Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Savoy Brown: I Ain't Superstitious

It’s been a while since I played some straight blues – so how about a little Savoy Brown to satisfy your palate. From their first album “Shake Down” when the band was known as the Savoy Brown Blues Band, they do a raucous rendition of Willie Dixon’s “l Ain’t Superstitious.”

Although the song was penned by Dixon, who wrote many of the hits on the Chess label, it will be forever intertwined with the career of Howlin’ Wolf who recorded it first in 1961. Savoy Brown’s version features the guitars of Kim Simmonds and Martin Stone, the piano of Bob Hall, and Brice Portius on vocals.

By the time of the second album, the personnel of Savoy Brown changed dramatically with only Kim Simmonds and Bob Hall remaining from the original sextet. In fact, Simmonds has been the constant throughout the band’s history and has become synonymous with the Savoy Brown brand.

I don’t think this album was originally released in the US, as I’ve only seen it as import on the British Decca label. I could be wrong about this, but I think that “Getting to the Point” may have been the first North American release by Savoy Brown. If my memory serves me correctly, the first time I saw “Shake Down” was in the import record rack at Cox’s Department store in downtown McKeesport, PA in 1972.

Only 55 more posts until “Reading Between the Grooves” will be retired.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Horslips: The High Reel

This morning I awoke with Horslips’ song “Speed the Plough” on my mind for some reason, but alas I have already featured that great rock tune from the Irish band who took their name from a Spoonerism of “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” – “Four Poxmen of the Horslypse.” The name evolved into Horslips.

Since I’ve featured most of their best known tunes, I’ve turned to their first album – my first exposure to the band. Forty years ago, Horslips released “Happy to Meet . . . Sorry to Part.” In the US, the album was released on the ATCO label. It was an interesting packaging, as the album was octagon shaped and depicted a concertina. I was fortunate that a friend gave me a promo copy of the album – so I have it on a rare white label pressing.

Since the studio version of their single release “The High Reel” is not available on YouTube, I decided to show a live version from the same era. “The High Reel” features the fiddle work of Charles O’Connor – the only member of the band born in England.

The guys are so young looking, especially guitarist Johnny Fean; however, he was the youngest member in the band and was only 19 at the time. Recorded for German TV, this is a very strange video. What on earth is drummer Eamon Carr wearing and why does Barry Devlin have a stuffed parrot muting the strings on his bass? So many questions – so little time.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chuck Owston: Jesus Won't You Come By Here?

Today is my brother Chuck’s 70th birthday and I thought that a song from his many recordings might be fitting for this auspicious occasion. Reaching back into the archives, I have pulled out the first recording session in which I was involved. The date was November 19, 1973 and I was almost eighteen years old at that time. I had only been playing mandolin since September and was honored by the fact that Chuck, who had been involved in the recording of five albums, one EP, and one single; would ask me to participate.

He had recently heard Lightning Hopkins’ recording of “Needed Time” in the movie “Sounder” and decided to record it, but under the title of “Jesus Won’t You Come By Here?” Chuck played his National Duolian steel bodied resonator guitar, wailed on the harmonica, and sang lead. He was joined on guitar by Kevin Yeager who also sang harmony vocals. I played mandolin. Not only did Kevin and I, both freshmen at Kentucky Christian College, get to play on the recording, we were credited on the single.

Kevin Yeager, Chuck Owston, & Jim Owston from summer 1974.
Kevin and I played on three songs total: “Jesus Won’t You Come By Here?” – the “A” side; “You Better Have Jesus” – a reworking of “Denomination Blues” without the denominational verses – the “B” side; and “Gospel Ship” – a song that turned up on Chuck’s album “Reflections” that was issued a few years later. On the other two songs, Kevin just played rhythm acoustic guitar. On “Gospel Ship,” Chuck played mandolin and I played his National in slide guitar style. All three of these tunes were in the key of "G" and Chuck's National was tuned to an open "G" or "Spanish Tuning."

Although there were numerous photos taken at the session,
I could only find this one of "Gospel Ship."

In addition to these three songs, Chuck recorded some solo tunes – many, if not all of these, appeared on “Reflections.” The entire set of songs was recorded in the studios of WKCC in Grayson, Kentucky. Dave Bennett served as engineer and recently both Dave and I reminisced about this session and the orange-red labeled 45 that resulted. It was pressed at Rite Records in Cincinnati and I believe it was available in late January or early February 1974 and was issued on Chuck's Southern Cross label. The label's entire catalog of works consisted of six albums, one EP, and two singles. Every issue's label had a different color combination.

All of this session's songs were recorded in mono, as WKCC was a 10-watt mono FM station and only had two mono reel-to-reel decks – a half-track Ampex and a full-track Magnecord 1021. The deck of choice was the Magnecord. Despite being mono, it was a quality deck that served the station for many years. I was later WKCC's program director from 1975-1978.

