Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

‘Only Say That You’ll Be Mine . . .’

Friday, November 1st, 2013

When one wanders through the vast field of American folk songs – the songs that arose here in the years before recorded music, that folks sang at home and passed on via oral traditions, and that provide at least part of the foundation of today’s popular music – one finds mayhem of all sorts. Take a listen to numerous entries, for example, in Harry Smith’s massive Anthology of American Folk Music, and you’ll find jealousy, robbery, rape, accidental death, murder and more.

At least two of those are present in “Down On The Banks Of The Ohio” as recorded in 1936 by the Blue Sky Boys. The song wasn’t included in Smith’s original three volumes in 1952 (reissued in 1997 in a six-CD box), but it showed up in a 2000 release of a fourth volume Smith never completed. In that song – released on the Bluebird and Montgomery Ward labels (and used in 1973 in the soundtrack to the movie Paper Moon) – the Blue Sky Boys sing:

Come my love, let’s take a walk,
Just a little ways away.
While we walk along, we’ll talk,
Talk about our wedding day.

Only say that you’ll be mine,
And in our home we’ll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

I drew my knife across her throat,
And to my breast she gently pressed.
“Oh please, oh please, don’t murder me,
For I’m unprepared to die you see.”

I taken her by her lily white hand.
I let her down and I bade her stand.
There I plunged her in to drown,
And watched her as she floated down.

Returning home ’tween twelve and one.
Thinking of the deed I done.
I murdered a girl I love, you see,
Because she would not marry me.

Only say that you’ll be mine,
And in our home we’ll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

Next day as I returning home
I met the sheriff standing in the door.
He said “Young man, come with me and go,
Down to the banks of the Ohio.”

Only say that you’ll be mine,
And in our home we’ll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

The song, according to Wikipedia, comes from the 19th century, and many versions with different verses have arisen since. In the first recorded version of the tune, performed in 1927 by Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers, the young lady confesses that she loves another, and that spurs the narrator to murder. In that 1927 version, however, the sheriff makes no appearance, leaving the murderer to grieve on the banks of the river.

Okay, so jealousy and murder were not uncommon in song (and still are not, perhaps especially in county music, the most direct descendant of the folk songs Smith collected), but it was still startling to see earlier this week in the Billboard Hot 100 from October 30, 1971, that Olivia Newton-John had a hit with a gender-flipped version of “Banks Of The Ohio.” The single went only to No. 94 here in the U.S. (No. 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart), but it was No. 1 for five weeks in Australia. Here’s a 1971 television appearance:

Newton-John’s version trims out the verses that provide motive for the murder, that tell of the drowning and that bring in the sheriff, yet it’s still a jarring song for 1971 when one listens to the story. Well, maybe not; 1971 was also the year that the Buoys hit No. 17 with “Timothy,” a barely disguised tale about a cave-in and cannibalism. But I wonder how many folks who sang along with the pretty chorus of Newton-John’s hit shook their heads when they realized that things were not as pleasant as they seemed along the banks of the Ohio.

Newton-John’s version of the song is the only one that’s hit the Billboard Hot 100 and AC Top 40. No version has ever reached the R&B or Country Top 40s. Finding it in the R&B listings would have surprised me, but a greater surprise was its absence from the country chart. In the years before and after Newton-John’s cover of the song, there have been plenty of other countryish covers, both as “Banks Of The Ohio” and “Down On The Banks Of The Ohio.” (Wikipedia notes a couple other titles, too: Henry Whittier recorded the song in the 1920s as “I’ll Never Be Yours,” and the song has sometimes been titled “On the Banks of the Old Pedee.”)

As I wandered through numerous covers of “Banks Of The Ohio” in the past few days (and I won’t note all of them; you can go to Second Hand Songs and find the list I used as a starting point if you’re so inclined), a few stood out. I liked the version by Howard & Gerald with the Starlite Mountain Boys that was released in 1970 on Mountain Doer (or Mo Do) Records of Marion, West Virginia. The same was true of the version the Kossoy Sisters included on their 1956 album, Bowling Green and Other Folk Songs from the Southern Mountains. And a current artist named Tom Roush recorded a very lush take on the song for his album My Grandfather’s Clock: More Music of 19th Century America, released just this year.

But the most fascinating version of the old song I’ve found in the past few days comes from a very familiar artist. The person who posted it on YouTube called it “the creepiest version” of the song, and I can’t disagree. Here, from his 1957 album, Come Sit By My Side, and studded with dissonance, is Glenn Yarbrough’s take on “Banks Of The Ohio.”

Video changed October 15, 2020.

‘Ten’

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Sorting for the word “ten” in the titles of the 68,000 mp3s is a difficult process, perhaps the most difficult so far in our March Of The Integers. The RealPlayer lists 1,632 mp3s with that letter combination somewhere in the indexed information. And few of those titles in that listing can be used.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as recorded by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment? Gone, just like the Allman Brothers Band’s album Enlightened Rogues. Any music tagged as easy listening is also dismissed, which wipes out entire catalogs from artists like Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the Baja Marimba Band, Ray Conniff & The Singers, Ferrante & Teicher, Percy Faith and of course (in a double stroke), my entire collection of Hugo Montenegro’s music.

