I was ready to abandon K-Tel for greener pastures, when I recalled with great amusement a K-Tel hits collection that someone (okay, Tom Avazian) once tenderly pressed into my eager hands. I can’t imagine anyone would be shocked that a label famed for recycling older tunes had thieved its title – Gimme Indie Rock – from a song by former Dinosaur Jr. bassist, Lou Barlow … and then oddly omitted the title track!
Includes a Dinosaur Jr. song in lieu of Sebadoh’s title track – ironic?
No one should be surprised that a label known for being a step or two behind contemporary pop music trends would embrace 80s and 90s punk and “alternative” rock by the dawn of the new century (I hear some of you grumbling this is not your father’s K-Tel). Nor should anyone be taken aback that this double-disc set from 2000 is a CD-only release that was never pressed onto good ol’ vinyl.
Gadzooks: [insert name of indie band below] on a K-Tel collection!
The CD cover would also break the K-Tel mold by being a 6-panel foldout poster, with liner notes provided by Option Magazine‘s Scott Becker and a quote at the top of the page attributed to Minutemen frontman, D. Boon (“The how, the why, the where, the who – can these words find the truth?”) from a song – “The World According to Nouns” – that was, in fact, written by the group’s bassist, Mike Watt! Oh, K-Tel…
To read Scott Becker’s essay, save image to hard drive and magnify in image viewer
Generally speaking, Zero to 180’s rule of thumb (you may or may not be aware) is to feature under-celebrated studio songcraft that is, minimally, 20 years old, thus enabling indie and punk to fall fairly within the scope of this music history blog. Previous attempts to feature more contemporary sounds, Zero to 180 realized belatedly, would not be a good fit for a historically-oriented website, something that should have been apparent at the outset (nothing personal, Roy Sludge – you know I love you).
And yet, it’s as if Zero to 180 has learned nothing, as today’s piece sidesteps protocol by ignoring Gimme Indie Rock in favor of a modern rock track — power pop, to be more precise — that is a mere 12 years old, but is already showing alarming signs of being consigned to the dustbin of history:
“Misadventures of the Campaign Kids” King of Prussia 2007
Such an obvious lead-off track, Zero to 180 is a little disappointed to discover “Miseducation of the Campaign Kids” to be the third song on King of Prussia‘s 2007 CD release, Save the Scene. The opening chords would seem to be a loving nod to Paul Weller’s demo for The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” — could that have been the songwriter’s intention, I wonder. Yes, there are five YouTube clips of this compelling King of Prussia track, and yet the total combined “views” of these audio clips do not even total 5,000 — a musical injustice that this history blog is attempting to remedy.
Lyrics to the song can be found here on Bandcamp, where you can also buy the album for only $6.99 – a bargain. Thank you, as well, to Zero to 180 science correspondent, Paul Guinnessy, for once forwarding a flash drive filled with 3.42GigaBytes of songs (e.g, “Misadventures”) from artists – including King of Prussia – who appeared at the 2008 South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas. NPR, in fact, would give the band some coverage, describing the King of Prussia’s debut album as “a trippy collection of songs with elements of ’60s folk rock.”
News Flash: Zero to 180 Filters Out the Rubbish!
The Zero to 180 screenshot above, by the way, shows this music history blog in its infancy at a time when I was still grappling with scope and content issues. After five years and over 700 posts, I finally cottoned onto the necessity of adding several filters to help readers (to the extent they exist) pick out the few interesting bits amidst the mountains of refuse. Consequently, Zero to 180 now has added a handful of “buttons” at the top of the screen to help minimize wasted time you will never ever get back —
True or False? Led Zeppelin have appeared on a K-Tel album.
The band that famously refused to do TV appearances did not, generally speaking stoop to K-Tel‘s level of crass commercialism. Led Zeppelin cultivated such a mystique amongst their fanbase, in fact, that it was thought the band didn’t deign to do singles — obviously untrue when you browse their 7-inch output on 45Cat (each and every Zep album was accompanied by a 45 release, don’t kid yourself).
And yet, unbelievably, Led Zeppelin once said yes to K-Tel: 1980’s The Summit, released by K-Tel UK & Ireland — an album that includes “Candy Store Rock” (from 1976’s Presence), fittingly as the final track:
“Candy Store Rock” Led Zeppelin 1976
Does the band get forgiveness points, since “proceeds from this album are contributed to The Year of the Child to help sick and handicapped children”?
