BillyRadd Music

Sunday, December 30, 2012

TV Speaker/Amp Combo Cab

Anita and I found this old empty GE TV cabinet in a second-hand store in Utah for $25.  When I took it up to the cashier with some other items to purchase, she looked at me and said "$15".

I said, "But, the tag says $25".

"Well, "she said authoritatively smiling at me, "are you going to believe the tag or me?"

I plunked down a five and a ten and the deal was done.

I bought some particle board, some black paint, an Eminence 12 inch speaker, and a 250 watt Dayton PA module with amplifier/mixer and built this bad boy in about 6 hours.

Total cost was about $250, but it is one-of-a-kind.

It really screams!

Anita helped me build this Cyclops with one big mouth.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Buckminster Fuller Calling

mber, I got a copy of Bucky's Utopia or Oblivion: the prospects for humanity.  It was a d
I discovered Bucky Fuller while a film student in Los Angeles in 1970.  For a reason I can't remember, I got a copy of Bucky's Utopia or Oblivion: the prospects for humanity.  It was a difficult read with many long, spiraling sentences that frequently required rereading to uncover Bucky's comprehensive meaning, but worth every second to anyone wanting to delve into his provocative but practical theories.

Reading Bucky's book was life-changing for me.
For years after reading it, I constructed many geodesic models from plastic straw struts with cut eraser hubs, and many large functional glass terrariums.

About a  month ago, I was alerted by my daughter in Asheville, Anna, that there was a play about Bucky currently playing at the NC Stage Theater called R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe.  Watching that great play from our front-row seats re-inspired me to revisit Bucky and his extraordinary solutions for the success of all humanity.

I recently composed and recorded this song using a small part of the beginning of a phone call that R. Buckminster Fuller was attempting to make. I think it is ironic that he has to repeat his name since everyone on Spaceship Earth should know of him and his work as a futurist, poet, engineer, educator, design scientist, and inventor.

But, maybe this song (?) will catch on.

The chimes are played by Anita Gayle.  

For years after reading it, I constructed many geodesic models from plastic straw struts with cut eraser hubs, and many large functional glass terrariums. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Let Us All Unite!

Fascism is still alive in the world but cloaked in many clever disguises even in our own country. In yet another monumentally ingenious and timely music video, my young friend John Boswell cuts to the chase, reminding us we must never forget that totalitarianism is still the biggest threat to democracy we face as a species. Let us all unite against it.

I saw this video Let Us All Unite! posted on FB the other day and, to tell the truth, it touched me deeply.

The reason is that, being born in 1947, I was a post-war baby. My father, Bill Raddatz, Sr., served over two years overseas in China advising the Chinese Army in artillery fighting the Japanese, one of my uncles, Ed Jordan, died while in the Canadian Air Force on a leave flying home to Chicago from England where he was a crew member in British bombers having survived many missions to bomb Germany, while another uncle, Bill Jordan, was a cook on a ship in the Pacific that was involved in many island landings fighting against Japan. Another uncle, Harold Otterstrom, had his neck broken while in his hotel room by German spies who stole his briefcase containing US invasion plans for some island. As a result, he was not killed but spent the rest of his life until about 1965 in VA hospitals. Both my mother, Marge Raddatz, and my wife Anita's mother, Mary McGuffin, served during WW2 in munitions factories and Navy shipyards.  And, Anita's dad, Ed McGuffin, served in Burma for two years as a mechanic for the Flying Tigers behind the Japanese lines in the jungles of Burma and was shot in the leg by a sniper.

So, WW2 has a personal meaning for me even though it ended two years before I was born. The film, The Great Dictator was released in 1940, before the Pearl Harbor attack, but was a response by Charlie Chaplin, who wrote, directed and starred in the main role of a wanna-be dictator, to the tyranny of Hitler and the other totalitarian regimes of the Axis Powers already waging brutal warfare in Europe and Asia. Chaplin's film, and mainly its concluding scene that video artist John Boswell so skillfully updated with this contemporary treatment, was instrumental in educating the public of the day in the US and Europe of the dire threat to the freedom of the entire world posed by the ruthless dictatorships in Germany, Italy, and Japan.

