I've been challenged by my dear friend DJ Larsupreme to post a supernatural song of the day, and while my time is tight today, I can't resist this challenge. You will indeed hear this wild r&b rocker tonight at the Kenton Club for my annual Halloween-themed dance party "I Put A Spell On You Again". This 45, recorded by the Philly-based Nite Riders, is representative of the sound of my recurring "Club Nitty Gritty" dance party.
The band is a bit of a "super group" comprised of established R&B journeyman like Melvin Smith, James "Doc" Starkes, Harry Van Walls, Harry Crafton, Joe Sewell, and Jimmy Johnson. These guys, together and separately, can be heard on seminal R&B records like "Looped", "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee", "Lovey Dovey" by the Clovers, The "Chicken & the Hawk" by Big Joe Turner,"Daddy Daddy" by Ruth Brown, etc. So if you're a fan of the early Atlantic records sound, you're likely to be really into this band, as I am.
This record was recorded in 1954, one of the most exciting years in American music with key developments in rock n roll and soul. This rambunctiousness of the record fits perfectly with the feel of 54. It is quite a STOMPER and I can't wait to spin it for the Halloween dancers tonight!
Bobby Day, who was born on this day in 1930 in Fort Worth, is best known for one of the biggest hits of the early rock n roll era, "Rockin' Robin". In fact, when I was playing a wedding gig last summer I was about to spin a different Bobby Day record, when a little girl strolled up to my turntables, read the label on the record and said, "Bobby Day. He did "Rockin' Robin!" And by that measurement, I'd say Bobby Day is pretty well-known even to this day.
However, there's more to Bobby Day than "Rockin' Robin." For example, he was an original member of famous LA-based doo wop group The Hollywood Flames. As Bobby Day & the Satellites he wrote and recorded the original version of "Little Bitty Pretty One" which was an enormous smash hit for Thurston Harris. He co-wrote one of the most famous uptempo doo wop tunes "Buzz Buzz Buzz" recorded by the Hollywood Flames and he wrote and recorded the original version of "Over & Over" which is more famous by the Dave Clark 5 (I have yet to find a nice clean copy of Day's version). And if that's not enough, Day was also reportedly the first "Bob" in the famous soul duo Bob & Earl. Bobby Day is full of surprises!
My record of the day is one of those surprises. This rare 45 beautifully arranged by Jack Nitzche, is a rendition of the unofficial "cajun national anthem". The first cajun recording of this song goes back to 1929. The song gained popularity outside of the cajun community when it was adopted by country music artist Harry Choates in 1947 and it swiftly became a country music standard. An r&b guy like Bobby Day wasn't expected to record a song like this and THAT is what makes this cajun meets country meets r&b version of this song so very interesting to me. I love these vintage recordings that pushed boundaries and busted outside of boxes.
Give it a listen as you head into your holiday weekend. It's a great reminder of the beautiful things that can happen when we rebel against societal definitions of who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to do
What was it about BB King that allowed him to float to the top of a sea of brilliant blues musicians making him the most well-known artist of the genre? I've been asking this question for many years and I always come back to the same answer- MASSIVE likability. Yes, to become a musical ambassador a person has to have qualities beyond just musical skill. BB King was a guy with a warm personality, a brand that was easily marketable to the masses, and the ability to endure. It helps that he rose to prominence during the birth of rock n roll, an era when the general record buying public was much more friendly with blues artists.
However, as the decades went on, blues went back underground. Only a very small handful of artists would remain in public consciousness. It was the BB King brand that thrived via commercials, print ads, his club for tourists in Memphis, his guest appearances on other people's records, etc. People never got tired of BB. You can't really attribute that to his music. It was the power of his celebrity. He was the go-to guy when you wanted someone to represent the blues, especially as his contemporaries went on to the next life.
The LEGEND of BB King is so huge, it's hard to imagine a world without him. He falls in that elite category of people who personify their art. There is now a gaping hole in the landscape of our American culture, much like when Ray Charles and Johnny Cash passed away. These folks are as much (if not more) a part of who we are as a nation as any political leaders.
So today I mourn the passing of an American icon. Today I will dance to what is currently my favorite BB King 45. I hope you'll do a little shuffle too. If you are someone who was introduced to the blues through BB King, I hope you'll take some time to dig a little deeper into the genre in his honor. He led you there to show you there's so much more to love.
Amos Milburn was born on this day in 1927. He was a part of a movement of Texas-born R&B musicians who migrated to Los Angeles to take part in the port-WWII West Coast R&B scene. His piano-based, Jump Blues party records are some of the best ever made!
Like this one! Milburn recorded this song a few times and I was originally only familiar with an earlier, slower version. But then, via a collection of recordings featuring the legendary drummer Earl Palmer, I was introduced to this 1950s version. It ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF! So good! This is no-holds-barred, rock-em sock-em, barrelhouse/roadhouse rhythm n blues! Give this one a listen if you want to ramp up your day!