Only two mics were used – both were Electro Voice EV635A dynamic microphones – typical for broadcast usage, but everything was as balanced as we could get it. They are workhorse microphones, and if you are not using them for that purpose, they can substitute as a hammer without much damage to the nail.

The recording session began shortly after sign-off at midnight and probably continued until two in the morning. It was so memorable that I still have the shirt I wore that night – I can’t fit into it, but I have it in storage. By the way, it was green with a cream colored pineapple motif - it was a shirt my mother bought me to take to college that fall. Chuck was wearing some funky red pants and a pretty wild shirt.

Tonight Chuck is performing an acoustic concert in a very low-key setting at the Bryn Mawr Church of Christ in White Oak, PA. Unfortunately, a recent illness has prevented me from participating. I am sure he will do “Jesus Won’t You Come By Here?” It is a staple for both of us as we perform. Good luck Bro and have fun. Wish I was there.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

James Gang: Funk #49

If there was a quintessential James Gang song, it would have to be “Funk #49” from their 1970 second album “Rides Again.” I got thinking about this tune about six weeks ago when a friend of mine started playing it on an acoustic guitar and I followed suit on my mandolin.

It was the first time I tried playing the song on mandolin and the rhythm part was not difficult; however, I attempted to do the bass line and that was a little more difficult. I often use the bass line as a warm-up when I rarely play that instrument, but making the transition to mandolin was a little difficult as it was a paradigm shift.

There are several aspects to “Funk #49” that make it readily recognizable – the guitar work of Joe Walsh and the unison runs of Walsh’s guitar and Dale Peters’ bass . . . and don’t forget no one will ever say “more cowbell,” as “Funk #49 has a hefty dose of that percussive tool courtesy of Jim Fox.

The James Gang was truly a power trio and the album rides again features only help from one musician on one song. Steel guitarist Rusty Young plays on “There I Go Again.” During the heyday of the band with Joe Walsh at the helm, the band only garnered prominence in the Rust Belt.

“Funk #49” was the band’s second single, but do you remember their first? It was “Funk #48” from “Yer Album” in 1969. The significance of the name and numbers are unknown to me, but the latter was the bigger hit; however, it missed the Top 40 and charted at #59, and therefore, qualifies as our bubbling under hit.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Linda Ronstadt: White Rhythm & Blues

Last week’s Friday Flipside was from The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band and it got me thinking about another Asylum Records artist, Linda Ronstadt. In 1978, Ronstadt released her “Living in the USA” album and the first single release was Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA.” While the “A” side was the hit and charted at #16, I was partial to the flip “White Rhythm & Blues.”

As a J.D. Souther composition, “White Rhythm & Blues” featured a Rhodes Piano lead by Don Grolnick. Dan Dugmore’s pedal steel guitar is heavily represented in the mix. I saw Linda in Huntington, WV in August 1978 during this tour, and I will have to say, that while she has a beautiful singing voice, she lacks stage presence. Her producer and percussionist, and former member of Peter and Gordon, Peter Asher and guitarist Waddy Wachtel made up for it with their ever present enthusiasm.

“Living in the USA” produced four singles in total. The others included her rendition of Smokey Robison’s “Ohh Baby Baby,” Doris Troy’s “Just One Look,” and Elvis Costello’s “Allison.” The later was the first 45 RPM picture disc that I ever purchased.

J.D. Souther’s Version

Souther recorded his own version of the song in 1979 as a duet with Phil Everly. The single, which appeared on his “You’re Only Lonely” album, did poorly charting at #106 in 1980.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rosemary Clooney & Perez Prado: Sway

A few weeks while being sick, I was scanning through the channels and landed on a horrible movie named “Repo Men.” Starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, the plot has the two primary characters repossessing transplanted body parts when their new owners defaulted on their payments. Quite dark and bloody, it was strange and unusual.

What drew me to the movie was the opening theme – Rosemary Clooney and Perez Prado and their recording of “Sway.” Originally written as an instrumental named “¿Quién será?” by Pablo Ruiz in 1953, English lyrics were added in 1954 by Norman Gimble and the song became a Top 20 hit for Dean Martin.

This mambo was recorded for Clooney and Prado’s 1959 collaboration, “A Touch of Tobasco.” I prefer Clooney’s vocal interpretation to Dean Martin’s. Her version is our TV Thursday selection for this week. Only 60 more posts until Reading Between the Grooves exits stage left.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Phil Seymour: Precious To Me

Today’s One Hit Wonder Wednesday selection reminds me of when I moved to my current town of Beckley, WV in early 1981. Although Phil Seymour had a hit in 1975 with the Dwight Twilley Band’s “I’m on Fire,” he only had one solo hit record.

