King’s Classic Yodeling 78

78 RPM claims that King released Carolina Cotton‘s signature song “I Love to Yodel” (penned by the singer herself) as the B-side – Discogs, too.  I find that hard to believe:

“I Love to Yodel”     Carolina Cotton     1946

According to the person who posted this audio clip on YouTube:

Recorded 30 October 1946 (possibly) at Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood , CA — Hank Penny Orchestra a.k.a. Carolina Cotton Pickers (Hank Penny [leader], Carolina Cotton [vcl], Fred Cianci [fiddle], Ralph Miele [steel], Doye O´Dell [gt/vcl?], Max Fidler [fiddle], Bob Caudana [accordion], and possibly Eddie Bennett [piano].

Carolina Cotton was born Helen Hagstrom in Cash Arkansas (1925 – 1997) a.k.a., “The Yodelling Blonde Bombshell.”

“I Love to Yodel” b/w “Mocking Bird Yodel”

Surprisingly little fanfare surrounding this unjustly obscure western swing King classic – released in November, 1949.  Exactly three years prior, King had released Cotton’s first single “Three Miles South of Cash (In Arkansas)” b/w “Singing on the Trail” in November, 1946.  Cotton briefly performed with Hank Penny, reports the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, who undoubtedly helped her get signed with King.

I first learned of this song by way of cassette, interestingly enough — yet another influential musical moment facilitated by the Cherokee Trading Post, who once sold tapes of King recordings (sometimes conjoined with items from the Starday label) produced by Gusto/IMG — owners of the King and Starday combined catalog since 1975.  The cassette in question All Star Western Swing — as with Country Tunes Done R&B (celebrated in the previous piece) — has no corresponding catalog record in Discogs, nor can you find any information about it on the web (okay, one reference).

Undated cassette – produced by Gusto/IMG

Furthermore, just as with Country Tunes Done R&B, there is a King LP that appears to be the inspiration for the cassette version marketed by IMG/Gusto — in this case, 1963’s Western Swing – Famous Western Bands.  This vinyl long-playing collection contains all 8 songs found on the cassette plus 4 additional tunes by Paul Howard (& His Arkansas Cotton Pickers), Leon Rusk, Luke Wills (& His Rhythm Busters), and Jimmie Widener.

Western Swing – Famous Western Bands [King LP 876]

[click on song title links below to hear streaming audio]

A little surprised by the fact that five of the twelve songs included on this album are not yet available for preview on YouTube.

*Amusingly, the label says “Bring It On to My House HENRY

I remember sending copies of these tapes to Larry Nager during my first flush of wonder back in the 1990s on my annual trips to Cincinnati, and Larry theorizing that places like Cherokee Trading Post in semi-rural West Virginia just might be the last vestiges of Syd Nathan’s distribution system in place — “bringing the music to the people” where they live.

“I Love to Yodel” can also be found on this rare Audio Lab EP

An earlier version of “I Love to Yodel,” by the way, would be recorded for Cotton to sing in the 1944 film I’m From Arkansas. (click on link to watch the clip).  Check out the Carolina Cotton website for lots of great information and vintage photos.

King’s ‘Country Done R&B’ LP

Just after I finished putting together the “Chew Tobacco Raghistory piece, I happened to have stumbled upon a 1964 King LP compilation – Top Rhythm & Blues Artists Do the Greatest Country Songs – that no doubt served as a template for the Gusto King cassette compilation, Country Tunes Done R&B, that I had once picked up at the Cherokee Trading Post near Wheeling, West Virginia.  I thought it might be fun to compare two collections that both set out on the same mission.

          1964 King LP                          vs.              undated Gusto cassette

Top Rhythm & Blues Artists Do the Greatest Country Songs [King LP 884]

[streaming audio web links indicated in blue and red]

Interesting to see which tracks on this album Syd Nathan does not own a piece of, i.e., hits by Buck Owens, Hank WIlliams, George Jones, Toni Harper, Leon McAulilffe and Merle Travis — half of the album.  Odd to see “Lonesome Whistle Blues” (written by Rudy Toombs, Elson Teat & James Moore, a.k.a., Slim Harpo), included on this King compilation — the only recording on this album that was not an R&B makeover of a honky tonk hit.

