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Savoy Has Been Buried Too Many Times.

World Music critic Milo Miles shares the story of Savoy Records, an independent label that specialized in jazz, R&B, and gospel from the 1940s to the 60s.



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Other segments from the episode on January 18, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 18, 2000: Interview with Keith Secola; Commentary on Savoy Records.


Date: JANUARY 18, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011801np.217
Head: Keith Secola Discusses His New Album, `Fingermonkey'
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: From WHYY in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with FRESH AIR.

On today's FRESH AIR, Keith Secola. His song "Indian Cars" has been described as a contemporary Native American anthem. Secola is half-Anishinabe, the tribe also known as Chippewa or Ojibwe. We'll talk with Secola about how his rock songs, influenced by Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, also connect to his native heritage.

Keith Secola and his Wild Band of Indians have a new CD called "Fingermonkey."

Also, music critic Milo Miles shares the story of Savoy Records, an independent label that specialized in jazz, R&B, and gospel from the 1940s to the '60s.

That's all coming up on FRESH AIR.

First, the news.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.


That's Keith Secola and his group, Wild Band of Indians. Secola is a songwriter, singer, and guitarist whose influences include traditional native music along with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. He shared the stage with such groups as the Indigo Girls, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.

Secola is half-Anishinabe, the tribe also known as Chippewa and Ojibwe. He grew up in northern Minnesota and now lives in Arizona. We're listening to his best-known song, "Indian Cars." This somewhat tongue-in-cheek song about rundown cars on the reservation has been described as a contemporary Native American anthem. It was used in the Norman Jewison film, "Dance Me Outside."

Secola wrote the song in the early '80s and has included a version of it on each of his CDs. We're listening to the one on his new CD, "Fingermonkey."


GROSS: I asked Keith Secola what car he was driving when he wrote "Indian Cars."

KEITH SECOLA, "FINGERMONKEY": My Indian car was actually a spy car. It was a 1967 Newport Chrysler.

GROSS: (laughs)

SECOLA: At the time I bought it, it was a -- I bought it from a school teacher in the mid-'70s. And he was trying to help me out. I was going to a community college up in northern Minnesota. And the -- it was their second car, you know, a family's second or third car, and it was just sitting in, you know, in their garage. And the school teacher asked -- he knew I was going to school and asked if I would want to buy this car. He said he'd sell it to me for $100.

And it was still in good shape, you know, it turned over 100,000 miles. The front end had hit a bear at one time, so it was kind of crushed there. And after a while, you know, it'd be kind of -- all these things happened to it. I guess the best thing that inspired me to buy it that day, at that time it had an eight-track player that was worth $100. And so I went for it right away. And I called that car the spy car.

In the early days of my playing career, we had a band called the Schwarz (ph) Brothers. And I'd arrive to the Schwarz Brothers gigs in my spy car. But that was the early days of the Indian car, you know, when the song was being written and everything like that.

And the final days of this Indian car, the spy car, we actually rode it off a cliff over a mine pit in northern Minnesota, put a brick on the accelerator, and it dove 300 feet into the -- you know, into the depths of this iron ore pit. And that's how it -- you know, now it's a legend up there.

GROSS: So why was your band called the Schwarz Brothers?

SECOLA: Well, we were -- it was a theater band, you know, and we're in the late -- here -- let me say is the late '70s, or, you know, in mid-'70s. And actually we were all kind of, like, minorities at that time, I think. You know, it was a reference to the black sheep and that whole thing.

We were -- you know, we were all kind of misfits or something like that. And, you know, there was seven people in our band, and, you know, it was kind of a funny conglomeration of brother- and sisterhood that started that whole collaboration between the races and sexes as far as with music.

And the Schwarz Brothers, we were a theater group. And we got to be a good band. You know, like, I myself, when I started playing, I wasn't that -- you know, I wasn't that musically adept at all. But we had a singer who could sing the blues really good, and we could -- we got hired in these bar gigs, you know.

