PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: Christmas 2009, 2013

rfc-89-04This week on the RFC Flashback, you will see the much-anticipated (at the time) 2009 Christmas episode of Radio Free Charleston. Being a Christmas show, there was only one thing we could call this edition of RFC–”Terry Funk Shirt.” This extra-long episode is packed with music from Molly Means, Joseph Hale, Todd Burge, and Melanie Larch with The Diablo Blues Band (seen right). There’s also some classic animation from the British studio Halas and Batchelor, plus a news flash about a visit from Saint Sputnik.

Coincidentally, Joseph and Todd’s songs were recorded at The Boulevard Tavern. We returned to the Tavern for our 2013 Christmas show, with two festive songs from The Bob Thompson Unit. You can see RFC 194 below. The show also has a great holiday tune from Frenchy and the Punk and animation from Jake Fertig.

We will be bringing you more Radio Free Charleston Holiday memories all week long here in PopCult.

The 2017 PopCult Gift Guide Master List

ml-01The PopCulteer
December 15, 2017

The 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is in the books, and today we’re bringing you the master list of every item we featured.

Be advised that we ran really long and late this year, so if you plan to order anything on this list (that is still available) you’d better rush and do it now. This list goes live on the very last day that many retailers guarantee delivery by Christmas using regular mail. Amazon Prime customers can probably wait until next Tuesday, but that’s still tempting fate a bit.

Each year in the PopCult Gift Guide I strive to provide a list of gift ideas that you don’t get anywhere else. I don’t sell spots on the list like most of the mainstream publications do, and I tried to avoid the really obvious gift ideas. The whole point is to tell you about new stuff that you don’t already know about. I think this year there are only one or two “ringers” in the batch.

I would also like to address a couple of points of criticism that this list has had pointed its way. First is that I do not honor “the reason for the season,” and that most of my picks are examples of the crass commercialization of Christmas. That’s a fair point. PopCult covers pop culture, and much of that is a celebration of crass commercialization. This is a secular blog, and it’s not my job to preach or convert. If something that truly celebrates the spirit of Christmas comes my way, like Billy Tucci’s beautiful Nativity graphic novel of a few years ago, I will rush to include it. This year nothing like that really struck me as being special and underexposed enough for the list.

Likewise, I had far more criticism for not including any Star Wars stuff in the list this year. It’s true that Star Wars is pretty much the biggest force in pop culture at this very moment, however, it really doesn’t need my help. There is a ton of cool Star Wars stuff out there, and I’m sure that if you’re interested you already know about it.

So with those points addressed, here is the entire list of the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide. Note that the links are descriptive, and may not be the actual titles of the books, comics or movies listed.


Cryptid Cinema, by Steve Bissette is the first in a promised series of books about horror movies. This one addresses the creepy critters of the big screen.

Daily Inspiration for Progressive America is Danny Kuhn’s book of helpful words to help intelligent people deal with living under our current president.

85 North by Bobby Nash is a collection of witty and clever short stories in a variety of different genre.

The Story of Brian Pillman explores the life of the late, controversial wrestler.

The Johnny West Library is a series of books by Tom Heaton that dish out all the details about Marx Action Figures.

Toybox Time Machine is an amazing collection of ads and promotional artwork for toys and cool things that never really existed.

Sticks ’n Stones ’n Dinosaur Bones is a children’s book that recounts the late 1800’s “Dinosaur Wars.”

The Art of Oliver Hibert is a collection of work by the man whose work covers albums by The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus and more.

Let’s Get Monster Smashed is a guide to what drinks best go with cheesy horror movies.

Examining the Monkees’ Songs in this in-depth book with a very long title, every song by The Monkees is put under the magnifying glass.

Last Girl Standing is the engrossing and fascinating autobiograph of legendary underground comics artist and writer Trina Robbins.

How To Write Cheesy Movies is a guide that tells you how to write bad movies, written by TV’s Frank from Mystery Science Theater 3000, who certainly knows the topic well.

Adventures in Pop Culture is a collection of essays on pop culture by my buddy, Thomas Wheeler.

The Walking Dead Cookbook tells you how best to chow down in the post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland.

George Harrison In His Own Words is an updated and expanded edition of the closest that Harrison ever came to writing an autobiography.

Inside Full Moon Entertainment Studio, is a book about Charles Band and his epic low-budget movie empire.

