Monday, November 11, 2013

CHRIS MORGAN and THE TOGAS - WOULD YOU BELIEVE (Love Is Dead)

In. Tense.

I don't know anything about Chris Morgan and The Togas, other than the fact that this was their second out of two singles (their first, a version of Bob Dylan's "Baby, I'm In The Mood For You", was simply credited to "The Togas") and that Chris Morgan later hooked up with Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers who produced a pair of Bell label 45s for Chris in 1969. Also, they were probably from California.

Oh, and I know one other thing - when I first heard this on some college station I swore that it was The Animals. You will, too.

Chris Morgan and The Togas - Would You Believe (Love Is Dead) (Challenge 59330) - 1966


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

LAMAR MORRIS - SEND ME A BOX OF KLEENEX

As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a bad title for a country song - because the worse it is, the better. After all, this is a genre that has given us sweet melodies with names like "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me", "You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly", "I'm Gonna Hire A Wino To Decorate Our Home", and the immortal "Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart".

Those of you keeping score, add this one to the list. I first heard this on an old reel-to-reel tape my father had (remember?) and have been obsessed with it ever since. Turns out Lamar Morris was the lead guitarist for The Bama Band, who were Hank Williams, Jr.'s backing group. I'm guessing Hank had some pull with MGM, and got his buddy Lamar a contract. For his first 45, Lamar wrote "Kleenex" with Mack Vickery, who would go on to write a few of Jerry Lee Lewis' 1970s country hits (including the just plain dirty "Meat Man"). If not for anything else, "Kleenex" should be considered a great country 45 for its opening lines - "You can send me a box of Kleenex/Make it the biggest one they've got/'Cause since it seems I'm gonna be your ex/I know I'm gonna cry a lot".

Now, anyone who rhymes "Kleenex" with "your ex" is either a genius or a loony. I'm going with loony here. Let's face it, you couldn't have too great a stronghold on reality if you were touring with Hank, Jr. in the 60s and 70s, writing with a guy who once put out a live LP from a women's prison (and was one of Jerry Lee's best buddies, albeit one whom Jerry Lee never shot), AND allowed your first solo session to be produced by the truly certifiable Jack Clement (who had a gigantic swing installed in his living room and wrote the aforementioned "Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart"). But, hey, so what? If we only allowed sane individuals to make records, there wouldn't be any good ones.

By the by, Lamar's still alive and kickin'! Check out his website.

Lamar Morris - Send Me A Box Of Kleenex (MGM 13586) - 1966

Friday, October 18, 2013

THEE MIDNITERS - EVERYBODY NEEDS SOMEBODY

"Best band I ever hired" - Casey Kasem.

Thee Midniters. The best band to ever come out of East L.A. Unfortunately, their records were seldom heard OUTSIDE of East L.A. But for those lucky folks who saw them live, or owned their records, these guys were unbeatable. They could do it ALL -rock any house, croon sweet ballads, raise the roof with a little soul, even get political (dig up their "The Ballad Of Cesar Chavez" 45 for that). In East L. A., these guys were like the BEATLES.

The group started out in the early 60s, evolving from a band known as The Gentiles (!!!) and playing local clubs and entering contests known as "Battle Of The Bands". They called themselves The Midnighters, but soon changed their name to THEE Midniters to avoid getting sued by Hank Ballard and his group of Midnighters. In those days, the group wore masks over their eyes for that extra air of mystery. The group's lead singers were Little Willie Garcia (aka Little Willie G) and Lil' Ray Jimenez. Jimenez left in 1964 to go solo (and made a single for the Impact label), but Little Willie G soldiered on.

The group's fortunes changed in late 1964 when one of their live shows was recorded by their manager, Eddie Torres, who got the group a deal with local L. A. label Chattahoochee Records. One of the group's signature songs was the old Chris Kenner tune "Land Of 1000 Dances", which the group released as their first single. With the support of DJ's like Huggy Boy (Dick Hugg) on KRLA and Godfrey on KTYM, the disc got heavy airplay. However, at almost exactly the same time, another group from East L.A., Cannibal and The Headhunters, released their version, which eventually became the bigger hit. As for who came up with the "naaah, na-na-na-naaah" riff (which is not on Kenner's version), we'll probably never know. Little Willie G says he came up with it, but according to Bob Shannon and John Javna's book Behind The Hits, Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia (no relation to Willie G) forgot the words one night and improvised the lick on the spot. Who knows? Who cares? Despite losing the hit to Cannibal, "Land Of 1000 Dances" became the biggest hit Thee Midniters ever had, hitting #67 nationally.

After several follow-ups on Chattahoochee (including "Whittier Blvd.", a wild instrumental, and the killer garage-rock 45 "I Found A Peanut"), manager Eddie Torres formed his own label, Whittier Records, in early 1966. Thee Midniters immediately had a big hit in L.A. with the label's first release, "Love, Special Delivery", and Whittier was on its way, though on a small scale - they didn't have the distribution of a larger label, so the records pretty much stayed in the L.A. area.

The 45 I'm blogging about now has a weird history. In early 1967 the group released their fourth single for Whittier - "The Walking Song (Shouldn't You Wonder)"/"Never Knew I Had It So Bad". Even though "The Walking Song" was the A-side, "Never Knew I Had It So Bad" started getting big-time spins in L.A., so Eddie Torres re-released "Never Knew I Had It So Bad" as an A-side, and put the group's version of Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" on the flip. That was kind of a strange move, because usually a canny label boss would put a song on the flip that was one of his copyrights, to make even more money off of a hit record (this is why sometimes you find old 45s with alternate B-sides). But Eddie Torres apparently didn't care or didn't know any better.

In either case, I'm certainly glad he did what he did, because this version of "Everybody Needs Somebody" puts an ass-whipping on every other recording of it (yes, including Wilson Pickett's, though not by much)!! Supposedly recorded live (though who knows - many times it was studio cuts with audience noise dubbed in), the band is absolutely ON FIRE and at its garagiest and grungiest, with Little Willie G contributing one of his most soulful vocals ever!!

Thee Midniters went on from there, but with Little Willie G going solo in late 1968, the group lost a lot of its drive. That combined with the frustration of not having national success (and the money that came with it) caused the group to call it quits in 1969.

For many years, Thee Midniters' records remained buried in the L.A. scrap heap, and the group, though a local legend, were all but forgotten about. But over the years, this group has gotten the respect it so richly deserves. Norton has reissued several of their singles and an LP called In Thee Midnite Hour, but if you really want to get the full effect of the incredible range of these guys, check out the Micro Werks CD box set called Thee Complete Midniters (though, be forewarned, since the master tapes were lost long ago, and vinyl copies had to be used, the sound isn't quite CD-quality).

If you want to hear more of Thee Midniters (and other East L.A. groups), check out this AMAZING blog.

