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Y & T Music… Hey, What’s that Sound?

Y & T Music… Hey, What’s that Sound?

There’s something happening here… but what it is IS exactly clear. Y & T Music is all fired up and not going to let 2020 stop them from releasing some of the best music South Florida has produced. Not that it’s anything new for Y & T Music founder, Rich Ulloa, to take his passion for finding musical artists and making their dreams a reality. The Beatles changed Ulloa’s life when he watched them on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Hence, when he opened his first record store in 1981 on Bird Road in South Miami, he named it Yesterday and Today Records after the Beatles’ 1966 album. In 1988, he opened his 2nd larger alternative/indie record store in Miami – way cooler than the one in the movie High Fidelity. I know… because I practically lived there in the 80’s. He hosted live shows and special events including the Ramones, Soundgarden, Green Day, 10,000 Maniacs and many more.

In 1991, he started Y & T Music, a Miami-based record label, and released the debut album of The Mavericks, who were at the time a new country band based in Miami and fronted by Cuban lead singer Raul Malo with a heavenly voice reminiscent of Roy Orbison. The Mavericks eventually left Miami for Nashville, landed a major record deal with MCA and won a Grammy in 1995, not a bad start for Y & T Music. Ulloa went on to launch singer-songwriter Mary Karlzen’s career as well. Ever so humble, Ulloa will say The Mavericks and Mary Karlzen launched Y & T Music. Karlzen’s self-titled debut LP and her Hide Ep was released on Y & T Music and she became the most played independent artist ever on VHI. After touring with Bob Dylan and John Hiatt, she was picked up by Atlantic Records. There’s certainly something about Mary! Just ask Jackson Browne, who helped out on her Atlantic Records debut. Speaking about the Miami music scene in the 80’s, former Miami News Music Critic Jon Marlowe adds, “Rich Ulloa has always had impeccable taste in music. He championed the best Miami had to offer, like The Mavericks and lesser known acts like Vesper Sparrow.”

Vesper Sparrow is the all-female South Florida band that broke the mold in the 80’s with four beautiful women who had a focus on solid original songwriting and beautiful vocals. They were even showcased at New York’s famed CBGB’s in 1989. Karlzen was one of these four talented women and Ulloa did take notice of her voice and talent and was driven to get her music out there. He was also driven to release punky singer-songwriter Amanda Green, For Squirrels (Gainesville band whose tragic car accident cut short their promising career) and others. There’s just no way to fit in all that Ulloa has done for our South Florida music scene. Another Y & T Music fan, Margaret, calls it “the little label with big ideas.”

A big idea that was really well-done by Y & T Music in 2018 was Everybody’s Talkin’: A Tribute To Fred Neil, which is filled with so many stellar musicians that managed to capture Neil’s eclectic catalogue of songs. Sometimes called the greatest singer-songwriter that you’ve probably never heard of, he is best known for writing “Everybody’s Talkin’” which was a massive hit for Harry Nilsson and used as the theme song on the movie Midnight Cowboy. When producers had asked him to speed up his own version for the movie soundtrack, he had told them to go to hell. While part of the New York’s Greenwich Village folk scene, he took an interest in a young Bob Dylan who backed him on harmonica at the famed Café Wha? and helped musician David Crosby as well. He hung out with musician Stephen Stills in Florida and it became an interesting local story when Neil left New York’s Greenwich Village scene for a quiet life in Coconut Grove. He loved being in South Florida and found that he was happier spending time with dolphins (the mammals, not the football team) than dealing with the music industry; and in 1970, founded the Dolphin Project with Ric O’Barry (a dolphin trainer at the Miami Seaquarium.) He managed to release albums from 1965-1971, impressed and influenced the folk/rock world before losing interest in music. His songs were recorded by major artists like Jefferson Airplane, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley and Stephen Stills to name just a few. “He is remembered as a mesmerizing but reluctant performer who reacted to the possibility of success with horror” according to Ben Edmonds in his 2000 Mojo Magazine article on Neil. He eventually moved to Summerland Key and died of skin cancer in 2001, a virtual recluse in Florida. There are so many great songs and collaborations on this tribute album including Omine Eager and Jim Wurster doing “Dade County Jail,” singer-songwriter Diane Ward with the ever-talented Jack Shawde doing “Everything Happens,” Charlie Pickett rockin’ “The Other Side of Life,” “The Dolphins” done first by Eric Andersen and then a reprise of “The Dolphins” with Diane Ward and Matthew Sabatella. All proceeds from this album go to The Dolphin Project, which was so important to Fred Neil.

