Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Big Mac on my Breath


The day after Christmas, I took my guitar to McCabe's in Santa Monica for repairs.  While perusing the musical equipment for fun, I saw this on the wall beneath some mandolins:

My photo's a bit blurry, but what is shows is a framed copy of Larry Groce's #9 single from 1976, "Junk Food Junkie," along with a note stating that the single had been recorded at McCabe's, which in addition to selling and repairing guitars also hosts intimate concerts.

That piqued my curiosity - why was it recorded there?

But before we get to that, let me ask you a question:

How many people write and record a Top Ten single AND put out two platinum record and six gold records of children's music for Disney AND serve as artistic director/host/co-founder of one of the country's best live music shows for thirty years?

Probably just one person, Larry Groce.

The Top Ten single is "Junk Food Junkie," obviously.

The Disney records include the Grammy nominee "Winnie-the-Pooh for President" as well as four volumes of "Children's Favorite Songs."

The live music series is NPR's "Mountain Stage," which has been presenting an impressive variety of top notch musicians since 1983.  I assume you're familiar with this radio institution, but if not, please click the hyperlink and dig in. 

Here's Larry performing "Junk Food Junkie" on "Mountain Stage."  Then we get the answer to "why was the single recorded at McCabe's" and more.

1 - Why did you record this at McCabes instead of in a studio or some other performing space? 

LARRY GROCE:  McCabe's recorded my performance there without telling me. When we (me and my manager at the time) found out about the recording we asked to hear it and get a copy. A little later we decided to make the performance into a recording. A studio version wouldn't have worked. 

2 - These days, are you more Mr. Natural or more Junk Food Junkie?

LG:  Still half and half. 

3 - Where did Peter Alsop, who was the first person to record JFJ, hear your song?

LG:  Peter was a friend. I don't think his recording was released before my original independent version in 1975 on my former manager/producer's label. The Warner-Curb release wasn't until 1976. 

4 - I read that Berke McKelvey played fretless bass on the track; true?

LG:  I don't think Berke played on that recording. The bass and drums were overdubbed and I forget who played them - I wasn't at that overdub session. I was playing solo at McCabe's when it was recorded. However, Berke did play with me most of the time back then. He plays with Chandler Travis now and teaches at Berklee.

5 - Why do you think that satirical songs have seemingly disappeared from pop culture?

LG:  I don't think satire and novelty material has disappeared, it just switched from sound recordings to YouTube videos.

6 - Did you watch the Jackson Five sing JFJ with McKenzie Phillips on their television show?

LG:  I didn't see it live but got a video of it. A lot of people supposedly performed the song in different ways: Dinah Shore on her TV show, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. (of the Fifth Dimension) in their club act, Judy Collins with the Boston Pops and several more. I'd liked to have seen how they all did it, it's such an odd song.

The Jacksons & Mckenzie Phillips - Junk Food... by choucoune92

7 - What do you recall of your appearance on the Tonight Show?

LG:  I just remember that it was a high pressure show and they acted like it was the most important thing in the world so don't screw up.

I had met Dick Cavett on the Merv Griffin show and remembered reading in his bio that the first time he walked on stage at the Tonight Show he could see himself walking onto the TV at his aunt's house in Nebraska. It was like that. I was nervous but got through it.

Joan Rivers was guest host. My teenage sister had flown out from Dallas to see it and we got a laugh when Joan, who had never met me and did not meet me that day, either, opened the show saying that everyone on the show were her good friends. Welcome to show business.