Archive for the ‘2007/11 (November)’ Category

Boettcher Produces Jameson

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 30, 2007

When Bobby Jameson went into the studio to record his second album in 1967 – his first that would be released entirely under his own name – he was teamed up with producer Curt Boettcher.

It seems an odd combination, given Bobby’s recordings to that point: the folk-rock that he recorded as Chris Lucey on Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest and the few pop-rock and folk rock singles that had come out on Mira and a few other smaller labels. The best of that string of singles had been “Gotta Find My Roogalator,” produced by Frank Zappa and released on the Penthouse label; like the others, it got little airplay and went nowhere.

Boettcher, on the other hand, was coming off a series of successes, having produced the singles “Along Comes Mary” and “Cherish” for the Association, as well as the group’s first album, And Then . . . Along Comes The Association.* About the same time as he went into the studio with Bobby Jameson, Boettcher worked with Gary Usher’s group, Sagittarius, doing vocals and some production work on 1967’s Present Tense and – later – 1969’s Big Blue Marble, two albums of sweet and mystical California pop that are now collector’s items.

In retrospect, for anyone who’s listened to Jameson’s 1969 album, Working!, the pairing seems even more odd. Jameson was in the process of finding that later persona, the world-weary wanderer who lives in the grooves of Working!, trying to, in the words of that album’s opening track, find his way “back to Palo Alto.” And Color Him In, the result of Jameson’s time in the studio with Boettcher, seems like a fascinating detour but a detour nevertheless.

There’s no doubt that Boettcher knew his way around the studio. His work with the Association – superb radio pop that it was (“Cherish” is one of my all-time favorite singles) – shows that. But I get the sense from listening to Color Him In that Boettcher had no idea what to do with Bobby Jameson and his music, with the combination of acerbic wit, romance and – this was 1967, after all – hippie mysticism, southern California style. So it seems as if Boettcher tried a little bit of everything.

Several of the tracks on Color Him In would not have sounded out of place on an Association album: “Know Yourself,” “Right By My Side,” “See Dawn,” “Do You Believe in Yesterday? and “Who’s Putting Who On?” although the vocal on that last track is far too intense for anything ever recorded by the Association. Still, the production is familiar, with its horns and the wordless backing vocals, including the “bum, bum” sequences that come right from the introduction to “Cherish.”

Other tracks on the record sound like they come from other places, as far as the production goes. Maybe it’s just my ears, but I keep hearing echoes of other performers – from a wide range of styles – as I listen to Boettcher’s work on Color Him In.

The opener, “Jamie,” has a touch of the style that Johnny Rivers would find about the same time with Rewind, the second in his sequence of great albums. “Windows and Doors” has a touch of British pop to it, maybe the Hollies? “The New Age” sounds as if Cyrkle, the group that hit with “Red Rubber Ball” and “Turn-Down Day,” could have recorded it.

Heading to the second side of the record, “Jenny” is an ultra-mellow piece that somehow anticipates the solo work of Jesse Colin Young. “I Love You More Than You Know” puts me in mind of the Casinos and “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” from the same year. “Candy Colored Dragon” is a slice of sunshine pop, and “Places, Times and the People,” the record’s closer, has echoes of some of Roy Orbison’s better singles.

I dunno. Maybe I’m hearing things. But it seems as if Boettcher had no idea what to do with Bobby Jameson and his songs, so he threw a little bit of everything out there, resulting in an album that has no identifiable center. Most of the songs are pretty good, and Boettcher’s production is nothing if not capable. Jameson’s vocals are good, but they’re not nearly as good here as they were on parts of the Chris Lucey album or as they would be two years later on Working. But the bigger flaw, I think, is that there’s no unity to the record, and in 1967 listeners were just beginning to look for albums that had some sort of unity, if not an overall concept.

I don’t know what time of the year the album came out, but it’s worth recalling that on June 1 of that year, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the third album – following Rubber Soul and Revolver – in a series that changed listeners’ expectations forever. Up until then, an album could be a collection of unconnected, stylistically different tracks, as long as it had a couple of hit singles. But after those three albums, and especially after Sgt. Pepper, listeners were looking not for just good music but for music that had if not a concept then at least a coherent vision. And Color Him In, as good as many of the songs are and as capable as Boettcher’s production was, did not have that coherence.

Add to that the fact that Verve – a label more known for jazz – evidently did little to promote the album and likely had little idea how to do so anyway, and Color Him In got lost in the flood of albums that were crowding the marketplace in 1967. It’s not a lost masterpiece, but it is an interesting listen.

I’ve included in the zip file six singles from Jameson: “I’m So Lonely,” “Okey Fanokey Baby” and “All Alone” from 1964, “Gotta Find My Roogalator” from 1966 and “Vietnam” and “Metropolitan Man” from 1967. (When I posted the Chris Lucey album, I included a track that the CD release had labeled as “Metro Man.” The track was actually an acoustic version of “Vietnam” most likely recorded in 1967.)

Color Him In
Know Yourself
Windows and Doors
Right By My Side
Who’s Putting Who On?
The New Age
Do You Believe In Yesterday?
I Love You More Than You Know
See Dawn
Candy Colored Dragon
Places, Times and the People

Single tracks:
All Alone
Metropolitan Man
Gotta Find My Roogalator
I’m So Lonely
Okey Fanokey Baby

Bobby Jameson – Color Him In [1967] & Asst. Singles

*I think my chronology is off here concerning the timing of Boettcher’s work. I think Bobby Jameson left a note at the original post site with a correction, but that note is either lost or buried in an email box, so I cannot correct any errors here. Note added May 22, 2011.

Bobby Vee Parties On The Beach!

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 29, 2007

I mentioned in yesterday’s Baker’s Dozen that, as Bobby Vee lives in the St. Cloud area, I’ve been tempted to look him up and see if he would autography my copy of his 1972 LP, Nothing Like A Sunny Day, credited to Robert Thomas Velline.

An hour later, our friend Stephanie emailed me a photo of her with a graying but very recognizable Bobby Vee, saying in her note that all I need to do in order to meet him was ask! So I will, and I’ll write about it when I do.

For today, here’s the 1962 edition of Bobby Vee riding a motorcycle, cavorting on the beach with some bathing beauties and taking one of them away with him, all the while lip-synching “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.” Notice how, when Bobby takes off on his cycle with his gal toward the end of the clip, his two buddies get on their bikes and follow him alone, leaving the rest of the gals on the beach!

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 28, 2007

I’ve been staring at the songs included in today’s Baker’s Dozen for a few minutes now, trying to think of what to say about 1962. I have a few vague memories of the year, but the only thing I clearly remember was that President John Kennedy was scheduled to visit St. Cloud that October. His visit was planned in support of a local Democrat who was running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The president canceled. I recall being disappointed, but I don’t remember what forced the cancellation (although I do have vague memories of snow on the ground that day). I found an answer this morning. According to a page at the American Presidency Project, an archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara that has a seemingly extensive online presence, Kennedy’s October 7 trip to St. Cloud was canceled due to inclement weather. Instead, the president spoke by telephone from Minneapolis to a Democratic rally in St. Cloud.

As that’s not a lot to support any kind of discussion of 1962, let’s go the library and find out what people were listening to that year. Here’s a list of the No. 1 hits from the year:

“Peppermint Twist – Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters
“Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler
“Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel
“Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” by Connie Francis
“Johnny Angel” by Shelley Fabares
“Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley
“Soldier Boy” by the Shirelles
“Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles
“The Stripper” by David Rose from the film The Stripper
“Roses Are Red (My Love)” by Bobby Vinton
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva
“Sheila” by Tommy Roe
“Sherry” by the Four Seasons
“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers
“He’s A Rebel” by the Crystals
“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Four Seasons
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes

That’s not an entirely awful list. In fact, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be when I began paging through the year’s entries in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Still, any year in which Shelly Fabares, Connie Francis and Bobby Vinton can all reach the top of the chart . . . well, that’s not a very good year.

Leaving aside the novelty of “Monster Mash,” the oddest entry on the list has to be “Stranger on the Shore,” the lilting clarinet instrumental by Britain’s Mr. Acker Bilk. But then, the occasional odd instrumental – “The Stripper” falls there, too – is almost a tradition on the Top 40 chart. I think of 1972’s “Popcorn” by Hot Butter (No. 9), “Keem-O-Sabe” by the Electric Indian in 1969 (No. 16), 1962’s own “Midnight In Moscow” by Kenny Ball (No. 2) and Ferrante & Teicher’s 1969 release of the theme to the film Midnight Cowboy (No. 10). And those are just the ones that came quickly to mind.

That list of No. 1 songs make it very clear that 1962 was a far different musical world. But, even when keeping in mind that pop and rock music was still clearly a singles medium, the list of 1962’s top albums gives one pause:

Holiday Sing Along With Mitch by Mitch Miller & the Gang
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Henry Mancini
West Side Story soundtrack
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles
Peter, Paul & Mary by Peter, Paul & Mary
My Son, The Folksinger by Allan Sherman
The First Family by Vaughn Meader

If the singles from 1962 show a different world, then the albums – with the exception of the Ray Charles and, I guess, the Peter, Paul & Mary – show an entirely different universe. But two events that took place on September 15, 1962, however, showed that the universe was about to change:

On that day, the Billboard chart showed the first appearance on the Top 40 of the Beach Boys, with “Surfin’ Safari,” a single that peaked at No. 14. On the same day, the British label Parlophone signed to a recording contract a Liverpool quartet called the Beatles.

As to the world at large, there were also hints of changes to come. On July 10, AT&T’s Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite, went into orbit, and thirteen days later, it relayed the first live trans-Atlantic television signal.

And that’s where we’ll begin our songs from 1962, with “Telstar,” which turned out to be the last No. 1 single of the year.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes, London single 9561

“House of the Risin’ Sun” by Bob Dylan from Bob Dylan

“Oh, Lonesome Me” by Ray Charles from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (Vol. Two)

“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” by Bobby Vee, Liberty single 55521

“The One Who Really Loves You” by Mary Wells, Motown single 1024

“Stone Crazy” by Buddy Guy, Chess single 1812

“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists single 431

“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic single 2198

“Blue Guitar” by Earl Hooker, Age single 29106

“That’s No Way To Do” by Pink Anderson, from Carolina Medicine Show Hokum and Blues with Baby Tate

“What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” by Timi Yuro, Liberty single 55469

“I Found A Love” by the Falcons, LuPine single 1003

“The Stripper” by David Rose, MGM 13064, from the soundtrack to The Stripper

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

“Oh Lonesome Me” comes from the second of Ray Charles’ two volumes of country and western music. Backing country songs with horns, strings and a background choir that sounds pretty saccharine today was revolutionary in 1962, and – I think – was the beginning of a trend that today finds the difference between country and pop pretty well gone except for the occasional insertion of a fiddle break. Even without their historical significance, the two Modern Sounds . . . albums are worth finding simply for Brother Ray’s extraordinary vocals.

