Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Morbid Rock 'n Roll is still ROCK 'N Roll in the EVOLUTION OF ROCK 'N ROLL!

For three years, Mark Dinning was an unsuccessful recording artist, trying to cultivate a country career with such songs as "Ramblin' Man," "The Streets of Laredo," and "I'm Just a Country Boy." Then he was given (by his song writing sister) a morbid song about a girl who was killed by a train while retrieving her boyfriend's ring. In February 1960, “Teen Angel” rose all the way to the top of the US charts. The “morbid tune” was banned by the BBC, but nevertheless the song managed to creep into the lower regions of the UK Top 40. As one of the first examples of "death dirges", "Teen Angel" spawned dozens of similar songs. Mark Dinning dies in a 1986 car crash when he had a heart attack while driving home from a gig…

"Tell Laura I Love Her", a teenage tragedy song written by Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh, was an American Top Ten popular music hit for singer Ray Peterson in 1960 on RCA Victor Records, reaching #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Later that same year, the song was recorded and released by Ricky Valance in the United Kingdom, where it went all the way to the #1 spot in the UK Singles Chart. "Tell Laura I Love Her" has been a hit in 14 countries, and has sold over seven million copies (Wikipedia)

Sonley Roush the manager of Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers brought the group a song originally recorded by Wayne Cochran named "Last Kiss". It was first released on Le Cam (722) and then on Tamara (761), before it became a hit in June 1964 on Josie Records (Josie 923). It reached the Top 10 in October that year, eventually reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

While driving in Ohio later that year, Roush fell asleep at the wheel, and they collided head-on with another vehicle. Roush was killed and Wilson injured to the extent that he was on crutches for the American Bandstand performance a short time later.

 Frank Willson and The Cavaliers in the studio recording Last Kiss in1964  

Deadman’s Curve was a hit for Jan and Dean in 1964:

On April 12, 1966, Berry received severe head injuries in an automobile accident just a short distance from Dead Man's Curve in Los Angeles, California, two years after the song had become a hit. 

But it didn’t really start with “Teen Angel.” There were plenty of teenage tragedy tunes before that. I’m gonna skip the Don Covey tune (Black Denim Trousers) with his group ‘The Cheers’—you can follow the link if you care to...

 I’ll start with Endless Sleep, was a hit for a dude by the name of Jody Reynolds in 1958. Even though the “sweetheart” is rescued by the third chorus, I think this started the genre…

Can’t skip The Big Bopper’s "Running Bear,” a song written by J. P. Richardson (aka The Big Bopper) sung most famously by Johnny Preston in 1959. Preston first sang the song in 1959 with background vocals by Richardson and George Jones, who do the Indian chanting of "UGO UGO" during the three verses, as well as the Indian war cries. It was number one for three weeks in January 1960 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song also reached number one in the UK in 1960. Tried to find Norman and the Frut’s version, but it’s just not available to share. Here’s the Johnny Preston original version…

Preston was signed to Mercury Records, and "Running Bear" was released in August 1959,  seven months after Richardson's death in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

Can’t leave out "Leader of the Pack

(U.S. #1, UK #11), which climaxes with roaring motorcycles and breaking glass. UK re-issues peaked at #3 in 1972 and #7 in 1976. The song epitomized the "death disc"; just like Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her", Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve", J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers's "Last Kiss," Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel," etc, etc, etc.

D.O.A.   is a 7" vinyl single by Texas hard rock band Bloodrock released under Capitol Records in early 1971. The version of "D.O.A." featured on the single is roughly half the length of the album version found on Bloodrock 2. The motivation for writing this song was explained in 2005 by guitarist Lee Pickens. “When I was 17, I wanted to be an airline pilot,” Pickens said. “I had just gotten out of this airplane with a friend of mine, at this little airport, and I watched him take off. He went about 200 feet in the air, rolled and crashed.” The band decided to write a song around the incident and include it on their second album (Wikipedia)

Days of Graduation, by the Drive By Truckers,  is a first person narrative about a fatal car crash the night before the victims' high school graduation…Not real happy with the quality of this video, but check it out..

Probably the latest in this genre is a not so well known group known as L. Stadt. Check out their 2010 tune about the death of a surfer girl…



Monday, January 30, 2012

Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins - A True Texas Blues Legend

Sam Lightnin' Hopkins was born on March 15, 1912 in Centerville, TX. He passed away  on January 30, 1982 in Houston, Texas...

Lightnin’ Hopkins was a prolific songwriter whose lyrics chronicled life in the South, romantic turmoil, and bawdy sexual themes, Hopkins' vocals mixed a soulful voice with a talking blues style.

