I went to see Marianne Faithful last night which gives me an excuse to run the above photos, two of my favorites, and some clips, including the only watchable parts of the otherwise awful flick Girl On A Motorcycle (1968).
The show was great. Hal Wilner has put together an excellent band for her, including a small string section that allowed her to do "As Tears Go By" in its original arrangement.
She did lots of material from her new LP, one of those superstar duet jobs that I've only heard a few tunes from, I really liked her version of Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home" (which she sings with Keith Richards on the record). Anyway, the live show included a great version of Sister Morphine that allowed guitarist Marc Ribot to really shine. I kept thinking how great it would sound if Quine was up there with him (Quine played on her Strange Weather LP). Anyhoo, here's the original version of Sister Morphine if you never heard it (with Ry Cooder on guitar), the Stones' covered it note for note on Sticky Fingers, even giving themselves the songwriting credit on the original pressings of the LP. I've always loved this tune which appeared as a single on Decca (U.K. only) around 1970 when she was living out the lyrics. I might as well throw in a couple of other early Decca era tunes that I like and you might have missed--here's her version of Leadbelly's Black Girl (later a hit for Nirvana), and here's Is This What I Get For Loving You, a record I've owned since I was seven years old and drooling over her on Hullabaloo (clip below) and Shindig. If you're not totally burned out on Rolling Stones related reading (I was going to to an entire posting on Stones' books since I buy and read 'em all, but does anyone actually care at this point?), her
1994 autobiography Faithful (with David Dalton, Little Brown) is a classic, right up there with Anita O'Day's High Times Hard Times (with George Eells, Putnam, 1981) in the she-junkie literary canon. Anyway, Marianne Faithful may not look like she did in the sixties but as a performer she's actually stronger than ever, her voice, originally a breathy, clear, alto, emerged at the end of some hard mileage so fragile and cracked that it used to sound like it her vocal chords would snap mid song. These days her voice is a surprisingly strong and flexible instrument. It still sounds like she gargles with broken glass and whiskey, but it's a voice that has served her well through four decades and four million cigarettes. By the end of a 90 minutes set her pipes was still strong enough for her to deliver her final encore acappella. Marianne Faithful, from her Ye-Ye girl roots to today's weathered pro, reinvented herself the hard way, ya got to love her for that.
Thanks to Mary Lee Kortes, Eric Ambel and Hal Wilner for getting me to leave the house on a Saturday night in NYC, I can't even remember the last time I went out to see music in this city on a Saturday night.
If you haven't seen this yet (it's been making the rounds for a couple of weeks) all I can say is-- wow! It would be hard to imagine such a tune making it on to a Network (or even basic cable) TV show in this post "Just Say No" era. It's like you can only talk (or sing) about drugs on the tube if you end your story with some sort of moralistic penance. But this Jimmy Carter era observation on rampant drug use, set to swinging, Vegas style music is a great look at a time when things were a lot looser.
Frankie Lee Sims was probably born in New Orleans, April 30, 1917. However in the only interview he ever gave, he told Arhoolie Records' Chris Stachwitz that he was born February 29, 1906. Oddly enough, since 1906 was not a leap year there was no February 29th that year.
Our story is already confusing. Not much is known about Frankie Lee Sims. He gave one interview in his life, there is only one known photograph of him. Anyway, he was raised in East Texas where he picked up the guitar at a young age. His cousin was Sam Lightnin' Hopkins who would go on to great fame and fortune (see the Jan. posting Lightnin' Loses His Choppers for a great TV clip of him). Sims made his first records in 1947 for the tiny Blue Bonnet label out of Dallas-- Home Again Blues b/w Cross Country Blues and Single Man Blues b/w Don't Forget Me Baby, both good records but nothing to shit your pants over. They are very rare today and fetch big bucks at auction but I'd say they are for completest only. The second disc is notable for the presence of a steel guitar player whom Frankie claimed was Carl Perkins of Sun Records fame. This however is highly unlikely. Frankie appeared on a couple of discs backing up Smokey Hogg, and on Lightnin' Hopkins' Jailhouse Blues on Gold Star. He played a lot of bars and juke joints, put together a band with drummer Mercy Baby (a teenage King Curtis passed through this group briefly before heading to New York and stardom).
In 1953 Sims came to the attention of Johnny Vincent, then working as an A&R man for Specialty Records out in L.A., he recorded Sims in Dallas in two sessions that year from which three singles would be issued. Eventually Specialty would gather up the outtakes and issue an LP in the seventies, and in the nineties a CD. The three Specialty discs are excellent, primitive blues, much like cousin Lightnin', Sims had a rather loose style and kept to no regular meter.
The first disc-- Lucy Mae Blues b/w Don't Take It Out On Me was a good seller, it was based around the guitar riff that goes back to Tommy Johnson's Big Road Blues and can be heard on hundreds of blues records. The second disc Yeah! Baby b/w I'm Long Long Gone was a good, solid blues rocker but didn't sell squat and the third Specialty disc Rhumba My Boogie b/w I'll Get Along Somehow was the least interesting and nobody bought it. Some of the best material he cut for Specialty didn't emerge until the LP was released in 1970 such as Married Woman (which the Flamin' Groovies covered in '72) and Lucy Mae Blues Part II.
