Indiana Remixed Playlist Project: Bloomington

Our Bloomington spotlight starts with perhaps the most easily recognized and acclaimed Indiana artist, Hoagy Carmichael. The composition “Stardust” is notable, recorded numerous times by countless artists, but it is this example that is represented here, both sung and performed by Hoagy, a Bloomington native, but also recorded in Richmond, Indiana and released on Richmond label Gennett Records in 1950. Carmichael’s history is represented across town, from his statue on IU’s campus to his burial site in Rose Hill Cemetery to the Stardust bridge on Bloomington’s northwest side.

Jumping ahead to the 1970s we see the emergence of a rich independent music scene in Bloomington, best represented by the labels Bar-B-Q Records and Gulcher Records. The former came to encompass a collective of artists recording music that combined jazz, psychedelic rock, and folk elements into a unique regional sound, as represented by the Screaming Gypsy Bandits on their track “Junior” from their 1973 release In the Eye. Featured on this album is Caroline Peyton, who’s solo albums on Bar-B-Q further evolved this regional sound. Her 1972 effort Mock Up plays on-par with popular female folk artists of the time, fusing acoustic stripped arrangements with peculiar time signatures and jazz instrumentation. Her follow up Intuition, released in 1977, is more embedded in country rock, with full band arrangement and pop accessibility. Labelmate and Lebanon, Indiana native Bill Wilson made considerable contributions to this sound, bringing the influence of the Texas country rock scene with him upon returning to Bloomington in 1972. His 1973 album Ever Changing Minstrel is a perfect harmony of country and rock music, blending country instrumentation and rock structure and drive with powerful lyrics representative of the nation’s climate.

The latter label, Gulcher Records, came to encompass a scene that was radically different. Despite being a small and completely independent label, Gulcher housed recordings and releases by several of punk’s most significant acts, including Indiana natives Zero Boys and the Gizmos. The driving rhythm, distorted instrumentation, and aggressively shouted vocals of Indianapolis’ Zero Boys was heard by punks across the nation, influencing future generations of punk and rock musicians. The scene was a hot spot for artists embodying this aggressive new genre, as heard on The Panics’ “I Wanna Kill My Mom,” released in 1980. The Gizmos were proud torch bearers for the midwest sound happening in Bloomington, as embodied in 1981’s “The Midwest Can Be Alright” (consider this a response to 1980’s “Can’t Stand the Midwest,” a furious punk criticism of Indiana from West Lafayette’s Dow Jones and the Industrials). Gulcher records also housed New Wave acts hailing from Indiana, like Bloomington’s Amoebas in Chaos and MX-80. The Bloomington punk scene became a nexus for experimentation with the punk sound, as represented by a fusion of punk and electronic music heard on E-in Brino’s “Indianapolis and the Dancing Cigarettes” & “Pop Doormat,” both released in 1981.

Moving into the 1980s, we see the emergence of perhaps Bloomington’s second most notable and easily recognized artist. John Mellencamp, born and raised in Seymour Indiana, had found commercial success in the late 1970s and early 1980s with singles like “Hurts so Good,” “I Need a Lover,” and “Jack & Diane.” At a crossroads in his career, Mellencamp decided to return to his home state, starting what would become a tradition of writing and recording in Indiana that would last the rest of his career. 1983’s “Pink Houses” glorified small town America, harkening to a nondescript image of average American life with accounts of vague American characters. Building on this theme and creating the image for which he is best known for, Mellencamp released Small Town in 1985, with the hit single “Small Town,” an anthem not only for small town America but also for Indiana. Mellencamp, who resides now in Bloomington, remains a proud torch bearer for Indiana music and art into the new decade.

In the 90s, artists began expanding upon the alternative rock explosion in popular culture. As shoegaze, noise rock, and grunge began to take underground and eventually mainstream markets by storm, Bloomington’s Arson Garden released their sophomore effort Under Towers in 1993, an album laden with noisy guitars affected with pitch shifting effects pedals. Horror-punk act The Nevermores released their first and only album Lock Your Doors… in 1991, blending the familiar Bloomington punk sound with Farfisa organ and screamed lyrics. Antenna formed in Bloomington after the dissolution of Blake Babies, releasing guitar driven songs with pop sensibility and distorted riffs inherent to grunge and alternative rock acts, as heard on 1993’s “Shine.”

