Monday, October 30, 2017

John Tuttle's Diary: Judgement Day 1860

1860 was the year of comets and meteors in the United States. Four comets were discovered, one of which was to the naked eye from mid-June through July. The first meteor fell on May 1st near New Concord, Ohio.

A very rare event occurred on July 20th when an earth-grazing meteor, a meteor that moves nearly horizontally through the Earth's atmosphere, nearly parallel to the earth's surface, passed from Lake Huron near Buffalo, New York across Greenwich, Connecticut and out over the Atlantic. Meteor processions are so rare most people have never heard of them. There have only been four: 1783, 1860, 1876, 1913.

And then on August 2nd, a magnificent meteor appeared from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, and from Charleston to St. Louis, an area of 900 miles in diameter. Several observers described it as being larger than the full moon, and just before it's disappearance, it broke into several fragments. A few minutes after the flash of the meteor, there was heard throughout several counties in Kentucky and Tennessee a tremendous explosion like the sound of a distant cannon. Immediately, another noise was heard, not quite so loud, and the sounds were re-echoed with the prolonged roar of thunder.

From a comparison of a large number of observations, it was computed that this meteor first became visible of northeastern Georgia, about 82 miles above the earth's surface and that it exploded over the southern boundary line of Kentucky at an elevation of 28 miles. The length of its visible path was about 240 miles and the time of flight eight seconds, showing a velocity relative to the earth of 30 miles per second, and was this computed that it's velocity relative to the sun was 24 miles per second.

John W. Tuttle of Wayne County (1837-1927) wrote about the meteor in "Diary of John W. Tuttle, 1860-1867," which is on file at the University of Kentucky.

"Thursday, August 2, 1860:  Dr. J. B. S. Frisbie, W. A. Haskins and myself were sitting in the porch when all at once a meteor of the most intensely brilliant character arose in the Southeast, rising in its course at an angle of about 20 degrees, and moved with an apparently slow motion towards the Northwest.  Its light was of a peculiarly white character more brilliant perhaps than that of the sun. It completely blinded, for a moment, all who beheld it.

After the meteor had disappeared, I walked down town to learn the sentiments of the people generally with respect to the strange visitor. The matter was being discussed freely and many opinions expressed with regard to it. The savants differing among themselves displayed a depth of research into the hidden mysteries of physical science truly astounding. Illustrious examples shining forth from the page of history should have taught them the folly of attempting to tamper with the staid orthodoxy of the common mind to popular opinion.

The theory finding favor with the greater number was that the "last day" of the existence of this little ball of dirt had most certainly arrived. Some minutes after the disappearance of the meteor a sound, deep and unnatural, not unlike the rumbling of heavy thunder, in the distance, when near the earth but partaking of the roaring nature more like the roaring of a whirlwind. The sound continued for several minutes and gradually died away, greatly to the relief of those regarding the sound as the herald of an earthquake or judgment day."

In the Aug. 13, 1860 edition of The New York Times, Dr. Alex McCall of Rome, Tennessee said "the sounds were like hundreds of wagons running over bridges. The first sounds came from it when near to us, resembling powder explosions in open space, but the remotest sounds came five to ten minutes afterward. The intensity of the blaze made me spring from bed, supposing a fire had broken out, and on reaching the window, shadows were glancing in every direction.

'Caroline' said the moon had fallen and was burning up; 'Nick' said 'the fire ran into my eyes and woke me up; and 'Isaac,' jumping, asleep, from the ground, insisted the world was on fire. Then came the sounds like a great bass drum pelted by some giant, keeping time. In its rapid flight the meteor cast off thousands of sparks at every explosion, and then flashed bright as the sun, confusing the eye and causing the leaves and grass to appear purple; finally splitting into two meteors as it expired."

Though the meteor procession of 1860 garnered much public attention, it was mostly forgotten by the 20th century, perhaps overshadowed by the tremendous events of the Civil War that followed, but Walt Whitman and the thousands of other people who saw the meteors, and the rare meteor procession witnessed something truly special.

Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass" includes the poem, “Year of Meteors, (1859-60),” in which he includes descriptions of a comet and meteors of 1860:

Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven,

Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads,

(A moment, a moment long it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads then departed, dropt in the night and was gone)

John Tuttle's diary spans his social and family life before the Civil War, his time serving in the Union Army's 3rd Ky Vol. Infantry, Co. H during the war, where he saw action at the battles of Shiloh, Lookout Mountain and Atlanta, and the post-war when he returned home to his legal practice in Monticello, where he presided over the bankruptcy court for almost 50 years. Tuttle and his wife, Mollie, had several children. He was born in 1837 and died in 1927 and is buried at Elk Spring Cemetery.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fats Domino - The Real King of Rock N Roll?

Fats Domino was one of the most influential rock and roll performers of the 1950s and 60s. Best known for "Ain't That A Shame," "Walkin' To New Orleans" and "Blueberry Hill," he had 30+ Top 40 hit singles and sold more than 65 million records, outselling every 1950s rock and roll act except Elvis Presley. His million-selling debut single, "The Fat Man," is credited by some as the first ever rock and roll record.

Fats Domino was one of the first rhythm and blues artists to gain popularity with a white audience. Elvis Presley referred to him as "the real king of rock n roll" and Paul McCartney reportedly wrote the Beatles song "Lady Madonna" in emulation of his style. In 1986, he was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Antoine "Fats" Domino Jr was born in New Orleans on Feb. 26, 1928, the son of a violinist. He said clean living kept him in shape. Righteous thoughts were his secret, and New Orleans home cooking. His parents were of Creole origin, and French Creole was spoken in the family. Domino left school at the age of 14 to work in a bedspring factory by day, and play in bars by night. He was playing piano in honky-tonks as a teenager when bandleader Bill Diamond said the youngster's technique reminded him of two other great piano players, Fats Waller and Fats Pichon. He was 17 when he made his first record in 1949.

In the mid-1940s, he joined trumpeter Dave Bartholomew's band. Those two co-wrote many songs. A lot of people think Fats wrote 'Blueberry Hill' but he didn't. While his version of the song is best remembered, Fats claimed the song was written in 1927 by Larry Stock and Al Lewis. It was recorded several times in 1940's, by Sammy Kaye Orchestra, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Gene Autry, Jimmy Dorsey, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Louis Armstrong. Domino's version was included on his 1956 album, "This Is Fats Domino!" on Imperial Records. It was an international hit which became a rock and roll standard. Domino's version ranked #82 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

So, how great was Fats Domino?

Rolling Stone magazine listed him at #25 in the list of 'Greatest Recording Artists of All Time.' The magazine said: "After John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Fats Domino and his partner, Dave Bartholomew, were probably the greatest team of songwriters ever. They always had a simple melody, a hip set of chord changes and a cool groove. And their songs all had simple lyrics; that's the key. There are no deep plots in Fats Domino songs: "Yes, it's me, and I'm in love again/Had no lovin' since you know when/You know I love you, yes I do/And I'm savin' all my lovin' just for you." It don't get no simpler than that."

The Far Side

If there had never been a Fats Domino, Gary Larson would have never produced my all-time favorite Far Side piece.

R.I.P. Fats Domino

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Shelby Coffey Had A Good Name Before The Rebellion

Shelby Coffey was born in Wayne County, Kentucky on Dec. 1, 1832, the son of Manerva Alexander Coffey. "The Coffey's were wealthy and influential people," wrote John Allen Brents in his Patriots and Guerrillas book. Coffey was elected to Kentucky Legislature in 1859 and served during the 1860-61 session. He stood very high among the members of that body. Brents wrote that like many other youths in Kentucky, Coffey was misled by political tricksters. "He had a good name before the rebellion, but the curse of the rebellion blighted his character." Specifically, Brents, who was a Union Major for the Kentucky 1st Cavalry during the Civil War, wrote that Coffey was corrupted by Congressman James Chrisman of Wayne County. In 1861, Coffey joined the Confederacy and was Captain of Company H, 6th Ky Volunteer Cavalry. This company was partly organized in Wayne County on January 18, 1862. Organization was completed at Livingston, Tennessee. Records state that Capt. Coffey was wounded in an apparent skirmish that occured in Clinton County, Kentucky on January 16, 1862. He went home to Wayne County, where he died on March 20th. He is buried at Elk Springs Valley Cemetery on Kentucky Highway 92 East in Wayne County, not to be confused with Elk Spring Cemetery in town. It is a small cemetery with mostly Coffey Family and people that married into the Coffey family.

