Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Larry Williams

Larry Williams only recorded for a couple of years at Specialty. From those handful of sessions some of the most influential early rock 'n roll tunes were recorded. Both of these numbers as well as "Bad Boy" were all recorded by The Beatles a few years later. The Stones did their take on "She Said Yeah". The version of "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" here is a continuation of my earlier Guitar Slim post. Once again, chaos reigns supreme at Specialty. This take is vastly different than the version I know from the CD reissue. A studio full of musicians all vying for attention and careening out of control. I love it. It reminds me of Jim Dickinson's production on Big Star's version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On". "Slow Down" from an earlier session is a little more refined, although I don't know if that's the right word to describe it. Earl Palmer is on the drums, Rene Hall on guitar, horn section led by Plas Johnson on tenor, and Larry Williams on piano. Williams was cut loose by Specialty a year later after a narcotics conviction. He continued to record into the seventies, until he was found dead from what was ruled a suicide. However, those who knew Larry Williams will tell you he was murdered. The likelihood of a left-handed piano player shooting himself in the right temple is slim.



BONUS: Taking their cue from Williams, The Beatles, Booker T. and the MG's, and perhaps The Sonics, The Young Rascals released "Slow Down" as the b-side to their first Atlantic single in 1965.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Guitar Slim

Listening to these old records requires a certain leap of faith. They are, after all, mostly beat up, juked, worn and somewhat distorted. However, I have found in some circumstances, they are a totally different listening experience than the flattened remastered versions I have come to know and mostly love. This record here is a case in point. I've probably listened to the CD reissue of Slim's Specialty sides a hundred times. They are some of the greatest records made by one of New Orleans' greatest showmen of the fifties. The recordings featured here sound very different than the versions I and maybe you know. This session apparently took a couple of days, as Slim brought a lot of chaos with him wherever he went. One of the musicians needed to be bailed out of Jail. The piano player was Ray Charles, whose arrangements here are more than familiar. You can hear him yell "Yeah!" at the end of the "A"side. When Johnny Vincent sent the tapes to Art Rupe at Specialty he was not impressed, and said it was the worst shit he'd ever heard. Rupe released it anyway, and had Specialty's biggest hit to date, in 1954. Stay tuned for more Slim.



Special Bonus mp3: REAL GONE

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Step It Up And Go

Blind Boy Fuller says "...can't stand pat, swear you gotta step it up and go." And this record does just that-it moves. The first time I heard this song was on Bob Dylan's excellent and often overlooked Good As I Been to You from 1992, the first of two records comprised entirely of standards and old folk and blues numbers. Bob recorded them in his garage in Malibu after an aborted group of sessions in Chicago with David Bromberg, also entirely of other people's songs, including "Kaatskill Serenade"
which I was blown away by twice when first hearing it: first, by thinking it was a great lost Dylan track, and secondly by discovering that Bromberg had written it. Bob has a way of making these songs his own. Stay tuned for a Gene Austin post.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke would've been 76 years old today. It's hard to imagine. This is a sweet recording, one of his last releases on Specialty, and came out concurrently with his first Keen single "You Send Me". The band features Rene Hall on guitar, and the great Earl Palmer on drums.


A couple of old records...

Forgive me, please. I'm gonna go out on a limb here.

Both of these records are scratchy. One was pressed on shellac 80 years ago, and the other one was pressed on an acetate about 40 years ago.

Both records have sinister sounding titles, and feature dissonant strings. One fiddle, the other viola.

Both records were purchased on ebay. One of them, I bought for roughly 98 cents in a lot with several other very old records. The other was was originally purchased for a quarter and later resold on ebay for over 20,000 dollars.


velvets mp3 swiped from here

Friday, January 19, 2007

Danny Barker

5000 Cartier Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, September 2005.
Photograph© Robert Polidori

In case you haven't seen it, check out Spike Lee's Katrina Documentary: "When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts". It is, I think, a very important film and required viewing for all Americans or anyone concerned about the damage and carelessness of the policies that the smug and contemptable pricks in Washington have brought forth in our country. Alright, I'm gonna restrain myself and not go off any further. I have no interest in turning this blog into a political forum. It's about the music.

A few months ago I was at the Met with a friend of mine to see the Robert Polidori show of post-Katrina Photographs. The pictures reek of death. They are for the most part, the interiors and exteriors of homes and lives destroyed by the flood. No people, just ruins and remnants. To lighten the mood, I turned to my friend and said, half-jokingly "think of all the
records that were lost!" No doubt, a good deal of the history of what we call American music originates from, and is/was archived in the Crescent City.

Well, I saw this article the other day and my heart sank .

"...Danny Barker, who was born in 1909 and would have been known merely as a fine, early-period guitar and banjo player, were it not for his compulsion to document the first chapters of jazz history.

Early in life, Barker had befriended the first jazz composer, New Orleanian Jelly Roll Morton, when Morton was attempting to revive his career in New York, from 1938 to 1940. It was Barker who shot the best-known photographs of Morton in Harlem, and thereafter Barker collected every shred of paper, image and recording of early jazz that he could find.