Anything with the name of the state of Tennessee in its title has to be set aside, from the Dykes Magic City Trio’s 1927 version of “Tennessee Girls” to the Secret Sisters’ 2010 track “Tennessee Me.” We also lose anything tagged as having been recorded in the state, from Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s 1929 recording of “Coo Coo Bird” to Johnny Cash’s 1974 take on “Ragged Old Flag.” And we eliminate as well several albums: The Tennessee Tapes by the Jonas Fjeld Band, Easin’ Back to Tennessee by Colin Linden and Tennessee Pusher by the Old Crow Medicine Show.

Marc Cohn’s 2010 album of covers, Listening Booth: 1970 is gone, as are the single tracks “Lisa, Listen To Me” by Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Listen to the Wind” by Jack Casady, “Listen to Me” by Buddy Holly, “Listen Here” by Richard “Groove” Holmes and “Listen To The Flowers Growing” by Artie Wayne, among many others.

We’ll also have to avoid everything with the word “tender” in it, including the Bee Gees “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love),” Blue Öyster Cult’s “Tenderloin,” all of Jackson Browne’s album The Pretender, Trisha Yearwood’s “Bartender’s Blues,” and six versions of the classic song “Tenderly,” including Sam “The Man” Taylor’s sweet 1960 saxophone cover.

Lastly, we must pass over the marvelously titled 1945 R&B number “Voo-It! Voo-It!” by Marion (The Blues Woman) Abernathy. As well as having a great title, it’s a decent record that showed up in the list only because an appended comment noted that it was co-written – there’s the “ten” – by Buddy Banks and William “Frosty” Pyles. I am now determined to feature it in this space someday soon.

So what are we left with? Well, there are likely several tracks with the word “ten” hidden in the middle of their titles, but we’ll go the easy route from here and land on six tracks that start with the word. And we have about twenty to choose from, so we should come up with something interesting.

We have covers of a Gordon Lightfoot tune by Tony Rice and Nanci Griffith. We’ll go with Griffith’s version of “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder” from her 1993 album of covers, Other Voices, Other Rooms. The album is well worth finding; the highlights also include Griffith’s takes on John Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” and Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Griffith reprised the idea in 1998 with Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful), an album that starts with a Fairport Convention bang: covers of Richard Thompson’s “Wall of Death” and Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.”

The Miller Sisters – Elsie Jo Miller and Mildred Miller Wages – were actually sisters-in-law from Tupelo, Mississippi. After performing with Elsie’s husband Roy Miller (being billed then as the Miller Trio), the women auditioned for Sun Records in Memphis. According to Wikipedia, “Producer Sam Phillips believed that the Millers’ vocal harmonies, complemented by the steel guitar solos of Stan Kesler and the percussive electric guitar of Quinton Claunch, would translate into significant record sales,” and the duo released a few country singles without much success. Those singles included “Ten Cats Down” from August of 1956, a rockabilly romp that features some nice harmonies. I found the track on the 2002 British compilation The Legendary Story of Sun Records.

We’ll stay with rockabilly for another record: “Ten Little Women” by Terry Noland. A Texas native, Noland – according to the website BlackCat Rockabilly – “attended the same school as Buddy Holly, and like Holly, most of his Brunswick records were produced by Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico.” Brunswick released “Ten Little Women” in 1957 and followed it with “Patty Baby.” The latter sold well in New York, says BlackCat Rockabilly, which led to Noland’s appearing “at the bottom of the bill on Alan Freed’s 1957 Holiday of Stars show at the Brooklyn Paramount.” The flip side of “Ten Little Women” was a tune called “Hypnotized,” which the Drifters covered and took to No. 79 in 1957. I found “Ten Little Women” in the massive That’ll Flat Git It collection of rockabilly released about twenty years ago.

One of the highlights of 2000 – around here, anyway – was the release of Riding With The King, the album that brought Eric Clapton and B.B. King into the studio together. The album’s highlights include takes on King classics like “Help the Poor” and “Three O’Clock Blues” and a shuffling duet on Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway,” a take that’s shorter and less intense but just as pleasurable as the legendary version Clapton recorded in 1970 with Derek & The Dominos. Today, however, it’s “Ten Long Years” that draws our attention. The version King recorded for the RPM label in 1955 went to No. 9 on the R&B chart; the version from Riding is longer but, again, no less pleasurable.

Led Zeppelin was never high on my list of favorite bands; I imagine the band’s excesses – in all ways – put me off. These days, the group’s music is more accessible (and no doubt my tastes have broadened), and there’s no doubt the band’s legendary misbehaviors are far less shocking when viewed from the perspective of today’s libertine culture. So I’ve heard more Zeppelin in the past fifteen years than I likely did in the years way back, but there are still surprises: The aching “Ten Years Gone” from 1975’s Physical Graffiti is one of them. The track was tucked into the second disc of the two-LP album, but I came across it after finding two concise anthologies – Early Days and Latter Days – at a garage sale a couple of years ago. And it’s a pleasant interlude as we wander toward our last stop of the morning.

