Sunday, May 31, 2009

Little Willie John

Grungy is the word I use to describe
All the dust and the dirt and treasures that the owner likes to hide...

(with apologies to Terry Kirkman)

Ok it doesn’t exactly rhyme. But then neither does the original (describe / inside). Anyway I’m thinking here of used records stores, where you’d see collectors items worth $50 or $100, then off in the corner and under the bins you’d see boxes of old scratched up barely playable records for 50 cents each. Then you’d be running your fingers over dozens of random 45s looking for that odd ball song you’d been seeking forever.

And dust. Everywhere. Tons and tons of dust, more and more dust. I’d walk out of Pyramid or Comic World with black fingers, smudges on my shirt, my eyes smarting.

Which brings me to Into The Music, the cleanest, best organized, classiest used record store ever. It was in Osborne Village (it's in the Exchange District now, apparently), just across the bridge from downtown, and you’d have to pass the legislative buildings and memorial park if you’re heading that way. The owner’s name was Greg (still is Greg, just that the place now is part of my past) and he was fussy. He had high standards for quality of the vinyl and quality of the product. So there wasn’t a lot of junk in boxes, no hidden treasures and not so much dust. (Ok, there was one time when he had a special bin of special priced stuff, but even then, I picked up Kris Kristofferson (Border Lord) and The Band (Stage Fright) and the conditions wasn’t so bad. Then another time he opened up the basement, where he had tons of garage sale quality junk, and I must have spent hours looking but I came away empty handed.)

I sold a lot of records there, and traded a lot, didn’t buy a lot for cash, some. But that’s where I got this record, a collection by Little Willie John, on some label that specialized in bogus recordings. What they’d do is find some has been, haul him into the recording studio to redo his old hits, and then sell it, stating in tiny print (if at all) that the recordings herein were rerecordings by the original artist. But given that LWJ died in 1968 (in Washington State Prison as it happens) it wasn’t likely that he’d rerecorded these. And so he hadn’t; these are originals.

5 of his 13 top 100 hits are here. The time range is late 50s – early 60s.

Little Willie John:

Fever – Better known by Peggy Lee, this was a hit for LWJ in the summer of 1956. Lee changed the words, LWJ’s version, which presumably was the original, though he didn’t write it, is much more elaborate. Still, I know it’s heresy, but I prefer Lee’s rendition; it has a lot more character; it identifies itself more profoundly. The McCoys put this back on the chart in the fall of 1965, in a Hang On Sloopy soundalike version. Elvis covered it on one of his early 60s albums as well.
Let Them Talk – A song of defiance, love in the face of adversity. They’re trying to break up our romance, sings, LWJ. I wonder why? Maybe she is white, maybe they are too young, maybe she is a he. Who knows. From the winter of 1960, reached number 100.
I’m Stickin’ With You Baby – A song of fidelity and commitment. Reminds a bit of Close To You by Willie Dixon (recorded by Muddy Waters).
Talk To Me, Talk To Me – A song not about communication, just talk to me, sings LWJ. Some times even guys just want to talk. But then “tell me the words I want to hear” brings it back into that masculine realm of utilitarianism. This was a hit in the spring of 1958.
Person To Person – Telephone terminology way back when, used in a romantic context, but what it’s about is separation.
Suffering With The Blues – A bit on the haunting side. This was kind of generic LWJ, but in a good way.
Sleep – How we love to sleep, he sings. Well ok. Is he really singing about sleep? A hit in the fall of 1960.
Letter From My Darling – Just a song about a love letter.
All Around The World – Another song of undying love. Little Milton covered this, but he called it Grits Ain’t Groceries (All Around The World).
Need Your Love So Bad – When the night begins… A song of intense longing. Fleetwood Mac did a knock em dead version of this, in their Peter Green days.
Leave My Kitten Alone – There is a version of The Beatles doing this on Anthology 1. I wonder what his “kitten” thinks of this. From the summer of 1959.
You Hurt Me – You hurt me when you let me go, sings LWJ, stating what I would consider to be the obvious. Come back to me he sings, or you will drive me to my grave. Where are her feelings in all this?
Don’t Play With Love
Big Blue Diamonds – Same idea as Gary Lewis & The Playboys’ This Diamond Ring, how the ring loses its meaning when the romance is over.
Young Girl – Not the Gary Puckett & The Union Gap song, but same idea. LWJ’s heart is captivated.
My Nerves – A strange expression of infatuation.
Spasms – Ok, don’t even go there.
I’m Shakin’ – You start with fever, and before you know it you’re shakin’, and that leads to spasms, and etc…
You Got To Get Up Early In The Morning – A song about cheating and gullibility.
I Hate To Leave You – Guy finds a letter from his girl…
It Only Hurts A Little While – A guy treats his impending heartbreak philosophically
I Like To See My Baby – A song about physical attractiveness.
Love, Life, And Money – More philosophy, if it’s gotta rain, why does it have to fall on me. Brings to mind Bobby Bland, somewhat.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hugo Winterhalter

