It has been a thrilling year. I’ve often said there are many layers to stardom. There is the Tom Hanks/George Clooney level – and then there are the levels on which 70% of the rest of the entertainment business operates on. You could break them down into the oft-used “A-list”, “B movie” and so on. Every time someone knocks the Hallmark Christmas movies, for example, I always defend them. Though I don’t watch them, it’s easy for me to see that it is a thriving industry onto itself. Many people are “stars” on this level and what’s wrong with that? These people are making more-than-a living doing what they love. The same can be said for television, soap operas, etc. This is partly why Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood resonated so much with me. It was about, in part, those actors who went to Europe in the 1960’s and ’70’s to continue their careers. Many – seemingly “washed up” in Hollywood – became stars overseas. And what’s wrong with that?
I say all that, to say all this… I’ve said from the beginning that my website – Your Home for Vintage Leisure – deals in the “deep cuts”. Those smaller actors, singers and movies that so many of us love but that may not have been considered “A list” in their day. Even the flagships of this site – A-listers Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys – get discussed in specific terms in an attempt to cut deep into their catalogues and their personas and into external works devoted to them. I’ve always thought that there was a deeper layer and that there were many fans of these deeper layers. I feel like in 2021 I succeeded in shedding light on some of the corners of vintage leisure that have darkened and gathered dust over the years. Tragic figures or heroes who have survived. Drive-in movies or dime store books with still something to say. Singers and groups from the golden era that have filled our hearts with joy lo these past 70-odd years. I think the SoulRide database grew this year to include some of my favourite things, things that I think are cool and that I think you should know about.
I’ve also tried this year to concentrate less on “likes” and “views” and more on quality content. Building up our warehouse here with good stock. In doing so, I seem to have increased the reach and appeal of SoulRide and this is thrilling for me. Thrilling because it confirms for me that there are indeed others out there who like what I like. And they seem to like how I present many and varied topics. I was really surprised by how many articles I published this year; almost 20 less than both of the last two years. But this year I had almost twice as many visitors as last year.
2021 started like every year does and like every year should – with Elvis Week. This year I dished on what you might call two levels of King Movie; super-popular Viva Las Vegas and lesser-known Flaming Star. On my journey towards reviewing every King Movie there is, I was happy to add these two, a crowd-pleaser and a deeper cut. I then had some fun looking at the origins of Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary charts of the Sixties and Seventies and coming up with an algorithm to figure out the biggest stars of the genre. I was happy to give Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles a kick as her father figured high on the list. Then I spent some quality time with the lovely Shelley Fabares. Researching her was fun and I found her to be another one of “those” subjects; not a mega-star but beloved by many.
Then I took something of a chance and issued my opinions on the blaxploitation genre of films popular in the 1970’s. Here was a serious topic that I hoped to present in a balanced way reflecting my ability to see all sides of most topics. Blaxploitation has been painted with a pretty broad brush over the years but I feel like I made a good case for the legitimacy of these movies and of their ability to comment accurately on at least certain facets of race relations through the years. I love these films and thought we could discuss them lucidly.
I finally tackled two subjects I had wanted to for quite sometime. One of the first classic films that really impacted me was George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun. I presented my thoughts in a little different fashion than just a straight review and I was happy to add an analysis of this gem to my archive. I had written on the life of Tony Bennett in the past but I wanted to present some thoughts on his music specifically and so I came up with a guide to his catalogue and tried to pinpoint his greatest recordings. I felt the need to honour Bennett while he was still among us. I’m happy to say that his wife, Susan, liked my Tweet promoting the article and I have reason to believe she read it.
SoulRide is like the American-International Pictures of movie blogs. I love the studio and its films that present something of an alternate Hollywood. I was thrilled this year to read and review the biography of one of its founders, Sam Arkoff. It’s a book that definitely should be discussed in these pages. And then Edie…
One of the first articles I wrote that really affected me was on Carole Landis. Researching her sad life and death was a real lesson for me. If you’re gonna love Old Hollywood, get ready for some sad stories. While I’m no one’s biographer, I can sense something of what a writer might feel delving deeply into someone who lived a tragic life of shattered dreams. This year I stumbled quite accidentally on little Edie Sedgwick. Let me just say that she has stayed with me and I have seen that many others are fascinated by her as well.
Along the same lines was my article on Katherine Walsh. To say she was a minor actress is maybe overstating it. But the mystery surrounding her death made her another fascinating if tragic subject. I’ll often say that – with some of my deeper cuts – all the info you could hope to find on the subject you can find in my article. This looks to be true with young Kathy as her Wikipedia entry cites SoulRide as its main reference source. Another death that popped up on my radar was that of Jim Steinman, the man behind Bat Out of Hell. When I learned of his passing, I jumped back in to an article I had started on him in the past and rushed it out to commemorate his passing in the spring of 2021.
