Great Plains’ Presidential Punk

Remember Tom Newbold?  Before he became manager of The Ferns, Tom and I once had quite the shouting match over Birthday Party’s “Release the Bats” (as previously recounted in the Zero to 180 piece, “Winged Mammal Theme“).  At the time of the incident, I was convinced that ‘Newbs’ was merely trying to provoke.  The song’s humor eluded me, it pains me to say, nor did my musical range of vision recognize the validity of “shouty” vocals or alternative approaches to melodicism.  Only years later did it occur to me that Newbold’s enthusiasm for “Release the Bats” was, indeed, genuine.

I also remember Tom playing Gang of Four’s Entertainment, which I found rather amusing, but not for the right reasons.  Newbold’s embrace of punk and hardcore was a minor sticking point, as I had yet to be liberated musically, while my political consciousness was still in a state of deep slumber.  But it was impossible not to be swept up in the intensity of Tom’s belief in the power of music as a transcendent force, so when Newbold insisted that we check out Great Plains – led by songwriter and vocalist, Ron House – who could say no?

(L to R) Dave “Manic” Green, Mark Wyatt, Ron House, Paul Nini, Matt Wyatt

Great PlainsI’d be lying if I said that Great Plains instantly swept me off my feet.  It took at least a handful of shows before I started to understand why Newbold championed the songs of House, who I just now learned was co-owner of Used Kids Records, one of my favorite Columbus hangouts on High Street, along with (the recently-departed) Bernie’s Bagels, where I got to see the Royal Crescent Mob in the mid-80s playing their ferocious brand of funked-up rock, with a rhythm section that rivaled, if not surpassed, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, it is in no way an exaggeration to say.

House’s less-than-tuneful singing voice and the band’s more shambling moments would distract some of us initially from seeing the wit and originality of Great Plains’ music.  A turning point for me came, though, when record store owner, Curt Schieber, told me one day at School Kids (upstairs from Used Kids) that a wealthy Dutch benefactor** and passionate Great Plains fan had just underwritten the entire cost for one of the band’s 45s.  The deal, unfortunately, was conditional upon the Dutchman also engineering the session, so when Schieber informed me that the recording levels were so ridiculously high as to make the single virtually unplayable, we both had a good chuckle.

1984 Great Plains LP that was, literally, born in a barn

Great Plains LP“Pretty” is an adjective I would not use to describe the band’s sound, and yet Great Plains prove they can be melodic when they want to be on this absurdist slagging of Ohio presidential notable, Rutherford B. Hayes – a song that shows the band at their ‘poppiest’:

“Rutherford B. Hayes”     Great Plains     1984

Rutherford B. Hayes” (Zero to 180’s choice for an A-side) would remain an album track, sadly enough, that was originally released on 1984’s Born in a Barn, as well as live album, Slaves to Rock and Roll and 1989 UK release, Colorized! (not to mention 2008’s Live at WFMU).

Photo of Ron House by tinnitus photography – courtesy of Big Takeover

Ron HouseWorth noting that the “Dean of American Rock Critics,” Robert Christgau, would see fit to review Great Plains’ recordings, while Ron House would prove to be a worthy subject for a number of publications, including The American Prospect, The Columbus Free Press, Noisey, and Rubberneck, among others.  Would you be surprised to learn that Dr. Demento himself would write and record an intro for Great Plains compilation, Length of Growth 1981-1989, released in 2000?

Today’s piece was inspired by a delightfully nutty smart phone app, Presidents vs. Aliens, that my daughter loves to play.

Presidents vs. AliensBefore you go, though, Zero to 180 is compelled to ask:  How many of you learned the US presidents while drinking milk in your elementary school cafeteria?

US presidents on milk cartons

All you need to know about Rutherford B. Hayes in just 60 seconds – courtesy of PBS

** Don’t believe everything you read, kids.  This bit about the wealthy Dutch benefactor and the too-hot recording levels is yet another example of good intentions running roughshod over the truth.  Click here for a postscript that attempts to set the record straight.

When Pelé Tried His Hand at Pop

Thanks to my neighbor Stan, who graciously lent me a documentary, Once in a Lifetime, about the New York Cosmos and the groundbreaking-though-ill-fated North American Soccer League.  While last weekend’s recent record snowstorm raged, I was riveted to the screen, grateful to have power — and incredulous that the most prominent 1970s American soccer franchise (who once fielded such international icons as Pelé, Giorgio Chinaglia, and Franz Beckenbauer) was founded by executives from a major record label!

