Tag Archives: Mark Naftalin

Roundup: Techno Claus, Ukraine Aid, Blue Sunday …

For the 14th year in a row yesterday, “CBS Sunday Morning” featured modern gift ideas from “Techno Claus.”

Each year, the clever, rhyming St. Nick bears a striking resemblance to David Pogue.

And, as often happens, some of the shots in the segment bear a striking resemblance to our Westport neighbor’s home and neighborhoood.

Click below to see if you agree. As a bonus you’ll get some great ideas, on everything from a Zoom meeting “mute alert” and rechargeable hand warmers to a “cable crud” organizer and automobile back window message system.

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It was not the usual collection request.

Rather than toys, food, books or cash, Mark Yurkiw asked for new generators, chainsaws, kerosene heaters, flashlights, sleeping bags, cellphone power banks — the kind of important, durable things Ukraine needs to withstand the continued bombardment by Russia.

A shipping container was headed overseas in a few days. Westporters responded to Mark’s request — quickly and generously.

He received at least one of everything he requested, in an “06880” post. This photo shows some of the donations (in the nation’s famous blue and yellow colors).

But, Mark, notes, “Ukraine is a large country. They can use everything.”

There is still a day before a truck will be loaded.

Donations can be brought to 190 Cross Highway and left by the barn. For questions or pickup arrangements, call Mark: 646-873-0050.

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The last concert of Mark Naftalin’s “Blue Sunday” jazz series filled the Westport Library yesterday with great music, and appreciative music fans.

James Montgomery headlined the finale. In a long career, he’s earned plenty of honors.

So has the series host. Naftalin — a Westport resident — is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, for his work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

James Montgomery (center), Mark Naftalin (piano, far left) and friends, at yesterday’s Westport Library “Blue Sunday” show. (Photo/Dennis Jackson)

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As seniors race to finish their college applications before the January 1 deadline — and their parents worry about paying for the next 4 years — there’s help in sight.

Staples Tuition Grants is open for applications (click here). Seniors and current college students with demonstrated financial need have until April 9 to apply for STG aid.

Last year, the 81-year-old organization gave over $400,000 in grants, to more than 100 students.

STG could not do it without the help of donors. As they gear up for another season of high demand, the non-profit reminds “06880” readers of the importance of donations. Click here to help.

 

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Last week’s Greens Farms Garden Club annual wreath-making and holiday lunch was both festive and functional.

The group gathered at the Connecticut Audubon Society. Their work can now be seen throughout Westport, Fairfield and Bridgeport, at the Bigelow Center for Seniors, Earthplace, Gillespie Center, Greens Farms post office, Wakeman Town Farms, CT Audubon Society, Fairfield Historical Society, Victorian Cottage, St. John’s Family Center, Mercy Learning Center, St. Timothy’s, STAR Inc., Sturges Ridge, CLASP, nOURish Bridgeport, and the Greens Farms, Southport and Fairfield train stations.

Greens Farms Garden Club members, and their wreaths.

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Westport Community Gardens director — and nature photographer extraordinaire — Lou Weinberg explains today’s “Westport … Naturally” image:

“The winter plumage of the goldfinch is muted. They love when we leave the coneflower stalks standing. Coneflower is an important food source for the birds and the bees. Don’t cut it down!”

(Photo/Lou Weinberg)

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And finally … today is National Ding-a-Ling Day. (Don’t believe me? Click here.)

We’re supposed to get in touch with (“ding-a-ling”) family and friends we’ve lost touch with.

Most of us are too busy today to do that. (Which is why we lost touch in the first place). But for a couple of minutes, we can listen to Chuck Berry’s only (somehow) #1 hit:

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Roundup: James Montgomery, Teens’ Songwriting Workshop, Shrimp Farming …

The “Blue Sunday” concert series at the Westport Library will end with a bang.

World famous blues rocker James Montgomery joins Mark Naftalin’s all-star lineup next week (December 11, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.).

