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It was the cutest hat. Slouchy and short brimmed, close to the head like a cloche, but limper. There was a ribbon band, rumpled and all the way around the crown, with some antique-looking flowers – possibly pansies, possibly posies -- pinned just above the temple behind the eye that was cast in shadow.

It was ragamuffin chic, slightly waifish, slightly bohemian, definitely post-hippie. The mousey brown hair hung straight – and the eyes, knowing a bit too much, looked straight into me. Or possibly straight out, as the poster hung above the racks of 8-tracks, that were hung behind locked glass sliders in the suburban strip mall record store.

Rickie Lee Jones may or may not have happened yet, but there was a sense that with Linda Ronstadt ascending – and Emmylou Harris also rising as the hippie princess of hillbilly music by way of Laurel Canyon – eclectic girls were about to be “in favor.” Bonnie Raitt, who’d captured my imagination with “Angel from Montgomery,” was her own continent, one draped in the blues, just as Joni Mitchell was an émigré from folk and Carole King had moved beyond the tundra of Tin Pan Ally,

Valerie Carter was cute as bug. Like an earthier, yet more worldly and sophisticated version of the groovy babysitters I idolized. She seemed beyond running off with the Children of God religious sect, or getting busted bringing a lid of grass back from Mexico, or even just having the misfortune of a bad acid trip at the Rapid Transit platform under the Terminal Tower. This was a sophisticated kind of squalor for sure.

I pinched that ten dollar bill from Christmas or the Honor Roll or whatever my grandmother had pressed it upon me, and looked up. I didn’t know what sepia was then, only thought it was an old black and white from long ago that somehow held the image of a modern girl who’d distilled flapper ennui, free love innocence and Willa Cather and John Steinbeck’s post-Dust Bowl starkly gaunt forbearance.

I’d had my heart set on something else, but the hat got me. As did her utterly guileless knowing. Whatever it was, I wanted in. I just hoped it didn’t suck.

***

Fender Rhodes, literally electric keyboards in cases the size of writing desks, have this velvety bell tone to them. A few descending chords, passing notes littered between, a rising brass section, and a voice caressing the words, “Oooh, child, things are gonna get easier…” I melted right into the dust and shellac’ed hardwood floor of our airless attic.

How did this woman I’d never met, never heard of get it so completely. A family rife with strife, we were anything but a Norman Rockwell portrait – and I was anything but the classic bright shiny high achiever that I’d learned to show the world. Though I achieved and shone, what roiled beneath the surface – doubt, anxiety, concern for and about those around me – was a powerful churning.

And in one verse of a song made popular by The Five Stairsteps, I felt like things could get better. A weightless seemed to lift up from my carcass, drifting soft and without gravity. No imperative or directive, no empiric evidence given, just the caress of that voice promising that this, too, shall pass was the agency of my condition.

Valerie Carter had that gift: she could make you believe impossible things with a tone that was somewhere between ridiculously expensive satin and the lushest sink-into-it velvet. Her soprano, like the embodiment of afternoon or first morning sunlight, glistened in your ears, somehow moved beneath your neural centers like a glider on a balmy, still night.

Even more wondrous were all the phases Just A Stone’s Throw passed through. Aural pictures painted against economical playing – the almost Tom Waits’ free noir of the well-past closing time’s wash-out “Back to Blue Some More,” the churning gospel soul of the title track, the faltering reggae undertow of “Ringing Doorbells in the Rain,” the raw hillbilly yearn of “Face of Appalachia,” not to mention the Earth, Wind + Fire-backed blue-eyed funk of “City Lights.”

Rumor had it – cause once I knew, I started hoovering up any scrap of information I could find – she was Lowell George’s girl. Little Feat’s “Fat Man in the Bath Tub,” with a proclivity for overalls and a musical gumbo that could sweat the Crescent City’s grisgris with the fringe of country and the undulation of rhythm & blues understood hybrid vigor. Carter’s rare instrument, her tone but also her ability to turn emotions inside out, was suited to it all.

