Posts Tagged ‘John Hammond’

A Landmark In Peril

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 23, 2009

Twice during trips to visit the Texas Gal’s family in the Dallas area, she and I have driven into the heart of downtown Dallas, to a portion of the city whose good days are long gone. There, we’ve visited Park Avenue and the building at 508, where Robert Johnson recorded thirteen tracks over a two-day period in 1937. As well as taking pictures, I’ve stood on the front step, sharing the same space once occupied by both Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton.

The other week, the Texas Gal’s mom and sister sent me a clipping of a story from the Dallas Morning News, detailing the uncertain future of the building at 508 Park Avenue.

(It seems that the links to the images that ran with the story are no longer working. [Nor, for that matter, is the link to the story.] Here’s a photo of the front door of the building that I took on one of our two visits to Park Avenue.)

It would be nice to have the building saved, of course, both for its exterior architecture and for its place in music history. But I’m guessing that won’t happen. In the meantime, here are cover versions of some of the songs Robert Johnson recorded during his two days in Dallas in July of 1937.*

A Six-Pack of 508 Park Avenue
“Stop Breakin’ Down” by the Jeff Healey Band from Cover To Cover [1995]
“Malted Milk” by Eric Clapton from Unplugged [1992]
“Traveling Riverside Blues” by John Hammond from Country Blues [1964]
“Love In Vain” by the Rolling Stones from ‘Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!’ [1970]
“Stones In My Passway” by Chris Thomas King from Me, My Guitar and the Blues [1992]
“I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man” by Robert Lockwood, Jr. & Carey Bell from Hellhound on My Trail: Songs of Robert Johnson [2000]

*I was too pessimistic, it seems: According to this piece in the January 26, 2012, edition of the Dallas Observer, the building at 508 Park Avenue will be restored and become the site of the Museum of Street Culture. That will include a recording studio on the floor of the building where Robert Johnson and others played, and – according to the January 26, 2012 piece – a memorial of some sort in the corner of that floor where Johnson and other musicians actually sat or stood to record. Note added February 1, 2012

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Saturday Single No. 91

August 15, 2011

Originally posted September 20, 2008

It’s quiet here this morning. The Texas Gal is sleeping in – a just reward for about nine weeks of long Saturdays of effort – and two of the catboys are evidently keeping her company. (The third, young Henri, is at the vet’s for routine kitten surgery and will come home this afternoon.) The sun is beginning to peek through gaps in the canopy of oak leaves and evergreen branches that shelter the house.

Only the rumble of a passing train intrudes, but not all that much. The clatter of the wheels and cars is not too noisy, and the only other thing I notice is that the coffee in the mug on my desk trembles a little as the train rumbles along the tracks on the other side of Lincoln Avenue. That’s all.

It puts me in mind of another cup of coffee, another table, another city:

In September 1990, I was in my first month teaching journalism and writing at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, midway between Kansas City and St. Louis. And that autumn, earthquakes were on everyone’s mind. Beneath the soil where the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky come together runs the New Madrid fault, named for a small Missouri town that lies atop it. The fault has a place in American history. In 1811 and 1812, when the area was sparsely populated, a series of earthquakes took place along the fault. Wikipedia says:

“The 1811 or 1812 New Madrid Earthquake . . . is one of the largest succession[s] of earthquakes, including the most intensive ever indirectly inferred (not recorded) in the contiguous United States, beginning with an initial pair of very large earthquakes on December 16th, 1811[,] plus aftershocks and other large related quakes separated by a succession of smaller aftershock quakes[,] with the largest event classified as a Mega-quake of greater than 8.0 on the Richter scale occurring on February 7, 1812.”

There are any number of fascinating books about the 1811-12 New Madrid quakes. I’ve read a few, including some with analyses that place the major quake a little lower on the Richter scale, but whatever its magnitude, the quake was huge. And the scary thing is that the fault has not triggered a major quake since then; basically, say scientists, a major quake is certain though no one, of course, knows when.

