The Poets: Not Actual 12-Strings

The ringing, echo-drenched electric 12-string guitars on the debut single by Scottish rockers, The Poets, are such a striking sound for 1964 and yet a strangely familiar one:  might it be possible that the band later reincarnated as Brian Jonestown Massacre?

“Now We’re Thru'”     The Poets     1964
[play at strong volume]

What a revelation when one finds out – thanks to Richie Unterberger’s interview with lead singer and songwriter, George Gallacher – “apparently, there were no 12-string guitars, but what there was, was the two guitars having the 1st and 2nd strings tuned the same, thereby creating a semi-12 string effect.”  That very same year interestingly enough, Lou Reed would take this concept to the ultimate extreme when he tuned all six strings to the same note for his satiric (non) dance hit “The Ostrich.”

Now We're Thru - The Poets 45

With the utmost of commitment from each and every band member, “Now We’re Thru’” is a classic A-side from top to bottom, with the chiming guitars – and particularly the lonely vocal at song’s end – ratcheting up the mystery and angst. The song would find release in Japan (manufactured by the “otherKing Records), as well as the US, Australia, and the UK, where the song charted at #31, doing particularly well in Scotland, confirms Unterberger in his (revised) history of ‘overlooked innovators and eccentric visionaries’ — Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers.

Billboard‘s December 12, 1964 edition gives the back story on the single’s release here in the States:

Bob Crewe, independent record producer, has formed his own label, Dynovox, which will be distributed by Amy-Mala Records.

The label’s first release is ‘Now We’re Thru” by the Poets.  Crewe is currently producing sides for the 4 Seasons, and current releases ‘Watch Out Sally‘ by Diane Renay on MGM; ‘Dusty‘ by the Rag Dolls on Amy-Mala; newcomer Michael Allen on MGM Records with ‘She,’ and the forthcoming Travey Dey release on Amy-Mala.

The New Crewe label will not confine its efforts to pop releases.  The New York Youth Symphony and show and movie scores are being recorded for future releases.”

Unterberger attributes much of the “brilliance” of The Poets’ singles to their manager/producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, and proclaims the band to be “certainly the most talented act in Oldham’s production/management stable other than the Stones.”  According to a November, 1964 edition of New Music Express, the band’s name is “presumably derived from the fact that they wear their hair Burns-style and have ruffled lace-fronted shirts.”

After recording two singles for Oldham’s Immediate label, The Poets would carry on for one more single after Gallacher’s departure – 1967’s “Wooden Spoon” – before disbanding.  Wait a minute, 1967 is the birth year for Anton Newcombe:  coincidence or musical reincarnation?

The Poets would reunite in 2011 for a live performance at Glasgow’s Eyes Wide Open club.  Tip of the hat (yet again) to Tom Avazian for hipping me to this track via UK anthology album from 1983:  20 One-Hit Wonders, Volume 2.

1968 Crown Durango Electric 12-String [courtesy of Drowning in Guitars]

Electric 12-String = 1968 Crown Durango

{double click on image above for 3-D centerfold effect}

 

Historical Sidebar:  First Electric 12-String Guitar on UK Recording

Tony Bacon’s Rickenbacker Electric 12 String, The Story of The Guitars, The Music, and The Great Players informs who the electric 12-string pioneers in the UK were:

In fact, [George] Harrison’s Rickenbacker wasn’t the first electric 12-string on a British recording session.  That honour belongs to a Burns guitar played by Hank Marvin of The Shadows.  Marvin, a Fender Stratocaster player, had teamed up with British guitar-maker, Jim Burns, to design a new solid-body six-string electric.  Burns also came up with an electric 12-string, and around October, 1963, Marvin received an early sample of the Burns Double Six.  He took it along to various sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London where he was recording with Cliff Richard & The Shadows.

Marvin intended to record “Don’t Talk to Him” using the Burns 12, but problems arose, so instead he doubled a six-string line to achieve the prominent hookline.  A few weeks later, however, he recorded another Cliff session and played the prototype Burns 12-string for “On The Beach.”  Unusually, the 12 was strung like a six-string bass plus octave strings, clearly heard on the song’s low-down double string runs.  Later in November, Marvin used the Burns 12 with regular stringing for “I’m the Lonely One.”  These Cliff Richard songs weren’t released until 1964 — in the UK singles chart, “I’m the Lonely One” went to Number 8 in February and “On the Beach” to 7 in July — but they are important as early British recordings of the electric 12-string sound.

