Milt B’s “Mod Popcorn R&B”

Philip Paul‘s stellar stick work really drives this “killer” instrumental version of “Fever” that features organ (Milt Buckner) and vibes (Gene Redd) — recorded at Cincinnati’s King Studios on March 5, 1963:

“Fever”     Milt Buckner     1963

Organ:  Milt Buckner
Drums:  Philip Paul
Bass:    Bill Willis
Vibes:   Gene Redd

“Fever” — rightly selected as the A-side of a 1963 single release on King subsidiary, Bethlehem (paired with “Why Don’t You Do Right“) — would be characterized 54 years later as “Mod Popcorn R&B” when sold at auction.

“Fever” would also be one of the highlights of 1963 long-playing release The New World of Milt Buckner, an album produced by Hal Neely, arranged by Gene Redd and Milt Buckner, and engineered by Chuck Seitz. (with cover design by Joseph F. Wood).  2013 would see the album reissued on compact disc in Japan.

Milt Buckner’s Organ:  Too Hot?

Milt Buckner’s “hot” organ – as CrownPropeller’s Blog humorously relates – would reach “fever pitch” at a Chicago night club, The Eden Roc, in 1962 the year prior.

Jet  – July 19, 1962 issue – courtesy of CrownPropeller Blog

King’s Budget Subsidiary Label

According to Both Sides Now Publications:

“In late 1958, Audio Lab was formed as a budget label subsidiary to Cincinnati-based King Records.  From 1959 -1962, Audio Lab released a lot of material that had never appeared in album form, including rare albums by Bullmoose Jackson, Annie Laurie, April Stevens, Lattie Moore, [Hank] Penny, the Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Newman, H-Bomb Ferguson, Sticks McGhee and John Lee Hooker.”

One track that enjoyed a second lease on life via Audio Lab was the first (non-45) album appearance of a song that would become a part of the American cultural fabric years later when used as a recurring skit on TV’s “Hee Haw” – link to related Zero to 180 history piece.  As Both Sides Now observes, “The original version of [‘Pfft! You Were Gone‘] made its first (only?) LP appearance on [the Kentucky Colonel] Audio Lab album” (Bear Family’s 20-track CD compilation from 1984 Hangover Boogie doesn’t count).

Another great example of King material previously not available on LP —

1962 Audio Lab LP attributed to Moon Mullican entitled Instrumentals (that also, oddly, includes two tracks by Hank Penny and one song each by Mel Cox & Cowboy Copas).

All of these instrumentals are fairly obscure, especially the 1947 Cowboy Copas B-side “Jamboree” that got much better buzz in Billboard ‘s Dec. 13, 1947 edition compared to its A-side “I’m Tired of Playing Santa Claus to You”:  “Plenty of good hill country guitar and fiddle in an instrumental potpourri of folk melodies” [streaming audio for “Jamboree” not yet available on YouTube, unfortunately].

Gerald Wilson Orchestra’s early 1954 Los Angeles sessions for Federal and King – including “Mambo Mexicana” – would be reissued five years later on an Audio Lab LP entitled Big Band Modern, a reminder of the mambo mania that had gripped the nation at the time this song (today’s featured track) was released:

“Mambo Mexicano”     Gerald Wilson Orchestra     1954

Based on available discographical information, these 1954 recordings would appear to be among the earliest in a career that would span well into the new century, as NPR’s 2011 piece “The Gerald Wilson Orchestra:  A Living Legacy” affirms (Wilson, as it turns out, is one of many famous jazz musicians who “did time” in Earl Bostic’s band — in this case, one of four trumpeters who played on a December 4, 1958 Los Angeles recording session (six tracks, including “My Reverie” and “All the Things You Are“).

Today’s featured artist:  Gerald Wilson & HIs Orchestra

Kicking off our rogue’s gallery of Classic Audio Lab LP Covers is this modernist gem:

Grammar maven in me cannot allow disparity in song titles below go unremarked:

For more info on Audio Lab

Link to Audio Lab Discography c/o Discogs

Link to Audio Lab EPs Discography c/o 45Cat

Link to Audio Lab Album Discography c/o Both Sides Now

Link to auction prices of Audio Lab LPs & EPs c/o Popsike

King Cash-In Surf LP #2

Zero to 180’s sprawling history trawl “Rare & Unreleased King” made passing reference to another surf-ploitation LP issued by King Records – 1963’s Surfin’ on Wave Nine – and even threatened to make that album the focus of a future history piece … whose time has come today.

