“Fast Talkin’ Louisiana Man”: Merle Kilgore in Character

Merle Kilgore, we learn from the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame website, signed more than a few recording contracts in his life:

1953:  signed his first recording contract with Imperial Records
1959:  recorded albums for Starday (contract presumably signed)
1961:  signed recording contract with Mercury Records
1963:  signed with MGM Records
1965:  signed with Epic Records
1967:  signed with Columbia Records
1968:  signed with Ashley Records
1972:  re-signed with Starday Records
1974:  signed with Warner Brothers Records


From the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame website we learn that Merle, who literally carried Hank Williams’ guitar, wrote his first #1 hit (“More and More”) at the age of 18.  Given that Kilgore is Oklahoman by birth, “Fast Talkin’ Louisiana Man” should not be construed as autobiographical:

Fast Talkin’ Louisiana Man – Merle Kilgore

[Pssst: Click the triangle above to play “Fast Talkin’ Louisiana Man” by Merle Kilgore.]Merle Kilgore 45Vinyl collector David M. McKee writes in a short bio that by the mid-60s, “Merle headlined in Las Vegas and Reno and played Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.   In 1966, he surfaced on Mercury with Merle Kilgore, The Tall Texan (Merle was 6’ 4”).  By 1967, Merle was with Columbia and returned to the charts with ‘Fast Talkin’ Louisiana Man,’ which peaked in the Top 75.”

Merle’s career highlights include a number of well-known songs – “Ring of Fire”; “Wolverton Mountain”; “Johnny Reb”; “42 in Chicago” – but what’s striking is the sheer number of songwriting partners Kilgore has worked with:  Faron Young, Claude King, Margie Singleton, June Carter, Johnny Cash, Dale Hawkins, Mack Vickery, Lefty Frizzell, Glenn Sutton, Gail Talley, Miriam Lewis, Al Jones, Billy Jones, Abe Mulkey, Tillman Franks, Joe Stampley, Ronnie Wilkins, Leon Ashley, Sonny Williams, Kay Arnold, Bob Tubert & Hank Williams, Jr.

Even more striking – shocking, actually – is the near absence of any Merle Kilgore product in the Amazon database:  pull up his name, click on it, and you get but one title.   Unreal.  But the truth is, Merle was a songwriter for others much more than he was a solo artist.

Kilgore would later serve for many years on the Country Music Association’s Board of Directors beginning in 1989.   Merle would also begin a career in 1986 as Hank Williams, Jr.’s manager — voted the first Country Music Association “Manager of the Year” in 1990.

Merle Kilgore & Friends

Jack Clement, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr. & Merle Kilgore in 1988


Jack White’s Ultra Vinyl of the Future

With this month’s “ultra vinyl” release of Jack White‘s latest solo work, Lazaretto, it would appear that my Fabulous Las Vegas Roulette multi-track LP has, indeed, met its match.  White seems to be aiming for the fences on this special project, as Lazaretto goes to extraordinary lengths to maximize those aspects of the vinyl experience that are unique to that specific audio playback format — check out these special effects available on LP only:

•  2 vinyl-only hidden tracks beneath the center labels:
·  1 hidden track plays at 78 RPM, the other 45 RPM, making this a 3-speed record.

•  Dual-groove technology:  Plays an electric or acoustic intro for “Just One Drink” depending on where the needle is dropped — meets for the body of the song.

•  Side A plays from the outside in.

•  Matte finish on Side B, giving the appearance of an unplayed 78 RPM record.

•  Both sides end with locked grooves.

•  Dead wax area on Side A contains a hand-etched hologram by Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science, the first of its kind on a vinyl record.

•  LP utilizes some mixes different from those used on CD/digital versions.

•  Absolutely zero compression used during recording, mixing & mastering.

“This is my proudest moment with Third Man Records, this object,”  White said of the LP to Conan O’Brien during an appearance on Conan on June 11, reported Billboard.

Jack White & ConanJack White & Jimmy Fallon

Billboard’s June 18th piece goes on to state that Lazaretto, which debuted at #1, set a vinyl sales record:

“Rocker Jack White claims his second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, as Lazaretto bows in the top slot with 138,000 sold in the week ending June 15, according to NielsenSoundScan.  The effort follows his solo debut, Blunderbuss, which also opened atop the list and sold 138,000 in its first frame. (It sold a handful of copies less, actually, but when rounded to the nearest thousand, both figures become 138,000).

