Because I hated it, that’s why. OK, not the music or the lyrics, not the song itself. No. I hated having to write it. I hated the reason for writing it. Still do. And I was pretty sure back then that no one wanted to hear it. But one of my cohorts at our musicians’ consortium, Sings Two Bears, (precussionist & in-house wise guy), insisted that the artistry of the piece should see the light of day, and when I re-listened I reluctantly agreed. Waited long enough. So we finished it using modern recording tech, and pushed it out for the 40-year observance to see if it would resonate with anybody. After various titles, we ended up calling it simply J. Lennon Blues. To honor that fallen musician ~ and also Beatles record producer George Martin , an audio hero of mine ~ we used words, phrases and instruments in an arrangement that is a love letter to both, right down to some backward vocals – originally done while crying in the beer. Granted, it may be a little sappy, but considering the time and circumstance, it was, if nothing else, honest and expressive.
Crow: Yeah, wow, at well over 6 minutes in length, it’s quite the old-school album cut. But your digital singles often have two songs or ‘sides’. You're hardly known as a rap artist, yet you claim the flip side is ‘left-handed hip hop”. Just what in the name of Rolling Stone is that? Would you please explain?
Steward: Well, I don't stock my closet with embroidered Nudie suits either, but that hasn't kept me from turning out country stuff. No – I won’t explain. Our lissners aren’t shitheads. Whether they’re experienced audiophiles or just curious, they’ll get it. Side B is titled Nonnel J. Blues, and many of them would get it simply from that. It’s a completely new production that trips off the old one. It started with the idea that someone might want to know what the backwards vocals in J. Lennon Blues were saying, and we might provide that in some way. Then it took on a life of its own. Whether our audience or any of my rapper brothers and sisters accept it as hip hop is up to them, but it is meant to honor the genre, however obliquely. We had a lot of fun doing it, which was welcome after finishing the rather depressing A side.
© Reprinted with the kind permission of the publishers of WASTING TIME magazine (Dec. 2020)
Gone to Richard's & Thanks for Stoppin' - Bye
Reaching way back into The Steward’s song archive, the reworked versions of Gone to Richards and Thanks for Stoppin’ – Bye actually are from the original cassette tapes personally given to a few select bowlers and restaurant staff back then. [See photo of the 'lost' giveaway cassettes in PHOTO/ART GALLERY.] The studio master had been stretched beyond re-use, and the cassettes were thought lost for many years. When the only two remaining tapes known to exist were found at the studio, using them posed a technical challenge but they were deemed workable, so the SE consortium took on the task of bringing these songs back to life just in time for a quarter century observance. We decided it would be wrong to start a new production; instead, we worked with those rough demos and low quality (slow-speed!) analog recordings, and in doing so, maintained the sound and feel of those times, but added instruments and voices, made improvements and clarifications, and took full advantage of the many upgrades in music technology since then. We’re proud to make these songs available long after their upstate NY introduction, and hope our lissners, especially local ones – loyal patrons of T-Burg's Camel's, or anybody who ever had a date, ate a great meal, took a cocktail or rolled the big marble at Richard’s Tri-County – might enjoy them. If you do, let us know. [Go to Q&A/CONTACT page.]
PERSONNEL: On the original recordings, that’s Billy Kelley on piano, and T. M. Shorter did the sax and the horn arrangements on 'Gone to…'. The Steward performed most of the other parts and multi-tracked them together. Heard or involved on the reworked productions were SE regulars Fingers Arachnid (piano), Ludwig Von Slingerlund (drums), Thaler N. Shorter (reprising his solo sax & horn arrangements), plus Dawn Busz-Rider and Trombone Lefty (making up the horn section), Morey Polfuss, (she’s the recording engineer responsible for the ‘rainbow sounds’ as well as the final mix - and it's pronounced Mor-RAY), The Steward (bass, guitars, vocals, solid lefthand pocket hit strike), and of course at the end of Side A, there’s Richard Updike himself in his only known recorded interview. Also: thanks to Pro Shop manager Terry Riddle for allowing me to descend on the alley with microphones, tape recorders and bowling ball one afternoon. That's where the bowling ball audio came from. (It was on lane 12.)
Call Me Tornado
After the millennial shift, longtime fan and friend S.J.Giffen authored and offered a poem for our consideration, knowing that most of us here were Zorro fans as kids (even though we were too young to understand why everyone was named Don.) Its particular charm was that it gave a first ‘person’ voice to the big black horse, Z’s heroic four-legged companion and an integral part of their missions of justice and mercy. Suzy and I collaborated to create song lyrics from the poem, and Call Me Tornado (Tor-NAH-doh) was born. A demo was made, but it immediately went into archives since other projects took precedent. Recent renewed attention to justice and mercy seemed to call this big, beautiful black entity forward once again – and squarely onto the director’s desk. The piece received the TLC production it deserved, and we’re proud to offer it to you. As usual, it sounds nothing like any of our previous pieces. Music by yours truly and the SE consortium players, lyrics by Steve and Suzy Steward, with love to Walt Diz and Johnston Mac.
