Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday morning gospel: The Speer Family--Won't We Be Happy (1965; re. 1981)

This LP had my a bit confused at first, what with its copyright year of 1981.  I was sure I had previously owned a much earlier edition, and it turns out that I was correct--this is a 1965 gem reissued on the occasion of the Speers' 60th anniversary.  Hence, the revised cover (the anniversary reference).  Now, my original copy had some weird "extra" sounds on a couple of the Side 2 tracks--sort of like audio bleeding through the performance, as if the engineer were reusing a tape that hadn't been fully erased.  I wrote it off to a defect in the pressing, but apparently not, because the same noises are present in this edition!  So the problem obviously resides in the master tape/disc.  For some reason, it's a relief to discover that both the 1965 and 1981 editions have the same odd noises.  Why that would come as a relief, I don't know.  Maybe I've been puzzling over this subconsciously for the past ten years.

Back to topic, during the 1920s and 1930s (after forming in 1921), the Speers peddled songbooks for publisher James D. Vaughan, which meant they had to be good--and hard-working.  I'd give anything to hear this wonderful group in its earliest days, but unfortunately it didn't start recording until 1947.  And, needless to say, the outfit didn't get rich from singing to sell books, but maybe the paychecks got bigger when "Dad" Speer went to work for Stamps-Baxter upon James D. Vaughn's death in 1941.  And bigger yet when they landed recording dates with Columbia and RCA.  I hope so.

The music throughout this superior LP is expertly and lovingly presented--polished but with a down-home sincerity that gets addictive after a few tracks.  I'll have to count this version of Palms of Victory (aka, Deliverance Will Come), as my all-time favorite (and my reason for snapping this up from the thrift bin), because the Speers get it exactly right, with a tight and subtly insistent instrumental background (after Ye Olde Deceptive Slow Start), a properly moderate tempo, and superbly precise diction--exactly what the words demand.  It's all a buildup to the final (well, in print, the next-to-final) verse, in which he "wayworn traveler" at last reaches the Golden City.  The group celebrates this triumph by drawing out the last three words:"Palms of victory I... shall... wear."  Sometimes genius touches are simple ones.  And sometimes, when you're working with great material, you just let it shine.  This is a group which works to glorify the material, not itself.

Wayworn Traveler, by the way, was the title the Carter Family used when they recorded this 1836 number a century later.  And, oddly enough, SecondHandSongs claims that Carter wrote the verse that ends this version ("While gazing on that city, Just o'er the narrow flood...").  In fact, the verse appears in my edition of New Christian Hymn and Tune Book, which was published in 1887--four years before A.P. was born.  (Scan below.)

A touching note--George Thomas "Dad" Speer died one year after this LP, and wife Lena "Mom" Speer the following.  Adds some poignancy to a beautifully done cover.

DOWNLOAD: The Speer Family--Won't We Be Happy (1965; re. 1981)


Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Blue Beats--The Beatle Beat (A.A. Records AA-133; 1964)

I was going to start by describing this as one of the odder Beatles knock-offs.  But it may, in fact, be the oddest.

The Beatle Beat, Featuring the Blue Beats.  That's what it says on the front jacket.  So what does it say on the back jacket?  "How to Do the Twist" (Reprinted from The Fred Astaire Dance Book).  How to do the Twist?  So, uh... to do the Beatle Beat, one must first master the Twist?  Wouldn't a "Beatles Beat" tutorial have made more sense?  This is a level of front jacket/rear jacket disagreement that rivals anything from Synthetic Plastics Co. or Halo, Allegro/Royale, and Ultraphonic.  So, what exactly do we have here?  A discotheque collection repurposed at the last minute to siphon some of the Beatles cashflow?  That seems like the closest thing to a logical explanation.  But couldn't they have come up with a more creative fake-Beatles name than "The Blue Beats"?  That sounds like a quartet of depressed poets listening to Miles Davis albums when they aren't accompanying Slop and Mashed Potato contests.

Nothing, however, can compete with the hideous cover art, which has a group of kids dancing (Twisting, Frugging, Hully Gullying?) under a massive Beatles wig.  Doesn't it look like the wig is consuming them?  Maybe that's a bit of social commentary.  At any rate, the dancers seem to be leaning into the giant wig, as if caught by surprise while doing the Rock-a-cha-cha, and this huge prop has just landed on them.

One look at that cover had me remembering the carpet monster from outer space in the Z-movie classic The Creeping Terror (1964--same year!).  Specifically, the scene where the monster invades a dance hall and struggles its way through a cluster of tables and chairs while the patrons stand by a back exit, making no attempt to get away.  Heck, as slow as the thing was moving, they could have walked past it and gone out the front:

Here's the Creeping Terror dance hall scene on YouTube, taken from a terrible print. Which is apt, since the sequence features what is possibly the worst editing job in film history.

Now, A.A. Records (which gave us Golden Record and Wonderland Records) wasn't the cheapest of the cheap, by any means.  It issued collectible stuff like At Home with the Munsters (featuring the TV cast), Roger and Over with Roger Price, the Famous Monsters of Filmland classic Famous Monsters Speak! and Huckleberry Hound for President (apparently authorized by Hanna-Barbara)  Yet, here it's giving us a Beatles knock-off that's less of an actual knock-off than even the Palace label's Beattle Mash.  How to explain?  Maybe the easiest option is to simply accept.