As one of the early artists signed to Neil Bogart’s short-lived Boardwalk Records, “Precious to Me” peaked at #22. Although, “I’m on Fire” charted higher at #16; however, I would venture to guess that by today’s standards, “Precious to Me” is better known today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stevie Wonder: Spain

Last night I was scouring the archives of YouTube for a suitable tune for today’s Tasty Licks Tuesday selection. While looking for and listening to various Pat Metheny cuts, Stevie Wonder’s version of Chick Corea’s “Spain” was suggested and I clicked on it.

From his 2009 DVD “Live at Last,” Stevie and company do a rousing version of this classic Corea composition. The song begins with Victoria Theodore on keyboards with a sound of Chick Corea’s Fender Rhodes piano. She is then joined by Stevie Wonder on chromatic harmonica. It really is a nice mix.

Then the band joins into the mix and one can immediately tell that to play in Stevie Wonder’s band you have to be a stellar musician. Then one by one, in this nearly 12 minute live performance from London, each member of the band takes a verse for a solo. The band includes the following members:

  • Ryan Kilgore, tenor saxophone
  • Errol Cooney, guitar
  • Roman Johnson, keyboards – who plays like he’s playing an old monophonic synth using the pitch bend wheel.
  • Dwight Adams, trumpet
  • Kyle Bolden, guitar
  • Munyungo Jackson, timbales
  • Victoria Theodore, keyboards
  • Nathan Watts, bass
  • Fausto Cuevas, congas
  • Stevie Wonder, acoustic piano
  • Stanley Randolph, drums

Then the band finishes out this number. What a great version of this song.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Crosby, Stills, & Nash: Marrakesh Express

For this Mélange Monday, we travel back to 1969 with a little Moroccan Roll – not to be confused with Moroccan Mole. In 1966, Graham Nash visited Morocco where he traveled with all manner of creatures on the “Marrakesh Express” – a train that traveled between Marrakesh and Casablanca. As he wrote of his experiences, Nash brought the composition back to The Hollies.

The band cut a rudimentary track, but the other members of The Hollies were not keen on releasing it, so it was shelved. When Crosby, Stills, and Nash recorded their self-titled debut album in 1968, “Marrakesh Express” was recorded and released as a single. It charted at #28.

Graham Nash & the Author, 1982

While Nash sings lead and plays acoustic guitar, Crosby and Stills sing harmony; however, it is Stephen Stills’ instrumentation that makes this recording. Stills plays bass, piano, double tracked lead guitar, and organ. The organ is pivotal to the overall sound of this short, little record. Jim Gordon rounds out the tune with his drumming.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Patty Griffin: Up To The Mountain

Quite a few artists have recorded Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain,” but today’s Spiritual Sunday song is the artist’s own version – which wasn’t the first recording of the song. That distinction belongs to Solomon Burke. The tune is based on the final speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. on the day prior to his assassination. It has a gospel feel and a clandestine spiritual message that shines through on the final verse.

The recording from her 2007 album “Children Running Through” is a sparse arrangement, which creates the beauty of the song. It starts with a lone piano track by Ian McLaughin who was the keyboardist formerly with the Small Faces and their successor, The Faces. On the second verse, Glenn Worf’s acoustic bass and a string quartet joins McLaughin and Griffin.

It is in an interesting key for the instrumentation – “B.” A half step either direction would have been easier to play, but a half step higher to “C” would have been the easiest for the piano, bass, and the strings. It is a very nice recording that reminds us all that that mountain top is just ahead.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Kinks: Sleepwalker

It has been well over a year since I’ve featured a song by The Kinks, so I thought that I might remedy that by playing a cut from the band that was jokingly referred to as the “Muswell Hillbillies.” The name is attributed to their origins in the Muswell Hill suburb of London. While the band recorded an album of that name in 1971, our Bubbling Under cut is from later in their career.

Released in February 1977, “Sleepwalker” was the first entry for the band in Billboard’s Hot 100 since 1970’s “Apeman,” which bubbled under at 45. It’s a pity that the band was ignored in that period as some of their classic recordings, such as “Celluloid Heroes” – one of my particular favorites, failed to chart.

The title cut to their “Sleepwalker” album, the single charted at #48 on the Hot 100 in early 1977. The album returned the band to a more classic sound of The Kinks we’ve known and loved. The song really should have done better, as it has a great instrumental and lyrical hook, as well as fantastic lead guitar part by Dave Davies. My only guess is that the lyrical content is a little bit creepy. “I’m a sleepwalker . . . I’m a night stalker; I’m a sleepwalker . . . I’m a night hawker.”

