“Walking the Carpet”: Album-Oriented Instrumental

This original Ventures instrumental appears never to have been released as a single despite its obvious leadership potential:

“Walking the Carpet”     The Ventures     1968

Walking the Carpet” can be found on The Ventures’ 1968 LP, Flights of Fantasy (although infuriatingly excluded from the song listing on the front cover).

Ventures LP

The fledgling Dolphin label (soon to be renamed Dolton) may have hit the jackpot in 1959 with their very first release, “Come Softly to Me” by The Fleetwoods, however, The Ventures would go on to become not only Dolton’s biggest-selling artist, but indisputably the best-selling instrumental band of all time.

Thanks to the Ventures discographies and chart histories provided online, I am even more impressed with not only their prodigious recording output but even more by their consistently strong performance in the marketplace, particularly for an ensemble that solely played instrumentals —

  • Between the years 1961 and 1969, The Ventures would release anywhere from two to four albums per year.
  • Each and every one of their 1960s albums charted.
  • Between 1960-1967, all but two of their albums placed in the Top 100.
  • The Ventures would place a total of 16 albums in the Top 40, as well as 14 singles in the Top 100.
  • The Ventures would reach the Top 10 with two LPs:  The Ventures Christmas Album & The Ventures Play Telstar and The Lonely Bull.

Also, their 1965 instructional album, Play Guitar with the Ventures, was the first such record to chart on the Billboard Top 100 LPs list.  The Ventures would also pull off a Beatle-like achievement when – in 1963 – the group had five LPs in the Billboard Top 100 of the albums chart simultaneously.

How fascinating, too, to discover that Liberty would release a 45 of the The Ventures’ version of “Strawberry Fields Forever” in the US & UK and also New Zealand, curiously.  Even as far back as 1960-61, singles were being issued in the UK, Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Canada, Denmark, South Africa, and France.

Strawberry Fields NZ 45As the band points out on its own website, The Ventures have been together as a group for 49 years and have never taken a year off from concerts or recording.

“Come Softly to Me”: Cinematically Recast

Crossing Delancey – a surprisingly compelling “small film” about a pickle salesman in pursuit of love – features a soundtrack sprinkled with songs by The Roches, highlighted by their endearing cover of The Fleetwoods’ #1 1959 hit, “Come Softly to Me,” the film score’s emotional centerpiece:

Neither The Roches nor their record label released this version as a single, although they could have.  The song originally appeared on their fifth and final LP for Warner Brothers, Another World, in 1985.

Suzzy Roche with Amy Irving in scene from Crossing Delancey

Suzzy Roche & Amy Irving“Come Softly to Me” Fun Facts

  • The 7-inch 1959 single by The Fleetwoods was the first release for Dolphin Records, a label that would soon be rechristened Dolton (since Dolphin was already in use for a Laurie Records subsidiary label) and serve as home to The Ventures, Roy Lanham, Vic Dana, and Wanderers Three.
  • The Fleetwoods laid down the original backing track at home a cappella accompanied only by car key percussion.  The tape was later augmented in Los Angeles with light instrumentation, including acoustic guitar played by Dolton label co-founder, Bonnie Guitar.
  • Cover versions include Frankie Vaughn with The Kaye Sisters, Astrud Gilberto, Percy Sledge, Sandy Posey, The Tokens, The New Seekers, Bob Welch, and Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult.

Sleepy’s “Asphalt Cowboy”: First & Best Version

Don’t be misled by the German 7-inch soundtrack companion whose A-side bears the dual title, “Midnight Cowboy-Asphalt Cowboy” — Ferrante & Teicher did not, in fact, release an early version of the truck-driving country classic, “Asphalt Cowboy” in 1969.

Asphalt Cowboy German 45Sleepy LaBeef, in truth, recorded the first – and greatest – version of “Asphalt Cowboy” in Nashville at summer’s zenith (i.e., July 31) as a new decade (1970) dawned:

“Asphalt Cowboy”     Sleepy Labeef     1970

Produced by Shelby Singleton and recorded at Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville with the following musicians:

Jerry Shook: Guitar
Stevie Singleton: Guitar
Chip Young: Rhythm Guitar
Hargus Robbins: Piano
Bob Moore: Bass
Kenneth Buttrey: Drums

Asphalt Cowboy 45

“Asphalt Cowboy,” co-written by Lawton Williams, who hit the charts back in 1964 with his vocal tune, “Everything’s OK on LBJ,” was also recorded by Rod Hart and used as the B-side for novelty trucker tune, “C.B. Savage.”