When you're playing guitar six months and all of a sudden you're playing for people, and our drummer was a guitar player, but we needed a drummer. So he switched, and we had a big keyboard player.

And it was a fun first band, you know, a garage band that had somewhat success of a cult underground following in northern Minnesota.

GROSS: So was there anyone named Schwarz in the Schwarz Brothers?

SECOLA: No one was named Schwarz. I think if you took the initials from every member's last name and put them together, and -- so we picked them from a hat, and that's what we came up with, S, W, you know, I don't know.

GROSS: Now, I know that your song "Indian Car" has been described as something of an anthem for younger Native Americans. And I'm wondering if you could describe some of the more interesting situations that you've heard it played in, or that you've played it in.

SECOLA: Well, I know that, you know, there was -- up in Wyoming at a high school, the high school football team, they would use that song to rally the kids up on the bus before they'd go play their games. I thought that was interesting, you know, they'd have it playing, a little cassette player on the tribal school bus. And here we up in Wyoming, and these kids are getting ready to go to war and play football, in that sense the little brother of war, football.

And, you know, I've heard it in that context. I've also been asked to sing it -- you know, it seems ironic, but by a medicine person at a ceremony for someone who loved that song who passed away onto the other side and is part of condolence and part of respect. And it was ironic to be asked to sing a contemporary song in a more traditional setting.

But when I was singing it, it was from the heart, and it certainly becomes a folk song. And, you know, becomes a song of medicine, song of the people. And so I think the song has become a song of the people more than, you know, it's become a song of mine. And so these are some of the things that I've experienced it in the context of Indian cars from, you know, a total contemporary setting to a traditional, more somber ritualistic-type setting, to playing in a punk version in Toronto in a bar, you know, and Joni Mitchell's in the audience or something like that.

GROSS: Well, Keith Secola, I want to play another track from your new CD, which is called "Fingermonkey." This song is called "Can't Let Go." Would you introduce it for us, tell us something about it?

SECOLA: This song is called "Can't Let Go," and it's -- the song is a feeling of a desperateness, but yet a longing to keep going forward, you know, even when your heart says no and your mind says no. But the spirit got to keep going forward.

GROSS: So this is Keith Secola and Wild Band of Indians.


GROSS: That's Keith Secola on vocals and guitar from the new CD, Keith Secola and Wild Band of Indians.

Keith, I'm wondering if there's anything like a musical generation gap where you grew up between what the older and perhaps more traditional people liked and what the younger people liked musically.

SECOLA: I think, you know -- of course I think there's always change, you know, and cultures are dynamic. And native music, for instance, has taken a dynamic approach, you know, even the contemporary powwow music that we hear in America, North America today, is a contemporary approach to it from traditional roots, you know, and as far as big drums, they weren't a real concept until the later part of the 18th and early part of this century, where we actually had marching drums turned sideways, horizontal, where people would sing around.

There were drums, and there were concepts of native drums, but this whole contemporary movement started taking shape and form, and then you'd get the socialization of songs through tribal roots, you know, where singers couldn't understand each other, so English was used.

And so there was this dichotomy where people were accustomed to these kind of songs from tribal roots, and all of a sudden there was change, social change, where songs started to have English words, melodies started to have Western idioms in the concepts, and things like that.

And so I think older people, you know, they have all this richness of tribalism, more of a ritualistic songs and things like that. And so they have more of a wealthy source of what things were. And I think what things are today, I think that we're making a full circle, as far as me for my life and what I've learned is to appreciate music in all facets.

GROSS: Keith, when you were growing up, were you m ore likely to hear rock music, to hear Springsteen and Neil Young, or more likely to hear traditional music, powwow music, or was it a combination of both?

SECOLA: Well, I think that was kind of, you know, a richness where you would be able to hear these both musics as far as who we are as native people. I always thought that wherever any reservation you could go across North America, you could find somebody that would know the chords to "Me and Bobby McGee" or some Credence song. So it isn't like Native Americans are in isolation, but we're part of this general musical landscape that is a beautiful thing to be part of.

