Archive for the ‘1958’ Category

Two Years Of Echoes

December 16, 2011

Originally posted February 2, 2009

I’ve been wondering for some time how to mark the second anniversary of this humble blog. While I’d shared a few albums and singles beforehand, it was on February 1, 2007, that I invested a small bit of cash and installed a counter. With that done, I began to actively encourage folks to stop by here.

So I’ve designated February 1, which was yesterday, as this blog’s birthday, and – as I said – I’ve been wondering what to do to mark it. The first thing to do, I thought, is a historical inventory, seeing from what decades my mp3 collection comes. This is what I found.

1800s: 27
1900s: 9
1910s: 10
1920s: 381
1930s: 412
1940s: 316
1950s: 1,054
1960s: 7,842
1970s: 12,353
1980s: 2,983
1990s: 4,032
2000s: 4,293

The stuff from pre-1920 isn’t as impressive as it might look. Almost all of those mp3s are classical pieces and college fight songs tagged by their dates of composition, not by recording dates. The oldest recording that I have – at least the oldest to which I can append a date that I believe is accurate – is a performance of “Poor Mourner” recorded by the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet in Philadelphia on November 29, 1902.

The focus on the 1960s and 1970s doesn’t surprise me, nor should it startle anyone who comes by here regularly. I am a little surprised that I have that much music from 2000 and after.

So what should I post today?

What I’ve decided to do is to first ignore the music from pre-1950. I find some of it interesting, but I think it’s less so to the folks who stop by here. After that, I’ll sort through the files by decade and then by running time, and at that point find a single track of roughly average length from each decade from 1950 on. I’ll select the singles based on rarity and on my perceptions of their appeal and aesthetic value.

And since you all by now know that my aesthetic structure has a few slightly warped walls, this might be fun! So here’s what we’ll listen to today:

A Six-Pack Through The Decades
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters, Mercury 71383 [1958]

“Girl From The East” by the Leaves, Mira 222 [1966]

“Come Back into My Life Again” by Cold Blood from Lydia [1974]

“Don’t Walk Away” by Toni Childs from Union [1988]

“Ghost Train” by Counting Crows from August And Everything After [1993]

“Mastermind” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals from This Is Somewhere [2007]

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” spent three weeks at the top of the pop chart in early 1959, giving the Platters their fourth No.1 hit. Over all, the Los Angeles group had twenty-three records reach the Top 40 between 1955 and 1967.

“Girl From The East” was the B-Side to the Leaves’ “Hey Joe,” which reached No. 31 in the summer of 1966. More interesting in these precincts is the fact that “Girl From The East” was written by my pal Bobby Jameson for the 1965 album, Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest that Bobby recorded under the name of Chris Lucey.

By 1974, Cold Blood was trying to capitalize on its lead singer, Lydia Pense, using her name as the title of one album and then, in 1976, titling its next album Lydia Pense & Cold Blood. The strategy didn’t get the group that many more listeners, but the music was still good, as “Come Back into My Life Again” makes clear.

Toni Childs’ Union was one of my favorite albums of the late 1980s, an idiosyncratic piece of work that I found fascinating. “Don’t Walk Away,” a funky, powerful track, is the album’s opener and was released as a single. Even more than twenty years later, the album has a grip on me.

Adam Duritz’ distinctive voice was by any measurement one of the iconic sounds of the Nineties. I haven’t always liked Counting Crows’ work, but it’s almost always been interesting.

On the other hand, through three CDs, I absolutely love everything that Grace Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, have recorded. The band – with Potter on keyboards – is tight, and Potter sings like. . . well, I don’t have a superlative strong enough at hand right now. Get the CDs and listen.

A Brief Note
I just wanted to say that I’ve had more fun keeping this blog going for these past two years than I could ever have anticipated. I’ve had a chance to share music I love, and – much more importantly – I’ve had a chance to find similarly inclined friends from around the world. Thanks to all of you for reading and for your comments as well as the occasional correction or clarification. I hope you all come along as we head into Year No. Three.

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Grab Bag No. 1

October 12, 2011

Originally posted December 5, 2008

One of the annual events during my days at Lincoln Elementary School (1958-65) was the school carnival, presented each autumn as – I think – a fund-raiser for the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). The one-evening carnival took place in the gymnasium, with games lining the sides of the gym.

There was the Duck Pond, where hundreds of plastic ducks bobbed in a tank of water; a child would select one duck, and an inscription on the bottom of the duck determined the prize he or she had won. At the fishing pond, little would-be anglers hoisted cane poles with lines and (very safe, probably rubber) hooks over the sides of a covered booth (generally covered with white bed sheets decorated with poster paint, if my memory is accurate), and moms and dads inside the booth would place a small basket holding a prize onto the hook and then tug the line. The little angler would then haul in his or her reward.

