“Mountain Mambo”: Latinbilly

Joe Goldmark is not only a musician but also a scholar, whose International Steel Guitar and Dobro Discography – “a resource book that attempts to list every steel guitar and Dobro instrumental ever recorded” – is a fascinating reference tool for those interested in Syd Nathan’s King Records legacy.

Jerry Byrd – one-time steel guitarist for Hank Williams – recorded four songs at Cincinnati’s King Records studio on October 29, 1954 as part of The Country Cats (with Al Myers on guitar).  “Mountain Mambo,” is the A-side of a King 45 that playfully incorporates Latin elements within a hillbilly jazz framework:

“Mountain Mambo”     The Country Cats (featuring Jerry Byrd)     1954

Audio clip includes excellent B-side, “Hot Strings.”

Thanks to The Jerry Byrd Fan Club website, I now know that “during the 1950s, Jerry Byrd upgraded to a seven-string, pre-war model of the same Rickenbacker Bakelite steel guitar (as pictured below).  He was playing this fine instrument while on WLW radio in Cincinnati, Ohio, and recorded his popular Decca album, Hi-Fi Guitar, using this guitar.”

Jerry Byrd - 1950sJerry Byrd - Hi Fi Guitar LP

Steel Guitarists – and the Music Historians Who Love Them

Listed below are the other King/Federal/Deluxe/Audio Lab recordings referenced in The International Steel Guitar & Dobro Discography, with the names of the featured steel guitarists – where known and/or applicable – indicated in parentheses:

New!   Streaming audio for many of the recordings below:

Paul Blunt & His Islanders
              Golden Goodies of Old Hawaii   1960   [King LP]

The Buckeye Pals
              "Buckeye Boogie"   1952?   [Deluxe 78 & 45]

The Country Cats (featuring Jerry Byrd) 
              "Mountain Mambo" / "Hot Strings"  [King 78 & 45]
              "Sun Shadows" / "Hop Scotch"  [King 45]

Eddie Chamblee Orchestra
              "Blue Steel"   1950?   [(leased) Federal 78]
  
Cowboy Copas (featuring Slim Idaho)
              "Jamboree"   January, 1948   [King 78]

Mel Cox (featuring Lefty Perkins)
              "Guitar Jump" / "No Suh"   1950   [King 78]

King Curtis
              "Steel Guitar Rag"   1962   [King & DeLuxe 45s]

Andy Iona & His Islanders
              Hawaiian Interlude   1950   [King EP]

The Kiddie Ka-Dees 
              "Remington Ride"   1959   [King 45]

Freddie King 
              "Remington Ride"   1965   [King LP]

Krazy Kris (featuring Floyd Smith)   [rec. October, 1956 in NYC] 
              "Floyd’s Guitar Blues" / "Wishy Washy"   [King 45]

Eddie Martin & His King Serenaders
               Echoes of Hawaii   c. December, 1946   [King EP]
              "Pineapple Polka"   November, 1947   [King 78]

Leon McAuliffe (featuring Leon McAuliffe)
              "Faded Love" / "Panhandle Rag"  [Starday-King 45]

Hank Penny & His Radio Cowboys 
  ~ featuring Noel Boggs (c. early 1946): 
              "Steel Guitar Stomp" / "Counting the Days"  [King 45]
              "Steel Guitar Stomp" / "Merle’s Buck Dance"  [King 45]
  ~ featuring Bobby Koefer (1947):
              "Hillbilly Jump" / "Kentucky"   [King 78]
  ~ featuring Ralph Miele (October, 1946): 
              "Penny Blows His Top" / "Locked Out"   [King 78]
              "Steel Guitar Polka" / "Won’t You Ride..?"  [King 78]
  ~ featuring Herb Remington (March, 1950):  
              "Jersey Bounce" / "Wham! Bam!"   [King 78]
              "Remington Ride" / "Have My Picture Took"  [King 78]
  ~ featuring Speedy West (March, 1949): 
              "Hillbilly Bebop" / [b-side from 1947*]  [King 78]

