Saturday, August 06, 2022

The Blue Barons--Twist to the Great Blues Hits (Philips PHS 600-017; 1962)


A brief break from Paul Whiteman (who, far as I know, never did the twist).  A thrift gift from Diane, this 1962 Philips LP has great stereo sound and top-notch studio musicianship.  However, given the title, Twist to the Great Blues Hits, and the group name (The Blue Barons), plus the history-of-the-blues liner notes (the space-filler type, but well written), I was expecting, well, something bluesier.  As in, significantly so.  But, especially with the vocal assistance from the Merry Melody Singers, this seems to my ears more countrypolitan than blues or rhythm and blues.  However, you may hear things differently, so I'm curious to hear about what you hear in this music.  There is one outstanding exception to the too-countrypolitan rule--a number which sounds superbly bluesy, and that's the genuinely rockin' Long Tall Sally.  But it comes at the very end of Side 2.

The liner notes tell us nothing about the Blue Barons, except that the Barons are "a crisply alive, tightly-knit group" which brightens "these blues in a unique matter."  If, by "unique," Philips means country-sounding Chuck Berry, then maybe so.  At any rate, with "blues" literally all over the packaging (the notes even promising "a survey of the blues few combos could match"), I was naturally a little surprised to behold what sounds like moonlighting pros from an early Ray Stevens session.

To be fair, though, this is first and foremast a twist LP, so the question is, can you twist to it?  Well, more or less.  The twist rhythm isn't presented as aggressively here as in earlier twist offerings at MY(P)WHAE.  Maybe that's my chief problem with this effort--even Hank Ballard's The Twist is a bit on the subdued side, and while the Merry Melody Singers fare well on this particular track (which is, after all, the classic twist number), the Nashville-style harmonica does not.  Other tracks sound like refugees from Elvis musicals, and Ain't That Lovin' You Baby comes off like a jukebox selection in a country roller-skating bar.  (You've heard of country roller-skating bars, no?)  And, as I type this, though, I'm relistening to Shake, Rattle, and Roll, and there's excellent sax and guitar work, plus a small band chiming in toward the close, so maybe I judged a little too hastily?  Still, any LP which promises a survey of the blues should rock like crazy from the first track to the last.

You might disagree with me completely on all this, so... here it is, for your evaluation.  It's certainly an interesting example of Chubby Checker-era twist-ploitation.  And thanks, Diane!

DOWNLOAD: Twist to the Great Blues Hits (Philips PHS 600-017; 1962)

The Twist

Hey Little Girl

Hearts of Stone

Let the Good Times Roll

Johnny B. Goode

Bony Moronie

Jim Dandy

Ain't That Lovin' You Baby

C.C. Rider

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Corrine Corrina

Long Tall Sally



Buster said...

A really well played and recorded album, with terrific musicians. It sure sounds like Nashville, with Boots Randolph as the sax player. However, Philips records didn't really have a country presence at that time, so who knows.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Yes, it's a mystery. I would have expected this on Mercury, but...

Monkey D. Sound said...

Great stuff!

Ernie said...

Very odd, but the thought of it being the refugees from a Ray Stevens session made me chuckle. :)

musicman1979 said...

I am just now starting to check this record out, and I can tell that this is much better than The Original Twisters collection on Mercury/Wing that you posted earlier this year!

Boots Randolph does a "watery" sax sound on this take on "The Twist". For a minute, I thought Phillips would use the Original Twisters master on this album! Charlie McCoy does a good Harmonica solo on this one, helping to give this twist a pinch of Country flavor. This is one of the better vocal efforts from the Stephen Scott Singers, who revert to their nasally Joe Dowell "Little Red Rented Rowboat" sound on their take on Elvis' "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby"

The Country take on "Corrine Corrina", complete with Floyd Cramer and Charlie McCoy is another unique cover that sounds like it should belong on a Floyd Cramer album than this one. Boots Randolph's solo is really good on this one. For me, the definitive version is Dean Martin's on his Dean Tex Martin Rides Again and Everybody Loves Somebody albums.

The jungle country take on CC Rider is really unique. Charlie McCoy does some of his best harmomica work on this, as does Floyd Cramer and Hargus "Pig" Robbins (??) on organ and Boots Randolph on the sax. A unique instrumental take that really kicks.

"Long Tall Sally" is a real winner! Boots Randolph does some of his best work overall on this record (one of his best wails EVER as the song fades), as does the electric guitarist (Grady Martin or Ray Edenton, maybe),which really add a solid Rock and Roll beat and flavor to the piece> The Mid-tempo sound is similar to that that was used on Floyd Cramer's hit take on Glenn Miller's classic Chattanooga Choo Choo.

"Bony Maronie" is unique,to say the least. It may take a few listens for it to catch on to me. Good sax work from Boots Randolph on this one.

