Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Manos Soundtrack

Until now, the soundtrack to Manos: The Hands of Fate has been pretty much a mystery.  Other than music composer/ pianist Robert Smith and songwriter Russ Huddleston, we knew nothing of the people who played the music.  The vocalists and musicians were never credited in the film.  Through research for my Manos book and a few serendipitous connections, I was able to find nearly all of them.  A random sighting on a facebook post ultimately started the domino effect.  It's as though everything I need to get this story done is now being handed to me and I can't tell you how exciting that is. 
For those who have actually watched Manos all the way through, you may have noticed the music.  It's so unique and odd at times but if you listen, there is no doubt that there is a lot of talent involved.  How is it that Hal Warren, with little more than a silver tongue could convince this group of accomplished musicians to create an original soundtrack for a film they knew nothing about?  Saving that whole story for later but for now, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Nicki Mathis, the vocalist on "Forgetting You" and Magic Circle".  I've had the supreme honor of speaking with her on the phone and we continue building our friendship online.  Nicki was already an accomplished Jazz singer in El Paso by the time she was recording the Manos soundtrack in 1966, and in fact had helped organize and had performed in First Pass of the North Jazz Festival in El Paso, TX, in 1959, featuring Dave Bruebeck, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello; Chico Hamilton with Eric Dolphy; Lambert, Hendricks and Ross; Chris Conner; and Maynard Ferguson with Anne Marie Moss; the concert master of ceremonies was Leonard Feather.  She has an anthology album out that really highlights her beautiful voice and I would encourage Manos fans to take a listen and buy her CD.  Gotta support the arts!
Nicki Mathis' Afrikan Amerikan Jazz

Nicki is my kind of a woman.  She is elegant with a sharp wit and great sense of humor.  I love when she told me how glad she was to learn that Manos is known as the worst movie ever made because she and her band mates were thinking pretty much the same thing at the 1966 premiere.  She was just too polite to say so until now.  Isn't it nice to be validated?

Hope to chat with some of the others this week so if you've got any questions you want me to ask, now's the time.  Post your questions here or connect with me through my Facebook page. 
Debbies Manos The Hands of Fate.  Be sure to press that little "like" button while visiting.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Master and Debbie

I got to spend a few hours with my dad last week working on a little video project a friend of mine, Rick Zunck, is producing, directing and filming.  This project has been in Rick's head for a couple years and the planets finally aligned to allow it to happen.  Not really, but it did seem that way.  I actually thought it wouldn't happen since no one was getting any younger and dad has had various health issues in recent years.  Now, at 79,  I didn't know if he would be up for it.  He was.  In fact, he had such a great time getting an opportunity to do a little acting and hang out with us.  Even my son's showed up to help and brought my grandson Jayce and his sister Araydia, to see great grandpa.
  I also had the chance to get dad to record his thoughts for an introduction to my Manos behind the scenes book.  He's always said he has no idea how or why Manos has become so popular but he's glad it has.  It makes him happy.  It makes me happy to share with him how many fans he has and how gracious and kind everyone is in regards to The Master and Debbie.  It may be an odd thing to be known for but I can tell you that The Master, Tom Neyman has embraced it although at his age he prefers to live vicariously through my reports and stories, and I thoroughly enjoy the excuse that Manos gives me to visit with him.  You may wonder why I would need an excuse to see my own dad, but I do.  It's the nature of the family.  You'll learn more about that in the book.  I will say that it is not for lack of love.  We love each other very much.

Can't say much yet about what we filmed but I can share a few photos and you'll see that the theme is Manos related.  I even had to wear a Debbie dress that I made myself and my dad is wearing a robe that I made just the way my mom made the original costumes.  Bryan Jenning, who is the eldest son of the original sheriff in Manos, and his wife Wanda were visiting Portland, Oregon from their home in Boise Idaho and took an extra day to make the almost 2 hour drive South to be part of the project.  Great to have the sheriff on board by proxy.
Dad nailed it on his lines and got ovations from the crew which resulted in the sweetest smile.  Any of you who has done film will understand the editing will take some time.  Particularly since Rick will need to do it all in his extra time.  I'll keep you posted on when it will be ready and where.  I'm hoping it will be submitted to some short film festivals.  Would be great to have it presented at some of the venues I hope to attend next year.  For now...Just so happy to have it  "in the can"
Photos courtesy of Lonnie Thurston Photography