February 3, 1959: The Day the Music Died

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, shortly after takeoff from Mason City on a flight headed for Moorehead, Minnesota.

I remember hearing this news, despite the fact that I was very, very young at the time. A baby, practically. I loved the Big Bopper, and especially this song. (He had me at Hellooo, baby!)

The Spaghetti Harvest Video

It wouldn’t really be April Fools Day without the 1957 Spaghetti Harvest video.

I first saw this on American TV when I was around 12 years old (several years after it first aired!) and it really made me think about accuracy, authenticity and the media. Although I knew spaghetti doesn’t grow on trees and was watching this on a program that presented it as a hilarious hoax, I was surprised at how plausible the story seemed when you listen to that authoritative BBC voice, accompanied by scenes of spaghetti fluttering gently from the trees, and workers carefully picking it and draping it over their arms.

Music to Shave By

This cardboard record was included in a magazine promotion. Lyrics include “Oh that Roll-a-matic, adjusts to any kind of beard and skin, makes you wish you had a double chin” and “Ain’t misbehavin’, I’m shavin’ myself for you.”

Clara’s Final Episode

I’ve been following the Great Depression Cooking series on YouTube for years, not so much for the recipes as for the joy of watching the gracious great-grandmother Clara Cannucciari share her knowledge, wisdom and stories along with simple, inexpensive Italian-American family food from the 1930s. The series began in 2007 with an episode on Pasta and Peas when Clara was 91 years old. The show was lovingly produced and directed by Clara’s grandson, Christopher Cannucciari, and eventually led to a DVD and book.

The final episode of the series was just released. It opens with Clara looking straight at the audience and saying, Thank you, everybody, this is my last show. I’m pretty damn old!” Later she speaks a little more about aging: “Nothing great about getting old, it’s terrible, you can’t do what you want, it’s just…but…I always say God put me here for a reason. I don’t know what it is, but he probably does.”

She truly saved the best for last, and in this episode she shares her mother’s recipe for old-fashioned tomato sauce, made from fresh tomatoes, nothing canned. She ends with the words “This is the perfect ending to a perfect show. I love you all, goodbye,” but then we see her welcoming a young child, presumably a great grandchild, and feeding pasta and sauce to a new generation.

This show is shining example of family history. Christopher Cannucciari is capturing and sharing his grandmother’s cooking and her spirit in a way that will help her live on in the lives of her extended family (which thanks to YouTube includes thousands of us. It’s also a lesson in oral history. Many elderly people are not particularly comfortable sitting down and talking about their own lives if you just try to interview them, and they may be much more comfortable doing what Clara’s is doing here, which is sharing a skill in the spirit of helpfulness. Her memories are shared in the context of talking about her family and how her parents managed to keep the family fed during the Depression.

Thanks for the memories, Clara!

Did Your Mother Come from Ireland?

Post Office, Clare IslandOr your grandfather or your great grandparents? If so, you should check out the National Library of Ireland, the newest member of the Flickr Commons. They have an interesting collection of photographs and will be adding more.

The Flickr Commons is a program that encourages museums, archives and libraries to share collections of historical images on Flickr where the active community of members can not only enjoy them, but add comments, notes and tags to help make them more searchable. Flickr members often identify people, places and events, and add other interesting information about the images.

Cooperage, Killarney, Co.KerryYou might recognize a photograph of a relative here, pr a photograph of the town where your great grandfather was born. Even if you don’t find anything that relates so directly to your own relatives, it’s interesting to look through these photographs just to see the faces, the clothes, the toys and tools and houses and landscapes.



Just in case the title of this post made you want to hear the song, here’s the late, great Gracie Fields (1898–1979) :

Clancy Hayes Campaign Song for Nixon/Lodge

You never know what you’ll find when you go searching around on YouTube. I have written here before about searching for the song Peoria. I was hoping to find a performance of the song by Bob Scobey’s Frisco Band that I remembered from my childhood, but instead I found a lively performance by the Duesseldorfer Banjo Club.

Last night I was searching again, this time looking for videos of Clancy Hayes, popular singer and banjo player who did the vocals for the Bob Scobey’s Frisco Band. What I found was a record I didn’t know existed, Hayes singing a song for Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge’s 1960 Presidential campaign.

It’s a catchy number, featuring lines like this:

They’ve proved they have the know-how
To guide our ship of state
Through fair and stormy weather
That’s for sure!

Not much video in this video — it’s just a still shot of the record. Great Tweed label, though!

Christmas Music and Memories

Good King WenceslasI’m working on my Christmas playlist, and I want to put in songs dedicated to family members no longer with us. For my mother, it’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” for my father, “Good King Wenceslaus,” for my brother Peter, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

But I am finding it more difficult to choose the right one for the living. For my sister, I think it would be “We Three Kings.” Not sure if she now considers it her favorite, but she certainly enjoyed dramatically singing the more depressing verses when we were young. For me, it’s definitely “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” but I’m not sure anyone knows that. For others in the family and some of my friends, I have some ideas, but I’m really not sure.

Does everyone have a favorite Christmas song? What’s yours, and why? Do you know the favorites of your parents and grandparents? We should record these things — I am currently working on family trees for both sides of my family, and I’d be much more interested in knowing the favorite Christmas songs of my grandparents, great grandparents, etc., than in finding their graves or figuring out if they were really born in 1896 or 1897.

Maybe people should put this in their wills — I hereby request that my heirs and their descendants play ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ once each year, and think of me.

For my mother, here’s her favorite, as sung by Judy Garland in the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

RIP Michael Jackson

Hard to know what to say, what to remember, what’s better forgotten. But I do like this performance of the song “Ben” from the Sonny and Cher show. Here Jackson has outgrown the his role as the talented little kid with the Jackson 5, and not yet become the King of Pop…and all that came later.