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Serial killers. Gangsters. Gunslingers. Victorian-era murderers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Each week, the Most Notorious podcast features true-life tales of crime, criminals, tragedies and disasters throughout history. This is an interview show, spotlighting authors and historians who have studied their subjects for years, and whose stories are offered with unique insight, detail, and historical accuracy.
 
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On this special Halloween-themed episode of Most Notorious, my guests - professors Lester Friedman and Allison Kavey - talk about Mary Shelley's early 19th-century literary classic, Frankenstein. They explore Shelley's creation of her timeless gothic novel and how her background and circumstances likely influenced her writing, offer some fascinatin…
 
My guest, Western author and historian G.R. Williamson, appeared on Most Notorious a couple of years ago to talk about gunfighters Ben Thompson and King Fisher. He joins me again, this time to tell tales from his book "Notorious Gamblers of the Old West", which includes accounts of colorful card-playing characters like Charles Cora, Lottie Deno and…
 
Badfinger is heralded as the seminal power pop bands. And while they had all the ingredients needed to be a successful rock band (including catching the attention of the Beatles and being the first band signed to their Apple label), monetary and sustained commercial success eluded them largely due to the nefarious business practices of their manage…
 
October 8th, 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the legendary disaster that destroyed a third of Chicago and made 90,000 residents homeless. While Mrs. O'Leary and her cow are usually portrayed as the culprits behind the catastrophic blaze, my guest, Carl Smith, doesn't believe history has treated her fairly. Professor Smit…
 
Rod Stewart is perhaps the most frustrating figure in popular music. He is a man gifted with arguably the best voice in rock and roll and he can write some amazing songs, straight up rockers and heart-felt ballads. But Stewart eventually moved to cash in on that talent, epitomized in the 1978 album, Blondes Have More Fun. On this podcast, we look b…
 
We're back again to the Hundred Years War in this episode of Most Notorious - this time in England. Sir William Cantilupe, a battle-hardened knight who had recently been acquitted of murdering his brother Nicholas, was discovered dead in a lonely field in May of 1375, in what appeared to be a staged crime scene. And it was his wife Maude and their …
 
The Pretenders first album consistently received high marks from the critics and was a top 10 album in the U.S. when it was released, although it sounded like nothing else like anything else in the Top 40 at the time. It's a rock album with gorgeous melodies that, at times, disguise the disturbing subject matter of the lyrics. Though most of the so…
 
On November 1st, 1843, a dejected servant named Amelia Norman followed her former beau Henry Ballard to the steps of the Astor House Hotel in New York City. There she stabbed him with a folding knife, barely missing his heart. The city's newspapers and moral reformers quickly embraced Miss Norman's cause, seeing it as an opportunity to change seduc…
 
On this episode, we talk about a band named after the inventor of the seed drill, Jethro Tull, and perhaps the band's best-known album Aqualung, which happens to be the name of the underwater breathing apparatus invented by Jacques Cousteau. Why Aqualung? Who knows. But there's plenty of other stuff discussed in this episode, such as the band's cha…
 
In November of 1407, Louis I, The Duke of Orleans and brother of France's "Mad" King Charles VI, is murdered on a street near his home in Medieval Paris. A police investigation ensues, surprisingly as thorough and detailed as any modern day crime investigation. My guest, Eric Jager, is the author of "Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection …
 
Dave Mason may not be a household name, but you are familiar with his work, especially his guitar playing, which has been on some of the most acclaimed songs of the late 60s and early 70s (which is why our cohost Tony calls him "The Forest Gump of Rock"). After co-founding and "leaving" Traffic, Mason recorded his first solo album, Alone Together. …
 
On April 24th, 1891, a Bowery prostitute named Carrie Brown (known locally as "Old Shakespeare") was found murdered and mutilated in the seedy East River Hotel. With the Jack the Ripper murders unsolved and still news, many believed that the notorious killer had traveled across the Atlantic to continue his bloody work in the United States - and thi…
 
On March 25, 1935, little George Weyerhaueser, heir to one of the biggest fortunes in America, was kidnapped on his way home from school in Tacoma, Washington. His abductors would keep him manacled in a pit in the middle of the forest as they negotiated a $200,000 ransom with his frantic family. What soon followed would be the largest manhunt in th…
 
Hailed by critics as Los Lobo's best album, Kiko found the band in an experimental frame of mind. The band members themselves can't recall where some of the tunes and sounds came from. On this album, the band worked with famed keyboardist and producer, Mitchell Vroom (Crowded House, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney), whose bank of keyboards color thi…
 
In the spring of 1853 the ill-fated William and Mary, an American sailing ship captained by the incompetent Timothy Stinson, departed from England carrying over 200 Dutch, Scotch, Irish and English emigrants, all bound for New Orleans. The voyage was an absolute disaster, replete with illness, bad weather, starvation, a shipwreck, and ultimately th…
 
DPA MacManus, also known as Elvis Costello, made some of the most interesting tunes of the late 20th Century. Part of his charm was his ability to write witty, intelligent, and interesting pop songs that straddled the boundaries of Punk, New Wave, and Power Pop. In this episode, we delve into his second album, This Year's Model, and the background …
 
Do you have a criminal from your family's past that you've always wanted to learn more about, but don't know where to start? On this special episode of Most Notorious, prolific British author Stephen Wade offers helpful tips on how to maneuver through what can be both a daunting and thrilling experience - digging up sordid details of long-lost vill…
 
Emmylou Harris' unmistakable voice has graced many artists' albums, both rock and country albums, usually as a backup singer or harmonizer. But on this, her 18th studio album, she takes a turn few would have imagined. Largely a collaboration with producer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Lanois (U2, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, Bob Dylan), Wrecking B…
 
Of all of the Jack the Ripper suspects, Montague Druitt is the most maligned in modern times, my guests argue, despite the fact that many of his contemporaries believed him to be the murderer of the Canonical Five before drowning himself in the Thames. Jonathan Hainsworth and Christine Ward-Agius are the authors of "The Escape of Jack the Ripper: T…
 
The Cherry Mine in Cherry, Illinois was built to be one of the safest in the United States. However on November 13th, 1909, it caught fire, killing 259 boys and men who were trapped inside, hundreds of feet below ground. A few miners eventually escaped - and later told the tale of their experiences battling darkness, thirst, fire and the ominous "B…
 
Southside Johnny may not be a household name, but he is the very definition of the New Jersey sound. Heralded by the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen (who has written many songs for him), Southside Johnny has made an indelible mark on the music industry. And this album is very much a collaboration with producer/songwriter/guitarist Littl…
 
Roanoke Island is host every year to the famous "Lost Colony" outdoor drama. It was during the 1967 production that a young makeup artist named Brenda Joyce Holland went missing - her body eventually discovered floating in Albemarle Sound. A murder investigation ensued, with important evidence being mishandled and a slew of suspects to sort through…
 
There are three bands from the early 70s that defined "power pop": The Raspberries, Badfinger, and Big Star. Named after a famous grocery in the Memphis area, Big Star became one of the most influential bands this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps their influence wanes only in comparison to the Velvet Underground. The two main personalities of this ban…
 
On the evening of December 23rd 1881, three teenagers, alone in a farmhouse in Ashland Kentucky, were savagely murdered and the house set afire to cover the crime. What followed would be an investigation, trials, a lynching, and a massacre of Ashland citizens by state militia, in this fascinating and tragic series of events. My guest is Joe Castle,…
 
Hailed by critics, but mostly ignored by the recording buying public for several years after its release, the album, Dixie Chicken by Little Feat, highlights the songwriting, singing, slide guitar playing, and flute playing by the band's defacto leader, Lowell George. This is a band's band. And many other artists had hits with songs from this album…
 
At the tail end of World War Two, a serial killer named James Waybern "Red" Hall, stalked the roads of Arkansas, Kansas and other middle American states, remorselessly murdering kind people who made the unfortunate decision to offer him a ride. My guest, Janie Nesbitt Jones, is the author of “The Arkansas Hitchhike Killer: James Waybern ‘Red’ Hall.…
 
This episode looks at the second album by the man many consider the epitome of anthem rock. Yet on this album, the songs seem more loose, more oriented on toward the town Springsteen and his bandmates knew so well, Asbury Park, NJ. This is not your typical Springsteen album and it is territory he has not really revisited since this album was releas…
 
When sheriff's deputies arrived at David and Allene Lamson's Palo Alto home on Memorial Day, 1933, they found David frantic over what he said was a terrible accident in their bathroom. Allene, he explained, had slipped when getting out of the bathtub and bashed her head on the sink, resulting in her death. Investigators, however, believed something…
 
In Episode 33 we look at Johnny Cash's 81st(!) album, American Recordings. Produced by legendary rap and hard rock producer Rick Rubin, the album is a comeback of sorts for and introduced him to a new group of younger listeners. It's a sparse album, just Cash and his guitar, and serves to showcase Cash's voice and songwriting talents. It's Cash at …
 
In November of 1912, a young woman named Ella Barham journeyed home, on her horse, to her family farm in Boone County, Arkansas, but never arrived. After her body was discovered, murdered and dismembered, suspicions quickly centered on a neighbor, Odus Davidson, who was rumored to have been in love with Ella, a love never returned. My guest, Nita G…
 
