All posts by billwhite1951

About billwhite1951

Bill White was a film reviewer for the Seattle Post Intelligencer from 1999-2009. Since then he has written a novel, The Goners, and a memoir, Cinema Penitentiary. He is currently working on a new novel, The Mayor is a Gringo. Born in Seattle, WA, he spent the years 1981-1997 in Boston, MA, where he worked as a disk jockey and a theater director, He also has an obscure place in the history of Northwest Rock Music.

The New West…Bringing the cowboy song into the 21st century

“Times are changing.  We have to start thinking past our guns.”

So said the mythical outlaw of the American West as the 19th century turned into the 20th.

“We’ve got to start thinking past our guitars.”

With the rise of synth rock in the early 1980’s, the days of the stand up rock band were closing fast.  By the turn of the next century, synthetic applications had enabled even non-musicians to make music that sounded as good as what had been on the radio for the preceding 40 years.  I was playin guitar in a band at thaty time and,when we were oneparticular song, the enginer suggested that a Clapton sound would work well,and asked if iI would like to try it.  I hesitanttly agreed and he plugged my guitar into something he called a pod and presto,  I sounded exactly like Eric Clapton.

I remembered back to 1986, when I was writing songs with a guitarist named Julius Borges.  One afternoon while rehearsing, he showedme how he figured out how Clapton got his sound.  He turned some knobs on his amp and some more on his guitar and presto, he sounded exactly like clapton.  But this had been no easy feat.  He found that sound the same way Clapton had found it.  Not by plugging into a pod, but by searching and experimenting until he got it just right.

Now here we are in 2018.  It is very easy to make recordings that sound exactly like the hit records of any past era.  Get the apps and dial them in, whether or not you know a single note of music.  Start by choosing a random chord progression in the style of your choice.  Then have the computer deliver a lyric, and then a melody to fit the lyric..  Now go to band in a box and get your arrangement.  You han have the hottest guitars, the wildest saxophones, catchy bas lines and dynamic drums.  but now you have to sing it.  No problem. Even if you cant sing a note, there is an app that will make you sound like you have perfect pitch.

And so, like the gunfighters and cowboys of the old west, the days are closing fast for the guitar slinging songwriters of the 20th Century.  There arent that many of us left.   But there are plenty of people writing and recording songs. Tens of thousands of them all around the world.  When I started writing songs in Seattle WAs in the early 70’s,there were only a couple dozen of us. Today the membership in the meetup group Songwriters in Seattle exceeds 3500.  Many of these people are  rod and reel songwwriters, while others can make an album that sounds as good as Jethro Tull or Fleetwood Mac  without ever touching an instrument.

So we have to start thinking beyond their guitars.

But not me.

My new album, The New West, is just me with a guitar and harmonica singing anf playing into a one track recorder,  no overdubs, no retakes,  Everything is just as it was when it came out of me.  The songs are loosely based around the concept of bringing the cowboy song into the 21st Century. And a few of the songs are cowboy songs, but not all of them. All share, however, the elegaic  tone of the end of the Western era, the end, even of the West. and they look to a New West.  Obviously this idea carries political subtexts and it is true that I am writing more about the world of today than the world of 1865, but it is in many ways the same world, the same stories in different costumes.

The recordings on this albums are flawed, and I didnt want to correct the flaws.  I wanted to keep it real. If I mispronounced a word, mixed up the verses, hit a wrong cord, coughed, or hiccuped, I kept it.  People might call the recording lo fi, and if you compare it to the highly processed sounds of today, it is.  But it sounds, to my ear, as good as the folk records I grew up on, and that is the sound I wanted.  These are the songs of a real person who has been writing songs and performing them for the last 50 years.  But they are songs for now, for today. They are not nostalgic, You will hear traces of all sorts of popular music in them, but the dominant sound is country folk and blues.  It is not a record for every body.  Its not something to play at parties.  But if you are alone at night, you might want to slip on some headphones as listen to these intimate sounds.  From me to you.  Personal, real , and true.




New Compilation…..American Boy – 50 Years of Protest…/american-boy-50-years-of-p…


I was 14 years old in 1965 when I heard my first Phil Ochs record. I knew little, if anything, about the subjects of his songs. Civil rights, labor unions, Southern injustice, racism, Vietnam, the draft. So when I heard his songs, I was not a choir member, but a typical juvenile delinquent with no social conscience. Were it not for Phil Ochs, I might have stayed that way. But his songs taught me about the world outside my own warped little sphere. I sung along all the songs off his first two albums, then wrote a song of my own. It was a naïve little piece of civil rights rabblerousing, titled “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” It wasn’t any good, but I kept at it for fifty years, and believe I wrote a few good ones along the way. They probably comprised about 20% of the 500 or so songs of mine that have survived the years. Now, there are some people who like those protest songs, but don’t care much for the other 80% of the songs I wrote, so I pulled this collection together so they can save themselves the time of searching through the database for the kind of songs that interest them. There are some who, because of the nature of my other work, don’t believe I am a political songwriter. Maybe they are right. My songs do not reflect the politics of any particular party or group. They are just my own particular feelings about things that provoked me. So I doubt if there are three people who will agree with the point of view of every song. But I hope you will listen to the songs and give some thought to them. I have heard lots people saying that nobody writes protest songs any more. A slight majority of the songs in this collection were written in the last ten years. A half dozen of them spent several months in the top ten of Neil Young’s songs of our times, a blog of his that kept track of all the current protest songs,which boasted over 3000 songs and over 700 videos that changed every week. So don’t let anyone tell you nobody is writing protest songs. There is just one big difference between the protest songs of the sixties and those of today. The old songs brought a lot of hidden things to light, while the new ones mostly run over the same territory as the stuff reported daily on CNN. People know a lot more today about what is happening in the world, so they don’t need a folksinger to tell them what’s what. Still, I am hopeful that some of the people who take an hour and listen to these 20 songs in sequence will come away with something that they didn’t have before investing that hour. If only the point of view of one person who has been struggling with these issues for the past 50 years.

White Boy 02:55

Top Ten Songs April 2018

Top Ten Songs of April 2018 from the Bill White Music Archives. Released o April 28, Come Back Alfie come Back, the tragic true story of the two year old English boy who was taken off lif support against his parents will and needlessly died, despite offers from Italy, Poland, and Germany to provide the health care his parents asked for, shot to the number one song of the month after only one day.. This is a demo for a track on the upcoming august release, Real News. The album version will be quite different, with more refined music and a lyrical development that will tell the complete story. I felt it neccessary to get something out in a timely fashion, which is why this single was released. The resto f the top ten comes mostly from last months collection of previously released blues material. Click on song links for free streaming

50 Years of the Blues

A recent article written by Kinda Ustaknow suggested that I was releasing a compilation album of blues tracks. although I had thought about doing such a thing, I hadn’t made definite plans, but the presence of an article declaring such an album to be in the works motivated me to make the effort. Besides, I know that people have different tastes in music, and those who like my blues may ot be so fond of some of the other genres I work in. So this album forakes all elese and gives the blues lover a chance to hear an all blues album , reresenting 50 years of writing, singing and playing the blues. All but one of the songs has been previously released. The new one, Every Way but the Right Way, was written specificlly for this album. The song hasnt been arounnd long enough for me to know if its any good, but I think its a good introduction to the 19 songs that follow. The recordings were made between 1973 and 2018,, Thats only 45 years, I now, but I had the blues for five years before I figured out what to do about them. All songs featire me on guitar and vocal, with other musicians listed in seperate track credits. And all songs are written by me, although I cribbed al line or two here and there.
released April 7, 2018


since the ten songs on my new album are all covers, downloads are free, as well as the usual free streaming service.  just click link above to play.


Till 02:49
Iowa 04:44

Top Ten Songs Jan 6 -12

Here are the top ten songs for Jan 6 – 12 based on listener plays on Bandcamp, The frst nine are brand new songs that will appear on my new album in March. I have four songs left to write for that, which will be posted as they are written . To listen to ny song for free, just click the link beneath the title. If you have the time and inclination, ease leave a comment. Im interested in hearing what songs you like or dislike.

A Musical Timeline 1955-69

Three versions of The Ballad of Davy Crockett were released in 1955. It was probably the Fess Parker version that I first heard, since it was likely I heard the song on the Walt Disney’s television program rather than on the radio.  But it may well have been Bill Hayes’ version that stuck with me, as it received the most radio play. It surely wasn’t Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version,or it would have stayed with me, as Ford’s Sixteen Tons, which was released at the end of that year,” was the third song I remember. Hayes’ “Davy Crockett” came out three months before Rock Around the Clock, the second song I remember hearing on the radio, and the official beginning of rock and roll. I was four years old, which means that i was born four years before rock and roll.

