Town Crier: Time to solve an Oakland musical mystery

Happy holidays, everyone! Let’s start with a musical mystery that came via email last week.

“Sometimes we all need to stop and have a good laugh,” wrote Visit Oakland’s Kim Bardakian. Attached to her missive was an old novelty folk song someone had sent her — promoting Oakland.

An Oakland folk song? Turns out it came from Jim Fleming, who was born in Oakland 75 years ago and grew up with a fascination for FM radio.

“I put together a pretty good recording system, which I started using to collect folk, comedy and novelty music,” he writes. “Mostly, I was recording off the then-new, FM stereo stations in the L.A. basin — then S.F. Bay Area.”

He recorded the Oakland tune in the late ’60s or early ’70s. It’s a catchy little ditty that mentions everything from the Raiders and Jack London Square to Lake Merritt and the Nimitz. The problem is … he can’t find the musicians.

“I believe the group was called the Red Rock Ramblers,” he says, “but I talked with one of them a few years ago, and it is not the same folks.”

That’s why he mailed an mp3 to Visit Oakland — to see if they’d post it on YouTube.

“Maybe if it gets enough play, one of the original artists will turn up to authenticate the piece,” he says. In the meantime, if you’d like to hear this slapstick song — ukulele and all — send me an email.

Book it: When it comes to funny canine characters, bulldogs win, paws down. That’s why Oakland author Kati Hites picked a bulldog to star in her new line of children’s books. “They are so ridiculously flabby and floppy and humorous,” she says. “They just are NOT built for much else than a life of snuggling and rascally behavior.” Hites has signed a deal with HarperCollins to write and illustrate four Winnie and Waldorf books about a girl and her mischievous pup. It’s not a bad gig for a young college graduate who moved back to Oakland to be closer to family. She says the inspiration for Waldorf came from her own dog, Matyi, who she calls her muse. The first book comes out next December.

Around town: The owners of Pelago are splitting their time between two stores — in Montclair and Palm Springs. Bill Fidrych and Mark Wallaert have a big, beautiful shop at 901 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs — a perfect town for their contemporary gifts and stylish home furnishings.

Swingin’ time: Want to dance the night away on New Year’s Eve? The USS Hornet will have two big bands pumping out tunes on the World War II vessel that night, including the 17-piece 3 O’Clock Jump. And if you’re a little rusty on your swing or your cha cha, former Fred Astaire dance instructor Jim Truesdale is giving free lessons. With three dance floors, you’ll have plenty of room to rumba. Party tickets start at $45, and you can check out for more information.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525, by email or on the web at


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