Don Partridge: Street Musician Who Briefly Went Pop

I discovered an inveterate English singer-songwriter and one-man band whilst scouting material related to music’s intersection with mirth:  Don Partridge (“King of the Buskers”). In late 60s UK, Partridge achieved a surprising amount of commercial success for a “street musician” – one of the first in London following the end of the Second World War, as noted in his 2010 Guardian obituary.  Partridge would later define his own artistic niche:  “I wasn’t a cabaret singer or a club artist.  I was really half circus act and half street singer, so I didn’t fit into the traditional musical mould.”

Partridge’s peak chart success began with “Rosie” (#4, released 1967 at year’s end), continued with “Blue Eyes” (#3, mid-1968), and concluded with “Breakfast on Pluto” (#26, beginning of 1969).  During this fruitful time, Partridge’s records would enjoy release on Columbia in Europe (Netherlands, France, UK & Germany), Oceania (New Zealand & Australia), Africa (Rhodesia) & North America (US & Canada – although on Capitol).

Don Partridge - A1Don Partridge - AA1Don Partridge - B1Don Partridge - B2Don Partridge - ccDon Partridge - CCx

Sometime In the midst of Partridge’s brief dalliance with the pop charts (October of 1968, to be exact), “We Have Ways of Making You Laugh” was issued as the B-side to “Top Man” (except in the US, where it was the flip side to “Homeless Bones”):

Don Partridge     “We Have Ways of Making You Laugh”     1968

“Disillusioned with the mainstream music industry, Partridge returned to busking and selling books of his own poetry, often travelling overseas,” informs the Guardian obituary.

The first few years of the new millenium would find Partridge on tour with the aforementioned British Sea Power, as well as electronic music duo, Lemon Jelly.

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“Jukebox Man”: The One Who Keeps ’em Dancin’

Nice deep country bass sounds on this YouTube stereo mix of Dick Curless‘ mighty working man jukebox tale – “Jukebox Man” (#41 country hit) – that was released February, 1971 on the heels of trucker classic, “Drag ’em Off the Interstate Sock It To ’em J.P. Blues

“Jukebox Man”     Dick Curless     1971

Guitar & Dobro:  Jerry Kennedy
Rhythm Guitar & Banjo:  Bobby Thompson
Rhythm Guitar:  Ray Edenton
Guitar:  Billy Sanford
Bass Guitar:  Harold Bradley
Steel Guitar:  Pete Drake, Weldon Myrick
Bass:  Roy Huskey
Drums:  Buddy Harman
Piano:  HargusPigRobbins
November, 1970 at Jack Clement Recording Studio in Nashville, Tennessee

Dick Curless 45

“Jukebox Man” was actually written by Hank Mills — pen name, of Samuel Garrett, who is also famous for having written “Girl on the Billboard” & “One Bum Town” (Del Reeves);  “My Big Truck Drivin’ Man” (Kitty Wells), and “White Lightnin’ Express” (Roy Drusky), among many others.

“Jukebox Man” is also the kick-off tune on 1971 Capitol LP, ‘Doggin’ It’Dick Curless 1971 LP

Jesse Lee Kincaid – The Sound of ’67

Steve Stanley’s article in Shindig! #38 about Jesse Lee Kincaid – original member of The Rising Sons with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder – made me curious to hear the two singles he recorded for Capitol.  His first – “She Sang Hymns Out of Tune” – from December, 1966 appears to have been a promo 45 only and cannot be previewed on YouTube (although you can hear versions by Nilsson, Hearts & Flowers, and The Dillards).

Kincaid’s second (and final) Capitol 45, predicted to reach the Hot 100 in the May 13, 1967 edition of Billboard, is an instant grabber and one that has a bit of that “1967 magic” — and yet the song appears never to have charted.  What gives?

“Baby You Come Rollin’ Cross My Mind”     Jesse Lee Kincaid     1967

The Peppermint Trolley Company – famous for singing the original Brady Bunch theme – would have a #59 hit with “Baby You Come Rollin’ Cross My Mind” in January of 1968.  The Trolley Company’s Danny Faragher provides the behind-the-scenes intrigue on his website:

“Dan Dalton was producing Ex-Rising Son guitarist Jesse Lee Kincaid for Capitol. Jesse’s song “Baby You Come Rollin’ ‘Cross My Mind” was starting to break out, but due to contractual complications, the label pulled the plug.  Dalton believed in the tune and thought it was perfect for the band. (Dan Dalton) – “When Capitol took Jesse’s record off the market, I said to the Trolley, ‘This is a hit song. Let’s do it.’  And the guys just didn’t want to do it at first.  So I said, ‘I’ll give you each 50 bucks.  I just want to use you guys as musicians.’  They agreed, and we cut the track, and [while we were recording it] we all realized it was just sounding wonderful.’  The band then recorded the vocals, coming up with the harmony parts on the spot. (Dalton) – ‘It was pure magic.’”

