Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

Old Curiosity Shop for April 2017: Bobby Boy’s Musical Memory Tour

By now you know that Bobby Boy is a great admirer of singer-songwriter-musician Evie Sands.  I probably never would have started this monthly musing had it not been for Evie introducing me to the world of independent music and under-the-radar bands.  Just last December, she made a guest appearance on KPFK’s “Rhapsody in Black” program hosted by Bill Gardner.  I didn’t know about this show, but when Evie announced that she would be on the air, and even play a track from her forthcoming EP, “Shine for Me,” I reserved the 2-4 p.m. slot on Saturday, Dec. 17 and tuned in.

Ever since I heard the show last year, whenever I’ve been home on Saturday afternoon I’ve tuned in.  It’s like a musical time machine, going back to the 1950s and '60s, playing many songs that I have on original 45 RPM and even on the “Big Ten Inch” 78 RPM platters.

Here are some notes from the show with Evie:

Blues for the Red Boy:  The opening theme was an instrumental by Todd Rhodes and his Orchestra that I probably heard on the Johnny Otis Show around 1957.  I have it on a 45 EP and in the King Records boxed set. The original 78 came out in 1948.  It conjures up an image of a long-vanished night club, with fashionably attired folks gathered to hear the music and dance in Art Deco splendor.  The site is now a parking lot, but if you go there on a quiet night, the sound still echoes in the darkness.

River Deep, Mountain High.  Supposed to be Phil Spector’s masterpiece, but it barely broke the 100 level on the charts.  It was a much bigger hit in England.

Mary Wells.   Back in the early 1980s, I belonged to the Southern California Blues Society, which sponsored shows at the Music Machine in West L.A.  I saw Joe Turner in one of his last performances, and Bo Diddley, who had young people who weren’t even born when his first recordings came out, boogie-ing around to that Bo Diddley beat.  One of the memorable evenings was when Mary Wells sang her Motown hits. Even though she was still a bit jet lagged from her trip to L.A., she still captivated the audience, and I remember singing along with “The One Who Really Loves You.”

Signed Sealed Delivered.  I was in the old Trader Joe’s on Rosemead Boulevard one afternoon when Stevie Wonder’s version came on the sound system, along with some other good old soul numbers.  And I thought, “I know someone who does that song even better than the original!”  I often load up my “All Evie” compilation CD when I drive out to the Railway Museum, and "Signed Sealed Delivered" usually comes on right near the 60-215 split.

It’s in His Kiss.  I associate this song with the time Linda Ronstadt visited the "Muppet Show" around 1980, but the original was by Betty Everett in 1964.

He’s a Rebel.  The label says The Crystals but the singers are really Darlene Love and the Blossoms, who appear on the “Take Me for a Little While” video, and who were featured in the movie 20 Feet from Stardom.

So Fine.  A few weeks ago, our local Trader Joe’s moved to a new location where San Marino and Pasadena meet along Huntington Drive.  The first time I went in there, this song was playing on the sound system, which was in a late '50s-early '60s groove.  It’s special because it was written by one of my all-time idols, a renaissance man of music and a long time inductee in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the immortal Johnny Otis, who I met on a number of occasions.  It also inspired Art Fein’s email address “sofein (at) aol.com”

Jamie.  By Eddie Holland-- that was a new one on me.  I had to look it up and found it was an early Motown release by one third of Holland-Dozier-Holland.  A fairly sophisticated production for a label that was just getting started.

Fingerprint Me Baby.  Brings back memories of those Borders promo shows back around the turn of the century.

Rodeo.  A taste of things to come!  Considering all the buzz generated by the announcement that that EP was “in the can” and off to the mill, everyone who heard that sample will be even more stoked when they can buy the whole thing.  The CD release party is scheduled for April 14 at McCabe’s guitar shop (Pat and I have two of the first tickets sold) and the official release day is National Record Store Day on April 22.

So Long.  I was a big fan of Fat Domino back in the '50s, and have some of his songs on the original 78s as well as a compilation CD.  I could make a segue from this to Anny Celsi’s “Au Revoir My Darling”-- there’s even a connection, since the video for that was recorded in New Orleans, Mr. Domino’s home town.

As you can see, it was a field day for musical memories and interesting discussion.  I even used my old portable CD-tape recorder-radio to make an old-school tape recording of the show.

Moving into this year, we have my commentary on March 11:

“Rhapsody in Black” is always a fascinating trip down musical Memory Lane, and the March 11 edition was special because it went back 59 years to when I was just getting into record collecting.  Two of the songs you played I have on original 78s that I bought in Feb. 1956:  No Money Down, Chuck Berry’s followup to Maybellene, with a list of options for his dream machine.  I especially like the railroad air horns-- yeah, a set of Nathan K-5LAs would get everyone’s attention.  

The flip side is Down Bound Train, which is a variation on a song or poem from about 100 years ago The Hell Bound Train, which was probably a bit too much for the typical radio station of those day.  Little Richard burst upon the music scene with Tutti Frutti, but I waited until Slippin’ and Slidin’ came out before buying a Little Richard record.  These were among the last 78s I bought (other than collectors’ items) because in April, I had enough money saved up to buy a 3-speed turntable, a two-way tone arm, and a small amplifier unit for a do-it-yourself phonograph.  I mounted the gear in an old wooden box and could now play LPs and 45s.  (I would go on to become an electronic tech and spend most of the rest of my life working on radio and telecomm apparatus). 