By the late 1990s and early 2000s alternative rock had splintered and shifted in numerous directions, one towards a genre that would be coined “Emo,” inspiring genre pioneers Early Day Miners. The Bloomington band released Let us Garlands Bring in 2002, and songs like “Centralia” embody the band’s desolate and slow guitar driven compositions, layered with somber strings and whispered harmonies. Bloomington’s Good Luck took a different approach to emo music, fusing the genre’s lyrical frustration with punk’s pace and instrumentation and pop’s accessibility, as heard on 2008’s “Stars Were Exploding,” which specifically references Lake Griffy. Moving into the 2010s, the underground music scene’s of America began to revisit the early rock ‘n’ roll sound of 1960s garage bands. Apache Dropout released “Teenager” on independent label Family Vineyard in 2011, echoing the sound of Bloomington’s original punk scene. Triptides, originally of Bloomington, combines reverb-drenched guitar tones with whispered lyrics and psych-influenced song structure, as heard on 2012’s “Sun/Shine.” Diane Coffee harkens back to bubble gum pop and r&b tunes on tracks like 2013’s “Green.” Bands like Thee Tsunamis are reminiscent of Bloomington’s original punk scene while creating unique garage rock tracks like 2015’s “Drag.” Into the mid 2010’s Bloomington remained a haven for experimental artists as well, like the ambient electronic project Lake Daggers, whose 2015 “Rite II” is built upon a sparse musical landscape consisting of drum machines and droning synth bass.

Bloomington artists continue to build on the traditions of artists before them. Dasher combines punk aggression with effect-laden guitar tones reminiscent of shoegaze and alternative Bloomington bands from the 1990s. T.V. Mike & the Scarecrows produce tight country rock that would fit in the Bar-B-Q Records circa 1975. Indie pop duo Spissy combine the pop sensibilities of 1970s and 1980s rock radio with mellow guitar-driven arrangements that Mellencamp could tap his foot to. Bloomington is also home to a new generation of inspired folk musicians, like Kay Krull, whose distinctly unique recordings continue to evolve the sounds of Caroline Peyton. The Wonderhills also build on the Bar-B-Q Records sound, combining elements of bluegrass and old time into a unique folk-fusion. The Cowboys remain torch bearers for the Bloomington punk scene, bringing a fresh perspective to fast-paced, power-chord driven anthems. Amy-O draws from the same history of Bloomington’s 1990s alternative rock scene, expanding the sound with catchy riffs and beautifully arranged vocal harmonies. Most importantly, however, Bloomington remains a place for artists to blossom and create new music movements, as heard in Durand Jones & the Indications, whose retro-soul revival music is quickly gaining recognition across the nation. As it has always been, Bloomington is a place for artists across Indiana and even the world to come together, influence and inspire one another, and create exciting and timeless music.

Resources for Further Exploration
Arson Gardon – article about Arson Garden, an art rock project out of Bloomington, from Nuvo Magazine
Caroline Peyton – piece on folk artist Caroline Peyton, from Numero Group
Gulcher Records – write-up about Gulcher Records and the Bloomington punk scene
Bill Wilson – article from Nuvo Magazine about Bill Wilson, a Bloomington cosmic country artist

Indiana Remixed Playlist Project: Gary

Our Gary, Indiana spotlight starts in 1954 with the Spaniels’ third single “Goodnight Sweetheart,” released on Vee Jay records. Vee Jay, founded in Gary in 1953, would go on to become one of the most important r&b labels in the nation, paving the way for the rock ‘n’ roll explosion in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Early examples of rock ‘n’ roll can be heard on The El Durados’ “At My Door (Crazy Little Mama),” released in 1957. Vee Jay was also home to Jimmy Reed, who moved from Mississippi to Gary in the 1940s. Reed brought with him the sound of delta blues and combined that with the sound of early rock ‘n’ roll acts on Vee Jay’s catalogue, creating a unique and driven version of the blues that would influence countless rock ‘n’ roll acts into the late 1960s, as heard on tracks like 1958’s “Ain’t That Lovin You” and 1960’s “Big Boss Man.”

