Posts Tagged ‘Earl Palmer’

Saturday Single No. 276

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

It’s not like it’s an anniversary I celebrate. I hardly ever notice the date. But as I glanced through the LP database this morning, I saw that it was twenty-three years ago today that I became a record collector instead of just a record buyer.

I’ve mentioned the story at least once: On February 11, 1989, I wandered out to the flea market at the state fairgrounds in Minot, North Dakota, and came across a merchant from Bismarck who was clearing out his inventory by selling LPs for $10 a box. No substitutes, no mixing – you looked through a box and bought all of it or none of it.

The box I bought that day had – if I recall correctly – a few things I already had on the shelf. But it had lots of stuff by groups and artists I knew about whose catalogs I’d either dipped into only a little or not at all (beyond what I may have heard on the radio along the way). Among those were Steve Miller, Jimmy Buffett, Boston, Billy Joel and U2.

There were also some records by groups and performers that were utterly unfamiliar: Ramatam, Rita Pavone, Terry Garthwaite and Mother Earth were some of those. The Ramatam and Rita Pavone LPs are still in the stacks, though I rarely listen to them and have no intention of finding other work by either of the two. Terry Garthwaite, on the other hand, led me to Joy of Cooking and to the work she did later with bandmate Toni Brown; and the Mother Earth LP led me to pretty much everything ever recorded by that band or its lead singer, Tracy Nelson.

There was one LP that surprised me, though. And it was by an artist whose name I knew before I knew about the Beatles and before I knew about Al Hirt. When I pulled the 1961 album titled Drumsville! out of that box of fairgrounds records, I don’t think I knew that Earl Palmer was one of the greatest drummers in R&B history. I doubt if I knew that he’d taken part in some of the most important sessions in New Orleans’ long musical history. All that would come later as I dug into the history of rock & roll, and the histories of rock, soul, country, gospel and R&B. That digging – which continues to this day and will go on, most likely, for the rest of this lifetime – was spurred in large part by that box of fairgrounds records.

As I said, I didn’t know Earl Palmer’s place in history as I pulled Drumsville! out of the box. But I did know the name, and I’d known it for years. As the 1960s began, my sister – three years older than I – began to listen at least a little to Top 40 music. And on several trips to the Twin Cities, we’d stop at a Musicland store and she would pick up a grab bag of records, twelve for a dollar or something like that. I think maybe three or four of those grab bags – stuff the store was unable to sell at regular prices, obviously – came home to St. Cloud.

One of those grab bags – probably bought in 1962, the year my sister turned twelve and I turned nine – contained a record by Earl Palmer: “Honky Tonk Part 11/New Orleans Medley.”

Yes, it should have been “Honky Tonk Part II,” but whoever set the type for the label clearly used 1’s. And it took me years to figure that out; I liked the record a lot – both sides – and I spent some nine-year-old time wondering what Parts 1 through 10 of “Honky Tonk” sounded like.

As much as I liked the record, though, I knew nothing of Earl Palmer’s luster. He was a name on a record. So for years, even while I began to dig into pop and rock, Palmer’s record sat forgotten in the rec room cabinet. After all, I had so much other stuff to learn, beginning with the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers and Duane Allman’s session work and on and on and on. When I left Kilian Boulevard, the grab bag 45s stayed there, ignored for a long time.

But when I pulled Drumsville! from the box of fairgrounds records on that Saturday in 1989, I recognized the name and thought about “Honky Tonk Part 11” and “New Orleans Medley” for the first time in years. And the digging into all those histories that followed my buying that box of records included salvaging the grab bag 45s from the rec room on Kilian Boulevard. That’s why, to mark an anniversary I rarely think of (but one that had a great impact on my musical life), I pulled the vinyl rip of that single’s B-side from the files. Here’s Earl Palmer’s “New Orleans Medley” (Liberty 55356, 1961), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.