John Boswell attended Gonzaga Prep High School in Spokane, Washington, where my youngest daughter was also enrolled. My main interaction with John was through car-pooling with John's parents when I occasionally brought him and his sister, Anna, home from school. I'm sure that John's parents, Debbie and David Boswell, are very proud of the man their son has become.

In his career as a video artist, musician and the producer of Symphony of Science, John's stated goal is mainly to bring scientific knowledge and philosophy to the public in a meaningful, enjoyable and novel way by combining science and music, two of his passions. Since 2009, he has produced 15 full-length videos which have been featured on NPR, Wired, Adult Swim, The Scientist, The Examiner, and many more outlets. His online videos have attracted over 25 million viewers resulting in the release of A Glorious Dawn on a special 7 inch 45 RPM vinyl disc (of which I am a proud owner) through Jack Whites record label, Third Man Records.

I suspect that John's motivation in promoting science, as in most of his video work, and standing against tyranny with Let Us All Unite! comes from his Catholic school experience and strong family background.  But, whatever the source of the subtextual conscience behind John's creativity, it is a very admirable attribute and, as a purveyor of public media making myself, I enthusiastically applaud all of his efforts to date. 

Although I don't believe that my work has ever risen to the level of cultural signifiicance as demonstrated by John, I realize that the meticulous work involved in creating his music and videos is an arduous personal task and recognize his individualized authorship.  But the results, especially in the case of Let Us All Unite!, carry a powerfully distilled and well-framed message for humanity that must not be forgotten.

I feel that John Boswell's music video, Let Us All Unite!, needs to be seen by as many people as possible, so please forward it to as many friends as you can.

The text of Let Us All Unite! can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Like

A Kala California UBass with a solid swamp ash body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, and break through Mi-Si Align Pickup System flanked by a Fender Rumble 15 Bass practice amp, and Digiteck RP1000 stomp effects.

I like this little bass.  I mean really like it.  After selling my beautiful pearl white Fender P Bass to a worship music bassiet, and then my year-old acoustic Ubass to an ecstatic uke player for basically what I paid for it, I jumped on this little American-made beauty at a nice close-out price from Elderly Instruments.

I almost don't know where to begin.  Well, lets see . . .

1.  I have small hands with correspondingly proportional but short fingers.  The ubass size dimensions are much closer to a baritone ukulele than a typical Fender Bass.  Great for my particular Snausages, as a friend of mine's wife calls his own stubs.

2.  All Ubasses can be tuned to standard string bass tuning - E A D G.  The strings that came with it are Kala's proprietary polyurethane strings which were specially developed by Road Toad Music in Hawaii.

3. The Mi-Si Align System features an active battery-free preamp. The preamp uses Mi-Si custom piezo linearization scheme which allows for the most truthful and accurate sound from the pickup. Align also includes onboard volume, bass and treble controls. You only have to power up for 60 seconds using the Mi-Si Power Charger for up to 8 hours of performance time.

4.  The California Ubass, called that to denote its place of birth, arrived in beautiful condition from Elderly Instruments and really thumps through my little practice amp or vintage Ampeg fliptop, and especially is fun to route through my Degitech RP 1000 which adds some really wild or subtile effects to the Ubass lowside.

Everyone is surprised at this little wonder's booming bass voice, but they quickly learn to love and respect her power and depth.

If you ever run across one, I'd pick it up and try thumping it a bit.  Most people say it feels like rubber bands, but you quickly get used to that.  And, your fingers don't get sore even after playing for a few hours.

Whether you're a bass player or not, I think you'll appreciate its thoughtful design, even balance, beefy construction and detailed build quality.  It plain just feels good to the touch and has a classic character that reminds me of fine hand-crafted furniture.

I'd buy more than one but I can only play one at a time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Veggie Luv

Veggie Luv

Once upon a time there were two that became one, one-in the same, one for all - all for one, simpatico, joined or otherwise indispensable.

For a long time, they worked together and apart to stay together and keep together.

Then, one day, they took a new path and found themselves someplace else.

Now, this someplace was not ordinary, usual, or hard-to-get-to and both stumbled into it at the same time.

But it did taste great!

So, now their world is colorful, new, alive, excitingly different and the best way to go.

Anita and I had the urge to make this music video since we've adopted a plant-based diet. Shot entirely in the veggie world that we created in our dining room (ironic, no?), we ate most of the set.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Old Technology, New Vibe

Records?  Yeah, I've heard of them.

When I met my wife, Anita, in Hollywood in the early 1970's we began our relationship with much in common, not the least of which was our mutual love of pop music and the preferred method of music distribution in those days, the 33 1/3rd LP record album.  We already had a fair amount of these fragile vinyl discs between us when we first met. I had brought about 100 of my favorites with me when I drove to California to attend film school while Anita had several jobs within the recording industry and actually had a very nice career at Capitol Records when I came into her life.  She had already collected probably twice as many as I had. 

We were in our middle 20's and like most of those of our Viet Nam "conflict" generation, we spent a fair amount of money on phonograph records and the means to fill our living spaces with music from the great pop sensations of the day like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, etc. (the list goes on and on).

The best thing about using the LP (Long Playing) records was the stereo/hi-fi sound that could be attained if the record was cranked up on a quality turntable, through a quality amplifier, and out of speakers with at least a woofer and tweeter.  So, logically, if you'd spent all of that hard-earned cash on the LPs, you would try to get the best quality reproduction gear you could afford to play them.

Enter the Empire Turntable.

After our marriage in Salt Lake City in 1973, and before we began having children, I might add, Anita and I, since we had moved most of our collection of LP's with us to Utah, decided to buy the foundation of any audio system in those days, a good turntable.  After asking advise from some of our friends who were "audiophiles", the very best we could find in Salt Lake City was an Empire Model 598 Troubadour III, which cost us $325 in 1975 (or $1,358 in today's dollars).  Expensive for young marrieds for sure. But, what a beautiful thing it was and the sound it reproduced from our well-protected collection of LPs was impressive.  As the owners manual stated proudly, "This instrument, in conjunction with other equally high calibre components, will allow you with the press of a button, to hear the full sound of music so akin to the actual performance that only the most expert ear can detect the difference".

To make a long story short, as we began having children, the importance of keeping up with our LP record collecting waned over the years until we rarely pulled the black discs from their cardboard sleeves to listen to our favorite tunes.  We just couldn't justify the cost of the LP records, which did not get cheaper as time went on.  Plus, with the advent of audio CDs, we began investing into this new replacement technology.  And, so the beautiful Empire turntable sat on a shelf collecting dust and was very seldom put to work.
But, we kept it along with the speakers and amplifier we'd used with it.  We packed them, along with all the LP records, very carefully every time we moved and hauled them along with us, from Salt Lake City, to Spokane, WA, then back to central Utah, and more recently, to Asheville, NC where we now reside.

But, this story has a happy ending.

This week I replaced the aging, slipping rubber drive belt that turns the table and bought a new diamond stylus (needle), powered the old turntable up and cranked it through a new Sherwood tuner/amplifier with the old speaker cabs from long ago and our life in California.
The old LPs sound as good as new since most of them have not been played for over 30 years.  So, our new home is now rockin' to the oldies.

And, I guess the lesson here is simple.  It pays to buy good stuff because it really might stand the test of time.  

The trick is living long enough to prove it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Finally Jammin'

Party of the Year

As I predicted, it took me almost a full year to finally get my music chops back up to the point that I would allow myself to subject others to my newly renewed electric bass skills.

My good friends, dancer Marta Martin and her beau, singer-songwriter Neil Laurence invited me to play at her annual Planet MartaNeil's gathering this past holiday at their home in Asheville.  Neil entreated me to jam with him and some of his other friends in his "man-cave" studio during the party.  I accepted without much trepidation since I felt I was ready to face the music (and an audience, albeit a small one).

And, I am very pleased that I did.

The other folks at the party were an eclectic collection of Marta and Neil's closest friends and they made me feel right at home.  So, when it came time to play some live music, many of them filed into Neil's studio ready to boogie.  Most of them also participated in the music-making since many of them are musicians.

With Neil on his uke and singing, me on my little Kala bass, Forrest Green on keyboard and melodica (yes, that's his real name), and a wonderful selection of others on digeridoo, djembe, other percussive impliments, and even some other singers, spontaneous dancing broke out several times during our three sets for a truly communal experience and a wonderful time.

All in all, a great time was had by all, especially me since I was able to make good on my intention to play in front of strangers here in Asheville before a year has passed since Anita and I moved here.

Onward into the New Year.  And now, the best part is, I need a new musical goal!