Radio Killed the Victrola Star

My latest addition to the reel-to-reel recordings is a two-parter on the player to your right.

The first is an excerpt from a radio interview my grandfather gave on KFJB radio in Marshalltown, Ia. I'm not sure of the exact date of the interview (yet), but based on the DJ's talking about Loretta Lynn's new hit single "One's on the Way" early in the show (not in this excerpt) it must be sometime in 1971.

My grandfather, Wendell Willard, and his country music buddy, Warren Riesinger (Not sure of the spelling on that) came on the show and talked about country music, their jam group that met on Tuesday nights in Clemons, IA at Warren's house, and about some recordings Wendell made.

The interview, I can only assume from some of the noises made at the very beginning of the tape (not included in my excerpt), seems to have been recorded by setting up the ol' reel-to-reel next to the radio and letting it run. The recording includes the interviews with Wendell and Warren, as well as all the songs KFJB played during the program that day. Flatt & Scruggs, Loretta Lynn, and Bob Wills to name a few...

The part that I uploaded today is a part of the interview where my grandfather talks about playing the 5-string banjo. I love the line, "The only background I had was the fanatic desire to learn to play a banjo and the great admiration for anyone who was able to play the banjo." Sounds like the way I would phrase an answer...

The second part/song is the tape my grandfather brought in. I separated it so I could do a bit different EQ on the song part than the interview part. I haven't found the actual tape (yet), so the quality isn't very good. Recording a song played on a reel-to-reel on a radio show by placing a reel-to-reel next to a radio doesn't lend itself to very high quality. I think the actual tape will turn up on one of the numerous tapes I haven't listened to yet.



Dinosaur Victrola Listening to Buck Owens

The next installment of my reel-to-reel conversions is another tune where my grandfather isn't singing, but is pickin' it up on the banjo.

It's a cover of "Heartbreak Mountain", which may be a traditional bluegrass tune done by many others, but I remember it done by Buck Owens. The version I listened to back in the day (and now for that matter) is from his album "Ruby" which has a lot of bluegrass tunes on it.

The cover is fairly faithful to the Buck Owens version, only it's in the key of A instead of Buck's original key of C. The singer forgets a couple lyrics on the third verse and laughs, but I think it adds to the jam sound of the tune.

I tried a little more intensive EQing on this one, and fiddled a little more with various digital doo-hickeries in the Garageband. I think the sound turned out really full sounding!

Check it out on the player to your right!


Two New Tunes!

I recently found a couple gems on the old reel-to-reel tapes.

The first one is a version of "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," which is one of my favorite bluegrass tunes. My grandfather isn't on vocals this time, but the song features the banjo quite a bit. You can hear the lead vocalist yell out "5 String!" when he wants my grandpa to step up to the mic and play a solo on the banjo.

My Dad has told me that the main other two guys in the group were
Chet Stubbs and Danny Stubbs, a father/son combo on flattop guitar and fiddle. He also said Everett Whitmore was in the group as well. I'm not sure what he played. Perhaps bass.

The second song is an instrumental version of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," better known as the theme to the TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies." It features the banjo pretty heavily and the mandolin as well.

I believe it's my grandfather introducing the song as "A little bit of 'The Ballad of Jed Clampett' in the key of G." It sounds like his voice anyhow. I'm guessing he liked this one because of it's feature of the banjo and for the fact that it was a Flatt & Scruggs song.

You can enjoy the songs on the player to your right! The other recording is still there as well.



First Reel-to-Reel Digitization!

I have begun the process of converting some analog reel-to-reel recordings my grandfather made with his bluegrass combo.

My grandfather Wendell, who passed away a few years ago, had given me a Sony TC-530 reel-to-reel machine quite a few years back, but I had no idea what to do with it. It didn't work up to snuff for recording purposes, but there was a stack of his tapes that came along with it.

I have no ideas when the recordings were made (I imagine late 70's) but they were made at my grandfather's house in Marshalltown, Iowa. I'm just in the stages of researching, but I believe it was a three piece combo consisting of my grandfather on banjo and occasional vocals, and two other gentlemen on guitar and fiddle.

