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1919 is the title of the second installment of John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy, named for the year in which the spoils of war — such as, oh, say, Iraq and Palestine — were carved up and cobbled together in the nation-building visions dreamed up by the European/American powers-that-were after World War I, a process echoed and answered in the montage form of Dos Passos’s own quadro-cameral novel.

And with two decimal places, $19.19 is also the amount of the check that came in mail for me from CD Baby — my first one — for CD and digital sales of The Viper and His Famous Orchestra’s Everything for Everyone.

Don’t tell me not to spend it all in one place. I already have: in mailing out copies of the recording and sending certified mail to the publishers of songs we covered on The Viper and His Famous Orchestra’s live EP from 2000, A Song for All Seasons, the next CD I’m trying to make available through CD Baby. Since this one was all covers, it’s a bit more work in that regard — mitigated somewhat by the fact that two of the five songs are pre-1923 compositions (and thus public domain), complicated somewhat by the fact that one of the songs (Fats Waller’s “The Rumpsteak Serenade”) interpolates enough of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train” that I’m considering that a whole ‘nuther cover from another mother.

Look for it in about 30 days.

Mr. Dobalena, Mr. Bob Dobalena

Nothing much to say about this: just an exercise in getting started figuring out how to use the Audacity sound editing open source software I downloaded yesterday off It’s the Monkees meets the Music Man meets “Revolution #9” meets Licensed to Ill. Which, all told, just may be the Viper’s Rosetta Stone.

download here

The sound was recorded straight through the built-in mic on my Dell Inspiron 8600, and it sounds a little funny because I tried using Audacity’s noise reduction feature to get rid of the various fan & hard drive sounds that were tagging along for the ride. Since I was practicing the program’s features, I only said each line twice, thus forcing me to figure out how to cut and paste to stretch each out to four times.

Do you like a ukulele lady?

For the June 7, Saturday night concert portion of the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Ukulele Invitational in Annapolis, Maryland, the Paint Branch Ramblers were invited to play un-mic’ed intro, intermission, and outtro sets while the audience filtered in and out (serving the function that “dumb show” acts used to serve in vaudeville — plate-spinners, acrobats, dancing bears, etc.). And, though we didn’t end up having much opportunity to use our much rehearsed “cues” for this, we were also set to play the bands on and off the stage and fill in the cracks between acts and to set up the MC work of that ukulele lady, Victoria Vox.

For set lists, see the Paint Branch Ramblers site for June 6 and June 7.

Link to this at

I had the honor of being asked to sit in on jug with Victoria Vox for her own performance of “Ukulele Lady,” which she called in the key of G#. My jug solo over the middle 8 section was fine, but I also made an ill-advised attempt at a vocal harmony on the main line.

I was trying to do the thing that Frank Crumit did in the last pass on the chorus in his 1925 recording of the Gus Kahn and Richard Whiting tune. (Something like what Scooter tries to do in the video above — and dig the Maccaferri-style plastic ukulele played by Hyattsville, MD’s own Kermit the Frog!.) But I think the G# did me in, and I ended up stepping all over the Divine Ms. V’s toes. Guess I should have tried to sing in Ab. I think I’m going to write her a letter of apology today.

I later found out that Victoria Vox was from Wisconsin — in fact, from the Green Bay area right up I-43 from where I hail in Sheboygan (indeed, she appears to be playing a coffee house in Sheboygan in just a couple of weeks). In honor of this fortuitous convergence in Annapolis, I thought we could all listen to The Viper and His Famous Orchestra’s Hawaiian song about East Central Wisconsin, “Winnebago Bay.”

download here

The check is in the mail

Today, I got news from CD Baby (the online site for self-distribution of CDs) that sales of The Viper and His Famous Orchestra’s Everything for Everyone have finally topped the $10 mark, thanks to a single purchaser in Urbana, Illinois, who took advantage of the quantity discount and bought two — count ’em — two copies of the CD. This is important, since it’s only after you’ve made at least $10 that CD Baby will actually cut you the check, which they’ll be sending out tomorrow (see my earlier entry: “We’re in the phone book! We’re in the phone book!“)

Woo hoo! Paid gig! And what makes it even cooler is that I’ll now also be getting paid for what apparently are the 10 single-song digital purchases that have made around the world through Apple iTunes, along with iTunes-Europe, iTunes-UK, and even iTunes-NewZealand.

This turns out to be interesting, because it lets me know the songs for which people are willing to shell out their hard-earned kale. “Ukulele Rhythm” is the clear front-runner so far, accounting for a full 40% of all sales (i.e., 4 of the 10!) and showing up on each of global versions of iTunes that I listed above. This means that someone in New Zealand, right now, could be singing “Greb your hemmeh.” After that, it’s “I Left My Liver in Libertyville” with 2 sales, and one each for “Das Kapital” (from iTunes-Europe, of course), “Hey! Rounders,” “Pretty Is as Pretty Does,” and “Rhapsody in Blue.”

I’d be surprised at the relative success of “Ukulele Rhythm,” except for the fact that the title provides a sort of built-in branding for ukulele fetishists of the sort I encountered most recently at the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Ukulele Invitation in Annapolis, Maryland — on which I’ll put a note or two on here tomorrow.

Most of that $19.19, of course, will be plugged right back into getting more stuff out to CD Baby, including taking care of the compulsory licensing notifications and fees I’ll need to take care of to get the earlier, all-cover Viper and His Famous Orchstra EP, A Song for All Seasons, out for distribution. And of course 27.3 cents a piece will be going out to Angie Heaton and the Gershwin estate, for the sales of “Pretty Is as Pretty Does” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” respectively. And if the rest of the orchestra comes sniffing around: hey, I might have to cut them in too.

Paint Branch Ramblers are now online

The Paint Branch Ramblers (my current old time, bluegrass, and jug band) now have a blog to call their own over at News, show listings, and free downloads can all be found there — so get thee there. Our next show is this Friday, June 6, opening the “cabaret” portion of the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Ukulele Invitational (M.A.U.I.), and playing as the warm-up and pit band for the evening’s performance of Saturday, June 7. See here for details.

In the meantime, please enjoy this scratch track we’ve been using to practice some of the entr’acte music we’ll be playing as the pit band. In this case, what you’re hearing is Cue #2 for the “Paint Branch Ramble.” Pick up a comb and wax paper and play along.