Carter Hunnicutt is back on the scene full-time.
Carter Hunnicutt is back on the scene full-time. (Photo: Deone Jahnke)

XCleavers' Hunnicutt returns to share "Dangerous World"

Local musician Carter Hunnicutt is one of those guys I’ve just known forever. I’m pretty sure I met him while making band posters at the old Clark Graphics on Locust (in a space that was later swallowed up in an Atomic Records expansion).

Definitely we knew each other by the time this former XCleaver had started his own band, Flat Rabbits, in which my band’s trombonist played bass.

After only occasionally running into each other -- he typically on a Milwaukee Fire Dept. truck – I reconnected with Carter on the occasion of the release of his new CD, "Dangerous World," which pairs a trio of older songs with three new ones, recorded with Kelp Chofs and other local musical vets, like drummer Mike Koch.

Like the vintage of its material, "Dangerous World" blends the best of mid-80s music with contemporary sounds and styles and is full of catchy songs with memorable choruses. Hunnicutt’s writing is a little quirky, but it’s traditionally poppy, driven by his keyboard playing and vocals.

In advance of the CD release party, Sunday, May 22 at Circle A Cafe in Riverwest, I asked Carter to share some thoughts about his career and the new record and he had a lot to say...

On making music:

My mother was a classical piano teacher so I was not given a choice in the matter. She trained me, including music theory. She also listened to a lot of old country. I grew up to an odd soundtrack of Chopin, Eddy Arnold, Brahms, Roger Miller, Beethoven and Tennessee Ernie Ford. She taught me how to improvise and figure out songs by ear.

At about 15 years old Mom caught me playing "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by ear and scolded me: "You can’t improvise Mozart"

To which I replied,"I just did."

I call myself a rock and roll piano player because I’m really into Jerry Lee Lewis and other boogie guys but I do have Mozart and Thelonious in my DNA. In high school any guy with a guitar that could play Stairway to Heaven had a circle of girls around him so I was motivated but self taug…

Diverse or not? You decide.
Diverse or not? You decide.

Do new mall renderings reflect Downtown diversity?

A pair of press releases I received this morning resurrected the question of whether or not early design renderings, images of a future Milwaukee, embrace diversity.

This morning, a statement from – which calls itself "Milwaukee's Independent Voice" – appeared in my inbox with the headline, "White Millennials Will Get Grocery Store and Urban Blacks Will Not," and bearing the byline of Bob Graf.

The post balked at last week's reports of a potential new grocery store in the Plankinton Arcade.

"I found this interesting since there is the 'Public Market,' a major food destination downtown along with a major grocery store at East Pointe Market Place near downtown on Juneau Ave. Also, I have come to understand that when the word 'millennials' is used to describe young adults living and working downtown it actually means white upper middle class young adults.

"Few, if any, low income Black and Hispanic young adults are considered 'millennials' and live downtown. Downtown white 'millennials' have cars to get out to grocery stores in the surrounding neighborhoods and soon will have their own publicly funded downtown streetcar, primarily financed by deferring revenue away from public education, to get around downtown from home to work to shop and to entertain."

Graf added, "Residents of North Central Milwaukee live in what is considered a 'food desert,' a lack of major food stores and many do not have cars or other forms of adequate, reliable transportation.

"So the lesson to be learned seems to be that in Milwaukee if you are white, hungry and have money and transportation there will be many places to shop and eat. If you are black, hungry and have little money or transportation you will not have many places to shop and eat. White downtown 'millennials' will get their grocery store and urban blacks will not."

The timing of that email with one that followed soon after, showing renderings of the plan to revamp The Shops of Grand Avenue, caught my eye…

Prince once gifted The Violent Femmes with a song that they ended up never recording.
Prince once gifted The Violent Femmes with a song that they ended up never recording. (Photo: WikiCommons/Yves Lorson)

That time Prince gifted the Violent Femmes a song

Shortly after Prince's sudden and tragic death early this afternoon, OnMilwaukee met up with Milwaukee musician (and OnMilwaukee contributor) Victor DeLorenzo, who had a fun story and a few thoughts to share about the late musical icon. 

OnMilwaukee: Do you have any Prince stories?

Victor DeLorenzo: Well, the one incredible Prince story I have to relay is the time when the Violent Femmes were in Los Angeles, and we were working on a record that eventually became "Why Do Birds Sing?" We were working on some of the recording with Prince’s engineer, Susan Rogers, and we had a great time with Susan. We were doing final mixes over at a studio called Larrabee, and this was a studio complex – we were in one studio, and in the studio next to us, Prince was in the studio.

So, jokingly, we said to Susan one afternoon when we were working, "Hey, why don’t you go next door and ask Prince if he’s got a song for us?" After doing this a number of times, she finally said, "OK, alright, I’ll go bother him!" So she goes over there.

She’s gone about 10 minutes, and we’re thinking, "Wow, what’s going to happen? What if he wants to come over and meet us? Or if he has a song?" Suddenly, she comes back into the studio we’re working in, and she says, "Prince has a song for you. He’s sending someone over to his archive, and they’ll get a cassette over to you later this afternoon."

So this cassette arrives, and it’s a song called "You’ve Got A Beautiful Ass " (sic). And I think it did come out later on one of his collections or compilations or outtakes or what have you. We had this cassette, and we listen to it, and I can remember the chorus: "You’ve got a wonderful ass; you’ve got a beautiful ass." Or something to that effect. I think Gordon still probably has the cassette. But another mistake in a long line of many made by Violent Femmes, we never recorded it.

Did you guys consider it?

We did consider it! But at that time, we were thinking, "Wow, if we…

The Washington Post ranked MacDowell Montessori 27th out of more than 500 Wisconsin high school programs.
The Washington Post ranked MacDowell Montessori 27th out of more than 500 Wisconsin high school programs.

8 MPS options rank in top 6 percent of Wisconsin high schools

Blink of an eye, people. Blink of an eye.

That’s how fast time flies when you have kids. So, while mine aren’t anywhere near high school age yet, I’m already keeping an eye on options for 9-12 grade.

That means I pay attention to a variety of sources ranking the best/most challenging high schools in the state. There are many factors involved in these ratings, which explains why a school like Reagan, on the South Side, is rated No. 1 in the state by U.S. News and World Report, but only 15th (still pretty impressive in a state with, according to DPI, more than 500 public high schools in the academic year 2014-15) by The Washington Post, and why Rufus King, on the North Side, is ranked 8 and 13, respectively.

Here are some recent MPS rankings, provided by the district:

  • Milwaukee School of Languages: 1st, Washington Post; 25th, U.S. News
  • Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School: 2nd, U.S. News, 15th, Washington Post
  • Carmen High School of Science and Technology-South Campus: 2nd, Washington Post
  • Rufus King International High School: 8th, U.S. News; 13th, Washington Post
  • Riverside University High School: 25th, Washington Post
  • MacDowell Montessori School: 27th, Washington Post
  • Alexander Hamilton High School: 30th, Washington Post
  • Milwaukee High School of the Arts: 32nd, Washington Post

I’m pleased to see a number of schools on this list that I’m already keeping tabs on, like MacDowell Montessori, Reagan, King, MHSA and Riverside. And I’m happy to know that at least one more – Golda Meir – is finding its feet and may well be a top performer by the time my kids are ready.

And that’s a key factor for me. I have to stay on top of this because schools can, and often do, change. The departure or arrival of great staff can have an effect, for example. Luckily, I have time, and can follow these developments.

But there are other considerations, too. Reagan has a great visual arts program, so that could be a draw. The quality of performing ar…