Not a huge hitmaker in our era, 3 top 100 singles in all, two of which are on this collection called The Best Of Hugo Winterhalter. I remember that there was a box of obscure 45s at Country Music Centre, probably about 10 cents each, and there were dozens of Hugo Winterhalter singles. Did I buy any? No. I did not.

Hugo Winterhalter:

Beyond The Blue Horizon – This song has this weird chug-a-chug rhythm, while the chorus sings of hope and dreams.
Count Every Star – A song of separation and longing.
Blue Violins
The Little Musicians – Supposed to sound like children I suppose. A hit in the spring of 1956.
Vanessa – Vanessa was the secretary at the law firm I worked at. She was very young, about 18, and from a town up north. She had quite the hair style, and was not bad looking at all. G-Dork, one of my colleagues, took her out one night, and got a bit too fresh. So as it happened to be April 1, the guys got a downtown colleague to draft a statement of claim on her behalf, alleging all kinds of inappropriate assaults, and “sexual touching” etc. And G-Dork, well he panicked. And the guys were laughing their heads off. I don’t know whether Vanessa knew any of this.
Canadian Sunset – A biggie, from the fall of 1956. Canadian is good. Credited to Hugo Winterhalter and Eddie Heywood, who plays piano. A hit also for Andy Williams, with singing.
Song Of The Barefoot Contessa – Indeed. A bolero of sorts.
Land Of Dreams
The Little Shoemaker – What a pair of shoes can do…
The Terry Theme – A song about a towel?
Blue Tango – Also by Les Baxter.

August, 1956

Here are some songs that were on the music charts in August, 1956. I have the blue ones.

  • I Could Have Danced All Night - Rosemary Clooney
  • Soft Summer Breeze - Eddie Heywood
  • I Only Know I Love You - The Four Aces
  • Stranded In The Jungle - The Gadabouts Featuring Wild Bill Putnam
  • Theme From "The Proud Ones" - Nelson Riddle
  • Canadian Sunset - Eddie Heywood, Hugo Winterhalter
  • Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
  • Ape Call - Nervous Norvus
  • Heaven On Earth - The Platters
  • Ghost Town - Don Cherry
  • Give Us This Day - Joni James
  • Weary Blues - The McGuire Sisters
  • Flying Saucers - Buchanan & Goodman
  • Don't Be Cruel - Elvis Presley
  • You Don't Know Me - Jerry Vale
  • From The Candy Store On The Corner To The Chapel On The Hill - Tony Bennett
  • Rockin' Thru The Rye - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • Fool - Clark Sanford
  • Song For A Summer Night - Mitch Miller
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me - Perry Como
  • Happiness Street - Georgia Gibbs

Monday, May 25, 2009

Freddy Martin

This totally does not belong here. I can not remember where I got it; it may even have been Value Village. Freddy Martin’s Greatest Hits, music from before our time period, but here it is, filling a hole between Tex Ritter and Hugo Winterhalter. That’s the thing, holes. So I’d have to find things to fill them. And voila! Freddy Martin. And there you go…

Freddy Martin:

Tonight We Love – This is the intro to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto in B flat, stretched out and popified. This was from 1941.
April In Portugal – Not to be confused with April In Paris
Symphony – Does not sound like any symphony I recognize.
Miss You – Not The Rolling Stones song.
Warsaw Concerto – some kind of weird faux classical piece from 1941, written by Richard Addinsell, for some obscure film. Meant to sound like Rachmaninoff
Bumble Boogie – The famous arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight Of The Bumble Bee. A hit much later for B Bumble & The Stingers.
Intermezzo – Undoubtedly based on some classical piece or other, but it’s not familiar to me.
Blue Champagne
Laura – Laura was a real estate agent; her husband was my dentist for about a month. She didn’t even show us any houses though; she pawned us off on some flunky.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tex Ritter

Most country music is not cowboy music, and, if you ask Ian Tyson, he will tell you that cowboy music is not country music. Tex Ritter, though, was a country singer who did cowboy music. Make no mistake. And he is as corny as they come.