Before I was a music critic, I didn’t bother with the delineations, just the way the music made me feel. Stone’s Throw made me real in a hopeful way, my hunger for knowing, tasting, feeling many things more rational than merely the product lacking focus from my dyslexia. The songs dipped into so many veins and wells of emotions, it suited my not-quite-teenage hormonal swings like a second skin.

And that girl on the cover? That was the me I’d be in a perfect world… without a uniform, expectations, a limited budget, my mother harping, the ghosts behind my eyes. She was cool, and funky, and hip, and somehow just shabby enough to not be an uptight rich girl at Beachwood Place, the expensive mall with a real Saks Fifth Avenue in a suburb near our modest brick home.

She had cooler friends, too. Linda Ronstadt, Little Feat’s Lowell George and Billy Payne, James Taylor. Earth, Wind & Fire! Lots of names I knew from the back of the records, people I spent hours with – and felt like I had relationships with based on the songs they wrote or sang. They scraped at what my mundane existence was made of, and somehow made my heart flicker with a desire that seemed more.

Even the boy she loved – that damned “Cowboy Angel” – seemed like the kinda romantic foil I could understand. As a harmonica bled out and her voice opened up on the long syllables, the note struck wide and full, strong without overpowering, she was a real girl wanting an actual, if elusive, boy.

Frustrated by the prep school boys who just seemed dumb, caught up in things that just didn’t seem important, this “Cowboy Angel” was the accessible answer to the guy Bonnie Raitt was pining for in “Angel To Montgomery.” What I didn’t understand in the moment: Carter’s angel was in close proximity, Raitt’s cowboy had grown mythic – and smaller than a horizon spec -- over time.

It’s all perspective, but you don’t know that when you’re young, on fire and waiting for your destiny to begin. Instead, you sigh into your pillow, listen to your records on eternal repeat and mainline all those emotions you can only access by listening to the words smeared across rock, pop, r&b and even new wave melodies.

My ultimate genuflection to Valerie Carter came later that summer. On Running on Empty, Jackson Browne’s paean to roadlife – something as a competitive golfer I knew a little more about than the garden variety middle schooler – she co-wrote “Love Needs A Heart.” A secret handshake of a song, it spoke volumes to the states of self-inflicted human bondage that come with always being gone, never being around people you can truly trust and, especially, being shattered by those you do.

Rather than one more rootless rolling stone song, the high messiah of the way long gone countenance, this was a song of reckoning and the price paid – or even extracted – for the life, but also the damage already incurred. That’s what nobody tells you when you’re acting brave, sucking it up, shaking it off, pretending it’s for the best: all of that face saving for one’s dignity comes with a cost.

And you know that it’s Carter who tempers Browne and George. Only a woman would profess, “Proud and alone, cold as a stone I’m afraid to believe the things I feel I can cry with the best, I can laugh with the rest But I’m never sure when it’s real…”

That’s some powerful vertigo. But also exactly how it happens. You pave over your embarrassment, your hurt, your anger at the disbelief of what just happened -- and you stop trusting what you know, being able to honor those emotions that are right there.

With a piano part any serviceable seventh grader could play, Jackson Browne rues and confesses his personal treason. It’s the tale of leaving when he confesses he’s broken this woman’s heart, and in that first verse, it feels like what a thousand other guilt douching songs sound like.

But then it turns, the stakes add up. Maybe a man could’ve written what comes next, but quite possibly not. As the second verse bottoms out, the revelation dawns.

“Love won’t come near me, she don’t even hear me

She walks by my vacancy sign Love needs a heart, trusting and blind I wish that heart was mine…”

By the time Valerie Carter – opening Browne’s tour to good notices and obvious fertile creative winds (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxB...) – co-wrote “Love Needs A Heart,” plenty must have happened. The sylph urchin had been banged around a bit by life, or “the life,” and now was counting up her scrapes and bruises, weighing the risks and considering the damage. Not to mention the ultimate truth: once you know, you can’t not know.

