Café Paris, the aforementioned budget-priced 3-CD set that Whole Foods is pushing on its hipster demographic, also includes an engaging piece of garage punk (or, as it is more formally known, French Freakbeat) – “J’ai Mis Un Tigre Dans Ma Guitare” from the 1966 “Maxi Disque” of Jacques Dutronc. Subsequently, I would discover that Dutronc was once wedded to Françoise Hardy (celebrated in this 2013 piece), and that the two artists would one day produce a jazz guitarist, Thomas Dutronc, born 1973.
From “J’ai Mis Un Tigre Dans Ma Guitarre” it would be but a short jump to 1967‘s quintessential “Hippie Hippie Hourrah,” with a video that absolutely begs for satire:
“Hippie Hippie Hourrah” Jacques Dutronc 1967
An A-side in the Netherlands (left) and Germany (right) …
… but, Alas, only a B-side in its homeland — fourth and final track on French EP .
I recently made my first ever musical purchase at Whole Foods — a budget-priced three-disc set entitled, Café Paris: 42 Classic Songs from France. One track from 1967 tickled my ear – Bridget Bardot’s “Oh, Qu’il Est Vilain” – with its spryly humorous organ, naive recorder lines, and cuckoo chorus:
“Oh, Qu’il Est Vilain” Brigitte Bardot 1967?
How surprising to discover that this 1967-infused piece of pop was apparently issued first in Mexico on a Bardot 4-song EP (“Harley Davidson” b/w “Contact”) – though only as a B-side – before the song would find release in France the following year on a different EP (“Ce N’est Pas Vrai”) where “Vilain” would again be relegated to a B-side. What gives?
Triple Threat – the debut album by jazz multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk – was originally released on the King label in 1956, rereleased on Bethlehem as Third Dimension, and on the Affinity label as Early Roots. Kirk on tenor sax, stritch, manzello, & siren (!), with James Madison on piano, Carl Pruitt on bass, and Henry Duncan on drums.
Title track “Triple Threat” recorded in New York City on November 9, 1956
Rare James Brown single – “The Drunk” – was released in 1970 on King subsidiary, Bethlehem. Unfortunately, no audio recording available yet on the web, which is a shame since the song features rhythmic propulsion by William Hargis “Beau Dollar” Bowman. Egon notes in his well-researched audio essay about the outsized influence of short-lived drummer for James Brown, “Beau Dollar,” who would also be a King recording artist in his own right:
“Recorded one year after ‘Mother Popcorn’ in May 1970, ‘The Drunk’ is supposedly Bowman’s last recording for King. Since Stubblefield and the rest of Brown’s classic ’60s band – with the exception of drummer John ‘Jabo’ Starks – had either left Brown’s employ or been fired by this point, [James Brown discographer, Alan] Leeds postulates that Bowman – the only drummer in Cincinnati that could have pulled off this beat – played on this David Matthews-penned instrumental. Matthews’ overall assessment of Bowman is clearly illustrated on this single: ‘Beau was the best white funk drummer in Cincinnati … This single was his heaviest, and a fitting swan song.'”
From Michel Ruppli’s The King Labels discography we learn that “part two” is what ended up being issued as the A-side while “part one” remains unissued to this day. Both parts recorded on May 20, 1970 at King’s Cincinnati studios. Musical fight: 45Cat lists “The Drunk” as the A-side while Discogs deems it the B-side. Both sources agree that its backing track – “A Man Has to Go Back to the Crossroads” – charted on July 18, 1970 on Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart, peaking at #110.
One more James Brown-related historical note: Troy Seals, hall-of-fame songwriter (and one-time member of The Dapps who wrote “Two Old Cats Like Us“), once played guitar on an April, 1967 recording session at King’s Cincinnati studios that resulted in “Why Did You Take Your Love Away from Me”:
LP-only track: “Why Did you take your love away from me”
An artist by the name of Scoopie Brucie released his lone single on King Records, 1972’s “The Whole Thing,” a country novelty tune “with lyrics based on the tagline of the old Alka Seltzer ad campaign. The vocal style apes that of Jerry Reed, even working in titles of Reed’s songs ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot’ and ‘She Got the Gold Mine, I Got the Shaft’ into the lyrics” (says Discogs) backed with “Ya’ll Come.”
