Archive for the ‘1956’ Category

Saturday Singles Nos. 166 & 167

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 19, 2009

Among the first things I did when I moved to Minot, North Dakota, in the late summer of 1987 was to buy three large bookcases for my study. I actually used them for books for a couple of years. By the time I moved to Pleasant Avenue in South Minneapolis in 1992, about one-third of the big cases had been taken over by records. And during my last couple of years there, about once every couple months I’d empty one of the upper compartments of its books or knickknacks and rearrange the vinyl to give it more room.

But there were always more records sitting in crates on the floor, waiting for a place on the shelves. When I moved from Pleasant Avenue to Bossen Terrace, further south in Minneapolis in 1999, I devoted all of the large bookshelf space to LPs. The books and knickknacks went elsewhere in what was a smaller apartment.

This week’s post is the last month-by-month of the exploration of how the records came to take over the bookcases. Last week, I looked at December’s LP acquisitions from 1964 or so through 1989. This week, we carry on.

By December of 1990, I was living in Columbia, Missouri, having spent earlier portions of the year in Anoka, Minnesota, and Conway Springs, Kansas. And only two albums came my way that month, Rescue by Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers and The Legendary Christine Perfect Album, a record of bluesy rock first released in England in 1970 as simply Christine Perfect and then released in 1976 under the longer name in the U.S. after Christine Perfect became Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac.

The following summer, I moved back to Minnesota, and as I settled into my new reporting job, I pretty much took the autumn of 1991 and the winter of 1991-92 off from buying almost anything, including LPs. When the spring came, I’d moved from the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Park to Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis, where there were garage sales, thrift stores and six or seven used record shops, including Cheapo’s. My buying was sporadic for a while, but it began to accelerate.

The seven albums I picked up in December 1992 are an odd lot: A live John Lennon LP, two records of Beethoven compositions, albums by Jonathan Edwards, the Singing Nun and Anne-Charlotte Harvey (the last a collection of Swedish-American folksongs titled Memories of Snoose Boulevard) and the marvelous 1972 three-record celebration of folk and country music by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and friends titled Will The Circle Be Unbroken. (A few of the friends: Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Roy Acuff, Vassar Clements and Norman Blake.)

I took the last months of 1993 off from buying records and resumed as 1994 dawned. In December of 1994, I was digging into the catalogs of singer-songwriters, grabbing albums by Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Hoyt Axton and Wendy Waldman. I also got a copy of Dobie Gray’s Hey Dixie, which has a country/soul sense to it, making it an interesting listen.

The haul in December of 1995 was slight, only two records. But they were pretty good: George Harrison’s Cloud Nine from a few years earlier and the newly released Bruce Springsteen album, The Ghost of Tom Joad. A year later, in December 1996, I brought home records by Lulu, Tower of Power, Bob Seger, Joe South and Tracy Chapman as well as a compilation of recordings by Gary U.S. Bonds and Chubby Checker, and Anthology 3, the third three-record volume in the Beatles’ massive series.

The rate of purchases was accelerating, as I was devoting more and more free time to record research and to crate-digging at about five or six used record stores. In the last month of 1997, I brought home ten albums, including work by Gypsy, Junior Walker and the All-Stars, Hootie & the Blowfish, Major Harris, Alberta Hunter, Love, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Jackie Wilson and Neil Young. Still, the best album of that month was an anthology, Volume 5 of Atlantic Records’ history of its rhythm & blues efforts, covering the years 1962 to 1966.

In 1998 and 1999, I went mad. During those two years, I brought home a total of 1,056 records, an average of more than ten a week. I was well above average in December of 1998, when I brought home ninety-eight LPs. (Thirty-seven of those came in one morning, when – as I’ve mentioned before – a friendly clerk at a nearby thrift store called me on a Saturday and told me that someone had just dropped off eight boxes of mint-condition LPs, mostly vintage blues and R&B.) Some of the more interesting names on that month’s records: Mavis Staples, Richie Havens, Ike & Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Graham Central Station, Z.Z. Hill, Cold Blood, Lou Ann Barton, B.B. King, Moby Grape, Johnny Ray and Etta James. The best of that month’s huge haul?  Maybe Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, maybe Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ in the Moonlight, maybe Muddy Water’s Hard Again, or maybe any one of ten or so other LPs. It was a great month.

