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Guitarist Charlie Sexton is 55 years old today
Charlie Sexton is 55 years old today.
Sexton is a guitarist, singer and songwriter best known for the 1985 hit, "Beat's So Lonely," and as the guitarist for Bob Dylan's backing band from 1999 to 2002, 2009 to 2012 and from 2013 to present.
His style of playing has varied and he has been associated with artists in the blues, folk, rock and punk genres.
Sexton's mother was 16 years old when she gave birth to him in San Antonio. When he was four, he and his mother moved to Austin, where clubs such as the Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon and more notably the Split Rail and Antone's Blues Club later exposed him to popular music.
By the early 1980s, while Charlie and his brother, Will, were still young boys, they were both taught how to play guitar by the local Austin legend, W. C. Clark, known as the "Godfather of Austin Blues." With the help of Joe Ely and other local musicians such as Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Sexton developed his talents as a musician.
In 1983, Sexton (under the name "Guitar Charles Sexton") appeared on a five-song EP by the group, Maxwell (a.k.a. the Eager Beaver Boys). Entitled Juvenile Junk, the EP's credits list the following musicians: Maxwell (lead vocals), Charles Sexton (guitars, backup vocals), Alex Buttersworth Napier (bass, backup vocals, maracas) and Gary Muddkatt Smith (drums, backup vocals).
Song titles are "Straight As An Arrow," "Don't Cha Know," "Anna Lou," "Back To School Blues" and "Oh Baby Show." All five songs appear on side one (with side two being empty dead space).
Old album jackets by groups such as the Flock were turned inside-out and used in the making of the EP's homemade covers. The front side is simply a pasted-on sheet of lined tablet paper with "Maxwell" and "Juvenile Junk" written in crayon. The back side is a pasted-on blue sheet with credits and photos. Juvenile Junk is one of the rarest and most sought after items in Sexton's vinyl discography.
In 1985, Sexton released his debut full-length album, Pictures for Pleasure. Recorded in Los Angeles when he was 16 years old, it yielded the Top 20 hit single, "Beat's So Lonely."
In 1987, Sexton was an occasional opening act for David Bowie on his Glass Spider Tour. He appears on the Glass Spider home video playing guitar on Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat.
While he was still in his late teens, Sexton's skills as a guitar player were in great demand, and he became a popular session player, recording with artists such as Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, Don Henley, Jimmy Barnes and Bob Dylan. He eventually followed up his debut with the self-titled album, Charlie Sexton, recorded at the age of twenty.
In 1988, Sexton worked for a time with Will Sexton, his brother. The band, Will and the Kill, released a 38-minute self-titled album featuring both Sexton and Jimmie Vaughan on tracks. The album was recorded at the Fire Station Studio and produced by Ely and released via MCA Records.
Sexton later contributed songs to various motion picture soundtracks, including True Romance and Air America, and made a cameo fronting a bar band in Thelma & Louise.
In 1992, Sexton, along with Doyle Bramhall II (son of Stevie Ray Vaughan's writing partner, Doyle Bramhall), Tommy Shannon and Chris "Whipper" Layton (both from Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan's famed rhythm section) formed the Arc Angels. The blues/rock band recorded and released a self-titled album on Geffen Records that same year.
The Steven Van Zandt-produced disc was well received by fans and critics alike. However, due to internal strife, including lack of communication (all members involved) and drug abuse (Bramhall), the band broke up in less than three years.
In 1999, Sexton was hired by Bob Dylan to replace Bucky Baxter. Sexton had previously played with Dylan during a pair of Austin concerts in 1996 and on some demos recorded in the fall of 1983. Sexton's residency with Dylan from 1999–2002 brought him great exposure, with many critics singling out the interplay between him and Larry Campbell, who was also a guitarist in Dylan's backing band.
Hailed as one of Dylan's best bands, the group recorded a number of studio recordings, including Things Have Changed (from the 2000 film, Wonder Boys) and 2001's critically acclaimed album, Love and Theft. Sexton also performed and appeared in 2003's Masked & Anonymous.
In October, 2009, Sexton rejoined Dylan's touring band, replacing Denny Freeman. He continues as a member of Dylan’s band for recordings and most tours.
Here, Sexton performs “Beat’s So Lonely.”
Charlie Sexton plays with Bob Dylan at the United Palace Theatre, New York City, 2009
Photo by Frank Beacham
Charlie Sexton at home with his James Trussart SteelMaster and SteelTop guitars
James Trussart, the maker of Sexton’s guitars, is a musician-turned-luthier. The Parisian native began his career as a fiddler, accompanying Cajun singer-songwriter Zachary Richard in the late '70s, before turning his attention to crafting violins and later guitars in 1980.
From his current Southern California home workshop, Trussart crafts custom steel-bodied guitars, basses and violins reminiscent of shiny chrome resonator instruments and rusty, weathered or fossilized discarded machinery.