Pee Wee King‘s ace western swing outfit – The Golden West Cowboys – once backed country comedian, Minnie Pearl, in an August, 1946 recording session [possibly] at Cincinnati’s King Records (says Prague Frank – although Randy McNutt, in King Records of Cincinnati, states 1947 to be the year Syd Nathan “built a recording studio in back of the loading dock” – hmm) that yielded exactly one single, “In the Shadow of the Pine” b/w “On Top of Old Smoky.”
Randy McNutt weighs in on the controversy: “The Minnie Pearl recording could not have been recorded at the King Recording Studio as we know it. It didn’t open until the fall of 1947. Perhaps the King guys were using some equipment there and recording by then. I don’t know. I know they had been experimenting early on with various kinds of recording equipment. The Pearl record was cut in August and September of 1946, but the location is not given in the company log, according to the King Labels, A Discography. It could have been done anywhere–perhaps even at the Bucky Herzog studio in Cincinnati. I’d be interested in knowing where.”
Simon & Garfunkel‘s first 45 – their #49 hit from 1957 (sung as ‘Tom & Jerry‘) that in no way resembles the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Suzie – was leased by Syd Nathan in 1958 and reissued as a King 7-inch, “Hey, Schoolgirl.”
Similarly, in 1963 King would lease the tapes to Slim Dusty & His Bushlanders version of 1960 Australian hit – “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” – that would hit big three years later in the US:
On a limited budget – as always – this would be the closest King could come to actually getting a piece of The Beatles during their initial burst of fame:
1991’s “Deep Twang” – the B-side of a bonus 7″ single from UK’s fabled Creation label – would seem to anticipate the psychedelic surf instrumental sounds that the Mermen would later bring, to great relief, to the DC area on their one and only visit in 1995:
“Deep Twang” Swervedriver 1991
Big Takeover‘s Jack Rabid has championed Swervedriver from the band’s earliest days, and yet the group remains “one of the most underrated acts of the ’90s,” acknowledges the Washington Post. Furthermore, says the Post, “this UK band stood out as they rocked too hard to be shoegaze yet had too many dreamy textures for the mainstream.” As with Roy Lanham, Swervedriver found themselves too jazz-leaning for hard country fans, and too funky for the cufflink crowd, since one person’s ‘shoegaze’ is another person’s modern psychedelic pop. Undeterred, the band would forge its own path.
“Surf Twang” / “Deep Twang” was a bonus 45 included with the band’s first LP, Raise. Discogs helpfully informs us that these two instrumentals are 4-track demos, with “Surf Twang” being an early version of “Last Train to Satansville” (from Mezcal Head, their second album), while “Deep Twang” is a version of “Deep Seat” from Raise.
Today’s piece is a birthday tribute to my college roommate, Gavin Martin, who once rescued me from a very unpleasant housing situation, when he advocated successfully on my behalf for a vacancy that suddenly popped up in his much cooler adjoining dorm suite – and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
The Grateful Dead have blazed a path as musical pioneers who imbue their rock music with a jazz sensibility in terms of level of musicianship and a willingness to take risks. While the Dead may have thumbed their nose at the record industry – rightly so, perhaps – the band was not above releasing a few singles over the years. I wonder how many Dead fans felt vindicated when “Touch of Grey” unexpectedly hit the Top 10 in 1987, prompting the Dead to release their first ever music video, which enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV.
Howard Wales, who played keyboards on 1970’s American Beauty (most famously, on “Truckin’“) would join forces the following year with Jerry Garcia on a “jazz-rock fusion” album entitled, Hooteroll?. “South Side Strut” was the A-side of their only and one 45:
“South Side Strut” Howard Wales & Jerry Garcia (and Horns) 1971
“South Side Strut” also served as the album’s lead-off song
The 1987 CD reissue would remove one song (“A Trip to What Next“), yet add two more (“Morning in Marin” & “Da Birg Song“), while shuffling the running order, thus demoting “South Side Strut” to track #3. The 2010 CD reissue retains the same altered sequence as the 1987 edition, thus ensuring that newer generations will fail to appreciate the song’s former exalted status as kick-off track. The song has never fully recovered.
Yesterday’s piece about Noel Boggs made reference to Roy Lanham, who would later play guitar in the Sons of the Pioneers to pay the bills, yet sought much more fulfilling challenges in his own music’s attempt to straddle two distinct musical styles – country and jazz – despite the frustration of being considered too country for jazz fans and too jazzy for the country crowd.