The music is fun, if monotonous, and well recorded and played.  So, it's discotheque rock and roll, all right, and every dance from the Slop to the Frug to the Rock-a-Cha-Cha (Rock-a-Cha-Cha??) to the Mashed Potato is represented, so everything about this album rings true--except for the "Beatle" part.

The titles are confusing as heck, since they're all followed by the name of the dance they go with.  Which would be fine, except that, in a number of cases, the dance names are part of the title and not just an addendum--for instance The Blue Beats' Ska.  Or Jack's Chickenback.  On the mp3 tags, I used dashes in front of the dance types, because I have no means of italicizing any part of the tags.  This resulted in some strange names, like One-Two--Hully Gully.  I guess there's no way to make this LP make any sense.  So, enjoy!

DOWNLOAD--The Beatle Beat--The Blue Beats (A.A. Records AA-133; 1964)


Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020--"Then came the journey over the foam, but all that went over didn't come home"--Billy Murray

An all-78 rpm Memorial Day salute, with every rip but one courtesy of George Blood LP--this was my second raid of the amazing Internet Archive's 78 rpm offerings.  I ended up doing a good deal of declicking and (judicious) filtering to these tracks, since Blood's rips, superb as they are, are pretty much straight from the turntable.  The single non-George Blood side--the Chico Marx Orchestra's We Must Be Vigilant (American Patrol)--was a bad remastering job and required a complete makeover.  With Vinyl Studio, I imposed a flat curve to rescue the file from its severe over-filtering and highly over-emphasized bass, and then I worked on it from there.  What you hear is much better than what I started with.  A great side, and totally worth the trouble--especially since it was the only one I could find.

My Dream of the Big Parade, a 1926 gem expertly performed by the Peerless Quartet, features surprisingly no-holds-barred lyrics about WWI, and the narration by Billy Murray (!) is profoundly moving and well done.  Sentimental but very frank--powerful and eloquent stuff.  Hard to believe that the lyricist, Al Dubin, also gave us Tiptoe Through the Tulips.

And we have two versions of America the Beautiful--the first, from 1914, set to a melody I've never heard before, by one C.G. Hamilton.  No label credit given for the words on this Wellesley Glee Club recording.  The second recording, from 1927, correctly credits Katharine Lee Bates for the text (the first draft of which dates to 1893) and Samuel A. Ward for the melody we all know.  Ward composed the tune (titled Materna) in 1883, but obviously not for Bates' text.  His music, plus Bates' lyrics, were first merged in 1910.  Bates words originated as a poem she titled "Pike's Peak," though the title was changed to "America" when it was published in 1895.  See how simple this stuff is?  Nothing complicated at all about the history of our best-loved songs.

I was thrilled to find a choral recording of William Billing's patriotic anthem, Chester.  This marvelous number hails from 1770 and was hugely popular during the Revolutionary War.  For quite some time, the self-trained Billings caught a lot of grief from music historians who pretty much regarded him as a joke, but, far as I know, he's now rightfully credited as the first major American composer.  He's looking good, and the historians who wrote him off... not so much so.

If George F. Root's Tramp, Tramp, Tramp melody has your ears expecting to hear Ray Stevens start in with Everything Is Beautiful, it's because the melody was also used for the famous Sunday School song, Jesus Loves the Little Children.

John Philip Sousa's famous Liberty Bell March was famous long before the Monty Python troupe chose it for its theme music, and this 1916 Columbia recording by Prince's Band boasts extraordinary fidelity.  I almost thought I was listening to a mislabeled electrical side.  One of the finest Sousa marches, though I'm not sure he ever wrote a dud.

And it's inevitable that a racist number would show up at some point, and The Ragtime Volunteers Are off to War is that number, though minus the word "darkies," the lyrics could be taken to refer to soldiers hip to the sound of ragtime.  But given the long minstrel show tradition of lampooning blacks in uniform, you sort of know from the title what it's about.  Bouncy number, though, and we get to hear the fascinating instrumental version by (Ernest) Borbee's Jass Orchestra, from the same year (1917).  Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925 describes Borbee's style as "dance music in a genteel fashion typical of its time," but I hear some solid ragtime in a pretty innovative string band style for the time, complete with percussion.

The Peerless Quartet's Liberty Bell is not the Sousa march--it's a rather strange patriotic number that no one sounds very enthused about.  Even the finally bell gongs sound flat.  Maybe the bells were eager to call it day, too.  "We'll keep the take.  What the heck."--Recording director.  "Who's buying?"  The final track, from 1905, is by the Life Guards Military Band, "with descriptive effects," though there isn't much of a narrative happening.  I've heard similar sides on which the overlapping conversations are more audible.  But it's still quite cool.  I'd almost think it had to have been recorded outdoors, which would have presented a challenge for 1905 recording technology.

