‘Cotton’ Connections

Daniela Cotton plays Infinity Hall on July 16. Bet you didn’t know about her connection to Billy Mays, the recently departed “pitchman.” As a matter of fact, we’ll bet she doesn’t know either.

It’s a habit of mine, ever since my brother started a “Back to Bacon” challenge (naming an actor and getting some sort of first person association back to Kevin Bacon) while we were vacationing a few years ago.

This usually comes up during bouts of writer’s block, a useful tool to generate ideas, get the gray matter moving.

Daniela Cotton is inspiring enough, especially if you take note of her work on the newly released “Rare Child,” and get a first-hand look at her life story through the recent NPR interview in which she describes herself as “little black kid in a white town and I was angry. And that music was a place I could put that aggression.”

No writer’s block there.

Unfortunately, this session is taking place alongside another habit of mine; leaving the TV on when I am trying to write. Can’t get away from Jackson, Farrah, and Billy Mays. It is all encompassing, triggering my Six Degrees fetish.

Billy Mays was once on “Rachel Ray,” (2009) who appeared on Sesame Street (2007, “Sesame Street Unpaved”), a children’s show that was the subject of a documentary by Participant Productions (2004 “The World According to Sesame Street”). It is the same film company that once filmed a documentary about a South African orphanage championed by politician / playwright Daniel Roberts, brother-in-law of Daniela Cotton.

What is that? Five steps? Easy.

By the way, Chuck Mangione plays Infinity on July 11. He scored an episode of “Friends” with Jennifer Aniston, then entwined with Brad Pitt, film-mate of George Clooney who appeared in “Syriana,” produced by Participant Films, which we now know can be followed directly to Daniela Cottton, too…

….isn’t this fun?

You Think You’re Tired?

I’m in the middle of moving and also working and getting ready to go on vacation next week, so I’ve been a little sleep deprived. So get this: I’m reading up on sleep deprivation (I want to know if not sleeping can actually kill you) and it turns out there’s this really, really rare disease called Arnold-Chiari malformation, which is basically some kind of weird brain deformity that basically — in the layest of layman’s terms — blocks your ability to sleep. (Wikipedia did little to help me understand exactly how.)

What’s my point?

Rosanne Cash (daughter of the dude in black) has this rare and unfortunate disease, which is pretty incredible, considering the life of a nationally touring musician is known to be generally sleepless to begin with. Does that mean Cash has (even more of) an edge over other musicians? We’re gonna try to chat with her to see how she copes — she plays Infinity Hall on July 14. Watch for more.

Vienna Teng

Ed McMahon defined the role of “sidekick.” Regis Philbin tried (with Joey Bishop), and Andy Richter is trying again (a second stint as Conan’s second banana), but no one holds that dual dynamic of humility and dignity that McMahon displayed nightly for 30 years.

Sadly, McMahon passed away this week. He possessed not only the ability to serve up straight lines for the comic genius of Johnny Carson, but also the blessed gift of perspective, once famously describing his career this way;

“I laugh for an hour and then go home. I’ve got the world’s greatest job.”

Vienna Teng is no second banana. Yes she has opened for Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin, and Marc Cohn, but unlike McMahon, her life’s work will not be defined by her support of others.; this folk-pop artist is the leader of the band.

Teng has recently released “Inland Territory” and the list of sidekicks she employed on the record include Kaki King, Ari Hest, and Gwen Stefani guitarist Kiyanu Kim.

Like McMahon, Teng is blessed with perspective. While others claim the heralded songwriter as “one to watch,” she echoes the King of the Second-Banana’s sentiment on her Twitter page bio.

I (try to) write (good) songs and play them for people. It’s a pretty nice life.”

Maria Muldaur

Once you are entered into the Great Book of Pop Culture, and become part of the artistic lexicon, its almost impossible to get out. Fame is not fleeting in the Great Book. There you have a lifetime membership.

Maria Muldaur paid her dues with 1974’s “Midnight at the Oasis,” famously covered by The Brand New Heavies, and less famously covered by just about everyone else.

Doris Day gave it a shot while trying to lure Tim Conway into a Volkswagen Van in here saucy-comic cover of Midnight at the Oasis and the song was revived again when the Second City veterans took a stab in a scene from the cult-fave film Waiting for Guffman.

The song is “there” and it will always be there, like “White Christmas,” “Happy Birthday,” and “You Are My Sunshine,” even if few of us remember who did it best; why that would be Maria Muldaur.

The singer has a lot more going for her than those denim bell-bottoms these days as she comes to Infinity Hall as a bonafide Blues Music Award nominee in the Best Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year. She may have lost the hardware to Koko Taylor, but Koko doesn’t have a song like “Midnight at the Oasis.”