In the September 11, 2005, edition of the Commercial Appeal, a newspaper published in Memphis, Tennessee, Oliver Staley writes: “Experts predict there’s about a 10 percent chance of a massive earthquake in the next 50 years and a much greater chance of a smaller, yet still quite serious quake much sooner.”

I found that quotation at a fascinating website about the New Madrid fault. I also found there a reference to the event I recalled this morning. During that autumn of 1990, when I was living in Columbia, a climatologist by the name of Iben Browning, based in New Mexico, announced that there was a fifty percent chance of an earthquake along the New Madrid fault that December. His prediction was based on the theory of high tidal forces causing increased pressure on the fault. Needless to say, there was no major quake that December, and the many news folks who descended on New Madrid early that month went away quakeless but alive.

Earlier that autumn (and I do not recall if this was before or after Browning made his prediction), I was eating lunch at my dining room table in Columbia. My feet suddenly felt odd, as if they were vibrating, and I happened to glance at my coffee cup: the liquid was moving inside the cup. So I looked at the clock and noted the time, and that evening, the newscaster on one of the local stations reported that there’d been a minor tremor on the New Madrid fault that afternoon.

It had happened right at the moment my feet felt funny and my coffee was rippling. I was reminded of that this morning, and – as is my wont – went looking for a song with at least some connection. And that’s why – with no intention of making light of a situation that will someday almost certainly be disastrous – “Shake For Me” by John Hammond with Duane Allman on slide guitar, is this week’s Saturday Single.

John Hammond – “Shake For Me” [1970]

Goodbye To Smudge

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2008

When one owns pets, saying goodbye is part of the package. But it never gets easier.

This morning it was Smudge, the cat that the Texas Gal had bottle-raised, the little white lady who had been the Texas Gal’s baby since she was less than a day old.

It was the summer of 1998, and the Texas Gal was still in Texas, working as a buyer for a manufacturing firm in Dallas. One of the warehouse guys came to her office, carrying a small something. He said he’d seen it on the floor as he was driving a forklift. He thought it was a mouse, and he stopped to pick it up intact rather than have to clean it up later. But it was a kitten, no more than three inches long, so he brought it to the Texas Gal’s office, knowing she was a cat person.

The little thing was white with a gray patch on her forehead, so her name was Smudge. The mama cat might have dropped her when she was startled while moving her litter, or maybe Smudge got left behind as a runt. But raised on bottled milk and love, she survived. She never got very big – maybe eight pounds at the most. But she was the Texas Gal’s kitty for just about ten years.

And Smudge was no one else’s cat. She and I shared the same quarters for seven years, and, at best, she tolerated me. I could pet her and she’d put up with it for a moment or two, then squirm away or – if she could not get away – slap my hand five or six times with a tiny lightning-fast front paw. Still, the Texas Gal told me, no one else had ever been able to touch Smudge without her screaming and biting. So I did pretty well.

She was skittish, Smudge was, possibly because of her origins. Loud noises and strangers worried her. And it didn’t help that one of the catboys, Clarence, liked to chase her. She spent a lot of time in dark corners. And she spent a lot of time curled up on the Texas Gal’s lap, the one place in the world she felt safe.

About ten days ago, on a Saturday night, the Texas Gal noticed that something was wrong. We took Smudge to the emergency vet, who corrected the immediate problem with a minor procedure but told us that the root cause was unchanged. The problem was likely to be chronic. Last evening, we concluded, reluctantly, that the vet was right, and Mudgie was only going to be less and less comfortable as time went on. So this morning, we took her to see Dr. Tess, and we said goodbye.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal’s baby.