“Hot on the heels of the Kampuchea concerts, K-Tel rush-released The Summitin January 1980, featuring a baker’s dozen of tracks from rock royalty, all of whom donated their proceeds to UNESCO’s The International Year Of The Child (1979). Kurt Waldheim, then secretary-general of the United Nations, was crucial in organizing both the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea and The International Year Of The Child projects.”
Zep on K-Tel cover!
<click on image for maximum resolution>
In 2003, Jimmy Page would even make the CD cover, when “Misty Mountain Hop” made an encore appearance on Time-Life’s Do It Again from the ‘Legends’ series (with liner notes from Ben Fong-Torres), also in synergistic partnership with Warner Special Products.
11311 K-Tel Drive = Minnetonka, Minnesota:
The New “Hitsville USA”?
Thanks to family members strategically located in Minnetonka, Zero to 180 is grateful to have had the opportunity to visit 11311 K-Tel Drive, the corporate headquarters of K-Tel International since 1975, as any music scholar will tell you.
K-Tel’s service in maintaining the commercial vitality of our great nation’s pop hits – long after their initial “expiration date” – has been widely mocked, which is sadly short-sighted, given the company’s honorable efforts in fighting Madison Avenue attitudes (i.e., old = bad) that have unmistakably infiltrated popular consciousness due to a relentless bombardment of advertising that fetishizes newness for the sake of newness.
K-Tel would celebrate 35 years of success in grand style with a supplemental 17-page advertisement in the March 8, 1997 edition of Billboard.(pages K-1 through K-17) that includes messages of congratulations from Sony Music Special Products, EMI-Capitol, Polygram, Curb Records, Select-O-Hits, local heroes The Trashmen, The Castaways, Steppenwolf’s John Kay, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Ernest Evans himself (a.k.a., Chubby Checker). These 17 packed pages include a profile of founder Phillip Kives (K-Tel = Kives Television), who “starred in what may have been the first infomercial: a five-minute spot in support of a non-stick frying pan,” plus a history of the music label (“Original Hits! Original Stars! K-Tel’s Super Gold Music Machine Rolls Right On”) that states the company’s musical inventory to be “approximately 2,700 masters, dating from the ’50s up through the ’80s and beyond.”
Just months after terminating a deal that would have divested its music assets, K-Tel International has restructured the music company and set ambitious plans to become an online music retailer and a distributor of other labels’ recordings.
As part of the change, the company has tapped Mark Dixon, its top financial executive, as COO of the music unit, K–tel International (USA), which remains based in Minneapolis. The corporate offices, however, are moving to Los Angeles, where company president David Weiner will oversee the music unit, international operations, a direct-marketing subsidiary, a home video imprint, and a new Internet venture. Weiner says the move will enable K-Tel to “tap into a larger talent pool.”
By mid-December, Weiner says the company will launch K-Tel Online and develop the site over the next year into a major Internet retailer to compete with CDnow, Music Boulevard, and World Wide Web sites operated by traditional music chains. At the site www.ktel.com, consumers will also be able to order customized CDs made up of tracks from the company-owned catalogs.
Alas, Greg Beets would break the sad news — “Where were you when you found out K-Tel declared bankruptcy and shut down its U.S. music distribution subsidiary?” — in the May 4, 2001 edition of the Austin Chronicle. Turning popular wisdom on its head, Beets points out that “although K-Tel’s buffet-style MO [modus operandi] seems quintessentially American,” the company was actually founded in Winnipeg, Ontario in 1962, before Kives moved operations to Minneapolis in the early Seventies.
Kives wasn’t the first (that would be Art Leboe’s Oldies but Goodies series), and he wasn’t without competition (Ronco and Adam VIII), but “it was K-Tel,” Beets observed, “that truly cultivated the form into a pop culture institution ripe for parody.”
K-Tel’s Krass Kommercialism: A Tribute by Greg Beets
During the Seventies, K-Tel’s marketing ploys had the same seedy appeal as a carnival barker’s come-on. The pitch was fast and furious, with deftly spliced snippets of music, song titles rapidly scrolling across the screen, and an overcaffeinated announcer imploring you to order now. Some aficionados swear the ads said K-Tel albums were not available in stores, even though they were — at unhip outlets such as drug and discount stores.
