WANG DANG DULA BLOG




  



Donald & The Delighters:
Wang Dang Dula
(Cortland Records, 1963)

  
WDD Blog: FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2014

WANG DANG DULA'S SLOWLY BUT SURELY GETTING BACK ON THE TRACK!

It's been a while - in fact an inexcusable long time - since I've actually done any visible updates here in WDD. The reason for this is definitely not a lack of interest in running the website but, as usual, an insufficient amount of hours in one day. For instance, since the previous blog writing in November 2012, besides I've luckily managed to get married - I've also significantly expanded the field of activities at my daywork at the City Hall of Helsinki.

Of course, a voluntary work for the Finnish Blues Society and especially my constant position as Managing Editor and a primary maker-up of Blues News Magazine (published six times a year) usually takes my spare time not less than 100-150 full working hours per month.

Speaking of different sort of duties in FBS, I want particularly to mention the online recording/artist database of Finnish blues and soul music, covering pretty much everything that has been happened around here in Finland since the mid 1950's until today - and which I've been maintaining since 2007. The information is - again - available in Finnish only, but I suppose at least the discographical side of the work is still approachable and useful also to all of you people who may not understand my mother language.

I was also intending to publish the second issue of WangDangDula! Magazine (written in Finnish) at www.bluesnews.fi during the spring of 2014. As it seems the spring is already here, in all likelihood the WDD #2 will see the light of day not until the late summer.

However, for all that has been said above, WDD website (as well as the WDD Youtube channel and the WDD Facebook site) is still up and running, as it's been for solid 16 years! The more you think about it, the bigger the number sounds. Amazing, who would have believed!

Hope you have enjoyed "the ride" thus far - and will keep on doing so also in the future. You see, there's no reason to pull off the open road now while we're after all in pretty good speed.

Rock on!

- Pete



  


  



The Debonaires: Lonely Is The Summer (Knickerbocker Records, 1963)


Billy Dee & The Super-Chargers: Curb-Service (Westford Records, 1963)


Billy Dee & The Super-Chargers: Sweetheart - Jubilee (Westford Records, 1963)


Billy Dee & The Debonaires: Moon Maid (Le Cam Records, 1964)


Billy Dee & The Debonaires: 101 (Le Cam Records, 1964)


Billy Dee & Sugarbear with The Coloring Book: Everybody Says (T.C.B. Records, 197?)


Ronnie Martin: Baby You're Mine (Fran 4 Records, 1965)


Ronnie Martin: Storm Of Love (Fran 4 Records, 1965)


Ronnie Martin: Soiree (Caldwell Records, 1962)
(same artist as on Billie Fran label?)


Ronnie Martin: Lonely Soul (I Need A Friend) (Caldwell Records, 1962)
(same artist as on Billie Fran label?)


Ron Martin: The Past (Ronn Records, c. 1966)
(same artist as on Billie Fran label?)


Ron Martin: Television (Ronn Records, c. 1966)
(same artist as on Billie Fran label?)

  
WDD Blog: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2012

IN SEARCH OF "BILLY DEE"... AND RONNIE MARTIN

Eight years ago to-this-date, on November 2, 2004, I requested the members of "Rockinrecords" Yahoo mailing list (intended for the discussion of rock'n'roll and r&b records) if anyone there was aware of Texan artists named Billy Dee, Billy Duesler and/or Ronnie Martin - especially in hope of getting some light on a history of a garage-stylish mid 1960's rock'n'roll song titled "Baby You're Mine" - then available on two British reissue LP compilations only: "Major Bill's Texas Rock And Roll" (Sonet SNTF 807, 1980) and "Greasy Rock'n'Roll, Vol.1" (Greasy GR001, 1995). In both cases the particular track was mistakenly credited as by someone "Billy Dee", and I just couldn't help from wondering... Billy goddamn who!?

Sad to say, the enquiry spawned only two replies back then, one from a friend and a record collector colleage of mine, Tapio V�is�nen (who had already asked the same question on "The Hillbilly Music" Yahoo mailing list a year before), and another from Shane Hughes, an established rockabilly and fiftes music specialist from Western Australia. We managed to put together a sort of discography which hasn't really extended since those days.

Either way, during the last 8 years, I have eventually got several contacts, and furthermore, have had a plenty of very educative and entertaining discussions with relatives, friends and working associates both of Billy Duesler and Ronnie Martin - which has helped me, step by step, to get my teeth deeper and deeper into their musical (and individual) backgrounds, and becoming day after day even more confirmed that these two wonderful musicians really had no kind of connection between them, except the separate family origins deep down in the heart of Texas. Let's start with Billy Dee:

The latest message concerning Billy Dee/Duesler dropped into my e-mailbox five days ago when Richard Porter, from Odessa, Texas (the founding member of The Poor Boys; see http://buddyholly.pagesperso-orange.fr/boclarke.htm) approached yours truly explicating me about the different personalities of Odessa born Billy Duesler and another Billy Dee (a.k.a. Billy Dees; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Dees) from the Borger, TX who grew up in Arkansas and was a songwriting partner of Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman" and others), and who sadly died on October 24, 2012. These two people seems to be very often confused with each other. Many thanks, Richard, for your correspondence!

Billy "Dee" Duesler was born in Clovis, New Mexico, on November 1, 1941, then moved to Odessa, Texas, where he lived most of his life until the decease on November 2, 1999 - once again by chance, exactly 5 years before my short writing on "Rockinrecords" list.

Duesler (or Deusler, as sometimes written) was active in music business, in studio and touring/club scene from the late 1950's until the mid 1960's. All of his existing 1963-64 recordings prove his indisputable talents both as a singer and a guitarist - no wonder he's been said to have collaborated occasionally with many major stars from Buddy Holly to Chuck Berry, with the last mentioned for two years in total! His last known release comes from the early 1970's, a strong funk soul 45 recorded for an obscure San Bernardino label T.C.B. with "Sugarbear" and a backing group called The Coloring Book, produced by Shirley McElroy, published by Billy Dee Music, and both sides written (or co-written) by Billy Duelser.

Later on, Billy Duesler become a Deputy of Andrews County Sheriff's Office in Andrews, TX, and he apparently had no serious interest going back to his rock'n'roll-filled adolescence anymore. And that is pretty much all we know about him. Billy Dee's recording catalogue include, with certainty, the following 45rpm singles:

THE DEBONAIRES: Lonely Is The Summer / Solitude Theme
(Knickerbocker K-1313, 1963)

BILLY DEE & THE SUPER-CHARGERS:
Curb-Service / Sweetheart-Jubilee
(Westford 101, 1963)

BILLY DEE: Soul Heaven / King Bee
(Le Cam LC-124, 1964)

BILLY DEE & THE DEBONAIRES: Moon Maid / 101
(Le Cam LC-127, 1964)

BILLY DEE & THE DEBONAIRES: Moon Maid / 101
(REO 8777, 1964, Canadian pressing)

BILLY DEE & THE DEBONAIRES:
Little Ceasar / Please Forgive Me
(Le Cam 134, 1964)

BILLY DEE: This Old Texas Town / Soul Heaven
(TCB TCB-3, 19??)

