There aren’t a lot of threes out there. When I sort the 65,000 or so mp3s on the RealPlayer for the word “three,” I get 302 tunes. But – as in the recent cases of “One” and “Two” – I have to winnow out some chaff. And in the case of “Three,” there’s a lot of chaff.

For example, I have to ignore numerous albums by Three Dog Night and a few by the Three Degrees. I haven’t yet finished sorting and tagging a multi-disc anthology of R&B saxophone, so the twenty-seven tracks on Disc Three of that collection go by the wayside. The same with a nice 1963 album of Brazilian jazz by the Bossa Three and country singer Pat Green’s 2001 album Three Days.

Still, we’re left with enough tunes to explore this morning; certainly six of them should be worth a listen. We’ll travel in generally chronological order.

One of the first things I ever posted at Echoes In The Wind was the tale of my grandfather and the 45 rpm record he purchased for my sister’s birthday (her third, I believe). The record had “Little Red Riding Hood” on one side and “Three Little Pigs” on the other, as read by Al “Jazzbo” Collins. As I wrote in early 2007: “What Grandpa had found at the local record store was one of the great novelty records of the early 1950s, a record now fairly obscure. According to the Sept. 14, 1953, edition of Time magazine, Al ‘Jazzbo’ Collins, a Manhattan disk jockey, had found two hip reworkings of Grimm’s fairy tales in Down Beat magazine.” When Collins read and then recorded the tales – written by TV personality Steve Allen – they reached a wider audience than the hipsters who were Allen’s presumed audience, with the Brunswick recording that my grandfather purchased having sold 200,000 copies by mid-September 1953, according to that piece in Time magazine. The record’s no longer so obscure, perhaps, with numerous copies of it popping up on YouTube, but in any case, today seemed like a good day to revisit Jazzbo’s “Three Little Pigs.”

It’s startling to realize – as I did this morning – that in the five-plus years I’ve been blogging about music, I’ve written hardly anything about Donovan. I’ve mentioned him maybe twenty times and a couple of his tunes have showed up, one in an early mix and another as a Saturday Single. But I’ve never devoted a post to him or taken a close look at either his chart success or critical success. I know his work: Several of his LPs are in the stacks and more than eighty Donovan mp3s are in the player, but I guess that his music has never really meant that much to me, so I’ve never spent much time thinking about it. Will I now? I kind of doubt it. But one of his trippy tunes did show up this morning: “Three Kingfishers” from his 1966 album Sunshine Superman.

From trippy to trippier we go: The Incredible String Band, according to All Music Guide, was one “of the most engaging groups to emerge from the esoteric ’60s.” I’m not sure that “engaging” is the word I’d use; from this corner, “impenetrable” would be more accurate. AMG gives The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – the group’s third album, released in 1968 – five stars, noting that the album stands as the group’s “undisputed classic among critics and musicians alike.” And here’s what AMG had to say about the track that showed up in this morning’s search: “‘Three Is a Green Crown’ is a psychedelic folk song in all its hypnotic droning glory.” Classic? Glory? Well, okay.

And we may as well trip on. In 1968, as the blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s faded further into memory, Chess Records had an idea: Take the vocal tracks from some of Muddy Waters’ greatest performances and lay them over psychedelicized instrumental tracks. The result was Electric Mud, which was reviled by blues purists and either sold well or was generally ignored by its target audience of tripped-out hippies, depending on which source you read. In 1969, it was Howlin’ Wolf’s turn, with a record that proclaimed “This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either.” Here’s “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” the way it sounded in 1963. And here’s “Three Hundred Pounds of Joy” as it showed up on that 1969 tripped-out album.

Mention the title “Three Little Birds” to a casual fan of reggae, and you’ll likely get a blank stare. I imagine that many folks would guess that the song by Bob Marley and the Wailers finds its title in its chorus of “Don’t worry ’bout a thing.” Released in 1977 on the album Exodus, the song is one of the sunniest in Marley’s catalog, and it’s a good place to find our stopping point this morning.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “‘Three’”

  1. Tim McMullen says:

    I find it interesting that I used two of your named performers with my classes. I used Steve Allen’s “Bop Fable,” specifically “Little Red Riding Hood,” in my creative writing classes, along with five or six other variations and humorous adaptations of the tale as an example of pastiche and parody. Andy Griffith’s “Romeo and Juliet” was another example.

    In my American Studies course, I did a lecture on the rise of folk music and included The Incredible String Band’s “Koeedaddi There” (yeah, I know they were British, but like many other British performers, including Donovan, they had a definite impact on American folkies) as an example of the avant garde of poetry meeting the tradition of acoustic folk.

    As an aside, forget Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” hippy-dippy-trippy phase, for the most part; though bigger hits, they were relatively insubstantial. However, he wrote some very fine tunes on his early recordings as well as introducing works by Bert Jansch and Buffy St. Marie to broader audiences.

    Thanks, as always for your sharing and your insight.

  2. Yah Shure says:

    Each side of “Jazzbo”‘s “Riding Hood”/”Three Little Pigs” pairing made #22, according to Joel Whitburn’s ‘Pop Memories.’ “Hood” charted for three weeks in early August of ’53, with “Pigs” then following for a single week into September. I suspect that Collins’ record inspired Stan Freberg’s “Little Blue Riding Hood” just two months later.

    Although it likely came out a couple years after ’53, one of the kiddie records I had was more along the lines of the “Three Little Pigs” 45 your grandfather probably had in mind for your sister. Backed with “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” the Ray Heatherton With Orchestra “Pigs” was decidedly less hip, yet no less fun to a five-year-old. It was part of the Columbia Records Junior Series, destined to be ground to dust along with some of those 6-inch Golden Record 78s made out of yellow styrene.

    At a record show in the early ’90s, I stumbled across a mint-condition copy of the Heatherton “Pigs,” complete with the original picture sleeve (which I had absolutely no recollection of, having no doubt trashed the first one on day one back in the ’50s.) The pre-printed price on the sleeve was 49¢. Silly as the record was, it’s permanently etched in the noggin. Just the same, I think you and your sister got the better deal. (And what was it about Brunswick issuing such hipster stuff? Bob McFadden & Dor’s “The Mummy” was my introduction to hep street talk in ’59.)

Leave a Reply