And so, Valerie Carter put her heart in a song she didn’t sing. She carried on, like singers do, the music too potent a force to let go. Once you make your way in or through songs, there rarely is another path to travel.

Wild Child, the next record, bore witness to it. A tight cropped head shot – echoing Diana Ross’ Diana­ – was sleek, slick, technically gorgeous, somehow clinically detached. This gamine was haute everything, Scavullo-esque in her high forehead and higher cheekbones, but her eyes had enough of the dilation, you had to wonder what other highs she might be sailing, what numbing strategies she’d devised.

I remember hearing Wild Child on the stereo at Record Theater, played – as all in-store play was – to entice the customers to lay down their hard-earned dollars. It was shapeless soft rock/jazz lite stuff, perfect for chilled Chablis and Virginia Slims’ uber thin cigarettes crowd. Perfect for the richer Mommies. Technically perfect, more than a little cold, the fire and raw passion that dripped from her notes was gone – much like the disco precision that was rising all around the suburbs, chasing a thrill and a high that was never truly there, even with your nose stuffed with cocaine.

I didn’t buy that record, didn’t hide my disappointment. Didn’t know what to say, or even why it mattered. I doubled down on Stone’s Throw, knowing sometimes one record that holds so much is worth more than a wheelbarrow of careers from the REO Speedwagons, Styxs, Rushs and Deep Purples.

And I got on with living, with trying to figure out why and how. Not just to survive, but what happens next, where shall the road take me when it’s finally time to take me away. Sometimes we make deals with ourselves to make the best of where we are. Sometimes we get vertigo or just lose our way. Sometimes our hearts break in ways we can’t even explain, don’t always know or understand -- and the world doesn’t care – so you soldier on.

Valerie Carter was a brave soldier in the realm of song and reason, romance and how it goes. She’d paid her money, took the ride, shimmered so brightly, she’d still turn up on records like Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence, and remained James Taylor’s favorite female back-up vocalist.

Mostly, though, she disappeared. To Florida. To relative obscurity, occasionally circling back for the music, but mostly, staying out of harm’s way.

When the news hit that she’d passed from this world, Taylor’s socials carried in part this remembrance, “…Valerie was an old soul and as deep as a well. Her voice came from her life and her life was a steep, rocky road. I believe that we can hear it, whenever the music is that crucial, when the song is saving someone’s life….”

Saving someone’s life. Oooh, child. Never mind the latter day scrapes with law enforcement, with courts of law, with Taylor himself paying for your out-of-state in-patient treatment and coming to your drug court graduation. Forget all the disappointments and promises made along the way nobody bothered to fulfill.

We can’t know the things that go unspoken or unseen. We can only hope that free, she is a shaft of light as pretty as those high notes she’d twirl around on, sparkle like the naughty twinkle in her eye. Sometimes freedom isn’t until the next life – and sad as we all are, maybe that’s the truth to hang onto.

 

www.hollygleason.com

Ooooh, Child: Valerie Carter's Stone's Throw To Heaven by Holly Gleason

The Vertigo of Freedom

Ideas and Observations by author Leonard Kirke

“Look Where the Music Can Take You”

March 10, 2017 

 

A Look Back on Nelvana’s
“The Devil and Daniel Mouse” and Valerie Carter

There are few art forms I love more than music and animation. Naturally, I love it when the two are paired together. But animated musicals are a dime a dozen. It’s rare to find one that sticks out, one so beautifully animated, with music so heartfelt, that it becomes an instant favorite.

 

I can give you one lovely yet obscure example:

Nelvana’s 1978 Halloween special “The Devil and Daniel Mouse.”''

 

For those of you who didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in literature classes, this cartoon is a fun little twist on the classic story “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” which was based on “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving, which was…well, suffice it to say, the cartoon is about a mouse who sells her soul to the devil to become a glam rock star.