Influential artists own his guitars, including Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Mike Japper, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Joe Walsh, Jack White, Daniel Lanois, Marc Ribot, Peter Stroud (Sheryl Crow), Rich Robinson (Black Crowes), Sonny Landreth, Joe Perry, Tom Morello, Billy Corgan and The Roots.
Alex Haley was born 102 years ago today.
Haley was the author of the 1976 book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, and the co-author of, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Born in Ithaca, New York, Haley's father was Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture at Alabama A&M University, and his mother was Bertha George Haley. The younger Haley always spoke proudly of his father and the obstacles of racism he had overcome.
Like his father, Alex Haley was enrolled at Alcorn State University at age 15, and a year later, enrolled at Elizabeth City State College in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The following year he returned to his father and stepmother to inform them of his withdrawal from college.
His father felt that Alex needed discipline and growth and convinced his son to enlist in the military when he turned 18. On May 24, 1939, Alex Haley began a 20-year career with the Coast Guard. He enlisted as a mess attendant and later became advanced to the rate of petty officer third-class in the rating of steward, one of the few ratings open to African Americans at that time.
It was during his service in the Pacific theater of operations that Haley taught himself the craft of writing stories. It is said that during his enlistment he was often paid by other sailors to write love letters to their girlfriends. He said that the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long voyages was not the Japanese forces, but boredom.
After World War II, Haley was able to petition the U.S. Coast Guard to allow him to transfer into the field of journalism, and by 1949 he had become a petty officer first class in the rating of journalist. He later advanced to chief petty officer and held this grade until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959.
He was the first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard, the rating having been expressly created for him in recognition of his literary ability.
After retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard, Haley began his writing career, and eventually became a senior editor for Reader's Digest. He conducted the first interview for Playboy magazine with Miles Davis, appearing in the September, 1962 issue.
In the interview, Davis candidly spoke about his thoughts and feelings on racism, and it was that interview which set the tone for what became a significant feature of the magazine. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Playboy Interview with Haley was the longest he ever granted to any publication.
Throughout the 1960s, Haley was responsible for some of the magazine's most notable interviews, including an interview with American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, who agreed to meet with Haley only after Haley, in a phone conversation, assured him that he was not Jewish.
Haley remained calm and professional during the interview, even though Rockwell kept a handgun on the table throughout it. The interview was recreated in Roots: The Next Generations, with James Earl Jones as Haley and Marlon Brando as Rockwell.
Haley also interviewed Muhammad Ali, who spoke about changing his name from Cassius Clay. Other interviews include Jack Ruby's defense attorney, Melvin Belli, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Brown, Johnny Carson and Quincy Jones.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965, was Haley's first book. It describes the trajectory of Malcolm X's life from street criminal to national spokesman for the Nation of Islam to his conversion to Sunni Islam.
It also outlines Malcolm X's philosophy of black pride, black nationalism and pan-Africanism. Haley wrote an epilogue to the book summarizing the end of Malcolm X's life, including his assassination in New York's Audubon Ballroom.
Haley ghostwrote, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, based on more than 50 in-depth interviews he conducted with Malcolm X between 1963 and Malcolm X's February, 1965 assassination. The two men first met in 1960 when Haley wrote an article about the Nation of Islam for Reader's Digest. They met again when Haley interviewed Malcolm X for Playboy.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X has been a consistent best-seller since its 1965 publication. The New York Times reported that six million copies of the book had been sold by 1977. In 1998, TIME named The Autobiography of Malcolm X one of the ten most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.
In 1973, Haley wrote his only screenplay, Super Fly T.N.T. The film starred and was directed by Ron O'Neal.
In 1976, Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family's history, starting with the story of Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped in the Gambia in 1767 and transported to the Province of Maryland to be sold as a slave.
Haley claimed to be a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, and his work on the novel involved ten years of research, intercontinental travel and writing. He went to the village of Juffure, where Kunta Kinte grew up and which is still in existence, and listened to a tribal historian tell the story of Kinte's capture. Haley also traced the records of the ship, The Lord Ligonier, which he said carried his ancestor to the Americas.
Haley has stated that the most emotional moment of his life occurred on September 29, 1967, when he stood at the site in Annapolis, Maryland, where his ancestor had arrived from Africa in chains exactly 200 years before. A memorial depicting Haley reading a story to young children gathered at his feet has since been erected in the center of Annapolis.
Roots was eventually published in 37 languages, and Haley won a special Pulitzer Prize for the work in 1977. The same year, Roots was adapted into a popular television miniseries by ABC.
The serial reached a record-breaking 130 million viewers. Roots emphasized that African Americans have a long history and that not all of that history is necessarily lost, as many believed. Its popularity also sparked an increased public interest in genealogy.
In 1979, ABC aired the sequel miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, which continued the story of Kunta Kinte's descendants, concluding with Haley's arrival in Juffure. Haley was portrayed at different ages by actors Kristoff St. John, Damon Evans and James Earl Jones.
Haley died in Seattle, Washington in 1992 of a heart attack and was buried beside his childhood home in Henning, Tennessee. He was 70 years old.
American Graffiti, George Lucas’s coming of age film, opened on this day in 1973 — 50 years ago.
The film starred Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark and Mackenzie Phillips.
Set in 1962 Modesto, California, American Graffiti is a study of the cruising and rock and roll cultures popular among the post–World War II baby boom generation.
Roger Ebert called it “not only a great movie but a brilliant work of historical fiction; no sociological treatise could duplicate the movie’s success in remembering exactly how it was to be alive at that cultural instant.”
The genesis of American Graffiti was in Lucas's own teenage years in early 1960s Modesto. He was unsuccessful in pitching the concept to financiers and distributors but finally found favor at Universal Pictures after United Artists, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures turned him down.
Filming was initially set to take place in San Rafael, California, but the production crew was denied permission to shoot beyond a second day. As a result, most filming for American Graffiti was done in Petaluma.
American Graffiti was released to universal critical acclaim and financial success, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Produced on a $775,000 budget, the film has turned out to be one of the most profitable movies of all time.
In 1995, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Here is the trailer for the film.
Steve Wozniak, visionary engineer behind Apple’s first computers, is 73 years old today.
Gregarious and entertaining, Wozniak left Apple more than 30 years ago. He has spent much of the time since working on philanthropic and business projects. He has taught in grade schools, organized rock festivals, devised products like wireless GPS and universal remote controls, written an autobiography and appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.”
In the early 1970s, Wozniak was also known as "Berkeley Blue" in the phone phreak community, after he made a blue box. He has said that Star Trek was a source of inspiration for him starting Apple Inc.
In March, 2016, High Point University, a private liberal arts school in High Point, North Carolina, announced that Wozniak would serve as their Innovator in Residence. Through this ongoing partnership, Wozniak connects with High Point University students and visits the campus.
In March 2017, Wozniak was listed by UK-based company, Richtopia, at #18 in the list of 200 Most Influential Philanthropists and Social Entrepreneurs.
Wozniak gave away or sold most of his Apple stock early on but still gets a company stipend. He met Steve Jobs in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1976 that he developed the Apple I. Jobs was the marketing maestro who made it and the Apple II desirable to the public.
Wozniak lives in Los Gatos, California. He applied for Australian citizenship in 2012, and has said that he would like to live in Melbourne, Australia in the future.
On this day in 1939 — 84 years ago today — the film, The Wizard of Oz, was previewed for the first time in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The next day it was shown in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
The Hollywood premiere would come August 15, 1939 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and two days later it premiered in New York City at Loew's Capitol Theatre. The New York screening was followed by a live performance with the films star, Judy Garland, and her frequent film co-star, Mickey Rooney. They continued to perform there after each screening for a week.
The Wizard of Oz featured the words and music by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen. It had beloved characters and familiar plot points from the original children’s book, from the Kansas farm girl in shiny slippers transported to Munchkin land by a terrible tornado, to the wicked witch, the brainless scarecrow, the heartless tin woodsman and the cowardly lion she encounters once she gets there.
But what’s missing, of course, from Frank Baum’s bestselling novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is the music that helped make those characters so beloved and those plot points so familiar.
First published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was adapted numerous times for the stage and screen and even set to music since it was first published in 1900. It was the 1939 film adaptation, however, that earned Baum’s work a permanent place in both cinema and music history.
Lyricist Yip Harburg and composer, Harold Arlen, were both seasoned songwriting professionals before teaming up in 1938 to write the original songs for The Wizard of Oz, though they had worked together very little. Harburg’s best-known credits to date were “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” (1931) and “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (1933), and Arlen’s were “Get Happy” (1929) and “Stormy Weather” (1933).
Their first collaboration was on the Broadway musical, Hooray For What! (1937), which yielded the now-standard, “Down With Love.”
The success of The Wizard of Oz, however, would quickly overshadow those earlier accomplishments. Not only did Judy Garland’s signature song, “Over The Rainbow,” earn Arlen and Harburg the Oscar for Best Song at the 1940 Academy Awards, but it quickly became a standard in the American songbook.
It was later acknowledged as the #1 song on the “Songs of the Century” list compiled in 2001. First and foremost, however, Arlen and Harburg’s songs accomplished their primary goal with flying colors, carrying and deepening the emotional impact of the story in the film for which they were written.
As innovative and impressive as the production values of The Wizard of Oz were in 1939, it is impossible to imagine the film earning the place it has in the popular imagination without songs like “The Lollipop Guild,” “If I Only Had A Brain” and “We’re Off To See The Wizard.”
State Of Emergency, Vogue Italia, 2006
Photo by Steven Meisel