Johnny Jenkins: Bat-Friendly

Zero to 180’s tribute to the world’s only flying mammal continues into its second day with a B-side from Johnny Jenkins – “Blind Bats and Swamp Rats”:

“Blind Bats and Swamp Rats”     Johnny Jenkins     1970

“Blind Bats and Swamp Rats” can also be found on Jenkins’ 1970 LP, Ton-Ton Macoute, one of 50 albums – according to Rolling Stone – that “every country fan should own.”  Music blogger, Stuck in the Past, laments how Johnny Jenkins’ musical career was sidetracked twice by a “distracted” Phil Walden of Capricorn — first, due to Otis Redding (who got plucked from Jenkins’ band by Walden for a solo career) and second, due to the burgeoning success of the Allman Brothers, a number of whom individually backed Jenkins on Ton-Ton Macoute but then left to form their own band.

Music blogger, Darius, has a bit more to say about this 1970 landmark LP — most intriguingly, that Ton-Ton Macoute was “originally intended as a Duane Allman solo album.”

Ton Ton MacouteMusician & Engineering Credits

Johnny Jenkins:  Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Duane Allman, Paul Hornsby, Pete Carr:  Slide Guitar, Lead Guitar
Berry Oakley, Robert Popwell:  Bass
Butch Trucks:  Drums
Jai Johnny Johanson, Robert Popwell:  Timbales
Eddie Hinton, Johnny Wyker, Tippy Armstrong:  Congas, Percussion
Paul Hornsby:  Piano, Organ
Johnny Sandlin:  Producer, Engineer, Bass, Drums
Jim Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, Larry Hamby, T. Manning, T. Compton:  Engineer

Derek Trucks, when asked in the October 2013 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine if he uses any vintage Gibson SG guitars, gave the following reply:

“I have a really nice ’61 that I love, and not too long ago I got Johnny Jenkins’ old SG, the one he played on Otis Redding’s ‘These Arms of Mine.’  He broke its headstock at the Atlanta Pop Festival, and I think Capricorn Records bought the guitar from him, had it fixed, and it was in Savannah, Georgia, for years.  It’s a pretty amazing guitar.  He took a soldering iron and wrote his name in cursive on the front – really beautiful script.  It’s part of the Allman Brothers/Capricorn/Duane/Otis Redding lore.  It lives in the studio.”

Al Casey: Friends with Bats

Thanks to Amy Bucci at National Geographic for encouraging my interest in bats by giving me a special set of US postage stamps (“Night Friends” from 2002) that celebrate the world’s only flying mammal.

Bat Postage StampsThe world’s bat population is imperiled for a whole host of reasons and irrationally targeted by fearful humans despite all the good they do for our planet.

Fortunately, Al Casey and his Bats (plus Corkey!) are not giving up — er, I guess they are:

“Give’n Up”     Al Casey (& Corkey) and the Bats     1958

“Give’n Up” was composed by Danny Wolfe, produced by Lester Sill & Lee Hazlewood.  1958 would make this one of Lee Hazlewood‘s earlier productions (although “The Fool,” written for Sanford Clark in 1956, is Hazlewood’s official entré into the music industry).

Five years later, Al Casey would almost hit the Top 40 with the Lee Hazlewood-penned “Surfin’ Hootenanny” – a playful tune that features guitar solos in the styles of (1) Dick Dale, (2) The Ventures, and (3) Duane Eddy.  Though primarily a session player, Al Casey would hit the Billboard Top 100 at least twice.

Mr. Cole Won’t Rock & Roll

Thanks to Ben Yagoda’s The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song for hipping me to an obscure song written for Nat (King) Cole by Joe & Noel Sherman.  As far as I can tell, “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock ‘n’ Roll” was only performed live – no studio recordings appear to have been released:

“Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll”     Nat ‘King’ Cole     1960

Once upon a time a song had melody and rhyme
And lovely ballads used to fill the air
The songs were sweet and lyrical,
And sang about the miracle
Of love in bloom and love beyond despair.
But gone are the June songs,
The how-high-the-moon songs.
And baritones who used to sing romantic
Are singing songs more frantic than romantic.
A-one, a-two, a-three o’clock, a-four o’clock rock.
You gotta sing rock or else you go in hock.
Five, a-six, a-seven o’clock, a-eight o’clock roll.
Throw away your senses and your self-control.
But brother I’ve got news,
Mr. Cole won’t rock and roll!

“Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll” was the final song of a set recorded live at the Sands, Las Vegas on January 14, 1960 that was – according to – “a special after-hours (2:30 to 5:00 A.M.!) performance for friends and entertainers who couldn’t see his regular shows because of Vegas engagements of their own.  Some notable celebrities in the audience during the show:  Jackie Gleason, Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Joe E. Lewis, Francis Faye & Jack Carter.”

Mark Baszak & Edward Cohen would write about this acid-tongued retort to a younger generation infatuated with the Big Beat in Such Sweet Thunder: Views on Black American Music:

“‘Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll’ was a show stopper with Nat’s nightclub audiences, who were made up of well-heeled, sophisticates and society types who didn’t share the kids’ taste for rock and roll.  Nat never recorded that song, and Joe Sherman privately owns the only tape known to exist.  Perhaps Nat didn’t want to have that recording played on the radio because he might not have wanted to offend the people who seemed to be going along with the trend toward rock and roll.”

Marc Myers at JazzWax would also write:

“Cole also believed that rock’s simplistic, physical message was demeaning for someone of his polished stature.  His distaste for the new music was so well known within his circle that a song was written for him, “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll.”  But Cole wouldn’t touch it.   According to biographer Leslie Gourse, Cole didn’t like songs with hidden messages.”

I have to admit, this song has prompted me to renounced the error of my ways.  Ergo, I will only feature ASCAP compositions from the Great American Songbook from this point on.

“Fat Boy”: It’s the Organ

Billy Stewart was a Washington DC musical talent who backed Bo Diddley in the 1950s during Diddley’s Chess years.  Stewart would get the chance to make his own recordings on Chess in the early 1960s when the label hired a new A&R person, Roquel Davis.

Rick Simmons in Carolina Beach Music:  The Classic Years writes this about Stewart’s first 45 from 1962:

“His first recording was ‘Reap What You Sow‘ which went to #18 on the R&B charts and #79 on the Billboard Hot 100 … Perhaps more importantly the flip side of the record was a song [Roquel] Davis had asked Stewart to write and record based on his nickname ‘Fat Boy.’  Though ‘Fat Boy‘ did not chart, it got a fair amount of airplay and would become Stewart’s signature song”:

“Fat Boy”     Billy Stewart     1962

Incredibly, there’s another version of “Fat Boy” without this infectious organ track???

Stewart was 12 years old when he began singing with his younger brothers Johnny, James, and Frank as The 4 Stewart Brothers, according to Wikipedia, who “later went on to get their own radio show every Sunday for five years at WUSTAM Radio Music Hall in Washington, DC.  WUST is the present-day venerated music venue, 9:30 Club.  In the 1940s, this same building – incredibly enough – was a music club named for its co-owner, Duke Ellington (click on link to Washington Post piece).

DC’s 9:30 Club & its previous incarnations:  WUST-AM & Duke Ellington’s

9-30 ClubWUST Radio Music Hall III

[photo credits:  Brian Liu (top); Michael Horsley (middle); DC Public Library (bottom)]


Howard University’s WHUT-TV broadcast a new documentary “Fat Boy:  The Billy Stewart Story” by filmmaker Beverly Lindsay-Johnson. as reported by The Washington Post‘s John Kelly in his January 3, 2021 column.

*          *          *

One Small Detail Dept:

Billy Stewart’s King Records Connection

I’m just as stunned as you are that the King Records vault — according to The King Labels: A Discography compiled by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) — includes an unreleased version of “Fat Boy”!

Felix & His (Cash-in) Guitar

“Cerveza” by Boots Brown (see previous post about rock/pop’s Latin roots) was only one of the more obvious attempts to cash in on the runaway success of “Tequila” by The Champs in 1958.  “Chili Beans” by Felix & His Guitar also does a great job of appropriating that familiar riff while at the same time adding a melodic counterpart that might possibly have kept the legal wolves at bay:

“Chili Beans” b/w “puerto rican riot”     Felix & His Guitar     1958

Felix & His Guitar (backed by The Hot Peppers) released one other recording in 1958, “Two Tacos” b/w “Summer Love” — and then nothing more.