The book goes on to say:

The very first release of a British record with electric 12-string — just ahead of The Beatles and well ahead of Cliff & The Shads — was the result of another Abbey Road session.  Paul McCartney gave one of his songs to Peter & Gordon, a new duo signed to EMI.  They recorded their single “A World Without Love” at Abbey Road in January 1964, with sessionman Vic Flick [of James Bond theme fame] on guitar.
 .

“Wildsville”: All in the Family (part 1)

A good ten years before The Beatles pioneered the concept of “double A-side” singles, The Loreleis – two young ladies from the Detroit area, Gail Menefee and Peggy Reinagle – were knocking it out of the park with their two-run homer, “You’re So Nice to Be Near” b/w “Wildsville.”

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “You’re So Nice to Be Near” by The Loreleis.]

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Wildsville” by The Loreleis.]

Menefee, as it turns out, is my aunt, and the fact that my dad’s brother’s wife was once in a “singing group” – before marriage and family changed the course of history – has always added a bit of luster to our family lore.  However, the fact that this 45 hit the Billboard Top 100 – reaching the #91 spot during the week of November 12, 1955 – somehow eluded the attention of our family’s East Coast contingent until recently rediscovered by my brother, thanks to information provided by the 45Cat website.  Further probing would also reveal Cash Box, in its October 22, 1955 edition, to have selected this single as one of their “Best Bets” deemed “most likely to achieve popularity,” with “Wildsville” lauded as a “cute little zany novelty” number, “pertly styled” and with “a catchy bounce beat and lyrics.”

Peggy Reinagle                  Gail Menefee

Loreleis-3a    Wyandotte’s Own Joyland Record Shop                  Peggy & Gail sing for you

Loreleis-2aLoreleis-1a

Images of the vinyl record itself reveal this single to have been released both as a 45 and 78.

original compositions on both sides – in the great Beatle tradition

Wildsville 78 rpmMore intriguing than the record hitting the national charts is the fact that “You’re So Nice to Be Near,” a dreamy ballad, was designated the A-side while “Wildsville” – an infectiously upbeat number with a clever geographically-themed lyric – strikes me as the obvious song to lead with.  Or, to use a Beatles analogy, “Wildsville” is the “Hello Goodbye” to “You’re So Nice to Be Near”‘s “I Am the Walrus.”   I would love to know if the radio DJs were flipping the record over and playing the “B-side” — perhaps at least a few of them were, given the record’s performance in the marketplace.

But wait!  A piece from the Wyandotte News Herald directly contradicts 45Cat’s assertion that “Wildsville” was the single’s B-side:  “‘Wildsville,’ a clever novelty, is the main side of their record, which is really going places.”  The reporter adds that the song was written “along with Bob Cordell, their road manager, on the way back from a club date in the East.”  This same article also points out – something I learned only yesterday – that “after they won a talent contest at school that they got a contract making singing commercials.”  From there, things took off quickly:

Joe Siracuse, of Spotlight Records, heard them and they started making records for the new company.  Their first was ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ (again their own composition); followed by ‘Certainly Baby,’ which did very well for them.”

Fascinating to see The Loreleis share the stage with such heavy hitters as LaVern Baker, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, the Johnny Burnette Trio and future MBE, Lonnie “King of Skiffle” Donegan, in a special show organized by legendary CKLW disk jockey, Robin Seymour, who spent his first 18 years at Detroit’s WKMH (see ad below):

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to hear a vintage ID from radio station WKMH]

Loreleis-6aLoreleis-4a

Check out this German roots rock chatboard thread devoted to The Loreleis!  Chatboard contributor Gerd Miller helpfully posted this 1955-57 Loreleis discography:

DOT
01 55 …. 45-15268 …. THE LORELEIS..Run Around / Now I’m Broken Hearted
SPOTLIGHT
?? 55 …. 385 …. THE LORELEIS..Tears Of Love / 386 …. I Will Not Let You Go
?? 55 …. 388 …. THE LORELEIS Arranged and Conducted by George Annis .. Certainly Baby / I’ll Be There
10 55 …. 390 …. THE LORELEIS Arranged & Conducted by George Annis .. Wildsville / You’re Nice to Be Near
BALLY
12 56 …. 7-1024 …. THE LORELEIS With LEW DOUGLAS & His Orchestra = Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy / Your Love
04 57 …. 7-1032 …. THE LORELEIS With LEW DOUGLAS & His Orchestra = Leave The Door Open / But Why?
BRUNSWICK*
?? 64 …. 55271 …. THE LORELEIS..A Strange Way / Why Do I Put Up With You

Miller notes the interval between Bally and Brunswick releases and asks* – on behalf of music history – “Is this really the same vocal group?”   Fortunately, Zero to 180 can clear all this up with a phone call to Gail Menefee Richardson herself.   Zero to 180’s subsequent phone interview would yield lots of relevant new information:

  • The Loreleis brief time on Dot (founded 1950, acquired 1957 by Paramount Pictures) was a miserable one, as the label sat on their original recording of “Run Around” until another arrangement of the same song appeared in the marketplace, thus conspiring to make The Loreleis appear, unjustly, as “copycats.”
  • The Loreleis had, at one time, three people each serving as manager:  George Annis, their arranger, Bob Cordell (former-Detroit-disk-jockey-turned-label-owner, who also managed The Hi-Lo’s and The Four Freshmen), and the owner of Spotlight Records, Joe Siracuse.
  • 45Cat validates the fact that, based on catalog number, The Loreleis were the inaugural release for Spotlight Records (“I Won’t Let You Go” b/w “Tears of Love”), a label also significant as a launch point for singer/songwriter and producer Bob Crewe.  Did Crewe and The Loreleis intersect, artistically, I wondered aloud?  Indeed they did, replied Richardson, who pointed Zero to 180 to “I’ll Be There” by The Loreleis (flip side of “Certainly Baby”), a song composed “in the studio” — i.e., United Sound Systems, the Detroit recording facility (that hosted the first session for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label in 1959) whose asking price, according to this June 15, 2018 news item, is $1.5 million.  [Detroit Free Press reports in its January 11, 2019 edition that “the Michigan Department of Transportation has purchased the historic recording studio for $1.7 million and plans to relocate it.”]

“MENAFEE-REINAGLE-ANNIS-CREWE”
COMPOSED AT Detroit’s UNITED SOUND SYSTEMS

  • George Annis, key to the success behind popular singing group, The Gaylords, also enabled the two singers, Menefee and Reinagle, opportunities to pen material outside The Loreleis — including “Honey Baby,” a song that would enjoy release in far-flung Australia, thanks to Mercury’s worldwide distribution [Lead singer, Ronnie Gaylord, Richardson informs Zero to 180, was not only the manager of the Club Cliche, where The Loreleis performed, but a Mercury solo artist, as well].

1955 Gaylords EP – USA                            1955 Gaylords EP – Australia

  • Yep, it’s really true:  The Loreleis’ next (and final) recording label, Bally, would be the same company that makes pinball machines prized the world over!  Bally would release a pair of Loreleis 45s in 1956-57, neither (unwisely) containing any Reinagle/Menefee originals.  Cash Box, in its April 6, 1957 edition, would once again pick The Loreleis as a ‘Best Bet’ for “I’ll Leave the Door Open” (“pretty blend that comes over well on this touching tune – could create some noise”) paired with “But Why” (“Here the gals rhythm thru an interesting, tearful ballad with today’s popular rock and roll beat”).

The Loreleis on Bally Records in 1956 – with Lew Douglas & His Orchestra

July 28, 1956 issue of Cash Box — includes Lew Douglas, of Loreleis fame

  • Zero to 180 was initially puzzled why searches of the 45Cat database for “Menefee” were yielding too few songs, until it quckly became apparent all the variant (incorrect) spellings, such as “Menafee” (as it is mis-transcribed in Discogs) and (my favorite) “Mennafee” — or is it “Menasee“?

