Monday, December 26, 2011

ORVILLE COUCH - WILD GIRL


As 2011 draws to a close, like many other people I like to sit back and reflect. Unlike many other people, I'm sitting back reflecting on the 1990s, not 2011.

Ah, yes, the 90s. A time when grunge music ruled the airwaves. Eh.

I was in my 20s, working for my father at his service station, pumping gas, changing oil, tuning cars up. It was dirty work, but it was OK - I always had money in my pocket (which I usually drank away at night at some bar), had a good boss (though, at the time, I thought my dad was the WORST guy to work for. Little did I know how great he was) and got to listen to a LOT of radio during the day. Almost always non-commercial radio, natch.

During the week, work was....well, work. People constantly coming in with complaints about their cars, other folks having their cars towed in, me constantly running out from the bays to the island to pump gas or to give directions, etc. The winters were tough - there is nothing colder than the repair bays in a gas station in the middle of January. I'm sure the concrete I spent most of my day standing and kneeling on will someday give me crippling arthritis. I can't even begin to tell you how many scars I have on my hands and arms from being cut so many times while working on someone's old junker.

Saturday, however, was a different story. We never scheduled anything but oil changes and tire rotations on that day, mainly because my father wanted to go home early that day, and my main Saturday job was cleaning the floors in the repair bays - after I was done with everyone's oil changes, of course. But I didn't mind, because Saturday was always a party at the gas station. The regular customers would always come by to shoot the breeze with my dad and I (and, of course, they always brought coffee and doughnuts), the people who wanted gas were never rude (because it was the weekend, so there was no big hurry about anything), and there was great music coming out of the non-commercial radio stations in the NY/NJ area.

I remember the schedule like it was yesterday: I would arrive at the gas station not-so-promptly around 8AM (after being out until 6AM Friday night - those were the days), unlock the door, stumble to the radio, and turn it on to Felix Hernandez on 88.3 FM. About 10 minutes later Schnauzer Eddie would walk in. Eddie was an old friend of my dad's - I called him Schnauzer Eddie because he raised miniature Schnauzers, plus he looked like one. Anyway, Eddie would walk in the door, take one look at me, laugh, and give me a cup of coffee from the deli down the street. That coffee would wake me up enough so that I could make coffee (sort of the ultimate catch-22). By 10AM, I was fully conscious, Felix was in full swing with obscure soul 45s, and life was good. Felix would go off at 1PM, and the dial would be turned to 89.9, WKCR, who would have a blues/soul program called "Mystery Train". Only problem there was that WKCR's schedule was bizarre, to say the least, and "Mystery Train" would get pre-empted a lot. Those weeks I would switch the station to CBS-FM for two hours and listen to the always brilliant Dan Ingram.

But then, at 3PM, I would jerk the dial to the left until it stopped at 91.1, WFMU. That's when I'd listen to The Hound, James Marshall (this was back in the days BEFORE the station became one large commercial for Norton Records). You'd hear that dog growl and then the segue into Esquerita's "Esquerita And The Voola", and you knew you were in for 3 hours of great music! You can still hear The Hound's old shows at his website, http://www.thehound.net/.

One of the best parts of Hound's show was the end. I'm not being snarky here. After The Hound went off, another DJ known as Wildgirl would take the air chair. She would ALWAYS start her show with the same two records - "Highway To Hell" by AC/DC, and, before that played, a great rockabilly song called "Wild Girl" by Orville Couch.

Well, one listen to "Wild Girl" and I just HAD to have the record! Problem was, that was easier said than done. Orville Couch (1935-2002) was sort of a country one-hit wonder. A country/rockabilly singer from Texas, he got his first big break on the "Big D Jamboree" on KRLD radio in Dallas. The show was notable for mixing up country and rockabilly artists, and Orville became personally acquainted with the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. He soon signed on with the Starday label, cutting records like "Five Cent Candy". He also recorded for Dixie and Mercury. Then in 1962 Orville signed on with Vee Jay Records out of Chicago - strange, since Vee Jay (at least up to that point) was primarily an R&B/doo-wop label. By early 1963, Orville had a top five C&W hit with "Hello Trouble", and also released what was possibly the ONLY country LP in Vee Jay's history, also called "Hello Trouble" (complete with a front cover featuring a sexy peroxided blonde - and Orville nowhere to be found). Unfortunately for Orville, Vee Jay's other recent signing - Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons - became a chart phenomenon, and almost immediately afterward Vee Jay began to ignore its foothold in the C&W market. Orville's other 45s for Vee Jay went nowhere, but he was under contract, and dutifully recorded for them until 1965. After leaving Vee Jay he would make records for Monument, Stonegate, and other labels, but the momentum was all gone.

But in July, 1964, the above record suddenly appeared out of the ether. Which is probably why it took so long for me to find a copy - the sound on this just SCREAMS "50s rockabilly", and I assumed that it was an obscure side on Dixie or Starday that I didn't know about. I do not know the story behind "Wild Girl", but my theory is this - Orville was still popular in Texas, and some enterprising local (or Orville's producer Jim Shell) decided to make a few dollars by putting out an unissued performance of Orville's. They pressed up a few hundred copies, and obscured Orville's name on the right side of the label just in case Vee Jay caught on. At least that's what I think, anyway.

I just think it's the weirdest thing that this record was released in the midst of Beatlemania! But that's what makes collecting records (and blogging about them) so much fun!

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous 2012. See you next year!

Orville Couch - Wild Girl (Action 108) - 1964

Thursday, December 22, 2011

DON LUCAS - BURRITO


Let me start this post by saying I DO NOT LIKE the term "Happy Holidays". I can understand using that phrase in a retail store situation - the person working the counter doesn't know you from Adam, and doesn't know HOW you celebrate, and doesn't HAVE to know. But for people to say "Happy Holidays" to people they are supposedly FRIENDS with, that tells me two things: 1) they've drunk the "political correctness" Kool-Aid, and 2) they REALLY haven't taken the time to get to know the other person well enough to find out WHAT to say to them - "Merry Christmas", or "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Kwanzaa" or whatever (I know a guy who's an atheist, so to him I just say, "have a nice day")!

HUMBUG to that kinda tripe!

Another thing that annoys me about the Christmas season is the radio play for certain records. Here in the NY/NJ area there's a radio station - WLTW, also known as "Lite FM" - that starts playing Christmas music (though they call it "holiday favorites" - I NEVER hear Hanukkah or Kwanzaa music on that wretched station) on FREAKIN' THANKSGIVING NIGHT and goes ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO CHRISTMAS!! I wouldn't even mind THAT so much if they played good Christmas records, but they play the same old ones you hear every year - "Jingle Bell Rock", "White Christmas", "Blue Christmas", "All I Want For Christmas Is You", and the new hip holiday favorite, George Michael's "Last Christmas". Even THEN, I could live with that (or treat it as background noise), but this station INSISTS on playing remade versions of these songs by the WORST "recording artists" on the scene today - Taylor Swift, Celine Dion, Lady Antebellum, and (cough, spew, HAACK) Michael Buble' (emphasis on HACK). If I ever meet the guy who runs that pitiful excuse for a radio station, I'll whack him over the head with a Yule Log and boil his ass in his own figgy pudding (apologies to Charles Dickens)!!!

Which brings us to the above 45. As an American of Italian descent, I have been bombarded by well-meaning people who ask me if I've ever heard Lou Monte's "Dominick The Donkey". What do YOU think?? Ever since Scott Shannon of Z-100 in New York "rediscovered" the record in the 1980s (it was originally released in 1960 on mob-owned Roulette Records), it's become almost as popular here as "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer"!

That's when I pull out this here slab o' wax. It's another "Christmas donkey" song, but instead of taking place in Italy, it takes place in Mexico, and instead of Lou Monte's slight (but natural) Italian accent, we get some guy doing an OUTRAGEOUSLY fake - but great - Mexican accent!!