When ev'rybody's fast asleep, I start to creep.
Through the shadows of the moonlight, I walk my beat.
Better close your window tight:
I might come in for a bite,

My favorite part of the song is the bridge where Ray Davies does his pseudo Bob Dylan impersonation. It is a great tune that should have done better, but it really was a comeback record for the band in the late seventies and the album charted at #21 and was their highest charting album in the US since 1965’s “Kinks-Size.” The single “Sleepwalker” was followed by “Juke Box Music” that failed to chart.

Pseudo Live Version

On March 8, 1977, The Kinks appeared on the Merv Griffin Show and performed “Sleepwalker” and “Celluloid Heroes” in a pseudo live performance. I think Ray Davies vocals may have been live, but the instrumentation appears to be canned.

Only 65 more posts until "Reading Between the Grooves" retires.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band: Heavenly Fire

In 1973, I had the opportunity to see Poco in concert at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh. It was the last tour that Richie Furay performed with the band before he left to form The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band. Furay teamed up with singer/songwriter J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman, a former member of The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

In the fall of 1974, the band’s debut single “Fallin’ in Love” debuted and I remember purchasing it at the Sundry Store on Main Street in Grayson, Kentucky. Being a college sophomore on a limited financial budget, I satisfied my musical habits by purchasing singles and not albums and this is one that I bought when I returned to school that fall.

The “B” side was “Heavenly Fire” that was penned by Len Fagen and Chris Hillman. Hillman sings the lead as well as playing bass and mandolin. The pedal steel parts were provided by band member Al Perkins. Souther, Hillman, and Furay all provided harmony vocals.

Their self-titled debut album did quite well by peaking at 11 on the Top 200 Album charts and The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band was touted as a country-rock supergroup. The “A” side, which is a great Richie Furay tune was a mid charter at #27.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Maroon 5: Goodnight, Goodnight

A few weeks ago, I caught a live performance of Maroon 5 on CSI: New York doing their 2007 recording of “Goodnight, Goodnight.” While it was intended to be released as a single in the US, it was not. The song actually did well in several other countries, but is primarily known in America as an album cut from the band’s second LP “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long.”

The CD debuted at the #1 slot on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart and nearly sold enough copies in the first week to be certified gold. It eventually was certified as double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

CSI New York Performance

Maroon 5’s performance on CSI: New York was during the 2008 fall season.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Frank Ifield: I Remember You

I know what you are thinking, how can he go from Montrose, to Sandy Denny, to Brian Auger, to Frank Ifield? Well, that’s the beauty of this blog – I control the content and I have very eclectic tastes. Some of you will really hate Ifield’s only American hit from 1962, “I Remember You.” But it’s my blog and I’m sticking to it.

Co-written by Johnny Mercer, Frank Ifield’s “I Remember You” charted at #5 in the US and was in the #1 slot for seven weeks in the UK. It was Britain’s second biggest selling single for ’62 being beat out by another favorite of mine, “Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk.

Some will compare Ifield with Slim Whitman, as both yodel. While Whitman no doubt influenced the British crooner, Ifield influenced Whitman with this recording as he recorded “I Remember You” four years before “The Smiling Starduster.” Slim’s version, which is the same arrangement, never had the success of Frank Ifield’s recording, as it peaked at #134 on the pop charts and #49 on the country charts.

In the UK, Ifield had four number one records and eleven others that charted in the Top 40. He was not as fortunate in the US being a one-hit wonder, although his 1966 “Call Her Your Sweetheart” made it to 28 on the US country charts.

VeeJay Records attempted to capitalize on his fame in Britain by combining several of his recordings on albums with The Beatles who were under license from EMI to VeeJay. Two albums were released in 1964 with the title of “The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage.” Except for the cover and slightly different names, neither album had any live cuts.

Both included the same four cuts by The Beatles and same eight selections by Ifield (including “I Remember You”) in one of VeeJay’s many schemes to repackage Beatles’ recordings before they reverted back to EMI and its American label, Capitol Records. The first of these albums I have and it is titled “Jolly What.” I bought my copy at a store in East Jenkins, Kentucky in 1973 and paid $2.99 for it. They also had the “Savage Beatles” album, but didn’t have enough cash to buy it – pity.

The second version of the album with a drawing of The Beatles is extremely rare and it is thought that less than 100 copies were pressed. It was rushed released right at the end of VeeJay’s contract with EMI. In 1995, a sealed copy of this album sold at auction for $22,000. I wish I had this one rather than “Jolly What!”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express: Straight Ahead

It was shortly after Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express released their monumental “Straight Ahead” album that I gained an affinity toward jazz. I remember hearing the title cut, our Tasty Licks Tuesday selection, on Harry Abraham’s radio program on WHAM in the wee hours of the morning. I didn’t know the title and I jotted down what appeared to be the hook – “it was a gas” or “straight on.” At the time, I didn’t know the artist and would later learn that it was Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express.

