Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gone Fishin'

I'm taking a break here in Fluville until Labor Day.

I'm going out to California to visit my sisters and some friends that I never see, accompany my girlfriend while she plays a few gigs out there, and work on a project that I've had on the back burner for quite some time. All this with a broken toe.

So, I'll leave you with a few records by Lightnin' Hopkins. That's not so bad, is it?

Download: "My California" mp3
by Lightnin' Hopkins, 1948.
Available on The Complete Aladdin Recordings.

Download: "Fishing Clothes" mp3
by Lightnin' Hopkins, 1965.
Available on Fishing Clothes: The Jewel Recordings 1965-1969.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Max Roach

"Art is a powerful weapon that society, or the powers that be, use to control or direct the way people think. Culture is used to perpetuate the status quo of a society. Even though I'm involved in music for the sake of entertainment, I always hope to offer some kind of enlightenment."

-Max Roach 1924-2007

Download: "Woodyn' You" mp3
Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra
Recorded February 16, 1944.

Download: "Disorder At The Border" mp3
Coleman Hawkins and his Orchestra
Recorded February 22, 1944.

Download: "Ko Ko" mp3
Charlie Parker's Ri Bop Boys
Recorded November 26, 1945.

Download: "Klactoveedsedstene" mp3
Charlie Parker Quintet
Recorded November 4, 1947.

Download: "Marmaduke" mp3
Charlie Parker's All Stars
Recorded September 24, 1948.

Max Roach photograph: © William P. Gottlieb

Buy Max Roach music at Amazon
or at your local independently owned record store.
Coleman Hawkins sides available on: Rainbow Mist
Charlie Parker sides available on
The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-1948

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TCB (in a flash)

Well, It's thirty years and Elvis is still dead.

The first time I was in Memphis for Death Week, I asked everyone I met if they had an Elvis story. I heard some good ones, but by far the best was from a bartender at the P and H Cafe.

He told me he had a friend that worked at the morgue in Memphis. He said when they brought in the bodies they all got tagged as usual, with the ceremonious big toe label containing their name, time and cause of death, and whatever information those tags usually carry.

All except one body, whose tag simply read...


Download: "Just Because" mp3

Download: "All Shook Up" mp3

Download: "Treat Me Nice" mp3

Download: "Too Much" mp3

Download: "Jailhouse Rock" mp3

Download: "Don't Be Cruel" mp3

Buy Elvis Presley music at Amazon
or at your local independently owned record store

Photograph: © Ted Barron All Shook Up, Memphis TN, 1988.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Elvis 1969

In the very first post here on the Boogie Woogie Flu, we listened to some records that more than likely Elvis had in his record collection. Today we'll do the same, with a few of the tracks Elvis recorded on The Memphis Record in 1969 - the greatest recordings and best batch of songs he cut outside of his Sun sessions. Elvis, fearing he'd lost his vitality with the younger portion of the record buying public, returned to Memphis to make this record with the very hot American Studio house band, produced by "Chips" Moman. Neil Diamond had been at American the previous year to record "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show"and "Sweet Caroline." Dusty Springfield would be in after Elvis (I think) to record Dusty In Memphis, as were a cavalcade of other stars preceding and following Elvis's sessions including Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Dionne Warwick, The Box Tops, James Carr and B.J. Thomas. They were churning out the hits. The Memphis strategy worked for Elvis and he had three top ten hits from this record, including "Suspicious Minds" which was his first #1 since 1962. So, let's boldly spin the axis of Elvis and listen to some tracks from The Memphis Record, some artists who recorded these songs first, and the some post-Elvis versions.

Please enjoy.


"Any Day Now" mp3
"Suspicious Minds" mp3
"Long Black Limousine" mp3
"I'm Movin' On" mp3
"Gentle On My Mind" mp3
"True Love Travels on A Gravel Road" mp3

Elvis Presley
from The Memphis Record, 1969.
Buy at Amazon or at your local independently owned record store.


"Any Day Now" mp3
by Chuck Jackson
available on The Very Best of Chuck Jackson 1961-1967

"Suspicious Minds" mp3
by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, 1976.
available on Wanted! The Outlaws

"Long Black Limousine" mp3
by Wynn Stewart, 1958.
available on California Country

"I'm Movin' On" mp3
by Hank Snow, 1950.
available on RCA Country Legends

"Gentle On My Mind" mp3
by Glen Campbell, 1967.
available on Gentle On My Mind

"True Love Travels on a Gravel Road" mp3
by Nick Lowe, 1994.
available on The Impossible Bird


Yet another (and maybe the best) version of Joe South's classic, also recorded at American Studio with "Chips" Moman and company. Brenda Lee recorded the great country soul LP Memphis Portrait there on the heels of Dusty In Memphis. Pick it up if you can find a copy.

"Walk a Mile In My Shoes"
by Brenda Lee, 1970.
available on Memphis Portrait
Out of Print

For more on American Studio in Memphis TN,
check out the Soulful Music blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis

Alright, the Elvis Week madness continues. First up, a song that references a liar with delusions of grandiosity by the late great Kirsty MacColl and backed by some members of Rockpile. Then, a trio of numbers about Elvis in life and in death.