December of 1999 was a little less busy, with thirty-six LPs coming into my new digs on Bossen Terrace in far south Minneapolis. Among the names on the jackets were Leonard Cohen, Bob Seger, Mike Nesmith, Otis Redding, Chicago, the Rascals, Jimmie Spheeris, Robert Cray, the Youngbloods, the Byrds, Mason Profitt, Lou Rawls and Shawn Phillips. The best of the month? Maybe Little Milton’s Moving to the Country or Al Green Explores Your Mind or possibly the Youngbloods’ Elephant Mountain, an album for which I have an odd affection.

That was the peak of my vinyl period, 1999. In December 2000, I brought three records home: El Chicano’s Cinco, Muddy Waters’ King Bee and the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby. In 2001, I collected four LPs: A bootleg of a 1970 performance at the Hollywood Bowl by The Band, a Christmas anthology and albums by the Blasters and Terence Trent D’Arby.

Three years passed. During a holiday visit to Texas in 2004, a friend of the Texas Gal gave us a box of LPs, bringing that December’s total to twenty-five. Among the artists whose work was in the box were: Amy Grant, the English Beat, the 4 Seasons, Madness, Melissa Manchester, Romeo Void, Sting and Carly Simon. The best of that month? Probably Warren Zevon’s Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.

I picked up two records at a thrift store in December 2005, and bought two records – getting Chi Coltrane’s Let It Ride by mail and the Looking Glass’ Subway Serenade at an antique store – in December 2007. And there the tale of Decembers ends.

So what do I share from all of this? I think one song each from two of the giants of Chicago blues is a good direction to go. So here are your Saturday Singles:

“Smokestack Lightnin’” by Howlin’ Wolf from Moanin’ in the Moonlight [1958]

(Likely recorded in 1956; released as Chess 1618)

“I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters with Johnny Winter from Hard Again [1977]

The Beatles, Gene & Elvis

May 18, 2022

Originally posted September 3, 2009

Well, there are a large number of videos of “Long Tall Sally” available at YouTube. One of the most interesting – despite the annoying slow-motion segment in the middle – is this one of the Beatles performing live on television, either in the UK or perhaps in Australia or New Zealand (going only by the hostess’ accent, which I can’t place). The performance dates from 1963 or 1964, I would guess; it could be narrowed down more if one were so inclined by the fact that Ringo appears to have a mustache. (If this is from the Australian tour during the summer of 1964, then it’s from June 14 or later: Ringo was hospitalized with tonsillitis when the other three Beatles left Britain at the beginning of the tour. Jimmy Nicol filled in on drums until Ringo could rejoin the band in Melbourne.)

Video unavailable

Here’s some footage of Gene Vincent – generally forgotten these days but a pretty big name in the late 1950s – performing “Long Tall Sally” in Belgium on October 10, 1963. The performance last about two minutes; the remainder of the clip is comments in French from, I assume, some of those who saw Vincent’s performance. I’m sure the comments are fascinating, but my schoolboy facility in French long ago dwindled away, so I have no idea what those young folk are saying.

Video unavailable

Here’s Elvis Presley’s version of the song, packaged with photos of Presley. The recording dates from September 2, 1956.

Video unavailable

After learning of its existence as I wrote Tuesday’s post, I’m trying to find either audio or video of Roger Whittaker’s performance of “Long Tall Sally.” I’ve seen references to it online that imply that it’s, well, unique. According to All-Music Guide, it’s included on a DVD of a concert performance. I’ll keep looking.

‘Gonna Tell Aunt Mary . . .’

May 18, 2022

Originally posted September 1, 2009

The things you can learn rummaging around online!

Remember all the stories about a baseball player promising to hit a home run for a sick kid in the hospital and then actually going out and doing so? (The ballplayer in the story is frequently Babe Ruth, and there is some evidence that things happened that way at least once, which only proves that where Babe Ruth is concerned, fact and fable intersect.) As I dug around at Wikipedia this morning, I found a similar story of rock ’n’ roll lore:

In the mid-1950s, it seems, there was a young woman in or near New Orleans named Enotris Johnson. Her Aunt Mary was ill, and in hopes of gaining the money for her aunt’s treatment, Enotris began to write a rock ’n’ roll song for a popular performer to record. Actually, she only wrote a couple of lines, but somehow, she got in touch with Honey Chile, a popular disk jockey.

