Archive for the ‘1947’ Category

Saturday Single No. 766

December 18, 2021

Employing one of my favorite musical crutches this morning, I asked the RealPlayer to sort out tracks recorded over the years on December 18. I got back four, which is a little fewer than usual.

Least pleasing among them was Julia Gerrity’s plaint, “Sittin’ On A Rubbish Can,” a 1931 recording in the stilted style of mainstream pop of those days. I’m not sure where I got it. But it probably showed up here around 2005, when I was beginning my vintage music digging but wasn’t yet too picky about my sorting and tagging.

Two of the December 18 tracks came from a 1951 session in St. Louis, a raw, bluesy and unreleased pair recorded by Clifford Gibson. “Sneaky Groundhog” and “Let Me Be Your Handyman” came my way via the 2010 four-CD box set Juke Joint Blues, one of several sets I have from JSP, a firm operating out of the United Kingdom.

I have two copies of the fourth December 18 track, a 1947 boogie by Wild Bill Moore titled “We’re Gonna Rock, We’re Gonna Roll.” Recorded in Detroit for the Savoy label, the track showed up on a 1977 double-LP set titled The Roots of Rock ’N Roll (a set I also have on CD, thanks to reader and friend Yah Shure) and it also showed up on a four-CD set titled The Big Horn: The History of the Honkin’ & Screamin’ Saxophone released by Proper, a London-based firm.

Both sets are fine; I have some difficulty sorting out the notes on The Big Horn. They’re detailed enough, but each entry begins with personnel notes, leaving the title of the piece and the recording date and place at the bottom of each entry. It feels backwards to me, and it caused quite a bit of double-checking when I entered the data.

Anyway, “We’re Gonna Rock, We’re Gonna Roll” features tenor sax work from Moore and alto and baritone sax work from Paul Williams. The record hit No. 14 on the Best Seller chart and No. 15 on the Juke Box chart during the summer of 1948, and – exactly seventy-four years after it was recorded – it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘You May Be High . . .’

May 22, 2019

When the Rolling Stones recorded “You Got To Move” and released it on Sticky Fingers in 1971 (with the title offered as “You Gotta Move”), they credited the song to Fred McDowell, a Tennessee-based farmer and blues singer who’d somehow been given the name of Mississippi Fred McDowell. It was not an unreasonable decision, as McDowell had recorded the tune in 1965 for his second album on the Arhoolie label, which was released a year later and listed him as the song’s writer.

Here’s that version by McDowell:

(It’s worth noting that McDowell was an anomaly in the blues revival of the late 1950s and the 1960s: He’d never recorded before, while many of the blues artists celebrated during that revival had recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. Whether that made McDowell’s previously unrecorded music more “authentic” – as I’ve seen written in at least a couple of places – is for others to judge. It was certainly new to listeners, and, despite McDowell’s frequent use of an electric guitar, clearly linked to the Delta tradition.)

But McDowell did not write the song. Second Hand Songs lists the song as “traditional,” noting four recordings that predate McDowell’s 1965 recording. (McDowell’s 1965 recording is not listed at all; his 1969 live version with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers is listed, another reminder that as useful as the website is, it’s not complete.)

Those four earlier listed recordings came from the Willing Four in 1944, the Two Gospel Keys (Emma Daniels and Mother Sally Jones) in 1947, Elder Charles Beck & His Religion In Rhythm in 1949, and Blind Gary Davis with Sonny Terry in 1953. One can assume two things, I think: There were other recordings as well before McDowell recorded his 1965 version, and the song no doubt predates the Willing Four’s version. By how much, who knows?

And I’m going to make a third assumption: That crediting the song’s creation to McDowell on his 1966 album was an error by someone at Arhoolie. McDowell would certainly have known that he’d learned the song elsewhere, and everything I’ve read about McDowell tells me that he was an unassuming, almost humble man. I have my doubts that he’d have claimed the song as his.

(At Second Hand Songs, “You Got To Move” is called “traditional,” and on the CD version I have of Sticky Fingers, it’s credited to McDowell and Davis. I don’t know what credits there are on more recent versions of the CD or the LP.)

McDowell recorded the song at least a couple more times: The previously mentioned 1969 recording with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers for an album titled Amazing Grace, and in a 1971 performance in New York City that was released as a live album two years later.

There are, of course, other covers out there, some by artists I know and others by artists unfamiliar to me: The Party Boys, Mike Cooper & Ian A. Anderson, Mick Taylor, Herman Alexander, the Radiators, Corey Harris, Jorma Kaukonen, Townes Van Zandt, Cassandra Wilson, Aerosmith, and Koerner, Ray & Glover are just some of them.

Most of those are faithful to the Delta sound of McDowell’s version; some of them reach back to what I assume are the song’s Gospel origins; and some are hybrids. Here’s one of the latter, the version offered by Sista Monica Parker on her 2008 album Sweet Inspirations.