Webb Pierce (featuring Shot Jackson)
              "New Panhandle Rag"   1960   [(licensed) King 45]

Charlie Ryan (featuring Neil Livingston)
              Hot Rod King LP - includes (licensed) 1960 track "Steel Rock"

Cecil Surratt & Smitty Smith
              "Liza Jane" / "The Words You Say"   1960   [King 45]

T. Texas Tyler  (featuring Noel Boggs)
              "Tell Your Lies to the Man in the Moon"   1946   [King LP]
     
Jimmie Widener (featuring Earl "Joaquin" Murphy)
              "Jimmie’s Jump" / "She’s Left Me"   1948   [King 78]

King-a-Paul Blunt LPKing-b-Charlie Ryan LPt-texas-tyler-lp-amoon-mullican-lp-a

“From the Back Side”: James Brown’s Parting Gift to King?

Son’s of Funk – i.e., Fred Wesley & the JBs – with a 1972 single release on the King label:

Is it really true – as YouTube contributor, BuckeyeCat2002, recalls – that “this James Brown / Fred Wesley cut was given to King Records as a going away present by James Brown?

As it turns out, both parts of this rare soul 45 would be included in Ace’s top-notch collection of King Funk, and Dean Rudland’s CD liner notes affirm that this two-part instrumental recording by The JBs was, indeed, “given to King as a favour by James himself a couple of years after he had left to go to Polydor.”

Even though the artist on this track is but one of several amusing variant names for Fred Wesley & the JBs, it is fascinating nevertheless to discover that this 45 would be the only one to be released under the name, Sons of Funk.

Brown’s last release for King would be “Soul Power (pt. 1),” which reached #3 on the soul chart and hit the US Top 40 (#29), as well as UK Top 100 (#78) in 1971.  The Collins brothers, Bootsy and Catfish – neighborhood kids who lived close to the King studio – played as part of The JBs on “Soul Power,” an epic 3-part soul tune that was, curiously enough, recorded in Washington, DC.

Brown’s first single release for Polydor meanwhile – “Escape-ism (pt. 1)” which was written by Brown’s arranger & bandleader, David Matthews – would hit Top 10 R&B (#6) and Top 40 (#35) in the US.

The Impacs: King Goes Garage Surf

King wasn’t the only independent label in the early rock era to dabble in various sounds and musical genres; nevertheless, it’s still pretty hard to beat King for its sheer stylistic breadth.  While never really considered much of a “rock” label, King nevertheless signed another Beatle-sounding group (besides Them) called The Impacs, who – judging by the Fender guitars on their two King album covers – look like they might also have a little west coast surf in their sound.

Impacs LP b1Impacs LP a1

The Impacs first recording session on December 10, 1963 yielded 28 songs, of which 12 (including “Cat Walk”; “The Grab”; “Hamburger”; “Ambush”; “Love Struck” & “The Breeze”) would remain unreleased.  One more round of recording on May 12-13, 1964 would yield 8 more songs, all of them seeing light of day as single and/or album tracks.  All recording was done “principally” in Miami.

An avid collector of 45s once described The Impacs as “surf rock” within the context of “pre 65 garage” music.  Of the five King 45s released, only one is available for preview, however, on YouTube – but it’s classic:

I suspect the B-side, “Cape Kennedy Fla,” and album track, “Music for a Space Station,” are both instrumentals, as I know “Kool It” and “Zot” both to be.

The Impacs King Discography

King 45 #5851 “Two Strangers” b/w “Jo-Ann” 1964

King 45 #5863 “Shimmy Shimmy” b/w “Zot” 1964

King 45 #5891 “Kool It” b/w “She Didn’t Even Say Hello” 1964

King 45 #5910 “Ain’t That the Way Life Is” b/w “Don’t Cry Baby” 1964

King 45 #5965 “Your Mama Put the Hurt on Me” b/w “Cape Kennedy Fla” 1964

King LP #886 Impact 1964

King LP #916 A Week-End with The Impacs 1964

“Don’t Look Now”: ‘Beatle Beat’ on King Records

Just weeks following The Beatles’ landmark first appearances on television’s Ed Sullivan Show, King Records would lease recordings belonging to a “European” group by the name of The Beehives, whose versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” would grace both sides of their one and only King 45 released in April, 1964.

Beehives King 45

Later that same year in September, a Cincinnati group by the name of Them would record a handful of songs at the King recording studio — “Don’t Look Now,” with its obvious Mersey influence, would see release as the A-side of a King 45:

“Don’t Look Now”      Them     1964

In 2016, someone would pay $223 for a copy of Them’s King 45.

The Torquays Evolve Into Them:  A Brief Band History

The Torquays were started in 1961 by a couple of students at Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High School. After a couple years of building their skills and reputation, they got a contract with King records in September 1964 to record their first 45. The band decided to change their name to Them (after the 50s film, without any knowledge of the Irish band, Them, with Van Morrison) prior to the record’s release, allegedly because a band in Lexington, KY was using the Torquays name.  The 45 that emerged turned out to be a classic two-sider – “Don’t Look Now” b/w “A Girl Like You”, featured on many “compilations” of 60s garage band music.

Torquays logoThem logo

“Them kept getting bigger and bigger, while the band members attended the University of Cincinnati by the fall of ’64.  Between appearances at U.C. dances, teen dances, fundraisers, etc., Them were the biggest group in town.  In the fall of ’65 Them got a regular TV gig on “Between Time,” a teen-oriented variety show on Cincy’s WCPO TV. They added Mary Ellen Tanner, a beautiful singer, and later Steve Welkom, a guitarist and singer who was a few years younger than the other members and brought the band some of more harder edged ’66 era garage influences.

Them B&W“It was Steve who composed the A-side of Them’s second 45, “Baby (I Still Need Your Lovin’).  Before the recording, Them had been negotiating with the American arm of Brian Epstein’s management for a contract.  The second 45 was also recorded at King, but the record was released on the short-lived Toy Tiger label, run by local promoter Don Litwin, who also had a connection to Cincinnati resident and future famed film scorer, Randy Edelman.  Edelman was connected to a vocal group, the Strangers in Town, who recorded a 45 on Toy Tiger with Them providing the music.

“The Toy Tiger 45 was released twice, first using the name TTHHEEMM and another pressing as It’s Them to prevent confusion with the Irish band and to avoid potential interference if they got a contract with Epstein.  For some reason the record is very hard to find (the Buckeye Beat team wants a copy badly, please!).  “Baby I Still Need Your Lovin'” is an absolutely great piece of snarlin’ garage rock featuring [future Adrian Belew producer] Stan Hertzman on the organ.

Unfortunately nothing came of the Epstein deal and the band, with the members in disagreement about the future direction, disbanded in ’67.”

King recording session – September 30, 1964

Them Cinti OHTorquays/Them website show their actual King recording and songwriting contracts.

“In My Heart I’m a Free Man”: L.A. Sunshine Pop on King

I wish I could say that this slice of 1970 sunshine pop released by King Records was recorded in Cincinnati; however, Michel Ruppli’s 2-volume King discography indicates the recording to have taken place in Los Angeles on May 21, 1970.  Check out the fancy picture sleeve worked up by the Starday-King art department for this single release.

The Establishment - King 45Even better, check out the art work for their 1971 King album —

The Establishment LPFrank’s Vinyl Museum has a hilarious piece about the group’s debut 45 – the museum’s “first 45 rpm single” as it turns out:

The first 45rpm single in Frank’s Vinyl Museum is brought to us by Starday-King Records in Nashville (a city that seems to have been quite adept at producing this kind of thrift-store quality record).  I was drawn to this disc by its title — The Establishment.  What a name for a band!  What were these guys thinking?  That they’d be the “alternative” rock band for sensible folks who didn’t identify with the counterculture?  Or did they once hear some hippies talking about “the establishment” and mistake it for a cool buzzword?

Pretty certain dogs are no longer allowed to ride motorcycles in music videos

Attached to Frank’s piece are comments from three former members of The Establishment, as well as history from family members who note, for instance, that the group served as part of Jonathan Winters’ backing ensemble for his TV variety show.

Two of the three songs recorded in Los Angeles were issued as a 45, while the third track – “Don’t Let Go” – remains unissued to this day.  In August, 1970, The Establishment would record eight songs over two days in Nashville and issue them – along with their 45’s A & B sides – as The Establishment, their lone LP for King.  “House of Jack” from these Nashville sessions would also get issued as a promo single.

The Establishment - King 45 II

Tokyo Happy Coats: Japanese Pop on King Records

There is, interestingly enough, a Japanese label that shares the name King RecordsJapan’s King Records even predates Cincinnati’s King Records by twelve years or so.

But back in 1970, it was Cincinnati’s King Records who released two LPs and exactly three 45s by an “all-girl” Japanese pop group, The Tokyo Happy Coats, who are five sisters, we are told — Eiko, Keiko, Shoko, Tomiko & Ruriko Hakomori.   This would make at least three prominent family acts vying for dominance on the pop chart at the dawn of the 70s:   The Jackson 5, The Osmonds & The Hakomori Sisters of Tokyo Happy Coats.

Ed Sullivan Show – February 27, 1966   (source: William Bickel)

Tokyo Happy Coats b&w

I confess I am still bewildered by the fact that I only just now found out about these “guys.”  Did any of the local stores in my Cincinnati hometown stock The Tokyo Happy Coats in the early 1970s, I wonder — back when Ultraman, the Japanese space superhero television series, was broadcast regularly on Cincinnati’s local independent station, WXIX (channel 19 in Roman numerals)?   Check out the gals’ take on Sonny & Cher’s “Beat Goes On” from their 1970 live club performance LP, The Tokyo Happy Coats Live:

“The Beat Goes On”     The Tokyo Happy Coats     1970

Music writer, Ken Shimamoto (The Stash Dauber) writes a fascinating first-person essay that leads into a review of and “appreciation” for The Tokyo Happy Coats from which we learn that “they were a lounge act that toured the states pretty extensively from the mid-’60s on, playing Las Vegas and The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as dives in Pittsburgh and Detroit.  Between ’em, those Happy Coats played a whopping 26 instruments.”  Shimamoto perfectly captures the oddball element in this real-life transcontinental story when he observes, “incredibly, they used to record for King Records, the same label as James Brown.”  Even more revealing are the heartfelt and enthusiastic comments attached to this blog piece that attest to the group’s magnetism, as well as magnanimity.

Tokyo Happy Coats LP Starday-King (the King label having been consolidated with Starday upon the death of founder, Syd Nathan in 1968) actually leased these recordings from another label — the discography does not indicate where.  What’s odd, however, especially in light of their popularity, is the complete absence of Tokyo Happy Coats recordings in either 45Cat or Discogs apart from these five Starday-King releases.

“An Astro Sonic Production” – distributed by Starday-King

Tokyo Happy Coats 45

Tokyo Happy Coats Starday-King Discography

King 45 #6296 “Forevermore” b/w “Harlem Nocturne” 1970

King 45 #6337 “Tea A-Wanna Whistle” b/w “Here Is Happiness” 1970

King 45 #6419 “Forevermore” b/w “Here is Happiness” 1970

King LP #1096 The Tokyo Happy Coats Live 1970

King LP #1125 Forevermore 1970

“Fat Eddie”: James Crawford’s Mighty B-Side

Of course, no discussion about Cincinnati in song would be complete without a reference to the city’s storied indie label that helped give birth to rock & roll music – King Records.

September 14, 1967 may not be a date that registers strongly in Cincinnati local history, but it should:  for on this date, James Crawford recorded a mighty slice of James Brown funk – “Fat Eddie” – at King’s recording studios on Brewster Avenue:

“Fat Eddie” — co-written by Crawford with James Brown and Bud Hobgood — was the B-side of “I’ll Work It Out” and released by King in October, 1967.

Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven offers this biographical profile of James Crawford:

A member of the James Brown Revue for several years, Crawford is one of several artists who were so mesmerised by the Great Man’s personality and success that they attempted to make their vocal styles indistinguishable from the real thing.  He came from Toccoa, Georgia where he sang with a young Bobby Byrd in the Gospel Starlighters, and where he may have started his involvement with JB.  Crawford never really mastered James’ crude “rasp”, having a naturally purer tone to his voice, but his sense of timing and dynamics are straight Brown.  No doubt the presence of Brown sidemen like Nat Jones – not to mention James’ own production skills – reinforced this tendency.

He cut some funk/boogaloo tracks of course, like “Much Too Much”, “Help Poor Me” and “Honest I Do” but also recorded some really cracking ballads. “Strung Out” was the first, a simple but very effective song.  A great plodding bass line, piano triplets and subdued horns back Crawford up as his voice cracks with emotion – lovely.  “Stop And Think It Over” is another first rate performance, over a stop/go structured ballad, with minor keyed chord changes and a sympathetic string section.  Think Brother James on “Man’s Man’s World” and you’ll be in the right territory.

“Hooray For The Child Who Has It’s Own” is fine deep soul as well, the “climbing” horn chart and arpeggio piano giving Crawford room to show his abilities.  “I’ll Work It Out” may just be the best of the bunch though.  For my money it’s his most committed and emotionally compelling effort, and the backing is just magic, with the guitar and horns meshing to superb effect.

James Crawford 45 medium

90+ Years of Cincinnati in Song

Cincinnati is hardly the first American city to be celebrated in popular song – nevertheless, it is rather striking just how often the city has appeared in a song’s title, to wit:

Cincinnati song aCincinnati song aaCincinnati song aaaCincinnati song bCincinnati song bbCincinnati song bbbCincinnati song cCincinnati song ccCincinnati song ccc

Note the impressive 19-year consecutive run between the years 1959-1978
[Click on title links below for (in most cases) access to streaming audio]

