I Wanna Go Fast, by the Yachtsmen

Presenting the latest music video from America’s premier purveyors of Dock & Roll, The Yachtsmen. The band consists of John Penovich (guitar), Ben Holmes (drums), and Mark Noone (bass). Mr. Noone wrote the song and sings lead.

The video was edited by Brad Dismukes, who also provided the special special effects, with cinematography by Rich West. Quasi-direction by Yours Truly. Recorded on location at the Palisades Hub Cap Center in Washington, D.C. Enjoy.

Dead Bath & Beyond

So I go places and notice things. Like how after this Bed Bath & Beyond store in Rockville closed the entire building seems to be dying. The rest of the shopping center–with a Petco, a Michaels, and an Aldi–looks just fine. If a suburban shopping center can ever look “fine.” Anyway. I go places, I notice things, and then I make stuff. Please don’t ask me why.

Brooks Tegler in the Studio

I recorded this interview with drummer and Gene Krupa authority Brooks Tegler on July 6, 2007, at Bias Recording Studios in Springfield, Va. I had recently been anointed as New Media Editor at Washington City Paper, mostly because I had a newfangled minDV camera and went around bothering people with it. I covered the first Capital Fringe Fest and first DC Shorts Festival. Those videos are on Youtube somewhere, but this one never got posted. Because shortly after, my father died, City Paper was sold and the new owners laid off two thirds of the staff, including me, then my mother died, then the economy died in 2008 and I had other things to worry about.

So, sorry, Brooks. But here it finally is. There is more, including an interview with vocalist Jim Stephanson and a lengthy talk about Gene Krupa’s cymbals and gear. Those will be posted soon.

Bill Holland takes the Blindfold Test

Around 2009, I went over to Bill Holland‘s house with the idea of recording him taking the famous Downbeat Magazine Blindfold Test, or my version of it. Originated by famed jazz critic Leonard Feather in the ’40s, the idea was to get prominent musician’s reactions to records of the day.

Like Feather, Bill Holland is one of the most knowledgeable musicians around. He was the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Billboard, as well as the leader of one of D.C.’s finest bands, Rent’s Due.

I planned to do a series of blindfold tests, but with music from my collection, or songs that resemble music.


After I got the tape home I discovered that the image had the time code visible. Annoyed at myself, I put the tape away and never did another blindfold test.

Of course, I could have just put an ID graphic covering the time code, as I have now done. Sigh.

Anyway, I finally transferred the tape and you can see Mr. Holland’s exquisite knowledge and wit on display. Enjoy.

Side note: This includes a track from Tina Louise, of Gilligan’s Island fame. I did another video about a reel-to-reel tape of her album, not remembering that I had featured her in this video. Crazy.

Dave Nuttycombe’s Almost Book Report

Because no one asked me, I offer this urgent update on my recent purchases from the beloved Politics and Prose book store.

Drumsville, by Robert Catalioti, examines how the beat that got everyone moving started in New Orleans. Dan Leroy‘s Dancing to the Drum Machine looks at what some thought to be the end of human percussion. The Foreword by Duran Duran‘s Nick Rhodes is worth the price of the book.


Watergate And Me!

Evidence! From deep in the Nuttycombe Photo Archives.

Evidence! From deep in the Nuttycombe Photo Archives.

Above is the envelope containing the role of film I shot at the Watergate hearings. I went there with the guitar player from my band, Bob Barnes. The trip might have been his idea. Watergate was the hip thing and Bob was a hip guy.

Bob Barnes, rocking in the free world.

Bob Barnes, rocking in the free world.

I remember at the time I was painting a mural inside a hippie-ish crisis call center in downtown Rockville but spending much of the day watching the hearings on the TV in the room. The hearings Bob and I attended were not the exciting ones, like John Dean or the revelation of the secret tapes. Instead, they featured the droning testimony of Maurice Stans, who had been the Commerce Secretary in the Nixon administration but was the treasurer for CREEP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

SIDE NOTE: I played a gig for CREEP. No idea how or why — my band was a typical Top 40 cover band made up of shaggy youngsters. Up With People we were not. But whoever booked us sent over a 45 r.p.m. disc of the campaign’s theme song, Nixon’s the One. We had to learn it for the show. Also for reasons I cannot recall, that record is not in my collection.