DOWNLOAD: Memorial Day, 2020

We Must Be Vigilant (American Patrol)--Chico Marx and His Orch., v: Ziggy Lane (The Hits Record 7003; 1942)

America the Beautiful (C.G. Hamilton)--Wellesley College Glee Club (Columbia A1659; 1914)
America the Beautiful (Ward and Bates)--Columbia Mixed Chorus (Columbia 1202-D; 1927)
Comin' in on a Wing and a Pray'r--Johnny Zero--The Studio Orchestra (London Music Library W. 7051; U.K.)
The Battle Cry of Freedom (George F. Root)--Harlan and Stanley w. Orch. (Victor 16165; 1907)
American Patrol (Beacham)--Chicago Symphony Orch., Dir. Frederick A. Stock (Columbia A5977; 1917)
Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (The Prisoner's Hope) (Root)--John Young w. Orch. (Victor 16987; 1911)
Chester (William Billings)--The Madrigalists (Columbia 17251; 1927)
Joan of Arc (Wells)--Henry Burr, Tenor Solo, Orch. Acc. (Columbia A2273; 1917)
Liberty Bell March (Sousa)--Prince's Band (Columbia A2079; 1916)
My Dream of the Big Parade (Al Dubin-Jimmy McHugh)--Peerless Quartet w. Billy Murray (Victor 20098; 1926)
The Ragtime Volunteers Are off to War (Macdonald--Hanley)--Van and Schenck (Victor 18340; 1917)
Same--Borbee's Jass Orchestra (Columbia A2473; 1917)
Liberty Bell (Mohr)--Peerless Quartet (Columbia A2473; 1917)
Departure of a Man of War (Hunting)--Life Guards Military Band, with descriptive effects (Victor 61152; 1905)


Saturday, May 23, 2020

That Funny Jas Band from Dixieland (1916), and more!

Twelve tracks, all swiped from the Internet Archive and sound-edited by me.  All of the pre-doctored rips are by George Blood LP, the outfit which uses the four-tonearm turntable.  Its sound files are superb, but sometimes they're whisper-soft, as was the case with 1916's That Funny Jas Band from Dixieland, recorded by Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harland for Edison--which, luckily, I was able to get some volume out of.  That Funny Band was released in 1917, but this take (take C) was recorded on Dec. 1, 1916.  The song title is said to be the first to mention jas/jass/jazz, but it's the band's slightly discordant imitations of Dixieland which make this recording fascinating.  These breaks were clearly meant for humor but they provide incontestable proof  that Original Dixieland Jazz Band-style was around in 1916.  Not that anyone was arguing this, but every bit of audio proof proof is precious when it comes to jazz in its earliest stages.

The record is racially offensive, of course, though it's only a 5 on a scale of 10 as far as dialect humor goes.  For its period, this rates as moderately insulting....

I filled out the playlist with Earl Fuller (Rector Novelty Orchestra) and Paul Whiteman 78s which I haven't (to the best of my memory) featured here, save for Earl Fuller's Mummy Mine, which didn't sound as good as this, and Paul Whiteman's Chicago--ditto.  The 1945 Whiteman recording of San (arranged by Bill Challis) was recorded for the Capitol 78 set The History of Jazz Vol. 2--The Golden Era, and it features original band member Matty Malneck doing his usual masterful violin solo, and... I thought it also had Bill Rank on trombone, but I guess not.  Brilliant performance, and it was the first Whiteman record I ever heard, thanks to my dad's hi-fi set and his copy of the 78 album.

I was very happy to find the superb George Blood LP rip of Paul Whiteman's 1929 Button up Your Overcoat, one of my all-time favorite 1920s sides, which features a charming Ferde Grofe arrangement and an incomparable Vaughn De Leath vocal (she gets no i.d. on the label!).

High entertaining shellac, and I didn't have to set the needle down once....

DOWNLOAD: That Funny Jas Band from Dixieland, more!

That Funny Jas Band from Dixieland (Kahn-Marshall)--Collins and Harlin, 1916 (Edison 50423; 1916)
I Want Him Back (Lew Brown)--Earl Fuller's Rector Novelty Orch. (Columbia A2566; 1918)
Mummy Mine (Hickman-Black)--Same (Columbia A2722; 1919)
We'll Do Our Share (Egan-Creamer and Layton)--Same (Columbia A2566; 1918)
Alabamy Bound (De Sylva-Green-Henderson)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Victor 19557; 1924)
Button up Your Overcoat (De Sylva-Brown-Henderson; arr: Grofe)--Same (Columbia 1736-D; 1929)
Chicago (That Toddling Town) (Fred Fisher)--Same (Victor 18946; 1922)
Dixie's Favorite Son (Lew Brown--Albert Von Tilzer)--Same (Victor 19389; 1924)
I'm Just Wild About Harry (Sissle-Blake)--Same (Victor 18938; 1922)
In a Boat (Lange-Liggy-Klapholz)--Same (Victor 18789; 1921)
Manhattan (Hart-Rodgers)--Same (Victor 19769; 1925)
San (McPhail-Michels; Arr: Bill Challis)--Same (Capitol 10026; 1945)


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Buddy Tate, The Rock and Rollers Orchestra (Halo 50322)