At the far end of the gym, on the elevated stage, was the cakewalk. The numerals 1 through 10 were arranged on a circle on the stage floor, and ten entrants claimed a number at the start of the contest. One of the moms would then drop a needle onto a record, and as the music played, the contestants walked through the numbers, in a circle. After a short time, the music stopped, and a number was drawn from a bag. The contestant now standing on that number won a cake, made by some mom in her kitchen and brought proudly to the school for the carnival.

I’m not sure if schools do carnivals anymore; I figure some still have them as a fund-raising activity. But I think it would be the rare public school in the U.S. that would award home-made cakes as a prize. I dunno. Maybe I’m wrong. But the public health (and liability) risks would be enormous, I think, especially considering the vast increase in the types of food allergies and the huge numbers of kids with those allergies in recent years.

The cakewalk was never my favorite game. I know I’ve forgotten what some of the games were; it seems to me the carnival had about ten booths along the sides of the gym, but I remember the grab bag. Simple stuff, of course. You’d thrust your hand into a box filled with little striped bags, each holding a simple prize, and you’d grab one. The prizes were generally little toys and game that were most likely forgotten, lost, discarded or broken in a very short time. But that didn’t diminish the fun.

I resurrected the grab bag this week. I wrote in August about finding in a closet a boxful of 45s I’d more or less forgotten I had. Since settling into the new place, I’ve glanced occasionally at that box, sitting on the floor near the closet door, and I’ve wondered how to integrate those old obscure singles – the vast majority of them are from the years 1958 through 1970, I imagine, and I recognize very few of the titles – into the music shared here.

This week, I thought of the grab bag, and I had the Texas Gal come into the study and pull three singles – any three, I told her – from the box. Good or bad, scratched or not (with the exception of a record truly hacked and unlistenable), I’d listen to them, rip them, do a little research and offer them here. If I remember at all how I got them, I’ll add that, too.

So here’s Grab Bag No. 1

“Molly Dee” by the Kingston Trio (Capitol Custom JB-2782)

“Haul Away” by the Kingston trio (Capitol Custom JB-2783)

(Most likely from 1958, maybe 1959)

The Kingston Trio is described in the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll as “a clean-cut, more commercial alternative to the left-tinged folksingers of the late ’50s.” The trio had a No. 1 hit in late 1958 with “Tom Dooley,” a reworking of a traditional folk song from the 1860s. And when the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis – now known as the March of Dimes Foundation – needed to rebrand itself in the late 1950s, it turned to the Kingston Trio.

Eh?

Some history: The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was established in 1938, to combat the disease poliomyelitis, also called polio. According to Wikipedia:

“Poliomyelitis was one of the most dreaded illnesses of the 20th century, and had killed or paralyzed thousands of Americans during the first half of the 20th century. Ron Gilreath therefore founded the March of Dimes as the ‘National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis’ on January 3, 1938, during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt himself was paralyzed with what at the time was believed to be polio, though it now seems this diagnosis might have been mistaken. The original purpose of the Foundation was to raise money for polio research and to care for those suffering from the disease. The name emphasized the national, nonpartisan, and public nature of the new organization, as opposed to private foundations established by wealthy families. The effort began with a newspaper appeal, asking everyone in the nation to contribute a dime (10 cents) to fight polio.”

(Wikipedia also notes that the “March of Dimes” got its name from entertainer Eddy Cantor, who used that title because of its similarity to the then-popular The March of Time newsreels. I also learned that Roosvelt’s connection to the March of Dimes was one of the factors behind his portrait’s being placed on the U.S. dime after his death in 1945. Another factor was that through 1945, the front of the dime showed an allegorical portrait of Liberty; no earlier president’s portrait would need to be replaced to put FDR’s portrait on the dime.)

The National Foundation’s March of Dimes was successful: By 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk had discovered an immunization for polio that was safe and effective. The goal of the March of Dimes had been achieved, and the National Foundation reorganized, deciding, Wikipedia says, “in 1958 to use its charitable infrastructure to serve mothers and babies with a new mission: to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.”

Among the ways the foundation chose to promote its reorganization was to release a record by the Kingston Trio. On the Capitol Custom label – the trio recorded for Capitol Records – the record shows the logo of the National Foundation with the inscription above proclaiming “The New March of Dimes.” (The actual logo has the word “New” outlined with a small box rather than italicized, which to me is an odd bit of design. I italicized the word in the sentence above to show the effect I assume was intended by placing the word in the box.)

Beyond that, on both sides of the record, the legend on the lower part of the label, above the song title, says: “The Kingston Trio sings for the New March of Dimes. (Their italics, not mine.)

