Page 1 of 2

2008 - week 38, from 21 Sept - Texas to Nashville

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:44 pm
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - James 'Blood' Ulmer - Are You Glad to be in America - Are You Glad to be in America - USA - DIW - R-510410

2 - Freddie Fender - Viejos Amigos (Old Friends) [with Conjunto de Carlos Hernandez] - Canciones de Mi Barrio - USA - Arhoolie - CD 366

3 - Jimmy Lewis - The Girls From Texas - One Minit at a Time - USA

4 - Willie Mae Thornton - Hound Dog - Texas Blues - USA - Rhino - R2 71123

5 - Delbert McClinton - Victim of Life's Circumstances - Delbert McClinton - USA - Raven - RVCD-65

6 - Staple Singers - Uncloudy Day - Jubilation: Great Gospel Performances, Vol 2 - USA - Rhino - R2 70289

7 - Jesse Winchester - Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt - Learn to Love It - USA - Stony Plain - SPCD 1205

8 - Bessie Smith - Back Water Blues - Doom & Gloom - USA - Trikont - US-0364
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

In case you didn’t notice, there’s an American election due later this year. The BBC World Service has a team out there covering the lead-up to the big day, taking about six weeks to cross the country. The caravan started out a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles and reaches Dallas Texas on Sunday 21st September. The itinerary takes them across northern Louisiana to Jackson, Mississippi, where it turns north to follow the river via Memphis to St Louis before turning east again across Tennessee to Nashville. This programme is a snapshot of music from that huge, musically rich region, and is necessarily incomplete and probably arbitrary. We could play such records continuously for 24 hours without a dip in quality. No point in agonising too much, lets just see what comes to mind and to hand.

Image
James ‘Blood’ Ulmer

‘Are You Glad to be in America?’ by James ‘Blood’ Ulmer was an extraordinary record when it came out in 1980, and the passage of time has not made it seem any more normal now. A guitarist from Houston who had played with Ornette Coleman before branching out on his own, Ulmer has recorded sporadically ever since but I’ve never heard anything to match this debut, in which David Murray on saxophone provides a perfect counterpoint to Ulmer’s mostly mumbled message. I always liked the couplet about Cadillac cars, full of caviar, which I think he is suggesting everybody is entitled to in America. Irony is heavy throughout. Did the Guinean saxophonist Momo Wandel Soumah ever hear this track? ‘Toko’ would be the perfect song to play next.

Image
Freddie Fender

Instead, Freddie Fender is on hand to represent the Tex-Mex sound that you hear in bars throughout Texas, where more than half the population have Spanish as their first language. Although ‘Viejos Amigos’ was recorded back in the early 1960s, the style has remained remarkably unchanged, and nobody ever sang better than Freddie, who later had several big pop and country hits (mostly sung in English) in the early 1970s.

Image
Jimmy Lewis

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi (birth date, anyone?), Jimmy Lewis recorded the humorous ‘Girls from Texas’ for Minit Records in 1967, and soon afterwards became a staff writer for Ray Charles. Briefly a member of The Drifters, Jimmy has made a good living as a song writer ever since, but I’ve never heard anything to beat this Joe Tex-style secular sermon, revived by Ry Cooder on his Borderline album in 1981. So far as I can tell, it’s not available on CD.

Image
Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton

I love to watch the faces of people hearing ‘Hound Dog’ by Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton for the first time. So familiar with the Elvis hit from 1956, they always assumed that his was the original version, and it takes a while for the realisation to sink in that this really is the same song, but so radically different. The very young Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote it specially for Willie Mae, whose record was produced in 1953 for Peacock Records of Houston by Johnny Otis, whose guitarist Pete Lewis turned his part into a wordless but still eloquent duet with the vocalist.

Image
Delbert McClinton

If there are any listeners beginning to wonder whether they are hearing a re-run of one of my Honky Tonk programmes on Radio London in the 1970s, their suspicions will be confirmed by the next song, ‘Victim of Life’s Circumstances’. Scandalously, this vibrant title track of an album by Delbert McClinton was deemed incompatible with the formats of American radio at the time, and it was another ten years before the Lubbock-born singer finally had a hit under his own name (having been the precocious harmonica player on ‘Hey! Baby’ by another Texan singer, Bruce Channel, back in 1962).

Image

From the first shimmering chord that introduces ‘Uncloudy Day’ by the Staple Singers, you know you are in Mississippi, even if the record was actually made in Chicago. Hard to believe Mavis Staples was still a teenager when she delivered this dark vocal, in 1957.

