Thursday, January 31, 2008


Ray Bryant Combo, The Madison Time.
Elmore James, Madison Blues.

William (Bubbles) Holloway was with Sonny Payne and Larry Steele in front of the Birdland in New York. Bubbles asked Larry how to get to Madison Avenue from the Birdland and he answered: “Take it to the left, young man, take it to the left.”

That remark laid the groundwork for the Madison dance which starts on the left foot, the only dance that does so, and Madison Avenue’s direction from Birdland down Broadway is to the left.

"Madison Dance Started In Columbus," Lucius E. Lee, The Ohio Sentinel, 18 June 1960.

Basic step: step F [forward] on L Q [left, quick], tap R toe behind L foot & clap Q, step B [back] on R Q, tap L toe to R Q, to L Q, to R Q. repeat 6C [count] until caller says "hit it" after calling out a step. Twist arms opposite hips on toe taps.

Wilt Chamberlain: 2 Up 4C while bouncing a ball with R hand, jump ¼L & take hook shot with R arm S, jump ¼R S, 2 Back 4C. Can say "2 points" and hold up 2 fingers on last 4C.

Jackie Gleason: 2 Up 4C while facing R & dropping fists with each step, face F & raise R leg F S, bring R foot B to L of L knee Q, rest Q, charge F onto R Q, rest Q, step B onto L Q, step B onto R Q. Can say "away we go" while charging.

"The Madison," Ross Mernyk's Swing Dance Steps.

Henry wanted to go to a party we'd been invited to, so he could relax. There was a dance at the time called the Madison and Henry got up out of his chair to show me something about the party and the dance. He said, "All they're gonna do there is the Madison." I said, "You go to the party if you want to do the Madison. I don't want to go." Henry said, "One of them dancers is going to be like Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain" meaning the basketball player, "and I'm going to be Roy Campanella" who was a baseball catcher. "All Campanella had to do was squat." Henry got up to show me the squat and fell over, splayed out, with a heart attack.

Edward Ball, The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South.

Continental Epilogue:

Sylvie Vartan, Madison Twist.
Armando Sciascia, The Mad Madison.
Armando Sciascia, Madison Bounce.

Anna Karina, Sammy Frey and Claude Brassuer dance the Madison in 1964:

"Empires crumble, my friend, republics founder and fools survive."

Madisonia: The Ray Bryant Combo's "Madison Time" (performed by a collection of slumming jazzmen, including Harry "Sweets" Edison), from 1960, is on the Hairspray original soundtrack (not the recent Travolta mess); Elmore James' "Madison Blues," not released until 1969 and probably better known as a George Thorogood cover, is on The Sky Is Crying. The two Sciascia tracks are from his soundtrack to 1962's Sexy; Vartan's "Madison Twist" is from a 1962 RCA EP.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Jessie Hill, Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Pts. 1 & 2).
Jessie Hill, Whip It On Me.
Allen & Allen, Tiddle Winks.
Aaron Neville, Over You.
The Del Royals, Always Naggin' (Crumblin' Fussin' Nag Nag).

All hail Minit Records, New Orleans' finest exporter of the 1960-63 period, and whose sound was primarily the work of pianist/songwriter Allen Toussaint.

Well before Phil Spector, Toussaint was a studio mastermind--he found many of his label's artists, wrote and arranged their songs, and performed with them in the studio while producing the sessions. His role came as something of an accident. Minit had been formed in 1959 by a local record distributor, Joe Banashak, and local DJ Larry McKinley--their strategy was to offer short (hence the name) recordings by local talent (which McKinley would shamelessly flog on his radio shows). Toussaint subbed for Minit's first A&R man when the guy left town; when the A&R man never came back to New Orleans, Toussaint had a job.

