Elvis's Stuff Rolls Through Houston

Categories: Pop Life

Photo by Chris Gray
Kevin Kern, Graceland's Director of Communications, in the Continental Club's backyard
John Lennon famously said, "Before Elvis, there was nothing." But after Elvis, innumerable objects owned by or otherwise connected to the late King of Rock and Roll -- who recorded his debut single, "That's All Right," 60 years ago this July -- have come to rest at his Memphis mansion Graceland, which is still one of America's most popular tourist destinations.

Typically Graceland will reorganize its Elvis memorabilia to create a different exhibit each year. For 2014, reasonably enough, the theme is "60 Years of Elvis," featuring more than 200 artifacts like stagewear, musical instruments and plenty of the King's awards hardware. To drum up interest, Elvis Presley Enterprises sends representatives bearing a few items on media tours through key markets, many of them conveniently located within driving distance of Memphis. Charged with keeping Elvis' stuff safe through his Texas swing this past week was Graceland's Director of Communications, Kevin Kern.

"Elvis has a tremendous history with Houston in terms of performing at the Astrodome, and breaking some attendance records there," says Kern, a former TV reporter who has worked for Graceland for about ten years. "It's a very important market for us."

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Dirty Dancing's Eric Carmen: "I Wanted to Find Where the Magic Was"

Photo by Bob Gruen/Courtesy of Sony Legacy
Eric Carmen fronting the Raspberries in 1973

Very few articles about Eric Carmen (including, sadly, this one) do not include the term "power pop" somewhere to describe the music he's made with the Raspberries and in his lengthy solo career. But according to the singer/guitarist, if you gotta have a musical label, you could do much worse.

"'Power pop' was the term Pete Townshend created to describe the music of the Who," Carmen says today. "The Beatles played power pop. It comes from 'popular,' and nobody sits down to write unpopular music. It was never a dirty word to me.

"But once 1970 rolled around, the people who made that kind of music just weren't taken seriously," he continues. "The Raspberries, I mean, who loved us? 16-year-old girls and rock critics. It just wasn't cool for an 18-year-old guy to like the same band that his sister did."

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The Natural: Laura Stevenson Returns to Houston

Laura Stevenson
Listening to a Laura Stevenson song conjures up words like "natural" and "organic," which may seem at odds with someone so strongly associated with punk music. Still, it came as little surprise when she talked dogs, donkeys, squirrels and other beautiful natural creatures in advance of her show Sunday evening at Fitzgerald's.

Stevenson will share the bill with tourmates Against Me! and Cheap Girls, as well as local openers Dead To The World. The tour is a whirlwind of sorts, nearly two dozen dates over a month's time before she heads to Europe for a spring solo swing. By this time next month, the Long Island-based singer-songwriter will be immersed in a series of UK shows, with France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland waiting in the wings.

But, first, she'll spend a little time here with us.

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Lenten Promises Music Lovers Can Actually Keep

Photo by Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr Commons
One of the best friends I've ever had in this life was Ann Ball. At the Catholic high school I graduated from, she was my English teacher during my senior year.

Ann was a little older than I, but a large margin wiser. She smoked like a Texas City refinery and let us crash on her sofas when we were too drunk to go home. She was one of the most dedicated religious people I've ever known, as well as a writer whose books are still on shelves at Christian bookstores everywhere.

Although she was immensely influential on me, I didn't absorb every lesson of Ball's. She was uncommonly kind, a trait I'll probably never have or even understand. She was no holy roller, either. She was faithful, but she made her devotion seem so damn cool.

One lesson that stuck regarded the Christian practice of Lent, the six-week period preceding Easter Sunday that begins today. During this time, Christians frequently practice self-denial and wallow in repentant prayer; it's basically the time of year when Christianity goes emo.

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Five Reasons to Be Excited About Kimbra's New Album (Remember Her?)