Thee Midniters - Everybody Needs Somebody (Whittier 504) - 1967

Saturday, September 21, 2013

THE TEARDROPS - I'M GONNA STEAL YOUR BOYFRIEND

I am more than happy to say that my buddy John Clemente has finally released the new, expanded edition of his book "Girl Groups: Fabulous Females Who Rocked The World"! So in honor of John (and girl group aficionados throughout the world), I'll blog one of the toughest, coolest girl group records of all time - "I'm Gonna Steal Your Boyfriend" by The Teardrops.

The group, consisting of Wanda "Wendy" Sheriff, Dorothy "Sunny" Dyer, Pat "Punkin" Strunk, and Linda "Lin" Schroeder, started in Cincinnati in 1961. Dorothy, Pat and Linda all went to the same high school, and Dorothy and Linda soon formed a duo, singing in local parks and teen hangouts. One night, they went to a spot called The Tulu Club, a place sponsored by local radio station WSAI, and run by one of their DJ's, Ron Britton. As the band was playing onstage, Dorothy and Linda began singing along. The bandleader heard them and asked them to come up on stage to sing with them (today, the musician's union would put the kibosh on that).  They were such a hit that they decided to form a group and get into the music business. They recruited Pat Strunk a short time later, and they worked as a trio for a little while, playing teen dance clubs in and around Cincinnati.

At one gig, the Teardrops were booked on the same bill as a band called The Matadors, whose guitarist, Bud Reneau, was co-owner of a small record label called Saxony Records. After the show, he called his partner, Paul Trefzger, to tell him about this great girl group he'd just played a gig with. Soon the trio was signed to Saxony, and shortly afterward they were joined by a fourth member - Wanda Sheriff. Wanda's hobby was hairdressing, and if you've ever seen pictures of The Teardrops (there are quite a number in John's book), the first thing you'll notice is the group's wild hairdos, with Wanda's being the wildest of all!

In early September of 1964, the Teardrops had their first session at the legendary King Records Studios, and the first single from the session was "Tonight I'm Gonna Fall In Love Again"/"That's Why I'll Get By". "Tonight....", with Linda Schroeder on lead, became a huge hit in Cinncy, and the group was on its way to the big time, touring all over Ohio and Kentucky while the DJs in Cincinnati wore out their needles on the Saxony 45.

But that's not the record I'm featuring here......their follow-up, in early 1965, is the pick for this blog post - "I'm Gonna Steal Your Boyfriend". Dorothy Dyer took the lead on this one, with one of the toughest, bitchiest vocals this side of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Starting with handclaps and an irresistible "doom-bop-a-dooji-bop, whoa-ho", the record roars in like an angry dad picking up his teenage daughter from a frat party. Basically, the singer is pissed off because she sees her best friend treating her man like dirt and decides, "screw her, he's gonna be mine" - and is proud of it! Again, the record got some airplay in the Cincinnati area, but the record didn't sell as well as its predecessor - possibly because Trefzger decided to change the label design from something accessible (a nice light blue label with a large stylized "S" at the top) to something dark, obscure, and just plain plain (see the pic above).

The group fared better with their third single, "Tears Come Tumbling", which was such a huge hit in the midwest (and Philadelphia and Boston) in late 1965, that Trefzger and Reneau leased the record to Musicor, who released it in early '66. Despite all the airplay, the record never charted on a national level. The group cut one more single for Musicor, "I Will Love You Dear Forever", which flopped completely (though Trefzger re-released it on his reactivated Saxony label in 1993). The group soldiered on for a while, playing the Cincinnati club circuit as members came and went, but decided to call it quits in 1969.

The Teardrops were probably one of the best "girl groups" you've never heard of (and of course the idiots at Rhino completely missed the boat by not including them on their girl groups box - SHAME on you, Sheryl Farber and Gary Stewart). But you can become very familiar with their material easily - Saxony Records is still doing business, and you can buy Teardrops CD's (and even original 45s!!) on their website.

A lot of the research (okay, ALL of the research) for the factoids presented in this blog post was done by my good buddy John Clemente, and you CANNOT call yourself a girl group enthusiast unless you have a copy of his book "Girl Groups: Fabulous Females Who Rocked The World". Even if you have the one from a few years ago, you need to buy this new edition. First of all, it's THREE TIMES as thick as the old book, has MANY more articles on many more artists, plus there's a TON of rare and cool pix crammed in there!! You can get it here. So buy the book. Now. I said NOW!!!

The Teardrops - I'm Gonna Steal Your Boyfriend (Saxony 1008) - 1965

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

LIGHTNIN' SLIM - I'M EVIL

I recently picked up a whole bunch of blues 45s on the Excello label from an online seller in Texas. Got 'em on the cheap, too! The great thing about old blues 45s is that they are like cheeseburgers - they're basically all the same, but they're always good. You just wouldn't want to live on a steady diet of 'em....

Anyway, pretty much all the Excello 45s in the lot were by three artists - Lonesome Sundown, Lazy Lester, and Lightnin' Slim. I already had a half-dozen Lightnin' Slim Excello 45s, but he must have made a million of 'em because no matter how many I get, there's always a whole lot more that I don't have. There were a number of Lightnin's good ones in this bunch - "Tom Cat Blues", "Winter Time Blues", "I Just Don't Know" and this one, from early 1963. I threw it on the ol' Thorens TD124 and let 'er rip, and got my HEAD BLOWN OFF! Not only is the band chugging out a bone-crushing shuffle, and not only is Lightnin' Slim singing like he wants to win First Runner-Up for the Jimmy Reed Award For Mumblin', but the one lyric I can clearly make out is such a killer that I'm surprised Willie Dixon didn't write it first: "I'm so EVIL, pretty baby, my SHADOW'S scared to follow me!"

The question then became: why was Lightnin' Slim not at least as well-known as Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy and those other famed blues cats?

So I did a little research. Lightnin' Slim (real name: Otis Hicks, 1913-1974) made his first records for Louisiana producer/label owner Jay D. Miller (who would figure prominently in the Excello Records story and also run the infamous Reb Rebel label, which released pro-segregation recordings throughout the late 60s) in 1954. Miller had a label called Feature Records, which released Lightnin's "Bad Luck Blues", and it became a local hit. After releasing two more singles on Feature, Jay Miller realized there was quite a market for blues recordings (up to that point, most of the 45s on Feature were country records), but also realized that running a label was becoming a pain in the ass. So he folded Feature in early 1955 and leased Lightnin' Slim's next record to Johnny Vincent's Ace label. I'm guessing Johnny wasn't exactly forthcoming with the cash generated from Lightnin's record, because Miller ended up making a deal with Ernie Young's Excello Records as an independent producer - Miller would make records in his studio in Crowley, LA, and Excello would press, release and distribute them.

Lightnin' Slim debuted on Excello with "Lightnin' Blues" in late 1955. It sold well throughout the South, and Jay Miller was in business. He continued with many more successful 45s (and 78s) by Lightnin'. In 1956 Miller added Lonesome Sundown and Lazy Lester to his roster of blues artists, and it was around this time that Lightnin' Slim started bringing his brother-in-law to his sessions, a guy named James Moore (who would later become famous as Slim Harpo).

Unfortunately, while Excello was one of the biggest labels in the South, they didn't have a national distribution network. While you could find Excello product in almost every record shop from Florida to southern Indiana to Texas, you'd be hard-pressed to find Excello 45s anywhere else (at least, until the early 1960s, that is). You could order Excello 45s through the mail (did I mention Ernie Young also owned Ernie's Record Mart, one of the biggest mail-order record houses in the country?) but back in those days, mail-order sales weren't charted by Billboard magazine. Plus, let's face it, you weren't gonna hear Lazy Lester or Lightnin' Slim on the radio unless you were in the South (the Chess brothers, up north in Chicago, circumvented this problem by buying a station, WVON, and, to be fair, they also had a fantastic rapport - read: payola - with other Chicago stations and Alan Freed, who pushed Chess product in Cleveland and New York). So Lightnin' Slim became a phenomenon in the southern states, but never went national (and international) on the level of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Which is unfortunate, because Lightnin' Slim's records are highly prized by those in the know, and some blues historians rank him right up there with Muddy and Wolf.

Unfortunately, Lightnin' didn't make much money in the deal with Jay Miller and Excello (big surprise there), so he stopped making records in 1966 and moved to Michigan to work in a foundry casting metal for auto parts. Fortunately, he was re-discovered by some blues freaks in 1970 and he re-signed with Excello (this time without Jay Miller) and began making LPs for them, spending the rest of his life touring in the US and Europe in blues festivals.

Lightnin' Slim died from stomach cancer on July 27, 1974, aged 61.

Those of you who dig the blues, pick up on some Lightnin' Slim. You won't be disappointed.

Lightnin' Slim - I'm Evil (Excello 2228) - 1963

Monday, July 15, 2013

JUANITA WILLIAMS - BABY BOY

One of the great mystery singles out of Detroit....on the label that gave Motown a serious run for its money for a few years in the mid 1960s.

Since I can't tell you anything about Juanita Williams, I'll tell you about Golden World Records, and its sister labels Wingate and Ric Tic. I promise, it's a good story.

Golden World Records was started in 1961 by Detroit businessman Eddie Wingate and his partner, Jo Anne Bratton. Wingate was a known wheeler-dealer about town, and by the early 60s owned a taxicab company, several cafes, a motel and, eventually, Detroit's most famous supper club, The Twenty Grand. In fact, he was so well-known within Detroit that Berry Gordy, shortly after forming Motown, asked Wingate to be his business partner. Eddie turned him down flat, figuring he could do what Berry was doing and make all the money for himself!

By January, 1962, Golden World had its first release - "I Wonder" by Sue Perrin. For the next year and a half, Golden World (and its subsidiary Ric Tic) would release eight singles, none of them even coming close to being a hit - not even in Detroit. One reason for this may have been that they weren't Detroit records - Wingate did all of those early recordings in New York City, mainly because he couldn't find studio musicians in Detroit that were up to his standards. But the talent pool must have gotten better by the summer of 1963, because that's when Wingate decided to record exclusively in Detroit. Wingate redesigned the label art for his records and started a new numbering system for his catalog (1962-1963 Golden World 45s were in a 100 series - the new system started at 1). In September, 1963, the revamped Golden World released its first single - Willie Kendrick's "Take This Train". But, despite some good releases, Wingate's companies still didn't have anything resembling a hit.

Enter The Reflections. A white doo-wop group from Detroit, they had a smash hit with their first waxing for Golden World - "(Just Like) Romeo And Juliet". The record sold close to a million copies, and Eddie Wingate was in the money. The first thing Eddie did was form a new label and name it after himself - Wingate Records. The second thing he did was build his own recording studio, called Golden World.

Here's where it gets interesting: Wingate was always on the lookout for the best musicians in Detroit, and some great musicians came to Golden World from an unlikely source - Motown Records. Seems that Berry Gordy, Jr. was a bit stingy when it came to paying his house band, so whenever they got a chance, The Funk Brothers would lay down tracks for Eddie Wingate at Golden World. It didn't take long for Gordy to find out what was going on (hell, all he had to do was listen to some Golden World/Ric-Tic 45s) and, the next time the Funk Bros. came to Motown to play, he fined them $100 each. Eddie Wingate got wind of this and, according to legend, crashed the Motown Christmas party and paid the guys back double on the spot!

Gordy had good reason to be angry - not only did Wingate make him look like a fool at his own office party, but Golden World's sound was getting a little too close for Motown's comfort. Not just the sound; Wingate even had singers who sounded like established Motown artists. Motown had Diana Ross, Wingate had Barbara Mercer ("Hey!!", "Doin' Things Together With You"). Motown had Little Stevie Wonder, Wingate had Little Carl Carlton ("Nothin' No Sweeter Than Love"). Motown had Marvin Gaye, Wingate had J. J. Barnes ("Say It"). That's not even counting Edwin Starr, who made some of the best non-Motown Motown 45s for Ric-Tic in 1965-1966. The competition was too fierce; something had to be done.

Gordy finally set up a meeting in September 1966, and made Wingate an offer he couldn't refuse; a reputed $1 million for the studio, the house publishing company (Myto Music) and the entire artist roster of Golden World and Wingate (which wasn't much at that point), PLUS Edwin Starr's contract. Eddie was allowed to keep the Ric-Tic label active (where the hits continued with artists such as The Fantastic Four, The Detroit Emeralds and The Flaming Ember), but closed Golden World and Wingate Records.

Apparently, around 1968 Eddie Wingate got tired of the record biz, and called on Berry Gordy once again. Gordy bought out what was left of Wingate's empire (though he only got the Fantastic Four out of the deal) and the Golden World/Wingate/Ric-Tic label family was no more.

The Juanita Williams 45 above (remember what I was talking about originally?) is a great example of the way Wingate operated - a high-quality production by a great singer singing a great song, but six months later you'd find yourself asking "whatever happened to....?" I don't know what happened to Juanita Williams, but she (and Eddie Wingate) made one hell of a good record here.

NOTE: I woulda posted this A LOT sooner, but DivShare apparently decided to hire lobotomized monkeys to oversee their servers and I couldn't upload the audio file. Honestly, DivShare, you have ONE job - to store mp3's. If this is too hard for you, you should shut down and refund my money. Morons.

Juanita Williams - Baby Boy (Golden World 18) - 1964

Monday, June 3, 2013

HANK WILLIAMS, JR. - YOU'RE RUININ' MY LIFE

Once again, Wikipedia is good for a laugh. They seem to think that Hank Williams, Jr. spent the first ten years of his career imitating his dad. Really, Wikipedia? Have you LISTENED to those records? Yes, he RECORDED a lot of his father's songs, but he didn't really sound like Hank Sr. In fact, I actually prefer the early singles to the stuff Bocephus did later (when he became an "outlaw" country singer and a shill for Monday Night Football).

Hank Jr. seems to have been around forever, and there's a good reason - he got an incredibly early start, making his first records for MGM in late 1963 at age 14, and had his first hit in early 1964 with a remake of his dad's old hit "Long Gone Lonesome Blues". When listening to the record I'm blogging about today, remember that Hank Jr. was SIXTEEN YEARS OLD when he recorded it.

Sixteen. He already sounds 40 when he sings the opening line - "Down at work it's gettin' bad/It's gettin' kinda rough as a cob/My boss done told me/better get my mind back on my job". He probably WAS sixteen going on 40 at that point, with a domineering mother trying to push Hank Jr. into pale imitations of his father's music, without being able to assert himself legally and break away from the path his mother set him on (he finally got away from her in the early 1970s).

In any case, I just wanted to post this because it's a cool country number (written by John D. Loudermilk) with bluesy guitar licks and great drums. And no rowdy friends.

Hank Williams, Jr. - You're Ruinin' My Life (MGM 13392) - 1965

Saturday, May 18, 2013

THE MAGNIFICENT MEN - NOBODY TREATS ME THE WAY YOU DO

Wow! Has it really been a month since I blogged last? Damn work keeps getting in the way......

Anyway, I thought I'd throw a curve here and spotlight an LP track instead of a 45 (though this track SHOULDA been on a 7-inch slab o' waxy goodness). It's by a group that were called the M&M boys, the Maggs, Mag Men, etc., but they were officially known as The Magnificent Men - and magnificent they were.

The term "blue-eyed soul" gets thrown about quite a bit - I've heard it used in reference to everyone from David Bowie to Scott Walker to Frank Sinatra (in fact, if you want a good laugh, check out Wikipedia's entry for "Category: Blue Eyed Soul Singers"). But the term was coined for white singers who were singing in the new soul style of the 1960s - acts like Wayne Cochran, The Rascals, Ronnie Milsap, Roy Head, Len Barry, The O'Kaysions, The Shades Of Blue, The Soul Survivors and, of course, The Righteous Brothers, who were probably the first act to have that tag appended to them. But the best blue-eyed soul act of all was The Magnificent Men, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They had almost everything - TWO fantastic lead singers (David Bupp and Buddy King) who also wrote much of their material, a steady leader in drummer Bob "Puff" Angelucci, and the rest of the guys (Jim Seville, Tom Hoover - later replaced by Billy Richter, Terry Crousore and Tom Pane) were absolute killer instrumentalists and singers. They were the FIRST white act to headline at the Apollo Theater (and James Brown himself was so impressed that he jumped up on stage with them for one 45-minute set). They also played landmarks of the chitlin' circuit like the Howard Theater in Washington, D. C. and the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia (where they recorded their legendary live LP). Unfortunately, they were signed to Capitol Records, who literally had no idea what to do with them.

The group was formed in the early 1960s from the remains of two rather large (and racially mixed) bands - the seven-member Del-Chords (who had a great 45 called "Your Mommy Lied To Your Daddy") and the nine-piece Endells (who had a semi-hit in Philadelphia called "Vicky"). When several of the white members from both groups started jamming together, they formed a third group, calling themselves The Magnificent Seven. They also started getting a lot more gigs, since booking agents were a bit wary of hiring their old bands because they were racially integrated.

They soon signed with Capitol, and changed their name to The Magnificent Men. Their first single, "Peace Of Mind", written by Bupp and King, was a top ten R&B hit in Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago. The follow-up, "Maybe, Maybe Baby", got airplay in New York on WMCA and got the Mag Men invited to the Apollo as headliners.

But on a national level, nobody knew who these guys were. Despite the regional success of their first two 45s, neither of them charted nationally, on either the pop or R&B charts (in fact, they only charted twice in their whole career, with "I Could Be So Happy", which hit #93 pop, and "Sweet Soul Medley", taken from the live LP, which was their biggest pop hit at #90. They never hit the national R&B chart). Their first two LPs, The Magnificent Men and Live!, were decent sellers, but again, neither one charted.

In October, 1967, the group decided to travel to Chicago to try and change their fortunes, working with producer Carl Davis and arranger Sonny Sanders on a session. Unfortunately, only ONE song was released from that session, and this was it. "Nobody Treats Me The Way You Do" was written by Marvin Smith, lead singer of The Artistics (who the Mag Men patterned their harmonies after) and is one of the finest examples of blue-eyed soul - hell, just SOUL - in existence.

Capitol couldn't have cared less. After two LPs and a bunch of 45s that didn't chart, the group's welcome was wearing thin. So Capitol pushed the group towards what used to be called "supper-club soul" - standards with a slightly soulful bent. This direction came to fruition on the group's third Capitol LP, The World Of Soul, an uneven album in which great group originals such as "So Much Love Waiting" and "It's Got To Be Love" were mixed in with standards such as "September Song", "Alfie" and "Everybody's Got A Home But Me". The Maggs handled these well, but the one Chicago track that was included on the LP sticks out like a sore thumb (and, typical of the corporate ways of Capitol, Carl Davis was not even credited on the LP jacket, though strangely Sonny Sanders was).

Released in early 1968, the LP bombed, and the novelty of a white group singing soul was beginning to wear off (The Rascals, after their huge 1968 hit "People Got To Be Free", suffered the same fate, dropping down the charts dramatically with their next few 45s). Funk and harder-edged soul were beginning to take over, and the Mag Men were left behind. A switch to the Mercury label didn't help matters; the LP Like A Ten Cent Movie and two singles (including a version of Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay") had few takers. David Bupp left the group shortly afterwards, and the group disbanded in 1973.


Supposedly, a film about the group is near completion. See the trailer here. But don't wait for the film. Get every piece of wax you can by this group. You will NOT believe your ears.

The Magnificent Men - Nobody Treats Me The Way You Do (Capitol ST 2846) - 1968

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

THE MONKEES - GOOD CLEAN FUN

I was having a (somewhat) friendly argument with some online cronies over who the father of country-rock really is - Gram Parsons, Rick Nelson or Mike Nesmith. Of course, it ultimately doesn't matter, because now, really BAD country-rock is what passes for country nowadays (with a few exceptions, of course: George Strait, Alan Jackson, Billy Currington when he's in the mood). But it really was amazing how many good points were brought up in the argument, like how Bob Wills was the first guy to try and combine country with an R&B/rock and roll feel (instead of the other way around). Nesmith himself has said that Rick Nelson was the guy who pointed the way to country-rock. Gram Parsons? OVERRATED AS ALL HELL. Rich kid, nothing to do, liked country, had good dope, hung out with some degenerates, screwed Emmylou Harris, OD'd. Fuck him.

Me? It's a toss-up between Nesmith and Nelson. But I gotta say, old wool-hat made the more interesting records, with or without The Monkees. Or both, in this case (yes, it's a Monkees record, but none of the other three Monkeemen are on this song). As with a lot of Nesmith compositions, the title is mentioned nowhere in the song. Mike was kinda weird like that - or was he? More on that later.

I was actually lucky enough to see Mike Nesmith in concert twice - once with The Monkees in late 2012, and once solo this past Friday (April 12, 2013). They were two completely different concerts. While the Monkees concert was more fun, the solo concert was more interesting (no big surprise). The Monkees did what was expected - they did hit after hit, did the "Head" LP in its entirety, and did a tribute to their fallen comrade, Davy Jones. With the solo concert, I had NO idea what to expect. Mike came out, acknowledged the cheers - and swung right into "Papa Jean's Blues"!! Turns out that was the only time he acknowledged the Monkees all night - which was fine with me. I was there to hear the best of his solo material - "The Grand Ennui", "Rio", "Some Of Shelley's Blues", "Different Drum", and the hits "Joanne" and "Silver Moon". Mike played 'em all, and he prefaced each song with a little spoken vignette, putting each tune into its own framework. It was a nice way to link the songs together, and to give us a glimpse of Nesmith's thought process (obtuse as that may be).

Now some folks might think that Mike, in giving his audience these vignettes, is talking down to them. If he is, he can't be blamed. Mike Nesmith is one of two artists (Scott Walker is the other one) who, no matter what they do, will always be imprisoned by their earlier personas, never being forgiven for their artistic growth, and never being forgiven for looking forward instead of backward. The Scott Walker of 1968 - young, beautiful to look at, singing Jacques Brel songs and standards in that honeyed, rich baritone - is never coming back, and those who love 1968 Scott revile the material that Walker's made since Climate Of Hunter in 1984; they refer to those albums as "that weird crap". As much as the audience last Friday came to hear Mike's solo material, most of them were wearing Monkees T-shirts and I'm sure some of them wished that Mike would put on his green wool hat with the pom-pom on top and play that 12-string Gretsch guitar and play "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?" or "Salesman" or "Love Is Only Sleeping". Nope. Not gonna happen. Mike's playing what Mike wants to play - Michael Nesmith songs. Therefore, he's already got a strike or two against him before he comes out. Not that the songs aren't good, but they can't compete with old-fashioned TV and music nostalgia - and they shouldn't have to. But they do, at least in the minds of the people who go to see him perform. Like Scott Walker, Mike's music needs to sink in a few times before it can be truly appreciated for the genius work that it is, and, to be fair, Mike has always had an obscurantist streak in his writing, leaving you scratching your head and saying, "what does he mean by that?" So his explanations of the music he's making, while a bit peevish on some levels, become totally necessary when facing an audience that doesn't really understand him anyway.

The above record is just one of those examples. For years, I could never figure out why he named this tune "Good Clean Fun". Listening to the lyrics, it's just a guy waiting for a plane carrying his girlfriend who he hasn't seen in over a year. Big deal. But sometime in the 1970s, someone interviewed Nesmith and asked about this song (I wish I could remember who, so I can give them credit), wondering if there was more to it than meets the ear. Nesmith admitted that the song's last line, "I told you I'd come back / and here I am", is actually meant as a threat, and that the song's narrator means to do his (ex) girlfriend great harm. Hence the ironic title "Good Clean Fun".

Anyhoo, I thought I'd end this by saying this is the 100th post for "On The Record"!! Do I get some kind of syndication deal? No? Oh, well, I'll just keep going anyway. Thanks to all the readers out there for showing your support!!

The Monkees - Good Clean Fun (Colgems 5005) - 1969

Monday, April 1, 2013

BEVERLY JONES - HEAR YOU TALKING

I first heard about this record through a good friend of mine, John Grecco, who was the associate producer for the "One Kiss Can Lead To Another" girl groups box set that Rhino put out a few years ago. While the box set itself was pretty good, having to WORK on the box set was a bad experience for me. I helped out on that box with publishing information and a few label scans (none of which made it to the booklet). I spent a LOT of time doing research, and what did I get for my efforts? NADA. Zilch. Zip. Zero. I didn't get an invite to the release party (well, actually, I did, but would have had to pay full price for the tickets like any schlub off the street). Hell, I also didn't even get a COPY OF THE BOX SET!! My girlfriend, bless her heart, bought me one a couple of Christmases ago, which is the ONLY reason I have a copy.

FUCK Rhino.

This was one of the tunes selected for the box set that didn't make the final cut (somewhere in my files I have the first draft of the track listing - I think it was about 115 - 120 songs). One of the big problems in putting the set together was that it had such a Euro-girls point of view (probably due to the fact that Rhino decided to hire Sheila Burgel to write the booklet notes for the track listing - she loves that Euro-crap), so a lot of good American girl-group records were passed over in favor of the inferior but oh-so-hip European imitations.

This one's actually pretty good, though. Beverly Jones was an English lass who hooked up with a beat group called The Prestons for this one 45, released in the UK in October, 1964, and in the USA in January, 1965. The A-side, a mod version of Martha and The Vandellas' "Heat Wave", was a waste of time; the band cooks, but Beverly was never gonna come close to Martha Reeves' vocal. The flip, though, has some balls. Written by Prestons' lead guitarist Roger James, "Hear You Talking" is an atypical girl group lament; instead of threatening to beat up a girl who is vying for her man's affections, she lays down the rules to her GUY - no talking about your ex, or I'll CUT YOU DEAD! (and the organist is playing like he knows she means it!) Sounding like a tougher version of Lulu, this one grows on me with each subsequent play.

Unfortunately, that was it for Beverly Jones and The Prestons. They parted ways after this one single (and, honestly, I don't think the record got an actual release here - I've only seen promo copies of this, but have never seen a stock copy) and Beverly joined a group called The Mad Classix, later marrying their lead singer, Johnny Wells, and semi-retired to raise a family.

Unfortunately, Beverly passed on last year, but left this one unforgettable 45 with us.

For a good interview (and story) on Beverly Jones, click here.

Beverly Jones - Hear You Talking (Swan 4202) - 1965

Saturday, March 16, 2013

THE EL TORROS - YELLOW HAND

Doo-woppers are obsessed with pigeonholing their music. They have a myriad of categories; white groups, black groups, bird groups, car groups, proto-soul groups, roots groups, kid groups, male group with female lead (it rarely works the other way around), gang groups, Italo-doo-wop groups. They also like to categorize by label; Chance, Red Robin, Rama, Gee, Vee Jay, Blue Lake are very desirable names to doo-woppers. If that wasn't enough division, they also like to categorize the songs themselves; nonsense lyrics, jungle songs, songs about Latin women, songs about Oriental women, pop-doo-wop, neo-doo-wop, Tin Pan Alley doo-wop, classic doo-wop, distaff doo-wop, a wop bop a loo bop a whomp bam boo doo doo boppa loo boppa poppa stoppa hoody waddy woo......

Which is one reason why I enjoy this record so much. It doesn't really fit into the accepted categories. First of all, it's on Duke Records, an outfit well-known for blues records by the likes of Bobby Bland, Little Junior Parker, Rosco Gordon, Fenton Robinson and the late, great Johnny Ace (in fact, it was Bland and Parker who discovered the group). Duke released VERY little in the form of group harmony, so it's not one of the labels the rabid doo-wop label collectors drool over. Second, instead of singing about some angel who makes their crazy hearts skip a beat, the El Torros are singing about an Indian warrior named Yellow Hand, who apparently was a REALLY big guy (sample lyric: "he used a giant redwood tree to make his canoe / a buffalo's hide to make just one shoe"). There's no Indian princess to steal his heart, no mother to tell him to find love, no nothing. In fact, the only other person mentioned in the song is Geronimo, who says that he obeys NO MAN except for Yellow Hand.

So, I'm going to start a new sub-category for all the doo-woppers - American-Indian-doo-wop!!

By the way, for a really good article on the history of the El Torros, look no further than here.

The El Torros - Yellow Hand (Duke 175) - 1957

Thursday, February 28, 2013

THE BEAU BRUMMELS - LOWER LEVEL


The Beau Brummels. Possibly my favorite 60s group (depending on what day it is....sometimes it's The Who). SCREW The Byrds, THESE guys were the first "folk-rockers" and the first "America's answer to The Beatles".

Though they only released 5 studio LPs and a handful of singles in the 1960s, the Brummels managed to encapsulate ALL the great influences of the era - folk-rock, mild psychedelia, Dylan, teenbeat garage, country-rock - in an amazingly clear and consistent body of work. If they only had better management, they could have gone all the way, or at least be in the same pantheon as more "hallowed" groups such as the aforementioned Byrds or Van Morrison or the Stones and the Beatles (and we'd actually be able to enjoy Beau Brummels tunes on so-called "classic rock" radio).

The group's two main members, Sal Valentino (real name: Salvatore Spampinato) and Ron Elliott met in high school in San Francisco, and began singing together. After graduation, Elliott went off to San Francisco State to study music composition, while Sal sang in sleazy clubs in North Beach and cut an unsuccessful single ("I Wanna Twist") in 1962. By early 1964 Valentino and Elliott were playing in a band together with bassist Ron Meagher, drummer John Petersen and Irishman Declan Mulligan, who played rhythm guitar. Calling themselves The Beau Brummels, they soon were playing the same sleazy North Beach circuit that Sal had played a couple of years before. But while most bands were playing covers of the top hits of the day, the Brummels mostly played Ron Elliott's original songs, making them a standout from the very start.

At one gig, they were spotted by two DJ's, Bob Mitchell and Tom "Big Daddy" Donahue, who worked at KYA, at the time San Francisco's top radio station. The two DJ's had a brand-new record label called Autumn Records (so named because it was formed in the autumn of 1963) which, at that point, had one artist signed to it (Bobby Freeman) and a young record producer named Sylvester Stewart, later known to the world as Sly Stone. Autumn had just had a big hit with their second release, Bobby Freeman's "C'mon And Swim", so Donahue and Mitchell had the cash to snap up the Brummels before anyone else. Looking back, the Brummels should have waited for another company to sign them.

In December, 1964, Autumn released the Beau Brummels' first 45, "Laugh, Laugh", which showed that, even with their first single, the Brummels were a force to be reckoned with. The folk and country influence was highly apparent, and in a rock and roll song in 1964, that just didn't happen. Plus Elliott's lyrics were FAR ahead of anything other songwriters were doing, even Bob Dylan and The Beatles (what other song can you name besides "Laugh, Laugh" that uses the word "smug"?). As a result, The Beau Brummels became the FIRST rock group out of San Francisco to make it big.

Unfortunately, Autumn Records was not prepared for the magnitude of success that the Brummels were having. Despite "Laugh, Laugh" going Top Ten in many large cities (including New York and Los Angeles), Autumn couldn't keep up with the demand for the record, and even though the sales were huge, they could have been larger if Autumn wasn't such a shoe-string operation. As a result, the record only hit #15 nationally, when it should have been a national Top Five hit.

Over the next year, the Brummels had several more mid-charting hits (including their only Top Ten, "Just A Little"), two LPs, and made appearances in the films Village Of The Giants and Wild, Wild Winter (and also made an appearance as "The Beau Brummelstones" on an episode of The Flintstones). But as the year of 1965 ground on, Donahue and Mitchell were losing money (and interest) fast, and in early 1966 Autumn crashed and burned. Donahue and Mitchell sold the Brummels' contract (and the contracts of several other Autumn groups) to Warner Bros. Records.

This should have been a good thing for the group - after all, WB at that point was riding high with Petula Clark, and was becoming a major player in the industry. Unfortunately, the management team of Donahue and Mitchell screwed it all up.

The Brummels had recorded a third LP for Autumn, full of Ron Elliott songs, that was basically finished. But when Autumn folded, and Donahue and Mitchell sold out, they tried to play slick with Mo Ostin at Warners. They sold the Brummels to Warner Bros., but not their recordings, either in the can or released already. So Donahue and Mitchell, after getting x amount of dollars for the Brummels, tried to squeeze more money out of WB by offering to sell them the third, unreleased Autumn LP. Warners told Donahue and Mitchell to shove it up their collective asses, and whisked the group into Mira Sound in New York to record an LP of cover versions of current hits. Called "Beau Brummels '66", the LP completely destroyed the group's credibility, guaranteeing that whatever they put out next would be cruelly ignored.

Also, the group was having internal problems. The line-up wasn't stable. Declan Mulligan either left or was booted from the group just before the second LP was released (he later sued them). Ron Elliott, a diabetic, couldn't handle the rigors of the road, and so was replaced for live dates by Don Irving, who became an official Beau Brummel on the "Beau Brummels '66" LP. But after that disaster was released, both Don Irving and John Petersen left the group (Petersen joining Harpers Bizarre, Irving drafted into the Army). And then there were three - Sal Valentino, Ron Elliott, and Ron Meagher.

With Elliott's diabetes (and move to L. A. to work as a session guitarist) making touring impossible, The Beau Brummels became a studio-only group. Ironically, the decision to stop touring resulted in the group's best work. The trio of Valentino, Elliott and Meagher recorded "Triangle", one of the best LPs of 1967. Released in July, 1967, it combined mild psychedelia with Tolkeinesque fantasy with a little country thrown in. It was an absolute artistic triumph for the group. Unfortunately, the record barely sold, only hitting the #197 spot on the LP charts. But it truly is a beautiful piece of work, right up there with Love's "Forever Changes" in the artistic winners circle of 1967 ("Sgt. Pepper" doesn't even come close.)

A month later, the above 45 was released. Most discographies place "Lower Level" as the B-side of the record, but I think the Brummels meant for this to be the A-side. They were well-known for releasing singles independent of their current LPs (examples: "Good Time Music", "One Too Many Mornings", "Two Days 'Til Tomorrow", "Here We Are Again" - none of these were on their original LPs, and in some cases are still hard to find). Also, while the flip of this single - "Magic Hollow" - is one of the highlights of "Triangle", it's not exactly single material. "Lower Level" fits the bill a little better. Warners didn't help matters by not designating a "plug side" for the single, but ultimately it didn't matter anyway, because almost no one bought it. Other San Francisco groups like the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Sly and The Family Stone (the Brummels' old producer) became the darlings of the music press, while the original San Fran rockers, The Beau Brummels, were left in the dust.

