Archive for the ‘Mysteries’ Category


Friday, December 15th, 2017

So, I thought, what do I have in the digital stacks that was recorded on December 15?

And the RealPlayer brought me a few tracks: Lena Horne’s “Stormy Weather” from 1941, the King Cole Trio’s version of “Sweet Lorraine” from 1943, Deanna Durbin’s “Always” from 1944, Dion’s “Ruby Baby” from 1962 and three copies of “The Huckle-Buck” by Paul Williams & His Hucklebuckers, recorded in 1948.

And I stopped right there, because the tag on one of those three copies said the track was recorded in New York, while the tag on another said Detroit. The third had no location listed. And between the three copies of the same track, I had four catalog numbers, all on the Savoy label. But before we go any further, let’s listen to “The Huckle-Buck” as Williams and his band recorded it in December of 1948:

The record was a major hit in 1949, topping the Billboard Best Seller chart for twelve weeks and the magazine’s Juke Box chart for fourteen weeks. You’ll note that the catalog number in the video is Savoy 683, and that’s the number that Joel Whitburn has listed in Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits, so we’ll go with that. But according to the data at The Online Discographical Project, Savoy did in fact issue the record with three other catalog numbers as well.

But where was it recorded? Where did I find Detroit and New York mentioned? Well, I found New York listed as the recording site on the two-LP set The Roots Of Rock ’N Roll, a 1977 release on the Savoy label. And Detroit was listed as the site in the very detailed notes supplied with The Big Horn, a four-CD set from England of 106 tracks featuring saxophone, released in 2003 by Proper Records.

And I’m uncertain. Part of me says that the New York location make sense, because Savoy should know where one of its biggest hits was recorded. And part of me tends to think that Detroit is correct, because the notes in the booklet accompanying The Big Horn are so very detailed and could contain information found during the intervening years. I’d like to know, but I’m not going to let the discrepancy get in the way of the music. Because there’s a lot of stuff about “The Huckle-Buck” that I found interesting.

First, Paul Williams pretty much stole the song. The website Second Hand Songs notes that the tune was first called “D’ Natural Blues.” It was written by Andy Gibson and it was first performed by Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra in September of 1948. The website then notes:

Paul Williams heard Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra perform “D’ Natural Blues” and decided to perform this song too. He called it “The Huckle-Buck.” The reactions turned out to be very positive and he decided to record it (December 15th, 1948). Lucky Millinder recorded it a few weeks later (beginning of January 1949) . . .

Here’s Millinder’s “D’ Natural Blues.”

Soon enough, lyricist (and occasional composer) Roy Alfred wrote some words for the tune, and Roy Milton & His Solid Senders recorded a vocal version in January 1949 that went to No. 5 on the R&B chart. And the covers kept on coming: Big Sis Andrews & Her Huckle-Busters, Frank Sinatra, Lionel Hampton (No. 12, R&B), Homer & Jethro with June Carter (as the B-side of a 1949 record titled “The Wedding of Hillbilly Lily Marlene”), Benny Goodman, Pearl Bailey and on through the 1950s until we get to the 1960s and the only version of the tune that’s been a hit in the Billboard Hot 100: Chubby Checker’s cover went to No. 14 (and No. 15 on the R&B chart) in the autumn of 1960, just months after “The Twist” went to No. 1 for the first time:

The list of covers at Second Hand Songs – instrumentals and vocals alike – is pretty lengthy, and includes a lame 1961 vocal version by Annette Funicello, an instrumental version by a 1988 edition of Canned Heat*, and a wicked version by Otis Redding, recorded in September 1967 and released post-humously on The Dock of the Bay in 1968. And that’s where we’ll close today’s proceedings. Hucklebuck, ya’ll!

*That 1988 edition of the band has two original members, according to Wikipedia: Fito de la Parra and Larry Taylor. That’s pretty thin gruel from this side of the table. My sense is that once Al Wilson and Bob Hite were gone (1970 and 1981, respectively), so was Canned Heat.

Baby Grand? ‘Lucy Cain’?

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Looking for a radio survey from today’s date in 1972 – forty-five years ago – I came upon only two such surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive: one from WMEX in Boston and another from WISM in Madison, Wisconsin. And the latter result amused me, as I’m pretty sure that one of WISM’s listeners in those days – at times, anyway – was my pal jb, who grew up on a farm not far away from Wisconsin’s capital and lives now in a small city adjacent to Madison.

