Monday, February 17, 2020

A doo-wop singer, a hard-as-nails actor, and the western movie that connects them by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #hollywood #moviemusic

February 17th  and February 19th  have a primary and secondary connection that makes the trivia-loving nerd in me happy as a dog wagging two tails.

I’ll begin with the secondary connection, which is simply February birthdays— 

Musician Gene Pitney was born on February 17th

Gene Pitney (reference below)

and actor Lee Marvin was born on February 19th.

Lee Marvin (reference below)

First, a little about Gene Pitney—

Born on February 17, 1940 (died April 5, 2006), Pitney was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Over the course of his career (1961 – 2006), Pitney experienced musical success with songs he wrote for others and with songs that he wrote and performed himself. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

He referred to himself as a doo-wop singer. According to the website

‘doo-wop is a style of rhythm and blues and rock-and-roll vocal music popular in the 1950s and ’60s [with roots in the 1930s and 1940s]. The structure of doo-wop music generally featured a tenor lead vocalist singing the melody of the song with a trio or quartet singing background harmony. The term doo-wop is derived from the sounds made by the group as they provided harmonic background to the lead singer.’

Notable and successful songs he wrote for others:

  • Hello Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson
  • Rubber Ball by Bobby Vee
  • He’s a Rebel by the Crystals
  • Today’s Teardrops by Roy Orbison
Notable and successful songs he performed:

  • Only Love Can Break a Heart
  • Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa
  • Half Heaven, Half Heartache
  • It Hurts to Be in Love
  • I’m Gonna Be Strong
  • Town Without Pity from the Kirk Douglas movie of the same name. Pitney performed this song during the 1962 Academy Awards as it was nominated for Best Song (lost to Moon River)
 Pitney recorded two albums with country music entertainer George Jones. They were voted the ‘most promising country-and-western-duo of the year’ in 1965.

He also recorded in Italian, Spanish, and German and competed in Italy’s annual Sanremo Music Festival to critical acclaim comparing his voice to that of Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso.

A radio disc jockey nicknamed Pitney “The Rockville Rocket” because of his meteoric rise in the music charts. (Pitney grew up in Rockville, Connecticut.)

Next, a few words about Lee Marvin—

He was born on (February 19, 1924 (died August 29, 1987). He was an American film and television actor with a military background of having enlisted in the Marines at the beginning of World War II. His military experience, which included receiving the Purple Heart Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Med, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

His military experiences affected him deeply for the rest of his life. He disliked acting in many of his war-related movies as he felt the movies glorified war, and he was picky about which war movies he took. He often spoke out against U.S. involvement in Viet Nam.

These two quotes from the IMDb website (link in references below) illustrate his entire Hollywood career.
  • He was typecast as a heavy before graduating to unsympathetic heroes.
  • He often played tough, hard bitten anti-heroes.
Also from his bio on the IMBd website, here are three of his quotes regarding the violence in some of his movies and the violence in the characters he’d played.

Because real violence is a thing that must not be tolerated, and in order not to tolerate it, you must be educated in knowing what it is. Violent films come out with value… When I play these roles of vicious men, I do things you shouldn’t do and I make you see that you shouldn’t do them.

...But most violence on the screen looks so easy and so harmless that its’ like an invitation to try it. I say make it so brutal that a man thinks twice before he does anything like that.

I’ve always been against senseless violence myself. When I incorporate violence in my performances, I make sure there’s a point to it. If I were playing a heavy, say a cowboy bad guy, I could commit some senseless crime to that I’d have to be destroyed in the third or fourth reel Holding up the stagecoach, for example, and shooting the old lady because she turned her back on me. So I’m against pointless violence, too.

Just a few of Lee Marvin’s movies: (deliberately left out his numerous television appearances)
  • You’re in the Navy Now (1951 film debut - uncredited)
  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • Not as a Stranger
  • Pillars of the Sky
  • Raintree County
  • The Comancheros
  • Donovan’s Reef
  • Cat Ballou (Oscar win)
  • Ship of Fools
  • The Professionals
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Paint Your Wagon
  • Monte Walsh
  • Pocket Money
  • Prime Cut
  • The Iceman Cometh
  • Death Hunt
  • The Delta Force

Finally, the primary connectionThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Pitney had a hit with the Burt Bacharach / Hal David song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Marvin played the villain Liberty Valance in the western film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

…and now you know the nerdy connection.