Look at that cover--I had to grab this one.  This was an inexpensive eBay acquisition--I'm still Covid-avoiding the thrifts.  Too many central Ohioans think the virus is a joke, and I don't feel comfortable around folks who don't wear masks.  Like covering your mouth and nose for the common good is some kind of epic hardship.  But, anyway, this is an Eli Oberstein junk-label gem--from the good ol' Record Corporation of America, or, the fake RCA.  I think a lawsuit happened over "RCA" vs. RCA at some point, but don't quote me.  The copyright year on the back cover is 1957, but Discogs says 1958 for the release, so, what the heck.  1958 it is.  The sole Tate discography I found on line tells me that the A-side tracks were recorded by Buddy Tate in 1955, and for the Halo label!  The "for the Halo label" part is the surprise, since I didn't know anyone actually recorded specifically for the fake-RCA junk labels--I would've though these tracks came from some other source.  That's what I get for thinking.  And, meanwhile, I've just found a second Tate discography, though it's not as detailed as the one I linked to.

I like the Tate sides--especially the uptempo Skip It--though the two Christmas titles don't demand replays (they're kind of draggy).  And Snowy White Christmas is a certain famous Christmas standard by an American songwriter born in Siberia.  (Hint: Remove "Snowy" from the title.)  Now, if Tate indeed recorded his tracks for this label, why didn't he do two sides' worth?  Dunno.

The flip side features the Rock and Rollers Orchestra, whom nobody seems to have identified.  And it doesn't sound like the same guys throughout--I hear two, maybe three, outfits.  And it's rock and roll, all right, but not the type that hit the pop charts in the 1950s--it's the 1940s-style stuff that emerged from swing music, and I suspect that these tracks date from that decade.  No way to be sure, of course.  The sound quality goes south with these numbers, the last two sounding especially bad.  Whether the problem happened in the remastering, or if the things were just badly recorded... dunno.  But side 2 really rocks.  My attempts to fix the sound backfired, so I kept the dynamic balance as is.  You'll hear thumping bass and subdued highs, at least compared to the lighter, superior sound on the Tate numbers.

And I do think the source for r&r was big band jazz, or swing.  We've been taught for decades that r&r came together from umpteen sources--the prevailing notion, far as I know, is that parallel strands/styles, each with its own history, merged into r&r at some point (directed by what magical force, I don't know).  How else to explain the stylistic diversity in early r&r?  Well, I have a couple of far simpler explanations--1) popular forms tend to diversify stylistically as they borrow from other forms, and 2) when you have musicians from varied backgrounds involved in getting a new form off the ground, as was the case with r&r, you can expect a variety of approaches.  Popular music evolves at a rapid pace, and this doesn't leave much room for highly complicated processes to occur.  Popular entertainment is sink-or-swim by nature--something finds an audience, or it perishes.  The complicated creation theories of r&r journalism sound fine on paper, but simple is better when it comes to theories, because simple theories are testable (i.e., falsifiable).  800-page theories aren't, because they're too prone to ad hoc revising of propositions, and because they have the same probability of being correct as any other 800-page theory.  A theory that can't be tested is as useful (or useless) as any other.  It's good to remember that theories explain things--they don't describe them.  My contention that r&r came from swing is not a simplification of history.  Rather, it's an acknowledgement that change and mutation are the essence of evolution.  Those two nouns function as synonyms for it, in fact.  Rather than buying the claim that forty forms were placed in a big, magic mixing bowl, with the result being early r&r, maybe we should look for the form which mutated into r&r.  The most obvious suspect is swing.

DOWNLOAD: Buddy Tate, Rock and Rollers Orchesstra

Buddy Tate, His Tenor Sax and Orch.


Moon Dust
Rough Ridin'
Skip It
Lonely Christmas
Snowy White Christmas (White Christmas)

Rock and Rollers Orchestra

Let's Rock and Roll

Romp and Stomp
Long N' Lean
The Screwdriver No. 1
Cool Fool
Soda Bob

(Halo 50332; released 1958--Tate sessions, 1955)


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday morning gospel, Part 2--Big 6 Records

This is a repost request from Monkey D. Sound--country and bluegrass sides from two EPS on the Big 6 Records label, which I posted in 2013 and sometime before that.  Bob the Scared Data Miner, who doesn't seem to be active on line anymore, gave me this info at the time:

"All these Big 6 EPs are either old masters already issued on various Rite Records budget subsidiaries or new recordings made in the Rite studios. (Guitarist Danny Burton was on all Rite studios sessions)

I've not yet figured out a date nor found who really owned the 'Big 6' label. Quite possibly from the sixties."

I had figured that Big 6 had to be a product of Cincinnati's Rite Records, too.  And here's Danny Burton on Gateway Records, Rite's house label:

Image from eBay.  I don't own it.

And today's material also showed up on two LPs, one of them on the Coronet label.  I don't own these, either, unfortunately:

Who can figure this stuff out?  Anyway, new rips with decent fidelity, and some rockers here and there in the list.  Not a dud in the bunch.