James Burton would subsequently play guitar on his next (Leon Russell-produced) single for Fontana before Kincaid would decide to take an extended leave of absence from the music business.

But wait, as Steve Stanley reports, Kincaid has, indeed, completed a new album – entitled Brief Moments Full Pleasure – that was released this past September.  Those of you who live in the Bay Area have the opportunity, in fact, to hear Kincaid perform on December 10th at the No Name Bar in Sausalito.

 L.A.’s Rising Sons with Taj & Ry & Jesse Lee –vs– Burlington, Ontario’s 5 rising sons

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“The Sun Is Going Down”: Rock Meets Reggae, 1972

The Steve Miller Band filters reggae through early 70s rock sensibilities, mon, in the 97-second ditty, “The Sun Is Going Down” – from Recall the Beginning … A Journey from Eden, their seventh album for Capitol:

“The Sun Is Going Down”     The Steve Miller Band     1972

Four drummers credited on this album – Gary Mallaber, Jim Keltner, Roger Allen Clark & Jack King – not sure who’s keeping time on this track.  Album recorded in one day — not unlike Joe Pass’s Stones Jazz album — specifically, on January 29, 1972 (“completed on the full eclipse of the moon”).

Interesting to see Jamaican singer, Shaggy, utilize the bass line from 1973’s “The Joker”  nearly 40 years later in his #1 hit, “Angel” (that also borrows from “Angel of the Morning,” a song issued in 1968 rocksteady fashion by Joya Landis on Jamaica’s Treasure Isle label).

Steve Miller Signed to … Apple?

The legalese on the label – “Apple Publishing ltd” – caught my eye

Steve Miller LP … and sure enough, there’s an interesting side story there courtesy of Empoprise MU:

“Out of all the Apple departments that were cut by Allen Klein, his decision to effectively close down Apple Publishing made the least sense from a business perspective…Apple also held the European publishing rights for several promising American acts, including the Steve Miller Band…Although Apple Publishing was a large department with a staff that ranged from five to seven people, it was one of the few Apple divisions that saw any return on Apple’s investment.  According to Mike O’Connor, Apple was ready to sign UK publishing agreements with both Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson when Klein shut the department down.”

“Fifteen Gears and Fourteen Wheels”: What Satisfies the Soul

Live truck driving country doesn’t get much better than this:

  From the 1973 Capitol album, Live at the Wheeling Truck Driver’s Jamboree.

Dick Curless LP

Harold Bradley - guitar/leader
Buzz Evans - guitar
Curly Chalker - steel
Joe Allen - bass
Buddy Harman - drums
Jerry Smith - piano

Sept. 2, 1972 - live - Wheeling Truck Drivers Jamboree; Wheeling, WV

Dick Curless Can’t Drive 45

Capitol would release one single from this album – “Chick Inspector” – backed with a non-album track, “Travelin’ Light” in February, 1973.

Chick Inspector 45

“Rockin’ in Baghdad”: Another Missed Opportunity for “Irony”

Speaking of old songs that take on a whole new meaning when considered against a modern geopolitical context (see previous post about Cat Stevens), Capitol released a 45 in 1957 that featured a B-side – “Rockin’ in Baghdad” – that I very well could have imagined playing in the background during the military invasion of Iraq’s capital in 2003:

“Rockin’ in Baghdad”     Jerry Reed     1957

It would appear that virtually no one during the initial occupation of Iraq – aside from a college student named Ken – seemed aware of this groundbreaking Middle-Eastern-meets-rockabilly-rave-up written by upstart singer and guitar picker, Jerry Reed.

Jerry Reed 45Over in Baghdad in the burning sand
We’ve got a new kinda rhythm that’s real cool and
They put a beat to the rhythm of their ancient land
Then what do they get, a crazy style
And it’s driving old Baghdad wild
They’re rockin’ in Baghdad, having a ball
Jumping in Baghdad, climbing the wall

Baghdad’s rocking tonight
Doing that boogie up right

They’re going like mad, a-rocking in old Baghdad
A long time ago back in old Baghdad
The dance of the seven veils was the fad
The sultan got hip to these rhythm and blues
And now he’s got a pair of rocking shoes
His harem is a-bopping to a boogie beat
They even got the camels hopping down the street
A snake charmer threw his little flute away
Got a guitar now and he’s learning to play
Something’s really happened in old Baghdad
‘Cause they’re doing that boogie

And they’re going like that
Baghdad’s rocking tonight

“Sunday Morning”: Charlie Louvin’s Week-at-a-Glance

Sunday towers mightily over the other days of the week in Charlie Louvin‘s life, as indicated by his choice of song titles over the years:  “Month of Sundays”; “As Long as There Is a Sunday”; “Will You Visit Me on Sundays” – and “Sunday Morning,” the album closer from 1967’s I Forgot to Cry LP on Capitol:

Sunday Morning – Charlie Louvin

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “Sunday Morning” by Charlie Louvin.]