And I think you'd hear both, you know, the AM-FM radio, such as in the commercial radio up in the North Woods, we'd mostly hear more pop music, but we would dive deeper and get, you know, the Dylan albums and get into a bit the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones and stuff like that.

And yet you would still hear, you know, the powwow music that would be sung, you know, on weekends or gatherings and things like that.

GROSS: My guest is Keith Secola. His new CD is called "Fingermonkey." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is songwriter, singer, and guitarist Keith Secola. His new CD is called "Fingermonkey."

Did you grow up on a reservation?

SECOLA: I grew up near a reservation in northern Minnesota, Bois Fort Reservation in Tower and in Nett Lake.

GROSS: Tell us something about the tribe that you're from.

SECOLA: I'm Anishinabe. I'm a mixed-blood Anishinabe from northern Minnesota. In Canada we're known as Ojibwe, and in the United States we're known as Chippewa. And that was what -- our tribes entered into treaties with the United States government.

And the word "Anishinabe" is -- has something to do with spontaneity, I think the spontaneous interaction of life. And as a person, Anishinabe people, we act with the conditions we're given, you know, given with or given to or in the environment we're in.

And so these are some of the concepts that I carry very dearly with me as an Anishinabe person, the ability to be spontaneous, to have a stream of consciousness. I think that's the ability that connects a performer with the audience or a writer with his readers or love, connects love, that ability of connecting consciousness.

And I appreciate the word "Anishinabe" that spontaneous meaning of man. And that's something of what -- who I am as a person.

GROSS: Now, I believe your mother was Anishinabe and your father was an Italian immigrant?

SECOLA: Yes. My dad, my dad, his name is Orlando Secola, and his mother and father -- the father's name was Benny, but that's an American name. And Cora was my grandmother's name. They both immigrated to the north Iron Range of northern Minnesota in the early 19th century, and they had several children, and Orlando being one of the -- I think the third child, grew up in the North Woods.

And he married my mom, and they had children, and we grew up with the other native families in the area and other Italian people. And it was one glorious thing, I think, up there as far as people coming together and living. It was -- if anyplace there was a melting pot that actually worked, it might have been up there.

I remember when I was teaching after college, I taught a year in Hibbing (ph) High School, and I remember seeing the picture in the mural in the library, and there were almost, like, 32 different ethnic groups in that picture that went to high school and graduated that year.

And so it was, you know, my Italian side that I'm very proud of now. Later in my life, I'm learning more about this. And as I grew up as an Anishinabe person, closer to the heritage of our people, but it was something very ironic that I remember my Italian grandfather, you know, the -- in my -- his grandmother would speak Italian, and I'd go to their house and I'd hear it. And I'd go up to Canada where my mother was from, and there was Anishinabe spoken up there.

And, you know, and you'd hear bits and words and things, and you didn't really even have a dichotomy as a child, you know, other than, yes, you know, your grandparents here, your grandparents there.

GROSS: Did you feel like you were supposed to identify with one side more than the other, you know, more native or more Italian?

SECOLA: You know, at different times in my life it was -- you know, I -- you know, it's an ugly thing, the prejudice and fear that children feel from the color of the skin, you know. I mean, I remember feeling somewhat shamed of who I am as a native person. In the summer times you'd get dark, and you'd feel, like, discrimination. And you'd sometimes -- you'd feel, you know, like, Oh, I'm -- I wish I was more white or something like that.

And then at other times, you're -- you know, you get the discrimination of being Indian -- of not being a full blood or something like that, and here you are, just a person, and trying to make the most of living.

GROSS: So you didn't grow up on a reservation, but you grew up near one. How were you exposed to traditional music? Did you sit in on or participate in many ceremonies?