“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” which went to No. 3, is one of the better records by Bobby Vee, who reached the Top 40 fourteen times between 1960 and 1968. Vee’s career is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, he got his first big break in February of 1959, after Buddy Holly’s plane crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly’s place on the tour’s next stop – Fargo, North Dakota – was filled by what Wikipedia terms “a hastily-assembled band” called Bobby Vee and the Shadows. The other intriguing thing to me is Vee’s 1972 album, a pretty good singer-songwriter/folky release called Nothing Like A Sunny Day that he released under his birth name of Robert Velline. (As he lives in the St. Cloud area, I’ve been tempted for a while to look Vee up and see if he’ll autograph my copy for me.)

Ferrante & Teicher’s version of “Smile” barely reached the charts, hitting No. 93 in a two-week stay on the Cash Box charts. The song’s melody was written by Charlie Chaplin and used as the romance theme for his film Modern Times in 1936. (The film marked the last appearance of Chaplin’s Little Tramp character.) In 1954, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to Chaplin’s composition and gave the song its title.

Earl Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1929 and was a cousin of blues legend John Lee Hooker. After “Blue Guitar” was released as a single by Age records in 1962, Muddy Waters used it as the backing for his recording of “You Shook Me,” making Earl Hooker the only slide guitarist besides Waters to ever appear on a Muddy Waters record. (Water’s record was released as Chess 1827.)

Carolina blues performer Pink Anderson is one-half of the answer to one of rock’s great trivia questions: How did Pink Floyd get its name? According to several sources, Syd Barrett noticed the names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council in the liner notes of a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller album.

When you listen to “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You),” pay attention to the drums. When the producer for Yuro’s session bailed for some reason, Phil Spector was brought in. And the drums sound like the work of Hal Blaine to me.

Blogworld Gleanings & Helen Reddy

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 27, 2011

A few things I’ve noticed while wandering around:

Jeff over at AM, Then FM is providing early fuel for those who are easing themselves into the holiday spirit with his series of “Three under the tree” posts. Visitors will find regular appetizers of Christmas and holiday tunes from sources ranging from Arthur Lyman, Billy Squier and the Royal Guardsmen. One of the first tunes he posted, fittingly, was one of the best Christmas tunes that ever came from the rock and pop world: 1971’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon (with the label actually reading “John and Yoko & The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir”).

Casey at The College Crowd Digs Me continued this week his occasional series called “Track Four.” I’ll let him explain it: “‘Track Four’ is my small way of paying homage to my dad. While he was in college…when anyone picked up a new album…it was tradition to play… ‘Track Four’…first. Supposedly… ‘Track Four’…was symbolic of whatever album one was listening too. Where this started is unknown. And any factual statistics on this particular track would be purely subjective. But anyway…I think it’s kinda cool…in a ‘Freaky long-haired’ sorta way.” The series started with “Taurus” from the self-titled 1968 debut album by the Los Angeles group Spirit (“I Got A Line On You”), and its most recent entry – last week’s – was “Miracles Out Of Nowhere” from Kansas’ 1976 album, Left Overture.

Homercat at Good Rockin’ Tonight marks his blog’s fourth anniversary with some musings on the evolution of his blog and music blogging in general. To celebrate, he shares “Happy Birthday” by Weird Al Yankovic and “Birthday” by Meredith Brooks, as well as some Cheap Trick, Off Broadway and Jason & the Scorchers. Happy Birthday, Homercat!

Over at Got The Fever, wzjn checks in with an assessment of a couple of Roger Daltry tunes (and a wish for me and the Texas Gal, for which we thank him!). We’re hoping here that life settles enough at Got The Fever to allow wzjn to give us his entertaining and thoughtful take on music more often.*

I wrote a little while ago about the fortunes of three football teams I follow. I should note that since that writing my favorite high school team, the Eden Prairie Eagles, won their seventh Minnesota large-school title in twelve years. Eden Prairie defeated St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall 50-21 for the title in a game between unbeaten teams. Congratulations to Coach Mike Grant, his staff and his team!

Tuesday Cover
Back in 1966, Tim Hardin released his first album, a Verve release titled Tim Hardin 1. (I wonder if the title reassured him that there would be a second album? Turns out there were more albums than that, but the immediate successor on Verve was in fact titled Tim Hardin 2.) The album was a mix of bluesy folk, folk-rock, rock and a number of songs that aren’t easily categorized. It was hailed as a solid debut, and other performers began quickly sifting through the songs on the album, all written by Hardin. Two of them became, if not standards, then at least songs that have been covered so frequently as to become far more famous than their creator ever did.

I think it’s fair to say that nothing else Hardin wrote in his short life – he died in 1980 at the age of 39 – quite had the reach of those two songs: “Reason to Believe” and “Don’t Make Promises.” (If I had to name a third-ranking Hardin tune, I’d probably go with “If I Was A Carpenter,” which, as I think about it, may have been more popular than “Don’t Make Promises.”)

