Due to “bandwith” issues, this dense, graphics-laden micro-history of King Records from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s has been temporarily archived in order to make room for two epic Silver Spring, Maryland music history pieces: (1) a Track Recorders ‘re-boot’ that will be followed soon after by (2) a detailed history of Gene Rosenthal & Adelphi Records.
Stay tuned to this space for a link to “Rare & Unissued King Tracks” when it returns in all its magnificence to Zero to 180.
My father-in-law, Jim, is a folk music enthusiast whose music collection, I noticed, includes John Hartford‘s groundbreaking ‘hippie-grass’ album Aereo-Plain from 1971, his first for Warner Brothers. Somehow I got the notion that “Bye Bye” — John Hartford’s standout track from 1972 Warner Brothers 2-LP sampler Days of Wine and Vinyl — was part of Aereo-Plain. Not true. “Bye Bye” would belong to Aereo-Plain‘s successor, Morning Bugle from 1972, fittingly the album’s final track:
“Bye Bye” John Hartford 1972
An unnamed contributor to the (John) Hartford Forum would write:
I bought the Morning Bugle album when it first came out. I’ve played it many times. Especially “Bye-Bye.” It seemed to capture a way of life in rural and small-town middle America that was fading away.
Personnel on Morning Bugle, which was recorded at Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Studio:
John Hartford: Vocal, Banjo & Fiddle Norman Blake: Guitar, Dobro & Mandolin Dave Holland: Acoustic Bass John Simon: Producer & Chorus
Morning Bugle Warner Brothers 2-LP sampler
Warner Brothers, it seems, viewed Hartford as strictly an album artist, as there were no 45s issued during his time with the label. Barry (“Dr. Demento“) Hansen would be commissioned by Warner Brothers to write these words for Days of Wine and Vinyl, as “Bye Bye” would also serve, fittingly, as the final song on the fourth side of this 2-LP sampler album:
“As we get down to that inevitable final drop of wine, and final groove of vinyl, we are graced with an extraordinarily eloquent farewell from John Hartford. Equally talented with voice, banjo and pen (Doubleday recently brought out a collection of his lyrics in poetic form, Word Movies), Hartford is best known for his TV stints on The Glen Campbell Show and on The Summer Brothers Smothers Show, as well as several specials of his own. Hartford is also rather famous for a song he wrote, ‘Gentle on My Mind,’ which has been recorded more than 200 different times. For two years in a row, it was the most frequently recorded song in the world.
‘Gentle on My Mind’ is a song that gently stretches the limits of candor permissible within its middle-of-the-road milieu, a trait that one also might have noticed in Hartford’s television appearances. One writer described John as ‘someone who managed to mean more and more the less he said.’
Like Glen Campbell, John Hartford began his musical career as a studio musician. Whereas Glen worked in Hollywood, John became a Nashville regular with his winning ways on the 5-string banjo. Eventually, RCA Records signed him as a solo artist. He made eight albums for Little Nipper before moving to Warner Bros. in 1971.
Morning Bugle is John’s second collection for WB, following the high-flying Aereo-Plain. The new album features John’s longtime accompanist, Norman Blake, on guitar, plus a surprise bassist, Dave Holland, whose name was up to now much better known to jazz fans than to country folk, thanks to his work with Miles Davis in particular. Holland does quite nicely. The album, in fact, was recorded almost entirely ‘live-in-the-studio’ with only the sparest of overdubs. In addition to ‘Bye Bye,’ Morning Bugle contains the movingly nostalgic ‘Streetcar’ and ‘Nobody Eats at Linebaugh’s Anymore’ (a reference to the changing face of Nashville) and the time-grizzled ‘Old Joe Clark.'”
Not Eric Clapton Eric Clapton
Morning Bugle, which barely scraped under the Billboard 200 chart at #193, according to Wikipedia, “sold so poorly that Warner Brothers decided to devote no promotion at all to Hartford’s next release Morning Bugle. Nevertheless, Aereo-Plain has been called the forerunner of the genre now known as ‘Newgrass.'”
