The wedding chant of those lovable circus freaks in the greatest horror film of all time — that would be Tod Browning’s Freaks from 1932 — welcomes you to the official (come to think of it, as far as we know, there are no unofficial ones) John Wooley website. This is the late fall-early winter 2003 edition, and the big news this time around involves a new radio show for lovers of western-swing music.
So here’s the latest:
— As a lot of you know, I was privileged to be on a western-swing program with the great Hall of Fame disc jockey and country-music artist Billy Parker for about a dozen years on KVOO-AM, the station Bob Wills ended up on back in 1934 after leaving his native Texas. Back in those pre-FM days, KVOO was a 50,000 watt flamethrower whose signal cut a wide swath through the southwestern United States, and occasionally beyond. (There are stories — perhaps apocryphal, perhaps not — about G.I.s in the Philippines during World War II using radios salvaged from bombers to pick up the station and get their Wills fix.) From 1934 on, Bob Wills and his brother, Johnnie Lee, used that station to help popularize the music they helped create and define — western swing.
The show Billy and I did started for fun around 1990-91 — neither of us are sure — and survived a big ownership change. But when Journal Broadcasting, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bought the station a year or so ago, neither our show nor the venerable, famous call letters (VOO standing for Voice of Oklahoma) were left standing. There is still a KVOO-FM, as well as a sister station, KXBL, that plays country oldies. Billy has his own Saturday morning show, which I highly recommend, on the latter. But the famed KVOO-AM has become a “talk” station called KFAQ, with programming so alien to KVOO’s rich and deep musical tradition that it might as well be coming from Mars. (I’m having to restrain myself here to keep from going off on a rant about this whole deal; I know, however, that if I do, I could sound as nutty and rabid as KFAQ’s “air personalities,” and that’s keeping me quiet. For now, anyway.)
Anyway, ever since KVOO-AM went away — along, shortly afterwards, with me — I’ve been looking for a place to play western swing. After all, if there’s one town in America that should have a western-swing program, it’s Tulsa, where the musical form grew up.
Now, thanks to the folks at KWGS (89.5 FM), we’ve got it. Called Swing on
This, my new show is a full hour of western swing, cowboy jazz, hot string band music, or whatever else you want to call it, airing Saturday nights at 7 p.m., right between “Prairie Home Companion” and “Riverwalk, Live from the
Landing.” KWGS is Tulsa’s NPR affiliate, which means there are no commercials and, really, no restrictions on what I can play. In the first couple of weeks of the program, I’ve gone from Bob Wills’s “Miss Molly” to Jethro Burns and Tiny
Moore doing the jazz standard “Out of Nowhere,” with Eldon Shamblin and Shelley Manne in support. We play old and new stuff, from the extremely obscure to the joyously familiar.
I’m very happy to have this new show, and welcome your input. I’m even doing dedications, just like Billy and I used to do. So, if you have a comment or request, please email me here and my hard-working webmaster, Jonathan Wooley, will get it to me — as soon as he pries himself away from the latest anime festival, or whatever it is that kids are doing on the Oklahoma State campus these days.
Once again, the show airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. on KWGS, 89.5 FM, out of
Tulsa. If I was a little less of a Luddite, I could tell you whether it streams, or whatever the term is that means you can pick it up on your computer. I’ll find out and get back to you on that.
Meanwhile, please tell your western-swing-loving friends about the new show. You can tune in for Garrison Keillor at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and stay for
Bob Wills. A nice complement, I think.
— Forgotten Horrors 3: Dr. Turner’s House of Horrors has been out for a few months now from Luminary Press, a division of Midnight Marquee. It”s the latest in the acclaimed series, a tribute to Michael H. Price’s longtime co-writer on the books, George Turner, the film-industry figure who passed away a couple of years ago. Following George’s death, Michael asked me to step in as collaborator on the books — and he didn”t have to ask twice. I’ve been a fan of Forgotten Horrors from the very beginning.