BILLY DEE & SUGARBEAR, THE COLORING BOOK:
Everybody Says / What Good Is It
(T.C.B. 18-81-A/B, 19??)

The contemporaries in West Texas area reminisces Billy Dee as "a cordial musician", and Don Stice (trumpet) and D. Johan have been mentioned as onetime members of his regular band, The Debonaires/The Debonairs. Otherwise the details of his career is still very poorly documented.

Besides Major Bill Smith, The Debonaires (a.k.a. The Super-Chargers) worked regularly with Sonley Roush who ran several indie record labels in Texas (including Knickerbocker/R.O.K. Inc. and Westford). The one issued on Roush's Kelley label (Midland, TX) should consist of 2 trumpet instrumentals but I haven't been able to track it down yet.

"101" by Billy Dee & The Debonaires has been reissued on CD "Rare Instrumentals, Vol. 13" (Canadian CAN-4513), "Curb Service" on CD "Rare Instrumentals, Vol. 19" (Canadian CM-4519), and "Sweetheart-Jubilee" on CD "Rock & Roll With Piano, Vol. 13" (Collector CLCD 4515).



The other Billy Dee's:

It's not known if The Debonairs on Soul Click Records ("Untrue Woman", written by Carl McDaniel b/w "Please Come Back Baby", written by Joe Richards, Soul Click #8097) or Don McKnight and The Debonaires on Night Records ("Strange", written by Mel Tillis & Fred Burch b/w "Judy" written by Teddy Redell, Night NG-300), both of Dallas, TX and issued c. late 1960's/early 1970's, had anything to do with Billy Dee. In addition, there were dozens of groups named Debonaires/Debonairs operating around the country.



Again, there were of course various Billy Dee's as well. One of them was leading Gilley's houseband in Dallas, TX for several years before releasing a few solo albums as a singer-songwriter, including CD "Heart Don�t Fail Me Now" in 2002. Another, Billy Dee Cox (The Dee Brothers, Dee Brothers & Dee Band, The Southside Allstars etc.) has operated with great success in Atlanta, Georgia area since the 1960's and recorded a plenty of country and rock'n'roll oriented material during the years (besides the 45's listed below, also a self production CD titled "God Bless America"):

DEE BROTHERS AND DEE BAND (feat. Kenny Dee & Billy Dee [Cox])
Look What Love Has Done To Me / There'll Be Love
(Royal American RA-43, 1971)

BILLY DEE (Cox) AND THE SOUTHSIDE ALLSTARS:
The Night Doc Holliday Stayed Sober / Georgia Bulldogs
(Dig UR-2210, 197?)

BILLY DEE (Cox) AND THE SOUTHSIDE ALLSTARS:
Crazy Braves / ?
(Dig ?, 197?)

BILLY DEE (Cox)
The Young Soldier / ?
(Lyrical L101, 19??)

BILLY DEE (Cox) AND THE SOUTHSIDE ALLSTARS
Tonight Will Be Just Fine / Heathenistic-Hell Raisin'-Fist Fightin'-Woman Chasin'-Liquor Drinkin'-Rockin' Country Band
(NSD 128, 1982; prod. by Freddy Weller, Young World Music/Berry Hill Songs; Nashville, TN)

BILLY DEE (Cox)
Stumble Bummin' Around / I've Got To Have You Tonight
(Southern Tracks (of Memphis) 1015, 1983)

BILLY DEE (Cox)
Graduation Day / Only Man In Your Life
(Southern Tracks (of Memphis) 1041, 198?)

BILLY DEE (Cox)
Graduation Day / The Perfect Stranger
(Progress PR 123, 1990)

BILLY DEE COX
Special Lady / (reverse by Blue Miller: I'm Cookin') (Waffle 881404; prod. by Jerry Cockner & Mary Welch Rigers; Norcross, GA)


Those other Billy Dee's include:

BILLY DEE (= Jim Reeves' label and touring mate on Fabor Robinson's
Fabor label in California, whose song "Drinking Tequila" was also covered by Reeves himself)

Drinking Tequila / Falling Star
(Fabor 104, 1954)

BILLY DEE (as above)
Puppy Love / I Can't Get Enough Of You
(Fabor 111, 1954)

BILLY DEE (unknown artist)
The More It Burns / An Eye For An Eye
(Trace 1001; 19??; Sure Fire Music/Buddie Hrabal Production; rec. at Sound City Studio, Los Angeles, CA; songs written by Hrabal-Dee)

BILLY DEE & JEANIE KAY (unknown artist)
Give Your Soul To Our Maker / Don't Linger On The Dance Floor
(Johnny Dollar 114, 19??)

BILLY DEE HAINES
Certain Kind Of Woman / Put It Down And Let It Pass
(Disc Jockey WE-17, 1976)

BILLY DEE HAINES
Silhouettes / Silhouettes (promo)
(Soundwaves NSD/SW4655, 1981)

BILLY DEE HAINES
Pain Free / Wond'rin
(Soundwaves SW-4745-NSD, 1984)





But how about Ronnie Martin then? Basically all we know about him are two 45's recorded for Major Bill Smith's Soft and Billie Fran labels in Ft. Worth, Texas between 1964-65:

RONNIE MARTIN
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye / Storm Of Love
(Soft 778, 1964?)

RONNIE MARTIN
Baby You're Mine / Storm Of Love
(Billie Fran 4, 1965)

It's presumed that Ronnie Martin continued his career mainly as a songwriter after the mid 1960's, and there is in fact one Ronnie Martin even today on a member list of Fort Worth Songwriters Association...

And once again, there were various other Ronnie or Ron Martins in the music business during the 1950's-1970's, very likely all of them are whole different people:



RONNIE MARTIN WITH THE TIMBERS (= apparently a black vocal group recording for Boston/New York label)
I'm Thankful / Hey, Doc
(Pilgrim 721, 1956)

RONNIE MARTIN (white pop artist, poss. from Philadelphia, PA area)
Lonely Soul (I Need A Friend) / Soiree
(Caldwell 409, 1962)

RON MARTIN (white c&w artist, poss. from Shreveport, LA area, but the BMI database (see repertoire.bmi.com), noteworthy, lists these song titles as written by the same person as e.g. "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" and "Storm Of Love", Jimmie Ronnie Martin [BMI CAE/IPI #63645767]!)
Television / The Past
(Ronn 2, c. 1966)

RONNIE MARTIN (white c&w artist, poss. from Nashville, TN area)
Beauty Is The Eye / Mr Memory
(Music Town 006, 197?)

RONNIE MARTIN (as above)
All Said And Done And Satisfied / Just Be There
(Music Town 014, 197?)

