Henry Hall & His Orchestra - Teddy Bear's Picnic (1932)
This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and this month I'm calling my show "Bear Music." I'll explore the music of the Bear Community, and this part of our culture started roughly in the mid-1980's. The song snippet you just heard of course does not come from that period. It's from 1932 and it's "Teddy Bear's Picnic" by Henry Hall and His Orchestra, out of England, but I wanted to use it as a segueway into a modern version of the song, definitely intended for gay male bears. It's from 2000 and is by Martin Swinger from his album "Bear Naked." Here's Martin's version of "Teddy Bear's Picnic."
Martin Swinger - Teddy Bear's Picnic (2000)
Martin Swinger and "Teddy Bear's Picnic" and I've got an interview with Martin later in the show. The show also includes an interview with Freddy Freeman, a talented artist and also the founder of a series of music events held around the country called Bearapalooza.
What's a Bearapalooza? Well I want to read to you a description taken from Freddy's Bearapalooza website that will help explain the focus of my show.
BEARAPALOOZA is a unique rock concert event bringing together talented musicians of the bear community. The bear community is defined in different ways by different participants, but underlying all the definitions is an effort to redefine ideas of masculine beauty, especially for gay males. For many years, the stereotypical image of male beauty has been thin, young, and hairless. This may be some people's preference, but the bear community embraces a different ideal of male beauty: Stocky to large, hairy, usually with facial hair. In essence, the word "Bear" embraces men as they are, in many forms, shapes and sizes, as they tend to naturally be.
Greg Hudson Interview
Okay, I think that gives us a good starting point, and we're going to flesh out these ideas in my first interview of the show. It's with Greg Hudson. While Greg has a background as a musician, a few years ago he started his own label, called Woobie Bear Music, and I would say he's been one of the people doing the most to get exposure for the music of artists who identify with the Bear Community. He's released a series of compilation CDs called "Bear Tracks," and they've helped bring together some of these artists. My interview with Greg started out with the basics.
What is a bear?
What is a bear? Well, there's many different versions of this answer, actually, and many of them are right. There's no really wrong answer to this, I guess. Traditionally speaking I guess in the gay genre, a bear is I guess normally a big ole burly guy, that's not your traditional slim type build, so it's just I don't know if there's really any right answer, but there's no wrong answer either so it just depends on the interpretation
So, is there a bear community?
Yes there is. Many cities have the bear communities, what they call the bear clubs they're spread I guess every state in the United States, Canada, Mexico, there are bear clubs, not really linked together per se as one big community. Most clubs are doing their own thing, whether, like projects and things going on that they call bear runs where they raise money for charity, things like that, or just have parties and stuff, and so in most cases, it's kind of like a community where people can feel like they are who they are.
Since I'm trying to tell this story through music, if you had to define the idea of Bear Music, what would you say?
Okay, bear music, as far as the genre goes as far as "Bear Tracks" goes the "Bear Tracks" that we have released, we have four volumes of "Bear Tracks" and most of these songs are recorded by and sung by and performed by gay bear men. There's not really any style of music that you would consider Bear Music. There's country songs, there's dance music, there are pop music, folk, acoustic basically "Bear Tracks" represents the talent, I guess would be the best way to say it, "Bear Tracks" represents the talent of what the bear men have to offer
And how do you figure out who's a Bear Artist?
Some of that may be considered like in appearance, some of it could be in I guess personality or attitude. It just depends on, like I say, individual interpretation. What some people may see as a bear some other people may not see or recognize that as a bear. The "Bear Tracks" series that we produced many of the artists do look like bear-type men, you know, what I'm talking about the big build, the hairy body or beard or facial hair, or something like that. But then again there are other artists that have none of that, and the reason that they are on the "Bear Tracks" series is because they either approve or accept or acknowledge the Bear Community, and they are trying to build their fan base toward a genre of people that would also accept them.
So I gather there are self-identified Bear Artists?
Yeah, I believe there are people that just claim themselves as being bear artists, Freddy Freeman for one, is identified as a bear. Like I say, most people just don't recognize or just don't publish themselves as being "hey, I'm a bear and here's my music," you know what I mean? Other people may look at somebody and say "he's a bear, or he's a bear." I guess for the most part a lot of people don't consider themselves, I guess, identified as a bear. It just depends on your identity, how you want to portray and how you want to live your life, and how deep you really want to go into the community with that.
Why did you start Woobie Bear Music?
Ah, this has to go back several years. Back in the 80's, back when I was around 19, 20 years old, I was in a thrash metal band. And the band we recorded two full-length albums, actually it was on vinyl at the time, and CD came out at that same time, so our first two releases are on vinyl, cassette and CD. But we also had some singles on some compilation albums that came out, and the compilation albums really pushed our CD releases that we had just finished. And years later I've always been into music, I'm music collector, I've always been into other people's ideas of music. I don't have any favorite style, I don't have any favorite artist, I've just always been into the music scene.
And so, with that said, and also knowing how compilation albums really help the artist I decided "what if I release a compilation CD series that would help some of the gay artists." And so the release of "Bear Tracks 1" was released in .2004 was when "Bear Tracks 1" was released. So using my talent from the thrash metal band that I was in, back in the 80s I decided to just stay in the music scene, but not as far as a performer, but more of a promoter and try to help some of the gay artists get more recognition that they really deserve.
Well, I love the title, Bear Tracks, that's such an obvious and appropriate title for the series.
Yeah, it came to me just out of the blue, just one night I thought first of all, I'd wanted to do something for the Bear Artists, cause I'd heard of Mark Weigle, Tommy Johns, Martin Swinger, Kendall, Ray Baker, others all these people were on "Bear Tracks 1" just a lot of great music, there's just a lot of great talent that I figured that individually they're just trying to push their music, but it's hard to do it individually these days, with so much other you might say competition that's out there. So I figured if we put everything under one roof, and try to give people a taste of what these people have to offer, maybe this would help the artists expand their fan base
Well, your label is called Woobie Bear Music, but you didn't tell me what a Woobie Bear was.
A Woobie Bear. Okay, Woobie Bear got its name, and this goes back several years also. As a child I always had a teddy bear. I slept with a teddy bear. If it wasn't a teddy bear it was a pillow or something small that I would always hold onto when I was asleep. Anyway I always had to have a little teddy bear to sleep with, and, I didn't call it my teddy bear, I called it my Woobie. And it's just a word, I don't know where the word came from, it's just a word I just started calling it that, so all through my childhood I had my Woobie, which was actually a teddy bear and it's something that always helped me feel secure and I guess get through the night and not feel alone and so when I started the "Bear Tracks" series, I thought we'd just call the label Woobie Bear Music. That way it will be something that people can relate to as far as feeling secure, music that helps them feel alright about themselves, music with a message that is not downgrading or degrading to anybody but helping to uplift people and give them a sense of who they are. I've really gotten a lot of letters, and emails from actually around the world, from several countries about the "Bear Tracks" and about the music that Woobie Bear Music has released and that's what keeps me going, cause I see that there's a positive influence here. It's helping the artists and also not only just that, it's a positive influence to the people that purchase the CDs, or listen to the songs and they realize then that they're not alone in the world and the issues that they're dealing with. There are other people out there that are in the same world that they're in, and they don't have to feel that they're just so isolated.
Is there a song that stands out to you as dealing lyrically with the Bear Culture?
I would have to say probably, I don't know about the first music, but I would say one of the best songs that deals with the Bear Culture would be by LeRoy Lamb. He is an artist from Canada and he's on "Bear Tracks 2" with his song called "What It Feels Like For a Bear" which is actually a parody of Madonna's song "What It Feels Like For a Girl." And lyrically this song goes into how a bear feels and how they are accepted and how they are in and out of clubs and things like that. LeRoy Lamb's "What It Feels Like For a Bear" is probably one of the best as far as lyrically goes that describes a bear.
Leroy Lamb - What It Feels Like for a Bear (2005)
Out of Canada, that was LeRoy Lamb, with a little of "What It Feels Like For a Bear," and that track can only be found on Greg Hudson's CD "Bear Tracks 2"
Tell me more in particular about the Bear Tracks series
Okay, when I started this back in 2004. I say that it's so long ago, but it's not really that far back. I made a commitment to myself that I would release four "Bear Tracks" and just this year actually "Bear Tracks Volume 4" has been released. So I've fulfilled my personal agreement I guess with myself that I would release four "Bear Tracks" and see how that goes. It's really been a positive influence for the artists. I'm really glad that I did it, and I have no regrets at all about this. It started out with "Bear Tracks 1" as more of an expensive hobby than it was like a music label. But after I saw the influence and feedback and everything that came from "Bear Tracks 1" that's when I decided to get a little more serious with it, so we got everything legal in the State of Ohio as a business, you know, taxes and all that stuff, I got everything legalized, and so now we're expanding beyond the "Bear Tracks" and I'm also helping other artists release solo, like Kendall, Freddy Freeman from Nashville. And they we just started another series called " G CD" which is all gay and lesbian, transgendered and bisexual artists
So there's no more Bear Tracks CDs coming?
