“The Little Girl I Once Knew”: Pop’s Pregnant Pause

Brian Wilson’s “The Little Girl I Once Knew” languished in relative pop obscurity (on 45 only) until included as a bonus track on the 2-albums-as-1-CD reissue of The Beach Boys Today! b/w Summer Days and Summer Nights released in 1990.  It might be a little challenging for today’s ears to appreciate just how radical it was — especially when considered within the context of 1960s AM pop radio and its non-stop aural barrage — to play a song that contained two (mostly) full measures of musical silence.  Not just once but twice within the same song.  Rather daring for 1965.

Check out the deep bottom in this mono mix:

Carol Kaye’s bass line in the walk-up to the second pregnant pause, in particular, slays me every time — masterful in design and execution.

“The Little Girl I Once Knew” also includes one of pop’s all-time great intros.  As David Leaf aptly observes in the CD liner notes, this single is “the record that’s clearly a bridge between ‘Let Him Run Wild’ and the Pet Sounds album.”  And yet, the song is perceived as a relative chart failure (“only” reached #20 on the pop chart) “coming on the heels of consecutive top-five singles.”  Radio programmers, according to David Leaf, did not appreciate the song’s it’s-the-notes-you-don’t-play aesthetic and were, to some degree, responsible for holding back the single’s performance in the marketplace.

Little Girl - US

                Germany                                    Denmark                                 Sweden

Little Girl - GermanyLittle Girl - DenmarkLittle Girl - Sweden

                       UK                                       France                                    Holland

Little Girl - UKLittle Girl - FranceyLittle Girl - Holland

                   Norway                                   Japan                                   New Zealand

Little Girl - NorwayLittle Girl - JapanLittle Girl - New Zealand

“Summertime’s Another Name for Love”: Pizzicato in Pop

Chicago’s New Colony Six released seven singles on the Mercury label from 1967-1970. “Summertime’s Another Name for Love,”  from 1968’s Revelations album, sounds like an obvious A-side to me – and yet it ended up being the B-side to “Can’t You See Me Cry.”       I especially enjoy the tantalizingly brief pizzicato passage in the song’s instrumental coda — as you will, too:

Summertime’s Another Name For Love – New Colony Six

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play ”Summertime’s Another Name for Love” by   The New Colony Six.]

New Colony Six LP

Released June 6, 1968, the single spent eight weeks on the Billboard pop chart, having climbed to the #52 spot at its peak.

New Colony Six 45

“Nosey Joe”: Where Version Meets Dub

[Note:  Third in a triptych of pieces about songs named Joe]

Technically, this near-instrumental is what’s known as “version” (as opposed to dub’s full-on, all-out adventurousness), though fortunately, this mix is enlivened by light dub treatments that follow the playful spoken word opening:

[Pssst: Click the triangle to play “Nosey Joe Version” by Bongo Herman & Faye Bennett.]

“Nosey Joe Version” is from the mixing console and recording studio of Niney the Observer, a.k.a., Winston Holness (née George Boswell), who replaced Lee “Scratch” Perry at Joe Gibbs’ studio in 1968 after Perry famously (and angrily) left to form his own musical enterprise.  Niney, a protege of Perry, would eventually end up collaborating with “Scratch” on 2001’s Station Underground Report.

Dennis Brown LP

Extra Credit:  Check out the original vocal version via Dennis Brown’s “Wolf & Leopards.”

“Ode to Big Joe”: Big Joe Talbot, That’s Who

Thanks to the contributor of YouTube’s only audio clip of “Ode to Big Joe,” I now know which country singers are being affectionately parodied by The Willis Brothers in this song. Question:  Can you close your eyes and identify the four country legends being spoofed?

Answer:   Hank Snow (the song’s narrator), Johnny Cash (the hummer), Ernest Tubb (Texan who sings a little flat) & Tex Ritter (the goofy one who falls asleep by line’s end).

Written by Jack Clement (with truck driving classic, “Drivin’s in My Blood” on the flip side), “Ode to Big Joe” was released as a 45 at the top of 1968, a banner year – as noted earlier – for the musical trucking genre.

“Ode to Big Joe” is a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to steel guitarist, Big Joe Talbot, who we last encountered at a 1955 overdubbing session for a 1930 Jimmie Rodgers flip-side.

Key Question:  Did Big Joe really – as The Willis Brothers sing – put the soap suds in the fountain at the Country Music Association in Music City USA?

Hank Snow Music Center, Once Managed by Talbot – closest thing to a photo of Joe

Big Joe Talbot

This piece by Robert K. Oermann – “Country Music Advocate Dies” – was posted on Steel Guitar Forum March 25, 2000, the day after Joe Talbot’s passing:

Joe Talbot, one of the Nashville entertainment industry’s last remaining champions of traditional country music, died yesterday at age 72.

As a record manufacturer, song publisher, SESAC performance-rights executive and musician, Mr. Talbot contributed to the development of Music Row for more than 50 years.  He was lifetime director, past board chairman and past president of the Country Music Association.  He was also a past Board Chairman of the Country Music Foundation, which operates the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Joe Talbot would have turned 73 today.

Mr. Talbot also served on the boards of the Recording Academy, the Gospel Music Association, the Nashville Better Business Bureau and SunTrust Bank.  “You won’t find anybody who doesn’t love Joe Talbot,” said legendary session guitarist Ray Edenton yesterday.  His forthright opinions were invariably delivered in his booming country baritone, rich with humor and warmth.  He was particularly outspoken about the roots of country music and his dislike of Music City’s pop-crossover record making.  “Country music is like a religion to me,” he elaborated during a 1995 interview.  “I get very emotional about it, to the point of tears; it stirs me that deeply.”

Born in 1927, the Nashville native served in the Army in 1945-46. In 1950 he realized his youthful ambition by becoming the steel guitarist in the band of future Country Music Hall of Fame member Hank Snow.  He performed on the Grand Ole Opry with Snow in 1951-52 and continued to tour and record with the superstar until 1954.

“Back then — the ’40s and the ’50s — there was no money.  Those of us who were in the business were in it because we loved it, and because we had to do it.   It was an obsession.  As I recall, to go on the road and play was $10 a day and out of that we had to buy our food and clothes.  Lordy, record sessions paid $41.45, and I’ll have to say this:  There never has been a pill that would give anybody a high like I used to get playing on those record sessions.  I would actually get chill bumps.  It didn’t make any difference about the money. I was getting to do what I wanted to do and best of all, I could turn the radio on and hear myself played back.”

During this same time, Mr. Talbot attended Vanderbilt University Law School, from which he graduated in 1952.  He floundered in business for a number of years before establishing United Record Pressing in 1967.  The company boomed as the manufacturer of vinyl discs for Elvis Presley and the million-selling Motown Records acts.  In 1967 Mr. Talbot also became the manager of SESAC’s Nashville operations.  SESAC is a performance rights organization similar to BMI and ASCAP.   He remained there until 1971.

Mr. Talbot’s other ventures have included Harbot Music in 1965-67.  This company published the songs of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Ted Harris.  He also owned a prominent Music Row office building.  In 1991, Joe Talbot was recognized by the Nashville Entertainment Association with its Master Award.  The honor represented the deep affection that the music community had for him, as well as his contributions to the creation of the Nashville show-business industry.  Joe Talbot is the second of the CMA Lifetime Board members who has died, after Wesley Rose — the original five were Mr. Talbot, Mr. Rose, Bill Denny, Frances Preston and Ralph Peer Jr.

“Killer Joe”: Nashville Super Pickers in Austin

In this 1979 performance from TV’s Austin City Limits, Buddy Emmons (steel guitar) and Phil Baugh (electric guitar) take the Nashville Super Pickers for a test drive using the Benny Golson jazz standard, “Killer Joe,” as their vehicle:

[Pssst: Click the triangle to play “Killer Joe” as interpreted by The Nashville Super Pickers.]

Nashville Super Pickers at ACL

Buddy Emmons:  Steel Guitar & Vocals
Phil Baugh:  Lead Guitar
Russ Hicks:  Rhythm Guitar & Steel Guitar
Johnny Gimble:  Fiddle & Vocals
Charlie McCoy:  Harmonica & Vocals
Henry Strzelecki:  Bass & Vocals
Buddy Harmon:  Drums
Hargus Robbins:  Piano

This television soundtrack album was originally released in 1979 on Flying Fish, home of Buddy Emmons, Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Doug Dillard, Mason Williams, Peter Rowan, Sweet Honey in the Rock & New Grass Revival, among many others.

Buddy Emmons flanked by Phil Baugh (left) and Russ Hicks (right)

Buddy at Austin City Limits

“BluEmmons”: Landmark Steel Guitar Jazz

Just as Louis Jordan’s pairing of jump blues with country-style steel guitar was seen as a radical move in 1947, Buddy Emmons’ decision to feature his masterful steel guitar stylings within a modern jazz context was considered equally bold in 1963 when Mercury released groundbreaking album, Steel Guitar Jazz.

“BluEmmons” – a Buddy Emmons original – is the album’s kick-off track:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “BluEmmons” by Buddy Emmons.]

Buddy vs. Buddie?   Only his mother knows.

Steel Guitar Jazz LP“Buddy Emmons wasn’t the first musician to be featured playing a pedal steel guitar in a jazz setting, but it is unlikely that anyone else recorded an entire date playing one prior to this 1963 session.  Although both he and the instrument are indelibly associated with country music, Emmons makes it work for several reasons.  He’s surrounded by some top players, including Bobby Scott, Jerome Richardson, Art Davis, and Charlie Persip; he also interacts with the band rather than overdoing the special effects available to him, especially the horn-like sounds obtained from his use of the slide.  Emmons also chose an intriguing mix of material.  Obvious highlights are the loping treatment of “Where or When,” featuring Richardson’s delicious soprano sax trading off with the leader, and Emmons’ hot playing of “(Back Home Again In) Indiana.”  Equally rewarding are the jazz classics:  Ray Brown’s soulful “Gravy Waltz,” an intricate romp through Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo,” and Horace Silver’s toe-tapping “The Preacher.”  This was pretty much a one-time affair for Emmons, who returned to country music, though he did record some additional jazz with guitarist Lenny Breau during the 1970s.  Although the instrument never really caught on in jazz, this highly recommended album, which was finally reissued on CD in 2003, is well worth checking out.”    —    Ken Dryden, All Music

“New York’s My Home”: Gordon Jenkins ♥ NYC

Gordon Jenkin’s paean to The Big Apple, 1946’s Manhattan Tower — which combines narration, dialogue, sound effects & mood music, along with the songs themselves — was a bold step forward, artistically speaking, for the phonographic medium.  Could this be one of vinyl’s first “concept albums”?  [Wikipedia cites Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads of 1940 as perhaps the earliest.]

Manhattan Tower IJenkins’ original 4-song Decca EP was later expanded into a 12-song suite and released on Capitol in 1956 as The Complete Manhattan Tower.

Manhattan Tower IIOn “New York’s My Home,” the album’s closing song (and B-side of single, “The Party”), the singer [Beverly Mahr] attempts to prove that all of America’s other great cities pale in comparison to Manhattan, though the shameful mispronunciation of a Chicago landmark – as “Soldier’s [sic] Field” – one might argue, reveals a certain provincial mindset on the part of the songwriter, ultimately:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “New York’s My Home” by Gordon Jenkins.]

Sammy Davis, Jr. would release “New York’s My Home” as a Decca single in 1956 and see it climb to #59 on the U.S. pop chart.

Sammy Davis 45More recently, New York City native, Buster Poindexter, and his band would be spotted at The Cutting Room in NYC, where they would give the song a sly kick in the pants.

Gordon Jenkins:  “Crescent City Blues” Gives Birth to “Folsom Prison Blues”

From Robert Hilburn’s recent biography of The Man in Black, I learned that Johnny Cash was rather taken with Gordon Jenkins’ 1953 musical fantasy concept LP, Seven Dreams, while serving a stint with the Air Force in Germany as a radio operator.  So taken, in fact, that Cash would later adapt much of the lyrical imagery in Jenkins’ “Crescent City Blues” when crafting his signature song, “Folsom Prison Blues.”  In the 1970s, Cash would reach an out-of-court settlement with Jenkins over his unauthorized use of “Crescent City Blues.”

“V.I.P.’s Boogie”: Duke Ellington Indulges in Some Name Calling

Thanks to WeirdWildRealm for the back story on a video performance that knocks me out every time I see it — Duke Ellington & His Orchestra performing “V.I.P.’s Boogie” (fused to “Jam with Sam“) in a 1951 Snader transcription film:

Harry Carney:  bass clarinet
Jimmy Hamilton:  clarinet
Wade Cook:  trumpet
Paul Gonsalves:  tenor sax
Britt Woodman:  trombone
Russell Procope:  alto sax
Cat Anderson:  trumpet
Quentin Jackson:  toilet-plunger mute trombone
Willie Smith:  alto sax
Louis Bellson:  drums
Wendell Marshall:  bass

For the most part, these transcriptions, says WeirdWildRealm, “were recycled into sets of Snader & Studio telescriptions for syndication to television in half-hour bites, as trumped up concerts of sundry performers filmed between 1950 and 1954.  These always added an emcee (Willie Bryant) and comedians to connect the mini-movies into a whole.”

Furthermore, these soundtracks “were tinkered with a bit to provide audience reactions and ‘curtains’ were added, all designed to give the impression of concerts at the Apollo Theater, which, though unconvincing, has nevertheless fooled a lot of people ever since.  Duke’s portion were actually filmed at California Studios in Los Angeles.”

Columbia did issue a 10-inch single in 1952 of “V.I.P.’s Boogie” b/w with “Jam with Sam” that was recorded at the almighty label’s New York City studio on May 10, 1951.

VIP's Boogie 78-aVIP's Boogie 78-b

“C Jam Blues”: From the Father of Hillbilly Jazz

I had a nice laugh when I realized that this fiery little instrumental in the key of C was, indeed, not the world’s first waltz to be played outside of 3/4 time but instead an error in the track listing on the album jacket.  Thus, despite this song being listed as “Gravy Waltz,” I’m pretty certain this is actually the next track in the album’s running order — the jazz standard, “C Jam Blues” by Duke Ellington:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “C Jam Blues” as interpreted by Vassar Clements & Friends.]

Track comes from 1974’s double album, Hillbilly Jazz, by the “Father of Hillbilly Jazz” himself, Vassar Clements – who first appeared on the Grand Old Opry in 1949 fiddling with Bill Monroe – joined by D.J. Fontana on drums, Doug Jernigan on steel, David Bromberg on guitar, and other musical friends.

Hillbilly Jazz LP

Vassar Clements:  Fiddle, Viola & Vocals
D.J. Fontana:  Drums
Doug Jernigan:  Steel Guitar, Resonator Guitar
David Bromberg:  Guitar
Michael Melford:  Guitar, Mandolin & Piano
Ellis Padgett:  String Bass
Kenneth Smith:  Electric Bass
Benny Kennerson:  Piano
Gordon Terry:  Vocals

Hillbilly Jazz was issued on Flying Fish.  While Clements’ music mostly enjoyed release on independent, folk-oriented labels (Rounder, Old Homestead, Mind Dust, Flying Fish), Vassar did manage to release a few 45s on a couple major labels of note:

Vassar Mercury 45 IVassar Mercury 45 IIVassar MCA 45aVassar MCA 45b

“Mighty Time”: New Riders + Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia

Oh, what a mighty find at the local thrift shop last week:  the title track from this 1975 album by New Riders of the Purple Sage – with special guests, Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia:

Skip Battin:  Bass, Vocals & Percussion
Buddy Cage:  Pedal Steel & Vocal
John Dawson:  Guitar, Vocals, Autoharp & Mouth Harp, et al.
Spencer Dryden:  Drums, Percussion & Vocal
David Nelson:  Guitar, Vocal & Percussion
Sly Stone:  Organ, Piano & Vocal
Jerry Garcia:  Guitar

Behind the mixing console is none other than Bob Johnston, who famously produced Dylan and Cash in the 1960s.  Oh, What a Mighty Time would be the band’s last album for almighty Columbia, who would not issue any 45s from this LP.

“Mighty Time” written by Don Nix, who is probably best known for having written blues standard, “Goin’ Down” and whose session work as a saxophonist – as exemplified on sax & organ instrumental, “Last Night” – helped define the Stax sound.

George Harrison & Don Nix off Catalina Island, 1971

George Harrison & Don Nix