Until his death in 1994, at age 85, Barker continually augmented the collection he jammed into a 17-by-20-foot room at the back of his New Orleans house, on Sere Street. Anyone who ever stepped into the single-story home had to be startled by the sheer volume of material packed into it, floor to ceiling.

“When he would come home at night, he would sit at the kitchen table and he would work on things, write a song lyric or work on a chapter for a book,” recalled his daughter, Sylvia Barker.

“And when the housekeeper came in the morning, he’d say, `Just take all my stuff and throw it all in a bag.’”

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of these little plastic bags filled the back room. They included unique material: questionnaires Barker distributed to New Orleans musicians as far back as the 1940s; unpublished manuscripts for first-person articles he was writing about early jazz; original, black-and-white negatives documenting the musicians he had known for more than 50 years; and handwritten notes, artifacts and music from uncounted sources.

Though representatives of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane were able to rescue Baker’s collection of commercial recordings from the front of the house, most of his treasures in back were floating in waterlogged plastic bags.

Even material that the Barker family had put in safe-deposit boxes in a nearby bank, such as his literary manuscripts, succumbed.

All but 20 boxes of material was lost—more than 80 percent of Barker’s collection, according to Raeburn, the Hogan archive’s curator.

“Everything was gook, said Sylvia Barker.

This story originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune, by Howard Reich


Thursday, January 18, 2007


In Late 1945 Lester Young recorded this masterpiece in Los Angeles, California. Fresh from a dishonorable discharge from the the army that ended with a stint in the detention barracks for among other things, possession of weed, alcohol and being married to a white woman. Needless to say, Lester didn't sign up on his own volition, nor did his commanding officers in Augusta, Georgia appreciate his special genius. A few weeks after this session he appeared at Norman Granz' Jazz at the Philharmonic, with Charlie Parker who was headed to a different type of detention later that year. Pres seems to have embraced the new music and held his own at the same time. This version of "These Foolish Things" is one of my favorite things.



Monday, January 15, 2007

Geographical Theory of Musical Relativity

In 1953, Joe Turner cut "TV Mama" featuring Elmore James on lead guitar. It's a fine record. I'm not sure who plays on the flipside as there is little documentation for this session. Sounds like the same band, possibly Elmore James in a non-slide, non-lead role. What's interesting is the piano intro is almost a copy of Elmore's signature riff transposed to the piano.

If you take a map, and draw a line from 18th and Vine in Kansas City where Joe Turner got his start, to Lillian McMurry's radio shop in Jackson, Mississippi where Elmore James fixed radio's until Ms. McMurry decided to start Trumpet Records and use Elmore as a sideman, and cut that line in half, you might end up right near Kingsland, Arkansas, where Johnny Cash author of "Home of the Blues", was born.

"TV Mama" mp3

"Oke-She-Moke-She-Pop" mp3


Friday, January 12, 2007

Our National Anthem (Parts 1 and 2)

"Over 10,000 sold in 8 days in New Orleans- 7,000 in Phila. -6,000 in Memphis- and spreading everywhere"

That's what the trade ad for this record said. Huey Smith learned that he had a hit while out on the road with Smiley Lewis and Shirley and Lee. These were the pre-soundscan days of regional radio hits. The wild stage act for this band featured Bobby Marchan, their cross-dressing singer that Huey found singing with The Powder Box Revue at the club Tijuana. He's heard on this recording and on his updated 1967 "Boogaloo Flu".





Thursday, January 11, 2007

James Brown and the Famous Flames

Get on the good foot! Get up offa that thing! Give the drummer some! Wait, that is James Brown on the drums! I love this picture. It looks like they're about to raise the roof, or rather have it come right down on the Godfather's snare. There's not much I can add to the discussion of the sudden loss of JB, so dig these two early sides and...



Monday, January 8, 2007

Elvis' Record Collection

Photo © Alfred Wertheimer

It's well documented that Elvis was a degenerate, and more than likely that he was a record collector too. So, in commemoration of his 72nd birthday, I'll kick off this flagship posting of the boogie woogie flu with some chestnuts that the King recorded and brought to a larger audience. Hopefully, his records were in better condition than mine. Check out Pete "Guitar" Lewis on "Hound Dog". There are two versions of "Tomorrow Night" here. Elvis recorded a beautiful version based on Lonnie Johnson's signature number that never saw the light of day until thirty years after the fact. The Lavern Baker version was recorded around the same time as Elvis' and is something to behold. I had to include Elvis himself, so we get his version of "My Baby Left Me" by Arthur Crudup, songwriter of Elvis' first single, "That's All Right".

Happy Birthday Elvis.



"Hound Dog" mp3
by "Big Mama" Thornton, 1952.

"Baby Let's Play House" mp3
by Arthur Gunter, 1954.

"Blue Moon of Kentucky" mp3
by Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys, 1947.

"Good Rockin' Tonight" mp3
by Wynonie Harris, 1948.

"Tomorrow Night" mp3
by Lonnie Johnson, 1948.

"Tomorrow Night" mp3
Lavern Baker, 1955.

"My Baby Left Me" mp3
by Elvis Presley, 1956.