Jeremiah Was A Good Friend Of Mine

 I was in the 6th grade when Three Dog Might released "Joy To The World" in February of 1971. It was the first record i purchased using my own money, which i had made from mowing yards. I bought it at McWhorters Variety Store for $1.05. The single had been out less than two months when, on April 9, 1971, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of over 1,000,000 units across the United States. The record was also given a Gold Leaf award by RPM magazine for sales of over a million units and it won the award for the Best Selling Hit Single Record by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers in March 1972. It was also ranked the #1 Pop single of 1971 by Billboard magazine. When the song hit #1, it's writer, Hoyt Axton, and his mother, Mar Axton, became the first mother and son to each have written a number one pop single in the rock era. She co-wrote Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel."

"Joy To The World" was recorded in 1970 at American Recording Company. Three Dog Night originally released the song on their fourth studio album, "Naturally," in November of that year. Some of the words are nonsensical. Axton wanted to persuade his record producers to record a new melody he had written and the producers asked him to sing any words to the tune. The original opening line was "Jeremiah was a prophet," but no one liked that. When he performed the song to the group, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells rejected it, but Chuck Negron felt it would help bring the band back together as a working unit. Instead of having the three main vocalists singing harmony, the song was recorded with all seven members of the band singing. Drummer Floyd Sneed sang the deep lyric, "I wanna tell you," towards the end of the song.

"Joy To The World" went on to sell 5 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Everytime I hear the song on the radio or I play it the band, my mind goes back to that 45rpm record I bought in early 1971.

"Joy To The World"

Verse 1
Jeremiah was a bull frog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him drink his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine

Verse 2
If I were the king of the world
Tell you what I'd do
I'd throw away the cars
And the bars and the wars
Make sweet love to you

Verse 3
You know I love the ladies
Love to have my fun
I'm a high night flier and a rainbow rider
A straight-shootin' son of a gun
I said a straight shootin' son of a gun

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bozo the Clown (Success In Nashville)

On September 30, 1950, WSM-TV (now WSMV), channel 4, became the first TV station to sign on the air in Nashville, Tennessee. WSIX (now WKRN), channel 8 (now channel 2), signed on three years later, on November 29, 1953. WLAC-TV (now WTVF), channel 5, signed on nine months later, on August 6, 1954.

"Three Nashville Stations On Our TV!"

...and that wasn't a bad thing because we learned a lot about Nashville, the Life and Casualty Insurance Company, Frosty Morn' Ham, Elm Hill Bill, Martha White Flour, Ernest P. Worley and Purity Milk, Goo Goo's, Purnell's Old Folk's Country Sausage and that Colonial Bread was GOOD!

We tuned in to WSM to see if George Goldtrap would miss flipping that chalk into his pocket and to see what bizarre sports jacket Charlie MacAlexander would be wearing. We witnessed greatness when Nashville's "Mr. Television," Jud Collins read the news. One of my favorite shows was "Creature Feature," which turned film editor Russ McGowan into a cult celebrity as Sir Cecil Creape, host of late night horror movie flicks.

On WLAC, there was "Dialing for Dollars," "The Big Show," "The Late, Late Show" and Bob Lobertini! WSIX had the famous disc jockey Hugh Cherry, a close friend of Hank Williams, and legendary sportscaster Paul "Holy Smokes" Eells. Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak did the weather on Channel 4 and worked on scripts for Creature Feature, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey read the news on Channel 5, but when it was all said and done, one of the most poplar shows on Nashville TV back in the day did not include any of the popular TV personalities. That honor belonged to Bozo the Clown!

"Nashville's Version Of a National TV Icon"

Most folks might not have realized that Bozo the Clown was a franchised character. TV stations ordered the costume, hired local talent to play Bozo and then put together their own production. Another show that had previously used this model successfully was Romper Room. During the Nashville run of Bozo the Clown, from 1956 into the late 70's, there were four different Bozo the Clowns.