"Cincinnati Hornpipe"               William B. Houchens          1924

"Cincinnati Southern Blues"         Iva Smith                    1927

"Cincinnati Daddy"                  Duke Ellington               1929

"Cincinnati Underworld Woman"       Bob Coleman                  1929

"Cincinnati Southern Blues"         Cow Cow Davenport/Iva Smith  1929

"I’m Going to Cincinnati"           Walter Coleman               1936

"Cincinnati Lou"                    Merle Travis                 1946

"Cincinnati"                        Martha Davis' Torrid Trio    1947

"Cincinnati Bound"                  Cowboy Jack Derrick          1950

"Cincinnati Dancing Pig"            Tennessee Ernie Ford         1950

"G'night Cincinnati, 'lo Tennessee" Shorty Long                  1951

"Cincinnati Rag"                    Buck Ryan                    1955

"Cincinnati Ding Dong”              Art Lund                     1957

"Cincinnati Ratamatati"             Cain & Abel                  1959

"Cincinnati Fireball"               Johnny Burnette              1960

"Cincinnati"                        Frank Slay Orchestra         1961

"Cincinnati Twist and Freeze"       Orlie & the Saints           1961

"Whole Town's Batty About 'nati"    Larry Vincent                1961

"Cincinnati Ratamatati"             First Percussion Sextet      1961

"Cincinnati Rock"                   Cliff Nash                   1962

"Cincinnati Twist"                  Field Pat & Les Pumas        1962

"Cincinnati Blues"                  Boll Weevil Jazz Band        1963

"Cincinnati Slow Drag"              Rev. Gary Davis              1964

"Cincinnati, Ohio"                  Bill Anderson                1964

"Cincinnati Breakdown"              Charlie Moore & Bill Napier  1964

"Cincinnati Blues"                  Jesse Fuller                 1965

"The Cincinnati Kid"                Lalo Schifrin & Ray Charles  1965

"The Cincinnati Kid"                Prince Buster                1966

"Cincinnati Woman"                  Freddy Cannon                1967

"I'm Leaving Cincinnati"            Larry Roberts                1967

"Cincinnati Stranger"               Buddy Cagle                  1968

"Cincinnati Two-Step"               Dick Cary                    1968

"World War Two in Cincinnati"       The Shambles                 1968

"The Lights of Cincinnati"          Scott Walker                 1969

"Cincinnati Love Song"              The Two Dollar Question      1969

"Cincinnati Jail"                   Bobby Bare                   1969

"Susie Cincinnati"                  The Beach Boys               1970

"The Cleanest Man in Cincinnati"    Claude Gray                  1970

"Cincinnati Man"                    Mad Lydia                    1970

"Cincinnati"                        Orville Stoeber              1970

"Cincinnati"                        The New Seekers              1971

"Cincinatti [sic] Woman"            Spode                        1971

"Cincinnati Flow Rag"               Rev. Gary Davis              1971

"Cincinnati Flow Rag II"            Roy Bookbinder               1972

"Girl from Cincinnati"              Bobbie Gentry                1972

"Anybody Goin’ North to Cincinnati" Lester Flatt                 1972

"Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati"     Rose & the Arrangements      1973