A Baker’s Dozen of Babys
“Baby Don’t Do Me Wrong” by John Lee Hooker from I Feel Good, 1971

“Baby Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters from Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960

“Baby Ruth” by Delbert McClinton from The Jealous Kind, 1980

“You, Baby” by the Ronettes from Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

“Baby, I Love You” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic single 2427, 1967

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by John Hammond from Tangled Up In Blues, 1999

“Rock A Bye Baby Blues” by Ray Thomas from From Mighty Oaks, 1975

“Baby Let’s Wait” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie single 3461, 1969

“Our Baby’s Gone” by Herb Pederson from Southwest, 1976

“Baby It’s You” by the Shirelles, Scepter single 1227, 1962

“My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains, Deram single 85058, 1970

“Ruby Baby” by Donald Fagen from The Nightfly, 1982

“Me and Baby Jane” by Leon Russell from Carney, 1972

A few notes:

This set is a little bluesier than most of them get, what with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and John Hammond. Delbert McClinton shades that way sometimes too.

It’s funny that the one track with the word “blues” in its title is one of the more odd blues that one can find. Ray Thomas, a member of the Moody Blues, released From Mighty Oaks during the years when the Moodies were inactive. Like most solo outings from the members of the group, the album sounds very much like the Moody Blues. And even though Thomas’ voice slides into blue tones now and then during “Rock A Bye Baby Blues,” when you consider the non-blues chord progression, his voice and the airy production, well, if it’s a blues, it’s a unique one.

“Baby Let’s Wait” is a dirge-like ballad that reached the lower levels of the Top 40 – No. 38 – in 1969. The Royal Guardsmen are better known for reaching No. 2 as 1966 turned into 1967 with “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and for that record’s follow-up, “The Return of the Red Baron,” which went to No. 15 in the spring of 1967.

I wrote some time back about Smith’s version of “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 5 in 1969. The original by the Shirelles went to No. 8 in early 1962. Smith might have had the better version, but the Shirelles had the better career: Smith had just the one Top 40 hit, while the Shirelles had twelve of them, including two No. 1 hits: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “Soldier Boy.”

A Baker’s Dozen from 1964

May 10, 2011

Originally posted September 12, 2007

As 1964 dawned, we were in a new world, one that we weren’t sure we liked very much. It had been just more than a month since President Kennedy was killed, and we were still getting used to seeing the somewhat stern visage of Lyndon Johnson, the new president, in places like the post office and other federal buildings. There had been a month of mourning for John Kennedy, a period that ended just before Christmas. I recall a sense of sadness, of course, but along with that, I recall among the grownups in my life what seemed to be a wariness, an uneasiness at what might come next, considering that something so unthinkable had already happened.

So 1964 felt like an alien land. In my fifth-grade classroom, we had the morning Minneapolis Tribune delivered, and I – already being a news junkie – tried to get into the classroom early enough each day to take a look at it. (At home, we subscribed to the Minneapolis Star, the evening paper from the same company that, sadly, was merged into the morning paper about twenty-five years ago.) One morning, the front page of the Trib showed a picture of a dignified woman, and the headline told me that she – Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine – had announced her intention of running for president. When the other kids came into the room, the headline caused such a commotion that the front page of the newspaper was ripped into several pieces. Unhappy with us, Mr. Lydeen stood by his desk at the back of the room and held the pieces of the paper up, then dropped the entire newspaper into the wastebasket. If it happened again, he said, the room would quit getting the paper.

Other things in the news in 1964 included the New York World’s Fair, which took place at a location with the giggle-inducing name of Flushing Meadows. (My pals and I were ten, okay?) Among the exhibits I recall wanting to see were the audioanimatronic dinosaurs – created by the Disney organization – in, I think, the Ford display, and the Pietà, the Michelangelo sculpture carefully shipped across the Atlantic from Vatican City for its own pavilion at the fair. (I finally saw the dinosaurs – or their electronic descendants – during a 1980s trip to Disneyland and was not impressed; on the other hand, when I saw the Pietà in its home in St. Peter’s Basilica, I was overwhelmed.)