When WSM, channel 4, decided to start airing Bozo the Clown in 1956, the station hired local puppeteer, Tom Tichenor, the very first Bozo the Clown in Nashville. In the beginning, he was paid $5 for every 15-minute show.

Dick Brackett

When Tichenor accepted a Broadway show opportunity in 1959, WSM prop man, Dick Brackett, became Bozo the Clown #2. During his stint as Bozo the Clown, the show changed from black and white to color and moved to a larger studio to accommodate a bigger live audience of children. The shows were broadcast live and were spontaneous or "ad-libbed." The kids were the stars of the show. During one segment, Brackett said a little girl tugged at his arm and asked, "Bozo, is there a man inside you?" The show was so popular, no fewer than 18 sponsors were crowded into an hour-long show. Cartoons were the primary feature of the show, with the ideal quota being one cartoon during every fifteen minute segment. Cartoons such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and other Paramount cartoons were dropped in wherever possible.

"The War of Bozo's"

When WSM's contract with the Bozo the Clown franchise came up for renewal in 1966, competing TV station WSIX decided Bozo the Clown was their ticket to attract the after-school audience, and it worked. In what was jokingly dubbed "The War of Bozo's" by the local press, WSIX outbid WSM three to one for the rights to the show. WSIX announcer Joe Holcombe won the role of Bozo the Clown #3 after several hundred people auditioned. He turned it into the game-show format that I remember and the show went big-time, with as many as 150 kids in the studio for a single epidode. Back at WSM, Brackets altered the costume a bit, changed the clown's name to Captain Countdown and WSM began a new children's program with nearly the same format with the exception being that WSM used Warner Brothers cartoons. The show ran from 1966 to 1969 when Brackett left television to pursue other interests. Meanwhile, Bozo the Clown on WSIX quickly rose to number one in its time slot and at one point, kids in the audience were booked more than two years in advance. Holcombe played Bozo the Clown for a few years. When he left the role, he was replaced by Bozo the Clown #4, WSIX newsman Jim Kent, who portrayed Bozo the Clown for a few years until Holcombe returned. "Kent was nervous as Bozo the Clown," Holcombe said. "He smoked cigarettes while in costume. Bozo the Clown wasn't for everybody."

"A Clown Star is Born"

Just how did the Bozo the Clown get its start? In 1946, creator Alan W. Livingston and Capitol Records introduced Bozo the Clown to the world via a children’s record entitled "Bozo at the Circus." The album, which featured an illustrative read-along book set (the first of its kind), lasted for an astounding 200 weeks on Billboard’s ‘Best Selling Children’s Records’ chart, and a clown star was born.

Pinto Colvig portrayed the character on this and subsequent Bozo read-along records. The albums were very popular and the character became a mascot for the record company and was later nicknamed "Bozo the Capitol Clown." Many non-Bozo Capitol children's records had a "Bozo Approved" label on the jacket. In 1948, Capitol and Livingston began setting up royalty arrangements with manufacturers and television stations for use of the Bozo character.

The first version of the TV show, "Bozo’s Circus," appeared on KTTV in Los Angeles in 1949 and starred Colvig. He wore white face makeup, a red nose, tufts of red hair and a blue one-piece suit on this live half-hour circus show. This version of the show aired until 1950. Capitol Records’ new TV head Elmo Williams produced 13 half-hour Bozo episodes which starred Syd Saylor as Bozo and Alan Livingston as the ringmaster.

In 1956, Larry Harmon, one of several actors hired by Livingston and Capitol Records to portray Bozo at promotional appearances, formed a business partnership and bought the licensing rights (excluding the record-readers) to the character, which by this time had generated record sales in excess of $20 million.

"Bozo, The World’s Most Famous Clown"

Harmon renamed the character "Bozo, The World’s Most Famous Clown." He adopted the idea of a daily half-hour show with a live Bozo, a studio audience of children, and five-minute cartoons, packaged and franchised to different markets across the US. He also modified the voice, laugh and costume. He then worked with a wig stylist to get the wing-tipped bright orange style and look of the hair that had previously appeared in Capitol's Bozo comic books.