The list of those who’ve covered “Reason to Believe” begins with Rod Stewart, of course, but it also includes such performers as Lynn Anderson, Glen Campbell, the Brothers Four, the Carpenters, Bobby Darin, Dashboard Confessional, Marianne Faithful, Ian & Sylvia, Scott McKenzie, Eddie Money (!), Rick Nelson and the Youngbloods, to name only a portion of the list.

As for “Don’t Make Promises,” the list of those who recorded it is not nearly as long, but still features some interesting names: Bobby Darin, Scott McKenzie and Marianne Faithful again, the Kingston Trio, Three Dog Night, Helen Reddy, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, Chris Smither and Paul Weller.

The most interesting name there may be Smither’s, as the long-time blues and folk artist has long been on my list of performers to listen to more closely. His recording of the song was on his 1999 release Drive You Home Again, an album I’m going to have to find. Weller’s recording of the Hardin song is also more recent, coming from 2004’s Studio 150, and it’s a nice recording.

But the version I’ve decided to share today – likely because it has some time and place connections for me that the other versions don’t – is Helen Reddy’s, from her 1971 album I Don’t Know How To Love Him. During my first year of college, it seemed as if it were a rule that every young woman who lived in a dormitory had to own either a copy of Reddy’s album or of Carole King’s Tapestry. So today’s share is what at least a part of college life sounded like thirty-six years ago.

(The track is ripped from vinyl, and there are just a few pops.)

Helen Reddy – “Don’t Make Promises” [1971]

*Got The Fever has since moved. Note added May 22, 2011.

There’s ‘Brown Sugar’! Answer The Phone!

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 26, 2007

Well, I joined the ranks of the connected over the weekend. I got a cell phone.

It’s not like I resisted or anything. I spend most of my time at home, and the Texas Gal and I didn’t see the need of my having a cell phone. If I needed one for the rare times I went out of town during a weekend, I’d take hers.

But her contract with her carrier expired a month or so ago, and we thought we should check out the options. So we went to Crossroads, the largest – and oldest – of the St. Cloud malls, Saturday afternoon. And I came away with a sleek little silver thing that not only lets me talk to people, but of course lets me do all those things that so many people have been doing for so long that it’s no longer news: it takes pictures, and it sends them and text messages, and it connects to the Internet so I can read news and sports, and it shows video on its very small screen . . . all of that stuff.

Actually, there is one surprise on the phone that I think will come in handy. If I am not mistaken – and I may very well be – I can see the NFL Network on the phone. As our local cable company has not yet come to an agreement with the NFL Network, my tiny phone screen is the only place I can see those games carried on that network (unless I go to a sports bar, of course). I can see myself peering at my tiny screen in the last week of the NFL season, watching to see if New England can finish the season 16-0. (I’m not sure yet whether I want the Patriots to do so or not.)

I know I’m late getting connected. I was late getting a CD player, too, not having one until sometime right around the end of 1998. (It was actually a Christmas gift from my sister and her family, who gave it to me so I could listen to the new box set from The Band, which they gave me at the same time.)

But there it sits on my desk, the little Samsung appliance. I’ve entered a number of my friends’ and relatives’ phone numbers into it. I changed the place on the welcome screen that used to have my carrier’s name; it now reads “whiteray.” I downloaded a ringtone: the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” (That may change to Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright,” as—sadly – “Layla” does not seem to be available, at least not through my carrier.) And I changed the screensaver from the generic one to a shot of Stonehenge. Now all I need to do is make a phone call. (My first one will likely be to customer service to make sure that my name and not the Texas Gal’s appears on other people’s Caller ID when I make a call.)

As for music today, I’m offering an album I promised last week: Dobie Gray’s Drift Away from 1973.

The title song was a hit, of course, reaching No. 5 during its fifteen weeks on the chart in the spring of that year. It was the second Top 40 hit for Gray, whose “The ‘In’ Crowd” went to No. 13 in 1965. Six years after “Drift Away,” his single “You Can Do It” barely touched the Top 40, getting to No. 37 and dropping off the charts after a two-week stay.

Drift Away is a pretty sweet album, recorded in Nashville and produced by Mentor Williams, who wrote the title track and is a brother of singer/songwriter Paul Williams. (One of Mentor Williams’ other productions, Tom Jans’ self-titled solo debut, was featured here in February.) Williams surrounds Gray’s raspy voice with a smooth setting, letting the vocals nestle in nicely.

Some of the standout tracks – aside from the classic title track – are the gently rocking “L.A. Lady,” the regretful “We Had It All,” “Lay Back,” with its slightly funky sound that’s reminiscent to me, if only at moments, of a Stevie Wonder tune, and “Caddo Queen,” a slightly swampy track with a touch of hoedown.

(My vinyl copy of the record was too rough on the title track, so I substituted an mp3 I’ve had for a while. The remaining tracks offered here are ripped from the vinyl, so there will be an occasional bit of noise.)

Drift Away
The Time I Love You The Most
L.A. Lady
We Had It All
Now That I’m Without You
Rockin’ Chair
Lay Back
City Stars
Sweet Lovin’ Woman
Caddo Queen
Eddie’s Song

Dobie Gray – Drift Away [1973]

Saturday Single No. 43

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 24, 2007

My friend Sean and I spent part of Thursday evening wandering through a portion of the musical files he stores on his computer. His goal is to have a digital copy of every song that has hit the Top 40, a worthy challenge.