Side note: The song was not included in the movie because of a publishing dispute. However it did reach No. 4 on the music charts.

Gene Pitney singing the theme song to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:

We meet Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance in all his villainous glory:

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in contact with Kaye—

Gene Pitney
Image: William Morris Agency (management), Gene Pitney 1967, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Lee Marvin
Image: NBC Television Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia, Lee marvin 1971, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Film: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Song: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Saturday, February 15, 2020

New Release THE YOUNG GUNFIGHTER by Lowell Zeke Ziemann

The 3rd book in the "Gunfighter Luc Milton" series has just been released as an e-book and paperback!!!!.  

THE YOUNG GUNFIGHTER Luc Milton Gains a Reputation  

In this PREQUEL we meet young Luc, a fifteen-year old living in Springfield Illinois, waiting for his father to return from the Civil War.  When his father does not return, Luc confronts his future.  He sees the famous Wild Bill Hickok, works to purchase a gun and a horse, and then heads into the Western Territories.  Determined to become an expert with his six-gun, he practices daily. 

Fate interrupts on a train ride to Wichita when he kills two wanted murderers, earns a bounty, and suddenly becomes well-known.

As he continues drifting toward Dallas, several characters; good, bad, famous, and ugly, appear and reappear in young Luc’s action-packed adventure. 

This is a well written tale with twists and turns.  It is a book that you will not want to put down.  Get a copy today!!  And then give it a good rating!

      The Luc Milton Series:

1 THE YOUNG SHOOTIST      NEW  ON AMAZON   ebook and paperback   
  Gunfighter Luc Milton Gains A Reputation   



Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

Would your character have celebrated Valentine’s Day the way you are no doubt doing today? Let’s investigate the holiday and its celebrations during the days of the Old West.

People have observed St. Valentine’s Day for centuries. Famed London diarist Samuel Pepys mentioned observances in the 1600s, complete with elaborate gift-giving among the wealthier citizens. People began writing special notes and letters to observe the holiday around the 1700s, but papers made especially for Valentine’s Day weren’t marketed until 1820. These became popular both in England and the United States. The first valentines were flat sheets, often with colorful illustrations and embossed edges. The sheets could be folded, sealed with wax, and mailed.

According to legend, the American Valentine industry began in New England, when Esther A. Howland, from Worcester, Massachusetts, received an English Valentine’s Day card. She began making her own cards and, as her father ran a stationary store, began selling them there. Soon the demand had her recruiting friends to help make more cards, and as that demand grew, her hometown became the center of American Valentine production.

By 1856, the sending of manufactured cards was so popular that the New York Times published an editorial condemning the practice. 

"Our beaux and belles are satisfied with a few miserable lines, neatly written upon fine paper, or else they purchase a printed Valentine with verses ready made, some of which are costly, and many of which are cheap and indecent. 

"In any case, whether decent or indecent, they only please the silly and give the vicious an opportunity to develop their propensities, and place them, anonymously, before the comparatively virtuous. The custom with us has no useful feature, and the sooner it is abolished the better."

Despite the scathing article, the practice of sending Valentines continued to flourish throughout the mid-1800s. On February 4, 1867, the Superintendent of the Carrier Office of the New York Post Office, one J. H. Hallett, stated that in 1862, New York City Post Offices had accepted 21,260 Valentines for delivery. 1863 showed a slight increase, but in 1864, the number dropped to only 15,924. A huge change then occurred in 1865, perhaps because the dark years of the Civil War were ending. New Yorkers mailed more then 66,000 Valentines that year, and 86,000 in 1866.

In the late 1860s, most Valentines were modestly priced, and designed for a mass audience. Many were designed to be humorous, with caricatures of particular professions or ethnic groups. The sending of such joke cards became a fad during the late 1800s, although many serious cards were also sent.

New Yorkers sometimes paid exorbitant prices for a romantic card. An article explains that, in addition to beautiful paper scenes, “Receptacles cunningly prepared may hide watches or other jewelry, and, of course, there is no limit to the lengths to which wealthy and foolish lovers may go."

The legendary British illustrator of children’s books, Kate Greenway, designed enormously popular Valentines during the late 1800s. Some of her illustrations were collected in Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines, published in 1876 (link is to a free Google-Books copy).