This was not typical style that Harry Abraham played as it may have had a little too much of a commercial flair for what I remember his tastes being during the mid 1970s. What attracted me to this tune was Brian Auger’s treatment of the Fender Rhodes Piano – at least I think it was a Rhodes – it is a little more percussive sounding and may actually be a Wurlitzer. I loved this cut

In time, I learned it was Auger and crew and when I purchased the double album “Live Oblivion, Volume 2,” I learned the name of the tune. The tune has an ominous beginning that sounds like the music of the seventies – bass by Barry Dean, high-hat cymbals of drummer Steve Ferrone, and wah-wah guitar as provided by Jack Mills. Rounding out the session are percussionists Lennox Laington on congas and timbles by Mirza Al Sharif. All vocals were by Auger.

It’s a great introduction to the tasty licks of Brian Auger and to the progressive jazz of the 1970s – “straight on.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sandy Denny: Easy To Slip

On my YouTube channel, I have a version of Little Feat’s “Easy to Slip” as performed by the Talbott (Terry and John) Brothers who had been the key personnel in the legendary band Mason-Profitt. Recently, someone posted a message that I needed to check out Sandy Denny’s version. Being a fan of the song and Sandy Denny, it didn’t take long for me to find it.

The song is one of the bonus tracks from the reissue of Sandy’s last album to be released prior to her untimely death in 1978. While the cast of characters who contributed to the album was a veritable “Who’s Who” of rock and folk-rock, the album did not fare well among the critics.

“Easy to Slip” did not make the cut for the original release – you know – vinyl albums could only contain 40 minutes without slipping into sound degradation. The advent of the CD allowed 80 minutes of music and provided a vehicle for numerous great tunes to finally be heard. The Island Records’ remastered and reissued CD added five tracks to the existing nine giving us the final 16 studio cuts that Sandy recorded.

It’s a great rendition of this classic rock song from the queen of folk-rock.

Only 70 more posts to go until "Reading Between the Grooves" is retired.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Montrose: Bad Motor Scooter

Here’s a song that takes me back to my freshman year of college. Montrose’s debut album was released in 1973, and I first heard our bubbling under hit, “Bad Motor Scooter,” during the spring of 1974. The occasion was the night-time format change of WAMX (the former WCMI-FM; 94.1) in Ashland, KY. While the station was primarily a MOR (Middle of the Road) formatted station during the day, at nights Bob Lee (Bobby Leach) brought in his own record collection and played some of the most amazing album cuts after dark.

I had a chance to briefly work with Lee when he returned to WAMX in 1980, but by then the station was totally formatted as Contemporary Hit Radio and was giving the top station in the market, Huntington, WV’s WKEE-FM, a run for the money; but, I digress.

Lee's mix of music in the early years of WAMX turned me onto quite a few rock bands including Montrose. I was familiar with Ronnie Montrose’s work from The Edgar Winter Group’s “They Only Come out at Night” album – which even today is a classic rock album from the early 70s. Shortly after the release of that LP, Montrose left Edgar Winter (and was replaced by Rick Derringer) to strike out on his own.

The band was named after its lead guitarist, and Ronnie Montrose's guitar sound on this album is credited to the effect box that he used – an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff π – a classic fuzz tone that provided a wide range of guitar distortion. In the 1980s, Electro-Harmonix stopped manufacturing its pedals, but due to guitarists and collectors willing to pay exorbitant prices for used Big Muff πs and other E-H pedals, the company began re-manufacturing a limited inventory of pedals during the 1990s.

Beside the band’s namesake, Montrose included Bill Church on bass, Danny Carmassi on drums, and a voice that should sound familiar – Sammy Hagar. It was Hagar’s recording debut, and his vocals would become a mainstay in the rock arena with his solo work, as a member of Van Halen, and participation in numerous side projects including HSAS. By the way, he is credited as “Sam” Hagar on the album.

The author and Sammy Hagar in 1985

The debut Montrose album, while charting dismally #133 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, served as an influence for a number of bands including Van Halen. The album was produced by Doobie Brothers’ producer Ted Templeton and only two songs received a modicum of airplay: “Rock Candy” and today’s selection “Bad Motor Scooter.” Hagar penned “Bad Motor Scooter.”

In 1980, I remember talking about this album to Bob Lee and how I remembered the amount of airplay he gave it upon its release. I’ll never forget a comment he made. He said that he always thinks of this album when he passes the I-64 exit for Montrose Avenue in South Charleston, West Virginia. To this day, when I pass or exit to Montrose Avenue, I too think of Ronnie Montrose and the band he created - but mostly today's cut. “So get on your bad motor scooter and ride.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

Clifton Chenier: Frog Legs

Due to a number of reasons, I missed TV Thursday this week, although I did have a New Orleans’ related song picked. It was going to take more research in the short amount of time that I had allocated on Thursday, so I decided to pass rather than do a less than reasonable job on the post. Since it is Friday Flipside, I thought I’d bring a Louisiana “B” side to the table of Cajun delights.

The style of music is Zydeco and is popular in Bayou Country. The undisputed king of the genre was an accordion virtuoso named Clifton Chenier. He fronted a Zydeco band along with his brother Cleveland who played the frottoir – a washboard like instrument that is worn as a vest. It is said that Clifton invented the instrument.

The instrumental “Frog Legs” was the “B” side to Chenier’s 1969 regional hit “Black Gal.” While I didn’t have any frog legs this week in New Orleans, I did have them once in Atlanta in 1982. They didn’t taste like chicken to me and the texture was a bit strange. I imagine it is an acquired taste that this northern born boy probably won’t develop anytime soon; however, I do like most Cajun and Southern fare.

Since Clifton’s death in 1987, his son C.J. Chenier has continued in his father’s tradition. I love Zydeco and it is style of music that is heard seldom outside of the region, but if you look hard, you’ll find Zydeco bands all over the US. Bon Temps, y'all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Arlo Guthrie: City of New Orleans

When Steven Goodman wrote the “City of New Orleans,” he wasn’t thinking about New Orleans per se. He was singing about the Illinois Central passenger train that traveled from Chicago to New Orleans during the daytime.

It was added in 1947 as a complement to the line’s other train on the same route during the night – “The Panama Limited.” It was roughly a 15 hour train ride from one destination to the other – which was monumental in itself. Amtrak took over the City of New Orleans line in 1972.

When Arlo Guthrie recorded the song and Reprise Records issued it as a single, it became his only Top 40 hit. I know, most people probably know “Alice’s Restaurant” better, but it didn’t perform as well on the charts. “City of New Orleans” appeared on Arlo’s album, “Hobo’s Lullaby.” The song peaked at #18.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Animals: House Of The Rising Sun

Since I’m in New Orleans this week, I thought I might feature some New Orleans’ related music. For Tasty-Licks Tuesday, Alice Price’s organ solo on “The House of the Rising Sun” is par excellence. It is the quintessential rock keyboard lead as Price beats it out on a Vox Continental organ. Hilton Valentine’s guitar is not to be overlooked as well as his arpeggios inspired a generation of young guitarists. It was the third song I learned on guitar. Although writer of the arrangement, Price was given full songwriting credit for this traditional song.

Not only was it number one hit in Britain and the US, it was the first non-Beatles related British invasion record to place in the number one spot in 1964 – which it did for three weeks in September. Although Peter & Gordon had a number one with “World Without Love” in June, Lennon and McCartney wrote the tune.

Only one other UK act placed in the #1 slot in 1964 – Manfred Mann with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” The Beatles were in the #1 slot for 18 weeks during the year and if you add “World Without Love,” that number becomes 19 weeks in the top slot. Only one other group had multiple number one records that year – The Supremes with “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me.”

While the song was about a brothel in New Orleans, musicologists believe it originated with a 16th century English ballad about brothel in Soho, London. It was suggested that when the song crossed the Atlantic, the location changed to “The Big Easy.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Silvertones: One Chance With You

During December 1977, I took a long vacation and stayed with friends in Louisville and Chicago. It was the perfect time to get away from the rat race of radio and to hear some new music. In Chicago, I became aware of the second release on the Blind Pig Record label out of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The album was by a local Chicago band named “The Silvertones” and was their only recorded output to my knowledge. It was a little blues mixed in with a dash of rockabilly, and I loved their album “One Chance with You.” I can remember playing it to death over the next several years.

What got me thinking about this album was their guitar instrumental of the “Andy of Mayberry Theme.” It was the last cut on side two, also known as “The Other Side.” The passing of Andy Griffith this week got me thinking of that album. While that was last cut on the album, today’s Mélange Monday cut is the first and title cut of the album and it leads off side one – otherwise known as “This Side.”

The Silvertones included George Bedard on guitar and vocals; Steve Nardella on guitar, harmonica, and vocals; Tom McDermot on drums; and Carl Hildebrandt on bass. This is a rarity indeed. If you see a copy, buy it immediately as it rarity indeed.

Only 75 more posts before I retire "Reading Between The Grooves."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Aerosmith: Jesus On The Mainline

Very late post today as I am still trying to get over my illness before my business trip tomorrow. I was inspired to choose Aerosmith’s version of the Mississippi Fred McDowell song, “Jesus is on the Mainline.” Some friends of mine were practicing the Gaither version of this same song a few weeks ago and I mentioned the Aerosmith version.

It was though I was lying about the whole thing, because no one believed me that Aerosmith recorded this song, but they had in 2004 on their album: “Honkin’ On Bobo.” The CD title is a euphemism for Steven Tyler’s harmonica playing. Tracy Bonham handles the female vocals on this cut.

Joe Perry is playing a National Triolian guitar on this cut. It is not my favorite rendition of “Jesus on the Mainline,” as I prefer Ry Cooder’s version from “Paradise and Lunch.”

Live Version

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mark-Almond: What Am I Living For?

Wednesday night, I was on some new medication for the pleurisy from which I have been suffering of late. Since I couldn’t sleep right away, I came down to the couch to see if I could fall asleep. Eventually I dozed off for about two hours. During that time, I had a strange dream about being a radio announcer. Well it wasn’t that strange, as I did that as a career for twenty years.

The strange thing was I was in the control room with only one workable turntable (well it worked most of the time) and only had one album – by the group Mark-Almond. It was not a usual album by the band, as it was country flavored and not their normal jazz-rock fare.

I went up to my bed and near the time I was to awaken, I had another dream. This time I was in a small pizza parlor that also sold odds and ends. As I was looking over the sundry items for sale, I spied a number of cards and post cards. In reading one, it was a note from a young man to his grandmother. He said that there were two things that endeared her to him. I don’t remember the first, but the second was that she knew all of the lyrics to all of Mark-Almond’s songs and understood their meanings.

Now, why I would have two dreams about Mark-Almond, let alone one? I hadn’t thought of this band in decades and although I have two of their albums, I would venture to say that until the next day, I had not listened to any of their music since 1978. Strange indeed.

Not to be confused with Marc Almond who was a member of Soft Cell, Jon Mark and Johnny Almond met as members in John Mayall’s band. That’s where I first got acquainted with the duo and in the 1970s, I purchased two of their albums: 1972’s “Rising” and 1976’s “To the Heart.” I wish I would have purchased “Mark-Almond,” “Mark-Almond II” and “'73”; as these are often heralded as being their best albums. In fact some of these are going for quite a high dollar price these days.

Two sellers on Amazon.com have unusually high prices for used copies of their 1971 self-titled first album. One is priced at $992.97 and the other is marked at $999.99. “To the Heart,” one of the albums I own, is priced at $99.99. Others are going for more than fair market prices. While the music is good, I cannot for the life of me understand why their albums are worth so much. It makes me wish I had invested in the first album so many years ago.

The band is centered on the two principal artists – Jon Mark who normally plays classical guitar and sings lead and Johnny Almond who is a reed player among other sundry instruments. Add to the mix are several other members that fill out the sound of the band.

Today’s “Bubbling Under” hit comes from their fourth album “’73” – which was recorded in, you guessed it, 1973. One side is a live side and the other is a studio side. It was their second album for Columbia and they issued two singles off of the album: “Lonely Girls” and “What Am I Living For?” While neither charted, “What Am I Living For?” is one of their best known cuts. It comes from the live side of the album.

Why I thought of Mark-Almond after all of these years may forever remain a mystery to me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Outsiders: Was It Really Real

Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, The Outsiders had several top 40 hits, but the most notable was their 1966 hit “Time Won’t Let Me.” Originally known as The Starfires, the band was rechristened as The Outsiders at the instance of Capitol records with the release of “Time Won’t Let Me.”

Charting at #5, it is probably the only cut by the band getting airplay on oldies stations today. While the band had three other Top 40 hits, they are long forgotten in the scheme of things. Of these three hits, the next highest charting single was “Respectable” which peaked at #15.

“Was it Really Real,” the “B” side to “Time Won’t Let Me” is arguably a better cut than their follow-up singles. Like many of their songs, “Was it Really Real” was co-authored by rhythm guitarist/saxophonist Tom King and his brother-in-law Chet Kelley.

As with all The Outsiders’ early recordings, Sonny Geraci sang lead. He later formed the band Climax and had a big hit with “Precious and Few.” Session musician Al Austin played the lead guitar and is often mistakenly credited as being a member of the band. His only contribution was to both sides of this single.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Andy Griffith Theme Song

In a continuing tribute to Andy Griffith who passed on Tuesday, I thought it might be nice to dedicate our TV Thursday song to him as well with the theme song to his television show. Used for the theme for the entire eight season run, most people don’t know the name of the song nor who was whistling the tune.