 

Just your average late ‘70s cartoon, really.

 

The premise might sound like a particularly silly version of the old Faust legend, but it manages to be both funny and endearing in a way I certainly didn’t expect. That’s due in large part to the animation, which looked really incredible for its era, especially considering that it was produced for television.

 

As the TV Tropes entry for the special notes, this was during the “Dark Age of Animation,” when the go-to format for cartoons was “limited animation.” Though series like “The Flintstones” and “Scooby-Doo” are beloved icons for kids from the ‘60s through the ‘80s, nobody would argue that their visual style was particularly impressive. Limited animation was cheap, and cheap was the norm.

But the then-fledgling Canadian animation studio Nelvana rose above this trend on “The Devil and Daniel Mouse.” The character designs are cute and the animation looks, well, excellent (a.k.a. expensive). The characters really move; no small feat in the era of so-called “illustrated radio.”

 

Animation wasn’t the only thing that was exceptional about “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” though. A story about someone selling their soul to become a rock star can’t work without great music, and who better to provide it than singer-songwriter John Sebastian, of “The Lovin’ Spoonful” fame? Hearing the songs he wrote for “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” I can certainly believe in magic, that’s for sure.

 

Before we go any further, now would be a good time to explain the plot in a bit more detail: Dan and Jan Mouse are a folk duo, playing in clubs to make ends meet. If they’d been doing this in Greenwich Village about 15 years earlier, there wouldn’t be a problem (except maybe competition from the mouse version of Bob Dylan). But this is 1978, and as the manager of the club tells them, “people don’t want [their] kinda music anymore, they wanna rock n’roll and disco dance, yeah, man, groovy, fabulous, boogie!” Did I mention this was the late 1970s? It was the late 1970s.

 

The manager has a point: their only audience consists of a deaf frog and an old mustachioed caterpillar that, presumably, is drowning his sorrows at the bar because he somehow managed to grow old without ever becoming a butterfly.

 

They hit the road, Dan goes off to try to pawn his guitar for food money, and Jan is visited by a rather sinister reptilian record producer named B.L. Zebubb. That’s not suspicious at all, right? Jan apparently doesn’t think so. He offers her the chance to be a sensational rock star, and all she has to do is sign an extremely long contract in blood, preferably without actually reading it. What could go wrong?

 

You can probably guess what happens next. In the end, after being whisked away from Dan, having a whirlwind of a career performing in various iterations of ‘70s fashion (complete with KISS outfits and some truly glorious hair) the Devil comes to collect her soul. Lucky for her, Dan doesn’t hold a grudge and defends her at their trial…which the Devil ensures isn’t even close to fair.

 

But as Dan declares at the movie’s climax, “a song from the heart beats the Devil every time!” And when that song’s written by John Sebastian, there is no doubt he’s right. Dan and Jan sing a duet, “Look Where the Music Can Take You,” that’s so moving, the judge (who happens to be a weasel) rules to free Jan from her contract. The Devil is none too happy and flies off in a huff, plotting some talent competition reality show, I suspect.

 

Describing this little piece of 1970s cult animation doesn’t really do it justice. The story’s nothing original, of course, but the magic is in the animation and in the music. And the voice acting is charming on all fronts. Actor Chris Wiggins gives, for me, one of the all-time best performances of the Devil; what a wonderful, deep, slithery tone. You have to hear and see it to really appreciate it.

 

Now, there’s one other very special thing about “The Devil and Daniel Mouse.” I’ve already mentioned that the animation is superb, as is the songwriting by John Sebastian. But what really brings the whole thing together are the vocal performances. And for nearly 40 years, one of those vocal performances was a mystery!

 

Sebastian himself provides the singing voice for the title character, Dan Mouse. This is easily confirmed by “How We Made the Devil And Daniel Mouse,” a documentary Nelvana produced alongside the special, which features Sebastian recording in the studio. But what of Jan Mouse?