The gig was at some big building in Arlington, Va., maybe Crystal City. (Oh, sorry — “National Landing.” Bite me, Bezos.) Most of my memories are of button-down Republicans giving us the side-eye, or in one case tossing off the witticism, “Is that a boy or a girl?” The only positive attention, and it wasn’t much, came when we played Nixon’s the One. Man, I wish I still had that record.

[UPDATE: My pal Peter Gilstrap did a fantabulous interview with the composer of Nixon’s the One, Vic Caesar. It is one wild ride!]

don't buy books by crooks

“If the hero of San Clemente sells his books he’s gonna rake in plenty…”

SIDER NOTE: Years later I would play on an anti-Nixon song, Don’t Buy Books By Crooks, which was a protest over the disgraced president getting millions of dollars to write his memoirs. The group was featured on the Today Show but I didn’t feel like going to New York.

Anyway. I thought that I had taken photos inside the hearing room, but I didn’t. Probably because it was not allowed. I do have shots of people lined up outside the Capitol, some interior shots of the architecture, and shots of the many police overlooking the crowd. Plus Bob clowning around. And there are pictures of the hearings on my bedroom TV.

When the transcripts of the tapes were released, my uncle asked me to buy him a copy. Uncle Gene had been Nixon’s roommate in the Navy. (He was also Jimmy Stewart‘s roommate at Princeton. And my cousin went to high school with Martha Stewart. But I digress.)

My Uncle Gene with Dick and Pat Nixon on the 1960 campaign trail.

My Uncle Gene with Dick and Pat Nixon on the 1960 campaign trail.

Gene and Nixon remained friends. Here’s a picture of Uncle Gene welcoming Dick and Pat Nixon to Binghamton during the 1960 presidential campaign. He was on the reviewing stand for the first Inauguration. (At the same time that Led Zeppelin was playing at the Wheaton Youth Center!) I have the official button he wore.

So I dutifully stood in line at the Government Printing Office and bought two copies, one for Uncle Gene and one for me. Gene was a staunch defender of Nixon but after sending him the transcript book there wasn’t much discussion.

That book is in my archives. Still looking for a copy of Nixon’s the One.

"What did the photographer know and when did he know it?"

“What did the photographer know and when did he know it?”

Major political scandal being investigated, large crowd, police don't seem too worried. Those were the days...

Major political scandal being investigated, large crowd, police don’t seem too worried. Those were the days…

Was glued to the TV in my bedroom--couldn't get enough of those crazy hearings!

Was glued to the TV in my bedroom–couldn’t get enough of those crazy hearings!

I'm sure these school kids have fond memories of their visit to our nation's capital. How many returned on Jan. 6?

I’m sure these school kids have fond memories of their visit to our nation’s capital. How many returned on Jan. 6?

It Was a Time, What a Time It Was

Remembering Washington City Paper

Washington City Paper has ceased its print publication after 41 years. The final edition on May 5, 2022, was filled with memories from many of the stars who helped make the paper the legend that it was.

For reasons that my lawyers will surely discover, I did not get a call to contribute. But here are my thoughts anyway.

I worked at City Paper for two months shy of 17 years, one of the longer runs. I started as the typesetter, though that was a completely misleading title. My neighbors growing up ran a hot-metal typesetting business, laboring over some of the last of the behemoth Linotype machines, and I worked for them on weekends during high school. One of my tasks was melting pieces of old type in a furnace that turned them into long, thick slugs that hung from the Linotype and got melted back into type. I still have burn marks on my arm. So I know what typesetting is.

