Belated Wishes To Mr. Whitlock

Originally posted March 25, 2008

A note came through here last week from my friend, Mitch, an English teacher and sometime rock ’n’ roll writer in Alabama who’s hobnobbed over the years with many of the best Southern rockers. He reminded me that March 18 was the sixtieth birthday of a musician we both hold in high regard: Bobby Whitlock.

I was preoccupied, so I missed it. But let this be my birthday greeting to Bobby.

In the early days of this blog – soon after I got the USB turntable – I ripped to mp3s and posted all four of Whitlock’s solo albums from the 1970s, work from the years just after he’d been a member of Derek & the Dominos.

As I’ve indicated elsewhere, I think Whitlock’s part of the Derek & the Dominos story tends to get lost in the stories of the two guitar legends – Eric Clapton and Duane Allman – who were in on the project. And as I thought about Whitlock’s birthday, I wondered about cover versions of his songs, in particular, the songs that were on Layla. One of those – the album’s closer, “Thorn Tree in the Garden” – was his alone, and he co-wrote with Clapton five of the other songs on the album: “I Looked Away,” “Keep On Growing,” “Anyday,” “Tell the Truth” and “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad.”

So, let’s take a look. First of all, Whitlock released his own versions of “Thorn Tree in the Garden” and the five co-written songs on Other Assorted Love Songs, a 2003 album he recorded with Kim Carmel, but those aren’t cover versions (although it’s an album I would love to hear).

“Thorn Tree in the Garden,” or at least a song of the same name, was also recorded by Lisa Alibrandi on her 2005 album, The Guitar in the Corner. That’s the only other listing at All-Music Guide for “Thorn Tree.”

All-Music Guide lists one artist I can be sure of who has covered “I Looked Away.” (Fixation had a song of the same title on a self-titled album in 2000, but AMG lists no writer for that recording, so it’s quite possibly a different song.) Mike Nesmith included the Clapton/Whitlock song on the 1971 album, Nevada Fighter, credited to Mike Nesmith & the First National Band.

“Keep On Growing” has an interesting list: Sheryl Crow recorded the song for the 1995 soundtrack to Boys on the Side. Since then, her version has been included on both versions of the 1996 EP If It Makes You Happy, on the soundtrack for Arctic Tale in 2007 and on her two-disc British release, Hits and Rarities. A few lesser-known names show up on the list – Wes Loper, Annie McLoon and Moodras (though Loper and Moodras may have recorded a different song of the same title; again, those versions are listed without a writer credit) – as well as Genya Ravan, who did a nice version of “Keep On Growing” on her 1973 album, They Love Me They Love Me Not.

A lengthy list of performers – about forty – is credited by AMG as having recorded a song titled “Anyday,” but almost none of those recordings are listed as being the Clapton/Whitlock song. Many of those recordings, too, are listed without writer credit, so the only cover I can be sure of is a version by the Derek Trucks Band on the live album from the 2007 version of Clapton’s own Crossroads Guitar Festival.

A similar scarcity holds for “Tell the Truth.” Many recordings listed again have no writer credit, so it’s hard to be sure. But the Clapton/Whitlock song is listed as having been recorded by Tom Lepson, a blues organist who released the song with his band the Lazy Boys on 1995’s Live and Dirty.

As to “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad,” the brief list includes the Allman Brothers Band (from a live 2004 recording), Buckwheat Zydeco, Chuck Crane and Steve Wynn (founder of the L.A. group, the Dream Syndicate).

While I was writing this, I was all set to share either the Sheryl Crow or Genya Ravan version of “Keep On Growing.” As I did the research for the preceding paragraph, however, I realized that I own the vinyl of Buckwheat Zydeco’s Taking It Home, for which Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural and his pals recorded “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad.” That was too interesting to pass up, so I ripped the track, and re-discovered that Stanley and the boys had some help in the studio from a guitarist named Eric Clapton. So that made the decision easier.

Buckwheat Zydeco with Eric Clapton – “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” [1988]

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