I don't know anything about Don Lucas. Apparently he was some sort of West Coast comedian who may or may not have done some TV work in the late 1960s (most prominently on "To Catch A Thief", where he essayed the role of "Reporter #1"), but in 1962 he recorded this, one of my favorite Christmas records. Like "Dominick", the hook here is the musical braying of the donkey, except on "Burrito", Lucas gets SO into it that you think to yourself, "wow, this guy's throat must have hurt for a WEEK!"

One thing's for sure - Michael Buble' will NOT be doing a remake of this. That ALONE makes me enjoy Christmas just a little bit more.

Whatever YOU celebrate, here's hoping for peace, love, and happiness for you and your family at this festive time of year.

Don Lucas - Burrito (Challenge 9175) - 1962

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One door closes.....another opens!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - been busy, but there should be a LOT of time for blogging in the future. Here's why - after 16 years on the air at WFDU, I tendered my resignation this past Monday, due to a certain management creep who refused to give me a straight answer to a simple question. Now the same creep has decided that he can do my show better than I can. So he took my empty slot (never mind that he also had the slot BEFORE mine, and now does both shows). I'm not gonna name names here, but his initials are BS, and I just couldn't take the BS from BS anymore.....

Anyhoo, enough of that hooey. 'Tis the season to be jolly, right? So, no music post here, but there will be a greater frequency of posts from now on....or at least until I get another radio gig (though THAT won't be for a while....), but I'd rather post great music here than be on the air anyway!

Thanks to all you followers of this blog, and those who just check in every week. You really make this worth my time. Unlike WFDU.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

THE ORIGINAL FIVE BLIND BOYS - SOMEONE WATCHES

I figured after the last post by the VERY sexual (and sexy) Betty Mabry Davis, I'd balance the scales a bit with some old-time gospel.

Over the years, I have listened to hundreds of thousands of records (if not a million). But there have only been TWO times when I literally backed away from my speakers, fearing that they were going to explode and kill me with shrapnel. First time was when I brought home my first 78 by Howlin' Wolf - "No Place To Go". Same riff over and over again. ONE chord. Recorded VERY hot on the VU meter (and on 78 it's even LOUDER). Then Wolf's voice hit me like a sledgehammer to the cranium. I literally had to get away from the speakers in awe of what was coming out of them.

Second time? This record. This time, however, it wasn't the frightening sound of the voice that made me step back. I'd heard lots of gospel singers before. Powerful vocals are their stock-in-trade. No, the thing that made me back away from the speakers this time was the sheer VOLUME coming from this group of singers.

Of course, this wasn't just any group of singers, and Archie Brownlee wasn't just any gospel lead. These guys had been at it since 1936, when they were formed at the Piney Woods school for the blind near Jackson, Mississippi. The school needed money, and the principal decided to gather four of the students to form a group to do appearances to raise money for the school. They called themselves the Cotton Blossom Singers, singing folk and spiritual tunes. The group soon toured around the area, and caught the ear of folklorist Alan Lomax, who recorded the group for the Library of Congress in March 1937. Strangely, they recorded their folk material under the name Abraham, Woodard & Patterson. Even more strangely, they recorded their gospel sides for Lomax under the name "Blind Boys" instead of the Cotton Blossom Singers.

When the Lomax recordings failed to set the world on fire, the group continued to sing around the school, and after graduation decided to try and make it on their own. They had a dual strategy - they would sing pop tunes for white audiences as the Cotton Blossom Singers, and gospel for black audiences as the Jackson Harmoneers. They turned professional in 1944, and became travelers on the gospel highway. It was around this time that the group recruited a second lead singer, Melvin Henderson, and the quartet became a quintet.

The Jackson Harmoneers worked steadily, but were just another gospel harmony group, singing in the "jubilee" style of the 1940s. Then they met Rebert H. Harris and The Soul Stirrers.

 Harris and the Stirrers were pioneers of the hard, shouting gospel style that took hold in the late 1940s. It is said that Harris could out-sing anybody, and that greats such as Sam Cooke were afraid to have a sing-off with Harris. Archie Brownlee and the Harmoneers listened and learned.

Soon, the Jackson Harmoneers were one of the top draws on the gospel circuit, with Brownlee's sweet high tenor and piercing screams driving the crowds insane. If that weren't enough, Brownlee and the group became adept at dynamic theatrics, with Brownlee sometimes leaping from the stage into the audience! Unfortunately, this wasn't Melvin Henderson's style, and he left the group in 1946. He was replaced by Percell Perkins, who not only doubled as their manager, but he wasn't blind!!!

Perkins soon introduced the group to Leon Rene, owner of Excelsior Records. He signed the group, and the subsequent records were released as "The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi (Jackson Harmoneers)". They moved to Coleman Records in 1948, recording several singles, and then in 1950 signed with one of the top gospel labels of the day, Peacock Records. At their first session for Peacock, they recorded "Our Father (Which Art In Heaven)", which sold in such large numbers that it became one of the very, very few gospel singles to hit Top Ten on the R&B charts. The Five Blind Boys were now gospel superstars.

A couple of years later, The Blind Boys of Alabama became popular in the gospel field, and so, to avoid confusion, Brownlee and his group began billing themselves as the ORIGINAL Five Blind Boys (and still appending the group's original name "Jackson Harmoneers" on their record labels). They had many big sellers for Peacock over the years (though none as big as "Our Father"), with Brownlee's piercing screams a wonder to behold. But those screams took a toll on Brownlee. He was prone to respiratory problems, and died from pneumonia on February 8, 1960, at the age of 35.

Take a listen to this record, one of the last that Brownlee recorded, and prepare to be awed. Not only is this one of the loudest, scariest records you'll ever hear, but you'll soon realize that there's only ONE instrument on this record - a piano.

Oh, and try not to blow out your computer speakers.

The Original Five Blind Boys - Someone Watches (Peacock 1797) - 1959

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BETTY MABRY - GET READY FOR BETTY

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, is "well behaved women rarely make history." Betty Mabry definitely took this to heart! Don't know Betty Mabry? She's better-known as Betty Davis, badass soul and funk singer of the 1970s, friend of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix, a former girlfriend of Eric Clapton and Miles Davis' second wife (not to mention his muse in the period that resulted in Bitches Brew).

Betty was born in 1945 in Durham, North Carolina, and as a youth shuffled her time between Durham and Pittsburgh, PA. Her grandmother had a rather large blues record collection, and Betty listened to folks like B. B. King, and Jimmy Reed constantly.

At the age of sixteen, Betty decided on a modeling career and moved in with her aunt in New York City, enrolling in the Fashion Institute of Technology. She made many trips into Greenwich Village, hanging out with folkies (who undoubtedly appreciated Betty's knowledge of the blues), getting modeling gigs (she was one of the very, very few black models in the 1960s to sign with the prestigious Wilhemina agency) and also hanging in a club uptown known as The Cellar. Another denizen of the club was soul singer Lou Courtney, who reportedly produced an independent single with Betty - "The Cellar" (though I've never seen a copy, or even seen this 45 listed anywhere except in a Wikipedia article - and we all know how inaccurate they are). Apparently, Courtney also introduced Betty to some of his friends on the New York recording scene, and shortly thereafter cut this 45 for Don Costa and his DCP International label, which was then riding high with Little Anthony and The Imperials. This was her first officially released single.

The record basically announces Betty to the world, and she guarantees that you ain't never seen nothin' like her before, because she's in total control - with lyrics like "All of you girls, you'd better hide your guys/'cause I'm-a gonna get the first one that catches my eye" and "I'm a woman who can get a man/and I'm gonna steal him if I can". She not only knows that she can get any man she wants, but if that man just happens to have a girlfriend (or wife), well, she'd just better get out of Betty's way.

