Friday, April 13, 2012
The Western Playboys--Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-o-Dee (1949)
As you can see, the above 78 is not in the best of shape (I tweaked the lighting to highlight the network of scratches, and I cloned over a missing area by the center hole). Barely a "Fair," really. But this is one of those scarce gems you're happy to have in any condition. Western Magic is a label whose existence I never even suspected, so I wasn't expecting to find much (or anything) on Google, but Wired for Sound came to the rescue with a 2010 post: Homer Clemens on Swing. Seems Western Magic was a Paris, Texas label run by Jimmy Mercer. His other labels included Swing, Hill-Billy Hit Parade, and Royalty, and they were in operation from 1946-1950. (Thank you, WFS.) This one, from 1949, is a rockabilly-style "cover" of Stick McGhee's R&B/rock and roll hit, Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-o-Dee.
Save for the really bad background vocals, this selection is first-rate in every regard. And it rocks. Best of all, it sounds completely natural, as if 1949 country musicians hewing closely to an R&B recording were the most natural thing in the world. That is, there's nothing "hybrid"-sounding about it, and no sense that the musicians were playing faster, hotter, or jazzier than they were used to playing. This "cover" is bereft of gimmicks. In their similar efforts, Haley and Presley were eagerly searching for just the right, commercial sound, but these guys were simply making a record. Damn. I knew this would be an interesting side, in any event, but I wasn't expecting something this masterful (background vocals aside).
Best of all, I got a perfectly decent file out of this worn gem. Took a couple of hours, but that's blog biz. (Blog biz??)
To the Western Playboys: Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-o-Dee--The Western Playboys (Western Magic 1203; 1949).