Archive | 2:38 pm

Jimmy Rushing – Master Swing Vocalist

7 Nov

Jimmy Rushing, a featured singer with the Count Basie Orchestra, is one of my favorite male vocalists of the Big Band and Swing era. So playful, so soulful, so effortless. The man enjoyed a good downhome meal too … as you can tell from his rather rotund physique.

Belmont Virginia Peanuts for the Holidays!

7 Nov


We recently made some new friends at Belmont Peanuts of Southhampton, VA. They kindly sent us a variety of their products for our review — and enjoyment! Let me tell you, everything they sent is delicious. Being a native Virginian, I couldn’t wait to tear open the vacuum packed pouch of Gourmet Virginia Peanuts. Belmont has obviously mastered the art of transforming ground peas into crunchy gourmet treats. These peanuts are big and extremely fresh and crunchy. Forget about the store bought Planters Peanuts, etc. There really is no comparison. Trust us!


We were thrilled to receive packets of Gourmet VA Peanuts, Redskin Peanuts, Butter Toasted Peanuts, Chocolate Covered Peanuts, BBQ Peanuts, and, last but not least, Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle. The latter is truly our hands down favorite — and a great gift idea for the upcoming holiday season. You will be remembered all year long if you send your loved ones a tin of these delicious little morsels.

Thanks to Belmont Peanuts for their generosity. I look forward to enjoying their peanuts and singing their praises for many holiday seasons to come. But don’t wait another minute. Order yours now at

Elvis and the Sarasota Opera House

7 Nov


Arthur Britton (“A.B.”) Edwards was born in Sarasota in 1874. A true business pioneer, he not only established the first real estate office in Sarasota in 1903, he became the first mayor. Archival photos reveal Sarasota as a simple hamlet with buildings of wood and riddled with bungalow hideaways. The handsome little town was beginning to take its place on the resort map. Edwards had a vision for Sarasota, and with the infusion of an increasingly healthy real estate market (due largely to the efforts of John Ringling) he set out to realize his dream. Mr. Edwards commissioned Jacksonville architect, Roy A. Benjamin to design a “multi-purpose” building that could accommodate all types of entertainment- including opera.

On April 10, 1926, the A.B. Edwards Theater was unveiled. The Sarasota Herald Tribune hailed Edwards for “having admitted Sarasota into a fairyland of costly decoration, rich furnishings and never to be forgotten artistry”. The entrance facade of the theater was designed in the very popular Mediterranean Revival style of the era. Cream colored stucco embellished with ornamental plasterwork and imitation stone delighted the opening night audience. The elaborate three-story entrance contained 8 shops on the ground floor, 12 offices on the second floor, and 12 furnished apartments on the third. All floors faced a central atrium. The theater auditorium, stage and fly tower occupied the remainder of the building. A glorious Robert Morton orchestral pipe organ completed the stunning scenario. Edwards had realized his vision.


The theater became a popular venue for a variety of entertainment’s over the years. The top headliners of the time were to grace its stage: Will Rogers (1927), Sally Rand (1937), the Ziegfeld Follies (1928), and even (in 1956) the young Elvis Presley. On January 31, 1952, it became host to the world premiere blockbuster DeMille movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” which had been filmed in Sarasota. Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, and Dorothy Lamour brightened the town with stardom.


The years were not kind to the original integrity of the Edwards Theater. New management renamed the building “The Florida Theater.” In 1928, a hurricane irrevocably damaged the magnificent Rogers Morton pipe organ. Late modernizing included stripping the structure of many of its most exquisite Art Deco charms. To accommodate the ever-changing entertainment industry, further alterations were made. The theater became a movie theater, complete with plastic laminate and linoleum. Then in 1973, the theater was finally dark, neglected – and vacant.

Meanwhile, a non-profit organization called the Asolo Opera Guild had been hard at work bringing opera to Sarasota. With modest beginnings, they presented chamber-size repertoire in the Asolo Theater, a small 320-seat playhouse located on the Ringling Museum grounds. By 1974, they began to produce their own operas. With public support rapidly growing, they clearly needed a home to call their own. In 1979, the Guild purchased the old Edwards Theater for $150,000. The Association became the 7th opera company in the United States to own its house.


