This story’s been told here before. Here it is again. . . . 1965. I’m driving around in my little 1960 blue Falcon, “radio tuned to rock’n’roll.” This country song keeps coming on and I immediately switch stations. What are they doing playing this kind of stuff on my station? One day I tune in just as the song ends and the DJ says, “That was ‘Act Naturally’ by The Beatles.” Whaaat?!? Well, after that, I started listening to it and, eating my prejudice for lunch, began to really like it.
I mean, it was the Beatles, y’know? Sometime later, one of my friends played me a song he was learning on his guitar, “Buckaroo,” by some guy called Buck Owens. That was pretty fine too. Little by little. . . . Well, at some point along the way I heard Buck Owens’ original of “Act Naturally,” and became a big fan, though the Beatles’ version is still a frozen-in-time favorite.
And how do you get Ringo to sound good? Have him sing country!
In September 1965 the followup single to “Like a Rolling Stone” took to the airwaves. In southern California the song announced as “Positively 4th Street” was a mistakenly pressed early version of “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window.” It aired for a couple of weeks and then without fanfare a “new” version of “Positively 4th Street” quietly took its place. It sounded much like other songs recorded during the Highway 61 Revisited sessions, with prominent Al Kooper organ, and perhaps not many listeners noticed the switch. The next month Joan Baez released Farewell, Angelina, her first album utilizing the currently popular “folk rock” sound, i.e., light amplified accompaniment a la Bringing It All Back Home or The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man. The album featured two new Dylan songs along with a mix of traditional tunes, songs by Woody Guthrie, Donovan and Pete Seeger, as well as two older Dylan compositions. The title track was a previously unheard Bob Dylan song with mysterious apocalyptic lyrics beautifully sung by Baez as a sad, resigned benediction.
Mayeus LaFleur really cries the Cajun blues on this waltz. Sad to say, LaFleur was killed in a barroom shooting a little over a week after he made his only recordings as Leo Soileau’s singer and accordion player.
Blind Joel Taggart • In That Pearly White City Above • 1931
Album cover from American Music. This song as well as two other Taggart numbers, recorded postwar and previously unknown, are available on the CD 19 Classic Blues Songs from the 1920’s available from Blues Images.
Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts . . . Everybody knows She paid a hundred dollars For Albert’s suit of clothes
Confused? Well, keep listening as our young heroes run the gamut of name changes, spelling variants, and gender switches. We’ll surely come to a . . . conclusion . . . somewhere along the way as a long line of witnesses weigh in with their take on the, er, matter. Being sworn in now is William Thomas Dupree, while Charlie Feathers, Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarlton wait in the corridor.
Champion Jack Dupree • Frankie & Johnny • 1958
Charlie Feathers • Frankie And Johnny (Take 2) • 1956
Between “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and the release of Blonde on Blonde the following year, the summer of 1965 provided a lot of nourishment for a just-born Bob Dylan fan. “Like a Rolling Stone” hit the airwaves in July and in August Highway 61 Revisited was released to mind boggling effect. The rest of the summer was spent playing catch up, discovering the five albums that preceded it. There were a few more songs on the radio that fall and the following spring to tide us over until the next album arrived. A lot of fun awaited a naïve, uncultured kid opening the door (or having it opened) into a whole new previously unknown world. Another Side’s “Motorpsycho Nitemare” was funny even if many of the cultural references (Psycho, La Dolce Vita) were missed, though the absurdity of the Fidel Castro/Barry Goldwater joke registered by virtue of quick glances at the newspaper headlines before heading for the comics page in years prior; “I Shall Be Free” from Freewheelin’ was similarly funny, and Bob’s response to President Kennedy’s “growth” query, “Brigitte Bardot, Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren, country’ll grow” was pretty easy to figure out. “When the Ship Comes In,” however, seemed a little scary, was it about a commie takeover? “Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you. . . .” Ultimately the dark imagery and gallows humor of songs like “Visions of Johanna” and “Desolation Row” won out until ever diminishing returns post-John Wesley Harding found the young acolyte pitching his tent more or less permanently in the blues camp. . . .