SUE’S SUNDAY SOJOURN: Each week I will showcase a particular artist or band during my entire two hour set. Each week, prior to the set, there will be a blog post where I will write about my memories, favorite stories or share other interesting tidbits. The idea here is not to tell the story of the band or play two hours of their greatest hits. The idea behind Sue’s Sunday Sojourn will be to spend time with Sue, down in her music vault. As she puts together the set, she will reminisce and share special memories. “I remember when this came out,” or, “I recall hearing this for the first time and I thought…” She might share little known facts, favorite memories, fun stories or maybe even some personal experiences.
The sets will have plenty of the big hits but be ready for a few obscure tunes that may be her personal favorites. She will probably include a few rarities or possibly unreleased material, along with other sundry curios. So join her every Sunday night from 7-9 as she lets you into her world.
Linda Ronstadt… Okay, she’s not necessarily a household name these days and there are probably legions of young people who may not have ever heard of her, but if you were around in the 1970’s and into music, you knew the name, “Linda Ronstadt.” She was America’s Rock & Roll sweetheart. Last week I covered Led Zeppelin, whose image was one of excess, partying and even rumored to extend to diabolical debauchery. Linda was the polar opposite, having the sweet and wholesome “girl next door” image.
She also has very successfully spanned genres like no other artist. When she started with the Stone Poneys, they were classified more as a folk rock band but with the AM radio success of Different Drum they became firmly planted within the realm of “pop music.” Throughout most of the 1970’s, Linda achieved success on Album Oriented Rock (AOR) stations on the FM band, what we would now call “Classic Rock.” She also had lots of airplay on the pop music stations on AM radio. It was not unusual for her to cross over and play country music for a song or maybe even a whole album. She has done several albums of Spanish music and is herself of Mexican descent. She has even made a name for herself in Jazz circles, where jazz historian, Christopher Loudon, commented in the Jazz Times that Ronstadt was “blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation.” Today she is often classified as “Adult Contemporary,” however she usually has remained unclassifiable as she would simultaneous transcend all boundaries.
She grew up on her family’s ranch in Arizona and at 17 years old, Ronstadt left home for L.A. where she and two other musicians formed the Stone Poneys. (The misspelling was intentional and originated in 1929 with an old Charley Patton blues tune.) The following year they recorded their first single, though it would not be released for three years and under great controversy. In 1966, they signed with Capitol Records and released their self-titled debut album. Linda was just 20 years old at the time.
In 1967, they released their second album, Evergreen, Volume 2, which contained their breakthrough success, a song called “Different Drum,” which was written by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees (the one with the hat) in 1965 before the Monkees even existed. Different Drum climbed the charts and made it to number 12 on Billboard. The following year, the single they recorded in 1965, So Fine, would be released to hopefully ride the flurry of popularity they were experiencing. The record company executive that had them make the recordings back in 1965, Mike Curb, had released them on his own label, Sidewalk. Even though Sidewalk was a subsidiary of Capitol Records, who had the Stone Poneys on contract, Capitaol had no warning of the release and were understandably quite upset. To add to the controversy, back in 1965 when Curb made the recordings, he worked for Mercury Records, who actually paid for the 1965 recordings. They were understandably upset too. Amid the controversy the single was pulled from the market immediately and remains the rarest Linda Ronstadt record to this day. I will include the 1965 recording of So Fine, recorded when Linda was only 18, in my set Sunday night. (Note: Mike Curb would go own to have his own successful music career with the Mike Curb Congregation in the 1970s before serving as Lieutenant Governor of California under Jerry Brown, who would end up having a relationship with Ronstadt.)
With the release of Evergreen, Volume 2, the record company had already begun to focus more on promoting Ronstadt than the Stone Poneys. Not only was she now the primary lead singer, but her image dominated the front album cover. Soon it would be “Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys” and eventually, the record company would just want Ronstadt. She would become a powerhouse rock star during the 1970’s.
During her career she released 30 studio albums and 38 of her songs charted on Billboard. Maybe I should just list her awards and accolades:
- 13 Grammy Awards
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
- 2 Academy of Country Music Awards
- 3 American Music Awards
- 1 Emmy Award
- National Medal of Arts and Humanities recipient
- 1 Golden Globe nomination (as a performer in The Pirates of Penzance)
- 1 Tony Award nomination (as a performer in The Pirates of Penzance)
- Cashbox’s #1 Female Artist of the Decade (1970’s)
- Ranked 21 on VH-1’s 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll (1999)
- Listed as one of CMT’s 40 Greatest Women in Country Music (2002)
There are many more but those are some of the highlights. Let me add that her Living in the USA album (1978) was the first by any recording artist to go Double-Platinum on presales before release. Her pictured has graced the covers of many magazines including Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone (at least twice that I know of).
|Click to enlarge|
She has also recorded and corroborated with so many well-known artists, appearing on over 120 studio albums. Here is a list of a few of the well-known but it is nowhere near complete:
- Emmylou Harris
- Dolly Parton
- Frank Zappa
- Neil Young
- Rosemary Clooney
- Bette Midler
- Nelson Riddle
- Johnny Cash
- Warren Zevon
- Little Feat
- Gram Parsons
I have often been asked if the bar in Asbury Park, NJ, named the “Stone Pony” has any connection with the band, the Stone Poneys. This bar is famous for having Bruce Springsteen show up and do impromptu sets in the past. It was common to hear, “I was at the Pony last week and Bruce showed up and did a set,” or maybe, “Are you going to the Stone Pony tonight? It’s rumored that Springsteen will be there.” It was always rumored he’d be there, and though he did make appearances, the rumors were usually not true. The bar has featured many musical acts, some famous like Bon Jovi and some not so famous. When I first moved to the Jersey Shore in 1969, it was a biker bar called, “Mrs. Jay’s,” and I remember all of the Harley-Davidsons lined up outside. It became the Stone Pony sometime in the early 70’s. Some say the name came to the owner in a dream and another popular story is that it was inspired by a tee shirt with horses printed all over it, but it doesn’t seem to be related to the Ronstadt band of a similar name. Either way, it does not incorporate the extra “e” in the name like the band did.
In 2013, Linda Ronstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is no longer able to sing as a result.
DJ Sue’s Vault…
|My copy of Evergreen, Vol. 2, the album back as inset, click to enlarge|
I don’t have anything really rare or such for Linda Ronstadt, so here is my vinyl copy of Evergreen, Volume 2 (1967). The picture is taken on the brown leather chair in my living room, like all of the pictures of items from DJ Sue’s music vault have been. This gives them a consistency, especially as to origin; they all came from my collection. I guess I can start referring to them as the “brown leather chair pictures.”