The house band includes Blues Hall of Fame guitarist/singer/songwriter Paul Gabriel, lowdown bassman Paul Opalach, swingin’ drummer Nick Longo and the host: Westport’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mark Naftalin on keyboards.

The show is (amazingly) free, but registration is highly recommended. Last month’s show was completely sold out. Click here to register.

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Speaking of music at the Library:

Verso Studios has partnered with the Song Arts Academy, with an 8-week songwriting program for 15 middle and high school students.

The program runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, beginning January 30.

It’s free (!), thanks to the support of Fred Reynolds and family. (A refundable $25 registration fee reserves a spot.) .

The workshop offers young songwriters a chance to record songs written in the workshop at Verso Studios.

The program is led by Billy Seidman, a Westport native and veteran New York songwriter, guitarist and producer. He’s worked with Jimi Hendrix, and top pop producers like Jimmy “The Senator” Douglass, (Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams) and Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton).

Each week, students will learn new craft and perspective tools, then write an original song using them.

Click here to register, and for more information.

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John Brawley grew up on Saugatuck Shores. He became a marine biologist, living (and fishing) on Cape Cod for many years.

He now owns Sweet Sound — Vermont’s first shrimp aquaculture outfit. He harvests 100 pounds of Pacific white-leg shrimp each week from indoor, aboveground recirculating saltwater pools.

Brawley was featured in Friday’s Washington Post piece on how the Green Mountain State has pivoted from dairy farms to other types of agriculture. Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: Scott Smith)

John Brawley, at Sweet Sound Aquaculture.

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Yesterday’s rain kept many Westporters inside.

But it did not deter the weekly Compo Beach runners. Neither it, nor the wind whipping off the water, deterred them from their jaunt down Soundview Avenue.

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)

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The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society is spotlighting the Silvermine Art Colony.

Several of those artists lived in Westport between 1908 and 1922: Karl Anderson, George Hand Wright, George Wright Picknell, Ernest Funt and Edmund Marion Ashe. They met frequently, and critiqued each other’s work.

The 2 exhibits feature over 120 pieces of Silvermine artists’ work, including several of those Westporters. One of the standout pieces is Frank Townsend Hutchen’s “Compo Beach Sunset,” from  around 1925.

Click here for more information.

Frank Townsend Hutchen’s “Compo Beach Sunset.” The Saugatuck train towers are visible in the background.

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“Westport … Naturally” can never resist a cute dog photo.

This one sure qualifies.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

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And finally … James Montgomery (see story above) is a blues legend. If you haven’t heard of him, check out this 41-year-old clip:

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Roundup: Bolsheviks, CTBites, Blue Sunday …

An “06880” reader was intrigued by an item in yesterday’s “Roundup.” It previewed a November 1 discussion at the Westport Library on “How Public Policy is Putting Our Children at Risk.” The session will be led by CD Media’s chief investigative correspondent and senior editor Christine Dolan.

Hoping to learn more about Dolan the reader found a piece she wrote last year.

Headlined “Idyllic Westport, CT Is Ground Zero for CRT Infiltration by America’s Bolsheviks,” it begins:

The yellow and red leaves are drifting down quietly as they have for millennia in Westport , CT as the historic New England town sleeps towards a tipping point, one it may never recover from if the coming elections go the wrong way and vote in a continuation of its current path.

The Minuteman statue guards at Compo Beach where a ragtag group of American rebels fought the global tyranny of the once monolithic British empire, but Westport residents seem to want to forget this honorable history and welcome with open arms global tyranny of a different name — the Maoist doctrine of Critical Race Theory, or CRT.

Essentially, the agenda of the CRT movement is to teach young children their country is evil, that they themselves are racists and bad if they are white.  The ideology is racist, it is divisive, and is on purpose.  The doctrine is just a gateway drug to a more pernicious evil, re-imagining Westport schools.  In the CRT future, gone will be AP classes, music excellence.  Gone will be the gateway to Ivy league schools, replaced with a dumbed-down redistribution of educational wealth and excellence.