Despite King’s past leading-edge efforts in helping country music cross over into the R&B market and vice versa, I can’t help thinking this King collection was packaged in response to the massive commercial success enjoyed by Ray Charles on his 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western.  Sure enough, if you read the back cover liner notes (made possible by Discogs, tip of the hat!), you will see King informing the music-buying public that their label had, in fact, already blazed a trail with regard to this type of cross-marketing prior to Ray Charles:

This is a rare combination!  An All Star variety combination which is different, exciting, powerful, entertaining!  There is little chance to be bored or get ear fatigue from listening to a whole album by just one artist … each is different, each is a contrast, each complements the others.  A great new idea from KING RECORDS … RHYTHM AND BLUES stars meet and greet and sing some of the GREATEST COUNTRY SONGS of all time.

It’s different to say the least, yet the personal style and approach by these R&B singers to country music is amazing.  Each one of them seems to feel this kind and type of music differently and each one adapts the song to his own personality.  True the talented Ray Charles leads the way for R&B singers to do country songs and have them accepted by the public, however, it’s an interesting fact that most of the performances included herein were recorded prior to the actual recording dates of Ray Charles for his famous country album.  Who is to say for sure who was first or who originated the idea … the only important thing is that great and wonderful songs found a new meaning and have been recorded by other than strictly country artists.  It had always been sort of an unwritten rule that only country artists could sell country songs and that for anyone else to record them was unacceptable.  Well, this old hat theory went the way of the winds as proven by inspired renditions of these twelve block-busters.

While it is true that Syd Nathan’s cross-marketing efforts go at least as far back as 1949 with Bull Moose Jackson’s arrangement of “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me,”I find it hilarious that King is trying to take credit for pioneering the “country done R&B” concept (“it’s an interesting fact that most of the performances included herein were recorded prior to the actual recording dates of Ray Charles for his famous country album”) using this compilation LP, as only two of the twelve songs on this album  precede Modern Sounds in Country and Western!  King obviously knows this to be the case, hence the label’s hedging (“who is to say for sure who was first or who originated the idea”) in the very next sentence.

Country Tunes Done R&B  [Starday Best of Country – Vol. Eleven – year unknown]

[streaming audio web links indicated in blue and red]

I’ve noticed in recent years that those Starday-King cassette tapes I began buying in the mid-1990s on my annual trips to Ohio are no longer available for purchase at the Cherokee Trading Post,   Just as there are certain songs or versions/arrangements that can only be found on 8-track (a fun topic previously explored here), I suspect that at least one of my Starday cassettes issued by Gusto/IMG just might harbor recordings that can be found only on cassette tape [the one example that comes readily to mind is a very hot instrumental “Western Limited Boogie” by Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys – previously celebrated here].  Google the album title “Country Tunes Done R&B” and notice that – outside of Zero to 180 – the internet has no record of this cassette’s existence.  Not the worst tragedy in the world, since there are only two songs on this 8-song cassette that are not already included on Top Rhythm & Blues Artists Do the Greatest Country Songs. (though the Charles Brown recording common to both albums is worth seeking out).

“Chew Tobacco Rag” Done R&B

Celebration of King Records Month 2018 Getting an Early Start in August!

Lucky Millinder‘s version of the classic country hit “Chew Tobacco Rag” could easily have been included on my Gusto cassette King compilation, Country Tunes Done R&B:

Billboard‘s review in the April 21, 1951 edition was very optimistic about the single’s sales prospects:

The expectorating special from the country serves a worthy cause for Millinder as his crew sets up a big rocking beat for the fine John Carol and ensemble shouts.  First big band item in some time that could bust out for big returns.

“Chew Tobacco Rag”     Lucky Millinder     1951

That big rocking beat, by the way, courtesy of Ed Shaughnessy, future long-time drummer for Doc Severinson’s ‘Tonight Show’ Orchestra who developed his jazz chops drumming for such artists as Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Oliver Nelson, Gene Ammons, and Cal Tjader, among many others.

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog points out that Zeb Turner’s version of this popular tune released on King made it to the Top Ten:

What was 1951’s loopiest and most contagious hillbilly novelty song?  Judging by the number of cover versions it spawned, it had to be Chew Tobacco Rag, written and originally recorded by Texan Billy Briggs for the Imperial label.  Briggs’ version never managed to chart, but Zeb Turner’s version, released on King, made it all the way to within spitting distance of topping the charts, finally losing momentum at #8.

Check out the 25 or so cover versions that you can preview here in one place.

Not uncommon for Columbia to acquire regional hits and then re-market them

One music enthusiast would cough up $119 in 2015 for this 1954 King EP.

Meanwhile, someone would throw down $200 in 2011 for an original King 45.

Bachelors of Art: Married to Music

The dissolution of Cincinnati’s The Ferns by 1985 would find Rick Mosher in common cause with keyboardist Tim Miller (ex-Dog Pound).  Rick & Tim’s new musical unit would play out live around town – but eventually grow weary of Cincinnati’s fairly provincial views with regard to modern sounds in popular music.  The situation would come to a head.

Mosher in a candid moment – early 1980s

Rick Mosher - early 1980sAs Mosher recounts:

“We left Cincy in 87 and never returned.  We could not afford to live in MA, so we
lived in NH and commuted in for gigs.  The scene was way different than Cincy;
you played one 45-minute set, usually with three other bands.  You started on
Tuesday nights and had to work your way up to weekends by drawing crowds.
No one got paid until you made the weekend rotation, and then you were lucky if
you got $50.  It was a blast playing in front of strangers in a big city!  We made it to
the weekends within a year or so, headlined occasionally.”

Before leaving town, however, the band (possibly Mosher) came up with a brilliant name: Bachelors of Art.

(L to R) Rick Mosher, Mark Richards, Jim Faris, Tim Miller

Bachelors of Art-1989

The unmarried musicians, with Mosher as principal songwriter, would set to work on recording songs for their debut album, Bag.

“I wrote all of the songs on Bag, and we recorded the whole thing on a ½ inch Tascam reel to reel.  We dedicated one track to SMPTE [timecode] so we did not have to record keys to tape.  The drums were mixed to stereo and the vocals got two tracks.”

“‘No Reaction‘ was written about girls and not getting recognition as a band.  I am
sure you can hear the lead section is directly ripped off from [Bram Tchaikovsky’s] ‘Girl of my Dreams‘!  I was pretty happy about how that song came out given our limitations.  I think it has one of the best drum sounds on the record.”

[Pssst:  Click on triangle above to play “No Reaction” by Bachelors of Art]

“‘Safe to Be Alone‘ was written after I read a book [1987’s And the Band Played On] by Randy Shilts about the AIDS crisis.  I was pretty moved by the story, which documented how the disease made its way to the US and how it spread throughout our continent.”

[Pssst:  Click on triangle above to play “Safe to Be Alone” by Bachelors of Art]

The Bachelors would play in the Boston and NYC areas primarily over the next 7 years – even playing at storied CBGB’s, as Mosher’s ReverbNation bio notes.  “We had been in Boston for a couple of years when Bag came out,” says Mosher, “It opened some doors for us.  We found a lawyer who worked pro-bono and eventually recorded a second project [1992’s G] in a real recording studio.”

Bachelors of Art’s 1992 follow-up, G

Bachelors of Art-1992aa

1994 Bachelors of Art cassette EP

Bachelors of Art-1994aaMosher and Miller, moreover, “put together an exceptional recording studio, Binery Studio, and recorded many bands through 2006,” as reports ReverbNation.

