Saturday Single No. 90

Originally posted September 13, 2008

We’re almost midway through the month, so in the absence of any other compelling idea, I thought I’d wander through the mp3s this morning, looking at September sessions through the years.

(A reminder: I have date information for maybe ten percent of the 30,000 mp3s that live in my external hard drive, so this won’t be comprehensive, but it might be representative. And I hope it will be fun, or at least interesting.)

The earliest-recorded song that pops up is a famous one, although it’s not certain it was recorded during the ninth month: “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” by Trixie Smith & The Jazz Masters is listed as most likely being recorded in September 1922 in New York City. It was released as Black Swan 14127.

What makes this record of particular interest is pointed out in the Wikipedia entry on “Rock and roll.” The website notes that “the phrase ‘rocking and rolling’, as secular black slang for dancing or sex, appeared on record for the first time in 1922 on Trixie Smith’s ‘My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll’.”

Also in the 1920s, we find September records from the Original Memphis Five, Charlie Poole’s North Carolina Ramblers, the downhome duo of Butterbeans & Susie, Ma Rainey (known as the Mother of the Blues), Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers, Sleepy John Estes (who would resurface during the 1960s blues revival), and Luis Russell & His Orchestra with their oddly titled “The (New) Call of the Freaks” from September 1929.

In the 1930s, we find tunes from bluesmen Blind Willie McTell, Kokomo Arnold, Pete Wheatstraw, Big Bill Broonzy (recording as Sammy Sampson), Bukka White and Blind Boy Fuller. We also find Lonnie Johnson, who recorded blues but also recorded jazz and other genres with a fluid guitar style that is said to have including the first single-string guitar solos. Others who recorded in September during that decade included country singer Patsy Montana as well as numerous big bands: Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra, Earl Hines & His Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra, and Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, who on September 7, 1935, laid down one of my favorite tracks of all time, the sad and lovely “Goodbye.”

In the 1940s, Septembers saw recordings from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who blended her gospel message with a bluesy, folksy style. Tunes also came from Big Joe Turner and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. In September 1945, just after World War II ended, Marlene Dietrich went into the studio and recorded an English version of “Lili Marlene,” the song that had both saddened and comforted servicemen on the European front of that war for years. (In War and Remembance, Herman Wouk’s massive novel of World War II, one character says to another something like, “Isn’t it odd that the only good song of this whole damn war is a weepy Hun ballad?”)

Postwar Septembers in the 1940s brought recordings by Crudup, John Lee Williamson (the first Sonny Boy), Robert Nighthawk and Muddy Waters. In 1951, B.B. King shows up in September, and others who pop up in the early 1950s are Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Williams and Big Joe Turner once more. In 1954, we get Elvis Presley and Big Maybelle, and through the rest of the decade, we find Little Richard (with “Tutti Frutti,” among others), Louis Armstrong, rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson and the second Sonny Boy Williamson.

Septembers in 1961 bring Bobby “Blue” Bland and Edith Piaf, and in 1962 we find the first version of “Love Me Do” by the Beatles. The Ronettes and Paul Revere & the Raiders show up later in the 1960s, and the 1970s bring us September sessions from the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. In the studio and on tour with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen shows up in September recordings in the 1980s, as does the Jefferson Airplane offshoot, Hot Tuna.

In September 1995, for a concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Springsteen and Dylan teamed up for a performance of “Forever Young,” and Keb’ Mo’ sang “That’s Not Love” during a live performance on KBCO in Denver on September 21, 1996. And the most recent September performances I can identify are two by Norah Jones on WFUV in the Bronx, New York, on September 29, 2001.

Lots of those are interesting, but the one that caught my ear this morning was a cover of an early John Denver song, which is why “Poems, Prayers and Promises” is today’s Saturday Single.

Everly Brothers – “Poems, Prayers and Promises” [1971]


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