Lloyd Green: “Mr. Nashville Sound”

When we last checked in with Nashville All-Star and pedal steel guitarist extraordinaire, Lloyd Green, he had signed with Aubrey Mayhew & Johnny Paycheck’s label, Little Darlin’.  However, Green would be ready to switch labels just two years later to go with another indie, Chart.

1968’s Mr. Nashville Sound would be his first of three albums for Chart Records and one that would climb all the way to the #37 position on the Country chart.

Lloyd Green IS Mr. Nashville SoundThe flurry of notes in crisp staccato fashion that open the track “Promises Promises” are characteristic of the late 1960s country steel sound, particularly of the truck-driving variety (“Wave Bye Bye to the Man” – is that you, Lloyd Green?).   I still hold out hope that today’s steel players will rediscover this commanding approach and supremely rocking sound:

“Promises Promises”     Lloyd Green     1968

Steel Guitar:  Lloyd Green
Electric Guitar:  Wayne Moss
Bass:  Jr. Huskey
Drums:  Buddy Harman
Piano:  Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins
Vocals:  Anita Kerr, Hurshel Wigenton, The Nashville Edition
Arranged by Lloyd Green
Produced by Joe Gibson & Slim Williamson
Mastered by John Eberle

As it turns out, “Promises Promises” would be a near instrumental cover of the top 10 country hit by labelmate, Lynn Anderson — I can only presume Green played on that version, as well.  According to Walter Stettner, proprietor of the Lloyd Green Tribute website, it is.  Says Stettner, “Lloyd was the session leader on almost all of the Chart recordings. I only know very few recordings where Pete Drake got to play; otherwise if you hear something on Chart or Little Darlin, it is most likely Lloyd.”

As this chart alphabetically illustrates, Lloyd Green played steel on an astounding 116 number-one hit recordings.  Of course, you may not be surprised to know that Green would release a baker’s dozen or so singles under his own name, including a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Sally G” (on which he originally played).  But you might be flabbergasted to learn, as I was, that this tireless, upright master of the steel would join the rogue’s gallery of artists who made the dubious decision to release a backwards b-side!  That’s right, just before he signed to Chart, Green would release a one-off 45 on Big A:  “Panic (A Trip)” as the A-side with “Cinap (Pirt A)” as the flip(ped out) side:

Oh, Lloyd – why’d you do it?

Chart Records:  Property of Gusto

As Jon Hartley Fox points out in King of the Queen City:  The Story of King Records,   “Moe Lytle bought the King and Starday companies in 1975 and has now owned King Records for longer than [Syd] Nathan did.”  In 1978 Lytle would launch Gusto Records, a budget label that issued albums, tapes, and (later) compact discs, and go on to acquire a number of other labels for the purpose of reissuing their back catalogs.  As Gusto’s website indicates in its banner, Lytle’s enterprise – GML – owns the catalogs of all the King-related labels (except for James Brown’s recordings), Scepter and subsidiary, Wand (except for Dionne Warwicke’s recordings), Starday, Musicor – and Chart Records, not to mention Little Darlin’.

Chart Records ad

“My Mary”: The Mother of Backwards B-Sides

Music, when played backwards, almost invariably takes on a sinister overtone, its overall sound, more often than not, provoking within the listener feelings of unrest and disquiet.

“My Mary” by obscure Cincinnati rock band, Jade, is certainly no exception.  This track from the 1970 album, Faces of Jade, would serve as the flip side to  “My Honey” – making it also the fourth such known (to me) backwards B-side:

Link to earlier blog piece:  “B-Side As Anti-A-Side”

However, unlike the three previous B-sides, where the A-side is simply played in reverse, “My Mary” is an altogether different, and more purposeful, beast.   For one thing, you can actually discern the lyrics throughout the song – quite a technical feat when you stop to consider the intent behind it (i.e., the vocals had to be sung phonetically to emulate the sound of the lyrics being sung backward so that the words would sound forward when the entire song was played backward – make sense?)  And knowing that the song was recorded somewhat on the heels of “Revolution 9” from The Beatles’ “White Album” (and its subsequent Charles Manson associations) only adds to the creep factor.

Thanks to J. Richter at Discogs.com for the historical background and analysis:

“Cincinnati’s Jade, Jim Aumann (keyboards, vocals), Randy Morse (guitar), Tim Nixon (drums, percussion), Nick Root (bass, vocals) were another one of those elusive late 60s early 70s psychedelic acts who left behind only one album, issued on the General American label, before vanishing into the mist.

Virtually nothing is known about the band, but collectors have been swarming record fairs and pillaging eBay for years in the hopes of snagging this relic.  So does the album live up to its hype?  Mostly, yes…

Considering the modest budget of such a DIY undertaking in 1970, the mix is well done and the material is very well constructed.  This was recorded at local Jewel Recording Studio.  Blending the Beatles, Blossom Toes and a number of other pop/psych acts of the era, Jade create a formidable aural tapestry.  With slight folk leanings, each track breezes along quite nicely throughout the duration of the album.

The engineering trickery in places here are subtle reminders that Jade were foremost Beatles influenced.  Perhaps the strangest track is “My Mary” which is absolutely mindblowing.  This ingenious piece features music that runs in reverse (backward) while the vocalist uses fragmented phrasings to fit the words into the warped beat.

The outcome is like a bent merry-go-round, wobbling in circular motion while the seasick vocals spill out over the arrangement. It’s truly a sound to behold.”

Why am I not surprised to learn that Cincinnati’s fabulous Shake It Records reissued the Faces of Jade album just last year?  Shake It deems the album “one of the most highly sought-after ‘Beatles-Impact’ records among psych, power-pop and Beatles collectors” and adds that “after a bit of sleuthing we tracked down the members and are proud to give a proper and awesome-sounding vinyl reissue of their sole pop-psych / Revolver-esque classic.”

My Mary 45

Randy McNutt – music writer/historian/producer and author of The Cincinnati Sound; Little Labels, Big Sound; Guitar Towns (et al.) – was gracious enough to share this information:

“If [Jade] cut it at Jewel in 1970, then Gene Lawson was likely the engineer.  Gene was and is a terrific engineer and musician (he played drums on Lonnie Mack’s “Memphis”).  He is now the maker of the Lawson Microphone in Nashville.  I’d say he did the engineering because it sounds like his work.  He was employed by Jewel at that time.  General American operated for a year or two in Cincinnati, working out of Jewel and Counterpart studios.  I believe songwriter Bill Stith was one of the owners.”

Brian Baker wrote a feature story about the original Faces of Jade album and Shake It’s determination to help this breakthrough recording achieve its proper recognition in the December 31, 2004 edition of City Beat.  The Cincinnati Enquirer also published a nice piece about Darren Blase’s detective work in tracking down the original band members, one of whom was just elected to his third term as a Republican county treasurer, as well as the unusual ambitiousness with which Jade approached the ten songs on this criminally obscure album and the degree to which this recording stood apart from the other Cincinnati groups at that time.  The Enquirer piece humorously concludes with a quote from bandmate and chief songwriter (and county treasurer), James Aumann:  “As Darren said, if this [reissue] does really well, we can probably all go out for a nice dinner.”

Backwards B-Sides:  More Than I First Imagined

"aaH-aH yawA eM ekaT ot gnimoC er'yehT" by viX noelopaN  [1966]
"noollaB wolleY" by noollaB wolleY  [1967]
"ereH er'uoY sA gnoL sA" by yksvonaY namlaZ [1967]
"Smeta Murgaty" by Warm Sounds [1968]
"Cinap (Pirt A)" by Lloyd Green [1968]
"evoL yenoH" by Burt Walters  [1968]
"Zig Zag" by Ohio Express [1968]
"Bitter Lemon" by Ohio Express [1969]
"My Mary" by Jade  [1970]
"Yellowcake UF6" by srelgnartS ehT [1979]

“Junk Maker Shoppe”: Hard-Edged Sunshine Pop

One of the lesser-known practitioners of West Coast sunshine pop is Yellow Balloon, a group formed after-the-fact as a performing and touring vehicle for songwriter/producer, Gary Zekley, who released his own version (#25) of debut single, “Yellow Balloon,” in direct competition with Jan & Dean, whose version (#111) he felt to be lacking.  Yellow Balloon released one album and 3 singles in 1967 for Canterbury, a label owned by Ken Handler – and financed by his Mattel Toys co-founder father, Elliott Handler.

Drummer Don Grady, in the middle of his 12-year run playing Robbie Douglas on TV’s My Three Sons, wrote the final track – “Junk Maker Shoppe” – on Yellow Balloon’s self-titled album, which was recorded at Western and Sound Recorders in Los Angeles and featured such top session musicians as Carol Kaye, Jerry Cole, Jim Gordon, Mike Post, Bob West, and Don Randi.  “Junk Maker Shoppe,” interestingly, is the only song on the album where the band members play all the instruments themselves:

“Junk Maker Shoppe”     Yellow Balloon     1967

Yellow Balloon - 45             45s Whose B-Side Consists of the A-Side Played Backwards:

– “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!” b/w “Aaah-Ah ,Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er’yeht” by Napoleon XIV  (1966)

– “Yellow Balloon” b/w “Noollab Wolley” by Yellow Balloon  (1967)

– “Honey Love” b/w “Evol Yenoh” by Burt Walters [Lee “Scratch” Perry production]  (1968)