Monday, February 7, 2011
KPFK, RAUNCH HANDS & HUAC
Many years ago, although to me it seems like yesterday, my then-husband Joe and I stumbled upon a radio station out of Los Angeles that seemed to be a bit different than the usual stations we listened to. Its call letters were KPFK. Although we weren’t very politically aware at that time, we seemed to be fairly tuned in to some of the issues this station focused on, one big one being the machinations of the House Committee of Un-American Activities.
As I said, that was a long time ago. And mostly what remains in my mind today about that radio station is that it was there that Joe and I heard, and ultimately bought, a record album called “Raunch Hands Against the World.” This group of musicians sang folk-style songs that were hysterically funny, witty and clever. One was about Sigmund Freud. Another was called “Yas, Yas, Yas.” I remember, and can still sing, one stanza of the latter: "Way down south in New Orleans, a black cat sat on a sewing machine. Well that sewing machine, it sewed so fast it sewed 99 stitches in its Yas, Yas,Yas.”
Probably the reason I have trouble remembering things today is that I have all this kind of trivia swirling around in my brain! But it was an awfully funny song.
I don’t know where our old record went. I don’t know if Joe took it when we divorced, or if he left it with me. What I do know is that it wasn’t in his possession when he died some years back, and I certainly don’t have it now, so it’s probably gone for good. There is a remote possibility -- possible but not likely -- that my son Sean now has that old record. He’s the only one of my kids who would have had the same screwy reaction to those songs as his father and I did. As a musician he would have enjoyed it immensely, not because it was the best music in the whole world but because of the content and creativity displayed by those fellows.
Periodically I’ve surfed the internet to see if I can find out anything about either the Raunch Hands or their music, but alas….
Yesterday I was inspecting the portable sewing machine that I’ve had stored in the closet, unused since I retired 11 years ago, and the Black Cat song popped out of my memory. This, of course, drove me to Google once again – and lo, here is what I turned up today. It wasn’t the Sigmund Freud song, nor the Black Cat song, but another one that I’d completely forgotten about – The Old HUAC. This is from a CalTech newspaper of 1961. (If you double-click on the image below it will enlarge)
Isn’t the internet amazing? And I have to add another rhetorical question: don’t we have amazing brains? I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I do remember strange songs from an old record album that passed through my life in the 1960s and then disappeared