Lazaretto – released on White’s Third Man Records label through Columbia Records – also sets the record for the largest sales week for a vinyl album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

The vinyl LP sold 40,000 copies — easily enough to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Vinyl Albums chart. (The vinyl edition of the album has many unusual bonus features that clearly intrigued consumers.)   It beats the debut of Pearl Jam’s “Vitalogy,” which sold 34,000 vinyl LPs in its first week, back in 1994. (Notably, “Vitalogy” was issued on vinyl first, two weeks before its release on CD and cassette.)”

“Lazaretto”     Jack White     2014

Album mastered by the esteemed Bob Ludwigtechnical notes courtesy of Discogs:

The record was pressed in the U.S. and distributed worldwide. So some copies might have different hype stickers on shrink wrap (from the country of distribution).”Ultra LP” release featuring several special features:

  • Tracks A6 and B7 are locked grooves featuring elements from their respective previous tracks. “High Ball Stepper” doesn’t end with a faded-out distortion as in the digital versions, it is locked instead.
  • Tracks A7 and B8 are hidden tracks pressed on their sides’ labels, and play at 78 RPM and 45 RPM respectively, thus making the LP a three speed record.
  • Side A’s groove is inverted and plays from the inside out.
  • “Just One Drink” consists of two different intros, each in its own groove, with both connecting at the body of the song. BA1 is acoustic, BB1 is electric.
  • Side B has a matte finish, giving the appearance of an un-played 78 RPM record.
  • Vinyl is pressed in flat-edged format.
  • Dead wax area on Side A contains a hand-etched hologram by Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science, the first of its kind on a vinyl record.
  • Tracks B3 and B4 are swapped in comparison to the digital editions, and B2 features a slightly longer intro.
  • The vinyl was mastered entirely from analog sources with no additional compression used.

Tracks A1 to A5 and BA1/BB1 to B6 are listed continuously from 1 to 11 and play at 33 ⅓ RPM. Track A7 is an uncredited reworking of ‘Pusherman’ – originally by Curtis Mayfield.
Durations unlisted, approximates obtained by digitizing the vinyl audio.

Jacket features Soft Touch aqueous coating. Record comes in die-cut black paper poly sleeve. Also included are an insert with lyrics and credits, and a digital download card for the album in MP3 format, which also shows info about the hologram.

Some copies have the same label on both sides of record.

Fabulous Las Vegas Roulette: Multi-Track LP

The most “futuristic” piece of vinyl in my record collection, by far, would have to be the Fabulous Las Vegas Roulette multi-groove LP.  To fully appreciate the specialness of this disc, I must first bring up that classic Trivial Pursuit question:

Q:  How many grooves are on one side of a standard LP?

A:  Wait for it ………………………………… exactly one.

Fabulous Las Vegas Roulette LP

However, unlike every other record in my LP collection, Fabulous Las Vegas Roulette has 38 grooves:  one for each of the numbered pockets on the roulette wheel!  Each groove leads the listener to a 30-second “live” recording of a roulette wheel spin (for example, 13 in the red) that a tonearm stylus — when placed at the edge of the record — could theoretically select at random and play.  Thus, you are the croupier, and your home becomes “the house” when you use this multi-groove LP version to play the French casino game with family and friends (though possibly in defiance of state and/or federal law).

In actual practice, however, I found that certain grooves on my copy played much more frequently than others.  Consequently, just for a challenge, I attempted to make individual recordings for each of the 38 grooves and then copy the 38 “clean” recordings onto a single CD for playback on a compact disc player with built-in capability for random song selection.  Unfortunately, three of the grooves never came into contact with my turntable style despite many dozens of attempts.  Thus, in order to complete my disc, I had to fabricate three of the recordings with the help of a microphone and my Yamaha REX 50 effects unit – here are two of them:

Roulette Spin #1
Roulette Spin #2

This album was produced in 1974 by Multi-Track Sound Enterprises of Glendale, California -includes fold-out paper roulette board.