You won’t find a much better snapshot of pop music in the early Seventies than 1972’s Believe in Music. Named for Gallery’s “I Believe in Music,” the album kicks off with the 1-2-3 feel-good punch of “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, “Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone, and “Sunny Days” by Lighthouse. Throw in Donny Osmond, the O’Jays, and a few more weird obscurities like Mouth & MacNeil’s “How Do You Do?” and Bulldog’s “No,” and you have a bass-ackwardly definitive compilation rivaled only by Nuggets.
Maybe K-Tel butchered art for profit. But even if that were true, does it make K-Tel any worse than a record company padding a marginal artist’s album with filler? Though it came at the expense of artistic vision, K-Tel’s Seventies output was nothing if not value-driven. Where else could you get up to 25 hit songs for the low, low price of $5.98 ($7.98 for 8-track)?
That said, the sonic quality of vintage K-tel albums is truly awful. You’ll find better low end on a distant AM radio station, and the flimsier-than-Dynaflex vinyl ensures quick scratches if you so much as breathe too hard on it. And no discussion of K-Tel would be complete without mentioning the blinding colors and screaming fonts utilized in the subtle-as-a-meat-cleaver cover art. But, as the tired old saying goes, that’s part of the charm.
Note: Beets would also voice the widely-held notion that “respectable artists, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, never showed up on K-Tel” — a view that, as Zero to 180’s recent research has revealed, does not withstand factual scrutiny.
It still boggles my mind that Ronco somehow found a way to compile an album featuring tracks from top pop acts – Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, and the Byrds – one would not normally associate with TV-advertised hits labels, such as Ronco.
Jimi Hendrix – third artist listed after The Beatles
In light of this knowledge I began to wonder: Is it possible Jimi Hendrix has appeared on a K-Tel album?
Answer — Yes! K-Tel Japan would include “Purple Haze” on 1971’s 20 Dynamic Hits – an album that would also feature a Beatles track (admittedly, 1961’s “My Bonnie” with singer, Tony Sheridan).
Perhaps the strangest release of all would be K-Tel Australia’s The Legend of Hendrixalbum (date unknown).
3rd known photo of Hendrix on a K-Tel album cover
18 tracks in all – note the curious decision to include a Noel Redding composition, “She’s So Fine”:
1. Hey Joe
2. Purple Haze
3. The Wind Cries Mary
4. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
5. Stone Free Again
6. All Along The Watchtower
7. Foxy Lady
8. Voodoo Chile
9. Crosstown Traffic
11. Like A Rolling Stone
12. Ezy Rider
14. Johnny B Goode
15. Blue Suede Shoes
16. Gypsy Eyes
18. She’s So Fine
“She’s So Fine” Noel Redding’s Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967
Of course, all of this begs the question — why no Hendrix tracks on US K-Tel releases? Was Warner Brothers afraid that the appearance of a Hendrix track on a K-Tel album might inflict damage on his viability in the marketplace, given the snobby rock press?
“My Bonnie” on this 1972 4-LP set = only US K-Tel LP Release to feature The Beatles!
The Stones on K-Tel: The Truth Is Out There
1982 would prove to be the year the band made the momentous decision that permitted K-Tel UK/Ireland to sell a 2-LP (mostly monophonic) “greats”-only package, Story of the Stones, in Great Britain, as well as Spain, Portugal and (“unofficially”) Japan and Singapore.
Track listing: any quibbles, Stones fans?
The following year, the Stones’ Organization then made the staggering decision to allow “Satisfaction” the honor of kicking off K-Tel’s Best Party Album in the World — a various artists release that would also include “Get Off My Cloud”!
Any Other Ronco LPs with Hendrix Tracks?
Q: Besides Do It Now, are there any other Ronco LPs that feature Jimi Hendrix tracks?
A: Yes! “All Along the Watchtower” would join 43 of its closest friends for Ronco UK’s soundtrack to the film, Stardust, from 1974.
Additionally, in 1974 Ronco Netherlands would release 44 Golden Hits of the Sixties, a 2-LP set that included (you guessed it) “All Along the Watchtower.”
In 2016, Heritage Auctions (“the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer”) sold two acetates of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album — note that the Columbia label for the left image reads “Electric Landlady“(!)
double-Click on image for Super-maximum resolution
“Electric Landlady”: Inspiration for Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album
Melbourne-born, Helen Reddy would begin her career in 1963 laying down vocals for a Consulate cigarette jingle with Bob Young and His Orchestra.
Reddy’s win on Australian Bandstand would, according to Discogs, spur her big move in 1966 to the United States, where two years later, she would make her official debut in the pop marketplace with Fontana 45, “One Way Ticket.”
Monty Montgomery, Music Director for Bakersfield’s KERN would select “One Way Ticket” as Billboard‘s ‘Best Leftfield Pick’ for the week of May 11, 1968. The song would hit #83 nationally in Australia in May, 1968.
From the songwriting team of Stephen (“Sesame Street“) Lawrence & Bruce Hart
For uncertain reasons (though likely due to runaway 1972 smash hit, “I Am Woman“), K-Tel made an executive decision to include this Laugh-In-era track on a collection of US radio hits from primarily 1973 (i.e., James Brown’s “The Payback“; Love Unlimited’s “Love’s Theme“; Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock“), thus indirectly helping to direct attention to a melodic sense and production sound that seem very much out of place with the rest of the song’s surroundings:
“One Way Ticket” Helen Reddy 1968
American music consumers would find itself treated to “One Way Ticket” via 1974 K-Tel release, Dynamic Sound, while discerning Canadian ears would discover the track on 1974’s Music Power, amidst such 1973 highlights as Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“; Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie“; and Al Wilson’s “Show and Tell.”
Helen Reddy + Shirley Bassey + Dusty Springfield = butterfly
Aside from the K-Tel and Pickwick LP releases above, “One Way Ticket” otherwise found itself orphaned as a non-album single until the song’s inclusion as a bonus track for the 2-album-on-one-CD reissue No Way to Treat a Lady / Music, Music in 2005 — but for the Australian market only!
As has been pointed out elsewhere, Reddy is the first Australian artist to win a Grammy (for the aforementioned “I Am Woman”), as well as top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Thanks again to record collector extraordinaire, Tom Avazian — underwriter of numerous Zero to 180 research initiatives (most recently, Scotland’s The Poets) — who provided a vinyl copy of 1988 UK anthology, 20 One Hit Wonders, an album that includes a strong track from a band of Birmingham musicians, TheLocomotive, who began their career playing rocksteady in a rather convincing manner, before changing gears altogether on their next single and subsequent album before disbanding soon after.
Billboard would announce in their November 16, 1968 edition (“Locomotive Disk on Speedy Track“) that “the Parlophone single ‘Rudi’s In Love’ is being released in 14 countries in Europe and in the US on the Bell label.” According to Brum Beat – whose list of Top 20 Birmingham bands includes The Locomotive – “The catchy ‘Rudi’s In Love‘ proved very popular on the dance floor and reached Number 25 during its eight week stay in the charts.”
And yet, amazingly, for a song so widely distributed, “Rudi’s In Love” (as of today) is only available on YouTube in the form of a live BBC version that, unfortunately, is not well recorded. How can this be? 45Cat contributor, jimmytheferret, proclaims “Rudi’s In Love” to be “one of the most iconic records of the late sixties” and consequently has posted audio for the song on YouTube. And yet, when you click on the video link, YouTube informs us that “this video contains content from WMG [Warner Music Group?], who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.” Ah ha…
However, for a limited time — the next ten days — Zero to 180 will make this track available to whomever has accidentally stumbled upon this blog:
[Time limit has expired – MP3 since removed. Sorry, folks!]
[Pssst: Click triangle above to play “Rudi’s In Love” by Locomotive]
BigBearMusic reports that the inaugural release for Big Bear Records (“UK’s longest-established independent record company”) was a “spoof ska 45 rpm single entitled ‘Rudi The Red-Nosed Reindeer‘ by a band whose nom-du-disque The Steam Shovel disguised the fact that they were, in reality, The Locomotive” (!)
Would you be surprised to learn that EMI reissued “Rudi’s In Love” in 1980, at the height of the second-wave ska craze, in a two-tone-themed picture sleeve?