The over-riding sense of the New York World’s Fair from a distance, as I recall, was the shining tomorrow that it promised to all the world, a promise that has not been well kept. We do have technological marvels aplenty in our portion of the world. But the future we have found is one that glitters far less than the one we were told would arrive. Forget about flying cars and elevated monorail service and automated kitchens. There are still too many people in the world – the United Nations says the total is more than a billion, according to Wikipedia – who lack safe drinking water.

It was in 1964 when President Johnson started what he called the War on Poverty, and it was that summer when three civil rights workers – Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – were killed in Mississippi while doing field work for the Congress of Racial Equality. The first major protests against the Vietnam War took place in New York and San Francisco in May. I remember being baffled by all of it, not realizing that the world was beginning to baffle the grownups around me as well.

And then there was the music, which was going through changes of its own. As readers likely know, the Beatles came to the U.S. for the first time in February of that year, sparking what has come to be called the British Invasion. In April, the Beatles held the top five spots on Billboard’s Top 40 chart, a feat never seen before or since. (The songs were, in order, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”) And by the end of the year, British acts dominated American pop charts.

There was still some fine music being recorded and performed here, of course, but it became increasingly difficult for it to dent the charts. For many blues and R&B performers, that increasing difficulty was simply a continuation of a trend that had started in the 1950s (although the success of acts on Motown and Stax and related labels was growing). So 1964 was a year of transition in the music world as well as in the world in general.

Here, then, is a Baker’s Dozen from that year:

“Smokestack Lightning” by Manfred Mann from The Manfred Mann Album

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” by Jimmy Witherspoon from Blue Spoon

“Spanish Harlem Incident” by Bob Dylan from Another Side of Bob Dylan

“When You Walk In The Room” by the Searchers, Kapp single 618

“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” by the Yardbirds, Columbia single DB 7391 (UK)

“I Live the Life I Love” by John Hammond from Big City Blues

“(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up” by the Ronettes, Philles single 120

“Sweet Home Chicago” by David “Honeyboy” Edwards, unreleased session

“Hold Me Tight” by the Treasures, Shirley single 500

“Slow Down” by the Beatles, Capitol single 5255

“The Girls On The Beach” by the Beach Boys from All Summer Long

“Airmobile” by Tim Hardin from Columbia sessions, unreleased.

“Maybelline” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial single 66056

A few notes on some of the songs:

“Smokestack Lightning,” from the same album that included the marvelous “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” is not as nifty as one would like. Manfred Mann’s band was capable of doing some fine blues work, and did so elsewhere on the album. But “Smokestack Lightning” is too obviously based on Howlin’ Wolf’s extraordinary performance from 1956.

The album Another Side of Bob Dylan found Dylan in transition, shifting in his subject matter from public to personal concerns but still presenting the material as folk songs. The songs on the record – “Spanish Harlem Incident” in particular – would not sound out of place had they been recorded as rock songs and placed with the material Dylan would release in the next year on Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.

The Honeyboy Edwards session was produced, I believe, by Pete Welding and leased to Sun Records, which chose not to release it. Edwards’ performance of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” is solid but not particularly revelatory. It becomes more interesting when one realizes that Edwards, born in 1915 and still alive today, is likely the only surviving person who performed with Johnson and also likely the only living person who was present that night at the Three Forks Store when Johnson was poisoned.

The Treasures were two Phil Spector associates, Vinnie Poncina and Peter Andreoli. After visiting England in 1963 and sharing a plane with the Beatles in February 1964 – according to All-Music Guide – Spector decided to cover one of the Fab Four’s songs. He chose “Hold Me Tight,” and came up with this wonderful mixture of British pop, doo-wop and the Wall of Sound.

The other Phil Spector production here, the Ronettes’ “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up,” was the third Ronettes single to hit the Top 40, reaching No. 39 in May, just three months after the Beatles and the other Brits began to make chart life difficult for American pop artists. The Ronettes would have two more records on the charts in 1964 – reaching No. 34 with “Do I Love You?” and No. 23 with “Walking In The Rain” – but nothing in the Top 40 after that.

