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Blues and Haikus



Jack Kerouac with jazz greats Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. (1958). His second album on Hanover after “Poems for a Beat Generation” on which he was accompanied by TV talk show host Steve Allen. Produced by Bob Thiele. Click on the back cover here and hopefully you can read the liner notes by Gilbert Millstein. Kerouac calls Zoot and Al “Holy Blakean babies” and says “Zoot and Al blow thoughtful, sweet metaphysical sorrows.” Kerouac actually sings on one cut with Zoot playing piano for the first time on record. Here’s one of the haikus: “In my winter cabinet/the fly has/died of old age” Beat that.

Track listing: American Haikus; Hard Hearted Old Farmer; The Last Hotel & Some Of The Dharma; Poems from the Unpublished Book of The Blues; Old Western Movies; Conclusion Of The Railroad Earth.

Hear some of this record HERE.

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Famous busts


Jayne Mansfield: “Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky & Me” MGM Records. (1964) Jayne recites Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems by Marlowe, Browning and Wordsworth against a background of Tchaikovsky’s music.

Opening / How Do I Love Thee / The Indian Serenade / Good Night / You Say I Love Not / If This Be Love / The Lady’s “Yes” / She Walks In Beauty / Cleopatra / Was This The Face / Whiteness, Or Chastity / Madrigal / Jenny Kiss’d Me / Verses Copied From The Window Of An Obscure Lodging House / The Enchantment / The passionate Sheperd To His Love / Upon The Nipples Of Julias Breast / Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes / The Lovers / To the Virgins, To Make Much Of Time / Inclusions / When You Are Old / Daffodils / Take, O, These Lips Away / Mark How The Bashful Morn / Oh! Dear, What Can The Matter Be? / The Millers Daughter / The Fire Of Love / The Constant Lover / Why Should A Foolish Marriage Vow / Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms / Love Me Little, Love Me Long

The New York Times described the album as the actress reading “30-odd poems in a husky, urban, baby voice”. The paper’s reviewer went on to state that “Miss Mansfield is a lady with apparent charms, but reading poetry is not one of them.”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (31 votes, average: 3.61 out of 5)
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Weary blues


“Did You Ever Hear The Blues?” BIG MILLER (1922-1992) does “deep blues” by Langston Hughes. United Artists.

Clarence Horatio Miller’s first influence in music came from his father’s church but he also heard the blues sung by men working on the railroad. In the 30s, while still a student, he formed a band, but with the outbreak of World War II he joined the army. After serving in the Pacific and in Europe, he began entertaining his fellow soldiers. In 1949 he joined Lionel Hampton’s band, then had a five-year spell with Jay McShann. Miller had a commanding style and his rich voice lent itself especially well to the material he favoured. His influences in the blues were Joe Turner, Jimmy Rushing, T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Witherspoon, whom he followed into the McShann band. He also admired the ballad style of Billy Eckstine. Miller’s abiding interest in the blues was such that writer-poet Langston Hughes wrote a series of songs especially for him.

Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) published more than three dozen books during his life, starting out with poetry and then expanding into novels, short stories, and plays. He is closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of African-American literature and music in New York City following World War One, but he wrote poetry, books, and newspaper columns right through into the 1960s. Hughes’s work often spoke plainly about the lives of ordinary black people, which in later years earned him a reputation as one of the major black voices of the 1900s. His works include the poetry volumes The Weary Blues (1926) and Shakespeare in Harlem (1942), the novel Not Without Laughter (1930), and the short story collection The Ways of White Folks (1934). He wrote two personal memoirs: The Big Sea (1940) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956).

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Wax poetic


I love the recordings of Kerouac reading his works. He has a great voice and very cool, laid back style. Here’s a clip of him on the Tonight Show with Steve Allen on the piano.

Verve Records 1959. Cover photo of Kerouac by Robert Frank. Sleeve notes by Bill Randle. Kerouac reads extracts from “Old Angel Midnight”, “Desolation Angels”, “The Beginnings of Bop”, “Mexico City Blues”, “Neal And The Three Stooges”, “San Francisco Blues”, “The Subterraneans” and more. Unlike Jack’s previous two lps this one is him solo. Without Steve Allen on the piano or Zoot Sims on sax.

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Welcome to my…


Edgar Allan Poe keeps you up at night.