Sorry, my grandfather can't hear you over the sound of how awesome he is....

I posted the first recording I digitized on the player to your right, "The Girl I Left in Sunny Tennessee." I chose this particular recording because it features my grandfather on vocals, which is rare as he usually just played banjo without singing.

I have no idea whether this is a "good" version of the song according to them. There aren't really any notes on the tapes about which take is which or whether it's a good one. I haven't even listened to all the tapes, so there could be a much better version of the song on a different tape.

I just wanted to start somewhere, so I started there.

So listen and enjoy!

p.s. Nerdy info = I sent the audio out from the reel-to-reel into my Tascam FW-1804 through the line input, then used the Tascam to convert it to digital as it has a Firewire output. I captured the audio in Garageband on my G4 MDD PowerMac. I then had to send the .aiff of the recording to Audacity to speed up the recording. Based on the fact that the song is traditionally done in the key of G, I sped the audio up 17%, bringing the guitar and banjo into G. Then I reimported in Garageband, doubled up the track, panned them for mock-stereo, and did some equalization to eliminate some hiss. Then I sent it to iTunes as an .aiff, and converted it there to .mp3 for the web. Whew!


Last Will and Testament!

Alrighty, enough foolishness...

My latest recording is a cover of John Prine's "Please Don't Bury Me"...

I customized some lyrics!

One take on this one!



New Funk Track!

We might have a fine companion to "Wuzzat a Godd--n Alien" and "Fudge Parts" in "Funk For Funk's Sake", the newest recording completed in just under an hour....

Enjoy on the player to your right... You might need to get up and dance to this one...

Also, all lyrics were ad-libbed as they were recorded...

That's me on various acoustic guitars, bass, and vocals... Garageband on the drums.



Willard in Chains

My latest recording tackles a classic (so I've heard) Georgia Satellites song "Battleship Chains"...

I became aware of the song while listening to (Warren Zevon + R.E.M. - Michael Stipe) = Hindu Love God's version of it...

So I took a stab at it, and it's somewhere between the two versions... In style at least, in quality it's obviously much, much lower...

That's me on bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, vocals, and harmony vocals... Garageband is on the drums... Sorry, I didn't go to Sherbie's to record a drum part.

My first stab at harmony vocals, so laugh it up!

Also, try not to snicker at my terrible guitar solos... I thought the song would be easy because of the easy chord progression, but the simplicity proved to be more difficult than anticipated...

Enjoy it on the player to your right!


Priney Goodness

My latest recording (which you can find as track one on the player to your right) is a cover of John Prine's "Sweet Revenge"... It's a tune (and an album for that matter) that I've been getting into lately, so I thought I'd give it a shot...

That's me on acoustic, electric, bass, vocals, and drums...

Thanks to Sherbie for letting me come over to his place during the day and record a drum track using his brand spanking new (used) Premier drum kit he got...

The drum track was recorded with my Powerbook's built-in mic (covered with a couple layers of cloth and recording level turned way down) and the only adjustment to the drums and cymbals was a strip of painters masking tape on each...

So not too shabby sound for a shitty mic and not much set-up!




Recently I've really gotten into Gene Vincent, and so along those lines, as well as keeping in the recent pattern of alternating epic prog rock and 50's Rock n' Roll, I recorded a tribute version of Vincent's most well-known song "Be-Bop-A-Lula"...

That's me on acoustics, lead guitar, bass, vocals, screams, and a cardboard box drum...

after listening to it, Gene isn't spinning in his grave, and hopefully you aren't either...

The song can be found on the player to your right!

p.s. My first walking bass-line.... and yes, my guitar solos are ridiculously poor...


Oh You Tease!

If you look to the player to your right, there is a new track, "Leviathan Teaser"... Pete and I are in the midst of a new epic tale (this one weighing in at 6+ minutes already) that is a sequel (prequel? (postquel? (epilougue?))) to "Crown of Cyruss"...

And while it's still a huge work in progress, I thought I'd give you a tease of what you can look forward to in the next track from "Minions of Lebanon"...

Check it out!


C'mon now! Hee-we-go!

In the wake of such an epic last-post, this time around we go back to light and fun with a One Take cover of Eddie Cochrane's "C'mon Everybody"...

That's me on gitbox, bass, and vox... The bass was an overdub, but only one take, I swear!

Enjoy on the player to your right!


Crown of Cyruss

A new epic tale has been told... Listen on the player at your right

Crown of Cyruss

Conceived, written, and recorded over a period of 5 hours, Crown of Cyruss is a new prog rock masterpiece from Minions of Lebanon, a band with a long and storied past. Featuring former members of The Bathroom Beatles, Two Dollars for Nyquil, Psychosomatic Apricots, and The Juan Mayhall Brewstakers, Minons of Lebanon bursts onto the scene with this epic tale told in 4 movements.

Song Credits:

Pete Hemberger -
"The Magistrate":
6 String Classical Guitar
Lead 6 String Electric Guitar
Bass Guitar
Drum Programming
Auxillary Percussion Triggering

Mark Willard -
"The Oracle":
6 String Rhythm Electric Guitar
6 String Acoustric Guitar
Bass Guitar
Drum Programming
Auxillary Percussion Triggering

Lyrics and Music: Hemberger/Willard
Guitar Leads: Hemberger

Engineered, Produced, and Recorded at Syrinx Studios

Pete Hemberger plays Les Paul guitars, Fender basses, and Fender and Marshall amplifiers exclusively


Priests and fools and magistrates all bowed before his grace
But all the kings of the world cannot outlive their fate
The bastard child of great King Cyruss was forced into the throne
When misfortune struck our peaceful land and the boy child was left alone
As dark clouds gathered in the sky
Abdicated and removed, the throne was left... bare

I did not ask for this
rown upon my head
This burden I will not endure
Your needs remain unfed

Take this crown
I do not take this crown

I'll run into the woods
Make a world my own
I've heard tales of magic Men
Who have no need for thrones!

Take this crown
I do not take this crown

The magic Man

The magic Man has taught me much
I did not know before
I will commence my journey home
And reign forever more

Take this crown
I must embrace my crown

I was a fool for leaving you
To suffer all alone
I realize my destiny
To take this holy throne

Take this crown
Yes! This is my crown!

Take this crown
This crown!


Villa Gorilla...

Another One Taker from the iPhone...

This time I went for my new favorite song at the moment, "Gorilla, You're a Desperado" by Warren Zevon...

Yes, yes, yes, that makes 3 Zevon songs in a row... Third time's a charm... Trouble comes in threes... Three on a match is bad luck... Whatever. All I know is I like 'em. I have a couple songs in the vault that aren't Warren songs, but I'm saving those for a special occasion (i.e. I don't have time to record something for a while)

Enjoy on the player to your right!


Request #1 - Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Check out the latest One Take Tune, "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," on the player to your right... Requested by the honorable Tom "Bones" Schutta... Two Zevon songs in a row, but where I come from, that's a good thing...

Spring Break!

Whenever I hear someone say or read the words "spring break," I automatically think of this.

Why a 10+ year-old Simpsons reference is still stuck in my head is something for scientists to figure out and marketing execs to try and tap into, but I think it has to do something with rote memorization...

Anyway, this week is spring break, and although it's not exactly springtime, it definitely is breaktime... I was in need of a break (I think the students were too) so it came at a perfect time... The school year has been flying by, especially compared to my first year of teaching. I remember praying for spring break to come my first year, and this year it was more, "Spring break is next week? Really? Alright..."

I have no grand plans for the week... It's Tuesday and I've already accomplished laundry, closet reorganization, and a whole lotta sittin', so I feel that's pretty good for now.


Disorder in the House!

It's time again for another one take iPhone recording!

This time it's Warren Zevon's "Disorder in the House" from his final album, "The Wind"...

Check it out on the player to the right! Only one take! I overdubbed the solo obviously, but that was one take too! And I suck at soloing!

In the meantime, it's almost spring break! If you have a song you want to hear covered in one take on an iPhone, let me know...


Rush in one take

Who has the balls (or audacity) to try and tackle a 5 minute nerd-rock masterpiece on only an acoustic guitar and in only one take?

This guy.

So, having recently figured out the chord progression to Rush's 1987 sweetness known as "Mission", I decided to give it a go using my iPhone as recording studio as I have done so oft in the past...

I left out the solo section, as I had no marimba to play, and I realize that Geddy Lee's vocal range and mine do not have that much overlap, but I gave it a shot, and it was fun... There are flubs, but again, IT'S DONE IN ONE TAKE SO BACK OFF!!! If I had more takes, I could butcher it so much better...

The song appears to your right as the first track in the player... Check out the other songs I've recorded with my iPhone... "Glad All Over" and "Soldier of Love"...


Weekend in Ames!

Recently, as in last weekend, Emma and I trekked down to Ames, Iowa to visit our friends Jake and Carrie... It was our first time visiting them, and it was a great time!

On Friday night we headed down to Des Moines to The Grand Piano Bistro and watched our friend Leeds play in a (friendly) dueling piano duet... It was a ton of fun! They played great stuff, and we took part in some audience participation, including singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" at the top of our lungs on the front of the stage...

Saturday we bummed around Ames shopping, had Thai take-out for dinner, played some Catch Phrase, and ended the night with a couple stops at the downtown bars...

Unfortunately our buddy Glenn slipped on a newly re-frozen sidewalk on the walk home from downtown and broke his leg! Yikes! We hope he's feeling better and that he heals quick! He was ridiculously calm throughout the ordeal.. just lying on the sidewalk calmly saying, "Yeah, it's broke... yeah... I heard it..."

Then Sunday we stopped in Tha Dub-ya Cee for brunch with the fam...

Tibial mishaps aside, it was a very fun weekend!

Check out some highlights here!


A New Tune!

Check it out! I just recorded another tune using my iPhone and the "Recorder" app... Check out the player to your right, and listen to "Glad All Over"... I'm a sucker for The Dave Clark Five, and although it is missing the usual DCF drum bombast, I think it's pretty good for one take on a iPhone's mic... (I did do two tracks, but I swear to you, each was only one take)... This might become a new hobby... One Take Oldies...

If you have any oldies requests, let me know in the comments section...



No, I'm not Sgt. Snorkel yelling at his least favorite recruit... I'm referring to the new car that Emma and I just purchased!

Check it out:
It's a 2006 New Beetle... We got a sweet deal on it! Certified used, still has 44k worth of warranty on it, it's got all the bells and whistles that could possibly be stuffed into it, and best of all, it's a 5 speed manual... Bang!

Check out some more pics here!

iPhone Recording Quality

Recently, I and my wife, Emma Linn, came into the possession of 2 iPhone 3Gs... I cannot remember exactly how we stumbled upon these devices, but somewhere in our various travels in and about town, we found ourselves with these two new telephonic devices...

Since the internet is chock full of information about the iPhone as a device, I shall not bore you (to tears possibly) with the details of the device itself, nor any of the standard software that comes included therein...

One noteworthy note of note, however, would be an application (or "app", as the kids call it these days) aptly named "Recorder"... It's 99¢... It does what it says... S'got a huge red "Record" button, you press it, it records... Done...

But! If you're at home (or when you get home) and your iPhone connects to the wireless network, you can then sync the recording to your computer wirelessly over the network... Bang!

Also, the recording quality (if you turn on the high quality setting) with just the built in iPhone mic is outstanding... If you don't believe me, check out my solo acoustic version of "Soldier of Love" on the player to the right. That's only the iPhone mic, a quick copy to Garageband to stereo-ize it and an export to iTunes... Sounds good!