Do you have a favourite song or memory of Rusty? Were you an adult attendee at one of her shows, or like so many others did you sneak a listen to your parents’ party records?
From Songs for Sinners to Sexplosion – there’s plenty to choose from to reminisce about. Sinsational, In Orbit, Rides Again, Lays It On The Line, Bottoms Up, Bounces Back… the list is extensive.
In this career retrospective, see why Rusty was considered by some a mother of the sexual revolution. Relive the old days of nightclub acts and the heyday of racy comedy. See what the lady behind the laughs has to say about it all.
The New York Times points out that what now seems “retro and regressive” was cutting edge for the time:
“I told the women to march with their boobs held high,” she told The Las Vegas Sun in 1978, “knockers up, so to speak, and a new phrase was born.” The bit became so popular that Jerry Blaine, the owner of Jubilee, decided to flaunt it by naming her second album after the phrase. “And they said: ‘You wouldn’t dare. How are you going to sell it? Where are you going to put it? No one is going to take it,’” Ms. Warren told Kliph Nesteroff, a scholar of comedy, in a 2010 interview. “Jerry says, ‘Watch me.’”
So Friday September 10th at noon PST – get those Knockers Up!
Born in New York City and raised in Boston, Rusty Warren began studying classical music when she was six years old and in time studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. Finding that the academic arena was not one she was suited to, she began playing piano around Boston in small clubs and hotels, and there got her initial taste of – and for – the stage. Her natural talent for engaging her audience became apparent, and she developed a keen ambition to pursue her career in show business.
As her flair for creative comedy and quick repartee grew, she began adding more jokes and humorous lines to her repertoire. More and more original material followed, until she had built up a unique routine based on personal observations of people and serious study of human nature.
As we covered in a post not long ago, Rusty Warren passed away earlier this year. Amongst other outlets, The Advocate noted her life in an article, writing that “She became famous in the 1960s with her nightclub appearances and comedy albums, performing routines and songs usually described as “bawdy.” She dealt frankly with sex and encouraged women to enjoy it openly. Her song titles include “The Knockers Up March” from her second album, Knockers Up, and “Bounce Your Boobies.” She became known as “the mother of the sexual revolution.”
1955 saw Rusty’s big break, when she was brought out to perform engagements on the West Coast, and she was big enough by 1958 to record her debut album “Songs for Sinners.” Rusty really came into her own after that, recording “Knockers Up” in 1961, a record that eventually went gold, selling over two million records. In 1963 Rusty was awarded the industry title “Best Selling Comedy Recording Artist of the Year.”
Rusty continued to cover new ground as the foremost comedienne in the business, breaking attendance records in Las Vegas and drawing huge crowds all over the West Coast. Club owners fought to book her. What kind of philosophy could speak to so many people?
“We all enjoy sex, but let’s laugh about it,” said Rusty. “Let’s have a little fun with our problems. I do not indulge in dirty talk just for the sake of shock.”
Musician, singer, comedienne, anthropologist, psychologist, businesswoman – she has many feathers to her bow, but most of all Rusty Warren is an entertainer. She has an enviable insight into the frailties of men and women and a rare ability to talk about them and make everyone laugh. Rusty has a true gift, and shares her story in this documentary.
Rusty Warren: The Lady Behind the Laughs has its digital premiere on Friday September 10th on Vimeo. At noon Pacific Standard Time, it will be available to rent and buy here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/rustywarren
“Always have the courage to say what you want. Few women do.”
The late Sophie Tucker thus advised Rusty Warren many years ago. Although Rusty avoided expletives and “four letter words” in her cabaret and comedy, her for-the-time daring innuendo nonetheless pushed the envelope far enough for her to be considered too vulgar for regular broadcast. Rusty had courage in saying out loud what had for so long been taboo, and she also had smarts to choose comedy and cabaret as her medium. Critiques of her forwardness and outrageousness may have kept her from the kind of mainstream fame achieved by some of her peers, but her reputation drove a career of astonishing sales and some of the highest pay of any nightclub comedians of her time.
GNP is working to bring our 2008 documentary to Vimeo for streaming rental and purchase. Look for it in September.
Having lost Rusty earlier this year, many people and outlets have a lot to say about her life and career in cabaret and comedy. The sad news seems to have broken on The Laugh Button with people remembering her as fans and friends.
The Washington Post also wrote at length about her life and times. Matt Shudel writes about how “she was considered daringly original for her frank and racy jokes about breasts — for which she used a variety of terms — the fragile male ego and the hidden desires (and fears) of women.”
The Laugh Button summarizes well: “In a time when comedy was considered to be a “boys club”, Warren was one of the few female comedians of that era that embraced it head on. And while she never reached the acclaim that others at the time got, she managed to still break down barriers nonetheless. And given the frank and bawdy routines that she would perform onstage back when it was still considered taboo to not be “ladylike,” she was once heralded as the “mother of the sexual revolution.””
• GNP Crescendo proudly presents a brand new, never-before-heard recording that is essential listening for any student of the blues. Live In Los Angeles 1954 captures the father of the electric blues, Muddy Waters, at the peak of his powers, in a riveting performance that easily explains an immense reputation that continues to this day.