I don't see any more in the future as of now, like I say, I fulfilled my personal agreement that I would do four CDs. If I do do another one it may not be for at least a couple more years, after I see what kind of feedback we get from the four that are out now. It's been slow rolling, it really has. It's not something that just hit the market and we sold out of them. It's not it wasn't a big explosion. And at first I was losing money on it. I've actually invested thousands of dollars into these projects, and at first I was losing money. That's why I considered it being an expensive hobby at first. But, with some of the right advertising and some of the right connections with radio and things like that it's not losing money anymore. So, I mean I'm not making money, I still have my main career, I have a day job and the day job is something I will always keep because you know how the music world is chickens one day and feathers the next.
Well, personally I hope that you do resurrect the Bear Series, because I think it's a very good project and you're about the only one making an effort to put, quote, Bear Music out there.
Yeah, at first it was really hard at first to get the artists together for this. Most people don't realize that there are that many artists out there in the world. But now I used to be chasing after them as far as "hey do you want to be on this CD series?" I was putting together "Bear Tracks 1," that was the hardest one to start, because first, no one even knew what Woobie Bear Music was, and second, they didn't know what they were getting into, you know, is this just some idiot with some lamebrain idea that's just going to be a fly-by-night thing. But now, after volumes one through four have been released people are taking it seriously and they see how serious I am about it, and you might say the bears are coming out of the woods to be on it. "Bear Tracks 4" is the newest release. It just came out early this year, actually late last year, in December, but the official release was this month, in January. It expands through around the world. There's music from Germany. There's music from Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, and this is through the whole series, one through four. Music literally around the world, and something that I would have never imagined that they would go that far.
And now you've got the Global series, to literally, be global
Yeah, right, the G CD has two meanings, gay and global. The "GCD Global 1" is actually being released in February, and it's a two-CD set. The first CD is all dance and electronic music, and then the disc #2, which is in the same package, is all rock and folk and country and a few other little surprises like that in the Global series.
Well, you yourself are also contributing your own music to this series, could you talk about that? I think that track really came out well.
Yeah, well I have a music studio here where I live, and I don't have a lot of time to mess with it like I want to. I go under the pseudonym as Grecote, which is like a Greek take-off of the word Gregory, which is my name is Greg. Some of the songs I've recorded are on the "Bear Tracks" series, about three different CDs I have three different songs I've released, and there's also one on the GCD that Freddy Freeman actually did the vocals and it's something that he took his time to do, and I'm really thankful that he did that, cause I'm not a vocalist
I think that track really came out well.
Yeah, he did a great touch with that and I think he was perfect for that. I sent him the tracks and I sent him the music and he made a few little changes on it and pretty much left it the way I had it, and his voice really goes great with that.
Here's a little bit of the song "Closer" by Grecote, featuring Freddy Freeman on vocals
Grecote, featuring Freddy Freeman - Closer (2007)
That was a bit of the song "Closer" with music by Greg Hudson, under the name Grecote, with vocals by Freddy Freeman. That's from Greg's new CD compilation "GCD Global 1."
When I started researching this show I quickly found that there was no particular musical genre for the music created by members of the Bear Community, and I found a lot of music by bear artists, so much so that this edition of Queer Music Heritage will be another one with a much extended version on my website, about six hours. That of course is at www.queermusicheritage.com.
Now, almost by definition of my show, I've got to try to explore the history of Bear Music, and that is a tough subject to research, but the earliest song by a gay artist that I found where the main lyrical focus concerned the Bear Community was one from 1994. It was from an album called "Vision of a Bear" and was by John Topping. It's called "I Am a Bear"
John Topping - I Am a Bear (1994)
"I Am a Bear" by John Topping.
Paul Golio Interview
From 1997 I found another obscure song right on the subject. It was by a duo called Woof, and they released a two-song cassette tape called "Just a Bear" and I was able to track down one of the members of that band, Paul Golio. I asked him to tell me about the band.
Woof. The start of the band Woof actually came out of the band Beefcake, and Beefcake was formed in '93 I think. And Beefcake was me and a guy from Jersey, and that actually spread over from Provincetown, because when I was in Provincetown me and these two bears started doing shows playing guitar and bass, just at friend's house and barbeques and stuff, and we were big bears and we called ourselves Beefcake. Then when I came back to New York I got the guy in Jersey, who was playing in a chub band called Earthquake, and we formed Woof, but then he left and that's when me, Scott and the drummer, the original drummer, formed Woof
Were you the first bear band that you knew of?
I believe it was the first bear band. There was a guy in New York that used to do performances under the name Hirsute, but he was electronical and did everything himself, it wasn't a band.
Were there other acts at that time who were bear-identified?
No, not at that time that I ran into, no. That's why we did it in Provincetown cause everybody was so everybody played with canned music behind them. You know, there were transgendered acts or, all girl, you know all girl bands, the girl with the acoustic guitar that why me and the three guys in Provincetown said we're going to be a bear band, and be a little punky.
Did you tour around at bear events, if there were bear events then
There were bear events then. When we became Woof back in New York we did a couple of bear events in Canada. Canada bears loved us, and we did a few Girth & Mirth things of course. There was a guy around called Captain Woof. I don't know if anybody remembers Captain Woof. He played keyboards, he was a solo act, but he wasn't a bear but he was a bear admirer. And he got us a lot of gigs like playing in Jersey, outdoor things in bars that were for bears, cause that's what we did. And we got quite a few gigs off that, but then it just dried up, kind of, because everybody wants to dance, they don't want to hear a live band, at that point in time, that was in the 90's.
Your cassette came out in '97, tell me about that.
Oh, the cassette. We wrote "I'm Just a Bear," me and Scott Hamblen, who was the original lead singer and original guitarist in Woof and I wrote the lyrics, he wrote the music, and that was my baby and to this day that is still my baby. That I wrote in reference to when we were playing around, somebody told us that there is no big market for bear men, you should lose some weight and shave your chest and go for the pretty boy look and that was my response to that.
For a tape like that, how many were produced?
We produced about two thousand of them. We did it by ourselves. Trip Records put it out on their compilation "Sibilance 2" and
I have that.
Yes, we're on that and in Italy we got record interest in Italy and I believe, I can't remember the record company's name but it didn't want to go through cause all the band members didn't want to do it. But I'm almost positive there's a label called Apple Red or Cherry Red, or Red Cherry Records, in Europe and they were very interested in releasing it, but at that time that's when Woof was coming to an end so it didn't work. That was very sad.
How did you market the tape?
We marketed that tape through bear magazines, bear newsletters. We did a semi-nude thing in big ad magazines, you know, anything for publicity, we did it for publicity, but we sold I would say a thousand tapes by ourselves by airmail on the internet, putting ads on the internet, we sold over a thousand tapes in Europe alone.
Wow, that's wonderful.
Italy loved us. Italy and Taiwan loved us.
Okay, from the band Woof, let's hear their song "Just a Bear"
Woof - Just a Bear (1997)
One artist I just can't leave out of this show was one of the first self-proclaimed bear musicians, and he sure proved that by going by the name MusicBear. His real name is Ray Baker and his debut CD came out in 1998, but I've chosen to share with you a track of his from 2000, called "Teddy Bear"
MusicBear - Teddy Bear (Woofy Mix) (2000)
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. And if you go to my site for this month you'll find a much, much long show about Bear Music. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
Martin Swinger Interview
I've been a fan of this next artist for many years, and I give him credit for releasing the first album directly geared to the Bear Community. He's Martin Swinger and in 2000 he released a CD called "Bear Naked" and of course in that title bear is spelled b-e-a-r. Some editions of that album should be considered collector's items, because they have fur glued to the outside, very cool. You heard Martin's version of "Teddy Bear's Picnic" at the start of the show, and he's got a lot more great music.
Martin, you've told me that you don't consider yourself a bear, but I know that your music has been very well received by the bear community, can you talk about that?
It's been very interesting. I think of a bear I think of a pretty large guy mostly usually pretty hairy chested. There are certain elements that really make me visualize what a bear might look like, and I'm not any of those. I'm 6 foot tall and fairly slender, and I've got a little goatee. But the bears, when I go to a bear event they say that I'm welcome as a bear because as long as I've got some sort of facial hair I'm acceptable to them, but I don't really see myself as a bear.
