Monday, May 3, 2010
One Potato Shuffle
Happy Monday! Our musical Monday takes us back to September 2003 & an Alice in Wonder Band show at the Alpine Playhouse in McCall, Idaho. The song—our Alice in Wonder Band song of the month—is “One Potato Shuffle,” a tune Eberle came up with that’s very loosely based on the old song “Shortnin’ Bread.” We thought “Shortnin’ Bread” would be a great song to jam to, but both Eberle & I found the lyrics too insensitive, especially after hearing Charles Mingus do a riff on the song in the documentary Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog. The gist of Mingus’ piece was that “Mammy’s little babies” actually wanted a whole lot of things, but that “shortnin’ bread” isn’t one of them; as Mingus declares: “Mama’s little babies don’t like no shortnin’ bread—that’s some lie an American white man said.” You can hear a section of this here on YouTube (f-bomb warning.)
Hailing as we do from the state of Idaho—“famous potatoes,” as the license plate proclaims—Eberle decided we’d do a song about that noble tuber. By the way, I should point out that commercial potato production is centered in the southeastern part of the state—on the western side around where we live, the soil is much too heavy & filled with clay for large-scale potato growing (tho onions flourish). Eberle then composed the basic melody & the initial set of lyrics, & let the band have at it. In the process of this, our singer Deadre Chase added another verse to the song, & everyone loved that.
It’s a shame we never got a better recording of “One Potato Shuffle.” This is the best one we have, & there are problems. I did the initial fade-in in a moderatly successful attempt to muffle an audience member’s coughing fit. Also, our recording set-up was pretty primitive in those days—we used a Sony mini-disk, which in this case was duct taped to one of the theater seats. At a certain point you can hear an audience member rustling thru a program or other papers. Also, Art Troutner’s nice mandolin work is completely lost in the mix. At least we get to hear his great slide whistle at the bginning of the song! Finally, there’s something that sounds almost like a skip on an lp about 50 seconds in—that’s an error in the actual recording (complicated electronic explanation that would no doubt bore 99% of folks!)
A local access TV outfit from Boise actually taped this song at one of our rehearsals for TVTV (Treasure Valley TV), & I know it was aired at one point—possibly more—but neither Eberle nor I never saw it. Perhaps I should find out if the videotape is still available.
Hope you enjoy the song!
All potato images in the film are public domain except the image of omlette & potatoes (third from the end), which was taken by Wiki Commons user J Lian; the photo is published under a Creative Commons 2.0 attribution license. Band photos were taken by Earl Brockman (band photos 1-3, 5-7, 10-12, 15), Tim Hohs (band photos 4, 13), Michael Richardson (band photo 8, cropped from a larger image), LE Leone (band photo 9) & Wayne Brandon (band photo 14).