Along with this educational decline, property values will plummet as zoning laws are also changed to forever alter the nature of the community.  Physical safety will disappear.  Crime will increase.

Click here to read the full story.

Westport’s Minute Man, on guard against Bolsheviks and/or Maoists. (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

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If you like to dine out — and, this being Westport, that means everyone — then CTbites is essential reading. Published by our town’s Stephanie Webster, it’s a weekly guide to new restaurants, special culinary events, food trucks, catering and more.

I always learn something from the site. But — until yesterday — I’d never actually laughed while reading it.

“Connecticut Restaurant Confidential: Strange Stories, Odd Orders & Twisted Tales in the Industry” is a collection of jaw-dropping tales, from owners, chefs, bartenders and wait staff.

It’s an insider’s look at what gets told after hours — about diners (hopefully un)like you and me.

They come from all over the state. Including our own Winfield Deli. Click here to read.

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Texas blues/New Orleans funk band Otis & the Hurricanes headlines the next “Blue Sunday” at the Westport Library (October 23, 2:30 p.m., Trefz Forum).

The free event is curated by Mark Naftalin. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist will be there of course, with his Blue Sunday Band of all-stars: Westport/internationally known saxophonist Crispin Cioe, guitarists JD Seem and Paul Gabriel, and special guest Chance Browne.

Lat month’s Blue Sunday — the first in the series — drew a large crowd, and plenty of raves.

And this one could make that seem like just a warmup.

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From jazz to blues:

This week week’s “Jazz at the Post” features pianist Michael Cochrane, drummer to the stars Steve Johns, and fiery young bassist Jason Clotter in concert with the Jazz Rabbi, Greg Wall.

There are 2 shows — 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. — on Thursday (October 6) at VFW Post 399 (465 Riverside Avenue). There’s a $10 cover. Food service starts at 6:30.

Reservations are strongly suggested. Email JazzatThePost@gmail.com.

Michael Cochrane

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This is an active weekend in Westport. Among the highlights: Westport Moms’ 2nd annual Fall Family Festival. It’s Saturday, October 15 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Greens Farms Academy; $20 per family).

The event includes food, crafts, games and fun (bouncy houses, ninja course, music, art projects, DJ, pumpkin and cookie decorating, face painting, hair extensions, glitter tattoos, magic, STEM activities and more).

Many businesses will show off their products and services — all with activities for kids.

Organizers Megan Rutstein and Melissa Post ask attendees to bring gently worn jackets, for donations to a local non-profit.

A scene from last year’s Fall Family Festival.

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Sunday’s Westport Weston Family YMCA Fall Festival drew a large crowd.

There was music, gymnastics exhibitions, bounces houses and s’mores. The weather was perfect for an outdoor event.

Best of all: You didn’t have to be a kid to have a great time.

Westport Board of Assessment Appeals member Ifeseyi Gaylel (left) and Westport Weston Family YMCA CEO Anjali McCormick take a break during the Y’s Family Festival.

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The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra takes center stage at the Y’s Women’s October 24 meeting (Green’s Farms Church, 10:45 a.m.). Jonathan Yates and Sandra Miklave will talk about the group’s long history, and share visions for the future.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is striking.

Even more impressive: this Montauk daisy — on the Bonnie Brook/Silver Brook Road corner — was taken by 13-year-old Emae Forman. What an eye!

(Photo/Emae Forman)

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And finally … if you’ve never heard Otis & the Hurricanes (see story above)  — well, click below, and you will:

Roundup: Blue Sunday, Brown-Covered Books, Red Cross …

Pop-Up Bagels has done it again!

This weekend Adam Goldberg’s stealth-no-more store — the one behind Cycle Dynamics that draws dozens of devoted customers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday — repeated last year’s upset, out-of-the-burbs Brooklyn Bagelfest win.

This time, they even doubled their victory. They captured both the expert judges and people’s choice awards.

So let there be no doubt: The best bagel shop in New York is … Pop-Up Bagels. From Westport, Connecticut.

Adam Goldberg with the gold, from last year and this.

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The blues are alive and well in Westport.

A standing room crowd packed the Trefz Forum yesterday for the first of Mark Naftalin’s “Blue Sundays.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer — former keyboardist with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who has reocrded or played with James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Percy Mayfield, Carla Thomas, Irma Thomas, Otis Rush, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner and many others — curates and hosts the monthly series.

Mark Naftalin on piano, fellow Westporter and saxophonist Crispin Cioe, and other band members.

His initial session included an all-star cast: Chance Browne, Chris “Otis” Cross, Paul Gabriel, Manny Foglio, Mark Zarestky, David Anastasia, Matt Moadel, Barry Urich, Smokin’ Joe Naimy, Crispin Cioe and Washboard Slim.

They ripped through classics like “I Put a Spell on You,” and originals that deserve to be classics.

As the blues-influenced Rolling Stones sang in Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around”: “The joint was rockin’.”

Another shot of the band. (Photos/Dan Woog)

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Speaking of the library: There’s a thought-provoking display just inside the front door, on the main level.

Across the nation, drives to ban books are gaining momentum. Challenges come from the right and the left.

The reasons vary. They include degradation of women, sexual explicitness, political viewpoints, bias against male students, sexual assault, offensive language, LGBTQ+ content, violence, insensitivity and  Satanism.

The Westport Library shows those challenges sharply:

Like many libraries everywhere, Westport’s has committed itself to “empowering the individual and strengthening the community through dynamic interaction and the lively exchange of ideas.”

Without banning access to them.

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With the Red Cross experiencing a blood shortage, this Wednesday’s drive at the VFW is crucial (September 21, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 465 Riverside Avenue). The event is sponsored by the Westport Young Woman’s League. Click here to make an appointment; use sponsor code “VFWWestport.”

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Damon Rein and his son Jack Rein — a Staples High School senior — are training hard. Their goal is to collectively do over 2,500 push-ups in 1 hour next month, to raise money for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. It’s part of the 13th annual Push Against Cancer.

They’re already halfway to their $10,000 goal. Click here for more information, and to help.

PS: Jack created this cartoon of Andrew Berman — the local Push leader — in honor of the event:

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Graffiti “artists” have tagged 2 locations in Westport: the Hales Road bridge over I-95, and (below), the pedestrian bridge over Dedman Brook, connecting the Levitt Pavilion and the Imperial Avenue parking lot:

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“Finding Westport”‘s latest design leaves no doubt about the town’s name:

It’s available as a t-shirt, tank, fleece, hoodie, sweatshirt, mug, tote bag, greeting card, blanket, pint glass, tumbler and outdoor rug. Click here to order, and for more “Finding Westport” options.

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Lisa Newman writes: “My son spotted this little guy spectating on opening day of Westport softball at the Town Hall fields.”

What a great way to start off our “Westport … Naturally” week!

(Photo/Lisa Newman)

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And finally … as noted above, Mark Naftalin’s “Blue Sunday” show at the Westport LIbrary included the classic “I Put a Spell on You.”

Here are 5 other versions of this great song:

(“06880” isn’t singing the blues. But contributions always help keep this blog in the pink. Please click here to help.)

“Blue Sundays”: Red-Hot Music Rocks The Library

The blues are coming to Westport.

And not just any blues — these are Mark Naftalin’s. This is big-time.

On Sunday, September 18 (3 to 5 p.m.), the Westport Library presents Mark Naftalin’s Blue Sunday. It’s the first in a monthly series of concerts, all produced and hosted by musician/producer/radio host Mark Naftalin.