The thing about the music is that when Brian first started talking to me Brian's my partner who really convinced me to do this. I owe it all to him. To put the album together I had a handful of songs, like "(My Uncle Walter Goes) Waltzing With Bears" and I knew "Teddy Bear's Picnic" so those two are kind of obvious and from there I wasn't quite sure where to go, so I tried looking at songs from the idea that there was the word bear or the image of a bear in it and, while there are a few songs like that not a lot of them really spoke to me as anything that would speak to a bear, a person who's into the bear culture.
So I tried to take a broader look at it, and again, Brian helped me kind of open up my eyes to what would bears be interested in and then, well, bears are interested in food, and they're interested in sex. They're interested in each other. They're interested in relationships. They're interested in justice. They're interested in a lot of things. Really, the people we've met at the bear conferences are, tend to be intelligent people, good conversationalists and cultured, to the point that it made me feel a lot more comfortable about what I was able to share with them. So that's kind of how I came about that collection of songs, just pulled together something that I thought the Bear Community might be interested in as a subject, and that seemed to have worked real well.
You were a little at a loss for words when I asked you in an email about the idea of "bear music"
Well, that was a tough thing. That was the period that I was going through
that I was looking for songs that said the word bear. When I go to bear
gatherings, again, my experience has taught me that at a bear gathering
it's just as easy to have a conversation with someone about opera or
classical music as likely as you would have a conversation about country
music or any other. Every bear has a different kind of music that appeals
I don't think it's a genre at all. I don't think that it could be categorized
as a genre. So when we do a Bearapalooza the fellows there may sing
anything, original songs, Joni Mitchell, you just don't know what somebody's
going to sing, but if they identify with a bear, identify as a bear,
it becomes bear music in its own way. So it seems to work and the bears
are willing to take in everything, everything that anybody will sing.
It's been received very well, and interesting enough I still get found, I still get discovered even through emails, people searching through CDbaby.com and they come across the "Bear Naked" album and they'll buy it every now and then. Woobie Bear has been really good with their productions. The "Bear Tracks" albums have introduced my album to a lot of people, so I hear get it from a lot of different angles. It's a nice thing to be discovered and then of course singing at the bear events has been wonderful. I always sell a lot of CDs there. The advantage of hearing me live at the bear events is that my CDs are the coffee table edition, with the fur you know glued around the edge. That's a real clever marketing scheme that Brian came up with. It's a very fun, very fun album cover, and I'm able to do that live, where I really can't do that with mail orders. So there's the advantage of hearing me live at a bear event
I started the show with the song "Teddy Bear's Picnic." Could you comment on that song.
Comment on "Teddy Bear's Picnic." I think it's just a fun, a really fun song. It's kind of an old vaudeville song, British, from British vaudeville where it came from originally, and it's just a romping images of bears having a good time together. And when I go to the bear events that's what they're doing. They're enjoying food, and that's what's happening at this teddy bear's picnic. They're enjoying each other's company. They're dancing with each other. It just seemed like a very nice in the double entendre sense, it seemed like a very nice celebration of bear community and the bears the way they treat each other. So that's why I picked that song. It's a children's song basically, but I thought it worked real well for the bears. I get a lot of comments on it.
Please tell me about "Teddy Bear's Lullaby"
"Teddy Bear's Lullaby" was the response to "Teddy Bear's Picnic." I'd already recorded the picnic song and realized I needed something to counterbalance it and there was not really a lullaby planned for the album, and the idea of writing a lullaby just appealed to me so I sat down one evening and that was one of the rare songs that came to me very quickly. I started thinking about, you know, my honeybear and what kind of lullaby I might sing, and the ideas came to me amazingly quickly. And, you know, it's a lullaby cause it's a lullaby but I'm happy to use the word honeybear and just to make references in it that really describe the person I'm thinking of. And again, the bears seem to respond to it. This song will make bears cry. It's very poignant, I guess, and a bit romantic, but I'm a bit of a romantic so it seems to work.
Martin Swinger - Teddy Bear's Lullaby (2000)
And this song is very cute, please tell me about "Huggin' and Chalkin'"
"Huggin' and Chalkin'." Oh what a great adventure. This is a song from the 1950s written by a man named Kermit Goel, and Brian was familiar with the song. It was originally "Huggin' and Chalkin'" it was "I got a gal who's mighty sweet, big brown eyes and tiny feet. It was about a gal, but that was the only reference to her, to a woman in the whole song, was that very opening thing. And Brian used to sing snippets of it to me. We always thought it was a cute song, but I'd never really come across it. And I was down in Atlanta, you know, when we were starting to work on the album, starting to think towards it. I was down in Atlanta flying back to Maine, and a friend of mine got on the plane, a fellow named Avner, Avner Eisenberg, who is a comedian and performer. Avner the Eccentric.
Well, he's from Maine, and I know him and have met his wife Julie as well. Avner got on the plane, same time I did. We were informed we were going to have to sit there for an hour, so Avner came back and sat beside me. We just kind of caught up with each other. And we were talking about music, and he said, "well, my wife's father was a songwriter, but you wouldn't be familiar with anything he ever wrote. His biggest tune was a song called 'Huggin' and Chalkin'" And I just about hit the ceiling when he said it, because we've been looking for this song, and then to find out, my friend Julie, it was her father who wrote it.
So we contacted Julie immediately and just said, "Julie, we've got this crazy idea about changing a couple of words in the song and recording it." And she said, "Let me check with my brother." She checked with her brother and then said "Go for it." So allowed us to change it from "I got a gal who's mighty sweet" to "I got a bear who's mighty sweet" and the song works great from there. The bears are great about celebrating larger men as part of their culture and this song was again just a beautiful celebration of size, so that's why it was an important song. I felt very lucky to be able to put it on the album.
Martin Swinger - Huggin' and Chalkin' (2000)
Martin Swinger - QMH ID
Thank you, Martin. That was "Huggin' and Chalkin" by Martin Swinger, and we're going to pause in our interview, and I encourage you to please come back for Part 2 of my "Bear Music" special, for much more. And just for grins, I'm going fade out of Part 1 with a little bit of Hoagy Carmichael singing the original "Huggin' and Chalkin'," from 1947.
Hoagy Carmichael - Huggin' and Chalkin' (1947)
Michael Feinstein - Teddy Bear's Picnic (1992)
Oh, no, no, no! That may be a song about bears and that may be a gay artist, but Michael Feinstein is no bear. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. This is Part 2 of Bear Music, and let's continue our interview with Martin Swinger.
Now "Waltzing With Bears" was also on your "Singing OUT!" recording, from 1994.
Yeah, it was, all those years ago. "Waltzing With Bears" was originally a book written by Dr. Seuss, called "My Uncle Terwilliger Goes Waltzing With Bears" but then Dale Marxen picked it up and turned it into "My Uncle Walter Goes Waltzing With Bears," which is a very popular song at the folk festivals for the children's stage. But when I came across the lyrics and read this whole thing I couldn't believe what I'd found is an incredible double entendre song about "my uncle walter goes waltzing with bears" and all the adventures that he goes through were so funny, and told in double entendre. So without having to change a word I sang this children's song totally ruined it for anybody that's ever appreciated it as a children's song.
Martin Swinger - Waltzing With Bears (2000)
So you've got four bear songs on that "Bear Naked" CD. That's probably more bear songs than on any other CD than I can name.
Well, that's why we called it "Bear Naked," that was the whole idea. So I thought that if I was able to come up with four that actually mentioned bears that I was doing pretty good. After that we went to policemen and cowboys.
I was going to ask, how did you pick the other songs for the album?
Again, just trying to keep an open mind about what subjects might appeal to bears. I knew food would, that's where "Huggin' and Chalkin'" would. The song "I Want a Man" is just a great description of I think the craziness that we go through, anybody goes through, looking for a partner. [sings] "I want a man who'll do the dishes, I want a man who'll make the bed, I want a man who's not suspicious, I want a man who's halfway dead." Very funny, the way the song plays out and I thought it was kind of a universal theme. So that's what I was looking for, more broad themes.
