Archive for the ‘1954’ Category

Saturday Single No. 665

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

We’re going to pick up where we left off yesterday, scanning the list of about 350 tracks with the word “midnight” in their titles. We’ll take a look at three of them randomly and then choose one to be our featured single of the day. So let’s see what happens as take what we’re calling a Midnight Cruise.

And we start with “Way After Midnight” by Billy “Red” Love, an unissued track recorded for Sun Records in Memphis in 1954. According to the website Black Cat Rockabilly, Love’s career began when he recorded his composition “Juiced” only to see Sam Phillips release the track on the Chess label under the name of Jackie Brenston as a follow-up to “Rocket 88.” A couple of Love’s recordings were released on Chess, but – the website says – got little promotion and had little success. “Way After Midnight” and “Hey Now” came out of a January 1954 session at Sun, but were never released. The former of those two came my way in the JSP box set Memphis Blues: Important Postwar Blues. Love, who was born in Memphis in 1929, died in 1975 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As to the track, it’s a reed-heavy moaner with a decent vocal and a nice sax solo.

Next up is “Midnight In Memphis,” an instrumental track by J. J. Cale. It’s an outtake from some 1972 sessions in Muscle Shoals when Cale was working on his second album, Really. It’s a nice mid-tempo shuffle that features some nice solos, especially Cale’s laconic guitar work. It was included on the 1997 release Anyway The Wind Blows: The Anthology. I’m not sure how it came my way.

And we come to “Midnight Train” by a group called Brethren, an early-1970s country-rock band. The track was the leadoff to the group’s self-titled 1970 debut, and it sounds a lot like that year, with the caveat that the intro sounds a lot like “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band, which came out three years later. There doesn’t seem to be a lot out there about Brethren; even the page at discogs is pretty light on facts beyond the band members’ names, although it does tell us that “Midnight Train” was released as a promo single that evidently went nowhere. The group released a second album, Moment Of Truth, in 1971. I’m not sure how the group’s first album showed up on the shelves here, probably from some blog looking at out-of-print stuff from the Seventies.

So, where do we go? Well, I think we’ll head to Memphis and Billy “Red” Love’s unreleased session. “Way After Midnight” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Teach Me Tonight’

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

The standard “Teach Me Tonight” had popped up here a few times over the years before the 1954 version by Dinah Washington became last Saturday’s featured single. Back in 2013, as I looked at records that sat at No. 22 on February 2 over the years, I wrote:

At No. 22 in that long-ago [1955] chart, we find the DeCastro Sisters with their first Hot 100 appearance and the first appearance in that chart of the classic “Teach Me Tonight,” a tune written in 1953 by Gene De Paul and Sammy Cahn. The DeCastro Sisters, who were born in Cuba, weren’t the first to record the song – jazz singer Janet Brace was – but the DeCastros’ version went to No. 2, making it the best-charting of the more than sixty recordings of the tune since the mid-1950s. (The most recent version of the song to chart came from Al Jarreau [No. 70] in 1982.)

And Phoebe Snow’s version of the tune from 1976 came up during as I reminisced about the jukebox that got many of my quarters during time spent in the snack bar at St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center. (Snow’s version was released on a single but did not chart.)

But that’s about it. And Second Hand Songs tells me that there are at least 251 versions of the tune out there to explore. We’ll start that exploration today with the original version by Janet Brace.

And we start with some confusion. A note at Wikipedia mentions Brace’s recording of the song entering “the Billboard chart on October 23, 1954, and eventually reaching No. 23.” But neither Brace’s version nor Brace herself are listed in Joel Whitburn’s Pop Hits: Singles & Albums, 1940-1954. Two versions of the song are listed in the book: The above-mentioned No. 2 version by the DeCastro Sisters and Jo Stafford’s cover, which hit the magazine’s charts in November 1954 and peaked at No. 15.

Anyway, here’s Brace’s original version:

And, while we’ll dig into names familiar and not in upcoming posts, I thought I’d close this post with a foreign language version (since I tend to like those). So here’s one in Czech: “Vím už co to znamená” by Eva Pilarová (which offers the chorus in English). It was released – according to Second Hand Songs – in 1961.

Saturday Single No. 664

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

When we look on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios for tracks recorded on November 2, we find more than we anticipated as well as a broader variety of styles and genres than might be expected.

Our harvest starts in 1939 with “Jersey Belle Blues” by Lonnie Johnson. The Bluebird release recorded in Chicago was a piano-based blues ostensibly lamenting the loss of livestock:

My nights is so lonely, days is so doggone long
My bedroom is so lonely, every doggone thing is wrong
You know I ain’t had no milk and butter since my Jersey Belle been gone

We shift to New York City in 1954, when Dinah Washington recorded two tracks for the Mercury label that have ended up here: “Teach Me Tonight” and “I Just Couldn’t Stand It No More.” The first of those two was a sizable hit for Washington in early 1955, placing in the top eight on three of the various R&B charts Billboard compiled at the time, with its peak performance being No. 4 on the Best Seller chart. “I Just Couldn’t Stand It No More” wound up as a B-Side to Washington’s “The Show Must Go On,” which did not reach the charts.

Tony Bennett pops up on our November 2 list with “Love Look Away,” recorded in 1958. Released as a single by Columbia, the lush ballad has the velvet-voiced stylist rejecting love: “After you go, I cry too much. Love, look away, lonely though I may be. Leave me and set me free.” The record did not chart.