So how good is the record?

It’s standard Kingston Trio fare, I guess. Both songs were pulled from the trio’s 1959 album Here We Go Again! and have nautical themes; “Molly Dee” is a sailor’s girl far away, and “Haul Away” tells the tale of a rough voyage. Oddly, on the 45, “Haul Away” is credited to the pen of trio member Dave Guard, but in the album listing at All-Music Guide, it’s listed as a traditional song. Almost as interesting is the fact that “Molly Dee” was written by John Stewart, who would replace Guard in the trio in 1961. (Another oddity is that each side of the record was assigned its own catalog number: “Molly Dee” is Capitol Custom JB-2782, and “Haul Away” is JB-2783.)*

Red Johnson – “I’d Rain All Over You / Anything But Me” (Hep 2939, 1966)

I’m pretty sure this was a record I got from Leo Rau, the guy who lived across the alley from us when I was a kid who operated – among other things – a chain of juke boxes. As related here some time ago, on occasional Mr. Rau would hand me a box full of 45s. This is one of those that didn’t get used as a target for my BB gun.

It’s pretty basic country: A couple of songs from a lovelorn narrator backed by basic instrumentation that includes some twangy guitar, lap steel (I think) and a bit of fiddle. Johnson wrote “I’d Rain All Over You” with Ann Wordelman and wrote “Anything But Me” with Bud Auge. The record is pleasant listening for those who appreciate mid-sixties country (and I do like both sides as a bit of history) but the more interesting part was the record label. The 45 was released by Hep, a label based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As I ripped the record, I could only assume that it was from the mid-1960s. That was based on the sound of the music, the cartoonish hepcat used as a logo (I have to get a scanner!) and my supposition, bolstered by Hep’s being a Minnesota label, that this was a record I got from Leo Rau.

Googling “Hep 2939” and “Red Johnson” got me little but listings of the record for sale. (It appears to run for about $15 in very good condition; mine would grade out as at least that well.) So I Googled “Red Johnson” along with “Rain All Over You” and I found Red’s website.

It turns out that Red was a northern Minnesota boy, graduated from Detroit Lakes High School. (Detroit Lakes is about two-hundred miles northwest of Minneapolis, about forty-five miles from North Dakota.)

On his site, Red writes:“In 1964, along with Bud Auge, I wrote and recorded ‘There’s A Grand Ol Opry Show Playing Somewhere’ on a small label (Hep) I was part owner of, and the song was picked up by Capitol Records and eventually ended up in The World Of Country Music album Capitol released. About the same time Dave Dudley[,] who is a friend of mine, released a song called ‘Six Days On The Road’” and he and I and Bud Auge . . . wrote a song called ‘Taxi Cab Driver’ and Dave recorded it in his “Six Days” album [Songs About the Working Man] for Mercury Records.”

And on another page, listing current CDs available, “I’d Rain All Over You” was listed as one of the songs on Red’s The Local Entertainer CD. I had the right Red Johnson, but I still didn’t have a release year for the single. So I emailed him.

This morning, Red answered: “I keep getting pleasant surprises and you are one of them. Those songs were recorded in 1966 at Columbia Studios, Nashville, and produced by Buddy Killen of Tree International, now Sony. Two other songs were done at that session. They were ‘Hidden Feelings’ and ‘Big Brave Me.’ Lloyd Green played steel. A guy by the name of Earl Sinks did harmony, and I can’t really remember who else was in the session. It was the follow-up session to my ‘There’s a Grand Ol Opry Show Playing Somewhere,’ [that] I had on Capitol Records in ’64.”

He added, “Please keep in touch.” I most likely will.

The Impalas – “Sandy Went Away / Oh, What A Fool” (Cub 9033, 1959)

This single, I believe, was one of those that my sister brought home from the record store in one of those – how appropriate! – grab bags. You’d lay down maybe eighty-nine cents and get ten singles packed into a plastic bag. None of them were hits, at least not big hits, but some of the records might have come from well-known performers, or maybe one-hit wonders. And the records in the grab bags were evidence of recording sessions gone awry for one reason or another.

The Impalas were a doo-wop group from Brooklyn – one of the few interracial doo-wop groups, according to All-Music Guide – that had a hit in 1958 with “Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home).” It was actually a pretty decent record, assuming that the mp3 I have of it – from an anthology – is a recording of the original single. But what appears to be an Impalas’ follow-up (“Sorry” was Cub 9022, the record in question today, “Sandy Went Away/Oh, What A Fool,” was Cub 9033) isn’t such a great record.