SECOLA: Well, you know, like, I remember, for instance, well, during the ricing season in northern Minnesota, the wild rice -- it's called menomen (ph) -- and we'd finish the rice. You know, you'd knock it off the stalk and into canoes, and then you'd dry the rice and you'd have this process. But you would -- eventually, you would dry it and you'd winnow it. And eventually you would dance on it, you know, to get the kernels away from the fruit or the meat of the -- the fruit of the rice.

And now I remember, like, they had certain songs called jegging (ph) songs, you know, like my little sister or my sister, older sister, who's smaller, would be a jegger, and they would let her dance on the rice, and, you know, like, an uncle would sing songs. And, you know, I can remember some of these simple, almost, like children melo -- or like child's nursery Indian songs, you know, ricing songs that would just talk about dancing, about happiness, and things like that.

And some of that exposure, early exposure, was part of the richness of who I was as a contemporary artist. And then, of course, you know, playing a trombone in a marching band and then hearing Bob Dylan or Neil Young on the radio, I think it all led to a blend of my music today.

GROSS: Can you sing a few bars of one of the Indian songs that your sister would dance on the rice to?

SECOLA: Lot of the songs would -- you know, would just, like, be a vocable songs, like, (sings Indian chant). You know, it would be playful. And, like, sometimes making up songs, you know, like, something, Look at her dance, she's funny, or acting crazy, or, you know, there was more of a spontaneity in that kind of a setting.

But, like, the ritual songs, they were specific, and they're more of -- you know, they're sung in a certain way and things like that.

GROSS: You explained that your father's Italian, and I'm wondering if he ever participated in or was much interested in native ceremony or native history, or, you know...

SECOLA: Yes, yes, Terry, I think that -- I mean, my father's influence on me as far as a native person, he taught me many traditional things that aren't even -- you know, he's not from that traditional native culture. But he taught me a lot of respect from -- for our people, as far as the way he would -- you know, when we were growing up on the Iron Range, he was a house painter, and he'd always have -- native people would always -- you would need a part-time job or something, and you would always hire him.

You know, my family was never felt -- from my father, never felt like -- I mean, native people, we were special, and my father made us feel that way as, you know, that his children have native blood in them, and they're special.

And so my dad was very influential, because a lot of native people, when he died, came down from the reservations when we were -- you know, my father passed away, and we had his ceremony for him in the native way. You know, we had a drum there, and we sang for him and we played music. And people would -- you know, he was respected by the native community. We had a lot of condolences and -- By the way he lived.

I mean, he would -- his favorite story would be on appreciating life. He would tell me about this one native person he knew, he would, you know, always be kind of living in Virginia, Minnesota, but never have money for a cup of coffee or anything like that, but he'd see my dad, and my dad would take him in and buy him a meal at a cafe, and he would always describe how this one uncle of mine would drink his first sip of coffee, how much he appreciated, you know, how much he appreciated that, just that sip of coffee in the morning.

And that story alone would -- my dad would tell me something about our culture.

GROSS: Keith Secola will be back in the second half of the show. His new CD is called "Fingermonkey."

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

Here's music from one of Secola's earlier CDs, called "Wild Band of Indians."



GROSS: Coming up, plastic medicine men and fry bread. We continue our conversation with Keith Secola. And Million Miles reviews a series of reissues on the Savoy label, which specialized in jazz, R&B, and gospel.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with singer, songwriter, and guitarist Keith Secola. His music is influenced by traditional Native American music as well as performers like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan.

Secola is half-Anishinabe the tribe also known as Chippewa or Ojibwe.

Let me track -- play another track from "Finger Monkey." And this is a track that I think is very influenced by traditional native music. It's called "PMM." Say something about what's going on musically in this, and what "PMM" stands for.

SECOLA: Plastic medicine men are the -- what it stands for. And musically it's interesting, I mean, I'm taking a flute, a contemporary flute that -- it was a contemporary native flute in the key of D, and I'm playing a D-minor scale. And I went in to a grand piano, and I'm plucking the strings. I opened up the heart of the piano, and I'm plucking the bass -- or the strings with a pick, you know, in syncopation. And we processed that sound.

