Thursday, December 20, 2012


Nat King Cole • Aquellos Ojos Verdes • 1959

Get it: A Mis Amigos

Image: Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Mance’s version has lyrics that are way more fun than the ones I learned as a kid. . . .

Mance Lipscomb • Polly Wolly Doodle All Day • 1964

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Hastings Street Saga, Pt. 3

It’s “Rhythm Number Two” by po’ John Lee Hooker . . .

Hoogie Boogie – John Lee Hooker – 1949
Snap Them Fingers Boogie – John Lee Hooker – 1949
Hastings Street Boogie – John Lee Hooker – 1949
My Own Boogie – John Lee Hooker – 1949

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Devil Got My Woman

In the mid-sixties I was beginning to discover, initially through the auspices of Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, some of the bluesmen from the twenties and thirties who had themselves been being discovered or rediscovered by young white aficionados just a few years prior, singers and players such as Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James, spurred on by the so-called “folk revival,” Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, the beginnings of suburban awareness of the civil rights movement, etc. Those singers, as well as performers who had not been recorded commercially in their younger years, such as Mance Lipscomb and Fred McDowell; blues singers who had recorded in the years following WWII, such as Lightning Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, and Lil Son Jackson, but who had, with the advent of Rhythm & Blues and Rock’n’Roll been relegated to the sidelines. These bluesmen and women now were reaching a wider audience, probably wider than their initial commercial or local successes had allowed in the culturally segregated years prior to the white folk revival.

Skip James was one of the early greats who somehow attached his art to my heart, soul, and ears through his appearance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and subsequent unveiling via vinyl LP on the annual set of LPs documenting that festival by Vanguard Records. I can clearly remember bringing home the LP The Blues at Newport/1964/
Part 2, putting it on my record player, and after three fine songs by Mississippi John Hurt, who I was already familiar with, being absolutely mesmerized by one Nehemiah “Skip” James to the point that when his four songs were finished I picked up the tone arm and played those four over again and again and again. I’m sure the grooves of those four songs on side one of that LP showed more wear than any of the other tracks by John Hurt, Rev. Robert Wilkins, and Elizabeth Cotton, no easy feat.

For a firsthand account I quote here Dick Waterman, in the book Baby Let Me Follow
You Down

“One of the great recollections I have of those workshops is when Skip James came in. He was wearing a hat and a heavy jacket. . . . No one had heard him play except for the people who had discovered him. They brought him in, and he was sort of a presence on the grounds for the first day or so. . . . He was very quiet, almost mysterious. Finally it came his time on this workshop. . . .

“Skip sat down, and put his guitar on his leg. He set himself, doing a little finger manipulation with his left hand, then he set his fingers by the sound hole, sighed, and hit the first note of [“Devil Got My Woman”]. He took that first note up in falsetto all the way, and the hairs on the back of my neck went up, and all up and down my arms, the hairs just went right up. Even now I get a reaction to that note when I listen to the recording of it on [Blues at Newport]. . . .

“There was an audible gasp from the audience. That to me is what it’s all about.”

Devil Got My Woman – Skip James – 1964

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Odetta • Ramblin’ Round • 1970

Odetta, Will Geer, Arlo Guthrie • This Land Is Your Land • 1968

Monday, July 09, 2012


Banda Típica Mazatlán • La India Bonita • 1949

Get it: Mexican-American Border Music – Vol. 1

Image: Jorge González Camarena. Amapolas de Xochimilco, 1940. Galas de México.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The right time

For a long time I felt like Margie Hendricks’s vocal was too over the top and spinning out of control. Somewhere along the way, this became my favorite version of the song. Recorded live in Atlanta in 1959.

The Right Time – Ray Charles – 1959

Monday, June 25, 2012

Raise my window high

Here’s the French version of  “Raise Your Window.” It’s from the same December 1934 recording session as “Blues Negres” heard last week. “Ouvrez Grand Ma Fenetre” features a growling vocal similar to the English version and an especially fine accordion intro by Joe Falcon. Many thanks to Ana at The Singing Bones for reminding me about this great record.

Ouvrez Grand Ma Fenetre (Raise My Window High)
Cleoma Falcon – 1934

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


More nasty sounding Elko blues from Phillip Walker . . .

Phillip Walker Band • Hello My Darling • 1959

Friday, June 08, 2012


It’s no secret that the music from one record label, Arhoolie, has informed my taste and musical sensibilities over the past 45+ years as much as or more than the 50s and 60s rock’n’roll I grew up on. That fact is reflected in many of the posts on this here blog. Had it not been for the work of Arhoolie founder and boss Chris Strachwitz I might never have heard and fallen in love with the music of Mance Lipscomb, Clifton Chenier, Fred McDowell, Flaco Jiménez, Sonny Boy Williamson, Nathan Abshire, Big Mama Thornton, Lightning Hopkins, Mainer’s Mountaineers, The Black Ace, Lowell Fulson, not to mention the tunes reissued on all the various artists comps on side labels like Blues Classics and Old Timey; the list just goes on and on and on.