Moving into the late 1960s, we see the emergence of Gary’s most notable stars, the wildly popular Jackson 5. The child soul group quickly rose to international fame and created the star that was Michael Jackson. Provided here are the original 1967 recordings from the group, the first known studio sessions actually recorded in Gary. Known as the Steeltown sessions, the band’s harmonies backing Michael’s already powerful and distinct voice can be clearly recognized on tracks like “Big Boy,” the band’s first successful single, which received considerable airplay in the Gary and Chicago area. Gary is also home to r&b legend Denice Williams, whose landmark single “Free,” released in 1976, is a significant contribution to the genre. Williams would go on to have a successful solo career that would last well into the 1980s with the single “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” The 1980s would also see Michael Jackson rise far above the commercial success he had with his brothers on his solo release Thriller in 1982, an album that would go on to become the best selling album of all time. Though the Jacksons had left Gary for the west coast by this time, the monumental success of their collective careers make them perhaps the most significant Indiana artists with regards to international cultural impact.

By the 1990s, r&b had evolved to incorporate elements of 1980s pop and the increasingly popular hip hop movement. Janet Jackson made significant strides in pioneering this genre-blending type of r&b, as heard on 1993’s “That’s the Way Love Goes.” Janet became an icon upon the release of this album, exploring sexuality from the female perspective and setting herself apart from her brothers and their musical legacy to create her own. The album’s sound was fully evolved on her 1997 follow up The Velvet Rope, featuring some of Hip Hop’s biggest names. Though Janet left Gary in her earliest years, her sound was massively influential to a number of artists in Gary during the 1990s. Among these artists is r&b duo Trina & Tamara, whose 1999 eponymous debut had all the makings to be a chart topping hit, as heard on the single “What’d You Come Here For?” Equally inspired by the Jackson’s legacy was Trina and Tamara’s older brother Jesse Powell, whose 1996 single “You” would rise to critical acclaim, topping the r&b charts and earning him a grammy nomination.

Gary is now home to several torch bearers for the region, particularly in the world of hip hop. Freddie Gibbs has perhaps received the greatest amount of recognition, emerging in the early 2010s with tracks like “Eastside Moonwalker” that explore life in Gary. Gibbs carried the representation of his home city into commercial success on his revolutionary 2014 release Pinata. The collaboration with producer MadLib contains tracks like “Harold’s,” a partial ode to Harold’s Chicken in Gary, Indiana, and “Thuggin,” an ode to Gibbs’ upbringing in the city. Gibbs’ 2019 effort Bandana evolves the artists sound further, and tracks like lead single “Flat Tummy Tea” firmly establish Gibbs as one of the most important names in contemporary hip hop. Gary is also home to Will $crilla, whose 2017 Fresh Out the Joint Buzz Builders recounts the artists arrest and release from prison and explores life in Gary. Keeping in the tradition of experimentation and genre-expansion, Gary footwork artist Jlin releases works that fuse dance, techno, and hip hop into unique instrumental compositions. These artists carry the city’s tradition of pioneering artists into the 2020s, maintaining Gary’s legacy of being a hot spot for inventive artists with the potential to impact the international music scene.

Resources for Further Exploration
The Rise and Fall of Vee-Jay Records – NPR article on Vee-Jay Records, founded in Gary, Indiana
Interview with Freddie Gibbs – interview with the hip-hop artist on his hometown of Gary
Interview with Jlin – interview with the footwork artist on Gary
Jackson 5 Homecoming – news story about the Jacksons returning to Gary

Introducing the Indiana Remixed Playlist Project

The following is a guest post from Nicholae Cline (IU Libraries Scholarly Services and Media Studies Librarian) as part of the IU Arts and Humanities Council Indiana Remixed programming. 