I don’t know a lot about the Canadian group Steel River. The group was from the Toronto area and got a deal in 1970 from Canada’s Tuesday Records, according to Wikipedia. “Ten Pound Note” was the group’s first single; the record ended up reaching the Canadian Top Ten and was No. 79 in Canada for the year of 1970. I found the single a few years ago when I came across a rip of the group’s only album, Weighin’ Heavy. It’s a decent single, and, given that songs with “eleven” in their titles are rare – I have only four of them among the 68,000 on the mp3 shelves – it’s not a bad place to end the March Of The Integers.

‘Four’

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

This morning we continue our ascent up the numerical scale, a series that’s now tagged “March of the Integers” (mostly so I can keep track of the posts). And today, we come to “Four.”

When I sort for the word “four” in the RealPlayer, I get 222 clips, but – as happens with all these searches – a lot of the tracks that come up have to be ignored, starting with thirty tracks from the Four Tops. Others set aside are tracks by the Four Larks, the Four Aces, the Four Buddies, the Brothers Four, the Philly Four, the Remo Four, the Son Sims Four and the Fairfield Four. We also have to ignore the 1973 album by Wishbone Ash titled Wishbone Four, a few tracks by bluesman Robert Belfour and everything but the title tune from Ian & Sylvia’s 1964 album Four Strong Winds.

Nevertheless, there remain enough tunes available that we can pick and choose. We’ll go chronologically, starting in 1956.

According to the site Soulful Kinda Music, Stanley Mitchell had four singles released during what appears to be a long career in music. “Four O’Clock In The Morning” was the first of the four, released on Chess in 1957 and credited to Stanley Mitchell and the Tornados. A doo-wop-styled record, “Four O’Clock . . .” has been released in recent years on a couple of Chess anthologies, which is how it got here. From Chess, Mitchell went to the Bumble Bee, Gone and Dynamo labels, getting one record released at each label; from what I can tell, none of Mitchell’s records ever made any kind of dent in the national charts. But I suppose there are worse ways to be remembered than for a pretty decent doo-wop record pulled from the long-ago vaults. (The linked video also offers the B-Side of the Chess single.)

Big Joe Williams, writes Barry Lee Pearson of All-Music Guide “may have been the most cantankerous human being who ever walked the earth with guitar in hand. At the same time, he was an incredible blues musician: a gifted songwriter, a powerhouse vocalist, and an exceptional idiosyncratic guitarist.” Williams’ gritty and keening take on “Four Corners of the World” comes from his 1961 album Blues on Highway 49, which Thom Owens of AMG calls a “tense, gritty set of roadhouse blues” on which Williams “shows exactly how Delta blues could be updated.” Though he’s not my favorite blues performer, it’s fun to have Williams and his nine-string guitar pop up on occasion in between the Boss and the Indigo Girls.

Eight versions of Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds” sit on my mp3 shelves, and sorting through them to choose one – I could not ignore the tune – was difficult. I’ve written at least a couple times about Neil Young’s 1978 cover of the song (my favorite version), so I decided to go with the only other version of the tune that ever cracked the Billboard Hot 100. In 1964, Bobby Bare’s take on “Four Strong Winds” went to No. 60 on the pop chart and to No. 3 on the country chart. (Young’s record went to No. 61 in 1979, and a cover by the Brothers Four bubbled under at No. 114 in 1963.) Bare’s up-tempo take and the large vocal chorus behind him almost overwhelm the song, at least in my ears, but that was mainstream country in the mid-1960s.

Jesse Colin Young began his career with a 1964 album titled Soul of a City Boy, which included a slightly skewed song titled “Four In The Morning.” Three years later, when he and the other members of the Youngbloods put together the group’s self-titled first album, “Four In The Morning” again showed up as an album track. The gloomy tune of squalor and murder came from the pen of George (aka Robin) Remailly, a member of the Holy Modal Rounders, an off-kilter folk-rock group from the same era.

There’s not a lot of information out there about the Raggamuffins, a group that recorded “Four Days Of Rain” for the Seville label (a track that was also released, based on the visual in the linked video, on London in the U.K.). The song was written by group member Tom Pacheco, whose solo work I enjoy a lot. I can’t find any evidence that the record got any attention in 1967, but in 2002, the track showed up on Byrds Won’t Fly Today, a compilation of 1960s folk-rock judged to have some similarity to the Byrds’ work. AMG says the Raggamuffins’ track “comes about the closest to the actual Byrds sound, almost replicating to a T their mid-’60s harmonies, guitar chime, earnest lyricizing, and even Michael Clarke’s whooshing ‘The Bells of Rhymney’ cymbal patterns.” It’s actually a pretty good record.

If the definition of a “One-Hit Wonder”* is a performer or group that got one record in the Top 40, then Eddie Holman fits right in: His 1970 record “Hey There Lonely Girl” – a gender-switched cover of Ruby & The Romantics’ 1963 hit “Hey There Lonely Boy” – went to No. 2 (No. 4 R&B), and he never had another record in the Top 40. And that’s all that most people know about Eddie Holman (though one could choose far worse than “Hey There Lonely Girl” in selecting a record to be a reminder of one’s existence). But he had seven other records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 and seven others as well in the R&B Top 40. And even some of his album tracks are worth hearing, like “Four Walls” from 1970’s I Love You.