The music of “The Fishin’ Hole” was composed by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer with lyrics authored by Everett Sloane. I think most of us thought that Sheriff Andy Taylor was whistling the tune; however, this is incorrect as Hagen, one of the composers, utilized his talent in this area.

Vocal Version by Andy Griffith

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Andy Griffith: What It Was, Was Football

America lost an icon yesterday with the passing of Andy Griffith at the age of 86. For those of my generation, he was Andy Taylor – sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina. Sheriff Taylor was the purveyor of folksy wisdom in a simpler time. Later in the 1980s and 1990s, he starred as criminal defense attorney Ben Matlock – the epitome of a country lawyer created in the mold of Raymond Burr’s Perry Mason.

Griffith was no stranger to music and was adept on guitar and trombone. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia – a college music fraternity for men; he was president of the UNC chapter when he was a student.

Griffith’s vocal ability was showcased on numerous gospel recordings. His best known was the platinum certified “I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns.” Andy was awarded a Grammy award for the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album for this same album in 1997. Although he recorded a number of albums, he only had on popular hit – a record on which he did not sing, but rather acted as a country parson who witnessed his first football game.

“What It Was, Was Football” was recorded in 1953 and sold regionally well on the Colonial Records label out of Chapel Hill, NC. In 1954, the master was sold to Capitol Records and the spoken word recording peaked at #9 on Billboard’s popular charts – making it his one-hit wonder.

The single was released under the name of Deacon Andy Griffith. Funny thing though, two days ago I was just talking about this particular recording with my wife.  It's a little different type of record we are featuring today, but it honor's Andy Griffith's long career in show business.

Rest in Peace Andy – you’ll be missed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dick Dale & The Del-Tones: Misirlou

It is said that a young fan challenged Dick Dale, the king of the surf guitar, that he couldn’t play a song only one string of his guitar. Being half Lebanese, Dale had seen his relatives play the Turkish song “Misirlou” on one string of an Oud. So, as the story goes, Dick cranked up the tempo and made this Middle Eastern classic a classic surf-rock tune. It appears that he actually uses two strings – the low and hi Es.

The song was recorded by Dick Dale and his Del-Tones in 1962 and modern fans will remember the one string tune as the theme to Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” Dale, the left handed sultan of surf and faqir of the Fender Strat, brought this song to a rock crowd, while others paved the way for its inclusion as a standard in Greek rebetiko, klezmar, jazz, and exotica musical circles. But for today, it is our Tasty Licks Tuesday recording.

Live Version from “A Swinging Affair”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Big Head Todd & The Monsters: Bittersweet

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Pandora and one of the selections that was pushed my way was a song I had completely forgotten – Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ “Bittersweet.” Led by Todd Park Mohr, Big Head Todd and the Monsters formed in 1989 in Colorado by graduates of Columbine High School.

Their second LP, “Sister Sweetly” released in 1993 was their introduction to the mass public and featured three singles. While none charted in the Hot 100, all placed on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart

The first of the trio, “Bittersweet,” peaked at #14. The album “Sister Sweetly” was certified platinum for sales in excess of one million copies in the US. Although the album sold well, it never made it to Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart.

At the time of the release of the album, the band was a trio that also featured Rob Squires on bass and Brian Nevin on drums. Later the band added Corey Mauser on keyboards; he was replaced in 2000 by Jeremy Lawton. “Bittersweet” typifies the type of music from the 1990s that I really enjoy.

A Nice Unplugged Version

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Due to a massive power outage in my region, I was not able to provide my normal Saturday post – so we will have to make that up in the future. Right now I am using a temporary 3G connection which is spotty at best to at least get one post in during the weekend. Since it is Sunday, our Spiritual Sunday connection features one of best guitarists in the gospel genre – Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Sister Tharpe does her own rendition of “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” which I prefer to the version normally sung in churches. Because it is a close-up video, you see the emotion that Sister Rosetta puts into both her singing and playing. She really knew how to draw the audience into her. It also indicates how much she performed as a solo act as a band could not follow her frequent stops and starts and lengthening of phrases that really make her performances shine.

This particular recording was apparently recorded in France in 1960 and is before she began playing Gibson instruments. The guitar is a Gretsch 6117 “Double Anniversary” model with stock tail piece (it was also available with a Bigsby whammy bar). Rosetta’s guitar in white also carries the characteristic Gretsch Filtertron pickups, which were their noise cancelling model in answer to Gibson’s Humbucking pickups.

It doesn’t appear that her guitar was amplified in this video and it sounds as though we are getting just the acoustic sound of this large bodied acoustic/electric as it sounds a little thin in the video. This is a shame because she could really rock out and I think both you and I would have enjoyed hearing what she could do with this Gretsch. One thing about Sister Rosetta – she spared no expense on her choice of instruments. Enjoy this jewel of gospel music.