And then we did a drum program to underline the whole song -- you know, the whole -- put the whole thing together, and I did some rattles and things like that. And the idea of a plastic medicine man is something maybe we can talk about.

GROSS: OK, why don't we hear the music first?


GROSS: "PMM" from Keith Secola's new CD, "Fingermonkey."

And Keith, that's you playing everything on there. Who did you learn music from? Did you teach yourself?

SECOLA: I started -- I always want -- you know, I always would sing. I remember, like, sing, I was always, like, singing. And, you know, even going to the doctor, and I remember the doctor would ask me to sing a song. It might have been a nursery rhyme or something. But I remember always standing up and singing a song before he'd look in my mouth or something like that.

And so music was all around. And I went to -- I played trombone in grade school. You know, I started playing in the youth marching bands, you know, in the instrumental programs across the United States, all these great, wonderful musical programs that we have in the schools. And so I started to become interested, and I realized I could play the trombone. Eventually, you know, after high school, I pursued -- I got my first Gibson Marauder guitar, and I pursued playing guitar.

And, you know, it was a lifetime pursuit, you know, I mean, the string instruments, as far as from that point on, I've been playing guitar over 20 years now, either folk or electric. And I play the flute now, more of a therapeutical thing. In 1989 I had what's known as an acoustic neuroma, a brain tumor, that it caused me to have -- I lost hearing in one ear, in my right ear. And I also had palsy in my face for a long time. I used to blow blues harp. I started that the same time as guitar.

And so not having the whole armature that you need for a supporting of trombone or a cornet or a trumpet or a blues harp, like you really need a strong armature or mouth, strong mouth muscles. And having palsy, you know, it weakened the strength of my mouthpiece.

So I kind of switched, and I started playing therapeutical flute, you know, using the flute and using music as healing medicine for my own self, you know, and realizing how music can heal. And the American native flute was something that was as natural as anything I've ever done.

GROSS: Do you still have the palsy, and does it affect speaking or singing? It doesn't seem to.

SECOLA: Terry, not -- you know, I guess I could hear it, just barely, you know. I mean, it was 10 years ago, and it was a scary, scary thing. I mean, you're facing your own mortality, as far as -- and you have little children, and, you know, you have all these ideas, and you've barely got any of them out there yet. And it was -- yes, it was, like -- it took me a couple years to start even -- a whole year before I even got to move the right side of my face, you know. And you're walking around, like, with that, it's -- you really learn some things.

And for me to lose hearing in one ear, and being a musician, it's like you learn to hear with your heart. And it's an ironic thing, you know, it's -- I think it's very ironic that, you know, I'm able to -- I'm very fortunate to make a living playing music, you know, with, you know, having an impairment.

GROSS: Yes. So let's get back to the title of the piece that we heard, "PMM," plastic medicine man. Does that relate to the medical stuff you were just telling us?

SECOLA: Some, Terry, I think. The plastic medicine man, he can crawl between the crack of the night and day. He can reach down your throat and grab a penny from your soul. He can make you want things you don't need, need things you don't want, sweats, ceremonies, rituals, war paint, drums, pom-poms, crystals. Descendent of a pale moon, he ain't arrogant, he's ignorant.

And these are kind of things, as far as the plastic medicine man. He's misleading us. All these kinds of things -- I know in some townships you can go and you can apply and get what's known as a chiefing license, and it would allow you to dress in your regalia or dress in your headbands and beads and take pictures legally with tourists and make money off of them in that way.

And some of this plastic medicine man is -- of course, it's a commentary about the fake shamanism and things like that that you feel in America. But also not just native America, in all religions, you know, how we get misled by people, and people with needs are easily misled because we're desperate.

GROSS: So the description of the plastic medicine man, is that from a song lyric?

SECOLA: You know, when I go and play the song, I kind of go into this rant, and I ranted a few lines from the lyrics just now, yes.

