Sunday, April 28, 2013


In 1959 when the Kingston Trio was riding high with “Tom Dooley” I used to hang out with a fellow sixth grader, a guy named Ken. He had an older brother named Tom who had a bunch of Kingston Trio LPs. When Tom wasn’t around we used to listen to his records on the sly, and this track, “Coplas,” from their 1958 debut album, always caught my ear, mostly because it was funny, with the fake Mexican and Chinese/Japanese accents. I’m sure I missed all the mild double entendres, and was blissfully unaware of what would surely be considered un-PC nowadays, even though I guess this is what “liberals” of the fifties thought was cool. I dunno, I still like it anyway. And I also still have my beat to sh*t 45 of “Tom Dooley.”

The Kingston Trio • Coplas • 1958

Get it: The Kingston Trio / from the Hungry i

LP cover: Discogs

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Willie Mae’s blues

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton • Willie Mae’s Blues • early 1950s

Friday, April 26, 2013

He Stopped Loving Her Today

George Jones • He Stopped Loving Her Today • 1980

La noce a Josephine

“ . . . Nathan’s song is a polka about a wedding taking place in St Martinville. He lists all the parts of the pig eaten at a ‘cochonerie’ and tells a joke about a creature with a tail in front and one at its back—it’s an elephant.” *

Nathan Abshire & The Balfa Bros. • La Noce A Josephine • 1969

*from the liner notes to Nathan Abshire: Master of the Cajun Accordion—The Classic Swallow Recordings, Ace CDCHD 1348, 2013.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The happy days, they have gone by

Charley Patton • Some Summer Day • 1930

Charley Patton, vocal, slide guitar; Willie Brown, 2nd guitar. Recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, c28 May 1930.

Photo detail: Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Story songs in the fifties didn’t get any better than this: cradle to grave in under three minutes. And the Browns’ plaintive Arkansas harmonies put this little saga across with such gentle power that, though I’ve probably listened to this hundreds and hundreds of times, it turns my insides into a quivering mass of ecto-emotion every time I hear it.

The Browns • The Three Bells • 1959

Get it: Country & Western Hit Parade: 1959

Label pic: 45cat

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If you can’t sing, then fold up your arms

Now here’s one I’ve always fantasized as playing at my funeral . . . with Percell Perkins’ and Archie Brownlee’s shouts, screams, and moans competing to wake up the dead. (Or maybe “Someone Watches” would work as an alternate. . . .)

Song of Praise – Original Five Blind Boys (Jackson Harmoneers) – 1954

Monday, April 22, 2013


“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is one of those dorky songs from growing up days you’re almost embarrassed to list, not to mention admitting a liking for. Liking it may be taking things a little too far, let’s just say it was very present at the time and continues to conjur up sixth grade confusion quite well when listened to 55 years later: Laurie London. Girl? Boy? What’s with the accent. How come songs like this stick in your head when there’s records like “Twilight Time,” “Tequila,” and “Purple People Eater” competing for earspace? Nevertheless, it’s on my “School Days” Top 40 and there it will stay until death do us part. But please don’t play it at my funeral.

Laurie London • He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands • 1958

Label image: 45cat

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A wound time can’t erase

Stonewall Jackson • A Wound Time Can't Erase • 1962

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birth of the Blues

Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden
Birth of the Blues • 1960

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Mance Lipscomb • God Moves On The Water (The Titanic) • 1964

It was 78 years ago today

On the 14th day of April of 1935,

There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky.

You could see that dust storm comin’, the cloud looked deathlike black,

And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track.
From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line,

Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande,

It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,

We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom.
The radio reported, we listened with alarm,

The wild and windy actions of this great mysterious storm;

From Albuquerque and Clovis, and all New Mexico,

They said it was the blackest that ever they had saw.
From old Dodge City, Kansas, the dust had rung their knell,

And a few more comrades sleeping on top of old Boot Hill.

From Denver, Colorado, they said it blew so strong,

They thought that they could hold out, but they didn’t know how long.
Our relatives were huddled into their oil boom shacks,

And the children they was cryin’ as it whistled through the cracks.