He did dozens of movies and TV besides making records. His son was John Ritter, who was the guy in the TV show Three’s Company.

This is a collection called High Noon & Other Hits; it’s a prerecorded cassette and it was only ever released in that format, at a budget price besides. I don’t remember where I got it; maybe it was Sears, maybe it wasn’t Sears. Maybe it was Country Music Centre. Who knows. There are nine tracks, including two of the three of the top 100 chart singles he had after 1955. Missing is The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion) from 1974, a song (narration really) written, if I’m not mistaken, by the late Canadian TV journalist Gordon Sinclair.

Tex Ritter:

High Noon – The ultimate ballad of personal conflict. The lyrics at face value are over the top, and obviously so, but just under the surface anyone who has had any conflict with, say, a mean boss, can relate. There is a lot at stake here; not only is he fighting for his life, but he is doing so on his wedding day, thus providing the subtheme of emotional support in the most trying of circumstances. The song is from the movie High Noon, released in 1952, and it was a hit for Ritter, who sang it at the first ever televised Oscars, and I have versions by Frankie Laine, and by Walter Brennan.
Jingle, Jangle, Jingle – From about 1942, a ballad of the happy bachelor cowboy life. I don’t think that this is the original recording; it is too stereo for the 40s.
The Wayward Wind – A song of restlessness, and hit for Gogi Grant. Ritter’s version found itself on the charts in the fall of 1956.
Just Beyond The Moon – A song of love and loss and coping. This was from 1967. It was number 13 on the country chart.
There’s A New Moon Over My Shoulder – The original version of this is from 1944, but this version is a rerecording, very obviously, with female chorus and all. It’s a song of longing and disappointment.
I Dreamed Of A Hill-Billy Heaven – One of those country music tributes that seem to turn up regularly (think To Be A Country Star by The Statler Brothers). This was specifically about departed country stars, but at the end he sees himself. In fact, Ritter died in 1974. This record reached number 20 on Billboard in the summer of 1961.
Growin’ Up – A song about, well, growing up. One of those spoken / narrated song. From 1969.
Rye Whiskey – Originally recorded in 1935, and originally rerecorded in 1948. A semi-humorous ode to alcohol addiction.
Daddy’s Last Letter – Subtitled “Private First Class John H. McCormick.” Hokey but sad all the same. A soldier writes home. The record features Tex’s narration accompanied solely by an church-like organ. This is from 1950, when the Korean War was all the rage. Words to keep: “…so I have to help fight these men and keep them from coming where you and Mommy live.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mose Allison

I knew Mose Allison the same way I knew Willie Dixon; his name was on umpteen songs. Well it seemed to be. Really it was just a few. But I never heard a note he sang or played until I picked up Allison Wonderland at the HMV store in Garden City Shopping Centre. And all the Mose Allison I’ve ever heard is on that. I have the CD, actually own it. The songs here are the ones that fit on cassette, so there is one or two missing.

He plays piano, and the majority of these tracks he is accompanied by bass and drum and that's it. Later he got a horn section going on. And Mose Allison? Well, he’s a phenomenon, He has style, he has attitude, he has personality – sardonic, cynical, slightly misanthropic. How can you not love him…