In case you haven’t seen them, the Forgotten Horrors books deal with movies from small-time and independent producers and studios, each volume breezily analyzing somewhere between 100 and 200 pictures — some fairly well known, some virtually unknown — that feature horrific elements. No. 3, for instance, covers the years 1943-46, and includes entries on the likes of Dead Men Walk, Nabonga, and Monogram’s Shadow films, as well as lesser-known features like Isle of Forgotten Sins, the weird Cisco Kid western Beauty and the Bandit and what may be both the strangest and most perfect Hollywood film of all time, How Doooo You Do!!!. I’m really proud to be a part of this series, and it’s typical of Michael that he took me on as a full partner with No. 3, even though he’d already done the lion”s share of the work on it.
For those of you who don’t know Mike Price, he’s the former senior movie critic for the Fort Worth Star Telegram whose work was syndicated by the
New York Times for years — but he’s also a true left-of-center Renaissance man: recording artist, songwriter, actor, comic-book and trading-card creator, and one of the best authorities in the world on the obscure and the unheralded in our popular culture.
— Also, check out our “Forgotten Horrors” column in Fangoria, America’s No. 1 horror media magazine. For Fango, we’re writing about movies that are a little newer and a more explicitly horrific, pictures made between the beginning of the Gore Era (1964) and the home-video era (1984); each column includes a brief interview with at least one person who helped make the picture. We’re getting good feedback and having great fun writing about pictures like Blood Freak, Rattlers, and Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil’s Son-in-Law.
Look for “Forgotten Horrors” out every month or so in the magazine or on the Fango website, www.fangoria.com, which not only occasionally runs one of the columns, but also lets you know which one is coming out next.
And, by the way, thanks to Tony Timpone and Mike Gingold — Fango’s editor and managing editor, respectively — not only for greenlighting our “Forgotten Horrors” idea, which is now somewhere around 18 installments, but also for running a recent review of Forgotten Horrors 3 by Tom Weaver, probably the No. 1 interviewer of classic horror and science-fiction personalities. We appreciate all three of you.
— My newest pulp-story collection is Roscoes in the Night (Adventure
House), a baker’s dozen of stories featuring the peerless Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, written by the late Robert Leslie Bellem. Bellem penned the stories, which originally appeared from 1934 through 1950 in such pulp magazines as Hollywood Detective, Spicy Detective, Speed Detective and Private Detective; I edited the book — with my pal, Adventure House head John Gunnison — and wrote the 13-page intro, which includes rare material written by Bellem himself, little-known facts about the million-words-a-year fictioneer, and looks at the two movies featuring the character: Republic’s 1947 feature Blackmail, with William Marshall as Dan, and the 1990 made-for-TV film Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective, with Marc (Beastmaster, V) Singer in the title role. (I was lucky enough to write the script for the latter, continuing a long association I’ve had with the character.) There are lots of photos from both features as well, and reproductions of some mighty lurid pulp covers. It debuted at Pulpcon in Dayton, Ohio, on July 31, and I#146;m happy to say we had dozens of sales right out of the box. Since then, we’ve been getting some great response from all across the country, from diehard Dan fans as well as people brand-new to his wacky world.
Just in case you haven’t encountered them, I should tell you that the Dan Turner stories are pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever read — whizzy, slangy, funny,outrageous, first-person adventures taking place in a Hollywood that never was. If he’s, say, on the grounds of a studio and someone shoots at him, he might tell it like this: “Behind me, a roscoe sneezed kachow! and a lead pill split the ozone next to my noggin. I ankled the lot, my hip pockets dipping gravel.”