Valentines typically portray Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that birds began mating in mid-February, they, too, became a symbol of the day. Traditional gifts include candy and flowers, especially red roses, a symbol of beauty and love.

Does your character have a particular romantic interest they’d have sent a card or gift to? What about receiving a Valentine’s Day card? Or would they remain anonymous in both cases? Would they have sent a hand-penned letter or used a manufactured card? Whatever you decide, Valentine’s Day is a day to think about love and celebrate it (or bemoan its lack).

J.E.S. Hays

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Yankee giving his opinion on all the candidates fromboth parties for the 2020 Presidential election.

Monday, February 10, 2020


Life is full of them. (Even for pirates!) Anniversaries of births, deaths, marriages, (and sometimes divorces) as well as holidays. So for this post, I decided to research the origin of anniversaries.
It seems calendars were invented for keeping up with anniversaries, not just for planning into the future. An early account of memorializing dates for future recognition can be found in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Some of you fellow adorers of Western arts and literature will recognize this speech from the Birdcage Theatre scene in the movie Tombstone. This speech also refers back to the the feast day of Saint Crispin – which takes us even earlier in our search for the origin of the celebration of anniversaries –the Christian liturgical calendar.  
Catholicism especially reveres in anniversaries – with each day of the year attributed to a specific Saint of that was either martyred or otherwise died on that day. This is said to be their Feast Day and even non-Catholics celebrate many of these Feast Days. Two examples are St. Valentine’s Day, which is coming up, and St. Patrick’s Day!
Another special anniversary which is the root cause of this post today, is that it is ours. My husband’s and mine. On one hand, it seems like we’ve been married forever (in a good way!) though it’s just year number two, and on the other hand, it feels that forever as Wesley’s wife isn’t long enough. I've included a couple of pics of us through the years (I can officially say years -- not just year!) I think my favorite is Wesley getting attacked by the giant fake spider. Love is funny that way.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

In defense of western romance

Bio: Hello, My name is Dorothy A. Bell, the A. is for Ann. I’m a published author with Hartwood Publishing. I write, and enjoy reading Oregon historical and western romances. Love to make all kinds of wicked chocolate goodies. I grow cucumbers to make my own relish and bread and butter pickles, and tomatoes to make my own salsa and sauce. Love to exercise in the water, tell stories, and write spicy, entertaining, colorful romances. My husband of fifty-five years and I, reside in her our tiny 352 square foot home with our long haired Dachshund Hector.

The following is a cherry picked excerpt from author Judith Arnold and Linda Cardillo’s take on romance, and why no one should dismiss the genre.
Never Read a Romance? Grow Up
“Instead of defending romance books to those who’ve never read one, I’d like to say this instead: grow up.
Romance encompasses fantasy, suspense, comedy, history, mystery, coming-of-age, and crime. The only difference between romance and just about any other kind of fiction is the promise of an emotionally satisfying ending. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think readers are lazy or stupid because they want to feel uplifted at the end of a book.
To those who would dismiss an entire genre without ever cracking a cover, I say, hang out with us romance writers. You might be surprised. Our community is filled with brilliant women (and a few men)—professors, doctors, lawyers, people with stellar educations and experiences. Some of the most successful writers balance a day job with family and a writing career on top of that. Our books are real, filled with the entire range of human emotions. They speak of the strongest and most universal yearning there is—to belong. To be accepted. To be loved.
To view with contempt the entire romance genre—and the hundreds of millions of people who read these books—is simply ignorant and narrow-minded. So if you’re one of those who’s never read a romance novel, pick one up. Yes, there’s kissing. You can handle it. You might even like it.”

A few family pictures that inspire the storyteller in me.