Mr. LaBeef stormed through the Nation’s Capitol just this past week in preparation for a series of dates up the East Coast to follow in early September.

Veteran DC musicians, Darryl Davis & Jack O’Dell, with Sleepy LaBeef in Annapolis

Sleepy LaBeef - MD July 2014

“Surf Finger”: Lost Surf Classic

Surf Finger,” such an obvious candidate for the A-side of a 45, alas, was never issued on wax and seems only to have surfaced with the release of Ace’s 2006 CD anthology, Hard Workin’ Man – The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 2:

“Surf Finger”     Jack Nitzsche     1966

Video features “Surf Finger” paired with vintage footage of Sunset Strip in its 60s heyday.

Spectropop‘s detailed Jack Nitzsche discography affirms that this track was recorded in 1966, thus forty years consigned to the can.  Thanks to Scene of Screen 13 cinema blog, I learned that this instrumental served as part of the soundtrack for “documentary” film, Mondo Bizarro —– to hear the “Surf Finger” segment in the documentary, click on the triangle (media player) below.

Could this possibly be Jack Nitzsche’s abstract response to the classic Bar Kays near-instrumental, “Soul Finger,” I wondered.  Highly unlikely, I had to conclude, since that Stax/Volt 45 did not come into being until the following year, 1967.

Jack Nitzsche, T.A.M.I. Show Arranger & conductor, with Jan berry – 1964

Jack Nitzsche on the TAMI Show

Jerry Cole: The Neil Young of L.A. Session Players

How funny it struck me the moment I discovered that the guitarist known for cranking out low-down and dirty hot rod, surf & twang instrumentals for beloved budget label, Crown, is the same highly-sought after session musician who did considerably more polished work for such A-list talent as The Byrds (“Tambourine Man”), Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”), The Beach Boys (“California Girls” & “Sloop John B”), Paul Revere & the Raiders (“Kicks”), The Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love”), and The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”), among many others.  That’s Jerry, by the way, on Pet Sounds’ opening track, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” playing a detuned 12-string guitar run directly into the console with added live reverb – as opposed to what many assume to be a harp – kicking off the song.

Guitars a Go Go LPCompare any of the above-named tracks with this rough-around-the-edges instrumental – “Mustang” – from 1965 Crown classic, Guitars a Go Go, by Jerry Cole & the Stingers:

A one-time member of The Champs (along with Glen Campbell and Seals & Crofts), Cole released a handful of instrumentals on Capitol (with and without his Spacemen) between the years 1963-1965.  This 2008 article from The Independent points out that Jerry Cole’s work as a studio guitarist included residencies in a number of television series, including Shindig!, Hullabaloo, Laugh-In, and The Sonny & Cher Show, while Cole’s profile on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website gives the distinct impression that Jerry has worked with just about everybody in the music business.

UNESCO World Heritage Album Cover

Jerry Cole Psychedelic LP

Jerry Cole:  A Colleague’s Remembrance

Steel guitarist, Jerry Hayes, paid tribute to Jerry Cole on the Steel Guitar Forum in 2003:

“I just had a great phone conversation with an old pickin’ bud from SoCal named Jerry Cole. We played for a while together at Bonnie Price’s Foothill Club and also did some casuals together over the years. I hadn’t talked to Jerry for almost 18 years. It was great catching up with what’s been going on with him. JC has just been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is currently the conductor/Guitarist for Nancy Sinatra in her shows. Jerry was a part of the Los Angeles Country Music Scene for many years but was also a very accomplished sight reader which gave him an edge in getting other types of work. If you remember watching the Sonny & Cher TV shows and later the Cher Show when they’d pan the band in the back you’d see Jerry with that little Stratocaster. He had a custom built Strat which was 3/4 size and just looked like a little shrunken black strat. He was the one who turned me on to slide guitar and some cool jazz voicings on guitar. On top of all the guitar talent was the fact that JC was a front line vocalist. I used to love playing those Roy Orbison tunes on Pedal Steel behind him. That stuff really lends itself to steel guitar. For those who never knew Jerry, he was only around 5’1″ or 5’2″ tall. I’m 6’4″ tall and we’d have fun doing those two guys on one guitar things like Joe Maphis and Larry Collins used to do. The crowd would go nuts. I’d walk up behind him and we had it worked out where I’d play strings 4, 5, & 6 near the nut and bridge and he’d move his hands in closer and play strings 1, 2, & 3. Anyway, I was happy to be back in touch with him after all these years and just wanted to share a little about the guy. One small dude in size but a monster and giant when it came to the guitar……JH”

Jerry Cole

“Loneliness”: Band’s Name Might Make You Laugh

I remember hearing this song in the late 70s being played on rock radio in my mid-sized American city located somewhere in the Ohio Valley adjacent to Indiana and Kentucky (okay, Cincinnati, if you must know):

Loneliness” is the kick-off track of this band’s 1978 album, The Man Who Built America – produced by Steve Katz of Blood, Sweet & Tears/Blues Project fame.  Around the time of release, I obtained a copy of the album and once played “Loneliness” for a friend.  My friend asked me the name of the band and then laughed when I told him:  Horslips.

Moral:  Stay in School

Horslips on tourWikipedia tells me that Horslips is/are “an Irish Celtic rock band that compose, arrange and perform songs based on traditional Irish jigs and reels” and are “regarded as ‘founding fathers of Celtic rock’[1] for their fusion of traditional Irish music with rock music [who] went on to inspire many local and international acts.”  But when you then scroll down to the footnotes and check out the bibliographic reference for footnote #1, it simply says “dead link.”   Thus, I need to qualify by saying Horslips are the alleged founding fathers of Celtic rock.

By the way, 45Cat contributor, BEATLEJOHN, affirms that “Loneliness” (which also saw release as a 7-inch) got “considerable radio play in the States” despite not charting.

Loneliness - Horslips 45

Note that the label’s initials, DJM, spell out those of former Beatles publisher, Dick James.

Glad to see that the band is still active and will hopefully be touring your town sometime in the near future.

Ad in DC’s Unicorn Times – December, 1979

Horslips - Unicorn Times

“Barnyard Boogie”: Jump Blues + Lap Steel Guitar

I have to confess – I’ve been listening pretty closely for several decades now, and I still can’t tell what makes [insert name of “first rock & roll record” here] the first recording with the rock & roll beat, whether it be 1951’s “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston (backed by Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm) or Fats Domino’s “Fat Man” (his 1949 debut single) or Jimmy Preston’s “Rock the Joint” (also from 1949) or Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith’s, er, “Guitar Boogie” (from 1948) or Louis Jordan’s rollicking “Saturday Night Fish Fry” (1949).

Speaking of Louis Jordan, belated thanks to the music programmer at Annapolis, Maryland’s once mighty (get this) free-form, progressive commercial radio station (WRNR) who once quietly blew my mind years ago when he played a Louis Jordan boogie from 1947 — “Barnyard Boogie” — that unexpectedly featured a steel guitar solo:

“Barnyard Boogie”     Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five     1947

Could this be the earliest boogie tune (or “fox trot”) to feature country-style steel guitar?

Endless gratitude to Old School Music Lover for hipping me to The Muppets’ own charmingly idiosyncratic take on this barnyard classic:

“Peter Pan”: No Longer Unreleased

Among the bonus tracks on the CD release of two albums The Peanut Butter Conspiracy that recorded for Columbia — The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading (1967) & The Great Conspiracy (1968) — is a tune by the name of “Peter Pan“:

“Peter Pan”     The Peanut Butter Conspiracy     1967

For a musical work that, in its day, was deemed insufficient for release, “Peter Song” does have an interesting structure and chord arrangement, plus the lyric’s unclothed yearning for everlasting youth makes the song especially relevant for our present day.  Is it coincidental that the title of their next (and final) album would be, For Children of All Ages?

PBC plays FenderNext to the song title on the track listing it says “unreleased” in parentheses.  But wait — shouldn’t that read “previously unreleased” since, after all, Sony/Collectables did, in fact, release the song on this very CD reissue as one of its bonus tracks?

PBC disclaimerFrom the pen of Columbia publicist, Billy James

Because of the enthusiastic response to the P.B.C.’s single, and at the suggestion of Bruce Lundvall, the title of one of the sides wil be Turn On a Friend to the Good Life, instead of Turn on a Friend.  This should make it clear that the Peanut Butter Conspiracy does not advocate converting the nation’s radio listeners into a bunch of dope fiends.  O.K.?

“Tea for Two”: Heptones at Studio One

Tip of the hat to Joe’s Record Paradise, Silver Spring’s legendary music store (that also sells 8-tracks, cassettes, 78s, books, magazines, videos – and includes a shrine to one-time Silver Spring resident, Root Boy Slim, plus lots of other great DC music memorabilia) for a sweet deal on a stack of wax, including a great 1968 Studio One album from the beginning of the post-rocksteady period, Reggae Time.

Reggae Time LP

Nestled among the album tracks is a song by The Heptones – “Tea for Two” – that features a great rolling bass line played in unison with piano, along with nice horn accompaniment and fun special effects that open and close the song:

No songwriting credits are listed for any of the songs on the album, however, I was able to confirm that “Tea for Two” was written by Leroy Sibbles, who is still very much active on the music scene.

Reggae Time back cover

“Juvenile Delinquent”:  Musical Blooper Extraordinaire

In today’s digital environment, where Auto-Tune and other corrective software can smooth out all the rough edges, this human quest for perfection paradoxically can sometimes leave music feeling a little – what’s the right word? – sterile.  Or soulless.  Not fully human. One of my previous pieces identified and celebrated musical bloopers that, refreshingly, remind the listener that music is a human endeavor – and that, perhaps, maybe we need to revisit our attitude about what we consider “mistakes.”

One of the more endearing moments in Jamaican music occurred when a bassist lost his way temporarily – and provided an intriguing, shall we say, harmonic counterpoint that makes the song a heckuva lot more interesting than if he had played his part straight.  Check out the bass lines on rude boy rocksteady classic, “Juvenile Delinquent,” by The Sensations and note the musical tension induced around the 1:20 mark when the bottom end diverges from the rest of the band.  Will the bassist for the Baba Brooks Band find his way home again, the listener is left wondering.  Happily, the bassist catches up with the chords … but then loses his way again briefly at the next chorus.   Delightful.

UPDATE:  Just discovered (January 2, 2017) that this song is a lyrical – if not musical – take on “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

“You Don’t Love Me”: Where Blues and Reggae Intersect

Thanks to Steve Hoffman‘s blues show on WPFW, today I was able to make the connection (as many others have done before me) that the inspiration for Dawn Penn‘s massive 1967 rocksteady hit, “No No No,” came directly from Willie Cobbs‘ hugely influential 1960 blues single, “You Don’t Love Me” — which, itself, was derived from a Bo Diddley tune five years prior, “She’s Fine She’s Mine“:

“You Don’t Love Me”     Willie Cobbs     1960

For comparison, check out Dawn Penn‘s interpretation, with musical support from Studio One’s Soul Vendors:

“You Don’t Love Me (No No No)”     Dawn Penn     1967

Or check out prototype as laid down by Bo Diddley:

“You Don’t Love Me”     Bo Diddley     1955

Long before Kingston, Jamaica became known as the “Nashville of the Third World,”  some of reggae’s most famous producers and label owners originally gained fame as mobile sound system operators playing obscure (at least, at that time) American jump blues and boogie 45s — albeit with identifying information removed from the labels to prevent other sound systems from knowing the names of the songs or artists behind their most popular records.   Relying on non-Jamaican recordings worked well enough in the pre-Internet 1950s.  ClementCoxsoneDodd, for instance, long enjoyed a reputation as the ranking sound system operator whose signature tune, “Coxsone Hop” (in reality, a 1950 honking sax instrumental called “Later for Gator” by Willis ‘Gatortail’ Jackson) ruled the Kingston dancehalls for an impressive seven years.  Until, that is, the fateful night Coxsone’s chief rival, Duke Reid, pulled the rug out from underneath him completely.  Prince Buster witnessed it all go down (as recounted in Lloyd Bradley‘s definitive history of Jamaican music, Bass Culture):

“I was at the counter with Coxsone, he have a glass in him hand.  He drop it and just collapse, sliding down the bar.  I had to brace him against the bar, then get Phantom [compatriot] to give me a hand.  The psychological impact had knocked him out.  Nobody never hit him.

We hold him up against the bar and try to shut out the noise.  Not only they play ‘Coxsone Hop,’ but they play seven of Coxsone’s top tunes straight.  When that happen, you know that tomorrow morning those tune’ll be selling in every fried-fish shop.”

Fortunately for the rest of the world, what initially seemed like a door slamming shut was actually a window of opportunity for sound system operators instead to obtain their musical “exclusives” by forging their own original sounds – which, in Coxsone’s case, led directly to the creation of Studio One, whose songs continue to rule the dancehalls today.

Coxsone behind the board

CoxsoneHow interesting to see Dodd draw on his prior experience as a sound system operator in refashioning “You Don’t Love Me” for a Jamaican audience.  Even more interesting to learn that Dawn Penn, who initially dropped out of the music business in 1970, would re-work “No No No” in a more contemporary dancehall style and hit the top of the Jamaican charts in 1994.   Most fascinating of all is that fact that two of the world’s top pop singers, Rhianna and Beyonce, breathed new life into this nearly 60-year-old tune when they covered “You Don’t Love Me” in 2005 and 2010, respectively.

Wait – didn’t Willie Cobbs (or Bo Diddley) write this song?

You Don't Love Me 45