The attitude that Betty projected was completely at odds with the mores of the early 60s - Betty was a woman who was fiercely independent, sexually open, and there wasn't a man on the face of the earth that she would submit to.

I don't really need to go into the rest of Betty's career and life - there are many, many good articles on the web about this legendary woman, and I suggest you read as many as you can, as well as tracking down her funkier-than-hell LPs from the 1970s (which have been reissued by Light In The Attic Records - along with her unreleased 1979 LP). Betty's still around, living quietly in Pennsylvania, despite rumors that she died of a drug overdose (which must have been started by one of her enemies - Betty was very anti-drug).

If you're already familiar with Betty Mabry Davis, I don't have to tell you that this record is a fascinating blueprint for what came later. So, for those of you who have never heard the genesis of a truly one-of-a-kind funkateer's career, here it is.

Betty Mabry - Get Ready For Betty (DCP International 1109) - 1964

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

LANCE and THE SPIRITS - THE PERFECT COMBINATION


One of the many things that annoy me about people concerns the fame to talent equation. I can't tell you how many times I've heard folks talk about modestly talented celebrities (I'm being kind here) like Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves or Chris Martin of Coldplay or pretty much anyone who appears on "Dancing With The Stars" like they are giants who walk the earth; "Oh, he's so talented, no wonder he makes so much money, no wonder he's so famous!" REALLY??? There are waaaay better actors than Cruise/Reeves/Travolta, etc., and Coldplay, at least to me, isn't even music, it's just something to put on the CD player to have something you can ignore while doing something else and avoiding silence. Do not get me started on "Dancing With The Stars"....

The amount of fame gained by a person has NOTHING to do with how much talent he or she has. If it did, there wouldn't be a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or post-"Mean Girls" Lindsay Lohan.

On the other hand, there are LOTS of multi-talented people walking this earth whose names you've probably never heard. What do you think of a guy whose band Elvis Presley used to clear his schedule to go and see? Or who appeared in several major motion pictures and at least one hit TV series? Or who is still the first to get a call when a company needs a deep, resonant voice for their TV and radio commercials? Or who owned one of the hottest nightclubs in California in the mid-60s? Well, one guy did (and does) all that. His name? Lance LeGault.

Lance (b. William Lance LeGault - pronounced "luh-GOH" - on May 2, 1935 in Chicago) had a rough childhood. His father died when he was 4 and Lance spent the next few years in orphanages because his mother could not afford to raise him. When his mother remarried and took Lance back in, things were still not well. A big kid, he lied about his age and got a job with the railroad at age 11, but was fired two years later when his real age was discovered. He went back to high school, and graduated at age 20. He then went to college in Wichita, Kansas, graduating with a degree in business management. After moving to California in 1960, LeGault bought a nightclub in the LA area called The Cross Bow, in which he and his band would play down-home blues and R&B. Clint Eastwood was a regular customer, and then one night Elvis Presley walked in (with Tuesday Weld on his arm - they were in the midst of shooting "Wild In The Country"). Elvis loved the band, and he and Lance became fast friends.

Soon afterward, Lance's buddy Elvis got him a new job. Since Lance and Elvis were built about the same (both were big six-footers), Elvis got Lance hired as his stunt double on his new film "Girls, Girls, Girls!". LeGault would end up doing 4 films with The King, making himself a career (if not a name) in Hollywood. He would later go on to appear in films like Coma, Catch My Soul (the film version of Jack Good's rock opera based on Shakespeare's Othello, in which Lance played Iago to Richie Havens' Othello) and, most famously, Stripes (in which he played Col. Glass - he was the guy who yelled "STILLMAN" at John Larroquette, causing him to throw his telescope through a window). He's probably best-known, however, for his role as Colonel Roderick Decker on The A-Team, and I'd bet my boots that if Lance and Mr. T ever got into it, he'd give Mr. T a run for his money. He's still very much in demand for voice-over work - if you've ever been to Graceland, it's Lance's voice you're hearing on the tour audio tape. Glen Larson (creator of shows like Magnum, P. I., Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, etc.) once said that Lance's voice was "four octaves lower than God's".

While he did all of the above, Lance also had a side career as a singer. His group was called Lance and The Spirits, and while they didn't set the world on fire, they did get some airplay in the LA area. The group hooked up with legendary DJ Wolfman Jack, who was then riding high on XERB radio. Wolfman got the group a deal with George Garrett (proprietor of the legendary Uncle George's Record Shop in Minneapolis, and owner of the Garrett/Bangar/Twin Town family of labels) who had recently moved his operation to California to more effectively do business with the Wolf, on whose show he was a sponsor. They released "The Perfect Combination"/"Cooking Up Some Love" by Lance and The Spirits in late 1966. Lance and the boys did promotional appearances all up and down the West Coast with Wolfman Jack, and in return he played their single on his radio show (which is how I discovered this 45 - from an old XERB aircheck a friend gave me). Unfortunately, the record didn't do well - it was the last record EVER released on Garrett (former home of The Trashmen and "Surfin' Bird"), and few people could find it in stores.

This was a shame, since this record could have at least been a regional hit. This is great uptempo blue-eyed soul, and Lance is in fine voice. On the rare occasions where I deejay at soul clubs, I always make sure this one's in my DJ box - and more often than not, people ask "what record is THAT?" When I tell them (and patiently explain who Lance LeGault is), they're always shocked.

Lance and The Spirits cut another 45, "Circle Point", released on Shock in April, 1967, and LeGault did record an LP in 1971 for Polydor ("LeGault"), but they went the way of all his other records.

Fortunately, Lance LeGault has done very well for himself over the years in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the career of Lance LeGault, blue-eyed soul brother, continues to languish in obscurity. Except here. On The Record.

Lance and The Spirits - The Perfect Combination (Garrett 1005) - 1966

Saturday, October 29, 2011

JOHN ZACHERLE - IGOR

In honor of Halloween, here's one of the GORIEST records ever made (well, considering Alice Cooper, GG Allin, etc., one of the goriest records ever made in 1958, at least....) by the coolest of all the ghouls, John Zacherle.

Don't know this one? Well, there may be a reason for that.....and that reason is Dick Clark.

John Zacherle (born September 26, 1918 in Philadelphia) grew up perfectly normal, the son of a bank clerk. After graduation from high school and Pennsylvania University, and a stint in the Army, Zacherle returned to Philly and began doing local theatre with a repertory company. He soon began getting roles on local TV station WCAU, mainly in westerns. Oddly enough, he usually played the town undertaker.

In 1957, Universal Pictures decided to allow their unparalleled horror movie catalog to be shown on TV. Stations from all over the country bid on the film packages, and in Philly, WCAU-TV was the lucky station allowed to show Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy as well as such "classics" as The Black Cat, The Mad Daughter Of Market Street and Weird Woman. The films were to be run late at night, under the name of "Shock Theatre". But WCAU needed a host for the show, and Zacherle was asked to do it. He grabbed his undertaker's coat that he used in all those westerns, put on a little make-up, and Roland (pronounced Ro-LAND), Zacherle's character for Shock Theatre, was born.

Zacherle (and Roland) were an immediate sensation in Philadelphia. Kids went crazy over Zacherle's wild antics, like carrying around a severed head dripping with blood (actually chocolate syrup), talking to his wife, known as "my dear", who lived in a coffin (and would occasionally receive a wooden stake through the heart, courtesy of Roland), and interacting with his son Gasport (who was a blob in a burlap sack who hung on the wall and moaned occasionally). He even had an assistant, named Igor, who would do Roland's dirty work.