Mose Allison

Lost Mind – Percy Mayfield wrote this; he wrote Hit The Road Jack, but it suits Allison’s style exactly – a wry commentary on his own broken heart. “Words would fail me if I tried to describe her, though I know that she’s not all that she should have been.” Rare pop music acknowledgment of the imperfection of one’s love interest.
Back Country Suite: Blues (aka Young Man Blues) – A bit of whining about how hard it is to be young. The Who covered this on Live At Leeds.
Parchman Farm – Probably the most covered Allison song, with versions by Cactus, Blue Cheer etc. It’s about a guy who shoots his wife and does time.
If You Live – All the tracks so far were recorded in 1957.
The Seventh Son – A Willie Dixon song that came up now and then. A hit for Johnny Rivers in 1965. From 1959.
Eyesight To The Blind – Written by one of the Sonny Boy Williamsons. The Who used this on Tommy. From 1961
Baby, Please Don’t Go – By Joe Williams. Them had a hit with this in 1965 (the A side of Gloria) and The Amboy Dukes did a kind of garage band freak-out with it. It is also on a Dylan bootleg.
Fool’s Paradise – About a guy who thinks he’s having a good time, ha ha.
V-8 Ford Blues – Driving as a metaphor for life itself.
Ask Me Nice – Let me be who I am, basically.
Hey Good Lookin’ – Mose Allison does Hank Williams. Doesn’t sound much like Hank Williams when he gets through with it.
Back On The Corner – Everything comes full circle. We are into 1962 by now.
Your Mind Is On Vacation – “And your mouth is working overtime.” Nuff said.
• Meet Me At No Special Place – One of the most unique songs about relationship discord you are likely to hear. He did not write this, though it is so completely in his style.
• I Don’t Worry About A Thing – Not because everything will be fine, but because nothing will be fine. Interesting
I Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues – A Duke Ellington song.
Swingin’ Machine – Automated groovin’…
I’m Not Talking – “I’m not talkin’, it just don’t pay” sings Allison. Just causes confusion…
I’m The Wild Man – A song about the wayward life…
Stop This World – Theme for a misanthrope.
Your Red Wagon – It’s your bed, kind of thing.
Foolkiller – We’re up to 1964. Johnny Rivers did a cover of this.
Wildman On The Loose – As always he is half serious and half sarcastic. About the guy who goes nuts on Saturday night and he’s back to work on Monday morning. Some wild man, eh?
You Can Count On Me To Do My Part
Smashed – A live track recorded in 1965 and released in 1966. Mose waxes poetic about the vagaries of inebriation.
I Love The Life I Live – Another live track, this one written by Willie Dixon, recorded by Muddy Waters.
That’s Alright – The third live track. You wouldn’t think that Mose Allison would write a song called “That’s Alright” and you’d be right; this is by Jimmie Rogers.
If You’re Going To The City – Get back honky cat, sang Elton John – similar idea. This is from 1968, and his style had changed remarkably little in 11 years.
Everybody Cryin’ Mercy – How bad can things get. A song about disingenuousness
Feel So Good
Your Molecular Structure – Undoubtedly the best ode to a good looker ever…
Monsters of The Id – The sound here is fleshed out, horns added to the basic lineup of bass, drums, and Allison’s piano.
Hello There, Universe – A man looks at his place in the cosmos.
I Don’t Want Much – Self-effacement, one of the themes underlying so much of his music.
You Call It Jogging – How can one thing mean such different things to different people…
How Much Truth – More philosophical insight. We are into the 70s now.
I’m Just A Lucky So And So – Another Duke Ellington song. Chuck Berry covered this, and so did Ella Fitzgerald.
The Tennessee Waltz – Now we are into the 80s. Odd that he would do this song. A huge hit for Patti Page in the early 50s.
Ever Since The World Ended – Another bit of philosophy, putting everything in a certain perspective.
Top Forty – For someone who never had a top forty hit, Mose has much to say about it…
Josephine – Not the same song that Les Paul & Mary Ford did. A typical song of adulation, rare for Allison.
Gettin’ There – Autobiography. The irony, if it is irony, is that the title related to his being downhearted.
Big Brother – Not all that different from Rare Earth’s Hey Big Brother.
The Getting’ Paid Waltz – A song about getting paid – or, actually, not getting paid.
Fool’s Paradise – Live version.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Peggy Lee

The first time I saw Peggy Lee was on Ed Sullivan, and, youTube aside, it was probably the last time. I hadn’t heard of her then, but the audience obviously had, judging by the reception.

This is a straightforward collection consisting of a series of 3 CDs, one after the other. Her Capital recordings (1945 – 1951) are on The Capital Collectors Series. The Decca recordings, (1952 – 1956) are on The Best Of The Decca Years, which has half of her Decca hits (1 out of 2). And the second set of Capital recordings are on Fever & Other Hits, which has 6 out of her 9 hits from that period.

Peggy Lee:

Waitin’ For The Train To Come In – Put your life on hold, waiting for your loved one. Doesn’t sound like a plan to me. But it’s a great record. From 1945.
I’m Glad I Waited For You – There you go. Worked out, didn’t it… From 1946.
I Don’t Know Enough About You – Echoes Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World a bit. An interesting idea, how much do we ever know about our partners anyway. From the spring of 1946.
Linger In My Arms A Little Longer, Baby – A goodnight kiss song. I think I would expect to hear this in a male voice; hearing it sung by a woman changes the perspective. This is from 1946.
It’s All Over Now – Also from 1946. Not The Stones song, and not the Dylan song (with Baby Blue). A song, predictably, about the end of the affair. She does not sound too sad though…
It’s A Good Day – A happy song. From 1947.
Everything Is Moving Too Fast – The Beat Goes On, sort of. From 1947.
Chi-BaBa, Chi-Baba (My Bambino, Go To Sleep) – Still in 1947. A lullaby of some kind.
Sugar (That Sugar Baby Of Mine) – The oft-used sugar analogy. The Pointer Sisters did a song called Sugar, and The Chordettes did Lollipop. There must be millions of songs like that.
Golden Earrings – Some kind of Gypsy superstition about wearing earrings and finding love. It was a straight line from this to The Impressions’ Gypsy Woman. From 1947. I don’t know if the Dutch group named themselves for this song.
I’ll Dance At Your Wedding – From 1947. It’s never made clear whose wedding she will dance at, but it’s fine.
Mañana (Is Soon Enough For Me) – It’s got that Latin thing going on, a bit of a novelty song. From 1948.
All Dressed Up With A Broken Heart – Trying to get over a romance is never easy is it… From 1948.
Talkin’ To Myself About You – From 1948.
Why Don’t You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too)
‘Deed I Do
Don’t Smoke In Bed – Sultry. I like the way Julie London does this, too. From 1948.
Caramba! It’s The Samba! – From 1948.
There There Eyes – Q. Do you really fall in love with eyes? A. Yes
Baby, Don’t Be Mad At Me – That’s cute. Sometimes it just comes down to that, don’t be mad. From 1948.
Bali Ha’i – From 1949. A song about the islands.
Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair – This is from… um… South Pacific!
Ghost Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend) – She is a strange one to be doing this. A hit also for Vaughn Monroe, and the Sons Of The Pioneers. Later it was a hit for The Outlaws in an instrumental version, and Johnny Cash put in it on the charts much later. For what it’s worth, this version reached # 2. From 1949.
The Old Master Painter – Think of Picasso’s Last Words by Paul McCartney & Wings. Ok, don’t think of it. From 1950.
Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World (‘Cause That’s Where Everything Is) – This isn’t a song about suicide; it’s just a comment on the expression “out of this world.” I think it’s supposed to funny, but the title kind of doesn’t let that happen. From 1950.
Lover – This is where the Decca years start. This is from 1952. From the movie Love Me Tonight
This Is A Very Special Day – She wrote this herself. From The Jazz Singer. An It's A Good Day redux.
Just One Of Those Things – From 1952 A Cole Porter song from Jubilee.
Be Anything (But Me Mine) – From 1952. Connie Francis put this back on the charts in 1964.
Black Coffee – Another great smoky bar room song. The Pointer Sisters did a great version of this on one of their Blue Thumb albums.
He’s A Tramp – From Lady And The Tramp.
It Must Be So – A duet with The Mills Brothers, another Peggy Lee original.
Where Can I Go Without You? – How heartbreak takes the meaning out of things. From 1954.
Somebody Loves Me – Pining for a guy…
Sans Souci
The Possibility’s There – A cutesy-poo song with Bing Crosby. They sing about sharing breakfast. I think listeners were supposed to get they were planning to get married, but they don’t say that.
I Hear Music Now – Newfound romance. Phil Spector rewrote this, sort of, called it I Can Hear Music, gave it to The Ronettes. And The Supremes did I Hear A Symphony. Another song from The Jazz Singer.
Johnny Guitar – The complications of dating a musician. Think of Superstar by Rita Cooldege / The Carpenters. This is from some move called Johnny Guitar.
The Siamese Cat Song – From Lady And The Tramp. Dumb.
He Needs Me
Mr. Wonderful – A song of unrepentant adulation. A hit in the spring of 1956.
Fever – Her piece de la resistance. If there’s been a better song about sexual passion I’ve never heard it. The original was by Little Willie John, and Elvis did a smokin’ version, but Miss Lee’s is best by far. The drums-bass-finger pops arrangement is brilliant. From the summer of 1958.
My Man – Similar musical idea to Fever, a little more fleshed out instrumentally. Lyrically it’s the opposite of Mr. Wonderful – he’s bad, he beats her etc. but she loves him. Sheesh. From the winter of 1959.
Alright, Okay, You Win – A declaration of romantic submission. From the winter of 1959, the other side of My Man.
Hallelujah, I Love Him So – A slight change of gender, but this is the Ray Charles song. Great version, plus there is a good one by Eddie Cochrane. From the spring of 1959.
(You Gotta Have) Heart – “Corazon” the guys sing in the background. Didn’t Carole King so something like that?
A Doodlin’ Song
I’m A Woman – Credited to Leiber & Stoller, but it’s really a variation of Bo Diddley’s I’m A Man. Not The Helen Reddy song. Same idea except with an acknowledgement of the erotic. From the winter of 1963.
Big Spender – She is singing, maybe, about Sean Connery playing James Bond. I don’t pop my cork, she says, for every guy I see. Indeed. From 1966.
The Alley Cat Song – As Alley Cat it was a hit for Bent Fabric. Here are the words.
Is That All There Is – An out of character Leiber & Stoller song. But by 1969 they were in the wilderness. This is a great record, a freak hit in the fall of 1969, and I remember it well, the only Peggy Lee song I remember hearing on the radio. I sing it to my kids when they complain that there aren’t enough food choices in the house…

