Rocksteady: Cowbell Golden Era

Will Ferrell’s inspired sketch idea as a cowbell-wielding member of Blue Oyster Cult named Gene Frenkle may have lost some of its freshness, however Ferrell deserves credit for galvanizing interest in this long-neglected member of the percussion family.   Five years after that Saturday Night Live sketch originally aired, Paul Farhi would reveal in The Washington Post’s January 29, 2005 edition that Frenkle was, indeed, a fiction.  Furthermore —

“According to former BOC bassist Joe Bouchard, an unnamed producer asked his brother, drummer Albert Bouchard, to play the cowbell after the fact.  ‘Albert thought he was crazy,’ Bouchard told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press in 2000.  ‘But he put all this tape around a cowbell and played it.  It really pulled the track together.'”

How interesting, then, to discover the existence of a cowbell Golden Age just eight years before the release of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in a parallel musical universe located within the Western Hemisphere – and yet not actually of it.  That’s right, 1968 was a peak moment for the cowbell on Jamaica’s radio airwaves and in their dancehalls — but for most of us here in the States, that fact would only come to light 3 decades after the fact, when CD reissues of reggae and its predecessor, rocksteady, began to appear here.

JA cowbellToday’s piece, therefore, salutes the cowbell in rocksteady’s magical-but-oh-so-brief moment in history.  Zero to 180 welcomes your suggestions to this (incomplete) list:

R o c k s t e a d y   &   E a r l y   R e g g a e   C o w b e l l   C l a s s i c s

Hortense Ellis w/ Buster All-Stars  "Somebody Help Me" 1967 [Buster]
Lyn Taitt & the Jets   "Mr. Dooby"   1967   [Merritone]
Alfred Brown  "One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer"  1968 [? producer]
Alton Ellis   "Bye Bye Love"   1968   [Clifton Bough]
Errol Dunkley  "Love Brother" & "I'm Going Home"  1968   [Gibbs]
The Dynamics w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "My Friends"   1968   [Gibbs]
The Pioneers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "Give It to Me"   1968   [Gibbs]
Stranger & Gladdy   "Just Like a River"   1968  [Gibbs]
Shorty Perry & Ken Boothe  "Can't You See"   1968   [Links]
Untouchables   "Wall Flower"   1968   [Enos McLeod]
Desmond Dekker & the Aces  "Mother Pepper" 1968   [Kong]
The Ethiopians w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets "Train to Glory" 1968 [Pottinger]
The Gaylads  "It's Hard to Confess"  1968   [Pottinger]
The Melodians  "Swing and Dine"  1968  [Pottinger]
The Coasters   "Stony Hill"   1968   [Daley]
Black Brothers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets   "Give Me Loving"  1968  [Morgan]
Cliff & the Diamonds  "Mother Benge"  1968  [Abrahams]
The Pioneers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets  "This Is Soul"  1968  [Gibbs]
The Overtakers w/ Lyn Taitt's Jets  "Girl You Ruff"  1968  [Gibbs]

“Girl You Ruff” – White label release in JA vs. UK release on amalgamated label

Overtakers 45-aOvertakers 45-b

Related Trivia

= “Just Like a River” instrumentally — “El Casino Royale” & “Last Flight to Reggae City

= Ken Boothe’s “Can’t You See” (esp. ‘blanks’) can easily sell for hundreds of dollars.

= “Mother Benge” by Cliff & the Diamonds – as previously mentioned – not a cheap 45.

= In 2011, someone paid $255 for a blank (Amalgamated) copy of “Girl You Ruff

Lyn(n) Taitt Figures Prominently in JA Cowbell Lore

Lynn Taitt & Comets-aaLynn Taitt & Comets-bb

Dune Buggy Racing Instrumentals

Interesting to see Kelly Gordon and (especially) Shorty Rogers attempt to muscle in on the hot rod scene with a late 60s concept album — contemporaneously titled Bug-In! — that pays musical tribute to the hot rod’s off-road counterpart, the dune buggy.  Gordon and Rogers splurge on a gatefold album design packed with photos – but alas, no musician credits.  Can only conclude that Los Angeles studio musicians (á la., “Wrecking Crew”) are the unnamed members of Gordon ‘n’ Rogers’ Inter-Urban Electric A & E Pit Crew and Rhythm Band.

Capitol LP – 1969

Bug In LP

The final track on side one, “Baja Boot,” caught my ear — here is an edited version (just under two minutes) that makes the song even more radio-friendly:

Pssst!   Click on the link above to play a (shortened) version of “Baja Boot” by Gordon n’ Rogers’ Inter-Urban Electric A & E Pit Crew and Rhythm Band

The barely-legible text on the front cover points out how Gordon & Rogers’ contribution to the racing community fills a dunester niche that only now is being filled:

The newest [illegible] on wheels … actual sounds of the various buggies in action … musical themes capturing the total emotional input of the drivers … music recreating the unique visual characteristics of the different dunesters.

Silodrome – a website that highlights aspects of our “Gasoline Culture” – reveals the fascinating story behind the Baja Boot:  a 450 hp dune buggy built in complete secrecy by top GM automotive engineer, Vic Hickey (in just under 4 weeks) and then raced by Steve McQueen in 1968 and then again in 1969.  How did the “King of Cool” (and cinema’s own Cincinnati Kid) fare with the massive 4×4 dune buggy, the ‘Baja Boot’?  Click here to learn the hilarious outcomes of both events – more info at Steve McQueen Online.

Steve McQueen (or possibly Mad Max) racing his Baja Boot

Steve McQueen & the Baja Boot

James Glickenhaus would buy Steve McQueen’s renowned dune buggy in 2010 – although ScoutDude would loudly question its authenticity on this blog’s comment section.

Sad to discover that the dune buggy is the neglected stepchild of the musical hot rod world, as very little has been written since The Surfaris released “Dune Buggy” in 1964.  Other notable songs that celebrate the lowly dune buggy?  Zero to 180 wants to know.

Shorty Rogers (Zero to 180 readers might recall) released a “Tequila” cash-in 45, “Cerveza,” in 1958, using the alter ego, Boots Brown.