(Pictured: Pabst Blue Ribbon is no longer brewed in Milwaukee, but some of the downtown brewery complex has been preserved. Part of it has been converted to a visitor center with a hotel, where The Mrs. and I stayed on a visit last year. Do not sleep on PBR itself; during our visit, I drank some for the first time in years and enjoyed it immensely.)
The muse has been a little stingy with inspiration recently, so here’s an old reliable fallback: a tour of some stuff that has passed through my Twitter feed recently.
—Madison in the Sixties, by local historian and broadcaster Stu Levitan, is one of my favorite books. Stu repurposes it into features for our local listener-supported radio station, WORT, and they’re universally great. March 1967 saw a terrible accident involving a campus beauty queen on the bizarre wrong-way bus lane recently installed on University Avenue. (The accident would lead to a uniquely Madisonian student protest/riot later in the year. The lane itself still exists today, as a bike lane.) March 1967 was also opening month for the new Dane County Coliseum, an arena that would eventually host concerts featuring practically everybody, from Jimi Hendrix to Bruce Springsteen. Officials were rushing to complete the building in time for its first event, the Zor Shrine Circus. As it happened, I attended the circus right after the coliseum opened.
—One of WORT’s founders was the subject of a recent story on the pirate radio scene in Chicago. That article mentioned the work of David Goren, who has mapped the astounding number of pirate stations in New York City. Here’s a story about that.
—Milwaukee has a reputation elsewhere in the United States as a rusted-out backwater; even in Wisconsin, there are people who think it’s a poverty-stricken, crime-ravaged hellhole no decent person would live in or visit. In fact, Milwaukee has a uniquely vibrant culture; there’s nowhere else in the country quite like it. For example, the city’s industrial heritage still lives on in the number of bars that open first thing in the morning. OnMilwaukee.com, which does a marvelous job of highlighting the coolest things about the city and suburbs, recently visited some of them on a third-shift pub crawl.
—In March 1970, hippie provocateur Abbie Hoffman was a guest on The Merv Griffin Show wearing an American flag shirt. The response of CBS was to freak out beyond all rationality and try a cartoonishly bad method of censoring an item of clothing. The incident has a strange resonance 52 years later, in a nation where irrational freakouts and cartoonishly bad responses have become part of everyday life. This Twitter thread by Bill Geerhart tells the story; he’s an excellent follow if you’re interested in the history of Cold War America.
—Dolly Parton asked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to remove her from this year’s ballot and voters not to vote for her. The Hall released a statement after her withdrawal that was quite a crock, anointing itself the arbiter not just of Who Matters in Rock, but Who Matters in Youth Culture Generally. The Hall’s self-importance, which has always been a thing, has never been quite so gross. Tom Nawrocki, in the first installment of his series about who he is voting for this year says, “Given that this is the first time that Dolly has ever asked anything of me, I’m very much inclined to indulge her.”
—If you have yet to see the Oscar- and Grammy-winning documentary Summer of Soul, get on that. Part of the fun of watching it is in the crowd shots, and the joy on the faces of the people. Slate ran a story about what it’s like to see yourself in those crowd shots from a half-century ago.
—The talent, and the ego, of Diana Ross, sucked up most of the oxygen around the Supremes, but Mary Wilson A) was not having it and B) didn’t deserve it. The Guardian told her story and described her influence.
—This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Al Green albums Let’s Stay Together and I’m Still in Love With You. This story from Memphis reminds us of the greatness of producer/arranger/impresario Willie Mitchell.
That takes us back about a month, which is gonna have to be far enough. I have another post percolating right now, and it may go up later this week. However, between working for The Man, a bit of springtime travel, and the aforementioned reluctance of the muse, it might be longer. I appreciate your patience, whatever it takes.