The kickoff event features guitarists Chance Browne (The Twinkies, Hi and Lois artist), Chris “Otis” Cross (Otis and the Hurricanes) and Paul Gabriel (Blue In The Face, Paul Gabriel Blues Band, Connecticut Blues Society Lifetime Achievement Award); harmonicists Manny Foglio (Manny and the Mojomatics) and Mark Zaretsky (Cobalt Rhythm Kings); bassists David Anastasia (Mojomatics, Walter Lewis Blues Trio, The Zero Boys); percussionists Matt Moadel (Portal) and Barry Urich (Blue In The Face, Jose Feliciano); accordionist-pianist-vocalist Smokin’ Joe Najmy (Otis and the Hurricanes, Mill River Band); sax master Crispin Cioe (Albert Collins, James Cotton, Uptown Horns, Cracked Ice); washboard wizard Washboard Slim (Washboard Slim & The Blue Lights) — and Naftalin himself on piano.

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Mark Naftalin.

He played keyboard with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The path-breaking interracial Butterfield Band opened doors for blues masters like B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Naftalin later recorded and/or performed with Michael Bloomfield, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Percy Mayfield, Carla Thomas, Irma Thomas, Otis Rush, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner and many others.

In 2015 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Mark Naftalin (3rd from left) with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Living and working in the Bay Area, Naftalin produced over 1,300 blues radio broadcasts on 3 FM stations, and over 30 blues festivals. His Blue Sunday at the Westport Library is a nod to those years.

In 2002, he and his wife Ellen moved to her hometown: Westport. The Mark Naftalin Show is now in its 7th year on WPKN (89.5 FM).

Blue Sunday capitalizes on the success of the Library’s Verso Studios music and media festival VersoFest, and the adventurous Chris Frantz Presents Emerging Musicians series.

Friday Flashback #249

It’s one of Westport’s lost, mostly forgotten mysteries: Pearl Bailey’s early-1950s recording of “I Caught Her in the Kitchen Playing Westport.”

It was even the subject of a previous Friday Flashback. But all I had were the lyrics. Even YouTube — where you can find anything — came up blank.

Today — thanks to the magic of Ellen and Mark Naftalin, and Miggs Burroughs — all of “06880” (and the world) can hear the sultry tune.

Ellen and Mark — longtime Westporters and musicians; she’s also a historian, he’s a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band — found the song.

In an album in their very own collection. It’s called — appropriately — “More Songs for Adults Only.”

Miggs turned the vinyl into an Mp3.

Click below to listen.

And if you want to sing along with Pearl, the lyrics are below.

There’s a little ranch house in the vale,
Pretty little ranch house up for sale;
All the shutters drawn,
Tenants all gone
And thereby hangs a long, unhappy tale.

‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport,
A game indigenous to suburban life,
Where you take a wife of whom you’re not the husband,
While someone else’s husband takes your wife.

Some people may claim that the name of the game is Scarsdale,
Or Beverly Hills, or even Shaker Heights,
But commuters from Manhattan call it Westport.
And it’s the game that some of our local leading lights play
To while away those cold Connecticut nights.

Now in that little ranch house used to dwell
An advertising feller and his Nell.
Two kids and a pup, living it up,
And everything was sounder than a bell —
‘Til he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport
Between the washing machine and thermostat.

The husband thought it really was an outrage.
Said he, “You might at least remove your hat!”
Well, they may play it that way in Great Neck,
While in Levittown they’d never think it odd.
But there is not an architect in Westport
Who’ll ever forgive the cad that said, “My God! Sir.
I must have got the wrong cape cod!”

Since they are no longer groom and bride,
Quoting from the Sunday classified:
“Are there any takers
For three lovely acres
Of peaceful old New England countryside?”
‘Cause he caught her in the kitchen playing Westport
Which would ordinarily be a cause for gloom;
But though the sanctity of wedlock’s on the downgrade,
Currently housing is enjoying quite a boom!

And while they defame the name of the game in Boston,
Where naturally they think it’s a dirty shame,
In the green and fertile pastures of suburbia
The local dealers in real estate acclaim
It the best thing since the FHA, hey,

Westport is a grand old …
‘Midst pleasures and palaces …
Westport is a grand old game.