"There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" mp3
by Kirsty MacColl
from Desperate Character, 1981. Out of Print
available on Galore.

"Went To See The Gypsy" mp3
by Bob Dylan
Demo from New Morning.
different version available on New Morning , 1970.

"Johnny Bye Bye" mp3
by Bruce Springsteen
Outtake from Born In The USA, 1984.
different version available on Tracks.

"Elvis Presley Blues" mp3
by Gillian Welch
from Time (The Revelator), 2001.

Photograph © Ted Barron, Untitled, Memphis, TN 2002.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

If you find yourself in Memphis this week, you may come to the realization that "Elvis is everywhere," and indeed he is. It's Elvis Week, or as Memphians commonly refer to it Death Week. Every year at this time Elvis fans flock to Memphis like pilgrims to pay their respect to the King. There are special events, concerts, conferences and the International Elvis Impersonator Contest. This is the 30th Anniversary of Elvis' untimely demise. I attended and photographed the 20th and 25th, and one in between. I considered going back again, but feel that my work there is done, and there's nothing more I can add. The whole thing has an air of reverence, but is mixed with extreme and at times nauseating campiness. It was a very difficult photographic assignment I gave to myself, as I wasn't so interested in exploiting the subject matter, as that would have been too easy, but was nearly impossible to resist. After all, I'm an Elvis fan too.

With the passage of time, the legacy of Elvis has been tainted by two things, the grotesque: which is fully on display in the cheap souvenir shops on Elvis Presley Blvd, and racism: which Peter Guralnick so eloquently addresses in this Op-Ed piece from The New York Times. No one writes better or with more empathy on the subject of Elvis than Guralnick.

Download: "Walk A Mile in My Shoes" mp3 by Joe South
available on: Anthology: A Mirror of His Mind - Hits and Highlights

Download: "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" mp3 by Elvis Presley
available on: Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential 70's Masters.

Download: "Men With Broken Hearts" mp3 by Luke the Drifter
available on: Beyond The Sunset Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter.

From The New York Times:

How Did Elvis Get Turned Into a Racist?

ONE of the songs Elvis Presley liked to perform in the ’70s was Joe South’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” its message clearly spelled out in the title.

Sometimes he would preface it with the 1951 Hank Williams recitation “Men With Broken Hearts,” which may well have been South’s original inspiration. “You’ve never walked in that man’s shoes/Or saw things through his eyes/Or stood and watched with helpless hands/While the heart inside you dies.” For Elvis these two songs were as much about social justice as empathy and understanding: “Help your brother along the road,” the Hank Williams number concluded, “No matter where you start/For the God that made you made them, too/These men with broken hearts.”

In Elvis’s case, this simple lesson was not just a matter of paying lip service to an abstract principle.

It was what he believed, it was what his music had stood for from the start: the breakdown of barriers, both musical and racial. This is not, unfortunately, how it is always perceived 30 years after his death, the anniversary of which is on Thursday. When the singer Mary J. Blige expressed her reservations about performing one of his signature songs, she only gave voice to a view common in the African-American community. “I prayed about it,” she said, “because I know Elvis was a racist.”

And yet, as the legendary Billboard editor Paul Ackerman, a devotee of English Romantic poetry as well as rock ’n’ roll, never tired of pointing out, the music represented not just an amalgam of America’s folk traditions (blues, gospel, country) but a bold restatement of an egalitarian ideal. “In one aspect of America’s cultural life,” Ackerman wrote in 1958, “integration has already taken place.”

It was due to rock ’n’ roll, he emphasized, that groundbreaking artists like Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, who would only recently have been confined to the “race” market, had acquired a broad-based pop following, while the music itself blossomed neither as a regional nor a racial phenomenon but as a joyful new synthesis “rich with Negro and hillbilly lore.”

No one could have embraced Paul Ackerman’s formulation more forcefully (or more fully) than Elvis Presley.

Asked to characterize his singing style when he first presented himself for an audition at the Sun recording studio in Memphis, Elvis said that he sang all kinds of music — “I don’t sound like nobody.” This, as it turned out, was far more than the bravado of an 18-year-old who had never sung in public before. It was in fact as succinct a definition as one might get of the democratic vision that fueled his music, a vision that denied distinctions of race, of class, of category, that embraced every kind of music equally, from the highest up to the lowest down.

It was, of course, in his embrace of black music that Elvis came in for his fiercest criticism. On one day alone, Ackerman wrote, he received calls from two Nashville music executives demanding in the strongest possible terms that Billboard stop listing Elvis’s records on the best-selling country chart because he played black music. He was simply seen as too low class, or perhaps just too no-class, in his refusal to deny recognition to a segment of society that had been rendered invisible by the cultural mainstream.