Eventually Zacherle came to the attention of two very powerful men in Philadelphia - American Bandstand's Dick Clark and Bernie Lowe, senior partner of Cameo Records (Kal Mann was the junior partner, and reputedly Dick Clark was a silent partner - as he was with many, many Philly labels. Clark was dirtier than a sewer pipe), who decided that Zacherle should cut a record. Backed up by Cameo's great house band, Dave Appell and The Applejacks, Zacherle cut two songs - "Dinner With Drac" and "Igor", which were basically the same tune with different sets of lyrics. "Igor" was picked to be the A-side, and "Igor" backed with "Dinner With Drac" was released in January, 1958. Bernie Lowe sent a copy to his buddy Dick Clark, who took one listen to "Igor" and refused to play it. Tight-ass that he was, Clark thought the lyrics of "Igor" were too gory for the record-buying public, and made it clear that he wouldn't be playing it on his show. The flip side, "Dinner With Drac", had much milder lyrics and it was the same tune anyway, so Bernie asked Dick to lean on that side of the record. Clark agreed, but was still so upset by "Igor" that he insisted Zacherle go back into the studio and cut yet another version of "Dinner With Drac" with even milder lyrics (in case "Dinner With Drac" set people - meaning Clark's sponsors - off the wrong way) and repress the single as "Dinner With Drac - Part 1" backed with "Dinner With Drac - Part 2". This new coupling was released in February, and the rest is history, with "Igor" becoming a lost track.

Today, the lyrics of "Igor" sound rather tame, but Zacherle (not to mention Appell's nasty-sounding sax) sounds positively evil, especially on this limerick:

A werewolf once tore his own hide
To find out just what was inside
He BIT and he TORE
Till his hands RAN with GORE
But before he found out, he DIED!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

NOTE: the record does NOT skip toward the end - it was just a very poor edit (due to Zacherle losing the tempo). 

John Zacherle - Igor (Cameo 130) - 1958


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

THE PANIKS - I CAN BEAT HIM UP

Nineteen sixty-six was the year of Batman. Adam West. Burt Ward. The best villains this side of Dick Tracy. No wonder it was such a phenomenon. West and Ward even cut records - Ward worked with Frank Zappa on the has-to-be-heard-to-be-believed "Boy Wonder, I Love You" on MGM, and Adam West did "Amanda" for 20th Century-Fox. Not to mention the DOZENS of Batman-inspired records by other artists (there's a list here).

Of course, as with any phenomenon, Batman had its share of detractors, and Charles Fox over at 20th Century-Fox Records probably thought he could grab some of the anti-Batman coin with this waxing.

The record is totally steeped in New Yawk reality - Batman and Robin come to The Big Apple, and while some are impressed, a gravelly-voiced tough guy laughs at The Dynamic Duo, wondering why such a tough guy needs to wear a silly mask and bring a little boy with him to fight crime! Then, with bravado only a tough Brooklynite can muster, the guy says "I CAN BEAT HIM UP!" as the background singers do their best Four Seasons imitation.

The best part comes at the end, when a wimpy, wimpy voice starts saying things like "Holy T-Shirt!" and "Holy Snowball!", only to be answered by the New Yawk tough guy's retort - "BEAT IT, KID!"

The Paniks - I Can Beat Him Up (20th Century-Fox 639) - 1966

Saturday, October 22, 2011

THE PENTAGONS - FOR A LOVE THAT IS MINE

For as much time as I spend railing against doo-wop collectors and their rigid mentality about music, I must say that I think that some of the most beautiful records ever made are old doo-wop 45s. Granted, many of them are formulaic, with hearts skipping crazy beats, or lost loves being asked to start anew, with bass singers sputtering something unintelligible in the background. etc. But there are some examples of this music which are so elegant, so pristine, so soulful, that they make you want to form a group and go hang out on some street corner and sing pretty melodies to the girls passing by. Preferably on a warm summer night, under a street lamp.

But you can't do that today, fellas. You'd probably be arrested or become the victim of a drive-by shooting.

This record has always been one of my favorites ever since I heard it on a cassette tape a friend gave to me back in the '90s (did I really just use the phrase "back in the '90s"? SHEESH!!). I already knew the group from their hit "To Be Loved (Forever)", but wasn't aware of this one. It became one of my many 45 rpm-based obsessions from then on.

The Pentagons were formed in San Bernadino, California in 1958 by brothers Ted and Kenneth Goodloe, along with Joe C. Jones (not the Joe Jones who had the hit with "You Talk Too Much"), Carl McGinnis, Bill James and Otis Munson. They made their first trip to Los Angeles, and cut one single for Specialty Records ("It's Spring Again" b/w "Silly Dilly") which promptly went nowhere. Otis Munson left the group shortly afterward, and was replaced by Odie Jones (Joe C.'s brother - so now the group had 2 sets of brothers).

The group practiced some more, and on their next trip to LA in 1960 they hooked up with producers George Motola and Lee Silver. Doo-wop collectors know Motola's name and revere him as one of the fathers of West Coast doo-wop. Motola wrote songs like "Goodnight My Love" by Jessie Belvin, "Shattered Dreams" by The Youngsters, and produced the Shields' "You Cheated" for his Tender label. He also wrote (with his wife, Rickie Page) Eddie Cochran's "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie", and also won a settlement against 1980s rockabilly group The Stray Cats for changing his original lyrics for dirtier, filthier ones when they remade the song. Motola and Silver had a label called Fleet International Records, and the Pentagons had a fantastic new song (written by Ken Goodloe) called "To Be Loved". Motola and Silver released it on Fleet Int., and it really started to sell in the LA area.

Enter Bob Keene. Keene had been a fixture on the LA scene for years, first hitting paydirt with his Del-Fi label, which most famously recorded Ritchie Valens. After Valens' death in the plane crash, Keene started another label (named after Valens' biggest hit), Donna Records. Keene was always on the lookout for new talent, and heard the Pentagons' record all over LA radio, so he made a lease deal with Motola and Silver to release the record nationally. It came out on Donna in January, 1961, and by the next month it hit #48 on the pop charts (though, strangely enough, it didn't hit the R&B charts).

Motola and Silver quickly brought the group into the studio for the follow-up, which was this record. This time around, however, a new person joined the Pentagons' management team - Lester Sill. Sill was the ORIGINAL Los Angeles record production maven, giving folks like Phil Spector their start and working with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller early on in their careers. So when he joined the management team, the group was understandably thrilled. The new record was again leased to Donna, but Lester Sill had bigger plans. He had been working with Jamie Records for several years, producing some of Duane Eddy's biggest hits, and wanted the Pentagons for that label. Since the Pentagons were not signed directly to Donna Records, this was no problem, so Sill signed the group to Jamie. When Bob Keene found out about what Lester did, he basically dumped the new single on the market and gave it no promotion whatsoever.

Which was a shame, since this is a gorgeous record. Swathed in echo, the lead singer (I've never been completely sure whether the lead was Joe C. Jones or Kenneth Goodloe) is "walking alone in the dark" wondering whether or not he'll ever find a love of his own. There have been dozens of doo-wop songs with this same theme, but none of them have the air of abject loneliness and longing that this record has.

A couple of side notes here: I have NO idea why my copy of this says "NEW VERSION" on the label - I have never heard (or heard of) any other version. Also, apparently Bob Keene was soooo P. O.'d about losing this group that when he put out a comp CD of doo-wop songs from the Del-Fi/Donna vaults in the late '90s (remember the '90s?), he listed this song as "Walking Alone" and stated that it was previously unreleased!!

The Pentagons went on to have one hit for Jamie ("I Wonder", #84 pop) and several flop follow-ups. Lester Sill soon lost interest in the group (though he did record Joe C. Jones solo as "Joel Scott" for Philles Records, his new label from his short-lived partnership with Phil Spector) and they soon faded away, making one more 45 for the Sutter label and then re-appearing a few years later as The Themes, whose "Bent Out Of Shape" 45 on Minit is a Northern Soul collector's item.