Two Tacos 45

Guitar Crusher: Baby Hit the #’s

Guitar Crusher, I’m happy to report, is still very vital* and, judging from his Facebook posts, appears to be based in Germany, where he performs much of the time. [*Facebook post from September 2020 informs us, sadly, that “Sidney ‘Guitar Crusher’ Selby didn’t recover after an operation on his spine in June and passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning September 23rd 2020.”]

I first learned of Guitar Crusher by browsing the index of Ruppli’s King Labels discography, where I was immediately taken with his name.  King Records’ Syd Nathan would initially lease a set of four Guitar Crusher recordings (“with orchestra”) from another label and release them as two 45s on the Bethlehem imprint in late 1962, early 1963.

Guitar Crusher - Bethlehem aGuitar Crusher - Bethlehem b

But then, Ruppli’s discography states that Guitar Crusher – intriguingly – made four recordings at King’s Cincinnati studios on April 6, 1963 that were then released as two King singles.

Guitar Crusher - King aGuitar Crusher - King b

Guitar Crusher’s next release would be on almighty Columbia in 1967 with – get this – Sire Records co-founders, Richard Gottehrer and Seymour Stein, jointly producing the 45 (and writing the flip side).

1969 saw the release of “Since My Baby Hit the Numbers” — but only in Europe.  The A-side would be a collaboration with the Jimmy Spruill Orchestra — love the jaunty horns that echo through the fadeout of this brief blast of rocking blues:

“Since My Baby Hit the Numbers” + “Hambone Blues”     Guitar Crusher     1969

Guitar Crusher would re-engage musically in the 1990s after sitting out much of the 1970s & 80s. Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee and Guitar Crusher, for instance, would jointly release an album, 1995’s Message to Man.  Check Guitar Crusher’s website for tour info & music.

Click here for the trailer to the recent Guitar Crusher documentary.

Marie “Queenie” Lyons: Soul Fever

I am stunned to discover that Marie “Queenie” Lyons’ playful retort to the Isley Brothers – “Your Thing Ain’t Good Without My Thing” (answer song of sorts to “It’s Your Thing“) and an obvious candidate for an A-side – would remain an album-only track from 1970’s Soul Fever on DeLuxe, an imprint of Starday-King Records (from King’s post-Syd Nathan era):

“Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing”     Marie “Queenie” Lyons     1969

Billboard would award the Soul Fever LP “Four-Stars” (albums with “sales potential within their category of music and possible chart items”) in its October 10, 1970 edition.

Michel Rupli’s The King Labels:  A Discography does not say whether this album was recorded at King’s Cincinnati studios – although many suspect it was.  Soul Fever, sadly, would be Marie “Queenie” Lyons’ first and only album release.

‘Soul Fever’ back cover – with liner notes by WLAC’s Bill “Hoss” Allen

Soul Fever - back coverThings I learned about Marie “Queenie” Lyons from reading Hoss Allen’s liner notes:

  • Hails from Archibald, Louisiana but moved to Ashtabula, Ohio at a young age.
  • First performed professionally in 1963 at the Club Castaway in Geneva, Ohio.
  • Served as vocalist in 1964 with The King Curtis Band in New York City.
  • Performed with Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, The Coasters, Jerry Lee Lewis, and – her idol and inspiration – James Brown, among many others.

One of the funkiest soul LPs ever to drop, according to Harvard’s Noah S. Guiney

Soul Fever - front coverBuckeye Beat says that Lyons is still active and that Queenie’s Lounge, her bar in Ashtabula, Ohio (as of 2014) – is/was still open for business.

Queenie's Lounge - Ohio

Soul and Jazz and Funk points out that the official CD release of this high-demand album was surprisingly late in coming – 2008.

Harvard Crimson’s, Noah S. Guiney, is aghast that Marie “Queenie” Lyons “was left cruelly unappreciated for so long” due to “a combination of small-label politics and a miniscule marketing budget” and demands that music historians sit up and take notice of this miscarriage of justice.

Orangie Ray Hubbard: Great Rocker from (Near) Cincinnati

Orangie Ray Hubbard‘s “Is She Sore” is a big, big tune for such a tiny label — Cincinnati’s Lucky (whose address is a residential home in the Fairview/Clifton Heights neighborhood):

“Is She Sore”     Orangie Ray Hubbard     1959

“Is She Sore” is actually Orangie Ray’s second single — two years prior, Dixie had released his debut 45, “Sweet Love” in 1957 — a split single with J.C. Sawyer.