Norman Haines, who penned “Rudi’s In Love,” would later prove to be “instrumental in developing how Black Sabbath worked” in their earliest days, notes Big Takeover‘s AJ Morocco, “He orchestrated their first arrangements and likely taught them how to commit their songs to tape in the studio.”
Sheet music below serves as bedroom poster when you click on image
Scooter “The Music Computer” Magruder – WPFW radio host and general manager of Silver Spring’s Roadhouse Oldies – deserves much praise and respect for his leadership role in stoking an appreciation for our popular musical heritage over the years. My recent album purchases at Roadhouse Oldies affirmed yet again that plenty of interesting songs remain primarily (if not solely) on vinyl, as originally intended.
Of the five albums that I picked up, the grooviest cover, by far, should have won an award for design, particularly the typography –- note the individualistic lettering:
However, since Out of Sight! was issued by a subsidiary label of crass cash-in label, Pickwick, that somehow invalidates the album from consideration (in which case, I would again direct your attention to the uniquely expressive lettering above).
A couple tracks caught my ear, including one by Tommy Roe in which the musical backing track suddenly “departs” from the vocal fairly soon into the song … and never really returns! Check out the steep “musical drop-off” that occurs around the 40-second mark — did Tommy Roe really intend for the mix to sound this way?
[Pssst: Click on triangle above to play “Foreman” (the ‘Pickwick’ mix) by Tommy Roe]
Posted as a special treat for Zero to 180 readers (Hi, Mom) for the rest of the year only
Note that nothing of the sort happens in this “proper” mix posted on YouTube — the only audio recording of the song publicly available (and one that was only posted last month).
A working-class blues that is not without a certain amount of boastful pride (since, after all, the singer has a good job at the mill making “30 cents* an hour” as the “foreman of the garbage brigade”), important to note that “Foreman,” was originally issued in 1961 by Diplomat – Pickwick peer and purveyor of equally exploitative fare (as previously celebrated here) – on Tommy Roe’s Whirling with Tommy Roe and Al Tornello, and would subsequently be reissued two years later on bedraggled and beloved Crown Records (as paid musical tribute here). I am assuming that the same recording was used for all 3 LPs.
1961 Diplomat LP 1963 crown LP
The other tune that thrust itself upon my musical consciousness is an amusing surf-slash-drag-racing hybrid that is talk/sung in Bob Dylan fashion and backed by a bunch of smart alecks (who sound suspiciously like the backing vocalists on “The Ostrich”). Halfway through the song, I spy the Pickwick logo on the back cover, and the realization suddenly hits: Lou Reed! Sure enough, “Cycle Annie” is from the pen of Lou Reed, as are three other tracks on the album: “Soul City” by The Hi-Lifes; “Don’t Turn My World Upside Down” by The J Brothers; and “The Wonderful World of Love” by The Liberty Men.
“Cycle Annie” The Beachnuts 1964
* [Note: 30⊄ an hour in 1961 dollars roughly equates to $2.45 an hour in 2017 dollars.]
Roadhouse Oldies, alas, will be shutting its doors for the last time in December, 2017. Message currently posted on the record shop’s website:
A SAD NOTE: Sorry to report that, after 43 years in Silver Spring, we will be closing the business at the end of this year. As you can probably understand, the demand for good old songs is fading. We wish to thank our many loyal customers, and invite you to please come see us before we close, even if it is just to chat about the good old days. We were the first true ‘oldies’ store in this area, and we thank you for 43 terrific years!
Zero to 180’s Photographic Tribute to Roadhouse Oldies
original streamline moderne storefront on nearby Thayer St. (demolished)
One of Zero to 180’s earliest pieces (from 2012) concerned itself with documenting the earliest recording of a melodica (i.e., keyboard version of a harmonica), and 1966 seems to be year to beat in this regard, with the composer, Steve Reich, as well as future pop giants, The Bee Gees, having both committed the melodica to tape that same year.
This summer on a long road trip, I was enjoying a CD compilation of rare 45s and obscure album tracks that had been thoughtfully assembled by musician/scholar, Joe Goldmark, (and partner at San Francisco’s legendary Amoeba Records), when I was startled to hear a 1960s recording of South African township jive that includes a melodica!
Incredibly, when you search the entire Discogs database for recordings by the group, Soweto Stokvel Septette, only one item turns up: a various artists LP release issued on the Mercury label for US distribution entitled Ice Cream & Suckers: South African Soul, and which features the title track, parts one and two (stitched together in the mix above).