The Marx Brothers on Stage is a history of the famed brothers before they hit the silver screen.

Brooklyn’s Sweet Ruin is a photographic document of an abandoned sugar factory, days before it was demolished.

The Book On Vintage Transformers by J. E. Alvarez is virtually a bible for fans of the robots in disguise.

Barbie’s Battles Against Bratz are depicted in detail in this book by a noted legal scholar.




Behaving Madly an incredible collection of top-notch material culled from 1950s imitators of Mad Magazine.

The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays is a graphic novel history of the early days of the Fab Four.

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is Jill Thompson’s amazing, award-winning story of Wonder Woman before she came to “man’s world.”

The Dimensioneer is Dan Reed’s super-fun superhero comic.

Sax Rohmer’s Dope is adapted as a graphic novel by Trina Robbins.

Josephine Baker is a lengthy and detailed bio of the legend, told in comic form.

The Walking Dead: Here’s Negan is the origin story of the chief bad guy from The Walking Dead, collected in book form.

Jack Kirby’s “The Demon” collects the entire run of Kirby’s rhyming Demon with ties to Merlin in an affordable format.

Classic Popeye books collect the work of Bud Sagendorf, in ten hardcover volumes of spectacular comic bookery.

Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta continues the story of Harry Palmer and his search for his…friend.


Mind Melter Coloring Book presents the work of cult artist Dirty Donnie Gillis, in colorable form.

The Burlesque Coloring Book puts the “adult” into “adult coloring book.”




These are self-explanatory, except where noted.

The HESS Toy Truck is sold out as of two days ago, so never mind on this one.

Build & Imagine’s Career Dolls

Beatles Hot Wheels

True Heroes 12 Inch Mudslide Figure and ATV Playset 

Back to the Future Electric Slot Car Race Set (this has been marked down to half price from AutoWorld)

BMC Toys WWII Playsets

The Dolly Alanna

The Johnny West Library (same listing as in books, but listed here as well, since it’s books about toys)

Lucky Cat (locally made)

Robin Hood and Sheriff Figure Sets

The Walking Dead Lucille Cosplay Replica

Yellow Submarine Magnets

Teddy Ruxpin (new and Bluetooth-compatible, so there’s no tape player inside of him)

Cabbage Patch Kids Little Sprouts



Playmobil Ghostbusters Ecto 1

The Book On Vintage Transformers (same listing as in books, but listed here as well, since it’s a book about toys)

Egg Babies


Nintendo Classic Edition Wireless Controllers give you the old-school feel on the Wii

Ice Cool is the award-winning board game.

Ultra Dash is an electronic game that will have kids running all over the house.

Accentuate is a party game where you get to talk funny.



Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, is a DVD/CD combo of the retro Swing Band in action.

Rick Wakeman’s Gastank DVD collects an early 1980s British show where rock musicians talked and jammed together.

The Films of Anna Biller are incredible. Buy and watch them.

ASIA in Bulgaria is a DVD/CD of the band performing in an ancient Roman arena, accompanied by an orchestra.

Batman vs. Two-Face presents the final performance of Adam West as Batman, going up against William Shatner as Two-Face in this new animated epic.

Justice League Action collects the first half of the first season of the unjustly-overlooked cartoon.


The Company Stores “Little Lights” Powerful and electic music from the local powerhouse band.

The Sgt. Pepper Box Set A deluxe collection of the Beatles’ classic, remixed by Giles Martin, and with tons of previously unreleased bonus material.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy See the listings for DVD/ Blu Ray

Rick Wakeman’s Gastank DVD See the listings for DVD/ Blu Ray

Byzantine “The Cicada Tree” World-shattering music from Charleston’s Earth-conquering metal legends.

Scarlet Revolt “Cold Town” Dark and heavy new music from one of Charleston’s hardest-working bands.

Seal “Standards” The R&B singer turns his attention toward standards, and even manages to swing a little.

Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers Bluegrass music with intelligent and amusing lyrics by a comedy legend.

Dhani Harrison “IN//Parallel” The son of the “quiet Beatle” unleashes a debut solo album that proves he follows his own musical path.

Chuck Berry “Chuck” The worthy swansong from the late grandfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Emerson Lake and Palmer “FANFARE” Everything the progressive legends ever recorded in one box, with hours of unreleased live material and a book.