Westport Rocks! The Greatest Stories Ever Told

If you don’t know Westport’s musical history — concerts at Staples High School by the Doors, Cream, Yardbirds, Rascals, Animals and many more; the Remains, perhaps the greatest band in history never to hit the big time; REO Speedwagon’s 157 Riverside Avenue — you must be living under a rock (ho ho).*

But hey hey, my my. Rock and roll can never die.

So mark next Wednesday, March 21 (7 p.m.) on your calendar. Michael Friedman’s Gallery in Bedford Square is the site for one of Westport’s liveliest musical events ever.  

The owner’s stunning photographs of everyone from Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger to the Band and Johnny Winter (another former Westporter) serves as a backdrop for a Moth-style session about rock ‘n’ roll.

Among the storytellers:

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Mark Naftalin.

Mark Naftalin: A keyboardist, recording artist, composer and record producer, he and his fellow Paul Butterfield Blues Band members are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Crispin Cioe:  A sax player and songwriter, he’s played and recorded with James Brown, the Stones, Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Ray Charles and the Ohio Players.

Roger Kaufman: A noted local performer with the Old School Revue, Roger worked last year with the Smithsonian Museum to archive, preserve and pay tribute to Steve Cropper, the legendary Stax guitarist who played on classic songs like “Knock on Wood,” “Midnight Hour” and “Dock of the Bay.” Soon, he’ll archive materials with Weston’s own Jose Feliciano.

Rob Fraboni: A producer and audio who worked with Bob Dylan, the Band, Eric Clapton and the Stones — and who as vice president of Island Records oversaw the remastering of the entire Bob Marley catalog. Keith Richards called him “a genius.”

David Bennett Cohen, with Country Joe and the Fish.

David Bennett Cohen: The original keyboardist, and also a guitar player, for Country Joe and the Fish.

Wendy May: She’s spent the last 20 years performing with Charlie Daniels, Kenny Chesney, Mark Chestnut, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Marty Haggard and many others.

Dick Wingate: In a long career with labels like Arista, PolyGram, Epic and Columbia Records, he worked closely with Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Peter Tosh and Pink Floy, among others.

Michael Friedman: In addition to photography, he worked as a publicist with the Mamas and the Papas, Bee Gees, Herman’s Hermits and Glen Campbell, and was an artist manager for Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin, Gordon Lightfoot, Todd Rundgren, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.

Rusty Ford: He co-founded Lothar & the Hand People, the psychedelic band that was the first to use a theremin and Moog synthesizer in live performances. He also played bass with the Beach Boys.

Lothar and the Hand People

Also on the bill: Bari Rudin and Caissie St. Onge, comedy writers who have worked with David Letterman, Phil Donohue, “Saturday Night Live,” Rosie O’Donnell and Joan Rivers.

Incredibly, every storyteller is a local resident. This area remains rich in rock history. We don’t have to ship in stars. They’re right here, living as our neighbors and friends.

They’ll each speak for about 8 minutes. Every one though has a lifetime of stories to tell.

* Let’s not forget the Hall & Oates “concert” too.

(Tickets for “Rock & Roll Stories” include food, beer, wine and an auction. It’s part of the Westport Library’s week-long “Flex” series, which features a celebrity lunch with Sam Kass and Jane Green, a conversation with Ruth Reichl, movies, a dance-a-thon, a family day, gala party and much more. Click here for information and tickets.)

Alex Siegenfeld: A Name You Should Know

On Monday evening, I posted a brief story about actress Linda Fiorentino’s Westport house being on the market. Longtime “06880” reader and frequent commenter Nancy W. Hunter weighed in from her home in British Columbia: “06880’s name-dropping has become so, so tiresome.”

I haven’t heard her reaction to a couple of stories I’ve done since, on Mark Naftalin‘s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Kyle Martino joining “Top Chef” star Kristen Kish on a New York Times “36 Hours” TV venture.

Maybe Nancy has sworn off my gossip site forever. If so, too bad.

Nancy: This one’s for you.