New York Cosmos DocumentaryThe New York Cosmos is a modern fairy tale, whose humble origins would include players dodging the broken glass on the team’s first playing field at Randall’s Island.  The first seismic shift in this Cinderella story occurs when Warner Communications CEO Steve Ross risks major shareholder ire by signing Brazil’s national hero, Pelé, for $5 million.   Pelé would play three seasons for the Cosmos from 1975-77 and finish out his professional career with an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Brazil’s Santos (where he began his career) in which he played, fascinatingly enough, for both teams.

Pelé, who is often ranked as the world’s finest footballer, would enter the realm of popular music the same year he officially hung up his jersey.  1977 would see Pelé join forces with renowned Brazilian bandleader, Sergio Mendes (who would headline 2012’s Silver Spring Jazz Festival) on a 45 released by Warner-distributed Atlantic Records.

Pelé 45Now you might be wondering why a music blog that’s devoted to boosting the legacies of under-recognized artists would profile someone who’s a household name the world over.  Excellent question, by the way.  And here’s the answer:  you can find a handful of YouTube audio clips for “Meu Mundo É Uma Bola” — and yet only a tiny percentage of the planet’s population have viewed/listened to them (i.e., 12,000+ currently)   How likely is it that the low numbers on YouTube can be explained by millions of Pelé fans preferring instead to listen to their original 45?  Not very.  Yet another musical mystery that vexes.

“Meu Mundo É Uma Bola” (i.e., “My World Is a Ball”)    Pelé     1977

I can only presume that the world’s greatest soccer star ended up not hitting the sales targets established by executives at Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, as Pelé’s musical career is a surprisingly and brutally short one.

The documentary makes excellent use of popular music to tell the story, one of the most inspired decisions being the use of Sparks‘ “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” to underscore the tension incurred when Steve Ross, in a naked attempt to boost attendance and add even more marquee power to the Cosmos, signs Giorgio Chinaglia, whose flamboyant playing style and outsized ego are in stark contrast to Pelé’s humble and team-oriented approach.  How amusing to discover that Chinalgia would release his one and only 45 – “I’m Football Crazy” – three years before Pele’s lone single for Atlantic.  Would you be infuriated to know that Chinaglia’s single has considerably more views on YouTube?

Giorgia Chinaglia 45Sports rockers might particularly enjoy Football45’s passel of picture sleeves that feature other famous footballers who once enjoyed a dalliance with pop music.

Hey Stan, I hope you don’t mind that I hang onto this documentary a little while longer — these Bonus Features aren’t going to watch themselves.

Best-Sellers vs. Worst-Sellers

As I was finalizing my recent Bill Doggett piece, I was trying to confirm the “four million” sales figure that is so often attributed (Wikipedia) to his 1956 smash hit, “Honky Tonk” – an extraordinary number for an instrumental, especially in the mid-50s.  Ultimately, I was  impelled to wield the search phrase “best-selling instrumental single” to confirm that number — and see what other truths I might unearth along the way.

Second item in the search results:  Wikipedia’s entry for “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” that claims this #1 Billboard hit (for two weeks – on the pop chart for a total of nine) is the “biggest-selling instrumental single in the history of recorded music.”  Yes, yes, but how many copies sold?  “Only” two million!  Guinness World Records affirms this achievement.  Sadly, this means that either (1) Guinness is somehow unaware of “Honky Tonk” selling four million copies, or (2) “Honky Tonk” sold fewer copies than is previously thought.

Million-seller “Honky Tonk”:  Only question is how many?

Bill Doggett Honky Tonk LPWorth pointing out that even though “Honky Tonk” would ‘only’ peak at #2, the song would nevertheless spend over half the year (29 weeks vs. 9 for “Star Wars” theme) on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.  Take that, George Lucas.

Since Zero to 180 is more interested in profiling under-recognized artists and songs, I decided to shift my search efforts to see what might be of interest within the realm of “worst-selling” record-holders.  Lo and behold, I would quickly discover an amusing news item from this past August that unmasks a music industry model that just might be a bit creaky and unsustainable:  Worst-Selling #1 Album in Sales-Tracking History!