“Eager Beaver” Roy Lanham 1958
Roy Howard Lanham: Lead Guitar James Leon P. ‘Jimmie‘ Widener: Rhythm Guitar Arthur Douglas ‘Doug‘ Dalton: Mandolin Donald ‘Dusty‘ Rhoads: Bass
Rich Kienzle, in the liner notes for the Roy Lanham two-album CD reissue for 1958’s Sizzling Strings and 1963’s The Fabulous Guitar, points out Lanham’s unique contribution that set him apart from the other country-jazz guitar giants:
“The Lanham style, harmonically richer, combined both single-note passages with luxuriant chord melodies. The vibrant four-part harmonies he created for his chord solos were his own idea, an improvement upon three-part harmonies he heard Western swing guitarist Sheldon Bennett play.”
This televised performance allows you to see Lanham’s complex chordal work in action:
“Lover Come Back to Me” Roy Lanham
From Kienzle’s liner notes I learned the following fascinating facts:
− In 1943 Lanham would be drawn to Cincinnati’s 50,000-watt powerhouse, WLW, where he would work as a staff musician for the station’s various acts and later befriend Joe Maphis, Merle Travis, and Grandpa Jones. Lanham would augment his income as a staff musician by playing on King recording sessions, most notably the Delmore Brothers, with “Freight Train Boogie” being the preeminent track.
− WLW would also bring Roy Lanham together with Chet Atkins, and the two would unite in 1946 for a ‘Chester Atkins’ one-off single release, “Guitar Blues” b/w “Brown Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain,” on Nashville’s new indie label, Bullet. Says Billboard, in its Nov. 30, 1946 edition: “Majority of ‘Guitar Blues’ side allotted to guitars, with melody carried by twin guitars playing in bass and treble clef respectively. It’s a swingy, pungent side for folk music, the brief sax solo adds little.”
− Roy Lanham would also replace a hot-headed Jimmy Bryant, who had stormed off the Hometown Jamboree television show in 1955 for the last time. Lanham would play instrumental duets from Bryant’s long-time partner, Speedy West, on “Hometown Jamboree,” but sadly, the two would never record together.
Speedy West & Roy Lanham use Fender guitars exclusively
− In 1959 Roy Lanham would overdub guitar parts onto a tape previously recorded by three Seattle high school teens, the Fleetwoods, accompanied only by car-key percussion. This song, “Come Softly to Me,” would put the tiny Dolton label on the map.
− Lanham, who had found plenty of work throughout his life as a session guitarist, once played a recording session with The Monkees. Lanham would also perform on the final album of Tex Williams before his death in 1985.
Roy Lanham played in the Sons of the Pioneers from 1961 through 1986
Hank Penny‘s first recording session for King Records took place at the Wurlitzer Music Company in Cincinnati sometime mid-1944. Roy Lanham – pioneering guitarist who was too “hillbilly” for the jazz crowd and too “jazzy” for country fans – would play on this session, as well as Louis Innis, it’s worth noting. Penny’s next session for King would be recorded in Hollywood a year later and yield five songs – including “Steel Guitar Stomp“:
Penny’s steel guitarist, Noel Boggs would soon get the call up from legendary bandleader, Bob Wills and then later, Spade Cooley. This “Dean of the Steel Guitar,” according to Brad’s Pages of Steel, “appeared on some 2,000 recordings as a soloist, with Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, Jimmy Wakely, Hank Penny, Bill Boyd, Sheb Wooley, Les Anderson, Merle Travis and the Cass County Boys.” Boggs, backed by the Day Sleepers, would go on to release a couple singles on almighty Columbia under his own name, as well as a couple recordings as “The Noel Boggs Quintet” on the Shasta label.
Check out all the cool sounds that Noel Boggs coaxes out of his (pre-pedal) steel guitar in this driving version of “Alabamy Bound“:
Answer: Epiphone “Rocco” 7/8-string doubleneck steel guitar – thanks to Jody Carver (of Hot Club of America fame) for providing an autographed photo of this impressive and stylish guitar being held by its namesake, Anthony Rocco, about which too little is known. Says Mark Heller, “Rocco was one of the earliest electric steel guitar players, and he carved out a career for himself in the New York City area, playing Hawaiian-style steel guitar with big bands and orchestras around the city. In addition, Rocco befriended Epi Stathopoulo, who manufactured Epiphone guitars, and Rocco came on board as advisor to the company. Based on Rocco’s designs and inventions, Epiphone began manufacturing a whole line of Rocco devices in 1937, including a Rocco double-neck steel guitar, a Rocco signature steel bar, and the innovative Rocco Tonexpressor, a combination volume and tone pedal.”
