Kenny G.'s Revenge

Little did Racket expect that a bevy of Bayou City smooth-jazz fans would be so willing, ready and eager to come to the defense of smooth jazz, a genre Racket recently dismissed as "syrupy," "pure pap for non-people," and "waiting room/porno soundtrack music," with fans about as sophisticated as Boomhauer from King of the Hill ("RIP, KIKK," November 14). Boy, was he wrong. Let the readers speak:

Let me get this straight, asshole. The trailer-trash mentality who listened to KIKK were real music fans, but those who like smooth or light jazz "don't really like music"? What planet are you from? Yes, I know I just made a value judgment about musical taste with the initial comment, but that was to get your attention. The truth is, it is the height of arrogance for anyone to judge what is universally good and not good for someone else in terms of taste in music or any art form. How dare you try to diminish someone as a person because he happens to like a type of music that you find distasteful. Would you suddenly snub friends you found were drawn to this or other types of artistic expression you find lacking? You just discredit yourself with this kind of drivel, but I wouldn't expect you to see that. Crawl back under your rock, Boomhauer. -- Jim Brennan

Mark my words, Jim. Should any friend of mine confess they were drawn -- like a june bug to a bug zapper, as it were -- to the molasseslike audio morass that is smooth jazz, I would drop them like Dubya dumped Kenny Boy. If I found a Yellowjackets tape on her person, I would divorce my wife. I would disinherit my son if I discovered a Spyro Gyra CD among his personal effects. Should I find a Nelson Rangell album under any of their beds, I would have the men in white suits come and take my aged relatives away to psychiatric wards. Then I would head back under my rock.

Please tell that writer who complained about KIKK giving way to smooth jazz that not all of us have a desire to listen to a whiny story with a twanging guitar about a guy crying in his beer because his woman left him for his best friend while he was a-fishin'. I have tried to like country music and have long found it downright repulsive. I also believe rap is not real music, but I'm usually outvoted by those who do. There are two stations left devoted to the hillbilly rhetoric, so you can't complain that it's gone. Jazz, on the other hand, isn't as well represented.

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Has anyone noticed the correlation between the increase in popularity of country music and the increased prescribing of antidepressants? Think about it.

While there are some elements about the new jazz station that I hope improve (namely, playing stuff that isn't jazz and belongs somewhere else), it takes a certain talent to compose, arrange, sing and play jazz, unlike rap and the manufactured music that sells very well.

And while on the subject of complaint -- New Orleans is supposed to be "the birthplace of jazz" but has a hard time having a full-time jazz station. Smooth jazz appeared in 1994 and disappeared exactly two years later. There was another smooth-jazz station recently, but it went off the air earlier this month after only a year. Good music doesn't sell as well when the buying public believes that a warbling Macy Gray actually "sings."

I am one of those who welcomes The Wave. Finally, a station that plays real music for those of us who know what it sounds like. Now if I could just get them to play more Bobby Caldwell, Basia and Boz Scaggs's last CD… -- Amy O'Donnell

Yes, Amy, New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, the place where they know the stuff best. That's why it's no surprise that smooth jazz didn't make it there. Smooth jazz is to real jazz as Popeyes is to Emeril's, and the good people of the Crescent City ain't buying. Instead, they're packing the clubs where Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins, Nicholas Payton, any of the hundred or so members of the Marsalis family and the city's dozens of young brass bands play, and tuning in to the 15 hours of real jazz broadcast every day on public station WWOZ. To belabor the food analogy, going to New Orleans and listening to smooth jazz on the radio is like going to San Antonio and dining exclusively at Taco Bell.

As for the country-antidepressants correlation, it would be pretty funny if only it were true. Obviously country's popularity has been in decline. Why else would KIKK be shutting down? And what is smooth jazz anyway but a sort of audio antidepressant? In fact, a better name for The Wave would be Radio Ritalin.  

Hey, Jethro!…I listen to contemporary jazz. I bet if you did research (which is probably beyond someone of your IQ level), you might find that some of your other readers do, too. I wouldn't exactly call KTSU a jazz station. Like all other public radio stations, each individual DJ plays their kind of music: old R&B, Jamaican and so forth. Don't see any jazz there. Did you ever listen to them? Kinda like me saying that they play bluegrass on Pacifica.