Disney Channel’s Descendents television series – as a result of Billboard altering their formula for identifying a #1 album to allow “on-demand streaming and digital track sales” – hit the top spot … with just 30,000 (!) “pure” album sales as reports Rolling Stone [the exact same link, by the way, as from Zero to 180’s recent Led Zep piece].

One of Decca’s worst sellers

Alan Freeman 4545 Clunker of Note:  Zero to 180 would like to thank 45Cat’s YankeeDisc for pointing out that Alan LeslieFluffFreeman, MBE and 40-year British disc jockey/radio personality, would enjoy the distinction of having recorded one of Decca’s Worst-Ever Sellers (“and is now, predictably, a rarity and collector’s item“):

“Madison Time”      Alan Freeman     1962

Did you know:   Bill Doggett’s biggest seller would enjoy a resurgence in the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in February and March of 1961 — possibly as a result of King’s contemporary ‘re-boot’ with added vocals.

A Ha Moment:  By the way, I think I just now determined the source of the “4 million” figure, thanks to UK reissue label of note, Ace Records, in the liner notes to their compilation, Honky Tonk!  The King & Federal R&B Instrumentals:

“Still, ‘Honky Tonk’ did enough to earn a gold disc for a million sales (a total of 4 million was mentioned by [King’s Detroit branch manager] Jim Wilson, but who knows).”

Boom!  Bap!   15th Musical Fight!

“Capricorn Flight”: It’s the Bass II

As with Waylon Jennings‘ deeply-felt “Abilene” or Ruby Wright’s surprisingly bass-centric  “Adios Aloha,” one cannot but feel alarmed by the depth of bottom in the opening synth notes of this charmingly analog production – recorded at Cincinnati’s Counterpart Studios, with Shad OShea and Wes Boatman at the helm (get it?):

“Capricorn Flight”     The Saturn Symphony Orchestra     1981

Lo and behold, “Capricorn Flight” would be from the pen of Manzel Bush – however, using the alias The Saturn Symphony OrchestraLast September, Zero to 180 celebrated the groovy ‘space funk’ sound of Manzel, who would record two 1970s dance tracks for Cincinnati’s Fraternity that would be highly sought by DJs and vinyl enthusiasts in the decades since.

Manzel Bush photo courtesy of DISCOGS.COM

Manzel BushThree digits for original copies of “Capricorn Flight” are what to expect at auction. with prices hitting as high as $316 in 2008 and $210 plus $200 — both from 2018.

First appearance of Cincinnati skyline in Zero to 180

Saturn Symphony Orchestra 45-aJust discovered this delightful vintage ad c/o Aerial Noise

Manzel ad

Little Royal’s Funk Monarchy

Remember three years ago when Zero to 180 featured its first ‘Musical Roll Call‘ vis-à-vis Little Royal and his regal rail line, whose crew consisted solely of the finest and funkiest soul luminaries of the early 1970s including, incredibly, The Osmond Brothers?             Of course you don’t — I barely do.

Soul Train” would be one of two 45s released in 1972 on Tri-Us, a boutique imprint for producer Huey Meaux that was bequeathed, as well as distributed, by Starday-King.  90-second instrumental “Razor Blade” would be the B-side of Little Royal’s second single from that same year (although, the 45 label is way off — actual running time is more like two minutes and ten seconds):

“Razor Blade”     Little Royal & the Swingmasters     1972

Most of Little Royal’s 1972-73 single sides (though definitely not all) would be packaged into a 12″ long-playing release Jealous that was issued in 1972 and then again in 1973.

Little Royal’s 1972 Starday-King LP

Little Royal LPKenny Smith, one-time host of Cincinnati’s local Soul Street TV program from 1969-71, (and featured in this Zero to 180 piece from October, 2013) would once welcome onto his show, Little Royal, who first sings the A-side (“Jealous”) and then dances the B-side “Razor Blade” in this vintage clip:

Thanks to the Stepfather of Soul (or is it for pointing out that “Razor Blade” has a vocal counterpart:  Sebastian‘s “Living in Depression” from 1975!