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There is often an attitude of detachment from your home state, an approach to the place of your upbringing that is sometimes constituted by disinterest in its history even if lived experience is structured by lineages of many kinds. For those of you born in Indiana, perhaps you felt this growing up in a state often overlooked in general primary and secondary school social studies. This project aims to change that for ourselves, and hopefully for you as well. In compiling this list of great Indiana recordings by legendary Indiana artists, we have set out to draw connections from the Hoosier state’s musical past to its present and explore the many ways artists from the state situate themselves into national (and even global) musical movements.

Before talking about the music, it will be important to talk about the process. In deciding what to define as “Indiana music,” we drew from a number of lists and articles, some linked on this page. Generally, the artists here will have been born in or lived a significant amount of their lives in Indiana (at least five years). We have tried our best to limit the song selection to recordings produced in Indiana, showcasing the sound of legendary Indiana recording studios and producers. We have also worked within the parameters of “contemporary music,” defined as spanning from the 1920s to the 2020s.

For further exploration, we have compiled three regional spotlights, highlighting what we suggest are key musical well springs in Indiana history. In closely examining the musical history of Gary, Indianapolis, and Bloomington, Indiana, we can observe consistent communities of artists and musicians carrying the torch of Hoosier music into the new decade across a wide spectrum of genres, including blues, jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, and electronic music. Though Indiana itself hosts artists from its small towns to its large cities, it is these three localities that stand out over the last century.

There will undoubtedly be many artists we missed, because, as we’ve learned, Indiana’s musical history is much larger than ever imagined. As we move into the new decade, Indiana artists continue to produce exciting contributions to the genres and movements they situate themselves in, and if anything we hope these playlists prove that this has been the case for Indiana for the past century.

To dive in, check out our “master” playlist, with music from the entire series:

Resources for Further Exploration
100 Best Hoosier Albums Ever – Nuvo list of best albums made in or by Indiana artists
Musical Family Tree – online index of Indiana music
Record Labels of Indiana – index of Indiana record labels, from the 1950s-’70s
Cultural Manifesto – podcast from Nuvo columnist Kyle Long, with episodes on Amnesty, 700 West Studios, and many other Indiana musical legends
Riverwalk Jazz – article on Gennett Records, a blues and jazz label from Richmond, Indiana

Acknowledgments
Thanks to the entire Indiana Remixed @ Wells team for their contributions to and support with this work, especially the inimitable Brett Hoffman (one of our Arts & Humanities Library Assistants).

Josephine Grima: IU’s First Mexican Student

Photograph of Josephine Grima in nurse's uniform
Josephine Grima, 1917 IU Arbutus yearbook

The year 1917 saw the first class of nurses graduate from the new IU Training School for Nurses, part of the School of Medicine in Indianapolis since 1914. Among those five women was one who could claim another “first”–Josephine Grima (1892?-1993), the first student to enroll at IU from Mexico.

Born around 1892 in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, Grima was apparently encouraged by members of a Society of Friends mission from Indiana to return home with them to complete her medical training. After nine months of preparatory work, Josephine entered the three-year graduate nurses program in the fall of 1914.

During their three years of training, which mainly took place at the Robert W. Long Hospital, Grima and the other nursing students experienced a rigorous routine of “full-time duty in the wards and classrooms.” Types of courses ranged from the preliminary classes on biology, anatomy and physiology, hygiene, sanitation, and household economics to senior term lectures on obstetrics, children’s diseases, mental diseases, and social service.

Photograph of student nurses working in a laboratory
Students at the Training School for Nurses during the 1916-1917 academic year. From the 1917 IU Arbutus yearbook.

As Grima was finishing her final semester, the United States declared war on Germany, officially entering what would be known as World War I. Soon after graduating, she joined the U.S. Army Nurses Corps as a reserve nurse. While she never deployed overseas, she nevertheless saw her share of action during the devastating flu pandemic of 1918. She was first stationed at the army hospital in Markelton, Pennsylvania, before being transferred to Camp Devens near Boston, Massachusetts, in September 1918. At the time, the training camp was in desperate need of medical personnel: with over 10,000 cases in less than a month, it was the site of one of the largest influenza outbreaks in the U.S.