Saturday Single No. 527

February 11, 2017

It’s time for a four-track random walk through the 3,805 tracks on iTunes to find ourselves a Saturday Single:

First up is Muddy Water’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” the first single the blues musician released after making his way in 1943 from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The track was recorded in December 1947 and released on Aristocrat – a precursor of Chess Records – in 1948. It didn’t hit the Billboard R&B chart, but in September of 1948, Waters’ “I Feel Like Going Home” went to No. 11 on R&B chart. From what I can tell this morning, in more than ten years of blogging here, I have mentioned “I Can’t Be Satisfied” only twice, once in passing and once as one of the records played daily in my mythical roadhouse.

Up pops a Bob Dylan B-side: “Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar,” released on the flip of “Heart of Mine” in 1981 and then released on the Biograph box set in 1985. A different version of the tune showed up on the Shot of Love album in 1981, but I think I’d have to do a side-by-side, second-by-second comparison to find the differences. In the notes to Biograph, Dylan basically says that he and the band lost their ways in the version that went out as the B-side. I have to admit that I was unaware that “Heart of Mine” was released as a single in 1981; I never heard it, and it never even bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100.

And we stay with Mr. Dylan, moving back fourteen years from Shot of Love to the quiet and understated John Wesley Harding from 1967 and its meditative track “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” With just a guitar and a harmonica and an understated voice, Dylan tells of the saint “tearing through these quarters” and offering the cryptic words

No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone.

Next comes the sweet love story of “1927 Kansas City” as told by Mike Reilly, who became a member of Pure Prairie League after a brief solo career. The only remnant of that solo career in the charts is “1927 Kansas City,” which tumbled around the lower levels of the Hot 100 for six weeks, peaking at No. 88 (and at No. 38 on the Adult Contemporary chart). It’s a little gooey, maybe, but it’s got some nice production touches and some nice lyrical turns, and since I’m a sucker for sweet love stories, it’s a favorite.

Well, we’ve got two Dylans, a classic blues and a sweet love story on the table. I’m tempted by the love story, of course, but I featured it here not quite three years ago. I’m also limited by the fact that Dylan’s originals do not stay on YouTube very long at all, and although some nice covers of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” are available there (including one from last year by Eric Clapton), it was the original that popped up in iTunes this morning. So pretty much by default, we’re going to have to go with Muddy Waters. (That’s not a bad default position to have, you might note.)

Here’s Muddy Water’s 1947 recording of “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

One From 12-30

December 30, 2016

As has been our wont these past few days, we’re going to look through the digital shelves today for something that was recorded on today’s date, December 30. Long ago? In recent years? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the tune in question was waxed, taped or digitized on the next to last day of the year.

And we come to the King Porter Orchestra and “Chitlin’ Ball” (sometimes spelled “Chittlin’ Ball”). There’s not a lot out there about the group, just four tracks listed at a YouTube topic page and a lot of playlist references, seemingly mentioning the same four tracks. And since I scavenged the track after borrowing a 1997 Capitol collection called Jumpin’ Like Mad: Cool Cats & Hip Chicks, I have no liner notes to turn to.

All I do know is that the King Porter Orchestra recorded the track in Detroit on December 30, 1947, and it was released as a 78 on Imperial 5039. And it’s a fine piece of R&B for a cold day in December.

‘Smoke, Smoke, Smoke . . .’

October 9, 2014

I’d been a smoker for most of the past twenty-five years when I lit up my last cigarette on October 9, 1999, fifteen years ago today. I’d tried to quit at least three times, but not even the wishes of the Other Half and the promise of a more serene domestic life back in the late 1970s were powerful enough to keep me smokeless. Once that pairing was over in 1987, I gave little thought to quitting for the next twelve years.

Smoking was a habit I’d fallen into by happenstance coupled with a moment of terrible judgment. After a few fumbling encounters with cigarettes in my mid-teens – the most memorable was a smoke shared at Bible camp with another camper, the two of us feeling like outsiders as we listened to the music coming from the cabin where the other campers were dancing – I was firmly a non-smoker. Smoke was all around me, of course: My dad smoked, both cigarettes and a pipe. Friends smoked. Passengers on buses smoked. Diners in restaurants smoked. I didn’t, and I was pretty resolute about it.

Until a spring day in Fredericia, Denmark, in 1974. I’d become pretty good friends with a fellow named Rob C (so called to differentiate him from Rob from across Kilian Boulevard). And one day in May, we ended up sitting in a quiet spot on the city’s earthen walls, probably talking about what we expected to find when we went back home, a trip that was only days away. Rob pulled out a pack of cigarettes – hideously expensive in Denmark even then – and shook one out. Then he offered the pack to me. I took a cigarette – the brand was “LOOK” and like the American “KOOL” brand its name echoed, it was a menthol – and I lit up and inhaled for the first time.

