Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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Billy Strange: Mr. Guitar (et al)

It is surprising (and yes, strange) that, given the breadth of his recording career, Billy Strange is not more widely recognized for his contributions to the field of recorded music.  This impressively-detailed chart lists Billy Strange’s recording history in its (near)entirety, not only as an artist but also as a guitarist, session leader, arranger, producer, conductor, vocalist, and/or songwriter for other artists.  Scanning this information, I am reminded that Strange figured prominently in Elvis’s “Clean Up Your Own Backyard,” as well as Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood’s “Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman” – the subject of two prior pieces.

Scrutinize this chart carefully, and all kinds of interesting details emerge:

 album covers festooned with electric guitars = maximum eye candy

Billy Strange's Mr. Guitar LP

Mr. Guitar from 1964 would find Billy Strange near the beginning of a long run of albums recorded for the GNP Crescendo label.  “Where’s Baby Gone” – a Billy Strange original – is one of the album’s standout tracks:

“Where’s Baby Gone”     Billy Strange     1964

“Where’s Baby Gone” would also enjoy release as a B-side — the song used to back Strange’s take on Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer’s “Charade.”

Australian 45

Billy Strange 45Confirmed:  Billy Strange (and Speedy & Jimmy!) Played on a King Record

The July, 1952 recording session that produced Moon Mullican‘s swinging version of “Jambalaya,” according to The Billy Strange Discography, includes the playing of Strange – but were Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant also present on that date?  Mullican’s profile on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website would say yes – as it makes reference to a “King session with legendary musicians Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant and Billy Strange”:

Moon Mullican with Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant & Billy Strange = “Jambalaya”

But did this recording session take place at King’s own Cincinnati studio (as it says in Michel Rupli’s King Labels) or at Hollywood’s Western Recorders (as PragueFrank indicates)?  Knowing how quickly Speedy West left Cincinnati in the mid-1940s for the West Coast, it’s really hard to imagine those guys traveling all the way to Cincinnati to record, given the great recording facilities in the Los Angeles area – thus, I have to go with PragueFrank.

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