The Sewing Machine and Victorian Technology
The mass production of sewing machines in the 1850s as well as the advent of synthetic dyes introduced major changes in fashion. Previously, clothing was hand sewn using natural dyes. Other new developments included the introduction of the sized paper pattern as well as machines that could slice several pattern pieces at once. Clothing could now be produced quickly and cheaply.
Growth and Decline of the Bustle
The bustle came back in a big way in the 1880s creating a huge, shelf like protrusion at the rear. But the ludicrous style fell out of favor and by 1887, was greatly reduced in size. The 1890s saw some fullness at the rear, but the bustle was on its way out.
Women's fashions took on a more tailored look with the introduction of the cuirasse bodice in 1878. The stiff, corset like garment dipped down in front and back and eventually reached the upper thighs.
Transitioning to the Victorian era the waistline returned to its natural position during the 1830s. The corset once again was used to support and narrow. However, it had changed its shape to the hourglass silhouette that is even now considered typical both for corsets and for Victorian fashion. It is during this period we see the addition of garter clips to the bottoms of corsets. Corsets were now being made in beautiful colors and materials, silks, satins and brocades, not just plain cotton or linen.
Until now corsets tended to be handmade and often custom pieces. In 1839, a Frenchman by the name of Jean Werly patented women’s corsets made on the loom. This type of corset was popular until 1890, when machine-made corsets gained popularity.
Rules for Teachers, 1827
1) Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys
2) Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session.
3) Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
4) Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
5) After ten hours in school, teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
6) Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
7) Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
8) Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool and public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.
9) The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Rules for Teacher, Early 1900's in the United States
1) To keep the school room neat and clean, you must:
a) Sweep the floor at least once daily
b) Scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water
c) Clean the blackboards at least once a day
d) Start the fire at 7 AM so the room will be warm by 8 AM
2) You will not marry during the term of your contract.
3) You are not to keep company with men.
4) You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6AM unless attending a school function.
5) You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores
6) You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
7) You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
8) You may not smoke cigarettes.
9) You may not dress in bright colors.
10) You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
11) You must wear at least two petticoats.
12) Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.

 Look for 4 new novels to be released March-June Sweet Laura Creek Romances

Currently Amazon Kindle Unlimited Free on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author
January is almost over. The resolutions, goals, intentions may be forgotten, yet are they? Sometimes we start on a journey where turning back is not an option. These thoughts bring up the question of the early pioneers, and what drove them.

Many times the stories of those early people beg us to find out more. Many a time the story of Cuerno Verde and de Anza pulls one back to the conflict of people over land and resources. Many remember de Anza. The Anza Society studies the life and time of Juan Bautista de Anza. What would have been different if Cuerno Verde had survived? These questions are fuel for research and stories.

What of the people of Boggsville, Colorado?  What of the people who started that town? The connections go back to Bent's Fort, which is another piece of history that one can get lost in. Boggsville article

Speaking of Forts, Colorado had many. Starting with Bent and growing throughout the Eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains to capitalize on the natural resources the mountains had to offer. Then you have Roubidouox who started a fort on the Western slope. What drove him to build in what was then a foreign country?

Fort Vasquez in Colorado (rebuilt)
It is these questions, the no turning back aspect of the decisions these early arrivers that beg research and someone to tell their stories, both fiction and non-fiction. So as we move into February and the rest of 2020, what stories will we be telling? What have we decided that is a 'no turning back' situation? Where are we headed in this research/creative life we have chosen?

Doris Gardner-McCraw -writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet

Thursday, January 23, 2020



the blog about the medicine and surgery of yesteryear

Dr Keith Souter aka Clay More

 Once, on a home visit I was examining a gentleman’s chest and was surprised when he went into a fit of laughter. As he actually had a significant chest infection at the time it provoked a paroxysm of coughing.  When he had recovered he explained what had amused him so much.

"My chest sounds just like an old barrel, Doc." Then he asked me why doctors always tapped on his chest before they listened with their stethoscope. So I told him that it was to get an idea of the state of the inner organs. He was delighted when I told him that he had actually been correct when he used the barrel analogy, because it was from tapping wine casks that the technique was devised. Or so the story goes.

The Doctrine of Humors
 Until the discoveries of anatomy and the early experiments on physiology, medicine was essentially a philosophical process. The dominant principle in medicine was called the Doctrine of Humors. This was an ancient Greek theory that postulated the existence of four fundamental humors or body fluids (from the Latin umor or humor, meaning ‘moisture’ or ‘fluid’) which determined the state of health of an individual. These humors were blood, yellow and black bile and phlegm. Doctors tried to work out which humor was in excess or deficiency and treatments were aimed at removing the illness producing humor by bleeding, purgation and the use of emetics. 

Although the doctrine of hummers was based on these so-called fluids, doctors had no way of determining whether there actually was excess fluid in the body.