YES “Topographic Drama” The first recorded document of this incarnation of YES, following the death of founding member Chris Squire.

ASIA in Bulgaria See the listings for DVD/ Blu Ray

Ringo Starr “Give More Love” The bright new solo album by Ringo, with tons of guest musicians and positive vibes.

Todd Rundgren “White Knight” The Runt collaborates with a wide variety of guests to create yet another fairly epic new album.

The Rolling Stones “Their Satanic Majesties Request” box set presents the controversial Stones album in a deluxe box set that restores the 3D cover.

The Music of Louis Prima Jr.The son of The Wildest is pretty wild himself, killer retro Swing.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads “New Boots and Panties!!” The legendary album presented as a box set forty years after its release.

Thirteen Local Bands This is a list of thirteen more great albums by local musicians. Most are download-only, so you don’t have to worry about shipping or wrapping.


SHOLDIT is a scarf, but it’s also a wallet. Pretty sneaky, sis.

Guide To Cool Online Retailers Prepared for Cyber Monday, it may too late to order from them for Christmas, but you can always try your luck.

Power AirFryer XL A kitchen gadget to die for. French fries cook up crispy without oil.

Woody Numbers Tribute Shirt You can pay tribute to a fallen comrade. Miss you, Woody.

And that wraps up the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide.  At some point this weekend I will post a shorter list that just includes the local gift ideas, but for now your PopCulteer is going to kick back and try to rest a bit. Next year we will change the format of the PopCult Gift Guide (once again). The plan is to start it earlier, run five items a day, seven days a week for three weeks, and be done with it by the Monday after Thanksgiving. That way you will have plenty of time to order any gifts that can’t be found locally and not have to panic about them getting here on time.

I hope everyone has a terrific holiday season, regardless of what you worship, and rest assured, PopCult will be back with its regular features starting tomorrow.



2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Woody Numbers Tribute Shirt

gg-woodyI bumped an item from the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide so that I could work in this note about Woody Numbers. Woody (Sherwood Spencer to his family) passed away last week after a grueling health crisis that saw him spend most of the last two months at Duke University in North Carolina.

Many people know Woody from his local wrestling appearances. Whether it was in IWA East Coast or All Star Wrestling or one of the other local feds, Woody was a character who left a real impression and always entertained the crowds. That’s how I met Woody and I have to be honest, we were not close buddies, but Woody always made Melanie and me feel welcome and the few times that we got to just hang out and talk were just loads of fun. Woody played the heel in and around the ring, but he was really just a sweet lovable guy who was passionate about wrestling, his favorite music and movies and loved traveling and eating well. I’m really going to miss seeing him around, and I know he will leave a huge void in the lives of his family and his friends.

Woody knew his time was almost up, and wanted to be back in West Virginia when the end came. His brothers in the 108 Dragons and IWA East Coast Wrestling moved Heaven and Earth to make that happen, and they did manage to bring Woody home a couple of days before he passed. To help with this they created a T-Shirt with the design you see to the right, which can be pre-ordered now at this link. All proceeds will go to help pay off Woody’s expenses. I’m not sure if it will be printed in time for Christmas, but that’s not really what this is about. It’s about helping out with Woody’s medical bills and final expenses while paying tribute to a guy who will be greatly missed. You can also make a donation in Woody’s memory to his GoFundMe page, to help his family.

I was in Chicago when Woody passed away and did not get a chance to say my farewell to him. I do know that he loved Chicago, and whenever I mentioned going there he’d shoot me a list of great places to eat. We bring the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide to a close with this suggestion that you do something in memory of Woody Numbers. Even if it’s just buying that cool shirt in his honor.

Tomorrow we will present the master list of every recommendation in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide.

Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die
gg-starstruckby Elaine Lee (Author) Michael Kaluta (Illustrator)
IDW Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1684050185

The next-to-last pick in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is actually the mass-market version of a book that I supported via Kickstarter over four and a half years ago. Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die collects the recent IDW mini-series, which serialized the long-awaited remastered and recolored science fiction epic, which presented the further adventures of Harry Palmer and some of the Galactic Girl Guides. This is the perfect gift for fans of the original Starstruck comic book, and will also appeal to folks who like Blade Runner, classic science fiction and even detective stories.