In addition, "Baby You're Mine" a.k.a. "Honey You're Mine" has been covered at least three times, first by Whistle Bait (CD's "Some Kinda Fun", Bluelight WB 20, 2004 Finland & "Bluelight Rockabillies, Vol. 2", Bluelight BLR 33155 2, 2011 Finland), then by Rockin' Ryan (CD "The Coverup", Glamorama 161543, 2007 USA) and The Lo-Lites (CD "Train Done Gone", B-Top BTOP003, 2012 Finland).



Anyone who's aware of Billy Duesler's or Ronnie Martin's not yet published details regarding their careers, recordings etc., or have photographies of any of the people mentioned here please, feel free to contact me via e-mail.




  


  



Hide And Go Seek, Parts I & II
(Mala Records, 1962)


Red Ridin' Hood And The Wolf
(Mala Records, 1962)


Nobody Knows
(Mala Records, 1962)


The Girl Can't Dance
(Mala Records, 1963)


You Can't Make
Me Doubt My Baby
(Mala Records, 1963)


Link Wray & his Raymen with
Bunker Hill: Friday Night Dance
Party (Dancing Party)
(Mala Records, 1963)


Mighty Mighty Clouds of Joy
feat. David Walker:
Jesus Lead Us Safely
(Peacock Records, 1960)


Mighty Clouds of Joy
feat. David Walker:
You'll Never Know
(Peacock Records, 1963)


The Gospelaires
(of Dayton, Ohio):
You Can't Make Me Doubt
(Peacock Records, 1961)

  
WDD Blog: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2012

IN SEARCH OF BUNKER HILL -
The great gospel singer... or just one helluva rock'n'roll sinner!


For God's sakes! - If you've ever heard "The Girl Can't Dance" by Bunker Hill, you should then have an idea what kind of incredible capacities a human voice can have! Bring it together with Bunker's other early sixties novelty masterpieces, and... there you'll have it: a full load of the most powerful, the most freaking insane and the most far out black rock'n'roll ever to be made in this planet, period.

Yours truly's curiosity for Bunker Hill aroused some two decades ago when I first got my hands on an 1980's repro 45rpm copy of "The Girl Can't Dance", which - as expected - rocked my so far world inside out and upside down. During the same time I also managed to find a couple of writings on him, pre-eminently the pieces published in Kicks Magazine ran by Billy Miller & Miriam Linna in NYC. Meanwhile here in Finland, a young music enthusiast and a talented journalist named Marko Tapio got deeply tangled up in the same subject with his own unequalled Bunker Hill article in Blues News Magazine in 1989. Furthermore, in the late 1980's, another famed Finnish record collector, a music expert since the mid 1960's and a friend of mine, Hannu Nyberg happened to discover the original '62 Swedish pressing of Bunker's "Hide & Go Seek" single, with a very unique picture sleeve (later recycled on Norton's reissue 45). The everlasting myth of Bunker Hill was now born - concretized with a handful of other songs ("Hide And Go Seek", "The Girl Can't Dance", "Red Riding Hood And The Wolf") that appeared quite regularly on European/Australian bootleg rock'n'roll compilations (released by indie labels such as Wendi, Collector and Crypt) during the 1980's-1990's, as well as on brilliant (and this time delightfully legal) 3-LP "Missing Link" series on Norton Records in 1990. Eventually, by the mid 1990's, I decided to start seriously looking for information on Bunker - but was soon forced to accept the very likely fact of his untimely removal from earthly life - although... nobody seemed to know when, how or where he had exactly vanished from the scene. What is still exceptional, no one seems to know anything about his personal life or decease even today!



"Bunker Hill" was born David "Dave" Walker on May 5, 1931 in Tallahassee, Florida. Between (and before) his music career David earned distinction as a professional boxer or rather a prize-fighter. Was he good or not - let his statistical score tell its own language: "He was a contender in 25 fights as a heavyweight, and his record was 18 wins, five losses and two draws, with 19 of these fights viewed on network TV. He also spent some time as Archie Moore's sparring partner..." (as stated in Billboard Magazine). But that's enough for sports, enter gospel music.

A Christian (Baptist) vocal group, The Mighty Clouds of Joy was founded in c. 1955-56 by a 14-year old lead singer from Alabama named Willie Joe Ligon. Willie's biggest inspiration was Rev. Julius Cheeks of the Sensational Nightingales, and his rural gospel voice gave a nice contrast to Clouds' another lead singer, Californian cityboy Johnny Martin. The group started performing at small church events around the L.A. ghetto area.

By 1957 the group consisted of Joe Ligon, Johnny Martin, Freddie Johnson, Johnny Wesley and Johnny Gibson. During the same year they also signed with the local Proverb label owned by Brother Duke Henderson. The Mighty Clouds' first recording session took place in a church at Will Rogers Park in Los Angeles. Proverb issued one technically poor quality single from the group ("Christian Plea" / "Lord, You Woke Me Up", PR-45-1023) c. 1958-59 (then consisting also Bedile Goldsmith and Jerome Brown alongside Ligon, Martin, Johnson, Wesley and Gibson), and in 1968, rest of the recording material was released by Hob Records on LP "Sing 'Zion' Songs", however overdubbed with organ, piano and drums. The line-up on this record included Ligon, Martin, Hollis Johnson, Johnny Gibson and Freddie Johnson.

In 1959, The Clouds united with another Los Angeles based gospel group The Sensational Wonders, originally composed of our man - David Walker, plus Elmo (a.k.a Elmeo/Elmer) Franklin (baritone voice) from Louisiana, Elmo's brother Ermont "Junior" Franklin, Curtis Grant, Clarence Devereau and guitarist Richard Wallace (from The Stars of Bethel). Leon Polk had joined them a little bit later on.

The "original" Clouds had made a reel-to-reel demo which was sent to Don Robey of Duke-Peacock Records in Houston, Texas. Robey was interested in collaboration but most of the group members didn't want to move to Texas. Ligon along with Johnny Martin then joined The Sensational Wonders (with whom Ligon had already recorded the songs "Somebody Touched Me" and "Walk Around My Lord" in 1958 for Sandy Stanton's Fable Records operating on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood) who accepted the deal.

Before Ligon, The Sensational Wonders' lead singer was for a moment another notable L.A. gospel shouter Big Henry Johnson (born in Orange TX, 1929) who had been recruited after his own group The Silver Wings had broken up (due to the death of their manager and soloist Alfred Como), and who had previously worked with The Southern Selahs, The Four Interns and Harmonizing Four. After getting replaced by Joe Ligon, Big Henry continued his career first with The Sims Brothers and then with The Jackson Harmoneers a.k.a. The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.



Besides Henry Johnson, also Grant and Devereau were dropped out of the renovated Mighty Clouds of Joy which now consisted of Ligon and Martin completed with both Franklins, Leon Polk and David Walker. Richard Wallace joined the line-up (as a bass singer) around 1960.