So . . . there’s a feature length video documentary being made about Chris Strachwitz and his contribution to our understanding and enjoyment of this great American vernacular music and the makers need some help raising funds to finish the project. If you’re interested in being a part of this worthy undertaking, click here to read, see, and hear more.

Meanwhile, here’s Mance Lipscomb with “Willie Poor Boy” from 1964.

Mance Lipscomb • Willie Poor Boy • 1964

Thursday, June 07, 2012

As regards Madame Lazonga, Cuban Pete,
and the Rhumba Cuban all style

The Rhumba Boogie – Hank Snow (The Singing Ranger) – 1951

Illustration: detail from Li’l Abner by Al Capp, July 24, 1943. Courtesy

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Georgia Blues

Samantha Bumgarner (1878–1960) was a renowned banjo and fiddle player from Dillsboro, North Carolina, and in 1924 became the first woman to record country music commercially. She’s featured here on 5-string banjo.

Georgia Blues – Samantha Bumgarner – 1924

Photo: Ben Shahn. Aunt Samantha Baumgarner [i.e. Bumgarner], fiddler, banjoist, guitarist, North Carolina, Asheville. 1937. Library of Congress.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Say man . . .

back again! Really. But now us Melvins are going to take a few days off. Enjoy our favorite Bo Diddley tune and see you soon. . . .

Say Man, Back Again – Bo Diddley – 1959

Friday, May 18, 2012


Fred McDowell • You Got To Move • 1965

Fred McDowell, vocal/guitar. Berkeley, California, 5 July 1965

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Sonny Boy Williamson • Mighty Long Time • 1951

Sonny Boy did a “sort of” remake of this tune about three years later, also for Trumpet who leased it to Ace. You can hear that version here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012

Ballad of a Thin Man

Joan Baez’s 1965 venture into “folk rock,” Farewell, Angelina, contained, in addition to songs by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie, this Red Hayes composition, probably best known as a 1955 number one country hit for Porter Wagoner. It was always one of my favorites from the Baez album along with Dylan’s “Farewell, Angelina” and a German-language version of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Bob Dylan’s 1980 LP Saved opens with a very un-country version that pretty much saves an otherwise unredeemable album. One day around 1986 I finally heard Porter’s version on an RCA comp, Best of the ’50s, nestled between songs by Hank Snow, Don Gibson, and The Browns. Well, Porter Wagoner’s version promptly moved to the top of the list, for no other reason than that it’s really great. So, without further gabbing about it . . . here is “A Satisfied Mind” as sung by none other than the thin man from West Plains, Porter Wagoner.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


From the funkiest of the funky, J. R. Fulbright’s Elko label, here’s Phillip Walker’s first record, the steamy 1959 instrumental, “Louisiana Walk.”

Phillip Walker Band • Louisiana Walk • 1959

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gotta moan sometimes

I can still remember the day Paul Johnson played this early Swan Silvertones record for me. I could not even believe what I was hearing . . . this was way beyond what gospel quartet singing I’d heard up to that point, groups like the Sam Cooke edition of the Soul Stirrers and the Dixie Hummingbirds, even the ’60s Vee-Jay recordings of the Swans. But this! That slammin’ rhythm with Claude Jeter and the Swans all over it as rubber-voiced Rev. Robert Crenshaw breaks in and wrestles it to the ground. I read years later that Crenshaw was asked to leave the group because of his tendency to take over territories claimed and unclaimed. . . .

(Claude Jeter, Rev. Robert Crenshaw, John Manson (tenors); Paul Owens, John Myles (baritones); Henry Bossard (bass); unknown drums.)

Trouble In My Way – The Swan Silvertone Singers – 1953

Photo: The Swan Silvertones in 1965. Top row, left to right: Louis Johnson, William Connor, Paul Owens. Bottom row, left to right: Linwood Hargrove, Claude Jeter, John Myles. From The Gospel Sound by Tony Heilbut, Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Monday, March 12, 2012


 Lani McIntire & His Orchestra • Hame Pila • 1937
“Vocal chorus by Lani, George and Bob”

Thursday, March 08, 2012


This Holy Week saeta, recorded on the streets of Seville in 1950, was heard by Miles Davis and his arranger Gil Evans on the Spain volume of The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music and adapted by them while they were working on Miles’ 1960 album Sketches of Spain.

“The saete, in flamencan music, is ‘the arrow song.’ One of the oldest religious types of music in Andalusia, it is usually sung without accompaniment during the Holy Week procession in Seville. It tells of the Passion of Christ and is usually addressed to the image of the crucified Christ that is carried in the march or to the Virgin Mary. As described by Gilbert Chase, ‘The singer, usually a woman, stands on a balcony overlooking the procession, grasping the iron railing firmly in both hands (the grip tightens as the emotion grows). The procession stops so that the image which is being addressed remains stationary while the saeta is being sung. A fanfare of trumpets gives the signal for the procession, to move on.’”  (from Nat Hentoff’s liner notes to Sketches of Spain.)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Earth has no sorrow. . .