 

In the credits, alongside John Sebastian and The Reggie Knighton Band, the only other vocalist is listed as “Laurel Runn.” When I first discovered this cartoon, I absolutely had to find out what other songs Laurel Runn had recorded. But there was just one problem.

 

Laurel Runn had never recorded any other music.

 

I couldn’t believe this. She had the voice of an angel. (That’s a cliché, but sometimes, it’s deserved, and this is one of those times.) There was no way somebody with a voice that incredible could have gone through life without recording more music than a few tracks in an obscure 1970s Halloween special.

 

But there was no trail, no evidence of anyone by that name having ever made any other music. I found Youtube comments asking the same question I was asking, and people lamenting the fact that this mysterious and talented singer had not recorded any more songs. I found a blog post by another fan of “The Devil and Daniel Mouse” who mentioned researching the identity of Laurel Runn himself, and had come up empty.

 

It soon became clear to me that I wasn’t going to find any information on Laurel Runn. No matter how far back into a Google search I went, there was just no record of her. I had a pretty strong hunch, though, that this was intentional. I was convinced it had to be a pseudonym. After all, how would she have been discovered in the first place, and hired to appear in “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” if she hadn’t worked in the music business before?

 

I figured the one person who’d know the real identity of Laurel Runn was John Sebastian. I sent him a polite message explaining that I was researching the story behind this cartoon and I wondered if he could clear up the Laurel Runn mystery for me.

 

It didn’t take long to find a message in reply, and in that message was a name: Valerie Carter.

 

According to Mr. Sebastian, Valerie was a backup singer for the likes of James Taylor and many other renowned performers. She had opted to use a pseudonym for “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” for fear of getting too associated with cartoons and children’s material, though he’d advised her not to worry about it.
 

I am enormously grateful to John Sebastian for finally clearing up this mystery, and revealing this secret that’s apparently been kept since the cartoon was released back in 1978. Since learning the truth, I quickly began researching Valerie Carter’s music career. I wasn’t surprised to find that she had, in fact, recorded many other songs, and there were every bit as wonderful and striking as those she’d recorded for “The Devil and Daniel Mouse.”

 

I’m still exploring Valerie’s discography; there’s a lot to discover. Starting out as part of the band Howdy Moon in 1974, Valerie Carter has recorded with just about every major singer and songwriter of the last few decades, and toured with many as well. Sometimes as a backup singer, and other times singing duets, her collaborations are so numerous it’s hard to know where to start. Valerie has recorded and/or performed with: James Taylor (as previously mentioned), Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, Ringo Starr, and Willie Nelson, just to name a few.

 

Despite her extensive work as backup singer and musical collaborator, Valerie has also released a number of solo albums from the ‘70s through the 2000s. There is some truly incredible music to be heard here, and thankfully, they’ve been digitally re-released just recently, on her official website. I’ll finally get a chance to download them soon and give them a proper listen.

 

But what I’ve heard already is enough to make me a huge fan. “Love Needs a Heart” (co-written with Lowell George and Jackson Browne, and originally recorded by Browne) and “I Say Amen,” from her 1996 album “The Way It Is” are instant standouts. Those who know me will tell you I’m a diehard Tom Waits fan, and I rarely enjoy a Waits cover more than an original recording by the man himself. But listen to Valerie Carter’s cover of “Whistle Down the Wind.” Nobody could do that song better than her, not even Tom Waits, and you’ll find no higher praise from me.

 

I could go on. There’s her recording of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” alongside Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, recorded for Ronstadt’s 1995 album “Feels Like Home.” There’s her rendition of “O-o-h Child” from the soundtrack of Matt Dillon’s 1979 film debut, “Over the Edge.” I didn’t think it was possible for me to enjoy a version of that song more than the original by The Five Stairsteps. I’m noticing a pattern here.

 

But rather than sit there reading me list her discography and gush about how great she is, go to valeriecarter.net and listen to her yourself. Download some albums. A voice like Valerie Carter’s is the reason humans have ears.