On the Impala’s hit, the lead vocalist’s pitch was uncertain at a few moments, but the doo-wop arrangement obscured that to a degree. On the ballad “Sandy Went Away,” there’s no doo-wop, only some choral parts going “ahhhh” in the background, and that can’t hide a horribly out-of-tune lead vocal. “Oh, What A Fool” has a livelier backing but still, the lead vocalist’s pitch is off the mark. (There’s little information out there about the Impalas; my guess is that after the hit, there were personnel changes, and the Impalas who sang “Sorry” aren’t on this shabby little record.)

So, that’s Grab Bag No. 1: Two decent records and one flop. I’m not sure how frequently it will appear, but the Grab Bag will be back.

*Those numbers were not catalog numbers, as I assumed. In a comment left at the post, reader and friend Yah Shure said, “Capitol Custom did not always assign release numbers. On your Kingston Trio record, the printed numbers are simply the matrix numbers, hence the different numbers listed for each side.”

Heading To The Doctor’s Office

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 26, 2008

I fully expect to be lectured this morning.

Very shortly, I’ll drive across town to the clinic, where Dr. Julie will give me my annual physical. I expect everything to be fine, except my chronic ailments, which require some management, and my cholesterol, which I expect to be high. And that’s where I anticipate the lecture, or at least discussion.

Some of the problem is out of my control. One of the things my father bestowed to me in the dice roll of genetics was high cholesterol. It’s exacerbated, as well, by one of my chronic problems. But there are some things within my control: diet and medication. Although I probably eat healthier now than I did when I was living alone, there could be improvements; I like a cheeseburger with bacon and special sauce as much as – maybe more than – the next guy. I could eat better.

As to medication, well, I have on my desk a bottle of pills intended to help lower my cholesterol level. All I have to do is remember to take them. That happens about half of the time, maybe, and that needs to improve, obviously. I expect to hear about it this morning from Dr. Julie.

A Six-Pack of Doctors
“Midnight Doctor” by Willie Clayton from No Getting Over Me (1995)

“Dear Doctor” by the Rolling Stones from Beggar’s Banquet (1968)

“Witch Doctor” by Spencer Bohren from Full Moon (1991)

“Doctor” by the Bliss Band from Neon Smiles (1979)

“Witch Doctor” by David Seville, Liberty 55132 (1958)

“Doctor” by Wishbone Ash from Wishbone Four (1973)

A few notes:

Willie Clayton came out of Indianola, Mississippi, as a teen-ager in 1971 and ended up in Memphis, recording for Hi Records’ Pawn subsidiary, but nothing hit until 1984, according to All-Music Guide. Since the late 1980s, Clayton has recorded a string of bluesy R&B albums for a series of labels. Every time his music pops up on the player, I realize how good he is.

“Witch Doctor” is a slightly spooky track from Spencer Bohren, who had a conversation with Dr. John in the early 1970s that spurred him to move to New Orleans for a decade. Since then, Bohren’s music has explored the cross-currents of that most unique of American cities. If you’ve heard nothing but the occasional Bohren track that shows up here, do yourself a favor and check out his catalog. For some reason, Full Moon was released only in France and can be hard to find, but there are plenty of other albums to check out.

A while back, I offered the first album by the Bliss Band, 1978’s Dinner With Raoul. “Doctor” is from the group’s second album, a 1979 issue titled Neon Smiles. It’s also pretty good, and I’ll likely post it very soon. A big “thank you” to walknthabass.

The David Seville “Witch Doctor” is, of course, the novelty record with the “Ooh eeh, ooh ah ah, ting-tang, walla-walla-bing-bang” chorus. The record spent three weeks at No. 1 during the first half of 1958. Seville then took the technology for increasing the pitch of recorded voices without altering the tempo – as I understand it – and created the Chipmunks, who had their own No. 1 hit the next winter with “The Chipmunk Song,” which has become a perennial. I heard it the other day while driving across town.

Celebrating Vinyl At 45 RPM

July 27, 2011

Originally posted August 12, 2008

I thought hard as this summer meandered, trying to decide how to mark Vinyl Record Day 2008, the 131st anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by old Tom Edison. (A reminder: You can find updates on all the posts in today’s blogswarm at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, whose proprietor, JB the DJ, organized the event this year and last. Thanks, JB!) The vast majority of my record collection is LPs, but I took an exhaustive (and likely exhausting, for many readers) tour through the albums last year, so finding a new hook for a post based on LPs seemed difficult at best.

Besides, as I’ve mentioned before, we’re planning to move, and I anticipated that the LPs would be packed before August 12. (And so they have been, filling about sixty liquor boxes.)