Honey Chile took the few lines that Enotris had written and got in touch with a fellow named Bumps Blackwell, who was an A&R man for Specialty Records. Blackwell took the few lines to the performer, who was – Wikipedia says – reluctant to use them. Still, one of the lines resonated with the artist, and he and Blackwell added to Enotris Johnson’s lines and crafted a song out of it. Recorded at a tempo so fast that the artist might have been singing in some language other than English, the song was released as a single. It went as high as No. 6 on the fragmented pop charts of the time and spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.

Those three lines Enotris wrote?

Saw Uncle John with Long Tall Sally
They saw Aunt Mary comin’
So they ducked back in the alley.

The artist, of course, was Little Richard and the song was “Long Tall Sally,” maybe the most famous song recorded by the flamboyant singer born as Richard Penniman in Macon, Georgia. (I’d guess that “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” would be in the running for that “most famous” title.)

As to the truth of the tale I found at Wikipedia, some of the details of the story – minus Aunt Mary – also appear in The Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh’s 1989 tome about the 1,001 best singles. In addition, the song’s writing credits have seemingly always included an E. Johnson. On the other hand, “Long Tall Sally” wasn’t a one-shot for Enotris Johnson. She received at least two other writing credits on Little Richard songs: She’s also listed as a co-writer on “Miss Ann” and “Jenny Jenny.” (There may have been more credits for Enotris Johnson on songs that weren’t hits; those are the credits I noticed this morning on the CD The Georgia Peach.)

I did find some more information at Who’s Dated Who, a celebrity website. On an otherwise blank page for Enotris Johnson, a reader named Betty posted this note in May:

What happen to Enotris Johnson, the song writer that almost became a star? She loved the music industry very much and still does. She says that Little Richard was her brother back then. She married a preacher back in September 10, 1956; that ended all of her musical dreams because he was a man of God and he could not have his wife singing the blues. You can only think of what was expected of a housewife back in the 1950’s. Enotris now lives in Bogalusa, Louisiana. She is now 72 years old. She has one daughter, Wilma Dunn, [who] resides in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband. Enotris is a warm loving mother and friend and still supports her husband. Every once in a while you can hear her wailing on that piano and singing in the middle of the night. You would just love to sit around her and hear her tell all the stories from back in the day when all of the old singers were at their humble beginnings. Enotris Johnson has lived a full and happy life with her husband and being the idea preacher’s wife. [Edited slightly.]

The information would mean that Enotris Johnson would have been about nineteen years old when “Long Tall Sally” was recorded. And it still doesn’t address the truth about the ill Aunt Mary, but – like so many other rock ’n’ roll stories and fables (see Mr. Jimmy and the Rolling Stones, for example) – it really doesn’t matter. As I’ve said before, legend drives out fact.

And Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” remains one of the most vital songs in rock ’n roll history, and it must be one of the most covered, as well. Among those who covered it when Little Richard’s version was getting airplay were Pat Boone and Elvis Presley. I shared Boone’s limp version here about a year ago, and – oddly enough – I don’t have a copy of Presley’s.

A quick look at All-Music Guide results in a list of more than eight hundred CDs that contain a version of “Long Tall Sally.” The Little Richard, Pat Boone and Elvis Presley versions account for many of those, of course, but some of the other names that show up are Atlanta Rhythm Section, Cactus, Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, the Chambers Brothers, Eddie Cochrane, Joey Dee & the Starliters, Wanda Jackson, the Isley Brothers, the Kinks, Sleepy LaBeef, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul McCartney, Molly Hatchet, Don Nix, Carl Perkins, Johnny Rivers, the Rivingtons, Marty Robbins, Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, Sha Na Na, the Tornadoes, the Trashmen, Walter Trout, Gene Vincent and Roger Whittaker. (That last one baffles me a little.)

[Note from 2022: The website Second Hand Songs lists a total of 161 separate covers of “Long Tall Sally,” including versions in Danish, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish. Note added May 18, 2022.]

I have, strangely, only three covers of “Long Tall Sally” (on mp3 at any rate; vinyl may be another story): The Pat Boone I mentioned earlier and versions by the Beatles and by King Curtis.