Compared to Look Who’s Surfin’ Now (King LP previously celebrated hereSurfin’ on Wave Nine is a bit more of an organic affair, with only a modest amount of jiggery pokery involved.

Track Listing

  •                                 A1  The Vice-Roys – “Seagreen
  •                                 A2  The Nu-Trons – “Malibu Mal
  •                                 A3  The Tramps – “Maharadja
  •                                 A4  The Nu-Trons – “Tension
  •                                 A5  The Vice-Roys – “The Fox
  •                                 A6  Mickey Baker – “Gone
  •                                 B1  Mickey Baker – “Zanzie
  •                                 B2  The Vice-Roys – “Moasin’
  •                                 B3  The Nu-Trons – “Wild Side
  •                                 B4  The Wobblers – “The Wobble
  •                                 B5  The Nu-Trons – “Ninth Wave Out
  •                                 B6  The Vice-Roys – “Buzz Bomb

According to Ruppli’s 2-volume Kings recording sessionography, we can only be certain that two of these songs — “The Fox” and “Buzz Bomb” by The Vice-Roys — were recorded in Cincinnati.

The Vice-Roys would record their songs for King in three sessions:  c. Nov/Dec 1961 (“Moasin'”); c. September, 1962 (“Seagreen”); and April, 1963 (“The Fox” & “Buzz Bomb”).  Worth noting that King would issue a split single in 1963 with “Seagreen” by The Vice-Roys chosen as the flip side for “That Low Down Move” by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters.  But, as Discogs notes, “Seagreen” actually began life as an A-side issued on Bethlehem with the title “Seagram’s” – ostensibly a salute to the whiskey brand.  Both Sides Now Publications recounts the controversy:

In 1960, an instrumental rock band called the Viceroys brought Bethlehem an instrumental master they called “Seagrams,” apparently thinking the name of a hard liquor brand would be hip for teens.  Bethlehem liked the tune and released it. Unfortunately, Seagrams Corporation didn’t think it was funny and threatened to sue for trademark infringement, and some stations refused to play a song with the name of a commercial product without being paid for advertising time.  A sheepish notice in Billboard on March 23, 1960, said, “We Goofed!” and explained that “Seagrams” was now changed to “Seagreen.”

Worth noting that in that same March 23, 1960 edition of Billboard along with the official industry notice from King Records saying “We Goofed!” was this wink-wink news item:

Just Call This a Real Loaded Idea

SAN FRANCISCO— A novel record promotion originated by Bob Earl, San Francisco branch manager for King Records, has been picked up by the national record distributor and will be repeated in Cincinnati, Chicago and New York.

Bethlehem’s new recording of “Seagram,” sung by the Vice-roys, prompted Earl to include a half pint of Seagram’s VO whiskey and a package of Vice-roy cigarettes when delivery the disk, all wrapped up in gay “Mardi Gras” gift paper. Uniformed messenger delivery personnel called upon local deejays in the four top r & b and rock and roll stations in San Francisco and Oakland — KSAN, KEWB, KDIA and KYA.

The Nu-Trons would record two sessions for King — the first (“Tension” and “Wild Side”) in May, 1963 (possibly in Cincinnati — Ruppli is uncertain) and the second (“Malibu Mal” and “Ninth Wave Out” in June, 1963.

The Tramps‘s sole contribution “Maharadja” is the earliest contribution to this various artists compilation (August, 1961), but alas — the recording is leased from another label.

Mickey Baker‘s guitar instrumental classic “Zanzie” (previously celebrated here) was recorded – along with “Gone” – June, 1962 in Paris.

Without a doubt, the song most likely to grab your attention is “The Wobbler” which likely was recorded late (November?) in 1961 by The Wobblers:

“The Wobble”     The Wobblers     1961

Listen to King Surf Albums on the Radio!

This Saturday – September 8, 2018 from 6-8 PM – there will be a King Surf Party!  In 1963, King Records released several surf albums, Surfin’ on Wave NineLook Who Surfin’ Now and Freddie King Goes Surfin’, in response to the California craze.  Join WAIF FM radio hosts, Rock-it Rick, Midwest Surf Guy and Handsome Dan, as they play tracks from these King compilations on the legendary “Rockin’ & Surfin’ Show.”  Those who live outside Cincinnati can tune in on the web – click on the link to WAIF 88.3 FM.

