“On the Alamo”: (Inter)Twin(ed) Guitars

It is startling and sad the degree to which Jimmie Rivers is not represented in the history of recorded music.  Says AllMusic:

“Despite his obscurity, Jimmie Rivers is one of the great western swing/bop guitarists. His legacy is miniscule, consisting of a disc’s worth of live tracks with his group, the Cherokees, recorded between 1961-64, but these low-fidelity documents show a guitarist with a near-unparalleled ability to construct exciting, melodic solos in the vein of Charlie Christian.”

As Rich Kienzle points out in his liner notes to the lone Jimmie Rivers CD anthology, Vance Terry was a former teenaged steel guitar wonder who originally was “absorbed” into the Texas Playboys when his group –  a western swing outfit under the direction of Billy Jack Wills, brother of Bob – disbanded.  Vance quit the music biz in 1955 to attend Chico State College, not playing for two-and-a-half years until a three-week engagement with former sparring partner, Jimmie Rivers, ended up stretching to four-and-a-half years.

“On the Alamo” – a jazz standard composed and published in 1911 but not recorded until 1922 by bandleader, Isham Jones, with Gus Kahn – is beautifully interpreted by Jimmie Rivers and Vance Terry with their twin guitars:

Jimmie Rivers - TV studio

Rich Kienzle also notes that Jimmie Rivers’ version of “On the Alamo” was clearly inspired by Speedy West’s 1956 Capitol recording of the song – here is rare TV footage of Speedy West playing “On the Alamo” from the Lawrence Welk show, back when it was a local show based out of Los Angeles:

1954: An Explosive Year for Music

We all know that 1954 was the year of Elvis Presley’s famous and influential Sun recordings, but 1954 was also highly noteworthy for the combined impact of these 3 particular tunes — all instrumentals:

1.  “Stratosphere Boogie” by Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant:  phenomenal, blazing twin guitar work – rock and roll by any other name (although some might call it “hillbilly jazz“).  Recorded September 2, 1954.  Bryant is using a “Stratosphere Twin” double-neck guitar with 6-string and 12-string necks.  The 12-string neck, curiously, is tuned in thirds, thus sounding like twin lead guitars playing lines in harmony.

Stratosphere Twin - Jimmy Bryant

“Stratosphere Boogie”     Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant     1954

2.  “Space Guitar” by JohnnyGuitarWatson:  unhinged guitar paired with playful production (and unpredictable reverb) – as Larry Nager so adroitly dubbed it, “punk blues.”  Recorded as ‘Young John Watson’ in Los Angeles on February 1, 1954 and released on Syd Nathan‘s Federal Records.

“Space Guitar”     Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson     1954

Space Guitar 453.  “Pork Chop Stomp” by Grady Martin and His WinginStrings – crisp production,       great chops (so to speak) and a little humor go a long way.  That’s Bud Isaacs on pedal steel, with Grady Martin and Hank Garland both playing lead on this spirited piece of western swing – recorded January 13, 1954.

“Pork Chop Stomp”     Grady Martin & His Wingin’ Strings     1954

Grady Martin doubleneck guitarApproximately 12 Years Later:

Johnny Echols of seminal Los Angeles folk-punk band, Love, would be seen playing one of those rare Stratosphere double-necks originally made famous by Jimmy Bryant:

Johnny-Echols-with-Stratosphere