Pledge drive show is all about money

This week’s show is about money. . .because despite community radio being free of commercial pressure it still depends on hard green cash to run. You can start the show now while you finish reading this.  (Don’t worry, I’ve edited out the lengthy pledge appeals.)

As a 12-year-old, I would turn the radio on instead of going to sleep and from the shadows of my bedroom in Norman, Oklahoma, I would listen to deejays from Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas.  The deejays would tell me about the weather, describe the music, and talk about their day while their commercials would hail the virtues of car dealers and appliance stores in their communities. Snuggled in my bed, I would envision what it would be like to live there.

Kicking Ass Olympia Style
KAOS is re-issuing a classic t-shirt as part of its premium for members. Your support keeps real radio alive.

I’ve always loved radio for its ability to ground me in the moment while also transporting me to other places. Unlike the constructed mass appeal of television, radio is a personal  and live experience.  One person speaking into a mike, sharing music and stories, talking to me wherever I might be.

While much of commercial radio has changed to a more decentralized and impersonal experience, community radio, particularly KAOS, 89.3 FM, Olympia, has moved in the other direction.  Housed and supported by The Evergreen State College, KAOS trains its volunteer deejays, works with them on developing a show, provides them the studio platform and then cuts them loose to do their thing. The result is some inconsistency in delivery and mechanics but because of that diversity, the station preserves the spontaneity and joy of being in the moment.   I tell that to myself every time I push the wrong button or cue up the wrong song or stammer through some sort of transition.

We’re not slick, we’re real

And though we wouldn’t exist if not for the generous support of the college and its students, we do need to show that the station has listeners.  Listeners who appreciate the station’s existence enough to help underwrite its cost. It’s a different model from the commercial era, but worth it if you love real radio.

Here’s how you can support KAOS. (It will open a new link so your music will continue)

(Today’s show – see above podcast – starts with the New Orleans Suspects, features two songs by Chubby Newsome recorded in New Orleans, a vinyl track of Huey “Piano” Smith, the Tin Men, Lil Rascals Brass Band, Roddie Romero & the Hub City All-Stars, Ingrid Lucia, James Andrews and much more)

August 24th show – From Benny Turner to Quintron

This week’s show starts with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band in honor of Walter Payton, father of trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the sousaphone player for that storied New Orleans band.

I then take a twist toward more contemporary music with Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Sneaky Pete, Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All Stars, Helen Gillet and the Dirty Bourbon River Show. I then head back into R&B, including playing High Blood Pressure from the Huey “Piano” Smith album I bought in Ballard last weekend and another round of brass bands.  I mixed tracks from new releases by Benny Turner, Naughty Professor and Stanton Moore. The show, as edited below, finishes with Cowboy Mouth’s relationship dirge “Broken Up.”  Enjoy!

L’il Liza Jane rises to whatever the occasion demands

‘Fore I die, I’d like to meet (Little Liza Jane)
Gal who made us shake our feet (Little Liza Jane)

Okay I made that part of the song up but therein lies the beauty of the song, L’il Liza Jane. It so engaging and adaptable. Meeting her is definitely on my bucket list. Wouldn’t you like to meet the woman has inspired so many people over the years to sing, chant, dance and make up lyrics on the fly?

First printed in 1916, L'il Liza Jane's history likely dates back to minstrel shows.
First printed in 1916, L’il Liza Jane’s history likely dates back to minstrel shows.

According to the Preservation Hall Foundation, the song  L’il Liza Jane “has been established as a New Orleans jazz standard since as far back as the 1910s.” Without doubt, the song was making the rounds before Sherman, Clay & Co. of San Francisco printed it up in 1916, describing it as a “Southern Dialect Song.”

But who was she? One theory is that Liza (and sometimes Eliza) Jane was a common character name in minstrel shows. If so, then its no surprise that her moniker got attached to a simple song that could be easily adapted to whatever dramatic or comedic situation was required.

The simple structure of each line of a couplet set off by a choral response of “L’il Liza Jane” makes it a communal experience where others on stage and audience members can participate.

In true folk tradition, the song has been played in many musical styles from big brass bands to bluegrass pickers, with lyrics added and amended based on the occasion. There is something about the couplet structure of the lyrics that invites embellishments.

The call and response part is easy to follow. No need to rehearse ahead of time, just figure it out as the song proceeds.

Most of the time, the song is about the attraction and joy of having Liza Jane as your life partner. “I got a gal that I adore”  (this is where you sing “L’il Liza Jane”) “Way Down South in Baltimore. “I don’t care how far we roam (Little Liza Jane) Where she’s at is home sweet home.

Huey Smith, an early New Orleans rocker, recorded a version of L'il Liza Jane in 1956.
Huey Smith, an early New Orleans rocker, recorded a version of L’il Liza Jane in 1956.

Huey Piano Smith, an early R&B and rock and roll performer inspired by Professor Longhair, cut a version of the song with his own set of lyrics but stayed true to the song’s theme.

Hey pretty baby can we go strollin’?
(Little Liza Jane)
Yes, you got me rockin’ When I ought to be rollin’
(Little Liza Jane)

The Black Indians of Mardi Gras use the song with lyrics appropriate to their unique practices but the response part is still the same –“L’il Liza Jane.”

Another Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa is coming up on Monday so imagine that song playing in your head right now (cause I’ll definitely be playing then). I’ll call; you respond.

Got some sweet songs you should hear (L’il Liza Jane)
Bout a Lady I hold dear (L’il Liza Jane)

Tune in Monday, KAOS radio (L’il Liza Jane)
Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa Show (L’il Liza Jane)

Or you can listen to the recording of the show on Mixcloud now!