December 17, 2010

Gee Whiz, It's Christmas Break!

Loyal Underlings,

I officially finish my semester today. It's been a long one. I'm tired, I'm cold, I'm haunted by Krampus, but I'm going to do my best to drop musical wonder in this last week.

So, here goes:

I was shopping for JV's Xmas present yesterday, and I found myself a most wonderful treat: Christmas with The Louvin Brothers. I will post from this often, as they are one of my favorites:

The Louvin Brothers:

The Friendly Beasts

Good Christian Men Rejoice

And I'll keep the country flavor going with The Texas Troubador, Ernest Tubb. Ernest Tubb was originally cast to play Krampus in an epic movie starring Orson Welles called Get Off My Wife, Krampus! but the funding was pulled at the last minute. Also, both Tubb and Welles had gout at the same time, which was a first in Hollywood. Until The Expendables. Hey-O!

Ernest Tubb:

White Christmas

Merry Texas Christmas, You All!!

For JV, who loves "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)", I offer:

Joe Tex:

I'll Make Every Day Christmas (For My Woman)

Man, that Joe Tex sure loves (parenthetical phrases).

And from the same hallowed Stax/Atlantic ground:

Carla Thomas:

Gee Whiz, It's Christmas

That's all for now. May Krampus haunt us all.


December 15, 2010

Hardrock, Coco, and Joe

Snow!  Snow is on the way to Virginia.  Apparently it’s been snowing in PC’s neck of the woods for quite a while.  I know, I know—how are we supposed to glean that from an M.I.A. leader?  I think he’s putting together something special out there in the Windy City.  Word on the street is that it’s a time machine.

Really, this time of year, what better kind of twist is there?  Well, perhaps twisting the lid off a nice box of cookies.

Funky, groovy, bluesy, boogie.

And now, our annual feature on Hardrock, Coco, and Joe, an undisputable holiday classic. 

Every Christmas morning the short was played on Garfield Goose (and later Bozo’s Circus) on Chicago superstation WGN. Though once a Chicago-land classic, the short is now a cherished childhood memory for many people who watched it broadcast each year. Definitive info on Hardrock, Coco, and Joe is certainly hard to pin down. Though the film has copyright info, the video quality is so poor, it’s nearly impossible to read. IMDB dates the film to 1951 and Wikipedia credits it to a company called Centaur Prodictions. It’s certainly unlike anything you’ve ever seen and a definite pre-cursor to the Rankin-Bass style.

Originally called “The Three Little Dwarfs,” most remember this song as simply “Hardrock, Coco, and Joe.” Those three are Santa’s helpers and deliver an unforgettable chorus—and who doesn’t love Joe the best? Gene Autry recorded a version of the tune. But why do it? Nothing beats the original. Still, I’m shocked that some unoriginal (and striking) writer in Hollywood hasn’t revamped this into a full-blown computer animation film. It seems only a matter of time.

December 13, 2010

Make This a Book Christmas

Full disclosure here: PC and I are both writers.  Words and books are our lives—aside from Christmas music, of course.  It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are.  And, this Christmas, I’m going to try my best to keep the holiday presents exclusively to books.  I’m old-fashioned.  None of those touch-screens or electronic screens for me.  Give me a nice, thick book to hold in my hands. Sure, everyone knows Jonathan Franzen has a new book out—I mean, he was on the cover of Newsweek and I think they put his face on the moon even.  I’m not sure.  But there’s plenty of others you should check out.  And, in an effort to push my tastes on you before getting to the songs today, I’m offering up some suggestions.  Naturally, you can buy all of these on Amazon.  Or, you could visit IndieBound and find your local independent retailer.

Citrus County – John Brandon
Named after the Florida county where the novel is set, this book features some great and disturbed characters.  There’s a kidnapping, an apocalyptic uncle, and a depressed teacher.  If you like dark, offbeat humor, this is a great read.

Elliot Allagash – Simon Rich
This is the type of book I would have loved if I were in middle or high school.  Well, I’m nearly thirty and still loved it.  Rich skewers high society and high school.  Acerbic and witty.

Half A Life – Darin Strauss
A great memoir from Strauss dealing with the high school classmate he accidentally killed years ago.  It’s dark, powerful stuff that ultimately ends uplifting as well.  When tragedies happen, how do we let them define our life and continue?

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Heidi Durrow
This is a great story dealing with biracial identity.  Beautiful, moving, funny, and an amazing debut.  And, if you can get out to one of her readings, do so.  She’s a trip.

Safe from the Sea – Peter Geye
I’m a sucker for father-son tales.  Add in a great locale, lyrical beauty, and heart, and I’m an extra sucker.  Geye is a great writer, knocking it out of the park in his debut.

Exley – Brock Clarke
This is an ambitious, brain-teasing novel from Clark.  Any writers who takes on such heady subjects certainly deserves respect.  But pulling it off deserves praise.

The Canals of Mars – Gary Fincke
A memoir in essays.  I’m a huge fan of personal essays—and these are from one of the best writers of the genre.  A blue-collar upbringing in Pittsburgh.  Funny, touching, and thoughtful.

Skippy Dies – Paul Murray
Set in a Catholic boarding school in Ireland, this is a door-stopper at nearly 700 pages.  But it’s executed perfectly.  And is also side-splittingly funny.