*I saw an online discussion recently about the definition of a one-hit wonder. Among the points noted in the discussion is that it’s silly to use the definition I cited above for bands and performers whose careers have mostly been album-based but had just one charting hit. A case in point used, I think, in that discussion is the Grateful Dead, who reached the Top 40 just once with “Touch Of Grey” in 1987 but isn’t anything close to what we think of when we hear the term “one-hit wonder.” So if you want to pin down a specific definition of the term, it would need to be a lot more complex than the one used in the paragraph above.

‘Two’

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

A couple weeks back, I offered a post titled “One,” looking at songs/recordings that have the word “one” in their titles. As readers might reasonably infer from the title of this post, today’s we’ll take a look at “Two.”

(We’re never unwilling here at Echoes In The Wind to test a good idea’s elasticity. Over the next couple of months, I can see us stretching this particular brainblip as far as “Ten,” and depending on source material, we may then go back to “Zero” before calling it quits.)

It’s not impossible to figure out how many tunes in the mp3 library have the word “two” in their titles. But it would be time consuming. A search for the word brings up 756 tracks, but I’d have to account for – among others – the twenty-eight tracks of the 1997 album One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen and the forty tracks in the soundtrack to Season Two of the cable series The Tudors. I’d also have to ignore the soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the 2010 film The Social Network, the entire catalogs of Fleetwood Mac and of a 1970s countryish band called Heartwood and a lot of single tracks, including “Driftwood” by the Moody Blues and “Ki Demon Sa-a” by Haïti Twoubadou (from the Putomayo collection of music from the French Caribbean). That combination of “two” sneaks into many places.

So I don’t know how many tracks lie in the library with “two” in their titles, but it’s plenty for our purposes this morning.

I may have said this before, but I’ve never quite known how I feel about Joe Jackson. From the time he showed up with Look Sharp! in 1979 through today, Jackson has seemed to shift from genre to genre, style to style, sometimes sounding accomplished and sometimes sounding tentative. I’ve listened to some of his stuff, and I can never quite figure him out. One thing I did like was 1983’s “Breaking Us In Two,” which went to No. 18:

The opening seconds of the Moments’ “Love on a Two-Way Street” provide one of the best introductions in 1970s pop soul. The guitar chords alternating with the piano followed by the thrumming strings (cellos, I would guess) set up the song perfectly. The 1970 record, the Moments’ first Top 10 hit, peaked at No. 3 on the pop chart, while over on the R&B chart, “Love on a Two-Way Street” was No. 1 for five weeks. The record was the peak of a pretty decent chart career, one that lasted  from 1968 into 1975 as the Moments and continued as Ray, Goodman & Brown to 1980 on the pop chart and to 1987 on the R&B chart.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Jack Scott put nineteen records into the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 1961. In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn describes Scott as a “rock and roll ballad-singer/songwriter/guitarist,” which doesn’t sound very distinctive. Scott’s “Two Timin’ Woman” came out in 1957 and showed up in That’ll Flat Git It, the multi-CD collection of obscure country and rockabilly records, and “Two Timin’ Woman” probably falls best in the latter category. The record did not make the charts; Whitburn lists it as a “Classic Non-Hot 100” record in Scott’s entry.

Staying with plaints about women from 1957 for a moment, I came upon “Two Headed Woman” from Junior Wells. Wells, writes Bill Dahl of All Music Guide, “was one bad dude, strutting across the stage like a harp-toting gangster, mesmerizing the crowd with his tough-guy antics and rib-sticking Chicago blues attack.” Though it was not one of Wells’ better-known outings, “Two Headed Woman” is a pretty good romp. I’m struck by the record’s odd rhythmic structure.

A few months back, the Texas Gal and I were lucky enough to see the Jayhawks when they came through town. I’d read plenty about the Minneapolis-based group over the years, but I hadn’t heard nearly enough of their recorded output, so I’ve been catching up lately. “Two Hearts” comes from 1995’s Tomorrow the Green Grass and provides a good example of the softer side of the band’s alt. country/Americana persona.

For this morning’s closer, I found a neat clip on YouTube. By the time March 1970 rolled around, the Beatles had broken up, but they hadn’t yet told the rest of the world. To promote (one assumes) the upcoming release of both the film and the album titled Let It Be, the group provided a clip to The Ed Sullivan Show of the group performing “Two Of Us,” which turned out to be the album’s opening track (and one of the best things on the album).

‘I Got A Gypsy Woman Givin’ Me Advice . . .’

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

As the RealPlayer wandered randomly through the mp3s the other day, it settled on an acoustic version of “Got My Mojo Working” by John Hammond, found on his 1976 album Solo. As Hammond ran through the classic blues song, accompanying himself on harmonica, I wondered how many versions of the song are out there. And before I got into that question, I found myself wandering through the history of the song.

The bare bones of the tale are pretty well known to blues fans: A singer named Ann Cole was on tour in 1956 with Muddy Waters’ band, and for their performances, she taught Waters and his band a song she was planning to record, “Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You).” Waters liked the song – written by Preston Foster – and when he got back to Chicago, he changed up some of the lyrics and recorded the tune for Chess.

Many accounts say that Waters recorded the song after Cole recorded it with the backing group called the Suburbans, but the notes in the Muddy Waters Chess Box say that Waters recorded the tune on December 29, 1956, while Cole – according to Black Cat Rockabilly – cut the song on January 27, 1957 (in New York City, according to a source I’ve seen but cannot find this morning). Those dates, then, say that Waters recorded it first, but I’m not certain. (I’m pretty confident the Waters date is correct, but I don’t know the source of the date I’ve seen for Cole’s recording.) In any event, both recordings were released as singles, and the confusion continues: I’ve seen some accounts that say that both were Top Ten singles, but neither version is listed as having made the charts in Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits or his Top Pop Singles. The only version of the tune mentioned in either book as having made the charts is the cover by jazz organist Jimmy Smith, whose “Got My Mojo Working (Part I)” went to No. 51 on the pop chart and to No. 17 on the R&B chart in 1966.

As to the origins of the song itself, both Waters and Foster claimed to have written the song. There were some lyrical differences, which I’ve seen attributed to Waters’ being unable to correctly remember the words Cole sang on tour, but according to Black Cat Rockabilly, “Eventually the matter went to court, where it was ruled that Foster was the composer. But the two versions are still separately copyrighted.” I dug into my Waters collection to check the composer credit. The Chess box set, released in 1989, credits Waters by his real name, McKinley Morganfield, as does a 1984 anthology of Waters’ work titled Rolling Stone. The Fathers and Sons album, however, tells the tale differently: The 1969 vinyl release credits both Morganfield and Foster, while the 2001 CD release credits Foster alone.

Anyway, here’s Cole’s very good version:

Waters’ studio version was good, too, but it pales in comparison to the version he and his band offered up at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, a two-part performance released on the 1960 album At Newport and happily preserved on film:

Getting back to the question I started with, fifty-two groups or performers are listed at Second Hand Songs as having recorded versions of  “Got My Mojo Working,” ranging from the versions by the Nightcaps and by Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962 to  Johnny Winter’s cover of the song on his album Roots in 2011. I have sixteen versions of the tune in the mp3 library (and probably a few more on vinyl that have not yet been ripped to mp3s), including a version by Long John Baldry from his 1964 album, Long John’s Blues. Digging around for a video of that track this morning led me to the following fascinating video from an April 28, 1964 taping of a British television program called Around the Beatles:

(Despite the comments from the original YouTube poster, I saw no Rolling Stones there, and the website The Beatles Bible does not list them as being guests on the program. The guests were P.J. Proby, the Vernons Girls, Long John Baldry, Millie, The Jets, Cilla Black and Sounds Incorporated. The show was aired in Britain on May 6, 1964, and in the U.S. on November 15, 1964.)

Other noteworthy versions of “Got My Mojo Working” on my dusty shelves come from Manfred Mann, Canned Heat and Etta James and from Levon Helm and the RCO All-Stars. Others from the list at Second Hand Songs that I’d like to hear are the previously mentioned cover by Johnny Winter and versions by Pinetop Perkins, Magic Sam, Ike & Tina Turner. (One version that I heard for the first time this morning that’s likely to get a fair amount of play here is, oddly, by Melanie.)

One version not listed at Second Hand Songs is one that I saw mentioned as I stumbled through some research this morning and that I managed to find at YouTube. It’s a smoldering take on the tune by a singer whose name I first came across at the very end of Dave Marsh’s listing of the 1,001 best singles, The Heart of Rock & Soul. Marsh tells the tale of Michael Goodwin and a long-buried tape from Goodwin’s college radio station days. Listening to the tape years later, Goodwin came across a unidentified song that – after much searching – was found to be “No Way Out” by Joyce Harris, a piece of New Orleans-inflected rockabilly that’s as incendiary as anything I’ve ever heard.

“No Way Out” was recorded for the Texas-based Domino label, and I learned this morning that Harris also took on “Got My Mojo Working” for Domino, recording a track in 1960 that wasn’t released until 1998 (evidently on the import package The Domino Records Story). It’s not my favorite version of “Got My Mojo Working” – that would be Waters’ performance at Newport – but it’s pretty high on the list.

Saturday Single No. 290

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

As I’ve been hanging around 1957 for the first two posts of the week, it seems almost churlish to leave that year today, when I can play our occasional Saturday morning game of “Jump!” with the Billboard Top 40 of May 15 of that year.

Thirteen of those forty records moved more than six places from the previous week’s chart, with most of that movement coming from records ranked between No. 21 and No. 40, a circumstance that is not at all surprising.

Two records moved seven places: Jim Lowe’s “Four Walls” went from No. 44 to No. 37, and Ken Copeland’s “Pledge of Love” (featured here Tuesday) climbed from No. 24 to No. 17. And three records shifted nine places: “Mangos” by Rosemary Clooney dropped from No. 25 to No. 34; “Wonderful Memories” by Johnny Mathis moved up from a tie for No. 34 to No. 25; and Andy Williams’ “Butterfly” fell from No. 11 to No. 20.

(How many of these records do I know? Until I listened to Copeland’s record the other day, I had heard only three of the twelve I’ll mention here this morning. Even now, after years of tracking back into the history of rock, pop and R&B, looking at charts from the years before 1960 is something like archeology: I have very little knowledge about what’s out there, so I dig and sift, hoping to find something that clarifies the history of the music. If it turns out to be something I like, that’s great; if it’s something I already know, then the digging and sifting helps me put it in the context of its time, and I learn something.)