I don’t know how far along he is, but he’s deep enough into the project that a quick scan of some of his files from the 1970s and 1980s revealed numerous obscurities, one-hit wonders and one-week wonders (his term for a performer who had one song reach the Top 40 for only one week). But the song that caught my attention as we poked our way through 1980 was “Funkytown,” the hit credited to Lipps Inc. that spent four weeks at No. 1. My first reaction was a groan, and I opined that the tune was more than just a little lame.

Sean dissented, saying that he finds “Funkytown” a good single. (Is there a difference between a good single and a good record? That’s a question to chew on another day.) And I guess that’s so. I got weary of it twenty-seven years ago, when Minnesota stations overplayed it because it was local: “Funkytown” was the product of Twin Cities producer Steve Greenberg, assisted by vocalist Cynthia Johnson.

But hearing the song at Sean’s got me to thinking: Was “Funkytown” the most influential single recorded in Minnesota? A portion of Dave Marsh’s comment on the song in his book, The Heart of Rock & Soul might lead one to that conclusion.

“Sweet, soulful early (pre-Prince) Minneapolis dance-pop,” Marsh called the recording, which he ranked at No. 202. He added, “[E]ven club-footed listeners succumb to [its] pure playfulness. And, because it helped open an era, the record can’t be dismissed as a mere lighthearted novelty.”

Well. Marsh certainly liked it. I’m still less than pleased by it, but I will grant its influence. What other Minnesota-recorded songs might sack up against it?

I can think of four by Prince (whose talent and influence I acknowledge even though I have never listened to him frequently): 1983’s “Little Red Corvette” and the 1984 trilogy of “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain.” Of those four, I think the most sonically interesting is “When Doves Cry,” but in terms of influence, maybe “Little Red Corvette” tops the list because it came first.

There have been other great singles to come out of Minnesota. I think of Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” in 1992, “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen in 1963 and the whole run of singles from the SOMA label (which stands for “Sound of Mid-America”)* in the mid-1960s. My favorite, of course, is the Mystics’ “Pain” from 1969, but liking something doesn’t automatically make it great, and as it never made the national Top 40, it’s just a local hit. Along the same line, as good as the Lamont Cranston band was, it seems to have never made the charts

So, as I consider the question of the most influential single cut in Minnesota, I find myself coming back to a single recorded for a small label in 1963 by a singer by the name of Dave Dudley, from Spencer, Wisconsin.

Dudley’s only Top 40 hit went to No. 32 in the summer of 1963 (it reached No. 2 on the country chart), but it had, Marsh wrote in 1989, “about as much impact as any hit of the early sixties – it spawned a whole genre of truck driving songs that are not only the closest contemporary equivalent of the cowboy ballads of yore but have produced some of the best country records of the past thirty years.”

Marsh ranked Dudley’s single at No. 437 back in 1989. The most notable products of Dudley’s hit, Marsh wrote, included Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever,” Terry Fell’s “Truck Driving Man,” Red Sovine’s “Phantom 309,” Del Reeves’ pair of “Girl on the Billboard” and “Looking at the World Through a Windshield” and a few others, including Dudley’s own “Truck Drivin’ Son of a Gun.” Marsh added, “The truck driving song’s link to rock and roll, through the car song genre that extends from Chuck Berry to Prince, is also obvious and natural.”

So for me, the search for the most influential Minnesota record stops at Dave Dudley, although I have no doubt that I am overlooking some Minnesota-recorded singles that I should think about. (Tell me what they are, and I may revisit the topic.) But for now, Dudley’s only Top 40 hit is good enough for me. And that’s why “Six Days on the Road” is today’s Saturday Single.

Dave Dudley – “Six Days on the Road” [Golden Wing 3020, 1963]

*SOMA does not, in fact, stand for “Sound of Mid-America.” I’n not sure where I got that bit of misinformation, though I’m certain I read something somewhere. But as reader and pal Yah Shure pointed out quickly after I posted this piece, SOMA was simply a backwards rendering of the first name of the label’s owner, wholesale record distributor Amos Heilicher. Note added May 22, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Thanks

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 23, 2007

It’s quiet here this morning.

There’s no noise from the parking lot outside, where most morning, the college kids and younger adults who make up a good portion of the folks in our apartment complex start the public portions of their days with laughter, the sounds of auto engines rumbling and the more frequent sounds of the heavy low bass of rap or hip-hop. In fact, more than half of the parking spaces are empty, evidence of Thanksgivings spent elsewhere.

The Texas Gal is taking advantage of the opportunity a rare vacation day presents: She’s sleeping in past her normal rising time of 6:30. It’s 7:47, and I’ve shut the bedroom door so that our two rampaging catboys – Clarence and Oscar – leave her alone. They’ll no doubt come through here, demanding attention, while I write.

We had a pleasant day yesterday: dinner with my family at my sister’s home in a Twin Cities suburb, and then we spent the evening with friends Sean and Stephanie at their new apartment on the west end of St. Cloud.

I had planned to rip an album this morning, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away from 1973, but I think I will leave that for Monday and move Monday’s planned share – Color Him In, a 1967 album by Bobby Jameson – for a week from today. Instead, though, I thought I’d offer a Baker’s Dozen in the spirit of yesterday’s holiday.

