Friday, February 27, 2009

Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 16 - Zenith, 1955

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

Almost every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

While ruffling through old boxes of cassettes and junk I've carried with me since the Great Toledo Fire, I came across my old Montgomery Ward "Walkman" - a cassette/radio job complete with a three slider equalizer that gave anything I listened to that extra ounce of volume.

The fire effectively destroyed the machine but I can't bear to throw this artifact out. This was the machine I listened to as I travelled back and forth through my college years. This was my iPod.

It seems everyone these days has iPods or MP3 players that slide into your chest pocket and weigh less than a bag of chips. Which is why I chose this particular ad from Zenith.

Back in the early 1950s, portable radios were available but still contained tubes and usually required large batteries or a plug. That all changed in 1954 when the first transistor radio (the Regency TR-1) was introduced to the public - 150,000 were sold in that first year.

By Christmas, 1955, Zenith was ready to introduce their first ever transistor radio:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Never mind the radio is the size of a paperback book, this was revolutionary! Look at the price tag at the bottom - the U.S. Inflation Calendar tells us this was equal to nearly $600 in today's dollars!

There's so much to digest and comment on in this one - What do you think?

Stubbyfears says: That $75 price tag is a bit beyond the pale. Still, it doesn't inspire in me the same kind of giggles those old 80s cell phones (the ones that were bigger than shoe boxes) do.

Any other opinions?


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Los Lonely Boys - Christmas Spirit

Since the beginning of 2009, I've been attempting to review Christmas CDs (and one other DVD) that I received as gifts on December 25th. The CD you see before you was a present from my son Alex who especially liked the "neat" cover artwork when ordering it from (with help from his mom).

Shortly before Christmas, this CD wasn't on my wish list. I didn't know a thing about the Garza brothers or their music - my musical tastes have pretty much excluded anything non-Christmas since 2004.

That changed during one of my Christmas shopping runs when I turned on a local radio station who was broadcasting Christmas music 24/7 throughout December. I tuned in during the middle of an intriguing version of "Feliz Navidad" that I hadn't heard and my interest was piqued.

I dialed 411 on my cell phone, got ahold of the radio station DJ who played the song, and asked for the artist. "Oh man, that's Los Lonely Boys, ain't it cool?" Roger wilco, good buddy!

It's appropriate that I use CB lingo because the Los Lonely Boys story starts in the 1970s. Enrique Garza and his brothers formed a conjunto band called The Falcones and played their music to whoever would listen throughout southern Texas in the 1970s and 1980s.

Around this time, Enrique and his wife raised a family in the town of San Angelo. Their three sons Henry, Jojo, and Ringo all grew up surrounded by the music of their father, his ancestors, and their ancestors' ancestors.

Even though the Garza boys grew up listening to Santana, Stevie Wonder, fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan, and four guys from Liverpool, they always cited their father as their main inspiration for their music.

Like any musicians with a dream, came the day when they left Texas. They travelled to Nashville for a brief time in the mid-1990s, made some vital contacts, but the pull of family and Texas brought them back. However, they ended up at Willie Nelson's Texas studio (The Pedernales) where they recorded their first album entitled "Los Lonely Boys" in 1997.

The Garzas gave a name to their brand of music: Texican Rock N' Roll. A nice spicy mixture of rock, blues, soul, country, and Tejano, the music has something for everybody. However, music was dominated by hip-hop, boy bands, and Britney Spears at the time and their music was overlooked.

Like their father before them, they played the Texas circuit and released a follow-up album in 1998 ("Teenage Blues"). However, mainstream success eluded them for several more years. Buoyed by a strong fan base and their beloved familia, the Garzas stayed true to their sound and kept playing their music.

In 2003, a single from their album ("Real Emotions") reached #71 on the Billboard charts, catching the eyes and ears of Epic Records. They bought the rights to their first album and re-released on their label the following year

Their music was an instant hit - they released the single "Heaven" (which dominated the airwaves on its release - it even crossed over onto the COUNTRY chart), their album went to #9 on the charts, and went multi-platinum - a rarity in this day and age. For their efforts, they received a Grammy award for Best Pop Performance by a Group or Duo for "Heaven" in 2005.