Knowing that many engaged in the ag and farm profession play music in the tractor cab or outbuilding, we wanted to present a horse of a different color, and Gran Caballo (Grahn Cah-BAHL-yoh) or Big Horse is that. The 100% instrumental has some elements of …Tornado and adds other instruments, most notably that big, twangy, one-note guitar done with a definite nod to Duane Eddy. We send this out to: the equestrian, the horse lover, the trainer and the wrangler – the roper, the rider, the reiner, the mustanger – for all cowboys and cowgirls at rodeo or on the open range, for all those fascinated by a big horse. Ride on.
Here's to a Soldier of the King
Not long after the ...Tornado demo was made, Suzy and I went cross-country training: Coast Starlight, Superchief, Empire Builder, Surfliner, etc. via Amtrak first class, and one of our stops while playing on the lovely left coast was to attend late actor Guy Williams’ Hollywood Walk of Fame STAR ceremony, August 2, 2001. A famous hotel hosted the event, and a gala reception party followed for Williams’ fans, friends and family plus many of the actors that appeared on the popular and highly acclaimed Zorro TV show – and when in tinsel town, celebrations go into the wee hours. Here is the live, off-the-cuff, one-time-only performance lifted from the mono cassette tape as Steve “The Steward” and his $39 El Cheapo guitar entertain an intimate gathering just around midnight at the Hollywood Roosevelt, conducting a singalong with Sgt. Garcia’s wine drinking song first heard in the episode “Zorro’s Ride Into Terror”.
Heard (beside Steve & Suzy) are many Zorro aficionados, some well known and famous in their own right. Among them were Wendell Vega, (Don Diego’s cousin?), with his sharp fencing energy and perfectly rendered “I-yi-yi-YI!” – and that clear, operatic-quality singing voice is Mary Sheeran (who quite easily aces out The Steward here to win the Henry Calvin Big Powerful Voice Award ). Were it not for these folks' enthusiasm, (and great prompting!), we never would have propped up this archival oldie for ya. (And, hey, if you were there, drop us a line!) ‘Kazoo Girl’ remains uncredited. At the time, I wanted to tell her what to do with that kazoo, [I would’ve gladly placed it there for her!], but now, years afterward, her audio presence invokes a comedy bit worth arguably more than the admission fee – which was, of course, free.
NOTE that this is a STEWARDSONGS exclusive. Since this particular track is not an SE original but a ‘cover’ of the song written by Gil George and Joe Dubin, it is NOT being sold or made available for download or streaming. It is here and on SoundCloud only for the private, non-commercial enjoyment of our fans, friends and lissning audience.
* * * * *
CHEF'S SERVING SUGGESTION: Regular patrons of this humble audio eatery should initially (or at some time) hear all three of these pieces consecutively, and in the order the players are arranged: 1. Gran Caballo 2. Call Me Tornado 3. Here's to a Soldier... This modest musical snack will cost no more than about 14 minutes. Bon appetite. [OPTIONAL: Consume wine or libation of choice at least one-half hour before combining ingredients.]
Releases from 2019 included “Crossing Across” [instrumental] and “Across a Universe”.
My brother shuffled off this mortal coil unexpectedly in the summer of 2018. His daughter, (my niece), had already established a timeline for her impending wedding, so I felt compelled to write music for the occasion in a style that he would have liked.
The wedding version of “Across a Universe” was played at the reception, with special lyrics for Shawna and Joe. This second version has significant additional instrumentation and new lyrics dedicated to my Susan Joan.
The instrumental version “Crossing Across” was freed up from lyric constraints, allowing for more emotional expression. “Crossing Across” is in loving memory of Gale Albert Steward, a.k.a. ham radio's K3ND, a Zeppelin and Floyd fan, car guy, race fan, Dodge trucker, lefty bass player and devout 4-speaker audiophile. In that SPIRIT, both of these pieces are meant to be played LOUD.
Keep Wakan, yes indeed
"Wakan" is a 5-minute 20-second indie rocker employing various American Native instruments (and also those indigenous to other countries) not traditionally but in a rock setting with guitar, bass, drums and musical saw. Wakan (pronounced wah-kahn) honors that Lakota word for sacred, spiritually big and powerful. Part of the bigger 'Wakan Tanka', which is usually translated to ‘The Great Spirit’, but an alternate is sometimes offered: The Great Mystery. Closer.
This is the SE single version, a remake of the R,D,W album cut. Cameo appearance by bass singer Big Lurch Hooper. Instrumentation includes musical saw by specialist Mr. E. S. Carpenter, and native flute by the versatile Dawn Busz-Rider. Sings-Two-Bears handled native drums, rattles, heavy tomtoms, etc., (and obviously had a pretty great time doing it all; he and the studio had been collecting these for years, and he managed to use every one somewhere in the production at least once!) Multiple basses, but the main bass used was a Coral Jazz 5-fret , a.k.a. ‘SSLIDER’ [the first prototype] with 5 frets, otherwise fretless, designed, built and played by the Director.
