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Reviewed by Mike DeLisa
Sometimes serendipity is the sweetest word. In 1934, the same year that Joe Louis turned pro in Chicago (he would fight 10 of his first 12 bouts there), another Mike DeLisa opened a nightclub on Chicago's South Side. Over the next 25 years, some of the top black musicians played or attended my family's club, including Laverne Baker (then known as Little Miss Sharecropper), Albert Ammons, Fletcher Henderson, Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams, Paul Robeson, and others.
Somehow, a love of this kind of music must have entered my genes, since from my earliest days I squirreled away recordings of blues and big band greats. Although the jukebox in my father's Brooklyn lunceonette was devoid of Blues -- there was no room for Big Bill Broonzy among Jimmy Roselli, Lou Monte, and Frank Sinatra -- I somehow managed to snag a decent little collection, though it took a lot of work to find some records.
What took years of searching can now be achieved in minutes by walking through just about any Borders Book Store, thanks in great part to such record labels as Rounder. (To give you an idea of my dementia, give me 45 seconds and I can put my hands on a mint copy of Rounder Sampler AN-01, which I mail-ordered not for the George Thorogood or Sleepy LaBeef, but for the Loudon Wainright cut!).
One small corner of my collection is devoted to boxing-related songs and records. With the issuance of Joe Louis: An American Hero years of searching have been just about completed for me.
It should come as no small surprise that many songs were written and recorded about Louis. What does come as a surprise is the breadth and quality of the recordings. I would guess that even a casual blues fan would be aware that Memphis Minnie recorded a couple of songs about the Brown Bomber, but most wouldn't know that Cab Callaway's rocking "Let's Go Joe," was also about him. The CD contains 17 indispensable recordings about Joe Louis. Besides blues, we are afforded listens to gospel, calypso, and big band-style songs; there's even a mini sermon snuck in. And, best of all, the recordings are wonderfully remastered and sound fantastic.
The songs are presented in order of recording, the earliest dating from August 1935, and are accompanied by consise, informative notes. Even the boxing history is right on the money, except for referring to the Joe Louis vs. John Henry Lewis fight as the first Heavyweight title fight between African-American boxers, overloooking Jack Johnson's 1913 bout with Battling Jim Johnson.
Some of the songs give us as good a view into the fights as a Clem McCarthy broadcast. For example, Little Bill Gaither recorded "Champ Joe Louis" the day after Joe won his rematch over Schmeling:
It was only two minutes four secondsTo give you an idea of the strength of this CD, perhaps the worst song on the album has perhaps the most impressive line-up: "King Joe, part I", is sung by Paul Robeson, the novelist Richard Wright supplied the lyrics, and Count Basie & His Orchestra provide the music. One interesting lyric comments on Joe's inscrutability:
They say Joe don't talk much,For all the talent involved, however, the song is long, tedius, and boring. Thankfully, the compilations producer, Rena Kosersky, doesn't inflict all of King Joe upon us, though it had to be included.
The real surprise for me was the wonderful calypso record by The Lion and Atilla, "Louis-Schmeling Fight" from 1937. This is a terrific, witty recapitulation of the fight.
This is the new cornerstone of my collection of boxing recordings. If you are a boxing fan with even the slightest interest in life after ESPN, track this one down. Its easy, just look for the Borders next to the local Starbucks.
Reviewed by JD Vena
If you've done your homework, you'll know that modern boxing was practically jump-started by the Irish. During the time when the Irish flocked to America's eastern seaboards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Irish were one of the most impoverished races in America. For thousands of the poverty-stricken Irishman, boxing was often chosen as a vehicle for socioeconomic advancement. Whether in saloons or on open fields, the Irish dominated the boxing landscape. If you were to check out the CBZ's immense encyclopedia, you'd notice that most, if not all of the early lineal world champions (as some die-hards and the IBRO gang like to call it) were of Irish ancestry. Names such as the legendary John L. Sullivan, Jack "The Nonpareil" Dempsey, Jack McAuliffe, Billy Murphy and Mushy Callahan, the initial world champions in each of their classes were either from Ireland or of that heritage. Though there are only a dozen or so Irish boxers among the top 10 of the vast number of divisions we have today, the Irish are still devoted supporters of the Sweet Science.
A few weeks ago, I received in the mail, one of the best things to cross the big pond since Guinness (well maybe not, but pretty damn close). Following the tradition of brilliant boxing literature in Ireland, Gerry Callan, a correspondent for The Star (an Irish newspaper), has compiled one of the most informative book of fistic facts that you'll find anywhere. Now in its fifth edition, Brian Peters' Irish Boxing Yearbook 2001, makes the Ring's Annual Boxing Almanac look as appealing as a leaflet for long distance telephone ads. If you want to know any statistic or fact about the sport, you won't have to look any farther than this book.
Callan, a former Irish Sportswriter of the Year, puts together a book of facts that our own Dan Cuoco and Tracy Callis would esteem. Among the many features of this year's edition are complete career records of every world champion (including the WBO boys), every Irish professional boxer and other all-time Irish greats like former two-time world champion, Steve Collins. Callan has also chronologically listed every world title fight ever (yes, he included the WBO). Other lists include amateur boxing winners from the Olympics, The World Championships, European World Championships the Irish National Senior Championships and many more.
Callan's register also includes some of the most compelling stories of 2000 in both Ireland and worldwide from some of Ireland's finest sportswriters. Karl MacGinty of The Irish Independent, gives you a great look at one of Ireland's most recent wars between Belfast's Eamon Magee and Shea Neary of Liverpool while Neil Walsh of the The Dublin People allows you relive the war that was Morales-Barrera.
As it is advertised by David, Callan's son on www.IrishBoxingNews.com, this year's yearbook "is the most remarkable compendium of Irish boxing ever compiled." If you're into boxing collectibles or just enjoy good old boxing lore, then do yourself a favor and add The Irish Boxing Yearbook 2001 to your bookshelf.
I'll bet ya a 12-pack of Guinness you'll like it.
By Mike Fitzgerald
Reviewed by Mike DeLisa
Through the mid and late eighties, the story of Craig "Gator" Bodzianowski played out in the national media. In May 1984, the Gator's surging career seemed over as his lower leg was amputated following a motorcycle crash. In December 1985, Gator returned to the ring, using a prothetic leg. Over the next five years, the cruiserweight battled his way back into the world rankings, eventually getting a title shot against Robert Daniels.
This book retells Bodzianowski's story from his early days as a Chicago Golden Glove champion through the end of his boxing career, caused, in part, by prosthetic related injuries. Gator was never knocked out in his 31-4-1 career. This book does a wonderful job of bringing the life of this unique fighter into sharp focus, including describing in lucid prose the professional manner in which Bodzianowski approached each bout. Perhaps the one detail lacking is more of what Gator has done with his life since his career ended in 1993. Interestingly, his personal credo has a whiff of existentialism to it though with none of the intellectual posturing:
"Winners don't always take the top prize, but they get to play the game, and that makes all the difference in the world."To order the book ($17.95), call the publisher:
Lemieux International, Ltd.
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Lucius Shepard Issue (Mar. 2001)
Reviewed by Mike DeLisa
Its been over a decade since the venerable Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction devoted an issue in honor of a sole writer. So, it was a pleasant surprise that I came across the March issue while trolling a Penn Station newstand in search of magazines featuring Kyla Cole.
This special edition is a must for even the casual fan of Mr.Shepard: it contains a new novella, "Eternity and Afterward," a film column, a bibliography, and an introductory essay by Katherine Dunn.
Years before Mr. Shepard began contributing to the CBZ, I often would be charmed by his short fiction. Therefore, the bibliography is especially useful for a pack rat as myself. I have a 2-car garage and a large bedroom literally filled with the detritus of our popular culture dating back seventy years -- comic books, pulp magazines, boxing magazines, newspapers, etc. Since I purchased virtually every science fiction magazine from 1967 through 1990, it will be nice to cull the "Lucius Shepard collection," using the bibliography as a guidline. I'm gonna put it right next to my Harlan Ellison collection.
To purchase this issue, write:
PO Box 3447
Hoboken, NJ 07030