You've got to tell me about "You Baby Two"
Oh, "You Baby Two." There's another one that Brian helped me write. We were part of a group for a while discussing the concepts of polyamery, and we were on a newsletter for a while that we were getting out of California that they announced that they were having a polyamery songwriting contest, so inviting their members to send songs about polyamery. So Brian and I kind of knocked our heads together and I came up with this song about "You Baby Two." He helped me with the lyrics and the ideas for it. "I love you baby and you baby, too," the idea of singing to two people. So we created this whole song and "me and you and you and you" three heads are better than one, sent it into the competition but we didn't win anything. But we had so much fun with the song that I thought that was one to put on the album. I've run into surprisingly at any bear gathering you'll meet at least one triple, rather than a couple, two bears that have accepted, brought a third bear into the relationship somehow, and that's a concept that doesn't frighten us, let me say, that we welcome in fact. So it just made sense, and we had a lot of fun with the song. So it's a lot of fun to share. We always pull somebody up on stage to be the third.
Martin Swinger - You Baby Two (2000)
I'd like to go back to your 1994 release, "Singin' OUT!", and ask you about "Military Ditty / Give Us Our Own"
Yeah, they came as two separate songs. I don't remember what inspired "Give Us Our Own. I wrote that on originally, but I kept thinking about the concept of if I don't like this game I'll take my football and go home. That childish attitude that if the game doesn't get played my way I'm not going to play, and sort of relating that to the way the U.S. Government treats gay people. And the response to that is, okay, if we can't play your game, then maybe we need our own game. And so it was kind of a backlash to say, give us our own army, give us our own cities, give us our own United States, give us our own matrimonies, holy state, give us some version of it. But give us our own thing, if we can share the benefits that regular married couples have got, and that straight people have got, why can't we have our own version of that? So that's where that idea came from, a pretty strong statement, people have called it a gay anthem, and that's fine with me, cause that's the way I feel when I sing the song.
I was down doing some recording with a friend in Portland, visiting the DJ one evening, doing a little bit of recording, and he and this was right about the time that the whole controversy about gays in the military was up and Bill Clinton came up with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." So it was very much in the paper at the time. And Chris said to me, "Well, have you got a song about gays in the military?" I said, "No, not yet." He said, "I'll be back in five minutes." And he walked out of the room. And I thought, okay, there's a challenge, so I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and started playing around, just sort of wrote what came to the top of my head, and five minutes later when he came back I'd written "Military Ditty," and luckily my I was able to write my fingers around the chords and play it for him, which he recorded. And then he sent that out to the radio show "This Way Out" and they were of course discussing the same issue at the time. That's probably the closest to a timely topical song that I've ever written, that actually got out there. That's what the "Military Ditty" was all about.
Now, instead of playing his 1994 version of those two songs I'm playing a live version that he did during Bearapalooza 2004, in New York City.
Martin Swinger - Military Ditty / Give Us Our Own (2004, live)
You've got quite a fan in Freddy Freeman
Well, he's a real sweet man and I'm a Freddy Freeman fan as well. He's an amazing performer and an amazing energy, creating all the Bearapaloozas, all that work that he's doing. It's just magnificent, and he's an incredible performer. When I hear him live, oh my gosh, he just he's an incredible writer and his voice is so good, and he's great about getting people up singing with him. I'm in awe of him, so we're in a mutual admiration society.
In an email to me he referred to you as the Godfather of Bear Music.
He called me that on stage one night, too. I think it's just because thanks to my partner's hyper-awareness I was a step ahead of the curve. Putting out the "Bear Naked" album was really one of the first ones that was marketed directly to bears
And we're going to talk with Freddy Freeman in a few minutes, but I've got another bear song I just have to play. It was originally written around 1974 by a country artist named Steven Fromholz and appeared on his album "A Rumor In My Own Time." As far as I know he's straight, and the cover of the album certainly has him looking very much a bear. The song is called "Bears" and the lyrics of it have many, many parallels to two-legged bears. This was not unnoticed by Mark Weigle, another of my favorite artists, who included the song on his 2002 album "Out of the Loop."
Mark Weigle - Bears (2002)
Mark Weigle: Believe it or not folks, that song was written in 1974 by a guy named Steven Fromholz, and first time I heard it myself, thinking of two-legged bears I just about drove off the road, so there's just plenty of double entendres going on in that one.
I couldn't resist playing a clip I had of Mark Weigle extro-ing the song. And here's another clip I can't resist. For those of you who visit the site YouTube, you may want to check out a parody video called "The Brady Bears." Here's the music portion of it.
The Brady Bears (2006)
And from the cable channel cartoon show "Queer Duck" here's a clip featuring Bipolar Bear.
And next, in this scene he's on Hollywood Squares
Queer Duck clip, with Bipolar Bear
Freddy Freeman Interview
The last interview of this very full show is with Freddy Freeman, and you've heard him mentioned a couple times already. I met him almost five years ago, in March of 2002, when he was first beginning to brave sharing his music with people, and I was immediately impressed. Here's a short review quote I wrote about him at that time: Freddy Freeman's music is a wonderful acoustic folk blend of great guitar work, insightful lyrics and tender harmonies that wrap around a warm soul-searching voice. You can tell I liked him right away.
And he blossomed fast. That year he released his first CD and became the founder of Bearapalooza. And his music has expanded to include many genres. He's just released a new album called "Break the Silence" and I asked him about it.
"Break the Silence" is an album that I've been working on about six years now. It's a collection of songs that represent a lot of the struggles that I've been through, a lot of the growth and a lot of the lessons. It crosses a lot of genre lines. It's really hard to put me in a genre category because you might go from the open track is very rock, very bar rock, and then you go into a folk-country kind of sound. It just runs across a wide spectrum of what I've been influenced by growing up, and as a musician and as an adult.
Lyrically, like I said, it has a lot of lyrics about accepting yourself and growing and learning, dealing with heartbreak. And I kind of look at the album as a glimpse into my journey over the last ten years or so, and there's a lot of great musicians on it, and they really capture what I think I'm about, my pride in being an out gay artist, my pride in my art and my pride in my identity as a bear are all included in it.
You've got some pretty good talent supporting you on your album.
I've worked with a number of different musicians over the years as I was developing the songs, and I finally I starting gigging with a band in New York, and the people I ended up playing out a lot with were Max Christopher on bass, who's also an artist in his own right, and a bear artist as well. And Drummerbear Mike Fass played the drums, who did an excellent job. Joe Cavallo on the electric guitar, who was wonderful. And then my good friend Toshio Mana played a lot of the keyboards, and he did an arrangement for one of the songs called "Letting Him Go." He did the whole arrangement. And all of them really, they put in the perfect thing to accent what I was trying to do with the music, and I'm really happy with the way the band turned out.
Why did you start Bearapalooza?
Why did I start Bearapalooza? Because I actually before I I started going to Outmusic open mics in 2002, and before I had discovered Outmusic I was just kind of doing music in my room, not really putting it out there. And I started going to the open mics and I suddenly discovered that I could do something with this passion for music and share it with my community. And at the same time that that was going on I was also discovering this new identity of the bear community, and I was doing things with the MetroBears of New York. For some reason these two things that I loved, and were giving me a new sense of who I was, and helping me to grow and become more of who I really am, they just seemed to go together. And I knew a couple of guys in the bear community who were musicians.
And at the time Kris Landherr was doing a show at Finally Fred's in the Village, and he had a night, he thought he was going to be out of town, he thought he was going to be in Australia, and he said, "I've got this night, and I need somebody to take it over and do it." And I said, "I do have this little bear thing I've been wanting to do. I don't know how big a deal it would be or anything, but I'd really like to do it, and get a couple of my bear friends together and have a little concert. So I decided to take the night over, and I asked Martin Swinger to do it, and I asked Ernie Lijoi and a couple other people and I just started advertising it around town and it turned out that my little idea for me and my friends somehow resonated with the community, and you know, it was sold out, and I couldn't fit people in the club, and so it was kind of a surprise to me. It was just something I wanted to do for myself and my community, and I was surprised that it kind of took off, and I've been doing it ever since.
So when was the first one?
The first one was November 11th, 2002, at a club in the West Village called Finally Fred's.
How many have there been?
Well, if you count the Christmas show I think we're up to ten, ten of them. I'm pretty sure, I'd have to count let's see, Seattle, three years in Nashville, three years in New York, Philadelphia, yeah it's about ten. It's about ten shows.
How do you figure out who to invite to perform?
I find people through a lot of different, one of them being Outmusic and the Outmusic list, and another is Bear Radio, BearRadio.net, which is an online radio station, which has expanded far beyond the bear community now and has a lot of different artists on it now, but when it started out it was primarily bear artists, and I got a lot of ideas of who to invite from that. Also from Greg's compilations, "Bear Tracks," and just people I knew in the community. The way that I choose who is going to perform at one of these concerts it really, it really doesn't have as much to do with fitting a certain look as it does with a person's self-identification in the community. I just kind of look for people who are I think are going to be a good fit with the very family brotherhood atmosphere that we have, and who want to do it because they want to celebrate the community, not just because it's a gig.