This is top-flight science fiction comic bookery here. Lee and Kaluta have crafted a story that blends film noir with space opera and comes up with a story that hits you right in the gut. Lee’s dialogue is witty and clever and Kaluta’s art is as incredibly detailed and wonderful as it always has been. To give you a sense of the story, here’s the publisher’s blurb:

What does a guy do when his droid goes missing? And not just any droid, an extremely rare pleasure droid that’s a dead ringer for his long-lost love! As bartender Harry Palmer–ex-rebel, ex-mercenary “proldier”–combs Rec 97, a perilous, planet-sized, vacation station, following clues and fending off enemies, he must also delve into his own past to do battle with his personal demons. Will Annie’s abductor be an old pal, a hidden foe, or two inebriated fem-fighters that frequent his bar?

Elaine Lee has had incarnations as an EMMY-nominated actress and playwright, artistic director of a theatre company (Wild Hair Productions), comic book writer and color artist, animation writer and story editor, video game writer, and art director for a music company. Specializing in sci-fi, fantasy and horror, Elaine has created six original comic series (including BrainBanx, Skin Tight Orbit, and The Transmutation of Ike Garuda). She is best known as writer/creator of Vamps. She has written animation scripts for Niolan, A-Film, and Stardust Entertainment/Hallmark Entertainment.

Michael Kaluta’s early professional art appeared in pulp magazines, and his earliest comic book work appeared in various Charlton Comics. DC Comics was Kaluta’s main focus of the 1970s; drawing interiors and, eventually, covers for their House of Mystery and House of Secrets comic books. Covers for both Detective Comics and Batman were the next step, and, eventually, the nod to draw DC Comics’ 1970s versions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Carson of Venus and pulp icon The Shadow. The new century saw a Madame Xanadu five-issue comic book story arc, and Chaos King, a special 30-page stand-alone book in Marvel’s Chaos War.

I’ve been a fan of Starstruck for a ridiculously long time and it’s terrific to finally have this collection in my hands. The mass-market version is not vastly different from the Kickstarter edition, so be advised that you’re in for a treat with ultra-high production values and printing and a killer story and art. You ought to be able to find this book at any bookseller or well-stocked comic book shop, or go to Amazon where they have everything, usually for way less money.

The Burlesque Coloring Book  
gg-burlesqueby James Courtney, foreword by Jim Sweeney
Level Up Books
ISBN-13: 978-0998449616

The first pick on this final day of what seems like the years-long 2017 PopCult Gift Guide really puts the “adult” into “adult coloring book.” It’s The Burlesque Coloring Book, and it’s a really nice collections of illustrations even if you’re not into the whole coloring thing. This is a great gift for any burlesque afficianado, or performer on your holiday shopping list, and it’s also just perfect for anybody who likes looking at and/or coloring wonderful drawings of beautiful ladies. James Courtney has produced an incredible collection of vintage cheesecake-style drawings that you can color, if you are so inclined.

I’m going to quote liberally from the inside flap here:

“All the comedy and sexiness of a burlesque show without having to leave your house! The Burlesque Coloring Book is a fun and imaginative portrayal of burlesque in all of it’s varying styles that truly celebrates the diversity of these amazing performers! The perfect combination of art and sass!” — Deb au Nare, founder of the Burlesque Academy of Asheville “The glamour of burlesque is perfect for coloring! As a burlesque aficionado, I’m thrilled by the charm and energy in these drawings. As a coloring fiend, I adore the beautiful costuming and fine details in this book!”

— Jo Weldon, author of The Burlesque Handbook

The Burlesque Coloring Book captures not just the look and style of contemporary burlesque but also the sparkly personalities that make up today’s scene. Other adult coloring books help you relax, this one’s guaranteed to leave you more than a little worked up.”

— Dustin M. Wax, Executive Director of the Burlesque Hall of Fame

The Burlesque Coloring Book exemplifies all the spirit, sass and fun burlesque has to offer. A little bit campy and a whole lotta sexy, what better way to unwind than to spend time coloring these fabulous beauties? And…no one says you have to stay inside the lines!”

— Autumn Adamme, founder of Dark Garden Unique Corsetry

The Burlesque Coloring Book is a delightfully detailed collection of illustrations showcasing the fabulous scenery, extravagant costuming, and vibrant performers that make burlesque what it is today. Featuring over 50 real-life drawings by highly acclaimed pin-up artist James Courtney, every page of this book stands poised and ready for your choreography of color!