“Mennafee” on the label both here in the US, as well as Down Under

“Menasee” as mis-spelled on The Loreleis debut  45

  • Reinagle and Menefee’s ended up having a hand in writing five of the songs recorded by The Loreleis [“Now I’m Broken Hearted“; “I Won’t Let You Go“; “I’ll Be There“; “Wildsville“; & “You’re Nice to Be Near“] plus “Honey Baby” for The Gaylords — recordings for which the songwriters were “never paid,” Richardson informs Zero to 180.
  • Finally, in response to Gerd Miller’s query that launched this discographical quest, that 1964 Brunswick 45* (as you probably already deduced) belongs to a different singing group that shares the name, The Loreleis (someone will need to notify Discogs).

U.S. Place Names Cited in “Wildsville”:
From Asheville to Zanesville

– Steubenville, Ohio

– Asheville, North Carolina

– Louisville, Kentucky

– Nashville, Tennessee

– Jacksonville, Florida

– Knoxville, Tennessee

– Evansville, Indiana

– Brownsville, Texas

– Charlottesville, Virginia

– Greenville, South Carolina

– Belleville, Michigan

– Northville, Michigan

– Fayetteville, Arkansas

– Zanesville, Ohio

– Meadville, Pennsylvania

– Gainesville, Florida

Irene Ryan: Motown’s Newest Teen Sensation

How unfortunate when an actor embodies a character so convincingly that s/he becomes forever associated with that one role – such as Irene Ryan, heretofore known to millions as Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies.  But, as her 1973 UPI obituary points out, Irene Ryan was part of an elite group of entertainers who enjoyed success in vaudeville, radio, film, TV, and Broadway – where Ryan [would not – see comments below] won a Tony award for her portrayal of Berthe, a “regal but lusty medieval grandmother,” in Pippin.

Looks like we might need to add “music” to Ryan’s long list of accomplishments, since one curious consequence of Pippin being partially backed by Berry Gordy is that Irene Ryan got a chance – at the very end of her life – to release a 45 on Motown.  In this YouTube video for “No Time at All,” look for a promotional ad featuring Irene Ryan, as Granny, with the tagline, “Motown’s Newest Teen Sensation” (around the 50-second mark).

No Time at All - Granny Ryan on Motown

Songs for 1972’s Pippin were written by Stephen Schwartz, composer of the previous year’s Godspell.  “No Time at All” produced by Bob Crewe, who co-wrote “Lucky Ladybug” for Billy and Lillie.

Granny:  The Role of a Lifetime 

Rather than be upset about being typecast as Daisy “Granny” Moses from The Beverly Hillbillies, in fact, quite the opposite was true.  In her UPI obituary, Irene Ryan was quoted in 1967, during the height of the show’s popularity, as saying, “A show like this comes along once in a performer’s lifetime. It’s the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.  The minute I saw the pilot script I knew it would make a big hit.”

“Lucky Ladybug”: First Pop Use of Phasing?

Phasing is a special effect in recorded music that gives the mix an Alice-Through-the Looking-Glass, otherworldly sound and has been famously employed, for instance, on 1967’s “Itchycoo Park” by The Small Faces [first occurs around the 0:48 mark].  As the blog, Let Your Hair Down, helpfully explains:

The effect as used on “Itchycoo Park” was, at that time, an electro-mechanical studio process. Two synchronized tape copies of a finished recording were played simultaneously into a third master recorder, and by manually retarding the rotation of one of the two tape reels using the fingers, a skilled engineer could subtly manipulate the phase difference between the two sources, creating the lush ‘swooshing’ phase effect that sweeps up and down the frequency range. Because the original single version was mixed and mastered in mono, the flanging effect in “Itchycoo Park” is more pronounced in its original mono mix, and is noticeably diluted in the subsequent stereo mix.

Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and Caleb Quaye‘s over-the-top “Baby Your Ph(r)asing Is Bad” – both from 1967 – are other noteworthy examples from this particularly adventurous pop period, however, as Rhino points out in the liner notes to the Nuggets II box set, phasing was used as early as 1959 on Miss Toni Fisher’s hit, “The Big Hurt.”

Billy & Lillie

Or possibly even one year earlier – so say researchers at Zero to 180 – on the #14 hit “Lucky Ladybug” by Billy and Lillie.  Check out the special effect on the muted trumpet, as well as the bright hand claps that answer the vocal lines on this 45 from Philadelphia’s Swan label:

“Lucky Ladybug”     Billy and Lillie     1958

Song written by Frank Slay, Jr. and Bob Crewe, the latter famous for 60s go-go classic, “Music to Watch Girls Go By.”