Adventure House also published my earlier pulp collection, At the Stroke of Midnight, which collects the atmospheric, absorbing adventures of cabbie
Steve Midnight, “the hard-luck hacker,” by an extremely underrated writer named John K. Butler. It’s still available, along with a whole bunch of other pulp-related books, from www.advernturehouse.com. The books are also distributed to stores by Diamond Distributors, and Roscoes is carried by www.barnesandnoble.com
— The long-awaited (by a few of us, anyway) Big Book of Biker Flicks,
co-authored with my friend and Forgotten Horrors collaborator Mike Price and published, as is most of my stuff, by HAWK Publishing Group, is on track for a spring of 2004 release. HAWK’s Carl Brune has done a great job of designing it, with lots of reproductions of stills, lobby cards and pressbook material, and we’ve got interviews with biker-movie greats like Peter Fonda, William Smith, Jack Nicholson and Sonny Barger, among many others. Father Knows Best’s Billy Gray, for instance, weighs in on the origins of Werewolves on Wheels, and the great schlockmeister Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs) goes on the record about his immortal She-Devils on Wheels. We think it’ll be a dandy book for both motorcycle and movie fans, whether casual or devoted. Look for it this spring.
— Although I’m not one to dig my toe in the carpet and make aw-shucks noises, I have to admit I’m pretty overwhelmed by my upcoming induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, which is usually reserved for famous entertainers instead of people who write about famous entertainers. In fact, I’ll be the first writer inducted. What an honor this is, and I’m not being fatuous or fawning when I say that a piece of the award goes to every person I’ve ever written about. It’s true. If not for them, I wouldn’t have had anything to write about, and the Tulsa World would’ve snapped to that sooner or later and stopped giving me checks.
Some of those very folks will be inducted along with me in ceremonies in Muskogee on November 20. Ronnie Dunn, whom I knew and was interviewing and reviewing well before he hooked up with Kix Brooks to form the most successful country-music duo in history, is one of them. So is the great swing guitarist Benny Garcia, probably the only person who ever played in the bands of both Bob Wills and Benny Goodman. Ditto for blues legends D.C. Minner and Flash Terry, and the late big-band era vocalist Lee Wiley, long a favorite of mine. All of those top-drawer entertainers will be inducted on November 20th (with Vince Gill scheduled to induct his friend and mentor Garcia); a Brooks & Dunn concert, with other inductees opening, follows.
And what am I doing with this group of musical heavyweights? Beats the hell out of me, but, as Minnie Pearl would say, I’m awful proud to be there.
For more information, contact Holly Rosser Miller, executive director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, 216 W. Okmulgee Ave., Muskogee, OK 74401. The phone number is (918) 687-0800; website — Finally, you’ll note that this website’s special offer — for the film festival award-winning indie film Cafe Purgatory, which I co-wrote and co-produced — is still in effect. It may not be that special anymore, but it’s still listed because I’m trying to sell more copies. All money we get goes into an account, and when it gets big enough — we’re a little over halfway there — the actors and technicians, who all worked for deferred money, get paid.
No, you can’t take it as a tax deduction, but I think it’s worth 20 bucks. So does the legendary Tim Ferrante of Videoscope magazine, whose three-star review of in the spring 2002 issue said, among other things, “In the rough-and-tumble world of low-budget movies, seldom do we see filmmakers beat the overwhelming odds and produce something watchable. Amazingly, Cafe Purgatory managed to get enough of a toehold to keep me interested without once fast-forwarding. And that is one hell of an achievement!”
He goes on to compare it to the old TV show One Step Beyond (which, probably not surprisingly, was one of my favorites as a kid) , and then concludes with, “If you want to see how an invisible budget blends with intelligent writing and some pretty smart filmmaking, you need look no further than Cafe Purgatory.”
I know in these challenging times not a lot of us have an extra couple of frogskins threatening to burst into flame in our wallets, but I’d appreciate your considering an investment in a copy of Cafe Purgatory, especially if you’re into the unusual and the speculative, you wonder about faith and the afterlife — or you just want to see what the heroic young star of The Slime
People looks like 40 years later. Check it out in the “special offer” section of this website.