You kind of have to wonder about the editorial staff of the Press -- they yearn for Houston to be a world-class city. Your paper criticizes the Chron (rightly) for their faux pas and then your lead music columnist (you) is someone who listens to 40-year-old C&W 78 rpm records? Not exactly what I would call cutting edge.

I'm not saying that contemporary jazz is everyone's bill of fare, but I can observe that the Houston "music" scene is nothing but country, hard rock and Tejano. Where's the balance in this?

I think that you belong somewhere out in Montgomery County heights, tucked in with all the other 'necks. Perhaps you can start a paper out there. Then I would never have to suffer the fate of reading your hackneyed journalism again.

Well, I better let you go. It's time for you and Miz Ellie to go slop the hogs. Perhaps you can try your new jackboots out on the sheep in a couple of hours… -- Jim Smith

And hello to you, too, Jim. Guess KTSU's "Jazz in All its Colors" slogan is just another example of false advertising. As for yearning to be a "world-class city," that's the folks over at the Chron, not us. And a smooth-jazz station is just the sort of mock-sophisticated claptrap they would think brings us that much closer to that pitifully insecure goal. Oh, well, off to Montgomery County. The Victrola needs winding, the cows need stump-breaking, and there's a pile of Dave Koz records I need to break my jackboots in on.

Scuttlebutt Caboose

Last month Austin Chronicle scribe Greg Beets conducted a poll to attempt to quantify the Top 40 Texas singles from 1955 to 2001. Surveys were dispatched to 22 folks in the know, including Texas and national music writers and two Austin musicians who have cracked the Billboard Top 40 (Butthole Surfer King Coffey and Fastball's Tony Scalzo). Beets stipulated that the song had to have made the actual Billboard Pop Top 40, which disqualified, among many, many others, the 13th Floor Elevators' ever-popular psycho rave-up "You're Gonna Miss Me." Houston natives did just middlin' well: Baytown-born, El Paso-bred Bobby Fuller came at No. 4 with "I Fought the Law," which was followed by Archie Bell & the Drells' "Tighten Up" at No. 5. Brookshire-bred Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" was 30th, one slot ahead of the Geto Boys' "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me" and three above Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now." "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers came in at No. 39, while ZZ Top's "Tush" brought up the, ahem, rear.

Houston's Sugar Hill Studios did better: Sir Douglas Quintet's "She's About a Mover" (No. 3) was recorded there, as were the Freddy Fender smashes "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" (No. 7) and "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" (No. 23), not to mention longtime Houston resident Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" (No. 13), the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" (No. 19), Bubble Puppy's "Hot Smoke & Sassafras" (No. 29) and Sonny & the Sunglows' "Talk to Me" (No. 34). Other tunes affiliated with H-town through their labels were Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" (No. 16), Barbara Lynn's "You'll Lose a Good Thing" (No. 15), and SDQ's "Mendocino" (No. 26).

Clearly, the chart skewed old, a flaw Beets acknowledged in his November 8 article. The rankings also skewed pretty Caucasian. Left off and eligible were Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love," Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas Baby," King Curtis's "Memphis Soul Stew," Esther Phillips's "Release Me," Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People" and "Family Affair," and Joe Tex's "Hold What You've Got," "Show Me" and "Skinny Legs and All." And anything by Destiny's Child. Other surprises: the omissions of Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans" and Delbert McClinton's "Giving It Up for Your Love." Not so surprising, the works of Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Martin Murphey, Seals & Crofts, Christopher Cross, Vanilla Ice, B.J. Thomas and Mac Davis didn't make the cut. And neither did Don Henley. As much as it racks Racket to say this, "The Boys of Summer" should be on there somewhere. And did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughan never cracked the Top 100, much less the Top 40? And oh, yeah, in case you were wondering about the No. 1 song (drum roll, please): "96 Tears" by ? & the Mysterians, which beat out "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly & the Crickets.

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