And no, I’m not going to go all rhapsodic about Thanksgiving and the things I am grateful for. Just let it suffice to say that I have a great deal for which to be grateful, starting, of course, with the Texas Gal and her love for me and extending throughout the various aspects of my life – my friends, my critters and all the rest – to those folks who stop by Echoes In The Wind to listen to the music that moves me.

A Baker’s Dozen of Thanks
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic single 10555, 1970

“Thanks for the Pepperoni” by George Harrison and friends from Apple Jam, All Things Must Pass, 1970

“Thank You Lord” by Rick Nelson from Rudy the Fifth, 1971

“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP single 6809, 1970

“I Wanna Thank You Baby” by Delbert McClinton from Plain From The Heart, 1981

“Thanks To You” by Emmylou Harris from Cowgirl’s Prayer, 1993

“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury single 0236, 1974

“Thank You” by King Floyd from Think About It, 1973

“Thank You Mr. Poobah” by the Butterfield Blues Band from Paul Butterfield Blues Band, 1965

“I Want To Thank You” by Billy Preston from That’s The Way God Planned It, 1969

“Thanks For Saving My Life” by Billy Paul, Philadelphia International 3538, 1974

“Thank You Girl” by the Beatles, Vee-Jay single 587, 1964

“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows, 1982

A few notes on some of the songs:

“Thanks For The Pepperoni” was one of the five tracks on the third LP of All Things Must Pass, George Harrison’s first solo album. That LP, titled Apple Jam, was made up of five long jam sessions recorded by Harrison and his friends during the recording of the album. Listened to as a whole, the jams could become tedious. Taken one at a time, they’re fun to listen to, for the most part. There are no specific credits for tracks, so one has to listen and guess. Guitarists on the album sessions were Harrison, Clapton and Dave Mason; bass players were Klaus Voorman and Carl Radle; on drums were Ringo Starr, Jim Gordon and Alan White; and playing keyboards were Gary Wright, Bobby Whitlock, Billy Preston and Gary Brooker. Which of those actually played on “Thanks For The Pepperoni” is left to speculation, informed supposition and wild guesses.

Rudy the Fifth was a pretty good country rock album from Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. Made up for the most part of originals – “Thank You Lord” is one of them – the album also featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and “Just Like A Woman” and of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” Although fairly obscure today, it’s an album worth seeking out. (It’s available from various on-line retailers at a two-few with the album Rick Sings Nelson.)

William DeVaughn was a one-hit wonder who, according to All-Music Guide, “was working for the government when he paid $900 for a recording session at Philadelphia’s Omega Sound Inc. (basically a ‘vanity record’ operation).” The session, which was backed by MFSB’s main rhythm section, so impressed Omega’s vice-president Frank Fioravanti, that he shopped “Be Thankful For What You Got” to various labels, finally getting it released on Roxbury. The song went to No. 1 on the R&B charts and to No. 4 on the Billboard Top 40. (DeVaughn had R&B hits with “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” and “Figures Can’t Calculate” but never hit the Top 40 pop chart again.)

I’ve listed “Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot here before but it’s too lovely a song to leave out of this selection.

Jackie On ‘Hollywood A-Go-Go’

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Given that the Lesley Gore track was the most popular of the songs I posted yesterday, I went looking for it at YouTube. I didn’t find any Lesley Gore that didn’t have problems with brightness or with sound, so I looked elsewhere on the list from yesterday.

Here’s Jackie DeShannon, lip-synching “When You Walk In The Room,” most likely during her appearance on the television show Hollywood A-Go-Go in early 1965. Assuming this is that show, the other performers on the program that day were Johnny Crawford, Pat and Lolly Vegas (later of Redbone), the Platters, the Sinners, the Challengers and Donnie Brooks.

(I do love the Byrds-ish introduction to this recording.)

A Baker’s Dozen From 1963

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 21, 2007

(When I wrote earlier this month about “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and then about the fortunes this season of my favorite football teams, I inadvertently triggered a series of other posts on November in the Northland. Readers got autumnal takes from Jeff at AM, Then FM, from JB the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and then from Perplexio at Pieces of Perplexio π. And now it’s my turn again to write about this chill month, but this time, I’m writing about a November day that, come tomorrow, will be forty-four years gone.)

Blank stares. That’s the thing I remember most about November 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was killed.

I was ten and in fifth grade that November, and for some reason, I’d had lunch at school that Friday. I usually walked the five blocks home for lunch, but Mom must have been away from home that day for some reason, a church women’s event or something like that. So I was in the classroom as lunchtime was ending and Mr. Lydeen came into the room with an odd look on his face.

He told us the news from Dallas, and we stared at him. I think some of the girls cried. And we spent the rest of the day milling around the room, gathering in small groups, the ten or so fifth-graders and ten or so sixth-graders of our combination classroom. We boys talked darkly of what should be done to the culprit, were he found. We were angry. And sad. And confused.

At recess, we bundled up and went out onto the asphalt and concrete playground, but all we did was huddle around Mr. Lydeen, our backs to the northwest wind. I don’t recall what we said, but I think we were all looking for reassurance, for explanation. Mr. Lydeen had neither for us; I remember seeing him stare across the playground and past the railroad tracks, looking at something beyond the reach of his gaze. The blank look on his face made me – and the other kids, too, I think – uneasy.