Minit's first hit was by Jessie Hill, a gruff-voiced belter who once drummed for Huey Smith and the Clowns. Hill had written a novelty song, "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," that was popular in the New Orleans clubs, and McKinley had the song rushed out in time for Mardi Gras 1960, during which McKinley played it non-stop. The track was split over two sides--the A-side, Part 1, featured Hill's vocal, while Pt. 2, the instrumental side, had much more crossover success, hitting #28 on Billboard. "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" is the sound of the Ninth Ward, pure and early funk. "Whip It On Me," the follow-up, is denser, dirtier and even more majestic.

Soon afterward, Toussaint and songwriter Allen Orange teamed up for a one-off single, "Tiddle Winks," and also wrote "Over You" for the debut of a young singer, Aaron Neville. (Toussaint opens the track with Chopin's funeral march, to signal the singer's strangely light-hearted homicidal intentions. "I'm gonna slay you baby!" Neville sings, with sun in his voice.)

And the Del-Royals' "Always Naggin'," another Toussaint composition, was cut around the same time as Ernie-K-Doe's "Mother In Law," which, upon its release in 1961, would be one of Minit's smashes. The Del Royals weren't really a group, just some studio regulars led by singers Calvin Lee and Willie Harper (who had sung backup on "Mother In Law," along with bass singer Benny Spellman, who we'll be hearing from in future years).

A mini-Minit discography:

Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," recorded 12 December 1959, was released in February 1960 as Minit 607 (it was an R&B #3); "Whip It On Me," which could've been sequenced on the Stones' Exile on Main Street, was recorded 2 June 1960 and released the same month as Minit 611.

"Tiddle Winks," recorded 3 March 1960, was released in April as Minit 609; Neville's "Over You," recorded 1 July 1960, was issued the same month as Minit 612 (hitting #31 R&B); and the glorious "Always Naggin'," while recorded in October 1960, wasn't released until late '61 as Minit 637.

All the tracks are on The Minit Records Story, a 2-disc compilation that is blissfully good and, naturally, long out of print. You can get most of the songs on The Instant & Minit Story, though it (insanely) doesn't include Jessie Hill's "Whip It On Me" and might be going out of print in any case. "Whip It On Me" is, however, on Finger Poppin' and Stompin'.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Kay Starr, You're Just In Love.
Kay Starr, Share Croppin' Blues.
Kay Starr, Garbage Can Blues.

Kay Starr
, born in Oklahoma in 1922, of Iroquois and Irish ancestry, was singing in a swing band (Joe Venuti's orchestra) when she was barely 15. During WWII, she sang with Glenn Miller, Wingy Malone and Charlie Barnet, but as the '40s ebbed, Starr cast her lot with mainstream pop and novelty songs, like most of her peers. Some of the discs she cut had grandeur, like "Wheel of Fortune," others were just dire, like "Rock and Roll Waltz" (upon first reading the latter's lyric sheet, "I thought 'Jesus, I'm gonna have to take a Dramamine to record this song!'" she recalled later).

By 1960, though, Starr was moving back towards jazz, making a number of fine LPs for Capitol where she took on standards like "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Lover Man." One of her most inspired covers of the period was Irving Berlin's "You're Just In Love."

Berlin had written "You're Just In Love" in 1950 for the Broadway show Call Me Madam, starring his late-in-life muse, Ethel Merman (here's a performance by Donald O'Connor and Merman, from the 1953 film version). It features one of Berlin's favorite composing tricks, which he had been using since the First World War, the use of counterpoint--a main melody overlaid with a secondary melody, each with its own lyric. While the song had been designed as a duet, Starr, via overdubbing, sings both parts.

"You're Just in Love" is far from a jazz song, but "entering over a bass and drums vamp, [Starr] gives it an instantly bluesy interpretation with her Oklahoma twang; a guitar is added, followed by the orchestra, pacing her with Basie-style riffs in a Van Alexander arrangement." (Gary Giddins).

Recorded 5 March 1960 and released on the Capitol LP Movin' On Broadway.

As a bonus, here are two glorious Starr performances from the mid-'40s: the down-home "Share Croppin' Blues," with the Barnet Orchestra, recorded 3 August 1944 (on Girl Singers of the Big Swing Bands), and the fast and lurid "Garbage Can Blues," recorded with Barney Bigard on 27 December 1947 (on Complete Lamplighter Recordings). "Here comes the dirty part," Starr winks, just as the song heats up.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Cleveland Crochet, Sugar Bee.
Cleveland Crochet, Drunkard's Dream.
Rusty and Doug, Louisiana Man.

I spent five years trying to find a Cajun band that could play rock and roll. Everyone thought I was nuts.

Eddie Shuler.

Cajun music had begun gaining a wider audience ever since Huey Long built highways through the Louisiana bayou country in the '30s, connecting the Cajuns with the cities. There was Harry Choates, the Cajun equivalent of Bob Wills (here's Choates' "Louisiana Boogie", from 1946), and a few Cajun-inspired songs appeared in the '50s, like Clarence Garlow's "Bon Ton Roula." But in 1960, for whatever reason, the Cajuns began making hit records.

The fiddler Cleveland Crochet was from Lake Charles, Louisiana. He headed a group originally known as Cleveland Crochet and the Hillbilly Ramblers, and in 1960 the group went to Eddie Shuler's Goldband Records, a label based in Lake Charles, and asked for an audition. Crochet's band had taken some Cajun standards--"Sugar Bee" and "Drunkard's Dream"--and had tarted them up, adding a backbeat and steel guitar. Most importantly, they had a true rock & roll singer--Jesse "Jay" Stutes, a truck driver for a local beer distributor, who played steel and sang as though his throat had been sandpapered.

Released in late 1960, "Sugar Bee," by early '61, had become the first Cajun record to crack Billboard's top 100, prompting Crochet to tell a local paper that he hoped to quit farming. "I sure hope I'm all through worrying about acreage allotments and marketing quotas," he said. He wasn't. Stutes soon deposed Crochet as leader of the band, which was renamed the Sugar Bees, and which broke up around the time of the British Invasion. (Details from the Southern Folklife Collection.)

Still, "Sugar Bee" is one of the finest rock & roll songs of the decade, and to quote the late John Peel, who's heard at the end of "Sugar Bee," a statement that could also serve as the "Locust St." motto: It is my sacred duty to play you these records every once in a while because you do need to hear 'em, you know?

"Sugar Bee"/"Drunkard's Dream" was released as Goldband 1106 in November 1960; "Sugar Bee" is on This Is Louisiana, "Dream," to my knowledge, has never been issued on CD.

Rusty, Nelson and Doug Kershaw were Cajuns from Tiel Ridge, Louisiana--they were born in a houseboat, and their father was pretty much as they describe him in "Louisiana Man": a trapper and fisherman who roamed the bayous. As boys, the Kershaw brothers formed a band called the Continental Playboys, who got some airplay on local radio station KPLC, and by 1955 Rusty and Doug were performing as a duo, cutting a number of singles for producer J.D. Miller. They had some modest success, but in 1958 both brothers were drafted into the Army.

Upon getting out of the military, Rusty and Doug went to Nashville and recorded the swinging "Louisiana Man," which eventually hit the country top 10. Doug Kershaw, after splitting with his brother in the mid-'60s, became known as "The Cajun Hippie" and was a favorite of Johnny Cash.

"Louisiana Man," recorded in Nashville on 18 October 1960 with Hank Garland (g), Pete Drake (steel), Floyd Cramer (p), Floyd Chance (b) and Murrey "Buddy" Harman (d), was released as Hickory 1137 c/w "Make Me Realize"; on Bubbling Under.

Top: Monica Vitti, alienated but chic, in Antonioni's L'Avventura.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


The Bobbettes, I Shot Mr. Lee.

He hollered 'help-help-murder-police
the girl's after me with a gun!'
He hollered 'help-help-murder-police!
the girl's after me with a gun!'