The young Hopkins' interest in blues music began at the early age of eight after meeting Texas blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson. A few years later Hopkins would serve as the blind bluesman's guide and apprentice…
After a short stint at the Houston (TX) County Prison Farm, Hopkins was discovered in Houston by Lila Anne Cullum, a talent scout for Aladdin Records…Cullum offered the veteran bluesman the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles to record for the label.
In L.A. Hopkins was paired with pianist Wilson Smith; the pair were subsequently dubbed "Lightnin'" and "Thunder" by an Aladdin executive.
During his short tenure with Aladdin, Hopkins recorded a total of forty-three songs during two lengthy sessions in 1946 and '47. He would return to Houston, however, subsequently recording sides for the Gold Star label even while he was still signed to Aladdin, sometimes re-recording the same songs in Texas that he had waxed in California.

During his lengthy career, Hopkins recorded nearly 1,000 songs for some 20 different labels, making his discography one of the deepest and most complicated in blues music history

Following the success of his 1960 song "Mojo Hand,"
Hopkins went from playing back-alley dives in Houston to performing on the stage of Carnegie Hall alongside artists like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. Throughout the 1960s and well into the '70s, Hopkins performed - usually solo - on college campuses, folk clubs, and coffee houses. Hopkins toured Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival in 1964 with Howlin' Wolf, and would later tour Japan during the late-1970s.
Hopkins' popularity with white audiences would grow during the 1960s, and by the end of the decade he was performing at rock festivals and in clubs with bands like the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. Filmmaker Les Blank created his 1967 documentary, The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins about the bluesman. In 1968, Hopkins recorded Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of the Texas psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators.
He was named #71 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980...
Houston-based Fast Cut Films, in association with Sunset Productions, is working on a documentary feature film, “Where Lightnin’ Strikes,” about the life and times of Houston blues legend Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins (1912-1982).        


Sunday, January 29, 2012

William James "Willie" Dixon (July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992)

 William James "Willie" Dixon
July 1, 1915 ` January 29, 1992

Willie was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1915. Being exposed to a plethora of genres, including , gospel, blues, country & western, he started writing music at a very young age. He migrated to Chicago in 1936…

      Willie Dixon has been called “the poet laureate of the blues” and “the father of modern Chicago blues.”

 To his credit are over 500 songs written over his lifetime; in addition to playing bass, arranging and producing Chess Records
sessions for the likes of  Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, and others…

      After an abbreviated stint as a boxer, his next fight was with the U.S. Army,--He refused induction on the grounds he was a conscientious objector.

Early on in Chicago he played with  the Five Breezes

The Four Jumps of Jive

The Big Three Trio

All three of those groups were making records.  

But, beginning in 1951, Dixon really established himself at Chess,
working  as a recording artist, session musician, in-house songwriter and staff musician.

That’s where he wrote;  “Hoochie Coochie Man,”  

and “I Just Want to Make Love To You”   for Muddy Waters,  



I Ain’t Superstitious” and “Wang Dang Doodle” which were hits for Howlin’ Wolf

 and “My Babe” for Little Walter.

It was during those days that he played bass on most of Chuck Berry’s early recordings. 

Although he’s most famous for his work at Chess, he also wrote for and worked with artists on Cobra label

 fostering the careers of Otis Rush

Buddy Guy

Magic Sam

 Dixon really came into his own, beginning in 1959 and into the Sixties,  writing and producing some of his greatest works during that decade.

It was 1959 when he recorded a series of albums in a duet format with Memphis Slim

on the Folkways, Verve and Battles labels,  releasing his first album, “Willie’s Blues,”

but it  would be 1970 before he produced his first solo album  I Am the Blues.”  In the years that followed, Willie released a string of albums under his own name ,  including “Peace?”

culminating in the 1988 release of

“Hidden Charms”  won Dixon a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Recording.

 “The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits. It’s better keeping the roots alive, because it means better fruits from now on. The blues are the roots of all American music. As long as American music survives, so will the blues.”—Willie Dixon

In 1990, Chess Records released Willie Dixon: The Chess Box, a two-disc set that included Dixon’s greatest songs as performed by the artists who’d made them famous – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Lowell Fulson – and  Dixon himself...                                                    

Willie passed away on January 29, 1992 ~ R.I.P. WILLIE

Willie Dixon's official website


James Jamerson, Bassman Extraordinaire in the Evolution of Rock 'n Roll

James Lee Jamerson (January 29, 1936 – August 2, 1983) was an American bass player. He was the uncredited bassist on most of Motown Records' hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and he is now regarded as one of the most influential bass players in modern music history. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. (Wikipedia)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony

He is reported to have played on some 95% of Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968. He eventually performed on nearly 30 No. 1 pop hits—surpassing the record commonly attributed to The Beatles. On the R&B charts, nearly 70 of his performances went to the top.

Marvin Gaye was desperate to have Jamerson play on "What's Going On", and went to several bars to find the bassist. When he did, he brought  Jamerson to the studio, who then played the classic line while lying flat on his back…

Jamersons bass is prominent on “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”—Both Times!!! (Gladys Knight & The Pips as well as Marvin Gaye)…Check him out on Marvin Gaye’s take…
 There are VOLUMES written about  Mr. Jamerson (as there should be!). Google the man and be amazed...

(there are a lot of them!!!)