As Randy McNutt notes in The Cincinnati Sound:

“[Hubbard] recorded ‘Sweet Love‘ for Dixie Records of Nashville when he was a young man in Barbourville, Kentucky.  He moved to Cincinnati to work in an automobile factory, and recorded for the Lucky label and later for King.  ‘The establishment didn’t accept me,’ he said.  “And I had bad luck.  A record called ‘Big Cat‘ would have done something for me if Syd Nathan of King Records hadn’t died just before it was to be released.'”

Actually, From Barbourville, KY

Orangie RayOrangie Hubbard would, in fact, release two singles on the almighty King label:

Both of Orangie Ray’s singles for King were released in 1967.  Orangie Ray himself would tell WVXU’s Lee Hay in 2008 (on a program aired in 2018 — see link at end of the piece) that “Big Cat” went to #10 on Cincinnati radio at the time of its release.  What a revelation to also learn from this same radio interview that “Just Moved In” — legendary kick-off track from Great Rockers in Cincinnati — was recorded in the late 1950s at Cincinnati’s King Studios!

Orangie's King 45Twelve years later would see the release of what appear to be Orangie Ray’s final 45s — “Just Moved In” b/w “Our Love Won’t Stop” [and] “In Search of You” b/w “Don’t Knock It If You Never Tried It (The Worst I Ever Had Was Good)” from 1979 on Cincinnati label, Lee.  HOWEVER, as we learned from the paragraph above (and let’s be honest:  we sensed this all along), those “final” 45s had actually been recorded during rockabilly’s heyday in the late 50s.

Just Moved In,” as already noted, kicks off a wonderful Dutch (bootleg) compilation —Great Rockers from Cincinnati — of hillbilly bop, country and western swing 45s released on tiny Ohio Valley record labels.

Great Rockers from Cincinnati

Orangie Ray makes a memorable appearance in Nathan D. Gibson‘s indispensable The Starday Story:  The House That Country Music Built — much gratitude to Mr. Gibson for kind permission to reprint this text:

As the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon continued throughout 1958 and 1959, hundreds of musicians contacted Pierce about pressing their Dixie custom rockers.  Perhaps the most sought-after Dixie custom from this period came a Lousiville, Kentucky, man named Orangie Ray Hubbard.  The record (Dixie 662), an original song entitled “Sweet Love,” was his prize for winning a local talent competition, and has become one of the most infamous rockabilly records ever pressed.  Hubbard shares his story:

“Here’s the way it goes:  they were puttin’ on this talent scout contest to promote this new radio station WBBL.  So Clyde Brown calls in Zeke Clements.  Zekes puts on a talent scout contest and he copied it after The Arthur Godfrey Show.  In other words, if you won, you won by applause meter like Arthur Godfrey did it.  It was in a big theater in Barberville, Kentucky, the Mitchell Theatre.  And the way they did this, you couldn’t just win once and be done with it.  If you didn’t get voted #1, you were allowed to come back the next week and perform.

Well I went in and I won eight straight weeks.  But the day they did the finals, they didn’t do it by applause meter.  They brought in judges.  I find all this out after it was all over.  Anyway, there was a tie that day with me and a guy named David Lundy.  He’s on the flip side of ‘Sweet Love.’  So we sent our tapes to Don Pierce.  I did my tape in the radio station in Louisville with Herman Criss on bass and Riley Ripton on lead guitar.  I don’t know where he did his.

But we sent our tapes in and I thought we would each get a two-sided disc.  But instead, they put Dave on one side and me on the other.  They said, since we have a tie, we’ll play the song on the radio every day.  The man who gets the most requests is the winner.  That was the end of it.  I was promised a recording contract with Starday and Don Pierce.  That was the prize, a promise of a record contract for giving up all your weekends.  Well, at the time I think I have gotten an oil change for my car but it got a lot bigger than what they expected it to be.  I’ve since heard it called the Holy Grail of rockabilly music.”