Nothing Left to Burn – Jay Varner
Hey, what can I say?  I love to self-promote.  I won’t review myself, but I’ll tell you what USA Today said: “Unadorned but vivid, Varner's coming-of-age story unravels family secrets about firefighting and arson. It's painful and poignant ... [Varner] reminds us that few lives, even those we think we know best, are easily understood.”

On to the songs!  Onward, I say!

A chunk of punk.

Welcome it with open arms and a glorious collage of sound.

I can’t decide if this song is tongue-in-cheek or just truly depressing.  I’m leaning toward depressing.

There’s no debate on this one—it’s full-on depressing.  But it’s a stunner.  Beautifully realized lyrics.  Replace St. Paul with whatever town you lived in during your twenties and this one really hits home.  This one is getting heavy rotation this year.

Another downer.  What’s Christmas without drug addiction and alcoholism?  But it’s The Pogues and deserves a listen—as usual, it gets pretty raucous. 

December 10, 2010

The Hits

You want the hits?  You got em.  Two hours of them.  Over at, I’ve been running a podcast for a few months now called VarnerCast!.  This is the second podcast we’ve run this holiday season at 77 Santas.  Download it, crank it up, and enjoy while eating some cookies and sipping eggnog.  Throughout, you’ll hear some clips from our favorite Christmas movies.

And don’t forget the drawing contest!  The deadline is technically today, but we’re feeling generous.  Get them in my Monday, December 13 and you’ll still be set.

Santa Claus Is Back In Town – Elvis Presley
Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Gauraldi Trio
Christmas Is the Time To Say I Love You – Billy Squier
X-Mas Curtain – My Morning Jacket
Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty
Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy – Buck Owens
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey
Dominick the Christmas Donkey – Lou Monte
Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie and Bing Crosby
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Frank Sinatra
This Time of the Year – Brook Benton
Calling On Mary – Aimee Mann
Purple Snowflakes – Marvin Gaye
Sleigh Ride – The Boston Pops
Up On the House Top – Gene Autry
White Christmas – The Drifters
Let Is Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Vaughn Monroe
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown
Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland
Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding
Just Like Christmas – Low
Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano
Merry Christmas from the Family – Robert Earl Keen
Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits
Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
The Christmas Waltz – Peggy Lee

December 09, 2010

Silver & Gold Onions

Booker T. & The MG's will put plenty of yule in your log or fireplace, depending. As will Mr. T.

Silver Bells

Jingle Bells

Santa Claus is Coming to Town


December 08, 2010

For Rich and for Poor

Thirty years ago tonight the world heard the news that John Lennon was murdered in New York City.  

There’s little else that I can add that hasn’t already been said.  Lennon was a complicated man, but his songs—as a Beatle and as a solo artist—endure.  And the message to the best of those songs are very simple: enjoy each day, spread love, and never take anything for granted.  Dismiss it as cheese, but it’s true.  If all of us lived by those principals, the world would be a better place.

December 07, 2010

Thumpity Thump Thump

Howdy! Think of this as a low, bellowing horn from out of the fog. I'm returning to the shore. My first post of songs will come... today? Tomorrow? This weekend? You'll just have to keep checking in to find out. In the meantime,


December 05, 2010

Let Me Be Your Christmas Toy

A short one today, folks.  Been a busy weekend here at North Pole, knocking out a lot of work.  A coming post will be a little gift guide—I’m working on something, and it’s taking a little while to put together.  But, leave a comment and let us know what your ultimate Christmas wishlist included.

A bow full of soul.

It’s about time we get a post up by these guys.

What in the devil is you driving at?  A little does of old-school blues.

Remember, these songs only stay up for a brief time, so get em while they're hot.  And get those Santa contest drawings in!

December 03, 2010

That Christmas Spirit

PC (who should be joining us shortly, I promise) says that I’m too cheery on 77 Santas.  I’m too pleasant.  I’m too smiley.  Well, what can I say?  The holidays just bring out the best in me.  Even if you’re not religious, you have to respect the holiday.  And there’s just something about the spirit that’s contagious.  Today, I was at the gas station and Gayla Peevey was playing over the radio.  How do you not smile at that?  (I’ll tell you how—when you see the price of a gallon of gas.  Hey-O!)

I think this weekend will have some goodies in store.  So get ready.  Plus I felt a little under the weather last night and missed yesterday.  Which surely makes a failure.  Like Santa would miss Christmas over a headache.

And a little video bonus from Johnny, 1977.  Oh yeah, he's got some friends with him as well.

December 01, 2010

Santa was talkin’ with his missus, said let me help you with those dishes…

Santa was cracking the whip late last night at the other North Pole.  Yes, we can’t always be at 77 Santas all the time, though we’d love to be.  Anyway, by the time Santa grabbed some Five Guys, made it home, and kicked off his boots, he was bushed.  But we’ll make up for that little slip right now.

But let’s hope not.  Seriously, for some, Christmas can be a lonely time of the year.  Just ask our friend The Depressive Weatherman about it.  I can’t imagine what that guy will go through this holiday season.

Hey, it’s the holidays.  Ain’t no reason to have the blues!  And come on, you expect me to believe that a song that sounds this good is actually meant to keep me down?

Hey now, this is how we should all start out Christmas morning.  A jaunty little Americana beat, a catchy chorus, and some fun.

Remember so send in those Santa pictures!  Details on the contest are at the top right.