There was one record that moved ten places between the charts of May 8 and May 15, 1957: Charlie Grace’s original version of “Butterfly” – Williams’ version noted above was a cover – fell from No. 16 to No. 26. One record – Pat Boone’s “Love Letters In The Sand” – moved twelve spots, climbing from No. 21 to No. 9.

Then two artists already mentioned this morning pop back up: Jim Lowe shows up for the second time, this time with “Talkin’ To The Blues,” which jumped fourteen places, from No. 43 to a tie for No. 29; and Charlie Grace makes his second entrance, as his “Fabulous” climbed fifteen places from No. 51 to No. 36.

Two records moved up twenty places, which is a pretty good leap: “I Just Don’t Know” by the Four Lads went from No. 53 to No. 33, and Jim Reeves’ “Four Walls” went from No. 36 to No. 16. (I think Reeves’ version of the song was the original and Lowe’s version – mentioned above – was the cover, based on the data I found at Second Hand Songs.)

As large as those leaps were, however, they were not the largest of the week. The biggest movement of the week came from a familiar song, one that moved thirty-eight places, flying from No. 76 to No. 38 as it headed to No. 3. And that makes “Searchin’” by the Coasters Today’s Saturday Single.

(I was going to do my own video of the tune this morning, as each of the several videos I found at YouTube seemed to be in a different key with a different level of clarity. But the mp3 on my digital shelves has a muddy quality to it, and to my baffled amazement, I have no Coasters LPs or CDs. That gap will be closed soon, but in the meantime, the video I have posted above is in the same key as my muddy mp3, and I sincerely hope it’s the original recording. Sadly, that’s not the case, as Yah Shure notes below in his assessment of the Coasters’ catalog on CD.)

Chart Digging: May 1957

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Having referred to my one clear memory of the spring of 1957 in Tuesday’s post, it seemed appropriate to dig out a Billboard Hot 100 from that time and see what was in the record stores and jukeboxes and on the radio during this week fifty-five years ago. And it turns out there’s some fun stuff in the Hot 100 from the week ending May 15, 1957.

First, the Top Ten:

“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley
“Little Darlin’” by the Diamonds
“Round and Round” by Perry Como
“Gone” by Ferlin Husky
“A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” by Marty Robbins
“School Day” by Chuck Berry
“So Rare” by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra
“Come Go With Me” by the Dell-Vikings
“Love Letters In The Sand” by Pat Boone
“Dark Moon” by Gale Storm

I see four classics in there: the tunes by the Diamonds, Marty Robbins, Chuck Berry and the Dell-Vikings. Why not Elvis? “All Shook Up” is a record that has never caught my ear. Maybe I needed to hear it in the context of 1957 to care about it. Out of the rest of them, I’d probably pull “So Rare,” with its old-school intro and choir contrasting with its bluesy arrangement. It wasn’t the last time one of the big bands hit the Top Ten – Dorsey’s brother Tommy got there in 1958 with “Tea For Two Cha Cha” – but “So Rare” was certainly one of the last big band hits.

As usual, there are delights below the Top Ten. There were three versions of the tune “Pledge of Love” in the Hot 100: Ken Copeland’s was at No. 17 (it would peak at No. 12), Mitchell Torok’s was at No. 27 (No. 25), and Dick Contino held down No. 52 (No. 42). (A fourth version, by Johnny Janis, had fallen out of the Hot 100 that week after peaking at No. 63.) And for those wondering, yes, Ken Copeland the pop singer turned out to be Kenneth Copeland the evangelist. His version of “Pledge of Love” not only did better than the other four, but it was likely the best version of the tune.

(Of those four singers, Mitchell Torok was the only one to have any other chart success. In fact, he’d had a No. 1 country hit in 1953 with “Caribbean” and reached No. 9 on the country chart in 1954 with “Hootchy Kootchy Henry [From Hawaii].” After the success of “Pledge of Love,” a re-release of “Caribbean” went to No. 27 on the pop chart in 1959, and Torok had two other singles in or near the Hot 100 in 1959 and 1960. As to “Pledge of Love,” two more things likely should be noted: First, Curtis Lee – of “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” – saw his version of “Pledge of Love” go to No. 110 in early 1961, and second, this is not the same song as “My Pledge of Love,” which the Joe Jeffrey Group took to No. 14 in 1969.)

When we get to No. 31, we find “Shish-Kebab,” a Middle Eastern-styled instrumental from Ralph Marterie and His Orchestra. Interestingly, there’s a note at Marterie’s entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles that the same tune was recorded as “Harem Dance” by the Armenian Jazz Sextet. And as it so happens, “Harem Dance” was at No. 79 fifty-five years ago this week. Whitburn notes that the members of the sextet were actually all of Armenian descent. “Harem Dance” had already peaked at No. 67 and was the sextet’s only hit. Marterie’s “Shish Kebab” would peak at No. 10, the best of four singles he got in or near the Hot 100 between 1956 and 1961.

A little further down the list from “Harem Dance,” we find two singles – one serious and one not – that are inextricably linked. At No. 86 sits “Banana Boat (Day-O)” by Harry Belafonte and at No. 83, we find the same title as offered by Stan Freberg. Belafonte’s record had gone to No. 5, bringing him his only Top Ten hit. Whitburn notes that Belafonte “[r]ode the crest of the calypso craze to worldwide stardom,” and Wikipedia adds that Belafonte’s 1956 album Calypso – which includes “Banana Boat (Day-O)” – was the first LP to sell more than a million copies.

As to Freberg, he’s simply one of the great humorists in radio history along with being one of the great radio advertising men. His version of “Banana Boat (Day-O)” is classic Freberg, and it went to No. 25.

Near the bottom of the Hot 100 from fifty-five years ago this week lies the only charting single by Lou Stein, who played piano for Glenn Miller and Charlie Ventura and then did session work as well as recording a few records with his own groups. “Almost Paradise” was sitting at No. 91 after having peaked at No. 31. I don’t know a lot about Stein, but the lush sound of “Almost Paradise” tells me I’m going to have to add his name to the lengthening list of musicians to check out.

‘Let Me Be Your Little Dog . . .’

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

A good portion of yesterday evening was spent sifting through a new two-CD package that the mailman dropped off yesterday: The Legendary Story of Sun Records, a collection of sixty tracks from the legendary Memphis-based label created by Sam Phillips.

Among the tunes that popped up was “Matchbox,” a 1957 recording written and performed by Carl Perkins. Here’s a video that honestly confounds me.

The recording used for the video is different and longer than the track included in the CD package I got yesterday (and which I am unable to post in a video). I’m under the impression from the CD notes that the shorter version – it runs 2:10 – is the original. So is the track used in the video a live performance cleaned up immensely well (something I doubt strongly), or is it an alternate studio recording merged moderately well with a lip-synched television visual? Or is it the original? Does anyone out there know?

Anyway, most sources agree that the song was written in the studio during December 1956, when Perkins’ father, Buck, suggested the younger Perkins record “Match Box Blues,” a song written and recorded in 1927 by Texan bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson. The line around which Perkins’ song coalesced was the now famous “I’m sitting here wonderin’, will a matchbox hold my clothes?”

The line, which starts Jefferson’s 1927 version, had originated before that: Wikipedia notes that Ma Rainey had sung the line in her 1923 recording of “Lost Wandering Blues,” and notes further that both Jefferson and Rainey had likely absorbed the line from earlier usages, as was common in the folk and blues idioms.

However the line may have originated, Perkins used it and the companion line that Jefferson wrote as the starting point to his song:

I’m sittin’ here wonderin’, will a matchbox hold my clothes?
I’m sittin’ here wonderin’, will a matchbox hold my clothes?
I ain’t got no matches and I got a long way to go.

Sun released Perkins’ recording as a single, but the record did not make the Billboard Hot 100. (It’s listed in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles as a “Classic Non-Hot 100 Song,” with an additional notation that the record has been honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

Since then, Perkins’ tune has been recorded multitudes of times. All-Music Guide lists nearly six hundred CDs that include a version of the song. Many of those are Perkins’ versions – based on album titles and running times, there are several alternates and numerous live versions out there as well as the original Sun single release – but many others are covers by artists as diverse as Johnny Rivers, Ronnie Hawkins, the Deighton Family, Jerry Lee Lewis,* Ike Turner, Sleepy LaBeef, Billy Swan, the Paramounts and more.

The cover version I heard first, though, was by the Beatles. Released in England as one of the four tracks on the “Long Tall Sally” EP, “Matchbox” came out in the U.S. as a Capitol single and went to No. 17 during the autumn of 1964. It was also included on the LP Something New, one of the hodgepodge albums Capitol was in the habit of creating for the U.S. market.

But as much as I loved the Beatles’ studio version of the tune during the days when I was exploring the band’s music, I find myself more intrigued these days by the live version the band performed during one of its shows aired over the British Broadcasting Corporation. This version comes from the July 10, 1963, performance and was included on the 1994 release Live at the BBC.

*Lewis was in the studio when Perkins wrote the song and played on the original recording. (Wikipedia says Lewis provided a piano boogie rhythm that spurred Perkins’ writing.) I have a suspicion that he also played on the longer version used to back the Perkins video above.

‘The Giant Pickle Says . . .’

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Sometime during the spring of 1967, I made my way to the office at South Junior High and wrote down my name as a candidate for vice-president of our class. If elected, I’d serve during our ninth-grade school year beginning the next September.

I had no experience. Oh, I’d been class president for one week each during third and sixth grades, but everybody got a chance to be class president in elementary school. Once a student had served a week as president, he or she was ineligible to serve again until everyone else had done so. So the weekly elections were actually eliminations in a nine-month unpopularity contest. I don’t think I was the last to be elected either year, but I was a later president, more Jimmy Carter than Thomas Jefferson.

I don’t recall my term in sixth grade, and only one moment sticks out from my week-long administration in third grade. It was a rainy day, which meant that we gathered in our classroom after lunch instead of going outdoors. After a brief time, the murmur of conversation in Miss Kelly’s room turned into a racket of shouts and laughter. Trying to quell the roar, I hollered “Shut up!” as loudly as I could. None of my classmates paid me any attention. I did catch the ear, however, of Miss Rodeman, a first-grade teacher who was at that moment in the hallway near our classroom door. She insisted I accompany her to the principal’s office, where I remained until the end of lunch hour. After I explained myself, the principal acknowledged the value of my goals, but she indicated that my leadership skills needed work.