Do you think there is such a thing as "bear music"?
Well, it may seem like an interesting parallel, but the way I like to talk about that is to say in the...in the field of Contemporary Christian Music you don't really have a genre. I mean, it can kind of cross all genre lines, but what ties them all together as artists is a shared philosophy, or a shared sensibility, and that's I think what what is the common thread that ties bear musicians together. A lot of times bear artists are writing from a place that's like showing something that's different about being a gay man than what is typically seen in the mainstream, or what I call the gaystream. Cause you know there is an image that a lot of mainstream society sees of gay men as being into certain genres of music or looking a certain way or acting a certain way. And a bear sensibility tends to come from a different place. It kind of turns that on its ear. Not to say that it's better than that, it's just an alternative to it, that gay men don't have to fit into a box. They can like rock music, and they can be into country and folk, and they can be rappers, and they can be hairy and big and still be on stage and think they're sexy. And to celebrate that, to celebrate that diversity and that difference. That's where I think a lot of artists who are considered bear musicians, like they come from that place.
Let's gets to one of your songs, and the first of your songs to make a big impact with me was "Echo"
"Echo" has been my friend for many years. I wrote it just walking around the streets of New York City one day, I was just like, I live in this big city, there's all these people around but I still, I still don't feel that deep connection. I still don't feel that like sometimes I felt completely alone on the subway, and I think that's very common for a lot of people who live in the city. Because having all those people around, especially in a big city like that doesn't necessarily mean you're connecting. I started thinking about, you know, well, I want to hear something from somebody else that says "I resonate with you, I get you," and I kind of translated that into hearing an echo come back, and I just started playing it at the open mic and again, it was one of those surprises. For some reason like most of the people I played my music for they just zoom in on that song and they go "oh, I really resonate with that, that really hits me in the heart, and I really know what you're talking about."
Freddy Freeman - Echo (2007)
What was the first music that you remember that dealt lyrically with Bear Culture?
It was definitely Martin Swinger. Martin Swinger is the first guy that I ever heard that dealt lyrically with bears in his music. I still it breaks my heart whenever I hear "Teddy Bear's Lullaby." It's a love song to his honeybear and I have met his honeybear and they're a wonderful couple and I've gotten very close to them, and it's just wonderful to hear that in a song and I remember, the first time I met Martin was at Day to Be Gay In the Catskills. I think that was in '02 as well. And I remember he was selling this CD called "Bear Naked" that had fur on it, and they sold out. I thought, "Wow, he's cool, got to talk to him."
And I know, in an email to me you called him the Godfather of Bear Music.
I absolutely did, yup. And that's because, like I said that he's the first guy that I ever heard that was doing anything lyrically with the world, and who was celebrating that world through music
What are your plans for future Bearapalooza's?
Well, '07 is looking to be kind of busy actually with Bearapalooza. There's two things that I have in the works that aren't definitely 100% but we're negotiating them. They'll both be new locations for us. One is August in Washington DC, and the other is in May in Houston/Galveston, so that should be exciting. And then we have two shows that are now going to be annual shows, of course here in Nashville cause that's were I'm based out of, and that will be at the end of September, for the annual Bear Jam here, and just this past November we did our first show at a camp ground in Florida just outside of Tampa, called Sawmill Campground, it's a gay campground. And we had such a good time there and they loved us so much that they are asking us to do it annually, so that will be in the beginning of October.
What's it like being an openly gay artist in Nashville?
It's not too bad. It's not what I thought it would be. Nashville is not what I thought it would be. I kind of had these illusions when I came here of down-home, grassroots authenticity. That does exist here, you can find it. There's a really great music community here that's very, very authentic and grassroots, but I guess I just didn't realize just how much of a manufactured business the music world is here. There's a lot of rhinestone and the big music machine here, and that can be a little overwhelming at times. But just like anywhere else I guess, there's a whole other world existing, co-existing right along side that, of people playing real gigs, in cafes and sharing music, and songwriter's nights and
You know when I moved here there wasn't much of a queer music scene. And I really one of the reasons I wanted to move here was that I felt that the gay community in Nashville was on the verge of a change. I could feel like there's a street here called Church Street here in Nashville, where there's a lot of gay clubs opening, there's large gay bookstore, there was a café that opened for a little while. And it just felt like we were really starting to get a little bit of a center, and I wanted to be here to try to bring music to it. And I tried to start the Outmusic Open Mic here, didn't go over too well. I really had a hard time finding musicians because unfortunately a lot more musicians here are in the closet than I'd like to admit. But I gave it a shot and it might have had a lot to do with the venue too. I'm still looking for another place to start it up again.
But I started to do Bearapalooza's here. I started doing some different gay events around town, did Pride, and, it's kind of getting to be a long story, but now, today, a few years later, there's a little bit more of a music scene, there's live music going on at some of the gay clubs. Our bear club is having a variety night every month with live music at it. So I've seen a slow progression, I've seen a slow rise in different types of entertainment for the gay community and different types of artistic expression. You know, I guess I was kind of spoiled in New York, but there's a lot of great musicians here, a lot of great people who want to do great work, and who want to get together and share something, and I'm just kind of discovering more of that every day.
The title track from your new album is "Break the Silence." Can you tell me about that song?
It's interesting, cause I wrote "Break the Silence," started writing it a long time ago, in like '89, and I was in a heterosexual relationship at the time, still kind of closeted to myself, and I wrote these lyrics that, you know, I didn't realize were so specific about wanting to come out. And then years later, when I was putting together Bearapalooza and I said, "let me go through some of my old songs, to see if anything's worth dusting off and kind of putting into my repertoire." And I pulled out "Break the Silence" and it was like this flashbulb went off. This was me, years ago, yearning to be completely self-realized, and to be completely free and to live with honestly and integrity. So I changed a few of the lyrics to make that more specific. You know, it became my anthem and it became my coming out song and I thought that it was the perfect title for the album.
Freddy Freeman - Break the Silence (2007)
Again, that was "Break the Silence." In your song "Free Man" you I love the pride that you include in the lyrics "I'm a Free Man, a big man, a fat man and a hairy man." How did that song evolve?
"Free Man" I wrote because I was thinking about my dad, of all things, and I haven't spoken to my dad in like 15 years, really, a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm gay and I started thinking about, you know, my last name is Freeman. What connection do I have to my dad or his side of the family, I mean, I have no connection to that side of the family. And I started thinking, what does his name mean to me, like, what does it mean to be a Freeman? And I started thinking of it as being less of my dad's name and more of a power word, and so I started thinking what does it mean to be a free man? What it means to be a free man is to be able to do your best, make mistakes, love yourself, love the people around you, love your identity, love your body and just embrace who you are as yourself. And one of the big things I say in the song a lot is I make mistakes, I stumble, I have bad habits, and that will never change. Well some things will change, we change until we die. But some things may never be perfectly the way I want them to be about myself, but I love myself despite that. I embrace who I am, and that's what "Free Man" is about.
Freddy Freeman - Free Man (2007)
I'm down to the last song, at least of the radio version of the show, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Greg Hudson, Paul Golio, Martin Swinger and Freddy Freeman for the interviews. And as I had expected, the interviews were so good that I could not fit all of them into the radio version this show, and especially I could not fit in all of the music, so my internet listeners can hear a very extended version with a lot more comments and additional music. That of course can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.
As I researched and worked on this show over the last few weeks I developed a list of about 50 artists and over 80 songs I wanted to pick from, and I pretty much knew right away that I wanted to start the show with Martin Swinger's "Teddy Bear Picnic," but I wasn't sure how I would end it. Well, my thinking sort of evolved to very logically provide my answer. I'll end this feature on Bear Music the same way Freddy Freeman ends every Bearapalooza show, so of course I had to ask him about his song "Fat Bottom Bears"
"Fat Bottom Bears." Well, again I felt that for Bearapalooza I wanted to do something that really kind of captured that essence of loving big men and celebrating big men and putting that big man up there as that pin-up on the pedestal instead of the usual thin, hairless young guy, and I don't know, I just started thinking about Queen. I started thinking about "Fat Bottom Girls" and you know, I could change the lyrics around a little bit. It would be really fun. And it's become at Bearapalooza's kind of the ending of the night, when everybody gets on stage, and they all join me in singing this song. And it's always a lot of fun.
Here's Freddy Freeman with all the performers from Bearaplooza 2003 at CBGB's Lounge in NYC.
Freddy Freeman - Fat Bottom Bears (2003, live)
Welcome to Part 3 of my "Bear Music" special.