Four years passed. Frankie Lee played his guitar all over west Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Johnny Vincent left Specialty and struck out on his own, forming the Ace record company out of Jackson, Mississippi (he'd hit pay dirt recording New Orleans greats like Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns and Frankie Ford, but he always had a soft spot for blues and issued great blues discs into the seventies). Vincent signed Sims, and his first session resulted in the 1957 single issued on Ace What Will Lucy Do? b/w Misery Blues, basically a remake of Lucy Mae Blues, but a remake that is superior to the original, Sims' had improved immensely as a guitarist in the four years since his last Specialty session, and the addition of drummer Mercy Baby gave his sound more drive. A second session was soon scheduled, this time with two sax players added to the band-- Jacquette Brooks and Jack White, and now they were playing full fledged rock'n'roll.
The next disc would be the pinnacle of Frankie Lee Sims' career-- Walkin' With Frankie b/w Hey Little Girl, the a side is a thundering blues rocker (Barrence Whitfield & the Savages covered it in the eighties) that remains one of my all time favorite discs. While I usually prefer 45's, Ace mastered their 78's particularly hot (i.e. loud) and Frankie Lee Sims' Ace 78's are some of the best sounding discs I've ever heard. At the same session that produced Walkin' With Frankie, six sides were recorded with drummer Mercy Baby singing and these were issued under Mercy's Baby's name, the first-- Marked Deck b/w Rock and Roll Baby appeared on Ace in '57, the second Silly Dilly Woman b/w Mercy Blues was issued by Ace in '58 and the third and final Mercy Baby record-- Pleadin' b/w Don't Lie To Me came out on the Ric label two years later ('60). All six Mercy Baby sides are excellent blues rockers, all were highlighted by the guitar playing of Frankie Lee Sims.
Frankie Lee cut a third and final session for Johnny Vincent in Jackson in late '57, his next single for Vincent, issued on the Vin subsidiary-- She Likes To Boogie Real Low b/w Well Goodbye Baby, soon followed by the Ace disc My Talk Didn't Do Any Good b/w I Warned You Baby give him a batting average of 100%. All four tunes are hard blues stompers, the best being She Likes To Boogie Real Low which re-writes Louis Jordan's Blue Lights Boogie as a guitar rocker, Sims playing more like Guitar Slim or Gatemouth Brown than Lightnin' Hopkins at this point. Recorded at the same session but left in the vault until the nineties was the excellent How Long. None of these records were big sellers, although Walkin' With Frankie got some airplay in the South and Sims claims to have appeared on American Bandstand to promote it, although no one has ever been able to find evidence of such a broadcast.
Frankie Lee Sims recording career wound down, in 1960, on the recommendation of King Curtis (whose hit Soul Twist, Sims claims to have played on, although it's actually Billy Butler on guitar, many think he confused it for Bobby Davis' Monkey Shout (Vest) a disc which King Curtis played on and the guitarist sounds just like Sims), Bobby Robinson brought Frankie to New York and recorded him, although these sessions, lackluster remakes of his previous recordings, wouldn't be issued until the eighties when the U.K. Krazy Kat label finally released them. He may have done some recording for Arhoolie in 1969 but if he did, none of it was ever issued.
Frankie Lee Sims died in 1970, his health had been in constant decline since a 1963 shooting "incident" and heavy drinking. His passed away just before Specialty issued his first LP, a disc which brought much attention to a career that had been previously unnoticed by the growing white blues audience. He was 53 years old and didn't look a day over 70. While he was alive he released nine singles on four labels, after his death two LP's appeared. Not exactly prolific, but the best of it was some of the finest rockin' blues ever recorded. Yet somehow, like all these stories, it all seems rather tragic to me. I hope he had as much fun making those records as I do listening to them.
ADDENDUM: In a bit of confusion it took me until today to post the sounds that accompany the first Mercy Baby single, and also to correct the dozen or so typos, my apologies.
This year's death toll just keeps a risin'. Eddie Bo (Edwin Joseph Bocage) died last Wednesday (March 18th) , felled by a massive heart attack. A pianist, singer and songwriter, Eddie Bo, was born in New Orleans 9th Ward and had a career that spanned over half a century. He came from a large, musical family (Sidney Bechet was his great uncle). You could trace the history of New Orleans R&B through Bo's career, he must have made at least a hundred singles spread out over dozens of labels including Apollo, Chess, Ace, Ric, Swan, Cinderella, Scram and others. A discography can be found here. If you are unfamiliar with his work you can learn more by checking out the Eddie Bo archives here. His career is too long and detailed to get into it in much depth here, but he's probably best known for writing and recording the original version of Little Richard's Slippin' & Slidin', which he called I'm Wise when he recorded it for the Apollo label in '54.
Some of my favorite Eddie Bo sides are Hey Bo (Apollo), Walk That Walk, Oh Oh (both on Chess), We Like Mambo, I Love To Rock & Roll (both on Ace). I also thought I'd throw in these two funk classics since he's extremely popular with soul and funk collectors and dj's, mostly through these two numbers-- Hook and Sling (Scram) and Check Your Bucket (Bo-Sound).
He played the Circle Bar once, at the first Mau Mau Ball, and he was great. I don't remember a lot about his set since he was playing on the same bill as Howard Tate, R.L. Burnside, Tousaint McCall, Jody Williams, and a dozen other greats (in a bar the size of a postage stamp, a small postage stamp at that), but I do remember him doing Check Your Bucket. If you like what I've posted here, keep in mind that it's the tip of a musical iceberg, Eddie Bo's career is an archaeologist (and record collector's) dream, there's enough good Eddie Bo stuff out there to fill your entire Ipod.
It's already our 5th week on what's proved to be one of the most popular features of this blog--Found photos from the collection of my wife, Gillian "The Fang" McCain. This snap shot has the date January 64 printed in the border. What can I say about this one? Boots and hair is what comes to my mind. Is he the leader of the hot, local band with a pair of sister groupies? A budding Charlie Starkweather or Charles Schmidt ("the Pied Piper of Tucson")? Were the characters in John Waters' Cry Baby based on these people? They sure look like Drapes to me. What would the guys hair look like in twelve months, after Beatlemania set in (they would arrive a month later and either save or ruin rock'n'roll, depending on your viewpoint)? Would this fellow start combing it forward or stay true to his greaser roots? Do the white socks mark him as a southerner? How about the way the girl on the right holds her cigarette, is she a debutante slumming? So many questions....What do you think?
Yes, they break if you sit on them, shoot 'em, step on them, run them over. Sometimes 78's break if you look at 'em the wrong way. Here's my collection of broken discs and how they got that way.
From the top photo we find Tampa Red- Mercy Mama b/w Drifting (RCA)-- fell out of the sleeve and onto the floor---crack! Miss Lee Morse and Her Blue Grass Boys-- Everybody Loves My Baby But My Baby Don't Love No Body But Me b/w Better Shoot Straight With Your Mama (Perfect, colored shellac) held too tight by an idiot I let look through my country 78's. Rev A. Nix & his Congregation- Black Diamond Express To Hell pt 1 b/w pt 2 (Vocalion) It was fine when I found it, when I got it home it developed a pressure crack-- I think it committed suicide.
Blind Lemon Jefferson- Bad Luck Blues b/w Broke and Hungry (Paramount) An old girlfriend -- Dr. Sarah Covington, author of The Trial Of Martyrdom: Persecution and Resistance In Sixteenth-Century England (University Of Notre Dame Press, 2003) found a whole pile of Pre-War 78's up in Connecticut, mostly jazz but a few blues discs where in there. She was bringing two Blind Lemon 78's back to New York City as a present for me and in Grand Central Station a big fat guy bumped into her, knocking the records out of her hands. Luckily the other disc-- Blind Lemon's Black Snake Moan (Okeh) survived the crash.
Furry Lewis- Mean Ole Bed Bug Blues b/w Why Don't You Come Home Blues (Vocalion) This one lived under the sink at Bob Quine's mom's house for thirty years undisturbed. While bringing it back to New York (as a present for me) it got cracked. Quine couldn't remember how it happened (he managed to get several dozen other 78's to NYC for me, all in perfect condition. I called record dealer and collector John Tefteller to ask if there was anyway to fix it and he told me a copy had recently sold for almost four grand, adding "I'd have paid that for it". And a great record too! Damn....
Third photo from top: Roy Milton- Milton's Boogie b/w Groovy Blues (Specialty) I dropped it when I was drunk. Swallows- It Feels So Good b/w I'll Be Waiting (King, DJ promo) I have no idea how this one got broken. Johnny Ace- Yes, Baby b/w Saving My Love For You (Duke) Cracked when flipping through the records, must've had a pressure crack in it I never saw.
Lightnin' Hopkins- Prayin' Ground Blues b/w Gotta Move Boogie (Sittin' In With) Destroyed by the movers when I moved from the E. Village to Chelsea, the only record that got broken, and a good one too. Especially the instrumental b-side.
Bottom Photo (45's): Kip Tyler & the Flips- She's My Witch b/w Rumble Rock (Ebb) Destroyed when the fill in DJ following my show at WFMU threw his pile of records on top of mine in the record rack. I should have killed the prick. I did manage to replace it, but this copy, bought at the old Tower Records parking lot flea market in Hollywood cost $5, the replacement cost $40.
Kid Thomas- Wolf Pack b/w The Spell (Federal) See last week's Kid Thomas posting for the story on this one. I've since found a 78 but I still need a replacement 45. Eddie Cochran-- Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie b/w Pocket Full Of Hearts (Liberty) Another WFMU fuck up, basically the same story as the Kip Tyler record. Still haven't found another copy (it's not even rare, I just refuse to pay $30 for it).
Breaks your fucking heart, eh?
"Rock and roll is the most brutal, ugly, desperate vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear. Rock n' roll smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons, and by means of its almost imbecilic reiteration, and sly, lewd -- in plain fact, dirty -- lyrics . . . it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth." (Frank Sinatra at 1958 Congressional hearings, New York Times Magazine, 12.1.58, p.19)
Frank Sinatra hated rock'n'roll, as above quote so quaintly illustrates. Of course if you read the quote carefully he is partially right; rock'n'roll was played for the most part by cretinous goons, the lyrics were often sly, lewd and dirty, and of course it was the music of every sideburned delinquent. The only part I think he got wrong was about it smelling phony and false. Rock'n'roll smelled real and real rock'n'roll still smells good. No matter, it didn't stop him from trying to cash in on Elvis' fame, hosting a Welcome Back Elvis TV show when Elvis was discharged from the U.S. Army, on which he and Elvis sang a duet where they swapped each others tunes. Later in his career he would duet with Bono and I don't mean Sonny, but I don't think Bono really counts as rock'n'roll.