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Teddy Wilson

Jazz pianist and band leader, recorded with Billie Holiday.

Teddy Wilson:

As Time Goes By – From Casabanca. Too many versions of this around, but the best are by Harry Nilsson and Peter Allen.

Vic Damone

Another crooner. The world was full of crooners; they were mainstream. In the 60s crooners became “your parents’ music.” Then they became fossils, as the rock and roll generation became adults. I don’t know what their status is now; there are some around, I think they are some kind of esoteric taste in today’s world.

I got this album at one of those fundraising sales, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, or Winnipeg Folk Festival perhaps. I don’t remember the exact name. Damone had 5 Columbia hits on the top 100, and 3 are on here. He also had one on Mercury, and one of Warner Brothers, by the way.

Vic Damone:

On The Street Where You Live – Describes a romantic obsession as if it were the normal course of a relationship. Damone’s biggest hit, from the summer of 1956.
Maria – From West Side Story.
If I Ever Would Leave You – A backhanded song of romantic commitment
We Kiss In A Shadow – A song of illicit romance. Cf Walk On By by Leroy Van Dyke, Dark End Of The Street by James Carr, Me And Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul, Kiss And Say Goodbye by The Manhattans, 90 Miles An Hour On Dead End Street by Hank Snow, all of which are better than this one.
Almost Like Being In Love – The must be a word to describe the phenomenon of describing something by calling not exactly the thing; well that’s what this song is. Damone steps a bit into Tony Bennett territory with this one, but Bennett does it better.
Gigi – This is a movie, or a play or something. A song about a girl that’s grown up; she used to be small, now she’s not. From the spring of 1958.
The Second Time Around – About, what? A second marriage, the reunion of old lovers? Love is more comfortable, he sings, but is that what we’re after?
The Pleasure Of Her Company – A song about a great date.
An Affair To Remember – I don’t think it’s about an affair affair. But maybe it is. See We Kiss In A Shadow. From the fall of 1957.
Separate Tables – These aren’t people who have separated, this is about people who have not yet met.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


When you dig around into the history of pop / rock and roll / R & B, and you get off the beaten path a bit, the curiosities you find are fascinating.

Esquerita was a Little Richard wannabe from South Carolina, with a presentation and style similar to Richard but with a voice range about 2 octaves lower. This track comes from an LP I picked up at the Centennial Library.


Rockin’ The Joint – Just another party record, one that fell through the cracks..:

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

One of the more colourful figures in Rock / R & B history, the template for Arthur Brown, Tom Waits, Alice Cooper (sort of). The collection is called Cow Fingers And Alligator Pie, and it came from the West Kildonan Library. I don’t think this is the whole thing…

Screamin' Jay Hawkins:

I Put A Spell On You – The song was never a hit for Hawkins, but it put a spell on the music world, with covers by Nina Simone, The Animals, Alan Price, Arthur Brown, Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s been honoured by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and listed as one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone. Not bad for a song that never made the top 100.
Little Demon – Keeping with the theme I guess. Kind of like Chuck Berry with a problem.
You Made Me Love You – The standard from the 30s. I guess she put a spell on him. You have to hear this to believe it. Harry Nilsson did this, but it’s barely the same song…
Yellow Coat
Alligator Wine – Makes the jungle sounds in Stranded In The Jungle sound like Starbucks.
Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle - From the unlikeliest of cowboys.
Frenzy – Pretty much sums it up.
There’s Something Wrong With You – About as straightforward as it gets.

Billy Lee Riley

From Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee comes Billy Lee Riley, who didn’t have a hit (such as it was) until 1972, by which time Sun Records had been acquired by the Shelby Singleton Corporation and was on its way to being history. The song was I Got A Thing About You Baby on the Entrance label, a song that Elvis also did, and I don’t have it. The ones I do have are from the 50s, and I got them from a Sun compilation that I found at the Centennial Library.