When we last checked in with Nashville All-Star and pedal steel guitarist extraordinaire, Lloyd Green, he had signed with Aubrey Mayhew & Johnny Paycheck’s label, Little Darlin’. However, Green would be ready to switch labels just two years later to go with another indie, Chart.
1968’s Mr. Nashville Sound would be his first of three albums for Chart Records and one that would climb all the way to the #37 position on the Country chart.
The flurry of notes in crisp staccato fashion that open the track “Promises Promises” are characteristic of the late 1960s country steel sound, particularly of the truck-driving variety (“Wave Bye Bye to the Man” – is that you, Lloyd Green?). I still hold out hope that today’s steel players will rediscover this commanding approach and supremely rocking sound:
“Promises Promises” Lloyd Green 1968
Steel Guitar: Lloyd Green
Electric Guitar: Wayne Moss
Bass: Jr. Huskey
Drums: Buddy Harman
Piano: Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins
Vocals: Anita Kerr, Hurshel Wigenton, The Nashville Edition
Arranged by Lloyd Green
Produced by Joe Gibson & Slim Williamson
Mastered by John Eberle
As it turns out, “Promises Promises” would be a near instrumental cover of the top 10 country hit by labelmate, Lynn Anderson — I can only presume Green played on that version, as well. According to Walter Stettner, proprietor of the Lloyd Green Tribute website, it is. Says Stettner, “Lloyd was the session leader on almost all of the Chart recordings. I only know very few recordings where Pete Drake got to play; otherwise if you hear something on Chart or Little Darlin, it is most likely Lloyd.”
As this chart alphabetically illustrates, Lloyd Green played steel on an astounding 116 number-one hit recordings. Of course, you may not be surprised to know that Green would release a baker’s dozen or so singles under his own name, including a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Sally G” (on which he originally played). But you might be flabbergasted to learn, as I was, that this tireless, upright master of the steel would join the rogue’s gallery of artists who made the dubious decision to release a backwards b-side! That’s right, just before he signed to Chart, Green would release a one-off 45 on Big A: “Panic (A Trip)” as the A-side with “Cinap (Pirt A)” as the flip(ped out) side:
Oh, Lloyd – why’d you do it?
Chart Records: Property of Gusto
As Jon Hartley Fox points out in King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records, “Moe Lytle bought the King and Starday companies in 1975 and has now owned King Records for longer than [Syd] Nathan did.” In 1978 Lytle would launch Gusto Records, a budget label that issued albums, tapes, and (later) compact discs, and go on to acquire a number of other labels for the purpose of reissuing their back catalogs. As Gusto’s website indicates in its banner, Lytle’s enterprise – GML – owns the catalogs of all the King-related labels (except for James Brown’s recordings), Scepter and subsidiary, Wand (except for Dionne Warwicke’s recordings), Starday, Musicor – and Chart Records, not to mention Little Darlin’.
Yesterday’s piece about the Nashville All-Stars motivated me to take a closer look at a 1960s beat group that has generated positive buzz among the musical cognoscenti – The Nashville Teens. Taking a peek at their 45 releases quickly revealed a startling discovery: The Nashville Teens were musical clairvoyants who foresaw the digital age decades before the rest of us with their prescient piece of pop prognostication, “Google Eye“:
The Nashville Teens “Google Eye” 1964
The Teens were not actually from Nashville (and no relation to The Nashville All-Stars) but rather a bunch of blokes from Britain. “Google Eye” would be their second 45 release in a string of singles spanning the 1960s that would include a mix of covers – “Tobacco Road”; “All Along the Watchtower”; “The Lament of the Cherokee Indian Reservation” – as well as originals. How interesting to learn that “Google Eye” (1) was actually written by a Yank, John D. Loudermilk, and that (2) the song was so far ahead of its time that the record label would consequently misspell the title as “Goggle Eye” on a number of 45 releases:
Italy Germany Somewhere
The Nashville Teens would also release a musical roll call in tribute to the rock & roll pioneers who came before – “Revived 45 Time” – as well as a lament to the “Tennessee Woman” who would ultimately turn her back on them and break their collective heart.