Tapping the body
When anatomy and physiology started to give doctors an idea of what really happened in the body, there was a need to be able to work out the state of the internal organs. Towards the end of the eighteenth century an Austrian physician, Dr Leopold von Auenbrugger, made the breakthrough when he invented the simple technique of percussion. This is the technique that doctors still use during their examination of the chest and abdomen. 

Dr Leopold von Auenbrugger (1722-1809)

 Leopold von Auenbrugger’s father was a hotel owner. It is thought that the method used to check on the level of wine in casks, by tapping on them to determine where the level of wine was, was something that he had seen in his father’s cellar throughout his childhood. His genius was in adapting it to the human body. 

Von Auenbrugger spent ten years examining thousands of patients, and correlating post-mortem findings in order to build up a whole science of percussion. His book, Inventum Novum, translated into English as ‘A New Discovery that Enables the Physician from the Percussion of the Human Thorax to Detect the Diseases Hidden Within the Chest,’ is now considered one of the most important classics of medicine.

Invntum Novum - one of the classics of medicine 

Pleximeter and hammer
Doctors began using little gadgets called pleximeters, which they placed o  the part of the body to be percussed. Then they would tap it with a percussion hammer.  These became more and more ornate and something of a status symbol. No self-respecting physician would be without his pleximeter in waistcoat pocket. 

The Stethoscope gradually takes over
The stethoscope as invented by Rene Laennec, a Parisian physician in 1816, was a monaural device. That is, it was a simple stiff tube with an earpiece at one end and a collecting horn at the other. It was essentially the same as the ear trumpet used by the hard of hearing. The binaural, flexible tubed stethoscope as perfected and designed by Dr George Cammann in 1852 did not become commonly used until after the Civil War. Few Civil War doctors would have a use for one, they would have fallen back on the technique of percussion.

Dr George Cammann's stethoscope, which revolutionised medicine

Indeed, the esteemed Harvard medical school did not even possess one until 1868!

All doctors still us it
Percussion is taught to all medical students and it is of incredible value when there is just you and th patient, no x-rays or scans. 

The technique involves laying one hand flat on the part of the body to be examined, usually the chest or the abdomen. The middle finger of one hand then taps the middle finger of the flattened hand in order to produce a noise. Four types of noise can thus be elicited, allowing the examiner to determine the state of certain organs. Essentially, the amount of dullness or hollowness can give a lot of information, and it can help in determining whether or not fluid is present, whether an organ is enlarged, or whether there is an excess of air. 

Going back to my  cheerful patient, he had dullness to percussion at the base of one lung, indicative of his pneumonia, which was backed up by the stethoscope a few moments later. 

Dr George Goodfellow

Dr George Goodfellow would have used the technique every day in assessing people's chests or abdomens. And if it was good enough for him, it's good enough for the rest of us.

Monday, January 20, 2020

52 years ago today: Merle Haggard - Sing Me Back Home - by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #countrymusic

Fifty two years ago today – January 20, 1968

Merle Haggard’s song Sing Me Back Home reached No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. Merle wrote the song and recorded it with his band, The Strangers. The song ultimately spent two weeks at No. 1 and a total of 17 weeks on the Hot Country Songs (Billboard) chart.

This site – – ranks Sing Me Back Home as No.1 of Merle’s 20 Best Songs (Critic’s Pics). This website, Tennessean, lists Merle’s 38, No. 1 hits by year. Sing Me Back Home is Merle's third No.1 hit.

In memory of Merle’s death on April 6, 2016 , which was coincidentally his birthday (b. 1937), Rolling Stone magazine included Sing Me Back Home in the magazine’s list of ‘30 essential Merle Haggard Songs’ - HERE

Merle Haggard - 2010 - citing below
A few artists who covered Sing Me Back Home are the Everly Brothers, Joan Baez, Gram Parsons, Grateful Dead, and Don Williams.

In the song, the narrator sings from the perspective of fellow penitentiary inmate, a singer and guitar player, who performs a final song for a prisoner making the last walk. The condemned man asks the narrator to sing a song his mama used to sing, because he wants to hear it one more time before he dies.

Merle Haggard, live – Sing Me Back Home

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Stay in contact with Kaye—

Merle Haggard image

U.S. federal government (, „Merle Haggard 2010“, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons:


Sing Me Back Home song

Sing Me Back Home album