Come Ye Disconsolate
The Dixie Hummingbirds – 1964
(Ira Tucker, lead)

JMB 1920–2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What about you

Paul Owens, whose exquisite leads have graced many of the top postwar gospel quartets (among them the Nightingales and Dixie Hummingbirds), starts this one off, then passes it on to Louis Johnson who shouts it on out to a typically smooth 
and harmonious Swans’ conclusion. 

What About You – The Swan Silvertones – 1962

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Father and Son

Rebert H. Harris, the original lead singer for the Soul Stirrers, was so influential you can find his imprint on the vocal styles of many of the golden era gospel quartets’ lead singers: Kylo Turner and Keith Barber of the Pilgrim Travelers; the Sensational Nightingales’ Rev. Julius Cheeks; and perhaps the greatest of them all, Archie Brownlee, who sang lead with the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi until his too-early death in 1959. When Harris left the Soul Stirrers in 1950, Sam Cooke was hired as his replacement; later, when Sam went pop, Johnnie Taylor was drafted in from the Highway QCs. The list goes on and on.

Here are two versions of “In That Awful Hour,” first with R. H. Harris and Paul Foster leading the Soul Stirrers; next up are the Blind Boys and Archie Brownlee.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It’s good to touch the green, green grass
of home

The album title says a lot about where the country music industry, and the country, were at in 1966. Charley Pride’s take on this classic song, however, speaks for itself.

Green, Green Grass Of Home – Country Charley Pride – 1966

Monday, February 13, 2012

Aloha ‘Oe

Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au
Until we meet again

Crown Princess (later Queen) Lili‘uokalani, wrote “Aloha ‘Oe,” about 1877, around the time the portrait below was taken. Sixteen years later, the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was overthrown in a coup d’état led primarily by American economic interests, and Queen Lili‘uokalani was placed under house arrest and confined to ‘Iolani Palace in Honolulu, where she finished transcribing “Aloha ‘Oe.” 

Johnny Bellar is a composer and Nashville session musician who excels on Dobro, string bass, and lap steel guitars.

Aloha Oe – Johnny Bellar – 2000

For more on “Aloha ‘Oe,” Lili‘uokalani, and the fall of the Hawaiian kingdom, follow this link.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

R.I.P. Johnny Otis, 1921–2012

Ma (He’s Makin’ Eyes At Me) – The Johnny Otis Show
with Marie Adams & The Three Tons of Joy – 1957

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In the early 60s a bunch of us from the block used to gather in the living room at my parents’ house and watch the five-minute 8mm movies that Surfer magazine used to sell, little excerpts from John Severson’s surf films, classic early hotdogging from California, big surf in Hawai‘i, etc., along with whatever 8mm stuff some of us were shooting at the time. Everybody would bring their 45s, I would pull out my little portable toy record player, we’d set up a screen and a projector, one of us would play DJ, and we’d all watch in awe while our version of surf music soundtracked the proceedings: Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” (“Blue Rondo A La Turk” was on the flip); Part I of “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles (not only a classic surf tune with that great electric piano, but also a jumping off point for dirty added-on junior high school lyrics), never mind that it was mostly a vocal, that long piano intro more than made up for it; “Walk—Don’t Run” by the Ventures was always a safe bet (and later, anything off their first three albums would also do just fine); and the toughest of them all, several instrumentals by The Fireballs, from Raton, New Mexico of all places: “Bulldog,” “Vaquero,” and “Torquay” (we thought Torquay was a Spanish word when it was really the name of an English seaside town!) were all great, “Bulldog” being the musical equivalent, for me, of the small wave hot dog maneuvers of Dewey Weber, Phil Edwards, Mickey Dora, and other top surfers of the day. There was also “Harlem Nocturne,” an old standard that was given the noir treatment by The Viscounts; it came out in 1959, hit, and then was rereleased in 1965 and hit again; a really great, spooky tune. Here, then, is the 1959 version of “Torquay.”

Fireballs • Torquay • 1959

click on song title to play

Text excerpted from The Surfer’s Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2011.
Photo: Phil Edwards, Oceanside, 1965. Copyright © 2012 by Brad Barrett. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cajun Classics

About a million years ago I stumbled across the LP pictured, probably at Folk Arts, and it quickly became one of my favorites, twelve tracks of 50s–60s Cajun honky tonk by some of the artists Jay Miller was recording at the time: Nathan Abshire, Aldus Roger, Robert Bertrand, Louis Alleman, and the Clément Brothers. The Clément sides quickly became my favorites, even though an acquaintance at the time poo-pooed them, saying they weren’t real Cajun music, they were Cajunized rock’n’roll. Whatever. They’re still my favorites from the album, especially “La Valse De Te Maurice.” Terry Clément plays accordion, his brother Purvis plays fiddle and takes the vocals, and everybody sounds like they’re having a blast.

Thanks to Lyle Ferbrache for album cover pic and “Sugar Bee.”