To the sounds:

DOWNLOAD: Danny Burton, Big 6

Big 6 Reords 544

Mountain Chuch--Dnnay Burton
Cup of Loneliness--Same
This World Is Not My Home--Texas Slim
Where We'll Never Grow Old--Nelson Young
Unclouded Day--Nelson Young
Taggin Along--Danny Burton

Big 6 Record 545

Boat of Life--Danny Burton
I'd Rather Live by the Side of the Road--Danny Burton
Wandering Soul--Faulkner Trio
Family Bible--Jay Johnson
I'm Gonna Ride That Glory Train--Danny Burton
If You Believe--Danny Burton


Sunday morning gospel, Part 1--Paul Mickelson Plays for Youth (Word W-3064; 1961)

One of the coolest covers of all time, and the Sharpie writing above the first two miniature teems (now invisible) was easy to clone out.  There was a price (1.00) and "B1."  Maybe the identity of a seller in a flea market mall.  Doc requested a post of this LP, and I'm glad he did, because it's a joy.  It's been played a lot, but the amazing VinylStudio click filter made it sound like new--with a little MAGIX splicing for the leftover noise.  Beautiful monaural fidelity, and the usual first-rate Word musicianship.  Besides an expert organist and pianist, Paul Mickelson was an executive at Word, and he formed the Supreme label, which got rave reviews at Billboard.  I'm getting all of this right now from Wikipedia....

Paul double-tracks piano in some spots, which I was relieved to find out from the notes, because I had no idea where the piano was coming from.  And the jacket credits are all in the family--Engineering and editing by William H. Mickelson, and the front cover photo by Jean Mickelson.  No luck on determining the exact relationships--Google-searching "Jean Mickelson" plus "Word Records" only yields this LP plus an unrelated entry.  Dunno who William was.  I'm a lot of help this morning, aren't I?

I love Mickelson's arrangements and clean, advanced technique.  He keeps things rolling but reverent, and I couldn't resist typing that phrase once it popped into my head.  Word Records could have used me back then.  "Rolling but reverent--that's great"--Word.  That, or "Get out of here."  The organ effects--percussion, celeste, and more--are superbly incorporated, with nothing corny or cliched, and the playlist is perfect.  According to the notes, "These songs are heart melodies of the young Christians of the twentieth century."  Come 1969 or so, it was "Jesus music."  Fast forward to 2020, and it's praise music (short phrases repeated 500 times, followed by a fade).  I'm sure the standard stereotype of religious music is a traditional, slowly changing core playlist, but that's not even true of mainline hymnals, which regularly add and discard numbers.  Still-popular old-time gospel numbers like When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder and He Lives represent a tiny, tiny fraction of all the numbers that have filled songbooks and tunebooks since the Ira Sankey period of the late 1800s.  A song's chances of becoming a sacred standard are roughly those of space junk hitting the hood of a car and leaving the profile of Clark Gable.

The final number on this outstanding LP--Stand up for Jesus--is one of the first gospel numbers I ever learned.  This was during my trial-by-fire period as organist for the first church I belonged to, when I didn't know one title from the other.  Luckily, piano lessons made me a good reader and, when necessary, a competent sight-reader.  In that gig, I often came to church on Sunday not having been given the hymn titles--so I did a lot of stuff cold.  But this is about Paul Mickelson--and Christian youth.  At 63, I wish I could get some of that back.  And I hope that, after the photo shoot, the young folks on the jacket were restored to their original size.  ("Oh, no!  The reducing ray won't go into reverse!!")

To the sounds....

DOWNLOAD: Paul Mickelson Plays for Youth (1961)


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Music Masters, and other fake-hit labels--A Neely Plumb and La Bastre Tenniman-athon

You are here in search of early Neely Plumb.  You may not even know who Neely was, yet you feel a need for early Neely.  Well, you came to the right place.  In the early 1950s, Neely was the bandleader (and possibly producer and music director) for the budget Music Masters and Ace-Hi labels, and he went on to a very successful career (and, I'm sure, a much higher salary) at RCA.  I'd link to his AllMusic bio, but the page is festooned with ads.  AllMusic reports that Neely worked with Jefferson Airplane, Esquivel, and Ann-Margret, and... arranged Sheb Wooley's Purple People Eater.  Now, that's the important credit!  The talented Neely died in 2000 at the age of 88.

Clearly, Plumb was gifted, so it's no surprise that the Music Masters selections are quite well done--and we'll be hearing seven of them.   78s and 45s on Music Masters and Ace-Hi tend to survive in chewed-up condition, so when I saw a mint-looking MM 78 on eBay, I knew I had to have it--especially since it contains one of my all-time pop favorites, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.  Kathryne Steele is the very fine vocalist on this track, and she gets to have her name spelled two different ways on the label--"Kathereyne" and "Kathryne"--and I could find no cyber-info at all on her (even using both spellings), outside of record-list data, though Discogs has this pic of her:

So we know she was talented and cute.  Just one of the many good postwar vocalists trapped on budget labels, and all because, post-big band, there were good vocalists hanging from the rafters.  Cool trivia about the original Coral label version of Hold Me... by Karen Chandler--its flip, One Dream (Tells Me), was penned by one "Jerry Stevens," an alias for Joseph Stefano, who wrote the amazing screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and who produced the famous first season of The Outer Limits.  Now you know.

