Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rosco Rhythm

Recently, Steve Roden, artist and proprietor of the excellent Airform Archives, bestowed upon me a stack of dog-eared and battered 8 x 10 publicity photos. He decribed them as having "a nice kind of patina." I like them better this way - with tape, holes and a smoky veneer from the juke joint they probably hung in. Here's Rosco Gordon in all that weathered glory. I've been wanting to post some of these sides for a while. These records, made in Memphis in the early fifties under the supervision of Sam Phillips and Ike Turner, are truly amazing and what is even more amazing is that somehow they found their way to Jamaica, where Rosco's unusual rhythm style is credited with shaping the sound of early Ska and Reggae records. "No More Doggin" was recorded in Tuff Green's living room, and if you listen closely near the end of the record, you can hear a phone ringing. It's probably Rosco's old lady. The ensemble band here on these records is The Beale Streeters, which included and backed at various times, among others Bobby Bland, Johnny Ace, Junior Parker and B.B. King. The horn solo and arrangement on "Wise To You Baby" are also unusual: lazy and direct at the same time. It carries the record, and what a record it is.


"No More Doggin'" mp3
by Rosco Gordon, 1952.
available on Best of the Rpm Years

"Wise To You Baby" mp3
by Rosco Gordon, 1953.
available on Rosco Gordon - T Model Boogie

"Booted" mp3
by Rosco Gordon, 1951.
available on Best of the Rpm Years


"Rough and Tough" mp3
by Stranger Cole, 1962.
available on This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975

"Phoenix City" mp3
by Roland Alphonso and the Soul Brothers, 1965.
available on This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975

"Brand New Second Hand" mp3
by Peter Tosh and the Wailers, 1971.
available on In the Beginning

"You Done Me Wrong" mp3
by Tyrone Evans, 1968.
available on Trojan Singles Box Set

"Cry Tough" mp3
by Alton Ellis and the Flames, 1966.
available on This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975

"The Tide Is High" mp3
by The Paragons, 1967.
available on This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975


Anonymous said...

This is some Great Shit.


Ted Barron said...

only the greatest shit at the bwf.

C. said...

It really doesn't get any better than "Booted."


Anonymous said...

On nearly every post Ted posts, I find something that gets me going and makes my day.
Today is no different.
The song Brand New Second Hand I already knew but not that version.
wow !
thanks ted

Ted Barron said...

you are welcome T


Anonymous said...

Great find!

Jamaican Music Styles
Music has always been an important factor in the lives of Jamaicans and other West Indians. Jamaican music comes from an African foundation, influenced by the music of Europe, especially England & France. The great-great grandparent of Reggae is mento, a loose-sounding folk music, sometimes confused with calypso, a Trinidad-born music. Mento's lyrical food is topical issues.

By the 1950s Jamaican youth were more interested in listening to American pop music, popularized by radio and sound systems - portable dance machines that were to change the face of Jamaican music.

Ska combines the catchy backbeat of New Orleans- style R&B and mento. Many early ska songs were covers of popular American songs. Typically ska drums stress beats 2 & 4 over a "walking" quarter-note bass, with the guitar stiking the offbeats in a syncopated mento style. Ska's tempo was especially appealing to the restless Jamaican youth, and was always the music of the poor.

Some reggae historians identify the R & B song that fathered the ska beat as "No More Doggin'" (1952) by Roscoe Gordon, a Memphis piano player. The "one and two and three and four" beat had been around since the 40s, and was used by Rhythm & Blues artists like Louis Jordan & Big Joe Turner. Theophilus Beckford is considered by many to have recorded the first ska tune, "Easy Snapping", in 1959. The recording was produced by Lloyd "Matador" Daley, and arranged by Ernest Ranglin.

sroden said...

i'm glad i sent you the photos just so i could hear the songs, rosco friggin rocks!!!!! (and aside from influencing ska, etc. it sure sounds like mose allison ripped him off as well...:-)

Jer.Eps said...

I don't want much, I just want a little bit more Rosco!

Frickin' awesome! Ska-voovie!

Anonymous said...

Any chance you might have his JAD single of "Jesse James"? I owned it once and played nit in my band back in the early 80s and have since had to sell a lot of stuff back in the 90s so...

Any how, the JAD label would be another connection to JA

Anonymous said...

just wanted to say thanks again. I'm a sucker for 50's and 60's R&B, so you can imagine the joy I derive from this blog. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

This is serious stuff and I'm happy with it. I even putted you on the friends list at the blog ;-)

walknthabass said...

No More Doggin" Wow! That brings back some memories.

Back when I was a youngster in my 20's I played in a 13 piece band that had exactly two public performances. We had a pretty eclectic song list for 1974. Which included this one.

But there was more - We put on a stage show during the different songs. So what did we do for "No More Doggin'? The singer was wheeled out in a wheelbarrow while one the female backup singers got down in front of him on her knees . . . and fed him cookies while he sang!

I'll have to dig that up and post a link for it. Right at the end you can tell he was having some trouble getting out the last two words!

Thanks for this Ted - I have not heard it in years!

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Found this site yesterday. An absolute treasure trove of music! Thanks BWF! Thanks Internet!


Poetry Scores said...

Thanks for keeping Rosco alive. We were good friends. He was the best man in my wedding, I coproduced his last sessions (that went on "No Dark in America," Dualton), attended his funeral (and ended up briefly on Scorcese's History of the Blues documentary - his crew filmed the funeral) and was on a two-hour-long tribute radio show hosted by Jamaican deejays on Pacific Radio that goes into what you are writing about here in GREAT detail. I'll post up some of these memories and invite you back to read them,

Duncanmusic said...

That was my anonymous ( before I had a net presence) asking about the Jesse JAmes, which I've since found was on JOMADA 602 from 1966 with Dee Dee Warwick on backgr vcls filp was You Got My Bait; recorded before Rae Cox singles and Calla stint...still looking... glad to find this again, but knew it was my own comment.