Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

It’s been seven years since I first opened the doors of the Old Curiosity Shop, and even in that relatively short period of time we’ve seen changes.  In 2010, the Gold Line trains terminated at Sierra Madre Villa (and I have maintained that Metro should call this station East Pasadena because it’s a long uphill hike to Sierra Madre).  The Expo Line to Santa Monica was still under construction and this was just the first section to Culver City.  On the national scene, by the time you read this, our country will have a new President, one who, shall we say, has an unusual background for a Chief Executive of the U.S.  It seems like one faction is overjoyed to see Mr. Obama turn over the reins of government to Mr. Trump, and the other side is just hoping our country can survive the next year, let alone the next four.

Now that the Gold Line is open to Azusa-Citrus, and the Expo line is running to Santa Monica, I’ll try to get out to downtown LA, Wilshire Blvd and the Crenshaw-LAX area to “supervise” those projects.  Pat has been talking about taking a cruise to Alaska, where we might see a big clawhawkus bear or even a moose, and/or cruising through the Panama Canal, reflecting on the Bad Old Days when gold seekers heading to California risked their lives to cross the fever-ridden swamps of the Isthmus of Panama and wait in a wretched seaport for the steamer to take them to San Francisco.

On the music scene, January 8 brought Art Fein’s Elvis Birthday Bash, with its usual wide-ranging tributes to Elvis Presley and the songs he made famous, or at least recorded.   This is another event that I learned about from Evie Sands when she appeared at the 2003 EBB at the House of Blues in W. Hollywood.  I’ve been to several of them over the past 14 years, in various locations around and near LA.  This time it was at the Viva Cantina in Burbank near the equestrian center.  

One special reason for going was that Skip Heller’s Hollywood Blues Destroyers band would be there with Suzi Carmichael, their new singer.  It took me a while to realize that I’d seen her last year at the same location, only in completely different attire and playing a left-handed Fender guitar.  Following HBD was a new act: Emmy Lee and the Rockabelles.  Emmy soloed on a scorching Trouble, the Rockabelles joined her for Can’t Help Falling in Love, and they really blew me away with a cover of Ruth Brown’s This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’.  Turns out they had come all the way from Atascadero (north of San Luis Obispo) and I think everyone agreed that if they had come that far we should get a bonus song.

Emmy Lee and the Rockabelles at the Elvis Birthday Bash--8 Jan 2017

Back in December, Evie Sands was the special guest of Bill Gardner’s Rhapsody in Black radio show on KPFK, which airs on Saturday afternoons from 2 to 4 PM.  Evie brought some of her favorite soul and R&B recordings from her collection and, for the first time ever, played a track from her new CD, “Shine for Me,” on the radio.  This was just a taste of the EPCD that will be released in April, an event long awaited by fans of the “Inimitable Empress of Soul/Pop” - or as local music writer and impresario Jonny Whiteside calls us - “The international cult of Sands worshipers.”  This was in the middle of December, his last show of the year on the 29th featured R&B songs that made the charts in 1956.  At least half of the records he played I have in my collection in one form or another, so it was like “old home week,” bringing back memories of the music that enlivened my teenage days.

His program for Jan 14, 2017 featured music from January 1955.  This was when I was just getting into the R&B sound, not realizing that a couple of years later knowledge of this genre would lead to my first “day job” at the local music store.

Right after Stingy Little Thing (a Midnighters record that probably didn't get that much airplay), I made notes about I Wanna Hug Ya, Kiss Ya,  an obscure number by Buddy and Claudia, because the piano part reminded me of Stan Freberg's parody of The Great Pretender and the piano player who rebelled against playing "that cling-cling-cling jazz."

I knew You Don't Have to Go by Jimmy Reed, because I bought the record for the "B" side instrumental, Boogie in the Dark.

Mama Talk to Your Daughter by J. B, Lenore (aka Lenoir).  I almost bought a 45 copy of this, but it had a skip in the grooves.  It's been covered by many artists, including John Mayall and George Thorogood, but this is the original.  But I never thought of it as an answer record to Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean.  (to this day I tend to pick up any tambourine within reach and do Ms. Brown's intro to that song, wishing that there were a band ready to pick up the beat.)

Reconsider Baby and Baby Let's Play house--last Sunday I was at the Elvis Birthday Bash in Burbank.  These two songs weren't on the play list, but when I heard them today, I remembered that Elvis covered them, along with other R&B hits of the 50s.  We did have covers on Lawdy Miss Clawdy and Hound Dog.

The Wallflower by Etta James and "the Peaches."  One of Johnny Otis' discoveries; there's quite a story on the 45CAT website about this record.  I've known for years that Richard Berry played "Henry," but I didn't know that the singer didn't become Etta James until after the recording was made. 

Maggie Doesn't Work Here Any More by the Platters (before they became famous).  I've forgotten whether I heard this on the radio (on a show specializing in rarities) or a friend had a copy, but they sure hit the big time when they switched to Mercury Records.  The title reminded me of Bob Dylan's Maggie's Farm.

Tweedlee Dee by LaVern Baker.  I was more a Ruth Brown fan, but this song will get everyone up and moving around.  Speaking of Ms. Brown, one of the "bonus numbers" at the Elvis tribute was Emmy Lee and the Rockabelles doing a smoking cover of This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'

Tomorrow Night by Lavern Baker:  I  have a King 45 reissue of the original by Lonnie Johnson, which I found in a record shop in Paso Robles back in 1959, and by strange coincidence, that's where Emmy Lee has a gig next month.

God Only Knows and Kokomo:  Two titles that would be used in the '60s and the '80s by the Beach Boys.

 Bazoom (I Need Your Lovin') by the Charms.  This was a case of an R&B group covering a pop group.  They did a good job on the vocals, but the Cheers version has a bass sax and some guitar licks that Otis Williams didn't.  It works both ways-- the Cheers covered the Robins' I Must Be Dreaming; both songs were written by the dynamic duo of Lieber & Stoller.

Looking forward to:  Feb 4 will see the Chaos Band back in Sierra Madre at the Buccaneer for their first show in many months.  Adam will be back from his extended visit to Southeast Asia and nearby archipelagos, and it will be great to see the band back together.

Here they are, almost a year ago:

The Chaos band: in back, Kurt Medlin drums; left front, Evie Sands, vocals and guitar;  Teresa Cowles (Ms. Sparklebass) on the Fender bass and backing vocals; and Adam Marsland on vocals and 12-string (Big Bear) guitar.

 Until we meet again, keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down, and stay stoked!

Bobby Boy

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