Buck Hammer was a piano virtuoso who died too young. His 1959 album, The Discovery of Buck Hammer, demonstrated that to the world. It was pressed from found recordings, posthumously introducing the world to Hammer’s brilliance.
Or at least, that’s what Steve Allen wanted people to think.
From the L.A. Times:
He decided to hire an artist to sketch a picture of a fictitious black boogie-woogie specialist named Buck Hammer. Allen himself plays creditable boogie-woogie. He also wrote liner notes explaining that this was the first and last album by this artist because he had died just after it had been recorded.
This album–“The Discovery of Buck Hammer”–got a great review in Downbeat magazine.
Allen then took it one step further and had a photo taken of the Allen housekeeper, a black woman named Mary Sears, seated at the piano and wearing one of his wife’s gowns. Allen recorded a new album and purposely played nonsense but with a hard-swinging rhythm section. This album also received good reviews, which proved to Allen that most critics haven’t a clue what they are talking about.
Steve Allen was multifaceted. He was a comedian, he created the modern talk show, in the form of The Tonight Show, he was a musician, he was a nonfiction writer.
He was even a mystery author, although the Night Owl issues a caution for any who venture to read some of his mystery work: it’s set in a bizarre Twilight Zone type of Earth where everyone, from the convenience store clerk to the vending machine repairman, is equally as witty and informed as Steve Allen. To put it in perspective for modern audiences, imagine if everyone were Dennis Miller on speed. Now imagine a world like that where murders were being investigated and solved.
Or you can ignore that, because according to Steve Allen, most critics haven’t a clue what they are talking about… and, after all, he’s Steve Allen.
Question for the night: what musical discoveries have you made? Bands or artists that you like and that weren’t presented to you by friends or family, but rather that you ran across on the radio, or as an opening act at a concert or just picking up from the music racks because of a catchy album cover? As these Questions are designed to inspire conversation during the hours when people are fuzzy-headed and tired, can you go one step further and post a sample from Youtube or a similar site?