The Beatles’ version was issued in 1964; in Britain, it was one of four songs on an EP (“I Call Your Name,” “Slow Down” and “Matchbox” were the others), and here in the U.S., the song was included on the imaginatively titled The Beatles’ Second Album. (It later showed up on several vinyl and CD anthologies, including Past Masters, Vol. 1.)

King Curtis’ version was recorded in New York City on October 28, 1965, and was evidently released as the flip side of “The Boss” [Atlantic 9469] and was included on a 1986 R&B saxophone anthology, Atlantic Honkers. (The sketchy notes on Atlantic Honkers indicate that “Long Tall Sally” was the title track of a King Curtis album, presumably on the Atco label, but I can’t find any other mention of such an album. Anyone out there know anything?)

“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, Specialty 572 [1956]

“Long Tall Sally” by the Beatles from The Beatles’ Second Album [1964]

“Long Tall Sally” by King Curtis, evidently Atlantic 9469 B-Side [1965]

Saturday Single No. 744

July 10, 2021

Sometimes the blank white space on my screen mocks me.

The cursor blinks impatiently, urging me to get on with things. And there’s nothing there.

This used to happen occasionally during my newspapering days, especially on Wednesday mornings, deadline time at both the Monticello Times, where I began my career in weekly journalism, and the Eden Prairie News, the last community weekly of my career. Quite often at both papers, the final thing I’d write for the weekly edition was my column, Musings.

I’d sit at my desk, pondering the blinking cursor – or, in the earliest days at Monticello, the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter – going over in my head the events of the last seven days to see if any of them sparked an idea. I’d page through the morning’s newspaper quickly, looking for news of an event somewhere, anywhere, that might bring inspiration.

If those brought no deadline joy, I might begin a tentative sentence, maybe: “I wonder if . . .”

Sometimes that worked. I’d recall something I’d thought about in recent days, and maybe finish the sentence with the words “. . . if the folks who run the Monticello Country Club know what a tidy little gem they have tucked next to Interstate 94.”

And I’d be off and writing, telling folks about last week’s early Thursday morning round on the nine-hole course, perhaps writing about the day when I made a winding 65-foot putt on a tricky three-level green, with the ball leaving its track in the heavy morning dew so clearly that another early morning golfer, following about two holes behind, congratulated me on the putt when our paths crossed in the parking lot after our rounds.

Or, if it were before December 1980, I might finish my starter sentence with “. . . the Beatles will ever record together again, and if they do, will the finished product come close to the quality of the stuff already released?”

And I’d be off on that, writing about their recent solo releases, fitting together bits and pieces I’d read about those albums and about the activities of the four men, perhaps sliding in commentary about the most recent of the compilations released, maybe Rarities, and wandering my way from there until I had a coherent column.

Or else, I might end my wondering question with “. . . the Minnesota Vikings will ever win the Super Bowl?”

That one would end quickly with “Probably not in my lifetime.” And that’s not enough for a column, except as a gag.

One thing I wasn’t ever allowed to do, though, at either of the two papers mentioned above – or at any of the five or six other newspapers for which I wrote over the years – was give up. I could not go tell the editor on a Wednesday morning, “I’m sorry. The well is dry, and it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to rain today.”

I can do that here, if I need to. My only responsibility here is to my self-esteem, and I can deal with the occasional dry spell, as long as it’s just a spell and it doesn’t turn into a drought. And writing without a destination in mind can often be a rainmaker. bringing one to just the right place, a place where the rain comes without warning and the well is filled just enough to accomplish the day’s chores.

So here is a very aptly titled tune: Wynonna Carr’s “’Til The Well Runs Dry,” recorded for the Specialty label in Los Angeles in November of 1956. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Midnight’

June 12, 2020

As I made my way through two new Long John Baldry CDs in the past few weeks, I noticed a couple of tracks I really liked: “Midnight in New Orleans” on It Still Ain’t Easy and “Midnight in Berlin” on Right To Sing The Blues.

And I got to thinking about the word “midnight” and its presence in song titles. So I asked the RealPlayer to search for the word among its 80,000-plus tracks. It came back with 515 results, some of which find the word included in group names – like Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – and some of which find the word included in album titles – like Midnight Radio by Big Head Todd & The Monsters. After winnowing out those and others like them, we end up with about 200 tracks with “midnight” in their titles.

We’re going to hit four of them randomly today.

Our first stop brings us a familiar tune performed by a familiar name: “In The Midnight Hour” by King Curtis. It’s a track from Plays The Great Memphis Hits, released in 1967. The album went to No. 185 on the Billboard 200, and one track – “You Don’t Miss Your Water” – bubbled under the magazine’s Hot 100 at No. 105. King Curtis has shown up enough times in this space that not a lot need to be said except to adapt the title of a 1992 anthology of Curtis Ousley’s work and say, “Blow, man, blow!”

From the midnight hour, we move to the “Midnight Shift” as described by Buddy Holly. The tune warns the listener what to look for in an unfaithful girl (or perhaps a working girl – it’s not entirely clear):

If Annie puts her hair up on her head
Paints them lips up bright, bright red
Wears that dress that fits real tight
Starts staying out ’til the middle of the night
Says that a friend gave her a lift
Well, Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

The track, recorded in 1956, showed up as an album track on the 1958 release That’ll Be The Day. It’s one of my favorite Holly tracks, likely because it’s a little cynical, a counterpoint to a lot of his other work.

And from one giant of the early days of rock ’n’ roll, we move to another, falling onto a track by the recently departed Little Richard. His take on “Midnight Special” (written by another musical giant, Lead Belly) was included on King Of Rock & Roll, a 1971 album on the Reprise label. No singles from the album made the charts (a couple from his 1970 release, The Rill Thing, had tickled the middle and lower portions of the Hot 100), but the album went to No. 193 on the Billboard 200. As to the track itself, Little Richard takes his time getting going, but about a minute in, the train takes off.

We close today’s brief expedition with a track from Bobby Womack: “I’m A Midnight Mover” from his 1968 album Fly Me To The Moon. As always when Womack’s work shows up here, I feel as if I don’t know enough about the man’s work to comment much except to say that his stuff grabs hold of me nearly every time it pops up. “I’m A Midnight Mover” was released as a single by Atlantic but did not chart. The album went to No. 174 in Billboard.

Saturday Single No. 626

January 26, 2019

Wondering about January 26, I did a search on the RealPlayer and came up with eight tracks recorded on today’s date over the years. (As always, I should note that I have recording date information on maybe ten percent of the tracks in the player.) And I thought we’d run down a little bit of what we know about those tracks.

The earliest of the bunch comes from Alcide “Blind Uncle” Gaspard, a guitarist and singer with Cajun roots from Louisiana. He was in Chicago on this date in 1929, laying down some tracks for the Vocalion label. Two of them are in the digital stacks here: “Assi Dans La Fenetre De Ma Chambre” on his own and “La Danseuse” with the help of Irish fiddler Delma Lachney.

The first of those two tunes came my way via the soundtrack to the 2002 movie Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and the second found its way onto the shelves here on my copy of Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music, a three-volume anthology first released in 1952.

Moving ahead five years, we find two tracks laid down in New York City by Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra on January 26, 1934: According to discogs.com, “Jazznocracy” was released on the Victor and Bluebird labels, while “Swingin’ Uptown” came out on His Master’s Voice. Lunceford and his band don’t come immediately to mind when one thinks of the Big Band music of the 1930s and 1940s, but whenever I’ve come across his stuff, I’ve been pleased. His stuff swings.

“Jazznocracy” most likely came to the digital shelves here during the early days of this blog, when music of all eras and genres was widely offered at blogs and forums. Which blog or forum? I have no idea. I found “Swingin’ Uptown” on The Fabulous Swing Collection, a 1998 anthology that I came across last May.

Harry Smith’s name pops up again when we get to the year 1938. On January 26 of that year in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Arthur Smith Trio recorded “Adieu, False Heart” for the Bluebird label. In 2000, it was included in Volume Four of Smith’s Anthology, a set assembled based on notes Smith made before his death in 1992 and released on the Revenant label by the Harry Smith Archives. The album notes call “Adieu, False Heart” a “darkly sentimental piece” that was collected by a folklorist in south central Virginia in 1931. Its language, the notes say, “suggests that it comes from the 1860s or 1870s.”