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Kenneth Rexroth organized and emceed the legendary Six Gallery reading on October 7, 1955, at which Ginsberg introduced the world to “Howl”. Rexroth’s work was composed with attention to musical traditions and he performed his poems with jazz musicians. Nonetheless, Rexroth was not wholly supportive of the dramatic rise in popularity of the so-called “Beat Generation,” and he was distinctly displeased when he became known as the father of the Beats.

A life-long iconoclast, Rexroth railed against the dominance of the east-coast “literary establishment” and bourgeois taste that was corrupting American poetry. While he refused to consider himself a Beat poet, his influence as champion of anti-establishment literature paved the way for others to write poems of social consciousness and passionate political engagement. His greatest contribution to American poetry may have been in opening it to Asian influences through his mystical, erotically charged poetry and superb translations. Kenneth Rexroth died in 1982 at 77 and is buried in Santa Barbara on a cliff above the sea.

Read more about Kenneth Rexroth at Modern American Poetry.

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Lord, help us!


Lord Buckley   “Blowing His Mind (And Yours, Too)   World Pacific Records

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Hipster, flipster and finger-poppin’ daddy


I don’t remember where I picked this record up, but it’s signed by the man himself. It’s scribbled: “To Princess Marge the beauty. May you swing with love. Love Lord Buckley.”

“Way Out Humor” on World Pacific Records. Royal Concert Performance Ivar Theater Hollywood (1959)

Lord Buckley died in 1960. I recommend you dig him a bit deeper! There are some cool clips of LB on youtube including his appearance on “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho from 1956. Remarkable.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (18 votes, average: 3.39 out of 5)
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Minor beat poetry


An odd piece of beatnik poetry from 1957. “Contributions to the Delinquency of Minor Poetry by Guy Wernham” I never heard of this guy, but a Google search brought up his name as a dude on the San Francisco scene who first made his name with a 1943 translation of Lautremont’s “Les Chants du Maldoror” in New Directions magazine. It says by the mid-50’s he was tending bar in North Beach and a frequent visitor to Alan Ginsburg’s apartment. The cover is pretty unusual and cool I think. Can’t be many of these around.

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Village voices


(Courtesy of Kerstan Reineke)

Listen to the full version of Under Milk Wood – A Play for Voices, recorded by the BBC in 1963, and broadcast on The Third Programme on November 10, 1963.

Subtitled A Play for Voices, Dylan Thomas’ magnum opus carries the double legacy of the author’s extensive work for radio – a medium for which he had an almost intuitive grasp – and his skill and ability as a poet. A polyphonic evocation of a day in the life of an imaginary small Welsh seaside town, Thomas’ play – “a green leaved sermon on the innocence of men” – visits in turn the inhabitants of Llareggub (read it backwards!) while they sleep, when they wake and go about their daily activities, as the night falls. Balancing a rhythmic, densely poetic language with a nuanced ear for the musical cadences of speech, the play’s gentle, affectionate charm and humour resonate to create a deeply textured portrait of a community responding almost mythically to the awakening of spring.

The play also reveals a more serious aspect of Thomas’ creation – it was composed in part as a response to the terrible inheritance of World War II – in which the affirmative, redemptive cast of the play carries a moral dimension, an imaginative, lyrical empathy for the regenerative innocence of the average human being and their capacity for grace. Llareggub becomes a space in which eccentricity is tolerated, sin is forgiven and love is nurtured – or at least dreamt about and possible. Thomas has a compassion for the small dramas of the everyday and a belief that what is commonplace unites us, all underscored by the transformative power of the language he bestows on each inhabitant. His characters – Captain Cat, Myfanwy Price, Organ Morgan, Willy Nilly Postman, Polly Garter, Dai Bread, and others – are generously animated and affectionate.

Under Milk Wood saw a first solo performance by Dylan Thomas in the Fogg Museum at Harvard on May 3, 1953, and a stage performance in New York on October 25 of that year, just before his death on November 9, 1953, but is believed by many to be unfinished, although it seems perfect as it is. It was published after his death in 1954. In 1963 the BBC recorded it for radio with narration by another famous Welshman, Richard Burton, who claimed “the entire thing is about religion, the idea of death and sex”. These important themes are central to the lives of the colourful characters whom Thomas describes with a great deal of fondness.

Under Milk Wood is a sensitive, often comic, examination of Welsh life in which the people are viewed as being particularly blessed. They are the “chosen people of His kind fire in Llareggub’s land” and the town retains its own magic and holy significance despite its faults.

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