Zero to 180 is impressed with Mercury’s receptiveness to the exciting new sounds coming out of South Africa at that particular time in the 1960s (20 years or so before Paul Simon’s Graceland album) — only question is exactly when? Before 1966, possibly?
Assuming this is true, can we necessarily assume that Soweto Stokvel Septette recorded their two-part title track in 1966? In other words, was the recording made the previous year or even earlier? The back cover liner notes (courtesy of ElectricJive), unfortunately, do not shed light in this regard. Nevertheless, “Ice Cream and Suckers” is now, at the very least, part of a three-way tie for earliest melodica recording.
Double-click on image below to view liner notes at maximum resolution
One other supporting clue: Soweto Stokvel Septette recorded a 45 of “South African ska” that also happened to be released in 1966, according to this vendor.
In May, 2015’s piece about Guitar Crusher, it was pointed out that Seymour Stein, along with fellow Sire Records co-founder, Richard Gottehrer, had done production work on a Columbia recording in 1967, having formed Sire Productions the year before. As Billboard would note in its chronology of the music industry executive who signed Madonna from his hospital bed while recovering from a heart infection, Stein had served his first music label apprenticeship at Cincinnati’s King Records for two years, beginning in 1957. Syd Nathan‘s operation would prove to be a “farm league” for a number of other industry notables, as pointed out in Jon Hartley Fox’s King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records:
“King Records was a good training ground where one could get a thorough, hands-on education in all facets of the recording industry. One of the label’s enduring legacies is the large number of producers, A&R men, and sales or marketing executives who ‘trained’ under Nathan. Among the King alumni who enjoyed successful careers at other labels are Seymour Stein (Sire, Sire-London, and Elektra), Hal Neely (Starday and Starday-King), Henry Glover (Old Town, Roulette, Starday-King), Ralph Bass (Chess), Jim Wilson (Starday and Sun), Alan Leeds (Paisley Park), Ray Pennington (Step One), and nearly a dozen others.”
As it turns out, the same year Seymour Stein produced a Guitar Crusher single for “Big Red,” Stein also organized a 12-inch release for Columbia Records (under the “Sire Productions” name) that consists entirely of country releases from the King Records vault, albeit (groan) “electronically re-channeled for stereo.” That’s right, 1967 would see the release of a Columbia album (in name only) 18 King Size Country Hits, with extensive liner notes by Stein himself that promise the LP to be “one of a projected series of albums, each containing eighteen all-time Country and Western hits spanning the past quarter century.”
Many of the songs on this LP were million sellers when first issued, according to Stein
This album, sadly, would seem to be the only one released (I can only assume Columbia felt sales to be insufficient enough to warrant future volumes). It’s not for lack of trying though, as Stein very helpfully provides some historical context on the factors that helped King succeed in the marketplace:
“Cincinnati, at the period just before America’s entrance into World War II, was the center of activities for many of the great Country and Western artists of that era, in much the same way that Nashville is today. The reason for the Queen City’s dominance over the ‘hillbilly’ world was ‘Midwestern Hayride,’ the country’s favorite C&W radio show, which was aired weekly from Cincinnati over WLW, key station in the Crosley broadcast chain. Among the show’s stars were the Delmore Brothers, Grandpa Jones, Hank Penny, Wayne Raney, and Homer and Jethro. Lloyd ‘Cowboy’ Copas had a popular Country show also over WKRC in Cincinnati. With the exception of the Delmore Brothers, none of the stars of ‘Midwestern Hayride’ had achieved any amount of success on records. Most had never recorded despite their popularity among the Midwest and South.”
King Records In the big leagues: On “Big Red” one year before Syd Nathan’s passing
NEW YORK — Columbia Records will issue two albums of all time best sellers from the catalog of King Records. One package will contain country material and the other rhythm and blues. The deal, considered unusual, was okayed by Bill Gallagher, Columbia Records vice-president, after discussions with Seymour Stein of Sire Productions. Stein, who regards the deal as a tribute to the achievement of Syd Nathan, president of King, produced the packages from masters in the King archives.