Few Words from the Bass Commander...[very few*]
“Postwar Jump” and “March No More” were released in April 2018. We consider these a mated pair, in some hybrid JAZZ genre. (We'll let others figure that out.)
"Postwar Jump" is a quick (2 minutes, 14 seconds!) modern /‘40s jazz number paying homage to the horn arrangements of the vintage Big Bands, while possibly furthering the contemporary philosophy. The piece is described by percussionist and in-house self-appointed name-giver Sings Two Bears as: 'Trombone Lefty with Dook Ellingtun and The Steward .'
"March No More" is nearly 6 minutes of 'roughly-charted' funk/jazz/rock studio jam, and has been described as: 'Herby Handcock Meets Blud, Swet & Phish' . Heroes are where you find them - and come in all shapes and sizes, ages and genders, colors and nationalities. Therefore, "March No More" is dedicated to: James V. Forrestal, Milton William Cooper, Dwight D. Eisenhower, James Penniston, Maria Orsic, Danal Meza, JFK, Ghost Army (23rd Hqtr. Sp. Troops) and all others who have offered themselves unselfishly in service and who will, for whatever reason, march no more. In addition, the marching drum 'roll off' is dedicated to band directors Prof. R. R. Llewellen and Clyde Scott, and to my bandmate brothers and sisters of the Berwick Bulldogs High School Band.
Composition, horn arrangements and '67 Fender bass action by The Steward. * Both pieces are 99% instrumental - and those instrumentalists include Trombone Lefty, Toots Headstrong, and Lovecchio Armitage on brass, saxman Thaler N. Shorter, the lovely Dawn Busz-Rider on woodwinds, Billy Kelley on piano (March..."), and percussion by Ludwig Von Slingerland and Sings Two Bears.
Those FRACKIN' Songs...!
Another 'mated pair' of songs, in the country genre. Guest vocalist Ernest J. Silverback gives a patina’d sterling performance as the old man who made the wrong decisions for all the right reasons in “Frackin’ Fool” (a.k.a “The Old Frackin’ Fool”), a cautionary tale ballad on a contemporary subject. (The description from Two Bears is: 'Mister Carpenter sawing wood with the Oak Ridge Boyz.' The uptempo "Frackin' Hoedown" is designed to follow. An interviewer once asked what he thought of his newfound audience. He replied, “Ya gotta love these kids. They know we are ALL stewards of this place." (But so who is E. J. Silverback? See Q&A.)
Up-tempo “Frackin’ Hoedown”, (a.k.a “Another Frackin’ Hoedown”), brings The ECLECTRIC Music Players together for a barn thumping follow-up to the old man ballad. Under Steward’s direction, veteran instrumentalists Floren deKichen (fiddle) and Mr. E. S. Carpenter (musical saw) team up with new blood as well as old friends from Steve’s 2010 album Ridin’, Drivin’, Wakan... . Within the devilishly angelic ECLECTRIC CHORUS, the voices of Serena Ann Green Eagle and the lovely Floral Clustah are joined by recent standout inductees Li'l Maxie Ripnit on the high end, and the one and only Big Lurch Hooper on the bottom. Also we must mention that the SE ensemble is joined here in the person of Chubbie Pickens on banjo, (and you'll be hearing more of Chubbie's work in the future). Describing ...Hoedown, Sings Two Bears says: 'Sounds like Earl Skruggs' cousin and The Oak Ridge Boyz - and Girlz - all pissed in the barn.'
For strictly artistic reasons, we offer a combined edition available at our distributution sites (and on SoundCloud) where the material is presented as it was originally written, produced, and was intended to be heard. The label loses money on it, but a promise is a promise. “Frackin’ Fool Frackin’ Hoedown” is true to the author’s vision, and a good $ value. This is the 'Storyteller’s Special', and it works the way it was supposed to. Running time, both songs together, about 8 1/2 minutes. If you invest the time to listen, please stay for the end.
NOTE! It would appear that one or both of these songs have ruffled a few feathers: for example, see the entry on Q & A page from 'Deereman66'.
Something like Blues
The solo performance of "Pennsy Train Blues" is unique output from this musicians' consortium. It was an impromptu ad lib studio creation by a very tired artist in the wee hours, a one-shot deal. With one microphone, a few lyric ideas and a white Hendrix Strat, it can be generally blamed on the 2 picture postcards of bluesman Elmore James' six-string guitar (with signature four strings) sent from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Recorded entirely as is in one pass, no editing, no overdubs. It is what it was. In-house wise-guy Sings Two Bears bet the director he didn't have the guts to publish it. He loses.
Meant as a toast to the great old bluesmen, it is also dedicated to the Pennsy RR, the Lehigh Valley RR, Milwaukee Road, NYCental, Erie Lackawanna, and Amtrak and their excellent sleeping car attendants Kartoon Kioshi and the Lovely Grace, and especially to that girl Suzy in the yellow dress. [Album art in PHOTO/ART GALLERY]