Saturday Single Nos. 108 & 109

Originally posted January 10, 2009

It’s so sweet when it works this way:

I write a post and share a tune (or several), hoping that what I know outweighs what I don’t know. A reader (or more than one) shares information, and that information provides me with both a lever and a place to stand. Using those tools, I go out into the cyber-countryside and dig up more information . . . and if I’m very fortunate, more music.

It went that way yesterday after I posted Long John Baldry’s 1971 version of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll,” which includes Baldry’s tale about being arrested for playing for pennies on the streets of 1950s London. Quite rapidly, a reader left a comment that widened my eyes a little:

“Being from Minnesota, I’m surprised you don’t remember that Crow recorded this earlier… I’m thinking fall of 1970, second single after ‘Evil Woman.’ It did chart, no idea how high, though. You might enjoy this discussion: http://aprendizdetodo.com/music/?item=20040208

He added a note about Tony Burrows, whom I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post, a note that I will likely explore another time. But more information about Crow piqued my interest. As I clicked the link to the discussion, which turned out to be at a site called Prentiss Riddle: Music, I realized that – even though the group was from the Twin Cities – all I know of Crow is “Evil Woman . . .” I do have a copy of the group’s first, self-titled LP in my stacks of unplayed music, quite likely bracketed by the soundtrack to the 1970s film The Great Gatsby and a box set of Russian folk music.

The discussion of the song at Prentiss Riddle: Music had taken place in 2005 and was full of information and educated guesses from fans of the song and of Baldry, Crow and a little-known early 1970s group called Gator Creek (more on that group later).

One of the most valuable bits there was the full set of the song’s lyrics. The version I’m posting is a little different, based on the later discussion at the board I was exploring.

Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll.

Don’t you tell me n-n-n-no lies woman ’cause all you know I’ve told
Don’t sell me no alibi sister ’cause all you’ve got I’ve sold
You better leave that midnight sneakin’ to the one who worked it out
I don’t wanna hear no back talk speakin’ go on and shut yer mouth
And everything’s gonna work out tight if you act like you been told
So don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

Don’t you feed me no TV dinners when you know I’m used to steak
I don’t need no rank beginners when it’s time to shake that shake
You better pull your Thing together, reach in and dust it out
And if ya feel that you just can’t dig it then I guess you know the route
It ain’t a matter of pork ’n’ beans gonna justify your soul
Just don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

You weren’t alive when I started to drive, so don’t put none on me
You didn’t arrive ’til late ’45 but your head’s in ’53.
You got what it takes to keep the heads a-spinnin’ down by the old rib shack
And you come across just like a fool grinnin’ in the back of a red Cadillac.
You can’t come across the Atsville bridge until you pay the toll
So don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll.

The lyrics were posted by a Crow listener who said that the song had been on Crow’s Mosaic album and had also been originally recorded in 1970 by a group called Gator Creek. The lyrics as posted called the “rib shack” a “rim shack” and had “[inaudible]” for the name of the bridge in the next-to-the-last line. Another reader soon corrected “rim” to “rib.” And the fourth line in the second verse had been posted as “And if ya feel that your ass can’t dig it . . .”

Someone posting as Prentice Riddle, the board’s evident owner or moderator, noted that Baldry had changed that fourth line in the second verse to read: “And if you feel that you just can’t dig it you know you don’t know what it’s all about.”

But the name of the bridge stayed unknown for a time, with readers offering their own decades-long guesses. Some of those guesses were: Astro, Apsfail and Astral, which I quite liked. (My own guess? For years, I’d been hearing John Baldry sing about crossing the Oslo bridge, which I figured wasn’t quite right. But I’d never had the inclination to go find the correct lyric.)

And at that point, the discussion was helped greatly with a post from W.C. Thomas. W.C. wrote: “My brother Jeff wrote the song and I have a copy of the original demo with the Ray-Lettes singing background. Jeff says it’s ‘you just can’t dig it’ and the ‘Atsville Bridge,’ based on the slang of the time, like ‘where it’s at.’ Also it is the old rib shack.” W.C. added in a later note: “Jeff wrote the song for Elvis but Elvis didn’t want to call himself the King of Rock and Roll.”

So that answered the questions about the lyrics: But there were a whole lot of unanswered questions: When did Crow’s version come out? Is there a copy of it out there somewhere? Who was Gator Creek? And whatever happened to that demo by Jeff Thomas with the Ray-Lettes?

Well, a few posts later, Jeff Thomas himself weighed in: “I am quite flattered by the attention given to my song. I thought it was good enough to record by myself. The late, great, and dear John Baldry claimed the hit version, although Crow’s version was charted. Another great version was done by ’Gator Creek (Kenny Loggins sang the vocal). An unreleased version was recorded (produced by close friend Jimmy Bowen) live in Las Vegas by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition (with exceptional vocal by friend and fellow Georgian Kin Vassey).”

After learning from another poster that Thomas’ version had been released in 1970 on Bell Records, I went hunting. I first posted a note here, acknowledging my ignorance of Crow’s version (and asked if anyone out there had it). Then I went to one of the better blog search engines: Captain Crawl. I entered “Gator Creek” and found a rip of that 1970 album through the blog Rare MP3 Music.

By the time I’d listened to Gator Creek’s version, I had an email from a fellow named Dave who had been the original commenter here. He’d attached to his email a copy of Crow’s version of “(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The) King Of Rock And Roll,” which – as he’d thought – was from 1970. And moments ago, while writing this post, I stopped at Ebay, where I found and bought a promo copy of Bell single 941, Jeff Thomas’ version of his song. So that should be here in the next week or so.

(The names of a few of the folks who were on the Gator Creek album stand out: Along with Kenny Loggins, who was a member of the band, some of the folks who helped out on the sessions were guitarist Larry Knechtel, horn player Chuck Findley and background vocalists extraordinaire Merry Clayton, Clydie King and Venetta Fields.)

The last thing I wanted to know for this post was where Crow’s version charted. The group had a single titled “Slow Down” sit just underneath the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in late March and early April of 1970. Another single, “Cottage Cheese” reached No. 56 in a fourteen-week sojourn in the Hot 100 in late spring and summer. And then in the fall, I learned, “(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On the) King of Rock And Roll” peaked at No. 52 during a nine-week stay in the Hot 100 that began in October 1970.

So, as Jeff Thomas’ single makes it way to my lair, here are two versions (punctuated differently) of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll,” your Saturday singles.

“(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On the) King of Rock And Roll”
Crow (Amaret 125, 1970)

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll”
Gator Creek (from Gator Creek, 1970)

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single Nos. 108 & 109”

  1. One More Trip Across ‘The Atsville Bridge’ « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] couple of weeks ago, when I posted versions by Crow and Gator Creek of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And […]

  2. Using Up One Of His Nine Lives « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] may recall that not long ago, I posted a so-so version of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & […]

  3. ‘I Don’t Need No Light In The Darkness’ « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] title permutations over the course of several posts a while back. (Those post are available here, here and here.) Of the various versions I know about, though – by Gator Creek, Crow, songwriter Jeff […]

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