Straight Up Queer - Woof (2005)
This is JD Doyle and as I said at the end of Part 2, while researching this show I found lots of artists I wanted to feature, and their music will cover many genres. These are bear-identified artists and while not all of the songs will deal lyrically with the bear community I do have some that will, like song you just heard. You may have figured out that it's called "Woof" and it's from last year and by a Houston-area duo who call themselves Straight Up Queer. Just love that name. Straight Up Queer is comprised of Mark and Chris, and they also have a podcast called Homopod, found, logically at Homopod.com, so you may want to check them out there to hear lots of bear-related music and talk. So far the distribution of the music of Straight Up Queer has been mainly limited to downloads from their site, but to show you that their music is not all made up of techno beats, also from 2006 here's a little of their song "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down"
Straight Up Queer - Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (2006)
Again, that was Straight Up Queer. I'm very taken with this next song. It's by Tommy Johns, and he lives in Washington State, and you got to love a guy who calls his label Big Furry Bear Music. He's appeared at several Bearapalooza events and has songs on a couple of the Bear Tracks CDs. His first CD, called "This Is Supposed to Be Fun" was released in 2003 and two years later he followed it with "Heading Into Tomorrow." From that album is the almost anthemnic song "Hate Is Not a Family Value."
Johns - Hate Is Not a Family Value (2005)
Also by Tommy Johns you heard "You and Me," also from his album "Heading Into Tomorrow."
Next up is another favorite at Bearapalooza events, Max Christopher, and his debut album from last year is called "Fresh Chrome" with the irresistible track called "Stupid Happy Song"
Christopher - Stupid Happy Song (2006)
After Max Christopher you heard .well, I suppose it was inevitable for someone to take the 1982 hit by the Waitresses and do a gay version. And just the bear to do it was Harley Phoenix, going by the name Hirsute Pursuit. You can find that song and some more explicit others at his myspace site.
For this next artist, well, I had a problem deciding what to play, not just because the material was good, but because of the variety of styles of music. His name is Kendall, and his 2005 CD "Re-Kindled" is kind of a greatest hits album. You'll find titles like "Hot Drunk Guys," "GI Barbie," "The Booty Song," and this one, called "Ain't Love Queer"
Kendall - Ain't Love Queer (2005)
And Kendall does a lot of parodies and humorous songs, like this one, only available from his website. Here's "Fuzzy Bear"
Kendall - Fuzzy Bear (2004)
Again, that was Kendall. And time for a little history. I found a song from 1994 where the singer describes his boyfriend as a gentle bear, and I honestly don't know if the group's lead singer and writer, Steve Poltz, is gay or not, but there are several lyrically gay songs on the album. The group is called The Rugburns and the song is "My Boyfriend."
Rugburns - My Boyfriend (1994)
I followed The Rugburns with Patrick Kelly, although he goes by the name Pahtcub. His most recent album is "Situation Normal," but the song you heard, "Be There," is unreleased and I thank him for sending it to me especially for this show.
Greg Hudson Interview, Continued
I want to revisit my interview with Greg Hudson from Part 1 of the show, because there were a couple additional questions I asked him, in particular to tell me about the group Reigning Men.
Okay, that's a group, that actually includes me and then my partner and another friend of ours. That CD was actually recorded before any of the "Bear Tracks" came out. I put together a studio at the house with a lot of electronics and synthesizers and samplers, just a whole two walls of stuff, and a 16-track digital recorder and stuff and I always like to get lost in my little music world, whenever I have nothing else to do, so we put together a few songs and thought why not just make it into a CD and see what happens with it. That was actually the prequel to "Bear Tracks 1." Probably without the support of the Reigning Men CD after it got released "Bear Tracks 1" would never have happened because more people sent us emails, saying that was really great, do you have anything else coming out of is there anyone else doing this kind of music, and that's when I thought, I wonder if there are, so I started looking into that yeah, there are a lot of people doing this kind of music, not just this kind of music but that message as well as far as gay music, gay artists doing whatever. And that's pretty much, because of Reigning Men that we released, that one time CD that opened the doors for the "Bear Tracks" series to begin.
Reigning Men - Gaydar (2002)
That was the song "Gaydar" from the album "Family Out-ing" by Reigning Men, from 2002. And I also asked Greg about an act I found on his compilation CD "Bear Tracks 3." Can you tell me about Vanity Bear.
Yeah, it's a duo, they are from Spain. It's a duo, two guys and I believe that they are both partners. They are really serious and into what they do. They have actually recorded a couple videos of their songs. They are self-identified as bears of course, because their name as well, Vanity Bear. They have a lot of fun with their music. Most of their songs are in Spanish. There are a few English versions of some of their songs, which is like the one song "Bear Fatal Is My Name" is on "Bear Tracks 3."
Vanity Bear - Bear Fatal Is My Name (2005)
From Spain, that was Vanity Bear and their song "Bear Fatal Is My Name."
Changing styles again, I want to share with you a couple songs by Michael West. His music is more country flavored, and he's living in Nashville. He passed along to me a song which I quite like that's going to be on his new album, but he wanted me to mention that the song is still in demo form. Well, it sounds pretty good to me. It's called "What If" and it will be followed by another track by him called "Mr. Misunderstood."
West - What If (2007)
Michael West and "Mr. Misunderstood." And keeping in the country vein is a parody of the Shania Twain song "That Don't Impress Me Much." It's not for regular radio, so it's perfect for this internet-only segment. I found it on the site YouTube and the video is very funny, and the modified lyrics will probably encourage you to track it down. It's out of the UK and is by the Manchester Manbears, with a lead singer going by the name Werewolf. In fact, they have several videos for your twisted viewing pleasure. The Manchester Manbears and "That Don't Impress Me Much"
Manchester Manbears - That Don't Impress Me Much (2006)
One of the performers at Bearapalooza Nashville in 2005 was Ron Morris, and, okay, I confess, I love his debut album and consider it one of the best of that year. I'm going to close out this segment of my Bear Music special with two tracks from his album "Speak True," and they happen to be the opening and closing tracks, called "Have To Do" and "More." Here's Ron Morris.
Morris - Have To Do (2005)
Welcome back to my Bear Music special, and I hope I don't have to keep saying, that's b-e-a-r. This is part 4 and, are you ready for bear hip hop? I've got some from an artist who goes by the name of Bigg Nugg.
Bigg Nugg - BPA (Bear Pride Anthem '07) (2007)
Okay, that's all I can play for you of this one. It's not released yet and Bigg Nugg made me promise not to play it all. But that's fine, I've got another by him I can switch over to. It's called "Sweat."
Bigg Nugg - Sweat (2006)
That was a couple of bear hip hop songs by Bigg Nugg. He's an Ohio bear, and of course that's not his real name. Will Jose Ramirez Jr please stand up. And he's having a busy Spring. He's getting ready to release his debut album, called "La Revolucion." The album should be interesting because it includes guest appearances by, among others, Deadlee, Delacruz and Tori Fixx, and those artists will be joining him on a gay hip hop tour called Homo Revolution 2007, which, I'm pleased to say, is coming to Houston in April.
Now, what do you follow hip hop with? How about an artist I introduced to you in Part 1 of the show, LeRoy Lamb. From his 2006 album "Dancing on the Shores of Reason" comes the intriguing song "Dominate Me."
LeRoy Lamb - Dominate Me (2006)
Again, that was Canadian artist LeRoy Lamb. Okay, by now you definitely know what a bear is. But do you know what a cub is? A cub is a semi-hairy man, not hairy enough to be a bear, but not smooth either. Can also be a younger bear in training. That definition comes from the site bearcityweb.com. Any guesses what an otter is? From the same site, an otter is a younger, thinner playful cub. Why am I telling you all this? Well, to get you ready to hear a song by Don Harvey called "Otter."
Harvey - Otter (2004)
The second song was called "Queer Cowboy Lament," and was also by Don Harvey, from his 2004 album "Just Having Some Good Clean Fun."
And here's another new artist. He's working on his first album, but he sent me his two-song demo, and I'm going to play both songs for you. Here's Houston-area artist Mike Ator and the songs "Have You Met Lonely" and "Angel Beside Me."
Ator - Have You Met Lonely (2006)
Very nice. Mike Ator, from Houston.
Freddy Freeman Interview, Continued
And I've got another country song for you. Early in this show I interviewed Freddy Freeman and I like a lot of his music, so there were several songs I asked him about that I didn't have time to play then, and I got him to talk about some other things as well. So, let's consider this a continuation of that interview, starting with my asking him about the song "I'm Here, I'm Queer, and I'm Country"
Actually I was on the New York City subway before I moved to Nashville and I was thinking about, you know, cute things that I could do for Bearapalooza and I thought, you know, the gay community needs like its own "Redneck Woman," basically. And I started thinking about how I could in a novelty kind of way talk about being gay and liking country music.