Calvin Shields – Musical Pioneer

Hard to believe it was only 20 years or so ago I was having cheese coneys with The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s preeminent music writer Larry Nager and asking what it would take for the city to finally “own up” to its King Records history.  Last week, to my utter delight and amazement, the City of Cincinnati, under Mayor John Cranley’s leadership and with the support of City Council, leveraged the power of the state on behalf of music history — so now Zero to 180 will have to find something else to complain about.

Thanks to a $1 land swap deal, there will be no wrecking ball for the original structure used by Syd Nathan and his talented team to birth a musical enterprise that enabled King the ability to ship out in the morning a piece of music that had been recorded the evening before.  As Brian Powers point out in his King Records Scrapbook, no other label – including almighty Columbia – had the nimbleness to operate in this capacity.

Photo courtesy of Brian Powers

Unique among fellow King chroniclers and researchers, Powers organizes his King Records Scrapbook categorically — The Executives; A&R Men; Sound Engineers; Session Musicians; Recording Artists — rather than chronologically, while throwing in  fun tidbits, such as a King Records Timeline of historical highlights plus street addresses of selected King artists and executives, including Syd Nathan (who once lived in Bond Hill an easy walk from the home of drummer, Reg Grizzard, and about a mile and a half from my boyhood home in Roselawn, as the crow flies).

Rob Finnis, in his extensive liner notes for Ace UK anthology King Rockabilly, reveals some of the audio engineering aspects behind King’s legendary sound (e.g., “Fever” by Little Willie John):

The live, upfront studio sound attained by engineer Eddie Smith had the bass and drums leaping out of the speakers with maximum impact.  [Charlie] Feathers wasn’t the only beneficiary [“Bottle to the Baby“].  This sharp, larger-than-life ambience characterizes several other titles on this compact disc including “Move” [Boyd Bennett], “Peg Pants” [Bill Beach], “No Good Robin Hood” [Delbert Barker], and “Rock n’ Roll Nursery Rhyme” [Dave Dudley].  “That old King studio had a terrific sound,” explained Henry Glover.  “It had a very high ceiling, maybe 24 feet, and the control room protruded into the studio in a V-shape like the bridge of a ship so the engineer could see in front and to the side of him.  I sent for an engineer by the name of Eddie Smith who was a very good technical man.  He stayed with King for about 12 years and later worked over at Bell Sound in New York.

Everything was done at one time, there was no multi-tracking; you would continue making cuts until you got every instrument, every voice, on the 1/4 inch tape and that was considered your final mix.  In those days, we were even thinking of frequencies and emphasis on various instruments.  Out of the regular upright bass, we got a sound just like today’s electric Fender bass by close-miking it with a microphone called the 44BX and surrounding it with live-surfaced acoustic isolation panels.  The drum sound in those days was generally gotten by releasing the drum snares completely and you’d put a heavy object like the drummer’s wallet – or Syd Nathan’s wallet – on the snare and the really hard-driving backbeat stroke was actually a rimshot.

Glover would be even more emphatic in his praise for King as a facility with great sound in this passage from Arnold Shaw‘s classic roots rock historical critique, Honkers and Shouters (which includes a chapter devoted to King Records entitled “Record Company in an Icehouse”):

Shortly after he joined King Records, Glover moved to Cincinnati “because Syd Nathan had built one of the finest recording studios in the country and staffed it with Eddie Smith, a former musician who was a brilliant engineer.”

Calvin Shields behind the kit [photo courtesy Brian Powers]

Last year, on the eve of the city’s Historic Commission vote to consider the request for demolition, The Cincinnati Enquirer would subtitle Sharon Coolidge’s feature story on King in the Sunday edition, “Fight to Preserve the Legacy of King Records and Founder Syd Nathan at Crossroads” and include quotes from Patti Collins (Bootsy Collins Foundation), Elliott Ruther (Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation), Jon Hartley Fox (author of ‘King of the Queen City’), L.A. Reid (who actually grew up in Evanston), Otis Williams, Mayor John Cranley, former mayor Dwight Tillery, and Anzora Adkins of the Evanston Community Council.

Can you spot the gaffe?