There are cheap sequels, ambitious sequels, pointless sequels, and then there's "I Shot Mr. Lee."

The Bobbettes--Emma Pought, Jannie Pought, Laura Webb, Helen Gathers, and Reather Dixon--had met at P.S. 109 (99th St. and Second Ave. in Manhattan). They were between 11 and 15 years old, and had formed an after-school singing group called the Harlem Queens. They began singing in amateur competitions, and a local manager, James Dailey, heard them, loved them and told them to change their name. "Harlem Queens" sounded like a girl biker gang, he said. So they became the Bobbettes, named after Laura Webb's newly-born niece.

The Bobbettes had written a song called "Mr. Lee," about a 5th-grade teacher they had all hated. The song was a pretty vicious put-down of the teacher, and Dailey and Atlantic Records, hearing potential in the song but also anticipating a libel suit if it was recorded, asked them to rewrite the lyrics so that Mr. Lee was now a handsome hipster teacher that the singers are crushing on.

"Mr. Lee," released in 1957, was a smash. But the girls were too young to play much of the club tour circuit, and further singles for Atlantic went nowhere (unsurprisingly, as they were recording stuff like "Speedy" and "Zoomy").

In 1959, the Bobbettes went back to the well, but this time decided to do "Mr. Lee" the way it was intended to be. So they rewrote the song as "I Shot Mr. Lee," a gleeful homicidal confession with cheery backing vocals ("shot him in the head! boom boom!"). Atlantic wanted nothing to do with it, and shelved the track.

A year later, the Bobbettes were recording for a new label, Triple-X, and in May 1960 re-cut "I Shot Mr. Lee." Released a month later, it became a minor hit, forcing Atlantic to rush out its version in an attempt to take away some of Triple-X's sales. No one ever found out what the real Mr. Lee made of it all, but I assume he didn't take a bullet, at least.

Released as Triple-X 104 c/w "Billy"; on The Golden Age of American Rock 'N Roll Vol. 10.

Top: Yves Klein, A Leap Into The Void.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Joyce Harris, I Got My Mojo Working.
Joyce Harris, Dreamer.
Joyce Harris, No Way Out.

The Sixties begin with the first five seconds of Joyce Harris' version of "I Got My Mojo Working."

The track opens with a summoning, a howled note Harris holds until she shreds her voice to pieces. She starts the verse, slides into the song, but soon enough the madness returns: she shreds her voice again, howls and shrieks again, so much that you can imagine there's blood on the studio floor. There's something unnerving in just how much power she can channel, as though it's a self-exorcism.

"Mojo" was kept a secret: for whatever reason--whether it was too raw or too uncommercial, or whether the timing just was never right--the track was left in the vaults, not released until 1998.

There was a single that came out of the same session. The B-side, "Dreamer," is a step back from the ledge--it's an attempt to do a Latin-tinged piece, but the crudity of the studio band and Harris' still-feral singing derails any effort to be conventional. It's a bit of a mess, but a compelling one; there's a sense the band is freely translating something from a barely-grasped language.

And there's...NO WAY OUT!

And the A-side, "No Way Out," starts with a man out of his league, at first fronting as though he's in charge, but by song's end, he's talking about jumping out of the window. You can't blame him--Harris sings as though she's carrying a knife. Harris and the man (he's unknown; my best guess is he's Clarence Smith, leader of the backing band) trade lines and spar, but as the song goes on, they seem to lose sight of each other, delving further into obsession, lust and claustrophobia, until the track suddenly ends, winking out, the players trapped.

While "No Way Out" only got modest airplay, enough copies circulated to make the single into a minor legend. Dave Marsh's entry on it (#1001 of his top 1001 singles) details the story of how a reel-to-reel copy of "No Way Out," taped by the writer Michael Goodwin at Cornell's radio station in 1963 (Goodwin, listening to his tapes a few years later, had no memory of ever recording "No Way Out," and so had no idea who was singing it), was traded like contraband among record collectors and reviewers for decades.