Freddy Freeman - I'm Here I'm Queer I'm Country (2004)
That was live from Bearapalooza III in New York City, in 2004. I love the song you wrote about the organization Outmusic.
"Outmusic." I wanted to write something for last year's Outmusic Awards that was directly a tribute to the organization because I credit the organization with who I am today. If it wasn't for the support that I got from the Outmusic community in New York, in giving me the confidence I needed to pursue my dreams I wouldn't probably have made this record, and I wouldn't be doing Bearapalooza. So I wanted to tribute the people who are out there, doing their art, and being out about it and being who they are, and the people who run Outmusic and create this really wonderful haven for people to share ideas and to share their struggles and to showcase the talent that is in this diverse community.
So I wanted to tell a story of a young gay guy who was like doing his music and being told to change and saying no and standing up to that. And then taking another verse and talking about a young queer girl who does the same thing, and to give these stories of these musicians who stand up and defy conformity and who say "I am who I am, and this is me and this is who I love, and I'm not going to apologize for it."
Freddy Freeman - Outmusic (2006)
Tell me about the song "Village Crawl"
Okay, back in '95, before I knew anything about the Bear Community, I was new to New York City, and when you're new to New York City and you come from a small town and you're just coming out and you're naïve, every night is filled with this excitement and you don't have that jaded New Yorker thing yet, that you get after you live there for a few years. And we would go out to The Village, me and my friend Shawn and my friend Joe, and we would go out to The Village and I just wanted to tell a story, I mean, I wanted to tell a story of what it was like for us to go out to the bars, to the gay bars being young and I mention different bars on Christopher Street, and I even have a quote in there from my friend Joe, which is, honest to God, exactly what he said.
I know the quote.
Freddy Freeman - Village Crawl (2006)
I've been a fan of Yolanda for quite some time, but I was a bit surprised to read of her performing at Bearapalooza.
Yeah, Yolanda's an interesting entity, because you know I've known Roger, Yolanda, for since '02 as well. We became very good friends and I was kind of there to hear about this transformational journey that he's been on, going from being a radical fairy to being an out and out drag queen to when he first started to do Bearapalooza it was as a drag host, hostess, for the first one, and then as we started to get close he started to express to me that he was on this part of his journey that he was kind of exploring his masculine side a little bit more, and looking into like his performances being more about saying "what defines a man?" rather than putting on drag per se. He wanted to start doing performances that kind of screwed with people's notions of what a man's supposed to be. And he started wearing costumes that were more a beard with the make-up and hairy chest with a harness and a skirt, and went back to a little bit more of that fairy sensibility of gender confusion.
And the reason I included it I thought it was very important for me to include it in Bearapalooza because the bear community itself I thought is trying to shake up the notions of what a gay man is supposed to be. And I felt that Yolanda was a great representation of this idea that you can be masculine and you can kind of like play with what that's supposed to be. For me it's all about exploding the box, and I felt like whenever I saw Yolanda perform at a Bearapalooza I didn't look at that person and say that's a drag queen. I looked at that person as a hot bear who happened to like to wear make-up and heels and to kind of like, like I said mess with our ideas of what a man's supposed to do and be.
Yolanda - I Wanna Know (2004, live)
That was Yolanda, live from Bearapalooza, in 2004. Freddy Freeman has been a big help to me with this show. For example, in addition to providing me with live Bearapalooza performances he's also gotten to me demos from new artists, like these next two acts, both from Nashville. First is Charlie K Brown and his song "For My Best Friend."
K Brown - For My Best Friend (2006)
That second act is a Contemporary Christian group, fronted by an out gay bear. They call themselves Godplead and the song was called "If."
Time for a little diversion. There's a singing group in Seattle called the BEARatones, B-e-a-r-atones. And, they are starting to work on their first album, so while they have no full-length songs in the can, they have recorded a snippet of a song that's appeared in a gay movie that will be making the film festival circuit this year. From "Creatures From the Pink Lagoon," here's "Exit 5 Rest Stop"
BEARatones - Exit 5 Rest Stop (2006)
That was the BEARatones. Looking forward to more from them. And I'm closing this segment with Bearapalooza performer Jeffrey Altergott. I've got two songs for you. First, from his 1997 album "Little Blue Record Player" will be "My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More" and I'll follow that with the song "Damn Love." That's from his 2004 release called "Runt." Jeffrey Altergott.
Altergott - My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More (1997)
Mark Weigle - Buddy Got Gut (2005)
Yes, that song is not ready for regular radio, but that's okay. It's a great song to start off Part 5 of my Bear Music Special. The song was "Buddy Got Gut" and it's from Mark Weigle's award winning CD from 2005, "Soulsex."
And as long as we're singing the praises of larger men, I found a punk song from 1996 doing the same thing, with lyrics like "Call me a chubby chaser, I don't care, you think it's strange when I stop and stare, at that big bear of a man, you just wouldn't understand." Here's the Sally Strugglers singing "Big Boy."
Sally Strugglers - Big Boy (1996)
And here's a bit of a new song in the same vein. There's a comedy duo out of New York City named Pink Steel. Their act is to do gay heavy metal music, and in my internet searches I couldn't really figure out if they are gay themselves or the whole thing is an act. But at any rate, they are getting their debut album ready and it will include a song called "More to Love." Here's the 44 seconds of it available from their site.
Pink Steel - More to Love (2007)
That was 44 seconds of the band Pink Steel. Keeping in the hard rock vein is definitely a legitimate rocker, Elijah Black. From his 2004 album "Naked 'Gainst the Blue Sky" is the song "Bleed for You."
Elijah Black - Bleed for You (2004)
This next artist has been releasing his home studio CDs for about twenty years now, and they total about ten at this point, with another in the works for later this year. How has he remained so underground? Well, probably because most of his work would go really well as leather bar background music, but really not on the radio. And the FCC would agree. He lives in Houston and goes by the name Kub65, and Kub is spelled with a K. It's easy to find photos of him on the internet, in various poses, if you know what I mean. But of course I'm here to tell you about his music. I've picked two of his songs for you. The first is called "Black Bear" and is from a 1995 release called "Tops, Bottoms and Sidepockets." It will be followed by one called "Apricot Hanky." That's from a 2001 CD called "Hanky Panky" where he has various songs dedicated to the hanky colors of the gay male culture. He tells me that song is his ode to chubby bears. Here's Kub65.
- Blackbear (1995)
Again, the music of Kub65. And I've got another cub for you, a brand new artist from Montreal who goes by Cubsound. I got this song from his myspace page. It's called "I Saw Him Once."
- I Saw Him Once (2006)
Following Cubsound was an artist out of Kansas City. His name is Kerry Land, and while he may not look like the stereotypical bear, he's got some credentials. He's been a Bearapalooza performer and his CD label has a big bear flag across it. Works for me. The song was called "Santa Fe" and came from a 6-song CD he released in 2002.
Got time for a country song you won't hear on regular radio. I got one. The singer calls himself Cowboy Dick, and the song is "Cowboy Butts."
Cowboy Dick - Cowboy Butts (1999)
Okay, here's a secret, Cowboy Dick is really Ken Renales, who also has a couple of CDs under the name Uncle Buzzy, and also is the owner of the Nashville music label Cubby Hole Records.
Shannon Grady is another popular Bearapalooza artist. He's out of Minneapolis and his debut CD, called "Ten Years," came out in 2006. From it are the songs "Paul & Gene" and "Falling"
Grady - Paul & Gene (2006)
Time for something sweet, and I love the song I'm going to play by Ernest David Lijoi. He released three albums between 1997 and 2000 and all are excellent, and while I've not seen him in person, from his album covers he is one sexy bear. From his latest CD, "Better Days," is the song "The Sweet Side of Goodbye."
Ernest David Lijoi - The Sweet Side of Goodbye (2000)
Ernie Lijoi is also known for one of his earlier songs, that gets sung in cabaret settings a bit. It's called "Chandler Street," and I really like that one. He introduced it on his 1997 CD "Parody Romantic," and a while back I got this quote by him about it.
Ernest David Lijoi on "Chandler Street" (2002): "Chandler Street." Yeah, it was one of the first songs I ever wrote and it's probably my most well-known and I've heard so many cabaret artists sing it now, but that song, that song I wanted to write a song about the redefinition of family in the gay community and how the people that are close to you and are your friends you adopt as family, because so many of us lose family. And I didn't even know I wrote a good song when I wrote that song. It was very simple. I'm going to re-record that because that album that that's on is going out of print, and actually I have another version of that on piano that I think works a lot better. Maybe I'll let you hear it.
And, actually, he did let me hear it. I'm pleased that he sent me an unreleased piano version of "Chandler Street"
Ernest David Lijoi - Chandler Street (2002)
"Chandler Street" by Ernest David Lijoi. And up next is a demo from 2005 by an artist named xxxxxxxx. According to his myspace page he's an artist/graphic designer, cartoonist, and an amateur singer/songwriter. I think his song "xxxxxxxx" has a certain charm.
xxxxxxxx - xxxxxxxx (2005)
Note: I was contacted in May 2013 by the artist who sang the last song, and he asked me to remove his name and pic from my site, which I have done. I do understand that people have changes in their lives (for example, obtaining a sensitive job, etc). I do not know his reason but am honoring the request. This way search engines will not find him on at least this gay site. As search engines can not find songs within a hour-long music file, I am leaving this segment intact when listening.
I featured MusicBear in Part 1 of the show and want to revisit his music, with the song "Homophobia," which he released in 2000. The song, incidentally was written by a straight artist, Geof Morgan, in 1980.
- Homophobia (2000)
I followed MusicBear with Bearapalooza veteran Kenny Lockwood, and I just love the title track of his 2001 album "Tin Angel." He's told me he has a new album coming out this Spring.
The last act for this segment is Nekked. Okay, I couldn't resist that. The spell their name N-e-k-k-e-d and the duo's names are JC Faust and Michael Flyte. Their new CD is called "A Barrier of Skin," and the song is "How Come You Don't Love Me."
Nekked - How Come You Don't Love Me (2006)
Stay tuned to Bear Music, Part 6, on Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and you're listening to the last part, finally, of this month's special edition, and frankly I'm very pleased you made it this far. Good job. Not every listener wants to hear about six hours of music by and for the Bear Community. That makes you special.
London Gay Men's Chorus - Teddy Bear's Picnic (2001)
Yes, still another version of "Teddy Bear's Picnic," this time by the London Gay Men's Chorus. It's from their 2001 album "From the Ritz to the Anchor & Crown." But enough of that, let's get back to real bear music.
Alan Reade is a writer and performance artist. He's taken his show "Bear-a-Go-Go" around the country, and while unfortunately that's not been released on CD or video, he did release a CD in 2002 called "4 Seasons in a Day." From it is the track "Never Look Back."
Alan Reade - Never Look Back (2002)
And it's no accident I'm following Alan Reade with a group called the Bobbleheads. That act has behind it the creative genius of John Ashfield. Ashfield played guitar on the Alan Reade track, and I have several CDs by him, two under his name, and one by a group he formed called the Bobbleheads. That group released in 2004 a CD called "Automatic Fun," and I think the most irresistible song from it is one called "Crush."
The Bobbleheads - Crush (2004)
That was "Crush" by the Bobbleheads. And I've got a couple more John Ashfield songs for you, and they are brand new. John emailed them to me just in time to include them in this show. And his new album has I think quite an interesting concept. It was inspired by a Johnny Mathis album from 1968 called "Love Is Blue," containing Johnny's versions of the hits of the 60's, like "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Walk On By," "The Look of Love" and others. John decided it would be fun to compose all new songs, using those iconic titles, and put them in an album, keeping the original title "Love Is Blue" and the songs in the original order. And he closed the album with a new song, as a tribute to Johnny, to tie it all together. It's just called "Johnny Mathis." So, here are the songs "Moon River" and "Johnny Mathis."
Ashfield - Moon River (2007)
Again, that was John Ashfield, from his new album "Love Is Blue"
This next artist is perhaps more in the pure folk vein than any on this show. He's Matthew Temple and his debut CD from 2006 is called "Journey." The two songs you'll hear are "Written on the Rails" and "Eyes of a Poet."
Temple - Written on the Rails (2006)
Again, that was Matthew Temple from his CD "Journey."
Okay, this next little piece is not gay-related, but as it certainly is bear related I thought it might amuse. It's from 1950.
Smokey the Bear, with Clint Walker (1950)
Those of you of a certain age will remember how, even without facial hair, Clint Walker on the TV show "Laramie" was quite the hunk.
From the CD "Bear Tracks 4" comes the next track and it's a rather engaging instrumental. It's by Jack Schell and is called "Bear Man Hoedown." And it also appears on Jack's CD "Snottsdale Serenade," from last year.
Jack Schell - Bear Man Hoedown (2006)
Also from "Bear Tracks 4" is Jeff Mansk, but he goes by the name Flipping the Pig. His song "Saw It in a Movie" also appears on his 2005 CD "Pout."
the Pig - Saw It In a Movie (2005)
After Flipping the Pig I couldn't resist bringing you another track by Max Christopher. Again, from his "Fresh Chrome" CD was the song "The One."
Here's another artist I found on myspace, and I know he considers himself a bear, both by looking at his photo, and because his screen name is Welshcub. The Welsh part is because he comes from Wales. Shane Owens is his name and the song I'm playing is called "Beat Control." It comes from his 2006 release "Sounds From a Room," and oh yeah, he's got some good music connections, his partner is gay radio icon Larry Flick.
Shane Owen - Beat Control (2006)
Shane Owen and "Beat Control"
Dave Montana has been creating music under several names, and has a rich creative history. In the early 90s he was in the popular band No U Turn, and after a variety of projects he released his debut solo album in 2004, called "Such Things as Love and Pain." Lately however, he decided that there were just too many Dave Montana's in the entertainment world so new projects will be released under the name Storybox. But until then, here are two tracks from the album "Such Things as Love and Pain"
Montana - Collecting Dust (2004)
From Dave Montana, the songs "Collecting Dust" and "I Don't Believe in Love"
Okay, I'm down to the last artist of what's become roughly a 6-hour special on Bear Music. You know, I've cover about 50 different artists and I hope I've been able to demonstrate that the music of the Bear Community is certainly varied, and to let you know who some of the artists are. Of course I know there are no doubt many artists who identify with the Bear Community that escaped my research. But this should be a good start. For more I recommend you visit Woobie Bear Music and Bearradio.net. Thanks for staying with me.
I'm taking this show home with an artist from Alberta, Canada. And he's a very busy guy. Besides being a singer and songwriter, he also writes for and acts in musicals, and does sound design. But I know him for his music. He's Andy Northrup and in 2001 he released an excellent album called "Slow Burn Avenue," and I've got some comments from him about a couple of the songs, starting with the song "Conspiracy"
"Conspiracy's" a funny song in that it's really tongue-in-cheek. Essentially what I'm saying is that, you know, individuals talk about the illuminati and how there's this group of individuals who are governing what's going to take place in the world and our destiny is ruled by these individuals and they're always looking over their shoulders for the illuminati and by the same token, I'm not going to negate the fact that maybe there is a conspiracy out there which governs us all, but the fact remains that it does not absolve you from the responsibility of standing up and using your voice to do something significant in society, which is to make the effort to vote for someone who you think can make a difference, or get out there and make a difference yourselves. So, it's really commentary on that.
Andy Northrup - Conspiracy (2001)
From that same album, I love the song "The Moment That You Know"
Well, "The Moment That You Know" is just another observational tune about being in a relationship and recognizing that's it's over, whether or not the other party has recognized it too. And it's about the fact that your resolve to continue on with this relationship has now dissipated, and that's the moment that you know that that resolve is gone, and the relationship is over, and it's a matter of extricating yourself from the situation.
Andy Northrup - The Moment You Know (2001)
Andy, can you tell about what influences you in your music?
I always expected music to like, so many individuals that listen to music listen to the music or listen to the beat, and I always was an individual that expected the lyrics to be just as important as the music, and I resented music that I really, really loved and found the lyrics to be lacking. That's why I glombed onto singer/songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen and people of that nature, you know, Janis Ian, those kinds of people, because very much their music was stellar. If you look at somebody like Neil Young who is an incredible, incredible musician but his lyrics are so incisive and so deep and so introspective and so poignant and so reflective of the times that they lived in that those are the individuals who are the modern troubadours, the modern minstrals who reflect on the news, who reflect on political life, who reflect who move us forward. When they say they're folk musicians it's because they were able to exemplify what they thought the political mood of the populace was at the time, and those individuals were the people that meant the most to me, and I aspire to that, I reach for that, and I don't always achieve it but that's what I'm aiming for.
I'm going to close this last segment with my favorite track from Andy's second album, "Cardboard Logic," from 2004. The song is "It Ain't Easy." And again, this is JD Doyle and thanks for listening.
Andy Northrup QMH ID
Andy Northrup - It Ain't Easy (2004)