The Garzas followed up their success by making an appearance on Santana's 2005 album, releasing two "live" albums, and entering the studio for their follow-up album "Sacred" with guest appearances from Willie Nelson and their father Enrique. Their single "Diamonds" was a moderate hit while the album reached #2 on the charts.

In 2008, they released two albums - "Forgiven" and the album you see before you. Recorded at the Pedernales once again, this CD has ten songs total (including two Christmas originals). It clocks in just over 30 minutes in length.


1.) I've Longed For Christmas
One of the two originals by the Garzas, this is a great mix of harmonies, bluesy guitar, and Christmas pop. Pop the clutch and let's go...

2.) She'll Be My Everything For Christmas
The other original has a definite rock/country feel throughout. Nice to hear two original songs back-to-back on a Christmas album!

3.) Run Run Rudolph
I close my eyes and I hear the Stevie Ray Vaughan influence first, Chuck Berry's great Christmas song second. Add some harmonica by the Garzas and it's a great cover from start to finish.

4.) Carol Of The Bells
We are treated to a light rock version of this song for starters but that all changes at 1:30 - the Tejano guitar and spirit infuses this song to amazing new heights. This one's gonna wind up on my annual Christmas CDs for sure some time in the near future!

5.) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
A garage style cover of everyone's favorite reindeer with the discolored nose - the Beatle-like harmonies are a plus.

6.) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
More like Stevie Ray is coming to town... this is flat out great.

7.) Away In A Manger
One lone electric piano and the tight harmonies of the Garzas are featured on this one - very moving.

8.) Feliz Navidad
Jose Feliciano's Christmas standard is given an overdue Texican transplant - I loved it when I heard it on the car radio, I loved it now.

9.) Jingle Bells
This one was done for fun - one of the Garzas does his best Louis Armstrong voice backed by a steady drumbeat and family. A good time was had by all - especially by this listener.

10.) Silent Night
One lead guitar and one acoustic guitar playing this one with all the feel of southern Texas at Christmas. Beautiful.

Thank goodness I turned on the car radio at that exact moment - otherwise I would have missed out on one of the best Christmas releases of 2008.

There's not one bad song on this entire album - the Garzas' Texican style doesn't get old after the 2nd, 3rd, or 484th time you listen to it. I especially enjoyed "Carol Of The Bells", "Silent Night", and I'm gonna lobby long and hard for this version of "Feliz Navidad" to replace the original!

In December of this year, my wife and I will be hosting my entire family for Christmas - the tamales, tequila, and kids will be flowing throughout my home. I suspect the sounds of Los Lonely Boys will be doing the same at that time.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Brother The Hero

New York City has St. Patrick's Cathedral, a beautiful church on Fifth Avenue where the Pope comes to visit when he's in town. Not to be outdone, Chicago has Holy Name Cathedral on the corner of State and Superior, a place where the Pope comes to visit when he's in town.

Holy Name is very special to many Chicagoans. Not many cathedrals have bullet markings in the bricks thanks to a gangland killing from the Al Capone days (top that, NYC!).

As the video shows, a fire broke out in the attic of the cathedral this morning, severely damaging the church with fire, smoke, and water damage.

My older brother John (number three out of five) has been a Chicago firefighter for nearly 15 years and has been on many fire runs throughout Chicago. As fate would have it, his firehouse was called and John was on the scene as we all slept.

He was part of the second group that went in, stretching 100 foot lengths of hose up narrow stairways and over 100 yr. old timbers to extinguish the fire and save the church from possible destruction.

As the pastors and fire chiefs spoke in front of the cameras after the fact, my brother and his crew from Engine 29 (in the shadow of U.S. Cellular Field) made sure nothing was left smouldering, carefully rolled up their hoses, and headed back the firehouse. Just another fire run for them.

However, someone noticed. ABC 7 in Chicago aired a story that led off their 6 o'clock news report that praised the firefighters, quoting my brother and putting his mug on the television. To paraphrase: he ain't pretty, he's my brother.

If you visit this site, you can access the video of the story that ran (no direct link to the video).

Personal note: Congrats to my big brother John - I'm glad you're safe and you made your family proud. Your nephew & nieces will have something to brag about for a long time. Call me when you get a chance...