Today Antoine "Fats" Domino Jr. superstar of R&B and Rock n Roll and enduring American icon turns 86! As you hopefully know, #FatsDomino was one of the most influential musicians of the early rock n roll era. Today he's viewed as a rather innocuous figure, however it was nearly 6 decades ago at a Fat Domino San Jose concert in 1956 that the first "rock n roll riot" occurred, sending shock waves of fear through the heart of conservative America.
The incident was described in a 1986 article in the LA Times. Here's what happened when Domino's band stepped out for an intermission, "As the hall quieted, someone near the back of the ballroom threw a beer bottle toward the stage. It crashed harmlessly onto the nearly deserted dance floor. Within a moment another bottle shattered on the floor and then a third. It seemed that a fight involving no more than five or six people was heating up. But others joined in. The overhead lights were hit and exploded, raining glass down onto the floor. Fist fights broke out. Within minutes chaos prevailed. Silvia couldn't believe his eyes. A free-for-all was taking place in his precious dance hall. People were clawing, screaming, kicking, biting, punching and beating at each other. "Boys fought boys and even girls," he remembered years later. "Girls were slugging and scratching at one another."
Of course much of the push back against rock n roll was purely born out of racism. Black musicians like Fats Domino who broke through the walls of musical segregation really did leave an enormous lasting impact on mainstream American cultural. And for that he, like his fellow birthday buddy Johnny Cash, was much more than a musician. He was a FORCE.
My selection of the day comes from Domino's foray into early soul music. It's one of the final 45s he recorded in New Orleans, produced by his long time musical partner Dave Bartholomew. Within a year he would switch record labels and under his new contract agreement, he would be required to record in Nashville with producer Bill Justice, instead of in his home town of New Orleans. His winning formula would be broken, and the hits stopped coming.
But today it's 1962 again and the twist is all the rage. Take a moment to Dance with Mr. Domino!
Tonight I'll have the pleasure of spinning some Foot Stompin' mid-century music down at Dig A Pony. I can't wait to unleash George "Wild Child" Butler on SE Portland! If your butt can't shake to this one, well there's no hope for you in this Age of the Butt.
Butler grew up in Alabama where he taught himself to play harmonica (upside down) but relocated to Chicago as part of "The Great Migration." It was there that he recorded a couple of singles for Jewel Records with legendary sidemen Willie Dixon, Jimmy Dawkins, and Cash McCall. It's been said that Butler described his own style as "swamp blues." With Willie Dixon's involvement as songwriter, possible producer, and lead vocalist on this track, I guess we can hear what happens when Chicago blues wades in the swamp. Nothing gets bogged down here! So dive into the swamp with me tonight and dance to this one. Before you know it, you'll find yourself up to your eyeballs in pure polyrhythmic hoo doo blues.
I'm getting so excited about my Foot Stompin' party (happening tomorrow night 1/29) at Dig A Pony! I'll be debuting this little treasure which I finally acquired after a lengthy hunt.
Margie Day passed away this past September after a lifetime dedicated to the arts. Her most recent years were spent acting as the Executive Director of an non-profit she established to cultivate the artistic talents of children in Norfolk, Virginia (where she grew up).
Early in her professional music career she sang vocals for legendary R&B band leaders like the Griffin Brothers, Floyd Dixon, and Paul Hucklebuck Williams before launching her own solo career in the mid-1950s. That's when this record was recorded for Atlantic's subsidiary Cat Records.
Here we have an unusual fusion of R&B and country. How often to you hear a jaw harp on an R&B record? Any time these two musical worlds come together, my heart tends to flutter a little bit. I've played the country bop cover of this at QCJ, but it took a long time to get my hands on the original. This record wasn't a hit when originally released, but I'm determined to make it a smash sensation on the dance floors of Portland starting tomorrow night!
The Buddy Johnson Orchestra is often credited as being the link between the big band era and the rhythm & blues era and he is considered by some as one of the fathers of R&B.
The band was launched by South Carolina native Buddy Johnson (born on this day in 1915) at the dawn of WWII. As the war raged on, Johnson began turning to the blues as inspiration and began to blend it with his big band sound. When the war ended, other jump band leaders paired down their bands to small 4 to 6 piece combos. Alternately, Johnson's band kept growing at one point reaching 17 members. It must have been an incredible sound to experience in person, which explains why he remained a popular live act coast to coast into the rock n roll era.
The record of the day features Buddy's little sister Ella on vocals. She is a legend as well.
Recorded on this day in 1947, "Tomorrow Night" (aka "Lonnie Johnson's them song") proved to be one of the loveliest recordings by blues/jazz pioneer Lonnie Johnson (who began recording in 1925) and served as a bridge between the original blues recording stars of the 1920s and 1950s rock n roll. Johnson's version of the song (which was written back in 1939 by Sam Coslow and Will Grosz) was number 1 on the R&B charts for 7 weeks.
The song would become a standard of the early rock 'n' roll era and became associated with Big Joe Tuner as well as LaVern Baker among others. There are also a well-known versions by young Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. However, nothing can top this delightful duet between Lonnie Johnson's voice and his guitar. The master.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!