So as I signed up to run for vice-president of South Junior High’s ninth grade, I had precious little experience in governing. And I knew, given the realities of eighth-grade politics, that I had no chance of winning. So what in the name of Levi P. Morton* impelled me to put my name on the ballot? I don’t know. I didn’t know then, and nearly forty-five years later, I don’t know now.

Our campaigns were simple in junior high. Candidates got their friends together and made posters to hang around the school. That and basic assumptions of friendships and desired friendships were pretty much it. Not having a campaign committee of friends, I sat down one evening at home with a stack of construction paper and some colored markers and began to create small posters to put in the hallways and classrooms. Not only was I lacking a committee of friends, I also lacked artistic skill. My posters were pretty bad. I knew that, but I drew on.

My sister, then a junior in high school, stopped by the kitchen and checked out my work. She didn’t tell me my posters were awful. But she altered the direction of the campaign. She pulled out from the pile of construction paper the lighter-colored sheets, grabbed the drawing compass from the desk in the hallway and set me to drawing and cutting out three-inch circles. As I created a pile of blank circles, she took up the markers and set her whimsical sense of humor to work on a series of campaign buttons.

Sadly, I can recall only one of the thirty or so buttons she created for me that evening. I remember giggling as she drew and printed on the paper, but just that one button remains in my memory. It showed a large cucumber with a friendly grin, accompanied by the legend: The giant pickle says “Vote for Greg!”

The next day, as I offered campaign buttons to a couple of friends before school, their laughter drew others, and my stock of absurd buttons was gone rapidly. As popular as they were, the buttons didn’t help, of course. Election Day came around, and I got maybe 5.5 percent of the vote, finishing last in what was, I think, a four-person field. But that was okay. It hurt, but only for a little while.

If I’d known about the tune at the time, I suppose I could have taken some consolation in at least the title of the only No. 1 hit ever written by a vice-president of the United States. In 1912, Charles G. Dawes – who was elected vice president in 1924 and served one four-year term – wrote “Melody in A Major,” a tune that Wikipedia notes was played as his signature song at many political events. In 1951, Carl Sigman added lyrics, and the tune became a love song: “It’s All In The Game,” which Tommy Edwards took to No. 1 in 1958.

Edwards’ version is pretty familiar, so here’s one that’s a little less obvious: Nat King Cole’s 1957 take on “It’s All In The Game.”

*Levi P. Morton was the twenty-second vice-president of the United States (1889-1893).

And At No. 44 on April 4 . . .

Monday, April 4th, 2011

It’s time for Games With Numbers again. It’s April 4 today, or 4/4. So I thought I’d dig into some charts from selected years and see what tunes were at No. 44.

We’ll start in 1961, looking at the chart from fifty years ago this week. Sitting at No. 44 was “Spanish Harlem” by Ben E. King. The record, King’s first solo hit after his work with the Drifters, had peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 15 on the R&B chart. It was the first of twenty-two Hot 100 hits for King.

A few years ago, I found in a box of old records the Rays’ classic version of “Silhouettes,” from 1957. The first version I ever heard of the tune, however, was the one sitting at No. 44 in 1965, forty-six years ago today. Herman’s Hermits’ version of “Silhouettes” was on its way to No. 5, the third of an eventual nineteen Hot 100 hits – including two at No. 1 – for the pop-rock group from Manchester, England.

Looking at 1969, I don’t think I’d ever heard the No. 44 tune from the week of April 4 until this morning. But then, I was never much a fan of Engelbert Humperdink. I did like “Les Bicyclettes De Belsize,” which went to No. 31 in 1968, but I seem to have missed “The Way It Used To Be” the following spring. The record would only move up two spots more, to No. 42. It was the seventh of an eventual twenty-three Hot 100 hits for the man born Arnold Dorsey in Madras, India.

The Wattstax concert in Los Angles during the summer of 1972 provided the Staple Singers with the eighth of an eventual fifteen Hot 100 hits, including two No. 1 hits on the pop charts and three on the R&B Chart. A live version of “Oh La De Da” was at No. 44 as of April 4, 1973, and probably should have done better than it did: It peaked at No. 33 on the pop chart and at No. 4 on the R&B chart.

After seventeen years with the Miracles, Smokey Robinson went out on his own in 1972. In the spring of 1977, “There Will Come A Day (I’m Gonna Happen To You)” brought him the tenth of an eventual twenty-five Hot 100 hits as a solo artist. The record, which was at No. 44 during the first week of April, eventually peaked at No. 42 on the pop chart and at No. 7 on the R&B chart.

And we’ll close our excursion this morning by doubling back to a time four years earlier than we started, in April of 1957. The No. 44 song in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-four years ago this week was “He’s Mine” by the Platters, the thirteenth of an eventual forty Hot 100 hits for the long-lived group from Los Angeles. A quick check at YouTube this morning brought a video of the Platters lip-synching the record, which would peak at No. 16 on the pop chart and at No. 5 on the R&B chart.