 

So, a decades-long mystery is solved. No one need wonder who Laurel Runn is anymore. We now know just who was responsible for Jan Mouse’s incredible singing. Lucky us, we didn’t have to sell our souls to B.L. Zebubb to hear it. Instead, we have John Sebastian’s songwriting and Valerie Carter’s beautiful skills as a performer to thank. And I do thank them, from the bottom of my heart.

 

Afterward

I’d like to wrap up this little retrospective on a slightly more personal note. I discovered “The Devil and Daniel Mouse” during a difficult time in my life. A mixture of seasonal depression, a failed relationship, and a seriously ill family member made the fall of 2016 an emotionally exhausting time for me.

 

Sometimes, the things that lift our spirits when we need it most can come from unexpected places. “The Devil and Daniel Mouse” is really meant for kids. But hey, I like to think I’m a kid at heart. And though it’s a simple story, and some might accuse it of being corny, I think it transcends expectations. John Sebastian’s lyrics and Valerie Carter’s vocals lift it far above the realm of a silly Halloween special. Hearing Carter pour all she’s got into a number like “Can You Help Me Find My Song?” is actually pretty heartbreaking, especially if you’re depressed and in the midst of a serious creative slump.

The opening and closing song, a duet between the two, ended up stuck in my head for months. (I got so enthralled I actually bought a couple of animation cels from this special!) But I was glad for it. Hearing Valerie sing “Look where the music can take you, when you’re getting low,” was the right thing for me at the right time. It was the voice I needed, to remind me to appreciate what’s beautiful in life, even in the midst of pain and loss.

 

As an artist, one doesn’t always know what effect one’s work will have on people. At worst, they’ll hate it. It might be ignored and unnoticed. Or it might just lift someone out of the muck when they need it most. For me, that’s one of the most important reasons for art to exist.

 

I’d originally written this piece about three weeks ago. Valerie Carter’s friend, Kathy Kurasch, had read and approved the original version of this article, and we had talked about the possibility of me interviewing Valerie. Sadly, just as I was wrapping up some personal issues that had delayed my posting this article, Valerie passed away. I never got the chance to speak with her, and I regret not being able to tell her myself how much her music meant to me in the short time since I discovered it.

 

This has made me think even more about the value of art. It helps connect us in a way that few other things can. It is such a wonderful gift to leave behind, too. Art, at the best of times, can be a part of ourselves we share with those we’ll never meet, who need the right words, the right images, at the right time. Though I never had the chance to meet Valerie, her music touched me so deeply in the short time since I first heard her sing. Reading the tributes to her, from friends like singer-songwriter James Taylor, I know I’m not the only one who was struck by her music like this. And I know that the power of her voice was just one part of what a wonderful person she was.

 

As for “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” well, it makes me grateful for John Sebastian’s words and Valerie Carter’s voice. It helped to remind me of why I’m an artist myself, and why art is so important to me. I’ve had the honor of thanking John Sebastian personally.

 

As for Valerie, I’d like to dedicate these words to her now, to her memory. I’m sure, as I explore more of her music, she’ll continue to be a source of inspiration to me in the future.

 

And as Dan Mouse sang, “All you need’s inspiration, and inspiration’s free.”

 

Special Thanks

I would first like to thank John Sebastian, The Reggie Knighton Band, director Clive A. Smith, and all the fine cast and crew at Nelvana for creating “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” truly a gem.

 

I would also like to thank John Sebastian once again for helping me solve the mystery of “Laurel Runn” and thus leading me to the rest of Valerie Carter’s work.

 

Many thanks to Kathy Kurasch and Jan Carter, for giving their approval for this article, and extra thanks to Kathy for creating Valerie’s Website and The Official Valerie Carter Fan Club.

 

Much love to you all.

And one more time, thank you to Valerie Carter, whose music helped me “find my song” again. Rest in peace.

