Archive for the ‘1936’ Category

Saturday Single No. 551

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

Well, the best-laid plans and all of that. I spent an hour this morning researching the background of a tune that my files said was recorded on July 29, 1925. Along the way, I learned that the resulting 78 was the No. 1 record for 1924, so the year was wrong. That happens, so I kept going, and as I was proofing and checking various things, I learned that the recording in question was actually made on October 12, 1923.

(I got the 1925 date from the Online 78 Discography Project, which is usually pretty accurate, but I found the 1923 date at the Library of Congress’ National Jukebox, and since the record was No. 1 for 1924, I’m pretty sure the LoC is correct. I’ll likely email the folks at the Online 78 Discography Project and let them know of the discrepancy.)

Anyway, I’ve marked the feature for use this October, and I’m left in a jam without much of anything for this morning. Except . . .

The appropriately titled “In A Jam” was recorded by Duke Ellington on this date in 1936 (and that date came from the notes in an Ellington box set). So the Duke’s “In A Jam” is today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 543

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Okay, so it’s going to be a beautiful day today, with the temperatures peaking somewhere above eighty degrees. And the Texas Gal wants to go out and play.

We’ll likely head north, hoping that the traffic of folks heading from the Twin Cities “to the lake” – as the Minnesota saying goes – is not too thick. Our destination? Well, we may head to the city of Brainerd, an hour away, and hit an antique shop or two as well as a discount store we’ve heard about.

We may head a little further than that and stop in the rather touristy town of Nisswa, not far at all from Gull Lake, where my dad’s boss had a summer home during the 1960s and I spent some time water skiing on occasion. In Nisswa, we’d walk the three blocks or so of (rather expensive) shops and probably have some ice cream.

And we’ll likely stop in Baxter at Morey’s Fish House for some treats.

Beyond that, we don’t know. But we do know we’re heading north in a very short time, so I’m just going to grab a June tune, one either with “June” in its title or that was recorded in June. So let’s see what the RealPlayer gives us.

Among the very few tracks that I know were recorded on June 3, we find “Southern Casey Jones,” recorded in Chicago on this date in 1936 by a performer named Jesse James. It’s one of many recordings telling the tale of the legendary (but real) railroad engineer who died when his Illinois Central freight train crashed into a stationary train near Vaughan, Mississippi, on April 30, 1900. The crash became fodder for numerous tunes in numerous versions, moving the location of the crash and revising much more, as well.

The recording came my way in the fourth volume of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, the group of tracks that Smith had selected before his death in 1991. The first three volumes were released in 1952, and that fourth volume was released in 2007.

Anyway, here’s Jesse James’ version of the Casey Jones tale, “Southern Casey Jones.” It was recorded eighty-one years ago today, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

‘It’s Goin’ To Be Rainin’ . . .’

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

It’s Thanksgiving week, and although we’re not celebrating the holiday until Saturday at my sister’s place, it’s still busy around here, and my time is not entirely my own. (The holiday delay arose because my Chicago-based niece and her family won’t arrive in Minnesota until Thursday morning, and no one saw the need to squeeze their arrival and a big family dinner into one day, so we went with Saturday.)

With time at a premium, I did a little digging in the digital files this morning, looking for something that fit today at least a little bit, and I found myself in San Antonio eighty years ago today. That was when – in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel* – Robert Johnson laid down two versions each of eight songs. Seven of those tracks would be released on Vocalion and alternate versions of six of those tracks were included in the 1990 box set The Complete Recordings.

(The alternate takes of “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Terraplane Blues” have never been found, according to everything I’ve seen.)

That was Johnson’s first session; he would record for two more days in San Antonio and then spend two days recording in Dallas the next June. So, to mark the eighty-year anniversary of that first day of recording in San Antonio, here’s the alternate version of “Come On In My Kitchen.”

(Counting the two versions Johnson recorded in San Antonio, I have twenty-seven versions of “Come On In My Kitchen.” It’s been a few years since I dug into covers of the tune, and I imagine I’ve added a few since then, so I may look again in the next few weeks at all the ways one can be invited into the kitchen.)

*When I was in San Antonio nine years ago, the clerk at the desk in the Gunter Hotel said with an air of resignation that the number of the room in which Johnson recorded was lost to history. This morning, I saw that Wikipedia lists Room 414 as the location for the recordings. I don’t know if that’s something that’s been unearthed in the last nine years, or if it was known earlier but the clerk was unaware of it, or if the clerk knew but the hotel simply doesn’t want blues and history buffs wandering around the fourth floor taking photographs and perhaps other things as well. If I had to choose, I’d opt for the latter.

‘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.”

Fifty-Five Years & Counting

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

I do not remember much about the spring of 1957, the first spring my family spent on Kilian Boulevard. I have vague memories of a tree being removed from the side yard, leaving a large stump that sat there for a few years more. I think I watched as my folks cleaned flower beds and planted their own perennials and annuals around the birdbath and along the south side of the house.

I do, however, clearly remember watching two boys about my age peddling their tricycles across the intersection of Kilian and Eighth Street. They stopped to talk to me as I stood in the yard north of the house. They were heading, they told me, to Wyvell’s store, just another half-block down Eighth Street and around the corner. After a few minutes of kid talk, they peddled on their way to Wyvell’s and its candy counter, and I made my way – I imagine – to the back yard.

That was my first meeting with Rick and Rob, the start of two friendships that have been central portions of my life for the past fifty-five years. From those preschool days on through high school, young adulthood and on, those friendships have endured, vibrant and – I think – essential to my life. (The fact that those friendships have also provided numerous tales to fill the white spaces in this blog is a bonus.)

And as I thought this morning of the ways we spent our time together in the earliest years of our friendships, I thought of our basement, which my friends and I used as a rudimentary playroom during the years before Dad changed it into a wood-paneled rec room. Among its attractions was a battered 78 rpm record player and our small collection of children’s records: I recall “The Muffin Man,” “Three Little Fishies In An Itty-Bitty Pool,” and a few more. The one that came to mind this morning was a recording of “The Music Goes ’Round and ’Round,” a tune that went to No. 1 for five weeks in early 1936 for Tommy Dorsey and His Clambake Seven, according to Joel Whitburn’s A Century of Pop Music.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Dorsey’s version we listened to in the basement, but that hit version – with a vocal by Edythe Wright – is a pretty good version to listen to as I ponder the way friendships go ’round and ’round and end up still strong fifty-five years later.

Edited slightly after posting.