News in Review: Owsley Stanley, Grammy Awards, TicketMaster, Robbie Robertson, TV on the Radio
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2011, Volume 18, #5
Written by John Metzger
Tue May 24, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT
Grateful Dead Cohort Owsley Stanley Dead in Car Crash
On March 13, Owsley Stanley died instantly near his home in Australia. The truck he was driving spun out of control while he was attempting to drive through a patch of mud and water. Part-chemist, part-audio engineer, Stanley was instrumental in shaping the Grateful Dead’s development. He not only provided the outfit with ample amounts of LSD, but he also constructed and perfected the outfit’s state-of-the-art sound system. In addition, Stanley designed the Grateful Dead’s most recognizable logo — its "Steal Your Face" insignia — and showing magnificent foresight, he started the tradition of recording many of the collective’s early concerts. Stanley was immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid King as well as by the concert compilation Bear’s Choice: The History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1. Stanley moved to Australia in 1982 in an attempt to escape what he thought was a pending ice age.
Grammy Awards to Shrink
For years, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (N.A.R.A.S.) has been adding new categories to its annual awards ceremony — even as it reduced the number of trophies it gave away during the television broadcast of the event. Next year, though, the Grammy Awards ceremony will shrink considerably. Instead of competing in 109 categories, artists will go head-to-head for 78 awards. The most notable aspect of the changes that N.A.R.A.S. has made to the program is that male and female artists will no longer be recognized in separate categories. In addition, awards for Southern Gospel, Country, or Bluegrass Album; Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album; and Best Hawaiian Music Album will be consolidated into generalized categories, such as Best Gospel Album and Best Regional Roots Music Album.
Ticketmaster, eBay Take Fight to Congress
For several years, now, Ticketmaster and eBay have been fighting over the right to resell concert tickets. Although Ticketmaster has its own resale outlets, it also has been trying to prevent ticket brokers from gaining access to the best seats in the house for major concert tours. At the insistence of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Ticketmaster has been selling paperless tickets to some of its shows. To enter the arena, fans must produce the credit card that was used to make the purchase. Not surprisingly, eBay and other ticket brokers have taken issue with this process. The companies have successfully lobbied for new legislation that would prohibit the sale of paperless tickets. Not only are laws being considered in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Connecticut, but a bill was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Utah’s Jim Matheson and Nebraska’s Lee Terry.
Robbie Robertson Continues Journey into His Past
On his latest endeavor How to Be Clairvoyant, Robbie Robertson turned surprisingly reflective as he looked back on his days with The Band. His retrospective view isn’t a one-time gambit, either. Robertson announced in April that he was planning to write a memoir about his life in the music business. By pouring over old notebooks and revisiting the places he had traveled in his youth, Robertson is hoping to reconnect with his past so he can provide a detailed glimpse into his days with Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan as well as insight into the process that allowed songs like The Weight and Up on Cripple Creek to evolve.
TV on the Radio Bassist Succumbs to Lung Cancer
After battling lung cancer, Gerard Smith passed away on April 20 in New York at the age of 34. He was best-known for his work with TV on the Radio. A highly revered bass player, Smith admirably anchored the tracks on TV on the Radio’s breakthrough set Return to Cookie Mountain. He also helped to guide the group’s evolution as it toned down its experimental forays and embraced its R&B-imbued roots. Last month, TV on the Radio issued its latest endeavor Nine Types of Light to which Smith contributed heavily.
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