Image
Jesse Winchester (looking less haunted these days)

Jesse Winchester was born in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 1944, but went north to Canada rather than serve as a soldier in Vietnam. I’m assuming he sneaked across the border to record Learn to Love It at Bearsville Studios in upstate New York in 1974, but maybe somebody out there knows better. Recommended by a Honky Tonk listener to check the album out soon after its release, I managed to find an import copy which soon became a favourite and has remained in my all-time top ten to this day. Thirty minutes of perfection, none better than this revival of an old Soul Stirrers record, with a neat little reference to Jesse’s own predicament by name-checking the Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

Image
Bessie Smith

Having blithely repeated in public Big Bill Broonzy’s mythical tale that Bessie Smith’s ‘Back Water Blues’ was the winner of a song-writing competition held after the Louisiana Flood of 1927, I’m glad to rectify the error and confirm that the song was written as Bessie’s reaction to an earlier flood near Nashville. James P Johnson plays the astonishing piano.

In three weeks’ time, we will catch up with the World Service caravan as it reaches New York.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:13 pm
by garth cartwright
This looks great! Must admit I don't know the Blood Ulmer or Jesse Winchester tracks. Was thinking about Delbert just the other day and how good he was (or is - I guess he's still out there). This gets me thinking - not many of these tracks appear on your fine SOUND OF THE CITY CD series: is this an obvious move to avoid playing songs that are more familiar?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:00 pm
by uiwangmike
Jimmy Lewis
From oldies.com

19 November 1939, USA, d. 10 September 2004, USA. In his youth Lewis travelled extensively, leading to doubts about his place of birth. Some sources suggest this was Nashville, Tennessee, although Itta Bena, Mississippi, seems more likely. While still young, he settled in Los Angeles where he became interested in making a career in music, in particular developing a talent for writing lyrics. He made records for various small labels, enjoying modest success for Era Records with "Wait Until Spring" and "What Can I Do Now". In the mid-60s he joined Bill Pinkney, Gerhart Thrasher and Bobby Hollis in the Drifters. Later in the 60s, he teamed up with Ray Charles to record a duet, "If It Wasn't For Bad Luck'. Lewis' relationship with Charles was very successful and in 1969 he was co-composer and arranger for Charles' Grammy Award-nominated Doing His Thing. Lewis also recorded several 45s for Charles" Tangerine Records and continued writing material for Charles into the 90s.

Although Lewis recorded as a raw and emotional soul singer, he is best remembered as a writer of soul lyrics, collaborating with Clifford Chambers, Arthur Adams, Frank O. Johnson, Raymond Jackson and Rich Cason among several composers. Artists who have sung his songs, often on record, are Bobby Bland, Solomon Burke, Ry Cooder, Rita Coolidge, Leon Haywood, Z.Z. Hill, Albert King, Latimore, Denise La Salle, Frankie Lee, Little Richard, Johnnie Taylor, Ted Taylor, and Bobby Womack. Among songs in Lewis' repertoire, many of which are his own compositions, are "No Chicken Wings", "String Bean", "Stop Half Loving These Women", "I'm Just Doing To You (What You Done To Me)", "Help Me Understand You", "The Love Doctor", "How Long Is A Heartache Supposed To Last", "It Ain't What's On The Woman", "Betty This And Betty That", "Still Wanna Be Black Again", "Don't Send A Girl To Do A Woman's Job", "Wife #1, Wife #2" and "That Baby Ain't Black Enough".

In the early 90s, Lewis started his own label, Miss Butch Records, on which he recorded Peggy Scott-Adams, "I'm Willing To Be A Friend" and "Bill", and Chuck Strong, as well as himself through into the year before his death.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:23 pm
by Charlie
garth cartwright wrote:not many of these tracks appear on your fine SOUND OF THE CITY CD series: is this an obvious move to avoid playing songs that are more familiar?

No rhyme or reason to it, Garth. I was starting in Texas, and it took longer than I expected to get out of the state! It did feel like I was researching a hypothetical Texas volume of the series. But nobody is out there asking for one.

I had Al Green's 'Take Me to the River' (from the Memphis volume) down as a last track but there wasn't time to fit in.

emails

PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 12:03 pm
by Charlie
emails from:

1. Andrew, Turin, Italy

Why doesn't Charlie Gillett stick to music like this week's? I have always found his world music selections insufferable, especially when specific to Italy, as he plays the trite music nobody of any consequence or taste listens to locally. Yet he has an incredible talent when he plays US music!

----------------------------

2. Lee Trucks, Manistee, Michigan USA

This is perhaps the best short selection of American songs I have ever heard.

-------------------------------

3. dr howard scott, guangzhou china

I am sitting in the summer heat in shorts, drinking Chinese tea, looking out the window over the Chinese village beneath me. Reading, with your wonderful music drowing the apartment. At this very moment - Backwater Blues. Wonderful. Can't get enough of it.

Cheers.

Howard.

------------------------------------

4. osman a abbi, Hargeisa Somaliland

love your show

---------------------------------------

5. Tim Flesseman, Amsterdam

Dear Mr. Gillet,

You have lovely ears, I like what they pick up. I write this after hearing the broadcast of 21st sept., but there were a lot of other broadcasts that moved me in many ways.