The wigs for Bozo were originally manufactured through the Hollywood firm Emil Corsillo Inc. The headpiece was made from yak hair, which was adhered to a canvas base with a starched burlap interior foundation. The hair was first styled, formed, then sprayed with a heavy coat of lacquer to keep its form. The canvas top would slide over the actor's forehead. With the exception of the Bozo wigs for WGN-TV Chicago, the eyebrows were permanently painted on the headpiece.

In 1959 the idea took hold, and Harmon soon had 100 Bozos across America with additional clowns in Germany, France and Japan. The new Bozos had to learn such phrases as “What are you doodly-do-doing?” and “Wowie kazowee!” By the mid 1960’s, Bozo was grossing over $150 million in merchandise worldwide.

Although Bozo the Clown might still occasionally show up, the character's broad popularity peaked in the United States in the 1960s as a result of the widespread TV franchising. The most successful Bozo in the franchise aired on WGN in Chicago from 1960 until 2001. Harmon claimed that more than 200 actors have portrayed the clown. The most famous is former Today Show weatherman, Willard Scott.

After his stint as Bozo the Clown, WSIX's Joe Holcombe said occasionally someone would recognize him and ask, "Didn't you used to be Bozo?" "I still am inside," he would reply. "There's a little Bozo in all of us."

Larry Harmon

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"So Long Lance Russell (You Just Wait Till Lawler Hears About This!)"

Professional wrestling's greatest announcer ever has died. Lance Russell, one of wrestling most treasured voices died Tuesday morning (Oct. 3rd) at the age of 91, after complications from a fall. He was hospitalized after breaking his hip in a fall on Friday, which was the second time he had fallen last week. Friday was also the day that Russell's daughter lost her battle with cancer.

There is a special place in my heart for the radio and TV sports announcers I grew up with. From ABC's Wide World of Sports to roller derby and everything in between, sports was always a big part of my life. At my house, we watched on TV whatever sport was 'in season,' especially on Saturday's. For me, there was no better way to spend Saturday than with Lance Russell.

Jerry "The King" Lawler may have ruled the wrestling circuit based in Memphis, but Lance Russell WAS wrestling. Legendary doesn't even begin to describe their impact. What they were able to accomplish, I am proud to say, definitely had a big effect in me growing up.

Russell was a television program director when he put wrestling in its Saturday morning time slot in Memphis where it had great success and he was also the ring announcer. It was my favorite program to watch on Saturday. Russell, who announced matches in the Memphis region from 1959 to 1997, for the NWA Mid-America and the Continental Wrestling Associations, was best known for his relaxed announcing style, as well as the much-used phrases, "By golly" and "Son of a gun." His co-host for more than two decades was Dave Brown, a college student and disc jockey, and later, TV meteorologist.

While he was definitely a star, Lance Russell never found himself in the position of being a bigger than the wrestlers he worked with. That list runs long: Lou Thesz, Jackie Fargo, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart and Randy Savage, to name a few. Russell would get up from his chair to conduct interviews, walking around to the front of the desk. It was common to see one or more of the heel wrestlers demolish the set or even run roughhouse over Russell. These interviews were often the highlight of the Saturday morning television broadcast.

Russell also literally rang a bell to begin matches, in addition to pounding it loudly in futile attempts to halt out-of-control melees in the ring. He used the mic to chastise and exhort wrestlers during their match. He often encouraged other wrestlers to run in from the locker room and offer assistance. His famous one-liners were "Don't start with that smart stuff" and "Will you guys just stop and get out of here?" or this one: "You just wait until Lawler finds out about this!"

Lance Russell and Dave Brown have been described by wrestling insiders and fans as the greatest television announcing team in the history of wrestling. After Russell's death, his long-time partner tweeted, "My lifetime friend, Lance Russell died early this morning. I cannot express how sad I am. He was responsible for my TV career success."

By golly Dave, I think you're right!

On a personal note, from someone who has followed pro wrestling his whole life, especially those great days of yore when wrestling in this region was as great as you could find anywhere, I suppose that if God said it had to be this way, it is only appropriate that we said goodbye to Dale "TNT" Mann and Lance Russell in the same year. They were my heroes. Sad.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...