A lotta people missed out. Starting with traffic noises, "Lower Level" plods along with Elliott's softly strummed acoustic. Then Sal's voice comes in, softly but firmly, singing about an elevator ride that's either an allegory for an LSD trip or life - "lower level now is clear / if you want to park it here / though we may seem cramped, we're not / you'll get your ticket stamped on top". Despite some nice guitar flourishes, the record really belongs to Sal Valentino's voice; expressive, soothing, soulful.

"Lower Level" went the way of "Triangle", destined for the cutout racks. Ron Meagher got drafted soon after the LP's release; Valentino and Elliott made one more LP for Warners, "Bradley's Barn" (another masterpiece which takes more of a country-rock stance) then called it quits. Valentino recorded solo for Warner Bros., later joined Stoneground, and hung around the San Francisco and New York rock scenes, highly respected by those in the know. Elliott stayed in L. A. as a session musician and songwriter, and worked with Van Dyke Parks on his legendary "Song Cycle" LP and with the Everly Brothers on their seminal 1968 country-rock LP "Roots". He also recorded a solo LP, "The Candlestickmaker", which is highly sought-after today. In 1975, the group reunited for a one-off LP and tour.

If it weren't for the mass stupidity of the record industry (and the Brummels' management), these guys would have been the superstars they deserved to be, instead of a nice little secret us cool kids know about. Still, I can't help but think Ron Elliott was watching the whole arc of their career with humor, with this line toward the end of "Lower Level":

"1, 2, 3, when we drop / it sure was nice to be on top".

The Beau Brummels - Lower Level (Warner Brothers 7079) - 1967

Thursday, February 14, 2013

OTIS CLAY - THREE IS A CROWD

Haven't had a lot of time to post lately - but since it was Otis Clay's 71st birthday on Monday, I just HAD to put this up!

Long before finding national success with Willie Mitchell and Hi Records, Otis made some KILLER 45s for George Leaner's One-derful label out of Chicago, and this was the very first one - a real stomper!

Too bad they didn't have a better sound engineer.....

Apparently there are two pressings of this 45 - one without the sound effects at the beginning, and this one, that has the (rather crude) sound effects.

Otis Clay - Three Is A Crowd (One-derful 4834) - 1965

Saturday, February 2, 2013

BUNKER HILL - THE GIRL CAN'T DANCE

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!

Yep, that's how this record really starts, and it just gets wilder from there. This is one of the ALL-TIME get-your-ass-out-on-the-dance-floor-and-stomp 45s, the true missing link between Little Richard and The Sonics. Best part is, Bunker Hill never even TRIED to follow this up, keeping his rockin' rep completely intact.

Of course, Bunker Hill isn't the real name of the performer who did this. It's David Walker, born on May 5, 1941. Walker was raised in the Washington, D. C. area, and soon gravitated to singing gospel. He joined the Sensational Wonders in the late 1950s and the group changed their name to the more famous Mighty Clouds Of Joy.

But like a lot of other gospel performers of that era, there was another side to Walker. While singing the praises of God on the stage, off stage he was beating the holy hell out of some of His subjects as a heavyweight boxer (compiling an 18-7 record) and working part-time as Archie Moore's sparring partner.

Then David Walker, gospel singer, met the Devil.

Not literally, but close. Sometime in early 1962 Walker met writer/producer Vernon Wray, who had made several records under the name Ray Vernon in the 1950s. Vernon quickly introduced David Walker to his brother - Link Wray. Link had an idea - why not do a reverse Little Richard? Since Richard had given up rock and roll for the ministry, why not have David give up the ministry for rock and roll? So in mid-1962, David Walker, backed by Link Wray and his Raymen at Link's Three Track Shack recording studio in the hills of Maryland, recorded five of the wildest songs in rock and roll history - "Red Ridin' Hood And The Wolf", "Nobody Knows", "You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby", "The Girl Can't Dance" and "Hide And Go Seek".

Vernon got the group a deal with Larry Uttal's Mala label, but when it came time to put the records out, David Walker balked. See, he didn't want his name on the records, lest he suffer the backlash in the gospel community that Sam Cooke had gone through when he went secular back in 1957. So ol' Vern came up with the name Bunker Hill (after the even more ridiculous name of Four H. Stamp was rejected) and Mala pressed up "Hide And Go Seek" (split into two parts) as a single.

The record started to get heavy airplay in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Seattle, Houston - pretty much everywhere except New York and Los Angeles (which is probably why it only hit #33 on the pop charts and #27 R&B, despite the fact that it hit Top Ten in many of the cities mentioned above). Bunker Hill was a national rage, and decided to take a break from the gospel world and tour with Link and his Raymen to promote "Hide And Go Seek".

But Bunker Hill soon learned a lesson of the capriciousness of the music business. In late 1962 Mala released "Red Ridin' Hood And The Wolf" as the follow-up 45, and it promptly flopped. Larry Uttal and Mala lost interest, and Bunker Hill decided to go back to the Mighty Clouds Of Joy.

Almost a year later, in August, 1963, Mala decided to take the two remaining Bunker Hill tracks they had and put them out as the 45 shown above. They literally threw it out on the market, with hardly any promotion (though it did get a review in Billboard in mid-September, with the mag giving the hit pick to the B-side, the gospelly "You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby". Billboard was usually wrong about these things), and that's why it's so hard to find original copies of "The Girl Can't Dance" today. Last I checked with popsike.com, original copies on Mala go for between 200-300 bucks, and even the repros go for 30-50 smackers (which makes NO sense, since Norton reissued the track on 45 in 2009)! I got mine at the legendary Allentown record show for 10 bucks - screw you, eButt!

Out of the five songs recorded by Bunker and Link in that Maryland shack, "The Girl Can't Dance" was EASILY the wildest. Link's descending guitar riff (which runs through the whole song, and even serves as the guitar "solo"!!), Bunker's vocals which sound like the microphone was IN his mouth, and the killer drums of Link's other brother Doug Wray all make "The Girl Can't Dance" one of the GREATEST rock and roll records in history! Unfortunately for Bunker, 1963 radio wasn't touching it. Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, and cute novelties all dominated the airwaves that year (though the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" managed to get on the air, but that record truly exists in another dimension).

No one really knows what happened to David Walker/Bunker Hill. After bouncing in and out of the Mighty Clouds Of Joy for a few years, he left the gospel world for good in the late 1960s. Some sources say he died in the early 1980s, some say he's still around, living in Washington D. C.

Either way, he will never be forgotten by those who like their rock and roll RAW.