A Third Time Through the Junkyard

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 4, 2007

As I didn’t get an album ripped yesterday, and Monday morning brings with it a longer list of things to do than I’d normally see – and longer than I’d like to see, certainly – I decided to go back to something I did a couple of times during the early days of this blog (that is, if a blog less than five months old can be considered to have early days).

I thought we’d take a fifteen-song walk through the entire junkyard and see where we end up. But, I considered as I made up my mind, do I make it a random start, or select something? And if I select something, how do I do so?

Well, I watched the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals this past week, and was pleasantly surprised Saturday evening when the Ottawa Senators managed to take a game from the Anaheim Goons –oh, sorry, they’re called the Ducks – in Ottawa. The Senators’ victory left them still trailing the Goons by a two games to one margin, but it appeared for the first time as if the Senators could have a chance in the series. The first two games out in Anaheim were close but the Senators didn’t look like the team I’d seen during the first three rounds of the playoffs. The turnaround the Senators showed on their home ice pleased me because there is no way in the name of Lord Stanley that I want to see the Goons win his cup.

I can see the looks on readers’ faces: This is a music blog, ain’t it? Why’s he talkin’ hockey? Relax. There’s a point to this.

I’ve written briefly at least one other time about the annual tabletop hockey tournaments we have at my place – my friends Rick, Rob and Schultz and I. They’re a one-day continuation of the competitions we used to have when we were in high school, after I got the tabletop game for Christmas 1967. We’d have regular seasons that lasted anywhere from twenty games to fifty-two games, followed by playoffs.

These days, Schultz dominates the competition. Back then, before he joined us, Rick was the best player of the three of us, but he wasn’t quite as dominant as Schultz is now. From time to time, Rob or I could slide a team past him in the playoffs. And in our fourth season, which ended in the spring of 1971, Rob took the title with his New York Rangers. All through that season, when he had the Rangers on the ice and felt momentum turning his way, Rob would begin to hum a song under his breath. I’m not sure why he chose the particular song that he did, but it was a song that seemed to work for him.

And Saturday evening, as I watched the Senators fall behind three times and return to tie the game three times and finally take the lead and the game with a gutsy performance, I found myself humming under my breath. When I realized I was doing so, I chuckled, and then nodded. It was Rob’s old fight song I was humming.

And so, I’ve decided – in honor of the Ottawa Senators and their chances of winning the Stanley Cup – to begin this random fifteen-song walk through the junkyard with Richard Hunter’s solo harmonica version of Rob’s old fight song.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” by Richard Hunter from The Act of Being Free in One Act, 1995

“Here Today” by Paul McCartney from Here Today, 1982

“Standing at the Crossroads” by Elmore James, probably Enjoy single 2020, 1961 or 1962

“Rocky’s Reward” by Bill Conti from the Rocky soundtrack, 1976

“Dr. Dancer” by Sutherland Brothers & Quiver from Reach For The Sky, 1975

“Waiting” by Daniel Lanois from For The Beauty Of Wynona, 1993

“Endless Summer” by the Sandals from Endless Summer soundtrack, 1966

“Silent Eyes” by Paul Simon from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975

“My Time After A While” by John Hammond from Southern Fried, 1970

“Precious Time” by Darden Smith from Little Victories, 1993

“Disco Inferno” by the Trammps from Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, 1977

“Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, Sundi single 6811, 1969

“Bermuda Triangle” by Fleetwood Mac from Heroes Are Hard To Find, 1974

“String Man” by the Mamas & the Papas from Deliver, 1967

“Hell to Pay” by Bonnie Raitt from Longing In Their Hearts, 1994

A few notes on some of the songs:

The loudest ovation I’ve ever heard at a concert came at the best concert I ever attended, when I saw Paul McCartney at the Xcel Center in St. Paul in September of 2002. About nine songs into the show, as the applause for “And I Love Her” faded away, McCartney began to introduce “Here Today” by saying, “I’d like to do a song now that I wrote for my dear friend John.” Applause burst out, and Paul beckoned to the crowd and said, “Yeah, let’s hear it for John.” And the arena filled with a sustained roar like nothing I’d heard before. From that moment, the concert – which up to then had been good – became magical for me.