Imprisoned in a Turkish war camp during WW1, two British officers pull off an unbelievable con against their captors involving a Ouija board, an angry ghost and feigned madness - leading to a truly astonishing escape. My guest is bestselling author Margalit Fox, author of "Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Esca…
 
ELO started off as a side project by two members of the very successful band from Birmingham, England, the Move. Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood wanted to explore ways to incorporate symphonic arrangements into their progressive, yet poppy, chord progressions that each had begun to perfect. Soon after, Wood absconded with integral members of the newly form…
 
In this episode we look at an album that has explicit lyrics written by a man who now writes children's tunes for Disney: Randy Newman's, Gold Old Boys. It's a character-driven album with songs carefully crafted and arranged by a man who comes from an extended family that has made a name for itself composing film scores. Randy Newman himself became…
 
Albert Johnson is famous in Canadian crime history for leading Mounties on a sensational and deadly chase through the Yukon and Northwest Territories during the winter of 1931-32. How he managed to elude police over hundreds of kilometers in subzero temperatures through a mountainous wilderness is as much a mystery as his real identity. To this day…
 
Released in 1978, Blondie's third album, Parallel Lines, became their biggest album largely off the strength of the most popular song of 1979, Heart of Glass. The making of this album is interesting: the band was given six months to make the record, yet it was finished in six weeks, despite the producer calling Blondie the worst band he'd ever work…
 
Most of us are familiar with the critically acclaimed film called Catch Me If You Can, based on the autobiography of legendary confidence man Frank Abagnale. It's the story of a brazen teenage imposter who through charm and intellect was able to pass as an attorney, a doctor, a pilot and a university professor in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My …
 
In 1897 a Belgian named Adrien de Gerlache, in command of a ship called the Belgica, sailed to Antarctica with the intent to be the first to reach the south magnetic pole. On the expedition was Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who would later become one of the world's most famous explorers, and Doctor Frederick Cook, who would become one of America's grea…
 
Ray Charles loved country music and it is evident on what most call his most successful album artistically. It was also his most successful album commercially and introduced a lot white audiences to "the genius". In this episode we explore what made this album so compelling and why Charles decided to cover traditional country songs with sophisticat…
 
J. Frank Norris rose to fame as the controversial fundamentalist pastor of America's first megachurch, the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He used his pulpit, his newspaper and his radio station to battle his enemies in unscrupulous ways, and when one angry local businessman named Dexter Chipps marched into his office in July of 1926 to …
 
Peter Gabriel's sixth solo studio album, Us, was the culmination of years of studio experience with his original band, Genesis, and as a solo artist. After spending time on the road with Amnesty International and soaking in the music of different cultures from around the globe, Gabriel set out to incorporate those rhythms and instrumentation into a…
 
One of the more enduring mysteries in true crime history involves Vincenzo Capone, Al Capone's eldest brother, who abruptly left his struggling family in New York City one day, eventually resurfacing as a lawman with a new identity: Richard Hart. His rise to fame - becoming one of the most famous Prohibition agents of the 1920s - coincided with his…
 
We're late with this week's episode, but luckily our good friends at Alka Seltzer are at the ready with a salute in song to the island of the red hibiscus, Hawaii! We'll get the next episode up later this week and we'll be back on schedule next week. And why are we late? Well, our host Doug Cooper spent a lot of his free time this week getting marr…
 
Almost a decade before Bonnie and Clyde blasted their way into our collective public consciousness, Richard and Margaret Whittemore, aka "The Candy Kid" and "Tiger Girl" made national news, not only for their participation in deadly robberies in 1920s New York, but also for their romantic love story, played out through newspaper articles and photog…
 
The Kinks were known in their earliest days for power chords and songs about lust. But the main song writer, Ray Davies, began to turn his attention to his native England and life there after WWII. On this album, we explore the circumstances that gave rise to this often praised and often overlooked masterpiece by the four original members of the Ki…
 
This episode focuses on Paul Simon's masterpiece, Graceland, an album that found Simon at his peak as a song writer. The making of this album was an adventure starting with a cassette lent to Simon, which resulted in a trip to South Africa during the height Apartheid, with stops in London, Louisiana, Los Angeles, and New York along the way.…
 
The late 1960s and early 1970s were witness to some of the worst serial killers in American history. Ranking at the top was Gerard John Schaefer, a cop who used his charisma to lure unsuspecting females into his car before torturing and murdering them in brutal fashion. My guest is Patrick Kendrick, who has spent the past 35 years gathering informa…
 
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