Mom was listening to the old brown radio on the kitchen counter when I got home from school that day – a rarity, as the radio was generally on only in the morning as we prepared for the day. And it stayed on through dinnertime, bringing us news bulletins from Dallas and Washington and long lists of weekend events cancelled or postponed. Not much was said at the table, as I recall, and I saw that same blank look on my parents’ faces that I had seen on Mr. Lydeen’s face that afternoon.

That evening, I sought solace in my box of comic books and MAD magazines. By chance, the first magazine I pulled out of the box had a parody of a musical film, one of MAD’s specialties. But the parody poked gentle fun at the president and his cabinet, and if it seemed wrong to laugh that evening – as it did – it seemed especially wrong to laugh at that. I threw the magazine back into the box and went in search of my dad, who was doing something at his workbench in the basement.

I watched him for a few minutes as he worked on something he had clamped in the vise, and then I just asked, “Why?”

He turned to me and shook his head and said he didn’t know. And I realized for the first time that the people I looked to for explanations – my parents and my teacher – were unable to understand and explain everything. That was a scary thought, and – being slightly precocious – I pondered its implications for a few days as we watched the unfolding events on television with the rest of the nation.

Sometime in the late 1990s, about five years before Dad died, I was up in St. Cloud for a weekend, and he and I were drinking beers on the back porch. For some reason, I asked him what he remembered of that day. He’d been at work at the college (not yet a university), and he remembered young women crying and young men talking intensely in small groups. And, he said, he remembered not being able to give them any answers at a time when they so needed them.

I nodded and sipped my beer. I thought of the cascade of events that followed John Kennedy’s death, the twelve or so years that we now call the Sixties: The civil rights movement and the concurrent violence, the long anguish in Vietnam, the deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, race riots and police riots, the National Guard and the police opening fire and killing students at Kent State and Jackson State. I thought about draft cards, protest marches and paranoia and about the distrust and anger between black and white, between young and old, between government and governed.

And I looked at my dad and said, “Yeah, John Kennedy’s death is when it all started.”

Dad was a veteran of World War II, part of the generation that came to adulthood during the Great Depression. His generation, after it won its war, came home and lived through a hard-earned era of prosperity that will likely never be matched anywhere in the world ever again, a time of Father Knows Best and the New York Yankees. From that perspective, my father looked back at November of 1963 and then he looked at me.

“No,” he said, “that’s when it all ended.”

A Baker’s Dozen from 1963
“Do Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” by the Crystals, Philles single 112

“Green, Green” by the New Christy Minstrels, Columbia single 42805

“Avalon Blues” by Mississippi John Hurt from Avalon Blues: The Library of Congress Recordings

“So Glad I’m Living” by Muddy Waters, Chess session, Chicago, June 6

“Corinna, Corrina” by Bob Dylan from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

“When You Walk In The Room” by Jackie DeShannon, Liberty single 55645

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

“Time Is On My Side” by Kai Winding & the Enchanters, Verve single 10307

“Cry Baby” by Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, United Artists single 629

“Night Theme” by Al Hirt from Honey In The Horn

“I Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind Set On Freedom” by the SNCC Freedom Singers from We Shall Overcome

“Magic Star” by Margie Singleton, Mercury single 72079

“Judy’s Turn To Cry” by Leslie Gore, Mercury single 72143

A few notes on some of the songs:

The Crystals, of course, were one of the girl groups produced by Phil Spector. While “Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” is not Spector’s masterpiece – I think that title goes to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” – it’s still a propulsive, fun and highly charged piece of music. And, as almost always with a Spector production, that’s Hal Blaine on the drums.

The original Christy Minstrels were a blackface group formed by Edwin Pearce Christy in Buffalo, New York, in 1843. The New Christy Minstrels, formed by Randy Sparks in 1961, was made up of generally clean-cut young people singing folk music – and new songs that sounded like folk – in a pleasant, slightly bland manner. They had three Top 40 hits in 1963 and 1964, with “Green, Green” being the most successful, reaching No. 14. Among the members of the group throughout the years have been Kim Carnes, Kenny Rogers and Barry McGuire of “Eve of Destruction” fame. (Wikipedia says the group was active as of March 2007, with Sparks and McGuire among those involved.)

Mississippi John Hurt was an anomaly during the blues revival of the early 1960s, when dozens of rural Southern performers who’d recorded tracks in the 1920s and 1930s were rediscovered and brought into studios and concert halls again. Hurt was not truly a blues artists; there are some elements of blues in his music, but he’d be better described as a folk artist – or songster, as the term was in the 1920s – with his gently syncopated songs drawn mostly from sources other than blues.  Several of the tunes on Avalon Blues were songs that Hurt had recorded during his first recording sessions, for the Okeh label in 1928.

The Searchers had a mild hit with “When You Walk In The Room,” reaching No. 35 in 1964, but the song came from the pen of Jackie DeShannon, a composer and performer who hit the Top 40 herself with “What The World Needs Now Is Love” in 1965 (No. 7) and with “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” in 1969 (No. 4). Her 1968 album Laurel Canyon is a classic of L.A.-based pop rock (with one of its attractions for me being a killer version of “The Weight.”)