 One song that I heard on the 11th and also on the New Orleans Mardi Gras special show is Try Rock and Roll by Bobby Mitchell which is also part of my “Big Ten Inch Record” collection.  Finally, we have what was probably the biggest hit ever for Josie Records, Speedoo by the Cadillacs; the lead singer Earl “Speedoo” Carroll joined the Coasters about two years later.

Some other memory-nudgers:  Down in Mexico by the Coasters-- my dad thought this was cool.  I’m a Fool by the Turks-- I don’t have a copy; Huggy Boy played it plenty of times when he was broadcasting from John Dolphin’s record shop because it was issued on the Money label which was owned by Mr. Dolphin.  Teenage Prayer by Gloria Mann-- I remember the Dolly Cooper version on Modern Records, which may have received more airplay in the LA area.  Directly from My Heart to You-- I think I bought this for Little Richard’s Boogie, but I included the slow side on one of my Blues compilation car CDs.  One Night by Smiley Lewis-- have it on a 45, one of my first; later covered by Elvis (with “modified” lyrics), and played as a tribute by Marcy Levy at an Elvis Birthday Bash in Hollywood.  Why Do Fools Fall in Love-- when I heard this in 1956, nobody could have foreseen the sad end that was in the future for Frankie Lyman; I remember reading about Ronnie Spector’s unhappy encounter with him in her autobiography.  And since there’s a full moon out tonight, playing a Howlin’ Wolf number like Smokestack Lightnin’ fits right in.

Some other thoughts on the music I grew up with: '50s R&B influence on '60s music: “Diddley Daddy” by Bo Diddley would segue into “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones, and “Fannie Mae” by Buster Brown has echoes in “Help Me Rhonda” by the Beach Boys, especially in the earlier version, “Help Me Ronda.”  The first iteration of Fleetwood Mac had a guitar player who was a musical descendant of Elmore James.

What if I was invited to do a playlist for the radio show?  I envision records that Bill would play, and make some segue sets like Dr. Demento:

It’s hard to beat the opening theme for “Rhapsody”-- Blues for the Red Boy is one of my all-time favorites.  I could also go with Midnight Creeper by the Johnny Otis Orchestra or Old Time Shuffle by Lloyd Glenn.

A song that was recorded by at least three different artists is It’s Love, Baby, 24 Hours A Day, originally done by Louis Brooks on Excello. This one features a saxophone break; the cover by the Midnighters has an electric guitar solo.  Then we have my favorite lady of song in the 1950s, Miss Ruth Brown.

Since one Ruth Brown song isn’t enough, we can continue the timely theme with 5-10-15 Hours.  Then there’s Daddy Daddy and Wild Wild Young Men.  I have referred to her as the “soulful dream girl of those nerdy teenage record collectors, with her sizzling songs spinning forth from yellow-label Atlantic 45s.”  From here, we can go to Ruth Brown rocking out with Clyde McPhatter on I Gotta Have You.  He was the lead singer of the Drifters for many recording sessions, with such numbers as What’cha Gonna DoWarm Your Heart, and Ruby Baby. This last number was covered by Dion and the Belmonts, who took this Lieber & Stoller composition to the Top Ten.  Staying with this dynamic duo of tunesmiths, we could have Smokey Joe’s Café by the Robins, two of whom formed the Coasters in 1955.  That group went to #1 on the charts with Yakety Yak, the song that comes to mind every Sunday evening when I “Take out the papers and the trash.”

A popular theme in '50s R&B is what are sometimes called “adult beverages.”  Back in 1955, Music City Records of Berkeley CA issued W-P-L-J by the Four Deuces.  WPLJ is short for White Port and Lemon Juice, which was apparently a popular drink among the financially challenged denizens of the Bay Area.  The song was rescued from record-collector obscurity (yes, I have a copy) when Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention covered it in 1970.  The Clovers recorded One Mint Julep in 1952, so it was an oldie by the first time I heard it around 1956.  It got a lot of play on the jukebox at the teen hangout near Monrovia High, because it was considered racy.  I picked up Wine-o-Wine by Jerry “Boogie” McCain in 1958, when the music store closed out the 78 RPM records.

Finally, let’s head on home with some train related songs:  We’ve already mentioned Smokestack Lightning by Howlin’ Wolf-- my younger daughter sent me a postcard showing the Wolf in full howl, playing a Fender guitar that probably hadn’t been invented when he started recording.  I have both the original instrumental version of Night Train by Jimmy Forrest from 1952, and the James Brown sings the Official Guide vocal rendition from 1962.  Finally, prepare to have your socks rocked off with Tarheel Slim and Number 9 Train.  One of the comments in the 45cat.com entry credits Wild Jimmy Spruill with the wicked guitar break, and it’s a one of those “Gee, I wish I’d been there when the recorded it” tracks.

That’s all for this visit to the Old Curiosity Shop-- next month we’ll have a report on Evie’s new EP and other items old and new.   Stay stoked!

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