Is This Any Way to Run a Newspaper? The software that powered City Paper, XyWrite and Krohm.

Is This Any Way to Run a Newspaper? The software that powered City Paper: XyWrite and Krohm.

At City Paper, the job was to convert the DOS-based XyWrite word processor files from the writers to the Krohm publishing system and then print out long strips of slick paper that would be pasted on boards and sent to a printer. So medieval. And that was the reason I got the job–I knew Krohm. I had worked for the Washington Business Journal, which was one of the only other newspapers to buy Gary Krohm’s arcane product. And I knew Mark Jenkins from when we both worked at Unicorn Times, and he knew that I knew the mysteries of Krohm.

Codes Make the Man! Before HTML there was Krohm--and I actually understood it.

Codes Make the Man! Before HTML there was Krohm–and I actually understood it.

And those codes were close to what would become HTML, the instructions that powered the early World Wide Web. So in 1996, when some of the smarter set were buying Dot-Coms, David Carr decided that I would be the guy to run City Paper‘s online presence as the Webmeister. (CP already had a Webmaster, Eddie Codel, who was the IT guy. Eddie was so sharp he was able to snag eddie.com.) (Parenthetical: I had also written some early Internet fanboy stories, including one about an Al Gore chat on CompuServe, and I was a regular contributor to the Washington Post‘s glossy tech supplement Fast Forward. Almost every CD-ROM I reviewed for them would destroy my computer.)

A Bit Ahead of Myself. This ad never was never published.

A Bit Ahead of Myself. This ad was never published.

So most of my years at City Paper were spent as the editor for the music-focused online section, inDC. And for almost all of that time the owners in Chicago were not particularly interested in this new online world. They rightly saw it as a threat. Indeed, I made a promo ad to announce our shiny new website, in the form of what’s called a “tombstone ad” (Irony!), with a single quote: “Print is dead.” –Dr. Egon Spengler. I figured our hep audience would get the Ghostbusters reference and the general snarky attitude.

As with all house ads, it had to be faxed to the owners in Chicago for approval. No sooner had the machine stopped then my phone rang and Mike Lenehan was on the line screaming at me: “That will never run in our paper! Destroy it!” And on and on.

But Lenehan, et. al., finally, grudgingly, agreed to this online-only addition to the brand, eventually adding the cover story and Loose Lips columns to the site. And, once again, part of my job became converting Adobe inDesign files to HTML and uploading them one by one after the paper had been put to bed. Wednesdays were very long.

inDC featured a weekly band interview, the Spot the Drummer contest that I first came up with as a print feature, and several columns, among them What Goes ON, by Mark Jenkins. I wanted Mark’s voice for the site and because these were the days of Internet euphoria he was able to negotiate a very handsome fee. I contend that he did some of his best work with What Goes ON, mostly because he didn’t think anyone was reading, so he could lighten up — as much as Mark ever lightened up.

There was also the extremely vibrant message board, inDCent eXposure, that saw many friendships formed, bands created, concerts organized, and marriages arranged and dissolved. And some bestiality photos that slipped by before we disabled the ability to post images. Eventually 50,000 unique visitors came to the board every month. This is back when dial-up was still prevalent. The sales department never even put a banner ad on the page.

My email address, webmeister@washcp.com, was on almost every page of the site, which meant that I also became the defacto online receptionist. A fair amount of my time was spent dealing with happy and unhappy readers, forwarding emails to the proper recipient, including story tips to writers, and sending T-shirts to those I deemed worthy.

When a reader emailed a thoughtful response to one of Jenkins’ columns, I expected it to run on the Letters to the Editor page. An argument ensued and I was told that the letters page was only for discussion of stories appearing in the paper. OK. The editor making that decision was Erik Wemple. David Carr had left for the online-only venture Inside.com. Wemple would eventually leave for the online-only site TBD.com. OK.