As part of the IU Alumni Association’s War Service Register project, Grima described her experience at Camp Devens. Although brief, it underscores some of the most basic challenges that Grima and her fellow nurses faced in a camp overflowing with patients:

…We report [sic] at the Base Hospt. where we had 15000 of cases of Pneumonia and Influenza where we had to suffer bad accomodation [sic] and bad prepared food. We were on duty [illegible] hours and had to stand in line three times a day for our meals, our beds consisted during the epidemic of straw tikets [tickets], two O. D. [olive drab] blankets and a sanitary cot. There were no place [sic] to accomodate [sic] 750 nurses that answer [sic] the call of the epidemic and for that reason we had to use for bedrooms the garage, the farmhouse, etc. We had a great diel [sic] of work and responsability [sic]…

Segment of Grima's IU War Service Register entry.
Introduction to Grima’s IU War Service Register form. View entire entry

Grima continued her nursing career for a time after the war, working at the Marine Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, before marrying and starting a family. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1922. One of her daughters, Dorothy Comstock Riley, became the first female justice to serve on the State of Michigan’s Court of Appeals (1973) and the first Hispanic woman to be elected a supreme court justice in any state (1985).

 

How to Train a Dragon in Indiana

From “Nine Dragons” (jiǔlóngtú; 九龙图) by Chen Rong, 1244, located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Dragons are my favorite supernatural creatures. Maybe it’s not surprising, then, that I found a way to research them as part of my new job working for the University Archives. As part of IU’s 2018 Themester, which focused on the relationship between human and non-human animals, I started researching animal folklore in the IU Folklore Institute student papers, and quickly ran into Henry Gaidoz’s massive collection (GR55.G35 H46) in the related IU Libraries’ Folklore Collection. This French folklorist and mythologist collected texts about everything from Zoroastrianism to cannibalism, including an entire box of writings on dragons. At the bottom of that box, I found Marinus Willem de Visser’s 1913 missive The Dragon in China and Japan (Box 24, Item 568). This book contains hundreds of pages of descriptions of Chinese and Japanese dragon beliefs and traditions, including instructions on how to summon a dragon to make it rain.

M.W. de Visser, like Gaidoz, had a range of interests. He was a Dutch scholar who studied Chinese and Japanese folklore, but his works have become particularly well known in the field of cryptozoology, the study of supernatural creatures. In The Dragon in China and Japan, he chronicles the ways that dragon beliefs and rituals moved between India, China, and Japan, drawing along the way from Taoism, Shintoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. His book begins by describing beliefs that came from India, then moves into the way those ideas were absorbed into existing traditions in China and Japan. As I read, I realized what a vital role dragons play in eastern Asian traditions, particularly as water gods capable of starting and stopping rain.

Much of the western literature I had previously encountered depicted dragons as embodied metaphors for the human qualities of greed, violence, and wisdom. In China, however, dragons have been worshiped as deities, used as symbols of national identity and political authority, and are still seen today as figures with the potential to bless a community with rain or stop a flood. I was interested in these practices because of my love for all things dragon-related, but also because my home state of Utah was at the time suffering from drought and a series of terrible fires. I decided to combine some of the things I learned from Visser’s text with my own traditions and ask a dragon to bring rain to my home town.

Title page for M.W. De Visser’s The Dragon in China and Japan, Henry Gaidoz Collection, Box 24, Item 568

Chinese and Japanese beliefs in dragons are complicated and emergent, and they are not my area of study. However, based on Visser’s work as well as other texts, I identified what seemed to be some key aspects of these traditions. Ancient Chinese beliefs about dragons describe them as “enormous light-giving mountain gods” who helped create life and have power over the weather as well as other aspects of the environment (62). These long-standing beliefs combined with Buddhist and Hindu influences to form contemporary dragon worship practices, including the widespread belief in Dragon Kings. Dragon or Serpent Kings are local gods that live in specific lakes or rivers and can be petitioned to create or stop rain. Many are depicted as having bodies that are part serpent and part human.