Moving ahead quite a few years, we come to 1956, when Buddy Holly recorded “Midnight Shift,” a track that went unreleased for a couple of years before landing on the 1958 album That’ll Be The Day. “Midnight Shift” was recorded in Nashville, most likely one of the tracks from sessions that the Decca label found unpromising. Holly evidently took the track with him when he headed to Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico.

Two tracks in the RealPlayer were recorded on January 26, 1962. One of them I know nearly nothing about and the other is very well known. The first is Edith Piaf’s “Fallait-il?” I can say nothing more about the track except that it was recorded in Paris. The second track from this date in 1962 is Claude King’s “Wolverton Mountain,” about which I know much more: The track was No. 1 for nine weeks on the Billboard country chart and went to No. 6 on the magazine’s Hot 100.

The Piaf track came here via the 2000 collection Éternelle, and I found “Wolverton Mountain” in the five-CD set Columbia Country Classics.

So, we have a fair number of tracks to choose from for a feature this morning. But my mind was pretty well made up from the start of this post. Buddy Holly doesn’t show up here very often, probably because – as important as he is to the history of rock and pop – he’s an icon of the Fifties, which is not my era, and then, not a lot of his music ever really grabbed me. (“Rave On” is the one exception; it was included in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox.)

But listening to “Midnight Shift” this morning (almost certainly for the first time), I found myself startled by the topic of the song, written by Jeff Daniels and Jimmie Rogers:

If you see old Annie better give her a lift
Cause Annie’s been a-working on a midnight shift

If Annie puts her hair up on her head
Paints them lips up bright, bright red
Wears that dress that fits real tight
Starts staying out ’til the middle of the night
Says that a friend gave her a lift
Well, Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

If she acts a little funny, seems a little strange
Starts spending your money for brand new things
Tells you that she wants to use the car
Never explains what she wants it for
Brother, there just ain’t no “ifs”
Cause Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

Early in the morning when the sun comes up
You look at old Annie and she looks kinda rough
You tell her “Honey, get out of that bed”
She says “Leave me alone, I’m just about dead”
Brother, there just ain’t no “ifs”
Cause Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

If you got a good mama that’s staying at home
You’d better enjoy it, ’cause it won’t last long
When you think everything’s all right
She starts slipping round in the middle of the night
Brother, there just ain’t no “ifs”
Cause Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

So with that, here’s Buddy Holly’s “Midnight Shift,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 474

December 5, 2015

Well, I went to see the doctor yesterday about my back. Dr. Julie wasn’t available; I saw another doctor in her group or subset or pod or whatever they call it at the big complex just northwest of St. Cloud. He listened as I told him how it started and how it felt, then he poked my back at various places, pushed and pulled my legs in various directions, and thought for a moment.

Then he told me that it was basically a muscle strain gone wild, and he prescribed a series of pills – a descending quantity of a steroid for a week – and gave me some exercises to do.

I can take pills well, but I’m not all that good at staying with an exercise regimen. I’ll try, though. And it’s nice to pass on the good news that after twenty-four hours of pills and (a little of) the exercises, my back feels much better.

But given yesterday’s visit and other events, as well as the fact that the Texas Gal and I need to run some errands (one of which will no doubt include Chinese food), I have little to offer here. So I thought I’d grab four reference books and see which artist is the first mentioned on Page 474. And from there, we’ll find a single for today.

The New Rolling Stone Album Guide starts its “L” section on Page 474, and the first artist listed is k.d. lang. I have three albums by ms. lang on the digital shelves, so we have something to work with if we go that direction.

In Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, we find the Isley Brothers in mid-section at the top of Page 474. There’s plenty of Isley stuff on the digital shelves, so we’ll see.

The single ranked at No. 474 in Dave Marsh’s The Heart Of Rock & Soul is the 1956 hit “I’m In Love Again” by Fats Domino. There’s lots of Fats here, too.

And the album listed on Page 474 of the tome 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die is Motorhead’s No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith. That one is, probably unsurprisingly, not on any shelves here, digital or otherwise.

Well, I’ve featured the Isleys a lot over the years, as I have Fats. I’ve not done much with k.d. lang. Still, I’m of the mind that one should listen to Fats Domino whenever one has the chance. So here’s “I’m In Love Again.” It went to No. 3 in 1956, says Whitburn (No. 9 on the R&B chart). And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Goin’ Down That Road . . .’

