Category Archives: Music

“The Charlottesville Bicentennial Ballad”

Fun fact: Art Garfunkel backed the recording of a song commemorating Charlottesville in 1976. But how did that come to be?

First you have to know that Art Garfunkel lived in Cobham back in the 70s. Paul Simon’s musical partner had been hounded out of his prior home by the media, and had moved to Albemarle for some privacy. The estate of Beau Val was his new home—now Keswick Vineyards—and it worked out, in that the media left him alone.

The second thing to know is that 1976—the bicentennial—was a Big Deal in Charlottesville. That’s when the Rotunda was restored to Jefferson’s design from Stanford White’s redesign, Queen Elizabeth visited (for whom half of the municipal band accidentally played the national anthem, rather than “God Save the Queen”), and President Gerald Ford was the speaker at Monticello’s citizenship ceremony on Independence Day. History was in the air.

Album Cover

Local sign painter and banjo player Arthur Stubbs had written a song about Charlottesville that he wanted to record. Garfunkel—through what connection, I have no idea—served as the silent backer for the production, which was done at Carl Handy’s Monticello Records. The resulting record was “The Charlottesville Bicentennial Ballad,” the cover of which portrayed a soldier in a tri-corner hat, playing the banjo, standing in front of Monticello. Handy’s nephew, David, related this story on an Art Garfunkel fan website last year, where he explained that he’s been unable to find any evidence that anybody else has a copy of this record (though surely somebody must), and provided an accompanying letter from Garfunkel to Stubbs expressing his enthusiasm for the resulting recording.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that Garfunkel’s enthusiasm was matched by sales—years of pawing through the bins at Spencer’s, Plan 9, and Distraxshuns never turned up this little gem. So I don’t have an MP3 to present here, although I am hoping that a reader will be familiar with this—perhaps somebody old enough to have done the same pawing at Back Alley Disc or Band Box.

Gravity Lounge Closed, Temporarily

The Gravity Lounge has been shut down by its landlord, Lisa Provence writes for The Hook. Building owner Ludwig Kuttner cites two years of back rent and fire safety citations as the reasons for giving Bill Baldwin the boot. He intends to install a new management team and reopen as soon as possible. Brendan Fitzgerald explained the struggling venue’s situation in C-Ville Weekly in February—it sounds like Kuttner’s current role is less as landlord and more as owner of Gravity Lounge, which makes his actions a little less strange than they might sound at first.

Noisy Restaurants Prompt Noise Ordinance Proposal

Every few years, some downtown restaurant or bar plays music way too loudly way too late at night. Citizens get angry, a result of the ineffective noise ordinance, and City Council finally agrees to do something about it. The restaurant gets upset and says it’s not fair that they’re being targeted. Then the restaurant capitulates — or goes out of business — and the ordinance never passes. Repeat.

The cycle has begun anew. This time, as Dave McNair writes for The Hook, four businesses’ noisy nights have led the city to consider tightening up its noise ordinance. The Buddhist Biker Bar, Outback Lodge, LaTaza and Saxx have all annoyed enough of their neighbors with late-night music that the city figures they should just enact a blanket nighttime decibel restriction on restaurants and bars. The plan is to stick with the existing 75db limit, but make it run from 10pm-6m, seven days a week, rather than the narrower window that varies by day of week that’s the existing standard.

Hook Music Calendar

The Hook has a new local music section of their website that’s pretty nice — it’s got audio, video, show reviews, comments from the public, etc. The best part: an iCalendar-compliant music calendar, perfect for syndication and mashups. Any “community calendar” that doesn’t offer ICS syndication is basically useless. Yeah, that’s right — this blog entry was an excuse for me to kvech about how lousy every single local online community calendar is. I’ve been fishing for the opportunity for months.

Womenfolk Reminisce

Jeremy Borden had a nice article in Saturday’s Progress about The Womenfolk, an early 60s all-female band that were big in the U.S. and in Europe for about three years before fading out. Four members of the band (two of whom I know, but hadn’t the faintest clue about their prior fame) got together recently and recorded an oral history of the band at Live Arts. One of their hits was their cover of Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes” — Womenfolk’s version remains the shortest-ever song on the Billboard charts, at 1:03. It sounds like they had a heck of a ride, and had the rare wisdom to give up performing when it stopped being fun.