Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nashville to Jamaica

Several months ago, I did post about Rosco Gordon and his unlikely influence on early Ska and Rock Steady music in Jamaica. Apparently, all kinds of records from Tennessee made it down there, and were listened to, appropriated and transformed into something totally different. I know next to nothing about Jimmy Beck, except that he recorded for Champion Records, which was partially owned and operated by Ted Jarrett, who wrote songs and produced records at Excello and a handful of other independents in Nashville. I first heard "Pipe Dreams" on the Night Train to Nashville compilation, and it's a dead ringer for a Studio One recording - but it's not. It was recorded in Nashville, and the players (I don't know who they are) sound like they may have been some of the members of the Excello house bands - Kid King's Combo and Louis Brooks and The Hi-Toppers - but I don't know. They have jazz chops, but play a pretty straight honky-tonk style R & B, except on this track which sounds like something that was about to but hadn't yet fully emerged from Jamaica.

This morning, a friend of mine, whom I played this record for last month asked me to post it. As comical as it may seem, this has been messing with me all day. What really fucked me up was when I started scouring a Reggae comp for an example of the type of horn chart on "Pipe Dreams," and found the Tommy McCook track which takes the Mariachi horns from Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" as a gateway into a lovely Sonny Rollinsesque solo. What the fuck? I was trying to figure out what to say here, and when speaking to another friend, was asked "what are you trying to find, the conceptual bridge?" Yeah, I guess that's it. I'm looking for the conceptual bridge and I don't know what it is, except that this is a great music, and these records together cross nearly every conceptual and cultural bridge of the music played on this blog.

So, my dear readers, I give up. You tell me.
My head hurts, and I'm going to sleep now.


"Pipe Dreams" mp3
by Jimmy Beck and his Orchestra, 1959.
available on Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970)

"(Music Is My) Occupation" mp3
By Tommy McCook, 1963.
available on This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975

"Ring of Fire" mp3
by Johnny Cash, 1963.
available on Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash


"Blue Night" mp3
by Jimmy Beck and his Orchestra, 1959
out of print

"Baby, Baby, What's Wrong With You" mp3
by Earl Gaines with Louis Brooks and His Hi-Toppers, 1955.
out of print

"Gimmick" mp3
by Kid King's Combo, 1953.
out of print


"Help Me Make It Through The Night" mp3
by Joyce Bond, 1971.
available on Trojan Singles Box Set

"Help Me Make It Through The Night" mp3
by Kris Kristofferson, 1969.
available on Kristofferson


Spike Priggen said...

Take me to the conceptual bridge.

Paul said...

Great post.

Unknown said...

Conceptual bridge got you down, guppy? A bridge too far, over troubled waters, underneath which squat foul Billy Goat Hill Trolls? Relax, for cryin' out loud. Just make some shit up.

Open Naked Lunch, stab at a random page, type it up. You're entitled by birth, Saint Louis son.

Ted Barron said...

Billy Goat Hill trolls. Good God, I can only imagine what that might be. I did open up Naked Lunch, as suggested and randomly found a passage which I need not type here about Dr. Benway and mind control through T.M. or Total Demoralization through prolonged mistreatment. Page 21.

Oh boy.

Mark said...

I don't know what to make of it either, but I like it. Thanks.

It's like trying to explain those pedal steel guitars in Nigerian music.

The bridge, the bridge, where's the confounded conceptual bridge?

The All-Seeing Eye, Jr. said...

If you want total immersion in the Jamaican end of the equation, check out Dude's posted some 150 early Coxsone sides that give abundant evidence, horn charts and all. This post is fascinating, since I always assumed there was a New Orleans-Kingston pipeline, but didn't figure Memphis into the picture.

Nicolas said...

Amazing !
Never heard that, and I'm found of old R&B and jamaican music
It sounds even more jamaican than Rosco Gordon, with those ska-like horns.
BTW, great site.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic.

I met a radio DJ in Boston many years ago who did reggae etc. type shows. He even used to travel to Kingston once a year to buy records.

We were talking about the history of ska, reggae, etc. He told me that the old timers could pick up AM stations from the southern gulf States like Lousiana, Alabama, Texas, etc. Hillbilly, Sacred, and Race records, as we used to call them.

He also told me that country music, especially gospel, was quite popular with some of the folks on the island. Black gospel as well. So years before Ras Tafari showed up in songs, you'd see something like the Wailers "Sinner Man" from the early 60's, which is basically a straight gospel type number.

Nicolas said...

This is very true (about the radio stations)
I read that in a a great book on Jamaican music called "Bass culture" by Lloyd Bradley.
Another provider of Us music were the sound systems.
Before there was a real record industry in Jam, the Djs in the sound systems imported massively from the US.
The majority of sound system music arrived courtesy of merchant seamen and returning migrant workers who cut cane in the Southern States.
Bradley also writes that Jamaican crowds failed to identify with rock'n roll because the likes of elvis or Buddy holly weren't exciting enough compared to R&B records by Louis jordan, Jimmy Reed, fats Domino or Lloyd Price.

Anonymous said...

theres a considerable C&W influence on what's known as 'country' reggae....there are even some instances of yodeling....

Jailhouse Yodel by Ashton [Peanuts] Davis is a good example...the song itself i don't recognize [it's a straight country song, structure-wise], but the yodeling part comes straight off Hank Williams', Long Gone Lonesome Blues....


Ted Barron said...


I shall look into this. There's a Jamaica Country post in the future, but don't hold your breath. I considered posting Toots' "Country Road" but the focus here started with R&B only to be fractured by Nashville's (obvious) C&W influence.


Anonymous said...

Just found this post, and your blog, so belatedly I wanted to say that I have a CD by the Jolly Boys, released in 1991, but they are old guys who supposedly did pre-reggae Jamaican music. And they cover Freddie Fender's Before the Next Teardrop Falls. Very nice, but may be thing to explore in finding your conceptual bridge. Nice topic, nice posts!