May 26, 2015

Poking through the nooks and crannies of the ’Net over the weekend, I came across an album titled Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians. The performances were recorded and released in 1956 on the Tradition label. (From what I can tell, the record was re-released in 1976 on the Tradition Everest label, and then released on CD at least twice in recent years.)

I didn’t recognize all the performers’ names, but one that I did recognize was that of Etta Baker (1913-2006), a North Carolina guitarist and singer whom I’ve seen mentioned as one of the main influences on Taj Mahal. And among Baker’s performances on the twenty-track album was this sprightly take on “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.”

It’s an old song, most often listed as of traditional origins, which is how it was listed when I first came across it on Motel Shot, the 1971 album by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends:

It’s a tune I’m going to dig into more in the next few weeks, which will mean digging into the tune’s origins as “Lonesome Road Blues” as well as into the many covers of the song under either title. In the meantime, the Texas Gal is on vacation this week, so I’m going to take some time away from here. I may be back with a Saturday Single, or I may be gone all week. See you when I get back.

Six At Random

December 5, 2013

Well, being a little tired from shoveling the first portion of a six-inch or so snowfall, and with the second portion waiting on the sidewalk for my attention, I’m going to let the RealPlayer do the work today and walk us through six tunes at random. (I will skip stuff from before, oh, 1940, as well as the truly odd). So here we go:

First up is “Treat Me Right” from Nothing But The Water, the 2006 album from Grace Potter & The Nocturnals that was, I think, the first thing I heard from the New England group that’s become one of my favorites. The slightly spooky groove, the organ accents and Potter’s self-assured vocal remind me why I’ll listen to pretty much anything that Ms. Potter and her bandmates offer to the listening public. I have five CDs, some EPs, and some other bits and pieces of the band at work, and I find that all of that scratches my itch in the way that only a few groups and performers – maybe ten, maybe fifteen – have since I started listening to rock and its corollaries in late 1969.

I came across the North Carolina quartet of Chatham County Line via County Line, their 2009 collaboration with Norwegian musician Jonas Fjeld. Today, we land on the cautionary “Sightseeing” from the group’s 2003 self-titled debut album. In reviewing the album, Zach Johnson of All Music Guide writes: “Centered around a single microphone, the band plays acoustic bluegrass instruments in the traditional style, but there’s a sly wink in the music – like in the trunk of their 1946 Nash Rambler there may be some Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers records underneath the Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs LPs. Any nods to rock & roll are successfully stifled in their songwriting though, as the band specializes in purely honest and irony-free honky tonk bluegrass, earnestly sung and expertly picked as if ‘marketing strategies’ and ‘the 18-24 demographic’ never existed.”

The 1980s country group Southern Pacific featured a couple of ex-Doobie Brothers – guitarist John McFee and drummer Keith Knudson – and by the time the group got around to recording its second album – the 1986 effort Killbilly Hill – one-time Creedence bassist Stu Cook joined the group. Still, on “Road Song” and the rest of the group’s output (and there were a few more membership changes along the way), there’s less of a rock feel and more of a 1980s country polish that doesn’t always wear well nearly thirty years later. That would be more of a problem if we were listening to full albums here; one song at a time, it’s easy to overlook. And the group was relatively successful: Thirteen records in the Country Top 40 between 1985 and 1990, four of them hitting the Top Ten.

In early 1967, the Bob Crew Generation saw its instrumental “Music To Watch Girls By” go to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The tune, written by Sid Ramin, originally came from a commercial for Pepsi-Cola and was popular enough in that arena that it quickly attracted recording artists. Second Hand Songs says that the first to record the tune was trumpeter Al Hirt, whose version bubbled under the chart at No. 119, while Andy Williams saw his version – with lyrics by Tony Velona – go to No. 34. Other covers followed, one of them from a studio group called the Girlwatchers. Their version was the title track to a quickie album in 1967 that also included titles like “Tight Tights,” “Fish-Net Stockings,” “Tiny Mini-Skirt” and so on. “Green Eyeliner” is the track we land on this morning. I’m not sure how the album found its way onto my digital shelves, but it’s an interesting artifact, and I imagine I’d recognize the names of quite a few of the studio musicians who helped put it together.