You may know her from pop star Gotye's 2011 hit single "Somebody That I Used to Know," but Australian export Kimbra is anything but your typical pop singer. While her work as of yet has definitely held a large mainstream appeal, it's clear she has every ambition to break the mold and tread experimental ground for someone in her position.

Taking the road less traveled seems to be the motto for her as-yet-untitled upcoming record, her second after 2012's Vows, and Kimbra is definitely planning something big for those interested in any kind of experimental music. Let's take a look at what she's cooking up and why this should be one of your most anticipated new-album releases right now.

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Houston Music Fans Show Their Artistic Sides

Categories: Pop Life

There's a moment unlike any other in the career of a local musician, and that's when someone takes it upon themselves to create a work of art centered on you or your music. It's a bizarre mixture of fear and amazement, when you briefly flirt with the line between man and god. Today I thought we'd look at some examples of fan art our local heroes have inspired.

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Stephen Bishop's Tales of Angry Rastas, Animal House and Debby Boone's Missing Grammy

The cover of Stephen Bishop's 1978 album Bish
In his career of almost four decades, singer/songwriter/guitarist Stephen Bishop has seen and done a lot. In a phone interview, fascinating stories come pouring out of him at such a rapid pace, it's a wonder the man hasn't sat down to write an autobiography yet.

We spoke with Bishop about tonight's gig opening for Christopher Cross at Stafford Centre and his new album, Be Here Then, available on iTunes and his Web site. But the talk also veered into some pretty entertaining tales.

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Something's Telling Us It Might Be...Stephen Bishop!

Stephen Bishop in 1977
Here's some free advice for couples looking to ensure a long and happy marriage before the Big Day: don't let Stephen Bishop sing at your wedding. More specifically, don't let him sing "Separate Lives."

Bishop wrote the number and did his own take, but it's most recognizable from the version by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, the theme from the movie White Nights. That song hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1985 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost to Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me" from the same movie.

And while the wistful and sad lyrics about a broken love affair seems like an odd choice to perform at a wedding, Collins himself had Bishop do it as his own ceremony. Twice. To two different women.

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10 Silly Predictions for Sunday's Grammy Awards

Photo by Nora Lezano/Courtesy of Nasty Little Man
Queens of the Stone Age: probably not playing "Rihannon"
This Sunday the music business will celebrate its equivalent of Oscar night when the 56th annual Grammy Awards are handed out at L.A.'s Staples Center. Basically it combines two high-school traditions, the prom and the talent show, but the Grammys are always worth watching -- if nothing else, the outfits are a lot more interesting than the Oscars, and someone is almost guaranteed to go off-script (aka "The Kanye Conundrum"). Thus it's about the only time of year the likes of Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight pay any attention to the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Queens of the Stone Age and Gary Clark Jr., who have all been announced as first-time performers.

They're hardly the only ones, too. The other big reason to watch the Grammys is that the ratio of performances to actual awards presented is approximately 3:1, so occasionally there's some great stuff on there. Adele in 2012 comes to mind; so does last year's bizarre medley by host LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker and DJ Z-Trip that climaxed in a Beastie Boys tribute of "No Sleep Til Brooklyn."

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Pitbull's "Timber" Is Just the Worst

[Note: in his column Serrano Time, Houston's award-winning writer and goofball Shea Serrano writes about his life and times.]

Right now, Pitbull's "Timber," featuring Ke$ha, is No. 2 on Billboard and No. 1 on my GTFOH chart. I don't remember the first time I heard it -- it seems like I've heard it every day since I was 12-years-old -- but I do remember when I decided I hated it (the first time I heard it).

Perhaps I was being too dismissive, given that the video has more than 50,000,000 views, though I have to assume many were watched sarcastically and with hatred in the watcher's heart. Nonetheless, I decided to watch it, hoping that would change how I felt about the song, or at least make it less likely that when it came on the radio I'd drive my car off a cliff.

Alas, that did not happen:

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