Yours truly,
Tim Flesseman

-------------------------------------------
6. Johnny Beerling, Yorkshire

Hello Charlie

It was good to see you last week and catch up.

Now I’m feeling tired. You may remember I was always something of an insomniac and usually have a radio in my ear all night on BBC7 or Radio 5 but for some reason I had it on the World Service last night and at 03.30 caught your excellent programme on Texas. It was great, and as a result I was then wide awake for the remainder of the night!

You’ll remember I was a country music fan anyway but in that show nearly every track was to my personal taste, country, Tex Mex, soul it was all there and now I’ll have to go and buy a load of new CD’s by James Blood Ulmer, Viejos Amigos, Delbert McLinton etc. etc. I believe I have a recording by Ry Cooder of “Girls from Texasâ€

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:31 am
by John Leeson
Wonderful show, and tiny window into the US situation.

Thirty minutes of perfection, none better than this revival of an old Soul Stirrers record, with a neat little reference to Jesse’s own predicament by name-checking the Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.


There were two Canadian prime ministers in that show. When Jesse came here in 1967 the Prime Minister was "Lester B." (Pearson), the subject of the second verse. He is still the only Canadian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

And while Canada welcomed all American war resisters during the Pearson/Trudeau years, sadly today we are sending American deserters back to American "justice". Stephen Harper, our current PM is no "friend to the poor" or the conscientious.


And reading the comments about "Hound Dog" and Big Mama Thornton's version compared to Elvis's, reminds me of the story of the song recounted in the excellent story of Jerry Lieber in Tell the Truth Until They Bleed, by Josh Alan Friedman, a collection of music profiles, many quite interesting and well-written. The Lieber story leading off though is the gem.

According to this account, "Hound Dog" was born at a Johnny Otis session in 1952, which presented a half dozen acts performing before two young 19 year old Jewish boys (Leiber & Stoller). The last act was Big Mama whose performance of "Ball and Chain" "killed us" according to Jerry.

They raced home, and in 12 minutes, wrote "Hound Dog", and gave the song to Big Mama.

"Her eyes bugged out at the page and she started crooning... 'Mama, it don't go that way' said Jerry."

"'White boy, don't tell me how it go. I know how it go."....

Otis intervened, "'Mama, you want a hit? Don't run these guys off. Be nice. These guys write hits.... Mama, I want you to listen to how it go'".

So Lieber and Stoller played and sang their interpretation, and according to Jerry's account, Big Mama copied it "right to the letter".

Four years later, Jerry heard Elvis's version. "He absolutely wrecked my song, ruined it, changed the whole meaning. I wanted to sue." Lucky he didn't as Presley eventually did at least 24 L&S songs.

Lieber said he found out where Elvis' changed lyrics came from. His hit was no longer a song addressed to a "no-good gigolo" ("Now the lyrics were changed with the fuckin' rabbit").

Freddie Bell and his Bell Boys were a white lounge act that covered black R&B. Elvis heard them do their altered version of the song in Las Vegas (and on a 1955 single), and although Jerry figured Elvis could have pulled off the Big Mama version, said that he "always covered songs the way he heard them first. He had rotten taste. Not that it ever hurt him".

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:02 am
by Jonathan E.
Living here, I'm beginning to think that the tinier the window "into the US situation" the better. In a sort of ironic, absurdist, escapist way. Certainly, the more musical the window, the better.

It is a crazy seesaw of a situation. We're all on edge, like both sides are on edge. Both sides have a lot to lose. But one side has been robbed twice in the past two elections, stolen from and raped and beaten up ever since. And there's a lot more people on that side. Like many more people getting very fed up. Meanwhile, the mainstream media is basically shitting in its pants not knowing which way to spin the story.

It seems like the whole world is holding its breath.

By the standards of the ancient Chinese curse, it's already too interesting.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:50 am
by Charlie
John Leeson wrote:There were two Canadian prime ministers in that show. When Jesse came here in 1967 the Prime Minister was "Lester B." (Pearson), the subject of the second verse. He is still the only Canadian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

After all these years, a new meaning from the lyric of a song I've heard so many times without every wondering, who is Lester B? - thanks, John
John Leeson wrote:Freddie Bell and his Bell Boys were a white lounge act that covered black R&B. Elvis heard them do their altered version of the song in Las Vegas (and on a 1955 single).

Although this is the received version of the story of how Elvis first heard 'Hound Dog', it is blown apart the minute you listen to the Freddie Bell version, which sounds like the way Bill Haley might have sung it.

It's more likely that Elvis heard the song in its original version by Willie Mae, which was a big hit through the South in 1953, and would have been played on at least one of the Memphis radio stations he listened to as a teenager at Hume High School. Subsequently, local Memphis DJ Rufus Thomas recorded an answer to it for Sun Records called 'Bear Cat', with new words to a very similar melody to Willie Mae's, which was also a big hit in the South.

Elvis's 1956 recording was completely different to both earlier versions. The only possible effect Freddie Bell might have had, if Elvis did hear him sing it in Vegas, is to make Elvis think he could have a shot at doing the song too.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 10:55 am
by r.allibone
garth cartwright wrote:This looks great! Must admit I don't know the Blood Ulmer or Jesse Winchester tracks. Was thinking about Delbert just the other day and how good he was (or is - I guess he's still out there). This gets me thinking - not many of these tracks appear on your fine SOUND OF THE CITY CD series: is this an obvious move to avoid playing songs that are more familiar?
enjoyable 26min. Found the Canadian one bit boring, but you can't win them, all so thank you for bessie and big moma.

The comments by other contributors on hound dog I find interesting. This wonderful record had been released about thirty years before I ever heard it after countless Elvis plays. Would like to hear F.Bell's version. Hope this most recent play reached many.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 12:59 pm
by John Leeson
r.allibone wrote: Would like to hear F.Bell's version.


Freddie's MySpace page has it.

I gather it was Freddie Bell himself who changed the lyrics, for example from
"You can wag yo' tail, But I aint' goin' feed you no mo'" to
"You ain't never caught a rabbit, And you ain't no friend of mine".

Maybe it was the change of words and meaning that coloured Lieber's view, to the point of saying Elvis "carbon copied" it.

The "Hound Dog" page on Wikipedia has some history of the song, including drummer DJ Fontana's memories of their first trip to Las Vegas, where they also went "every night" to see the Bellboys.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 2:10 pm
by Charlie
John Leeson wrote:The "Hound Dog" page on Wikipedia has some history of the song, including drummer DJ Fontana's memories of their first trip to Las Vegas, where they also went "every night" to see the Bellboys.

OK, I surrender and accept that Freddie's version was indeed the model on which Elvis based his.

Fascinating to discover that there were five country versions of Hound Dog in 1953, and to hear samples of four of them. They all stuck to the original lyric.

Incredible, what is out there now on the net.

Thanks John for bringing all this to us.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 3:38 pm
by John Leeson
r.allibone wrote:Found the Canadian one bit boring, but you can't win them all.


Well, we Canadians are supposed to be boring. Part of the national character. Polite, tolerant, generally peaceful, but a bit boring. Averages out all right.

That's one reason that the huge influx of Americans during the Vietnam War era was so invigorating. They brought so much energy and action. A bit un-Canadian, but they did have a significant impact on social and political life here.

Mind you, I'm sure while they made life here a bit more exciting, we helped make them a bit more boring. So if anyone found Jesse Winchester's song at all boring, I'm sure it was our influence on him....

The American journal The New Republic ran a contest in 1986 to see if anyone could come up with a more boring headline than one the New York Times once ran: "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative". ("Each word is boring" I thinik was one of the comments).

There are worse things a nation could be I think.

apoligis to all canadians it was just the track i found aver

PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:52 pm
by r.allibone
John Leeson wrote:
r.allibone wrote:Found the Canadian one bit boring, but you can't win them all.


Well, we Canadians are supposed to be boring. Part of the national character. Polite, tolerant, generally peaceful, but a bit boring.

There are worse things a nation could be I think.

apologies to all canadians, it was just the track i found average

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:41 am
by John Leeson
r.allibone wrote:apologies to all canadians, it was just the track i found average


I knew you were just referring to the song, I was just trying to explain what might have made Jesse's performance sound boring to some. It was the Canadian in him :lol:

But I wonder if I should perhaps apologize to Americans out there for my reference to "American 'justice'". Perhaps the quotes around justice made it sound like I was implying their justice system is unjust.

What I had meant by the quotes was that, given Canada's very long tradition of welcoming those who come here to avoid fighting in wars, the idea of sending any these resisters back to their original countries, likely to face (at least) prison sentences is not my idea of justice.

Now, with Canadians and Americans having been apologized to, I don't think this week's show has many more opportunities to insult other nationalities. Perhaps next week, if Charlie goes on a more multi-national theme...

email

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 2:03 pm
by Charlie
email from

Nan Bovington, Tunbridge Wells

Charlie. thanks for a transcendent fifteen minutes; waking in the middle of the night to Big Mama Thornton singing Hound Dog, then Delbert McClinton, settling for me the question: why would you call a film about two friends taking a tour around the Napa Valley wineries, 'Sideways'? Delbert told me, '.....left me here, sideways drinking wine'. The Staple singers, then much- loved Jesse Winchester, whom I haven't heard since Montreal in the late seventies, finishing with Bessie Smith. Heaven.