Speaking of members of the Doobie Brothers, as we were earlier, during one of the band’s quieter times, guitarist Patrick Simmons released a solo album, Arcade, in 1983.To my ears, it sounds very much like early 1980s Doobies, with a glossy blue-eyed soul sound that – like the glossy country of Southern Pacific mentioned above – works fine as individual tracks go by but tends to work less well as an entire album. Simmons released two singles from the album: “So Wrong” went to No. 30, and “Don’t Make Me Do It” went to No. 75. A pretty decent record titled “If You Want A Little Love” was tucked on the B-side of “So Wrong,” and that’s where our interest is this morning.

And we close our morning wanderings with a tune from Frank Sinatra’s Songs For Swingin’ Lovers! That’s a 1956 effort that sometimes finds its way into the CD player late at night here in the Echoes In The Wind studios. The album came from the classic sessions that paired Sinatra with arrangements by Nelson Riddle, and “It Happened In Monterey” is pretty typical of those sessions: brass and percussion accents, the occasional swirling strings and more, all in service of one of the greatest voices and one of the greatest interpreters of song in recording history.

‘I’ll See You In My Dreams . . .’

November 20, 2013

As noted in a couple of recent posts, the lovely Isham Jones/Gus Kahn song “I’ll See You In My Dreams” first showed up in 1925, recorded by Jones with the Ray Miller Orchestra, with Frank Besinger handling the vocal. According to Joel Whitburn in A Century Of Pop Music, the record was No. 1 for seven weeks starting the first week of April and wound up as the No. 3 record for the year (behind “The Prisoner’s Song” by Vernon Dalhart and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” by Gene Austin).

Covers naturally followed. While I don’t think that “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is necessarily one of the most-covered songs of all time, it’s nevertheless a song that’s stayed in the public ear: The list of covers at Second Hand Songs – a listing that’s not necessarily comprehensive but which probably provides a good cross-section and starting point – shows versions of the song from every decade since but the 1940s, and I’m not sure if there’s a reason for that gap or not. Add to those versions the other covers I’ve found at YouTube, and the song is clearly one that’s remained popular.

Since the middle of last week, I’ve been wandering through many versions of the song, and I’ve found quite a few I like. My pal Larry, who hangs his hat at the fine blog, Funky 16 Corners, recommended the 1930 cover by Ukulele Ike, otherwise known as Cliff Edwards. (Edwards, perhaps better known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s Pinnochio, covered the song again in 1956 on his album, Ukulele Ike Sings Again.) Another early cover that caught my ear was the 1937 version by Guy Lombardo. And jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt  gave the song a whirl in 1939.

Perhaps the most surprising of the covers I found was the nimble-fingered instrumental version by Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded during a session for Sun Records in 1958; the take was finally issued on a Sun collection LP in 1984 and since then on CD. Other versions I generally like from the 1950s and 1960s included covers by Henri René & His Orchestra (1956), the Mills Brothers (1960), The Ray Conniff Singers (1960), Cliff Richard (1961), the Lettermen (1963) and my man Al Hirt (1968).

The only version of the song to hit the modern charts was an unsurprisingly bland take from Pat Boone, whose 1962 cover went to No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 in and No. 9 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart.

Some versions baffle me (and you can easily find these – and others mentioned but not linked – at YouTube). I mean, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (1980)? Then there’s some very odd percussion and production in a 1965 effort by Vic Dana. And in 1975, the Pearls took the song to the disco.

There were some other interesting versions. I found a cover by the Paul Kuhn Orchestra that was released on LP in 1980, but it sounds very much like something Bert Kaempfert would have released in 1965 or so. (Kuhn passed on in September, and his death inspired one of the great headlines: “Paul Kuhn, German jazzman who lamented Hawaii’s lack of beer, has died.”) Chet Atkins, recording with Merle Travis, did a nice cover for the 1974 album, Atkins-Travis Traveling Show, although the linked video offers what seems to be a shorter version of the tune, as included on a later compilation.

Howard Alden did a very nice guitar version of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” ghosting for Sean Penn’s character Emmet Ray – a 1930s jazz guitar player – in Woody Allen’s 1999 film, Sweet and Lowdown.

And finally, one version that I like among the more recent covers is the faux-vintage and slightly rough-edged take from 2005 by folk singer Ingrid Michaelson along with singer (and ukulele player) Joan Moore.