Bunker Hill - The Girl Can't Dance (Mala 464) - 1963

Friday, January 25, 2013

JOYCE HARRIS - NO WAY OUT

I had never heard of this record until I read about it in Dave Marsh's book "The Heart Of Rock And Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made" (buy it here) about 15 years ago. The cool thing was that a) it was the last record essayed in the book (as # 1001), and b) neither Dave nor any of his friends had any idea who Joyce Harris was, or where the record came from.

Marsh tells a fascinating story; here's the short version: Marsh's friend Michael Goodwin went off to Cornell University in 1959, and soon went to work at the college's radio station, WVBR, as a jazz and folk DJ. Every year, during finals week, WVBR would have the "rock and roll marathon", where the regular playlist would be suspended and the student DJ's would spin rock and roll 45s for a week. Well, the day after finals were over, Goodwin locked himself in a studio with some blank tape reels and began recording all the 45s that his fellow students brought in. "No Way Out" was one of them, but Goodwin forgot to list the record on the tape box!

When Goodwin decided to listen to the college tapes a few years later, he couldn't identify "No Way Out", and spent YEARS trying to figure out what it was. Goodwin later became a writer, and would drop references to the mystery record in his columns. Still nothing. Goodwin finally found a copy of the record in the mid-1970s, but still had no idea of its descent (Goodwin guessed New Orleans).

Of course this was all before the internet (something this guy doesn't seem to forgive Marsh for), when research meant RESEARCH, meaning you couldn't instantly access knowledge from a billion people in a mouse-click.

But now, since the internet exists, we can finish the story of Joyce Harris and "No Way Out" with ease.

Joyce Harris was born in 1939 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and moved to New Orleans when she was a teenager (that Michael Goodwin had some ears on him!). She and her sister Judy would sing together often, and in 1958 Judy and Joyce cut their first single for the tiny Seville label (not the same label that had Ernie Maresca's "Shout! Shout! [Knock Yourself Out]"), recorded at Cosimo Matassa's famous studio. After two more 45s, for Decca and Dot, Judy got married, leaving Joyce to go out as a solo, recording one single ("The Boy In School") for the UT label in 1959. She left New Orleans and ended up in Mexico, performing in restaurants.

Lucky for Joyce Harris, a woman named Lora Richardson was on vacation in Mexico and heard Joyce sing in one of those restaurants. Lora was part-owner of a record label in Austin, Texas called Domino Records, which had already had some success with a group called The Slades, who had a minor hit with the original version of a song called "You Cheated" (this song was then covered by The Shields, who had the big hit with it in 1958). Richardson paired Joyce Harris with The Slades to record an "answer" record to their one hit (that Joyce wrote with Slades member Don Burch), calling it "I Cheated". The record flopped (mainly because "answer" records only worked when the first version was still on the charts, not two years later), but Richardson was unfazed.

She then paired Joyce with a black R&B group called The Daylighters, who were led by rhythm guitarist Clarence Smith (years later, Smith would change his name to Sonny Rhodes and have some success in the 1980s and 1990s in the blues field). Joyce had written another stormer of a song called "No Way Out". With Joyce's soulful delivery, Clarence Smith's interjections (including the famous "IIIIIII'VE GOTCHA"s at the beginning) and the Daylighters killer (and wonderfully off-kilter) backing, "No Way Out" became an unforgettable piece of wax. Released at the end of 1960 on Domino, the record began to sell quite a bit. So much, in fact, that by March of 1961 Domino leased the record to a Los Angeles label, Infinity Records (supposedly part-owned by Howard Hughes). Infinity released it in April, and secured an appearance for Joyce to make an appearance on "American Bandstand" on April 7, 1961 - IF ANYONE HAS A VIDEO OF THIS, LET ME KNOW!!!!

The record sold well in L. A., Texas and, oddly enough, in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it never hit the national charts, but Joyce Harris was on her way - or so she thought. Domino Records folded shortly afterwards, and Joyce found herself without a label. "No Way Out" was still selling in L. A., so she moved there in early 1962. After a string of appearances in small clubs, Joyce hooked up with producer Ed Townsend and signed to his label, Serock Records. She cut one KILLER single, "Don't Knock It", but for some reason decided to change her name to "Sinner Strong" for this release. The record should have gotten some good airplay, but unfortunately it was released at the same time as "The Love Of My Man" by Theola Kilgore, also on Serock, and so Kilgore got all the promotion.

After that bit of bad luck, Joyce decided to go home to New Orleans. She cut one more 45 for the Fun label, owned by Eddie Bo, and started a residency at the Mask Lounge (in the Mardi Gras Lanes bowling alley), backed by the group who would later become garage-rock legends Dr. Spec's Optical Illusion.

Joyce is still around, living in Sun, Louisiana, playing mandolin and guitar for a bluegrass gospel group, living in semi-retirement. She did come out, however, for the 2010 Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, and from all accounts tore the house up.

I'd like to thank the following websites for a lot of the info for this blog post (and you can click on the links to see pics of Joyce Harris - va va voom!).

http://www.colorradio.com/joyce_harris.htm

http://www.ponderosastomp.com/blog/2010/09/joyce-harris-the-mysteries-of-sinner-strong-revealed/

http://www.rockabillyhall.com/JoyceHarris.html

http://www.last.fm/music/Joyce+Harris/+wiki?ver=1&ver=1

I'd also like to thank Dave Marsh for writing about this 45 so many years ago.

Joyce Harris - No Way Out (Domino 905 / Infinity 005) - 1960 / 1961

Thursday, January 10, 2013

DEAN CARTER - JAILHOUSE ROCK

Happy New Year!

I figured I'd start 2013 with a really INSANE record. Plus, since it was Elvis Presley's birthday recently (happy birthday, Elvis, wherever you are), I thought I'd post the greatest remake of an Elvis song EVER.

In his original version of "Jailhouse Rock", Elvis comes on as the coolest narrator ever, talking about what happens when the inmates decide to have a party, and Elvis is obviously one of the hipper cats in the prison. Dean Carter's version sounds like what the crazy guy in solitary would be singing.

Dean Carter was the nom de disc of one Arlie Neaville, who started out in the late 50s making rockabilly discs for the Ping and Fraternity labels. In 1964, he and a member of his band, Arlie Miller (must've been a common name in Illinois) formed the Milky Way production studio and record label. Arlie had changed his professional name to Dean Carter for a single on Limelight in 1964, and decided to keep the name for his releases on Milky Way.

If you ever see any 45s by Dean on Milky Way, GRAB 'em. They are simply some of the best examples of deranged rockabilly/garage/psych you'll ever hear. None was better than this two-sided monster from 1967. The A-side, "Rebel Woman", sounds kind of like Paul Revere and The Raiders jamming with Dick Shawn after they got into the acid-spiked punch at Johnny Paycheck's house. But the flip - WOAH! I often wonder if anyone ever played this version for Elvis, and what he must have thought.

Arlie Neaville left the rock and roll world behind in 1972, discovering Jesus and becoming a gospel singer, which is what he does to this day.

Dean Carter - Jailhouse Rock (Milky Way 011) - 1967