Those rave reviews are well-deserved, and any fan of the female form will appreciate this book. It’s printed on high-quality thick paper stock, with each coloring page is on its own separate sheet. Crayons, pencils, or even pens can be used without any bleed-through. And the variety of illustrations presented guarantees a relaxing and inspiring experience for colorists of every skill level.

Your best bet to get The Burlesque Coloring Book is through Amazon, but you might be able to find or order it from other booksellers.

You Don’t Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side
gg-barbie-bratzby Orly Lobel
W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN-13: 978-0393254075

Our book recommendation for today’s 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is yet another book about toys. This time it’s about the dark side of the toy industry, the battle between Mattel, the makers of the iconic Barbie doll, and MGA, the company that created the Bratz dolls. It was not just a war over best-selling toys, but a war over who owns ideas.This is a great gift for any die-hard fan of fashion dolls, but it’s also perfect for anybody with an interest in intellectual property rights and legal maneuvering.

When Carter Bryant began designing what would become the billion-dollar line of Bratz dolls, he was taking time off from his job at Mattel, where he designed outfits for Barbie. Later, back at Mattel, he sold his concept for Bratz to rival company MGA. In You Don’t Own Me, law professor Orly Lobel reveals the colorful story behind the ensuing decade-long court battle.

This entertaining and provocative work pits audacious MGA against behemoth Mattel, shows how an idea turns into a product, and explores the two different versions of womanhood, represented by traditional all-American Barbie and her defiant, anti-establishment rival, Bratz―the only doll to come close to outselling her. In an era when workers may be asked to sign contracts granting their employers the rights to and income resulting from their ideas―whether conceived during work hours or on their own time―Lobel’s deeply researched story is a riveting and thought-provoking contribution to the contentious debate over creativity and intellectual property.

The series of lawsuits in question bounced from court to court, and practically killed Bratz by blocking them from stores for a couple of years right at the height of their popularity, which lead to Barbie losing in court, but winning at retail.

Orly Lobel is an award-winning author and a renowned legal scholar. A graduate of Harvard University, she was recently named one of the top minds in research by The Market Magazine. Her books and research are critically acclaimed and have been featured in top media including the New York Times. the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg, NPR and TED. In You Don’t Own Me, Lobel presents what could be a complex and at time boring subject in a vivid and engrossing manner that pulls you in almost like a Perry Mason story.

You should be able to order You Don’t Own Me from any bookseller using the ISBN number, or go to Amazon where it’s on sale for almost half the suggested retail price.

gg-jlaNext up in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is an animated treasure that’s perfect for the superhero fan on your holiday shopping list. This inexpensive two-disc set contains the first 26 episodes of the excellent Justice League Action cartoon, which Cartoon Network has inexplicably buried in a very-early Saturday morning timeslot. Each episode is eleven minutes long and stars a gigantic roster of DC Comics’s greatest heroes, with quite a few obscure surprises thrown in along the way.

Justice League Action takes an approach similar to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is a more light-hearted and enjoyable presentation of the DC Universe. It’s fast-paced and exciting, filled with humor and it features an all-star cast.

Mark Hamill returns as The Joker, pitted against Kevin Conroy’s Batman. Hamill also voices Swamp Thing. James Woods is on hand. Patton Oswalt voices Space Cabbie. Carl Reiner is the Wizard, Shazam. Other voice actors include Sean Astin, Jerry O’Connell, Gary Cole, Jon Cryer, Cloris Leachman, Dana Snyder, Jon Lovitz  and dozens of others.

The series is more cartoony than the classic Justice League Unlimited series, but it’s loads of fun and much of the production team is made up of veterans of the classic DC Animated Universe series, including Paul Dini, who is credited as a writer on eleven episodes.

Justice League Action is one of those series that could very well be a major hit if only Cartoon Network would show it on weekdays after school instead of burying it in a weekend death slot.  The DVD collects the first half of the first season, and I believe that Warner Brothers is committed to producing at least two full seasons, so this is a great way to get in on the ground floor, and it’s a terrific gift for the fan of the DC Animated Universe who may not even know that the show exists. You can order it from Amazon.

gg-eggOur toy pick in the penultimate day of the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is Egg Babies, a new toy for young kids that combines the joy of blind-box collectible fun with the cuteness of plush and the sheer enjoyment of breaking stuff. This is a great gift for kids, ages three and up, who like to be surprised.