GROSS: Right, OK. So you're pretty cynical about a certain -- what, romanticized version of Native Americans in full regalia and all of that. Do you -- but you sometimes dress in native clothes on stage. I've seen in a video you with that. What's your -- where do you draw the line about when to...

SECOLA: Yes, yes, (inaudible)...

GROSS: ... when to do the full regalia and when you find it really offensive?

SECOLA: Well, I think, you know, like, we've asked that, you know, some of our elders, as far as Albert "Moon-tee" Sinquah, our traditional drummer, and I, we've talked to elders as far as, you know, bringing that drum into places. It was an issue that we had considered, you know, because some of the places we were playing is in a bar, you know, is in a bar, the farthest thing from where this concept of a native drum should be.

And so it's a very -- a line where we know, like, if it's in more of a theater atmosphere where we can control the elements and we can bring beauty and respect, then we will. We will use it. And the songs too that we use, they're all social songs, and usually the composers are myself, or Albert will compose the native songs.

And so we're not taking any copyright as far as from tradition in that sense and using social songs. So we try to not misappropriate in that way and try to be respectful in the other way as far as where it should be seen, and, you know, if we're playing in a bar, we'll just play rock music and we'll play blues and stuff like that as commonplace. If we're playing at the Hurd (ph) Museum in Phoenix, maybe we will do something like that more, or if we're playing on a TV show or...

I think that that should -- that depends on the, you know, the environment we're in depends -- certainly our show, the kind of show that we're going to entertain people with. And then the environment, we -- you know, determines what kind of songs we would sing too. You know, and I gave you a variety of situations where we could be in.

But it's a common question that I think is continuing to be reminded as artists as, you know, to always ask that question, you know, where and what are we really trying to do? Are we just trying to make this a novel thing and sell, because we got Indians in feathers? And I think native culture is more than beads and feathers. And so it isn't something I want to do to Anglo-face or Indian-face my music to make it a novelty, because I think that's wrong, you know, just to do it in that respect.

But as a native person, I think we have an obligation to our people as we -- where we came from, to show our culture and to show our strengths. And so I think that that balance is always -- is important. It's important that people recognize that too, and they can see the cheesy, and then they can see the real.

GROSS: My guest is songwriter, singer, and guitarist Keith Secola. His new CD is called "Fingermonkey." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Keith Secola. He leads the group Wild Band of Indians. Their new CD is called "Fingermonkey."

I want to play a song of yours from an earlier CD, and this song is called "Fry Bread." And I think a lot of people who -- a lot of people learned about fry bread from the movie "Smoke Signals," in which fry bread was something the characters were very nostalgic for, you know, one of the mothers made it all the time.

What is fry bread, and what place did that have in your life?

SECOLA: Fry bread's a lot of things. It's kind of -- it's become a metaphor. But what is fry bread, it's fried bread, actually. I mean, if you looked at the early exchange between treaty rights and food exchange and things like that, commodities were often ushered into reservations in place of other things. And you can't do much with sugar, flour, and lard. And so it kind of came of the early '20s and '30s and '40s, where people were making ends meet.

And to use this sugar, flour, and lard, we -- you know, we made a bread and we fried it. And, you know, it came of all -- it was born of all these things. I mean, fry bread is, like, soul food, native soul food. It ain't so food for your health, but it's good for your soul, you know. It's like -- it's like, you know -- fry bread is a symbol of that tenacity, of that survival.

GROSS: Well, let's hear the song "Fry Bread." This is Keith Secola.


GROSS: Keith Secola, now, I know your song "Indian Car" has become very popular. What about "Fry Bread"? What kind of reaction have you gotten from listeners on that?

SECOLA: I get a lot of "Fry Bread" smiles, you know, a lot of children will come up and be eating fry bread and say the word "fry bread" to the people of the band. Last -- I think it was in June, we played in Toronto, somebody handed me a piece -- a bag of bannoch (ph) bread, which is Canadian version of -- or the Ojibwe version of fry bread. And I was able to throw it -- you know, pass out pieces of fry bread during the concert. It was kind of like passing out grand prizes. People were running up for it, trying to catch them.

And so it's been a wonderful showpiece for myself and the band to showcase native culture. During the song, we kind of -- we improvise a little bit, and we all get down and we say that we got to be quiet because 100 years ago, it was illegal to make fry bread, and there was all these illegal fry bread camps around North America, practicing the art of fry bread, because all our grandparents wanted to do was hand a piece of fry bread down to their great-grandchildren, and that's how we wanted to do.

So they had to practice this illegal art to making fry bread, so every Friday night or every month, they'd get together in this hall and practice the art of fry bread-making.

And the story goes on, you know. You can include it here and there. But the concept of this being very old, you know, that our ancestors are handing something down to us, and that strength and survival. And it ain't just about native people, because the last verse of "Fry Bread," "Peeky (ph) bread, popovers, pumpernickel, oven bread, rye bread," all these things are different breads.

You know, in Italy, I know that if you drop a piece of bread, you know, someone -- they'd -- the custom would be to pick it up and kiss the bread, you know, like you bless it, you know. And so you'd see the sacredness of bread all over, you know. And people want to know what happens if you dropped a piece of bread in grease. And, you know, I say fry bread.

GROSS: Are there things that have been helpful and other things that have been limiting in terms of being, you know, a band that's known as a native band?

SECOLA: Well, you know, the native band -- first of all, the band members in the current lineup of the Wild Band is Jimmy Vickers on bass guitar, Moon-tee Sinquah on traditional drums, Derek Miller on guitar, and Matthew Jones. Now, each member, with the exception of Jimmy, is from a tribal heritage.

And, you know, some of the limitations, I think, from being in a native band is part of the economic deprivation culturally, I think, that -- I'm not blaming in society or anything like that, but just that economic deprivation that we've come from to kind of make the Indian genre, it's just starting out to mature. It's pretty infant in the sounds that are coming out right now, and it's just something that's commercially becoming, you know, acceptable.

I think the sales of Native America Records this last year increased fivefold. And so it's just a new genre. And so some of the limitations, as far as with the native artists, you're faced with being a good business person, being in the music business, to know that you make money in separate ways, just besides the live performances. You know, there's the merchandise end that should be controlled, and the publishing end that you should have access to as an artist.

And those kind of limitations that, for me in my life, I'm learning right now. And to be sovereign is almost like individual sovereignty, economic sovereignty, all these kind of things that were not grown with, grown up with. And I know, you know, as far as most musicians aren't accustomed to these kind of things where we would have a budget going into a studio, you know, so you have to improvise with the limitations that you're given.

But almost by being more economical and being more thrifty, you become more pure in that sense of, you become more efficient and you manage your time and money a little better, and you improvise to make this happen, you know, like the "Fingermonkey" album. It was working with limitations, you know. And this time around, I'll get the album listed in Best Buy and I'll have it on my Web site and things like that. And we're always taking it a step more.

But I think the limitations most native bands are facing is that the music business, you know, understanding the business part of the music business.

GROSS: Keith Secola and Wild Band of Indians has a new CD called "Fingermonkey." They'll perform at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

Here's more from the new CD.


GROSS: Coming up, Milo Miles on the Savoy label and new reissues from its vaults.

This is FRESH AIR.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Keith Secola
High: The music of Native American musician and songwriter Keith Secola and his group, the Wild Band of Indians, is a hybrid of rock, folk and tribal musics. Secola became a cult hero after the release of the contemporary Native anthem "Indian Cars." Keith Secola and the Wild Band of Indians have a new CD called `Fingermonkey.'
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Minorities

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Keith Secola Discusses His New Album, `Fingermonkey'

Date: JANUARY 18, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011802np.217
Head: Atlantic Records Releases Jazz and R&B Portions of Savoy Label
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:46

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Savoy Records was an independent label that specialized in jazz, R&B, and gospel from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. The Savoy vaults contain some great music of that era, but much of it has been out of print.