Elvis hit big in 1956,   buy I wasn’t all that aware of him, having just started kindergarten so not being home with the radio playing all day.  I do remember Johnny Ray’s Just Walkin in the Rain and Teresa Brewer singing The Boll Weevil Song. Those”Davy Crockett’type folk songs were becoming more popular in 1957, and i ran around the house singing stuff like “Tom Dooley” and “The Banana Boat Song.”   The soft rock ballad also appealed to me, with songs like “Tammy,” and “Love Letters in the Sand” getting under my skin.  i also liked the country sound of Jimmy Rodgers’ “Honeycomb.”

I discovered the novelty song with 1958’s “Purple People Eater,” and the songs from that year that caught my ear often contained an element of  novelty.  I laughed along to songs like Bird Dog, Yakety Yak, and Lollipop.”  The radio really grabbed hold of my ears in 1959, when I was eight years old and started interacting with the world outside my home and the schoolhouse.  The songs that buzzed around my head included The Battle of New Orleans, Personality, Dream Lover,Mack the Knife, Charlie Brown, Teenager in Love, Put Your head on My Shoulder, Tiger, and Poison Ivy. For some reason, Elvis still hadn’t made an impression on me.

In 1960, I was singing along with just about every song in the top 20.  My older sister was already 12, and she was winning contests on the radio, so 45’s started littering up the house, and I would play them when she wasn’t around. saw my first Elvis movie, “Flaming Star,” and started listening to my sister’s collection of his earlier hits.   By 1961, I had heard enough music to develop a critical sense.  I wondered what a boring song like “Michael Row The Boat Ashore” was doing at #1, knowing nothing about the folk music revival that was storming the colleges.  For the most part, top 40 radio offered  a rich variety of music, and the songs started to imprint themselves on me. . A Hundred Pounds of Clay, Runaway, Hit the Road jack, Who Put the bomp,  Runaround Sue,  I Like it Like That, Big Bad John, Sad Movies, and The Mountain’s High.” I even tried winning a record on the radio, sitting there for hours waiting for someone to sneeze so I could call in and say “Bless You.” When I finally heard the sneeze, and got through to the DJ, he asked me why I called.  Nobody had sneezed.  So I never won that copy of “Bless You” by Tony Orlando.That Christmas, my sister got a guitar and a copy of the soundtrack to Elvis’ movie, Blue Hawaii. She started crying when she saw that record cover.  The only thing she ever learned to play on the guitar was the opening riff to the Peter Gunn theme. I got some bongos and played along to the Blue Hawaii soundtrack and learned to sing like Elvis.

Up until 1962, all I knew of music was the radio and the stacks of my mom and dad’s records In 1962 I discovered Columbia House Record Club, which offered a dozen albums for a penny, if you promised to buy another 12 at regular prices within a year.  The fantastic thing about the record club ads was the way they presented the available records. Jazz, country, rock, pop, classical, folk, and spoken word were all mixed together in one gigantic potpourri of artists and styles.  I took advantage of the offer and introduced myself to the world of broadway musicals and motion picture soundtracks. Radio was not, however, abandoned, and dozens of new songs entered my lifetime playlist, including  Town Without Pity and The Wanderer, both of which I never stopped singing.  Johnny Angel,Duke of Earl, Peppermint Twist, Sherry, Crying in the Rain, Patches, Walk on the Wild Side, and Johnny Get Angry also got stuck in my head.

Rock and roll had been fading since Elvis came out of the Army acting like a grown up, but the pap that had taken its place was pretty catchy stuff, and I loved all of it. 1963 boasted One Fine Day, Blue Velvet, The End of the world, He’s so fine, Busted, Hello Stranger, Surfer girl, Walk Right In, Heat Wave, I Will follow Him, It’s My Party, Fingertips, Hey Paula, and Puff the Magic Dragon. Then came 1964, Motown and the British Invasion.  Almost every song on the radio for the next five  years was great, and pop music was falling from industry domains into the hands of the common people.

Rather than a  making lists of all the songs I remember from those days, I’ll try for a top ten for each year.  And although this was the dawn of album oriented rock Ill start by limiting myself to top 40 singles.

