Lloyd Green Stumps for Baldwin

Check out the Clavinet-like sounds coming from Jerry Whitehurst‘s electric harpsichord on “Wild Blue Yonder,” side one’s closing track from Lloyd Green‘s third solo LP Day of Decision, an album that was recorded (like Stones Jazz) in one day — in this case, on June 18, 1966 at RCA Studios in Nashville:

“Wild Blue Yonder”     Lloyd Green     1966

Lloyd Green:  Steel Guitar
Billy Sanford:  Lead Guitar
Jerry Reed:  Lead Guitar
Jerry Shook:  Guitar
Roy Huskey, Jr.:  Bass
Glen Davis:  Drum[s]
Jerry Whitehurst:  Electric Harpsichord

Somehow I failed to notice the significance of this announcement on the album’s back cover until now:

The Baldwin Piano and Organ Company of Cincinnati, Ohio recently invented and began manufacture of a completely new electric Harpsichord.

This instrument is being used for the first time in the ‘Day of Decision’ album.  You will notice the various unusual sounds on the different bands; these are just a few of the sound combinations possible on this instrument.

A number of musicians, who have played the Harpsichord, feel that it is the most original and versatile new instrument to be devised in yours.”

Rear cover – 1966 LP Day for Decision

Fascinating to encounter this information now in light of 2015-2016’s big horse race to determine the earliest recording of a Hohner Clavinet — and funny, too, since Zero to 180 had already celebrated a song from this same album back in 2014!  The date of the recording confirms that Baldwin had, in fact, beat Hohner to the “electric harpsichord” marketplace.

           LP cover – US                                        LP cover – Canada, possibly

Cash Box‘s Tom McIntee would talk up the exciting array of sounds made possible by Baldwin’s new electric harpsichord in the patriotic liner notes that accompany this album:

Something new has been added to America in this performance.  That something new is Lloyd on the steel and Billy Sanford and Jerry Reed on guitars.  That something new is an acoustical electric harpsichord.  An amazing instrument that sometimes sounds like a kazoo, sometimes like an organ, sometimes like a tuba.  The great majority of tracks in this album are old, but the sound is something new.  It’s a breath of new life into an America that sometimes grows weary beneath its burdens.

“Lloyd Green plays a Sho-Bud steel guitar” – back cover

The Baldwin electric harpsichord would be used most notably on “Because” from 1969’s Abbey Road by [K-Tel artists] The Beatles, as well as the opening theme to TV’s “The Odd Couple,” according to Spectrasonics (who states that the keyboard was “developed in the early 1960s by the Cannon Guild and marketed by Baldwin from 1966 into the early 1970s.”)

Vintage Keyboard Studio marvels at the instrument’s design:

“Each note has its own string and jack, which employs a pick and a damper felt.  When the key is depressed, it raises the jack which causes the pick to pluck the string, then come back down and pass over the string and come to rest on the damper.  It’s a pretty neat design, but somewhat flawed in that the picks can and will break, and the jacks themselves become brittle.  On this one in particular, we had all the jacks replaced with brand new ones.  It takes a lot of adjustment to get it right, but once it’s right it sounds awesome.”

This design includes a “very unique pickup system,” in which, as Baldwin’s own literature explains —

“Each pickup can be activated by two switches, one for the treble half of the keyboard and one for the bass.  Individually, the treble and bass switches for each pickup can be set for either the left or right volume pedal.  All of these tonal combinations can be doubled with a foot control that [indecipherable] the overall tone of the keyboard.  The Baldwin two-channel amplifier with tremolo, reverberation, and its exclusive Supersound tone controls bring the tonal possibles to a phenomenal total.”

Click on image below to view in Ultra-High Resolution

Image above courtesy of Santa Cruz Piano (where you can rent the Baldwin)

Despite the ingenuity of design (did I mention that the CW-9 model includes an “amplifier housed in the same compact floor unit as the two volume pedals”?), Vintage Keyboard Studio affirms that Baldwin electric harpsichords are, indeed, “pretty rare,” most likely due to the challenge of maintaining the instrument’s integrity over time.  The relative durability of the Clavinet would account for Hohner’s dominance of the electric harpsichord market by the early-to-mid 1970s, the funky new keyboard’s Golden Age.

Postscript:  Jimmy Webb mentions the Baldwin electric harpsichord in his 2017 memoir, The Cake and the Rain, within the context of his work as a songwriter for Johnny Rivers’ new record label, Soul City in 1966-67:

That was the spirit of the time … innovation and the exploitation of new technology.  Al Casey played a Japanese guitar called a biwa on [The Fifth Dimension’s version of] “Go Where You Wanna Go.”  The Baldwin Electric Harpsichord was a new invention.  We procured a prototype, and [Larry] Knechtel and I sat side by side combining a plethora of keyboards and organs.  We visited the ubiquitous electric sitar, a fad that started with Joe South‘s “The Games People Play” and ended a month or so later.  The studio had been full of gourds, castanets, congas, jawbones, tin cans full of popcorn, Styrofoam cups full of BBs, wind chimes, and thumb harps.  Hal Blaine developed a set of tuned tom-toms of different sizes, flared around his perch like a keyboard.  Ringo Starr heard about these and asked Hal to come to London to bring a set.

