Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas And Lots of ‘Woo-Woo-Woo-Woos’ To You, Too!

OK, so we all sing along with the radio in the car, right?
When we know no one can hear us, and somebody out there in not likely to have a camera phone, and we don’t stand a chance of ending up on youtube.com.
By the way, be careful out there. In most places today, you do something stupid and you don’t just end up on America’s Funniest Home Videos; these days, you can end up on the WORLD WIDE WEB!
Still, in a moving car, alone, it’s still safe to sing, be silly and, in my case, WAY off key and have no one know about it (unless you ’fess up in a column).
That said I have a Christmas confession.
Every December, I like to sing along to Elvis Presley’s Christmas songs.
As painful as it is for you, imagine a “Taylor Sings Elvis, Live And Nowhere Near Key!”
Sure, Santa Claus Is Back In Town is my favorite. I mean how much cooler, this side of a polar bear’s behind, can a Christmas song be? It combines Santa and a black Cadillac for goodness sake!
But then, too, who doesn’t like to sing along to Blue Christmas?
In that little ditty, I do it all (while driving safely and adhering to all traffic laws, of course). I cover Elvis’ lead, the Jordanaires and most certainly Millie Kirkham’s vocals.
Who is Millie Kirkham?
Well, I’ll be a lump of coal!
You guys don’t know anything, do ya?
Millie Kirkham is the famed singer of what is best described in print as the “woo-woo-woo-woo-woo” backup vocals in Blue Christmas.
What a claim to fame! To be able to tell your grandkids, “I sang the woo-woo-woo-woo-woos” with Elvis (yes, THE Elvis) on Blue Christmas!”
Now that IS cool!
(Of course, I also dream about playing the cowbell on the Rolling Stone’s song, Honky Tonk Women. Yes, there is one on there (check it out), and what the heck, I figure should I ever run into the Stones eating ribs at The Rendezvous in Memphis, I’ll have a better chance, with, “Hey, blokes, what say you let me play the cowbell on the next tour…?” than I will asking for a backup singer job.)
But back to Kirkham’s Blue Christmas “woo-woo-woo-woo-woos”, of which it’s reported she and the rest of the singers did almost as a joke.
In fact, it has been said by one of the famed Jordanaires that Elvis encouraged the backup vocalists to record it badly because he didn’t really want to release it.
“They said have fun — do something silly,” Kirkham confirmed in a CNN interview. “When we got through, we all laughed.”
But you know what? It went on to be a No. 1 hit!
So…? Singing “badly/silly” worked out pretty well? There IS hope for me and the rest of all the cooped-up car crooners, right?
Well, maybe not, but you gotta dream.
Anyway, the Blue Christmas backup vocal was not Kirkham’s only claim to fame. She has continued to have a long career, also recording with: Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Perry Como, Carl Perkins, Rosemary Clooney, Little Richard, Reba McEntire, Brook Benton, Tammy Wynette, Vic Damone, Paul Anka, George Jones, Eddy Arnold, Loretta Lynn, Jim Reeves and many others.
You know…? (Warning! I’m thinking here, dangerous as that can be.) Actually, recording people trying to sing Kirkham’s Blue Christmas “woo-woo-woo-woo-woo” part and accompanying Elvis would be a great Christmas radio promotion, now that I think about it.
Sort of like the famed and oft-used “who can best whistle the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show?” promo. Except this time it could be, who can best sing the backup vocals for Elvis on Blue Christmas?
And let’s face it, the fun will be in hearing the ones that sound like me (or worse, as if that’s possible).
I’m betting there’s plenty of folks around town that are indeed nuttier than a fruitcake and ready to give it a try?
Heck, a trip to tour Graceland could be the grand prize!
Ah, but I am dreaming again.
Back to work. Merry Christmas, y’all!
(And meanwhile be sure to practice your “woo-woo-woo-woo-woos…!”)

Hark Y'all: A Christmas Quiz

My wife has long accused me of carrying around an empty cranium, and other than the trivia, well, she is pretty much right.
But in the spirit of this stored trivia and Christmas, I am offering you a Christmas movie trivia quiz this week.
Keep score and let me know how you do.

1.) In the movie A Christmas Story, where the kid, Ralphie, longs for a Red Ryder BB gun, what was the mystery phrase he solved with his Little Orphan Annie de-coder ring?

A.) Buy a Daisy Red Ryder, 200 shot Range Model with a compass in the stock, and this thing that tells time.
B.) Drink more Ovaltine!
C.) You’ll shoot your eye out!
D.) Daddy Warbucks is a Grinch!
E.) Fragile(y)! It’s Italian!

2) Hark, y’all! (I love that word — hark!) In the A Charlie Brown Christmas special who plays the part of the shepherd?

A.) Linus. He puts blanket to good use.
B.) Pigpen. One gets dirty out there in the pasture.
C.) Sally
D.) Snoopy

3.) In the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, two characters named Bert and Ernie were later the inspiration for the names of Jim Henson’s Muppets on Sesame Street. What were their occupations in the holiday movie?

A.) A bartender and a bank teller.
B.) An angel and a mayor.
C.) A druggist and a solider.
D.) A cab driver and a cop.

4.) What Little Rascal had a cameo in It’s A Wonderful Life as a grownup?

A.) Spanky
B.) Buckwheat
C.) Alfalfa
D.) Petey

5. In the Dr. Seuss animated TV special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas the singer of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” also helped make another cartoon character great if not famous with his booming voice. Which cartoon character was it?

A.) Toucan Sam
B.) Yosemite Sam
C.) Count Chocula
D.) Tony The Tiger

6. What famous actor provided the famed voice for the narration and the Grinch in the animated special? And, as part two, what other green character did he portray in another movie?

A.) John Smith, The Jolly Green Giant
B.) Boris Karloff, Frankenstein
C.) Johnny Whitaker, Sigmund the Seamonster.
D.) Jim Henson, Kermit The Frog

7. Complete the following:

“…And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit ______?”


1. B. “A crumby commercial!?!”
2. A. Linus. Pigpen is the innkeeper. Snoopy plays a host of critters.
3. D. A cabbie and a cop.
4. C. The Barber of Seville, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer had a few other acting gigs. It all ended later, in a brawl over a bird dog, when the actor was shot. Perhaps some things are worth fighting for (others are not)?
5. D. Actor Thurl Ravenscroft sang the song and was later well-known as the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger.
6. B. Boris Karloff. Evidently, for him it was not only easy being green, but it was also profitable. Also, a lot of people think Karloff sings the “…Mean One…” song, too, but they are mistaken. (See No. 5.)
7. MORE! Again, try to remember “Christmas means more” this holiday as you celebrate with your family and friends.

Your Score

0-1 - So, as a kid, you bumped your head on the mantle while hanging a stocking, right?
2-3 - You’ve been dipping in the eggnog a bit early this year, eh?
4-6 - OK, so you have seen quite a few Christmases come and go.
7 – Perfect! Call Santa. Apply for job, now! He needs your help!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Birth Of A Blood Trailer

There’s a burnt-orange dog that sleeps in the monkey grass, near our home’s front doorstep.

Her name is Honey and she, like most golden retrievers, is sweet and loves people to a fault.

“Don’t let her jump up on ya and lick you to death,” I have to constantly warn visitors.

This bad habit follows a year or two of failing (evidently) to explain to my son, “If you let Honey jump up on YOU, she’s going to try to do that with EVERYBODY.”

“But Dad, she just wants to dance,” he said.

So, fair warning, we have a golden at our house that likes to put her paws on you when she greets you. Now, you can dance if you want, but I step on her toes enough that she doesn’t dance with me. (If you do choose to dance, though, let her lead.)

I think she woulda been a top-notch retriever had her trainer not failed her. Her nose keen, no doubt. She can smell carry-out from a great distance and has found dead doves for me in the thickest of the thick.

Honey, has been run over twice (once by a truck AND trailer), that I know of, kicked pretty good by a cow or two, and hates being penned up so much she will chew through mesh-wire fence to get out. So, she is also a pretty tough character when its called for, despite her sweet nature and name.

She is a darn good hunter, too, often bringing neighboring quail, rabbits, moles, voles, etc. to hand, even though I didn’t ask for such.

Her primary job for the family, though, is to let us know if somebody arrives unexpected, be it stranger, polecat or coyote.

She doesn’t care much for deer, and with that in mind I let her blood-trail one my son shot on the youth hunt. The buck fell off into a very deep and log-loaded kudzu ditch, so rather than try to trail a deer in the jungle by myself, I went home to get Honey.

Well, what do you know? She’s a blood-trailer, too. In hind-sight leaving that long lead on her was not a good idea, and she told me as much when it became tangled around the buck’s small rack. And yes, there was a brief moment that I wondered whether the whitetail was going to carry my dog away. But Honey wore on the dying buck. As it turned out, both of the buck’s shoulders were ruined and when it bedded down, Honey bedded down with it.

I wanted to get a photo with my phone, but I didn’t dare get in photog range, or I might risk jumping the buck and sending them off to the races again. So I just watched the strange scene, both of ’em bedded down like cattle in pasture.

And Honey babysat it pretty good, too, well, in her way. She just lay there licking the dying buck on the nose and muttering her favorite recipe of tenderloin sautéed in a skillet with onions, peppers and red wine. (I guess like most of us, she does have a dark side, too…or at the least, a sick sense of humor.)

Well, we got that buck, and of course, I shared some venison with the dog. (She told me I shouldn’t cook with such cheap wine! But I did note Honey said it with a mouth full of venison.)

She has since gone on several other blood trails with dead deer waiting at the end, and a time or two she found only a bloody arrow. And true, on some of the trails, we already knew where the dead deer was. We took her just because we knew Honey likes to go along. (I mean what are friends for?) I suspect it also keeps her dead-deer retrieval/finding skills sharp as well.

One fall day, I told my buddy when we picked Honey up to take her on a fresh trail, that she was talking to us, and asked if he could hear her.

“No, what’s she saying?” he asked, since he obviously did not speak golden retriever.

“Oh, she wants to know what we have messed up and let nearly get away this time,” I laughed.

But really, a good blood trailer is always good to have around, especially if they can also hold down/stunt the monkey grass, fend off polecats and dance with the guests…

Taylor Wilson is an editor at Bill Dance Publishing. He can be reached via email at taylorwilson@billdancefishing.com.