“Chew Tobacco Rag” Done R&B

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.

“Barnyard Boogie”: Jump Blues + Lap Steel Guitar

I have to confess – I’ve been listening pretty closely for several decades now, and I still can’t tell what makes [insert name of “first rock & roll record” here] the first recording with the rock & roll beat, whether it be 1951’s “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston (backed by Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm) or Fats Domino’s “Fat Man” (his 1949 debut single) or Jimmy Preston’s “Rock the Joint” (also from 1949) or Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith’s, er, “Guitar Boogie” (from 1948) or Louis Jordan’s rollicking “Saturday Night Fish Fry” (1949).

Speaking of Louis Jordan, belated thanks to the music programmer at Annapolis, Maryland’s once mighty (get this) free-form, progressive commercial (!) radio station (WRNR) who once quietly blew my mind years ago when he played a Louis Jordan boogie from 1947 that unexpectedly featured a steel guitar solo:

Could this be the earliest boogie tune (or “fox trot”) to feature country-style steel guitar?

Barnyard Boogie 78

Endless gratitude to Old School Music Lover for hipping me to The Muppets’ own brilliant take on this barnyard classic: