He returned to Starday in the late 1960s as Merle Kilgore, “The Boogie King,” and also worked part-time for the label. He tells the story:
“I went to work for Starday years later [late 60s] for Hal Neely [President of the Starday-King merger]. I was workin’ the Hank [Williams] Jr. roadshow and I was open all week ’cause we worked Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays. So I went out and just kind of interned, you know. Producing the records and running the country division for Starday-King. I was out there for almost two years. Then they moved me up to where I was director of the country market there. It was like learning a whole new part of the business that I really hadn’t had the chance to experience.”
Kilgore’s peripatetic recording career would take him to Imperial, Starday, Mercury, MGM, Columbia, Ashley, Starday-King, Warner Brothers, and Elektra, and yet – as Gibson points out – “Kilgore’s only singles to break the Top 50 in the Billboard charts were on Starday.”
Extra Credit: Merle Kilgore as Songwriter for Other Artists
Search 45Cat‘s database using the terms “Merle Kilgore” and note the 9 “pages” of 45 releases (25 per page) on which Merle Kilgore has written at least one of the tracks. Artists who have recorded Merle Kilgore compositions include Webb Pierce, Guy Lombardo, Margie Singleton, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Claude King, Rex Allen, Hylo Brown, Jack Scott, Lorne Greene, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vinton, Kitty Wells, Billie Jean Horton, Lefty Frizzell, Tillman Franks, Wayne Raney, Tom Tall, Earl Gaines, Kay Starr, Ronnie & the Daytonas, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Leon Ashley, Travis Wammack, Little Jimmy Dempsey, Ray Campi, Anita Carter, June Carter, Carlene Carter, Bucky Allred, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, and Marty Stuart.
Merle Kilgore once recorded a song “Frankenboogie” under the alias “Frankie Stein” for Starday-King, who would issue the song in 1973 on King as an A-side, with “All She Wants to Do Is Boogie” (borrowed from the 1972 “Boogie King” 45) used for the flip.
The male heir to the Zero to 180 fortune insisted that his father write a history piece centered around a nearly 100-year-old Christmas song that, for today’s generation, inspires apprehension and consternation — but was that the intent of Arthur A. Penn, the songwriter responsible for “Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph“?
Editorial comments from those old-timers at Archive.org show that the unsettling feelings evoked by this recording are actually a cross-generational phenomenon:
This is one of the more unusual of Edison’s records. Listen to Santa’s sinister laugh he makes as he tries to sound fun, loving and kind. The www.menloparkmuseum.com staff agrees — if we were kids, we’d run!
“Santa Claus Hides in Your Paragraph” Harry Humphrey 1922
An obvious indicator of how far we’ve come since the days of Edison is represented in the recordings themselves. While it’s no surprise that the sound quality has improved, it’s interesting to note one particular improvement as well:
This is a 1922 recording made by Thomas Edison of Harry E. Humphrey. It was intended to be sold to owners of Edison’s phonograph so that their children could have some Christmas joy. In fact, on the contrary it is rather awful. If I were a kid, this would put me off Christmas forever. That laugh! Ugh!
Jerome from Watch Tower History points out that Harry Humphrey (“monologist, elocutionist, actor and recording artist”) and his association with Edison goes all the way back to 1912, when Humphrey made his first recording. Jerome, too, helpfully demystifies the technical aspects around the recording process in that era:
In those days, raw sound with its limited frequency range was literally collected by a horn and sent to equipment that vibrated a cutting stylus. Recording artistes sometimes had to virtually put their head into the recording horn and shout to get an acceptable result.
Speaking of primitive sound technology, have you ever seen a cylinder record being played back? Play the video below and also be sure to click on the link above to enjoy “thematic playlists” of recordings that go as far back as the 19th century, thanks to the fine folks at the UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Audio Archive.
“Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph” cylinder record 1922
How cool to discover that the Library of Congress catalog record for this 1922 recording by Thomas Alva Edison also includes the ability for anyone to (a) play a copy of the original recording and/or (b) download this 12.8 GB file to your own computer!
I wonder if the Arthur A. Penn Estate is aware that someone named Alan Brown has taken credit for having written a song with a nearly identical title — “Santa Claus Hides in The Phonograph” — that was released in 1923 for the US and Australian markets on the Brunswick label.
Most music fans in the US (and even quite a few in the UK) are unaware that a major 1970s British rock star put out an album on K-Tel (!) during a period of peak popularity – one entitled Alex Harvey Presents the Loch Ness Monster, no less. There’s a good reason for this record’s obscurity, as these notes from Discogs make clear:
“Released in a limited edition of supposedly 300 copies. Comes in a beautiful gatefold-sleeve and a 12×8-inch 16-page booklet. This is mostly a spoken-word album containing interviews with people claiming to have seen the Loch Ness Monster. It features additional narrations by Richard O’Brien and Alex Harvey and one short musical track at the end.”
This limited release means that some Alex Harvey fans are willing to shell out £200 (only a couple months ago) or even £300 (back in 2014) for this tribute album to Nessie. These prices are not an abberation, thus affirming the wisdom behind the decision made in 1977 by an elite group of Alex Harvey fans to purchase this long-deleted, vinyl-only release, which finally enjoyed reissue on compact disc in 2009 (John Clarkson’s review also provides a bit of back story).
“I Love Monsters Too” — the album’s final selection, as noted above, is the lone musical track, and a concise one at that: 37 seconds (thus, deserving of inclusion on Zero to 180’s list of short songs in popular music):
“I Love Monsters Too” Alex Harvey 1977
As YouTube contributor Mags1464 drolly observes, the song is “from an album that Alex made while the rest of the [Sensational Alex Harvey Band] were recording Fourplay.” Zero to 180 just figured out why the group is relatively unknown here in the States — according to Discogs, only four of SAHB’s nine albums released in the 1970s were distributed in the US.
Elaborate packaging includes an annotated map of Loch Ness
Dear Diary: Saturday 17 July 1976
[Double-click image below to view in high-resolution]
Seven years prior to Alex Harvey’s run-in with K-Tel, Trojan Records attempted to cash in on Britain’s fascination with its most famous Scottish resident through the release of a horror-themed reggae compilation, Loch Ness Monster that contains, annoyingly, only one musical tribute to Nessie (and at least one dubious song selection — “Suffering Stink,” really?).
1970, coincidentally, would also see the UK release of an album – That’s How You Got Killed Before – by Jamaican ex-pat, Errol Dixon that features “Monster from Loch Ness” (not yet available for preview on YouTube).
In recent years, John Carter Cash would travel to Scotland to perform his own Nessie tribute live in an attempt to “summon the beast” from the depths of Loch Ness — successfully? At least one person says yes:
Five years before “The Monster Mash,” King Records would peddle their own piece of Halloween pop in 1957, with the only release ever by The Swinging Phillies on DeLuxe — “Frankenstein’s Party” (backed with “L–O–V–E“):
The Swinging Phillies are a Philadelphia-based group, and are composed of Charles Cosom, lead; Philip Hurtt, first tenor; Richard Hill, second tenor; Ronald Headon, baritone; and Al Hurtt, bass singer and founder of the group.
More band history below courtesy of the “bio-disc“:
Hard to believe that people have paid hundreds of dollars for an original copy of this doowop 45, but they have.
A search of the 45Cat database seems to suggest strongly that DeLuxe 6171 is the first of the “Frankenstein” songs, two years before Buchanan & Goodman’s “Frankenstein of ’59” (and one year before Bo Diddley’s “Bo Meets the Monster” – although this source says 1956), but is it also pop music’s earliest Halloween-slash-horror song? All attempts to find “scary” songs earlier than 1957 – using such search terms as monster, ghoul, vampire, mummy, spooky, haunted, Halloween, et al. – have not yet proven abundant. According to AllButForgottenOldies, the “flying saucer” songs of 1956 would kick start the teen horror fad in popular music, which merely echoed the big screen — although I’m not sure I would include “Old Black Magic” (especially as rendered so touchingly by the Glenn Miller Orchestra; same goes for Margaret Whiting’s “Old Devil Moon” — ditto Perry Como’s “Haunted Heart“) on a ‘Halloween Oldies’ song list.
“Frankenstein’s Party” just might be King’s only Halloween and/or horror tune.
Q: Aside from the “flying saucer” discs of 1956, can you find a Halloween/horror tune earlier than 1957?
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.”
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.”
“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?It 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.”
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!
Zero 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”:
Rear sleeve of German 45 “One More Saturday Night”: Mini fold-up coffin!45 above references “neu” Jerry garcia solo 45 “Sugaree” / “Deal” (below)
honorable mention: Colombian EP from 1967
This audio playback format was once considered state of the art
How can you not love Muddy Waters for his brilliant observation, “The blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll”? And thank you, Jerry Wexler, for coining the term “rhythm & blues” as an alternative to the more 19th-century-sounding “race music.”
The Grand Ol’ Opry would famously ban percussion from its stages until the forces of modernity could no longer be held back, and it was around this time when country music was increasingly being played with a backbeat that the term “rhythm” started to bubble up into popular consciousness.
Jimmy Bowen & Buddy Knox would go their separate ways – even on Roulette
Producer and music industry heavyweight, Jimmy Bowen, has a great story in his excellent memoir (and insider account) Rough Mix about the word “rhythm” and its unexpected appearance (more like forced entrance) during his first professional encounter with the music biz, as he and his partner, Buddy Knox, were recording their first 45 for none other than Morris Levy, the music mogul (and owner of Birdland) who would be convicted in 1990 for extortion:
“To say we had trouble finding our groove puts it mildly. Whether it was the big-city pressure or his bad syncopation, Buddy froze up behind the mike and could not get it right. You could count it out for Buddy all day long–a-one, anna-two, anna-three, anna-four–but he couldn’t find a-one and never came in right. Another problem: the studio was directly over a subway. Every time a train rumbled by, you could hear it on the tape, so a bunch of good takes had to be redone. This just made Buddy more nervous.”
I had to step in and sing both B-sides–‘My Baby’s Gone’ for ‘Party Doll’ and ‘Ever-Lovin’ Fingers’ for ‘I’m Stickin’ with You.’ [George] Goldner pumped the echo to it so high on my voice that you could hardly tell it wasn’t Buddy, though my voice was deeper and less twangy. When the session was over, Morris [Levy] realized he hated the group’s name–Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, and the Orchids–and told us it would have to change. ‘You kids go on back to Texas,’ Morris said, ‘and we’ll take care of that.’
When they mailed us our records, I couldn’t believe it. ‘I’m Stickin’ with You’ was now by Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids [!] The shock wore off, though, and it was a real kick to be on a New York label with our records going out all over the country [as well as the UK, Canada & Germany]. ‘Stickin’ with You’ was Roulette 4001, the label’s debut release. ‘Party Doll’ was Roulette 4002, by Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids.”
The Rhythm Orchids would eventually disband, and Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen would find their own musical paths. For Buddy Knox, that path would one day lead to Bigfoot:
“Bigfoot Song” Buddy Knox 197?
We learn from another YouTube clip that this surprisingly effective Bigfoot song is an unreleased demo “that no one had heard until 2005 when it was shared from an acetate demo that friends in Canada obtained from Buddy late in his life.”
We also learn from Greg Long’s The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story that Buddy Knox is connected to renowned Bigfoot videographer, Roger Patterson, through his guitarist, Jerry Merritt, and that the three of them would once go on a Bigfoot finding expedition:
“One time [Jerry Merritt] picked grapes with Patterson, and Patterson made juice from the grapes to treat his cancer. Another time, Merritt and Buddy Knox, a famous rockabilly star, who recorded ‘Party Doll,’ traveled with Merritt, Patterson, and [Bob] Gimlin in Patterson’s van out into the hills.”
This song sounds to me like an obvious – and instantaneous – hit:
“Phantom Lover” Marv Lockard 1967
And yet so little information exists about this classic 1967 production from Shad O’Shea‘s Counterpart Records, with its deep bass grooves and warm reverb.
Three years prior, Marv Lockard – as part of The Dolphins – would record a song at King Records (“Hey-Da-Da-Dow”) that would catch the ear of Harry Carlson, who would issue it on Fraternity and have a #69 pop hit in late 1964. According to Buckeye Beat, Kenny Smith, former host of Cincinnati’s “Soul Street” TV show – and subject of a previous Zero to 180 celebration – assisted with the song’s production.
Fun to note that “Phantom Lover” was part of the set list for Portland, Oregon radio’s XRAY FM first annual Halloween Show in 2014.
How freaky that the Grateful Dead’s played their first show on December 4, 1965 (billed as The Dead, not The Warlocks) — and then the very next year, a group of young German musicians would form a band called The Dead-Heads:
It’s been ten years since the passing of Dick Von Hoene, Cincinnati’s late-night weekend TV phantom – The Cool Ghoul – as he was known professionally. Aaron Bates, along with oldies radio station WGRR, put together a freewheeling and vintage-filled 2-minute tribute to the loveable horror figure specific to our Ohio Valley metropolitan area, at a time when local programming was commonplace on network TV:
During the late 60s/early 70s period in Cincinnati, The Cool Ghoul (as depicted below) was at his most “countercultural” – later he would take on more of a “vagabond” look:
How fascinating to come across one of the old Cincinnati Post TV listings (1970s) and be reminded of the individualized “lucky number” stamps near the pirate’s chest that you would compare against a master listing of that week’s winning numbers – good times!
Cleveland Had a Ghoul, Too
In the 1970s growing up, I used to spend summers in the Cleveland area, where my dad lived. On Friday nights, WJW, the local CBS affiliate, featured a comedy duo – Hoolihan & Big Chuck – who, in retrospect, remind me of a Bob & Doug McKenzie style of wholesome comedy. But Saturday night’s show with Channel 61’s The Ghoul was easily the more madcap and renegade of the two late-night weekend shows – live programming at its edgy best, where you never quite knew what was coming around the corner.
When Cleveland’s original beloved ghoul, Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) left the Great Lakes for the West Coast, the future Ghoul – i.e., Ron Sweed – who started out as Ghoulardi’s assistant, then went to work for Ghoulardi’s replacement, Hoolihan & Big Chuck. According to Wikipedia, Sweed later took ‘The Ghoul’ to Kaiser Broadcasting station WKBF-TV in 1971:
“Though it started as a tribute to Ghoulardi, Sweed soon developed his own eye-catching gags and energetic style. Known for his zany, early-adolescent humor (particularly surrounding his abuse of a rubber frog named “Froggy,” his well-known penchant for blowing up model ships and aircraft with firecrackers, and his habitual smearing of Cheez Whiz over everything in sight), late night monster movies were a unique experience for Cleveland viewers in the 1970s. The Ghoul would typically take an unbelievably bad horror movie and dump in sound bites at appropriate moments, using audio clips from novelty records, George Carlin, Firesign Theater and rock albums of the 60’s and early 70’s. And whenever a character took a drink of something on-screen, The Ghoul would supply a good, loud belch.”
Link to good info about the Cleveland ghoul scene courtesy of MyMovieMonsters.com
My heartfelt appreciation to Brian Horrorwitz of Trash Palace for introducing me to a great tune that was sung by Johnny Cash and featured in a mediocre film in which he starred:
“Five Minutes to Live” Johnny Cash 1960
I am especially in awe of Luther Perkins’ guitar lines, who plays exactly the right notes and not a single note more. Luther’s terse instrumental passage preceding each verse captures perfectly the unrelenting dread – one imagines – of those awaiting execution, while the economy of his playing thrills me in the same way that complex and showy musicianship used to knock me out when I was a wide-eyed teen.
But if you search all of Cash’s Columbia single releases, you will discover that this obvious A-side was never issued as a 45 — nor was it released on any of Johnny’s Columbia albums either. Neither was it issued as part of a soundtrack album for Five Minutes to Live (a.k.a., Door-to-Door Maniac), as far as I can tell. Thus, this song, born in 1960, remained in solitary confinement for 18 years until the 1978 release of The Unissued Johnny Cash by Bear Family, (the German reissue label that compiles lavish and scrupulously annotated box sets of American roots rock, country & blues artists) – and even then, it was only available to U.S. fans as a pricey import.
Is it possible that the heavyweight topic of capital punishment made “Five Minutes to Live” too sensitive for radio play?
Thanks to In the Can for the recording session info:
Wednesday, November 2, 1960 : At Bradley Studio in Nashville, Johnny Cash
records “Five Minutes To Live” and “The Losing Kind”, both of which are
first issued on the LP “The Unissued Johnny Cash” (Bear Family BFX 15016)
Personnel : Johnny Cash (vocals / guitar) ; Luther Perkins, Johnny Western
(guitars) ; Marshall Grant (bass) ; W.S. Holland (drums).
Produced by Don Law.