Our subject today however is an item lurking hidden in the Sinatra catalog. An actual attempt by Frankie baby to cut a real rock'n'roll record. That's right, in the early fifties, when his career was bottoming out and Columbia A&R head Mitch Miller was desperate to revive Sinatra's fortunes, Miller was forcing all sorts of bad ideas on the poor fellow (the classic example being Mama Will Bark, long sited as the very worst Sinatra disc). Eventually he brow beat Sinatra into attempting to win back the swooning teenage girls by recording some of that crazy big beat the kids were going wild over, hence this peculiar polystyrene platter: Bim Bam Baby! Issued in '52 it wasn't so much a rock'n'roll fad disc as an attempt to weld Sinatra onto the sax driven rhythm and blues sound of guys like Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris and Big Joe Turner who were starting to find a market with white teenagers. Lyrically it's quite a tongue twister (in fact I think the lyrics are genius--- "run your flim flam fingers through my greasy hair"! Indeed!). By the final verse you can actually hear Sinatra getting madder and madder as he struggles with the overboard alliteration. Shit, Don & Dewey or Esquerita could have recorded this one.
Sinatra would soon leave Columbia records and Mitch Miller behind. He signed to Capitol in 1953 and recorded a series of classic concept LP's (hell, he invented the idea) like Sings For The Lonely, Songs For Swinging Lovers and In The Wee Small Hours. Even his film career recovered starting with From Here To Eternity (1953), he'd go on to appear in classics like Suddenly (1954), Guys and Dolls, The Tender Trap, Man With The Golden Arm ( all three in 1955), High Society (1956), The Joker Is Wild, Pal Joey (both in '56), Some Came Running (1958), A Hole In The Head (1959), Ocean's Eleven (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). His complete filmography can be found here. Frankie was back, and with no help from Mitch Miller.
While we're on the subject of ole blue and red rimmed eyes, one of my all-time favorite celebrity tell-alls might have slipped by your radar, in which case I suggest you search out Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra by George Jacobs with William Sadiem (Harper Collins, 2004). I've seen it on Amazon* for less than a buck, and you would be hard pressed to find a more entertaining way to spend four quarters this side of a Show World video booth. First sentence: "Summer 1968. The only man in America who was less interested than me in sleeping with Mia Farrow was her husband and my boss, Frank Sinatra". Jacobs was Sinatra's butler for fifteen years and his tales of encounters with Joe Kennedy (who berated Sinatra for hiring a black man), Ava Gardner, Swifty Lazar, Peter Lawford, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and nearly every one who was anyone in Hollywood and Palm Springs makes this an orb popping read from beginning to end. The Chairman of the Board, his toupee and rat pack may be gone, but those of us still here can still laugh at him.
New Yorkers note, the Strand has tons of copies for around $5.
I guess I'm starting to repeat myself in my old age, since I wrote a similar piece to this one in Kicks magazine #3 back around 1981, but since that was a whole generation ago I might as well. If you are unfamiliar with today's subject-- Louis Thomas Watts aka Kid Thomas you have been leading an incomplete life and are in for a real treat. Besides, it's a great story.
Kid Thomas was born June 20, 1934 in Sturgis, Mississippi--a Gemini, like me.
He was raised in Chicago where he took up playing the drums and later the harmonica on which he was tutored by Little George Smith (who recorded some good sides for RPM in the 50's) and by the mid-50's was a regular on the Chicago club scene appearing with the likes of Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, and often filling in for his idol Little Walter when Walter was too drunk to negotiate the bandstand, which was quite often. He also held down a regular gig at Cadillac Baby's club. In 1955 he simply walked into the Chicago distribution offices of the Cincinnati based King/Federal records and announced he wanted to make a record. Luckily for him, producer Ralph Bass who was also Federal's A&R chief happened to be in the building and Kid Thomas was soon in the studio. Bass recorded Thomas in Chicago using Little George Smith on drums (he'd traded harmonica lessons with Kid Thomas for drumming lessons), a guitarist whose first name was James and a piano player nobody remembered. That first session produced one 45, and it was a good one too. Wolf Pack b/w The Spell (Federal) is in fact a classic. The a-side is an upbeat workout on Howlin' Wolf's Smokestack Lightning riff, the b-side a spooky, voodoo blues. It was the only record issued from the session and his only release on Federal who let him go when the disc failed to catch on. Left in the vaults from that day were quite a few goodies however including the rocker Beaulah Come Back, Ride On, Ride On, Come Here Woman and this alternate take of Wolf Pack. These sides would remain un-issued until 1999, perhaps the world was just not ready. Maybe it still isn't.
Wolf Pack since didn't exactly make our hero a star so he kept his eyes open for a better opportunity. In a local diner he met two kids who had hitchhiked into town from Wichita, Kansas and duly invited them down to Cadillac Baby's that night. They were blown away by Kid Thomas set and upon returning home to Wichita, booked him a job at a local bar called the Sportsman's Lounge. Lacking funds to get to the gig, he hit upon an idea, this is what he told writer Daryl Stolper in his only published interview which ran in Blues Unlimited in 1969:
"At that time, I was doing some light work for a minister, and he had a '49 Buick. I didn't have a car, so I waited until he was asleep and I told my guitarist to ease the car out,'cause if he woke up, he'd recognize me. So he starts up the car and bangs it into the car behind him, and the one in front. But he finally got it out, and we made it to Wichita. When I got back (to Chicago), the minister asked me what happened to his car. I told him I hadn't any idea. He told me,'Thats funny,'cause it disappeared the same night you did."
The band broke up in Wichita but he returned there a month later, this time driving a 1947 DeSoto with his name misspelled on the side-- it read Kid Thumass. Our by now be-conked hero had struck up a partnership with Hound Dog Taylor (see January posting for a picture of his six fingered left hand) and together they proved a good draw in Wichita.