Egg Babies are colorful Styrofoam eggs with a “FUR”-endly surprise inside that’s just waiting to hatch. Kids simply crack the egg open to reveal one of six adorable, soft and cuddly characters, each with a unique personality.

The eggs are made of styrofoam and break open easily. In fact, it might be harder to get them out of the package than it is for kids to open the egg. This is just such a fun concept, and kids are sure to fall in love with the idea of “hatching” their new plush friends.

Characters include: Turtellini, an out-going and caring turtle who loves to share treats; Patches, an energetic and active pup who’s mastered the art of true sportsmanship; Bubble Gum, a confident little bunny who expresses herself through music; Kiwi, an extrovert and drama chick who loves the spotlight; Snowflake, the sweet and lovable kitty who makes new friends wherever she goes; and Hamlet, a cheeky and mischievous pig who’s known for stirring up a little trouble. You may notice from the package that Snowflake is the “mystery” Egg Baby.

Kids can easily crack the Egg Babies open to enjoy the “eggcitement” of what’s inside, and at an affordable price around ten bucks each, young collectors are sure to add more than just one to their holiday wish lists. Each egg measures 6”H x 4.25”W and the plush character is approximately 3.5”W x 4”H.

This is a terrific stocking stufffer for the plush-loving kid of almost any age, and it could turn them into a collector, so be prepared and get several.

You can find Egg Babies at most toy retailers, or visit Amazon, where they seem to cost a little more, and you’ll want to order quick to make sure you get them in time for Christmas.



2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Local Music

gg-local-musicToday the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is devoted to local music, made here in West Virginia. I’ve already covered a few notable albums, but there’s plenty to talk about, and much of this music is only available as downloads. I will post links to every album I list here, but be advised that, if there are physical copies, and I don’t provide a link to where you can order them, you may have luck at Budget Tapes & Records, Sullivan’s Records, or Taylor Books. Also be advised that many of these albums are available from iTunes, but since I have not assimilated into the world of Apple, it’s hard for me to get those links.I’m still trying to get used to this post-physical-objects world we now find ourselves in.

I’ve been a supporter of the local music scene for nearly thirty years, as the host of Radio Free Charleston, and also as the author of the PopCult blog, so devoting a day to this topic shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

In no particular order, here’s a list of great recently-released local albums:

John Radcliff “Stupid Mind”

John Radcliff is an old friend, going way back to the original Radio Free Charleston days, and he’s also a hell of a musician and songwriter. His latest album, available only as a download right now, is a priceless slab of pop-rock Heaven. I’m going to quote from Rad’s Bandcamp page now, and apologize because I’m too lazy to change it from the all-caps that used to write his profile:


This is exquisite stuff. It’s pure ear candy, with great music and clever lyrics, and you can download it HERE.

The Heavy Editors

I have fallen into a bit of a trap where every time I play a song by John Radcliff on Radio Free Charleston, I remember to play one in the same show by his former Feast of Stephen bandmate, Joe Vallina. I repeat that quirk of mine here, by mentioning the EP by Joe’s new band, The Heavy Editors, right after plugging Rad’s new album. I raved about this EP back in September, and you can go read that now so that I don’t have to quote heavily from myself.

You can download The Heavy Editors debut EP HERE.


4OHM MONO is the latest project of Huntington maestro John Lancaster, and the band has released two killer digital-only EPs this year, The Death and Resurrection of a Salesman and Dissonant Praises. The band consists of John Lancaster on vocals and guitars, Mac Walker on guitars and synth, Barry Smith on bass and Josh Adkins on drums.

Both releases were produced by 4 OHM MONO, and recorded and mixed by Barry Smith. and they both sport cool covers designed by Justin McCormick. This is pretty epic progressive metal and the band has created a monumental sound, with heavy music and clever lyrics.

Both releases are available on their Bandcamp page but can also be found on just about any digital/streaming platform (iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc.). You can also hit up their website and follow them on Facebook.

