Friday, December 31, 2004

Artie Shaw, 1910-2004.

The last of the swingers. With his passing, an era is utterly over.

Ave et vale, Artie.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


"A little bit of what made the preacher dance"

Charlie Parker, Relaxin' at Camarillo.
Charlie Parker, Embraceable You (take 1).
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, A Night in Tunisia

A parliament of Bird.

On Saturday evenings, in the latter months of 1946, the patients of Camarillo State Hospital gathered to hear the house band. The orderlies are setting up folding chairs in rows of half-circles, a few nurses are talking quietly over coffee in the back of the room. The band drifts together, setting up, chattering. The hospital's name is stitched on all of their clothes.

On the slightly raised stage, holding a C melody saxophone, is a new inmate, who you might have seen tending a plot of lettuce in the garden. He tells the drummer how much he is enjoying bricklaying, saying he could have been a mason. And when the music starts, the Thorazine-silenced schizophrenics, those patients still twitching from electroshock, those blinking because they've been stuffed in a cell all week, the nurses and the janitors hear Charlie Parker play.

Parker had been committed to Camarillo after being arrested for walking around a Los Angeles hotel lobby naked and, later the same night, allegedly setting his room on fire. He had deteriorated in the summer of '46--some say from bad-quality drugs, others from increasing music pressures. But his six months at Camarillo, which was not a soothing restorative place by any account, seemed to settle Parker, realigned him, so when he returned to music in February 1947, he was ready for his year of miracles.

Throughout '47, Parker recorded a score of fluent and brilliant performances, notching one masterwork after another on the acetates. His sound had changed subtly--it was no longer just his flashing strings of notes, his sharp, driving tone. He was quieter, moodier. He had never been far away from the blues, even in his wildest flights--now it was calling him back.

"Relaxin' at Camarillo," a tribute to his happy prison, is a pretty democratic recording, with Parker sharing solo time generously with most of his bandmates. Parker comes first on alto sax, jumping around warily; Wardell Gray's tenor, by contrast, is smooth, with all questions answered.

Recorded in Hollywood on February 26, with Howard McGhee (t), Dodo Marmarosa (p), Barney Kessel (g), Red Callender (b) and the Woody Herman band's Don Lamond (d).

More on Camarillo, which was shut down in 1997.

Parker soon returned to the East Coast, where he assembled a new band with many of his regulars, including Miles Davis and Max Roach. And, nine months after he was playing in a psychiatric ward, Bird played Carnegie Hall on September 29, where he reunited with his "worthy constituent" Dizzy Gillespie. It would be a rare night: Gillespie and Parker, who had made the founding documents of bebop together, would come together only a handful of times in the late '40s and '50s.

"A Night in Tunisia" was one of the great bebop records of '45, but here, freed from the tyranny of the three-minute 78 rpm limit, Parker can let loose. After the opening theme is finished, the first four bars of Parker's solo is a proud, stupefying explosion of notes--the audience hails him like a champion. Then it just gets better; bits of "KoKo" turn up amidst the diamonds. Gillespie keeps up in his turn, soaring like a hawk. With John Lewis (p), Al McKibbon (b) and Joe Harris (d).

Then there is "Embraceable You." This is Parker at his most sublime, his most beautiful. There are two incredible takes--this is the first, lesser known take, in which Parker barely acknowledges the Gershwin theme, tearing off into his own musings. The opening six-note motif of his solo doesn't come from Gershwin--Gary Giddins pegs it as from "A Table in the Corner," a cheap '30s pop song, demonstrating Parker's alchemical skills.

Recorded October 28, with Davis (t), Duke Jordan (p), Tommy Potter (b) and Roach (d).

"Camarillo," and one take of "Embraceable" can be found on this phenomenal set. "Tunisia" is found here.

We wrap up 1947 at last, and so:

Favorite Films of '47, dedicated to the East Bay Express.

Out of the Past. Fulfills every promise film noir ever made. Here the past is a malevolent force, levying its due from the present. Bob Mitchum is iconic, Jane Greer phenomenal--part of the film's plot parallels her real-life attempt to escape the grasp of Howard Hughes.
Black Narcissus. Desperate, beautiful nuns steam in hothouse convent in India. The Archers come close to campiness but do not fall over--the next year, in The Red Shoes, they did.
The Late George Apley. A death letter for Brahmin Boston.
Quai des Orfèvres.
Ramrod. Veronica Lake gets revenge. Director André de Toth, who once awoke to find himself laid out in a morgue, courted the fabulous Lake by offering her a knife "to cut out his unworthy Hungarian heart." She married him.
The Senator Was Indiscreet. Political hack rises to Senator, and aims for President, through blackmail.
Ginrei No Hate.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The only good man is a dead one.
Les Maudits. All submarine films are locked-room mysteries; one of the finest.
Road to Rio. The end of the road for Crosby and Hope. Ahead lay televised mediocrity and golf tournaments.

Lady in the Lake./Dark Passage. Both have the same "first-person" gimmick--the camera eye is the lead character's, though"Lady" is more rigorous in its dedication than is "Passage," which gives up after 20 minutes. The concept bombs because it means lots of awkwardly framed shots in which the lead looks into mirrors, or endless stretches of another character talking directly into the camera. Later revived for stalker horror films.

New Orleans: Billie Holiday is reduced to playing a maid, a role that incensed her, and the story is too lame to justify calling the film truly good, but the jazz talent on screen is astonishing--Woody Herman, Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Barney Bigard, Zutty Singleton etc.

Happy New Year. See you next week in 2005, or 1948, whichever you would prefer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


flying home

The Blue Sky Boys, Kentucky.
Gene Autry, Little Big Dry

For the last post before Christmas, here are two celebrations of home.

The Blue Sky Boys were not from Kentucky--Bill and Earl Bolick were born in Hickory, North Carolina. They began singing in 1935 as another of the country "brother" acts so popular in the 1930s, and chose their slightly abstract touring name in part to stand out against the likes of the Shelton Brothers and the Rice Brothers and the Monroe Brothers. Earl played guitar, Bill mandolin; Earl sang lead baritone, Bill provided tenor harmony.

After the Bolicks came back from the war, they found things had changed. Under pressure from their record company to make songs about catting around and drinking for honky-tonk jukeboxes, the Blue Sky Boys instead became ever more fervent purists. While their old rivals the Delmore Brothers incorporated electric guitar and hillbilly stomp to reinvent their sound, the Bolicks' only concession to modern tastes was to add an occasional fiddle and bass. This constant war with record companies led the Blue Sky Boys to ultimately quit the game in 1951, though they re-formed a few times in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Kentucky" was recorded on May 7, 1947, in New York, with Samuel Parker helping on fiddle. One slight sign of racial progress--the original song's line about "darkeys singing in the silvery moonlight" was replaced by the Bolicks as "voices singing." The song is basically out of print, as I got it off a Smithsonian Country Music LP set, and I can find no place to find it on CD other than a massively comprehensive and massively expensive CD set.

Where the Blue Sky Boys turned Kentucky into a lost Eden, Gene Autry's Little Big Dry is not even a backwater, which gives the singer a humble pride.

Autry needs no introduction--he, along with John Wayne, Randolph Scott, John Ford and Roy Rogers, turned the dirty and chaotic settling of the American west into the country's national mythology. He was also the best singer among them.

"Little Big Dry", recorded on December 5, 1947, can be found here. It was used in the odd film "Riders of the Whistling Pines", which featured Autry flying a DDT-spraying plane.

Merry Christmas, and see you in a week.

Monday, December 20, 2004


the center of a diamond

Woody Herman, Four Brothers.

Woody Herman had disbanded his orchestra (the "First Herd") in late 1946, citing both financial and physical weariness, but in six months time he built another one. The "Second Herd" was a bebop big band, filled with Parker and Gillespie disciples, and its heart was the "four brothers" saxophone section--Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff and Herbie Steward--whose playing inspired arranger/composer Jimmy Giuffre to write a piece highlighting them, a tune indebted to bop as well as a harbinger of the cool jazz styles to come.

"Four Brothers" starts with the four playing in harmony, and then each gets 16 bars to solo (I think the order is Steward, Chaloff, Sims, Getz--someone correct me if I'm wrong). After the whole band takes over, Woody pops in on clarinet and the slightly insane drumming of Don Lamond leads us out.

Getz would become one of the finest saxophonists of the 20th century (we will be hearing more from him in '48); Sims would record with Jack Kerouac and Al Cohn; Steward, the Zeppo Marx of the bunch, faded into obscurity; Chaloff had the most tortured fate--addicted to heroin for much of his prime, snubbed by colleagues upon his eventual return to jazz, and stricken by spinal paralysis, he would be dead by 34.