A series of renovations during the early 80s and 90s were undertaken to bring the theater back from the brink and to make it a viable operatic venue. Work was done as funds permitted. By 1984 the stage, orchestra pit, and orchestra section were done to open the theater with its first production, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, under Victor DeRenzi’s baton with leading roles taken by Stephanie Sundine, Mimi Lerner, Marc Embree, and Jerry Hadley. The balcony was ready by 1990, and by 1993 the lobby and facade had been restored. The company also built the adjacent Artists Wing in the early 80s and purchased the Ringling Terrace Apartment complex, where the Apprentice Artists are housed. In the mid 90’s the adjacent building was also acquired to become the Pavilion building, home to the Jonas Kamlet Library, the Peterson Great Room, and the Culverhouse Room.

However, years of neglect had taken their toll and a more extensive overhaul was indicated. From March 2007 to February 2008 Sarasota Opera embarked on the first holistic renovation of the original 1926 structure. The interior of the auditorium was gutted to allow the digging of a new larger orchestra pit and a regrading of the orchestra section floor to improve sightlines. New seats and historically appropriate decorations enhance the theater space. The backstage facilities were updated and the orchestra fitted with an hydraulic lift. The lobby features a restored three-story atrium as well as additional restrooms, lounges, and other audience amenties. At the completion of the $20 million project Musical America called the Sarasota Opera House “one of the finest venues for opera in the United States.”

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Food Note: If you are looking for a no frills breakfast, Sarasota’s Waffle Stop may be for you. The King dined here the morning following his only Sarasota performance. When you enter, you can’t miss the life size Elvis sitting in a chair waiting for his picture to be taken. If you’re not a Elvis fan, then check out the pictures of old Sarasota that adorn the walls. The breakfast is affordable and said to be pretty good (we haven’t hit this place yet). We can’t yet vouge for the food quality, but how badly can you screw up a waffle?  The Waffle Stop is located on 660 S. Washington (US 301) right across from Sarasota Ford.

Blue Ash Still Smokin’

7 Nov


We received a review copy of this CD yesterday from our friends at Conqueroo. I has never heard of the band before, which is surprising because I’m a pretty big fan of the Power Pop movement. Blue Ash is kind of a cross between Badfinger and Buffalo Springfield, complete with plenty of 1970’s arena rock bombast. Dig the groovy threads and the white patent leather zip up boots. They even perform a crunchy version of the Beatles’ “Any Time at All.” Seek it out if you can. This is not a bad addition to your Power Pop catalog alongside other better-known practicioners of the underappreciated genre. If nothing else it’s an interesting timepiece worthy of a fresh listen.

When England’s esteemed ‘Guardian’ newspaper assembled their list of 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die, the 1973 debut album from Blue Ash made the grade amongst all the established classics—pretty remarkable for an obscure record that was out-of-print for over 30 years! Well, we at ‘Collectors’ Choice’ have rectified that injustice, so this critically acclaimed LP can take its rightful place in the power pop pantheon. Signed to Mercury by legendary rock critic/publicist Paul Nelson, this four-piece from Youngstown, OH was among the first power pop bands alongside Badfinger, Big Star and Raspberries to revive the virtues of mid-‘Sixties rock against the then prevailing tides of prog excess and singer-songwriter self-absorption. ‘No More, No Less’ showcases the band’s knack for melodic three-minute pop tunes delivered via a breathless attack that melded the Byrds’ jangle with the Who’s rhythm section and the Fab Four’s harmonies, as heard on the first cut and best-known track ‘Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)’. Also includes their rave-up of the Dylan rarity ‘Dusty Old Fairgrounds’ and such proto-power pop gems as ‘I Remember a Time’ and ‘All I Want’.This first-ever CD release features brand-new liner notes, courtesy of the band’s bassist and co-songwriter Frank Secich, along with rare photos from the band’s archives. A ‘Collectors’ Choice Music’ exclusive!