I was happy to generate some Twitter notices from both Tommy James and Billy Idol with my article on James, one of my favourite artists of my youth. And I attempted to start a new Double Features series that looks at classic and crazy drive-in movies from AIP and other studios. I think they were fun articles with good video content.
The second half of the year saw me embark on a couple of unintended trilogies and check off a few more of my favourite subjects that I had always wanted to profile. Writing about Michael Parks – the man himself and two of his films – was a highlight of the year. It resulted in me connecting with the director of an upcoming documentary on Michael, a man who has interviewed many legends for his picture. And it also connected me with the Then Came Bronson fandom, a devoted group of people who love this quiet, iconic series and film. They are as down-to-earth as the TV show.
I then rounded out the year finally telling the world about the Ink Spots, The Wanderers and Steve Winwood, three things I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. While I hunted for the Canadian who used to run the great Ink Spots website and never could locate him, I was able to coax a couple of Twitter likes out of Ken Wahl, star of The Wanderers. Finally, like with Bennett, I wanted to share my thoughts on The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis before he goes to meet Houdini and I did so in an article on the man, an article on his child bride’s book and one on the resulting film, Great Balls of Fire!
The featured Christmas article this year, on the music of Andy Williams, didn’t get the readers I had hoped. But, as I said earlier, I don’t want that to bother me. It’s a good, thorough piece that will be there for Christmases yet to come for people to check out. It did result in much love from Osmond fans when I shared videos of Andy and his brothers singing with the young boys from Utah.
One sad note from 2021 relates to my monthly articles on the oldies. For the last three years, I’ve had the pleasure of writing the blog for Norwood Media’s website. Ron Norwood’s company had broadcast for almost 20 years three great, free, internet radio stations, one of which was The Doo-Wop Express. As a guy who’s listened to oldies radio for about 30 years, I like to think I know a good station from a bad one. A station that plays the same Top 40 classics and one that may delve a little deeper. Also, when I’m listening to oldies, I often like to have them separated in two groups; pre-1964 and 1964 and Beyond. The Doo-Wop Express had the best playlist of any station I’ve ever come across. Excellent pop, R&B and doo-wop from the golden era with only a few choice cuts from the time after the British Invasion. In a day and age when people have no problem paying for subscriptions to music and movie services, Norwood Media’s free stations were little used and Ron made the difficult choice to stop broadcasting altogether. Not only did I lose a “job” but I lost a station that my wife and I adored, one we listened to almost every hour of almost every day. I’ll always be grateful to Mr. Norwood for appreciating and promoting my work.
I can feel his pain somewhat. The articles I submitted to The Doo-Wop Express I also posted on my site and they generated only middling traffic. I am happy though to have entries here on artists like Dion DiMucci, the Drifters and the Four Seasons. My articles on the early days of Motown and on Marty Robbins seem to have been the most popular.
As I did last year, I must give love to others who have joined with me in my attempts to hip all of you to these retro topics. Koop Kooper still seems to find value in my book reviews and I enjoyed another season presenting my findings on my Words With Wellsy segments on his stellar Cocktail Nation radio show podcast. Much thanks to Koop. My fellow Canadian Paddy Lee is constantly sharing links to my articles at her excellent site Caftan Woman, a site you should definitely peruse. I appreciate Paddy’s support. And my fair brother, George Fairbrother, has lighted up my life by recruiting me to join him on his great podcast, DEC4, to provide some colour commentary on Elvis Presley. We took a deep look at Presley’s great concert film Elvis: That’s the Way It Is this year and we have some exciting content coming up in 2022. I’m grateful to George – who does all the heavy lifting when we get together – for letting me ramble on about the Presley Touch and the many intangibles that King brought to his work. I look forward to much collaboration in the future. Considering these three friends and where we all live, you can see why I like to say “Keep it in the Commonwealth!”
I feel like I upped my game this year. I feel like the future looks bright for SoulRide. While it’s so hard to put much stock in social media interactions, that element seems to have increased this year and I’ve connected with many nice people in the ether. People that seem normal except that they are somewhat obsessed – like me – with all things Vintage Leisure. I encourage anyone reading this to Follow my site so you don’t miss anything. Check me out across the socials and if you’re still slumming it on Facebook, you can follow our Vintage Leisure page. Thank you all so much for reading and commenting in 2021. May God bless you and yours in 2022. Join me in partying like its 1972.
COUNTRIES: 128, including Vanuatu, Oman, Iceland, Nepal and two I’d never heard of by these names; Caribbean Netherlands and Gabon.
TOP COUNTRIES: The top four remain the U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia. Ireland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Poland and France round out the top ten.