“The Dragon King of the Four Seas” 1801-1850, located in the British Museum.

It is difficult to delineate how and where specific parts of dragon worship in China originated, but Visser outlines several examples of asking dragons for rain that come from Taoist and Buddhist traditions. In general, there are two types of strategies for communicating with dragons, both of which rely on knowing what the dragon either likes or dislikes. The first is performing a ritual to ask the dragon for help, which involves praying, providing offerings, and reciting sutras or sacred texts. These rituals often include images of specific dragons and items that are the color blue (the color of one of the most important dragons), and are done while facing the direction of the particular dragon you are trying to summon (often east) (30-32). The second strategy is to agitate the dragon to cause it to move, which can involve pulling small statues of the dragon in and out of the water, making loud noises near the shoreline, or throwing items the dragon dislikes (often iron and the Wang plant) into the river or lake (69).

My version of summoning the dragon was based on the two types of rituals described in Visser. First, I read about the Great Cloud Circle (or Wheel) rite. This Buddhist petition must be performed in an open space, under a blue canopy and a blue banner and on a blue seat facing east. There are additional instructions for who can perform the ritual and what they must be wearing, as well as the offerings that should accompany the performance. In this ritual a religious official or influential lay person recites the sutra or dharani of the Great Cloud Circle for one to two days while others play music and sing for the dragon. Then they burn offerings, including a paper figure with a message in his hand asking for rain. The act of burning this figure is supposed to allow him to take his message to heaven (32).

The second strategy I drew from is a practice associated with the dragon boat festival (such as this one in Washington D.C.), an annual celebration in which people race dragon boats and place dumplings wrapped in leaves and tied with five-colored thread in the water. There are many different versions of the story behind this festival –one of the most common is that it commemorates the poet K’uh Yen, a loyal man accused of treason who committed suicide, and the race of the villagers to save his body from being eaten by placing other food in the water. However, Visser and other scholars suggest that this celebration comes in part from an earlier festival which may have been intended to worship dragons. Visser suggests the act of racing symbolic representations of dragons and placing food wrapped in leaves of a plant that dragons would not like in the water were intended to make the dragons race or fight each other, causing a rainstorm (68).

After reading about these and other ways to communicate I wanted to respect these traditions but also perform my own ritual in a way that was personally meaningful, so I combined these ideas with what I had on hand. Part of the problem was that I was not asking for rain where I currently was–Indiana had plenty of water–so I spoke to Tam Iverson, a graduate student at the University of Tartu, Estonia, who is familiar with beliefs about rain summoning in many cultures. He suggested that I use a fulcrum, or something that emotionally connected me to the place where I was asking for it to rain. I knew my Dad was coming into town that weekend, so I waited for him to arrive and planned that we would figure out the materials and fulcrum together. Coincidentally, the day we planned was also the day of the fall equinox, which according to Visser begins the period in which dragons begin a period of hibernation (66).

Photo by Jessie Riddle

That weekend, we picked a stream near my house and I found a blue scarf given to me by my grandmother to act as a “blue banner.” My Dad and I wrote messages on pieces of paper and brought matches to burn them. I didn’t have dumplings or the specific leaves mentioned by Visser, so I wrapped a cookie in the leaves I found near the stream and tied it together with five colors of thread. We brought a blue umbrella as the blue canopy, and as the fulcrum and a text to read, I brought a childhood story book with a blue cover. I read the book out loud, we placed the cookie wrapped in leaves and thread in the water, and then burned our messages. It was raining while we did this in Indiana, but the forecast for Utah was no rain for the next week.

The next day my Dad flew home to Utah, and sent me this video, which includes the sounds of light rainfall in Provo, Utah:

I have no idea if we summoned a dragon, and if that was possible whether that dragon would listen to anything we had to say. But I learned about beliefs I would never have otherwise, and I felt strongly the importance of having personal rituals that allow you to communicate with the world around you. Also, I don’t know that it didn’t work. So thanks, dragon.