Billy Lee Riley:

Flying Saucers Rock And Roll – UFOs and space travel are among the more esoteric sub themes of rock and roll, but it comes up now and then: Flying Saucer by Buchanan & Goodman, Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley, Mr. Spaceman by The Byrds, 13 Questions by Seatrain. This may be the first, extra-terrestrials, and all they want to do is party.
Pearly Lee – Ricky Nelson did this as Shirley Lee. More rockabilly and one of those I-got-a-girl-songs.

July, 1956

Here are some songs that were on the music charts in July, 1956. I have the blue ones.

  • Allegheny Moon - Patti Page
  • Sweet Old Fashioned Girl - Teresa Brewer
  • Free - Tommy Leonetti
  • Wayward Wind - Tex Ritter
  • Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera Sera) - Doris Day
  • Be Bop A Lula - Gene Vincent
  • I'm In Love Again - The Fontane Sisters
  • Fever - Little Willie John
  • Rip It Up - Little Richard
  • In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town - Something Smith & The Redheads
  • Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley
  • Rockin' Thru The Rye - Bill Haley & His Comets
  • My Prayer - The Platters
  • Stranded In The Jungle - The Cadets
  • Love, Love, Love - The Clovers
  • When My Dreamboat Comes Home - Fats Domino
  • Stranded In The Jungle - The Jayhawks
  • Love, Love, Love - The Diamonds
  • Never Turn Back - Al Hibbler
  • Fabulous Character - Sarah Vaughan
  • That's All There Is To That - Nat King Cole

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Clovers

So how do you put together a “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits.” Well it’s not so difficult. Say you are record company person doing this. Ok. First you take Whitburn, his Top 100 reference, or, if space is limited and the artist is particularly prolific, his Top 40 reference. Working with your chosen reference volume, you take each and every song on the list and add it to the collection. Then you pick one song at random (there may be a method to it actually, but I’ve never been able to discern one) and remove it. Replace it with an arbitrary entry, a B side for example, an lp track, or a failed single. Then release it like that, so that every collector who buys it has to search high and low for the missing track.

Am I being facetious? Not really. Sometimes it’s more than one track missing, but the idea is the same. With box sets they take the artist’s biggest hit (or hits) and replace it with a live rendtion (After Midnight on Crossroads by Eric Clapton), or an alternate recording (Suite: Judy Blue Eyes on CSN by Crosby, Stills & Nash). With single discs (or what used to be LPs) they arbitrarily leave off, typically, one song. The Best Of Percy Sledge was missing Love Me Tender, The Early Years by The Small Faces (it had their Decca recordings) was missing My Mind’s Eye (which, interestingly was their only UK number 1 on that label). And on and on.

The Clovers had two top 100 singles. That’s it. The first was Love, Love, Love on Atlantic. The second was Love Potion No. 9, on UA. So here is Rhino, collaborating with WEA and UA, and Rhino usually gets these things right, and they put together The Very Best Of The Clovers, and out of two top 100 singles, one is there, one is not.

I imagine they do this because of some determination that chart placement does not reflect artistic quality, and of course there is merit to that, but record collectors tend to be somewhat neurotic, inhabiting a world in which “having every single they put on the charts” is more important than having “the best singles they ever made.” Normally, there would be some overlap, and I understand the snobs that put this together thinking the Love, Love, Love was so poppy as to be out of character for the Clovers, inferior to their showstoppers like Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash or Blue Velvet, but hey, give us obsessives a break. We should all be speaking the same language here…

My original collection had four tracks, Love, Lov,e Love, Blue Velvet, and Devil Or Angel all picked up off of Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947 – 1974, and Love Potion No. 9 from the American Graffiti soundtrack. But recently I picked this collection up at La Grande Bibliotheque. And I got Love, Love, Love from a separate CD, Dance Party / The Clovers.