So I turned to the poor stepchildren of my record collection: my 45s. My singles are split into three groups: There are the four singles by the Beatles whose B-sides weren’t released on the original albums by the Fab Four on Capitol/Apple (a state of events I discussed during the celebration of last year’s Vinyl Record Day). There are about fifteen other singles that I prize for various reasons; they include a Danish 45, my copy of the Mystics’ 1969 regional hit, “Pain,” and some other stuff that rarely gets played but has sentimental value. And then there are the two carrying cases.

Those metal cases, eight-inch cubes with handles on top, are home to about a hundred singles. Some are remnants of my sister’s small collection in the early 1960s. Some of them were gifts from Leo Rau, the jukebox operator who lived across the alley when I was a kid. Some of them I got at a south Minneapolis garage sale during the 1990s when I bought one of the two carrying cases; I bought the case for a quarter and got about twenty 45s that were still inside. And some I got in one of those sequences that sometimes happen to collectors.

While I was working for the Eden Prairie newspaper during the early 1990s, I was assigned to write a story about a local organization called Bridging Inc. Its founder, a retired fellow named Fran Heitzman, showed me around a warehouse filled with furniture, household goods, clothing and more. The idea, he told me, was to provide a figurative bridge between folks in the generally well-off southwest suburbs who had things to donate and organizations elsewhere in the Twin Cities that served folks who needed things. Donations came into Bridging for a number of reasons: from people who redecorated and had used but good furniture to give away, from people who moved and had to downsize their household holdings, and – frequently – from sons and daughters whose parents had passed on and whose households were being dissolved.

The way it worked, Fran told me, was that an organization, maybe the Salvation Army in north Minneapolis, might need a double bed and two twin beds help to re-house a family. Workers at the Salvation Army would call Bridging, and Bridging would check its warehouse and – more often than not – be able to fill those needs. Fran had started Bridging on his own, and I marveled as we walked through the warehouse at the good work that one determined person can do. (In the fifteen or so years since then, the organization has grown, as one can see at its website.)

As we walked, I noticed several boxes of records, mostly LPs but some 45s. “People send you records?” I asked.

“Sometimes people clean out entire houses,” he said, “and we get everything they’ve got, including records. We can’t use them, of course.” I must have looked at him with a question on my face because he explained: “Well, the Salvation Army never calls us and says, ‘We have a family that needs some records.’”

“So what happens to them?”

He shrugged. “We throw them out.” I tried not to wince. I was there on assignment, after all. But Fran noticed. “You want them?”

I nodded, told him I was a collector, and he said that anytime Bridging got records in, he’d call me at my office. And for about four years – until shortly after I left the Eden Prairie paper and Fran cut back his hours at Bridging – I’d get a call every couple of months and stop by Bridging and pick up a box or two of records.

Mostly, it was LPs. Generally, about one-third of the records I got were things that I wanted for the collection, a third I already had, and a third didn’t really interest me. I’d pull out the stuff I wanted, sell a few things at Cheapo’s and then donate the remaining records to the Salvation Army store near my home. And along the way, I ended up with another metal carrying case and some 45s that came with it.

So, for this year’s celebration of Vinyl Record Day, I thought I’d dig through those two cases of 45s and see what might be interesting. As it turned out, some of the most interesting records are so hacked up that they’re unplayable: They include a four-song EP by Chuck Berry released on the Chess label in 1958 and a Fats Domino EP on Dot from 1957. But as I sorted through the boxes, I did find some stuff that was interesting. Some of it pleased the ear, and some of it brought winces.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen of 45s, all ripped from vinyl, of course. There will be some noise here and there, but I think it’s worth it.

I have quite a few Herman’s Hermits’ singles in the boxes, most likely from the records I got from Leo Rau. I like a few of the band’s singles when they’re mixed in with other oldies, but Herman’s Hermits always seemed kind of lightweight. And then I flipped over one of the most lightweight singles the band ever did, “Dandy.” And I was pleasantly surprised. Speed on!

“My Reservation’s Been Confirmed” by Herman’s Hermits, MGM 13603, 1966

Another Rau record was one of those traditional pop numbers that sometimes showed up in the mid-1960s, this one squeezing its way onto the charts to No. 10, where it sat between Martha & the Vandellas and Gerry & the Pacemakers.

“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana, Dolton 304, 1965

One of the silliest records in my collection – which I ripped some time ago when I moved it from the carrying case to the “sentimental favorites” shelf – was one my sister owned, having found it in one of those “ten 45s for $1.29” deals in 1963 or so. It spent two weeks at No. 2.

“Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 849, 1962

And as long as we’re talking silly, here are the two of the numerous records by the Royal Guardsmen that were inspired by Snoopy the beagle, one of the central characters in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, which was quite likely the most popular comic strip in the world in the mid-1960s. The first was No. 2 for four weeks and the second reached No. 15.

“Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3366, 1966

“The Return of The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3379, 1967

Here’s another pair, two sides of a Beach Boys’ 45. The sound on these is not all that good, but I couldn’t resist sharing them anyway, as this might be the worst pair of songs ever released by a major band on one record. “Wild Honey” was the A-side and went to No. 31.

“Wild Honey” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 2028, 1967

“Wind Chimes” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 2028, 1967

I know it’s been released on CD, but I’m not sure that the B-side of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was ever released on an LP. (This was a Leo Rau record; sorry about the noise near the end.)

“Lime Street Blues” by Procol Harum, Deram 7507, 1967

With the remarkable exception of “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore spent a lot of time in the early 1960s trying to please boys, especially that rat Johnny, who made her cry at her own party and then dropped Judy to slink back to Lesley once she had a hit record. Here’s Lesley’s utterly non-feminist manifesto on how to excuse boys’ bad behavior. It went to No. 12.

“That’s The Way Boys Are” by Lesley Gore, Mercury 72259, 1964

The oldest single I found in those two cases was the most unhip and the most shameful. When rock ’n’ roll hit big in the mid-1950s, too many record companies had their white artists cover songs originally released by artists with darker skins. In this case, it didn’t work entirely: Pat Boone’s version of “Long Tall Sally” went to No. 8 on the fragmented charts of the time, but Little Richard’s original went to No. 6.

“Long Tall Sally” by Pat Boone, Dot 15457, 1956

The Four Aces had used their sweet pop harmonies to score seven hits between 1954 and 1956 on those same fragmented charts. They tried again in 1958, this time using the magic words “rock and roll” in an attempt to be unsquare. It didn’t work; the record did not chart.

“Rock and Roll Rhapsody” by the Four Aces, Decca 30575, 1958

The best record I found in the metal cases – even with a little bit of noise – was a B-side:

“Daddy Cool” by the Rays, Cameo 117, 1957

After I ripped it to vinyl, I noticed something I’d not seen the few other times I’d handled it. There was a name and address stamped on the record: “Clifford J——, 9145 Meadow View Road, Bloomington 20, Minnesota.”

The last name was not a common one. In fact, as I used an online search, I learned that there are only twenty folks listed with that name in Minnesota. One of those listed was Clifford, in the exurban city of Mound, west of Minneapolis. I dithered for a few days, then called Friday evening and left a message.

Saturday noon, I called again and left a more detailed message, explaining that I had a 45 with Clifford’s name on it. Within fifteen minutes the phone rang, and I found myself talking to Lloyd J. He told me Clifford had been his father, gone since 2004, but the record had been Lloyd’s.

“My dad had a stamp with his name and address,” Lloyd said, “and I used to stamp my records before parties and so on.”

I’d done some digging through the other 45s since I’d seen the stamped record, so I asked Lloyd, “Did your sister, Julie, mark hers with her name written on adhesive tape?” He laughed and said she had in fact done so, and I told him I’d found a couple of her records in my collection, too.

He said, “Julie was the one who cleaned out the house in Bloomington when Dad moved out, and I imagine she just gave everything away.”

“To Bridging?” I asked.

“Yes, to Fran Heitzman. He’s a long-time friend of the family.”

I thought to myself, “How circles sometimes close!” And then I asked Lloyd about records and rock ’n’ roll.

“I think between us,” he said, “we had seventy-five to a hundred records. That was when Elvis was big, and I remember the Crew Cuts, but they were a little earlier. I graduated from high school in 1960, and the records were [from when I was in] junior high school and high school, sock hops and so on.”

Now 66, Lloyd has spent his career in banking and stays involved in banks in Mound and in Delano, a small town west of Mound. “It gives me a place to pick up the mail,” he said with a laugh. And he still listens to music.

“I listen to the Fifties on my XM radio,” he said. “It’s still my favorite music. There was a piece on the news the other night about how music brings back memories more than anything, even pictures. And music does jog the memories.”

So what song remains Lloyd’s favorite from the Fifties?

“I don’t recall the title, but it was about the fellow out for a walk and the shades pulled down and he sees the couple inside . . .”

I nodded, and flipped over the 45 that Lloyd had stamped more than fifty years ago. “That’s the A-side of the record of yours that I have,” I told him.

“It’s still my favorite,” he said.

And here it is for you, Lloyd:

“Silhouettes” by the Rays, Cameo 117, 1957

Edited slightly on archival posting July 27, 2011; YouTube videos, which are not my rips, added February 26, 2014.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Roads

July 13, 2011

Originally posted June 18, 2008

Although music has always been a part of my life, I’ve not always been very active in finding the music I liked; I let it come to me. I listened to the radio, to the jukeboxes at places that had them, and occasionally went out and bought a record or two. With the exception of the Beatles – whose entire Capitol/Apple catalog I had before I turned nineteen – I made no attempt for many years to focus on any one performer or group. I bought a few records here and there, but not many, as I wandered from my college days into the first years of adulthood.

That changed in 1987, when I spent time with a woman whose love of music equaled mine. We spent many hours of our brief time together in record stores and listening to music new and old in our apartments in St. Cloud. I moved to Minot to teach in the late summer of 1987, hopeful in all ways and renewed in my love of music. As a result, there are a few albums that I bought during my first year in Minot that, for me, carry in their grooves that sense of hope. That hope did not survive into the next summer, but I still love those albums despite that and even though they may not be the best work of the artists or groups involved.

Four of those albums that come most immediately to mind are Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night, Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Memphis Record by Elvis Presley. The first three of those were new albums, and I enjoy them still; the best of them is likely the Springsteen. The Presley album – a two-record set – collects the studio work he did in Memphis in 1969, much of it released that year on From Elvis in Memphis. Some of it was released on the awkwardly titled From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis and two tracks, I believe, were released as non-album singles.

For someone who paid little attention to Elvis while he was alive, The Memphis Record was a revelation. This was not the bloated Elvis who’d been the butt of too many unfunny jokes during his last years. The photos on the ornate double record jacket – made to look like a newspaper – confirmed that, but all one had to do was listen to the music to hear a lean, hungry and talented performer trying his best – with success – to make himself relevant again. Looking back, I recalled that I’d always liked the singles from those sessions – “Suspicious Minds,” “Kentucky Rain” and “In The Ghetto” – but I’d never thought much about them. So here I was, almost twenty years later, realizing that those singles were the tip of a musical iceberg that was larger and better than I’d thought possible.

I listened to all four sides of the record frequently that first autumn in Minot and came to love the music. One song – new to me – stood out, though. I’m not at all sure why, but Elvis’ version of “True Love Travels On a Gravel Road” is to me one of the best things he ever recorded, and it remains one of my favorite tracks ever. So I’m going to use it as the starting point today.

A Baker’s Dozen of Roads
“True Love Travels On a Gravel Road” by Elvis Presley from From Elvis In Memphis, 1969

“The Long and Winding Road” by Richie Havens from Sings Beatles And Dylan, 1987

“Eternity Road” by the Moody Blues from To Our Children’s Children’s Children, 1969

“Seven Roads (Second Version)” by Fanny, from the sessions for Fanny, 1970

“The Road Shines Bright” by John Stewart from The Lonesome Picker Rides Again, 1971

“Rocky Road” by Peter, Paul & Mary from In The Wind, 1963

“Dark Road” by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee from Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Sing, 1958

“Roadhouse Blues” by the Doors from Morrison Hotel, 1970

“On the Road” by Michael Johnson from There Is A Breeze, 1973

“The Road to Cairo” by David Ackles from David Ackles, 1968

“Tobacco Road” by Bill Wyman & The Rhythm Kings from Struttin’ Our Stuff, 1998

“Six Days On The Road” by Taj Mahal from Giant Step, 1969

“Too Many Roads” by Carolyn Franklin from If You Want Me, 1976

A few notes:

I chuckled when – one day after sharing my negative assessment of the Beatles’ version of “The Long And Winding Road” – Richie Havens’ version of the song popped up. Even from Havens, one of my favorites, it’s only just okay. I’m coming to the conclusion – long overdue, no doubt – that it’s the song I don’t care for, not necessarily the singer. The album that the track comes from – Sings Beatles and Dylan – is nevertheless a good one, well worth finding.

I tend to think that one either loves the Moody Blues or detests them. I like them, even as I acknowledge that their hippie philosophy – which could induce eye rolls even forty years ago – is sometimes a bit much. But I do like their sound, and it’s only when the MB’s get into thoughts truly too heavy to carry – as in “Om” from In Search of the Lost Chord – that I begin to roll my own eyes. To Our Children’s Children’s Children is one of the group’s better albums musically and lyrically.

The version of Fanny’s “Seven Roads” that popped up here is an alternate take, a little bit shorter and a little bit tougher than the version that closed the group’s self-titled first album. Fanny didn’t hang around long – the all-woman group recorded five albums between 1970 and 1974 – but what the group left behind is pretty good. A limited edition box set – First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings – came out in 2002 and covers everything except the group’s final album, which came out on Casablanca. If you can find it – the box set is available online for prices starting around $70 – it would most likely be all the Fanny you would need.