For me, this record encapsulates many of the reasons I love group harmony music. Of course, the hardcore doo-wop freaks have either a) never heard of this record or b) dismiss it in favor of things by groups like Sonny Til and The Orioles (yawn). Which proves that 95% of record collectors have no idea what good music is, but music collectors (no matter what the format) will always know where the good stuff is.

The Pentagons - For A Love That Is Mine (Donna 1344) - 1961

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

THE ORIGINAL STARFIRES - FENDER BENDER

Whatever happened to good old rock and roll instrumentals? Whatever happened to INSTRUMENTALS, PERIOD????

Time was, a group of high school buddies could get together at someone's house with their instruments (guitar, sax, drums, bass) and come up with some super-stupid, super-great rockin' jam.

Time was, a DJ at a record hop could string together 5 or 6 instrumentals at the beginning of the night to warm the teenagers up (or kill time until they showed up).

Time was, REAL music played by REAL people could make you get out of your seat and MOVE!

Time was....

Anyhoo, this group from Florida had this one record, and it's a killer! Super-fast rockin' sax instro, with crazy, out-of-time chanting of "WE WANT MORE, WE WANT MORE". No clue as to why they called it "Fender Bender" (also no clue as to why they were the "Original" Starfires - was there another group with that name making records at the time??). Originally released on the Pace label, the record was picked up by Apt Records (same label that gave you the #1 hit "Little Star" by The Elegants) and promptly went nowhere.

This 45 has also been featured on "The Devil's Music" blog (that's how I knew the group was from Florida). Dig it here.


The Original Starfires - Fender Bender (Pace 101) - 1959

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SOUL INC. - I BELONG TO NOBODY

I really don't have much to say about this group from Louisville, Kentucky - it's pretty much all been said here. Only thing I CAN say is that this is one awesome 45 - this and the flip, "Love Me When I'm Down", show the two great sides of this group. Track it down wherever (and whenever) you can, either on the original Counterpart label or this national release on Laurie.

Soul Inc. - I Belong To Nobody (Laurie 3430) - 1967

Friday, October 7, 2011

FERLIN HUSKY - YOU PUSHED ME TOO FAR

One of the reasons I like country music so much is that it never lost its sense of humor. Rock and pop lost that a loooong time ago. Now what passes for humor in pop music is nothing but insults to one's intelligence. Now, instead of truly funny records like "Ahab The Arab" or "Transfusion" or "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bed Post Over Night", we get records like "Fuck You" by Cee Lo. Wow. "Fuck You". Brilliant. Wonder how long Cee Lo worked on that idea to develop it into such a powerful statement. Ten, maybe twelve seconds? Country, on the other hand, still has some pretty funny tunes, like "Bobby With An 'I'" by Phil Vassar (about a big, bench-pressing dude who just happens to like dressing up as a woman and going to bars), or "Fish" by Craig Campbell (about a girl who likes to drive out to the lake in her boyfriend's truck, gee that girl loves to f-f-f-f-f-fish - rather sophomoric, really, but still a LOT funnier than "Fuck You"). I also like the fact that country music can have really, really warped subject matter - murder (I've often wondered which form of music has more guns and shootings - country or rap), mental illness, in-breeding (see "I'm My Own Grandpaw"), oddball couples ("You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly" by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty comes to mind), good times spent in jail, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....

Today's selection is one of the funniest cheating songs ever waxed. Ferlin Husky had been a country hitmaker for Capitol since the early 1950s, not just under his own name, but also under his humorous alter ego, Simon Crum. On this record, the two facets of this great singer came together. Basically, the guy's wife is cheating on him, and he keeps warning her, "someday you'll push me too far". Well, one day, ol' Ferlin snaps (or maybe it was Simon) . He coaxes his wife to their old make-out spot - at the top of a mountain. You can guess what happens next. If this sounds like a much more ridiculous version of Porter Wagoner's "The Cold Hard Facts Of Life" (released just a couple of months before this record), it should.

The man who wrote this song, Bobby Braddock, became a very in-demand songwriter (though I'd guess not because of this record), writing country classics such as "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" by Tammy Wynette, "Georgia In A Jug" by Johnny Paycheck, and the ultimate country weeper "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones. Amazingly, he's still writing big country hits, like "I Wanna Talk About Me" by Toby Keith, and "God Is Great, Beer Is Good, People Are Crazy" by Billy Currington.

Ferlin Husky - You Pushed Me Too Far (Capitol 5938) - 1967

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WILLIE DIXON - PETTING THE BABY


There are blues records, and then there are Willie Dixon blues records. "Little Red Rooster", "Spoonful", "Evil", "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Wang Dang Doodle", "My Babe", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Back Door Man" - the list of the classic tunes he wrote goes on and on. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters used to berate Dixon for giving the other guy the best songs. His songs have been recorded by everybody from The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Cream to Megadeth and Styx. Not to mention ripped off big time by Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin.

Yet, like a lot of great songwriters, he couldn't have a hit by singing his own compositions. He did make some records for Checker in the mid-1950s, but for the most part, his career as a recording artist remains obscure. Of course, one reason for that could be the above record (cut for Willie's own Yambo label), which is one of the strangest and most sexually explicit "blues" records ever released. The reason I say "blues" and not blues is because it's not really a blues record - the piano (played by longtime Chess session man Lafayette Leake) is not played in a blues style - it's jazzy and slow, like you'd hear at 2 AM in some back-alley club where hard-boiled gumshoes hang out. That piano is virtually the only musical instrument on the record. The rest of the record is filled with dialogue and a VERY short chorus. 

It starts with two guys, obviously in a hotel room or boardinghouse of some sort, listening to the noises emanating through the paper-thin wall from the room next door. One guy tells the other, "oh, he's pettin' his baby" and sings a short melody that he's heard coming from the room from time to time.

Then the action shifts to the other room, where the guy is telling his baby what he'll give her and how much he loves her. Then a female coo is heard, and at first you think he's actually talking to a baby. But then the female speaks up (the "female" being portrayed by one of the guys in the band - or Willie himself - in a scratchy falsetto), and you realize that even though he's calling her "baby" and she's calling him "daddy", this ain't no father-daughter relationship (though if it is, that makes this record even more disturbing).

Well, the "baby"s and "daddy"s get more and more suggestive, and before you know it this record becomes the aural (no pun intended) equivalent of a porn flick! When listening to this, stick around to the very end for one of the best (and truest) endings to what happens here.

One last note: a friend of mine told me a story that someone (who is a musician) told him about Willie. Sometime in the 1970s the musician was on a blues tour, with Willie as a headliner. In one of the towns the tour stopped in, the promoter put everybody up in a hotel that was literally infested with flies. The musicians went to each others' rooms to socialize, but when they went to Willie's room there wasn't ONE fly in his room that they could see. The musician asked Willie, "how'd you deal with the flies?", and Dixon said, "I bunched 'em". The musician didn't know what Willie meant until Willie pointed to one corner of the room - in which there sat a rather large pile of human excrement, with flies buzzing all around it.

Willie Dixon - Petting The Baby (Yambo 777-14/777-15) - 1973

Saturday, October 1, 2011

THE TRAVELERS - TEEN AGE MACHINE AGE


This one's fun.

"The Travelers" was a name used by MANY groups in the 1950s and 1960s. There are records on labels like Atlas, ABC-Paramount, Decca, Don-Ray, Gass, Knight, Magic Lamp, MG, Midwest, Princess, Vault, World-Wide and Yellow Sand - ALL by some group or another named The Travelers. Some are folk records, some are surf, others doo-wop - all obscure. It's a definite bad-luck name; not ONE of those Travelers groups ever had a national hit.