• Muddy and his band were appearing at one of deejay and impresario Gene Norman’s legendary blues and jazz promotions at the Shrine Auditorium, which drew unprecedented mixed race crowds to hear some of the best talent the black music world had to offer. On this particular occasion, Muddy’s ensemble featured such luminaries as pianist Otis Spann and harmonica legend Little George.
• Their twenty minute set includes the blues classics made famous by Muddy, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You,’ along with exciting romps through ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and ‘I’m Ready,’ and there is the bonus of a brief interview with the great man.
• The tape of the performance has lain in the Crescendo vaults for decades, until dusted off for this special issue. The sound quality is sensational for a recording of such vintage, and the package is presented on 10-inch vinyl in a deluxe tip-on sleeve, with art in the mode of the iconic early 1950s Gene Norman Presents releases.
Songs featured in the acclaimed rockumentary The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard – classics, rarities and many previously unissued cuts. The Seeds remain one of the most iconic American rock bands of the 1960s. Once depicted by rote rock histories as the one-hit wonders behind the Top 40 placement ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’, the Seeds’ powerful legacy has only grown in ensuing decades, wielding notable influence on several generations of musicians. The band’s sound continues to pack a singular punch to this very day. Directed by GNP Crescendo’s Neil Norman and written/produced by Ace’s own Alec Palao, Pushin’ Too Hard is an extensive two-hour trip through the career of the exemplary garage rock quartet and its eccentric frontman, Sky Saxon. The fascinating and picaresque rags-to-riches-to-rags story is related via extensive interviews with members of the band and their retinue, vintage footage and rare photos and memorabilia, along with compelling insights from Seeds fans such as Iggy Pop, Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, and the Bangles.
So much for the publicity spiel. It’s been a full dozen years since I first knocked on the front door of Neil Norman’s gothic mansion – well, actually a standard, if nicely-appointed tract home – secreted in the Hollywood Hills. I was there to politely inquire about reissuing the Seeds’ recordings on behalf of Ace Records. Little would I have guessed that this was the innocuous beginning of an odyssey that would take the two of us all over the United States in search of the truth about a group whose music I had grown up with, a major quasar within that magical 1960s garage and psych firmament that had me transfixed from my early teens on.
Early on in our association, Neil related his desire to direct a film about the group, rhapsodising about his memories of the band. Pretty quickly it was obvious that my reissue plans – basically rehabilitating the band’s entire GNP Crescendo catalogue, in both sound and content – dovetailed precisely with his dream, and so we embarked upon assembling the film, while simultaneously rolling out the remastered, expanded deluxe versions of the Seeds’ five original albums on Big Beat, along with a definitive singles collection.
Highlights have been many – Iggy was a great interview, articulating the importance of Seeds music in expert fashion – but the most satisfying by-product of working on the film has been getting to know and befriending Daryl Hooper, Jan Savage and the other original members of the Seeds, musical heroes all, and in the process making sure the story was as much about their partnership with Sky Saxon as it might be about the more copy-worthy exploits of their enigmatic frontman.
Speaking of whom, not long after we got going, Sky moved on to the great gig in the sky, but I did meet with him in anticipation of a filmed interview, and he was certainly behind the project. Nevertheless, both Sky and the late Rick Andridge, whose ill-health forbade his participation in the documentary, are well represented in both sight and sound. A lot of stones were overturned in the hunt for footage and visuals, and our excellent editor Dan Schaarschmidt grappled with the raw material thrown at him with aplomb.
And now, the soundtrack to the documentary provides another opportunity to marvel at the relentless drive of the band in their heyday. Their classics ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’, ‘Mr Farmer’ and of course the title cut are present and correct, while many of the songs heard in the film, such as the fan favourites ‘The Wind Blows Your Hair’ and ‘Satisfy You’, are presented here in previously unheard alternative takes or versions. And there are further unreleased tracks, such as the ripping live version of ‘Tripmaker’, complete with deejay “Humble Harve” Miller’s intro rap and the sound of 18,000 young lungs screaming for the band at the Hollywood Bowl.
As featured in the film, we also offer some instructive non-Seeds tidbits, including an adenoidal pre-Seeds single by Sky under his real name, Ritchie Marsh, and a completely unreleased vintage live track from blues great Muddy Waters, that too lurked in the Crescendo archives. A decade later, Muddy was in the booth at RCA Hollywood when Sky and the Seeds, in a prescient move, cut a full album of Chicago-style blues with members of his band.
The European premiere of The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard will be held at Le Beat Bespoke in London on 20 April 2019, along with a live performance by the current Seeds line-up featuring original members Daryl Hooper and Don Boomer. See pushintoohard.com for details.
Mark your calendars for Sunday September 16th and head over to The Regent Theatre to grab a ticket for a super hot lineup – catch Love and The Seeds live and a screening of the documentary. Director Neil Norman will be in attendance, and producer Alec Palao has been holding down the bass slot for the band so check him out, too.