“Frankenstein’s Party” Turns 60

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 “LOVE“):

“Frankenstein’s Party”     The Swinging Phillies     1957

Thanks to the unnamed Discogs contributor who posted this biographical sketch:

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“:

Frankenstein's Party - The Swinging PhilliesHard 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?

LINK to other Zero to 180 Halloween & Horror history pieces

“Oooh-Diga-Gow”: King-a-binghi

One can be forgiven for mistaking the heartbeat bass line and the off-kilter, syncopated hand drumming in this 2-minute heavy chant as being part of the Jamaican Nyabinghi tradition.  Note the special effect at song’s end — somewhat “high tech” for King in 1954:

“Oooh-Diga-Gow”     Cecil Young Quartet     1954

And yet, this King track by the Cecil Young Quartet, according to Michel Ruppli King Labels discography, was recorded December 7, 1953 in Cincinnati.  But where – given the live audience sounds – exactly?  We the listeners can only presume that stage movements and vocal inflections, designed to accentuate the “meaning” of the lyrics, are what’s eliciting periodic bursts of laughter.  To make sense of the laughs, it is imperative, given the lack of accompanying video, that the listener consult his or her inner oracle.

“Oooh-Diga-Gow” was originally a B-side that enjoyed release on 78 as well as 45.  Five years later, King would reissue the song on Audio Lab LP, Jazz on the Rocks.  One Ebay ad for this song (with no reference to the A-side) describes the music as “rare jazz exotica Yma Sumac,” while another seller would go even further.

Cecil Young - Jazz on the Rocks LP

King’s art department would turn out some delightful ‘cool jazz’ covers for Cecil Young and his crew during their short run with the label 1953-54:

Cecil Young - Cool Jazz Concert ICecil Young - Cool Jazz Concert II-cCecil Young Progressive Quartet EPCecil Young Quartet EPThese back cover notes serve as band biography:

Cecil Young Quarter - back cover story

 Photo courtesy Univ of Wash Libraries – from a 1951 concert available online

Cecil Young Quarter photograph

Auction prices for the Cecil Young Quartet on vinyl are not too shabby.

Prison Work Song Recast as “Rock”

The Guerrillas‘ “Lawdy Rolla” is a King reissue of a European single on Polydor.

Points out the YouTube contributor who posted this audio clip:

“Traditional worksong recording [from] Alan Lomax’s Negro Prison Blues & Songs – ‘Early in the Mornin” http://youtu.be/lw6GFCupesI  US ish (issue) of a French Congo acoustic RnB/Jazz tune, has an amazing vibe and groove”

“Lawdy Rolla”      The Guerillas      1969

Alan Lomax would record a performance of “Early in the Mornin'” in 1947 at Mississippi State Penitentiary’s Parchman Farm, thus setting into motion a chain of events that would lead to this prison work song entering the realm of popular music.

Australia’s Purple Hearts would inject “Early in the Mornin'” with fresh energy in 1966, as would Christchurch, New Zealand’s The Chants (as noted here), no doubt using The Graham Bond Organization‘s more polite version from the previous year’s The Sound of ’65 album as a template.

King would release “Lawdy Rolla” in October, 1969.  Little to no information seems to exist about this obscure 45, which commands a respectable price at auction.  The Guerrillas would record these two songs at Studio CBE in Paris.

Polydor picture sleeve – Note the spelling variant of Guerrillas

Guerillas Polydor 45Lyrics to the original prison work song can be found here — for mature audiences only.