The Album

[The following is excerpted from “FridaySkip Birong’s Musical Story”, which may be found in its entirety on the Bookshelf in Days Seven.]

The “Skip Birong” album cover was created in pen and ink by Terry Barckholtz from the publicity photo above. Terry, who is the founder and current president and CEO of the Barckholtz Group in Saginaw, Michigan, was part owner of PDM Design in that same city back in the mid-seventies when I played a  really posh restaurant there. He and his partner needed an instrumental soundtrack for a marketing film they were producing, and I needed an album cover. Thus, my first “trade-out.” And the cover ended up being printed in black and white, whereas the original artwork included green and yellow print for the name. Couldn’t afford the color print.

The album was produced by Ray Lynn and me at the Warehouse Studio in Jacksonville, Florida in 1976. It took about two months to complete the recordings. All but two of the songs were written by me alone or with Doug Pike, and the first cut of each side was fully produced, including strings and brass. Side A was contemporary, pop-oriented, and side B was country-oriented. I had intended to use the album not only to sell off the “back of the truck,” as it was called, in order to earn the money to repay the loan I had to get in order to produce it, but also as a demo album for other opportunities which I hoped might come up from time to time. The songs can be downloaded from the “The Songs” link on the post  above.

Scroll down to see some more pics from those days…Oh, by the way, yeah, that’s naturally curly hair.

Skip and Doug Pike "Wintergreen" 1969
Skip and Doug Pike
“Wintergreen”
1970
Skip in Ft. Lauderdale Circa 1976
Skip in Ft. Lauderdale
Circa 1976
Skip - 1973
Skip – 1973
1969 Martin D35 in retirement
1969 Martin D35
in retirement

 

The Songs

1- A Tear Falls (Skip Birong: BMI) Bass: Larry Nader Drums: Renaldo Stefanel Acoustic guitar: Larry Nader Violins: Larry Simpson, Sybil Vernon and Linda McDill 2 – Sunshine (Skip Birong: BMI) Bass: Glen Harper Drums: Derrick Hess Lead acoustic guitar: Skip…

One comment

    Let’s go time-traveling, all the way back to the Summer of 1976, just before Skip’s album was released. What I had to say about his music then, and its importance to me, I still say.

    Here’s a preview/review of Skip’s album that I wrote for the July 4, 1976 (Bi-Centennial), issue of TownPost, which was a kind of monthly precursor to Folio Weekly as a source of commentary on “the local scene” (art, music, film, writing, etc.) in Jacksonville.

    Bill

    from TownPost, Jacksonville, Florida, Bicentennial Issue, July 1976,

    The Fugitive Kind

    by William Slaughter

    Skip Birong plays acoustic guitar (Martin D-35), writes, and sings brilliantly well.

    I am sitting in his room at Quality Inn, Jax Beach, on a Friday afternoon, listening to a tape of his album, appropriately titled Skip Birong, which is being pressed in Atlanta on the Shade Tree label and will probably have been released by the time this preview/review appears in TownPost.

    Skip has been around Jacksonville for awhile, picking and singing mostly at the Quality Inn, Jax Beach, and Hertz Sky Center Inn, Airport. How did he get to Jacksonville? The way most of us did — roundabout, inadvertently.

    He grew up in Buchanan, Michigan, attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (Florida place names have nothing over Michigan place names), joined the Coast Guard, spent considerable time in Hawaii, was discharged in Miami, attended Miami-Dade College, and settled, inasmuch as any musician is capable of settling, in Jacksonville — even attended UNF for awhile, majoring in, of all things, accounting.

    But Skip was giving himself up more and more to his music, determined to cut loose and make it on his own — his guitar, his songs, his voice. And he is making it. His club act — for example, at the Quality Inn’s Barefoot Lounge — is compelling, personable, intimate. Skip knows how to work a room, take it over, make it his own. His give-and-take, his repartee, his banter with the audience is always entertaining. He includes the audience in his act, makes them feel comfortable, welcome, at home.

    There is nothing like silence to a musician. He cannot stand it, wants to fill it up. His words, his songs. The tape reels on. A retrospective view of Skip and his music — ten songs from the last then years: A Tear Falls, Where’s My Sunshine Gonna Come From Tomorrow, Odyssey of a Camel Driver, Dreamin’, Sportin’ Life Blues, Waffle House, Sweet Georgia Blossom, Dammit, Find Me a Home, and Dream on Me. All of them his own except Dammit, a domestic comedy by Mike Peyton of the Peyton Brothers, and Sportin’ Life Blues, source unknown really, but John Sebastian a good guess.

    From Odyssey of a Camel Driver (1966) which he did with Chuck Anderson, two melody lines really, inextricably bound up, a rich man’s dueling banjos on guitars, to A Tear Falls (1976), which I personally connect with when Skip sings about trying to make it throughout the night, or rather trying to make it through “the one more hour till daylight… the one more hour of fear,” it seems to me that Skip has pressed all his life, all his fear, and all his music into that one hour.

    It’s a hard life
    when you’re all alone.
    Just be thankful
    you’re on your own.

    Dreamin’ keeps me
    movin’ along.
    Gonna keep on dreaming’
    till the day I die.

    Skip writes/plays/sings a lot about dreamin’, which is the title of that particular song, on which he collaborated with Doug Pike. What musicians do, after all, is give us the words and the music for our dreams — words and music that we, not being musicians ourselves, would not otherwise have. Thank you, Skip.

    Sweet Georgia Blossom is a song that intrigues me, especially because it transcends Skip’s geographical background and experience. How could a man who grew up in the midwest write an authentic Bluegrass song like Sweet Georgia Blossom? It sounds to my innocent ear like something you’d have to take a tape recorder into the mountains of North Georgia to find — or perhaps into Atlanta, Savannah, or Macon, since Skip tells me it’s “uptown” bluegrass, the difference being sophistication, refinement, and electric bass. I believe him. But whatever we call it, Sweet Georgia Blossom is purely lyric, suggesting to me that music is its own country, its own time and its own place. I like the song a lot.

    If I could have illustrated this review/preview of Skip’s act/album, I think I would have chosen, above all else, a photograph of him in his room at the Quality Inn (the unbroken circle) with ear phones on, listening to the tape of his own album. A musician getting high on his own music, his reason for being, his saving grace. But I could not illustrate it that way because Skip is out of town. He is playing through the July 4th holiday season in Minnesota, club dates and folk festivals, and will not return to Jacksonville until July 12th, at which time he will perform at the Hertz Sky Center Inn, Airport, for approximately two months. After which, who knows?

    He and the Peyton brothers, a sensational combination to my way of thinking (and listening), might well put together a concert tour in the fall, but in the meantime Skip is the best thing going on, on-going, in music in Jacksonville. Don’t miss a chance to see him and hear him.

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