Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Connoisseur of Pop Culture Ben Vaughn Has Records from Almost Everyone

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Connoisseur of Pop Culture Ben Vaughn Has Records from Almost Everyone

Article excerpt

IF IT'S GOOD ENOUGH for Chad Everett, it's good enough for John Travolta.

In Ben Vaughn's mind, this is a maxim of popular music.

Slung in a swivel chair in his Collingswood, N.J., home, the eternally sneakered Ben Vaughn slaps an Everett album onto his turntable.

Surrounding him are shelves filled with records by everyone from the Standells to Charles Manson, many original copies he purchased as a youngster.

"They're in an order that only I understand," Vaughn says as the former star of "Medical Center" croons about a shortfall in lovin'. "You know, I think this song was covered by Travolta."

At Vaughn's feet is "Favorite Mopar," a videocassette about Chrysler muscle cars of the '60s. And peeking over his left shoulder is THE POUT - a poster of singing celeb Pia Zadora.

"I have a video of her murdering the classics," he says. "It's amazing."

Vaughn, 38, has become something of an archivist of American popular culture. He's the spawn of chicken-fried rock 'n' roll, the love child of grade-B horror films and community access cable, a man who has never owned a car made after 1969.

Most folks aware of Vaughn know of him through his legendary Ben Vaughn Combo or his other rockin' forays, such as Pink Slip Daddy, The Wipe-Out Gang, Ben Vaughn and Daughn or The Ben Vaughn Desert Classic.

Vaughn also is a highly regarded producer, a specialist who knows how to excavate the grittiest underpinnings of most artists. He's played a prominent role in Elektra Nonesuch Records-American Explorer series, working on discs by such underappreciated performers as rockabilly master Charlie Feathers, R&B singer Arthur Alexander and gospel vocalist/Billy Graham associate Vernard Johnson.

"Ben's immersed in the music on every level," says Danny Kahn, senior director of product development at Elektra and a coordinator of the Explorer series. "He's not just a fanatical nut that loves and knows everything about the breadth of popular music, but he feels it and he knows why he likes it and he's able to express that.

"I think Ben still deals with a pure sense of music, how it was created in the first place. He preserves and documents it. When you talk about a producer capturing the real authenticity of these kinds of music, we trust that there's not many people better."

Yet Vaughn is more than just a music scene veteran who moonlights as a producer:

The writings of the lanky guitarist will appear next year in "Hollywood Rock" (HarperCollins), a book edited by singer Marshall Crenshaw that logs rock 'n' roll's fling with film.

Vaughn has compiled a collection on R&B bandleader Johnny Otis and written the liner notes for a Joe "Games People Play" South anthology.

And five or six times a year, Vaughn road-trips to Nashville to write with country singer-songwriters Rodney Crowell or composers such as Fred Koller, Bill Lloyd and Gary Nicholson. …

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