However, THIS group of Travelers at least came close - and their provenance is a lot cooler than all those other, anonymous Travelers groups. These Travelers were actually The Pilgrim Travelers, one of the GREAT early- to mid-50s gospel groups that recorded for Art Rupe's Specialty Records. With dual leads Kylo Turner and Keith Barber (and baritone Jess Whitaker), the Pilgrim Travelers were one of the most respected groups on the gospel scene. Their manager was J. W. Alexander, who later took an interest in another of Rupe's groups, The Soul Stirrers, especially their lead singer, Sam Cooke. 

Well, we all know what happened with Sam and J. W., but the Pilgrim Travelers followed in their footsteps, leaving Art Rupe and Specialty Records shortly after Sam's defection in 1957. A&R man Bumps Blackwell, who also left Specialty at the same time, signed The Pilgrim Travelers to the Keen/Andex/Ensign family of labels in 1957, and used the same blueprint with them as he did with Sam - he tried to turn them into a secular group, re-christening them The Travelers. At this time a new tenor joined the group, a young man named Lou Rawls (I always think of him as a deep baritone, but everybody says he sang tenor for the group - and who am I to argue?). This was the first single the group released with Rawls (though, to be honest, I can't hear him anywhere on this 45). Kylo Turner left the group shortly afterwards (though he did make a solo 45 for Andex).

Ironically, it was traveling that destroyed The Travelers. The gospel circuit was rough in those days, and traveling 300 miles between gigs in a car was not uncommon. The group had already had several close calls, but on November 10, 1958, at about 2 AM, after a gig and a party, the group (with Sam Cooke himself in tow) piled into Sam's brand-new yellow 1958 Cadillac El Dorado convertible. With Eddie Cunningham (Sam's driver) at the wheel, Sam riding shotgun, and Lou Rawls and Sam's guitarist Cliff White in the back, they traveled from St. Louis to Greenville, Mississippi, down Highway 61. Eddie fell asleep at the wheel, and slammed into a soybean truck at about 100 miles an hour. White ended up with a broken collarbone, broken ribs, and broken fingers (not good for a guitarist, but White would play behind Sam for a number of years afterward). Lou Rawls hit his head on the steel bar that held up the ragtop, and was in a coma for several days. Eddie Cunningham was nearly cut in half by the edge of the steering wheel; he died in the hospital two hours later. As for Sam, who was also fast asleep, he somehow slid under the dashboard and walked away with a cut on his left arm and some glass slivers in his face. With Lou out for the forseeable future, the group decided to call it a day.

As for this 45, it's so goofy but so cool at the same time. From the opening "vroom vroom!" noises the lead singer (probably Jess Whitaker) makes, to the cries of "Hey man, lend me a quarter" and "Man, I just spent thirty cents!", this record makes being a cash-strapped teenager sound fun.

The Travelers - Teen Age Machine Age (Andex 3-4006) - 1958

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DION and THE WANDERERS - TWO TON FEATHER


One of the great pitfalls of being an artist in the music industry (particularly the American music industry) is that you may get pigeonholed into a certain genre of music. No matter how great or how varied an artist is, that artist is going to be known by one or two of his or her biggest hits. For me, there are two great artists whose later work gets cruelly ignored, while their early records get spun over and over again. They are The Everly Brothers and Dion, and one of the (many) things they have in common is that, unlike a lot of similar 1950s hitmakers, Dion and the Everlys actually made a conscious attempt to keep up with the changing times without losing their sense of self - and often the results were breathtaking.

Example: in most rock and roll accounts, The Everlys were a hit-making machine on a small label (Cadence), and were pretty much unstoppable. Then Warner Brothers came calling. They had a few hits for Warners in the early 60s, then those damn Beatles came along and they (and their matching pompadours) were knocked out of the box for 10 years, broke up in 1973, and made a huge comeback in 1984. That's it. Well, the truth isn't that simple. A closer look at the Everlys' output for Warners from 1964-1970 reveals, among other things, that the brothers worked with The Hollies (on the LP "Two Yanks In England"), Ron Elliot of The Beau Brummels, and pretty much invented the late-60s revolution called country-rock (dig up their 1968 LP "Roots" to hear the brothers show the world how it's supposed to be done). They also wrote many songs covered by others during this period ("Man With Money", done by A Wild Uncertainty and The Who; "It's All Over", a hit for The Casinos and later recorded by artiste Scott Walker) and put out killer singles, like 1965's "The Price Of Love" (one of the loudest, most rocking singles of the 60s - no wonder it hit #1 in England) and "You're My Girl". They also did the garagiest (is that even a word??) version ever of Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It" (from their 1966 LP "Beat & Soul"). Not to mention that Don Everly used to like to get high with Jimi Hendrix and trade guitar licks. In other words, the music was up to par, and the Everlys were still revered all over the world. The only ingredient that was missing? They couldn't get a hit in their home country, mainly because folks dismissed the Everlys as "that 50s group" without even listening to the music!

The same exact thing happened to Dion DiMucci. Born in the Bronx on July 18, 1939, he grew up on the mean streets of New York, joining a gang (the Fordham Baldies), and immersing himself in a world of fights, street drugs (becoming addicted to heroin by the time he was 18) and, luckily, music. Basically, Dion was Lou Reed ten years before Lou was. Except for the homosexual part.

Dion's dad was a vaudeville entertainer, so music was a big part of his upbringing, and Dion liked all kinds of music - especially country and western and blues. But the music of the Bronx streets was a capella, aka "group harmony" or "doo-wop" (though nobody used that term in the 50s), and Dion fell right in, singing with his buddies Carlo Mastrangelo, Angelo D'Aleo and Fred Milano (good Irish Catholics all) on street corners. He and the boys auditioned for two neighborhood guys, Bob and Gene Schwartz, who had a small label called Mohawk Records. They signed Dion but not the group, and put Dion together with a vocal group called The Timberlanes (these were NOT the Belmonts; according to Dion, he never even met the Timberlanes). They put out one single, "The Chosen Few"/"Out In Colorado", with arrangements by Hugo Montenegro (!!!). The single was later leased to the larger Jubilee label, and promptly flopped. Dion then convinced the Schwartz brothers to record him with his group, named The Belmonts (after Belmont Ave. in the Bronx). Since the streetcorner sound was becoming big business at this time (1958), the Schwartz brothers agreed, and released the first Dion and The Belmonts single - "We Went Away"/"Tag Along" - on Mohawk. This also flopped. Since Mohawk was becoming a "bad luck" label for them, the Schwartzes decided to form a new label, called Laurie. The first 45 on the label was Dion and The Belmonts' follow-up to "We Went Away", called "I Wonder Why". The record started to sell big-time in New York, Alan Freed got wind of it, and the rest is history. Dion was now a star.

By 1960, Dion and The Belmonts had a half-dozen hits under their belts, and Dion had already made his first trip to rehab for his addiction. The money was tight, and Dion was always the focus anyway, and so in late 1960 Dion went solo. He had some huge hits for Laurie ("Runaround Sue", "The Wanderer", "Lovers Who Wander", "Little Diane", "Love Came To Me", "Sandy"), then moved to the major Columbia in late 1962, where the hits continued ("Ruby Baby", "Donna The Prima Donna") all the way up to early 1964, when Dion's remake of the Drifters' "Drip Drop" hit Top Ten.

But at that point, several forces combined to knock Dion out of the spotlight. First, of course, was The Beatles, who totally dominated the charts during the early months of 1964. But Dion probably could have weathered the storm like many other American artists (Gene Pitney, The Beach Boys, Del Shannon, Bobby Vinton). However, it was at that time that Dion (encouraged by Columbia's legendary A&R man John Hammond) decided to take his passion for the blues to the forefront, and his next few singles for Columbia were pure blues - "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man", a bluesy version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" (backed with Dion's version of "Chicago Blues"), and "Spoonful". It was also around this time that Dion's heroin addiction began to rear its ugly head again, and Dion took another couple of months off in late '64 to try and shake it.