By 1956 rock'n'roll had taken the world by storm and Kid Thomas fell under the spell of Little Richard and soon revamped his sound to showcase the influence of Little Richard and other men who wore their hair up high and screamed a lot. This new musical direction didn't exactly knock 'em dead in the South Side blues clubs in Chicago to which he had returned, so he packed up and headed west, first to Denver and finally landing in Los Angeles in 1958.
In L.A., Kid came to the attention of George Mottola, then head of A&R at the Modern/RPM/Flair family of labels where he recorded such greats as Richard Berry, Jesse Belvin, and the Teen Queens. Mottola had started his own label-- Transcontinental and soon Kid Thomas was back in the studio. Boy, was he. His next release, issued in 1959 on the aforementioned Transcontinental-- Rockin' This Joint Tonight (issued with two different b-sides, the blue label first pressings had You Heard What I Said on the flip, the black, red and white second pressing had You Are An Angel, if you want to hear the former, and you do, you're gonna have to buy the Norton Records 4-song EP). Rockin' This Joint Tonight is one of the wildest rock'n'roll discs of all time with Kid Thomas blowing his harmonica and shouting out the lyrics in a frantic frenzy. Just listening to it leaves me breathless. He wouldn't record again for five years, that's probably how long it took for him to catch his breath.
Kid took a regular gig in L.A.'s South Central neighborhood at a joint called the Cozy Lounge, working under the name of Tommy Louis and the Rythm (sic) Rockers and sometimes as Tommy Louis and the Versatiles. The local Muriel label issued two singles in 1965-- The Hurt Is On b/w I Love You So, which got some airplay around the south despite the lack of promotion, and later the same year Wail Baby Wail b/w Lookie There, perhaps his finest achievement in wax. Wail Baby Wail is another full on Little Richard inspired rocker in the same vein as Rockin' This Joint Tonight, only this one features guitarist Marshall Hooks' insane soloing which sounds like Ike Turner undergoing electro shock therapy. Sadly, there was little market for such sounds in 1965 and the disc sunk without a trace.
As Tommy Lewis, he made one last record, issued on Cenco in 1969 he would recut (You Are An) Angel b/w Willowbrook, not a bad record, but nothing to wet your shorts over.
Here comes the sad part. Although he kept on gigging (including playing a party at Dean Martin's house), Kid Thomas was making rent by mowing lawns. In 1970, after finishing a job in Beverly Hills, a young child ran out into the street from between two parked cars and Thomas accidentally ran over the kid, killing him.
Manslaughter charges were filed, then dropped for lack of evidence. A few months later, after appearing in court on a separate charge (driving with a revoked licence), the kid's father ambushed Kid Thomas in the court house parking lot, killing him with one bullet to the head.
As a tragic postscript to an already sad story, in 1994, at a live Hangover Hop WFMU radio broadcast, I went to take a piss and some jerk decided he might as well take a look through my box of 45's. When I returned from the head and asked the cretin to put my records down, he dropped the box and my copy of Wolf Pack on Federal landed on the concrete floor at Brownie's at just the right angle to crack it in two places. I've since manged to track down an original 78, but the 45 is rather hard (and expensive) to come by, and now my copy is held together with scotch tape. And people ask why I don't do the radio show or dj live anymore. So there's our story, three great records, two dead bodies, and one cracked disc. Life's funny like that.
Addendum to yesterday's post: I just stumbled on the complete works of Kid Thomas for download here for those of you who hate to pay for anything.
In this, our fourth installment of our Gillian's Found Photo feature, we delve into another area of the Fang's photographic collecting interests-- Black G.I.'s (she recently unearthed an amazing scrapbook of Black Panther G.I's stationed in Korea, hopefully she'll be posting some of those pics in the future). This soul brother has a message, it's written right on the back of the pic:
"To Alice a sweet young lady. I don't look very happy do I. Snooky" (punctuation errors in original).
No, poor Snooky doesn't look too happy. Hopefully he made it through his tour of Nam. BTW anyone out there with Black Power, Black Panther and/or Black G.I. snapshots to sell can write to the Fang c/o this blog site. What do you think of Snooky? And what of poor sweet Alice, waiting at home?
Something for every sort of personality disorder this week.
First off is from New Orleans' legendary Booker label, the same label that issued the amazing Rev. Charlie Jackson 45's (see the Nov. '08 posting Guitar Evangelists for more on him). There's a story behind this one, of course. My late pal Kelly Keller had taken me out for a soul food breakfast in a little restaurant in Mid-City in New Orleans, somewhere off of Broad St. Anyways, the owner/chef/hostess Sister Albertha, hearing that I was a d.j. up in New York City proudly presented me with a copy of her very own 45. One side is a fairly restrained reading of Amazing Grace, mis-spelled on the label "Amaze and Grace", the other was one of Sister Albertha's original compositions-- Mean Old Jews Who Crucify My Lord. I didn't bother to tell her the radio station was run by a mean old Jew, but I did attempt to explain to her that her lord was a Jew and he was crucified by Romans. She would hear nothing of it, tapping her bible knowingly. I then attempted to explain that her bible was written by Jews, but there's no point in arguing religion with religious people. That usually leads to a war. Great record, though, if the anti-Semitic angle doesn't bother you too much.
The next one by Trez Trezo was issued on his own Trezo label, and what market had in mind is beyond my comprehension. His versions of Rock Around The Clock b/w Hang On Sloopy must be heard to be believed. It's just old Trez, banging away on his drum kit and singing, no other instruments. The a-side recieved the ultimate in retarded record honors by ending up on a Big Itch compilation LP (Mrs. Manocotti).