Each of the albums contains 18 performances. The country package, titled 18 King Size Country Hits, includes “Signed Sealed and Delivered” by Cowboy Copas, “Blues Stay Away From Me” by the Delmore Brothers, “Mountain Dew” by Grandpa Jones, “Money, Marbles and Chalk” by the writer Pop Eckler, and sides by the Carlisle Brothers, Jimmy Osbourne, Wayne Raney, Moon Mullican, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Reno and Smiley.
“Pop Eckler was never a famous recording artist, but as composer of one of the greatest Country ballads, this album would be incomplete without his own rendition of ‘Money, Marbles and Chalk.’ The tune was also a pop hit for Patti Page.”
Seymour Stein’s liner notes for Columbia LP ’18 King Size Country Hits’
Keith Emerson would captivate me as a grade schooler with the deep, heavy Moog sounds he conjured for “Lucky Man” — the final track, fittingly, on a 4-LP box set from 1973 that got a lot of mileage in our household growing up, Superstars of the Seventies, one of the earliest titles in the Warner Special Products series.
After Emerson, Lake and Palmer went their separate ways in 1979, Emerson would arrange a reggae-tinged take on a Meade Lux Lewis boogie instrumental, “Yancey Special” for his 1981 solo album Honky:
“Yancey Special” Keith Emerson 1981
Most fascinatingly, Emerson’s first solo album post-ELP global fame would be released on an independent Italian label, Bubble, aimed at the “Italo-Disco” progressive dance market. Honky would find release two years later in the UK on Emerson’s imprint, Chord Records. Rock and Roll Paradise asserts Italy to be the only country where Honky was a hit album.
“Emerson, on an extended vacation in the Bahamas, rounded up a crew of local musicians and exploded with a wild variation of calypso and reggae tunes—foreign substances to the legions of ELP fanatics who were expecting something less whimsical and more monumental. But really — you can’t blame him for turning his back on the “legendary” noose around his neck and indulging seafaring gems like ‘Hello Sailor’ and ‘Rum-A-Ting.’ And the irresistible boogie woogie of Meade Anderson ‘Lux’ Lewis’ ‘Yancey Special’ shakes the manacles off completely”
According to the liner notes, “honky” was a nickname used by children of the island and, thus, appropriated by Emerson for the album’s title. “Yancey Special” would hit the airwaves two years after Rick Wakeman‘s cod reggae version of “Swan Lake,” the featured instrumental in Zero to 180’s January, 2015 piece, “Prog Rock Reggae.”
Keith Emerson: One of The Best (Literally)
BB Chronicles offers a 1990 soundboard recording of a little-known (and short-lived) supergroup named The Best that once included Keith Emerson, along with John Entwistle (The Who), Joe Walsh (James Gang/Eagles), Jeff ‘Skunk‘ Baxter (Doobie Brothers), and Simon Phillips (801/Jeff Beck).
Keith Emerson & the skunk Emerson & the ox & the skunk
Emerson’s spirit, sadly, would leave us this past March. – his obituary from the March 13, 2016 edition of The Guardian.
On my one and only visit to Northampton, Massachusetts (NRBQ’s 35th anniversary show in 2004), I ducked into a second-hand vinyl shop and came away with a K-Tel country collection from 1976: Country Superstars – 20 Greatest Hits.
Lost to the winds of time, unfortunately, is the institutional knowledge at Canada’s K-Tel corporation as to who made the curious decision to include a “country bossa nova” song from 1964 – Skeeter Davis‘s charming kiss-off “Gonna Get Along Without You Now“:
“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” Skeeter Davis ‘K-Tel version’
But wait: as it turns out, Skeeter Davis’s version would hit two times, the second time being 1971 (thanks, Wikipedia), hence its inclusion on a K-Tel 1970s country compilation. The version above – it just dawned on me – is a ‘new’ arrangement from 1971. The original release from 1964 below sounds markedly different:
“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” Skeeter Davis 1964
Could this be the first county pop number to take commercial advantage of the fresh bossa nova sounds that were sweeping popular music in the early-to-mid 1960s?
US 45 UK release
“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” was written by Milton Kellem in 1951 and has been covered in a wide variety of styles to date – more recently, Zooey Deschanel & Matt Ward (as She and Him) in 2010. Kellem’s name would be associated with a number of 45s, from the 50s & 60s, including a King B-side for Bubber Johnson, ’59’s “House of Love.”