“Rocky’s Reward” is the faux-classical string piece – motet? fugue? my bits of classical music awareness fail me – that is used under the final credits for the 1976 film Rocky. I’ve always thought that Bill Conti’s score for the film, the first in what became a series, was a brilliant piece of work, primarily for his imaginative use of recurring themes in a wide variety of settings and arrangements. It was an injustice that Conti was not nominated for an Academy Award for the score (the award went to Jerry Goldsmith for his work on The Omen). And don’t get me started about the award for Best Original Song going to Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams for “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)” instead of Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now.”

John Hammond’s “My Time After A While” comes from his Southern Fried album, recorded at Muscle Shoals with its legendary rhythm section. Duane Allman stopped by to add his slide guitar to four of the cuts on the album, but not, sadly, on “My Time After A While.” That’s Eddie Hinton playing that sweet lead part.

“Precious Time” comes from my favorite album by one of my favorite unknown performers. Well, Darden Smith isn’t entirely unknown; he sells enough CD to be able to keep recording. But as I noted when I posted one of his songs as a Saturday Single in February, if there were any justice in the world, Darden Smith would be a household name. The song sounds as if it’s written about a military draft: “They’re calling up numbers now,” and “How many men and boys will it take to win?” That was odd enough for something written in the 1990s, but it’s chilling now. No, there’s not a military draft right now, but, well, I won’t be surprised if there is one soon.

Heroes Are Hard To Find is a Fleetwood Mac album that I don’t know very well. The Mac was in a transitional state in 1974, just about finishing its shift from a blues band to the powerhouse of smooth California rock it became when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined up. “Bermuda Triangle,” melodically and thematically, sounds an awful lot like “Hypnotized” off the Mystery to Me album from the year before.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1967

April 20, 2011

Originally posted May 11, 2007

Every once in a while, some of the music bloggers whose work I read – and I read far more than the few that are linked here – talk about the influences on their music listening. And among the chief influences for many of us, it seems, are older siblings. They brought records home and played them, and we younger sibs heard the music on a regular basis. We may not have always liked it, but eventually, that music – and I’ve read this on many a blog – becomes part of the soundtrack of the younger sib’s life and is cherished as such.

The Texas Gal says she can easily trace some of her preferences to her older sisters, who are ten and five years older than she. And I can trace some of mine to my sister, who is three years older than I. It wasn’t that she bought a lot of music. I don’t think listening to records was ever as large a part of my sister’s life as it became in mine. I do recall her on occasion in the early to mid-1960s spending a relative pittance for a grab bag of ten or so 45s; you usually got one or two hits and lot of misses in those bags.

(All the 45s in the house of our youth eventually came to me, and I think those grab bags were the sources of my copies of Lesley Gore’s  “It’s My Party,” Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock” and a few other well-known songs. On the other hand, one of those grab bags also provided “You’d Better Keep Runnin’” by Frank Gari. Who? Exactly.)

It was my sister’s albums, however, that became part of my soundtrack. Again, she didn’t have a lot of them, but I heard those she did have as she played them and then when I played them during my senior year of high school and my first year of college. That next summer, she got married and took her records away with her. I’ve found most of them over the years since, on vinyl mostly, and now a few on CD: Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, Judy Collins’ Wildflowers, Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat, a unique record titled Traditional Jewish Memories and more. The one record I’ve missed from her collection and have not been able to find is John Denver’s Whose Garden Was This, but only this week, an on-line friend provided me with the album in mp3 format, so I at least have the music.*

But the two records of my sister’s that I likely played most often were two by Glenn Yarbrough, given to her by a boyfriend. They were The Lonely Things, which is a collection of Rod McKuen songs, and For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, a 1967 album on which Yarbrough covers current folk and folk-rock tunes. I have a CD of the latter album, and I love it still. But it does remind me of the first time that I recall my life colliding with adult realities.

My sister spent a portion of the summer of 1968 studying in France. About midway through her absence, that boyfriend stopped by and took me out for a Coke. As we sat, he told me that when my sister came home, he would not be in town. He and a buddy had joined the Army, and he asked me to inform my sister of that when she came home from France. I was not quite fifteen, and here was this young man – whom I liked very much – entrusting me with such an important task, such an unhappy message. I don’t recall when I told my sister, or how I told her, but I imagine I did it quite artlessly.

(Within a year, the boyfriend came home from Vietnam badly wounded, and his role as my sister’s boyfriend ended sometime after that. His buddy died in Vietnam, one of fourteen men from St. Cloud to die there. Sometime in this past year, I saw in our local paper that the former boyfriend had passed away. I called my sister and told her; she was glad I did.)

Anyway, today’s Baker’s Dozen is from 1967, and it starts with “Crucifixion,” the closer to one of those Glen Yarbrough records, a song that always makes me think of a message delivered in 1968.

“Crucifixion” by Glenn Yarbrough from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by Cannonball Adderly, Capitol single 5798

“Shake ’Em On Down” by Mississippi Fred McDowell from Mama Says I’m Crazy

“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by the Buckinghams, Columbia single 44182

“People Are Strange” by the Doors from Strange Days

“To Sir With Love” by Lulu, Epic single 10187

“Red Balloon” by Tim Hardin from Tim Hardin 2

“Smokestack Lightning” by John Hammond from I Can Tell

“Rollin’ & Tumblin’” by Canned Heat from Canned Heat

“Sit Down I Think I Love You” by Buffalo Springfield from Buffalo Springfield

“Lonely Man” by Spencer Wiggins, Goldwax single 330

“This Wheel’s On Fire” by Bob Dylan & The Band from The Basement Tapes

“Statesboro Blues” by the Youngbloods from The Youngbloods

A few notes on some of the songs:

“Crucifixion” was written by Phil Ochs, one of the leading talents of the protest-song era in the early 1960s. Supposedly a parable of assassination, it’s a frightening tale that asks, of course: Do we ever really learn anything? I fear I know what the answer is. Ochs’ version, on his Pleasures of the Harbor album, is good, but probably because of familiarity, I prefer Yarbrough’s take.

It struck me as funny that both hit versions of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” popped up on the RealPlayer. At least it shows that it truly is a random selection.

Mississippi Fred McDowell – who actually was from Tennessee, and who knows how that happened? – was one of the rarities of the blues boom of the early 1960s: a performer of traditional music who had not been recorded during the 1920s and 1930s. His stuff was new and vibrant when he was discovered working on his farm in the 1960s. He was also a rarity in that he at times played electric guitar, a fact that severely displeased some blues purists.

John Hammond is actually John Hammond, Jr., the son of the legendary talent scout and executive for Columbia Records. Hammond’s album I Can Tell was recorded at Muscle Shoals with the backing of the famed sessions musicians there. Also lending a hand on the record – though not necessarily on “Smokestack Lightning” – were Duane Allman and Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson of The Band.

Spencer Wiggins was a Memphis native who recorded a series of powerful deep soul singles during the 1960s but never got the hit – and the attention – he deserved. Much of his work is available on CD and is well worth seeking out.

As always, bit rates will vary. Enjoy!

*I was in error here. There was a fairly good copy of Whose Garden Was This sitting in the stacks as I wrote, but I either didn’t check the stacks or it was misfiled. In any event, it was nice to get the digital files without having to go through the minor drudgery of ripping the album myself. [Note added April 20, 2011.]