“Down in Tupelo, Mississippi,” Elvis told a white reporter for The Charlotte Observer in 1956, he used to listen to Arthur Crudup, the blues singer who originated “That’s All Right,” Elvis’s first record. Crudup, he said, used to “bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.”

It was statements like these that caused Elvis to be seen as something of a hero in the black community in those early years. In Memphis the two African-American newspapers, The Memphis World and The Tri-State Defender, hailed him as a “race man” — not just for his music but also for his indifference to the usual social distinctions. In the summer of 1956, The World reported, “the rock ’n’ roll phenomenon cracked Memphis’s segregation laws” by attending the Memphis Fairgrounds amusement park “during what is designated as ‘colored night.’”

That same year, Elvis also attended the otherwise segregated WDIA Goodwill Revue, an annual charity show put on by the radio station that called itself the “Mother Station of the Negroes.” In the aftermath of the event, a number of Negro newspapers printed photographs of Elvis with both Rufus Thomas and B.B. King (“Thanks, man, for all the early lessons you gave me,” were the words The Tri-State Defender reported he said to Mr. King).

When he returned to the revue the following December, a stylish shot of him “talking shop” with Little Junior Parker and Bobby “Blue” Bland appeared in Memphis’s mainstream afternoon paper, The Press-Scimitar, accompanied by a short feature that made Elvis’s feelings abundantly clear. “It was the real thing,” he said, summing up both performance and audience response. “Right from the heart.”

Just how committed he was to a view that insisted not just on musical accomplishment but fundamental humanity can be deduced from his reaction to the earliest appearance of an ugly rumor that has persisted in one form or another to this day. Elvis Presley, it was said increasingly within the African-American community, had declared, either at a personal appearance in Boston or on Edward R. Murrow’s “Person to Person” television program, “The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.”

That he had never appeared in Boston or on Murrow’s program did nothing to abate the rumor, and so in June 1957, long after he had stopped talking to the mainstream press, he addressed the issue — and an audience that scarcely figured in his sales demographic — in an interview for the black weekly Jet.

Anyone who knew him, he told reporter Louie Robinson, would immediately recognize that he could never have uttered those words. Amid testimonials from black people who did know him, he described his attendance as a teenager at the church of celebrated black gospel composer, the Rev. W. Herbert Brewster, whose songs had been recorded by Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward and whose stand on civil rights was well known in the community. (Elvis’s version of “Peace in the Valley,” said Dr. Brewster later, was “one of the best gospel recordings I’ve ever heard.”)

The interview’s underlying point was the same as the underlying point of his music: far from asserting any superiority, he was merely doing his best to find a place in a musical continuum that included breathtaking talents like Ray Charles, Roy Hamilton, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and Howlin’ Wolf on the one hand, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and the Statesmen Quartet on the other. “Let’s face it,” he said of his rhythm and blues influences, “nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”

And as for prejudice, the article concluded, quoting an unnamed source, “To Elvis people are people, regardless of race, color or creed.”

So why didn’t the rumor die? Why did it continue to find common acceptance up to, and past, the point that Chuck D of Public Enemy could declare in 1990, “Elvis was a hero to most... straight-up racist that sucker was, simple and plain”?

Chuck D has long since repudiated that view for a more nuanced one of cultural history, but the reason for the rumor’s durability, the unassailable logic behind its common acceptance within the black community rests quite simply on the social inequities that have persisted to this day, the fact that we live in a society that is no more perfectly democratic today than it was 50 years ago. As Chuck D perceptively observes, what does it mean, within this context, for Elvis to be hailed as “king,” if Elvis’s enthronement obscures the striving, the aspirations and achievements of so many others who provided him with inspiration?

Elvis would have been the first to agree. When a reporter referred to him as the “king of rock ’n’ roll” at the press conference following his 1969 Las Vegas opening, he rejected the title, as he always did, calling attention to the presence in the room of his friend Fats Domino, “one of my influences from way back.” The larger point, of course, was that no one should be called king; surely the music, the American musical tradition that Elvis so strongly embraced, could stand on its own by now, after crossing all borders of race, class and even nationality.

“The lack of prejudice on the part of Elvis Presley,” said Sam Phillips, the Sun Records founder who discovered him, “had to be one of the biggest things that ever happened. It was almost subversive, sneaking around through the music, but we hit things a little bit, don’t you think?”

Or, as Jake Hess, the incomparable lead singer for the Statesmen Quartet and one of Elvis’s lifelong influences, pointed out: “Elvis was one of those artists, when he sang a song, he just seemed to live every word of it. There’s other people that have a voice that’s maybe as great or greater than Presley’s, but he had that certain something that everybody searches for all during their lifetime.”

To do justice to that gift, to do justice to the spirit of the music, we have to extend ourselves sometimes beyond the narrow confines of our own experience, we have to challenge ourselves to embrace the democratic principle of the music itself, which may in the end be its most precious gift.

Peter Guralnick is the author of Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley.

Photograph: Vigil #1 (Elvis Death March) Memphis TN, 2002.
© Ted Barron