Roogalators, Quetzals & More

Today’s a good day to follow up on a few bits and pieces, most of them from Friday’s post.

As I wrote Friday, one of the things that caught my eye when I dug into Johnny Rivers’ “(I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water” was that it had a tune called “Roogalator” as its B-side. I wondered in that post about the connection between Rivers’ B-side – a jam punctuated with shouts of “Roogalator” – and the record that Bobby Jameson made with Frank Zappa, “Gotta Find My Roogalator.”

I got a chance to ask Bobby about it Monday, and he told me: “I got the name ‘roogalator’ from Johnny when we were riding motorcycles in ’66. . . . Don’t know where he got it from.”

I noticed as I was digging that there was also a mid-70s band named Roogalator with several videos posted on YouTube. The persistence of “roogalator” reminds me of the fascination that musicians – mostly on the West Coast, I think – had during the late 1940s and early 1950s with the word “voot.” My collection of mp3s, which doesn’t focus too much on that era, has six songs that use the word in their titles, one of which is “No Voot, No Boot” by Dinah Washington with Lucky Thompson’s All Stars.

In the midst of my thinking about all that over the weekend, I got an email from my pal Yah Shure, who wanted to know if I was aware of WXYG, the new album rock radio station in the St. Cloud market. I wasn’t, but I followed Yah Shure’s lead and checked it out.

The actual radio signal is 250 watts, which is pretty slender, and it turns out that we can’t get it on our radios inside the house because of the presence of WJON less than a block away. But it comes in fine through its website (click the blue “Play” button), and it’s great fun. I looked at the station’s playlist as I’m writing this, and the last five tunes the station has played are “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” by George Harrison, “Tommy Can You Hear Me” by the Who, “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC, “Star” by David Bowie and “Empty Sky” by Elton John. And if I heard correctly over the weekend, the station is commercial-free all summer.

I found WXYG’s Facebook page and left a note saying that the station reminded me of the now-gone show titled “Beaker Street” that aired on KAAY out of Little Rock, Arkansas. And whoever takes care of the station’s Facebook page responded, saying “We like to think of it as ‘Beaker Street’ on steroids.”

“Give It To Me” by the J. Geils band was one of the tunes I listed last Friday, and I mentioned the single edit of the track, a version that edited out Magic Dick’s superb harp solo. In our exchange of emails over this past weekend, Yah Shure recalled that when he went to his local record store to purchase the single back in 1973, he found that some of the singles had the edited version of the track and some had the full-length version of the track. The two versions, Yah Shure said, were the products of two separate pressing plants. I wonder how often that’s happened.

And while Yah Shure told me he had no insight into the above-mentioned “roogalator” question, he said that he’d similarly wondered about the origin of Sonny Bono’s fascination with the word “quetzal.” (According to Wikipedia, “quetzal” refers to “a group of colourful birds of the trogon family found in the Americas. Quetzal is also often used to refer to one particular species, the Resplendent Quetzal.”) Yah Shure listed three titles in which Bono, as producer, used the word. Sadly – having deleted our email exchange – I can only recall one of them this morning. But here’s “Walkin’ the Quetzal,” a brief instrumental that was on the B-side of “Baby Don’t Go” both when it was released and went nowhere in 1964 (as Reprise 0309) and in 1965, when “Baby Don’t Go/Walkin’ the Quetzal” was released as Reprise 0392 and went to No. 8.

Continuing the quetzal quest, I found an interesting site called Probe is Turning-On the People! – evidently a catalog of webcasts, podcasts or actual broadcasts – and an entry there lists eight separate Sonny Bono “quetzal” records and says:

The so-called Quetzal records were a series of B-side instrumental throwaways created by Sonny Bono and his arranger Harold Battiste, in cooperation with Sonny & Cher’s managers Brian Stone and Charlie Greene. Quickly recorded and musically skeletal, the records were designed (in the manner of Bono’s mentor, Phil Spector) to compel radio attention to their respective A-sides. Although the songwriting was invariably credited to Bono, Greene and Stone, the general concensus is that the Quetzal sides were written (to the extent they were written at all) by Battiste.

The note adds, “[T]he word quetzal was an in-joke among Sonny and his friends, chosen most likely simply because they liked the sound of it.”

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3 Responses to “Roogalators, Quetzals & More”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    The other two “Quetzal” records I’d mentioned were “Georgia And John Quetzal” (the flip of “The Revolution Kind”, Sonny’s 1965 “Laugh At Me” followup) and “Ride The Wild Quetzal”, B-side of a 1966 single credited to Sonny Bono, but recorded earlier. The ‘Probe…’ website states that the latter single – Vee-Jay 710 – was assigned a release number but went unissued. Whether actually released or not, it would have been one of the last 45s out the door before Vee-Jay abruptly closed up shop.

    How often did different record pressing plants produce differing versions of the same single? A lot more times than one might think. Labels that farmed their manufacturing out to multiple independent plants around the country were perhaps more likely to end up with situations like the short vs. long J. Geils record. But the major labels, with their own multiple plants, had their share of anomalies, as well.

  2. porky says:

    c’mon, knowing musicians, quetzal had to be a DIRTY inside joke.

    I love these kind of posts (welcome back yah shure) and I’ve gotten lost in the great Probe site many a time.

    As I type this, quetzal appears underlined in red; when you click on the word, Quetzalcoatl is offered as a replacement, a word straight out of MAD magazine.

  3. […] the low-power album rock station that popped up on the AM band here in the St. Cloud area about a year ago. And as I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot, I heard a familiar and mournful violin […]

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