Alex Siegenfeld

Alex Siegenfeld

You’ve probably never heard the name Alex Siegenfeld before. He’s not a TMZ/Page Six boldface name, despite winning (at 17 years old) a gold medal in the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Now Alex has done something even more impressive. The Westport resident and Hopkins School graduate — today a student at MIT, heading toward a Ph.D. in physics (experimental condensed matter) — has won a $250,000 grant from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.

It’s good for up to 5 years of graduate study (with the encouragement to pursue science “for the public good”).

Alex was 1 of 12 honorees. The original pool of over 800 applicants was whittled down to 150, for a 1st round of interviews with national leaders in science and technology. Each candidate was tested on knowledge of broad scientific principles.

50 finalists were then selected, for a 2nd in-depth interview.

Hertz_logo_115h_02Hertz Fellows are free to innovate in their doctoral studies. They are not bound by traditional research funding restrictions. They have complete financial independence, under the guidance of top professors and mentors.

Hertz Fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, found over 200 companies, register more than 3,000 patents, head major universities, and hold senior positions in the U.S. military.

Take that, Linda Fiorentino, Mark Naftalin and Kyle Martino!

(Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Now Playing: Westport’s Latest Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee

As reported last December, Mark Naftalin was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The longtime Westporter played keyboard for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The legendary seminal blues-rock group joined Ringo Starr, Green Day, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers as members of the “Class of 2015.”

The induction ceremony took place Saturday night, in Cleveland.

If you weren’t there — and no jokes about Cleveland, please, they’re very sensitive folks — here is the band’s “Born in Chicago” jam:

The clip below is a lot longer. It’s the induction speech itself, beginning with words from Mark:

Want even more? HBO airs a special on the entire evening. But you’ll have to wait — it’s on May 30.

 

First Night Forges Forward

Barbara Pearson-Rac’s life is intertwined with First Night.

She lived in Boston when that city inaugurated the original First Night — an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration at a variety of venues, with performances, entertainment and fun for all ages.

She moved to Westport 21 years ago — the same year our town started its own First Night celebration.

She joined the board 2 years later. Now she’s president.

First Night 2015 logoAnd though other First Nights have come and gone, Westport’s remains vibrant and strong. It’s one of only 3 left in Connecticut — and, judging from their websites, ours blows Danbury’s and Hartford’s out of the water.

Barbara is a strong believer in community service. She chairs Westport’s Make a Difference Day and is involved in breast cancer awareness, among other activities.

First Night — a happy, upbeat event, on a day when everyone looks forward and feels fresh — holds a special place in her heart.

“It’s live entertainment,” she says. “It’s a way of introducing children to talent, and for adults to have plenty of fun too.”

But keeping First Night alive is hard. There’s a perception that it’s only for kids (it’s not). More families now travel over the holidays. Non-residents don’t think they’re invited (they are). And the threat of bad weather always hovers overhead.

Fireworks in winter -- a tradition that moves this year to Jesup Green.

Fireworks in winter — a tradition that moves this year to Jesup Green.

First Night is an all-volunteer effort. Attendance — by button-buying people — is crucial. Costs include performers, sound engineers, insurance, police and fire support, and pyrotechnics. (A barge is being rented this year, because the new Levitt Pavilion is no longer a viable spot for shooting fireworks.)

Westport’s First Night lives on thanks to the ongoing support of sponsors and the town of Westport, along with a very fiscally responsible board. While many First Nights have folded, Westport’s is now 21 years years old. “We’re legal!” Pearson-Roc jokes.

But it’s still alcohol-free.

(New events this year include a fashion show with a “Project Runway” contestant; 2 children’s performers; telescopes on Jesup Green, with Westport Astronomical Society members offering guidance, and popular college comic hypnotist Jim Spinnato. Regular keyboardist Mark Naftalin — hot off his election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — is back at the Westport Historical Society. For a full schedule, and information on buying buttons, click on www.firstnightww.com.)

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist -- and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member -- Mark Naftalin is a First Night regular.

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist — and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member — Mark Naftalin is a First Night regular.