The Second Herd fell apart by the end of '48, in part due to the band's massive heroin problems, enough that players were falling asleep on stage. Arranger Ralph Burns: "On more nights than I'd care to remember, the front line would be cacked out."

Recorded in Los Angeles on December 27, 1947. Buy the Herd.

It was the year of no return for television. There are a number of milestones--the first TV show review in the New York Times; Harry Truman becoming the first televised president; the first televised World Series; the first commercial TV stations west of the Mississippi; the first commercial TV drama; the first broadcast of Meet the Press. The TV pictured above is one of the finest available--the DuMont Model RA-103--collectors call it "The Dog House." Consider it the iPod of '47.

Wallace Stevens, So & So Reclining On Her Couch.

Also in '47, Wallace Stevens, insurance executive and poet, published one of his finest collections, Transport to Summer. One likes to imagine WS sitting at his desk, reading over actuary reports or talking to a client about increasing his health coverage, while somewhere in his head, the words are gathering:

"The cricket in the telephone is still.
A geranium withers on the windowsill

"He is not here, the old sun,
As absent as if we were asleep."

"On an old shore, the vulgar ocean rolls
Noiselessly, noiselessly, resembling a thin bird,
That thinks of settling, yet never settles, on a nest."

"The sun, in clownish yellow, but not a clown,
Brings the day to perfection and then fails."

"The death of Satan was a tragedy
For the imagination."

"Life is a bitter aspic. We are not
at the center of a diamond."

Friday, December 17, 2004


Mumbles played bass

Dinah Washington and Lionel Hampton, Blow Top Blues.

"With me, it is 'Blow Top Blues' every day," Dinah Washington.

A girl you can't excuse, who wakes up in Bellevue stinking of the whiskey she had poured on her head in the subway. Dinah Washington can make a nervous breakdown sexy and endearing. When "Blow Top Blues" became a hit in 1947 it was already a piece of the past, as Dinah had left the Lionel Hampton band the year before and was about to try her luck as a soloist.

You can winnow the classic female jazz and blues singers to a hallowed few--Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah--and of that few, Dinah Washington's reputation is the most neglected today. Perhaps because her early death deprived us of the ability to hear her age elegantly through music, like Vaughan and Fitzgerald, or because, genre-wise, she was hard to pin down. Was she a pop singer? A blues singer (Alberta Hunter called Dinah the true successor to Bessie Smith)? A jazz singer (she isn't mentioned once in The History of Jazz, while having recorded some of the finest jazz albums of the '50s)?

Dinah Washington was born Ruth Jones in Alabama in 1924, and by 16 she was sneaking off to play under assumed names in nightclubs while by day singing in gospel groups. She learned from the finest in gospel--Aretha Franklin's father, Rev. C. L. Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson--but the life of the soul wasn' t savory enough for a woman who would burn through nine husbands. "She'd catch the eye of some man and she'd be out the church before the minister finished off the doxology," a friend would say. (from Anthony Heilbut's The Gospel Sound.)

Soon enough, Ruth Jones had cast her fate with jazz, joining Hampton's group and changing her name. (A number of people, including Hampton, take credit for the name change. It's odd, and fitting, that Ruth Jones would change her name to something with the exact same meter as 'Billie Holiday' and 'Ella Fitzgerald'--same amount of syllables, same stresses.) Ms. Washington was on her way.

You can find "Blow Top" on this fine '47 hits compilation.

Spike Jones, The Sheik of Araby.

American pop music, which at its best is often profane and silly, has been doubly blessed with a few court jesters, none better than Spike Jones. Like a Warner Brothers cartoon come to life, or Mad Magazine's house band, Jones and his crew infested the often-dreary pop standards of the '40s, turning "My Old Flame" into a demented cry for blood by Peter Lorre, or, in this case, making a novelty song like "Sheik" even more ridiculous.

"Sheik" can be found on this greatest hits compilation--I can't think of a finer Christmas present. Happy weekend.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


a one-way ticket

Louis Armstrong with Jack Teagarden, Rockin' Chair.
Duke Ellington, The Clothed Woman.

The revolutionaries at high middle age.

It had been twenty years since the amazements of their youth, twenty years since "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Potato Head Blues" and "Muggles" and "East St. Louis Toodle-oo"--the records that turned jazz from a regional enthusiasm into an art. Now Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong were close to 50--they were established, successful, revered. And irrelevant?

