Lloyd Green Stumps for Baldwin

Check out the Clavinet-like sounds coming from Jerry Whitehurst‘s electric harpsichord on “Wild Blue Yonder,” side one’s closing track from Lloyd Green‘s third solo LP Day of Decision, an album that was recorded (like Stones Jazz) in one day — in this case, on June 18, 1966 at RCA Studios in Nashville:

“Wild Blue Yonder”     Lloyd Green     1966

Lloyd Green:  Steel Guitar
Billy Sanford:  Lead Guitar
Jerry Reed:  Lead Guitar
Jerry Shook:  Guitar
Roy Huskey, Jr.:  Bass
Glen Davis:  Drum[s]
Jerry Whitehurst:  Electric Harpsichord

Somehow I failed to notice the significance of this announcement on the album’s back cover until now:

The Baldwin Piano and Organ Company of Cincinnati, Ohio recently invented and began manufacture of a completely new electric Harpsichord.

This instrument is being used for the first time in the ‘Day of Decision’ album.  You will notice the various unusual sounds on the different bands; these are just a few of the sound combinations possible on this instrument.

A number of musicians, who have played the Harpsichord, feel that it is the most original and versatile new instrument to be devised in yours.”

Rear cover – 1966 LP Day for Decision

Fascinating to encounter this information now in light of 2015-2016’s big horse race to determine the earliest recording of a Hohner Clavinet — and funny, too, since Zero to 180 had already celebrated a song from this same album back in 2014!  The date of the recording confirms that Baldwin had, in fact, beat Hohner to the “electric harpsichord” marketplace.

           LP cover – US                                        LP cover – Canada, possibly

Cash Box‘s Tom McIntee would talk up the exciting array of sounds made possible by Baldwin’s new electric harpsichord in the patriotic liner notes that accompany this album:

Something new has been added to America in this performance.  That something new is Lloyd on the steel and Billy Sanford and Jerry Reed on guitars.  That something new is an acoustical electric harpsichord.  An amazing instrument that sometimes sounds like a kazoo, sometimes like an organ, sometimes like a tuba.  The great majority of tracks in this album are old, but the sound is something new.  It’s a breath of new life into an America that sometimes grows weary beneath its burdens.

“Lloyd Green plays a Sho-Bud steel guitar” – back cover

The Baldwin electric harpsichord would be used most notably on “Because” from 1969’s Abbey Road by [K-Tel artists] The Beatles, as well as the opening theme to TV’s “The Odd Couple,” according to Spectrasonics (who states that the keyboard was “developed in the early 1960s by the Cannon Guild and marketed by Baldwin from 1966 into the early 1970s.”)

Vintage Keyboard Studio marvels at the instrument’s design:

“Each note has its own string and jack, which employs a pick and a damper felt.  When the key is depressed, it raises the jack which causes the pick to pluck the string, then come back down and pass over the string and come to rest on the damper.  It’s a pretty neat design, but somewhat flawed in that the picks can and will break, and the jacks themselves become brittle.  On this one in particular, we had all the jacks replaced with brand new ones.  It takes a lot of adjustment to get it right, but once it’s right it sounds awesome.”

This design includes a “very unique pickup system,” in which, as Baldwin’s own literature explains —

“Each pickup can be activated by two switches, one for the treble half of the keyboard and one for the bass.  Individually, the treble and bass switches for each pickup can be set for either the left or right volume pedal.  All of these tonal combinations can be doubled with a foot control that [indecipherable] the overall tone of the keyboard.  The Baldwin two-channel amplifier with tremolo, reverberation, and its exclusive Supersound tone controls bring the tonal possibles to a phenomenal total.”

Click on image below to view in Ultra-High Resolution

Image above courtesy of Santa Cruz Piano (where you can rent the Baldwin)

Despite the ingenuity of design (did I mention that the CW-9 model includes an “amplifier housed in the same compact floor unit as the two volume pedals”?), Vintage Keyboard Studio affirms that Baldwin electric harpsichords are, indeed, “pretty rare,” most likely due to the challenge of maintaining the instrument’s integrity over time.  The relative durability of the Clavinet would account for Hohner’s dominance of the electric harpsichord market by the early-to-mid 1970s, the funky new keyboard’s Golden Age.