Chuck Biel “Mumblety-Peg”

Chuck is a legend in Charleston and has shepherded many incredible bands and projects over the years. His most recent release is available for download from CD Baby, and it’s called “Mumblety-Peg.” This is chill-out music, played largely on his Harpejji, and it’s perfect to relax to while the music stimulates your mind. I’ll go to the description on the page…

Emmy nominated Film Composer Chuck Biel’s recent Musical effort “Mumblety-Peg”, composed, performed, recorded & produced by Chuck, features the new instrument the Harpejji. With 24 strings and a range like an orchestra, the sounds produced go from from happy to energized to caressing and mournful…that is to say, emotion packed. Mumblety-Peg: a game, and an Album by Chuck Biel

You can download Mumblety-Peg HERE, and visit Chuck’s site to hear what he’s been up to lately HERE.

Speedsuit “WAX”

Speedsuit is the latest musical project from Stephen Beckner, another of my old friends from the original RFC days, and one of the finest songwriters this state has ever produced. In Speedsuit Stephen is joined by Dan Jordan, Ryan Jackson and on “WAX,” their debut album, Dave Roberts or Brian Young trading off on drums.

It’s all great stuff, in a classic style influenced by everyone from The Beatles and Stones to Johnny Cash to XTC. You can download WAX HERE, and go out and attend their gigs for the full experience. I do believe that physical copies of this album are available at local music shops and at their shows, but I’m not 100% certain of that.

Todd Burge

Todd is another West Virginia treasure, and he doesn’t really have a new release out, but you can’t really go wrong with any of his albums. As it say on his website: “WV Troubadour, Played everything from Alternative Rock to Bluegrass, but is mainly known for the sharp wit, soaring vocal & guitar prowess found in many of his songs while performing his hybrid brand of Contemporary Americana-Folk. He has performed venues as diverse as NPR’s Mountain Stage, CBGB’s, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Kennedy Center. He is about to perform near you”

He’s also offering a remarkable deal on a bundle of his entire catalog. You can read about that HERE, and scope out his individual releases HERE, if you’re afraid of making that big a commitment. These are physical copies of his albums, by the way, so you can actually wrap them and stick them under the tree.

Kerry Hughes

Kerry is a local musician and songwriter who is going through a ridiculously prolific period. He jumps from genre to genre and leaves his mark on each. I think he’s put out at least three albums this year, possibly more, and they’re all filled with terrific tunes from this one man band. I’ve been playing his stuff on Radio Free Charleston for months, and people are loving it.

You can find all of his releases available for download HERE.


This mysterious collective of unspecified individuals produces bizarre experimental electronic music. Not for the faint of heart, this is music for the adventurous futurists on your holiday list. Also, they occasionally use the swear words. You can download their latest release, from just a few weeks ago, right HERE.

Johnny Compton “Last Man Standing”

Johnny Compton is a local legend, a guitarist who can shred your face off one minute, then turn around and play something so tender that it can make you cry the next. In fact, Johnny knows 17 ways to make you cry with his guitar, and only one of them involves physical contact. He’s mastered everything from metal to bluegrass to the blues and acoustic ballads and he’s managed to do it all while maintaining his reputation as a bad-ass >shut yo’ mouf<. It’s why they call him “JMFC.” The MF does not stand for “Mighty Fine,” but that is an apt description of how he plays.

He’s endorsed by Killer B guitars, Von York strings, Spectraflex cables, Checkered pedals, Planet Tone pickups, InTune picks, Corvid enclosures and JN Branding.  I will be playing the heck out of his solo album, Last Man Standing, on Radio Free Charleston in the coming weeks, but you can get the whole album HERE, and you might even find physical copies at local music shops or at his gigs, if they haven’t sold out yet.

This Album is a collection of songs written by Johnny Compton throughout his career. Friends and Family came together to help Johnny complete these unfinished works. This project is a look at Johnny in a different light than what his fans are used to seeing.

Wolves of the Calla

While Johnny cut loose with his solo album just a couple of weeks ago, earlier this year he tore a hole in the universe with his metal band, The Wolves of the Calla. You can grab their debut EP HERE. It’s loud and aggressive and is pretty much the perfect gift for any teenager who has to go to high school and needs a release.

Membrane Cell  “Caduceus”

Membrane cell is the brainchild of Kenny Booth from Trielement and Harrah and David Synn formerly of Godmode Broadway and StychNtyme. Starting out as strictly an instrumental band, Membrane Cell has, like their name implies, evolved.

