Songs with references to other song titles or characters, songs with lots of characters, songs with narration or sermonizing, cut-in records, tunes that quote other tunes, sequels, answer records . . . oh, I’m a sucker for all of ’em. “Short Fat Fanny” and “Splish Splash” come to mind. Bob Luman’s “Let’s Think About Livin’.” Lil’ Son Jackson’s roll call of his “hits” in “Everybody’s Blues.” After that build-up, “Honey, Don’t Let Me Go” is a fairly slight entry, “just another” Jimmy Reed record. Eddie Taylor and Earl Phillips lay down the “Jimmy Reed beat” as Jimmy namechecks “High and Lonesome,” “Roll and Rhumba,” “Boogie in the Dark,” “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby,” and “Rockin’ with Reed” and throws in a couple of his signature harmonica solos.
(Louis Johnson, lead; Claude Jeter, tenor; Paul Owens, John Myles, baritones; William “Pete” Connor, bass; with Linwood Hargrove, guitar; unknown, bass.)
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
In the mid-60s, if you liked blues, or pop, or whatever it was still possible to go into a record store and buy 45s and albums of anything that suited your fancy. On the downtown business strip of my home town, there was a store called Lloyd’s Music City which carried a good selection of the blues records I was beginning to become taken with. Most amazingly, to me at that time and even more now when I think of what has become of the innocent act of buying music you like, Lloyd’s carried years-old records right next to the currently popular stuff and at everyday prices. These weren’t reissues, they were originals that either hadn’t sold, or that were restocked if enough people continued to buy them. I probably bought some Bob Dylan albums and singles as they came out, and as my tastes broadened, I would browse the blues and folk sections. One day I was surprised to find they stocked old Chess-label 45s, records that at that point were five or six years old. I remember buying 45s one day by Otis Rush and Elmore James, and on a subsequent trip, Junior Parker’s recent single “Man or Mouse” on Duke. I had read Tony Glover’s raves about a Sonny Boy Williamson single (“Temperature 110”/“Lonesome Cabin”) that wasn’t on any albums at the time so I went down to the drugstore near my house and ordered it; the record came in the next week. Price: $1.00. There was another store, a big one, called White Front, kind of a precursor to Costco, that had a music section and you could order LPs out of one of those big yellow catalogs. I had recently discovered Big Mama Thornton and wanted to see what was available. I ordered a Duke album called Like ’Er Red Hot that had “Hound Dog” as well as tunes by Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace and others. When it came in, I looked at the chile pepper-themed cover, turned it over to see what was on it, chickened out, and put it back on the rack! Too heavy for me.
Here is one of the Elmore James tunes that was originally on the Chess 45 I bought from Lloyd’s. It’s the flip of “The Sun Is Shining” and both sides are just great. I had only heard one Elmore James record at that point, his first recording of “Dust My Broom.” This Chess single confirmed to me that Elmore James was somebody I definitely wanted to hear more of. Next stop: Original Folk Blues on Kent. . . .