“Frankenstein’s Party” Turns 60

Five years before “The Monster Mash,” King Records would peddle their own piece of Halloween pop in 1957, with the only release ever by The Swinging Phillies on DeLuxe — “Frankenstein’s Party” (backed with “LOVE“):

“Frankenstein’s Party”     The Swinging Phillies     1957

Thanks to the unnamed Discogs contributor who posted this biographical sketch:

The Swinging Phillies are a Philadelphia-based group, and are composed of Charles Cosom, lead; Philip Hurtt, first tenor; Richard Hill, second tenor; Ronald Headon, baritone; and Al Hurtt, bass singer and founder of the group.

More band history below courtesy of the “bio-disc“:

Frankenstein's Party - The Swinging PhilliesHard to believe that people have paid hundreds of dollars for an original copy of this doowop 45, but they have.

A search of the 45Cat database seems to suggest strongly that DeLuxe 6171 is the first of the “Frankenstein” songs, two years before Buchanan & Goodman’s “Frankenstein of ’59” (and one year before Bo Diddley’s “Bo Meets the Monster” – although this source says 1956), but is it also pop music’s earliest Halloween-slash-horror song?  All attempts to find “scary” songs earlier than 1957 – using such search terms as monster, ghoul, vampire, mummy, spooky, haunted, Halloween, et al. – have not yet proven abundant.  According to AllButForgottenOldies, the “flying saucer” songs of 1956 would kick start the teen horror fad in popular music, which merely echoed the big screen — although I’m not sure I would include “Old Black Magic” (especially as rendered so touchingly by the Glenn Miller Orchestra; same goes for Margaret Whiting’s “Old Devil Moon” — ditto Perry Como’s “Haunted Heart“) on a Halloween song list.

“Frankenstein’s Party” just might be King’s only Halloween and/or horror tune.

Q:  Aside from the “flying saucer” discs of 1956, can you find a Halloween/horror tune earlier than 1957?

The Dead: In the Twilight Zone

For those keeping count, today’s piece is (gulp) the 666th posted since Zero to 180 began December 12, 2012.  What better way to face down this (meaningless) milestone by paying tribute to a classic television series – and also a musical ensemble – that bravely broke the bounds of conformist thought, intrepid travelers who dared to confront “the fifth dimension.”  No, the band in question is not The 5th Dimension (although, good guess) but in actual fact  The Grateful Dead, who (not everyone seems to be aware) recorded the theme music to the revitalized TV series in 1985:

Opening & Closing Theme – “Twilight Zone”     The Grateful Dead     1985

As Blair Jackson would note in Garcia:  An American Life — “The band and [Merl] Saunders worked out a new main theme, which was a short dissonant burst of ‘space‘ ending in a variation of the original Twilight Zone theme by Marius Constant.”

Merl Saunders (courtesy DISCOGS)Merl Saunders

Dennis McNally would document some of the historical particulars of the Twilight Zone experience in 2002’s A Long Strange Trip:

“Few shows could possibly have been more appealing to the Dead and Garcia, who remarked, ‘Man, I live in the Twilight Zone.’  They leaped at the chance to record their own version of the signature three-note motif that identified the show.  They didn’t stop there.  [Producer Rick] DeGuere and his music director, Merl Saunders, came to a board meeting to discuss the band’s doing all of the music for the show, the ‘stings’ and ‘bumpers’ that set the atmospheric soundscape.  Garcia left the meeting early, announcing that he voted yes.  Lesh was ‘adamantly opposed,’ recalled DeGuere, and the decision was made to proceed without him.

They set to work, and while their music was appropriate and effective, the deal’s business aspects were badly handled, dooming the project to continuous friction among all parties involved.  [Grateful Dead legal counsel] Hal Kant had delegated the negotiation of the arrangement with CBS to an associate, who didn’t know the Dead very well and produced a fairly standard contract.  The head of the music department at CBS [Robert Drasnin, presumably] didn’t like the deal, since he now had no control, which put Merl in the middle of both an unhappy CBS and the Dead.  Very quickly, Mickey Hart took the lead for the Dead in the studio, and proved to have a gift for sound design.  Just as they began, he went into the hospital for back surgery, and ordered that all the necessary equipment be set up in his room.  At first [road manager] Ram Rod vetoed this seeming insanity, but Mickey pleaded, ‘When I wake up, I want to go to work.’  The Demerol he’d gotten for his surgery proved to be aesthetically stimulating, and he produced music for the first four episodes from bed.”

The loss of Phil Lesh, the band member most closely linked to the musical avant-garde, is a notable one.

Composer, Robert Drasnin, as Variety noted in its obituary posted on May 15, 2105, would have a central role to play:

“While head of CBS’ music department in the 1980s, he worked with the Grateful Dead on music for the revived Twilight Zone series, along with scoring several episodes himself.”

Robert Hunter would later recall in his online journal entry for February 4, 2005:

“I’m still grateful that a steady salary for the two seasons The Zone ran
helped make the house payments and put food on the table for our family
of five back when the GD was staggering financially and I was set
running around the country doing low paying solo gigs to support us.
‘Touch of Grey’ was soon to solve that problem.”

Is it merely a coincidence that, just last month, a 1985 Twilight Zone contract between CBS Entertainment and The Grateful Dead — signed by all members of the band — would sell on Ebay for $29,470.70?Grateful Dead Twilight Zone contractIt is curious the extent to which The Twilight Zone ‘reboot’ is under-remembered, given the caliber of talent that went into not only the music but the writing and acting, as well — as pointed out in arts blog Delusions of Grandeur:

“Writers such as Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, and Paul Chitlik wrote screenplays for the show.  It was directed by many different talents including Wes Craven and William Friedkin.  Many different mainstream stars made their appearance in the series including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Season Hubley, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Jonathan Frakes, and Fred Savage.  The theme music was composed by Jerry Garcia and performed by The Grateful Dead.”

How funny to see the inclusion of a Grateful Dead track – “The New Twilight Zone” – on TV theme compilation Television’s Greatest Hits, Volume 6 from 1996.

Hooterollin Around music blog (an “appendix to Lost Live Dead“) writes a fascinating piece that draws many musical connections between Jerry Garcia and stalwart session guitarist, Howard Roberts, a musician who is best remembered for having played the original haunting Twilight Zone guitar riff.

Zero to 180 cannot close this piece without reminding everyone of that uncanny musical ‘Twilight Zone’ moment:  last July’s discovery of Germany’s The Dead-Heads, who released their debut single in 1966 — just one year after the The Grateful Dead’s official formation!

Grateful Dead (not) Twilight Zone pinballZero to 180’s Gallery of Grateful Dead 45 Picture Sleeves

Given the band’s famous disregard towards commerce, I thought it would be great ironic fun to pull together all of The Grateful Dead’s 7-inch picture sleeves from around the world.  Interesting to see domestic marketing efforts lag behind Warner Brothers’ international arm overseas, as the Dead would not see comparable investments on single releases, curiously enough, until the band’s tenure with Clive Davis’s Arista label, especially after the unexpected success with “Touch of Grey”:

Germany

Grateful Dead 45-Germany-aGrateful Dead 45-Germany-bGrateful Dead 45-Germany-cGrateful Dead 45-Germany-d

Japan

Grateful Dead 45-Japan-aGrateful Dead 45-Japan-bGrateful Dead 45-Japan-cGrateful Dead 45-Japan-dGrateful Dead 45-Japan-eGrateful Dead 45-Japan-fGrateful Dead 45-Japan-gGrateful Dead 45-Japan-h

United States

Grateful Dead 45-US-aGrateful Dead 45-US-bGrateful Dead 45-US-ccGrateful Dead 45-US-dGrateful Dead 45-US-e-promoGrateful Dead 45-US-fGrateful Dead 45-US-gGrateful Dead 45-US-heart

UK (1977)

Grateful Dead 45-UK-a (1977)Grateful Dead 45-UK-aa (1977)

France

Grateful Dead 45-France-aGrateful Dead 45-France-b

Netherlands

Grateful Dead 45-Netherlands-aaGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-bbGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-cc

Rear sleeve of German 45 “One More Saturday Night”:  Mini fold-up coffin!Grateful Dead 45-Germany-cc45 above references “neu” Jerry garcia solo 45 “Sugaree” / “Deal” (below)

Jerry Garcia 45-aJerry Garcia 45-bJerry Garcia 45-cJerry Garcia 45-cc

honorable mention:  Colombian EP from 1967

Grateful Dead EP-South Africa-aGrateful Dead EP-South Africa-b

This audio playback format was once considered state of the artGrateful Dead extended play cartridge

While the rare “Good Lovin'” US picture sleeve illustrated above can fetch $75 at auction, you might be surprised by the number of picture sleeves that go for three (and even four) figures.

Twilight Zone reference in this brilliant TV Guide/MTV spoof by Blair Jackson

GDTV - Grateful Dead TV

Buddy Knox’s Bigfoot Song

How can you not love Muddy Waters for his brilliant observation, “The blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll”?  And thank you, Jerry Wexler, for coining the term “rhythm & blues” as an alternative to the more 19th-century-sounding “race music.”

The Grand Ol’ Opry would famously ban percussion from its stages until the forces of modernity could no longer be held back, and it was around this time when country music was increasingly being played with a backbeat that the term “rhythm” started to bubble up into popular consciousness.

            Jimmy Bowen & Buddy Knox would go their separate ways – even on Roulette

Jimmy Bowen EP (edited)Buddy Knox 45

Producer and music industry heavyweight, Jimmy Bowen, has a great story in his excellent memoir (and insider account) Rough Mix about the word “rhythm” and its unexpected appearance (more like forced entrance) during his first professional encounter with the music biz, as he and his partner, Buddy Knox, were recording their first 45 for none other than Morris Levy, the music mogul (and owner of Birdland) who would be convicted in 1990 for extortion:

“To say we had trouble finding our groove puts it mildly.  Whether it was the big-city pressure or his bad syncopation, Buddy froze up behind the mike and could not get it right.  You could count it out for Buddy all day long–a-one, anna-two, anna-three, anna-four–but he couldn’t find a-one and never came in right.  Another problem:  the studio was directly over a subway.  Every time a train rumbled by, you could hear it on the tape, so a bunch of good takes had to be redone.  This just made Buddy more nervous.”

I had to step in and sing both B-sides–‘My Baby’s Gone’ for ‘Party Doll’ and ‘Ever-Lovin’ Fingers’ for ‘I’m Stickin’ with You.’  [George] Goldner pumped the echo to it so high on my voice that you could hardly tell it wasn’t Buddy, though my voice was deeper and less twangy.  When the session was over, Morris [Levy] realized he hated the group’s name–Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, and the Orchids–and told us it would have to change.  ‘You kids go on back to Texas,’ Morris said, ‘and we’ll take care of that.’

When they mailed us our records, I couldn’t believe it.  ‘I’m Stickin’ with You’ was now by Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids [!]  The shock wore off, though, and it was a real kick to be on a New York label with our records going out all over the country [as well as the UK, Canada & Germany].  ‘Stickin’ with You’ was Roulette 4001, the label’s debut release.  ‘Party Doll’ was Roulette 4002, by Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids.”

Buddy Knox & His Rhythm Orchids posterThe Rhythm Orchids would eventually disband, and Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen would find their own musical paths.  For Buddy Knox, that path would one day lead to Bigfoot:

“Bigfoot Song”     Buddy Knox     197?

We learn from another YouTube clip that this surprisingly effective Bigfoot song is an unreleased demo “that no one had heard until 2005 when it was shared from an acetate demo that friends in Canada obtained from Buddy late in his life.”

Buddy Knox & His Rhythm OrchidsWe also learn from Greg Long’s The Making of Bigfoot:  The Inside Story that Buddy Knox is connected to renowned Bigfoot videographer, Roger Patterson, through his guitarist, Jerry Merritt, and that the three of them would once go on a Bigfoot finding expedition:

“One time [Jerry Merritt] picked grapes with Patterson, and Patterson made juice from the grapes to treat his cancer.  Another time, Merritt and Buddy Knox, a famous rockabilly star, who recorded ‘Party Doll,’ traveled with Merritt, Patterson, and [Bob] Gimlin in Patterson’s van out into the hills.”

Fascinating to discover from Buddy Knox’s discography on Discogs.com that these 1950s recordings with Jimmy Bowen would continue to sell into the 1960s, 70s, 80, 90s & beyond.  Kinda spooky.

Bigfoot

“Phantom Lover”: Halloween Hit?

This song sounds to me like an obvious – and instantaneous – hit:

“Phantom Lover”     Marv Lockard     1967

And yet so little information exists about this classic 1967 production from Shad O’Shea‘s Counterpart Records, with its deep bass grooves and warm reverb.

Three years prior, Marv Lockard – as part of The Dolphins – would record a song at King Records (“Hey-Da-Da-Dow”) that would catch the ear of Harry Carlson, who would issue it on Fraternity and have a #69 pop hit in late 1964.  According to Buckeye Beat, Kenny Smith, former host of Cincinnati’s “Soul Street” TV show – and subject of a previous Zero to 180 celebration – assisted with the song’s production.

Fun to note that “Phantom Lover” was part of the set list for Portland, Oregon radio’s XRAY FM first annual Halloween Show in 2014.

Marv Lockard 45Marv Lockard has a page devoted to his recorded legacy on this German roots rock tribute website.  I am also amused to see that Lockard was once a fellow Gateway recording artist with my brother’s father-in-law, Jack Gutjahr.

This special Halloween piece is the 13th item (spooky! true!) about Counterpart Records.

World’s 1st Dead Heads: Germany?

How freaky that the Grateful Dead’s played their first show on December 4, 1965 (billed as The Dead, not The Warlocks)  — and then the very next year, a group of young German musicians would form a band called The Dead-Heads:

“Stupid-Baby”     The Dead-Heads     1966

This seven-inch is almost certainly the one and only record release by The Dead-Heads.

Dead-Heads 45

The Cool Ghoul: Theme Song Remix

It’s been ten years since the passing of Dick Von Hoene, Cincinnati’s late-night weekend TV phantom – The Cool Ghoul – as he was known professionally.  Aaron Bates, along with oldies radio station WGRR, put together a freewheeling and vintage-filled 2-minute tribute to the loveable horror figure specific to our Ohio Valley metropolitan area, at a time when local programming was commonplace on network TV:

During the late 60s/early 70s period in Cincinnati, The Cool Ghoul (as depicted below) was at his most “countercultural” – later he would take on more of a “vagabond” look:

Cool GhoulHow fascinating to come across one of the old Cincinnati Post TV listings (1970s) and be reminded of the individualized “lucky number” stamps near the pirate’s chest that you would compare against a master listing of that week’s winning numbers – good times!

Cool Ghoul - TV guideCleveland Had a Ghoul, Too

In the 1970s growing up, I used to spend summers in the Cleveland area, where my dad lived.  On Friday nights, WJW, the local CBS affiliate, featured a comedy duo – Hoolihan & Big Chuck – who, in retrospect, remind me of a Bob & Doug McKenzie style of wholesome comedy.  But Saturday night’s show with Channel 61’s The Ghoul was easily the more madcap and renegade of the two late-night weekend shows – live programming at its edgy best, where you never quite knew what was coming around the corner.

When Cleveland’s original beloved ghoul, Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) left the Great Lakes for the West Coast, the future Ghoul – i.e., Ron Sweed – who started out as Ghoulardi’s assistant, then went to work for Ghoulardi’s replacement, Hoolihan & Big Chuck.  According to Wikipedia, Sweed later took ‘The Ghoul’ to Kaiser Broadcasting station WKBF-TV in 1971: 
“Though it started as a tribute to Ghoulardi, Sweed soon developed his own eye-catching gags and energetic style.  Known for his zany, early-adolescent humor (particularly surrounding his abuse of a rubber frog named “Froggy,” his well-known penchant for blowing up model ships and aircraft with firecrackers, and his habitual smearing of Cheez Whiz over everything in sight), late night monster movies were a unique experience for Cleveland viewers in the 1970s.  The Ghoul would typically take an unbelievably bad horror movie and dump in sound bites at appropriate moments, using audio clips from novelty records, George Carlin, Firesign Theater and rock albums of the 60’s and early 70’s.  And whenever a character took a drink of something on-screen, The Ghoul would supply a good, loud belch.”
Ghoul adGhoul glossy
Link to good info about the Cleveland ghoul scene courtesy of MyMovieMonsters.com

“Five Minutes to Live”: Death Sentence Commuted to 18 Years

My heartfelt appreciation to Brian Horrorwitz of Trash Palace for introducing me to a great tune that was sung by Johnny Cash and featured in a mediocre film in which he starred:

I am especially in awe of Luther Perkins’ guitar lines, who plays exactly the right notes and not a single note more.  Luther’s terse instrumental passage preceding each verse captures perfectly the unrelenting dread – one imagines – of those awaiting execution, while the economy of his playing thrills me in the same way that complex and showy musicianship used to knock me out when I was a wide-eyed teen.

But if you search all of Cash’s Columbia single releases, you will discover that this obvious A-side was never issued as a 45 — nor was it released on any of Johnny’s Columbia albums either.  Neither was it issued as part of a soundtrack album for Five Minutes to Live (a.k.a., Door-to-Door Maniac), as far as I can tell.  Thus, this song, born in 1960, remained in solitary confinement for 18 years until the 1978 release of The Unissued Johnny Cash by Bear Family, (the German reissue label that compiles lavish and scrupulously annotated box sets of American roots rock, country & blues artists) – and even then, it was only available to U.S. fans as a pricey import.

Five Minutes to Live poster

Is it possible that the heavyweight topic of capital punishment made the song too sensitive for radio play?

Thanks to In the Can for the recording session info:

Wednesday, November 2, 1960 :  At Bradley Studio in Nashville, Johnny Cash
records “Five Minutes To Live” and “The Losing Kind”, both of which are
first issued on the LP “The Unissued Johnny Cash” (Bear Family BFX 15016)
in 1978.

Personnel : Johnny Cash (vocals / guitar) ; Luther Perkins, Johnny Western
(guitars) ; Marshall Grant (bass) ; W.S. Holland (drums).
Produced by Don Law.

“Some of Them Bones Are Mine”: Kinda Spooky

According to the authoritative Rockin’ Country Style website, Johnny and Jonie are   Johnny and Jonie Mosby — he, born in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and she, born Janice Irene Shields in Van Nuys, California.   Married in 1958, released two 45s that same year.

“Some of Them Bones are Mine” – whose ghostly vocal accompaniment and lyric about “dry bones in the valley” where “blue and grey lay side by side” make for a classic Halloween soundtrack – is actually the B-side of their 2nd single for Challenge Records:

Some of Them Bones Are Mine – Johnny & Jonie

[Pssst:  Click the triangle to play “Some of Them Bones Are Mine” by Johnny & Jonie.]

Johnny & Jonie recorded three singles for Challenge, the Gene Autry-founded indie label, whose first big hit was “Tequila” by The Champs.  “Some of Them Bones Are Mine” was paired with Harlan Howard’s “Still Going Steady” for the A-side.  The single failed to chart.

Some of Them Bones are Mine 45

Johnny & Jonie later released a Top-20 country album in 1965 for almighty Columbia –    Mr. & Mrs. Music – whose songs had been recorded at CBS Nashville between the years 1962-1964.  Curiously, Johnny & Jonie released an album later that same year for Starday, The New Sweethearts of Country Music.  Had Columbia really released Johnny & Jonie from their contract, even after their debut album hit #18 on the country charts?  Apparently, they had, since by May 1967 Johnny & Jonie were recording at Capitol Recording Studios in Hollywood with six albums to follow on the Capitol label in rapid succession:              Make a Left and Then a Right (1968); Just Hold My Hand (1969); Hold Me (1969);           I’ll Never Be Free (1969); My Happiness (1970); and Oh Love of Mine (1971).

Johnny & Jonie

Johnny Seay Asks That You Not Look Behind His Baby’s Bedroom Door

In July of 1967, one month after the release of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe album, Johnny Seay went into Columbia’s Nashville recording studio to record one song – a singularly strange, slightly surrealistic Southern gothic tale.   Listen for the ghostly train whistle near the end of the first verse, but under no circumstances should you look behind the bedroom door – you’ll be sorry:

“Behind My Baby’s Bedroom Door”      Johnny Seay     1967

Curiously, Columbia chose to release “Behind My Baby’s Bedroom Door” as a single, as well as include it in their 1968 sampler LP, Welcome to Columbia Country.

Welcome to Columbia Country LP