Note:  For optimal presentation, view website on computer screen

 

“Steel Guitar Jubilee”: Jubilant

I can’t get over how relaxed and appealing the kick drum sounds on this recording – almost threatens to steal the show:

 “Steel Guitar Jubilee”     Lloyd Green     1964

I admit, it’s hard to completely tune out the immaculate musicianship of the others who are supporting Lloyd Green on his 1964 debut LP, The Big Steel Guitar. released on Bob Shad’s Time Records —  a label whose roster would include Gordon Jenkins, Al Caiola, Hugh Montenegro, and (somehow) Ray Charles for a couple of (possibly “dodgy“) 45s.

Buddy Killen:  Bass
MurreyBuddyHarman:  Drums
Bill Pursell:  Percussion
Fed Carter, Harold Bradley & Kelso Herston:  Guitar
HargusPigRobbins:  Piano
Charlie McCoy:  Harmonica

Lloyd Green debut LP-bDiscogs made a mistakeTom Bradshaw himself confirmed via email that he, in fact, was not sitting in the producer’s chair for 1964’s The Big Steel Guitar.

Remember SESAC from Zero to 180’s previous piece on Hank Garland’s “lost album” from 1960?   According to Sandra Brennan in the All Music Guide to Country, SESAC would play a pivotal role in the development of Lloyd Green as one of the top session players working the Nashville scene:

“In 1964 [Lloyd Green] began working as a part-time assistant at the SESAC office for Roy Drusky.  Although the pay was low, the job did give Green the opportunity to make demos and do session work.  He remained with SESAC for three years, and soon was earning $50,000 a year from session work.  Green worked with pop musicians as well, including Dame Vera Lynn, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, as well as on the Byrds’ seminal Sweetheart at the Rodeo.  He had just a handful of solo chart hits, including instrumental versions of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ in the early 70s.  He also made the charts singing ‘You and Me.'”

Big Steel Guitar would also be reissued as Steel Guitar Record Club No. 4 in 1975 – courtesy of Tom Bradshaw (referenced above).

Lloyd Green debut LP-bbHistorical note:  “Steel Guitar Jubilee” – penned by ‘Joaquin’ Murphey & Smokey Rogers – was originally released by Smokey and His Western Caravan in February, 1951.

Can you believe it has only been one year since we last checked in with Lloyd Green?

Lloyd Green’s Secret Hawaiian Album of 1964

1964 would see the release of a second (though unnamed) Lloyd Green full-length album, Hawaiian Enchantment, albeit on a different label — Modern Sound Records.  Thank you to LP Discography and El Rancho for confirming the album’s existence.   .

Lloyd Green Hawaiian LP-bLink to 2002 interview with Lloyd Green, courtesy of Chart Records Appreciation Site.

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

“Anchors Aweigh”: Seafaring Strings of Steel

Countless country music fans have heard steel guitarist Lloyd Green without realizing it.  Green has played with over 500 artists and performed on 115 number one hits, as well as over 100 top ten hits.  Between the years 1965 and 1980, Lloyd averaged an astounding 400 recording sessions in Nashville a year.

Anchors Aweigh” is a Lloyd Green original from 1966 album Day for Decision, his first of two albums for the Little Darlin’ label:

Of the 24 singles released between 1967-1979, just three managed to penetrate the country chart, although Green’s version of “I Can See Clearly Now” – I am happy to report – broke into the Top 40 (#36 country) in 1973.

Lloyd Green LP-aLloyd Green LP-b

Little Darlin’:  Mayhew + Paycheck

As MusicRow.com reports, record label, Little Darlin’, was a business partnership started in 1966 between producer/songwriter, Aubrey Mayhew, and country “outlaw,” Johnny Paycheck as a commercial outlet for artists such as Jeannie C. Riley, Bobby Helms,  Lloyd Green, and Paycheck himself, whose edgy country songs recorded for Little Darlin’ are widely acknowledged to be hard country classics.

Mayhew’s interests were not solely tied to music, however:

“Mayhew was also one of the world’s foremost collectors of John F. Kennedy memorabilia and, at the time of his death, was embroiled in a high-profile legal battle over ownership of the window through which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy in 1963.  Shortly after Kennedy’s death, Mayhew produced a JFK tribute album that sold 8 million copies, and in 1970, he purchased the Texas School Book Depository Building saving it from demolition.”

Also important to note that in 2005, Mayhew came out of retirement to produce honky tonk (and truck driving country) singer, Dale Watson, for his tribute album to the label, The Little Darlin’ Sessions.