And the family it was crowded into their little room,

They thought the world had ended, and they thought it was their doom.
The storm took place at sundown, it lasted through the night,

When we looked out next morning, we saw a terrible sight.

We saw outside our window where wheat fields they had grown

Was now a rippling ocean of dust the wind had blown.
It covered up our fences, it covered up our barns,

It covered up our tractors in this wild and dusty storm.

We loaded our jalopies and piled our families in,

We rattled down that highway to never come back again.

Dust Storm Disaster – Woody Guthrie – 1940

Lyrics: © Copyright 1960 (renewed) and 1963 (renewed) by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. 

Photo: King

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Take Good Care, Sweetheart

Magdalena Biriescu • Să iei seama, bade, bine
(Take Good Care, Sweetheart) • 1954

Friday, April 12, 2013

Standin’ on the highway

Magic Slim & The Teardrops • Stranded On The Highway • 1978

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Directly from my heart to you

Recently I was scrolling through the entries of a favorite tumblr, Mudwerks. Many times I skip the audio clips as they are often out of my range of interest. But I came across a really great performance of “Directly from My Heart to You” by the Mothers of Invention with Don “Sugarcane” Harris (of Don & Dewey fame) on vocals and electric violin. Listening to that got me searching through my Little Richard stuff to find his version, cut early in his tenure with Specialty. It’s a fine record, and in 1955 he was still searching for his “voice,” that essence of Little Richard that we all came to know and love with records like “Tutti Frutti,” “True Fine Mama,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly” and many others. I really like this record, and another from the same session, “I’m Just a Lonely Guy.” And actually, “Tutti Frutti” came from this session also. But as good as this is, I think Sugarcane Harris kills it with his 1970 update. Here are both versions, directly from my heart to you. . . .

Little Richard • Directly From My Heart • 1955

The Mothers of Invention • Directly From My Heart To You • 1970
Don “Sugarcane” Harris, vocal & electric violin


Monday, April 08, 2013


In 1958 when this song hit the top of the charts I was in sixth grade and there was this kid in my sunday school class who had just moved out west with his family from Tennessee and he told me he was Conway Twitty’s cousin. I can’t remember his name anymore, but the little second-story apartment his family lived in is still standing a few blocks from where I grew up. Years later one of the notable items on my CV, as far as one of my work colleagues was concerned, was that I had gone to sunday school with Conway Twitty’s cousin. “It’s only make believe.”

Conway Twitty • It’s Only Make Believe • 1958

For Pat Crosby

Get it: Conway Rocks

Label picture: 45cat

Sunday, April 07, 2013


“Don’t just say ‘ow!’—say ‘Owww!’”

James Brown & The Famous Flames • Lost Someone • 1965

Get it: The Singles Volume Three: 1964–1965

Label photo: Pop-Catastrophe

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Friday, April 05, 2013

Blues Live

Blues Live 1967–1970 has just been released as a jacketed hardcover book, available at It features 18 “portraits” of country and modern blues singers who were active during the latter half of the 1960s. Inside are portraits of Mance Lipscomb, Jesse Fuller, Son House, Charlie Musselwhite and Louis Myers of the Chicago Blues Stars, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Sam Chatmon, Juke Boy Bonner, John Hammond, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightning Hopkins, George “Harmonica” Smith, Albert Collins, Robert Jeffery, and B. B. King. Front and back jacket photographs feature different images of Albert Collins and Howlin’ Wolf to those shown inside. It is also available as an ebook for the iPad (both at Blurb and in the iTunes store) minus the back cover image of Wolf. Check it out. . . .

Goin’ down slow

J. B. Hutto & The Hawks • Goin’ Down Slow • 1967

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Albert’s Alley

Albert Collins • Albert’s Alley • 1962

Photo: Albert Collins, Ash Grove, 1968 from Blues Live 1967–1970. Copyright © 2013 by Brad Barrett. May not be used in any form without written permission. This includes repostings on blogs or other websites.

Monday, April 01, 2013