“Dark Road” is a typical track from a typical album by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. There’s nothing fancy about it, just the two of them, guitar and blues harp (and a little bit of help from drummer Gene Moore). But it’s folk blues about as good – and authentic – as you can get them, recorded before the blues revival of the 1960s.

I don’t know much about David Ackles – I need to do some digging – but I’ve heard a few things and I like them. “The Road to Cairo” is a haunting song and record.

Carolyn Franklin was, of course, Aretha’s sister – she crossed over in 1988 – and If You Want Me was the last of five albums she released on RCA. From what I can tell, only her first album, 1969’s Baby Dynamite, has ever been released on CD. If You Want Me is the only one I have, and it’s pretty good.

(I should note that The Memphis Record is out of print but available if you dig online. The CD release of From Elvis In Memphis has some bonus tracks to go along with the original album. Both have been supplanted by a 1999 release called Suspicious Minds, a two-disc set that has – I believe – everything Elvis released from those 1969 sessions in Memphis as well as a good number of alternate takes and bonus tracks. It’s a good one.)

Another Walk Through The Junkyard

June 4, 2011

Originally posted January 18, 2008

I’m not feeling particularly well this morning (it will pass), and I am behind on household chores, so I’m not really going to write anything. But I thought I’d take a fifteen-song walk through the junkyard (pre-2000) and see what we find. I’ll sort the songs by running time, and then start with the best song I see at about the midpoint of the collection, and we’ll go random from there.

“I’m Ready” by Muddy Waters from Fathers & Sons, 1969

“I’ll Follow The Sun” by the Beatles from Beatles For Sale, 1964

“Not My Way Home” by Nanci Griffith from The Dust Bowl Symphony, 1999

“I’m Her Daddy” by Bill Withers from Just As I Am, 1971

“Feels Like” by Al Stewart from Famous Last Words, 1993

“Little Girl” by Billy Preston from Encouraging Words, 1970

“Quiet About It” by Jesse Winchester from Jesse Winchester, 1970

“The Woo Woo Train” by the Valentines, Rama single 196, 1956

“The Spa” by John Barry from the soundtrack to Thunderball, 1965

“Funky Broadway” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic single 2430, 1967

“Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts, Bell single 705, 1968

“High, Low and In Between” by Townes Van Zandt from High, Low and In Between, 1972

“If (I Could Be With You)” by Lavelle White, Duke single 198, 1958

“I’ll Be Satisfied” by Don Covay from Mercy!, 1965

“The River” by Dan Fogelberg from Home Free, 1972

A few notes:

Fathers & Sons was a Chess Records project that brought together Muddy Waters and piano player Otis Spann with three members of the Butterfield Blues Band: leader Paul Butterfield, guitarist Mike Bloomfield and drummer Sam Lay. Also sitting was Duck Dunn of Booker T and the MGs, while drummer Buddy Miles played on one of the live tracks that made up the final album. Such mergings of talent and generations don’t always work out, of course, which makes Fathers & Sons that much more of a treasure. It’s one of the great albums of Waters’ long career, and a milestone for the other musicians, as well.

“I’ll Follow the Sun” is listed here as being from Beatles For Sale, and that is where it’s found these days in the CD racks. But I’ll always hear it as part of Beatles ’65, one of those albums that Capitol created during the group’s early years by trimming a few songs off a British release and adding some singles that weren’t on albums in the U.K.

The Dust Bowl Symphony was Nanci Griffith’s attempt to recast some of her more memorable songs as a suite, with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra. It doesn’t always work, and most of the songs on the album are likely better heard in their original settings. (“Not My Way Home” was originally released on 1997’s Blues Roses From the Moons.) One track that works, and is worth seeking out, is “Love at the Five and Dime,” which Griffith recast as a duet with Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish.

The Valentines were one of those groups that sprang up on street corners all through New York City during the mid-1950s. According to Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks, “The Woo Woo Train” was composed and arranged by the group in the recording studio’s men’s room the morning of the recording session. I think it’s a great track; I especially love the raucous sax solo.

Come June 1, it will be forty years since “Angel of the Morning” entered the Top 40. It’s still a gorgeous song – written by Chip Taylor – and a great record, and it’s certainly one of the most enduring of all one-hit wonders.

The bluesy R&B grit of “If (I Could Be With You)” is, to my mind, of a kind with most of the recordings coming from Texas-based Duke records in the late 1950s. (The label was also the home of legend Bobby “Blue” Bland.) Lavelle got her first success with the self-penned “If,” which she recorded while she was in her late 20s, if the date of 1958 is accurate (and it seems to be). White is still recording, and since 1994, has released three albums, two of them on the Antone’s label. The most recent of those is 2003’s Into the Mystic.