See You Later Alligator is a blog repeat, but this file came out a lot better than before.  Its flip (on Value Hit Parade Tunes, part of the Broadway label group) is a cover of a cover.  Namely, a fake version of Pat Boone's hit version of Little Richard's Tutti Frutti.  Now, I cannot begin to explain why on earth LR (Richard Wayne Penniman) was composer-credited on this label as "La Bastre Tenniman"--I can just report that "bastre" is French for "with clothes."  This could refer to LR's flamboyant garb, but what the heck??  This version is pretty lively--moreso than Boone's.  And I like Boone, by the way, even if his rock and roll doesn't pass the authenticity test.

Drinkin' Wine... is making a repeat appearance, too, and I think this file improves on my previous effort.  Hard to say, as the 78 is pretty beat.  It's been stolen from my blog at least twice--I know my rip, because I've memorized the surface noise!  So we have the Texas Playboys (not Bob Wills') playing an uptempo country cover of an R&B hit, and, would you believe, the result sounds like an uptempo country cover of an R&B hit.  But... but... we have all these journalists telling us r&r came from the Grand Ole Opry, and this hardly sound like r&r.  Now I'm all confused.  Anyway, this side does jump along, though the steel guitar sounds like a badly sampled bagpipe, while the background singers are pretty terrible.  And it's amusing to hear a C&W voice intone, "Aw, give me some of that slop."  Maybe we should rethink this rock-came-from-country stuff.  But I love this side, and I found a page which talks about the Western Magic label and its owner, Jimmy Mercer of Paris, Texas.

Neely Plumb's Dragnet is a cover of Ray Anthony, and the recording is very unbalanced, with tinny highs and booming bass.  Oh, well.  You get what you don't pay for, I guess.  The same label's Oop-Shoop cover sounds better, and I don't know the history of this song--as in, who did the pop cover.  Prior to 1955-56, budget label fakes tended to copy the pop-hit versions of black numbers, so....  I'll need to do some serious Oop Shoop research, and I've always longed to type that.  Dunno if there's a hyphen or not.

The fake of Dim, Dim the Lights, a big hit for Bill Haley in its genuine form, is credited to Lee Evans and the Melodians on Music Masters, while the same track is credited to one Bob Le Mont on Gateway Top Tune.  The real singer, of course, is La Bastre Tenniman.  No, seriously, who knows?  The fake Heartbreak Hotel, performed by the well-known group, "Famous Western Stars with Full Orchestra," comes to us courtesy of Variety Records, and it could have been a lot better.  It's not the famous George Jones version issued under aliases on Starday and Tops, though it almost sounds like a copy thereof.  Discogs offers this info on Variety: "US label."  From the same 78, Be-Bop-a-Lula, which has less muffled fidelity and a slightly less bad singer, though he seems to think the song is called Be-Bob-a-Lula.  Fairly neat electric guitar break.

From the ultra-ultra-cheap Poplar Extended Play Records (Record-o-Mail), we have a killer version of Shake, Rattle and Roll, which out-rocks the Bill Haley cover (which I think this is a fake of), and a weird That's All Right, which is likely copying the Marty Robbins, not the Elvis, version.  Also, the fine Rock Around the House fake which was credited to Gabe Drake on Promenade and Fred Gibson on Tops, and a rocking House of Blue Lights (slang for a brothel, I believe) which sounds like the fake version issued by Rite Records.  Then, more Big 4 Hits (Rite Records), a couple Top Hit Tunes (Waldorf), and a Varisty (Eli Oberstein).  The Varsity is a blog repeat--1949's I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts--which I can only presume copies the Merv Griffin mega-hit, and Syncopated Clock on Royale (Elliot Everett is an alias for Oberstein), which is another repeat.  Both were ripped using my 3.0 mil stylus this time, instead of the 3.5.

The Reps' Reveille Rock comes from the only 78 rpm Hit Parader Records edition I've ever come across, and the Capital Distributing Company of Derby, Conn. also gave us Charlton Comics, in whose pages the Hit Parader and Song Hits fakes were offered by mail at a low, low price.  Which was the only price Capital Distribution could have hoped for.

Hopefully, I've caught all the typos.  If not, well... I'm only android.  I mean, human.  Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD--Music Masters, more

Why Don't You Believe Me (Douglas-Roddy-Laney)--Katheryne (sic) Steele, Neely Plumb's Orch. (Music Masters 2004)

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (Noble)--Kathryne Steele, Neely Plumb's Orch.
Lady of Spain (Reaves-Evans)--Bobby Doyle, Neely Plumb's Orch.  (Same)
Trying (Vaughan)--Mark McLean, Neely Plumb's Orch. w. The Lee Gordon Group (Same)
See You Later Alligator (Robert Guidry)--No artist credit (Value Hit Parade Tunes 120)
Tutti Frutti (La Bastre Tenniman)--Same
Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-O-De (McGhee)--Western Playboys, Vocal by Les Guthrie (Western Magic Hit Parade Tunes 1203)
Dragnet (Schumann)--Neely Plumb and His Orch. (Music Masters 2011)
Oop-Shoop--Peggy Lawrence w. Neely Plumb and His Orch. (Music Masters 2020)
Dim, Dim the Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere) (Ross-Dixon)--Lee Evans and the Melodians (Music Masters 2023)
Heartbreak Hotel--Famous Western Stars with Full Orchestra (Variety Records Country and Western Hits V-1802-6)
Be-Bop-A-Lula--Same, except V-1802-5
Shake, Rattle and Roll--Stars of Radio, TV, Stage and Screen (Popular Extended Play Records PO-2209)
Rock Around the Clock--No artist credit (Popular Extended Play Records PO-8)
The House of Blues Lights--Same
This Old House (Hamblen)--Tommy Loftin and His Mountain Boys (Broadway 281; 1954)
Reveille Rock--The Reps (Hit Parader Records BR-100)
Syncopated Clock (Anderson)--Elliot Everett and His Orch. (Royale 322)
That's All Right--No artist credit (Western Extended Play Records HB-8)
I Beg of You--Jimmy Lane (Top Hit Tunes TH-1801; Waldorf Record Corp.)
Waitin' in School--Same
Mr. Sandman--The Four Queens (Big 4 Hits 113; 1954)
Oop Shoop--The Four Jacks (Big 4 Hits 111; 1954)
I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts (Heatherton)--Jimmy Livingston and His Orch., v: "Skeets" Morris and Chorus (Varsity 233; 1949)


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Sunday evening shellac--Gabriel, Sankey, and "Church Scene," oh my!

I'm rushing to press, so I reckon I'll start with Charles H. Gabriel's 1900 Glory Song, which was one of the biggest-ever gospel hits--Gabriel reported that over twenty million (printed) copies were sold, which is very possible, given the every-home-had-one status of songbooks at the time.  I love the simple but perfect melody.  And the words--also by Gabriel--are worthy of Fanny Crosby.  This 1908 recording by the Criterion Quartet is a perfect rendition, in my humble opinion, and I think I coaxed some clear fidelity from it.  For a long time, this was one of those Songs That Everyone Knows.

I love the sample of Gabriel's original manuscript (above).  Awesome handwriting.  I scanned it from my copy of Gabriel's Gospel Songs and Their Writers (1915).

Our next selection will have to be "Church Scene" from the the once hugely popular 1886 play, The Old Homestead, by Denman Thompson.  Urban cliches of rural live did not originate with Phillips Lord, Ma and Pa Kettle, or Green Acres....

The singers/performers are the Hayden Quartet (same guys as the Haydn Quartet) from 116 years ago--1904.  (Had to clarify--I'm bad at head arithmetic, despite having had no problem with my college math requirements.  Strange.)  My copy is a single-sided 12" Victor, and the label looks 1920-ish, so this must have been in print for a good while.  No point in noting that the thing is quite dated, but our favorite pop culture is going to look and sound funny a century later, too, so....  All of the gospel songs featured in Church Scene were, of course, highly familiar to audiences of the time.  You'll hear a a couple painfully wrong organ chords on The Palms--maybe the Victor label figured no one would notice.

Then, our short playlist concludes with Parts 1-4 of Gospel Songs, sung by the Victor Mixed Chorus in 1916 (with Nos. 3 and 4 released in 1917).  Fabulous medleys, with the Billy Sunday material the most recent (at the time)--the Sankey-era hymns were oldies by 1916.  Interestingly, In the Sweet Bye and Bye (aka, By and By) predates Sankey's involvement with Dwight Moody by three years, and the Gospel Hymns songbook series by seven.  If only the condition was as good as the material and performances--someone had a rogue gramophone tonearm or a loose sound box, but the bad spots are over quickly enough.  Classic stuff, and I'll let the labels provide the playlists:

I have copies of all (?) six of the Ira Sankey Gospel Hymns songbooks (which began in 1875), including one shape-note edition and a possibly first edition of the first.  At any rate, here's the coolest of the covers, from 1876:

Many songs from the Sankey era are now mainline-hymnal standards, having risen in stature from "Sunday School" and "revival" numbers to, simply, hymns.  Which is great.

A short playlist, mainly because of the editing required, but....  Okay, a bad storm just hit, so I had to shut down the PC.  It was a short storm, though, so I'm back.  I won't get this done before evening, so this is now a Sunday evening shellac post.  As the saying goes, if you want to give God a good laugh, tell him your plans....


DOWNLOAD: Sunday Evening Shellac, 5/10/20

From the July, 1910 New Victor Record Catalog:


Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Repost: An Hour of Lousy Sound Star Dust--Royale Concert Orchestra

The back jacket promises "full fidelity," which would normally be a good thing, but not when the label is Royale.

Royale, of course, was a member of the Record Corporation of America's stable of ultra-cheap labels, and An Hour of Star Dust is one of the least competently recorded and engineered fake-RCA releases of all--a horrifying charge, but true.  It also contains some of the funnest music anywhere in the company's catalog, so there's that.

By the way, I wrote "fake-RCA" to distinguish RCA from, for instance, RCA.