The Bachelors – alas and alack – would part ways in 1994.

Unfinished Business:  Zero to 180’s Q&A with Rick Mosher

Q:  At any point in the group’s history did band members ruin the story line by getting married?
A:  Tim got married first!  There were three bachelors in the group still, so we did not take issue.  When we finished pursuing the original scene, the final members of the band learned 60 covers and got a regular gig in VT playing ski lodges, very lucrative.  We changed our name then to “the good timin’, hot-doggin’, ski party band!”

Q:  Your joining The Max brought a modern pop aesthetic to what had been a power trio “jamming” approach.  The Max’s evolution into The Ferns would allow you to embrace a more structured, modern rock path.  How you describe the change in artistic direction from The Ferns to the Bachelors of Art?
A:  Well, The Raisins had a huge influence on everyone, especially me.  Going to music school for college also opened up the world of theory to me, which had a big influence on my writing.  I am still convinced that some day I will be able to craft a 12-tone pop song!  I was always a big fan of groups like the Eagles and The Who etc, which also influenced my writing and playing style.

Mosher, 1981, in the studio with The MaxMax & Bluegills - Rick Mosher(photo by Leslie Spitz-Edson)

Q:  Looking back, what are your jazz impressions of the Boston music scene in the late 1980, early 1990s when the Bachelors were plying their art?  What favorite covers did the band enjoy playing?
A:  We played some 80s classics given our instrumentation – The Cure, Blue Nile – and our drummer at the time was a big fan of Canadian music, so we played stuff that I had never hear, Blue Rodeo for one.  We always played one cover in our one set just to get a read on the crowd.

Q:  With regard to your latest work, how long did it take for you to write and record these songs?
A:  I did “release” something new two years ago — the album was released under the name Dean and was called “Closer” after the title track.  I feel very good about the recording, though it took too long to complete – two years!   I feel overall it represents some of my best songwriting and playing.  Tim [Miller] is on it somewhat, and I played with a solid drummer [Tom Evans] and excellent bass player [Clayton Young].  Unfortunately, scheduling became difficult, so after awhile, I ended up doing most of the vocals.  Tim played keys, me on guitars, keys, harmonica, and dobro.  It was a lot of fun to make and reflected my transition from marriage to being single and the changes in the structure with the kids, who were pretty young at the time.

Richardson & Miller once substituted subversive lyrics in 2nd grade singalong

Miller & Richardson-1972ReverbNation adds a little more to the story: – :

Dean was formed in 1999 as a solo project.  The first release was more of an EP, with 7 songs, and Rick played pretty much everything.  After working through some major life transitions, death and divorce to name a few, Rick wrote a batch of songs, which were finally recorded and mixed this year.”

Link to Rick Mosher’s Dean – courtesy of ReverbNation

Rick Mosher & friend – in a Jimmy Bryant mood

Rick Mosher and friend

“Big Blue Diamonds”: Early 70s Resurgence

I first encountered the song, “Big Blue Diamonds,” as covered by Little Willie John in 1962, from a Starday-King cassette entitled Country Tunes Done R&B.Country Tunes Done R&B.jpg

“Big Blue Diamonds” was penned by Earl “Kit” Carson and first issued on a 1950 King 78 sung by Red Perkins. Tex Ritter also put out a version that very same year.  Jimmy Dean covered it in the mid-50s, Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs in the mid-60s.

And then in the early 70s, a relative flurry of versions:  Arthur Prysock and Gene Summer both put out singles in 1971, while Mel Street and Ernest Tubb released honky tonk versions the following year.  1972 also saw the release of Jacky Ward‘s country top 40 hit version on the Target label – check out the naff piano, pedal steel & vibraslap opening:

“Big Blue Diamond”     Jacky Ward     1972

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3y9CdTLT98

Jerry Lee Lewis would also record the song in 1973 on his Southern Roots album.

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