We begin with one of my best 2005 thrifted-vinyl scores, a beat-up copy of The Gants' Road Runner. This find found its way into my collection a mere few weeks ago at, I believe, the Goodwill on Hamilton Rd. (in Columbus, Ohio). Something told me I would get a decent file out of it, but I had no way of knowing just how decent. It sounds absolutely fantastic for a piece of vinyl with 2/3 of its grooves play-removed. The Gants were covering Bo Diddley, of course, though I don't think the Telstar chord sequence (which first occurs at the start) comes from Bo's original. Those don't quite fit, harmonically, but they work, which is all that matters. Nearly anything worked on garage band records when infused with the right amount of gusto and volume. Click on the photo to get to the file:
Not a side that you (probably) won't hear anyplace else, but a very nice find, especially for 49 cents. It looks like a 49-cent record, doesn't it?
This next one, however, you (probably) won't hear anyplace else, blogwise. It's another "Roots of Elvis"-type side--i.e., a pop recording with plenty of R&B feel, attitude, and style from the period before Elvis allegedly introduced those three qualities to the pop charts. It's interesting that the white pop singers who sounded most like Elvis in the days before 1956 were female. I imagine this is because bluesy "torch" numbers--the type that Elvis often recorded--tended to be performed by women. In spite of what we're always being told, sex was all over post-WWII pop culture (think Marilyn Monroe); what was new was male hootchy-kootchy of the Elvis variety. And the fact that Elvis' performance style was highly African-American sure didn't help r&r gain easy acceptance, given the far less than perfect race relations of the day.
There's much to love here. Toni Arden's aggressive, highly-R&B performance was more typical of the time than Rock History would want you to believe; and Hugo Winterhalter's equally aggressive, pounding-triplets chart isn't surprising, coming as it does from a former big band arranger whose clients included Count Basie. And the song itself is even more noteworthy--I knew there was something special about it the moment eight bars had ticked by. Sure enough, it turns out this gospel-style, I/I7/IV/IVm tune was cowritten by Claude A. (Bennie) Benjamin, a Virgin-Island-born songwriter who also gave us The Ink Spots' I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire, Kay Starr's Wheel of Fortune, and the 1965 Animals hit, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.
I'll have to write my friend Pete, an R&B expert, to find out whether or not Toni and Hugo were "covering" a black performance here--that's certainly possible, given the sound and feel. But my Google search mostly turned up an I'll Step Aside recorded by Ernest Tubb and, apparently, written and composed by Johnny Bond. Which is to say, I don't have the patience to sift through a few hundred entries to find what I need....
(Please click on the battered label to get to the file):
Yes, things were so sedate before Elvis rescued pop music from The Ames Brothers. No triplets, no gospel or blues feel, no black stylings of any kind. Toni Arden, along with Jaye P. Morgan, June Valli, and Patti Page (remember her marvelous cover of What a Dream) never existed. We must believe what Rock History tells us.