After a couple of months' training the guys traveled to Gold Star studios in Houston, Texas. Walker, Franklin brothers and Polk thought they were going to record as The Sensational Wonders, but Joe Ligon had already signed them as The Mighty Clouds Of Joy - the name they were going to use also in the future.

The company owner Don Robey had already recorded several crowd-pleasing gospel acts such as The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Nightingales, The Dixie Hummingbirds and The Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio for his Peacock label, but now he was in need for something fresh, unheard and unexperienced. In September 28th, 1960, Robey's studio was captured by the Mighty Clouds of Joy, who definitely had that new sound. The recorded tracks "Jesus Lead Us Safely" (featuring Dave Walker on lead vocals) and "Ain't Got Long Here" were to be the Clouds' debut Peacock single (#1823). Their first full-length album "Family Circle" issued a couple of years later contained also another song written by Dave Walker, "You'll Never Know", which featured him as a lead vocalist as well - probably for the last time in the Mighty Clouds' recording history. "You'll Never Know" was also issued on a Peacock single (#1896) in 1963. Walker's significant role at these early studio sessions was recently confirmed by Joe Ligon who mentions him in the interview by Heikki Suosalo (published in Soul Express Magazine 3/2005): "On 'Jesus Lead Us Safely' the lead singer is David Walker. He was an ex-boxer. When I would go on those trips with the Sensational Wonders, David Walker was one of the lead singers. He was an original Sensational Wonder."

The next ten years the Mighty Clouds of Joy continued recording and doing over 200 gigs a year, getting a reputation of the hardest-working, best-dressing and most earth-shaking male gospel group in the circuit - sharing stages with pop stars like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones or Earth, Wind and Fire. Over the years, Clouds have also performed on almost every important television show in America (including "The Grammy Awards", "The Stellar Awards", "CBS Special", "Prime Time Country", "PBS Special", "The Johnny Cash Show", "Michael Douglas Show", "Merve Griffin Show", "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars", and the "Arsenio Hall Show"). Afterall, they still had - or at least David Walker had - spare time for a couple of side projects...

David Walker was without doubt a religious man, but at some point something made him to get involved in totally exceptional, odd and concealed musical affair - and dare I say, with whole different type of "forces". It's a known fact, that many gospel-oriented bands sounded extremely rough and furious compared to European church culture, but Dave's way to sing seemed to come from much more deeper.



When another D.C. cat, then almost a national star Link Wray heard Dave first time, he found him a true soulmate. Link and the Raymen (Shorty Horton on bass, Doug Wray on drums, probably Bobby Howard on additional rhythm guitar, plus Vernon Wray a.k.a. Ray Vernon as a producer and working behind studio control boards) immediately set up two sessions for David, where they taped, using a couple of standard Ampeg recorders, a bunch of very non-standard songs in Vern's Washington D.C. home studio on Vermont Avenue. Dave - as a member of successful Mighty Clouds - was afraid to sing these unreligious songs, so at first he wanted Link to perform them. The problem was solved, when the Wray brothers gave him an assumed name, and Mighty Clouds wouldn't know anything about the whole thing. The original idea was to call him "Four H Stamp" (as a joke after 4-H Clubs, that were American youth bridges whose initials stood for Head, Heart, Hands and Health), but they settled for Bunker Hill (the pseudonym probably originates from the spectacular battle between the American and the British Army in the war of independence, on June 16, 1775 near Boston - or, possibly from a place called Bunker Hill outside of Accokeek in Millersville, Southern Maryland, only a few miles from the Wray Family Farm). In the end, the grouping eventually decided to confront the public with their own faces, when Vernon Wray became Dave's promoter and The Raymen started touring around the Washington area with him.

In 1962 Vernon took the master tapes to Arthur Yale and Jack Fine, who ran the Amy-Mala Records - the company that released all Bunker's three singles within next two years. The first platter was intended to contain Dave's self-written songs "Hide And Go Seek" and "Red Riding Hood And The Wolf". However, "Hide And Go Seek", recorded in the first session (as all the other songs were cut at the later date), was too long to put on one side, so it was finally separated to parts 1 and 2.

"Hide And Go Seek, Part I/II" (Mala 451) did quite a miracle on August 25, 1962, when it climbed to Billboard's Hot 100 (#98)! On October 27, the record scored the position 33 and stayed on the charts altogether thirteen weeks! In September 1962 it also visited one week on the r&b-side, reaching #27 at its highest (on September 22). Also on the "Cash Box Top 100" singles chart, it went to #39, remaining a total of 12 weeks (since September 8, 1962) on the list. This insane dialogue between a shouting preacher and his devil-may-care chorus was very strange bird in the pop music field at that year, while the charts were usually filled with dozens of Bobbies, Frankies and other lame prettyfaces!

So... "Hide" had tough lyrics and it was regarded as "too much sexually insinuated" by some petty people and - naturally couple of radio stations banned it (nowadays this would be a certain mark of success, and I guess it really didn't bother the selling in Bunker's case either!). Also some cover renditions were made, for instance by a 1960's garage rock group called The Sheep (released in 1966 on 45rpm single Boom BM-60.000), in the 1980s by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and in 1995 by Blacktop. Luckily, those later versions didn't sell a thing compared to their prototype.

"Hide And Go Seek" was released in Canada on Barry label, and also Europe paid attention to Bunker Hill's talent. The Stateside label issued "Hide And Go Seek" in England and even in Sweden (latter with a cool picture sleeve - using the same image seen previously on Billboard magazine in October 1962 and possibly on occasional promo copies of the British 45 edition)! At some point, Intermission Records re-released it as a flip-single with "Ten Commandments Of Love" by Harvey & The Moonglows... What a combination! Speaking of weird coincidences, much later the American trash-film director John Waters used "Hide And Go Seek" on his motion picture "Hairspray" (1988) starring Sonny Bono, Ruth Brown, Debbie "Blondie" Harry, Michael "Elvis" St. Gerard and young Ricki Lake...



The next Mala single (#457) contained the songs "Red Riding Hood And The Wolf" / "Nobody Knows", both written by Bunker himself. It wasn't any kind of a hit, but man, how great it was! The same animal beat that was dominating the debut single, leads the way also on this one. The rumbling a-side is one of the most popular choices on today's "wild & desperate" rock'n'roll compilations - and I can really see why. I think I don't exaggerate at all, when I say this track really rolls down and walks over! The reverse then is a stylish pop ballad with choir arrangements, adapted from the spiritual evergreen "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen", made by then famous by various groups and artists including Marian Anderson (the first succesful recorded rendition from 1925), Paul Robeson, Leadbelly, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Big Bill Broonzy, Louis Armstrong, The Roberta Martin Singers, The Deep River Boys, The Golden Gate Quartet, The Dixie Hummingbirds and Sam Cooke (1963).