The grammarian in me finds it unbelievably difficult to refer to the legendary bluegrass family dynasty as “The Stonemans” – I keep wanting to say “The Stonemen.” Surely, I’m not the only person who wrestles with this conundrum?
Ernest “Pop” Stoneman’s musical career goes all the way back to the 1920s, and he would later form a group that comprised, at least by the mid-1960s, five of his thirteen children. The Stonemans (sigh) – as Amazon’s editorial review points out – would “hit the country charts often but are now strangely forgotten.” Apparently, they were not considered a singles band, as very few 45s appear to have been released over the course of their recording career.
1967 album, All in the Family, for instance, would reach #42 on the country chart, although one winsome, bittersweet tune – Jack Clement‘s “Tell It To My Heart Sometime” – would be passed over for single release, sadly:
That same year, The Stoneman Family would be one of the featured artists in the 1967 feature film, Road to Nashville — Donna Stoneman nearly runs away with the movie in her spirited performance on an unnamed instrumental whose title proves to be rather elusive:
“His [early solo] career reached its peak in 1927, when he became the top country artist at Victor and led the Bristol sessions, which helped The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers gain renown. Stoneman continued to record through 1929 setting down more than 200 songs…
“At the end of the 1940s, he and his talented clan began performing as The Stoneman Family. By 1956 he had earned the moniker “Pop” and appeared on the NBC television game show The Big Surprise, where he won $10,000. Later, his children’s band, The Blue Grass Champs, became The Stonemans, which Pop himself joined after retiring from the [munitions] plant in the late 50s. He continued appearing with them and singing lead vocals through the early 60s. In 1965, The Stonemans signed with MGM in Nashville and hosted a syndicated TV show. In 1967, Stoneman’s health began to deteriorate, but he continued recording and performing through the Spring of 1968; he died in June.”
“I Can’t Tell the Boys From the Girls” – the A-side of Lester Flatt’s debut single for RCA, released January, 1971 – was the kick-off tune to his first RCA long-playing album release, Flatt on Victor. Song was written by Lester Flatt, with help from Bob Leftridge.
Lester Flatt: vocal & guitar Josh Graves: dobro & vocals Vic Jordan: banjo Roland White: mandolin Paul Warren: fiddle/vocals Jake Tullock: bass/vocals Jerry Carrigan: drums Hargus Pig Robbins: piano
Flatt on Victor was recorded November/December,1970 at RCA Victor Studio in Nashville.
I was half distracted driving through southwestern Ohio when I first heard the title track of Lester Flatt’s Kentucky Ridgerunner album on a community radio station. The song definitely caught my ear, however, so I made a point of acquiring this album from 1972 – the first of three that year from Lester Flatt. But when I finally sat down to listen to the record, I was flabbergasted to discover that all the deep-in-the-valley reverb I heard ringing out each time Lester and the boys sang the phrase “Kentucky ridgerunner” … was all in my head!
So I immediately whipped out my Yamaha REX 50 multi-effects unit, cranked up the reverb, and made a new mix that tried to capture the late-night lonely train cry I originally heard upon my first encounter with the song:
[Pssst: Click on the triangle above to play ”Kentucky Ridgerunner” by Lester Flatt.]
Not long after making this mix, the REX 50, sadly, bit the dust. Thus, this recording – another Zero to 180 exclusive – remains the final chapter in the legacy of this vintage 1980s reverb unit and all the warm feeling that the early digital era had to offer.
Frustratingly, the special effect is a little hard to discern — until, that is, you reach the final chord, at which point the song seems to ring out infinitely.
The Osbourne Brothers point the way forward on 1967‘s Modern Sounds of Bluegrass.
“Hard Times” – a working man’s blues dressed in modern bluegrass threads – speaks directly to the classic struggle between labor and management:
Hard Times – The Osborne Brothers
[Pssst: Click the triangle above to play “Hard Times” by The Osborne Brothers.]
“Hard Times,” the A-side of a 45 (b/w “World of Unwanted”) released in June of 1966, was written by Aaron “Double A” Allan — inveterate songwriter, radio personality and a longtime MC of Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnics.