“Black Onion”: Healing Organ

According to Doctors Across Borders, “when compared to every other natural remedy for auto-immune disorders,” black cumin (also known as black onion seed) “is the most effective” and “has the power to restore harmony.”

Black OnionKeyboardist, songwriter, and musical director, Jackie Mittoo, gets an organ workout, thanks to his musical compatriots (i.e., The Sound Dimension), on the instrumental  “Black Onion” — released on Studio One imprint, Bamboo:

“Black Onion”     Jackie Mittoo & the Sound Dimension     1969

According to the vinyl vendor who sold a copy of this single on Ebay in 2010:

“1969 release ‘Black Onion’ by organist Jackie Mittoo was produced by Clement Coxsone Dodd on his Coxsone label.  Recorded at Studio One, the studio band is Sound Dimension featuring Leroy Sibbles on bass, Fil Callender on drums, Jackie Mittoo on organ, and Eric Frater on guitar, among others.  This instrumental is cut to the 1968 riddim of ‘Things A Come Up To Bump‘ by the Bassies (a.k.a. the Victors).  The B-side is ‘Hokey Jokey’ credited to Larry [Marshall] & Alvin [Leslie], but it seems Alvin is now within earshot on this one from 1969, backed by the Sound Dimension, including Vin Gordon on trombone and Deadly Headley Bennett on alto sax.”

Some enterprising soul (the aptly-named “DJ Algoriddim”) has put together an extended 10-minute mix that stitches together pieces from 11 different versions (!) based on the original riddim “Things a Come Up to Bump” — with ear-tickling stereo panning effects that can only be found here:

“Things a Come Up to Bump”    Special Mix by DJ Algoriddim

01. “Things a Come Up to Bump”:  The Bassies
02. “Things A Come Up To Version”:  The Bassies
03. “Things A Come Up To Dub”:  The Soul Vendors
04. “Bumpy Stomp”:  The Sound Dimension
05. “Dubbing The Bump”:  Big Joe & Scorcher
06. “More Scorcha”:  Count Machuki
07. “Whey No Dead”:  Glen Miller
08. “Whey No Dead Version”:  Sound Dimension
09. “Plant Up A Vineyard”:  Lone Ranger
10. “Black Onion”:  The Sound Dimension
11. “More Scorcher”:  Jackie Mittoo

The Shadows: World’s Tiniest Rockers

Vintage Guitar Magazine’s well-researched history of the Vox musical equipment company contains a particularly delightful side story about “wee” instruments that were designed and manufactured strictly for marionettes!  Peter Stuart Kohman has the scoop:

“One of the most oddball Vox orders was for a set of miniature equipment for singing puppets, specifically, a set of toy-sized Phantom guitars and AC30 amps.  These were supplied for ‘The Beakles’ from The Pinky and Perky Show, a popular children’s program starring marionettes.  The Beakles’ gear was built to look like the real thing by prototype designer Mick Bennett and showed JMI [i.e., Vox]’s commitment to having beat groups on TV – even fictional ones – properly equipped.”

Unfortunately, the only good image of The Beakles that can be found online shows the avian instrumentalists merely playing acoustic guitars – definitely not the modernist, asymmetrical Vox Phantom:

The (unnamed) Beakles depicted on 45 picture sleeve for Pinky & Perky EP

Pinky & Perky's Beat Party

Beakles Spoof LPBeatles Debut LP

Kohman also points out that UK’s preeminent instrumental band, The Shadows, would be the recipients of similarly exquisite custom miniature gear in conjunction with their first full-length motion picture: “The Shadows also appeared in marionette form in the 1966 film Thunderbirds Are Go with miniature AC30s but ‘playing’ their signature Burns guitars.”

The (mini) Shadows can be seen backing Cliff Richard in this charming performance of “Shooting Star” from their big-screen debut:

“Shooting Star”     Cliff Richard & The Shadows     1966

According to Thunderbirds Wiki, “The real-life Hank Marvin loved his puppet so much, he tried so hard to buy it, but it was later reused for another character.”

Hank Marvin & FriendHey, Wikipedia tells me that that sound you hear at the beginning of “Thunderbirds Theme” is Hank Marvin himself (not bassist, Jet Harris) playing a Fender VI six-string bass!

Weapons of Peace: Kill with Kindness

Weapons of Peace would spend their entire recording career on Playboy Records, interestingly enough.

Weapons of Peace LP

According to Robert Pruter’s Chicago Soul, “Playboy Records was part of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire and aspired to be an all-around label recording rock, country, and rhythm and blues.  Although headquartered in Los Angeles, Playboy mined Chicago for much of its R&B talent to build its stable and managed to sign Major Lance, Willie Henderson, and Weapons of Peace, among others.”

“Just Can’t Be That Way”     Weapons of Peace     1976

“Just Can’t Be That Way” would be released as a twelve-inch single – possibly the first for the Playboy label.  1975-1976 would see the first wave of 45 rpm releases in this larger (and much higher fidelity) format.  As Tom Moulton would recount in Love Saves the Day:  A History of American Dance Music, 1970-1979:

“‘The twelve-inch happened by accident,’ says Tom Moulton.  ‘I was cutting a reference disc for Al Downing’s “I’ll Be Holding On,” and Jose Rodriguez ran out of seven-inch blanks.  I said, ‘Oh, it’s a shame, the single only uses up a little bit of space.’  To which Rodriguez replied, ‘We’ll just open it up and spread out the grooves.’  The result?  ‘I almost died because the level was so loud.'”

Scepter Records would release the first 12-inch single – “Call Me Your Anything Man” by Bobby Moore – in June, 1975.  As Tim Lawrence quotes Billboard in Love Saves the Day:

“Scepter Records is launching a policy of servicing discos with 12-inch 45s to keep the recording level at a maxium as often as possible.  According to Stanley Greenberg of the label, Scepter has found that to produce a single of more than five minutes in length, the recording level requires lowering.  With the new, larger singles, the problem is hopefully remedied.”

“Just Can’t Be That Way”     12-inch single     1976

Weapons of Peace 12-inchPlayboy’s artist roster would also include (pre-ABBA’s) Björn & Benny with Anna & Frieda, Barbi Benton, Mickey Gilley, Wynn Stewart, Bobby Borchers, Al Wilson, Leadbelly, The Hush Puppies, Mack Vickery, and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds.

Also fun to point out that the 1976 debut album by Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers was released on Beserkley Records, although marketed & distributed by the Playboy label.

Playboy aPlayboy b

History’s Dumpster writes a concise history of the Playboy label that identifies how and when Hugh Hefner’s musical enterprise ran aground.

Dick Denney’s Secret Guitar Organ

Thanks to Vintage Guitar Magazine‘s October 2013 edition for its fascinating history of Vox, makers of musical amplifiers (primarily) but also effects pedals, guitars, organs and guitar-organs.  Peter Stuart Kohman’s article references Dick Denney’s futuristic appearance on Steve Allen’s I’ve Got a Secret 1960s game show – and fortunately, there’s a clip of this fascinating musical demonstration and great TV history moment:

Dick Denney Demonstrates the Vox V251 Guitar Organ     1967

It is particularly intriguing to see Denney – the instrument’s co-designer (who appears around the 6:30 mark) – show off the instrument’s “live looping” feature that allows the musician to sample & repeat a musical riff and then improvise melody lines on top of this looped musical accompaniment — a special capability that would only become accessible to the consumer market 30 years later (i.e., “one-man digital bands”).

Vox Guitar Organ

This innovative technology – “a hollow metal neck full of hand-wired contacts (each fret had an individual trigger point for each string)” – would prove, however to have still been in its beta stage.  According to Kohman, “While it did work (at least in the right hands), in the field it proved unreliable at best.”  And thus, the Vox Guitar Organ (1) “was never really a commercial success” (2) an “over-the-top design” and (3) “an infamous part of guitar history.”

voxmobile (ford cobra 289 v-8)  & Jimmy Bryant – “world’s fastest guitarist”

Jimmy Bryant & Voxmobile

Jeremy Wakefield: SpongeBob’s Stellar Steel Support

Biller & Wakefield sound like a modern-day Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant on 1999 album, The Hot Guitars.of Biller & Wakefield:

“Martian Guts”     Biller & Wakefield     1999

Coincidentally or not, 1999 would also be the year SpongeBob Squarepants would make its television debut.  And just as Los Straitjackets would spearhead a movement to revitalize the instrumental, Jeremy Wakefield – virtuoso musician – would similarly use Nickelodeon’s broad commercial platform to reintroduce the gloriously warm sound of the (pre-pedal) steel guitar to the millennial generation and beyond.   Wakefield, along with the other musicians and SpongeBob Music Director, Andy Paley, have done an outstanding job of incorporating western swing, hillbilly boogie, surf & spy guitar, Hawaiian steel music, and Hot Club-era gypsy jazz into the show’s soundtrack in all manner of ways.

1999 would also find Jeremy Wakefield and Dave Biller playing their respective guitars on Wayne Hancock’s Wild, Free & Reckless album, while Wakefield would peel off that same year to play steel guitar with Smith’s Ranch Boys on More Barnyard Favorites.  The year prior, Wakefield would also play his Bigsby steel guitar on (future Los Straitjackets collaborator) Deke Dickerson & the Ecco-Fonics’ Number One Hit Record!

Wakefield’s musical contributions to the SpongeBob television show have earned him a reputation for upholding an older analog “vintage” sound, thus it is especially intriguing to learn that some of Wakefield’s earliest album credits would include digital keyboard sequencing for The Style Council, of all people, on 1985’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” EP.  Wakefield would continue to work with The Style Council over the next 20 years or so.

other Albums on which Jeremy Wakefield plays steel guitar

  • Wayne Hancock     A-Town Blues     2001
  • The Lucky Stars     Stay Out with The Lucky Stars     2005
  • The Bonebrake Syncopators     That Da Da Strain     2008

Tracks on which Jeremy Wakefield plays steel guitar

“Hawaiian Blues”     music used in 2 episodes “Jellyfish Jam” & “SB-129”

Link to incidental SpongeBob steel guitar music clip posted on YouTube.

Freddie Roulette’s Sweet, Funky Steel

Freddie Roulette coaxes all manner of sweet, funky feeling out of his doubleneck lap steel guitar on the track “Joaquin” from his debut solo album:

“Joaquin”     Freddie Roulette     1973

Steel Guitar:  Freddie Roulette
Bass, Acoustic Guitar:  Victor Conte
Drums:  Paul Lagos
Guitar:  Coleman Head
Saxophone:  Richard Aplanap
Mixed by Fred Breitberg
Produced by Harvey Mandel
Recorded by Baker Bigsby

Prior to Sweet Funky Steel, Roulette had played with Charlie Musselwhite and the Chicago Blue Stars, whose 1969 debut LP kicks off with the “Fred Roulette” composition, “I Need Your Loving.”

Freddie RouletteHow fascinating (and sad) that Freddie Roulette would release his groundbreaking album Sweet Funky Steel in 1973 — and then issue no other recordings for over 20 years.  One gets the sense that this album may have been a bit ahead of its time and had to wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

With the release of Psychedelic Guitar Circus (1994), Back in Chicago (1996), Spirit of Steel (1999), Man of Steel (2006) and Jamming with Friends (2012), it would seem that the artist and his audience have, at last, found each other.

Photos of esteemed “guitar client” Freddie Roulette can be found at Berkeley’s renowned Subway Guitars.  Freddie Roulette is on Facebook – hopefully he will one day play at a venue near you.

Sweet Funky Steel LP

Swampwater: Country Rock on King

Here’s a tuneful country rocker from 1970 that sure sounds like a radio hit:

“Louisiana Woman”     Swampwater     1970

And yet this rather obscure debut from Linda Ronstadt’s backing band would be released by none other than King Records – with notable rock artist, Cal Schenkel, responsible for the distinctive (for King) cover photography.  King would also issue two singles from this album, and one of them would reach #72 on the country chart (according to this 45Cat contributer).