After all, Armstrong called bebop "Chinese music" and never attempted it, which even Benny Goodman did. But Armstrong had always been an entertainer first--he is one of those figures, like George M. Cohan or Elvis Presley, who come along in American music and seem destined to be its complete embodiment, even if that means embracing a whole lot of schlock. Bop, with its exclusionary airs, its antipathy to dancers, was poison to Armstrong.

So in '47, Armstrong ditched his big band and formed a smaller All-Star unit, placing his bet on nostalgia: Nostalgia for the old timey jazz, for the old songs, for music representing a time of camp meetings and dime stores, a world which, by '47, was quickly dying off, if not already dead. (If it even existed in the first place.) But it's not cheap nostalgia--Armstrong's playing is as clear as it was in 1925, while Teagarden's boozy singing is a delight, and the two of them take immense pleasure in each other's company. If the past has been closed off, Louis and Jack will create it again, note-perfect, for the length of a 78 rpm record.

Ellington couldn't follow that route. His eyes were always looking elsewhere, even at the height of his fame, and between the end of the war and the mid-1950s, Ellington entered a period of relative obscurity and at times, quite weird experimentation.

"The Clothed Woman" opens with Duke playing something close to atonal piano, enough so that I wonder whether many copies of the disc had a scratch a fingertip's breadth into the song after people pulled the disc off, wondering what sort of avant-garde crap they had purchased by mistake. After a bit, things begin to cohere--Duke finds a riff, and the horns come in to keep it going. Then, suddenly, 1:15 in, Duke rips into a sort of modernist ragtime, his right hand dancing out while his left keeps perfect, minimalist rhythm. And then it all falls back into quiet chaos again.

"Rockin" was recorded on June 10, 1947, with Armstrong, Teagarden, the underrated Bobby Hackett on cornet, Peanuts Hucko (clar), Johnny Guanieri (p), Ernie Caceres (clar), Al Hall (b), and Cozy Cole (d). It can be found on this good basic Armstrong collection. "Clothed Woman" was recorded in NY on Dec. 30, 1947, with Ellington legends Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney on sax, Harold Baker (tp), Junior Raglin (b) and Sammy Greer (d). A wonderful collection I cannot recommend enough is Duke's Masterpieces-- 4 CDs of genius for about $23.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Waiting on a train

Jerry Murad and the Harmonicats, Peg O' My Heart.

Many songs seem fabricated--you can find the stitchwork on them; others seem as though they had been netted, entirely whole, out of the air. "Peg O' My Heart" is the latter. It's a simple, shuffling melody that lingers in the head, a melody that, upon first hearing, seems as though you have already heard it before, years ago, somewhere else.

The above photograph was taken by Ruth Orkin of a mother and daugher in the old Penn Station in 1947. You can imagine "Peg" somewhere beyond the margins of the photo--carried on a radio at a shoeshine stand, whistled by a man hustling to catch the 5:18.

"Peg"was a colossal #1 pop hit. Jerry Murad, an Armenian born in Constantinople, spurned his family's carpet business to form a harmonica trio in 1944. Murad, recalling the sound effects of suspense radio shows, thought of using an echo chamber to enhance his group's sound. Engineer Bill Putnam, intrigued by the idea, miked the harmonica trio in the marble-tiled bathroom of the Chicago Opera House. In its quiet way, "Peg" is an early exercise in sound distortion. More on Putnam, one of the forefathers of reverb.

You can buy "Peg" here.

Bonus reading: The National Security Act of 1947. While it may feel as though the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and the CIA have always been with us, they are relative latecomers. Here is their birth certificate.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Raise the flag

Harry Choates, Harry Choates Special.
Harry Choates, Devil in the Bayou.

A great dose of cultural miscegenation for the weekend.

When the Cajun fiddler Harry Choates was a child, the populist governor of Louisiana, Huey Long, began building thousands of miles of highways--13,000 in all before Long was assassinated in 1935--linking every last corner of the state. So by the time Choates formed his first band after the war, the Cajuns, the descendants of the French-speaking Acadians forced out of Canada centuries before, were no longer an isolated culture in the Louisiana bayous--they were starting to assimilate and their music was changing, absorbing influences from across the South.