So I had my little fiefdom and enjoyed the perks of being largely ignored. And now completely erased–because all of that work vanished in one of the many post-bankruptcy moves that City Paper went through after the goons from Creative Loafing bought it. I still have almost all the inDC files and could upload everything to my site but that’s a lot of unpaid work.

I wore many hats at City Paper. Because I was not technically a staff writer (though on the masthead twice with a Contributing Writer credit), I could get away with writing advertorials. When Sales started ad sections targeting the tech and auto markets, I was tasked with providing some text between the many ads they hoped to sell. I interviewed a Channel 4 weatherman about how the TV graphics were put together. (Where I first heard about GIMP, the open-source alternative to Photoshop.) I went on a test drive with a top salesman at a car dealership to get the scoop on tricks of the trade. The sections didn’t last too long; newspapers were already under siege.

Similarly, I was on the marketing committee. Surveys showed that the average CP reader was a 41-year-old white male suburbanite. And that none of the college kids on any of the many area campuses had heard of City Paper. Not at all what the publisher wanted to hear. The decision was made to ignore the people who enjoyed our product and go after the ones who were ignoring it. Ultimately a lose-lose situation.

I was also involved in Nosh Mobs, live events that grew out of CP’s Restaurant Finder. A true innovation, Restaurant Finder was a pre-Yelp site that catalogued almost all of the city’s restaurants, each one geo-tagged thanks to the exhaustive months-long efforts of Chad Molter. So, for instance, you could search for sushi within four blocks of the 9:30 Club. I came up with the idea of printing postcards to distribute to popular venues, with a list of some of the dining options nearby. And of course our URL. Years later, I was in the offices of the AFI Silver Theater and saw one pinned to a cubicle.

A few thousand people signed on to be Restaurant Raters and leave reviews of the places they ate. Every so often, we’d reward them with invitations to exclusive visits to happening eateries. I was one of the hosts and sent out the invitation newsletter. Once we scheduled a Nosh Mob on a Jewish holiday. There were no Jews on our planning committee. And, reader, we did the same thing a second time. Diversity matters.

When Youtube appeared in 2005, I started shooting videos, covering the annual Crafty Bastards gathering, as well as the first Capital Fringe and DC Shorts festivals. Just before the Creative Loafing hammer fell, my title became New Media Editor.

Being at City Paper and managing inDC was the best job ever. The remembrances (here here here here here here) captured the spirit of the place. Though stalwarts Mike Dolan and Mark Jenkins are mentioned, I’m surprised they weren’t included. Or Clara Jeffery, now editor of Mother Jones magazine, and Jandos Rothstein, who finally killed Krohm when he introduced something called “desktop publishing” to the paper, a decade or so after all other publications were doing it.

Finally, every few years City Paper would conduct a reader survey. Questionnaires would be inserted randomly into papers and several hundred responses would find their way back to the office. I always read them, every one. In addition to the usual reader complaints about not covering some stories or writing too much about others, the main complaint was that the cover stories were too long. Editorial always ignored this advice, rightfully so.

While there was often praise for the writing, the only name that regularly appeared on the surveys was Darrow Montgomery. Everybody loved his photos. But the last survey I read contained a surprise: My name. (And Jessica Gould, who I believe was a recent hire and I apologize but I don’t recall her well.) Somebody, and I swear I have no idea who, wrote, “I love everything Dave Nuttycombe writes.”

Thank you, mystery person. I loved everything I wrote for City Paper.

If you enjoyed this stumble down memory lane, please buy my posthumous memoir, So Close and So What? Pissing Away White Privilege: The Dave Nuttycombe Story. You’re welcome.

Dave Nuttycombe’s Suburban Mysteries

As a crusading digital journalist, I often take to the streets in search of mysteries. And, like my heroes Frank and Joe Hardy, I find them each and every time.

Here I present my latest discovery, a mystery so deep that even I, a crusading digital journalist, may have difficulty solving. Once again, if you have any tips (and by tips, I mean cash), feel free to send them my way via the convenient Paypal page.

You’re welcome.