Jimmy Webb mentions the Baldwin electric harpsichord in his 2017 memoir, The Cake and the Rain, within the context of his work as a songwriter for Johnny Rivers’ new record label, Soul City in 1966-67:

That was the spirit of the time … innovation and the exploitation of new technology.  Al Casey played a Japanese guitar called a biwa on [The Fifth Dimension’s version of] “Go Where You Wanna Go.”  The Baldwin Electric Harpsichord was a new invention.  We procured a prototype, and [Larry] Knechtel and I sat side by side combining a plethora of keyboards and organs.  We visited the ubiquitous electric sitar, a fad that started with Joe South‘s “The Games People Play” and ended a month or so later.  The studio had been full of gourds, castanets, congas, jawbones, tin cans full of popcorn, Styrofoam cups full of BBs, wind chimes, and thumb harps.  Hal Blaine developed a set of tuned tom-toms of different sizes, flared around his perch like a keyboard.  Ringo Starr heard about these and asked Hal to come to London to bring a set.

Billboard‘s October 7, 1967 issue includes this news item about Baldwin under the header Sound Tracks:

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Staid old Baldwin is a consistent advertiser at the consumer level and works tirelessly to get its instruments into the hands of recording artists.  Musical instrument division advertising manager James Lehr reports that its new combo harpsichord, for example, is being used for commercials, film soundtracks and rock groups.  Groups using the instrument in recording sessions are Chad and Jeremy, the Monkees, Beach [Boys], Spanky and Our Gang, Left Banke, Young Rascals and the Sandpipers.  The harpsichord has also been used frequently on the Lawrence Welk show and jazz pianist Hank Jones has recorded an album of jazz on the combo harpsichord for release on Impulse.  The instrument has also been used by the Cincinnati, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale and New Orleans symphonies to simulate the Cimbalon required in the “Harry Janos Suite.”

Competition

Ad for RMI’s “Rock-Si-Chord” — Billboard — Oct. 7, 1967

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Don Sebesky: Clavinet Pioneer

Last November’s tribute to the funkiest musical instrument known to humankind would seem to designate NRBQ‘s “Stomp” (recorded December, 1968) as among the earliest of recordings to feature the clavinet, even though by article’s end I reveal my trump card: “Attractive Girl” by The Termites — an album track on 1967’s Do the Rock Steady, a Studio One LP that was originally released in Jamaica and the UK.

Termites LP-aTermites LP-bb

My gratitude to the mysterious Felix, who points out that Don Sebesky‘s “Water Brother” from 1968’s Distant Galaxy album – based on the recording date – undoubtedly precedes NRBQ’s first recordings for Columbia and highlights the clavinet work of Sebesky* himself (*actually, Warren Bernhardt plays the clavinet — Sebesky serves as the album’s arranger, conductor, and writer of three of its tracks, including “Water Brother”):

“Water Brother”     Don Sebesky     1968

Note the bass kalimba in the right speaker during the song’s opening, while a theremin begins to wail in the left.

Distant Galaxy, Sebesky’s second album for Verve, finds Larry Coryell (again) on guitar (“Lady Madonna”) and sitar (“Guru-Vin”), along with Chuck Rainey, Dick Hyman and Hubert Laws, among others, providing musical support.

Don Sebelsky LPAlthough a solo artist from the late 1960s through the 1990s, Sebesky enjoys much greater renown as an arranger, whose CV includes Jimmy Dean, Astrud Gilberto, Sonny Stitt, Dionne Warwicke, Esther Phillips, Hank Crawford, Leslie Uggams, George Benson, Maynard Ferguson, Gilbert Bécaud, Paul Desmond, Charles Brown, Wes Montgomery, Willie Bobo, Walter Wanderley, Doc Severinson, Carmen McRae, and Roberta Flack.

