Peter, Paul & Mary’s Ode to Playing “Right Field”

baseball card Ruth
Some right fielders are good.

It is that time of year when winter turns to a season of hope.  We hope for a beautiful spring as we welcome warm weather.  Also, we hope that this year will be “the year” for our baseball team.  But no matter what happens with the season, every team at least has a chance on opening day.

For anyone who played baseball growing up, there is one position where they would stick the kids who were not very skilled at the game.  These were the kids who were hopeful enough to play the game.  But the coaches did not have much hope in them.  I know, because I was one of those kids.

I still love baseball.  So it is worth celebrating those of us who grew up in right field.

Peter, Paul & Mary wrote a touching ode to playing right field “watching the dandelions grow.”

I’d dream of the day they’d hit one my way;
They never did, but still I would pray,
That I’d make a fantastic catch on the run,
And not lose the ball in the sun;
And then I’d awake from this long reverie,
And pray that the ball never came out to me,
Here in . . . Right field.

Below, Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers perform “Right Field” at their 25th Anniversary Concert.  Check it out.

Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo of Ruth card via public domain.

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    Eugene the Jeep and Popeye

    Popeye Dog

    On March 16, 1936, Eugene the Jeep made its first appearance in the Thimble Theatre strip that starred Popeye.  The Jeep was a yellow creature, somewhat like a dog.  But, unlike a dog, Eugene walked on his hind legs and had magical powers.

    From Where Did Eugene the Jeep Come?

    In the comic strip, Eugene the Jeep’s origin was explained by the fact that Olive Oyl’s Uncle Ben found Eugene in Africa and then gave it to Olive.  Animated episodes, however, provided different takes on Eugene.

    In animated versions of Popeye, the animators treated Eugene the Jeep largely as a “magical dog.”  In The Jeep (1938), Popeye gave Eugene to Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea.

    But a few years later in Popeye Presents Eugene the Jeep (1940), Popeye received Eugene from Olive.  In the episode, he acts like he had never seen the “baby puppy” before.

    Near Misses With Movies

    Eugene the Jeep almost made it onto the big screen with Robin Williams in Robert Altman’s 1980 movie Popeye. An early screenplay by Jules Feiffer included Eugene the Jeep.

    But reportedly it was difficult to make the magical creature believable in the live-action film.  So, he was taken out of the story. Some of his magic remained, though, as the writer gave some of the Jeep’s characteristics to Swee’ Pea in the movie.

    But although Eugene the Jeep missed out on that movie, he is still around. For example, he is the school mascot for a couple of high schools.

    At one point, Eugene the Jeep was scheduled finally to make it to the big screen by appearing in a 3D Popeye movie directed by Gennedy Tarakovsky (Hotel Transylvania). But Tarakovsky left the project in 2015 after disagreeing with the studio, which wanted a more modern version of Popeye.

    The video below features a screen test of animation from Tarakovsky’s film, including an appearance by Eugene the Jeep.

    We will have to wait and see whether Eugene the Jeep appears in the final version of the new Popeye film.

    What is your favorite Eugene the Jeep story? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Marty Stuart Takes Us “Way Out West”

    Way Out West CD

    On Marty Stuart’s latest album, Way Out West, the country singer-songwriter finds inspiration in the western United States. But it is not an album of old cowboy songs. Stuart’s songs find their sources in a more modern West.

    These are the sounds of electric guitars, not harmonica and an acoustic guitar. The music of California plays a larger role in the album than a cowboy campfire, with songs inspired by the sounds of surf-rock or the Byrds or mariachi or spaghetti Westerns — with a little dash of visions of psychedelic aliens. Maybe this is what Gram Parsons meant by Cosmic American Music.

    The album features Stuart’s long-time band the Fabulous Superlatives, which includes Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Harry Stinson (drums) and new member Chris Scruggs (bass).  And Mike Campbell, the guitarist with Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, produced Way Out West.

    Stuart’s website boasts: “The new album, with its atmospheric production and primal rock & roll energy, evokes classics like Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs and Cash’s The Fabulous Johnny Cash, one of the first albums Stuart ever owned.”

    Check out the title track of Way Out West, which gives you an idea of the atmospheric sound of much of the album, which also features several instrumentals.

    One of my favorites on the album is what sounds like a country road song. So, check out the first single, “Whole Lotta Highway (With a Million Miles to Go).”

    Marty Stuart continues to work as an artist exploring new sounds and concepts, not staying stuck in any one place. He has made some great concept albums during the last several decades, including The Pilgrim (1999). So it is cool to see him creating new sounds with a concept that ties together the whole album. It is more of an atmospheric ride or a late-night soundtrack than a collection of catchy songs, but that is okay. It is a fun ride out West.

    Way Out West hits the Internet on March 10, 2017.

    What is your favorite Marty Stuart album? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Richard Nixon and Pearl Bailey Amid the Storm

    Nixon Bailey Piano

    On March 7, 1974, singer Pearl Bailey invited President Richard Nixon to join her on stage at a White House dinner for the Midwinter Governors’ Conference.  Nixon joined Bailey onstage at the piano, playing “Home on the Range.”

    The Washington Post called it “the impromptu ‘Dick and Pearl Show.'” The two then went into “Wild Irish Rose.” The audience loved the duo. California Governor Ronald Reagan later said that the evening was “absolutely tops.”

    But on the same week as this performance, a grand jury had named the president as an unindicted co-conspirator in the growing Watergate scandal.  It had also issued criminal indictments against six former officials in Nixon’s administration and a lawyer for his reelection campaign.

    There was talk of the possible impeachment of the president.  And the country also faced an energy crisis, trouble in the Middle East, and economic woes.  In five months on August 8, Nixon would announce his resignation.

    But for a few moments on March 7, the president must have felt a little respite as his mind was taken off his troubles.  For a brief time, with the weight of world about to crash upon him, he had a few laughs with Pearl Bailey.

    From a description of the evening, the video below appears to be from that night on March 7, 1974.  Check it out.

    Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo image via YouTube.

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    Lloyd Price: Stagger Lee

    Stagger Lee

    I have at least sixteen versions of the classic song “Stagger Lee” on my iPod. Yet, I only recently discovered this version that I love recorded by Lloyd Price.

    Lloyd Price’s version of “Stagger Lee” topped the pop and R&B charts in 1958, and it also made the top 10 in the U.K singles charts. The folk song about Stagger Lee killing Billy Lyons, however, has been around since at least 1911 when it was first published.

    Price was born on March 9, 1933, and he is from Kenner, Louisiana. The town has a street named after him and celebrates an annual Lloyd Price Day.

    Although his first hit – “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” — was in 1952, he is still around. He gave this interview in 2013.

    Price, who is nicknamed “Mr. Personality,” was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked his version of “Stagger Lee” as among the top 500 greatest songs of all time (although the song dropped out of the top 500 in the 2010 ranking).

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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