Some discs are beyond words, and I've just run out of things to say about this double sided slab of vinyl non-genius.
Next in line is one of my favorite sixties records, out of Memphis, Jim Dickinson & the Catmandu Quartet (Southtown). The a-side, Monkey Man is an organ driven frat screamer, the b-side, Shake 'Em On Down a greasy blues shuffle. The year was 1966. Dickinson has had a long and illustrious career starting with the Jesters on Sun (Cadillac Man, see the Jan. posting on William Eggleston to hear that one) and he'd go on to play piano with the Stones and Ry Cooder, produce Big Star, make the excellent Dixie Fried LP on Atlantic, lead Mud Boy & the Nuetrons, record with the Cramps, the Johnny Burnette Trio, Alex Chilton, Furry Lewis, et al. He's still at it today (he played a great gig at the Lakeside a few years back). That scrawl on the label is his autograph. Anyway, I thinks this is his finest moment. It was produced by another Sun alumni-- Bill "Raunchy" Justis.
I know nothing about Duke Mitchell, except that The Lion (Crystalette) is sheer genius. The b-side is awful (Strike, a re-write of Duane Eddy's Rebel Rouser as a bowling novelty). The Lion however is a stupid-rock classic. Anybody out there have any info on this one?
Back in Memphis, today's last little platter is a slice of prime Memphis soul stew courtesy of the Martini's, who if you read the label are actually most of the Mar-Keys of Last Night (Satellite) fame. Hung Over (Bar) is in the same groove as the best Mar-Keys and Booker T. & the M.G.'s sides, but with the additional bonus of the sound of a guy barfing thrown in. I assume they were aimin' at the local market, since everytime I've ever been to Memphis everyone I met was always drunk. Cool lookin' label too.
Herbie Duncan died recently. I don't know what killed him or the exact date that he died. Does it matter?
Herbie Duncan cut three 45's: Hot Lips Baby b/w Little Angel (Mar-Vel, 1958, re-issued and still available from Norton Records), Escape b/w Roll Along (Glenn, 1959) and That's All b/w End Of The Rainbow (Glenn, 1960).
Hot Lips Baby is one of rock'n'roll's pinnacle moments. It turns up on dozens of rockabilly compilation LP's and CD's, both legal and bootleg*. It's my favorite type of record, one where you ask yourself, "did this guy really think he was gonna be the next Elvis"? and/or "how the hell did this even get recorded"? It's discs like Hot Lips Baby that make record collecting worth it; all those hours around fat, smelly guys who still live with their parents, creepy record dealers trying to pass of bootlegs as rarities, hours spent digging through dusty piles of junk (the knees are really feeling it these days). When you find a record like this (and you don't find 'em like this too often) it's like winning Lotto, or the Olympics. You know that you haven't wasted your time (and life) tracking this stuff down.
In 1986, Deke Dickerson (Untamed Youth, Deke Dickerson Combo, etc.), President of the Herbie Duncan Fan Club (yes, such people exist) tracked him down and found him and his wife living in a trailer camp in Olathe, Kansas. Of that visit he wrote:
"I’ll always remember Herbie most from this visit, when he took his old guitar out of the case, sat on his La-Z-Boy chair, and began warbling "Me And Bobby McGee" in his trademark vocal style. His body, his hands, his head, remained almost motionless as the words and music spilled out from his voice and guitar. Strangely, almost inhumanly, the La-Z-Boy chair began violently rocking back and forth, as if it was levitating, though Herbie remained almost motionless. My friends and I looked at this and remarked on it later, and to this day I have no idea how he did that. There was magic--magic that few understood, but undeniable magic--contained in the body and soul of Herbie Duncan". Magic indeed. Take that Aliester Crowley! By the sounds of this record it's magic that the band all manage to finish the song at almost the same time. In fact, the guitar, bass player and drummer all end up stopping on different beats.
Mar-Vel and Glenn, the labels that issued Duncan's 45's were both owned by the same guy-- Harry Glenn. Glenn would press up records and sell them out of his truck which had exterior speakers attached to it so that he could blast out the sounds of ultra primitive rockabilly and hillbilly rock'n'roll to the world, and try to 'em his sell records. Unfortunately this vehicle never passed my house. I guess this method of combining promotion and distribution saved $ on payola end, but it didn't exactly deliver the hits. He did issue some incredible discs though, including such classics as Chuck Dallis' Moon Twist and Billy Hall's Ooga Booga Boo (a copy of which I found on Astor Place for a quarter in the early eighties, the route that took it there I'd love to know, kinda like the coin in No Country For Old Men) Glenn believed in Duncan enough to issue three singles. And half a century later, we're are still talking about him. Who would of guessed?
* In the eighties Cowboy Carl Records issued three LP's of Marvel-Glenn rockabilly, and Rykodisc later issued a CD compilation called Get With The Beat, these are legit and taken from the original master tapes (as is the Norton re-issue 45) are are well worth searching out. The above quote from Deke Dickerson was taken from a Norton Records e-mail update.