Choates managed to create a fusion of Cajun fiddling and Western swing. "Harry Choates Special" is a pure Bob Wills rip-off, complete with Choates doing Wills-style interjections before solos. But Choates' fiddle playing is wilder than the typical country player--he would stand on the tips of his toes to play at the absolute top of his range, emulating the way Cajun singers would sing "high". "Devil in the Bayou" features great steel guitar/fiddle interplay along with some shrieking and howling.

Choates at his peak was called the Cajun Hank Williams, but his career was short and messy, marked by alcoholism and erratic behavior. In 1951 he was killed in a jail in Austin, Texas, for reasons and by methods still unclear--he most likely was beaten to death by guards.

You can find more great Choates music here. Details on Choates from John Morthland's "The Best of Country Music."

Dizzy Gillespie, Manteca.

Dizzy had long wanted to incorporate Latin American rhythms into jazz, in particular the rhythms he was hearing from the growing number of Cuban players on the scene. Finally, in 1947, he was able to form a big band and recruited the Cuban conga player Chano Pozo as a collaborator. Pozo gave Dizzy a series of riffs, which Gillespie linked together with a bridge section he composed--the result was "Manteca," which essentially created a new musical movement, salsa, during its three-minute length.

(Pozo seems like a character out of a dime novel--he had a bullet permanently lodged in his spine, and carried a knife everywhere. In December '48, he was killed in a barroom brawl.)

"Manteca" starts with Pozo's three riffs--first on bass, then saxophones, then trombones, with Pozo's conga playing under all of it. Gillespie's shining trumpet solos, short as they are, are marvels; Nick Nicholas throws in a reference to "Blue Moon" in his sax solo--the whole thing is a great wonderful jumble of contrary influences.

Recorded on December 22, 1947, in New York. Buy "Manteca" here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I've lost my taste for caviar

Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Kidney Stew Blues.

Cleanhead Vinson earned his nickname after a horrific accident involving lye-based hair conk. As he says in his "Cleanhead Blues": "Folks call me mister Cleanhead 'cause my head is bald on top/And every week I save a dollar/ When I walk by that barber shop."

Vinson was one of the relatively few postwar musicians who could straddle the growing divide between jazz and R&B--he was as convincing a blues "shouter" as Jimmy Witherspoon while he was also a notable alto sax player (he eventually would write tunes for Miles Davis and mentor Coltrane in the early '50s.)

"Kidney Stew Blues" finds Cleanhead realizing his uptown dame is just too much work and money for him, so he's going back home to find that woman he dumped. He's going to settle for "plain old kidney stew," and he sounds pretty happy about it.

More on Cleanhead. "Kidney Stew" was recorded on January 22, 1947 in New York, and can be found on this great R&B collection.

Recipe for kidney stew, for your holiday table.

Monday, December 06, 2004


A two-headed beast

Sergei Prokofiev, Sonata for Solo Violin in D Major, Moderato.

Sometimes you really shouldn't go home again. Sergei Prokofiev, who had left Russia after the Revolution, made a catastrophic decision to return there in the mid-1930s. So instead of spending his waning years writing scores for Hollywood, or writing in peace funded by a generous university, Prokofiev wound up with his works denounced as "cosmopolitan" trash while his wife was arrested and sent to a Siberian labor camp.

By 1947, when the Soviet Union celebrated the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution, Stalin had broken the spine of the nation's artistic culture, which had been one of the finest in the world. The writer Isaak Babel had been tortured and shot, the poet Osip Mandelstam died in a gulag. Prokofiev's friend and collaborator, the theatre director Meyerhold, was shot in prison and his actress wife Zinaida Raikh stabbed to death. Composers like Shostakovich kept a packed suitcase by the door, expecting the knock after midnight.

While the Sonata for Solo Violin, composed in '47, is not a masterpiece like “Lt. Kijé” nor as well-loved as “Peter and the Wolf," it is still beautiful, even light and playful, like some lost memory from Prokofiev’s youth. (It can be played either by a solo violinist, or, as in Prokofiev’s original intention, by 20 or more violinists simultaneously.) Crafting something so lovely, so seemingly inconsequential, in a time of terror and misery is a testament to human resilience, or, for the cynical, perhaps to our endless capacity for delusion.

Stalin spent his last years burrowing further into insanity; Prokofiev spent his working in poor health, hardly leaving his house. They would die within hours of each other in 1953, and because the florists of Moscow were wiped out by demands for Stalin’s funeral, only a pine bough could be found for Prokofiev’s coffin.

Posted is the sonata's first "moderato" movement. Performed by Gil Shaham, the whole piece (along with Prokofiev’s two great violin concertos) can be found here.

Lots on Prokofiev

Friday, December 03, 2004


Mr. Robinson starts work in Brooklyn

Battle of the bop piano titans!

Bud Powell, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Thelonious Monk, Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Earl "Bud" Powell and Thelonious Sphere Monk (the greatest name for a human being ever) were the defining postwar jazz pianists, the men who brought the innovations of bebop to the keyboard, and whose influence imbued the playing of all their successors.

Monk was a mentor of sorts to Powell--Monk was seven years older, and, in his role as house pianist at the club Minton's during the war, had supported Powell when other players wanted Powell kicked out of the club. While similar in ways, they more often seemed to be two different states of matter--Powell's playing is kinetic, astonishingly fast and fluid; Monk's is often slower, rhythmic and willing to use fewer notes. The jazz historian Ted Gioia calls Powell a horizontal player, and Monk a vertical one, if that makes a bit of sense.

A good place to start is their separate takes on Gershwin's "Nice Work." It is an early performance for both, coming from Powell's first session as a leader and Monk's second. (If interested in how the original Gershwin goes, listen to Fred Astaire in a sample here). Powell tears out of the gate with a string of notes, pounds out the chorus at breakneck speed and races out the song from there; Monk cracks the melody apart and plays with its parts for a while.

Powell's performance was recorded on January 10, 1947, with Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums; Monk's (an alternate take I prefer to the officially released take) on October 24, with Gene Ramey on bass and Art Blakey on drums. You can find Powell on this compilation and Monk on the fantastic Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1.

What's your vote, Bud or Monk?

Note from the Management: I’ve been remiss in crediting fellow blogs, many of which have sent viewers my way in the past weeks. You will see most of these sites on the blog roll, but all deserve an extra pinch of hype.

The Tofu Hut, Moistworks and Soul Sides are the reasons I was inspired to begin this mp3 blog nonsense. Other favorites include Mystical Beast (don't miss his recent posts on Skyband, a forgotten group that also served as a strange pop cultural crossroads), #1 Songs in Heaven (an Englishman whose knowledge of American soul dwarves that of most Americans, including this American), Keep the Coffee Coming, and Big Rock Candy Mountain, who currently is doing a great run of Christmas songs.

You may consider Honey Where You Been So Long the better, happier half of this site—while I slowly trudge away from the past, Honey stays with some of the finest American music ever made—the blues, gospel and country of the ‘20s and ‘30s.

Benn loxo du taccu
, with its resources of wonderful African music, deserves a government grant of some sort. Oddio Overplay has some of the strangest, most enjoyable music around.

If any latecomers are upset about missing some of the earlier tracks I posted (I know there are Andrews Sisters junkies out there by the score), email me. A very limited offer. Happy weekend.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


look to the west

Delmore Brothers, Mobile Boogie.

By 1947, the Delmores, Alton and Rabon, had come a great distance from their birthplace of Elkmont, Alabama. They had been one of the many brother acts that were a staple of 1930s country, and had headlined at the Grand Ole Opry from 1932 to 1938. But after the war, the Delmores transformed themselves into a hillbilly boogie band; indeed, they wrote the song that gave the movement its name in 1946.

The Delmores had had a rough time in the early '40s, bumming around for work, and then Rabon had to go solo for a time when Alton was drafted. By ’45, they had settled in Memphis, were recording for King Records, one of the great postwar independent labels, and were imbibing Memphis’ concoction of blues and boogie. Their music became faster, electrified and grittier.

Alton, eight years Rabon's elder, had taught Rabon how to play guitar, and their typical sound was for Alton to drive the rhythm while Rabon played lead. However, on occasion, they dueled each other for the lead, and there is no better example than “Mobile Boogie.” Alton solos first, to Rabon’s hollering encouragement, until Rabon pushes in with a whoop and powers through his solo, seeming to pluck his strings with steel-tipped fingers. After a verse and chorus, the brothers rock out together, crafting some of most swinging guitar lines ever recorded.

Here is the best collection of the Delmores' postwar work.

The above painting, Edward Hopper's Pennsylvania Coal Town, can be seen at the Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, Ohio.