This musical code of conduct, recorded July 22, 1966 at CBS’s Nashville studio, was written by Glenn Tubb, who also co-wrote the groundbreaking piece of honky tonk social commentary, “Skip a Rope” – a #1 country hit (and top-40 pop) for Henson Cargill that dared to take on such sensitive topics as spousal abuse, tax evasion and racism.

Charlie Louvin LP

Loudermilk Begat Louvin

Charlie, of course, is one half of the famous Louvin Brothers musical duo, who were born Charlie and Ira Loudermilk – and cousins to country and pop songwriter J.D. Loudermilk, whose body of work includes, interestingly, “Indian Reservation” (Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian).”

“Pink Velvet Swing”: Six Degrees of Roy Clark

In 1962 Capitol Records released a Roy Clark instrumental LP entitled, The Lightning Fingers of Roy ClarkGiven the year of release, Roy shows amazing restraint by limiting to three the number of songs whose titles end with the word “Twist.”

One obvious album highlight is Roy’s version of Hank Penny‘s “Pink Velvet Swing“:

“Pink Velvet Swing”     Roy Clark     1962

Capitol issued one single from this album — “Texas Twist” b/w “Wildwood Twist” — in the US, Canada, Italy, and Germany, although in the UK, “In the Mood” rather than “Wildwood Twist” served as the B-side.

Rear cover

The Cincinnati-Kingston Connection II

Speaking of Hank Penny, Wikipedia’s bio spotlights his hit song “Bloodshot Eyes” and shows a curious chain of connections that illustrate the direct cultural impact of the sounds coming out of Cincinnati’s King Records studio on people in far-flung places that yet were within reach of radio during its peak period of influence – places such as Kingston, Jamaica and legendary session guitarist, Ernest Ranglin:

Penny’s “Bloodshot Eyes” was also recorded in 1951 by rock and roll singer, Wynonie Harris, who turned it into a major rock hit (King 4461).  Harris was a big influence on Elvis Presley, who did go to see him play and met him in his formative years and recorded Roy Brown’s Good Rocking Tonight after hearing Wynonie Harris’ hit version.  Appreciated by white country music fans and black rock and roll followers alike, “Bloodshot Eyes” became an early landmark in racial integration.  It was much appreciated in the Caribbean, where Wynonie Harris had a large following.  Along with other Wynonie Harris records, it was being played on Jamaican dancehalls as early as 1951.  In 1958 Jamaican mento group, Denzil Laing and the Wrigglers recorded a fine version of it for their Arawak Hotel album featuring jazz guitar great, Ernest Ranglin.

Arawak Hotel LP

“Artistry in Western Swing”: Progressive Sounds in County & Western

Stan Kenton – who released a 10″ Capitol EP Artistry in Rhythm in 1947 – was a progressive voice in jazz, just as Tex Williams, who answered Kenton in 1948 with “Artistry in Western Swing,” was likewise a forward thinker within the realm of western swing and country music.


Kenton had actually kicked off this whole “artistry” thing back in 1943 with the composition, “Artistry in Rhythm” – one of the year’s big hits.  The Capitol EP, curiously, does not include the actual title track but does offer “Artistry in Percussion and “Artistry in Bolero” instead.

You can compare and contrast yourself – first, here’s 1943’s “Artistry in Rhythm”:

Next, click on the triangle below to play “Artistry in Western Swing” by Tex Williams & His Western Caravan from 1948:

“Artistry in Western Swing”     Tex Williams     1948

In The Jazz of the Southwest:  An Oral History of Western Swing, Jean A. Boyd writes,

“The Western Caravan at this time included Tex Williams (bandleader, vocals, guitar); Smokey Rogers (vocals, guitar, banjo); Deuce Spriggins (vocals, bass); Pedro DePaul (accordian, arranger); Cactus Soldi (fiddle); RexCurlyCall (fiddle); MaxGibbyFidler (fiddle); Johnny Weiss (lead guitar); Ozzie Godson (piano, vibraphone); Muddy Berry (drums); Spike Featherstone (harp); EarlJoaquinMurphey (steel guitar).  [Guitarist] Benny Garcia was also part of the Western Caravan band that recorded the magnificent Artistry in Western Swing album, a western swing response to Stan Kenton’s monumental Artistry in Swing.  Benny recalls that he had to hire jazz flutist Ezzie Morales to play the flute parts on the Kenton arrangements.”

Artistry in Western Swing 78

Stan Kenton:  The Original Wall of Sound

As Jim Gilchrist of The Scotsman points out in his piece, “Bringing Back the Original Wall of Sound,” Stan Kenton gained distinction for his orchestra’s famed Wall of Sound “way before Phil Spector annexed the term.”