"Cincinnati Sammy"                  Hoagy Pogey                  1974

"Cincinnati Floor"                  Brown’s Home Brew            1974

"Cincinnati Hornpipe"               John McCutcheon              1975

"Cincinnati Fatback"                Roogalator                   1976

"Apt. #4, 6th St. & Cincinnati"     Joe Stampley                 1976

"Benji's Cincinnati"                The Sands of Time            1976

"Cincinnati"                        Roy St. John                 1976

"Cincinnati"                        Bob Braun                    1977

"Lacksadaisical Cincinnati"         Ogden Wahalia Blues Ensemble 1977

"Cincinnati Growl"                  Roy Ayers                    1977

"Cincinnati and Me"                 Larry Kinley                 1977

"Cincinnati Cindy"                  Ray Campi                    1977

"Cincinnati Train"                  Cathy & Coins                1977

"Cincinnati Stomp"                  Big Joe Duskin               1978

"WKRP in Cincinnati"                Tom Wells & Hugh Wilson      1978

"The Cincinnati Cowboy"             Ernie Vaughn                 1980

"Cincinnati Baseball Saga"          Rusty Ferguson               1980

"Twenty-Two in Cincinnati"          Martha & the Muffins         1981

"In Cincinnati"                     Hudson & Bauer Singers       1982

"Cincinnati Jail"                   Lonnie Mack                  1986

"South of Cincinnati"               Dwight Yoakam                1986

"Cincinnati"                        Holidaymakers                1988

"Cincinnati Motel"                  Neal Casal                   1995

"Cincinnati Shuffle"                Sonny Moorman & The Dogs     1996

"Hardrockin’ Cincinnati"            Bran Van 3000                1997

"Cincinnati Streets"                Rachel Portman               1998

"Racing Cincinnati"                 Chamberlain                  1998

"C'mon Cincinnati"                  Delakota                     1998

"C'mon Cinti" (Fatboy Slim Mix)     Delakota                     1999

"Cincinnati Pink"                   Polarity/1                   2000

"Cincinnati"                        David Childers               2001

"Cincinnati Town"                   Fred Leonard                 2002

"Hard Times in Cincinnati"          Jake Speed & the Freddies    2002

"Cincinnati"                        Marianne Kesler              2002

"Cincinnati"                        Crime in Choir               2002

"Cincinnati"                        The Distillers               2003

"Cincinnati Riot Blues"             Ghost Exit                   2003

"Weekend in Cincinnati"             The Bobs                     2003

"Leaving Cincinnati"                Jake Speed & the Freddies    2004

"I Come from Cincinnati"            End.user                     2004

"Cincinnati (Village Queen)"        Glass Harp                   2005

"Cincinnati"                        Trey Anastasio               2006

"Love in Cincinnati"                Prairie Home Companion       2006

"All Roads Lead to Cincinnati"      Jake Speed & The Freddies    2007

"Oh, Cincinnati"                    The Seedy Seeds              2008

"Cincinnati"                        Tila Tequila                 2009

"Cincinnati"                        Sok                          2009

"Cincinnati"                        Jangatha                     2009

"Cincinnati"                        Literature                   2010

"Left Cincinnati"                   Joe Frawley                  2010

"Cincinnati Harmony"                The Dopamines                2010

"Cincinnati Dreams"                 Gregory Attonito             2011

"Cincinnati"                        M.O.T.O.                     2012

"Cincinnati Agony"                  Not Yet!                     2012

"Cincinnati"                        Eric Stein                   2012

"Cincinnati"                        Quixote                      2012

"Cincinnati"                        German Brigante              2013

"Cincinnati Milacron"               Pentaject Corporation        2013

"Cincinnati"                        Holy Holy                    2014

"Cincinnati"                        Remigio Ducros               2015

"Goodnight Cincinnati"  Up-C Down-C Left-C Right-C ABC + Start   2015

"Martha (Cincinnati, 1914)"         The Corner Laughers          2015

"Cincinnati Fire Kites"             Scope & Figure               2015

"Cincinnati"                        Zutroi                       2015

"Cincinnati Transfer"               Old Brown Shoes              2015

"Dallas to Cincinnati"              Mr. Hokum                    2015

"John from Cincinnati"              Connections                  2016

"Cincinnati Sunrise"                Carter Burwell               2016

Freddy Cannon (in 1967, backed by Strawberry Alarm Clock) – “Cincinnati Woman

Note:  produced by Frank Slay, who conducted & co-wrote 1961 B-Side, “Cincinnati”

Cincinnati song tCincinnati song ttCincinnati song uCincinnati song uuCincinnati song uuuCincinnati song vCincinnati song vvCincinnati song vvv

Worthy of Mention

The City of Seven Hills             Nick Keeling                 2015

(Dis)Honorable Mention

"Porkopolis"                        The Raisins                  198?

 Cincinnati song zzz

“Yeah Man”: Musical Thievery

I am riveted with Peter Guralnick’s biographical account – Dream Boogie – of the visionary musical entrepreneur, Sam Cooke, who also happened to be gifted vocalist.   My attention was particularly piqued by Sam’s fraught – and ultimately unsuccessful – attempt to release the song “Yeah Man” as a single.

Rare 1965 French EP

Sam Cooke EP

Beginning in 1963, Sam Cooke’s managerial and business affairs were being run by Allen Klein – the one who Mick Jagger would later (in)famously recommend to The Beatles as a manager in the wake of Brian Epstein’s tragic and unexpected death – and September of 1964 would find Sam angry and resentful over his failure to override Klein’s decision to release “That’s Where It’s At” b/w “Cousin of Mine” as a 45 on the heels of Sam’s September 16th appearance on TV’s Shindig live music program instead of “Yeah Man.”

As Peter Guralnick writes:

Sam met with Allen [Klein] while he was in New York to discuss the immediate future.  He was still [cheesed] off about the new single release.  He had wanted to put out “Yeah Man,” the litany of dances set to The Valentinos’ distinctive beat that he had recorded in March, but Allen had hated it.  In fact, violating one of his own cardinal rules for managing – not for the first time, and not by just a little – he told Sam it was the worst [flibbity] song he had ever heard in his entire life.  “What the [funst] do you know?” Sam shot back.  [“Yeah Man”] was the kind of stripped-down simplified number he was convinced the kids would go for.  But in the end, he had allowed himself to be swayed by Allen’s opinion, and now the single they had released, “Cousin of Mine,” which Allen had insisted was a cute little song that they could sell pop, had shipped fewer copies than any single Sam had put out in three years, and they had thrown away “That’s Where It’s At” on the B-side [editor’s note:  45Cat very clearly identifies “That’s Where It’s At” to be the A-side for the U.S. market — hmmm].

It burned Sam up.  He knew “Yeah Man” would have been a hit, but Allen had been right about so many things, and the thing about it was, the [fathead] wouldn’t back down, even if you put a gun to his head.”