I'm a sucker for a good novelty. Hence, a minor fascination with that notable British rock'n'roll character Lord David Sutch aka Screaming Lord Sutch, proof positive that, sometimes, in the world of rock'n'roll having no talent is sometimes just not enough. He was certainly a photogenic little bugger though, no? Despite the claim on Wikipedia that he was "3rd Earl Of Harrow", David Sutch (b. Nov. 10, 1940) was not of royal lineage and in fact grew up in the working class area of Kilburn, North London. He fell in love with rock'n'roll upon hearing Rock Around The Clock in 1956 (he dug Haley because he was the spitting image of his other hero-- Winston Churchill). Determined to forge a career in rock'n'roll he made his way to the 2i's coffee bar in Soho, that incubator of all British pre-Beatles R&R talent (see Vince Taylor posting for more on the 2i's scene) but was rejected and found a gig at a nearby biker joint called the Cannibal Pot, where he was soon fronting his own outfit-- The Raving Savages whose original line up featured future session drummer Carlo Little and pianist Nicky Hopkins. His main calling card was a stage show inspired by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and old horror movies, that saw Sutch jumping out of a coffin, chasing semi-nude women around the stage with a meat cleaver, even doing a re-enactment of Jack The Ripper murders to illustrate the tune of he same name (see video clip above). He brought theatrics to rock'n'roll a good decade before Alice Cooper. In this manner it took a while for audiences to realize he couldn't sing two bars in the same key. He was soon packing 'em in all over the U.K. and in Hamburg where he was a good draw at the Star Club.
In 1961 he was discovered by Joe Meek who produced Sutch's first two horror themed singles-- Til The Following Night (HMV) and Jack The Ripper (Decca), the group now billed as Screaming Lord Sutch & his Savages. Quite a few future notables passed through Sutch's group including Ritchie Blackmore (guitar star of Meek produced instrumental combo the Outlaws and later of Deep Purple), Jimmy Page, Keith Moon (briefly), and others. He cut a string of novelty horror singles, most are fairly unlistenable-- Dracula's Daughter, Monster In Black Tights, She's Fallen In Love With A Monster, etc. but some of the b-sides where quite good, original arrangements of rock'n'roll classics.Huey Smith's Don't You Just Know It and the Coaster's I'm A Hog For You (both served as the flip side of Jack the Ripper in different pressings), Bye Bye Baby (flip of Dracula's Daughter) are all credible, exciting rock'n'roll discs. His best was this 1965 re-make of the Johnny Burnette Trio's first 45 (covering both sides in highly original arrangements that highlight the strengths of his band) Train Kept A Rollin' b/w Honey Hush (CBS, UK). If it was the only record he ever made, he'd have been remembered as a genius. His best early sides compiled on a bootleg called The Screaming Lord Sutch Story can be found here.
In 1963 Sutch attempted to launch his own pirate radio station-- Radio Sutch which would feature rock'n'roll records mixed in with such attractions as Mandy Rice-Davis doing dramatic readings from Lady Chatterly's Lover but a falling out with his manager Reginald Calvert nixed the project (Calvert was later murdered by someone he swindled). The same year Sutch stood for public office for the first time, running for Prime Minister on the Teenage Party whose main platform was lowering the voting age to twelve. He would go on to run for PM in each election up until 1990, the Teenage Party evolving into the Raving Loony Party (in one memorable election he wanted to extend suffrage to animals). It was in politics that Sutch is best remembered in the U.K., always cutting a striking figure at election time, no publicity ploy beneath was beneath him. Some people even voted for him.
By the late sixties he had taken to riding around in a horse drawn chariot, his Savages outfitted in togas--- "You've got to keep up with the times", he told Nik Cohn.
In 1970 Sutch was signed to Atlantic who attempted to market him to an uncomprehending U.S. market releasing two LP's-- Screaming Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends (featuring all the Savages alumni who'd made it as well as Jeff Beck, John Bonham and Noel Redding) and Hands Of Jack The Ripper. He toured the U.S. in a Union Jack painted Rolls Royce. These LPs have the distinction of being among the worst ever recorded, although in retrospect, crappy as they are they're way better than 90% of what's made the charts in the ensuing decades.
Sutch continued to gig and even record the odd disc through the eighties, I saw him play at the Milkweig in Amsterdam in the early nineties, attempting to align himself with the Psychobilly craze, he was great in that "you had to be there and be stoned" sort of way. Unfortunately I was so loaded on hash that I lost the autographed 8x10 I'd gotten by stumbling into his dressing room and dropping the name of a mutual friend. I do remember he was surrounded by the strangest assortment of acolytes I've ever seen, including a guitar player named Rasputin who looked just like the real thing.
In 1991 Sutch published his autobiography: Life As Sutch (with Peter Chippendale, Harper-Collins, UK), an amusing if rather peculiar volume, for some reason it was recalled and is very rare today.
In 1999 his beloved mother Annie Emily Sutch passed away (he had lived with her for his whole life) and not long after (June 16, 1999) a grieving Lord David Sutch (he'd added the Lord via deed poll) hung himself. Sad ending, like all great rock'n'roll stories. Lord David Sutch, aka Screaming Lord Sutch is a perfect example of how a person of little promise was able to use rock'n'roll to rebuild his entire being into something special, some one who will be remembered, for as long as people care about rock'n'roll.
James "Sugar Boy" Crawford Jr., b. Oct 12, 1934 is one of the last of the great New Orleans rock'n'rollers still alive. Old timers remember him as having the best band in the city for a decade or more, as well as being the originator of Jock-a-Mo aka Iko Iko, the
anthem for Carnival. Sugar Boy cut his version for Chicago's Checker (a subsidiary of Chess) in 1954, and although it wasn't it a national hit, it was a monster locally and inspired dozens of cover versions over the years.