John Beland:  Guitar, Resonator Guitar, Piano, Vocals
Gib Guilbeau:  Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals
Thad Maxwell:  Bass, Vocals
Stan Pratt:  Drums
Roger Jannotta:  Strings
John Wagner:   Producer

“These guys are real good, but I hope nobody buys their album ’cause if they get to be famous, I won’t have a backup group.” – Linda Maria Ronstadt [album jacket]

Swampwater 45aSwampwater 45b

John Beland (a.k.a., Bill Murphy) posted the following piece on Amazon.com:

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“Move It on Over”: Banished to LP

I love how the staccato guitars emulate the sound of scratching fleas as a result of the song’s protagonist being banished to the doghouse in this retooling of Hank Williams:

Rose Maddox     “Move It on Over”     1960

John Maddox & John Newman:  Guitar
Henry Maddox:  Mandolin
Allen Williams:  Bass
Henry Shropspire:  Drums

The indispensible Rockin’ Country Style website answers the burning question as to why this surefire winner of a 45 is not listed in any of the singles discographies:  LP track only.  Why Capitol didn’t issue this stellar track from Rose’s first solo album as the A-side of a 7-inch release is a mystery to me.

Rose Maddox LP

The One Rose LP — recorded June, 1959 at Capitol’s Hollywood studio, with producer Ken Nelson at the helm — was released January, 1960.

“Roly Pin”: Slide Guitar & Synth

Did this synth-and-slide-guitar instrumental B-side enjoy much UK radio play when it was released in 1978?  Likely not, I suspect – but who knows:

Roly is a side project by Rob “Roly” Davis & Ray Stiles of UK glam rockers, Mud.  Released on Logo.

This discography of Logo releases from 1978-1982 rendered in a “dot matrix” typeface reveals a curious assortment of artists:  Mick Farren & the Deviants, Duncan Browne, Dave Swarbrick, Bert Jansch, Good Rats, Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias, The Tourists, and Gerry Rafferty.

Formed in the mid-1970s by British music industry executives Geoff Hannington & Olav Wyper, Logo was originally funded and part-owned by UK publishing firm Marshall Cavendish.  A “digital timeline for Logo Records posted on WhenInTime plots out the founding of the record label in 1977 and five of its significant long-playing releases:  Vampires Stole My Lunch Money by Mick Farren; Reality Effect by The Tourists; I’m a Rebel by Accept; Smiddyburn by Dave Swarbrick & Heartbreak by Bert Jansch.

Roly Pin

Jan Davis’s Flamenco Boogie

Jan Davis is a guitarist who once played with B. Bumble & the Stingers – among the first groups to rearrange classical works (e.g., Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”) into boogie and early rock & roll numbers.  German Wikipedia, interestingly enough, helpfully names the musicians in B. Bumble & the Stingers, with René Hall, Tommy Tedesco, and Jan Davis identified as the guitarists.

one of Very few photos of Jan Davis

Jan DavisJan Davis would record a handful of albums and several fistfuls of 45s throughout the 1960s & 70s on a colorful mix of labels:  Guild, Rendezvous, Holiday, Smash, A&M, Columbia, White Whale, RCA Victor, Big Bird, Uni, Bear, Shamley, Direct Hit, Triad, Ranwood, Cambria, Quad-ett, EZ, Chattahoochee, & PBR International.

Discogs.com makes an unsubstantiated claim that Jan Davis once also played with The Ventures.  However, Del Halterman’s Ventures biography, WalkDon’t Run, does point out that former Ventures drummer, Mel Taylor, once worked as a talent spotter for the label, PBR International, and one of his earliest signings was Jan Davis, “who was ready to blend his flamenco guitar with the current disco craze.  Flamenco Dance Man was released in 1978.  Mel and Jan then re-mixed that cut and Bolero to produce a twelve-inch single as The Jan Davis Guitar with the Flamenco Boogie Band”:

The Jan Davis Guitar with the Flamenco Boogie Band     “Bolero”     1978

I love how Jan Davis forgets to list the composition’s principal composer,  Maurice Ravel.  1978’s Flamenco USA, album would include “Bolero,” as well as the theme from TV’s   Police Woman series.

Jan Davis LP c  Jan Davis LPs to get:  1969’s Flamenco Funk on Uni & 1975 Hot Sauce on Ranwood.

Jan Davis LP aJan Davis LP b