Roulette Board

These notes from Discogs tell a more complete picture:

Front and back have photos of various Vegas casinos with a map on the back of the jacket.

Side A has instructions on how to play this “Multi Track” Roulette game on the album. They also give a History of Roulette lesson and pitch a vacation to “Fabulous Las Vegas” but…

Turn the record over to get the full effect of the album.  The center label has no words, just the image of a Roulette wheel that “Spins” on your turntable.

The record comes with an insert of a fold-out paper roulette table so you can place your bets.

“Cindy Electronium”: Shockingly Futuristic

Hard to believe this piece of music was made in 1959 – sounds quite contemporary to me:

YouTube comments are almost universal in declaring Raymond Scott to be ahead of his time, with many remarking upon this recording’s resemblance to “chiptune” or “8 bit” (i.e., video game) music of the 1970s & 80s.  Thanks to MSN Entertainment for the back story:

“Of all of Scott’s accomplishments of 1949, however, none was more important than the Electronium, one of the first synthesizers ever created.  An “instantaneous composing machine,” the Electronium generated original music via random sequences of tones, rhythms, and timbres.  Scott himself denied it was a prototype synthesizer — it had no keyboard — but as one of the first machines to create music by means of artificial intelligence, its importance in pointing the way toward the electronic compositions of the future is undeniable.  His other inventions included the “Karloff,” an early sampler capable of re-creating sounds ranging from sizzling steaks to jungle drums; the Clavinox, a keyboard Theremin complete with an electronic sub-assembly designed by a then 23-year-old Robert Moog; and the Videola, which fused together a keyboard and a TV screen to aid in composing music for films and other moving images.”

ElectroniumWhat’s interesting is that if you pull up Raymond Scott’s works from Discogs’ database, you will see very few commercial recordings released in his lifetime – “Cindy Electronium” not being one of them.

Those interested in Raymond Scott’s work might well want to seek out 2-CD compilation, Manhattan Research (named for Scott’s own audio laboratory) — says Wikipedia:

“The material, while never intended for commercial release, provides insight into Scott’s work.  Included among the tracks on the album are commercials for companies such as Ford Motor and IBM, a humorous “Audio Logo” collage entitled, “Don’t Beat Your Wife Every Night!,” and various collaborations with Jim Henson.   The album features a number of Scott’s inventions including the Clavivox keyboard, Circle Machine, Bass Line Generator, Rhythm Modulator, Karloff, Bandito the Bongo Artist, and the auto-composing Electronium.”

“Swimmy”: Sounds of a Buchla Box?

I am very appreciative that Scholastic Video, in partnership with Weston Woods, has done such a consistently great job adapting children’s literature for the small screen and in a way that appeals to people of all ages.

PV000324_storytimefavorites_VSOne such adaptation is the story of a fish named Swimmy, who shows his friends how—with team work and ingenuity—they can overcome any danger.  The film’s soundtrack is particularly effective in conjuring up a nautical netherworld, and yet no information seems to exist about who scored these sounds.  In absence of any facts, I would not guess that a Moog is making those undersea burbling sounds but rather a Buchla Box:

Swimmy Soundtrack

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play the soundtrack to the film adaptation of “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni.]

Swimmy - page from book

120 Years of Electronic Music provides the historical overview:

“Donald Buchla started building and designing electronic instruments in 1960 when he was commissioned by the Avant Garde composer Morton Subotnik to build an instrument for composing and performing live electronic music. Subotnik was interested in developing a single instrument to replace the large complex Electronic Music Studios of the day where most ‘serious’ avant-garde music was composed and recorded. These studios consisted of multiple individual oscillators, processor units, filter and mixers that, with the help of technicians (each of the studios had it’s own unique system), needed to be manually patched together. The advent of transistor technology allowed much of this process to be miniaturised into a single portable, standardised version of the Electronic Music Studio but still using the modular, patchable approach.”

Buchla Modules - Series 100

(Notice – no keyboard with the original 100 Series Buchla Box)

By the way, I called Weston Woods to inquire whether they had a historian/librarian who could provide any information about this film and its soundtrack and was told that Weston Woods actually licensed this title from Italtoons, a film production company based in New York City.  Italtoons, unfortunately, seems to be no longer in business.