The year 1963 started with the most obscure Bunker Hill release: "There's A Hole In The Middle Of The Moon" / "Dancing Party" (Mala 458). This never-officially-seen 45 is surely scarce as one-legged hen's teeth. Probably it was issued as by Link Wray & his Raymen, because it's Linkster who's actually singing the lead voice. However, Bunker definitely is responsible for the "spoken" introduction and background vocals on b-side. Afterwards, Norton Records has released two alternate versions of "Dancing Party" retitled as "Friday Night Dance Party".

Mala Records had still some untapped Bunker Hill material in their archives (including nowadays totally-lost track "Jungle Dan"), and they were planning to produce a whole album from him. Sadly indeed, that was never going to happen. The last Mala single came out in September 1963 and it originated from the same '62 session as the previous recordings, now containing the majestic "The Girl Can't Dance". If any male vocal performance should be described as "he screamed his heart out", it's absolutely this - and objections overruled! To balance the frantic parade-side, the flip "You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby", adapted from "You Can't Make Me Doubt" by The Gospelaires (issued on Peacock single #1832 and as part of the "Camp Meeting" LP, PLP-106 in 1961) - starts up like almost any of basic medium-tempo gospel tunes, featuring only the basic one-chord accompaniment of acoustic bass and drums. However, Bunker turns the whole thing, inch by inch, into something else, by praising the Word even louder and louder towards the end.

"The Girl Can't Dance" has also been covered a few times. In 1996, Belgium hc-trash rockabilly act Sin Alley featuring female singer Martine van Hoof issued it as "The Guy Can't Dance" on their mini-EP/CD "Detroit 442" (Demolition Derby DD 035CD), and in 2003, another version by Evan Foster appeared on Link Wray tribute compilation titled "Guitar Ace" (MuSick CD 20). Again, the Swiss group The Wuanabees did their version of "The Guy Can't Dance" for CD "Where Did You Get That Strut?" (Blue Lake Records, 2008), and in Finland, The Lo-Lites (as "The Girl Can't Dance") for the band's debute CD "Thinkin' Man's Girl" (B-Top Records) in 2010. All the re-interpretations are definitely worth hearing.

Contrary to Walker's belief, The Mighty Clouds of Joy were fully aware of Bunker Hill's identity. Joe Ligon reminisces about this in Soul Express Magazine 3/2005: "Yes, we were. He left us. We begged him not to go. He did come back, when his career started going downhill. He had one big record, but it just didn't fit his lifestyle. David Walker was a dynamic lead singer, When he and I sang together, I never had to sing an uptempo songs. He sang all the fast songs. David and I were the lead singers. When the Clouds really began to come to our own as a group, David was leaving again at that time. I would say he left before the 1960's ended."

Not much is known about Bunker's activities during or after the late 1960's. To the best of knowledge, he returned into church music and continued singing with the Mighty Clouds until every now and then. Around 1964, a new member Jimmy Jones joined the group. Although he didn't actually replace David Walker, these two never were in the group at the same time. In 1967, the Mighty Clouds' regular line-up seemed to be: Joe Ligon, Richard Wallace, Jimmy Jones, Elmeo Franklin, Johnny Martin and Ermant Franklin. Leon Polk left the group for good in the late 1960's and so did Jones in the early 1970's. The rest of the members gradually developed their tradtional gospel style to smoother soul/disco r'n'b, and changed the old contract with Don Robey's Peacock records to the major company ABC. That meant naturally stepping into bigger and more money-making circumstances. Within the decade they managed to get a great bundle of single/LP hits, their concert album "Live And Direct" earned a gold album, and they have also won three Grammy awards. Obviously, new band members were coming and going during the 1980's and the 1990's. Today, Joe Ligon and Richard Wallace are still present from the original cast while the younger fellows in the line-up consist of Johnny L. Valentine, Michael McCowin, Wilbert Williams, Ron Staples and Ronald Clark. Johnny Martin died in 1987 and Elmo Franklin in 2008. Also deceased are the later members Artis Turnbough (in 1999) and Michael Cook (2008).

But whatever happened to Bunker Hill then? Unfortunately it seems very probable that he passed away in Houston, Texas in 1984, but no one has been able to confirm this yet. Until someone does, I'm going to keep my hopes alive that he's still out there somewhere - just keeping his mouth shut and trying desperately to hide his sinful rock'n'roll past. Aaaamen for that!



Testimonies:

Billy Poore, 1988 (in Kicks Magazine #6): "The last time I was talkin' to Miriam [Linna] we got on the subject of Bunker Hill who cut the WILD rocker "The Girl Can't Dance" and the hit (around here) "Hide & Go Seek" and I told her, Hell, I saw Bunker Hill play and met him on a REAL crazy river boat gig! He was performing on the Wilson Line Moonlight Cruise on the Potomac River on a hot summer night in 1962. This was the same Moonlight Cruise that a few years earlier had featured a show by Elvis, Scotty & Bill with Jimmy Dean and the Texas Wildcats! Anyway, the Cruise started in the late 40s when it was mostly big bands and country music and went on 'til about '64 and this big four-deck wexcursion boat left downtown Washington DC and went down the river on this four hour ride and they'd dock at Marshall Hall Amusement Park where they had slot machines, gambling and whole lotta fuckin' FUN! Since they almost never had rock & roll I wasn't about to miss this! (I later found out that the cruise rock & roll shows were booked by Rudy Calicutt, cousin of Rocker Dudley C.) The stars that night were Bobby Bare who was ridin' a hit called "Shame On Me" and Bunker Hill both of which were backed by - LINK WRAY & THE WRAYMEN!! Yeah, the Wraymen around DC then, which I guess made me take 'em for granted sometimes 'cause I'd see 'em and hang out with 'em a couple nights a week. I loved Hill's "Hide & Go Seek" and he rocked like mad with Link and the boys pourin' on the sauce! Speakin' of sauce, I must admit these cruises was you could talk to the stars when they weren't singin' (where would they go?!). Bunker told me his real name was Dave and he was from DC (that popped my balloon: how the fuck could a big star like him live around here?) and was a boxer but he said he dug singin' better. Ray Vernon was handling Bunker at the time and I remember tellin' him to keep doin' rock & roll 'cause that "Roses Are Red" shit was kickin' off the cooler sounds. I wish Bunker Hill coulda been a big star 'cause he was so great!"

Link Wray, 1997: "We were in this year in the government building called the Portland Building [in Washington, D.C. - ed.], and this guy had come to town with a gospel group, a black group who was singing gospel music in churches all through the South, and so he came to me and said: 'Link, I love your music', and he said, 'I have a song, maybe you could sing the song that I just wrote'. I said 'Okay, Dave' - his name was Dave - 'Okay Dave, sing me your song so that I could hear how it sounds.' So when I heard that guy singing like Little Richard - he had the same type of voice that Little Richard's - I said, 'Man, there ain't no way in a world that I could sing that song like you do'. I said 'How about you sing it?' He said, 'I'm with the gospel group, they wouldn't allow it'. I said 'Okay, we'll give you a phony name, we'll give you another name'. So we would try to find out a name for him, after we had recorded the song he had written, with me on guitar, Doug on drums and Shorty on bass - and Ray recorded it on Ampeg 2-tape recorder, you know, and he said, 'The gospel singers didn't know who I am?' I said 'No, they would think you're just another rock star like Little Richard, they wouldn't recognize you when you're not singing with that gospel group.' And we called him Bunker Hill, we just came up with that phony name."

Marshall Crenshaw (source & date unknown): "One day when I was 8 years old, my older cousin told me that he wasn't going to listen to WJBK anymore (our then favorite Detroit top 40 station) because they played too many "nigger songs". As I was picking myself up off the floor, he explained to me that the one that finally put him over the edge was "Hide And Go Seek" by Bunker Hill. Now that he's older and wiser, I wonder if he'd have a different opinion about this ass-kickin' record. I understand that Link Wray had some involvement in this, but I don't know what."

Zach Glickman (manager/producer of The Mighty Clouds of Joy), 2003: "David Walker was with the group in the early 60's. I have no idea where he is or how to a hold of him. Joe Ligon remembers that he only recorded one side of an album with the group."

Billy Miller, 2003: "I followed his trail to Harlem NY in 1971. I had heard he passed away some time ago."

Greg Laxton, 2004: "I do know that just outside of Accokeek, Maryland and a few miles from the Wray Family Farm on Maryland Route 5 (the name of the road) there is an area in Southern Maryland called Bunker Hill. I always wondered if that's where Bunker Hill got his name, or perhaps he lived there as a kid... I don't know."

Ed Cynar, 2004: "Bunker Hill did a couple of recordings with Ray Vernon way back. He did "The Girl Can't Dance" b/w "You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby." Link played guitar on the songs. He was one hell of a wild black guy. The last I recall is that he was in Vegas and broke (gambling) and Ray sent him some money to get home. Ray dropped him then. I probably have his 45 rpm around here somewhere (I just checked: I do!). It is on the Mala Records label. I don't know how they ended up with "Bunker Hill," but that was not his real name, of course. We're talking late 50s early 60s here!"

unidentified Youtube.com user "li10up", 2012: "In 1962 I was sailing around the South China Sea with the US Navy. Back then, there was not a lot of rock & roll outside of Armed Services Radio. Every night from 1 to three rock & roll would come on the radio, and they always played this song [Hide And Go Seek - ed.]. Never knew what country was playing it. Chinese, Korean or Japanese. Believe it came out of Formosa but we never knew. Man this brings back some memories."





Anyone who's aware of Bunker Hill's a.k.a. David Walker's not yet published factual details, has any kind of dim memories, or knows even the most vague rumors concerning his personal life, career, recordings, death, etc., please feel free to contact me immediately via e-mail.

Bunker Hill's WDD discography




  


  





A Million Tears
(Guyden Records, 1955)


Slow, Smooth And Easy
(Capitol Records, 1955)


You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You
(Akue Records, 1967)






  
WDD Blog: THURSDAY, JUNE 30, 2011

Anita Tucker - The red-hot'n'rockin' "voice of Sheba"

It was just recently when I learnt about the passing away of yet another extraordinary singer Anita Tucker (on March 12, 2009). Either I wasn't aware that during the time of her death (and probably for decades before), she was living in Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, for years I had actually thought that Mrs Tucker was still residing somewhere here in Europe, where she had mostly distinguished herself both as a singer and an actress since the mid 1960's.

Anniebelle "Anita" Tucker was born on October 20, 1930, presumably near Memphis (the exact birth place is not known, though). As usual, there's practically nothing to write about Anita's childhood or her teenage years. At some point in her early 20's, she was married to U.S. Army Private named Luther McKinley Tucker. The next stop that we do know for certain, is her first recording in New York, 1955.

As a client of Sherwood Artists Management and Marlyn Music Publishers (closely associated with musician-arranger-manager Teddy McRae), Anita Tucker was signed to the Guyden Record Company (founded and by then ran by Bob Cordell in Philadelphia, PA) in early 1955 (as reported in Billboard Magazine on April 23). The debute single "Ring-Aling-Aling (Let The Wedding Bells Ring)" / "A Million Thanks" (Alan Freed being credited as a co-writer on b-side) introduced to the world a new strong-voiced female r&b starlet, who seemed to have a thing or two musically in common with her peers on Atlantic label, Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker.

25 years old Anita wasn't - what you could call - a totally new face in the show business in the mid 1950's. Besides her singing career, she started also making name as a photo model (who wasn't ashamed of posing in a few nudity pictures as well), as an exotic night club dancer, and some years later, as an actress. And why not, she sure had the looks - and without doubt, she had a talent for acting too.

It didn't take a long time after the Billboard issue of September 10, 1955 had announced that "the Capitol artists and repertoire exec. Dave Cavanaugh had signed Anita Tucker for his rhythm and talent roster", when Mrs Tucker was indeed recording for the label.

In the mid 1950's, Capitol Records, which had mainly concentrated on music by Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole type of artists, was now seriously hoping to get its own share in the rock'n'roll merry-go-round... so, enter Anita Tucker.

With the help of Howard Biggs' studio orchestra featuring Mickey Baker's incomparable lead guitar, Sam "The Man" Taylor's tenor saxophone and the back-up vocals by The Five Keys, the first Capitol session on September 1, 1955 in New York gave birth to four excellent songs, easy-swinging "Handcuffed Heart" and "Slow, Smooth And Easy", a march tempo vocal group number "Let's Make Love" and a cheerful midtempo jump blues "One And Two" (the latter issued on a French 10" LP in 1986). The second session held in Los Angeles, CA in January 19, 1956 and this time accompanied by Big Dave Cavanaugh's big band, did pretty well too: another 4-piece set of classic 1950's rhythm'n'blues sides included an original Ollie Jones penned rocker "Hop Skip And Jump", a rather tardy rolling version of The Eagles' "Trying To Get (To) You", jumpy and once again characteristically LaVern Baker influenced "Shiver My Timbers", plus one more horn section powered r&b slower "If You Go" (again issued not until in 1986).

Now a part of Billy Shaw Management/Johnson Agency, working regularly with high-ranking music notables such as Earl Bostic, Count Basie, Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Will Bill Davis and Martin Denny, and appearing every now and then in journals like Billboard Magazine, Anita Tucker was soon becoming a household name of herself. Her records, however, didn't sell as well as expected. The contract with Capitol was annulled already in 1956, and the disappointed singer didn't have any rush to get back into the studio for several years. A moderately long period of silence ended in 1959, with one-off deal with the California based Five-Four Records that resulted the single "Heartaches And Tears" / "I Need Love". Tucker still trusted on her traditional rhythm'n'blues oriented "shouter" style, as she did also on her last North-American release on another Hollywood label Vended Records in c. 1962 ("He's An Evil Man" / "I'll Get Along Without You") produced by Larry Johnson. Sad for her and for the small indie companies she was representing, any of the records went absolutely nowhere.

Even without a contract, there was no way of putting Anita Tucker aside of the public scene. For instance, interestingly, she appeared alongside the Liberty Records artists showcase at 6th Annual National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Hollywood on August 23, 1963, sharing the stage with Timi Yuro, The Rivingtons, H.B. Barnum, Ted Taylor, The Hi-Fi's and the New Orleans' AFO acts Tami Lynn and AFO Exceutive Band. In December 1964 she once again pushed her way into the pages of Billboard Magazine, now due to being the first overseas singer to perform at the newly-opened regular floorshow at Romano's restaurant/night club in Sydney, Australia.

In the mid 1960's, Anita Tucker was constantly seen in Europe - mostly in France. Although, as far as I know, she was officially a Los Angeles citizen back then, she was making Paris her second home, using the city as her base camp between the long tours around the world (Beirut, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Japan, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc. + other european countries including also a one-month engagement in Norway in May 1971, which must have been her closest-ever visit to Finland, I suppose...). Especially popular she was among the military targets abroad, usually in The Middle East where as she worked as a regular member of the USO (The United Service Organizations Inc.) show cast.

In Paris Anita Tucker also did her last known recordings. Two jazzy r&b singles with strong big band arrangements reflecting the spirit of the 1950's (including tasty cover cuts of standards such as "Try A Little Tenderness" and "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You") were done under production of Jimmy English and came out on Akue Records in 1966.

And no, she didn't shy away from the TV either. Just to mention a single case, in November 1968 Mrs Tucker was featured on a French TV Show "Soul Session A Cannes" produced by Jesip Legitimus - "the first Negro to become a TV producer in France", as he was described in Art Simmons' column "Paris Scratchpad" on Jet Magazine's November 28, 1968 issue.

I can't tell exactly when Anita Tucker actually started her serious acting career, but evidently her big breakthrough was a starring role (as Katisha) in "The Black Mikado" in 1975. Refering the all-wise Wikipedia, "The Black Mikado" was a musical stage comedy, basing on the 19th century score of "The Mikado" by W.S. Gilbert (lyrics) and Arthur Sullivan (music) and then some 90 years later adapted by Janos Bajtala, George Larnyoh and Eddie Quansah, premiered on April 24, 1975 at the Cambridge Theatre, London, where it ran for 472 performances before going on a national tour. Compared to the original, the new version was set on a Caribbean islands rather than in Japan, and the Sullivan's musical score was also re-arranged into a mixture of rock, reggae, blues and calypso.

It's pretty much up in the air, whatever happened to Anita Tucker after The Black Mikado. Honestly, I have no idea either where she got that nickname "The Voice Of Sheba" from. Now re-located in Memphis, she very likely kept on acting and probably sang a little bit of rhythm'n'blues, jazz and soul at the local places too. She's said to have been "appeared in several movies and Broadway productions including Mississippi Burning, Alabama Church Bombings, The Othello Story and It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World", but at least I wasn't able to find any kind of confirmed connection between her and those titles.

According to the obituary published in The Commercial Appeal on March 17, 2009, Mrs. Tucker left behind two children, Pamela Harris and Vance Harris, Sr. and his wife, Renee; seven grandchildren; Mauri Harris, Michael Harris and his wife, DeAnna, Mildred Dawson, Vance Harris II, Marketha Dawson, Varen Harris, Valisa Harris and two great grandchildren Aniyah Calvin and Deone Harris. She is buried at The Memphis National Cemetery, in Memphis, Tennessee (Section E, Site 14141). God bless her Soul - I just wish I could have had a chance to meet and chat with her about the old times. I'm positive she would have had a number of great, yet unheard stories to tell.


Anita Tucker's WDD discography





  


  





Repeto recordings (1968)


Drown In My Own Tears (1980)


Lacy Gibson Tribute
(1983 Black Magic sides)


Sunnyland Slim & Lacy Gibson:
I Had It So Hard (1977)

  
WDD Blog: TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2011

Lacy Gibson - Undervalued, under-recorded but definitely not unarmed Chicago axe legend

I don't think I'd be that far from right in supposing that there are not so many "real deal" Chicago blues figures surviving anymore, who could equally challenge the late Lacy Gibson (born in Salisbury, North Carolina, May 1, 1936 � died of a heart attack on April 11, 2011, at the age of 74), neither as an exceptionally gifted guitarist and a singer, nor as a characteristic (but still admirably down-to-earth) sideman, whose musical career (which wasn't just "blues" only) truly embodies the term "colorful" with its many meanings.

After relocating to the Windy City in 1949, Lacy didn't waste no time in getting in touch with his childhood heroes, the colossal blues icons such as Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Sunnyland Slim. Having already proved himself as a promising artist, a young man - who was now slowly growing out of his evident hillbilly, gospel and downhome blues backgrounds, and who was showing some special interest in styles of Lowell Fulson, T-Bone Walker and B.B. King - also seemed to have an insatiable desire for learning more. To develop himself as a crossover virtuoso who would easily handle jazz, pop and r&b techniques as well, he received first-hand lessons from e.g. Lefty Bates, Matt Murphy, Wayne Bennett and Milton Rector. The last-mentioned also fronted one of the earliest groups that Lacy managed to join in, The Chicago Flames (during the 1950's, he also worked with C.T. Tolbert & his Counts). Besides playing the basic blues, the band also performed regularly in fancy cocktail bars and night clubs with more jazz- and dance-oriented repertoire, which of course, suited ambitious Gibson more than well.

Most of the 1960's Lacy Gibson spent in various Chicago studios (during the early decade he appeared on recordings by Sam Chatmon, Willie Mabon, Buddy Guy, Billy "The Kid" Emerson, Junior Wells, and many others), and on clubs, for instance in Otis Rush's band. One of Gibson's longest-running employers, though, was his brother-in-law Sun Ra. When working with The Arkestra, Lacy was once again extra-blessed to explore and to tempt his own musical limits. It was also the old "Saturnian" who helped Gibson to make his first officially released solo recordings, two 45rpm singles issued on Sun Ra's Repeto/Repetto label in 1968, "The Sky Is Crying" / "She's My Baby" and "I Want An Easy Woman" / "I Am Gonna Unmask The Batman" (Gibson's very first studio attempt as a lead singer, the February 1963 recording "My Love Is Real" was included to the European 1981 compilation "Chess Blues Rarities", but for some reason it was then incorrectly credited to Buddy Guy). Cooperation with Sun Ra also led to the LP "Wishing Ring". Gibson's nowadays annoyingly rare debut album was issued on El Saturn label in 1971, and contained music recorded a year or so earlier with other Arkestra members.

In the early 1970's Gibson joined Son Seal's steady touring line-up - and as a rhythm guitarist of the globally celebrated group, he was now first time able to hit the European stages as well (he showed up several times with Seals even here in Finland between 1974-79 and once with Otis Rush in 1980). In Spring of 1977 he eventually returned to the studio on his own. A few pieces of the Chicago session produced by Ralph Bass (and accompanied by Sunnyland Slim on piano, Lee Jackson on guitar, Willie Black on bass and Fred Below on drums) came out on the British "I Didn't Give A Damn If Whites Bought It" series (Red Lightnin') in the mid 1980's, but the complete setting was issued not until in 1996, on Delmark CD "Crying For My Baby".

The profitable stint with Son Seals took Gibson, at the dawn of the 1980's, in contact with Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records. Four of his solo sides with Seals' band did find their way to Alligator's "Living Chicago Blues" series in 1980 - but, when it became obvious that nothing else was ever going to happen there, Gibson was ready to make his next move with another Chicago blues author Dick Shurman: The excellent Shurman-produced LP "Switchy Twitchy", once again recorded with Sunnyland Slim and other first class blues masters and released on Dutch Black Magic label in 1983, finally added Lacy Gibson's name to the golden list of "Blues' Who's Who" elite - both in and outside the States. Tragically and this time more or less unexpectedly, it also sealed up his whole recording career.

Although Gibson declined as a recording artist quite soon after the Black Magic issue, he remained active at the Chicago's West Side club scene until his final days. Now one of the last true relics of Chicago's once so wealthy and innovative 1950's-60's blues community has gone for good. Lacy Gibson will be greatly missed. I'm sure he's making the whole Sky Crying now, Drowning them all Up there in Tears - with his jazzy smooth, perfectly tuned, sophisticated and yet so so unpredictable trademark guitar sounds as well as his ever-enjoyable, intense singing routines.


Lacy Gibson's WDD discography





  


  





The Low Road (King, 1956)


Doodle Doodle Do
(Brownfield, 1963)


Turn Away From Me
(Rollin' Rock, 1978)

Grandaddy's Rockin'
(live in Finland, 2010)

  
WDD Blog: FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2011

Mac Curtis - Turning back to rockin' country style!

And so the time flies, again. It's uncommonly hard to believe that it has already been 13 years since the previous studio album from Texas rock-a-billy legend Mac Curtis (with The Rimshots, titled "Rockabilly Ready" on Vinyl Japan label). Delightfully, the long waiting has now come to its rewarding end. The brand new LP/CD release "Songs I Wish I Wrote" on Bluelight Records of Helsinki, Finland, is an excellent mixture of old school honky tonk country and rockabilly, recorded live at a full analog studio in the middle of peaceful countryside of Hollola county, Finland (the same one that also Hayden Thompson used a couple of years ago), at the Fall of 2010, and of course with the top notch Finnish roots musicians (Tommi Viksten, Olli & Janne Haavisto, Mika Railo, Pekka Gröhn) - so called "The Bluelight A-Team".

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, 1939, Mac Curtis is no doubt best known of his magic 1956-58 rockabilly sides for the Cincinnati-based King/Federal Records, as well as of his later works for Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock. The most eminent commercial breakthroughs Curtis however received as a country artist in the late 1960's and the early 1970's (The Billboard c&w #35 chart buster of 1970, "Early In The Morning" remaining the biggest of his 45rpm hits). It's the plain old 1960's honky tonk music that is dominating also the new album, offering this time only a few limited, carefully chosen reminiscences from the artist's otherwise widely praised rockabilly past (classic slapping bass driven Rollin' Rock side "Turn Away From Me" and "Drowning All My Sorrows", an uptempo number originally cut by Gene "Bo" Davis back in 1956).

As a vocalist, Mac Curtis has, understandably, lost quite a bit of the power he used to have during his younger days, but on the other hand, his slightly fragile performance sounds now even more impressive: the man's voice is filled with so much warmness but also the credibility and the passion of an experienced older author who absolutely makes sure to the listener that he knows what he's singing about. And it's indeed the simplified, touching ballads which are bringing forth his charisma in full operation (and which at times remind me pretty much of Johnny Cash's final "American Recordings"), not those way too obvious 50's style rockabilly warm-ups.

As far as the album title holds true, it seems that almost every song that Mac Curtis - a talented lyricist and composer himself - has ever wished to write, represent traditional country music in spirit of e.g. Waylon Jennings, Faron Young and Bob Luman. And believe me, there are no wrong choices here! No matter how many different songwriter names or music styles there would be, this good ol' Rockin' Grandaddy has once again managed to turn them all into the genuine "Mac Curtis originals" of his own. 110 percent respect for that!


Mac Curtis' WDD discography





  


  





Mystery Train (Sun, 1953)


Seven Days (Duke, 1961)

Love Ain't Nothin' But
A Business Goin' On
(Groove Merchant, 1971)
  
WDD Blog: SUNDAY, MARCH 13, 2011

Little Junior Parker - The Outside Man

Despite of his long-proven status as an essential originator of both rock'n'roll and early soul music, Herman "Little Junior" Parker's fate was to become one of those shamely underrated figures in Black Music History, who once held all the keys to success in his own bare hands but who got slowly pushed aside from the popularity ring, gradually losing the major share of his "interest value" - not only in media but in a long run, also in the eyes of way too many blues fans.

As unjustified as it is, a very little has been studied and documented on Junior Parker's life in international music publications during the last 40+ years. So far, I haven't come across a single posthumously printed interview of him, and I would really like to know if there were any decent ones even then when he was still living? An annoying duty of my own, as the Editor of Blues News (one of the longest-running blues magazines in the world), is to admit that (excluding a short obituary and a handful of record reviews) there hasn't been an actual biography of Junior Parker in our dear journal either.

Until today, almost a half of Parker's amazing Duke Records catalogue (total of c. 90 recorded titles) have not yet seen the light on cd reissues. In 1973, the legendary label was sold by Don Robey to ABC-Dunhill Records, and in 1979, again to MCA Records which became incorporated with Universal Music Group in 1995. Since the 1990's, the new owner has thus far done absolutely no kind of efforts in opening the precious Duke archives to the wider public - or at least, licencing the material to other reissue labels. What a waste, I say!

A brain tumor ended tragically Junior Parker's life at only 39 years of age, on November 18, 1971. Not less than twenty years later, in 2001, the artist's musical achievements finally received at least some sort of public reward, when he was accepted to the (Blues Foundation's) Blues Music Hall of Fame. Although the comprehensive boxset of Junior's Duke recordings keeps the blues world patiently waiting for its (probably never-happening) release, luckily, most of his original 45's (as well as a handful of vinyl LP's from the 1960's-1980's also containing some rare and elsewhere unissued Duke sides) are yet quite easily available on eBay and other online record auctions/stores. Go get 'em while you still can!


Junior Parker's WDD discography









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