 

Notes:

For those interested in Valerie Carter’s music, visit www.valeriecarter.net.

For those interested in owning “The Devil and Daniel Mouse” on DVD, it’s included on the Unearthed Films special two-disc edition of Nelvana’s first full-length theatrical film, “Rock & Rule.” I plan to write a retrospective on “Rock & Rule” in the future, including a look at its small but devoted cult following. “The Devil and Daniel Mouse” was a sort of template for “Rock & Rule,” and features many of the same crew members, including director Clive A. Smith, and a few of the same actors.

Another thing: “The Devil and Daniel Mouse,” like its spiritual successor “Rock & Rule,” never received a proper soundtrack album. With talented people like John Sebastian and Valerie Carter, this seems criminal to me. There was, however, a story LP that saw a limited release, with narration by Sebastian and the audio right from the special itself. If you have a copy lying around, I’ll take it off your hands! It’d go well with the animation cels I bought!

A final note: According to Valerie’s friend Kathy Kurasch, Valerie lived in Laurel Canyon at the time “The Devil and Daniel Mouse” was made. That seems like another little aspect of the “Laurel Runn” mystery solved. Hopefully, now that it’s known, Valerie Carter will get more recognition for her work on this cartoon.

MICHAEL SHEEHY

Formerly of CBS KNX FM

 

www.PLANETPOOTWADDLE.com

 

This old radio potato checks in!  Wow talking with Kathy really brings back memories … and boy oh boy … I really remember the first time I met Valerie back when I was programming KNX FM The Mellow Sound here in L.A. We were already playing a number of cuts off of Valerie’s earlier work and “Stones Throw” had just come out … I’m working at my desk, when I look up to find this tiny yet breathtaking beauty standing in my doorway … once I picked my tounge up off the desktop Valerie introduced herself. I kinda got the feeling she was somewhat underwhelmed by our humble, cramped and corporate CBS offices … but Magritte was right … Images are treacherous … and we are all in the Image business … me I sell air. She was very sweet and soon I was to realize she was just as nutty as I was (that is to say the good kinda nuts) and amazingly talented. Being a diehard Little Feat fan I was already familiar with her and a big fan of her work so we hit it off. Well to be honest, she was so stunning … I was actually kinda uncomfortable around her … however, I attempted a reasonable conversation.  My friend Nicolette had been by the week before … and when she walked into my office, she immediately dropped to her knees and started going through that week’s four foot stack of records leaning against the wall … picking out the ones she wanted … well I had tons of dups and she was a treasured fellow whacko … so no harm no foul.  Ah ha me thought … maybe Valerie would like some music to take home as well … weeeelllllllllllll …  she kinda looked at me like I had just escaped from an institution but reluctantly gathered up an armful and eventually departed as I continued to give her more. Later I was to find out many of my friends … were friends of her’s as well … but wow what an introduction.

 

I have spent the past two years rebuilding two versions of The Mellow Sound … the first (Classic) will be a time capsule of KNX FM from 1972-1983 … the second (Updated) will start where first one left off however, incorporate all of the applicable music that has come out since then. Needless to say, Valerie, Nicky and Lauren will be all over both stations. Hopefully, these will hit the air early next year … we’ll see.

In the meantime, you can find Valerie and friends  pop up from time to time on my own personal labor of lunacy and study in self-indulgence Planet Pootwaddle aka www.planetpootwaddle.com  Disturbing the comfortable … and comforting the disturbed!   Rooted in the Blues, it features tons of new music, Lauren as the voice of little Pooty, is Commercial Free and a bit like KNX FM just not restricted to only the Mellow stuff as well as completely all over the musical map. Enjoy!

 

Valerie I am really sorry to hear of your health issues and will continue to send good thoughts your way … you have given the world some great gifts and I simply wanted you to know they are truly appreciated and shared. 

 

MS

 

Since this note was written before Val's passing Michael updated it on his beautiful on air tribute you can see here