The Clovers

Don’t You Know I Love You – The lyrics are as simple as can be. You don’t know what you are throwing away, they sing. Someday you’ll get it. But… she’ll never get it. The real message is in that shuffle rhythm, in those “oh’s” in the background, the sax and piano break…
Fool, Fool, Fool – How to beat yourself up, in two and a half minutes of R & B.
One Mint Julep – One lousy cocktail, and he ended up with a wife and a houseful of kids (six extra, just for “getting’ frisky”) – a bit over the top, but I guess that’s the point. I think the piano suits the mint flavour of the drink. Ray Charles covered this.
Ting-A-Ling – The title represents the sound of his heart. I’d get it checked out. I’m young and I’m free, they sing, in what may be the ultimate statement of rock and roll attitude.
I Played The Fool – Another song of heartbreak and regret, with a pinch of philosophy thrown in.
Hey, Miss Fannie – Another walking down the street song. Pick up the beat on this one. You’ll become my heart’s disease, the singers sings, in what may be the sweetest declaration of love this side of Transylvania.
Good Lovin’ – Jivin R & B, not the Olymics / Young Rascals song.
Lovey Dovey – The song took on a life of its own. Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Knox, and Otis Redding & Carla Thomas all put this on pop charts, which is more than The Clovers did. All about peaches and trees.
Little Mama – Not exactly an ode to maternal matters…
Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash – Well if nothing else it’s a great title. But it’s more, a song about selling out, or more precisely, a song about not selling out…
Blue Velvet – Originally a hit by Tony Bennett, who did a nice rendition, and later by Bobby Vinton, who did a wimpy version. But this is the best. A Beautiful song of those tangible memories that are so hard to describe.
Devil Or Angel – There is real bond here, it’s easy to be in love with an angel, but to love a devil… Bobby Vee covered this, and I disagree with Dave Marsh, who says that he “corrupted” it, but this is definitely better.
Love, Love, Love – Their only Atlantic single to make the pop chart. From the summer of 1956, and also a hit for The Diamonds.
Down In The Alley – Elvis covered this on one of his mid 60s soundtracks. Cool
Pennies From Heaven – A standard. I have this by Al Hibbler, but I like this version much better. They make it sound like genuine R & B.
Love Potion Number 9 – So they switched from Atlantic to United Artists and had the biggest hit of their career, and the song for which they are best remembered. A hit from the fall of 1959. The Searchers put it back in the top 10 in 1964. I have a version somewhere by Gary Lewis And The Playboys. The version, by the way, on the American Graffiti soundtrack was slightly different, with a reference to love potion number 10 somewhere toward the end, and I understand that that was not the original recording.
Lovey – A song about a sweater. Well almost. There ought to be a law, go the lyrics, against you walking down the street. Now that gives a whole new angle to the concept…

Monday, May 4, 2009

Joe "Fingers" Carr

This was Lou Busch. I don’t know if that helps anyone. Another one that I can’t remember where I picked up.

Joe "Fingers" Carr:

The Portguese Washerwoman – A jaunty instrumental from the summer of 1956. His only hit.

The Cadets

I’m fairly sure that I got this single at Argy’s. That’s all I can tell you.

The Cadets:

Stranded In The Jungle – Kind of playing up to the jungle stereotype, and kind of not. The record flits between “meanwhile back in the jungle” and “meanwhile back in the states.” I guess it’s a tale of displacement. From the summer of 1956. Their only hit. And what kind of world must it have been when you could hear songs like this on the radio.

The Willows

Yet another doo-wop harmony type group. I wish I could remember where I picked this up…

The Willows:

Church Bells Will Ring – A bigger hit for The Diamonds, The Willows put this on the chart in the summer of 1956. I’m not entirely clear why the bells are ringing – could be a wedding in the offing, could be just catchy jubilance. Their only hit.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Four Freshmen

There is a moment on The Beach Boys’ Concert album where Mike Love announces Graduation Day, and he says that it was a hit for The Four Freshmen, who are an important group to them (said Beach Boys) “because they influenced Brian Wilson.” And that rather academic rendering is probably the only inkling that many people had of the existence of The Four Freshmen – which is just as well I suppose, because in spite of their alleged popularity, and their proven longevity (they are still around) they don’t offer much. Some barber shop harmony. Enjoy.

The Four Freshmen

Day By Day – A song of love and devotion. Not much depth to this, but then this is The Four Freshmen, not Billie Holiday. From the fall of 1955.
It’s A Blue World – Sung by a fish? No, because the ocean is only blue from the outside! A bird? No, because the sky is only blue from the ground! It’s a sad world. Okay.
This Could Be The Start Of Something Big – A standard. Don’t ask me who made it famous though, I could not tell you.
Girl Talk – This would not fly in today’s world. Also done by Chris Montez.
Route 66 – A hit for Nat King Cole, and covered by The Rolling Stones and by Them. The Freshmen do a kind of syncopated thing on this which is different.
Graduation Day – The big hit, as hokey as you would expect. A hit in 1956, in the late spring – perfect timing. Covered, as I said, by The Beach Boys.
It Could Happen To You – This is meant to be wistful, but really it’s just wimpy…
Poincieta – I think that’s a flower…
Locations of visitors to this page