Did I say incompetently engineered?  Well, on top of the substandard (but full!) fidelity, we have the loud sound of a machine turning on and off between the tracks--a noise I graciously eliminated for you (am I a great guy or what?).  Where these recordings came from, I can't venture to guess--radio broadcasts, maybe?  I'm picturing a hand-held microphone, a tape recorder, and a radio.  That would explain the extremely low fidelity here.

Have I insulted the sound sufficiently?  Probably not.  But, as I noted, this is highly fun stuff, and it's one heck of a cheap-label relic. Note that Hollywood Concerto is actually a male chorus singing sea songs.  Possibly Royale had intended to include something by that name (Hollywood Concerto) but their clerk grabbed the wrong masters or something.  Not worth puzzling over.  It was just the RCA (not to be confused with RCA) way.

(This is a repost from three years ago.  Apologies for the lack of label scans--I didn't start those until recently.)

DOWNLOAD: An Hour of Star Dust

(See LP front for track listing.)


Sunday, May 03, 2020

Sunday morning gospel: The Singing Farmer--Bob Parrish (GMA Records, circa 1964)

A thrift gift from Diane (thanks, Diane!), this LP features robust, loud, take-no-prisoners gospel singing of the Jerome Hines/George Beverly Shea type.  A fourteen-track revival in your living room!  This is Milford, Illinois' Bob Parrish, "The Singing Farmer," and of course "Singing Farmer" had me expecting something twangy or cowboy.  I certainly wasn't expecting concert-style vocalizing, but that's what we get, and I'm not complaining.  Turns out that Bob studied under the once-famous lyric tenor Dimitri Onofrei (misspelled as "Onofrie" in the liner notes):

... who was the husband of once-famous soprano Bianca Saroya.

This LP hails from circa 1964 (UPDATE: See comment of 5/27/22, which establishes the release year as 1967), which I was able to guesstimate from a sentence in the March 21, 1964 issue of Cash Box: "Bob Parrish--the singing farmer--paid us a visit last week and advised us that he recently waxed some material for upcoming release."  I'm thinking that today's offering was that upcoming release, since it's the only Parrish LP listed at Discogs--or anyplace else, it seems.   (UPDATE: Cash Box was referring to Bob's first LP, Old Favorite Hymns.)  Meanwhile, at eBay, three other singing farmers show up, in addition to Bob--"Ireland's Singing Farmer" John Wait; country artist Lake Howard of North Carolina (on a 1977 reissue of 1930s material); and someone named Marlan Peterson.  I guess no one quibbled over who owned the handle.

These are all sacred selections, of course, and the song listing had me liking the thing before I even laid the needle down--fourteen beautifully chosen gospel numbers, including some of my all-time favorites: One Day, Leave It There, Ivory Palaces, Rock of Ages (with the standard U.S. tune by Thomas Hastings), When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder, One Day, and the Fanny Crosby-Phoebe Knapp masterpiece, Blessed Assurance.  Crosby, the greatest popular hymnist of them all, is partially responsible for my addiction to what were once dubbed "Sunday School" or "revival" songs--she astonished me with her brilliantly straightforward lyrics, and I started to suspect that "the old songs" in gospel music were something to be taken seriously.  Assurance (parodied as "Blessed Insurance, Please pay on time.") may be her best text.  Remember, even though this distinction is rarely made anymore, that a hymn is a text--it can be joined to any tune that fits the syllable count.  That's why standard hymnals still have a metrical index, though most ministers no longer swap tunes and texts.

Anyway, back to Bob, whose career had a second wind in the 1990s, apparently thanks to an "On the Road" (Charles Kuralt) segment that featured him.  That career had been interrupted in the mid-1960s when his wife, at age 47, died from a cerebral hemorrhage.  He then devoted himself to running his farm while raising his two daughters.  He had been singing at Chicago's McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, the internet tells me.  And he had been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall.  It appears that never happened.

But we have this wonderful LP.  I suppose Parrish could be compared to Jim Nabors, in the sense of operatic singing coming from someone whose rural image belies the vocal reality.  And I have no idea what I just typed.  I found no obit on Parrish, so I hope he's still with us.  If so, he'd be around 95.  My thanks to him for making this gem and to Diane for finding it for me.

DOWNLOAD: The Singing Farmer--Bob Parrish

What a Friend We Have in Jesus (Scriven-Converse)

In My Heart There Rings a Melody (Elton M. Roth)
Are Ye Able (Marlatt-Mason)
Battle Hymn of the Republic (Howe-Steffe)
Leave It There (Tindley)
Ivory Palaces (Barraclough)
When They Ring the Golden Bells (De Marbelle)--Instrumental by Rev. Paul Clarke (or Clark)
In the Garden (Miles)
When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder (Black)
Rock of Ages (Toplady-Hastings)
Open My Eyes (Clara H. Scott)
Blessed Assurance (Crosby-Knapp)
One Day (Chapman-Marsh)
Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown--Instrumental by Rev. Paul Clarke (or Clark)

Bob Parrish, Baritone--"The Singing Famer"--accompanied on piano and organ by Rev. Paul Clarke (or Clark).  Produced by Ensminger (??).  (GMA Records SS-8438-018; circa 1964.)