When he came back in mid-'65, Dion had a band. Featuring John Falbo on guitar, Pete Baron on bass, and former Belmont Carlo Mastrangelo on drums, they called themselves Dion and The Wanderers, and put out several singles on Columbia under that name, and the above record is the best of them by far. Released in June of 1966, "Two Ton Feather" is what it would sound like if Bob Dylan inhabited Dion's body for three minutes. Clangy guitars, foot-stomping percussion, Dion's tough-guy vocals and somewhat abstract lyrics (though nowhere near the abstractiveness of Dylan's) make this a lost masterpiece.

Unfortunately, the single died on the vine (like all of Dion's Columbia singles after "Johnny B. Goode"), and was the last 45 he ever put out for Columbia (though CBS rummaged through some old tapes after Dion had the comeback hit "Abraham, Martin And John" on Laurie and put out "I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound" as a 45 in mid-1968). The contract with Columbia ran out in late '66, and Dion reunited with the Belmonts for an LP and two singles for ABC in '67 (one of the LP cuts was a rewrite of "Two Ton Feather" called "Jump Back Baby"), re-signed with Laurie Records in early '68 (after finally kicking his heroin addiction) and hit big with "Abraham, Martin And John". After another year at Laurie, he signed with Warner Bros. in 1970 and spent most of the early 70s as a sensitive singer-songwriter. He later worked with Phil Spector on the LP "Born To Be With You" and then became a born-again Christian, recording religious music for several years.

But everybody wanted the old Dion back. The Wanderer. Bragging about the women he'd bagged. It's still that way, unfortunately. Dion continues to record interesting music (his two semi-recent blues CDs - "Bronx In Blue" and "Son Of Skip James" are definitely worth searching out), but most people want the early 60s Dion back, and consider his fine mid-60s work an aberration, his "weird period". I suggest you go out and find the 2-CD set "The Road I'm On" from 1997, or, if you don't want to break your pockets, try "Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965)".

If I ever get Dion in my radio studio for an interview, we definitely would need to talk about his love of the blues. Then I could die a happy man.

Dion and The Wanderers - Two Ton Feather (Columbia 4-43692) - 1966

Monday, September 19, 2011

LINK WRAY and THE RAYMEN - HIDDEN CHARMS

Hey! Remember me???

Sorry I haven't been around much in the last month-and-a-half......I moved. Literally five minutes away from where I was. And I'm STILL trying to get all my crap together! At least now my LPs are all in one place and I can access them all easily (thank you, Ikea).....

As for my 45s.....well, that's another story. Right now they're in my parents' basement. Which is one of TWO reasons why I haven't blogged - the other being that my new, upgraded computer (built from scratch by my genius cousin and myself) will NOT recognize my USB turntable!!! So now, every time I want to blog, I have to go to my mom and dad's house and hook up the turntable to their ultra lo-fi, barely running computer!!

Anyway, I'm here to talk about cool records, not whine about my so-called problems! And records don't come ANY cooler than this Link Wray side from 1966. I acquired (did not buy) this record in the none-too-distant past, and was very excited over the fact that I finally owned an original of "Ace Of Spades" by Link Wray on Swan! I breathlessly told my girlfriend about it, and she just shrugged as if to say "who's Link Wray?", but also smiled, as if to say, "if this makes you happy, then I'm happy too."

I played "Ace" a couple of times, quickly realizing that it's just a slight re-write of "Jack The Ripper", Link's hit from 1963 (also on Swan). I got bored, so I turned the single over. And got my ASS KICKED for the next three minutes!!!!

But then again, ass-kickin' was what Link Wray was all about. John Cipollina of Quicksiver Messenger Service once said that "(Link Wray) taught me you could swear without using words" and, boy, was it true. Cub Koda and a lot of other people say that Link invented the power chord - not true, at least to my ears; I think Scotty Moore did with his killer riff on "Jailhouse Rock", predating Link by almost a year. No matter who invented it, one thing is certain - nobody could make a guitar sound like a menacing street gang the way Link Wray could.

Link (born Fred Lincoln Wray, Jr. in Dunn, NC on May 2, 1929) started out with his brothers Vernon and Doug playing country music as Lucky Wray and The Lazy Pine Wranglers (later changed to the Palomino Ranch Hands). They got their big break in 1956 when they were asked to step in as the house band for the TV show "Milt Grant's House Party" (a Washington, D. C. version of "American Bandstand", and the basis for John Waters' brilliant "Hairspray" - the one with Ricki Lake, not the oh-so-fabulous-and-aren't-we-so-retro-you-could-puke remake with John Travolta). One day in 1957, ol' Milt asked Link and the boys to come up with an instrumental that the kids on his show could do the Stroll to. The group came up with a tune they called "Oddball", played it live on the show, and the kids went wild. One night in Fredericksburg, VA, the group had to play it four times to satisfy the audience.

From there, Milt Grant stepped in and pitched the song to a friend, Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records, who were riding high in the charts with the Everly Brothers, Andy Williams, and The Chordettes. Archie didn't really like the song, but Milt told him of the reaction Link got whenever he played it, so Archie took a chance. Well, when Link and his group (now called The Raymen) showed up in the studio, he was told that he would have to play through the house amplifiers. Link did, but the sound was too smooth. So Link pulled out his razor and shredded Archie Bleyer's speaker cones! If Archie disliked the song before, he now absolutely HATED it!

Bleyer played "Oddball" for two people - his daughter and Phil Everly. Archie's daughter loved the sound, and Phil was so impressed by the song that he suggested Link change the title to "Rumble" - teen slang for a gang fight. Archie released it, despite his reservations, and he not only saw Milt Grant playing the hell out of it (it didn't hurt that Milt was cut in for half the writers' credit on both sides of the record), but also saw the record get banned in places like Boston for its "suggestive content" - even though it was an instrumental!! To this day, "Rumble" stands as the only instrumental in rock and roll history to be banned for suggestive content!! Swear without using words, indeed....

Link recorded an entire LP for Cadence, but when Archie Bleyer heard the dubs, he kicked Link and his band off the label (and the LP would not see the light of day until 2006, when Sundazed put it out - get it here). No matter. "Rumble" was so big that Epic Records snapped Link and the Raymen right up. They recorded some great singles (and an LP) for Epic until 1961, signed to Mala in '62 (and backed up the legendary Bunker Hill on "Hide & Go Seek" and the immortal "The Girl Can't Dance"), made a few one-offs for Okeh and Rumble (and one on Infinity credited to "The Wray Brothers" called "Ninety-Nine Years To Go" about a guy who shot his girl), and signed with Philadelphia's Swan label in 1963, staying until the label folded in 1967.

"Hidden Charms" shows that Link hadn't lost ANY of his toughness after The Beatles took over the music world. Over a KILLER garage-punk riff, Link yowls the old Willie Dixon tune in a Mick Jagger-meets-Clarence "Frogman" Henry voice (and considering that Link had only ONE lung - a result of tuberculosis contracted when he was fighting in the Korean War - this is a pretty incredible vocal).

Link went on to record for more small labels (doing things like "Rumble '68" and "Rumble '69") and continued to gig in obscurity until Robert Gordon "re-discovered" him and they recorded an LP together (which, if I remember correctly, includes the original version of Brucie Stringbeen's "Fire"). Link finished his days touring incessantly, mostly in Europe, having moved to Denmark in the 1980s. He died in Copenhagen of heart failure on November 5, 2005, at age 76, a rocker till the end.

It's good to be back!

