Lonesome Onry and Mean

Lonesome Onry And Mean: Two Chicago Cats Remember A "Diamond Ring" And "Spanish Harlem"

Los Angeles-based Cary Baker's Conqueroo is one of the go-to publicity firms for folks in the roots-music game. Baker grew up in Chicago and has been instrumental in keeping the memory of a number of old-time Chicago bluesmen like Arvella Gray's memory and music alive. His earliest song memory:

"My first song memory was 'This Diamond Ring,' by Gary Lewis & the Playboys," Baker says. "My parents were staunch classical-music fans who played Chicago's then three classical stations in their car. But I was in a Sunday School carpool and the other parents rocked WLS and WCFL, the city's Top 40 stations. I just remember liking the whole sound of the record - the riff, the teenage, slightly flat vocals, the lyrics.

"I'd heard the Beatles, but oddly the day I heard 'This Diamond Ring,' I found myself compelled to find out more about rock and roll, which led to my subsequent explorations of blues, soul and country, and a lifelong jones for all things music to this day. Only later did I find out that Al Kooper co-wrote the song and Leon Russell was the producer."

Nick Tremulis, leader of the Nicolas Tremulis Orchestra is another Chicagoan with deep roots in the Windy City's music scene, having grown up in a musical family. Tremulis, who has a radio show with punk pioneer/painter Jon Langford, recalls his earliest music memory:

"I asked my mom, and she said 'Spanish Harlem' made me freak out before I was walking. That would have been around 1961 or '62, so it could have been either Ben E. King or the Drifters version, I'm not sure."

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William Michael Smith