Adding layers of complexity to the story, 30 pages earlier we learned that The Valentinos – a family-based affair signed to Sam’s SAR label that would later produce careers for brothers, Bobby and Cecil Womack – had already laid down the musical groove that became the foundation for “If I Got My Ticket” but had the song rejected initially by Sam — only to subsequently find it re-fashioned by Sam and re-titled as “Yeah Man”!

As Peter Guralnick explains:

[The Valentinos] had another song, “If I Got My Ticket,” something which they had been working on at Soul Station #1 and believed in almost as strongly as “It’s All Over Now” [famously covered by The Rolling Stones], but after a couple of rehearsals, Sam pronounced it “too churchy” and told Bobby it needed more work, they ought to just set it aside until the Womacks had a chance to polish it and turn it into more of a finished song.  It could not have come as a greater surprise, then, when Bobby and his brothers showed up at the studio to play on Sam’s session the following day, only to find him exploring the same groove, the same riff they had worked out for “If I Got My Ticket” as the centerpiece of a new number of his own.

“Yeah Man” was a song he had first come up with in England, a dance number along the lines of the call-and-response vehicle he had devised for Cassius Clay [Muhammad Ali], with a large chorus responding to a series of rhetorical questions (“Do you like good music?”) with a rousing “Yeah, yeah.”  What made it different was the vocal charm, the rhythmic complexity, the agile horns, and booming bass.

My attention sufficiently piqued, I immediately jumped on YouTube in order to hear for myself the song that both offended Allen Klein and embittered Sam Cooke:

“Yeah Man”     Sam Cooke     1965

How amusing then to quickly discover that this song – which already had been thieved by Sam Cooke – would itself get appropriated two years later by Arthur Conley (with the very able assistance of Otis Redding) and get turned into classic soul music homage, “Sweet Soul Music”!

I’m kicking myself for needing assistance to figure out that the song’s signature intro was itself “inspired by” (i.e., stolen from) Elmer Bernstein‘s Magnificent Seven theme song!  For a little bit of extra fun, in fact, play both clips at the same time to see if you can get the two songs songs to line up in sync.

Where do I go to report all this thievery?

What’s even more fascinating is the fact that Peter Guralnick does not, at any point, make reference to “Sweet Soul Music,” which is curious, given that the song is not an obscure one, or even hint at “Yeah Man” laying the ground work for a future hit single.  I checked the index of the book to be sure and found references to numerous songs by title — but not “Sweet Soul Music.”

“I Just Want to Touch You”: The New Rutles?

Why am I not terribly surprised that Todd Rundgren’s Utopia went to the trouble and expense of dressing up as Fab Four lookalikes in their video for affectionate Beatle pastiche, “I Just Want to Touch You”:

From 1980 album, Deface the Music, just two short years after spoof Rutles documentary – All You Need Is Cash — written by Eric Idle & Lorne Michaels, with songs composed by close friend of The Beatles and guitarist for The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Neil Innes.

Paul Lester’s excellent and informative essay that accompanied the CD reissue of Deface the Music points out that this track was considered but ultimately rejected for feature film, Roadie – purportedly since the song too closely emulated the early Beatle sound and songwriting style.

Released in the UK as the kick-off track on a 4-song EP — check out the cheeky copy on the back of the sleeve:

Utopia 45“Meet UTOPIA, an instantly likeable and aware quartet of bright young lads, carving a niche in today’s feverish pop market-place.  No Post-Industrial Funk for these pop-picking boys, just catchy snatches of hot rock ‘n’ roll.  Take the first cut, ‘I Just Want to Touch You’; a perfect example of Todd’s expressive lead vocals, combining with the harmonies of Willie and Roger.  Once heard, never forgotten, ‘Silly Boy’ of course is purposely tongue in cheek, showing how UTOPIA’s writing has expanded into wider fields.  Flip the disc over and straight into ‘Life Goes On’ revealing a more complex side to the band’s musical tastes.  A real grower this, and certain to become a stage favourite.  Finally, but not least, the record finishes with ‘All Smiles,’ a sure-fire UTOPIA classic, containing enough hooks to catch a haul of mackerel.  So there it is, four great songs by a great band.  Roll up folks and meet UTOPIA.”