TOP POSTS OF THE YEAR
10. A Leisurely Look @ Jack Lord (718 views) John Joseph Patrick Ryan was born on December 30th. This enabled him to jump into the Top 10 at SoulRide this year. Enough people read this article during the last two days of the year that it leaped over my piece on the heroic Memphis attorney who extricated the Presley estate from Col. Parker, Blanchard E. Tual. Jack Lord is a great example of a figure many people know about but about whom there may not be much info out there. All you need to know about how cool Jack was is found in my article here which, incidentally I published in May of 2020.
9. King Movies: Viva Las Vegas (741) I was happy to finally put together my thoughts on this movie that is near and dear to my heart. Hard to talk about King and Annie in so small a space but I think you get the gist of it here. During Elvis Week in January, I issued reviews on both this film and the lesser-known Flaming Star. Interesting to note that the popular Viva Las Vegas was read almost 500 more times than Don Siegel’s excellent western. I’m glad I’m not going through Presley’s films chronologically or doing the best ones first; I like running a jagged line through his filmography.
8. The Top Ten Elvis Presley Songs You’ve Never Heard (755) Another article from May of 2020, this one was picked up by an Elvis site in Finland which helps to account for all the views. I’m happy many people are checking this out and learning about some Elvis Deep Cuts. I hope to issue a sequel to this piece in 2022.
7. UnEarthed: Katherine Walsh (810) Little Kathy Walsh, I think, has joined the Mount Rushmore of tragic female figures that I’ve presented here at my site. This piece gained traction from Monkees fans and then people began to come out of the woodwork saying they, too, had looked into Kathy and that her story was interesting, which I think it is. I guess what I am is proud although I know I shouldn’t be that. I have felt that my site illuminates people on the fringes of stardom and this article’s success helped to prove that. Dang; am I the world’s foremost expert on Katherine Walsh? I’ll take it.
6. A Taste of White Mormon R&B: In Defence of the Osmonds (959) Exactly half of the most-read articles of 2021 were published in 2020, which I like. Even “older” articles are still getting read. And again this year I continue to be shocked and impressed with the relationship between the Osmonds and their fans. I can say that those that avidly follow the continuing adventures of Utah’s first family are some of the nicest people I’ve met in the ether. This remains one of the most-read pieces in the history of my site. They are certainly not on the fringes of anything but the era I highlight is not often illuminated.
5. A Leisurely Look @ Shelley Fabares (1055) This makes me happy. Kathy Walsh died mysteriously and thats part of what makes her intriguing. But the lovely Shelley Fabares lives on and has never ben anything but a pleasant lady who has appeared in many movies and TV shows that people around the world continue to hold dear. I’m actually surprised; my article on Shelley was never hitched to anything else, was never picked up by a celebrity Twitter follower and she never knew scandal or even did anything particularly monumental. So this makes her another of the “types” you’ll learn about here; people who continually showed up in cherished pieces of entertainment over a long stretch of years. Nice to know Shelley Fabares has a devoted – if quiet – fanbase.
4. The “Other” Chart: The Original Stars of Adult Contemporary (1158) Thanks here goes to Al Martino’s little girl, Alison. A Facebook search revealed that the proprietor of Vintage Los Angeles shared this in her group devoted to her pops and people seemed to eat it up. It’s nice that a little, wee piece of vintage leisure like this made the rounds of social media platforms and people learned about the fissure that occurred in popular music in the mid-1960’s. Like Hollywood does, I tried to cash in the success of the original by issuing a sequel which ended up being more for my on amusement.
3. Check This Out: Gardner McKay (1166) The man who played Capt. Adam Troy continues to sail the Tiki through the ether. Published in April of 2020, something happened in June of 2021. That month saw a significant spike in readers; fully 44% of the total views happened in this month. I go crazy trying to think of how this happens. Has it been shared somewhere that month on a website or in a group? I wish I knew. I’m just happy people are learning about my man, Gardner McKay.
2. The Ping Girl: The Story of Carole Landis (1232) The all-time champ, the most read article in SoulRide’s brief history. Poor Carole’s tragic life has provided me with many readers. While this does her or her family no good today, at the very least many, many people know of Carole through this article and many others that have been written. I’m happy I’ve sent many people to Carole’s official website and I continue to encourage you to pay it a visit here.
Check This Out: Edie Sedgwick – 1923 views
I feel that it is unlikely I will ever encounter a more compelling figure than Edie Sedgwick. Or a figure more perfectly suited to the type of analysis I offer here at SoulRide. A mover in the underground, a somewhat forgotten player in mid-century culture, she nonetheless still captivates many people today. I have discovered a devoted fanbase and made contact with Kinga Syrek, creator in 2021 of an award-winning short film about Edie. First, Bob Dylan people picked up on the article and then Edie’s own fans and then it seemed to take off into the stratosphere. Over 1900 views, more than double the number of reads last year’s top article received. Seems SoulRide carries the torch for tragic females. I’m proud of that.