La Salle St After Hours #2 (take 3)

Yesterday’s post juxtaposed two essays, one written by a person and one by ChatGPT, an AI program. I asked which was which.

When I tried to write this follow-up, YouTube decided I was a robot and wouldn’t let me add links to the post. The post then disappeared. The next take froze and wouldn’t accept my CAPTCHA responses. Now it was sure I was a robot. Then ChatGPT erased the additional essays that I was going to discuss. I finally used two different browsers, one for Chat GPT and YouTube links and another to write the post. So here is #2, take 3.

ChatGPT wrote a convincing essay about a non-existent oil painting. One might say it was brimming with “alternative facts”. John Wright (1934-2017) was a jazz pianist from Chicago. His debut album, “South Side Soul” was released in 1960 with Wendell Roberts on bass and Walter McCants on drums.

When I changed the prompt to call it a “composition” instead of a “piece”, ChatGPT took minutes to begin writing, then spit out the same essay with a different conclusion, using new adjectives in the final paragraph to describe the fictional painting.

I tried again, calling it a “jazz composition”. ChatGPT continued to insist it was a 1991 work and now highlighted the virtuosity of the saxophonist, discussing his “quick runs” and arpeggios. Since the work is for piano, bass, and drums, I wondered where the AI found sax, so I asked. ChatGPT told me there were many recordings of this piece with different saxophonists, so I needed to be more specific. When I gave it specifics, it spit this back:

Thank you for providing additional information. The 1960 recording of “South Side Soul” features John Wright on piano, Frank Derrick on drums, and Frank Walton on trumpet. The saxophonist on this recording is Harold Ousley. Ousley was a talented tenor saxophonist who played with a number of notable jazz musicians over the course of his career, including Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie. His soulful, bluesy style of playing is a perfect fit for the “La Salle St After Hours” composition, and his solo on the recording is a highlight of the performance.

As you may note, the only fact on this which is accurate and relevant is that John Wright plays the piano; but I told it that. The others are real musicians but did not play on this record. These actually are “alternative facts”, in that they are factual but have nothing to do with the question asked. It would be like the student who has some knowledge of the general topic but none about the question asked, so fills an essay with stuff that is true but irrelevant. Ousley’s “soulful, bluesy style of playing” is certainly not “a highlight of the performance”.

While I’ve read multiple essays warning about ChatGPT being used by students to do their homework, I would give the bot an ‘F’ on every one of its attempts. If I knew nothing of the work, I may have been convinced. Knowing the work, I’d know the student cheated. Not knowing the work would have necessitated about a minute of Googling to know the essays on painting were lies. Another couple of minutes would have been required to know those which called it jazz were no better.

The other essay, about the pianist playing late into the night after the club had closed, was written by a student from an exam prompt. The students were given two prompts and the piece was played twice in succession. They had to place the piece in a musical, cultural, and historical context in one essay and write a personal reaction in the second essay. It had to be written while the piece was playing and handed in a couple of minutes after the music stopped, so the bot and the human were working in about the same timeframe, kind of like John Henry and the steam drill.

It may not have been fair that I used the student’s second essay and not the first, which may have borne some minor stylistic resemblance to the ChatGPT essay; but I think this illustrates perhaps the most important issue. What is “intelligence”? To me, it is more about the ability to learn than it is about the accumulated knowledge. We don’t call an encyclopedia “intelligent” though it contains a lot of information. At the same time, we don’t belittle a child’s intelligence because they have not yet accumulated a vast store of knowledge. We note a child’s intelligence via the capacity to learn. Learning arises from not knowing. If we don’t know and we are aware of that, we can learn. This AI bot is stupid. Why? Because it makes shit up. If you hide your lack of knowledge by making shit up, you don’t learn. As a programmer, I learned GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. What came out of ChatGPT was Garbage.

Thanks for playing. As your prize for playing our game, here is the title cut from “South Side Soul”.

You call that old?

I’ve been reading blogs about “classic rock” by writers talking about times they’ve read about, being too young to remember some of it. Sometimes they bring back memories and sometimes introduce me to things I hadn’t known.

My earliest musical memories are my brothers’ records. Both were teens in the 1950s. The first records were 78s. Three stick in my mind, one a big band record from the 40s, and here they are.

Pre-rock n roll with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra and “Opus No 1” by Cy Oliver
“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, who taught Paul McCartney to shout “woo” and shake his hair.
“Don’t Be Cruel”, the flip side of “Hound Dog”. Once I heard Big Mama Thornton’s original version of “Hound Dog”, Elvis’s paled in comparison; partly because it left out the primary concept of the song, comparing a lover to a hound dog “snoopin’ ’round my door”, and letting him know that sex was out of the question with “I won’t feed you no more”.

The first album I recall was Duane Eddy’s “especially for you” with “His ‘twangy’ guitar and The Rebels”. We played it on my brother’s portable stereo, which looked a lot like this:

Theme from Peter Gunn, an early TV detective show

When we moved to 45s, the record pile grew quickly. We played them on my sister’s record changer, which looked a lot like this.

My first single was a cover of The Beatles’ “She Loves You”, on Hit Records, a Nashville label that did note-for-note knock-offs of current hits and charged half as much as normal 45s. My own first album was the 1964 release “In Touch With Peter and Gordon”. This was the hit single:

Like most artists of the British Invasion, they listened to the blues and tried to cover blues songs. Here is their attempt at Willie Dixon’s “My Babe”, followed by Little Walter’s original recording.

After hearing the real thing, my musical tastes changed, aided by Big Bro, host of “Two for the Blues” on “Up Against the Wall” FM radio. I had to listen to it under the covers, down low, with the lights off, as broadcasts were 10:30 PM to 3 AM and I got up at 4:30 to work starting at age 12.

The hosts of “Up Against the Wall” up against the wall of Breese Stevens Field.

As a result, the first touring acts I saw live were BB King, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters.

[Breese Stevens Field is the home of the Flamingos of Forward Madison FC, whose official mascot is Lionel Bessi, a Holstein cow. The Flamingos are named after the city’s official bird, the plastic pink lawn flamingo, after a stunt in which 1008 plastic pink flamingos were placed on Bascom Hill in 1979. (See previous post re: Pail and Shovel Party and thousands of dollars in pennies.) It is also the place where I first promoted a concert and learned to do things myself instead of trusting others to keep their promises. I was urged to find an older and more experienced person to help me, as I was 16 or 17. It was his idea to save time by having each band bring part of the equipment and share it so we wouldn’t have to take so much time resetting the stage. Of course, the band he had arranged to bring some crucial stuff never showed up, so I (and another band that I had brought on-board) had to scramble to get equipment on site as the potential audience milling about outside started leaving when they heard no music. I, of course, am not bitter or anything;). This was to be a major fundraiser for Young World Development (see previous post). Fundraiser, yes. Major, no.]

Photo by Michael Kienitz

For those not familiar with Lionel Bessi’s namesake, here’s a look at his skills.

I also found video of an 8 year old Lionel already showing dribbling finesse, a powerful left foot, and the ability to be in the right place at the right time:

Maybe that lack of sleep in my formative years made me what I am today. That, coupled with being sick, means most of my exercise today is for my ears and fingers. (And too much for my eyes!) De-decorating the Christmas tree, hauling it out, cleaning up, and a couple of trips up and down the stairs was way more aerobic than it should be.

Soon I should be back on the bike and maybe writing about that again.

Luther Allison

I have notes for a post about the great musicians I had the privilege to hear/see when they were alive – one of the benefits of getting old. I decided this guy deserves his own.

Luther Allison was born in Widener, Arkansas on August 17, 1939 and died in Madison, WI on August 12, 1997 – 25 years ago today. He moved to Chicago in 1951 and studied at the feet of the masters. When the “blues revival” hit white college kids in the 1960s, Luther was one of the younger players who introduced us to the older generation.

Madison, WI is only three hours from Chicago and Luther made the trip frequently. Madison became a second home. He used a long guitar cord so he could wander into the audience (and he did his share of flirting during those forays). When he released his debut album “Love Me Mama” for Delmark Records in 1969, we knew he was a force to be reckoned with.

Luther signed to Motown Records and put out three albums on that label in the 1970s and then disappeared from view in the US, living in France where American Blues Masters had a more appreciative audience. He burst back onto the US scene with “Soul Fixin’ Man” released on Alligator Records in 1994. For casual fan in the US, Luther was back.

Luther was a player who understood that it’s not how many notes you play, it’s how you play those notes…and how you play the silences in between. After signing with Alligator, Luther divided his time between North America and Europe. His last recorded performance was in Montreal on July 6, 1997. He played a couple more shows, checked into a hospital in Madison WI, and died of lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. You can see and hear that he still had it with five weeks to live.

And finally, the music didn’t die completely with his death. Here is his son, Bernard Allison, born in 1965. I have not yet seen/heard him in person.

Is it a coincidence that so many of these are Elmore James songs?

This is a bonus post, pre-written for the occasion. For those of you champing at the bit, the regular post will follow in one minute. It will be a musical day in half-fast land.

Happy birthday

You may may noticed that music creeps into this bike blog on a regular basis. Usually it is squeezed into some other topic.

This time it doesn’t fit with the next scheduled post, so Charlie McCoy gets his own. Charlie McCoy is one of the greatest harmonica players out there and you have probably never heard of him. He mostly works as a sideman in the country and western genre but I’d put him up there with the blues greats.

One day my roommate came home with an album by this guy I never heard of. We played it constantly.

We think of this as a fiddle tune, but the harmonica was made for railroad songs.
Jazz standards, anyone? (Written by Hoagy Carmichael, best known for Ray Charles’ rendition.)
Yes, he plays the blues and he pays his dues to one of the greats.
How about The Beatles?
One of his earliest recordings, with Roy Orbison

Charlie McCoy was born in West Virginia on March 28, 1941. He has been active as a Nashville session player and is one of those people you have heard many times without knowing it, having played on up to 400 sessions per year at the height of his career. He also plays guitar, bass, trumpet, and drums in addition to his better-known work on harp. He sings now and then. He played guitar on Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”. He was the bassist on all of Dylan’s album “John Wesley Harding”. He was probably best known as Musical Director for the TV show “Hee-Haw”, source of the first clip here. For all of its corn, it had some amazing music. He has also worked with Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ringo Starr, Steve Miller, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, JJ Cale, Al Kooper, and Paul Simon, among many others.

Happy birthday, Charlie…and thanks to My Old Pal Ovaltine for introducing me to his music some 50 years ago.

Contrary to the proverb that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”, this year March came in like a lamb with a temperature of 49 degrees F (9.4 C) and is going out like a lion with a temperature of 26 (-3.3 C) as I write this on 3/28 and a forecast for snow on 3/31.