Sebesky’s earliest recognition, however, was for his jazz trombone work with Kai Winding, Tommy Dorsey, and Stan Kenton, among others.

Check out the assemblage of talent for Don Sebesky’s 1973 2-LP set

Don Sebelsky - Giant BoxUnfortunately, I’m about to pull another trump card of sorts out of my sleeve:  Aaron Kipness’s Hohnet Clavinet FAQ from 2007 in which the question of First Clavinet Recordings is addressed on page ten.  Stevie Wonder (to no one’s surprise) is identified as a potential clavinet originator; “ShooBeDooBeDooDaDay,” which opens with a funky clavinet riff, was released, according to the FAQ, in 1966!   Upon closer inspection, however, credible sources point to March, 1968 as the song’s actual release date.

The FAQ, additionally, offers Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” (released January, 8, 1968 and recorded, according to Soulful Kinda Music, three days prior) as an early clavinet recording, which it is.

Nevertheless, “Attractive Girl” by The Termites – a track from their 1967 Studio One LP Do the Rock Steady remains, as best as I can determine, the medal bearer for Earliest Clavinet Recording.

Clavinet Update!  Special thanks to Jim Kimsey, whose March, 2016 comment ponied up “Six O’Clock” by (NRBQ fan) John Sebastian & The Lovin’ Spoonful – recorded in 1967 – as a new candidate for “Earliest Clavinet Recording” — now tied with “Attractive Girl” by The Termites.

“Accroche Toi, Caroline”: Hang Tight, Caravelli Advises

This boss near-instrumental from 1967 simply attributed to “The Paris Studio Group” features a mean harpsichord – something right out of Lurch from The Addams Family:

“Accroche Toi, Caroline”     The Paris Studio Group     1967

As NME informs us:  “Main title theme as used on Tony Hart`s UK TV series, Vision On – a children`s TV series aimed at deaf children which ran from 1964 to 1977. The music is composed & performed by Claude Vasori, better known as Caravelli.”

Caravelli LP

“Anchors Aweigh”: Seafaring Strings of Steel

Countless country music fans have heard steel guitarist Lloyd Green without realizing it.  Green has played with over 500 artists and performed on 115 number one hits, as well as over 100 top ten hits.  Between the years 1965 and 1980, Lloyd averaged an astounding 400 recording sessions in Nashville a year.

Anchors Aweigh” is a Lloyd Green original from 1966 album Day for Decision, his first of two albums for the Little Darlin’ label:

“Anchors Aweigh”     Lloyd Green     1966

Of the 24 singles released between 1967-1979, just three managed to penetrate the country chart, although Green’s version of “I Can See Clearly Now” – I am happy to report – broke into the Top 40 (#36 country) in 1973.

Lloyd Green LP-aLloyd Green LP-b

Little Darlin’:  Mayhew + Paycheck

As MusicRow.com reports, record label, Little Darlin’, was a business partnership started in 1966 between producer/songwriter, Aubrey Mayhew, and country “outlaw,” Johnny Paycheck as a commercial outlet for artists such as Jeannie C. Riley, Bobby Helms,  Lloyd Green, and Paycheck himself, whose edgy country songs recorded for Little Darlin’ are widely acknowledged to be hard country classics.

Mayhew’s interests were not solely tied to music, however:

“Mayhew was also one of the world’s foremost collectors of John F. Kennedy memorabilia and, at the time of his death, was embroiled in a high-profile legal battle over ownership of the window through which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy in 1963.  Shortly after Kennedy’s death, Mayhew produced a JFK tribute album that sold 8 million copies, and in 1970, he purchased the Texas School Book Depository Building saving it from demolition.”

Also important to note that in 2005, Mayhew came out of retirement to produce honky tonk (and truck driving country) singer, Dale Watson, for his tribute album to the label, The Little Darlin’ Sessions.

Cash BoxOctober 22, 1966