"A lot of people thought she was black, but she was a red-headed white girl who just sounded that way," Lora Richardson, talking about Joyce Harris.

Joyce Harris was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1939, and moved to New Orleans with her family in the early '50s. She began performing with her sister Judy, and in 1958, the sisters were signed by New York producer Danny Kessler, who had come to New Orleans on a talent hunt. They had two singles, "He's the One" and "Washboard Sam," but the pair split up when Judy got married. By 1960, Joyce Harris was in Mexico, singing in restaurants.

Lora Richardson, one of the owners of Domino Records, was vacationing in Mexico and heard Harris. (An aside on Domino--one of the odder indie labels of the '50s. Based in Austin, Texas, Domino was founded by 11 respectable Texan professionals who had attended a seminar in 1957 on "How to Market a Song." So Domino, essentially a night-class project to which all the members contributed $5 a week, began signing local singers and bands, and wound up with some popular singles--The Slades' "You Cheated" being the most prominent.)

By 1960, Domino was winding down. Most of the original owners had sold out, leaving three women in charge--Richardson, Kathy Parker and Anne Miller. In a last bid to save the label, they re-launched Domino with a string of new singles, and some new talents, including Harris, who was backed in the studio by a black Austin-based bar band called "The Daylighters."

"No Way Out," Harris' second single for Domino, was released at the tail end of 1960 and by April 1961 it had sold enough to be leased to an LA-based label, Infinity (which was allegedly backed by Howard Hughes), and Harris made an appearance on American Bandstand. But that was as far as it went--Domino Records closed later in '61, while Harris, after a move to LA that proved unrewarding, eventually came back to Louisiana, where she lives in retirement and sings bluegrass on occasion.

As for the Daylighters, they were Clarence Smith, leader and rhythm guitarist (he later changed his name to Sonny Rhodes and, wearing a turban on stage, became a modest success playing the blues in Europe); Willie Cephas (lead guitar), George Underwood (b), Mack Moore (p) and Ira Littlefield, Jr. (d).

Much of this information comes from Rob Finnis' liner notes for The Domino Records Story, where all these tracks can be found.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Century in Jumps (Slight Return)


The Hentchmen (w/Jack White), Some Other Guy.
Kim Richey, I Know.
Lisa Stansfield, Never Never Gonna Give You Up.
Arto Lindsay, Erotic City.
David S. Ware Quartet, The Way We Were.


I asked you three weeks ago to please be sensitive to what I am going through right now and to keep in contact with me, and yet I'm still left writing notes in vain. I am not a moron. I know that what is going on in the world takes precedence, but I don't think what I have asked you for is unreasonable. I can't help but to have hurt feelings when I sent you a note last week and this week, and you still haven't seen me or call me...

Yesterday was the best window of opportunity to see me and you didn't. I'm left wondering why. I am begging you to please be nice to me and understanding until I leave. This is hard for me. I am trying to deal with so much emotionally, and I have nobody to talk to about it. I need you right now not as president, but as a man. PLEASE be my friend.

Betty said that you come back from your dinner tomorrow somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00. For my sake, can we make an arrangement that I will be waiting for you when you get back, and we can visit just for a little while. It's really not that difficult...yes or no?

Letter of 12 November 1997 from Monica Lewinsky to Pres. Bill Clinton.

Top photo, "Crossing," courtesy of Ted Barron.

Yeah, I missed the deadline--I had wanted to get this series over with before 2007 expired, but the holidays and fatigue intervened. So here, at last, is the end: where the young fox chases his tail, while the old fox eats from the bin.

"Some Other Guy" was written in 1962 by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Ritchie Barrett, the latter recording the song as a single for Atlantic. The Beatles, at that time conquering the UK into frenzied submission, soon made the song the centerpiece of their live sets. Lennon in particular became obsessed with "Some Other Guy," with its churning rhythms, its simplicity and rawness (there's no chorus, just a single verse relentlessly turning over and over--the pattern broken only once for a guitar solo), and its lyric's mixture of envy, humiliation and despair; in an interview he gave Rolling Stone in 1968, Lennon twice mentioned "Some Other Guy" as a record he had wanted to emulate. You could argue, as Ian MacDonald did, that early Beatles rockers like "I Saw Her Standing There" were attempts to capture "Some Other Guy"'s sound, while "You Can't Do That" is a sequel of sorts to it, especially when Lennon howls about how if his friends saw his girl talking to another guy, "they'd laugh in my face!"

Yet the Beatles never recorded the song in the studio, only taping it once for a BBC session, and so "Some Other Guy" eventually faded from view, remembered only, if at all, as the song performed by the Beatles in the often-circulated Granada TV footage of their Cavern Club shows.

One night in 1997, a Detroit band called the Hentchmen--John Volare (organ, harmonica, vox), Tim V. Eight (guitar) and Mike Audi (drums)-- were bowling with a friend, an aspiring guitarist formerly known as Jack Gillis, who recently had taken his wife, Meg White's, last name. Dave Buick came up and said they should record a single; White suggested they do two British Invasion-era covers (he offered up "Some Other Guy," Volare the Yardbirds' "Psycho Daisies"); they went over to Buick's house and recorded the songs in his living room on an eight-track.

White suggested "Some Other Guy" because he had heard the song on the then-recently-released Beatles Live at the BBC collection, and it's tempting to suggest it was a rite of passage, a test of youthful strength and bravado, with one of White's first-ever recorded vocals going up against John Lennon's (they were the same age--22--when they each took on "Some Other Guy").

The Hentchmen's "Some Other Guy" was released as Italy Records 004; it finally was put out on CD last summer, on Hentch Forth Five.

From Bill Friskics-Warren's essay in Heartaches By the Number, on Kim Richey's 1997 single "I Know":

Resiliency is a recurring theme in country music, and it's hardly the sole province of women. But dating at least as far back as the Carter Family's exhortation to "Keep on the Sunny Side," female country singers have had a special affinity for the subject...

'I Know' starts out as an interior monologue, a postmortem conducted on a dead love affair. Before long, though, it's evident Richey's not talking to herself here; she's also conversing with her country foremothers about the meaning of resiliency. When Kim alludes to the guy who's just walked out on her, it's as if, with each litany of 'I know, I know," she's anticipating the advice of generations of country women who have coped with heartache...

On The Collection.

65 East 125th St, NYC, 1997 (more from a time-elapsed decline of a neighborhood store here)

Two lost great-grandchildren of May Irwin--a British-born former children's TV host turned soul diva, and a storied New York boho:

Lisa Stansfield's version of her idol Barry White's "Never Never Gonna Give You Up" is on the self-titled LP Lisa Stansfield. Best known for its shameless, legendary video.

And Arto Lindsay's take on Prince's "Erotic City," which draws on Lindsay's Brazilian influences (a child of missionaries, Lindsay had spent much of his youth in Tropicalia-era Brazil), is on Mundo Civilizado.

The saxophonist David S. Ware had never been one for covers. Yet when Ware signed with Columbia in '97, there was some push for Ware to do a recognizable standard for his debut album. So, taking John Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things," as a model, Ware went for a fine vintage of cheese, "The Way We Were"--composed by Marvin Hamlisch, immortalized by Streisand.

The recording opens with an assault--Ware roaring away, pianist Matthew Shipp sending out distress calls--and keeps spinning and dancing until the fury finally fades away. Shipp begins his solo and there, at last, is the familiar Hamlisch melody, preserved in the depths of the performance, like a reliquary. With the amazing William Parker on bass and Susie Ibarra on drums.

Recorded in New York on 11-12 December 1997; on Go See the World.

A Century in Jumps (Slight Return)


The Mekons, The Old Fox.

The task is great.

On Natural.