Mack: Synonymous with Diesel

Can you believe it’s been 4 months and 20 days since I last featured a truck driving song?  And how perfect is it that Lonnie Mack once wrote and sang a truck driving song for 1971 Elektra album, The Hills of Indiana?

“Asphalt Outlaw Hero”     Lonnie Mack     1971

Don Nix – who also wrote “Oh What a Mighty Time” for The New Riders of the Purple Sage, with Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia (previously celebrated here) – co-wrote “Asphalt Outlaw Hero” with Lonnie Mack.

Acoustic & Electric Guitar – Lonnie Mack
Rhythm Guitar – Wayne Perkins*
Steel Guitar – Lloyd Green
Bass – Norbert Putnam, Tim Drummond, Troy Seals & David Hood*
Drums – Kenneth Buttrey & Roger Hawkins*
Fiddle – Buddy Spicher
Baritone Saxophone – Don Nix*
Keyboards – David Briggs & Barry Beckett*
Lead Vocals – Lonnie Mack & Don Nix
Choir – Mt. Zion Singers
Producer – Lonnie Mack & Russ Miller
Arranger – Norbert Putnam
Engineer – Brian Ross-Myring, Gene Eichelberger & Marlin Greene*

* designates personnel on “Asphalt Outlaw Hero”

“Asphalt Outlaw Hero” & “All Good Things Will Come to Pass” recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio — all others at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.  Elektra would issue a promo 7-inch of “Lay It Down” in 1971 but no actual singles.

Billboard’s review of The Hills of Indiana in its September 25, 1971 edition:

“Memphis, now Nashville.  Lonnie Mack bids for a chart comeback with still another fine LP country-soul and pop-gospel.  Mack is dedicated, often moving and brilliant, yet “undiscovered” by a pop public that would tune in fast if they could hear Mack soul away on ‘Rings,’ Dylan’s ‘The Man in Me’ and ‘All Good Things Will Come to Pass.’  Buttrey, Briggs and Putnam back Mack for an honest shot at popular exposure.”

Mojo would include The Hills of Indiana in its list of 60 Greatest Elektra Albums in the magazine’s November, 2010 issue — along with Don Nix’s Living by the Days, also from 1971.

The many moods of Lonnie Mack’s ‘The Hills of Indiana’

Lonnie Mack - Hills-1xElektra Records album sleevesLonnie Mack - Hills-2

Seven months ago, someone paid $20 for a sealed copy of The Hills of Indiana on Ebay.

“Lothario in A”: Red Rhodes on the Elektra Label

It was a bit of a sea change, prestige-wise, for Red Rhodes to go from “lowly” Crown (and I say that with affection) to Jac Holzman’s esteemed Elektra label.  Aside from 1970’s supergroup experiment with Red Rhodes, Buddy Emmons, Sneaky Pete, Jay Dee Maness & Rusty Young – Suite Steel:  The Pedal Steel Guitar Album – Red released his first proper solo album in 1973, Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band, on Elektra imprint, Countryside (a Mike Nesmith enterprise, as it turns out).  Red gets a wonderful shimmering effect on his steel guitar in the soaring instrumental, “Lothario in A:

Thanks to Discogs for the musician credits:

Producer:  Michael Nesmith
Arranger & Steel Guitar:  Red Rhodes
Acoustic Guitar:  Dr. Robert K. Warford
Electric Guitar:  Jay Lacy
Bass:  Bill Graham, Colin Camero & Jim Stallings
Drums:  Danny Lane
Piano & Liner Notes:  David Barry
Art Direction & Design:  Dean O. Torrence (of Jan & Dean)

Red Rhodes Elektra LP

According to Jac Holzman’s memoir, Becoming Elektra:

“Mike Nesmith’s Countryside label was an intriguing venture based, in part, on the premise that Nesmith thought it possible to develop a label in California based upon a Western take on country music, and he cited Buck Owens as a model.  Holzman thought it worth exploring the idea of a small ancillary label working a potent vein of American music, separate from Elektra’s offices.

‘Nesmith could bring unusual talented people together and create a supportive environment,’ says Holzman.  “He was whip-smart and a pro in the studio.  Countryside was an effort to develop a different kind of country music, where country and cowboy and folk merges.  We built Michael his own studio around the same analogue mixing console that recorded L.A. Woman.  Unfortunately, Countryside was the first thing David Geffen dismantled when he took over [as head of newly-merged Elektra/Asylum].’

Only two albums appeared:  Garland Frady’s splendid Pure Country and one by Nesmith’s renowned steel guitarist, Red Rhodes, Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band.”

At the time of Geffen’s big deal, Jac would be appointed senior VP and Chief Technology Officer for Warner Brothers-Elektra-Atlantic — an emerging giant now challenging Columbia for supremacy.  Important to note that by 1970 Jac’s label, Elektra, had already been sold for $11 million to the Kinney Corporation.

This album, interestingly enough, was also released as volume 10 in the Steel Guitar Record Club series — other steel guitarists profiled in this series include Speedy West, Jerry Byrd, Buddy Charleton, Buddy Emmons, Herb Remington, Alvino Rey, Lloyd Green, Curly Chalker, Tom Brumley, Hal Rugg, Jimmy Day, Jay Dee Maness & Bobby Black, among others.

“The Return”: Folk Opus – No Joke*

For their one and only recording on Elektra Records, The Ship would seamlessly link their group’s name with the album’s title and concept:  A Contemporary Folk Music Journey.

The Ship LPThe provocative quote on the album’s back cover – “I’m a sailor of the waters & the sun —  I can fight the rains but have no weapons for the calm” – gamely informs us that the most difficult storms can be the ones that rage within.

How curious to find in the producer’s chair, Gary Usher, who will be forever associated with songs about burning rubber and navigating those gnarly waves.  As with Spanky & Our Gang’s Without Rhyme or Reason, this song cycle finds the songs all interlinked for continuous sound from start to finish – which would explain why this recording of “The Return” sounds, at the very beginning of the song, as if it had jumped from a moving train:

The Return – The Ship

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “The Return” by The Ship.]

Recorded in 1971 during the peak of the ‘Album Age’ for a label that was never really known for its singles, that Elektra issued no 45s from this concept album should surprise no one.

The concept itself was authored by Steve Melshenker and Steve Cowan, with the music performed by the following personnel:

Steve Melshenker:   6-string & 2nd lead guitar/vocals

Steve Cowan:           12-string guitar/vocals

Steve Reinwand:       lead guitar/dobro/harmonica/vocals

Mark Hamby:              piano/flute/vocals

Todd Bradshaw:        4- & 8-string bass

Tim Scott:                 cello

* Hats off to (Roy) Harper

“Strange Locomotion”: Perplexingly, the Singer is Not American

The title track of 1971’s Strange Locomotion might easily give one the impression that singer Kevin Coyne and his musical companions are good ol’ boys playing southern soul and boogie — however, Siren is strictly a UK aggregation:

“Strange Locomotion”     Siren     1971

Siren - Strange Locomotion LPElektra would release “Strange Locomotion” as the A-side of a 7-inch release in 1971.  45Cat reviewer, The Toad, humorously describes the 45 as “mid-tempo rock, with bluesy touches and Kevin Coyne’s unmistakable vocals; about as commercial as Siren ever got. The ‘B’ side is a sparse late-night bluesy ballad.”

Strange Locomotion 45

Kevin Coyne:    Vocals/Guitar

Nick Cudworth: Piano/Guitar

Dave Clague:    Bass/Guitar

Mick Gratton:    Lead Guitar

Tat Meager:       Drums

A Dandelion U.K. Production