Country singer Tommy Collins had some sizeable hits for Capitol on the Billboard country chart in the mid-1950s, reaching No. 2 with “You Better Not Do That” and No. 4 with “Whatcha Gonna Do Now” in 1954 and getting to No. 5 with “It Tickles” in 1955. He charted again with a track recorded on November 2, 1965; “If You Can’t Bite, Don’t Growl” – another light-hearted record, this one on Columbia – went to No. 7 on the country chart in early 1966. It bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, peaking at No. 105.

The insistent “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations is another track recorded November 2. Written by Norman Whitfield, Eddie Holland and Cornelius Grant and produced by Whitfield, the record was No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100. (One of my regrets as a music listener is that the first version I heard of the song was the 1970 cover by Rare Earth instead of the original version by the Temptations.)

The last tune we’ll think about this morning is a Bob Dylan track titled “Nobody ’Cept You.” It comes from the 1973 sessions in Los Angeles that Dylan held with The Band for the Planet Waves album. The box set notes from The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 indicate that “Nobody ’Cept You” was headed for the album but was knocked out at the last minute by “Wedding Song.” To me, that seems like a poor decision, but then, I’ve never liked “Wedding Song” and would have much preferred the sprightly love story of “Nobody ’Cept You” for the admittedly uneven album.

So, seven tracks to consider this morning. I think we can dismiss without quibbles the Lonnie Johnson and Tommy Collins tracks, as well as the Dinah Washington B-side. And as good as the Tony Bennett track is, it is a little overdone. Then, even though the Dylan tune is a bit of a rarity, I likely post his stuff too often, as least as compared with the Temptations and Dinah Washington.

Let’s do some digging: Since moving to my own site in early 2010, I’ve posted two tracks by Washington and eight tracks by the Temptations alone plus four additional tracks by them with the Supremes. In contrast, I’ve posted tracks by Dylan – with and without The Band – twenty-two times.

That decides it. “Teach Me Tonight,” recorded November 2, 1954, by Dinah Washington is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 417

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Folks who are not baseball or tabletop baseball fans can head to the last paragraph of the post for some somewhat related music.

In the midst of a busy week, reader Steve E dropped a note here, asking about the results of last Saturday’s Strat-O-Matic tournament and about how we play the game in general.

This year’s autumn tournament was won by Rick’s 1954 Indians, who took a best of three finals by two games to one from Dan’s 1998 Braves. Rick’s Indians gave us two remarkable games: In the single-elimination opening round, Rick was down 6-2 to Rob’s 1936 Yankees as he started the bottom of the ninth. The Indians scored five runs in that ninth inning to win the game 7-6.

And after losing the first game of the finals to the 1998 Braves, Rick’s Indians pulled off another ninth-inning comeback. Trailing 4-3, Rick tied the game and then loaded the bases with two out, setting up a game-winning and finals-tying grand slam home run by the little remembered Wally Westlake. The deciding game had its own drama, staying scoreless until the eighth inning. The Indians scored twice in the eight and twice in the ninth, with three of the four runs being unearned. The Braves managed only a single run in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Indians their second title in the nine tournaments that we’ve played.

Steve asked how teams are selected for the tournament. We play old-style, the basic Strat game with cards and dice (though Rob and I both have the computer-based game; my disk is from seven years ago). Rob and Dan have large collections of Strat-O-Matic teams, and we pull our teams from that pool. Once any one of us selects a team, he “owns” that team for succeeding tournaments. And the only team allowed to play in consecutive tournaments is the defending champion. (Rob elected not to play the defending champs, the 1920 Indians, in last week’s tournament.)

The teams I “own” after ten tournaments are the 1905 Giants, 1919 White Sox, 1930 Athletics, 1930 Cardinals, 1931 Athletics, 1941 Yankees, 1948 Indians, 1956 Yankees, 1961 Reds, 1965 Twins, 1971 Pirates, 1975 Reds, 1991 Twins, 2001 Diamondbacks, 2004 Red Sox and the 2006 Twins. My best finish was in 2009 when I got the ’48 Indians to the finals and lost two games to none to Rob’s 1922 Giants.

A note about game play: I said we play the basic game, and we do, but over the years, Rob and I have developed numerous modifications to that basic game, accommodating things like how a catcher’s defense affects a base-runner’s chances of stealing a base, how an outfielder’s defense affects a base-runner’s ability to take an extra base on a single or double, and pitcher’s fatigue. If Steve or anyone else is interested in those modifications, leave me a note, and I’ll share them.

And since we’re talking about play and about 1954, here’s a track from that year from one of my favorites, Big Maybelle. “Ain’t To Be Played With” is a tune that Maybelle recorded for the Okeh label in September of that year, but it went unreleased. I found it on the collection The Complete Okeh Sessions, 1952-1955, and even though it’s about an entirely different kind of play, it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘’Cause Monday Is A Mess . . .’

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The second of our occasional Monday Morning posts takes us back to New Orleans in 1954 and a single that has been overshadowed for more than fifty years by a (very good) cover version. Fats Domino had a No. 5 hit in 1957 with “Blue Monday,” a tune that was used in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield film, The Girl Can’t Help It. The tune – written by New Orleans genius Dave Bartholomew – was originally recorded, however, by Smiley Lewis in 1954.

Lewis’ version was released as a single on Imperial 5268, but it made neither the pop nor R&B chart, from what I can tell. (Joel Whitburn’s cataloging of the Billboard pop charts in Top Pop Singles begins in 1955, and Whitburn lists Lewis’ “Blue Monday” as a classic side pre-dating the chart. Whitburn’s R&B Top 40 book goes back further, but Lewis’ “Blue Monday” is not listed.)

Hit or not, Smiley’s version is worth a listen.

(I’ve posted Lewis’ version of “Blue Monday” before, but I have more information available to me now, and anyway, that was almost four years ago, which is a long time in blogyears.)