“Living in Depression”     Sebastian     1975

Alert!  DC music history blog Soul 51 (last seen in Zero to 180’s profile of Martha Harvin & The Jewels – “Who’s Left Holding King’s Bag?“) checks in with Little Royal, who lives in the DC area and first met James Brown, we are informed, at the Howard Theater in 1963.

42nd Zero to 180 piece tagged as Funk & Soul

1970 Rare Bowie ‘Blues’ Track

“At the start of 1969, [David Bowie] wrote ‘Space Oddity,’ a song that punctured the global mission for the Apollo moon mission,” Peter Doggett observed in his Introduction to 2011’s The Man Who Sold the World:  David Bowie and the 1970s — an analysis of Bowie’s songwriting, chronologically speaking, throughout his ’70s commercial peak.

Note use of ‘Future Shock‘ typeface in RCA’s 45 re-launch in US – 1973

David Bowie - Future Shock 45-aBowie may have cast a cloud over the US space program, but there’s no denying how “Space Oddity” – and the song’s inspiration, Kubrick’s 2001 – tapped into the world’s fascination with the then new reality of space travel.  I remember purchasing RCA’s American ‘re-boot’ of Bowie’s 1969 self-titled album (on cassette, actually – and retitled for his US breakout hit) at Cincinnati’s old Swallens on Red Bank Road in 1974/75 (i.e., the period between my Beatles and Who obsessions).

Midcentury Modern – mildly charming in retrospect perhaps but not at the time

Swallen's - midcentury modern

Mercury, who signed Bowie for a one-album deal, would release “Space Oddity” in 1969, only to have the song peak at #124.  In 1973, RCA reissued the A-side and hit commercial paydirt in the US:  #15.

As it turns out, there’s more to the story:  Bowie had actually recorded two versions of ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969 – the original version being not only shorter but a much different arrangement altogether (not really a secret: 14,000,000+ views on YouTube).

Rare 1972 RCA PROMO EP (“Given away at concerts in the US”)

David Bowie - rare 72 promo-aHowever, since Zero to 180 serves to shed light on less-examined aspects of popular music history, it first considered pulling together a bullet point list of ‘early Bowie trivia’ as a tribute to David Bowie, who (along with Red Simpson) just left us  [#1 Jeopardy question:  Answer:  Title of the rarest of Bowie’s three Mercury A-sides for US release.  Question:  What is “All the Mad Men“? – as confirms 45Cat’s BeatleJohn] .

But then I chickened out and decided to feature one early Bowie rarity that seems to have escaped the world’s attention, relatively speaking.  There are but a handful of YouTube clips for “Lightning Frightening” — Bowie’s 1970 bottleneck-blues-meets-glitter-rock composition that went unissued until pressed into service as a bonus track on Rykodisc’s 1991 CD reissue of The Man Who Sold the World:

“Lightning Frightening”     David Bowie     1970

Wait!  Zero to 180 almost forgot about its piece from November, 2014 that points out Bowie’s innovative use of both (1) the kalimba and (2) stylophone (thank you, Deborah Guinnessy) in the aforementioned breakout hit, “Space Oddity.”

Check out Bowie’s appearance in this rare 1971 RCA advert

David Bowie in 1971 RCA ad

Early David Bowie:  The Silver Spring Connection

In the outpouring of grief over David Bowie’s passing, the world has suddenly become aware of Silver Spring, Maryland’s place of distinction as the location where Bowie spent his first ever evening in the US.  According to his American host, Michael Oberman, there was a cultural exchange that led to a breakthrough in the conceptualization of Bowie’s next big persona:  Ziggy Stardust:

“Fast forward to January of 1971:  My brother, Ron, was Director of Publicity for Mercury Records (Bowie’s American label at the time).  David was already a star in Great Britain and Europe…but he hadn’t really broken big in the U.S.  Ron decided to bring David to America to do a promotional tour and meet the press, DJ’s and others who could help David’s career in the U.S.

David flew from London to Dulles airport in Virginia.  He was held in customs for a few hours just because of the way he dressed (shame on you customs people!).  My parents and I picked David up at Dulles and brought him back to my parent’s home on Admiralty Drive in Silver Spring.  This was David’s first day ever in the U.S.  He was delighted to spend it with an American family.  David and I already had a connection from a brief 1969 phone conversation for my column.