Good cover of the Fontane Sisters classic "Hearts of Stone". There is a musical foreshadowing of the go-go discotheque sound on this one, with some great Floyd Cramer organ and some good singing by the Merry Melody Singers! Grady or Ray does a good job bringing a BB King blues electric guitar sound to the piece. Another great showcase for Boots Randolph on this one. Excellent overall instrumental cover of this one.

This take on "Hey Little Girl" is EXCELLENT! The organ sound reminds of the one that played with the Ventures in the mid-'60's. Another future go-go discotheque sounding number that is just as good, perhaps slightly better, than Dee Clark's original. A Real standout.

The electric guitarist did a really good job playing in Chuck Berry's style on this group's take on "Johnny B. Goode". Of course, Chuck would set up shop at Mercury in the mid-'60's. Again, great organ playing by Floyd Cramer here. Another standout cut on this disc.

I have to give this group props for making a version of Shirley and Lee's "Let the Good Times Roll" that is palatable for my taste. Very much in the style of 1964 Roy Glover-arranged Three Suns material. Floyd or Hargus really does a good job on the piano solo on this one.

Overall, it looks like Mercury saved its best Instrumental Twist album for Phillips and saved the worst (the Original Twisters) for Wing. The Nashville cats do a fine job on this one. The promo copy remeastering makes this period music sparkle. Diane picked another good one that I will be looking to add to my own personal collection! Thanks for sharing.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


As always, thanks for you review. But are you sure on the personnel i.d.'s? I ask, because no line-up is given on the album itself. And, not only did I not know that Mercury was connected with Philips (duh!), but I missed the recorded-in-Nashville info in the little "Hi-Finformation" section on the back. I get preoccupied with editing the audio and miss such details, sometimes. Thanks again.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Er, for "your" review, I meant!

Diane said...

You're welcome, Lee! It's a thrifting adventure trying to spot stuff on which you can do your sound/posting magic. (The Ray Stevens comment put this one over the top for me.) And thanks, musicman1979, for your added analysis.

musicman1979 said...

You are very welcome, Diane. I appreciate that. Sometimes the same list of personnel appears on such LP's as Perry Como's The Scene Changes and Connie Francis' Country Music Connie Style. There is also a chance that Wayne Moss, later to form Barefoot Jerry, may have also played on these sessions as well. My analysis also comes from listening to several songs that were recorded in Nashville and checking out Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph's own solo albums.

Here is some more possible players from a Shelby Singleton interview:

Lee Hartsfeld said...


But you are speculating, right? However probable your speculation may be. 😃 Fine with me, of course!

chuck said...

The lead guitar player is Jerry Kennedy on this and everything else that came out on Mercury, Phillips and Smash at this time. I don´t believe that Grady Martin played on this album. In 1961 the Dutch Philips company bought Mercury and in the US they started two other labels, Philips and Smash. In order to
have product for the US market Shelby Singleton and others recorded a lot of stuff like this in places like Nashville and New York among others. On this album The Merry Melody Singers did the vocals but in the future they were on the Mercury label. For Philips they created The Milestone Singers and later on Smash The Stephen Scott Singers. The musicians were usually Jerry Kennedy, Harold Bradley, Kelso Herston and sometimes Grady Martin. On bass usually Bob Moore but Buddy Killen also appeared. On piano they used Pig Robbins, Ray Stevens and at times Floyd Cramer. On drums Buddy Harman was the first choice. The product made by these Mercury labels featured lots of made up names as well as real artists. Confusing?

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Yes, this kind of stuff always is! Many thanks for the background. And I can't believe I'm only now aware of the fact that Philips and Mercury were related (duhh...). Re Ray Stevens, I knew he did session work at Hit Records, but didn't know his Mercury duties extended to performing in made-up bands. That's interesting. Stevens sure paid his dues, as the expression goes.

chuck said...

Just should have confirmed the prescens of Boots Randolph and Charlie McCoy. Both of them were regulars with these Merury label recordings. Another always present singer was Margie Singleton who was part of the vocal backup groups which featured members of the Jordanaires and The Anita Kerr Singers. There used to be a photo on the web where the whole band was pictured.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Many thanks. I was in need of a source for the musician i.d.'s. Thanks for providing it!

chuck said...

It is true that Ray Stevens did some for the Hit label but he also was one of the most sought after musicians in Nashville during at least the 1960´s doing session work and arranging for most of the labels recording there. A lot more could be said about the Nashville recording scene but I think this is enough for now.

brian said...

Budget outfits like Crown seemed to start this trend. They just slapped "Twist to" on top of songs they already had by various artist and - Bingo - a new "Twist" LP!

Lee Hartsfeld said...


That would be my guess, too, though of course there's no way to be certain. The non-budget labels were always eager to leap on any pop trend, just like the junk operations. Difference is, their livelihood didn't mainly depend upon exploiting the charts.