Link Wray and The Raymen - Hidden Charms (Swan 4261) - 1966

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ROLLS ROYCE and THE WHEELS - TOPLESS

I don't know what the weather's been like in your part of the good ol' USA, but here in NJ we're havin' a heatwave (a tropical heatwave.....OK, I'll stop there). Like a week straight of 100+ degree temperatures. Which got me thinking about this record, one of my all-time fave crazy talkin' soul 45s.

"Rolls" Royce was actually Royce McAfee, a jazz/R&B organ player from Texas who had his own combo in the early 60s (cutting "Cairo Twist" on the Gayla label). He later went on to promote many local artists in the Dallas area, and reputedly hired a young Teddy Pendergrass to play drums in his band in 1965 (and cut "Afro-Au-Go-Go" for the Ara label). In 1964, the biggest rage in swimwear fashion was the one-piece topless bathing suit out of France - everyone talked about it, though very few women dared to wear it. Early that summer, Royce had a chance to record a dance tune he'd written, "The Frog", and needed something for the flip side. Royce's wife, Judy, was at the session, and suggested they do a tune about the risque piece of beachwear everyone was talking about. Royce and the band laid down a backing track, and then Royce, Judy, and another woman (possibly his sister-in-law) recorded a spoken dialogue about the topless bathing suit.

The result was absolute genius. You can actually hear the leer on Royce's face when he sees a woman wearing a "topless". The two women react with hostility at first, but one of them begins to come around to Royce's way of thinking, saying, "well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" Which causes the other woman to retort, "if you can't join 'em, BEAT 'em!!" Sage advice, indeed.

"Rolls" Royce and The Wheels - Topless (Constellation 133) - 1964

Friday, July 22, 2011

SOUPY SALES - BREAK YOUR BACK

WHAAAAT?? A Soupy Sales FUNK record?? Oh yeah....

Sorry I haven't posted much in the last couple of weeks. Between the Little Willie John radio special (which took FOUR sessions to edit down to two hours), my impending move, my time spent building a new computer with my genius cousin, work, and the wedding of my friends John and Heidi, I have had next to no time to blog!! However, I DID have time last Friday to go record shopping with John. We both got some great scores - he ended up with an original copy of the Sebastian Cabot LP on MGM, and I got this.

People will be surprised how good Soupy sounds with a funk backing, but it doesn't surprise me. Soupy (born Milton Supman in Franklinton, North Carolina in 1926) was a music man all his life. He had a gigantic jazz record collection, was a disk jockey in Detroit, and had two sons who became musicians. Plus he had a series of records of his own, culminating with his 1965 hit, "The Mouse" (which - reputedly - The Young Rascals play backup on).

Of course, about ten minutes after I brought this record home, I discovered that the record was originally done by Brunswick staff producer Willie Henderson and released about a month before Soupy's - also on Brunswick. But Soupy actually cuts Willie on this! It may be his best record, even though you NEVER see it in discographies.

So now there's one more thing to add to Soupy's already impressive resume. Soupy Sales, kiddie show host, jazz lover, game show mainstay, disk jockey, maker of hit records, and.....funkmeister.

P. S. I actually got to meet Soupy once, when I was working for some horrible radio station. He couldn't have been a nicer guy, not very impressed with himself at all, and took an interest in me and my little radio show. Soup, wherever you are, a big cream pie in the face to you from me.

Soupy Sales - Break Your Back (Brunswick 55472) - 1972

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

LITTLE WILLIE JOHN - DON'T PLAY WITH LOVE

No less an authority than James Brown once said, "Little Willie John was a soul singer before anyone thought to call it that".  His original version of "Fever" inspired Peggy Lee to record it. He had 14 hits on the R&B charts between 1955 and 1961, and an equal number of hits on the pop charts. He appeared on "American Bandstand" and "Route 66". Unfortunately, he was also convicted of manslaughter in 1966 (even though it was never proven that he killed anyone) and died in prison at age 30 in 1968.

On Sunday, July 17th, WFDU-FM's "On The Record" with Richard Sibello will pay a 2-hour tribute to the singer who influenced many of the future stars of soul, including James Brown and Stevie Wonder. We'll be playing many of his hits, his forgotten masterpieces, and selections from his doomed 1966 session for Capitol Records (which stayed unreleased until 2008).

We will be interviewing author and journalist Susan Whitall, who has written a new book on the life of this incredible performer, entitled "Fever: Little Willie John - A Fast Life, Mysterious Death and The Birth Of Soul" (available now at www.amazon.com).

Not only that, but we will also feature an interview with Little Willie John's two sons, Kevin and Keith John, who will share their personal memories of their father and his music.

So be sure to tune in Sunday, July 17th, at 1:00 pm EST at 89.1 on your radio dial or at www.wfdu.fm on the web. This promises to be something special!

Posted here is one of the tunes by Willie that I HOPE I have time to play this coming Sunday - a GREAT uptempo side, very atypical for Little Willie John.....

Little Willie John - Don't Play With Love (King 5717) - 1963

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thank You!

I'd like to send out a HUGE "thank you" to the folks that responded to this last month's blog posts and helped me obtain information I so DESPERATELY needed:

First, Moptop Mike Markesich - the capo di capo tutti of garage punk 45s and dead wax numbers, who gave me great info about The City Dwellers (who knew they were possibly from Jersey? Mike did!!) and was able to put a date on the Gary Allen record on Saundra Lee (August, 1966 - I'll change it in the original post later). Mike is finishing up what promises to be THE definitive book on obscure 60s garage rock groups. Watch for it!

Secondly, I want to thank Bob, fellow blogger (who writes the excellent "Dead Wax" blog - check it out here), for being a veritable fountainhead of information, letting me know that the Gary Allen 45 was out of Arizona, giving me the release date of the Melvin London and The Red Hearts 45 (December, 1966 - again, I'll update the post), and especially for posting on his blog about the other two records on the Lil-Tee record label! Bob, you are awesome!

If I see either of you two in person, beers are on me! Thanks again, guys!

I also would like to thank all the folks who have read (and continue to read) my blog - you make it all worthwhile! Without you, I'm just another record geek....

Richard Sibello

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

GARY ALLEN - MY BABY WALKS BY NIGHT

Here's the fifth record in this month's blog theme - "records I've tried my damndest to get some info on, but failed miserably".

Gary Allen (not to be confused with the current country singer Gary Allan) made this one for the ultra-obscure Saundra Lee label sometime in the mid-60s. That's all I've got on this one. Good song, though, if you like country (and I do).

Anybody know anything about this mystery disk? Gary Allen, if you're out there, you made one hell of a record!

Gary Allen - My Baby Walks By Night (Saundra Lee 501) -1966

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CHARLIE ALLEN - MOLASSES

From the weird and wacky file - the number 4 Mystery Record of the month.

This is yet another example of the strange early 60s phenomenon known as the "food" song. Notable examples include "Mashed Potatoes" by Nat Kendrick, "Peanut Butter" by The Marathons, "Bread And Butter" by The Newbeats, etc. I once did an entire two-hour radio show of just "food" songs, though I didn't include this one for some reason. Only thing I know about Charlie Allen is that he had another 45 on the Portrait label in 1962. Since the Teacho Wiltshire Orchestra is backing Charlie up, I am assuming this was a New York recording (and I know that the label was out of New York). This was the B-side (I'm assuming again - but who would try to have a hit record with a song about molasses???) of "There's Only One", a semi-gospel side. It was also produced by Charlie Allen for "The Frank Stuart Corporation", whoever they were. "Molasses" has cutesy girl-group backing, but the song is so damn weird that you sit there wondering, "did they really need a B-side this badly?". 

As always, any info on this record would be greatly appreciated.

Charlie Allen - Molasses (Bear 5004) - c. 1961-63