And I was hooked.

I smoked for the rest of my college years, even after an odd lung ailment in June 1974 put me in the hospital for a week and took away a good chunk of that summer. I quit when I married the Other Half, but I started smoking again during an afternoon of fishing with my pal Larry not quite a year later. I quit twice more during the nine years the Other Half and I were together, but that only meant I started smoking again two more times. Eventually I quit trying to quit and smoked my way through the late 1980s and almost all of the 1990s.

And then, in September 1999, I was overexposed to toxic chemicals when new carpet was put into the building where I worked, and that – coupled with what I now suspect was a mold problem in my new apartment – made my system extremely sensitive to many common chemicals, including tobacco smoke. After that happened, I knew I would have to quit. Smoke in the air made my scalp itch and my ears burn, as did many other common chemicals. I avoided the other chemicals as well as I could – I wasn’t working, I quit using fragranced products, I changed my diet and more – but I still smoked about two packs a day.

Until that evening fifteen years ago today. I was at my kitchen table, and I lit up a cigarette, and my throat immediately started to swell shut. I stubbed out the cigarette and went in search of my antihistamines. They didn’t work. I used an epi-pen, a couple of which I kept on hand. That didn’t work. I called a friend and asked her to take me to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. They kept me there about six hours, giving me more antihistamines and epinephrine until my throat settled down to a more normal state.

And at two in the morning, my friend and I went back to my place, and I loaded my smoking stuff – ashtrays, lighters and a few packs of Old Gold – into a bag and asked her to dispose of it. I haven’t had a cigarette since, except in a few dreams. Sometimes I miss smoking, but I have a pretty good incentive not to smoke: I like breathing.

And here’s the best recording I know about the tug of tobacco, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” by Tex Williams & His Western Caravan from 1947. A cover of the tune by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen made it to No. 94 in 1973, but Tex Williams’ version outdid that by a long ways: It sat at No. 1 on the country chart for sixteen weeks in 1947.

Saturday Single No. 230

March 19, 2011

In one of the earlier James Bond novels – Diamonds Are Forever, published in 1956 – there is a scene during which Bond comes across a record player with the needle riding the groove at the end of the record. Bond goes to the record player and identifies the LP, which turns out to be Echoes of Paris by pianist George Feyer. Then, author Ian Fleming tells us: “He examined the other side and, skipping ‘La Vie En Rose’ because it had memories for him, put the needle down at the beginning of ‘Avril au Portugal’.”

I first read Diamonds Are Forever when I was twelve or so, and I missed a few things in that brief passage. First, I had no awareness of “La Vie En Rose,” one of the great French pop songs and one most frequently associated with singer Edith Piaf. Second, I missed Fleming’s hint that despite Bond’s stoic and sometimes aggressive demeanor, there were times when he was vulnerable. Third, because I had not yet read Casino Royale, the first Bond adventure, I missed what I think was a reference to Bond’s ill-fated love affair with Vesper Lynd.*

And fourth, I didn’t get – and I recall being puzzled – how a song can hold memories. That tells me that at the age of twelve, I didn’t yet understand one of the main premises on which a lot of my writing – including this blog – would eventually be based: That our memories come along with us (whether we like that or not) and one of the best keys to unlocking our closets of memories is music, whether it’s Lou Christie’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine,” Moby’s “South Side” or Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.”

That last tune, the one that left me blank when I first read its title in Diamonds Are Forever, now has memories that come to the surface when I hear it: First, I’m back in French class during my junior year of high school as our teacher, Madame Coffman, tries to explain the impact Piaf had on French popular culture. And then, I have in my head an image of James Bond – played by Sean Connery, of course – looking at the label of an LP. He cocks his head ever so slightly to the side as he does. Then he carefully places the record on the turntable and sets the needle at the beginning of the third track before getting back to the task that brought him to the room with the record player.

And that’s how memory and song overlap: Sometimes the song comes to us before the incidents that create the memory. Sometimes those incidents come first and the song comes by later. And on occasion, the song and the makings of the memory arrive together, and those times, I’d suggest, are among the most potent of the things we carry around with us. And as long as we live, music will remind us of the people, places and moments that we store in our closets of memories.

So, for James Bond, for Ian Fleming, and for that twelve-year-old reader who had yet to discover the often bittersweet linkage between music and memory, here, from 1947, is Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

*I saw a note at a James Bond board this week that referenced John Pearson’s 1973 book, James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007, saying “Pearson (who I am reading) suggests Bond’s disaffection for ‘La Vie En Rose’ occurs even earlier than Vesper.” That may be, as I am no Bondologist. But there is, if I recall correctly, a reference to “La Vie En Rose” being played in a nightclub in Casino Royale, so I’ll stop right there.