Music critic Milo Miles says Savoy has been buried too many times. But the story has a happy conclusion -- sort of, for now.


MILO MILES, MUSIC CRITIC: More than 20 years ago, in the space of six months, I bought three records that are still among my very favorites. Two were landmarks in jazz and gospel, Charlie Parker's "Bird: The Savoy Recordings," and "The Best of the Ward Singers of Philadelphia." Then there was the self-explanatory R&B anthology, "The Roots of Rock'N'Roll."

All three were on the Savoy label. I was amazed that such a tiny company could scoop up such talent at one time. I was even more amazed to discover how long they'd been out of circulation. Maybe the biggest lesson I got from those albums was how even the finest art can end up with a shaky legacy.

Savoy Records was the property, almost a fiefdom, of Herman Lubinski of Newark, New Jersey. He knew his black audience, and he knew it was underserved by the big music companies. But by all accounts, Lubinski loved money more than the audience he sold to or the musicians who recorded for him, even though his operation made many and valuable sides possible.

Lubinski let his producers, like Teddy Reig in New York and Ralph Bass in Los Angeles, make the aesthetic decisions for him.

People always note that Teddy Reig heard bee-bop coming and first recorded not only Parker but also Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, and Stan Getz, among others.

However, Ralph Bass was just as astute when he doped out how important the Johnny Otis Band would be in making the transition from big band jazz to small combo rhythm and blues. The Otis band had the majority of its hits on Savoy.

And finally, Savoy was there for the golden age of black gospel in the 1950s. Lubinski's operation captured the shining heights of the Ward Sisters, the Caravans, James Cleveland, and a host more.

So I knew a door had been opened into a glorious past. But then it squeezed shut again. The super LP reissues went out of print. Oh, the crucial Parker sessions were usually around somewhere in some form, but if you were as fan of neglected sax champ Don Bias (ph) or the wondrous harmony group The Ravens, the last 15 years or so have been sad days indeed.

Some of the old reissues even appeared on facsimile CDs, with all the tracks from the vinyl listed, but not all of them appearing on the disk.

Anyway, Atlantic Records has recently come to the rescue and started putting out the jazz and R&B portions of Savoy in good-sounding, very complete packages. The graphics leave something to be desired, since Lubinski wasn't into paying art directors and photographers.

Both the Johnny Otis "R&B Caravan" set and the complete "Charlie Parker Live" are salivation for your sore ears. And there's a very flowing three-CD jazz overview, "The Savoy Story, Volume 1."

But sad to say, the entire gospel portion of Savoy was sold off to Malaco Records years ago. They have reissued good selections, but you still can't grab onto the Ward Singers.

Because of the erratic nature of the music business, that lovely family of Savoy sounds I met so long ago is not to be reunited any time soon. Hear it while you can.

GROSS: Milo Miles is music editor at Some of the back catalog of Savoy Records is now being made available in a new ongoing reissue series on Atlantic.

FRESH AIR's senior producer today was Roberta Shorrock. Our interviews and reviews are produced by Naomi Person, Phylis Myers, Amy Salit, and Monique Nazareth, with Patty Leswing. Research assistance from Brendan Noonam (ph). Ann Marie Baldonado directed the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

We'll close with "Double-Crossing Blues" from the Johnny Otis Savoy boxed set.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, Milo Miles
High: Savoy Records was an independent label that specialized in jazz, R&B, and gospel from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. The Savoy vaults contain some great music of that era, but much of it has been out of print. Atlantic Records has recently come to the rescue and started putting out the jazz and R&B portions of Savoy in good-sounding, very complete packages.
Spec: Music Industry; Entertainment; Media

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Atlantic Records Releases Jazz and R&B Portions of Savoy Label
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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