Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jan August - Misirlou

We are going way back in time for this one. Jan August worked as a pianist and xylophonist with Paul Whiteman and Ferde Grofe, then as a solo club pianist in the mid-1940s. His biggest hit was this version of "Misirlou," recorded for Mercury in 1947, but he had success with "Malaguena," "Oye Negra," and others that blended classical piano stylings with a Latin beat. He later recorded with Jerry Murad and the Harmonicats and Richard Hayman.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Four Blazes - Mary Jo

One of the top R&B records of 1952, a tribute to that legendary woman who "went up to Alaska just to melt the snow", "Mary Jo" provided a moment in the national spotlight for one of Chicago's hottest vocal combos. The single was released in April of '52 and entered the national charts in the middle of July. It moved rapidly to the top, displacing Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" as the #1 R&B song in the nation at the end of August. Born in the waning years of the Depression, The Four Blazes brought vitality and showmanship to the early years of R&B. Bassist Tommy Braden was the main lead singer while all members provided backup harmony vocals. "Jelly" Holt was the founder and drummer in the group, while Floyd McDaniel and "Shorty" Hill played guitars. The vocal styling on this song reminds me a lot of Louis Prima. My dad liked him too and played his "The Wildest" album often when I was a kid. I'll never forget how surprised I was when David Lee Roth covered, "Just A Giggolo" as I never heard that song anywhere outside of my home growing up. Dave's video for that song was an 80s classic. Anyway, I digress. Mary Jo was released on United Records, which was the first successful black-owned record company. Operated by Leonard Allen: tailor, retired policeman and one of exceptionally wide taste in music, the two labels (United and States) issued some of the best performances in jazz, blues, gospel and R&B from '51-57.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Robins - Riot In Cell Block No. 9

I used to beg dad to play this record when I was a wee lad. I loved the siren and machine gun snare and it's cops and robbers theme.
In 1952 Berry was one of the founding members of the Flairs, along with Young Jessie, Cornel Gunter and two others. The next year the group started recording for Modern Records and for the next three years Richard was the top utility man for Modern and its two subsidiaries, RPM and Flair. But perhaps his most significant contribution during this period was made for another label (Spark), as an uncredited member of the Robins. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had written a song called "Riot In Cell Block # 9". As the inspiration for this song, songwriter Jerry Leiber cites radio police dramas he had heard as a kid, particularly Gang Busters. In the book Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography, Leiber says, "Gang Busters had a dynamite opening - a siren followed by a burst of gunfire, and the announcer hyping this week's episode. I was in love with Gang Busters as a ten-year-old back in Baltimore, but now I was twenty. I couldn't remember any of the stories, but the sounds were still in my mind."
Meanwhile, fellow songwriter Mike Stoller says when asked about this song, "We can't and won't claim credit as the inventors of rap, but if you listen to our early output, you'll hear lots of black men talking poem-stories over a heavy backbeat."Early attempts to record the number with the Robins proved frustrating. The group's bass singer, Bobby Nunn, just didn't have the menacing low voice that the song required. Enter Richard Berry. Being contracted to Modern, he didn't mention his moonlighting session to the Bihari brothers, but they had no trouble recognizing Berry's voice, after "Riot" became a West Coast hit in the summer of 1954. Instead of being angry, Joe Bihari asked, "Why don't you do something like that for us?". So Berry wrote "The Big Break", another prison song, with a melody and arrangement that were almost identical to "Riot In Cell Block # 9". I will post "Break" next time. Until then.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Robins - Loop De Loop Mambo / Framed

The L.A. based R&B vocal group, The Robins doing "Loop De Loop Mambo," backed by "Framed," a 1954 release on Spark Records. Spark Records was formed by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and only lasted a couple of years, but it put out some great R&B cuts. Based on the "success" of Sparks, Atlantic Records offered Leiber and Stoller a production contract. Only Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn of The Robbins made the move to Atlantic and the became the foundation for The Coasters. Nunn was soon replaced, but the Coaster had deep roots in the Robins and the L.A. vocal group sound. "Framed" is a take off of the Robins first hit, "Riot In Cell Block No. 9" which featured Richard Berry doing the deep voiced narrative. In "Framed," Bobby Nunn "copies" Berry's style. "Riot" is one of my personal favorites and I will be sharing that one in the next post.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Earl Bostic - Linger A While / Velvet Sunset

Bring on the 78s!
Another great Earl Bostic record from 1952.
Earl Bostic (April 25, 1913 – October 28, 1965) was an American jazz and rhythm and blues alto saxophonist, and a pioneer of the post-war American Rhythm and Blues style. He had a number of popular hits such as "Flamingo" , "Harlem Nocturne", "Temptation", "Sleep", "Special Delivery Stomp", and "Where or When", which showed off his characteristic growl on the horn. He is said to have been a major influence on John Coltrane.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Al Casey - The Stinger/Night Beat

Here is a hot little single from 1959 by the late, great Al Casey. This one came out on the West Coast Highland Records, which was owned by Sid Talmedge and based at 2580 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90006. The label was distributed by West Pico Merchandising and was a subsidiary of Malynn Enterprises.

Above photo shows Al, age 32, holding a Hagstrum V1, in 1968.
Happy Independence Day America!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Big Jay Mc Neely - 3D / Texas Turkey

Here is another great single from Big Jay.
3D is one wild number and Texas Turkey on the flip side is one of my faves by him.