Elliott Ruther, in the Enquirer piece, notes the progressive hiring practices employed by Nathan – in his attempt to extend his song publishing fortunes across the color line – that put King in the forefront of American race relations.  Powers point out that CalvinEagle EyeShields, in his studio work from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, may have been “the first black drummer to record country music.”

CALVIN ‘EAGLE EYE’ SHIELDS – 1950
[PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN POWERS]

Quotes from Henry Glover & Calvin ‘Eagle Eye’ Shields
[special thanks to Brian Powers*]

“I started using drums for the first time for country music with Moon Mullican.  He fell in love with a black drummer that I had been using on several dates around Cincinnati called Calvin Shields.  He was better known as ‘Eagle Eye.’  He was very, very friendly and dear to Moon Mullican.  He played on many of his sessions, and many of the other country & western records when they began to use drums, which they didn’t do when I first came to King.  [With] Moon Mullican, I would use a heavy backbeat that this drummer called Eagle Eye, that came there with Tiny Bradshaw a few years back and made Cincinnati his home, he was ideal for that, the backbeat.” – Henry Glover

“Moon had such a great soul.  He was just like a black man to me, you know, like he thought, felt, and expressed himself and everything else.  Like we would say he had a whole lot of soul, Moon did.” – Henry Glover

“Drums were a must for Moon.  Moon wanted drums.  And he fell madly in love with this drummer called Calvin Shields that we called Eagle Eye.” – Henry Glover

“Moon Mullican was the first to use a black band at King.  In just about every case, we had a black bass or maybe a black drummer with Moon in order to get the rhythm because Moon played like a black man and he even thought like a black man – in fact, I sometimes had my ideas about whether he was black or not!  He was the very first white man, I believe, that caught my eye as being not filled with bigotry or hatred … he found himself as comfortable among blacks as he did among whites.  And it’s a very funny thing – both races in those days were displaying standoff-ish attitudes — not Moon.  Moon would make most of the black clubs in the worst parts of town and all of his friends during the course of his stay would be black people.  He’d play in black clubs and they would give him a standing ovation.  It was very rare.” – Henry Glover

“Glover introduced us. I walked in and all those white cats sitting around wondering,  ‘Hey, he’s got a black man playing his music.’  So I don’t say nothing to them and they don’t say nothing to me.  So we played and that’s when I fell in love with him because it swung.  So Moon says ‘This is my drummer,’ so when he went to buy some whiskey for the group, he bought a bottle for them and a bottle of whisky for me and him.  He said, ‘Man, I want you to take me over to the Cotton Club,’ and I took him.  Tiny Bradshaw invited him up and he played nothing but Duke Ellington music.“ – Eagle Eye Shields

“When a cat becomes a studio musician, he’s a musician who plays anything they bring in front of him to play.  When I played with Moon Mullican, I enjoyed it.  When I played that Country music, I learned to swing with that Country-Western cause I got into their mood and into their groove.  When I got ready to play Rhythm & Blues, I got into their groove.  When I play dance music, legit music, I get in to a legit feel cause I am a musician.  I didn’t become a superstar.  My thing was to be good, in order to be in demand, to be sought after.” Eagle Eye Shields

[Moon had a number of hits in 1950 produced by Henry Glover including “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” “Mona Lisa” & “Goodnight Irene”; Mullican accepted the invitation to join in the Grand Ole Opry that year.]  “Then Moon said, ‘I want to take you on the Grand Ole Opry with me, man.’  I said, ‘No, I don’t want to go on that.’  He asked me if I would travel with him.  I told him if I’ll be out there in them towns, them junctions, you might not be around and they’ll done grab me and lynch me.’  But now I wish I had because, if I had got out with Moon, I might have made a name for myself.  I might have ended up with the big one – Willie Nelson.” – Eagle Eye Shields

Moon Mullican & Henry Glover

Shields, who took not only his father’s name but nickname as well, came to King through his membership in Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra.  Eagle Eye would conduct his session work for King in between performances with Bradshaw in town at Cincinnati’s Cotton Club and on the road in New York City.  Shields would subsequently serve as drummer for the Billy Williams Quartet (1957-1961), Della Reese (1967-1973) and music director/drummer for Redd Foxx (1978-1984).

Calvin Shields with Paul Bryant (organ) & Norris Patterson (sax) – 1962 in NV

Photo courtesy of UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

The index in King Labels:  A Discography, edited by Michel Ruppli (with assistance from Bill Daniels) helpfully identifies sessions where Calvin Shields served as the drummer, thus allowing Zero to 180 to compile a special list of suggested recordings — all of them captured on tape in Cincinnati (except Willis Jackson – NYC):

           Parlophone = Home of The Beatles                            French 10-inch LP

  King EP – US                                                          French EP

Abstract expressionist cover art for 1952 French LP

Furthermore, Eagle Eye is believed – as best as Brian Powers can determine – to have played on Moon Mullican‘s version of Tiny Bradshaw’s “Well Oh Well” [recorded July 3, 1950] and the classic “Cherokee Boogie (Eh-Oh-Aleena)” [December 8, 1950], written by Moon with Chief William Redbird, plus Hawkshaw Hawkins‘ version of Tennessee Ernie’s “Shotgun Boogie” [January, 1951] and Al Dexter‘s “Hi De Ho Boogie on a Saturday Night” [May 19, 1950] — all recorded at King’s Cincinnati studio.  Documentation from King’s early years, unfortunately, is often scant.

Shields would also keep time on an enchanting Latin-flavored instrumentalé tropicalé whose musical hook is a gloriously deep bass blast of the horn (B-flat):

“Ocean Liner (Bossa Nova)”     Bill Doggett     1959/1963

Ocean Liner” – penned by Henry Glover and Bill Doggett – would originally be released in 1959 but then “rebranded” in 1963 as “Ocean Liner Bossa Nova,” just in time to exploit the runaway success of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Jazz Samba LP (only jazz album ever to top Billboard’s pop chart) of 1962

   *                                                 *                                                 *

Calvin ShieldsInspiration for Mack Rice’sMustang Sally“?

According to Douglas Green Associates:

Mack Rice wrote “Mustang Sally” following a visit to his friend, singer Della Reese in New York City.  Reese had off-handedly mentioned that she planned to buy her drummer a Lincoln for his birthday.  Calvin Shields, the drummer, appreciated the thought but reportedly replied, “I don’t want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang.”  Shields’ response confused Rice.  He could not understand why anyone would want the small Mustang instead of the bigger and more powerful Lincoln.  After returning to Detroit, Rice began work on a song titled “Mustang Mama.”  A serendipitous visit to Aretha Franklin’s house led to the name change to “Mustang Sally.”  Franklin believed that “Mustang Sally” fit better with the music. And so the song was born.

Obituary from the Las Vegas Review-Journal + personal remembrances

*Henry Glover quotes are from an 1980s interview with the Country Music Hall of Fame *Calvin Shields quotes are from an interview conducted by Brian Powers in 2009.

**Willis “Gatortail” Jackson played a pivotal role in Jamaican music history when spies working for Duke Reid identified the source of Coxsone Dodd’s theme song (i.e., “Coxsone’s Hop”) that cemented Downbeat‘s status as the superior sound system in Kingston:  “Later for the Gatorby Willis Jackson [1958 – sounds not a little unlike ska].  In those pre-Internet days, operators of competing mobile sound systems would use American 45s with the labels scratched off as proprietary source material.  Duke Reid’s discovery of Coxsone’s source material would prompt Dodd into creating an original Jamaican sound in 1962 – ska – in time for the birth of JA’s independence.  Much more direct evidence of the Cincinnati-Kingston connection can be found here and here

<Note:   For optimal presentation, avoid viewing this website on a smartphone>

 

Lovin’ Spoonful’s Brazilian Single

Zero to 180 was browsing Lovin Spoonful‘s 7-inch releases on Discogs and decided to give a listen to an obscure 45 track, “Lonely” – a harmonica instrumental, as it turns out – only to discover upon further examination that this song was released as an A-side for the Brazilian market only!

“Lonely”     Lovin’ Spoonful     1967

Zero to 180’s pleased to see Kama Sutra did up the occasion right with a picture sleeve:

Lovin' Spoonful 45 - BrazilHey, wha’ d’ya know, “Lonely” (or “Solitário”) would also be tapped as a B-side for the Japanese market:

Lovin' Spoonful 45 - Japan

Likewise a B-side in France.  Immediately brings to mind the decision that would be made by Immediate the following year to release P.P. Arnold’s version of “God Only Knows” as a single for the Italian market only, as discussed in the previous piece.

Wow – just discovered the existence of this entry in 45Cat for a US single release for “You’re a Big Boy Now” b/w “Lonely (Amy’s Theme),” with a date of “Jun. 1967” indicated but ultimately “unreleased” – what’s the story?

“Lonely (Amy’s Theme)” would originally be part of the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1966 feature film, You’re a Big Boy Now, whose songs would all be composed by John Sebastian (who was kind enough to inform Zero to 180 in an earlier piece that his father was a concert chromatic harmonica player).

King’s “Red River Rock” Cash-In

Catchy King instrumental — and what is that instrument, exactly?  Sounds like a blend of organ and harmonica, most likely:

“New Annie Laurie”     Gene Redd     1960

New Annie Laurie” seems an obvious attempt by King to “cash in” on the fresh organ retooling of “Red River Rock” made famous the previous year by Johnny and the Hurricanes, although without directly resorting to plagiarism, cleverly enough, by using an olde Scotch ballad.

Billboard‘s review of the single in its October 10, 1960 edition would have this to say about the A-side “New Sidewalks of New York” — “Gene Redd sells this happy rocker with warmth on this driving instrumental side, it’s the old tune dressed up with a rocking beat” — and then, hilariously, utter two words “same comment” about the B-side “New Annie Laurie”!  Worth noting that Redd covered “Red River Rock” for King the previous year.

Gene Redd 45Brian Powers’ King Records Scrapbook informs me that Redd, originally a session player and King artist who became a talent scout for the label, would go on to do arrangements for Kool & the Gang, for which his son, Gene Redd, Jr., served as manager.

King’s “Tequila” Knock-Off

King Records would try to cash-in on the success of “Tequila” by The Champs, as Johnnie Pate‘s 1958 Federal 45 “Muskeeta” would demonstrate:

Johnnie Pate’s     “Muskeeta”     1958

Johnnie Pate (b, ldr); Ronald Wilson (fl); Williams Wallace (p); Wilbur Wynne (g); Donald Clark (d).

Chicago, March 20, 1958

According to Armin Büttner‘s Johnnie Pate history website, the version of “Muskeeta” on the French EP (below) is exactly the same as the version on King LP 584, but for a tenor sax probably overdubbed by Ronald Wilson himself.  It is not yet known, which version of “Muskeeta” is on Federal 45-12325.

Johnnie Pate - Muskeeta - French EPThis would not be the first time King Records would attempt to mine this particular vein, as Zero to 180’s lengthy examination of “Rare & Unissued King Tracks” revealed another 45 released that same year, “Snake Charmer” by The Puddle Jumpers that attempted to ride the coattails of “Tequila” and its unexpected meteoric ride.

Billboard‘s April 21, 1958 edition would report that “Muskeeta” made the #5 spot of “R&B Best Sellers” that week in the Cincinnati area.  Song would be included on 1958 full-length release Swingin’ Flute Dance Beat for the Ivy League.

Johnnie Pate King LP

Mickey Baker on a King Surf LP

Session guitarist Mickey (“Love Is Strange“) Baker — whose work would grace dozens of releases by King Records and its subsidiaries — would end up being allotted exactly one solo album by the label as an artist in his own right:  1963’s But Wild.

Mickey Baker King LP

Recorded in Paris in June of 1962, this album would feature Baker’s guitar (as Michel Ruppli’s King Label discography would seem to indicate) overdubbed onto instrumental tracks – licensed from the Versailles label – of French studio musicians.

King would release three 45s from But Wild:  “Baby Let’s Dance” b/w “Oh Yeah, Ah, Ah” in 1963, “Steam Roller” b/w “Side Show” in 1964, and “Do What You Do” b/w “Night Blue” in 1965.

Mickey Baker King 45-aaMickey Baker King 45-bbMickey Baker King 45-cc

Note the degree to which this rare King LP commands big bucks at auction, according to Popsike.  One seller on Collector’s Frenzy describes But Wild as “Shadows/Ventures guitar instrumental rock.”  In fact, “Zanzie” (along with “Gone”) would end up being rightfully pressed into service on King surf compilation album, Surfin’ on Wave Nine, a fairly obscure release that also changes hands at respectable prices:

“Zanzie”     Mickey Baker     1962

Baker’s 2012 obituary in the New York Times notes, sadly, that he moved to France in the early 1960s and “rarely returned to the United States.”

King would eventually get around to issuing “Love Is Strange” in 1964, eight years after the song originally hit the charts.

Mickey Baker King 45-d

“Snowfall”: Soulful + Strings

The Soulful Strings evoke the magic of falling snow — thanks to Dorothy Ashby‘s harp — on their classic instrumental track, “Snowfall“:

“Snowfall”     Soulful Strings     1968

Discogs helps us appreciate how The Soulful Strings were able to create an identifiable sound despite only playing other people’s material:

“The Soulful Strings was a project of the Chicago soul arranger Richard Evans, working with several musicians from the Cadet Records house band between 1966 and 1971 including Charles Stepney, Bobby Christian, Billy Wooten, Phil Upchurch, Lennie Druss, and Cleveland Eaton.

Employing a repertoire composed almost entirely of covers, Evans and company created a unique sound, combining a sharp, soulful rhythm section with a lush string backing.  Evans pushed the strings to the front, assuming an attitude previously reserved only for the hulking funk of bass and rhythm guitar.  It was this crucial element that made The Soulful Strings sound, so successful.”

soulful-strings-magic-of-christmas-lp“Snowfall” can be found on The Magic of Christmas, released in 1968 on Chess jazz subsidiary label, Cadet.

soulful-strings-magic-of-christmas-xCadet would issue 7 albums by The Soulful Strings between the years 1966-1970.

The Dead: In the Twilight Zone

For those keeping count, today’s piece is (gulp) the 666th posted since Zero to 180 began December 12, 2012.  What better way to face down this (meaningless) milestone by paying tribute to a classic television series – and also a musical ensemble – that bravely broke the bounds of conformist thought, intrepid travelers who dared to confront “the fifth dimension.”  No, the band in question is not The 5th Dimension (although, good guess) but in actual fact  The Grateful Dead, who (not everyone seems to be aware) recorded the theme music to the revitalized TV series in 1985:

Opening & Closing Theme – “Twilight Zone”     The Grateful Dead     1985

As Blair Jackson would note in Garcia:  An American Life — “The band and [Merl] Saunders worked out a new main theme, which was a short dissonant burst of ‘space‘ ending in a variation of the original Twilight Zone theme by Marius Constant.”

Merl Saunders (courtesy DISCOGS)Merl Saunders

Dennis McNally would document some of the historical particulars of the Twilight Zone experience in 2002’s A Long Strange Trip:

“Few shows could possibly have been more appealing to the Dead and Garcia, who remarked, ‘Man, I live in the Twilight Zone.’  They leaped at the chance to record their own version of the signature three-note motif that identified the show.  They didn’t stop there.  [Producer Rick] DeGuere and his music director, Merl Saunders, came to a board meeting to discuss the band’s doing all of the music for the show, the ‘stings’ and ‘bumpers’ that set the atmospheric soundscape.  Garcia left the meeting early, announcing that he voted yes.  Lesh was ‘adamantly opposed,’ recalled DeGuere, and the decision was made to proceed without him.

They set to work, and while their music was appropriate and effective, the deal’s business aspects were badly handled, dooming the project to continuous friction among all parties involved.  [Grateful Dead legal counsel] Hal Kant had delegated the negotiation of the arrangement with CBS to an associate, who didn’t know the Dead very well and produced a fairly standard contract.  The head of the music department at CBS [Robert Drasnin, presumably] didn’t like the deal, since he now had no control, which put Merl in the middle of both an unhappy CBS and the Dead.  Very quickly, Mickey Hart took the lead for the Dead in the studio, and proved to have a gift for sound design.  Just as they began, he went into the hospital for back surgery, and ordered that all the necessary equipment be set up in his room.  At first [road manager] Ram Rod vetoed this seeming insanity, but Mickey pleaded, ‘When I wake up, I want to go to work.’  The Demerol he’d gotten for his surgery proved to be aesthetically stimulating, and he produced music for the first four episodes from bed.”

The loss of Phil Lesh, the band member most closely linked to the musical avant-garde, is a notable one.

Composer, Robert Drasnin, as Variety noted in its obituary posted on May 15, 2105, would have a central role to play:

“While head of CBS’ music department in the 1980s, he worked with the Grateful Dead on music for the revived Twilight Zone series, along with scoring several episodes himself.”

Robert Hunter would later recall in his online journal entry for February 4, 2005:

“I’m still grateful that a steady salary for the two seasons The Zone ran
helped make the house payments and put food on the table for our family
of five back when the GD was staggering financially and I was set
running around the country doing low paying solo gigs to support us.
‘Touch of Grey’ was soon to solve that problem.”

Is it merely a coincidence that, just last month, a 1985 Twilight Zone contract between CBS Entertainment and The Grateful Dead — signed by all members of the band — would sell on Ebay for $29,470.70?Grateful Dead Twilight Zone contractIt is curious the extent to which The Twilight Zone ‘reboot’ is under-remembered, given the caliber of talent that went into not only the music but the writing and acting, as well — as pointed out in arts blog Delusions of Grandeur:

“Writers such as Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, and Paul Chitlik wrote screenplays for the show.  It was directed by many different talents including Wes Craven and William Friedkin.  Many different mainstream stars made their appearance in the series including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Season Hubley, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Jonathan Frakes, and Fred Savage.  The theme music was composed by Jerry Garcia and performed by The Grateful Dead.”

How funny to see the inclusion of a Grateful Dead track – “The New Twilight Zone” – on TV theme compilation Television’s Greatest Hits, Volume 6 from 1996.

Hooterollin Around music blog (an “appendix to Lost Live Dead“) writes a fascinating piece that draws many musical connections between Jerry Garcia and stalwart session guitarist, Howard Roberts, a musician who is best remembered for having played the original haunting Twilight Zone guitar riff.

Zero to 180 cannot close this piece without reminding everyone of that uncanny musical ‘Twilight Zone’ moment:  last July’s discovery of Germany’s The Dead-Heads, who released their debut single in 1966 — just one year after the The Grateful Dead’s official formation!

Grateful Dead (not) Twilight Zone pinballZero to 180’s Gallery of Grateful Dead 45 Picture Sleeves

Given the band’s famous disregard towards commerce, I thought it would be great ironic fun to pull together all of The Grateful Dead’s 7-inch picture sleeves from around the world.  Interesting to see domestic marketing efforts lag behind Warner Brothers’ international arm overseas, as the Dead would not see comparable investments on single releases, curiously enough, until the band’s tenure with Clive Davis’s Arista label, especially after the unexpected success with “Touch of Grey”:

Germany

Grateful Dead 45-Germany-aGrateful Dead 45-Germany-bGrateful Dead 45-Germany-cGrateful Dead 45-Germany-d

Japan

Grateful Dead 45-Japan-aGrateful Dead 45-Japan-bGrateful Dead 45-Japan-cGrateful Dead 45-Japan-dGrateful Dead 45-Japan-eGrateful Dead 45-Japan-fGrateful Dead 45-Japan-gGrateful Dead 45-Japan-h

United States

Grateful Dead 45-US-aGrateful Dead 45-US-bGrateful Dead 45-US-ccGrateful Dead 45-US-dGrateful Dead 45-US-e-promoGrateful Dead 45-US-fGrateful Dead 45-US-gGrateful Dead 45-US-heart

UK (1977)

Grateful Dead 45-UK-a (1977)Grateful Dead 45-UK-aa (1977)

France

Grateful Dead 45-France-aGrateful Dead 45-France-b

Netherlands

Grateful Dead 45-Netherlands-aaGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-bbGrateful Dead 45-Netherlands-cc

Rear sleeve of German 45 “One More Saturday Night”:  Mini fold-up coffin!Grateful Dead 45-Germany-cc45 above references “neu” Jerry garcia solo 45 “Sugaree” / “Deal” (below)

Jerry Garcia 45-aJerry Garcia 45-bJerry Garcia 45-cJerry Garcia 45-cc

honorable mention:  Colombian EP from 1967

Grateful Dead EP-South Africa-aGrateful Dead EP-South Africa-b

This audio playback format was once considered state of the artGrateful Dead extended play cartridge

While the rare “Good Lovin'” US picture sleeve illustrated above can fetch $75 at auction, you might be surprised by the number of picture sleeves that go for three (and even four) figures.

Twilight Zone reference in this brilliant TV Guide/MTV spoof by Blair Jackson

GDTV - Grateful Dead TV