In 2018, Y & T Music released Meet Me In Miami, a supercharged ode to Miami from our longtime local cow-punk rock n’ roll hero, Charlie Pickett, which includes the very catchy “What I Like about Miami.” This release also includes a few other local themed songs like “Miami Interlude” and “Hialeah Backstretch.” There is a tribute to legendary local guitar ace Johnny Salton (now sadly deceased) called “So Long Johnny,” written by R.E.M.’s guitarist Peter Buck, who also plays lead guitar on it, as well as lead guitar on “What I like about Miami” and “Bullshit is Goin On.” On “Four Chambered Heart/Marquee Moon,” Pickett pays tribute to the 70’s art punk NY band Television playing blazing guitar serpentine snippets of their avant-garde song “Marquee Moon.” Stick the album on and I guarantee you will be dancing around the room and then straight to Amazon to buy everything he has ever put out. Pickett picks up just where he left off, original as ever and losing none of his raunchy Stonesy/Johnny Thunders raw- punk bar band appeal that was so evident when he ruled our local music scene in the 70’s and 80’s. Music critic Jon Marlowe crowned Charlie Pickett and the Eggs as “the best bar band in America.” Enough cannot be said about another one of our super cool indie record stores, Open Books and Records, that was owned by Leslie Wimmer and Ted Gottfried from 1979-1994. In 1981, they started the record label, Open Records, and their first release was a single by Charlie Pickett and the Eggs in 1981- “Feelin’” b/w “White Light White Heat.” They released his next single “If This is Love, Can I get My Money Back?” in 1981 before releasing Charlie Pickett and the Eggs’ debut LP in 1982, a live recording Live at the Button which was recorded on Ft Lauderdale Beach at the Button. Pickett went on to the majors, releasing Route 33 in 1986 on the Twin/Tone Records Label (home to The Replacements and Soul Asylum) and The Wilderness in 1988, produced by Peter Buck, on the Safety Net Label which included that scorching single “If This Is Love, Can I Get My Money Back?” Peter Buck later covered it on his own solo LP but there is no better version than Pickett’s. It doesn’t get any better than this and can be also found also Bloodshot Records’ Bar Band Americanus -The Best of Charlie Pickett And.

Another absolutely superb release from Y & T Music is Jim Wurster’s 2018 LP Life, which begins with the lyrics “What a life it’s been” and it’s an upbeat rockin’ reflection of a life well lived that without question he’d do all over again. He’s a rock n’ roll poet in the vein of Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Warren Zevon or even Bob Dylan, singing these wonderful gems of wisdom in his world-weary voice. On “Pie in the Sky,” the lyrics come to life- “Ain’t no future, Ain’t no past…enjoy the day, while it lasts. Pessimistic…you bet I am- Lost my faith in Uncle Sam. Wallstreet bankers run the show, where the hell can I go?” His vocal delivery is what sells it. On “Saline” when he sings “she’s the kind of woman… you want to please,” you really believe him and it’s touching. “Sweet Melody in the Wind” is a gorgeous duet with Diane Ward’s beautiful voice complimenting Wurster’s deep voice, sounding a little like Johnny Cash with June Carter Cash. It’s really a great song. “Master of Deception” is Wurster sounding the alarm on the state of America with the warning “Don’t let him make you his fool” which is reminiscent of Ian Hunter’s brilliant (and overlooked) song “Soul of America,” where Hunter (another rock n’ roll poet) sings “it’s a god-awful job but it’s gotta be done, protecting the soul of America.

Aside from the poetry, Producer Jack Shawde lends his extraordinary musical skills to producing and playing just about every instrument on the album. “The lyrics and the vocal are the most important thing” says Shawde who wanted to make the music interesting, ethereal, moody and vibe-y to create an atmosphere that complemented his songs. And that he did! Grammy winning producer Daniel Lanois would be proud. Wurster formed the gothic rock band Black Janet in 1989, while teaching high school history and made a large mark on Miami’s rock scene. Everyone knew who they were and flocked to see them. Later, he changed musical direction, forming the Americana band, Jim Wurster and the Atomic Cowboys, and then released solo albums that are a fusion of rock, blues, folk, country and gospel. 3 Chords and a Chorus of Lust- The Songs of Jim Wurster was released in 2017 to celebrate Jim’s retiring from teaching AP U.S. History for 33 years. His extremely talented musical friends surprised him at North Miami’s Luna Star Café and sang his songs from early Black Janet to 2016’s No Joke. Luckily, Y & T Music captured this for us to enjoy. All proceeds of this CD go to 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida Rescue.