So I took a look at the top ten records listed there:

“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Something’s Wrong With Me” by Austin Roberts
“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“Summer Breeze” by Seals & Crofts
“Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Ventura Highway” by America
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green

The top five has a couple of misses, at least to my ears – the records by Roberts and O’Sullivan never hit my sweet spot – but the other eight would make for a very nice half-hour of listening. The one I know the least is the Al Green tune, but listening to it this morning I’d be willing to put it in second place among those ten. (It would take a hell of a record to push “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” from the top of this heap.)

Even though – as I’ve noted before – my listening at the time was becoming more album-oriented as time went on, I still heard enough Top 40 around me that almost all of the records in the lower spots on the WISM survey were familiar as well. To be precise, as I scan the titles and artists listed in the thirty spots on the survey and the three hit-bound entries, there’s only one pairing that’s a mystery to me: “Lucy Cain” by Baby Grand, sitting at No. 23, up three spots from the week before.

I would guess that “Lucy Cain” would be a mystery to many: Out of the thousands of radio surveys cataloged at ARSA, WISM’s Music Guide from December 7, 1972, is the only one that lists the record. And it seems to have not yet been shared by any of the millions of folks who put tunes up at YouTube. (Although there are evidently three women with YouTube accounts by the name of Lucy Cain.)

So I googled. A copy of the record, which came out on the Hemisphere label, is available at Ebay, and a website titled That 70s Wisconsin Beat informs me that Baby Grand – as I suspected – was a local act. And the next entry in the googled results takes me to the lengthy comment section on a piece about the Wisconsin band Clicker by my pal Jeff at his blog AM, Then FM. A few commenters mention Baby Grand and “Lucy Cain,” but unless I missed something in the more than fifty comments, there’s no real info there.

Perhaps jb or Jeff can clue us in, or maybe our pal Yah Shure. Or someone.

Regrouping, I dropped to the bottom of the WISM survey and picked out the third listed of the three hit-bound singles. I remember hearing and liking the Hollies’ “Long Dark Road,” but I haven’t heard it for years. It’s not on the digital shelves here now, and I doubt that it was there before the recent hard drive crash.

It wasn’t one of the Hollies’ biggest hits, reaching No. 26 in the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s worth a listen today:

An Answer & New Questions

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

When someone posts a comment here, I’m supposed to get an email. It works like that maybe half of the time. Sometimes a comment sits out there for a while before I notice. That’s why I fill the occasional idle moment here by going back through the blog’s archives, checking for comments on posts of months and years gone by.

I did that one evening about a year ago, and found a comment by a reader by the name of Irene Greulich. I’d written a couple of posts a year earlier than that – during the summer of 2015 – pondering what I’d been listening to during the summer of 1975 when Bruce Springsteen released Born To Run and I didn’t buy it.

The second of those posts found me telling the tale – more aptly re-telling the tale – of how I came to own Paul Williams’ 1971 album Just An Old Fashioned Love Song during that summer of 1975:

An evening in July, my bedroom windows open to gather what breeze there might be, me on my bed reading, and the radio playing softly, tuned to WCCO-FM. The disk jockey played a portion of an interview with Paul Williams, probably done while the singer was in the Twin Cities for a concert, and the interview segment closes with Williams talking about his song “Waking Up Alone.”

And after that, the deejay cues up Williams’ sorrowful “Waking Up Alone.” I’d never heard the record, and the sad story, the quiet arrangement and, yes, the saxophone solo called to me as I listened. I’ve learned since that “Waking Up Alone” was released as a single in early 1972 and got to No. 60 in the Billboard Hot 100, and as I’ve said many times before, it deserved better.

I found the album the next day, and it went into regular rotation on the rec room stereo on Kilian Boulevard. And many years later, “Waking Up Alone” was one of the 240 tracks I listed in my Ultimate Jukebox, noting that as heartfelt and sad as the lyrics are, the best part of the record is the “saxophone that comes in late . . . hanging around long enough to take a nice solo and then walk us home.”

I’ve wondered for years – probably not since 1975, but certainly since 1990, when I began amassing vast quantities of records and reference books – who played the saxophone on “Waking Up Alone.” The record jacket gives no clues; the CD insert might, but I don’t have it. (I note this morning that the CD is available in a standard release; for several years, when I looked for it, it was available only in a Japanese release and was quite pricey.)

I’d run through the names of L.A. session players, wondering, and finally came down to guessing that the sax solo came from either Tom Scott or Jim Horn. The question actually came up at a gathering of friends the other day, and two other music geeks and I decided that those two names were the most likely.