Indeed it is collectable, valued in Jerry Osborne’s 16th Edition 45 Price Guide at $4000 in excellent condition, though Hubbard notes he has been offered much more for his only remaining copy.  As to why it might be worth $4,000, scarcity likely plays a large part.  It is also one of the best rockabilly records released in the 1950s, featuring an Elvis-like swagger in the vocals, stellar finger-picked guitar solos, streaking steel guitar lines, accented drum fills and lyrics regarding “sweet love.”  Popular Cincinnati recording artist Rusty York even cut his own version of Hubbard’s rocker, though York changed the words “sweet love” to “sweet talk.”  Still, the preceding description could be applied to numerous records worth a mere fraction of the stated value of Hubbard’s “Sweet Love.”  Regarding the record’s desirability, Hubbard offers his own explanation:

“It’s because of the sound that’s on it.  The cleanness of the sound.  And I was offered a lot of money to show people how we could get that sound.  But then nobody would pay me and I wasn’t gonna show them how I did it.  There was a cleanness, a separation from the music that none of the other rockabilly people ever got.”

Hubbard’s obituary from 2011 notes his leadership in local philanthropic work:

“Orangie was a retiree of General Motors where he spent 30 years as an employee and headed up the GM fundraising efforts for the Neediest Kids of All Campaign.  A passionate musician, Orangie was known around the world for his musical talents.  As a singer/songwriter, he will be remembered as an originator of Rockabilly Music in 1955 and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He recorded several records in Cincinnati that are still being sold in Europe today.  He was also a member of the Norwood Masonic Lodge #576 and an avid bass fisherman.”

Father giving away bride: Charmin, on August 26, 1989

Orangie Ray & Charmin Hubbard

Hats off to WVXU’s Lee Hay for putting together a one-hour radio special in June 2018! LINK to King Records & Orangie Ray Hubbard.

How about that — Zero to 180’s tribute is listed as a reference site on Discogs when you click on their link to Orangie Ray Hubbard.

Starday scholar, Nate Gibson, with Orangie Ray Hubbard

This Record Could Win You $1 Million?

Insidious 1980s McDonald’s campaign that used music for crass commercial purposes:

This musical ad immediately brings to mind last August’s piece about the history behind Jimmy Radcliffe’s gospel-flavored “R&B” take on “You Deserve a Break Today” for McDonald’s in the 1970s.

Radcliffe, by the way, would release at least 8 singles between 1962-1970, including his first, “Calypso Twist” and 1969’s lone RCA 45, “Funky Bottom Congregation” – written by none other than Thomas Jefferson Kaye (who co-wrote “I’ve Got to Be Strong” for Chuck Jackson in 1966; produced Loudon Wainwright III‘s “Dead Skunk” and Link Wray in 1974, as well as Gene Clark‘s 1974 cult album, No Other).

Jimmy Radcliffe     “Funky Bottom Congregation”     1969

“Funky Bottom Congregation” – written by Kaye; arranged/conducted by Radcliffe

Jimmy Radcliffe 45

“Sam Stone”: Top Ten Saddest Song?

My mother-in-law and her husband had a grand old time at John Prine’s concert Saturday night at DC’s stately National Theatre.  The next morning we remarked on Prine’s “country outlaw” cred (as evidenced by the turnout of the biker-American community), and I thought to myself, it’s about time I put together a John Prine piece.

As it turns out, John Prine’s first 45 as an Atlantic recording artist would be “Sam Stone,” and what an interesting career move:  “Sam Stone” would go on to rank #8 in a Rolling Stone readers poll of “The 10 Saddest Songs of All Time.”

“Sam Stone”     John Prine     1971

Some controversy around the “Sam Stone” / “Blue Umbrella” single and whether this non-promo 45 was actually released in July, 1971 — so says this 45Cat contributor:

“While ‘Sam Stone’ was featured on Prines’ 1971 debut album, this promo single isn’t from that album.  As Spock would say, ‘logic dictates’ that ‘Sam Stone’ couldn’t have been released with ‘Blue Umbrella’ as the B-side, since it wasn’t released until 1973, on his Sweet Revenge album.  That puts its release post-Sweet Revenge, or at the very least just before it came out.  While I suppose ‘Blue Umbrella’ could come from 1971 in a demo or other early version, my guess is, not.”

“Blue Umbrella” – ahead of its time?

John Prine 45