We spent a couple of hours chatting in my parent’s living room.  A lot of the discussion was about the theater and stage acting.  After some refreshments, we all went to Emerson’s Restaurant in Silver Spring (not Hofberg’s Deli as some publications have reported).  The hostess at the restaurant seated us in a booth and proceeded to close the curtains on our booth.  We all had a good laugh over that.

After dinner, we took my parents back home.  David, my brother and I went back to my house in Takoma Park.  Besides writing for the Star, I also managed a band called Claude Jones and had co-managed a band called Sky Cobb.  When we got to my house, the members of Sky Cobb were in my living room…passing a bong around. The band didn’t even try to communicate with David…something that some of them regret to this day.  David had never seen a bong before…and, no, he did not partake of the substance in the bong.

Late that night, David went to his hotel in DC and left the next day.  An interesting fact for all Bowie fans:  David went to Mercury Records headquarters on East Wacker Drive in Chicago.  Mercury had signed an oddball artist from Texas named The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.  My brother played David a song by that artist.  The song was a minor hit called ‘Paralyzed.’  David was intrigued.  My brother arranged for David to fly to Texas to meet the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.  David was blown away and adopted “Stardust” for his new persona, Ziggy Stardust.  Rock-and-roll history was made.”

David Bowie – Silver Spring, md – 1971

David Bowie in Silver Spring Michael Oberman‘s riveting photograph c/o Facebook

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy – it bears mentioning – rates but a single footnote in Doggett’s 1970s Bowie study.

King’s Funky Nursery Rhyme

Love this playful take on the old nursery rhyme – for extra credit, count all the key changes:

“Three Soulful Mice”     carlton “King” Coleman      1967

Somehow this single has eluded the attention of the fine catalogers at 45Cat (i.e., not in their datbase).  I have to assume – as claims – that “Three Soulful Mice” really was a B-side, as there are no images of this flip side anywhere to be found online.

Zero to 180 is, frankly, puzzled as to why this fetching (and funky) arrangement by (Old) King Coleman is not more widely known.  45 years later, an original 45 would command $36 on Ebay.   So there.

The musicians backing King Coleman on this track, according to Ruppli’s The King Labels — A Discography, would come from James Brown‘s musical organization – and it sure sounds like it!   Determining which musicians played on this recording, however, might require a small team of researchers.

Ruppli indicates that a string of March, 1967 sessions were recorded in New York City and that the King Coleman session used a “similar band” as the preceding one with Vicki Anderson.  The musicians for Vicki Anderson’s (ultimately unissued) recording are “probably the same” band members as the preceding James Brown session that produced “You’ve Got the Power” — and only a small number are identified:

Ernie Hayes:  trumpet & piano
Jimmy Nolen or Wallace Richardson:  guitar
Al Lucas:  bass
Bernard Purdie:  drums
Sammy Lowe:  arranger & director

Musician credits on Nothing But Funk Volume 4 [James Brown Produced Rarities from 1963-1975], however, are much more forthcoming — and therefore more credible, I want to believe :

King Coleman:  Vocalist & Co-songwriter
Sammy Lowe:  Co-songwriter
Grace Ruffin:  Backing Vocals
Martha Harvin:  Backing Vocals
Sandra Bears:  Backing Vocals
Clyde Stubblefield:  Drums
Bernard Odum:  Bass
AlphonsoCountryKellum:  Guitar
Jimmy Nolen:  Guitar
Maceo Parker:  Alto Saxophone
Alto Saxophone:  Pee Wee Ellis
Tenor Saxophone:  St. Clair Pinckney
Levi Rasbury:  Trombone
Waymon Reed:  Trumpet

King would release two King Coleman singles in 1967 [“The Boo Boo Song (pts. 1&2)” and “Hang It Up” b/w “Three Soulful Mice“] – plus one final 45 in 1971 “Boo Boo Song (pt. 1)” b/w “Rock Gospel Mash.”

Coleman would record for over a dozen labels in his lifetime, including Columbia, Atlantic & Philips.  Kudos to Norton Records for including “Three Soulful Mice” on their King Coleman compilation from 2003, It’s Dance Time.  And a royal doff of the cap to “Breakfast Blend with Amanda” on Richmond radio’s 97.3 WRIR FM for playing this can’t-miss track one fine Tuesday morning in the Fall of 2013.