I then reached out to electronic music pioneer, Suzanne Ciani, who very kindly agreed to listen to the “Swimmy” soundtrack to determine whether a Buchla Box might have been used to generate the sounds that accompany the narration of the story.  Ciani concluded that, while these analog sounds certainly could “be done on a Buchla,” nevertheless, “there is nothing particularly Buchla-esque” about this synthesizer-embellished soundtrack.  Will that stop me from creating false controversies in future posts?  Doubtful.

Worth noting, by the way, that filmmaker, Connie Field, finished her Kickstarter Campaign last October and is presumably at work on her new documentary, Buchla:  California Maverick on a New Frontier.

This piscine piece is dedicated to the (former) Invertebrate House at DC’s National Zoo – no longer extant as of today.  Is it hopelessly naive to think that a petition might help reverse this decision by Smithsonian officials?  Quite possibly – but let’s try anyway.

Free Game!  Suzanne Ciani:  Real-Life Pinball Wizard

Riveting film clip of Suzanne Ciani living out every 70s teenage rocker’s fantasy:  creating the music and special effects for a Bally pinball machine.  Peter Ustinov narrates an 8-minute clip from the science TV news magazine, OMNI, that shows Ciani at work in the recording studio experimenting with a vocoder, programming in BASIC, and creating various synthesized sounds for 1979’s Xenon – one of the few pinball machines to feature a woman’s voice.  Click here to see (and hear) a video of two games being played on Bally’s Xenon pinball machine back-to-back, with an exciting multi-ball climax at the end of the second game.

Extra Ball:  Buchla Box Meets the Mad Men

Check out this Clio-winning General Electric dishwasher ad for which Suzanne Ciani wielded her trusty Buchla Box to create the synthesizer-driven soundtrack.

‘Sounds in Space’: Ken Nordine Revels in Stereo’s Wonder

This early stereo demonstration record by the fine folks at RCA Victor features spoken word parts by Ken Nordine (the maestro of “word jazz” – check out this ‘kinetic type’ animation clip for “Green” from Nordine’s Colors album) as between-song stereo banter.  The recordings, which feature mainly orchestral works (pop, swing & classical) are all from RCA’s catalog, naturally.

Sounds in Space LP


A stereophonic sound demonstration record for use on stereo orthophonic high fidelity ‘victrolas’

One fun track shows Nordine reveling in stereo’s wonder before showing the listener the pop science behind “Rag Mop” – the new stereo version by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra:

Rag Mop – Ralph Flanagan Orchestra

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Rag Mop” by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra.]

This 1958 album was produced in cooperation with Robert Oakes Jordan Associates, who also released that same year, Concert-Disc Stereo Demo with Exclusive “Bouncing Ball” Balance Control Signal Plus Excerpts from The Outstanding Concert-Disc Stereo Library.

Ken Nordine - Word JazzKen Nordine - Colors

“Hello L.A., Bye-Bye Birmingham”: The Other John(ny) Marr

Love the soulful harpsichord that opens this track from the only album ever recorded by John Randolph Marr:

“Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham”     John Randolph Marr     1970

Such a memorable title for a tune few people have ever heard of – and yet this song has been recorded by Artie Christopher (1968); Kin Vassy, Gainsborough Gallery, Larry Henley & The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (1969); Nancy Sinatra, Eve, Mac Davis, Blue Cheer, Juicy Lucy, Goodness & Mercy, Nick Anthony & Smokestack Lightnin’ (1970);  Dave Kelly & Max Merritt and the Meteors (1971); The Platters (!) & Bobby Whitlock (1972); John Dummer’s Oobleedooblee Band (1973) – and, more recently (2013), The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.  Therefore, it would seem that I am the one who’s rather late to the game.

John Randolph MarrWould you believe Harry “Mr. eddie’s Father” Nilsson produced this funky thing?

Such an obvious A-side – particularly given the many cover versions – and yet Warner Brothers felt it unworthy of even the flip side of the only single issued from this album.

How amusing/annoying to discover that the 8-track version of this album would cleave the song into two parts, hence, the forced fade at the end of part 1, at which point the 8-track would audibly “click” over to the next track of tape, followed then by the fade in of part 2 — in no way dishonoring or degrading the musical experience for the listener whatsoever.

John Randolph Marr 8 Track labelI am eternally grateful to A Light in the Attic for bringing this song to my attention.   Funky16Corners nobly attempts to nail down who recorded the original version.

Ruthie & the Wranglers Turn 25!

DC-area readers, take special note —  Ruthie & the Wranglers are turning 25:Ruthie & the Wranglers - 25 Years of Twang

Check out these live performance videos of Ruthie & the Wranglers:

Give Me a Lift“:

Revenge of Surftilicus

Check out these video clips of The Bumper Jacksons in action:

When the Sun Goes Down in Harlem

Ragtime Millionaire

Sample both bands’ music here:

Ruthie & the Wranglers: 


The Bumper Jacksons


Would you be surprised to know there’s a link on Facebook to this event?

“The Return”: Folk Opus – No Joke*

For their one and only recording on Elektra Records, The Ship would seamlessly link their group’s name with the album’s title and concept:  A Contemporary Folk Music Journey.

The Ship LPThe provocative quote on the album’s back cover – “I’m a sailor of the waters & the sun —  I can fight the rains but have no weapons for the calm” – gamely informs us that the most difficult storms can be the ones that rage within.

How curious to find in the producer’s chair, Gary Usher, who will be forever associated with songs about burning rubber and navigating those gnarly waves.  As with Spanky & Our Gang’s Without Rhyme or Reason, this song cycle finds the songs all interlinked for continuous sound from start to finish – which would explain why this recording of “The Return” sounds, at the very beginning of the song, as if it had jumped from a moving train:

The Return – The Ship

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “The Return” by The Ship.]

Recorded in 1971 during the peak of the ‘Album Age’ for a label that was never really known for its singles, that Elektra issued no 45s from this concept album should surprise no one.

The concept itself was authored by Steve Melshenker and Steve Cowan, with the music performed by the following personnel:

Steve Melshenker:   6-string & 2nd lead guitar/vocals

Steve Cowan:           12-string guitar/vocals

Steve Reinwand:       lead guitar/dobro/harmonica/vocals

Mark Hamby:              piano/flute/vocals

Todd Bradshaw:        4- & 8-string bass

Tim Scott:                 cello

* Hats off to (Roy) Harper

“Sail Away”: Tom Rapp Does Singles?

Tom Rapp, with three high school friends in the mid-60s, formed Pearls Before Swine – a “psychedelic folk group” – and were initially signed to ESP Disk, for whom they recorded two albums that hovered somewhat on the periphery of pop (although “I Saw the World” from second album, Balaklava, is a wonderful single ripe for rediscovery).

By the time Pearls Before Swine had recorded their third album, These Things Too in 1969 – first with new label, Reprise – the original members had left, thus the band name now referred to Rapp and his musical support personnel.   “Sail Away,”  the album’s 2nd track, prompted one YouTube commenter to ask mischievously:  “Tom Rapp does singles?”:

“Sail Away”     Pearls Before Swine     1969

With its swirling harp and dreamy final chorus, “Sail Away,” curiously, did not get issued for single release by Reprise but rather the title track b/w “If You Don’t Want to (I Don’t Mind).”

Pearls Before Swine is/was

Tom Rapp:  guitar/vocal

Wayne Harley:  banjo/harmony vocal

Elizabeth:  vocals

Jim Fairs:  guitar/celeste/harmony vocal

Additional musical support provided by Bill Salter (bass), Grady Tate (drums) and Richard Greene (electric violin).

Produced by Richard Alderson (along with Fairs) and recorded in NYC at Impact Sound – Alderson’s own studio that was primarily backed by Harry Belafonte.

Update on Rapp

Intriguing to learn that Tom Rapp’s offbeat music, which is being rediscovered by new generations all over the world, was also – back in 1968 – being distributed as far away as New Zealand and Italy.   Excellent interview with Tom Rapp on It’s Psychedelic Baby that delves into both his music career and subsequent success as a civil rights attorney.

45 from Italy

Pearls Before Swine 45