Crawford formed his first group in High School-- the Chapaka Shawee (which means "we ain't raccoons", they had no idea what it meant having gotten it from a Mardi Gras Indian chant). In addition to Crawford on piano and vocals were Edgar "Big Boy" Myles on vocals and trombone, Irving Bannister on guitar, Warren Myles Nolan Blackwell and Alfred Bernard, I'm not sure who played what or if the latter three just sang but in 1952 Aladdin issued their only 45, under the name of the Shaweez. The a-side is a minor masterpiece, "You Made Me Love You" in which Sugar Boy who trades lead vocals with Myles delivers a sobbing finale to this R&B/doo-wop ballad. The b-side was a cover of Guitar Slim's "Feelin' Sad". The record was issued without having even signed a contract, they were paid $5, for the entire group!
Soon Sugar Boy had gone pro and was inked to Chess who issued three 45's on Checker in 1954. On these sides Sugar Boy was backed by Eric Warner on drums, Frank Field on bass, Big Boy Myles on trombone, David Lastsie on tenor sax and Snooks Eaglin on guitar. The first of these discs-- Overboard is one of the wildest R&B discs ever. Taken at Ramones speed, the musicians sound like they're racing each other to the end of the tune. The record went nowhere but his second Checker disc- Jock-A-Mo was a huge local hit and would later be taken to the top of the charts as Iko Iko by the Dixie Cups (with Crawford's name missing from the writer's credit).
Jock-A-Mo missed the national charts but it became Sugar Boy's calling card and kept him in live work for years. A third disc--"No More Heartaches" b/w "I Bowed My Knee" didn't sell at all and Chess dropped Sugar Boy, leaving eighteen amazing sides in the vaults. The entire Chess/Checker output can be found here (password is bluesandrhythm.blogspot.com). Tunes like the politically incorrect Watch Her, Whip Her , the instrumental Night Rider , What's Wrong, There Goes My Baby, are as good, or better, than anything I've ever heard. They weld the second line beat peculiar to New Orleans to Rhythm and Blues better than any discs this side of Fats Domino.
By 1956 Sugar Boy was signed to Imperial and back in the hands of Dave Bartholomew who had produced the Shaweez (and about 90% of the great records made in New Orleans in the fifties).
With Bartholomew's band-- Earl Palmer on drums, Lee Allen on tenor sax, etc. (same guys who played on hits by Fats Domino, Little Richard, Smiley Lewis, Shirley & Lee, et al) Sugar Boy cut the fantastic She Gotta Wobble (When She Walks) which flopped and the ballad Morning Star which became a minor hit. All together Imperial cut four singles with Sugar Boy Crawford before cutting him loose.
Still, Sugar Boy and the Cane Cutters were a good draw and played a two year stint at the all white Carousel Club in Baton Rouge as well as touring all over Louisiana and as far east as Georgia and as far west as Texas. They'd occasionally make it back in the studio, in 1959 cutting a version of Danny Boy b/w Round and Round for Montel and recording I Cried and Have A Little Mercy for Ace (produced by Mac Rebbenack who also wrote the latter) in '61 . He also cut backing tracks for Jimmy Clanton while at Ace.
In 1963 Crawford's career came careening to a halt thanks to a beating at the hands of a racist cop who'd pulled the band over after a gig outside of Monroe, Louisiana. Sugar Boy spent a year in the hospital recovering, and gave up rock'n'roll for good.
In 1999 I met Sugar Boy, quite by accident. I needed a locksmith to change the lock in an apartment I'd just moved into and a friend gave me the number of a locksmith he had used. It was Sugar Boy Crawford who showed up and installed my new lock. I tried to talk to him about music but he was quite taciturn on the subject, only saying "I do my singing in church these days..." with a smile. He makes occasional appearances at gospel shows, usually playing piano and has turned down offers to play jazz fest and the Ponderosa Stomp (speaking of which, why is Bon Jovi headlining Jazz Fest? Why don't they move the Stomp to a non-jazz fest week since there's almost no cross over audience between the two at this point....pardon me, my mind wanders easily...). Sugar Boy Crawford, yes, he was a great one. He sure was...
In the latest installment of our new weekly feature we delve into Gillian "The Fang" McCain's collection of found photos and ask ourselves, what do we say about this one?
My guess is that this is Siomone Mareuil recovering from her film role in Luis Bunuel's 1929 classic Un chein andalou. Maybe not...but who ever she is, she cuts a striking figure.
Above image is copyright Gillian McCain Collection, any un-authorized use will result in a severe ass whupping.
James "The Hound" Marshall is a former WFMU deejay (1985-97), music writer and bar owner (Lakeside Lounge NYC, Circle Bar, New Orleans). He has contributed articles to dozens of mags and newspapers including the Village Voice, NY Times, LA Weekly, Spin, Penthouse Forum, New York Rocker, Newark Star-Ledger, East Village Eye, High Times (columnist for ten years), Kicks, and worse.
He also wrote liner notes to CD re-issues by Larry Williams and Johnny Guitar Watson, Ray Price, Eric Ambel, Challenge Records,The Okeh R&B Box, and others as well as compiling three volumes of the early rock'n'roll compilations Jook Block Busters (Valmor). At age 17 he edited two issues of the punk fanzine New Order (1977) He was born in Paterson, N.J. and raised mostly in Broward County, Florida, moving to New York City at age 18 in 1977 and has resided there ever since except for 1998-2002 when he split his time between New York and New Orleans. He has been acclaimed in print in the New York Times, Village Voice, Time Out New York, New York Magazine,The Manhattan Catalogue, and other publications you wouldn't be caught dead reading.