It turns out that I wasn’t the only one wondering. Irene Greulich – remember her? – came by the post about finding Williams’ record about a year after I wrote it, and left me a note:

Hello! I’ve been trying to find out who is the musician who plays the saxophone solo at the end of “Waking Up Alone”. If you have the album (CD?) and the musicians’ credits are listed in the liner notes, can you please tell me the sax player’s name? Truly a very beautiful and moving song – always been one of my favorites. Thank you!

I’m pretty sure I answered her, telling her that there was no information on the jacket or the sleeve and telling her, as well, that my best guess was either Tom Scott or Jim Horn.

And you know what? I was wrong. About a week ago, I got an email about a comment left at that post, a note from a Marcia Fisher. She wrote: “The sax solo at the end of ‘Waking Up Alone’ is Gene Cipriano (“Yo, Cip!”), famous guy, long history in music. This song was my first exposure to Paul Williams, sent me looking for more, and I’ve loved his work ever since.”

Cipriano’s was a name I hadn’t considered, but it certainly makes sense, though I’ve run across his work less than I have Scott’s or Horn’s. And a quick check at All-Music finds both Cipriano and Scott credited for tenor sax on the album. (Over time, I’ve found myself using All-Music as a source less and less frequently, as the site is slow and, to me, very clunky. So when the saxophone question came to mind I never checked there. Mea culpa.)

As it turns out, Marcias information was in error; as the comment below by Yah Shure indicates, Cipriano played oboe on “Waking Up Alone,” and Tom Scott played saxophone.

Anyway, thanks to Marcia Fisher for the note, which does leave me wondering what brought her to a post two years old. But then, there’s always another question to ask.

And that’s true of a track I found this week as I wandered around YouTube thinking of Williams’ song “Waking Up Alone.” I found a version of the tune credited to the Fleetwoods, the same group that hit No. 1 in 1959 with “Come Softly To Me” and “Mr. Blue.” At least, that’s what it says:

I’ve found this track listed online as one of two on a 2012 set titled Unreleased. The other track is “Stay With Me.” The vocalist, for what it may matter, does sound a lot like Gary Troxel, who was the male member of the Fleetwoods more than fifty years ago. But when was it recorded? I have a vague idea that it comes from the early 1970s, but nothing more than that.


Back To Sipping Wine

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

A couple of interesting comments showed up on older posts here late last month. We’ll look at one today and the other later this week. The first was from Shane Valcich, adding a thought or two to a couple of posts from a little more than a year ago

In those posts – they’re here and here – I looked at a seeming contradiction – or mistake – in the titling and crediting one of my favorite tunes from the 1970s. I first knew the tune as “Sip The Wine,” written by Rick Danko and included on his self-titled 1977 album, and I wrote about how that tune and that album had provided some evening comfort and a sense of home for me as I settled into a couple of new apartments in Columbia, Missouri, in the late summer of 1990:

One of the tracks from Danko’s album that’s most evocative of those evenings is “Sip The Wine.” It’s a love song, and for the most part, it had no bearing on my life at the time, but I remember hearing the closing repetitions of “We must sip the wine” and nodding in agreement. The wine I was sipping wasn’t as sweet as that quaffed by the lovers in the song, but that was okay. I still found comfort in the song.

A couple of days later, after the random function on the RealPlayer alerted me, I wrote about the same song being released in 1972 – five years earlier than Danko’s release – by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth under the title “I Want To Lay Down Beside You.” Credited to musician and songwriter Tim Drummond, the track was on the album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth:

Digging into the contradiction, I made the assumption that Drummond was the songwriter and some type of error resulted in its being credited to Danko in 1977. But in the comment Shane left at the second post, he noted that it might have been the other way around. Here’s his comment, edited slightly.

Just a theory but I wonder if the error isn’t on the 1972 album.

Seems more likely that Rick wasn’t paying attention, didn’t care or gave away the song credits to Tim Drummond for the 1972 release. Rick was busy and highly successful in the early 70s with the Band and touring with Bob Dylan in 1974.

Seems less likely that Tim Drummond would get credit for playing bass on two tracks on Rick’s [1977] album while losing out on the higher paying writing credits for “Sip the Wine” on the same album, all while in a far less hectic time period when these musicians were all starting to decline in popularity and were looking for credit and royalties. Also he is properly credited for tons of writing and performing.

But inversely, maybe Tim’s success resulted in him giving the credit to Rick for his debut album seeing that Rick’s popularity may have been in more jeopardy than Tim’s. Or he was so busy he didn’t care or notice.

I will just have to head down to visit Rick’s grave in Woodstock and ask him while I smoke a joint with his spirit.

If Danko has any guidance for Shane from beyond the veil, I hope Shane shares it here.