Using this 1971 King promo 45, as no image of “Three Soulful Mice” on internet

King Coleman-1971 promo 45Arranged by Dave Matthews — A James Brown Production

King Coleman made an Alfred Hitchcock cameo in the King Records saga six years prior, in 1961, when James Brown had butt heads with Syd Nathan over the release of an instrumental tune that attempted to cash in on the “Mashed Potatoes” dance fad during its heyday.  Henry Stone, who recorded James Brown and his band in Miami, tried to release the single surreptitiously under the name Nat Kendrick & the Swans on Stone’s Dade label, with King Coleman shouting the vocals.  But somehow – shock – word eventually got back that Brown had “two-timed” Nathan.  Stone recalls this episode on his website here, as well as in the piece, “Who Was King Coleman?  Miami’s Other Greatest DJ of All Time“:

“Milton ‘Butterball’ Smith was the biggest DJ down here as far as I’m concerned, but King Coleman was very strong too.  Y’know why he was so strong?  He used to give the numbers on the air.  Bolita.  The numbers.  When he broadcast on the radio, he used to give the numbers out, man, street lottery, for whoever ran it, the gangsters.

And then of course, I put him on a hit record, and after that he quit the radio and tried to make it as an artist.

Going into the 60s James Brown came down, man, with the whole band and got beat out of a date.  So I says to James, ‘Come on in the studio.  I saw a gig where you did somethin called Mashed Potatoes.’

I said, ‘I wanna record that.’

So we cut the Mashed Potato with the James Brown Band, with the JBs [sic], but due to contracts we couldn’t call them that so we called them Nat Kendrick and the Swans.  Nat was his drummer so that’s what we called them and we cut ‘Mashed Potatoes.’

I had to take James Brown’s voice off cause he was with King Records.  I says, ‘James, we can’t have your voice on there.  We gotta take your voice off.’

So I put King Coleman on, the Disc Jockey, and of course that became a pretty big hit record.

Now, I have the original recording with James Brown here if someday you’d like to hear that.”

French EP – 1962

Bill Doggett’s “Soft”: Enduring

Bill Doggett and his Hammond organ, in 1957, would breathe (via flute) fresh life into Tiny Bradshaw‘s “Soft” from 1952 – both versions released on King.  Even though Doggett’s “Soft” would ‘only’ peak at #51, Billboard’s “Hot 100 Chart History” indicates this song to have spent 14 weeks on the chart – impressive staying power for an instrumental:

“Soft”     Bill Doggett     1957

Billboard would report “Soft” as an ‘R&B territorial best seller’ (1) in Detroit in its October 14, 1957 edition and (2) Cincinnati in its December 21, 1957 edition.  “Soft” would also be included in Billboard’s ‘Top 100 Sides – Store Recorded Sales’ for the week ending October 26, as well as December 7, 1957.

                     US 45 on King                          UK 45 on “Beatle” label Parlophone

Bill Doggett US 45Bill Doggett UK 45

The song would endure into the 1970s.  However, King Records would do a curious thing.  On the one hand, King would reissue “Soft” as a single in 1971 – though as a B-side (!) – while just the year prior, the song had been deemed fit to serve as the title track of a Bill Doggett LP compilation.  What gives?  Perhaps the 1971 single was an attempt to give record buyers a “double A-side” release with two solid tracks and no filler, so perhaps I should lighten up a little.

                   1971 King LP — “Soft” as title track        1970 King 45 — “Soft” as B-side

Bill Doggett LP (1970)Bill Doggett 45 reissue (1971)

It’s the Bill Doggett Centennial!

Bill Doggett, who recorded an instrumental in 1956 (“Honky Tonk”) that sold over 1 million copies — a ridiculous number, especially for King Records.  2016, therefore, means that “Honky Tonk” turns 60 (which is the new 40, anyway), and the artist who recorded it was (curiously enough) 40 years old at the time, as Bill Doggett was born exactly one hundred years ago.  I have to confess:  I didn’t figure this out on my own.  This information would come directly from Bill Doggett II, nephew and namesake, who recently reached out to Zero to 180 in response to the precarious future of the original King Records historic site in Cincinnati:

“King Records and its building are to Cincinnati Music History what Capitol Records and its building are to Los Angeles and West Coast r&b and jazz.  Preserving the building and turning it in to a restored TOURIST Destination will bring Tax revenue dollars and TOURISM.  Think BIG….not small.  THIS YEAR is The BILL DOGGETT CENTENNIAL 1916-2016 and THE 60TH Anniversary of the landmark KING Gold Record: HONKY TONK Parts 1/2.”