Now a primarily vocal band with lyrics and only a few instrumentals, and electronic beats fused with electric leads and synth pads with driving but melodic guitars, Membrane Cell sounds like something from the future while staying familiar with their industrial roots. With the beats keeping the overall melancholy tone of the songs, and the compositions taking the listener between pure sonic mayhem to a euphoric trance- Membrane Cell is part electronic, part rock, and 100% experimental.

Move into the future with new music that doesn’t linger in the past. You can find tracks from their debut EP HERE, or download the entire six-song EP HERE. I’ve been playing a couple of tracks from this on The AIR, and folks are really digging it.

Stark Raven

Once again going way back to the original RFC days (actually this band pre-dates RFC), we have legendary band, Stark Raven. Stark Raven, formed in the mid-1980’s in Charleston, WV, was a genre bending band that played for thousands of excited fans through out WV and the US during the nine years that they were together. Combining acoustic and electric guitars, bass and drums, an amplified string section (electric violin and cello), electric dulcimer, mandolin, harmonica, accordion and tight three part vocals.

Just last summer the band reunited for a couple of shows and remastered and re-released their albums, which had been out of print for over twenty-five years. It all still holds up, and just as they always defied musical labels, they also manage to defy time, as their music has not aged a bit. You can download their entire catalog HERE, and check local music shops because I know that there are physical copies of their reunion compilation out there. I just don’t know where you can buy them.

There you go, a dozen great local artists who have new music that you can download, and in some instances buy as CDs. If you want to give locally made stuff this holiday season, this is a great way to do it.

a1773611769_16Actually, let’s make that a Baker’s Dozen with an album so new that I almost forgot to include it…

Farnsworth “Elk City”

You can find this new album by Charleston’s favorite retro-rockers, Farnsworth, right HERE. I would write more about it, but I’m downloading it as we speak so I can use it as the big finale on this week’s brand-new Radio Free Charleston.

Don’t forget that I have previously recommended The Company Stores, Byzantine and Scarlet Revolt in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide. That’s three more killer local albums for you to consider giving as gifts.

Also, don’t think that your PopCulteer is omnipotent when it comes to the local music scene. I almost left out Farnsworth, and I love those guys. I’m certain that there is even more great local music out there that has escaped my notice. If that is the case, and you know a local band that I missed, please make use of the comments below and share some info about them and a link to where we may find their music.

air-logo-new-url-01On top of all that, please don’t forget that PopCult has a sister internet radio station, The AIR. On The AIR we play more local West Virginia music than any other radio station of any kind. Check out the embedded player here:

…or go visit the website, which looks pretty cool on one of those nifty smartphone things that all the young peoples are using these days.

Due to the excessive workload of producing the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide, it’s been over a month since your PopCulteer has produced a new episode of Radio Free Charleston, but as soon as this post is ready to go, I’m hopping over to the recording studio to see if I might be able to crank out a special episode to air beginning on Tuesday, December 12, the very day this post will go live.

I’ll be including one track from every recommended artist on this list. You can listen at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday, with a replay Thursday at 2 PM, and extra reruns all week long.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: New Boots and Panties!!

gg-duryIan Dury and The Blockheads New Boots & Panties!! 40th Anniversary Edition is today’s music pick for the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide, and I didn’t just pick it because of the funny headline. This is a fantastic gift for any fan of late-1970s punk/new wave music who likes songs with great hooks and musicians with killer chops. Plus it’s got one legendary song that belongs in everybody’s collection on it.

New Boots and Panties!! was the debut album from Ian Dury and The Blockheads, and it’s considered his finest. To commemorate forty years since its release, Demon/Edsel have reissued it as a limited box set packaged in a 12 x 12 hardcover book containing four CDs, the original album on vinyl, and a pull out eight page booklet with sleeve notes by one of the Blockheads, Phill Jupitus.

Alongside the original album on vinyl and CD there are three bonus discs containing bonus tracks, demo versions, John Peel Sessions and a full live performance not available before on CD. New Boots And Panties!! was originally released on the legendary Stiff Records in 1977. It’s considered Dury’s best album and it was also his most successful after it was certified Platinum in the UK 2 years after it’s release. This the most comprehensive version of the album to date.

You may be able to order Ian Dury and The Blockheads New Boots & Panties!! 40th Anniversary Edition from local record stores, but your quickest bet is probably to visit Amazon. For a sample of the most famous tune from this album, watch the video below…