Saturday Single No. 375

Digging around in the files for a tune to perform at our church sometime next month, I found myself listening last evening to some of the twenty-seven versions I have of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” Having decided that the song would fit next month’s performance needs, I also looked to see how many versions there are in the files of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” which I’d heard on the radio yesterday afternoon; the answer was twenty-eight.

Is that the largest number of versions of any song in the collection? I don’t know. There’s not an easy way to tell, and there wasn’t enough time available last evening to do things the hard way. I’ll probably start playing around with the question in little bits of spare time during the rest of the winter.

One thing I can find out easily is which performers are best represented in the collection. I’ve done that here before, but it’s been some time, and in the intervening months, I’ve gotten hold of full discographies of some performers. So the Top Twenty today is at least a little bit different than the Top Twenty was the last time I did this (whenever that might have been, and I’m not going to go digging through the archives to find out).

All these numbers include various regular collaborations, for instance, Bob Dylan with and without The Band or Bruce Springsteen with and without the E Street Band; they also include more rare collaborations, like those of Dylan with Happy Traum. Numerous tracks – all of those by Dylan with The Band, for instance – are counted twice. (And there may be some undercounts; it’s possible that a few tracks by some of these performers may yet be waiting for accurate tagging.)

But here are the Top Twenty performers and groups:

839 – Bob Dylan
701 – Bruce Springsteen
396 – Eric Clapton*
340 – Chris Rea
308 – Jimmy McGriff
295 – Sebastian (Danish)
293 – Lee Hazlewood
279 – The Band
268 – John Barry
259 – Nanci Griffith
255 – The Beatles
254 – Fleetwood Mac
251 – Cowboy Junkies
249 – Frank Sinatra
246 – Muddy Waters
226 – Richie Havens
224 – Joe Cocker
223 – Gordon Lightfoot
205 – Paul McCartney
200 – Indigo Girls

It’s probably not a very surprising list. So I decided to find something for this morning from the middle of the long list of performers that runs from Bob Dylan at the top all the way down to the group Zulya, whose “Saginow” was included on the Putumayo collection Music From The Tea Lands in 2000.

And I landed on “Judy Mae,” a gothic tale of stepson/stepmother dalliance and ensuing tragedy from 1975 by singer-songwriter Boomer Castleman.** It’s the Texas artist’s only solo listing in the stacks. (Castleman, as it turns out, was a member of the late 1960s duo, the Lewis & Clarke Expedition, which actually means that there are at least fourteen Castleman tracks in the collection, so he doesn’t really fall in the middle of the long list, but never mind.) “Judy Mae” was Castleman’s only solo entry on the Billboard chart, going to No. 33 in the late spring of 1975, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

*Clapton’s total include Derek & The Dominos and Blind Faith as well his live work with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, but it does not include the Yardbirds or John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, as it was too much trouble this morning to sort out which tracks from those groups included him.

**The record gave pause to a radio station in at least one town in the American South. Here is a link to an audio clip that includes a careful introduction from the management of WGNS in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; the record; and some fascinating listener comments.

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2 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 375”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    That first WGNS caller’s totally-off-the-cuff remarks sounded remarkably scripted. I wonder how long the station had been promoting this little call-in controversy? Small wonder so many of their listeners checked out the Nashville competition. Big wonder that WGNS would even acknowledge that on the air.

    I added “Judy Mae” to the playlist at my college station because it was getting a lot of spins on KDWB, but I can’t say that I ever played it myself, nor do I recall consciously paying any attention to the lyrics. The best defense I can offer is that my ears glazed over as soon as that “Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” template reared its head yet again.

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