This recording of “Time Is On My Side” by Kai Winding, a Danish trombonist and composer, turns out to be the original recording of the song, which was written for Winding by famed song-writer Jerry Ragovoy (writing as Norman Meade). The background vocals are provided by the Enchanters, who only turned out to be Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick. The song was later covered, of course, by numerous artists including New Orleans’ Irma Thomas and the Rolling Stones. “Time Is On My Side” didn’t reach the Top 40, but Winding did have a hit in 1963: His version of “More,” otherwise known as the theme to the film Mondo Cane, reached No. 8 on the charts in the late summer of that year.

“Cry Baby” was another Jerry Ragovoy composition, this one written with Bert Berns. Most likely better known today as the second track on Janis Joplin’s final album, Pearl, the song has been recorded by numerous other artists, including P.J. Proby, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and Natalie Cole. The version here by Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters (again!) went to No. 4 in the autumn of 1963.

The SNCC Freedom Singers were part of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, one of the prime movers in the civil rights struggle in the American South during the 1960s. The founder of the Freedom Singers was Bernice Johnson, later Bernice Reagon, who went on to form the vocal group Sweet Honey In The Rock in the 1970s.. “I Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind Set On Freedom” comes from the group’s only album, released on the Mercury label in 1963.

Until I came across “Magic Star (Tel-Star)” by Margie Singleton in the last year or so, I never knew there were words to “Telstar,” the instrumental by the Tornadoes that went to No. 1 in 1962. Singleton’s record didn’t make the Billboard charts, but she hit the Top 56 at WQAM in Miami during the week of February 2, 1963, as this chart indicates. I’m assuming, without being sure, that this is the same Margie Singleton who recorded four country albums for four different labels, starting in 1965.

As always, bit rates will vary.

Some housekeeping
Those who downloaded Monday’s album know by now that the single version of “Midnight Wind” had several seconds cut off the end. I don’t know if I cut those seconds off myself while tinkering with the mp3 or whether I just didn’t pay enough attention after I found it. Either way, I apologize, and I’ll try to find a good version, although my source for the mp3 seems to have disappeared.

Edited slightly after archival posting.

‘If You’re Lonely, You Can Talk To Me . . .’

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 20, 2007

One day in June of 1972, I walked out of my local music store with a new record. And I wasn’t very excited about it.

I was in the final months of my effort to collect all eighteen albums by the Beatles that had been released by Capitol, Apple or United Artists, and the LPs that remained on my list were – for the most part – the slightest efforts the group released. And on that June day, the LP I had in my bag was Yellow Submarine.

It really wasn’t much of an album. It had four new songs by the Beatles, songs that listeners would judge for the most part as throwaways, seemingly recorded without much care and then used for the soundtrack of the Yellow Submarine animated film. Those songs – “All Together Now,” “Only A Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much” and “Hey Bulldog” – had some minimal charm, and “Hey Bulldog” rocked a little, but they were slight efforts compared to the standard that the group had set for itself.

The album was filled out with the Beatles’ tracks “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love” on Side One and with orchestral soundtrack music from the pen of long-time Beatles producer George Martin on Side Two. I listened to the entire record the day I brought it home, and played Side One occasionally after that. I doubt that I ever played Side Two again.

(According to All-Music Guide, the Beatles considered releasing the four new songs from Yellow Submarine on an EP, a 45 rpm record, instead of releasing a full LP. The EP, AMG says, might also have included “Across the Universe,” a John Lennon-penned track that ended up on Let It Be. That might have been preferable, as it would have avoided the orchestral filler, but EPs were never as large a part of the record landscape here in the U.S. as they were in Britain, so I’m not sure it would have worked for the American fans.)

In any case, I bought the album, as I was trying to complete my collection. (I had three LPs to go after Yellow Submarine: The Beatles’ Second Album, Beatles VI and A Hard Day’s Night, which in its U.S. configuration had four orchestral tracks slotted in amongst recordings by the group.) Had I not been trying to get a complete collection, I doubt whether I would have bought it. And I tend not to think of the Yellow Submarine album or the four songs exclusive to it when I ponder the Beatles’ music.

I was reminded of all of this last evening when I came across a cover of “Hey Bulldog” in the mp3 files. Recorded by Fanny, the early 1970s all-woman group, the track was included on Fanny Hill, the third of five albums the group released between 1970 and 1974. Always in search of interesting covers – and increasingly unable to know exactly what lies in the nooks and crannies of nearly 20,000 mp3s – I listened to Fanny’s version of “Hey Bulldog.” The group nailed it, rocking harder than the boys, and investing the song with more urgency than one hears in the Beatles’ version.

Fanny was an anomaly of its time. Reprise billed the group as the first all-female rock group, which it wasn’t. But, as AMG notes, “as one of the first self-contained distaff groups to land on a major label, they were an important harbinger of things to come.” I don’t know about the group’s last two albums – Mother’s Pride on Reprise and Rock ’n’ Roll Survivors on Casablanca – but one could do a lot worse than seeking out Fanny, Charity Ball and Fanny Hill, the first three albums the group released.

(The four Reprise albums have been gathered with unreleased material into a box set titled First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings, a four-CD package that’s currently running at about $80 or more at your standard on-line merchants. The other option is heading into the vinyl jungle. Copies of all five LPs are available for reasonable prices on Ebay.)

Fanny – “Hey Bulldog” [1972]