1964:  Do Wah Diddy, House of the Rising Sun, Memphis, Dont Let the Sun Catch You Crying , Leader of the Pack, You Really Got Me, Louie Louie, I Saw Her Standing There, The Girl From Ipanema,  Wishin’ and Hopin’

1965: Like a Rolling Stone, Mr. Tambourine Man, My Girl, Downtown, Eve of Destruction, Goldfinger, For Your Love, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Tell Her No, Tracks of my Tears

1966: Paint it Black, When a Man Loves a Woman, 96 Tears, Walk Away Renee, You Dont have to Say You Love Me, Sounds of Silence, Shapes of Things,  Bus Stop, Kicks, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

1967: Light My Fire, Whiter Shade of pale, For What it’s Worth, To Sir With Love, Happy Together, Ruby Tuesday, Georgy girl, We Aint got Nothin Yet, Alfie, Penny Lane

1968: Sunshine of Your Love, Dock of the Bay, Angel of the Morning, Jumpin Jack Flash, Hurdy gurdy Man, White room, Look of Love, Piece of my Heart, Good Band and the Ugly,  I Wish it Would Rain

I realize this reads like a classic rock playlist, and doesnt come close to representing the music of this era.  So to alleviate that shortcoming, I’ll try to choose the best 10 albums of these years. The exception is 1967,perhaps the most creative year in pop music, and I was forced to raise the ante to 30 albums. Also,I carried on to include 1969.

1964: Crescent (John Coltrane)  Another Side (Bob Dylan) Dusty (Dusty Springfield) Out to Lunch (Eric Dolphy) Hard Day’s Night (Beatles) I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash) Getz/Gilberto (Stan Getz) Folk singer (Muddy Waters) Together (Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells)  Tom Jones (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

1965: A Love Supreme (John Coltrane)  Bringing it all Back Home (Bob Dylan) My Funny Valentine (Miles Davis) Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds) Fairytale (Donovan)  Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan) December’s Children (Rolling Stones) Rubber Soul (Beatles) Heliocentric Worlds (Sun Ra) I Aint marchin Anymore (Phil Ochs)

1966: Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan) Freak Out (Mothers of Invention) Revolver (Beatles) Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkle) Aftermath (Rolling Stones) The Fugs (Fugs) In Concert (Phil Ochs) Fresh Cream (Cream) Wild is the Wind (Nina Simone) Boom (the Sonics)

1967: The Doors (The Doors) Absolutely Free (Mothers of Invention) John Wesley Harding (Bob Dylan) Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane) A Gift from a Flower to the Garden (Donovan)  Velvet Underground and Nico (Velvet Underground and Nico) Mellow Yellow (Donovan) Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix) Electric Music for the Mind and Body (Country Joe and the Fish) Sgt Peppers (Beatles) 5,000 Spirits or Layers of the Onion (Incredible String Band) Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Pink Floyd) Goodbye and Hello (Tim Buckley) Strange Days (Doors) Axis Bold as Love (Jimi Hendrix) Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie) Procol Harum (Procol Harum) Chelsea Girl (Nico) Pleasures of the harbor (Phil Ochs) One Nation Underground (Pearls Before Swine) Wildflowers (Judy Collins) Disraeli Gears (Cream) Forever Changes (Love) Dear Mr.Fantasy (Traffic) Songs of (Leonard Cohen) Mixed Bag (Richie Havens) Straight No chaser (Thelonious Monk)  Blues is King (BB King) Something Else (The Kinks) A Hard Road )John Mayall)

1968: We’re Only In it for the Money (Mothers of Invention) Astral Weeks (Van Morrison) Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Incredible String Band) Odyssey and oracle (The Zombies) Wee tam and the Big Huge (Incredible String Band) Music from Big Pink (The Band) Wheels of Fire (Cream) Tape from California (Phil Ochs) Truth (Jeff Beck Group) At Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash)

1969: Rehearsals for Retirement (Phil Ochs) Blue Afternoon (Tim Buckley) Dusty in Memphis (Dusty Springfield) With a Little help from my Friends (Joe Cocker) Clouds (Joni Mitchell) In  a Silent Way (Miles Davis) The Band (The Band) Let it Bleed (Rolling Stones) Led Zeppelin 2 (Led Zeppelin) Everybody Knows this is Nowhere (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)