Honky Tonk”:  Promotional video from Bill Doggett Productions

Latest Report on Efforts to Save the King Records Historic Site

What Will It Take to Save King RecordsCincinnati Magazine – January 6, 2016

Red Simpson/David Bowie Tribute

Shame on Zero to 180 for not celebrating Red Simpson‘s musical legacy as a pioneer of the “Bakersfield Sound” until now – after his spirit has already left this mortal plane.

I’m afraid Simpson’s passing might have gotten overlooked in all the media attention given to the unexpected loss of David Bowie.  In a playful nod to both artists, Zero to 180 thought it would be fun to feature Simpson’s last charting hit, “The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” (#99) from 1979:

“The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver”     Red Simpson     1979

“The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” would first be released in 1976 on Vancouver label, Portland Records, and then again three years later to much greater commercial acclaim on Nashville-based K.E.Y. Records.

1976 release                                             1979 re-boot

Red Simpson 45-aRed Simpson 45-b

I just saw the trailer for the 2014 documentary, Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound, and one key point really hit home:  1960s Nashville-based country was primarily “sit down” music, while the principal aim of the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ was about getting folks to dance.  Red Simpson is one of the principal architects of the Bakersfield Sound – although he does not always get proper recognition in this regard.

Worth noting that (1) Red’s professional songwriting career goes back to the Korean War era, and (2) Simpson did not actually write his biggest hit “I’m a Truck” but did, in fact, write tons of even better tunes — see special Red Simpson feature below.

1966 Capitol debut                                      1966 follow-up LP

Red Simpson LP-aRed Simpson LP-b

Red Simpson tributes from Rolling Stone, CMT, Billboard & The Bakersfield CalifornianRed Simpson’s own website is also a great source for chart and songwriting info.

Red Simpson:  Songwriter

1975 Dutch Compilation LPRed Simpson LP-c

B-Side: Called Up to the Majors

I forget where I picked up my copy of 100 All Time Country Hall of Fame Hits – Vol. 2,    double-LP set from 1977.  The friendly price tag comes at a cost, though — 12 (even 13) songs per side, therefore, a noticeable loss in fidelity.

100 All Time Country Hall of Fame Hits - Vol IIOne of the songs that really caught my ear, “Mr. Mailman” by Ronnie Milsap, is a tune that (lo and behold) took its first breaths at Chips Moman’s American Sound Studio in Memphis in Summer, 1968:

“Mr. Mailman”     Ronnie Milsap     1968

I love the opening guitar lines that convey the agony of losing one’s “little red book” – utter powerlessness in a pre-digital era – with a few well-placed harmonica notes just before the song’s outro that add a nice touch of country pop melancholy.

“Mr. Mailman” would be from the pen of Mark James, who would write (and record) that same year one of Elvis’s last big hits, “Suspicious Minds.”.

B-Side — before the big call up

Ronnie Milsap 45“Mr. Mailman” – noble and faithful B-side companion to “Do What You Gotta Do” – appears never to have charted, and thus, likely to have received minimal radio play.

So imagine Zero to 180’s surprise when “Mr. Mailman” was discovered to be the title track of a 1977 Ronnie Milsap “oldies” collection for the UK market!

Ronnie Milsap LPChips Moman & American Sound:  Stax’s Memphis Hitmaking Rival

Jeremy Roberts’s 2012 Examiner piece – “Back When Memphis Was Electric:  B.J. Thomas on Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys” – asserts that Lincoln Wayne “Chips” Moman, whose team recorded over 120 Billboard hits between the years 1967-1971 at American Sound Studio, has yet to receive proper recognition for all his musical achievements.  B.J. Thomas makes the claim in his interview that “for a couple of years running, they played on nearly 20 percent of Billboard’s pop chart, which was a fantastic accomplishment in those days.”American Sound Studio

Songs produced and/or written and/or arranged by Chips Moman:
A Chips Moman ‘Top 40’ Playlist


Chips Moman