Speaking to Ulloa, you hear the excitement and his unwavering love and respect for his artists. They are like his children and he has always encouraged his artists to get major label record deals and they retain 100% ownership of all masters and publishing while on his label. In fact, Y & T Music is like a family of musicians as they have joined together on many projects (Everybody’s Talkin’: The Fred Neil Tribute and Put Down That Weapon) and work well to help each other on their own solo work. Fast forward to the year 2020 which brings Ulloa teamed up with new business partners Don Sarley and Jim Wurster to release a slew of pretty spectacular music:

Mandy Marylane- Self titled debut EP of all originals by a young traditional folk/classical singer-songwriter with a gorgeous voice and a way with a nylon string flamenco-cutaway classical guitar. Influenced by Leonard Cohen, she seems to be from another time/another place. Karen Feldner and Matthew Sabatella- “Oh John Prine” single written by Karen Feldner and performed with the brilliant Sabatella. For fun, on the flip side they cover John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves,” and do a great job on a great song. Yes…we sure do miss John Prine. Eric Andersen- A true gem from famed N.Y. folkster/singer-songwriter Eric Andersen. Woodstock Under the Stars is a special 3 CD set of his performances from 1991-2011. This set is a necessity for Eric Andersen fans and a great introduction for new fans of this special folk artist who became known in Greenwich Village in the 60’s and after over 30 albums has been covered by Dylan, Linda Ronstadt and John Denver, to name a few. His velvet smooth as silk voice is super soothing in these troubled times. Just released in June, the first pressing has already sold out. It received a four-star review in England’s Mojo music magazine and it sure deserves it!

Put Down That Weapon (Make Music Not War)- This labor of love compilation was four years in the making and consists of new recordings of legendary anti-violence songs covered by artists with South Florida ties to benefit (100% of the proceeds) Guitars over Guns.org, which is an arts-based youth development program that provides instruments and instructions to local youths in vulnerable communities. It helps both the youths, giving them a creative outlet, and the struggling musicians that are paid to do the instruction. There are fifteen songs brilliantly performed, featuring many Y & T Music artists with highlights being Matthew Sabatella’s cover of Steve Goodman’s “The Ballad of Penny Evans” (worth the price of the entire album for this song alone), Mary Karlzen’s heartfelt cover of James Taylor’s “Soldiers, Jim Wurster’s interpretation of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What it’s Worth”, Sweet Lizzy Project doing justice to Buffy Saint Marie’s “Universal Soldier”, and Jolynn Daniel nailing Neil Young’s “Comin’ Apart at Every Nail”. Eric Andersen contributes “I ain’t marching anymore. Omine Eager covers “Simple Song of Freedom” and she is another artist that is so talented- her 2011 album Whiskey & Chocolate is excellent. Arlan Feiles captures “Masters of War.” So much talent on one album makes it so musically worth it – all tracks are great, and such a worthy cause. It is found on Amazon, at local record stores, bandcamp.com and various other online places. Mary Karlzen- Shine is the long-awaited new album from this genuine singer-songwriter who defies categories. Mary came back to Florida March 1, 2020 (pre-Covid 19) and performed live at a small pre-record release party with the superb cast of Y & T Music artists backing her and it was a magical evening I will never forget. Shine features guest appearances from Garry W. Talent (E. Street Band), Mark Goldenberg (guitarist for Linda Ronstadt & Jackson Browne), Ben Peeler (ex-Mavericks), Ken Coomer (Wilco) and more. It is being released in November. Lastly, another November release is Drew Weaver Sings Country Mood Songs- Country artist Weaver dusts off a 1998 set of songs that he did with Rosie Flores, the Tex-Mex queen of American rockabilly and country. Add killer producer Jansen Press in the mix and it’s a winner. The duet “Stranger in My Arms” should be on a movie soundtrack. Merle Haggard would be proud.

Seems like Y & T Music is bringing back the glory days of South Florida Music, one release at a time. Also, a shout out to our local indie records stores including Sweat Records, Technique Records, Radioactive Records, We Got the Beats, Record Rack as well as Yesterday & Today Records for all the support to our local musicians and keeping all of us music fans happy. – Debbie Brautman

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